Which prompted me to send this response to the Herald’s editor;
from: Frank Macskasy <email@example.com>
to: NZ Herald <firstname.lastname@example.org>
date: Sun, Jan 15, 2017
subject: Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor
Regarding Juliet Moses’ comment in the New Zealand Herald article, that UN Resolution 2334 “was an affront to all New Zealanders” (6 Jan) – I will thank her and her fellow travellers not to assume they speak for me and others.
Last I looked, Israel has not added Aotearoa to it’s list of illegally annexed territory.
As for Moses’ assertion;
“…Israel’s Arab neighbours mounted a second unsuccessful attempt to exterminate her in 1967”
– is either woeful ignorance or wilful misrepresentation of historical fact.
Israel launched the so-called Six Day War on 5 June 1967 against it’s neighbours;
“In response to the *apparent* mobilization of its Arab neighbours, early on the morning of June 5, Israel staged a sudden preemptive air assault that destroyed more than 90 percent Egypt’s air force on the tarmac. A similar air assault incapacitated the Syrian air force.” – Encyclopedia Britannica
Arrogant and mis-informed. She most certainly does not speak on my behalf.
Encyclopedia Britannica: Six-Day War – Middle East – 1967
= fs =
It started on 23 December, when President-Elect, Donald Trump made this unexpected, alarming “tweet”;
With 115 characters, Donald Trump declared a return to a global nuclear arms race.
It started in 1949, when George Orwell’s Nineteen Eightyfour was published, an alternative reality of a world ruled by three totalitarian superpowers, constantly at war with each other;
It started in 1948, with the beginning of the “Cold War”…
The Scene is set…
Trump’s 23 December “tweet” that the US will resume a build-up of its atomic weapons arsenal should come as no surprise. On 8 September, on the campaign trail, he announced;
“History shows that when America is not prepared is when the danger is greatest. We want to deter, avoid and prevent conflict through our unquestioned military dominance.
I’m gonna build a military that’s gonna be much stronger than it is right now. It’s gonna be so strong, nobody’s gonna mess with us.”
The Military Times assessed Trump’s promised build-up of US forces;
Trump wants an active-duty Army with another 60,000 soldiers in the ranks, an unspecified number of additional sailors to man the 78 ships and submarines he intends to see built in coming years. He wants up to 12,000 more Marines to serve in infantry and tank battalions, and at least another 100 combat aircraft for the Air Force.
If Trump’s administration can accomplish even a portion of this, it could have sweeping effects on rank-and-file military personnel, touching everything from individual advancement opportunities to the number of U.S. troops stationed overseas and overall operational tempo. The scope of growth being suggested would require many more officers and noncommissioned officers, influencing, over the course of several years, how each service recruits, promotes and retains its workforce.
It could reshape how many American troops find themselves assigned to geopolitical hot spots, including the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. And all of this, in theory, would ease the pace at which service members are deployed or actively preparing to go overseas, which amounts to time away from their homes and families.
Curiously, none of Trump’s hyper-jingoistic election rhetoric seemed to faze Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. On the contrary, Putin remained zen-like and complimentary of the billionaire-turned-politician. In December 2015, Putin was reported in state media, Sputnik, as saying;
“He is a very bright person, talented without any doubt. It is not our business to assess his worthiness, but he is the absolute leader of the presidential race. He says he wants to move to a different level of relations — a fuller, deeper [level] — with Russia, how can we not welcome this? Of course we welcome this.”
Putin’s comments were also reported in Russian state-controlled media, RT News.
A veritable “love-fest” of compliments were exchanged between the two men. A “bro-mance” had obviously developed between the Oligarch and the Billionaire;
Trump: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”
Trump: “He is really very much of a leader. The man has very strong control over his country. Now, it’s a very different system, and I don’t happen to like the system, but certainly in that system he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader.”
Both Putin and leader of the far-right National Front, Marine Le Pen, congratulated Trump on his presidential success.
Their relationship continued, even as Trump ‘tweeted’ on 23 December that the “the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability“.
“I was a bit surprised by the statements from some representatives of the current U.S. administration who for some reason started to prove that the U.S. military was the most powerful in the world.
Nobody is arguing with that.
In the course of his election campaign he (Trump) spoke about the necessity of strengthening the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and strengthening the armed forces. There’s nothing unusual here.”
“We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defence systems.
We must carefully monitor any changes in the balance of power and in the political-military situation in the world, especially along Russian borders, and quickly adapt plans for neutralising threats to our country.”
So Who is the enemy?!
If, as Putin and Trump are at pains to assert, their relationship is on firm, cordial grounds – why the need for a massive modernisation and build-up of both superpower’s military force? A build-up that could cost both nations billions of dollars and rubles?
Who is the enemy?
Relations between Russia (formerly Soviet Union), China, and the US has always been a “balancing act”. The three have constantly played each other off against each other.
In Nineteen Eightyfour, Orwell took the three-superpower rivalry to its ultimate, destructive, insane conclusion;
On the sixth day of Hate Week, after the processions, the speeches, the shouting, the singing, the banners, the posters, the films, the waxworks, the rolling of drums and squealing of trumpets, the tramp of marching feet, the grinding of the caterpillars of tanks, the roar of massed planes, the booming of guns — after six days of this, when the great orgasm was quivering to its climax and the general hatred of Eurasia had boiled up into such delirium that if the crowd could have got their hands on the 2,000 Eurasian war-criminals who were to be publicly hanged on the last day of the proceedings, they would unquestionably have torn them to pieces — at just this moment it had been announced that Oceania was not after all at war with Eurasia. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally.
There was, of course, no admission that any change had taken place. Merely it became known, with extreme suddenness and everywhere at once, that Eastasia and not Eurasia was the enemy…
Oceania was at war with Eastasia: Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.
Our own three super-powers
In 1972, then Republican-president, Richard Nixon made his historical trip to the People’s Republic of China. As History.com portrayed the momentous event;
The American fear of a monolithic communist bloc had been modified, as a war of words—and occasional border conflicts—erupted between the Soviet Union and the PRC in the 1960s. Nixon, and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger saw a unique opportunity in these circumstances—diplomatic overtures to the PRC might make the Soviet Union more malleable to U.S. policy requests (such as pressuring the North Vietnamese to sign a peace treaty acceptable to the United States). In fact, Nixon was scheduled to travel to meet Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev shortly after completing his visit to China.
Nixon’s trip to China, therefore, was a move calculated to drive an even deeper wedge between the two most significant communist powers. The United States could use closer diplomatic relations with China as leverage in dealing with the Soviets, particularly on the issue of Vietnam. In addition, the United States might be able to make use of the Chinese as a counterweight to North Vietnam. Despite their claims of socialist solidarity, the PRC and North Vietnam were, at best, strongly suspicious allies. As historian Walter LaFeber said, “Instead of using Vietnam to contain China, Nixon concluded that he had better use China to contain Vietnam.” For its part, the PRC was desirous of another ally in its increasingly tense relationship with the Soviet Union and certainly welcomed the possibility of increased U.S.-China trade.
However, in recent times, China has flexed its military muscle and increased its presence in the South China Sea. This has set it on a collision course with other regional neighbours, as well as the United States;
Chinese expansion in the South China Sea is bringing conflict between Beijing and its neighbours – Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam – closer than it has been for decades. Vietnam has fortified several islands it controls, while Japan has been publicly rebuked by Beijing over its ‘interference’ in the sea – most of which China claims. The Philippines has called for “restraint and sobriety” as its own dispute with Beijing rumbles on.
But the South China Sea and a lesser-known spat with Japan over islands near Taiwan has not only brought talk of a regional war in the Pacific to the fore, but raised the prospect of the US being dragged into open warfare with China. Beijing’s expansionism threatens not only the interests of US allies in East Asia but also global trade, given that some 40% of all shipping passes through the disputed area of ocean.
“As horrific as a Sino-US war could be, it cannot be considered implausible,” warned the authors of the RAND Corporations August report, War with China: Thinking through the Unthinkable.
