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Deplorability Now

By Andrew Levine. This article was first published on Counterpunch.

Photo by Ninian Reid | CC BY 2.0

When Hillary Clinton called some (many? most?) Trump supporters “deplorable,” she may have been thinking about their racism, misogyny, nativism, and Islamophobia.  She may also have been giving voice to her own class prejudices, and those of her donors and fans.  Whatever was going on, her remark correctly described a non-negligible portion of the American electorate.

For a while, there was reason to fear that, under a Trump presidency, the ranks of deplorables would swell.  This could still happen; Trump has a knack for unleashing the inner fascist in susceptible populations.  It hasn’t happened yet, however.  Last year’s deplorables are holding their own, but there seem to be no more of them now than there used to be, and their views are no more noxious than before.

However, other kinds of deplorability have emerged and flourished since Election Day.

There is, first of all, the deplorable slowness of voters who thought that Trump’s election would somehow improve their material situations to realize that they have been had.

They did not vote for Trump because they wanted rank incompetents or thoroughgoing reactionaries installed in high offices.  Insofar as they were not just voting against Clinton or the version of neoliberalism that is almost synonymous with the Clinton name, they voted for Trump because they thought foolishly that on matters affecting jobs, trade, infrastructure, and war and peace, he actually would do what he talked about during the campaign.

In fact, Trump has only “delivered” or made a pretense of delivering on campaign promises that don’t adversely affect the interests of capitalist malefactors like himself, and it is undeniable that his paramount concern is his own bottom line.  That takes precedence even over ruling class solidarity, but, so far at least, Trump voters don’t seem to mind.

Because the moneyed interests could care less, he has delivered for Clinton’s deplorables by attacking vulnerable populations –especially Muslims and immigrant Hispanic communities.  This doesn’t make those deplorables better off materially, though it arguably does benefit them psychologically.

Therefore, they don’t yet feel buyer’s remorse.  But why are the people who voted for Trump for less odious reasons still standing by their man?  What is their excuse?

Willful blindness can be difficult to overcome, and people don’t like to admit that they have been conned, but how much more obvious can it be that Trump’s “populism” is inimical to the interests of the people it purports to serve, or that, by voting against Clintonism, what Trump voters got is an exceptionally nasty Clintonite?

Trump has flip-flopped on just about everything that non-deplorables thought made voting for him reasonable.  Here is a summary account of the spending agreement he reached with Congress last week.

Yet again, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Ascribing fixed views to the Donald is a fool’s errand; his mind flits around too much.  But his campaign speeches and tweets did suggest that his thinking, or whatever we call it, was at least somewhat at odds with the premises upon which America’s perpetual war regime is built.

It was all vague, of course, and it reeked of old-fashioned isolationism.  But there was enough there for anti-imperialists to deceive themselves into thinking that, by this measure, maybe, just maybe, a Trump presidency would be less awful than what would be, for all practical purposes, a third Obama term headed by Hillary.

Obama style “humanitarian” imperialism is a lethal brew, and Clinton’s version of it would have been less thoughtful and more bellicose than Obama’s.  As the election loomed, no one, least of all Trump himself, could have said what Trump would put in its place.  But his “America first” blather did suggest a kind of  “realism” that could hardly be worse.

Trump conveyed the impression that he would disempower the foreign policy establishment and knock the “military-industrial complex” down a few notches too; it was all part of “draining the swamp.”  However, so far from being drained away, those supposedly ill-fated swamp denizens are now running the show.

They have also taken it upon themselves to clean up after the Donald’s misstatements and tweets.  Life would have been better for them had Clinton won.  But Trump has ceded them the space to continue to rule, and they are working hard at it; after all, for the empire to survive, somebody has to do it.

Therefore, Trump and the foreign policy and military establishments have achieved a workable modus vivendi.  It is unclear how stable the arrangement is but, for now, they let Trump pretend to be President insofar as they can.

Sometimes, though, he does something stupid that slips beyond their control; precipitously firing the FBI Director is an example.  When this happens, problems arise which can lead to debilitating crises.  The longer Trump remains in office, the more profound those crises will be.

