From Planned Parenthood to Madrid: What Can Paris, London and Washington Learn?

President Barack Obama's remarks about Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris on Tuesday were remarkably ironic: "The Russians now have been there [Syria] for several weeks, over a month, and I think fair-minded reporters who have looked at the situation would say that the situation hasn't changed significantly.

"In the interim, Russia has lost a commercial passenger jet. You've seen another jet shot down. There have been losses in terms of Russian personnel. And I think Mr. Putin understands that with Afghanistan fresh in the memory, for him to simply get bogged down in an inconclusive and paralyzing civil conflict is not the outcome that he's looking for."

Obama seems capable of scrutinizing the hard effects of Russian foreign policy, but not his own. "With Afghanistan fresh in the memory" said the U.S. president, presumably about the Russian intervention there that ended decades ago -- and not the U.S. intervention which is prolonged and ongoing. He can see the speck in Putin's eye, but not the log in his own. To say nothing of the fact that the U.S. started the Mujahideen in Afghanistan to make the Russians bleed there

Gore Vidal called the USA the "United States of Amnesia" -- but it's more like the USSA: The United States of Selective Amnesia. 

The U.S. has been bombing the Mideast for literally decades now -- not a month -- and has yet to make a serious accounting. A few hours after Obama made those remarks, Pentagon head Ash Carter announced the U.S. was expanding its military actions in Iraq

While it rarely occurs to anyone to question that the stated goals of the U.S. government might not be the actual goals, it's rarely thought to examine the stated goals of the 9/11 or Paris attackers. Many have noted rightly noted that the "terrorism" label is applied selectively, most recently, regarding the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. But even beyond the use of the word "terrorism" -- the very notion of explicitly articulating a motive is selective. When talking about things like the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, the notion of "motive" doesn't enter into it; indeed, talk of "terrorism" or "war" is partly a substitute for thinking through motives. In the case of the Planned Parenthood attack, it's seemingly taken for granted that someone can be opposed to abortion rights and be opposed to violent attacks on abortion clinics. But it's not a point taken to heart when examining U.S. -- or French, or British -- foreign policy. 

But one nation seems to have come to grips with this, at least to an extent: On March 11, 2004, a series of nearly simultaneous bombs exploded on four commuter trains in Madrid. The blasts killed 191 people and wounded nearly 2,000. 

That same day, the august UN Security Council passed resolution 1530 that condemned in "the strongest terms the bomb attacks in Madrid, Spain, perpetrated by the terrorist group ETA." Of course, it quickly became evident ETA -- a Basque separatist group -- had nothing to do with it. 

This was a rare instance of officialdom didn't seek to "blame the Muslims" after a bombing. And for good reason. The ruling party in Spain, the inaptly named People's Party, had dragged the country into the Iraq war a year before and they feared with good cause that if the attack was shown to be Mideast related, the public would be furious -- and an election was scheduled three days later. In fact, the day of the election, al-Qaeda claimed responsibility

Before the Madrid bombing, the People's Party led the polls by 5 percent, but the Socialist Party ended up winning by 5 percent. The victorious Socialist Party had called for the removal of Spanish troops from Iraq during the campaign. 

Part of what was pivotal and crucial was that there were substantial protests in the immediate aftermath of the bombings. This included protests under the banner banner "No to Terrorism -- No to War." [See pic.] 

The Socialist Party had promised to remove Spanish troops by June 30th, and, after winning the election, the troops were withdrawn a month earlier than expected. I can't find a record of any Mideast-related attacks in Spain since. 

In contrast: On July 7, 2005, there were a series of bombings of the public transit system in London, killing 52 people and injuring hundreds more. Perhaps notably, There was a G8 meeting in the UK at the time, somewhat similar to there being a major climate conference in Paris now. Following those bombings, Britain has not meaningfully altered its stance in the Mideast. 

There's been much made in some circles about the French, who were derided in the U.S. during the buildup of the 2003 Iraq invasion, now leading the fight in Syria and François Hollande's pro war rhetoric. 