But in reality US-China relations have been strained for some time, as demonstrated by the scrutiny of Barack Obama’s visit to Hangzhou, where American reporters scuffled with Chinese security staff and Beijing was widely accused of snubbing the US president on his final international visit. Chinese hacking of US companies has been widespread, leading to America’s indictment of five senior Chinese army officers in May 2014.
Meanwhile in the South China Sea and East China Sea, Chinese expansion has come at the expense of major US allies, including Japan. Japan’s ownership of the Senkaku Islands, north of Taiwan, is enshrined in the US-Japan Treaty that was signed after the end of the Second World War. China’s increasingly hostile stance towards its neighbour over the islands risks dragging the US into a conflict between Beijing and Tokyo.
This has already resulted in confrontations between the two nuclear super-powers;
A U.S. navy destroyer sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea on Friday, drawing a warning from Chinese warships to leave the area.
The U.S. action was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, U.S. officials said.
The Chinese Defense Ministry called the move “illegal” and “provocative,” saying that two Chinese warships had warned the U.S. destroyer to leave.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur challenged “excessive maritime claims” near the Paracel Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighbors, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The latest U.S. patrol, first reported by Reuters, is expected to anger Beijing and could further escalate tensions over the South China Sea. The destroyer sailed within waters claimed by China, close to but not within the 12-nautical-mile territorial limits of the islands, the officials said.
The U.S. shows little sign in backing down, as Chief of U.S. Naval Operations Admiral, John Richardson, said during a trip to China in July this year;
“The U.S. Navy will continue to conduct routine and lawful operations around the world, including in the South China Sea, in order to protect the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of sea and airspace guaranteed to all. This will not change.”
A spokesperson for the incoming Trump Administration, Sean Spicer was equally belligerent (without specifically mentioning China);
“I think it’s putting every nation on notice that the United States is going to reassert its position in the globe.”
Trump himself has made antagonistic and disparaging remarks about China;
The CNN report continued;
Trump has repeatedly accused China of manipulating its currency to make its exports more competitive on the global market and has claimed that China is “killing” the U.S. on trade.
Sunday marks the first time in this campaign that Trump has used the term “rape” to refer to what he views as China’s dominance in trade with the U.S.
“We’re going to turn it around. And we have the cards, don’t forget it. We’re like the piggy bank that’s being robbed. We have the cards. We have a lot of power with China,” Trump said Sunday before referring to China’s relationship with the U.S. as rape.
Trump added that he is not “angry at China,” but with U.S. leaders whom he accused of being “grossly incompetent.”
Trump previously claimed in 2011 that “China is raping this country” as he toured a defense manufacturer in New Hampshire.
Many considered the doomed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement to be designed to contain China;
From its inception, the TPP has been considered by many as a strategic instrument to isolate or contain China. Given the country’s ambitions, its leaders are understandably concerned about the concerted effort by the U.S. and other Asia-Pacific countries to curtail its economic growth and geopolitical influence.
China’s outsider status could also be seen as an indictment of its inadequacies, such as limited intellectual property protection and a lack of government procurement standards. The exclusion of China not only has caused the country to lose face, but has also provided a painful reminder of its continued struggle to gain an equal status in the international community. Finally, the lack of TPP membership will prevent China from enjoying new tariff reduction and preferential market access. If this regional pact is to operate according to design, it will divert trade and manufacturing from China to TPP members.
Our own expert and campaigner, Jane Kelsey, also remarked on the anti-China nature of the TPPA;
“In the past month both US presidential candidates have positioned the TPP at the centre of their strategy to neutralise China’s ascendancy in what they call the ‘Pacific’ region.
New Zealand already faces the prospect of being piggy in the middle, with potentially conflicting rules and foreign policy pressures from agreements with China and the USA.
Tim Groser is kidding himself if he thinks China will sit quietly by and allow us to play both sides. This is a high-risk game and we need to have an honest debate about its long-term implications for the country.”
“And we believe China can be a partner, but we’re also sending a very clear signal that America is a Pacific power, that we are going to have a presence there.
We are working with countries in the region to make sure, for example, that ships can pass through, that commerce continues.
And we’re organizing trade relations with countries other than China so that China starts feeling more pressure about meeting basic international standards. That’s the kind of leadership we’ve shown in the region. That’s the kind of leadership that we’ll continue to show.
As part of his populist campaigning this year, Trump publicly rejected the TPPA. This left him to devise other options to “contain China”.
The Trump Deal between Russia and US
The new-found rapprochement between Russia and the US could be based on mutual interest. With Trump’s penchant for deal-making, the U.S. and Russia would have much to gain by stitching together a secret deal.
In return for the U.S. gaining Russian support against growing Chinese influence in the South China Sea, Trump would allow Russia a free hand in supporting its ally, Syria (where U.S. interests are minimal anyway, unlike the Pacific).
This would explain why the U.S. and Russia have been ‘cosying’ up together.
More critically, it answers the perplexing question as to why Russia seems utterly unperturbed at American plans to build up its military. And why the U.S. seems to have stepped back from taking action over Syria.
Nixon went to China.
Trump may be going to Moscow.
Oceania has always been at war with
Twitter: Donald J Trump
Wikipedia: Nineteen Eightyfour
Business Insider: Here’s a look at what Trump and Putin have said about each other
Ebook: Ninetween Eightyfour
China.org.cn: Chronology of China-US Relations
International Business Times: Could the South China Sea dispute trigger a Sino-US war?
It’s Our Future: Obama casts TPP as Challenge to China
Washington Times: Inside the Ring – Obama, Romney on China
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 December 2016.
= fs =
On 9 December, a CIA report concluded that Russia covertly interfered in the recent US elections. The Washington Post’s , Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller wrote;
The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.
Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”
An un-named senior US intelligence official was blunt in blaming Russia;
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favour one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected.”
Obama’s counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, said;
“We may have crossed into a new threshold and it is incumbent up on us to take stock of that, to review, to conduct some after-action, to understand what has happened and to impart some lessons learned.
Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, rejected the allegations that Russia was the source of the Democratic Party email leaks/hacks;
“The Clinton camp has been able to project a neo-McCarthyist hysteria that Russia is responsible for everything. Hillary Clinton has stated multiple times, falsely, that 17 US intelligence agencies had assessed that Russia was the source of our publications. That’s false – we can say that the Russian government is not the source.”
Trump’s transition team retorted with a massive ‘burn‘ to the CIA;
“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” (click here for CIA reference to Iraq’s alleged WMDs)
Oblivious to the excruciating irony of his response, Trump rejected any suggestion of a conspiracy to undermine the US election;
“I don’t believe it. Every week it’s another excuse. Nobody really knows, and hacking is very interesting. Once they hack, if you don’t catch them in the act you’re not going to catch them. They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place.”
Senior Republican senator and past Presidential candidate, John McCain, was more certain;
“This cannot become a partisan issue. The stakes are too high for our country. It’s clear the Russians interfered. Whether they intended to interfere to the degree that they were trying to elect a certain candidate, I think that’s a subject of investigation. But facts are stubborn things. They did hack into this campaign.”
Outgoing US Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, was happy to point to Russian cheating in the Olympics as evidence of their meddling in US politics being more than likely;
“Russia has a pretty good way of cheating. Look at what they did with athletes.”
Reid was scathing of FBI Director James Comey, who he blames for withholding explosive information (revealed in CIA report) that Russian intelligence agents gave hacked Democratic Party emails to WikiLeaks;
“The FBI had this material for a long time but Comey, who is of course a Republican, refused to divulge specific information about Russia and the presidental election.
I am so disappointed in Comey. He has let the country down for partisan purposes and that’s why I call him the new J Edgar Hoover, because I believe that.
I think he should be investigated by the Senate. He should be investigated by other agencies of the government including the security agencies because if ever there was a matter of security it’s this … I don’t think any of us understood how partisan Comey was.”
And yet another un-named ‘official’ warned about;
“…the threat posed by unprecedented meddling by a foreign power in our election process.”
This blogger agrees. Meddling by foreign powers in other countries election processes is indeed, a threat.