***

Clinton’s inveterate Russophobia was already becoming consequential as the campaign wore on.  She was hardly the first influential American politician to vilify Vladimir Putin, but, whenever the opportunity arose, she took up the cause, bringing “liberal” pundits along with her.  Their enthusiasm has been prodigious.  Thus nowadays when Rachel Maddow takes her usual twenty minutes to make a twenty second point, the evils of Russia and its President are almost always her target.

Getting the powers that be to go along is child’s play.  Russophobia coheres nicely with the foreign policy establishment’s nostalgia for the strategic clarity of the old Cold War, and it is consistent with the needs of the military-industrial-national security state complex for continuing sources of revenue and power.

This was another area where candidate Trump’s instincts seemed less dangerous than Clinton’s.   He saw, or seemed to see, no reason why the United States had to infringe upon Russia’s legitimate security interests or why it should initiate or promote provocations that would increase the likelihood of a cataclysmic descent into nuclear war.

Now people within the Trump administration, though perhaps not the Donald himself, seem to be flip-flopping on this as well.  If this troubles Trump supporters, they are keeping their dismay to themselves.  This is deplorable too.

However, Hillary’s supporters are worse.  Ever since the Electoral College handed Trump the keys to the White House, Democrats have been falling over themselves ratcheting up anti-Russia hysteria.

A large part of the reason why is that they are sore losers   Hillary did say that she takes “full responsibility” for Trump’s victory.  But then she continues to blame everyone but herself –  among others, James Comey (Democrats were against him before they were for him), Julian Assange and Wikileaks, and, of course, Vladimir Putin.

Long ago, the Clintons gave opportunism a bad name; Hillary is now doing the same for disingenuousness.

Largely thanks to her, the old “Commie plot” trope is back, despite the fact that Communists in the Kremlin are as rare as snow days in July.  But since Cold War myths remain entrenched in the American civil religion, this hardly matters.  Casting skepticism aside, the press and large swathes of the public are lapping it up.

They could be onto something, of course; but where is the evidence?  All that the public has so far are assertions, not evidence-based arguments; and only a fool or a Democrat, insofar as there is a difference, would rest content with that.

J. Edgar Hoover famously called the Communists “masters of deceit.” That description applies, with equal or greater force, to the American “intelligence community” – the CIA most of all. And yet it is on the word of the CIA and the others that it has become gospel truth in the United States today that those damn Ruskies interfered with the 2016 election.  It is their fault, everybody “knows,” that Hillary Clinton’s otherwise certain victory never materialized, and that Trump was set loose upon the world.

Clinton and her team might at least have bothered to get their stories straight.  She, for example, all but identifies Wikileaks with the Russian security services; others are more circumspect.  In the fullness of time, the truth will emerge; it always does – eventually, though often too late.

For the sake of argument, though, let’s suppose that Hillary and the others are right: that Wikileaks obtained John Podesta’s emails from Russian hackers or “cut outs” or bona fide spies operating on the orders of the villainous President Putin.

Would it have been better if someone from the Clinton campaign had provided the documents?   Or if they had somehow fallen into the hands of journalists in another  Constitutionally protected way?   Apparently, the answer is Yes, but it is far from clear why.

Neither, for that matter, is it clear what the harm was in supplying the public of a self-described democracy with information that bore on a collective decision that they were about to make.

Informing the public would seem to be a good thing.  But even if it is not, or if Russian involvement somehow turns it bad, shouldn’t it matter that, so far as anybody can tell, the consequences were nil?

The leaked emails provided documentary evidence of what everybody who cared already knew – that the Democratic National Committee had rigged the nomination process in order to increase the likelihood that Clinton, not Bernie Sanders, would be the nominee.

Although no one bothers to make the connection explicit, the suggestion apparently is that this somehow caused Sanders supporters and others to stay home – or perhaps even to vote for Trump – costing Hillary the election.

A lot of people who would gladly have voted for some other than Clinton in order to defeat Trump did indeed stay home.  But to attribute their position to those leaked emails strains credulity.  Voters who refused to vote for Hillary, even if only to stop Trump, stayed home because Hillary was a lesser evil they could not stomach; not because the machinations of John Podesta or Debbie Wasserman Schultz kept them away.

Nevertheless, in just a few months time, the Clinton story line has become the conventional wisdom.   Even Republicans – from John McCain to Condoleezza Rice to unreconstructed Tea Partiers — are on board.