But the apparent change in positions actually makes perfect sense when you consider the imperial histories: Iraq was a British colony, and so -- as one would expect -- Britain helped the U.S. establishment in occupying Iraq in 2003. Similarly, Syria is a former French colony, so France took the lead in intervening there. 

The fact that the interventionist dynamics line up with the imperial histories in itself is damning to the Western powers. 

The imperial mindset toward the Mideast is evident throughout. It's brazen in the case of Israel's active settler colonial project against the Palestinians. It's clear in the alliance between the U.S. establishment and the Western-installed monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other regimes. And the mindset is even evident in the case of Iran, as former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated at the conclusion of the nuclear agreement with Iran earlier this year at the Brookings Institution: "I don't see Iran as the partner in this agreement, I see Iran as the subject of this agreement." 

The imperial legacy is shown in restrictions to domestic freedoms as well. There's the rhetoric of "Liberté" in France, but the state of emergency in France and prohibition of protest has its roots in laws enacted from Frances colonial war with Algeria. Unfortunately, many in France seem to be acting like "surrender monkeys" when it comes to abrogating their freedoms. 

You can be an emissary of empire or a decent democracy. Choose. 

The motives proclaimed by those claiming responsibility for attacks like 9/11 were never meaningfully discussed. They should be now, especially given the widespread sense that ISIS is now adopting tactics from al-Qaeda

Osama bin Ladin addressed the U.S. public just before the 2004 election thus: "Contrary to Bush's claim that we hate freedom -- if so, then let him explain to us why we don't strike for example -- Sweden? ... But I am amazed at you. Even though we are in the fourth year after the events of September 11th, Bush is still engaged in distortion, deception and hiding from you the real causes. And thus, the reasons are still there for a repeat of what occurred." 

Around the same time, said Bin Ladin: "When I saw those destroyed towers in Lebanon it sparked in my mind that the oppressors should be punished in the same way and that we should destroy towers in America so that they can taste what we tasted and so they will stop killing our women and children." See my piece "U.S. Policy: 'Putting out the fire with gasoline'?" based on interviews with Lee Hamilton and Thomas Kean, 

This passage is almost never cited, and its context outright falsified by Donald Rumsfeld in his book, where he claims Bin Ladin was "referring to the destruction of the Marine barracks and the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut." Robin Wright correctly notes in her book the context was that bin Ladin was referring to "Israeli's 1982 invasion of Lebanon with American arms."

Paris and London should be looking toward Madrid in taking steps toward shedding their imperial mindsets in stopping their war-obsessed elites. Hollande is clearly escalating the bombing that France has been conducting in Syria for over a year -- calling for "merciless" bombing. British Prime Minister David Cameron is now pushing for Britain to join the bombing in Syria -- in effect adopting a U.S. style of ecumenical imperialism -- and not just in their traditional domains like Iraq. 

It doesn't have to be this way. History can change. And the fact is that there is a great legacy of anti imperialism in the U.S. that's continually overlooked. The name Mark Twain is revered now -- the comedian Eddie Murphy just received the Mark Twain Award at the Kennedy Center with great fanfare. But what's typically ignored is Twain's opposition to the U.S. becoming a global imperial power. In 1898, he helped found the Anti Imperialist League and wrote in 1900: “I have read carefully the Treaty of Paris [between the United States and Spain], and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem.... And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.” Of course, U.S. colonialism actually goes backs to its own roots as a settler colonial state against the natives peoples of North America. 

So, Spain -- though it's of course still a NATO member that gave NATO support during its bombing of Libya, which has led to massive disaster there -- at least took a step away from the abyss with positive results. This is in contrast to "leaders" in Paris, London, Washington and elsewhere who are plunging headlong into it. They would seem bent on some combination of deluded death wish for disaster and Machiavellian colonial goals. Or perhaps just the self-importance involved in waging violence and playing the deadly game of brinkmanship as millions look on. 