Especially when it is the American Empire engaged in “unprecedented meddling … in [other countries’] election process“…
Herein is a (partial) list of United States’ meddling in other countries’ affairs. Several resulted in democratically-elected governments being ousted and replaced by military regimes sympathetic to American imperial interests:
- 1953 Iranian coup d’état (known in Iran as the 28 Mordad coup) was the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh on 19 August 1953, orchestrated by the intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom (under the name ‘Operation Boot’) and the United States (under the name TPAJAX Project). The coup saw the transition of Mohammad-Rezā Shāh Pahlavi from a constitutional monarch to an authoritarian one who relied heavily on United States government support to hold on to power until his own overthrow in February 1979.
- 1954 Guatemala. In a CIA operation code named Operation PBSUCCESS, the U.S. government executed a coup d’état that was successful in overthrowing the democratically-elected government of President Jacobo Árbenz and installed the first of a line of brutal right-wing dictators in its place. The perceived success of the operation made it a model for future CIA operations because the CIA lied to the president of the United States when briefing him regarding the number of casualties.
- 1958 Lebanon crisis. The President of the United States, Eisenhower authorized Operation Blue Bat on July 15, 1958. This was the first application of the Eisenhower Doctrine under which the U.S. announced that it would intervene to protect regimes it considered threatened by international communism. The goal of the operation was to bolster the pro-Western Lebanese government of President Camille Chamoun against internal opposition and threats from Syria and Egypt.
- 1960 Congo. Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of the Congo (later the Democratic Republic of the Congo), was pushed out of office by Congolese President Joseph Kasavubu amid the U.S.-supported Belgian military intervention in the country, a violent effort to maintain Belgian business interests after the country’s decolonization. But Lumumba maintained an armed opposition to the Belgian military and, after approaching the Soviet Union for supplies, was targeted by the CIA once the agency determined he was a threat to the newly installed government of Joseph Mobutu. The Church Committee, an 11-senator commission established in 1975 to provide oversight of the clandestine actions of the U.S. intelligence community, found that the CIA “continued to maintain close contact with Congolese who expressed a desire to assassinate Lumumba,” and that “CIA officers encouraged and offered to aid these Congolese in their efforts against Lumumba.” After an aborted assassination attempt against Lumumba involving a poisoned handkerchief, the CIA alerted Congolese troops to Lumumba’s location and noted roads to be blocked and potential escape routes. Lumumba was captured in late 1960 and killed in January of the following year.
- 1961 Cuba Bay of Pigs Invasion. The CIA orchestrated a force composed of CIA-trained Cuban exiles to invade Cuba with support and encouragement from the US government, in an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. The invasion was launched in April 1961, three months after John F. Kennedy assumed the presidency in the United States. The Cuban armed forces, trained and equipped by Eastern Bloc nations, defeated the invading combatants within three days.
- 1963 South Vietnam. The United States was already deeply involved in South Vietnam in 1963, and its relationship with the country’s leader, Ngo Dinh Diem, was growing increasingly strained amid Diem’s crackdown on Buddhist dissidents. According to the Pentagon Papers, on Aug. 23, 1963, South Vietnamese generals plotting a coup contacted U.S. officials about their plan. After some fits and starts plus a period of U.S. indecision, the generals seized and killed Diem on Nov. 1, 1963 with U.S. support, which by some accounts partially came in the form of $40,000 in CIA funds.“For the military coup d’etat against Ngo Dinh Diem, the U.S. must accept its full share of responsibility,” the Pentagon Papers state. “Beginning in August of 1963 we variously authorized, sanctioned and encouraged the coup efforts of the Vietnamese generals and offered full support for a successor government…. We maintained clandestine contact with them throughout the planning and execution of the coup and sought to review their operational plans and proposed new government.”
- 1964 Brazil. Fearing that the government of Brazilian President Joao Goulart would, in the words of U.S. Ambassador Lincoln Gordon, “make Brazil the China of the 1960s,” the United States backed a 1964 coup led by Humberto Castello Branco, then chief of staff of the Brazilian army. In the days leading up to the coup, the CIA encouraged street rallies against the government and provided fuel and “arms of non-US origin” to those backing the military. “I think we ought to take every step that we can, be prepared to do everything that we need to do,” President Lyndon Johnson told his advisors planning the coup, according to declassified government records obtained by the National Security Archive. The Brazilian military went on to govern the country until 1985.
- 1965 Dominican Republic. U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, convinced of the defeat of the Loyalist forces and fearing the creation of “a second Cuba” on America’s doorstep, ordered U.S. forces to restore order. The decision to intervene militarily in the Dominican Republic was Lyndon Johnson’s personal decision. All civilian advisers had recommended against immediate intervention hoping that the Loyalist side could bring an end to the civil war. President Johnson took the advice of his Ambassador in Santo Domingo, W. Tapley Bennett, who suggested that the US interpose its forces between the rebels and those of the junta, thereby effecting a cease-fire. Chief of Staff General Wheeler told a subordinate: “Your unannounced mission is to prevent the Dominican Republic from going Communist.” A fleet of 41 vessels was sent to blockade the island, and an invasion was launched. Ultimately, 42,000 soldiers and marines were ordered to the Dominican Republic.
- 1973 Chilean coup d’état was the overthrow of democratically elected President Salvador Allende by the Chilean armed forces and national police. This followed an extended period of social and political unrest between the right dominated Congress of Chile and Allende, as well as economic warfare ordered by US President Richard Nixon. The regime of Augusto Pinochet that followed is notable for having, by conservative estimates, disappeared some 3200 political dissidents, imprisoned 30,000 (many of whom were tortured), and forced some 200,000 Chileans into exile. The CIA, through Project FUBELT (also known as Track II), worked to secretly engineer the conditions for the coup. The US initially denied any involvement, and though many relevant documents have been declassified in the decades since, a US president has yet to issue any apology for the incident.
- 1979-1989 Afghanistan. In what was known as “Operation Cyclone,” the U.S. government secretly provided weapons and funding for the Mujahadin Islamic guerillas of Afghanistan fighting to overthrow the Afghan government and the Soviet military forces that supported it. Supplies were channeled through the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan. Although Operation Cyclone officially ended in 1989 with the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, U.S. government funding for the Mujahadin continued through 1992.
- Destabilizing Nicaragua 1982-1989. The U.S. government attempted to topple the government of Nicaragua by secretly arming, training and funding the Contras, a terrorist group based in Honduras that was created to sabotage Nicaragua and to destabilize the Nicaraguan government. As part of the training, the CIA distributed a detailed “terror manual” entitled “Psychological Operations in Guerrilla War,” which instructed the Contras, among other things, on how to blow up public buildings, to assassinate judges, to create martyrs, and to blackmail ordinary citizens. In addition to orchestrating the Contras, the U.S. government also blew up bridges and mined Corinto harbor, causing the sinking of several civilian Nicaraguan and foreign ships and many civilian deaths. After the Boland Amendment made it illegal for the U.S. government to provide funding for Contra activities, the administration of President Reagan secretly sold arms to the Iranian government to fund a secret U.S. government apparatus that continued illegally to fund the Contras, in what became known as the Iran-Contra affair. The U.S. continued to arm and train the Contras even after the Sandanista government of Nicaragua won the elections of 1984.
- 1983 Grenada. In what the U.S. government called Operation Urgent Fury, the U.S. military invaded the tiny island nation of Grenada to remove the Marxist government of Grenada that the Reagan Administration found objectionable. The United Nations General Assembly called the U.S. invasion “a flagrant violation of international law” but a similar resolution widely supported in the United Nations Security Council was vetoed by the U.S.
- 1989 Panama. In December 1989, in a military operation code-named Operation Just Cause, the U.S. invaded Panama. President George H. W. Bush launched the war ten years after the Torrijos–Carter Treaties were ratified to transfer control of the Panama Canal from the United States to Panama by the year 2000. The U.S. deposed de facto Panamanian leader, general, and dictator Manuel Noriega and brought him to the United States, president-elect Guillermo Endara was sworn into office, and the Panamanian Defense Force was dissolved.
