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Syria and the Antiwar Movement

By Judith Deutsch. This article was first published on Socialist Project.

The enormity, complexity and fall-out of the Syrian war calls for urgent attention. Current events in Aleppo bring to the fore the unreliability of information and dichotomous political positions that contribute to obstruction and paralysis in the antiwar movement. Conflicting reports make unclear the number of civilians and fighters who have been evacuated, their condition, their political beliefs, their situation as refugees in Idlib, the civilian toll perpetrated by all sides. Instead of verifiable facts and pertinent history, much that is said about Aleppo is speculation about the future, about whether the re-taking of rebel areas of Aleppo will consolidate Bashar al-Assad's hold or whether it will engender even worse violence. There is much second guessing of the imperial and geopolitical aims of international players.

Damaged buildings in Aleppo, Syria

Damaged buildings in Aleppo, Syria.

Perhaps one significant difference as of December 20th is that Russia and China have not vetoed UN Security Council Resolution 2328 (2016) “Demanding immediate, unhindered access for observation of monitoring civilian evacuations from Aleppo.” Since the onset of the war, Russia vetoed six and China vetoed five Security Council resolutions. Also, Iran, Russia, and Turkey have just agreed to guarantee Syrian peace talks but have been unwilling to include other parties in their planning.

Debating the Syrian War

In October, Bassam Haddad wrote in The Nation, “The Debate Over Syria Has Reached a Dead End,” that “two warring narratives now dominate discussions – and neither is sufficient.” Haddad argued that “the heart-wrenching news from Syria have [has] been saturated with data, analysis, information, and misinformation on developments” and that both sides have adopted hypocritical stances regarding intervention.

The binary positions leave out the effects of recent history, especially the impunity accorded to nation states acting in violation of international law: the UN Iraq sanctions that starved a half million Iraqi children, the sieges of Fallujah and Gaza, the uses of unconventional weapons, the Saudi, U.S., Israeli, Syrian attacks on health facilities and on civilians, and the atrocities perpetrated against civilians and their essential infrastructure by most modern states. Gilbert Achcar writes of this same hypocrisy and narrowness in Arab political opinion with no third side condemning bombing in itself as criminal. One side condemns the Syrian/Russian bombing of Syrian cities but keeps silent about the Saudi bombing of Yemeni cities and rural areas, and vice versa. He writes that both these powers and their allies aim to crush the revolutionary process.

There is much division on the Left. At one pole is the U.S.-based United National Antiwar Coalition's (UNAC) full support of the Assad regime. Richard Fidler summarizes and critiques a range of other positions of the Western Left noting a division regarding Syria on (1) whether to focus on an antiwar movement targeting all factions or only to fight against “your own government's drive to war,” or (2) whether to support the Syrian people against the forces of imperialism and authoritarianism. Fidler disagrees with this dichotomizing in that “building mass antiwar movements is precisely the clearest and most direct way to express solidarity with the victims of imperialist war and the democratic and revolutionary forces on a global scale.”

The current French antiwar movement, for example, is at least actively demanding an immediate end to the bombing in Syria, departure of foreign militias and occupation armies, international prosecution of war criminals, French government assurance of protection of Syrian people who do not have “the necessary means to defend themselves against the air bombing,” access to the besieged and starving populations in coordination with elected local councils, and the freeing of all political prisoners. However, these demands leave out some of the crucial details that beleaguer effectiveness: what are the “necessary means” of defense against bombing, and what will the French actually offer to the besieged population?

Recent History

From Samer Abboud's Syria (Polity, 2016), often neglected points about the political economy and recent history can be summarized.