In 2013, a British soldier was killed in the English town of Woolwich, in London. Michael Adebolajo, one of the killers, explained his aim in vivid terms -- literally with blood and knives in hand: "Remove your governments, they don’t care about you. You think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start busting our guns? You think politicians are going to die? No, it’s going to be the average guy, like you and your children. So get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so can all live in peace. So leave our lands and we can all live in peace. That’s all I have to say." [transcript and video

As in the case of attacks on abortion clinics, people should listen closely for motive to better understand the choices before us. 

And the options may well be: Western empire or a meaningful democracy. Choose. 

--

Research assistance: Michael Getzler. 

A Thanksgiving Day Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, 

We thank You for allowing the settlers to obliterate the native inhabitants of this continent that we might more selfishly enjoy it -- especially the obscenely wealthy among us. 

We thank You for the slave labor we brought over from Africa to build it up and ask that You ensure those black folks stick with the program now. 

We pray that You will impose restrictions on any other immigrants coming to this land now, however -- if it be Your will. If not, we will take is as a sign or our great morality and bigheartedness, for which we thank You. 

We thank You for the Crusades of the past and the Crusade upon us now and that we might smite our enemies like they did in the times of old. 

We thank You for plausible deniability and selectively short memories that allow those in power to evade responsibility for crimes great and small -- from the full blown invasion of Iraq, obliteration of Syria and Libya to the smallest hospital we blow up in Afghanistan. 

We thank You for our Saudi allies who we sell many weapons to that they -- when they are not beheading people for apostasy -- might share the blessings of our democracy with the more dimwitted among the Arab and Muslim peoples. 

We pray for our nuclear armed Israeli allies that they might perpetually oppress the knife armed Palestinians, especially the Christians among them. And we pray that the Jews may all be converted to Christianity that You might return to earth so this whole farce of humanity is ended soon. 

We thank you for our two party system, that keeps us simultaneously bickering and yet locked into the same course of morally repugnant policies for all eternity. 

We thank you for the capacity to only see victims who are deemed appropriate to see, like those despicable frogs in Paris. 

We thank you for our opposable thumbs and other enhancements to our being that ensure our capacity to eat -- as in this carcass before us -- and not so much to be eaten. 

We thank You for sending Your son, Jesus, who is actually You Yourself, to selflessly die for our sins that we may be cleansed of our inequities and never again beat ourselves up for our dark deprivations, especially the really kinky, twisted ones. 

Most of all, we thank You for our glorious media that we might better know Your will and what we should buy at all times, on cable -- and on the web. 

In Jesus name we pray, 
Amen.

[After I wrote this, I realized how similar it is to Mark Twain's "The War Prayer" -- which ends: "For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimmage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen." 

[Via Wikipedia: "The piece was left unpublished by Mark Twain at his death in April 1910, largely due to pressure from his family, who feared that the story would be considered sacrilegious. Twain's publisher and other friends also discouraged him from publishing it. ... According to one account, his illustrator Dan Beard asked him if he would publish it anyway, and Twain replied, "No, I have told the whole truth in that, and only dead men can tell the truth in this world. It can be published after I am dead."]

The Phony Torture Debate: Why Trump is Wrong about Waterboarding -- It's Probably Not What You Think

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump -- to the outrage of liberals everywhere -- says he wants more waterboarding. Reports the Washington Post: "'Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would -- in a heartbeat,' Trump said to loud cheers during a rally at a convention center [in Columbus, Ohio] Monday night that attracted thousands. 'And I would approve more than that. Don't kid yourself, folks. It works, okay? It works. Only a stupid person would say it doesn't work.'

"Trump said such techniques are needed to confront terrorists who 'chop off our young people's heads' and 'build these iron cages, and they'll put 20 people in them and they drop them in the ocean for 15 minutes and pull them up 15 minutes later.'

"'It works,' Trump said over and over again. 'Believe me, it works. And you know what? If it doesn't work, they deserve it anyway, for what they're doing. It works.'"