- 1991 Haiti. Eight months after what was widely reckoned as the first honest election held in Haiti, the newly elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was deposed by the Haitian army. The CIA “paid key members of the coup regime forces, identified as drug traffickers, for information from the mid-1980s at least until the coup.” Coup leaders Cédras and François had received military training in the United States.
- 1994-96 Iraq. The CIA launched DBACHILLES, a coup d’état operation against the Iraqi government, recruiting Ayad Allawi, who headed the Iraqi National Accord, a network of Iraqis who opposed the Saddam Hussein government, as part of the operation. The network included Iraqi military and intelligence officers but was penetrated by people loyal to the Iraqi government. Also using Ayad Allawi and his network, the CIA directed a government sabotage and bombing campaign in Baghdad between 1992 and 1995, against targets that—according to the Iraqi government at the time—killed many civilians including people in a crowded movie theater. The CIA bombing campaign may have been merely a test of the operational capacity of the CIA’s network of assets on the ground and not intended to be the launch of the coup strike itself. The coup was unsuccessful, but Ayad Allawi was later installed as prime minister of Iraq by the Iraq Interim Governing Council, which had been created by the U.S.-led coalition following the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
- 2003 Iraq. Illegal invasion based on allegations of non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
- 2005 Iran. According to U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources, beginning in 2005 the U.S. government secretly encouraged and advised a Pakistani Balochi militant group named Jundullah that is responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran. Jundullah, led by Abd el Malik Regi, sometimes known as “Regi,” was suspected of being associated with al Qaida, a charge that the group has denied. ABC News learned from tribal sources that money for Jundullah was routed to the group through Iranian exiles. “They are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda and they are also thought to be tied to the drug culture,” according to Professor Vali Nasr. U.S. intelligence sources later claimed that the orchestration of Jundallah operations was, in actuality, an Israeli Mossad false flag operation that Israeli agents disguised to make it appear to be the work of American intelligence.
- Syria 2005-2015 Starting in 2005, the US government launched a policy of regime change against the Syrian government by funding Syrian opposition groups working to topple the Syrian government, attempting to block foreign direct investment in Syria, attempting to frustrate Syrian government efforts at economic reform and prosperity and thus legitimacy for the regime, and getting other governments diplomatically to isolate Syria. The Obama administration starting in 2009 continued such policies while taking steps toward diplomatic engagement with the Syrian government and denying that it was engaging in regime change. After the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, the U.S. government called on Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to “step aside” and imposed an oil embargo against the Syrian government to bring it to its knees. Starting in 2013, the U.S. also provided training, weapons and cash to Syrian Islamic and secular insurgents fighting to topple the Syrian government.
- 2011 Libya. The US was part of a multi-state coalition that began a military intervention in Libya to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which was taken in response to events during the Libyan Civil War, and military operations began, with US and British naval forces firing over 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles, the French and British Air Forces undertaking sorties across Libya and a naval blockade by Coalition forces. Air strikes against Libyan Army tanks and vehicles by French jets were since confirmed.
- 2006-2007 Palestinian Territories. In the Fatah-Hamas conflict, the U.S. government pressured the Fatah faction of the Palestinian leadership to topple the Hamas government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. The Bush Administration was displeased with the government that the majority of the Palestinian people elected in the January Palestinian legislative election of 2006. The U.S. government set up a secret training and armaments program that received tens of millions of dollars in Congressional funding, but also, like in the Iran-contra scandal, a more secret Congress-circumventing source of funding for Fatah to launch a bloody war against the Haniyeh government. The war was brutal, with many casualties and with Fatah kidnapping and torturing civilian leaders of Hamas, sometimes in front of their own families, and setting fire to a university in Gaza. When the government of Saudi Arabia attempted to negotiate a truce between the sides so as to avoid a wide-scale Palestinian civil war, the U.S. government pressured Fatah to reject the Saudi plan and to continue the effort to topple the Faniyeh government. Ultimately, the Faniyeh government was prevented from ruling over all of the Palestinian territories, with Hamas retreating to the Gaza strip and Fatah retreating to the West Bank.
As J. Dana Stuster succinctly wrote in a 2013 piece for Foreignpolicy.com;
The era of CIA-supported coups dawned in dramatic fashion: An American general flies to Iran and meets with “old friends”; days later, the Shah orders Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh to step down. When the Iranian military hesitates, millions of dollars are funneled into Tehran to buy off Mossadegh’s supporters and finance street protests. The military, recognizing that the balance of power has shifted, seizes the prime minister, who will live the rest of his life under house arrest. It was, as one CIA history puts it, “an American operation from beginning to end,” and one of many U.S.-backed coups to take place around the world during the second half of the 20th century.
Several national leaders, both dictators and democratically elected figures, were caught in the middle of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War — a position that ultimately cost them their office (and, for some, their life) as the CIA tried to install “their man” as head of state. The U.S. government has since publicly acknowledged some of these covert actions; in fact, the CIA’s role in the 1953 coup was just declassified this week. In other cases, the CIA’s involvement is still only suspected.
Of course, when Washington orders intervening in another country’s internal governance, it is euphemistically referred to as “regime change”.
It is only “meddling” when someone does it back to the Americans.
This hypocrisy/irony was noted by both The Washington Post and Huffington Post. Staff writers pointed out that Russia has (allegedly) done to the US what the US has been doing for decades to other nations.
While the days of its worst behavior are long behind it, the United States does have a well-documented history of interfering and sometimes interrupting the workings of democracies elsewhere. It has occupied and intervened militarily in a whole swath of countries in the Caribbean and Latin America and fomented coups against democratically elected populists.
For decades, these actions were considered imperatives of the Cold War, part of a global struggle against the Soviet Union and its supposed leftist proxies. Its key participants included scheming diplomats like John Foster Dulles and Henry Kissinger, who advocated aggressive, covert policies to stanch the supposedly expanding threat of communism. Sometimes that agenda also explicitly converged with the interests of U.S. business: In 1954, Washington unseated Guatemala’s left-wing president, Jacobo Arbenz, who had had the temerity to challenge the vast control of the United Fruit Co., a U.S. corporation, with agrarian laws that would be fairer to Guatemalan farmers. The CIA went on to install and back a series of right-wing dictatorships that brutalized the impoverished nation for almost half a century.
When Chinese interests were alleged to have supported Democratic Party campaign financing, Tharoor pointed out;
Meanwhile, the threat of foreign meddling in U.S. elections is not restricted to fears of Russian plots. In the late 1990s, the specter of illicit Chinese funds dominated concerns about Democratic campaign financing. But some observers cautioned others not to be too indignant.
“If the Chinese indeed tried to influence the election here . . . the United States is only getting a taste of its own medicine,” Peter Kornbluh, director of the National Security Archive, which is affiliated with George Washington University, said in a 1997 interview with the New York Times. “China has done little more than emulate a long pattern of U.S. manipulation, bribery and covert operations to influence the political trajectory of countless countries around the world.”
For the Huffington Post, Ryan Grim said;
…Russia appears to be meddling in the U.S. presidential election, but for some supporters of Bernie Sanders, it’s just turnabout.
Lakewood, Colorado, delegate Kim Netherton said it’s beside the point whether agents of Russian President Vladimir Putin hacked the Democratic National Committee’s emails, as reported this month. And it may come with a little poetic justice for Hillary Clinton, according to Netherton.
“Isn’t it interesting that her campaign is now experiencing the same thing that she perpetrated on other countries,” Netherton told The Huffington Post, as she awaited Sanders’ speech Monday night.
“She did this in Haiti, she did this in Honduras, and now it’s coming back on her and she’s all verklempt about it,” Netherton added. “It’s a little bit of her own medicine, but unfortunately I don’t think she’s open minded enough to see that for what it is.”
Indeed, meddling in foreign politics is a great American pastime, and one that Clinton has some familiarity with. For more than 100 years, without any significant break, the U.S. has been doing whatever it can to influence the outcome of elections ― up to and including assassinating politicians it has found unfriendly.