  • Abboud traces the history from the Ottoman governance through the French mandate, the Ba’ath era socialist policies, and the severe effects of neoliberal reorganization up to the uprising. Neoliberal restructuring led to mass internal migration from farms to rural slums: from the 1990s on, the Syrian government withdrew seed and fertilizer subsidies, shifted from cooperative models to implementing new land laws “that reoriented ownership and usage rights away from the cooperative models of the previous two decades,” and encouraged strategic crops over subsidized diverse production. By the late 2000s, around 20 per cent of the total Syrian population lived in some sort of slum village (p. 38).
  • Throughout the Arab world, neoliberal restructuring led to a more militarized, sectarian, and repressive authoritarianism (p. 78).
  • The Bashar al-Assad regime tolerated some civil society groups during the period of marketization as a means of alleviating some of the social hardships. The 2005 Damascus Declaration was a product of highly diverse individuals and groups who were committed to nonviolence, democracy, oppositional unity, and democratic change. However, the Syrian regime suffocated political activity and the signatories “were never able to translate their cooperation into sustained pressure against the regime or into an institutional arrangement that could take collective leadership of the opposition.” Currently, civil society groups are not yet cohesive at a national level and are caught between the violent opposition rebel forces and the brutal government alignment. Moreover, these civil society groups are dependent on armed groups to procure goods through the war economy. “Perhaps the largest challenge facing Syrian civil society is in being taken seriously as a political actor in the uprising. The militarization of the uprising has deflected attention away from civil initiatives and the resiliency of nonviolence in Syria” (p. 72).
  • Abboud covers the failure of UN negotiators Kofi Annan, Lakhdar Brahimi, and de Mistura to bring about a political settlement. 4.8 million Syrians have fled, and 6.1 million are internally displaced. 2.7 million are in Turkey, 1.5 million in Lebanon, and 1.2 million in Jordan. Canada has taken in 36,000 Syrians, Russia 5,000, and the U.S. has accepted 16,000 people.
  • Abboud reviews the failures to deal with the continued use of chemical weapons. Following the agreement between Russia and the U.S. on Syria's chemical weapons, there were as many as 78 documented breaches. Barrel bombs deliver chlorine gas and are randomly tossed on populated areas. “Without any significant political pressure exerted by the UN on any of the warring sides, the security and political elements of the resolutions rang hollow” (p. 149).
  • Armed factions include the Free Syrian Army, networked rebel groups, Islamist groups, and the regime coalition: “The question of whether to arm rebels has been in the West a question of ensuring that weapons are controlled by ‘moderate’ rather than ‘extremist’ forces. Yet, as the rebel landscape beyond ISIS demonstrates, such distinctions are false ones and do not accurately reflect realities and the fluidity of alliances on the ground and the levels of cooperation between rebel groups. The dispersed and fragmented structure of the armed opposition is such that no brigades or unit exercise autonomy from one another... [U]nraveling their ideological and political affinities and interests [is] virtually impossible.” The external alliances are equally fluid and, many of the more hardline groups have received their support from private donors (pp. 120-161).

Phyllis Bennis calls for stopping the Global War on Terror. In her October, 2016 article in The Nation, “The War in Syrian Can Not Be Won. But It Can Be Ended,” Bennis contended that “the left is profoundly divided over the [Syrian] conflict, but we should at least agree on a set of principles to end it.” She proposed:

  1. “You can't defeat terrorism with war, so stop killing people and destroying cities in the name of stopping others from killing people – that means stop the airstrikes and bombing, withdraw the troops and Special Forces, make ‘no boots on the ground’ real.
  2. Work to achieve a full arms embargo on all sides, challenging the U.S. and global arms industry. Stop the train-and-equip programs. Stop allowing U.S. allies to send weapons into Syria, making clear that if they continue they will lose all access to U.S. arms sales. Convincing Russia and Iran to stop arming the Syrian regime will become more realistic when the United States and its allies stop arming the other side.
  3. Create new diplomatic, not military, partnerships involving outside powers and those inside Syria, including regional governments and other actors. Real diplomacy for ending war must be at center stage, not fake diplomacy designed to enable joint bombing campaigns. All must be at the table, including Syrian civil society, women, and the nonviolent opposition as well as armed actors. Support UN efforts toward local cease-fires and new diplomacy.
  4. Increase U.S. support for refugees and other regional humanitarian needs. Make good on all pledges to UN funds, and vastly increase money and aid to UN agencies as well as the number of refugees welcomed for resettlement in the United States...”