There's no shortage of people denouncing or pretending to correct Trump's remarks. Virtually all miss the point. The fact is torture produces bad but useful intelligence. That is, it gives you "intel" that some bigwig with a conniving agenda wants to push. Like that Iraq had WMDs and we needed to invade. 

Nothing solidifies the establishment more than a seemingly raging debate between two wings of it in which they are both wrong. Not only wrong, but in their wrongness, helping to cover their joint iniquities, all the while engaging in simultaneous embrace and fingerpointing to convey the illusion of seriousness and choice.

The truth is that torture did work, but not the way its defenders claim. It "worked" to produce justifications for policies the establishment wanted, like the Iraq war. This is actually tacitly acknowledged in the [Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture, partly declassified last year] -- or one should say, it's buried in it. Footnote 857 of the report is about Ibn Shaykh al-Libi, who was captured in Afghanistan shortly after the U.S. invasion and was interrogated by the FBI. He told them all he knew, but then the CIA rendered him to the brutal Mubarak regime in Egypt, in effect outsourcing their torture. From the footnote:
 
"Ibn Shaykh al-Libi reported while in [censored: 'Egyptian'] custody that Iraq was supporting al-Qa'ida and providing assistance with chemical and biological weapons. Some of this information was cited by Secretary Powell in his speech at the United Nations, and was used as a justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Ibn Shaykh al-Libi recanted the claim after he was rendered to CIA custody on February [censored], 2003, claiming that he had been tortured by the [censored, likely 'Egyptians'], and only told them what he assessed they wanted to hear. For more more details, see Volume III." Of course, Volume III -- like most of the Senate report -- has not been made public....

So, contrary to the claim that torture helped save lives, torture helped build the case of lies for war that took thousands of U.S. lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, helping to plunge the region into astounding violence, bringing al-Qaeda into Iraq, leading to the rise of ISIS and further bloody wars.

But rather than face how torture actually works -- and indeed how the establishment acknowledges it works -- it's more fun for so-called conservatives like Trump to talk about how we shouldn't care that a bunch of presumably bad guys getting tortured and for liberals to pontificate about how we're better than that and we need to live up to our values. Or for some to say that "torture doesn't work" without examining what "works" means in a manipulative political context. Everyone can then pretend to feel good about themselves: Trump cares about your safety; Liberals uphold our great values that show how superior we are to the savages, and how superior they are to Trump. 

It's all phony. I'm not even sure if Trump knows it's phony. I do know that many reporters and presumed opponents of torture are aware of this, but have chosen to stay mum about it. Again, as I wrote in my piece last year

Exploiting false information has been well understood within the government. Here's a 2002 memo from the military's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency to the Pentagon's top lawyer -- it debunks the "ticking time bomb" scenario and acknowledged how false information derived from torture can be useful:

"The requirement to obtain information from an uncooperative source as quickly as possible -- in time to prevent, for example, an impending terrorist attack that could result in loss of life -- has been forwarded as a compelling argument for the use of torture. ... The error inherent in this line of thinking is the assumption that, through torture, the interrogator can extract reliable and accurate intelligence. History and a consideration of human behavior would appear to refute this assumption." The document concludes: "The application of extreme physical and/or psychological duress (torture) has some serious operational deficits, most notably, the potential to result in unreliable information. This is not to say that the manipulation of the subject's environment in an effort to dislocate their expectations and induce emotional responses is not effective. On the contrary, systematic manipulation of the subject's environment is likely to result in a subject that can be exploited for intelligence information and other national strategic concerns." [PDF]

So torture can result in the subject being "exploited" for various propaganda and strategic concerns. This memo should be well known but isn't, largely because the two reporters for the Washington Post, Peter Finn and Joby Warrick, who wrote about in 2009 it managed to avoid the most crucial part of it in their story, as Jeff Kaye, a psychologist active in the anti-torture movement, has noted. One reporter who has highlighted critical issues along these lines is Marcy Wheeler -- noting as the recent report was being released: "The Debate about Torture We’re Not Having: Exploitation."