Grim’s ‘parting shot’;
The phenomenon is so prevalent, there’s even a running joke in Latin America that goes like this:
Q: Why has there never been a coup in the United States?
A: Because there’s no U.S. embassy in Washington.
It is unsurprising that most of the world looks upon American grievances of (alleged) Russian “meddling” with risable scorn. Whether true or not – and most probably harbour a secret hope that it is true – the Americans richly deserve what they have been meting out to other nations throughout the 20th, and first decade of, the 21st century.
They are getting a taste of what countries in Latin America, Middle East, and elsewhere have suffered. And as Ryan Grim pointed out;
“It Doesn’t Feel Good.”
The Washington Post: Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House
The Independent: Russia ‘tried to help’ Donald Trump win the election, CIA concludes
Wikipedia: United States involvement in regime change
Foreignpolicy.com: Mapped – The 7 Governments the U.S. Has Overthrown
The Washington Post: The long history of the U.S. interfering with elections elsewhere
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 18 December 2016.
= fs =
Whatever policies Trump intends to enact during his presidential term is unknown. He has back-tracked; evaded; back-flipped; side-stepped and often contradicted himself. The most recent case-in-point was when he condemned/congratulated Americans protesting at his ascendancy to power – all within a short period of time;
The MSM is reporting that he has begun to moderate his extreme views and comments made during the bitter election campaign. He now appears to be a supporter of free trade, according to a recent Herald story.
In effect, he is becoming more ‘presidential’.
Perhaps even “mainstream”.
However, the same cannot be said of his supporters.
Whether it is the appointment of far-right businessman, media executive, and pro-Israel mouthpiece, Steve Bannon (aka, America’s version of Cameron Slater) as Trump’s ‘Chief Strategist’, or, Reince Priebus, lawyer, careerist-politician, and Chairman of the Republican National Committee, appointed as Trump’s White House Chief of Staff – there is a pronounced cabal of right-wing conservatism colonising the new administration.
Far from “draining the swamp”, as Trump has promised on numerous occasions, he is replacing it with one of his own making. As former Democratic Party candidate, Bernie Sanders pointed out;
“Mr. Trump described himself as a populist taking on the establishment, someone who would ‘drain the swamp. Unfortunately what we’re beginning to see is what I feared, which is a lot of what Mr. Trump said to get votes is not what he intends to do as president of the United States.”
In other words: same swamp, different muck.
More frightening still are comments from Trump’s other supporters. Supporters like Omarosa Manigault.
One-time contestant on Donald Trump’s “reality” TV show, ‘The Apprentice‘, Manigault was appointed as as the Trump-campaign’s director of African-American outreach in July of this year.
Not since Kryptonian super-villain General Zod trashed the White House in a ‘Superman‘ movie, have such threats been uttered;
Given a chance on ABC’s ’20/20′ current affairs show to minimise her “bow down to President Trump” comment, Manigault dug the hole deeper still.
But more critically, note her passing reference to a “list of critics” which the interviewer seems not to pick up on;
“It’s so great our enemies are making themselves clear so that when we get in to the White House, we know where we stand. If [Sen. Lindsey Graham (Republican-SC)Graham] felt his interests was with that candidate, God bless him. I would never judge anybody for exercising their right to and the freedom to choose who they want. But let me just tell you, Mr. Trump has a long memory and we’re keeping a list.”
Her ordination as a minister of religion in 2012 does not appear to have mitigated her tendency to spitefulness. (Brian Tamaki would probably see her as a “kindred spirit”.)
Journalist Sunny Hostin confirmed Trump’s vindictive nature;
‘Late Show‘ host Stephen Colbert summed up the revelation of Trump’s Enemies List, saying;
“Wow, an enemies list. They went from zero to Nixon in no time flat.”
Colbert was referring to disgraced former US President, Richard Nixon. In 1973 it had been revealed during Senate hearings into the Watergate Scandal that Nixon had kept a secret Enemies List.
One of Nixon’s “enemies” was eminent journalist, the late Daniel Schorr.
In 2009, Schorr recounted to Jordy Yager from ‘The Hill‘;
[Schorr] has worked at CBS, The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor, among other organizations. Though he has received three Emmys, numerous decorations from heads of state and countless journalism awards, there is one honor above all that makes Schorr beam with pride.
The distinction came during the 1973 Senate Watergate committee investigation into Nixon and his administration. In his testimony to the committee, John Dean, Nixon’s former White House counsel, mentioned that the president had kept an “Enemies List” — for those for whom the president “mean[t] some harm” and whom he did not like.
After waiting throughout the day, Schorr, who was covering the event, got his hands on the list of 20 people and began to read it live on-air.
“I got to No. 17, and I said, ‘No. 17, Daniel Schorr, a real media enemy,’ ” Schorr recalled.
“I almost collapsed on the air. I had never read it before, never seen it before, never expected it. But I continued and said, ‘No. 18, Paul Newman. No. 19, Mary McGrory [the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The Washington Post].’ It was such a distinguished list,” he said, joking that the notoriety of the list made him more popular. “My lecture fees went up.”
Schorr continued to infuriate Nixon with his critical coverage and was no stranger to the president’s wrath. He is listed in the three articles of impeachment brought against Nixon. It is a badge Schorr wears with honor.
Though Schorr was dismissive of Nixon’s Enemies List, there remained the dangerous reality that a President of the most powerful nation on Earth; Commander-in-Chief of America’s armed forces; privy to information from a multitude of intelligence agencies, and access to the nuclear launch-codes – was compiling a list of personal enemies.
The Nazis had their own “Black Book“ – a list of enemies in Great Britain who were to be rounded up after the successful German invasion and occupation of that nation;
But only fascist regimes indulge in real Lists of Enemies; people who displease despots, and either end up dead, disappeared, or having “unfortunate accidents” in their lives.
Who is to say that the incoming Trump Administration is fascist?
Acknowledge for above images: US Government
NZ Herald: Trump softens tone on trade policy
Wikipedia: Steve Bannon
Wikipedia: Reince Priebus
Wikipedia: Omarosa Manigault
Youtube: Rise Before Zod, Kneel Before Zod
Independent Journal Review: Omarosa – Republicans Who Vote Against Donald Trump Will Be Put On “A List”
Wikipedia: Nixon’s Enemies List
Wikipedia: The Black Book
US Gov: Make America Great Again
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 November 2016.
= fs =
The 5 percent of Americans with the highest incomes now account for 37 percent of all consumer purchases, according to the latest research from Moody’s Analytics. That should come as no surprise. Our society has become more and more unequal.
When so much income goes to the top, the middle class doesn’t have enough purchasing power to keep the economy going without sinking ever more deeply into debt — which, as we’ve seen, ends badly.
The real reason for America’s Great Regression was political. As income and wealth became more concentrated in fewer hands, American politics reverted to what Marriner S. Eccles, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, described in the 1920s, when people “with great economic power had an undue influence in making the rules of the economic game.” With hefty campaign contributions and platoons of lobbyists and public relations spinners, America’s executive class has gained lower tax rates while resisting reforms that would spread the gains from growth.
Yet the rich are now being bitten by their own success. Those at the top would be better off with a smaller share of a rapidly growing economy than a large share of one that’s almost dead in the water. – Robert Reich, New York Times, 3 September 2011
“Neoliberalism as never been, and is not, a coherent set of economic principles, the presence or absence of which in any given policy prescription determines the strength or weakness of its ideological credentials. Indeed, neoliberalism, far from being some sort of neo-classical economic crusade, is what it has always been: the fearsomely coherent political project of global capitalism’s ruling elites.
Its anti-state/free market propaganda notwithstanding, neoliberalism’s purpose has always been to use the coercive power of the state to thwart and/or reverse any and all attempts to empower the many at the expense of the few.
As Professor David Harvey notes in his A Brief History of Neoliberalism:
“Redistributive effects and increasing social inequality have in fact been such a persistent feature of neoliberalisation as to be regarded as structural to the whole project. Gérard Duménil and Dominique Lévy, after careful reconstruction of the data, have concluded that neoliberalisation was from the very beginning a project to achieve the restoration of class power”.” – Chris Trotter, Bowalley Road, 30 May 2015
“…the share of population living in poverty is at a very high level. The latest data shows almost 15 percent of the American population of 46.7 million people living in poverty, and those numbers are even higher, if you concentrate on certain groups, particularly minority, single parents, especially female-headed families, and it is heavier for young people and those with disability.