The Global Arms Race

The U.S. military industrial complex extends to over one thousand overseas bases; U.S. arms flow directly or through proxies throughout the Middle East. Any effective action to end the Syrian war, must also take on U.S. involvement and its military. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's figure for overall 2016 military spending is over $1.2-trillion. The Institute for Economics and Peace's Global Peace Index more comprehensive estimate of the economic impact of violence was $13.6-trillion in 2015. The arms trade also includes the black market with its ties to offshore banking, arms captured from government supplies or left over by the U.S. in Iraq and Libya, and arms provided particularly by Saudi Arabia. Andrew Feinstein, in his The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade (2011), researched the constant flux of arms networks in which the ready availability of small arms and mobile weapons systems “is undoubtedly a consequence of some of this violence, it is also a precipitating cause” (p. 435).

The Vietnam antiwar movement differed significantly in its breadth and persistence from current antiwar efforts. It followed the repressive McCarthy era and the Cuban missile crisis. Eventually the movement reached a wider public and military personnel, and it linked together opposition to war, racism, poverty, and nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. A massive education and research component exposed colluding corporations, universities, and at times – humanitarian aid. Not known then was the extent of government deception which led to millions of deaths.

In contrast to war spending are the dramatic reductions from member states to UN aid programs. Total donations from member states to the UN World Food Program fell by 96 per cent in 2014. Donations in 2016 were approximately $5-billion. At present, there are seventy walled borders worldwide and 65.3 million refugees. Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey have taken in millions of refugees while liberal democracies incarcerate refugees in detention centers and send them back to violent regimes.

The Antiwar Movement in Canada

Neoliberal democracies including the United States, Canada, and Israel, use “lawfare” to rationalize illegal military and policing interventions. Principles like the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ and ‘Least Possible Evil’ are used by authoritarian leaders and elite national security bureaucrats to perpetrate illegal interventions and war crimes.

Canada participates with a hypocritical veneer of peacekeeping and liberalism. In reality, Canada is now the 2nd largest arms exporter to the Middle East, having just sold $15-billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia. Canada is the 6th largest arms exporter worldwide. The Trudeau government has further weakened arms export regulations to countries with gross human rights violations. Canada was one of the only non-nuclear weapons states this last October to vote against a UN resolution to eliminate nuclear weapons and has secretly contributed to U.S. missile defense. The Trudeau government is upping military deployment in questionable and provocative NATO missions encircling Russia. Canadian pension funds invest heavily in Canadian, American, and Israeli weapons. Like other western neoliberal democracies, military spending increases, the extractive industries expand, while social programmes suffer big cuts.

Syria is still treated as a distant reality. Psychotically, Syria will likely not disrupt holiday cheer, while ominous dark clouds loom over the new year. The global war against the people (as Jeff Halper refers to militarized neoliberalism) is being fought with political impunity and with increasingly horrific technology. It demands an antiwar movement in Canada and the U.S. that is unrelenting in its opposition to the global arms trade, to militarization and austerity regimes, to resurgent racialized nationalism and closed borders, and to ineffectual international institutions. •

Judith Deutsch is a columnist for Canadian Dimension Magazine, former president of Science for Peace, and a psychoanalyst by profession.

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News for NYT: Donald Trump and Paul Ryan are Not Political Philosophers

This article was first published on CEPR.

Apparently the paper is confused on this issue since it headlined a front page piece on the budget, "Trump budget sets up clash over ideology within G.O.P." The article lays out this case in the fourth paragraph:

"He [Trump] also set up a battle for control of Republican Party ideology with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who for years has staked his policy-making reputation on the argument that taming the budget deficit without tax increases would require that Congress change, and cut, the programs that swallow the bulk of the government’s spending — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid."