An additional irony is that Trump is putting himself out there as the guy opposed to the Iraq war. 

Colin Powell's former chief of staff Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson has acknowledge the torture-evidence link, and I questioned Powell about this. Noted Wilkerson: "What I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 -- well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion -- its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qaeda."

Trump can pose as standing up to political correctness. The actual political correctness is how torture is used by war makers to get the tortured "evidence" they want to have a pretext for war and other hideous policies. The actual political correctness is to pretend that "torture doesn't work" when it works for evil ends all too well. It's way past time to get off the liberal-conservative phony debate not-so-merry-go-round. 

Nasrallah's Speech Right After the Paris Attacks: Condemns ISIS, Embraces Syrian Refugees

While many are calling for further restrictions on refugees or demonizing them in some way, it's notable that one political figure often depicted as intolerant and violent by U.S. media is doing the opposite.

Below is Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's speech of Nov. 14, the day after the Paris attacks and two days after the Beirut attacks. It's translated by Rania Masri @rania_masri and posted on her facebook page.] I didn't see any report of it in the U.S. media and only learned about it through As'ad AbuKhalil's "Angry Arab" blog

ISIS of course claimed credit for bombing a Beirut neighborhood on Nov. 12 -- the neighborhood was depicted in much of the U.S. media as a "Hezbollah stronghold," seemingly implying that it was somehow a legitimate political/military target. Lebanon has taken in over 1.3 million Syrian refugees. The U.S. government -- after giving rise to ISIS by invading Iraq and fostering the Syrian civil war -- is proposing taking 10,000

A few passages bear particular note: "First: We condemn the attacks by ISIS in France. The people in this region that have suffered under the earthquake of ISIS -- including Lebanon -- are the most empathetic to the suffering that has befallen the French people yesterday. We express our empathy and our solidarity with all who have suffered under ISIS. ...

"All that I have said about our Palestinian brothers also applies to our Syrian brothers in Lebanon. If one of the bombers is Syrian, that gives no one any excuse to attack Syrian refugees. We have been responsible in this regard as well, but it bodes repeating. many of the refugees support us politically, and others are opposed to the regime and are opposed to ISIS also. Yes, of course, there are some among the refugees who may support ISIS. We cannot generalize against all the Syrian refugees -- such is an ethical and religious responsibility...

"And let me return to speaking to the Lebanese — if it has appeared that among this network of terrorism that are some Lebanese who belong to particular sects, such as the Sunni sect, such as the ones apprehended by this network, that does not mean, in any way, that any one can then hold the Sunni sect responsible for this terrorist attack. One of the objectives of the takfiris is to create a civil war between Shi’a and Sunni. All of us -- united throughout Lebanon, all of us who have been targeted or who could be targeted, need to be aware of sectarian discourse that fulfills the objectives of the enemy and weakens and threatens our country."

Here's the speech with some very brief comments from Rania: 

First: We condemn the attacks by ISIS in France. The people in this region that have suffered under the earthquake of ISIS - including Lebanon - are the most empathetic to the suffering that has befallen the French people yesterday. We express our empathy and our solidarity with all who have suffered under ISIS

Sanders Fingers Kuwait and Qatar, but Not Saudi Arabia as Fostering ISIS

Bernie Sanders in his "Socialist speech" yesterday articulated -- I believe for the first time -- some meaningful criticism of Gulf sheikdoms, but not Saudi Arabia:

"Equally important, and this is a point that must be made – countries in the region like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE – countries of enormous wealth and resources – have contributed far too little in the fight against ISIS. That must change. King Abdallah [of Jordan] is absolutely right when he says that that the Muslim nations must lead the fight against ISIS, and that includes some of the most wealthy and powerful nations in the region, who, up to this point have done far too little.