So, with such large share of the population living below the poverty line, this has important macroeconomic issues, let alone the concern that is of a more political nature, which we will not address. But if we look at the macroeconomic impact, not only does poverty create significant social strains, it also eats into labor force participation, and undermines the ability to invest in education, to invest in health, to invest in training, and by holding back economic and social mobility it creates not only a poverty impact on this generation, but it certainly can make it more sustainable inter-generationally.” – Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, IMF, 22 June 2016
In America, the full impact of a neo-liberal agenda hit Kansas so harshly that comedian/commentator, Seth Meyer, was unflinching with his scathing, mocking, satire at the travesty that had resulted;
After his election in 2010, Republican Kansas state governor, Sam Brownback, made massive cuts personal and business income taxes on the neo-liberal premise that low (and in some cases, nil) taxes would result in massive job-creation and increased economic activity by local businesses.
Kansas also completely erased the income tax bills for the owners of certain “small” businesses, totaling 330,000 by this year and including a host of subsidiaries of Wichita-based Koch Industries. The Koch-funded organization Americans for Prosperity helped Brownback push the bill and has remained a staunch defender of the changes.
The result was utterly predictable;
The predicted job growth from business expansions hasn’t happened, leaving the state persistently short of money. Since November, tax collections have fallen about $81 million, or 1.9 percent below the current forecast’s predictions.
Last month, Brownback ordered $17 million in immediate reductions to universities and earlier this month delayed $93 million in contributions to pensions for school teachers and community college employees. The state has also siphoned off more than $750 million from highway projects to other parts of the budget over the past two years.
School teachers, college employees, the State University, schools, poverty-programmes, medicare, and other services all faced budgetary cuts.
The business website, Bloomberg, was less than impressed;
Kansas has lagged Nebraska in job creation since 2011, and the gap has widened since late 2014. Instead of adding the 25,000 jobs a year that Brownback promised, Kansas actually lost 5,400 jobs over the 12 months ending in February.
The author, Justin Fox, made the eye-brow-raising under-statement of the year by declaring;
This doesn’t look great for Kansas.
There’s an age-old saying for such under-statements. Click here.
Little wonder that Fox headed his article; “Kansas Tried Tax Cuts. Its Neighbor Didn’t. Guess Which Worked“.
The owners/editor of Bloomberg appeared to ‘freak out’ at the prospect of publishing a story so utterly revealing of such an epic fail of neo-liberal dogma. The editor/owner posted at the bottom of Fox’s article;
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Of course not. That might be embarrassing. Having to admit to the Masses that one of neo-liberalism’s main tenets is actually bullshit, is not a good look.
Even Governor Brownback’s fellow Republicans were panicking, as they faced re-election this month, and the wrath of voters;
Now many of the same Republicans who helped pass Brownback’s plan are in open revolt, refusing to help the governor cut spending so he can avoid rolling back any of his signature tax measures.
“Let him own it,” Republican Rep. Mark Hutton said. “It’s his policy that put us there.”
“We’re growing weary,” said Senate President Susan Wagle, a conservative Republican from Wichita. While GOP legislators still support low income taxes, “we’d prefer to see some real solutions coming from the governor’s office,” she said.
In an example of how Republican’s take personal responsibility, Governor Brownback told journalists who was to blame for his “real live experiment“;
“You’ve got some global issues that are going on that we have absolutely no control over.”
That’s how you take Personal Responsibility: blame others.
As Kansas is slowly bankrupted, Trump appears not to have learned from Brownback’s economic ineptness, saying;
“Under my plan, I’ll be reducing taxes tremendously, from 35 percent to 15 percent for companies, small and big businesses. That’s going to be a job creator like we haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan. It’s going to be a beautiful thing to watch. Companies will come. They will build. They will expand. New companies will start. And I look very, very much forward to doing it.” – Donald Trump
Trump’s plan to cut taxes mirrors the Republican “experiment” in Kansas. It simply remains unclear why Trump believes the results will be any different.
Meanwhile, here in New Zealand, the re-distribution of wealth up-ward, through successive tax-cuts for the richest, echoed that taking place thousands of kilometres away in a central US state.
In 2009 and 2010, National cut taxes and increased gst. (There have been seven tax cuts since 1986.) This shifted wealth up-ward to higher-income earners.
As government revenue fell, budget cuts to spending on services followed;
Even as recent tax cuts resulted in wealth re-distributed upward; wage growth remaining low or stagnant; and social services reduced – New Zealanders are still not facing the dire economic and social hardship faced by our American cousins.
In September 2011, forward-thinking American economist Robert Reich explained how a worsening economic crisis in the US was affecting the middle classes;
Some say the regressive lurch occurred because Americans lost confidence in government. But this argument has cause and effect backward. The tax revolts that thundered across America starting in the late 1970s were not so much ideological revolts against government — Americans still wanted all the government services they had before, and then some — as against paying more taxes on incomes that had stagnated. Inevitably, government services deteriorated and government deficits exploded, confirming the public’s growing cynicism about government’s doing anything right.
Some say we couldn’t have reversed the consequences of globalization and technological change. Yet the experiences of other nations, like Germany, suggest otherwise. Germany has grown faster than the United States for the last 15 years, and the gains have been more widely spread. While Americans’ average hourly pay has risen only 6 percent since 1985, adjusted for inflation, German workers’ pay has risen almost 30 percent. At the same time, the top 1 percent of German households now take home about 11 percent of all income — about the same as in 1970. And although in the last months Germany has been hit by the debt crisis of its neighbors, its unemployment is still below where it was when the financial crisis started in 2007.
How has Germany done it? Mainly by focusing like a laser on education (German math scores continue to extend their lead over American), and by maintaining strong labor unions.
THE real reason for America’s Great Regression was political. As income and wealth became more concentrated in fewer hands, American politics reverted to what Marriner S. Eccles, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, described in the 1920s, when people “with great economic power had an undue influence in making the rules of the economic game.” With hefty campaign contributions and platoons of lobbyists and public relations spinners, America’s executive class has gained lower tax rates while resisting reforms that would spread the gains from growth.
Yet the rich are now being bitten by their own success. Those at the top would be better off with a smaller share of a rapidly growing economy than a large share of one that’s almost dead in the water.
The economy cannot possibly get out of its current doldrums without a strategy to revive the purchasing power of America’s vast middle class. The spending of the richest 5 percent alone will not lead to a virtuous cycle of more jobs and higher living standards. Nor can we rely on exports to fill the gap. It is impossible for every large economy, including the United States, to become a net exporter.
Reviving the middle class requires that we reverse the nation’s decades-long trend toward widening inequality. This is possible notwithstanding the political power of the executive class. So many people are now being hit by job losses, sagging incomes and declining home values that Americans could be mobilized.
And mobilised they have been.
Whatever one thinks of Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, he has tapped into the psyche of the disaffected; the disenchanted; and the dispossessed. And they are legion in number.
According to US Census Bureau, there are some 43.1 million Americans currently living in poverty – 13.5%. (The Bureau states that poverty has fallen by 3.5 million people since 2014.)
The lives of ordinary Americans is now stressed and wretched, as Australia’s ABC journalist, Elle Hardy recently reported;
When fun-loving 34-year-old George Tabor died suddenly in the town of Tifton in America’s Deep South, his family was bereft.
It confirmed again that the American Dream is a vision that’s moved beyond the reach of millions of its citizens.
George’s family struggled with the immense grief of his loss, but they were also plunged into a financial crisis, not knowing how they could fund his funeral or medical bills.
“The very first day, as we were dealing with the fact that he’s gone, the first thing that was in my mind was that all these bills were about to fall on us,” his older sister Doris Stafford, 36, said.