The hypocrisy is mind-boggling.  Since World War II, there has not been an election anywhere in the world that might go in ways that would challenge American dominance that the United States has not tried, one way or another, to influence.

And unlike the Russians who are alleged only to have leaked relevant information, defenders of the American empire have often crossed over to the dark side.  For a  concise and comprehensive account of their machinations, and of the geopolitical context in which they occurred, see John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II (Haymarket Books, 2017).

Moreover, the United States has interfered repeatedly and blatantly in the political affairs of the former Soviet republics and the Russian federation since even before the Soviet Union imploded.  The American role in the so-called “color revolutions” has been documented countless times; the Obama administration’s shenanigans in Ukraine, which included support for fascist movements in that country, is only the most recent example.

And for Hillary Clinton especially to make an issue of Russian meddling is positively grotesque; for some two decades now, from the time that her husband did all he could to assure that the biddable drunkard Boris Yeltsin would continue to rule and enfeeble Russia, interfering in Russian affairs has been a Clinton family tradition.

It gets even more ridiculous than that.  At the very moment that our political class, with its media in tow, is working itself up into a tizzy over the unmitigated gall of Putin’s real or imagined efforts to affect the outcome of the election in the United States, they praise Barack Obama for publically endorsing Emanuel Macron in the second round of the French presidential election.   For reasons that reflect poorly on the current political scene in France, Obama is a popular figure in France.

And, of course, when Macron claimed that Russian hackers victimized his campaign too, our pundits assumed automatically that this must be the case.   That, after all, is what Russians do.

Meanwhile, Congress is “investigating.”  It is possible that they will find that what the CIA is telling everybody is actually true.  The source can hardly be trusted, but, as they say, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Until last Tuesday, it seemed that Trump would let the deep state have its way without putting up much of a fight.   Then he unceremoniously fired James Comey, a move of either consummate stupidity or sheer desperation.

Remarkably, there are people who say that, by firing Comey, Trump was being admirably decisive; the old con is evidently still not entirely expunged.  The emerging consensus, however, is that this latest incident is further evidence that our erratic Commander-in-Chief is going berserk.

Supposing, though, that there is some method to Trump’s madness, it would be fair to surmise that he is desperate to cover something up, and that it isn’t the red herring, Russian hacking, that bothers our media so much.

Most likely, it would be sleazy and longstanding business connections between the Donald and politically connected Russian oligarchs or criminal elements.  Indications abound that there is much to cover up.

As echoes of Watergate mount, will pusillanimous Democrats rise to the occasion and call, finally, for Trump’s impeachment?   This is not likely for a party headed by the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, but it would be possible if an enraged public forces them to act.

This would mean moving from an anti-Trump “resistance” that even Hillary Clinton says she has joined to a resistance that makes Trump’s America ungovernable.  American radicals managed that half a century ago and can do it again.

There is no less need now for that degree of militancy.  Demonstrations, parades and petitions, laudable as they may be, are not enough – especially in the absence of a genuinely oppositional political party.

Even now, with the Clintons out of the picture at least for a while, the Democratic Party is useless.   For ridding the world of the Trumpian menace, the Republicans, execrable as they are, are a better bet.

Impeachment would be a way for them to get their party back;  and, with Mike Pence, they would have the reactionary of their dreams in the White House at last.

Trump is not, and never has been, a “conservative.”  He is not much of anything other than a self-aggrandizing bully with nefarious instincts, a defiant attitude, and a nose for knowing who to con and how to con them.

He did run as a Republican, though; and impeaching a Republican President would not be easy for a Republican establishment.  The stain of the experience could endure for a long time.  Even so, they are more likely to take the lead than the Democrats are.  They may be obtuse and obstinate, but at least they are not spineless.

To be sure, there is a sense in which, for anyone with politics less retrograde than, say, Betsy DeVoss, Pence would be an even greater disaster than Trump.  But he does seem to have his head screwed on right, while Trump is temperamentally unfit to stand within a mile of the keys to the nuclear codes.  Were Pence, awful as he may be, to replace the Donald, his rise to power would be a relief.

So, by all means, Congress – investigate, investigate, and investigate even more.

It bears mention, though, that in an only slightly less hypocritical world, a Congress that cared about the sanctity of our electoral processes would also investigate itself.