Most of us recognize Donald Trump and Paul Ryan as politicians who hold their jobs as a result of being able to gain the support of important interest groups. It really doesn't make much difference what their political philosophy is. Contrary to what the NYT might lead us to believe, this is not a battle of political philosophy, it is a battle over money.

On this score, the NYT also gets matters seriously confused. First of all, it is wrong to describe Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as "the programs that swallow the bulk of government spending." Under the law, Social Security can only spend money raised through its designated taxes, either currently or in the past. For this reason, it is not a drain on the rest of the budget unless Congress changes the law.

Medicaid would also not rank among the three largest programs. The government is projected to spend $592 billion this year on the military compared to $401 billion on Medicaid.

The claim that Paul Ryan is concerned that these programs would "swallow the bulk of government spending" directly contradicts everything Paul Ryan has been explicitly advocating for years. Ryan has repeatedly put forward budgets that would reduce the size of the federal government to zero outside of the military, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. (See Table 2 in the Congressional Budget Office's analysis.) It is difficult to understand how a major newspaper can so completely misrepresent a strongly and repeatedly stated view of one of the country's most important political figures.


The piece is also somewhat misleading in telling readers:

"Social Security, health care and net interest now comprise nearly 60 percent of all federal spending, and that figure is expected to soar to 82 percent over the next 10 years."

One of the main causes of this "soaring" is the projection that interest rates will rise sharply over the next decade. There are three points worth noting on this issue. First, CBO has been repeatedly wrong over the last six years in projecting that interest rates will rise. While CBO may turn out right this time, it is certainly worth pointing out its past track record on this issue.

The second point is that the interest rate is a policy choice by the Federal Reserve Board. In effect, CBO is projecting that the Fed will decide to raise interest rates substantially over the next decade. Again, this may prove right, but it is important for readers to realize that the rise in interest payments would be due to a policy decision by an agency of the federal government (the Federal Reserve Board), not some inevitable economic outcome. The Fed would presumably raise interest rates to combat inflation, which has not been a problem for the last decade.

The third point is that, in contrast to much doomsaying in the media, interest payments as a share of GDP are near a historic low. After deducting the money rebated by the Federal Reserve Board ($90 billion a year), interest payments are now roughly 0.8 percent of GDP. This compares to more than 3.0 percent of GDP in the early 1990s. Of course even that debt burden did not prevent the 1990s from being a very prosperous decade.

It is also worth noting that whole focus on deficits and debt is misplaced if the issue is the future commitment of economic resources. Much government action imposes costs on the economy without taxation. An obvious example is when the government privatizes an asset like a road or the airwaves. The holders of these assets will effectively be imposing taxes on the public, but they won't be described that way.

The most important type of hidden tax in this vein is patent and copyright monopolies. These government-granted monopolies often raise the price of the protected items by several thousand percent above the free market price. The amount of money at stake is enormous. In the case of prescription drugs alone the gap between the monopoly prices and the free market price is close to $360 billion a year, almost 2 percent of GDP.

This is more than twice the size of the interest burden on the national debt. While those who want to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare might want to focus on government debt and deficits, anyone really concerned about the burdens the government was imposing for the future would be putting these monopolies front and center.

The NYT also misrepresents the nature of the conflict over the programs that might be cut as a generational issue:

"In effect, Mr. Trump appears determined to take sides in a generational struggle between older, sicker Americans who depend on the entitlement programs, and their younger, poorer counterparts whose livelihoods are shaped by the domestic programs likely to see steep cuts."

This generational description is wrong on many counts. First, since generations of families often live together (which is especially true with poorer families) cutting Social Security payments would directly hurt tens of millions of low income children. Medicaid also disproportionately benefits both children and seniors. If this program is protected in the Trump budget then it will help both groups.

Also, as a practical matter, few Republicans advocate large cuts for current beneficiaries of programs like Social Security and Medicare. They generally advocate cuts that will hurt future generations, like the millennials. In effect, they are proposing cuts to these programs that will hit today's young, but not until they are older. It is difficult to see how this would be siding with the young in a generational battle. (It would be possible to reduce the costs of the health care programs by going after the excessive rents of pharmaceutical industry, the medical equipment industry and doctors, but few politicians, reporters, or economists seem to even want to talk about this possibility.)

