I realized there the way I felt about the soldiers commemorated there was decidedly similar how I felt about John McCain the POW in Vietnam: They both fought for a cause that was unjust and ended up enduring real suffering.
Of course, celebrations over the assassination of Bin Ladin were commonplace in the U.S. and McCain's death has prompted a virtual media and political deification of a serial war criminal. In a sense, he represents the latest example of Trumpwashing -- that is, the laudatory echo chamber around McCain is fueled in large part by an at least implicit put down of the current psudo isolationist president who, for better or worse, got multiple military draft deferments.
Warren gave a blistering attack on corporate power run amok, giving example after example, like Congressman Billy Tauzin doing the pharmaceutical lobby's bidding by preventing a bill for expanded Medicare coverage from allowing the program to negotiate lower drug prices. Noted Warren: "In December of 2003, the very same month the bill was signed into law, PhRMA -- the drug companies’ biggest lobbying group -- dangled the possibility that Billy could be their next CEO.
"In February of 2004, Congressman Tauzin announced that he wouldn’t seek re-election. Ten months later, he became CEO of PhRMA -- at an annual salary of $2 million. Big Pharma certainly knows how to say 'thank you for your service.'"
But I found that Warren's tenacity when ripping things like corporate lobbyists' "pre-bribes" suddenly evaporated when dealing with issues like the enormous military budget and Israeli assaults on Palestinian children.
The Press Club moderator, Angela Greiling Keane, early in the news conference asked about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's keeping press out of town hall meetings, pairing that with Trump's outright attacks on media.
Husseini: Sam Husseini with The Nation and the Institute for Public Accuracy. Cortez, who was mentioned earlier, and other likely incoming congressional members next year propose slashing the military budget to help pay for human and environmental needs. Do you agree? And if I could, a second question: would you consider introducing and sponsoring [a version of] Betty McCollum's bill on Palestinians children's rights in the Senate?Warren: I now sit on Armed Services and I have been in the middle of the sausage making factory on that one. And that has pushed me even more strongly in the direction of systemic reforms. I want to be able to have those debates. I want to be able to get them out in the open and talk about these poor issues that affect our government, affect our people. I want to be able to debate them on the floor of the senate. I want to be able to do amendments on them. Right now the whole of big money over our government stops much of that. It chokes off much of the debate we should have. So I am going to give you a system-wide answer because I think that's what matters here. This is not about one particular proposal, this is all the way across. How is it that we get the voices of the people heard in government instead of over and over the voices of the wealthy and the well connected. The voices of those with higher armies of lobbyists. So for me that's what this is about.
But part of the power that the wealthy and well connected have is getting direct responses to their specific concerns. Political funders are unlikely impressed with broad "system-wide answers".
Today also marks exactly one month since I was dragged out of the July 16 Trump-Putin news conference in Helsinki and locked up until the middle of the night.
As laid in my cell, I chuckled at the notion that the city was full of billboards proclaiming Finland was the "land of free press".
So, I've grown an especially high sensitivity to both goonish behavior toward journalists trying to ask tough questions -- and to those professing they are defending a free press when they are actually engaging in a marketing campaign.
As some have noted, the editorials today will likely help Trump whip up support among his base against a monolithic media. But, just as clearly, the establishment media can draw attention away from their own failures, corruptions and falsehoods simply by focusing on some of Trump's.
Big media outlets need not actually report news that affects your life and point to serious solutions for social ills. They can just bad mouth Trump. And Trump need not deliver on campaign promises that tapped into populist and isolationist tendencies in the U.S. public that have grown in reaction to years of elite rule. He need only deride the major media.
They are at worst frenemies. More likely, at times, Trump and the establishment media log roll with each other. The major media built up Trump. Trump's attacks effectively elevate a select few media celebrities.
The other major story of the day -- quite related to this -- is that of Trump pulling former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance. NPR tells me this is an attempt to "silence a critic". But Brennan has an op-ed in today's New York Times and is frequently on major media. He oversaw criminal policies during the Obama administration, including drone assassinations. If anything, this has elevated Brennan's major media status.