When it comes to meddling in elections, even if the government led by Vladimir Putin is in fact as guilty as our politicians and media insinuate, the government led by Benjamin Netanyahu is many times worse.   He and others in his cabinet don’t need to use hackers or “cut outs” to get their way.   They operate in plain view – directly and through one of the most effective of all the lobbies in Washington.

They target public opinion, of course, but the principal object of their attention is Congress itself.  Is there anyone in the House or Senate – or, for that matter, anyone in the political class at the national level — who is not an active collaborator?

Investigate Russian hacking?  By all means!   Post-election Russophobia reeks of deplorability, but even with Democrats and Republicans running the show, something not deplorable might come of it.

For example, it could turn up something about Trump’s financial machinations that would actually succeed in damaging his standing with the part of the public that doesn’t mind that he is making America a laughing stock again.  So far, none of his other “high crimes and misdemeanors” have had that effect.

Even if that isn’t enough to cause Democrats and Republicans to come together to impeach the Trumpian menace, the thought that it might could damage the Trump brand enough to cause the Donald to cut and run – as he has done many times before in his vaunted business career.

Meanwhile, if only to keep from drowning in a sea of their own hypocrisy, Congressional investigators might think about finding the courage to look into far plainer, contemporaneous examples of election meddling — like Obama’s interference in the election that put the Clinton-wannabe Macron in the Élysée Palace, and the ways in which the Israeli government plainly does do what the Russian government is alleged to have done.

In a word, if Congressional investigators really want to keep our own elections and those of our allies free from the meddling of foreign state and quasi-state actors, the very first thing they ought to do is take a long hard look at themselves.

How pathetic that they are too deplorable for that!

ANDREW LEVINE is the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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Climate Investigation of Exxon Can Proceed in Massachusetts, State Judge Rules

Exxon had fought state Attorney General Maura Healey's demand for documents about potential climate fraud, but a Mass. judge backs Healey's right to the probe.

By David Hasemyer. This article was first published on Inside Climate News.

Massachusetts AG Maura Healey won the latest legal round with Exxon

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey had her climate investigation of Exxon upheld by a state judge. Credit: Getty Images

A Massachusetts Superior Court judge has refused to block the climate fraud investigation of ExxonMobil opened last year by state Attorney General Maura Healey.

The ruling Wednesday means Exxon must comply with Healey's civil investigative demand for company records. Healey requested the documents as part of an investigation to determine if Exxon misled consumers about the risks climate change posed to its business.

Exxon had argued Healey lacked the jurisdiction to pursue the investigation and maintained Texas was the proper venue for any legal action because the company is headquartered in Dallas.

But Judge Heidi Brieger disagreed.

"This matter involves the Massachusetts consumer protection statute and Massachusetts case law arising under it about which the Massachusetts Superior Court is certainly more familiar than would be a federal court in Texas," according to Brieger's ruling.

The parallel legal battle Exxon is waging in a federal court in Texas to derail Healey's investigation remains under way.

The Massachusetts court ruling affirms the authority of the attorney general to investigate fraud, said Chloe Gotsis, a spokeswoman for Healey.

"Exxon must now end its obstructive tactics and come clean about whether it misled Massachusetts consumers and investors about what it knew about climate change, its causes and effects," Gotsis said.

A spokesman for Exxon did not respond to a request for comment.

Healey opened the investigation in April under the state's consumer protection laws seeking documents back to 1976 related to Exxon's understanding of climate change and the effects it could have on its business.

The civil investigative demand—similar to a subpoena—included a request for documents detailing the company's decades of climate research, how it was preparing for sea-level rise and materials prepared for potential investors.

The demand also sought statements by Exxon officials, including by the company's then-chief executive, Rex Tillerson, who was questioned Wednesday about climate change during his Senate confirmation hearing to become secretary of state.

The company argued that Healey's investigation amounted to an "arbitrary and capricious" abuse of power and was politically motivated.

But the judge said that under state law Healey was empowered to open the investigation based on her belief that a person or company was engaged in unfair or deceptive business practices in the state and that she should have "broad access" to Exxon records to determine if there were any violations of law.

Brieger also rejected Exxon's contention that the company was targeted by Healey because of its views on global warming.

"The court finds that the Attorney General has assayed sufficient grounds her concerns about Exxon's possible misrepresentations to Massachusetts consumers—upon which to issue the CID," said the 14-page ruling.