"Saudi Arabia has the 3rd largest defense budget in the world, yet instead of fighting ISIS they have focused more on a campaign to oust Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Kuwait, a country whose ruling family was restored to power by U.S. troops after the first Gulf War, has been a well-known source of financing for ISIS and other violent extremists. It has been reported that Qatar will spend $200 billion on the 2022 World Cup, including the construction of an enormous number of facilities to host that event – $200 billion on hosting a soccer event, yet very little to fight against ISIS. Worse still, it has been widely reported that the government has not been vigilant in stemming the flow of terrorist financing, and that Qatari individuals and organizations funnel money to some of the most extreme terrorist groups, including al Nusra and ISIS." [emphasis added]

The Left and Right Must Stop the Establishment's Perpetual War Machine

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, some of us tried to raise questions of U.S. foreign policy. I got my mic cut on O'Reilly's show. Others got far worse -- a friend basically felt he had to move out of his neighborhood he was so reviled for criticizing the U.S.'s militarism. Oh, yeah, and hundreds of thousands of people got killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. 

The root causes of the 9/11 attacks were hardly discussed -- unless it was people deriding Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell for blaming gay folks. 

Now, there's no meaningful peace movement. Party as a result of that, we're not having a serious discussion we should be about foreign policy after the Paris attacks: How U.S. -- and Western -- foreign policy manifests hatred and all that brings. 

One might have thought that would be possible -- the target of this attack was not the U.S., though it could be the next target. But that should give us some breathing room as well as a measure of urgency to think things through.

The major policy debate now is about Syrian refugees. 

This is part of a political pattern: The two party establishment agrees on a series of issues and those issues are largely ignored. (Perpetual war.)

Then, there's something they disagree on and that's vociferously debated. (Refugees.)

Problem is, sometimes what they agree on (perpetual war) is what causes the other issue (refugees). 

Right now, both the Democratic and Republican establishments both agree on a course of perpetual war. There's virtually no remorse about having pushed for regime change in Syria and Libya and that leading to enormous human suffering that we're mostly blind to. 

When the Obama administration made an overt push for war in Syria in 2013, the left and right united and stopped it. 

But ISIS threats gave the Obama administration the pretext it so seemed to desire to have a sustained bombing campaign, with thousands of strikes in Syria and Iraq the last year and a half -- which is largely ignored such that now "critics" of U.S. policy suggest that the U.S. bomb Syria, as if it hasn't been -- and that could be the actual problem. 

Now, Democratic Party politicos are talking about the humanity of Syrian refugees and ideals of the U.S. as a sanctuary. And Republican politicos are talking about alleged security concerns from letting refugees in. While I think we should let far more than a mere 10,000 refugees, which is what the Obama administration is talking about, I don't think that's the issue we really need to be talking about now. 

The real issue is that the Democratic Party has participated in perpetual war policies that are leading to Syrians becoming refugees. The real issue is that the Republican Party has participated in perpetual war policies that are leading to greater insecurity for people in the U.S. 

The issue of the refugees, while obvious real to real people is being seized on because it's a wedge issue to keep the Democratic base and the Republican base shouting at each other rather than to examine the underlying issue: Perpetual war and the current set of U.S. colonial allies in the Mideast. 

It's the nightmare of the establishment that the left and right wake up to the fact that they are manipulated by the Democratic Party and Republican Party establishments. 

A major issue is that the public is prone to scapegoating the vulnerable, like Syrian refugees, when no other cause of the problem is highlighted. There are obvious causes for the problems coming from the Mideast. But there's a silence of conspiracy about them. At the top of the list is is the U.S. government's backing of the authoritarian Saudi regime that has fostered Wahabism, a twisted from of Islam used by al-Qaeda and ISIS. 

But even the most progressive Democrats are silent on this. Just this week, Barbara Lee -- possibly the most left wing member of Congress -- was asked on "Democracy Now" about U.S. arms to Saudi Arabia. She didn't contemn it

Bernie Sanders talks about refugees; he can bring a lump to every throat in the hall while talking about economic inequality in the U.S. But his solution for ISIS is to get the Saudis to "get their hands dirty." Sorry, Bernie, but the Saudis hands are dirty enough as it is. They fostered jihadis like ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria and are now bombing Yemen, ripping human beings apart. 