If I hadn’t been forcibly ejected from the Trump-Putin press conference, here’s what I would have asked.
by Sam Husseini
I came to Helsinki to ask Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin questions about the threat of nuclear weapons and to distribute an open letter about the need for secure elections and true national security. Instead, I was dragged out of their press conference before it even began and into a Finnish jail. No charges were pressed against me.
Here’s what I would have asked, had I been given the chance.
Your governments pledged in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to conduct good faith efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. But 50 years later, Russia and the United States are nowhere near eliminating them. President Trump, you’ve said that you’d like to get rid of nuclear weapons, but your government is spending over $1 trillion “modernizing” its arsenal. A year ago, 122 nations voted at the United Nations for the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) won the Nobel Peace Prize. Why are both of you not living up to your commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? And why are you blocking the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons?
And a question for President Trump: Your administration has echoed the line of the Israeli government by refusing to acknowledge the existence of Israel’s clandestine nuclear-weapons arsenal. Will you end that policy by acknowledging it here and now?
But how would I get a chance to ask such questions? Over the years, I’ve worked to increase access to our leaders, asking questions when I could at the National Press Club and questioning politicians at the stakeouts as they depart the big Sunday chat shows. I’ve also recently started attending State Department briefings for The Nation.
I’ve experienced what is obvious: If government officials don’t like your questions, they just won’t call on you.
That’s why—after discussing the matter with my colleague at the Institute for Public Accuracy, Norman Solomon, a long-time journalist in his own right—I came up with the idea of holding up a small piece of paper that might draw Trump or Putin’s attention. We settled on a reference to the treaty that Russia and the United States are blocking: nuclear weapon ban treaty.
I had been encouraged by a news report last week from Reuters: “Asked what would be the best possible result from his meeting with Putin, Trump said: ‘What would be the ultimate? Let’s see. No more nuclear weapons anywhere in the world, no more wars, no more problems, no more conflicts.… That would be my ultimate.’” Of course, Trump has the capacity to completely contradict himself in the span of a minute. Nonetheless, I was hoping to use his own statements to force a serious conversation on the Damocles sword hanging over humanity’s head.
The question about Israel’s nuclear-weapons arsenal is also central. There’s perhaps no greater threat than a weapon that is unacknowledged. Decades ago, Noam Chomsky laid out the possible threat to humanity of “the Samson Option”: An expansionist Israel would use a nuclear threat pointed at the entire world as leverage. It’s not just that Israel could strike Arab and Muslim countries. It could also strike at Moscow, which would retaliate against the United States in a nightmare scenario. Over the years, I’ve asked many officials if they would acknowledge that Israel has nuclear weapons, perhaps most notably Mike Pence while he was a congressman.
While waiting for the news conference to start, Finnish security asked me to get out of my seat. I asked why, but they would not say. The authorities insisted I come with them. I finally did so after receiving assurance I would be let back in. In case they would go back on the deal, I mentioned that “I am Sam Husseini with The Nation” to the other journalists as I left. In the hallway, Finnish security finally said that someone had told them I had a sign. They seemed afraid I would stage a protest. I told them I had no intention of doing any sort of protest and offered to show them the small sign in my bag.
We went back to main room, where other journalists asked me what was going on. Trying to be transparent, I held up the sign to explain what I had wanted to do. I expected that security would either understand that this did not constitute a protest, or they would say I had violated their rules and ask me to turn over my sign. I would have abided by that decision. But instead, security officers lunged for the sign, knocking my glasses to the floor and dragging me out of the hall. As I was shoved out of room. I think I shouted, “I wanted to ask about nuclear weapons!” and “This is a free press in Finland?”
I was taken to a small room downstairs where I was told that Finnish law allows for police to detain me for 24 hours without charge. They did not allow me access to my phone or other possessions, and they forced me to give up my press badge, which I later got back. I was then taken to a detention facility. As I was moved outside, I hollered to onlookers, “This is freedom of press in Finland!” At that point, officers started tackling me to the ground, and my legs and hands were cuffed. At the detention facility, I was asked more questions and laid out the facts of what had happened. I was released around midnight.