Basically, Trump seems to have opted to protect universal programs with broad-based support while targeting programs that can be identified as helping poor people of all age groups. Trump's actions are easy to explain as a political tactic even if they don't fit any obvious ideology.

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Free Trade vs Protectionism: Weapon of Mass Distraction

By Richard D. Wolff. This article was first published on Naked Capitalism.

For centuries now, countries where capitalism prevails – where businesses are organized around the employer-employee relationship – have shifted their governments’ international trade policies back and forth between free trade and protectionism. Trump’s tariff threats and plans are nothing new. They represent just the latest shift in an old, old oscillation.

Free trade just means that government interferes relatively little in the goods and services trade crossing its national border. Protectionism means that government intervenes relatively more to shape international trade. Major means of protectionism include quotas (limiting quantities of items crossing borders), tariffs (taxes levied on goods and services when they cross a border), subsidies, and so on. The word “protectionism” reflects the chief historical reason why governments intervened: namely, to protect domestic enterprises from foreign-based competitors. For example, by quotas on how much foreigners could bring in or by a tariff (tax) on foreign imports, domestic enterprises’ profits were protected.

Struggles between advocates of free trade vs protectionism always were first and foremost struggles between industries who stand to gain more from one than the other. The US government, for example, has long imposed quotas on sugar imports. Partly as a result, today’s US sugar price is over 40% higher than the world price. US sugar producers can charge us more because the quota limits how much of US demand cheaper external sources are allowed to supply. The quota protects sugar industry profits. For many years the US imposed a similar quota on imports of Japanese automobiles to protect the US industry’s profits. US tariffs today apply to thousands of imported goods and services yielding many billions of dollars in revenue to Washington.

On the other side, quotas and tariffs are opposed by industries seeking to lower their outlays for imported inputs. For example, sweetened food producers could profit more with cheaper sugar. They thus oppose “protectionism” and favor “free trade” in sugar. If they faced competition from foreign sweetened food, they might favor protectionism for the food trade other than sugar. Or, if sugar prices rose too high, they might switch to use corn-based sweeteners, lose interest in the sugar quota issue, and focus solidly on food protectionism. Similarly, taxicab companies would prefer free-trade in automobiles to lower their costs.

Thus, throughout capitalism’s history domestic industries’ ever-changing situations aligned them now on one side and then on the other in endless struggles between free trade and protectionism. It became more complicated when the same industry (for example, automobiles) produces and trades both inside the US and outside. In any case, each industry generally chooses between the two sides according to which is better for its profits. The stronger and more politically effective side wins the struggle to determine government trade policy.

Winning often depends on the strength of each side’s alliances with and support from the public. To that end, it is not politic for either side to identify its goal as more profits. Instead, each side insists that what it prefers is what is best for jobs, growth, environment or still other broad social goals. Both sides usually find and/or buy academics whose studies conveniently affirm broad social benefits of the buyer’s preferred trade policy. Such academics often believe that their research actually can determine which policy is best for everyone.

But, no one can do that. No one ever has, notwithstanding claims to the contrary. The reasons for this are several. First, the consequences of either policy occur directly and indirectly over many years into the future. Second, those consequences are infinite in number, diversity, and complexity. Third, they include consequences of which we become conscious and those that remain unconscious. Thus the consequences of either policy are neither fully knowable nor measurable. Moreover, because the consequences of either policy interact with all else occurring in society, disentangling either policy’s consequences from all other influences on those consequences is not doable (and never was). We can never know what all the consequences of either policy will be.

On the one hand, the battling industries don’t care about secondary, longer term consequences. For them, the likely, hoped-for, short-term impact on profits drives their behavior. Each side promotes assertions about the broad social consequences of policies with the intent thereby to acquire pubic support and thereby strengthen its side. Academics whose work makes or endorses such assertions (often with remarkable epistemological naivete) are useful for the contending industries that use them.