"In light of these concerns, the court concludes that Exxon has not met its burden showing that the Attorney General is acting arbitrarily or capriciously toward it."

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Desperate Dems Allow Clinton Think Tank to Ruin 2020 Prospects

By Michael Sainato

Any of the potential candidates that Center for America Progress named would ensure the party’s defeat

gettyimages 642101568 Desperate Dems Allow Clinton Think Tank to Ruin 2020 Prospects

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is on the list, while the party hopes Sen. Bernie Sanders fades to the background. Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Democratic establishment has preserved its political power by providing the Center for American Progress (CAP)—a think tank founded by Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta and run by Clinton surrogate Neera Tanden—with access and leverage over the party’s opposition to Trump.

On March 8, Politico reported that CAP will host an event to vet their preferred presidential nominees for the 2020 elections. “Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California, Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Montana Gov. Steve Bullock; and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti are all confirmed to attend, and more are expected to be added to the event, scheduled for May 16.” This list provides further evidence that the Democratic Party will continue to forcefully push donors’ preferred candidates over progressive candidates who could make meaningful connections with voters.

Though Sen. Elizabeth Warren developed a reputation as a progressive icon for her role in establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and speaking out against Wall Street, Warren deflated much of the enthusiasm in her progressive base by refusing to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries, remaining silent on the Dakota Access Pipeline, and voting to confirm Ben Carson for HUD Secretary as a member of the Senate Banking Committee. Polls for her upcoming bid for re-election in 2018 reveal that her future in the Senate is uncertain—not to mention a bid for the presidency.

Sen. Cory Booker built his career on courting the press and wealthy donors, and owes his position in the Senate to a close friendship with Gov. Chris Christie. Since Clinton’s election loss, Booker voted against Sanders’ amendment to provide cheaper prescription drugs by importing from other countries and responded to backlash for this vote with an excuse that big pharmaceutical companies often cite. He also served on the board of an education organization with controversial Secretary of Education Betsy Devos. In 2014, The Washington Post reported that Booker and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shared 74 individual campaign donors—more than any other opposing party members of Congress.

Sen. Chris Murphy lent himself as a political prop for the Clinton campaign to use against Sanders during the 2016 Democratic primaries. In a New York Daily News article published right before the New York Democratic Primary, he blamed Sanders for the Sandy Hook shooting. Because of this distasteful and unethical smear against Sanders, Murphy’s candidacy would fuel the resentment that progressives have for the Democratic Party.

Sen. Kamala Harris—a rookie senator whose sister worked directly for the Clinton campaign—is also another flop for a 2020 bid. She has received criticism for failing to prosecute Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s bank, OneWest Bank—despite overwhelming evidence of fraud. In her first election to become attorney general of California in 2011, Harris received campaign donations from Mnuchin’s wife at the time and OneWest Bank. In 2016, she was the only Democratic recipient of a campaign donation from Steve Mnuchin.

Sen. Kristen Gillibrand was hand-picked by Hillary Clinton to fill her Senate seat after Clinton became Secretary of State. Running Clinton 2.0 in 2020 ensures Trump’s re-election.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock supported the Keystone XL pipeline, sent state troopers to North Dakota to suppress the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, and criticized Obama’s climate change policies stating that they went too far. As the threat of climate change increases, it’s becoming more important for future nominees to take aggressive stances on environmental issues—not tip-toe around the issue to appease the oil industry, as Clinton did throughout her campaign.

Affirming his status as a Democratic establishment surrogate, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti formally introduced Tom Perez before the DNC chair elections.  In 2015, the LA Times gave Garcetti a “C” for continuously opting for the “path of least resistance.” In truth, this strategy is a staple of Clinton’s campaign and a quality that all of CAP’s preferred 2020 presidential candidates share. A recent study conducted by Wesleyan University found that Clinton avoided policy issues during her campaign more than any other presidential candidate in the last four elections.

Democrats cannot afford to nominate another presidential candidate who favors campaign donors, celebrities, and elites over working, middle class and low income voters. However, the Center for American Progress, a hub for neo-liberalism, is intent on fostering candidates who embody some of the most repelling qualities of the Democratic Party, which currently has a favorability rating in the low 30’s. In contrast, one of the Democrats’ most popular figures, Sen. Bernie Sanders, wasn’t mentioned in the report about CAP’s conference, nor were any progressives who support him. The Democratic Party can’t win without Sanders’ supporters, but they are making no concessions or reforms to earn the support of those voters. By failing to do so, they virtually ensure the defeat of the Democratic Party in 2020.