After I was finally able to listen to the news conference, it became evident how important my questions were. Both Trump and Putin attempted to sound like paragons of enlightened rule when talking about nuclear policy. But the emphasis was on nonproliferation. Putin spoke of the pair as being “major nuclear powers” who “bear special responsibility for maintaining international security” so as to ensure “global security and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” Similarly, Trump stated: “We also discussed one of the most critical challenges facing humanity: nuclear proliferation.”
But nonproliferation is not disarmament. Indeed, nonproliferation is about ensuring that other countries don’t get nuclear weapons. It is not about getting rid of this all-encompassing threat to humanity. It is an attempt to preserve the nuclear powers’ monopoly on violence rather than actually ensuring security. These are the serious issues I was hoping to raise—and get some answers about—in Helsinki.
Sam Husseini is a contributor to The Nation and senior analyst with the Institute for Public Accuracy.
This was originally published in The Nation.
CNN began with the slogan, articulated by its founder Ted Turner: “The news is the star.”
That has long since ceased to be a reflection of what CNN does. Despite promoting itself with its dubious “facts first” slogan, the network endlessly touts its celebrity pundits and anchors: Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo, Christiane Amanpour, Fareed Zakaria, et al. The view of the world that they depict is what the viewer needs to understand—not the world itself.
Anthony Bourdain didn’t join CNN until 2013, didn’t do “news” per se, and his own personality was certainly a major part of his show, Parts Unknown, but the lens was largely on the places Bourdain went, whether Armenia or West Virginia, and the people he met there. This work was more mini-doc than anything else typically found on CNN.
At his best, to Bourdain, the world was the star. The people, the cultures, the varied beliefs, the booze, the music, the rivers, the cities, the ethnic groups, what they share and their tensions. He’d often at least indicate class distinctions in his shows, at times gender dynamics as well. He spoke up in defense of the many immigrants in the restaurant industry, and was an ally of the #MeToo movement.
See full piece by Sam Husseini at FAIR: "Anthony Bourdain: The Last Gasp of CNN’s Original Vision."
A silver lining seems to be that it has helped raise issues that -- unlike the Russiagate story much of the establishment media has obsessed over -- at least have some currency with the general public.
But the manner in which immigration issues have been focused on has obscured the root causes of those issues. Desperate migration is ultimately caused by economics, like so-called trade deals, corrupt Central American governments, often U.S.-backed, U.S.-backed coups and other policies.
And refugees desperately flee countries like Syria largely because of prolonged U.S.-backed wars.
In virtually all these instances, there is left-right opposition to the establishment policy that is often at the root of the problem. The establishment of the Republican and Democratic party have rammed through trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA and global pro-corporate policies. The U.S. government -- with both Obama and Trump administrations -- has backed coups like Honduras in 2009 or rigged elections like in 2017.
Corporate deals and coups and such give rise to governments unresponsive to their citizens, enacting economic policies that have impoverished most of the people of these countries. It's a testament to the long term effects of U.S. interventions that regions like Central America, which have been the focus of so much U.S. government attention over the decades, are in such dismal condition.
Such circumstances breed gangs, which means a lack of safety, causing desperate migration. Parts of grassroots economies, like small farmers growing corn, have been decimated because deals like NAFTA allow for dumping of U.S. agribusiness corn. Drug cartels rise as a way to make money for some -- and to fulfill a demand for narcotics in the U.S., an escape for USians form their own economic plights and often nihilistic lives. Meanwhile, transpartisan efforts at drug legalization and pushed to the background.
Similarly, many leftists and some rightwingers, like Ron Paul, oppose constant U.S. interventions in the Mideast as well. The invasion of Iraq lead to the rise of ISIS, the destablization of Syria, Libya and other countries. The U.S. establishment and its allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel have effectively sought to prolong the war in Syria and to destabilize other counties in the region for their geostrategic designs.