So, at the CBS debate the day after the Paris attacks, Sanders didn't even want to talk about foreign policy. It was tragic really. He could have laid into U.S. foreign policy, he could have said that by arming the Saudis we've fostered problems, it would have jolted the campaign and the public could have been engaged in foreign policy in a meaningful way. 

But he didn't. 

The most he could do is criticize the invasion of Iraq, which is valid -- no one who voted for the Iraq war is qualified for any title other than inmate -- but 13 years later, totally inadequate. Whatever you have to say about economy (and even here I think Sanders could be better) will ultimately be trumped by the fact that you can't articulate a path out of perpetual war. If you don't show you've got a path out of perpetual war, the people will pick someone who they figure knows how to do perpetual war. 

But someone is going to have to break with the backing of autocratic regimes and perpetual war, because I've got news for you: Perpetual war is going to cost you a lot. The Vietnam War helped undermine the war on poverty -- Martin Luther King called it a "demonic suction tube." Perpetual war is going to make you lose your soul. Perpetual war will make you an accomplice to murder many times over. Perpetual war will mean generations more of Muslim youth driven to madness against the U.S. Perpetual war is going to potentially lead to nuclear war. Perpetual war will mean an even more militarized police force. Perpetual war will likely mean more of a repressive state. Perpetual war will mean you can't march against climate change -- or anything else. Perpetual war will mean that refugees and other folks get treated like trash. Perpetual war means your kid can't get a job in much of anything other than the military. Perpetual war means soldiers with PTSD coming home and beating the crap out of their wives and traumatizing their children. Perpetual war will mean at every public venue you've got to go through security so that you can scratch yourself without court approval. 

There's a hunger out there for another course. 

Fact is, the Republican candidates leading in the polls are those -- at least in public persona, whatever their faults may be -- that are furthest away from the foreign policy establishment. 

There was a group called Come Home America that aimed to bring the left and right together against Empire. 

Part of the reason that didn't take off is that elections are movement killers. People constantly being pushed -- especially in election years -- to focus on symptoms of policies gone wrong, like the Syrian refugees, without looking at the elephant in the room: Perpetual War, brought to you by the Democratic and Republican Parties and which ruined the refugees' lives -- and will ruin many more unless the left and right join to stop it. 


Sam Husseini founded the website votepact.org encouraging Democrats and Republicans to team up in pairs and and vote for the anti-establishment candidate(s) they most want. 

Barbara Lee Interestingly Declines to Address U.S. Arms to Saudi Arabia

I generally feel that the questioning by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now could be a lot stronger, but today, she did ask a good question of Rep. Barbara Lee: "The U.S. has just sealed, the Obama administration, yet another arms deal with Saudi Arabia, in the last year signed the biggest arms deals in the history of the world with Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia behind a lot of the militant activism from al-Qaeda to ISIS. Do you condemn these sales?"

This is Lee's full response: "Well, first, we need to reduce the sale of arms throughout the world. Also, I think when you look at the—for example, trying to rid Iran of the ability to develop nuclear weapons, we engaged in a strong, robust diplomatic effort. Many years ago, I introduced the first resolution calling for the end of no contact policy, for a special envoy and for us to begin to negotiate with Iran the elimination of their program of developing nuclear weapons. So far, those negotiations and that Iranian deal has worked. And so I think that we need to move in that direction in terms of diplomacy, in terms of trying to seek global peace and security without selling arms to all countries, because what you will have is an arms buildup throughout the world, and then weapons will be pointed at—each country will have weapons—of course, a nuclear weapon is the ultimate weapon—pointed in all directions. And so, we need to determine ways, as the president has done with regard to Iran, ways in which to engage to reduce the threats and to reduce the sale and the use of force and armaments and military weapons, because these can only make the world more dangerous."