On the other hand, workers and their organizations sometimes ally with protectionists persuaded that protection will surely deliver more jobs, higher wages etc. Consumer advocates will often support free trade because its sure consequence, they have been led to believe, is lower consumer prices. There are countless examples where, in fact, opposite outcomes have resulted. When such organizations take positions in the free trade vs protectionism struggle, they are supporting – based on unprovable assertions – one or another industrial group’s self-serving agenda. Trump manipulated that history of position-taking to help win the election.

For workers and consumers in our capitalist system, the problem is the system, not this or that trade policy. The promises to workers about their certain gains from NAFTA enabled Trump to benefit when those promises were broken. Much the same may well befall Trump in turn since he makes comparable promises for protection against NAFTA. Capitalist employers will, as always, respond to any and every governing trade policy by advancing their interests via automation, relocation of facilities, lobbying for special exemptions, product choice and much else. They will thereby continue to generate the cyclical instability, growing inequalities, ecological devastation, etc. that beset modern society: workers’ and consumers’ real problems.

The struggle between free trade and protectionism is over which kind of capitalism will prevail. It is a struggle chiefly among capitalists (as was, for example, the history of the TPP). Those who seek to challenge and go beyond capitalism (either kind) have radically different, system-changing goals. They should participate in capitalists’ struggles such as free trade vs protectionism only if and when doing so advances their own system-change priorities.

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Has Van Jones Lost His Mind, Or Are Sane People Missing the Point?

A rational and moral person might think of the recent U.S. raid in Yemen this way. Here's one small incident out of a war consisting primarily of a massive bombing campaign that has slaughtered innocents by the thousands and is threatening to lead to the starvation of hundreds of thousands. In this one incident some 30 people were murdered, some 10 of them women and children, one of them the 8-year-old sister of a 16-year-old American boy whom President Obama had earlier murdered just after having murdered his father. There wasn't some Very Important Thing accomplished, such as learning the cell phone number of someone suspiciously Muslim or whatever, that an immoral hack could try to claim justified this incident. This was mass murder.

In the course of this mass murder, one American taking part in it was killed.

The first paragraph above is of virtually no interest to the U.S. media. The second paragraph above is of intense and passionate interest. But there is a very different point that this interest misses. Much of the media coverage suggests that the One American being killed was a very negative thing for Donald Trump. I'd suggest that it was a very negative thing for the man killed and his family and loved ones, but not necessarily a bad thing for Donald Trump or Lockheed Martin. Here's why.

When Van Jones appeared to lose his mind and declare Trump some sort of deity because of his Very Solemn treatment of the death of the One Person Who Mattered, Van Jones was following a long tradition of treatment of the sacred sacrificing of lives to the God of War, the feeding of troops to the Holy Flag. Only lives that matter can be used in this ritual. Only lives that have been lost and that mattered can be used to justify hurling more lives after them. President Polk knew this when he got U.S. troops killed in Mexico. So did those war propagandists who remembered the Maine. The mast of the Maine still stands at the Naval Academy in Annapolis as a monument to the fundamental rite of lying about dead people who mattered, in order to remove all constraints on behavior.

As Richard Barnet explains, in the context of Vietnam:

The sacrifice of American lives is a crucial step in the ritual of commitment. Thus William P. Bundy stressed in working papers the importance of spilling American blood not only to whip up the public to support a war that could touch their emotions in no other way, but also to trap the President.[i]

Who was William P. Bundy? He was in the CIA and became an advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. He was exactly the kind of bureaucrat who succeeds in Washington, D.C. In fact he was considered a dove by the standards of those in power, people like his brother McGeorge Bundy, National Security Advisor to Kennedy and Johnson, or William Bundys father-in-law Dean Acheson, Secretary of State for Truman. The war makers do what they do, because only aggressive war makers advance through the ranks and keep their jobs as high-level advisors in our government. While resisting militarism is a good way to derail your career, no one seems to have ever heard of a D.C. bureaucrat or CNN news reader being sidelined for excessive warmongering. Pro-war counsel may be rejected, but is always considered respectable and important -- even proposals to murder Americans directly, like Operation Northwoods or Dick Cheney's scheme for Iran.