The rank and file bases of the Democratic and Republican parties are largely against NAFTA, CAFTA, etc. -- while the elites in both parties are for them, so they get done. Clinton and Obama were duplicitously for them (pretending that side deals on labor and environment will do much and thus to distract from their pushing corporate agenda). Trump rants and raves about much, but hasn't put forward a serious crit of them.
So, the bases of the two parties end up fuming at each other over status of migrants from Central America and travelers from largely Muslim countries. They become further entrenched into either establishment party structure while the people running those structures continue to perpetuate policies that the bases agree with each other about.
Wars cause refugees. Then, the left and right scream at each other over the refugees, forgetting how the establishment continues the wars that the left and right are significantly opposed to.
All this has the effect of further entrenching people in their partisan boxes. Progressives with problems with the Democratic Party do their duty to fight against the Trumpsters and vice versa.
So, you get more war and more pro-corporate policies.
The manner of these debates tears people apart just enough to prevent dialogue. Sarah Sanders is told to leave a restaurant, but pundits on CNN urge the public not to be out in the streets arguing. Voting is the one and only path to making your voice heard. Shut up and get in line.
The debates rarely question national myths. Quite the contrary, they are an opportunity for "both sides" to appear to more loudly vocalize how they embody the goodness inherent in the U.S. "We need to reclaim our values... We're a good nation, we're a good people. And we should be setting a standard on this planet of what humanity should be about," says Sen. Cory Booker after the Supreme Court upholds President Trump's travel ban.
What "humanity should be about". This from a member of a Democratic Party establishment that has fueled polarization with the other nation on the planet with thousands of nuclear warheads. From a party establishment that has dismissed apparent progress toward finally ending the bloody Korean War. Just this week, Senators from both sides of the aisle voted to allocate more and more money for wars. The recent increases in the Pentagon budget are more than the entire military budget of the great threat, Russia.
But pay no attention to that. National piety is upheld. The U.S. is so wonderful, the immigrants want in. That proves it. Never mind U.S. government policies helped impoverish them. Never mind U.S. government wars destroyed the countries of millions of refugees. Never mind what you think might be wrong with the country, just be grateful you're here.
U.S. benevolence is to be proven by taking in a nominal number of refugees to some self-proclaimed liberals. So-called conservatives preserved the dignity of the nation not by insisting that the rule of law be applied to high officials, but that we should have zero tolerance for helping some desperate souls.
They diminishing economic state of USians emanating from economic inequality is largely off the agenda of both parties. They entrench the partisan divide, but in a way that obscures deeper issues. Party on.
2006 to 2011: Founded Washington Stakeout
Encouraged "disenchanted Democrats" and "disenchanted Republicans" to engage in honest dialogue which would result in them each voting for their preferred independent candidates by pairing up rather than simply voting for one major party or the other because they detested the other more.
1996 to 1997: Media Director, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
1990 to 1996: Worked at Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting
1988 to 1989: Math teacher - Homeless shelter manager
“Twisted Policy on Iraq” Washington Post
Lucille: Is the nominal vice president, but, as is often the case in U.S. administrations, is the actual cold, calculating power behind the throne. In seeming contrast to the actress Jessica Walter depicting her, Lucille hatches insidious plots that she strong-arms the president and others to carry out, like buying land to build The Wall on the border with Mexico. She has an affinity for criminality on the high seas, perhaps stemming from the VP living at the Naval Observatory.
Buster: Literally joined the army. He does the dirty work. He's -- big stereotype here -- not too bright. He has an affinity for robotization, at times killing with drones and himself has a mechanical arm.
Tobias: Represents the NSA. While he's a never nude, he can use his cat-like agility to spy and move stealthily around a home. Or, after he says "I blue myself" -- is capable of surveilling on the go. His photography of his own body parts was seemingly mistaken as evidence of Iraqi WMDs.