George and his sisters all worked. Their mother had worked her whole life too. Yet, as workers on minimum pay rates, just coping with weekly needs is an endless treadmill.George Tabor was in goodhealthbefore he suddenly fell ill.(Supplied: Doris Stafford)
Having savings to buffer sudden emergencies, or even a plan for a more secure future, is a story from Fantasyland for this family, and for up to nearly 70 per cent of Americans, according to a recent survey.
In this election year, as the anger of the marginalised and threatened has taken centre stage, it’s rocked the established verities of American political culture.
The IMF warned in June of social strains if the US fails to address soaring rates of poverty, in this richest of First World economies.
On the ground, it’s the immediate daily strains that occupy people’s minds.
George’s sister Sherry Smith, 31, began receiving George’s medical bills at the apartment they’d shared. Meanwhile, Doris was working out how to come up with $US5,100 ($6,610) for his funeral.
For workers earning about $US290 ($375) a week, the challenge is astronomical.
Robert Reich’s simple infograph (below) demonstrates convincingly that pay rose with productivity until the late ’70s /early ’80s. At that point in our global history, Thatcherism and Reaganism impacted on their respective nations, the UK and USA.
New Zealand followed half a decade later. We now face our own social fall-out from the introduction of neo-liberalism; high-unemployment; under-employment; unaffordable housing; low wages; student debt; growing child poverty; and a widening wealth/income gap;
In its latest survey of household wealth, Statistics New Zealand found the country’s richest individuals – those in the top 10 percent – held 60 percent of all wealth by the end of July 2015. Between 2003 and 2010, those individuals had held 55 percent.
It is little wonder that with increasing globalisation, corporations have shifted jobs to developing nations where wages are low and working conditions next-to-nil.
Western workers have lost out to their counterparts in China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, etc.
That has meant vast swathes of US industries closing down until major cities such as Detroit – once a major economic powerhouse for the nation – went bankrupt in 2013. Millions of workers have lost their jobs or have taken lower-paid employment.
The story of George and his family continues;
If there was any mercy in George’s death, it was that when it came, it was immediate. But in the weeks leading to it, there was much that was preventable.
When a persistent cough started nagging, he put it down to smoking. When the hacking began, a doctor’s charges and medicine costs were off-putting.
Finally, coughing and unable to breathe, he asked friends to take him to hospital. Some laughed it off as another prank.
“We didn’t find out he was sick until he’d been in hospital for three days,” Doris says. “We found out on Facebook.”
George had pneumonia. As he lay in a coma, the family assumed he was insured through his job and contacted his employer. Low-wage workers rely on employer-provided health care, or they go without.
“Applebee’s said he wasn’t eligible for insurance until next January, even though he’d been working there a year and a half,” Sherry said.
Frequent visits from the hospital’s “financial people” compounded their stress.
The family believe that if George had medical insurance, the hospital would have let him stay. Tests revealed he had an abnormal swelling in a heart blood vessel. Corrective surgery was scheduled for November 1, but the hospital sent him home.
“He was sent home with no medication,” Sherry says. “He couldn’t walk, his feet were still swollen. He tried to stand and he fell over.”
Private health insurance costs thousands of dollars a year in the US. Even the much-vaunted Obamacare seems to miss its targets.
“At first I thought Obamacare would be a good idea,” Doris says. “When they told me the price, $57 a week — it was $57 I didn’t have in the first place.”
The family has always voted Democrat. But this time it’s different. With worries about jobs, and living in quiet despair, the Republican candidate is winning her over.
George Tabor’s family was not alone. There were millions of George Tabor Families throughout the United States. And they were no longer listening to the political establishment.
In a moment of prescience, Billionaire investor Warren Buffett warned;
Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.
Buffett wrote his words in August, 2011.
Since the late 1970s, both Republican and Democrat parties have failed to address the growing threat to Middle Class stability, and to Working Class aspirations in the US. Both parties had deserted their constituents, leaving people stressed, desperate, and fearful.
The forces of globalisation/neo-liberalism/free market has robbed millions of American families of what they considered their birthright – a high standard of living unparalleled in the world, and opportunities for their children.
There was a vacuum left by the political establishment, and Donald Trump shrewdly colonised that space. Trump had created the new “reality” that Buffett warned us about.
The feeling of desperation and alienation from both Working and Middle classes is now so palpable that mainstream media are finally coming to terms with that disaffection and understand what constituted the almost-irresistable force that propelled an ego-driven, political novice to the White House.
Despite Trump being a seriously flawed, undisciplined individual who has alienated large numbers of American voters; women, blacks, Hispanics, LGBT, disabled – I think we all underestimated the anger of the Masses that Trump was feeding off.
I glimpsed a miniscule fraction of that anger last week when I watched ‘Sixty Minutes‘. A journalist was talking to five disaffected blue-collar workers in Ohio.
These were supposedly Democrat-voting, Union-loyal, workers.
But at least three openly declared their intention to vote for Trump (story starts at 25:12);
It was at that point that I finally understood what inexorable force was propelling a bloated billionaire to the most powerful position on this planet.
As former Republican Party operative, Mike Lofgren, wrote in September 2011;
It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe. This trend has several implications, none of them pleasant.
What do the Democrats offer these people? Essentially nothing. Democratic Leadership Council-style “centrist” Democrats were among the biggest promoters of disastrous trade deals in the 1990s that outsourced jobs abroad: NAFTA, World Trade Organization, permanent most-favored-nation status for China. At the same time, the identity politics/lifestyle wing of the Democratic Party was seen as a too illegal immigrant-friendly by downscaled and outsourced whites.
While Democrats temporized, or even dismissed the fears of the white working class as racist or nativist, Republicans went to work.
Lofgren‘s entire piece is worthwhile reading.
So the ground was fertile for someone who would supposedly articulate the feelings of betrayal and loss for millions of disaffected, confused, resentful Americans.
People are pissed off, and they ain’t going to take it any more. They are fighting back. Like their British counter-parts during the “Bexit/EU” referendum, a considerable segment of American voters lashed out at “The Establishment”. It’s as if millions of Americans suddenly woke up, realising the supreme power of their vote.
The system could take away their jobs; their standard of living; their aspirations – but their right to vote was cast in granite-stone. Like their right to “bear arms” and casually shoot each other at whim, it was guaranteed by their Constitution.
Early last century, when Russians lashed out at the autocratic Establishment of the Russian royal family, they installed a far-left regime, the Bolsheviks.
But Americans don’t do left-wing revolutions.
When Americans revolt en-masse, they lurch to the Right.
In this case, a dangerously nationalistic, reactionary Right that is closer to the French National Front than the US Republican Party. (Though many would assert that the only real difference between the French National Front and the US Republican Party is that the latter is willing to tolerate immigrants for cheap, exploitable labour.)
Those who voted for Trump have done so for a myriad of reasons, many of which are fluid and inter-changeable. They see Trump as someone outside the political Establishment; someone who will be their champion.
But Donald Trump will not be that champion. Demogogues with simplistic answers to complex problems rarely are. History is replete with demagogues who have exploited peoples’ legitimate discontent to gain power and subsequently wreaked havoc.
If Americans think they have just elected the solution to their problems, they are sadly mistaken.
Their problems have only just begun.
Meanwhile, from a global perspective, the Left is confronted with a serious crisis of confidence: when Working Class people turn to jingoistic demagoguery for solutions, why is our message not getting through?
Perhaps that is the real crisis confronting us.