Notice Lee does not condemn the weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. Indeed, she doesn't utter the word "Saudi". Instead, she talks about alleged Iranian nuclear weapons designs -- a total staple of officialdom -- and speaks generally against arms sales. 

Nor do the hosts highlight this. Juan Gonzalez, who I think often asks more probing questions that Goodman, immediately proceeded to ask a somewhat fawning question: "And I’m wondering what advice you might have to parliamentarians in France now, as France is going through the same kind of crisis that this country went through after the attacks of 2001. The president is now seeking authorization from the French Parliament for extraordinary measures in his country. What advice might you give to the parliamentarians of France?" 

We're not going to get very far if we're looking to politicos for leadership who can't condemn policies like the U.S. government has to the Saudis. And we're not going to get very far if presumably tough, independent programs like "Democracy Now" can't keep officials accountable about that. 

More CrossTalk™

Hafsa Kara-Mustapha in CounterPunch today criticizes me at length in "Cross Talk, Semantics and the Downright Spineless" about our appearance on a panel on RT's program CrossTalk™ and my piece "Stated Goals vs Actual Goals: CrossTalk Lives Up to Its Name."

I won't rebut point for point what she writes, because I think it will continue to fuel the CrossTalk™ that began on the program -- she continues to alternate between talking about people "capable of questioning U.S. policy motives" on the one hand and then on the other referring to U.S. government policy as "blunders" and having "obvious flaws" -- tepid crits from my point of view. 

But, I should point out she claims: "It was only at the very end that Husseini gathered some courage to finally state that the U.S.’ policy was specifically designed to fuel conflict and encourage failed states."

I think that's a simplification of what I was saying, but the fact is that in the first segment of the program, at 6:30, I stated about U.S. government policy: "If you can't have subservient state -- and I think that's a difficult thing to do in countries like Libya, like Syria, like even Iraq under the circumstances -- then a failed state is a relatively positive outcome. That you have the Saudi ally/client, whatever you want to call it, being ever more dominant in the Middle East. You have Israel having evermore carte blanche in the Middle East. You have the alliance between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah being hit at its weakest point." [video

I can understand her not having quite heard this given the CrossTalk™ on the program, I found it difficult to communicate under the circumstances as well, but she really should be able to have figured it out by watching the program after the fact. She'd then be free to respond to the substance. 

I should note that my piece after the program didn't just complain about the program, I posited a theory about why some associated with RT would not -- as one might expect -- be prone to criting the Machiavellian nature of U.S. policy: It would mean the U.S. government isn't really getting schooled by Putin. 

I've gotten a number of emails from folks about the substance of my remarks and hope to write a longer piece on that. 

Broadcasting Unaccountability

Radio headers, sometimes called "billboards" are critical -- they frame the issues, typically at the top of the hour, before a full blown segment.

But they are often not even transcribed, thus programs, including those from NPR and Democracy Now, become less accountable. This means in some respects, there's no record of the most powerful thing these outlets broadcast. 

Two examples:

Wednesday morning (Oct. 28) -- before officer Ben Fields was fired -- NPR Morning Edition said at top of the hour about the video: "It seems to show a white officer slamming a black student to the floor." "Seems." A segment was aired later in the hour without the word "seems" -- and is available and transcribed online, but I'm unable to find the header online in any form, even on Nexis. 

Similarly, with Democracy Now, on Monday's program (Oct. 26), at the top of the show, before a strong program featuring Charles Glass, host Amy Goodman talked about "international leaders meet in Vienna to find a solution to the conflict" in Syria. As if that's what the government representatives are clearly doing regarding Syria: trying to "find a solution to the conflict" -- when there's substantial evidence they've avoided that and have instead been pursuing their various geostrategic and political agendas. The segment with Glass is transcribed, the header isn't, though it is in video form, since Democracy Now does post entire programs, unlike NPR's Morning Edition. 

You'd think in this age, it would be a minimum requirement: if you're going to broadcast something on hundreds of stations, it should be stored and transcribed online.