Gob, or G.O.B: Is the C.I.A., frequently dispatched by the president to execute covert ops. With his "illusions" is capable of cluelessly killing innocents. He teams up with the Buster army in the Sword of Destiny and the Tobias NSA in Gobias Industries. He's continuously trying to cover up his various shameful actions, including from himself, by popping Forget-Me-Nows. He's guilty of spawning blowback, such as giving the seal that bit off Buster's arm the taste for mammal blood.
Michael is the State Department. He gets sent to Iraq with Buster and Gob. He had often been seen as more sane, the adult in the room, but ultimately has been shown to be as twisted as the rest of the family -- foreshadowing the current unfortunate trajectory of the institution he represents.
Lindsay: Is the non-profit sector, perpetually putting on ridiculous fundraisers and staging particularly pointless protests -- all the while eager to sell out, intentionally or not.
George Michael is Silicon Valley and its connection to academia. While ostensibly pursuing an education, he focuses on projects like his anti-social software Faceblock.
Maeby of course is Hollywood -- she worked at a studio. While her parents Tobias and Lindsay are inept, she's a skilled con artist. But she does have incredible lapses, displaying incredible ignorance of basic religious knowledge and simple mathematics. She was last seen eyeing more money in Silicon Valley as part of her varied incestuous relationship with her cousin George Michael.
Ann Veal ("Egg") represents the politically organized right-wing mega churches: Opulent in their wealth, banal in their persona, shallow in their beliefs, hypocritical in their conduct -- yet with seemingly functioning family structures.
Lucille 2: Is the donor class, perpetually funding and in bed with one Bluth or another.
While proclaiming a regret of loss of life, she effectively justified the killing: "Israel has a right to defend itself. When people are being sent to the border, they are bringing weapons, they are threatening to cross through the fence, they are throwing Molotov cocktails – Israel has a right to defend itself."
When asked "But in so many flashpoints that are sensitive around the world, regularly the U.S. Government calls for restraint on all sides. It’s such a common, simple thing to say. Why in this case is it so difficult? What would be wrong with calling for restraint on the part of Israel?" Nauert responded: "I think this is a complex region. We’re looking at exactly why protests are taking place, why Hamas is encouraging people to go out and protest, why Hamas is encouraging people to go out right up to the border fence, why they’re encouraging people to try to knock down that fence and go into Israel, why they’re sending kites with Molotov cocktails to try to burn down the fields. Michelle, this is not as innocent as it may seem to many people. Hamas is trying to encourage people to do that, and by doing that, they are putting Palestinian lives at risk. ... Let’s move on. I don’t have anything more for you on this, okay?"
I tried to get questions in a several points and she manged to avoid me through the news conference until the very end, which I attempted to pursue a line of questioning starting with examining the notion that Israel was justified. I wish I came up with more creative way to approach this, but her non response and justification for massive killing is notable.
MS NAUERT: Okay, we’re – we’re done with this.
HUSSEINI: Israel has a right to defend itself --
MS NAUERT: We’ve already been there.
HUSSEINI: -- and there are no Israeli casualties --
MS NAUERT: Okay.
HUSSEINI: -- and there are literally tens of – there’s over ten thousand --
MS NAUERT: I think – I think we’ve covered this extensively already.
HUSSEINI: -- Palestinian casualties in the – and a hundred dead.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Go on, one last question?
MS NAUERT: Do you have something else?
HUSSEINI: Excuse me.
QUESTION: Yes. On the Lebanese.
HUSSEINI: Excuse me. No, no, no. That requires a response. And furthermore, I mean, the U.S. isn’t, you know, mowing down people along the U.S.-Mexican border.
MS NAUERT: We are --
HUSSEINI: Isn’t that accurate?
MS NAUERT: We are done with this issue. We’ve covered it extensively already. I’ve taken many questions on this, and we’ve --
HUSSEINI: So, Israel is off the hook again. Israel is off the hook again.
MS NAUERT: Sir, thank you – thank you for your question. I think we’ve covered this already, okay? I’m sorry; I’ll get back to you another time, okay?
QUESTION: That’s okay.
MS NAUERT: Thank you.
See my last questioning at a State Department briefing on March 23, which similarly ended with me asking: "So Israel’s off the hook?"