New York Times: The Limping Middle Class
International Monetary Fund (IMF): Transcript of a Press Conference on the Conclusion of the 2016 Article IV Consultation Mission with the United States
Youtube: Kansas Tax Cuts – A Closer Look
Motherjones: Trickle-Down Economics Has Ruined the Kansas Economy
The New Yorker: Covert Operations
NZ Kindergartens Inc: Funding cuts take effect
Fairfax media: Police shut 30 stations in effort to combat budget cuts
NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse: Lead up to Budget 2016 – Govt announces funding cuts, increases and reprioritising
Radio NZ: Unemployment rises, wage growth subdued
US Census Bureau: Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage – 2015
Radio NZ: 10% richest Kiwis own 60% of NZ’s wealth
The New York Times: Stop Coddling the Super-Rich – Warren Buffett
Prime TV: Sixty Minutes
Bowalley Road: Raising Nixon’s Ghost
Bowalley Road: The Better Angel: Why Birgitte Nyborg Beats Donald Trump
Gordon Campbell: on the US election home stretch
Kiwipolitico: Social origins of the Politically Absurd
No Right Turn: This is not what democracy looks like
Public Address: The Long, Strange Trip
The Daily Blog: LaQuisha St Redfern vs Donald Trump
The Daily Blog: American Demockery
The Standard: Trump final campaign ad
The Standard: Donald Trump is good
The Wireless: Uncovering the art of an ugly election
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10 November 2016.
= fs =
Two days ago (28 October), FBI Director, James B. Comey, sent a letter to the US Congress disclosing that the Bureau was investigating newly-discovered emails from disgraced former US Congressman, Anthony Weiner.
The new material “appeared relevant” to the Hillary Clinton private-server/email case, according to Comey. In an explanatory email to FBI employees, Comey wrote;
“This morning I sent a letter to Congress in connection with the Secretary Clinton email investigation. Yesterday, the investigative team briefed me on their recommendation with respect to seeking access to emails that have recently been found in an unrelated case. Because those emails appear to be pertinent to our investigation, I agreed that we should take appropriate steps to obtain and review them.
Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record. At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression. In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it.”
The political version of an atomic-bombshell came eleven days before the US Presidential Election (early voting in several states notwithstanding) on 8 November.
Interestingly, Comey himself admitted;
“Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations…”
Comey tried to justify his disclosure to Congress;
“I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record…”
But in his rambling note, he then revealed;
“…however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails…”
And then pointed out the blindingly obvious;
“I don’t want to create a misleading impression…”
Director Comey had already created “a misleading impression“. By publicly announcing the “re-opening” of the investigation and referencing a “connection with the Secretary Clinton email investigation“, irreparable damage had been done to Clinton’s campaign and Trump’s presidential chances suddenly took on new life.
As former Attorney General, Eric Holder, pointed out;
“Justice Department officials are instructed to refrain from commenting publicly on the existence, let alone the substance, of pending investigative matters, except in exceptional circumstances and with explicit approval from the Department of Justice officials responsible for ultimate supervision of the matter,” the letter says.
They are also instructed to exercise heightened restraint near the time of a primary or general election because, as official guidance from the Department instructs, public comment on a pending investigative matter may affect the electoral process and create the appearance of political interference in the fair administration of justice.”
Current US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, also opposed Comey’s decision to formally write to Congress;
Lynch expressed her preference that Comey follow the department’s longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations, and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election, but he said that he felt compelled to do otherwise.
The response from both Republicans and Democrats has been unrestrained anger. Senate minority leader Harry Reid was unequivocal in condemning Comey’s behaviour;
“Your actions in recent months have demonstrated a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information, with what appears to be a clear intent to aid one political party over another.
My office has determined that these actions may violate the Hatch Act, which bars FBI officials from using their official authority to influence an election. Through your partisan action, you may have broken the law.”
What is even more startling is that at the time that Comey made his disclosure to Congress (28 October), it was not until two days later that the FBI obtained a warrant to actually look at the emails on Weiner’s computer.
So on what basis did Comey feel the need to advise Congress?
When Comey sent that letter, he had no way of knowing what the emails contained. For all he knew, they could have been recipes for apple pie.
In which case, Comey has single-handedly interfered in an election process by using the power of his position.
Which would be an abuse of power.
Which would be a situation that we here in New Zealand would be intimately familiar with;
As the NBR reported over this incident in November 2014;
Security Intelligence Service director Rebecca Kitteridge has made a formal apology to former Labour leader Phil Goff for the way in which the SIS released “incomplete, misleading and inaccurate information” in response to an OIA request from Whale Oil Blogger Cameron Slater.
In 2011 Mr Goff said he hadn’t been briefed about alleged Israel spies being caught in the Christchurch earthquake earlier that year, a contention Prime Minister John Key and then-SIS director Warren Tucker disputed.
Dr Tucker’s briefing notes were declassified, then swiftly released to Mr Slater after he requested them under the Official Information Act.
The notes appeared to confirm Mr Goff had been briefed on the matter but Ms Gwyn’s investigation has established this was not the case.
The apology to Mr Goff is one of the recommendations in the report of inspector-general of intelligence and security Cheryl Gwyn, which stated “These errors resulted in the misplaced criticism of the then leader of the Opposition, Phil Goff. Phil Goff is owed a formal apology by the Service.”
Although Ms Gwyn found no evidence of political partisanship by the SIS, its actions did have a politically partisan effect and she found the agency had failed to take adequate steps to maintain political neutrality.
The NZ Herald reported;
Prime Minister John Key is “in denial” over a report which backs Dirty Politics allegations his staff used information from the SIS to orchestrate a smear campaign against former Labour leader Phil Goff, the Opposition says.
Inspector General of Security Intelligence Cheryl Gwyn’s report yesterday found primarily that former SIS director Warren Tucker was at fault for supplying “misleading” information about Mr Goff to the Prime Minister during a 2011 war of words between the pair.
Mr Goff claimed he had not been briefed by Dr Tucker about suspected Israeli agents in Christchurch at the time of the earthquakes earlier that year. However, based on the information supplied by Dr Tucker, Mr Key said he had been briefed.
The report found Mr Key’s former senior communications adviser Jason Ede helped attack blogger Cameron Slater obtain that misleading information from the SIS which Slater then used to embarrass Mr Goff in blog posts.
Ms Gwyn’s report said the information supplied by Dr Tucker about the briefing was “incomplete, inaccurate and misleading” and “resulted in misplaced criticism” of Mr Goff. It also found that after learning of the information, Mr Key’s deputy chief of staff and primary point of contact with the SIS, Phil de Joux, suggested to Mr Ede the information “might prompt an OIA request”.
Mr Ede then gave that information to Slater, discussed how an Official Information Act request should be worded, and provided Slater with draft blog posts attacking Mr Goff.
Ms Gwyn’s inquiry found Mr Ede was on the phone to Slater when Slater emailed his OIA request to the SIS.
Patrick Gower from TV3 was his usual ‘delicate’ self when he expressed his assessment of the politicisation of the NZSIS by the National government;
3 News understands the spy agency and Prime Minister John Key’s office were found to be in cahoots with Slater to get the information out.
It was sensitive information that embarrassed Mr Goff, pertaining to the issue of supposed Israeli spies Mr Goff said he didn’t know about, though he had been briefed about it.
The report deals with how the information got out, and that is through former SIS director Warren Tucker. Mr Tucker is found have been unfair and politically partisan in the way he dealt with the Prime Minister’s office to get it out, according to 3 News’ understanding of the report.
Then-head of the SIS, Warren Tucker, used his position to embarrass the Leader of the the Labour Party, just months out from the 2011 General Election. It was done with the full knowledge of members of John Key’s staff. Our esteemed Dear Leader was probably fully aware of the plot.
No wonder the Comey Affair seemed so hauntingly familiar when news of it broke.
Even though he has been a registered Republican for most of his adult life, FBI Director James Comey testified Thursday that he is no longer a registered member of the GOP.
“Although our politics are different — I gather you’re a Republican — that correct?” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) asked Comey in prefacing his remarks.
Comey responded, “I have been a registered Republican for most of my adult life, not registered any longer.”
The FBI director, who previously served as deputy attorney general in George W. Bush’s administration before President Barack Obama appointed him to his current position, donated to the presidential campaigns of John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.
Mr Comey – meet Mr Warren Tucker.
You two would appear to have a bit in common.
Wikipedia: Anthony Weiner
Politico: Polls show battleground map tightening
The Standard: Timeline – Key responsible for SIS release
Wheeler’s Corner: SIS Forced to Apologise to Phil Goff says leaked report
The Pundit: John Key – The buck doesn’t stop with me
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 November 2016.
= fs =