How can being responsible for getting People Who Matter killed trap a president into killing lots more of them?

This is not about logic. You have to stop thinking, and start observing the behavior of Van Jones' audience. When People Who Matter have been killed, it becomes important to kill more of the Enemy even -- or perhaps necessarily -- through means that also kill many more of the People Who Matter. The flag's appetite has awakened.

This is not the only way in which the U.S. media is treating this Death That Matters. Some commentators are even suggesting that it was a life lost in vain. Not in mass murder, but in vain. We should be aware, however, that the insanity Van Jones is tapping into is a powerful current with a long records of horror and destruction behind it.

 

[i] Stavins et alia, Washington Plans an Aggressive War, p. 206.

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David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.

 

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Let’s Give the CIA the Credit It Deserves

By Norman Solomon

For months now, our country has endured the tacit denigration of American ingenuity. Countless statements -- from elected officials, activist groups, journalists and many others -- have ignored our nation’s superb blend of dazzling high-tech capacities and statecraft mendacities.

Fortunately, this week the news about release of illuminating CIA documents by WikiLeaks has begun to give adequate credit where due. And not a moment too soon. For way too long, Russia has been credited with prodigious hacking and undermining of democracy in the United States.

Many Americans have overlooked the U.S. government’s fantastic hacking achievements. This is most unfair and disrespectful to the dedicated men and women of intelligence services like the CIA and NSA. Far from the limelight, they’ve been working diligently to undermine democracy not just overseas but also here at home.

Today, the massive new trove of CIA documents can help to put things in perspective. Maybe now people will grasp that our nation’s undermining of democracy is home-grown and self-actualized. It’s an insult to the ingenious capacities of the United States of America to think that we can’t do it ourselves.

Contrary to all the public relations work that U.S. intelligence agencies have generously done for them, the Russians don’t even rank as peripheral to the obstacles and prospects for American democracy. Rest assured, throughout the long history of the United States, we haven’t needed foreigners to get the job done.

In our current era, can Vladimir Putin take any credit for purging huge numbers of African Americans, Latinos and other minority citizens from the voter rolls? Of course not.

Did Putin create and maintain the barriers that prevented many low-income people from voting on November 8? Only in his dreams.

Can the Kremlin hold a candle to the corporate-owned cable TV channels that gave Donald Trump umpteen free hours of uninterrupted air time for speeches at his campaign rallies? Absolutely not.

Could any Russian operation claim more than a tiny sliver of impact compared to the handiwork of FBI Director James Comey as he boosted Donald Trump’s prospects with a pair of gratuitous announcements about a gratuitously re-opened probe of Hillary Clinton’s emails during the last days of the 2016 campaign? No way.

Is Putin anything but a miniscule lightweight in any efforts to manipulate the U.S. electorate compared to “dark money” American billionaires like the Koch brothers? Give us a break.

And how about the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? The Kremlin can only marvel at the way that the CIA, the NSA and the bipartisan leadership in Washington have shredded the Fourth Amendment while claiming to uphold it.

To sum up: The CIA’s efforts to tout Russia add up to jaw-dropping false modesty! The humility of “deep state” leaders in Langley is truly awesome.

Let’s get a grip. Overwhelmingly, the achievements of thwarting democracy in America have been do-it-yourself operations. It’s about time that we give adequate credit to the forces perpetuating this country’s self-inflicted wounds to American democracy.

To loosely paraphrase the beloved comic-strip character Pogo, when the subject is grievous damage to democracy at home, “We have met the ingenuity and it is U.S.” But we’re having a terrible time recognizing ourselves.

____________________

Norman Solomon is the coordinator of the online activist group RootsAction.org and the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of a dozen books including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

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