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The Real Aim of Trump’s Trip to Saudi Arabia

By Robert Fisk. This article was first published on Counterpunch.

Donald Trump sets off on Friday to create the fantasy of an Arab Nato. There will be dictators aplenty to greet him in Riyadh, corrupt autocrats and thugs and torturers and head choppers. There will be at least one zombie president – the comatose, undead Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria who neither speaks nor, apparently, hears any more – and, of course, one totally insane president, Donald Trump. The aim, however, is simple: to prepare the Sunni Muslims of the Middle East for war against the Shia Muslims. With help from Israel, of course.

Even for those used to the insanity of Arab leadership – not to mention those Westerners who have still to grasp that the US President is himself completely off his rocker – the Arab-Muslim (Sunni) summit in Saudi Arabia is almost beyond comprehension. From Pakistan and Jordan and Turkey and Egypt and Morocco and 42 other minareted capitals, they are to come so that the effete and ambitious Saudis can lead their Islamic crusade against “terrorism” and Shiism. The fact that most of the Middle East’s “terrorism” – Isis and al-Qaeda, aka the Nusrah Front – have their fountainhead in the very nation to which Trump is travelling, must and will be ignored. Never before in Middle Eastern history has such a “kumidia alakhta” – quite literally “comedy of errors” in Arabic – been staged.

On top of all this, they have to listen to Trump’s ravings on peace and Islamic “extremism”, surely the most preposterous speech to be uttered by a US president since he is going to have to pretend that Iran is extremist – when it is Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi Isis clones who are destroying Islam’s reputation throughout the world. All this while he is fostering war.

For Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (henceforth MbS) wants to lead his Sunni tribes – plus Iraq if possible, which is why Shia Prime Minister Abadi has been invited from Baghdad – against the serpent of “terrorist” Shia Iran, the dark (Shia) “terrorist” Alawite regime of Bashar al-Assad, the “terrorist” Shia Lebanese Hezbollah and the aggressive “terrorist” Shia Houthis of Yemen. As for the Gulf states’ own Shia minorities and other recalcitrants, well, off with their heads.

After all, that’s what the Saudis did to the prominent Saudi Shia leader Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr last year: they cut his head from his body, Isis-style, in a classic bit of Wahhabi decapitation, along with 47 other “terrorists”. And any powerful Shias in neighbouring Gulf countries will be cut down, too – which is what happened to Bahrain’s Shia majority when the Saudi army moved in to occupy the island in 2011 at the “request” of its Sunni ruler.

And you can see why America’s disgraceful President, a man who truly falls into the regional pantheon of raving loonies – he surely ranks among the Gaddafis and Ahmadinejads of the Middle East – goes along with this. The fact that Isis – Trump’s mortal enemy and the strategic adversary of his defence chiefs – is a creature of the same Salafist cult as Saudi Arabia, is neither here nor there. The Sunni Saudis and the Gulf kings and princes possess immense wealth, the only religion that Trump really respects, and they want to destroy Shia Iran and Syria and the Hezbollah and the Houthis – which is a simple “anti-terrorist” story for the Americans – and this means that Trump can give MbS and his chums $100bn (£77bn) of US missiles, planes, ships and ammo for the war-to-come. America will be happy. And Israel will be happy.

I guess Crown Prince Jared Kushner thinks he can handle this end of the Arab-Nato alliance, though the Israelis themselves will be perfectly happy to watch the Sunnis and Shia fight each other, just as they did during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war when the US supported Sunni Saddam – albeit that his army was mostly Shia – and the Israelis furnished US missiles to the Shia Iranians. Already, the Israelis have distinguished themselves by bombing the Syrian army, the Hezbollah and the Iranians in the Syrian war – while leaving Isis untouched and giving medical assistance to al-Qaeda (Nusrah) on Golan.

Much has been made (rightly) of MbS’s threat to ensure that the battle is “in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia”. But, typically, few bothered to listen to Iran’s ferocious reply to the Saudi threat. It came promptly from the Iranian defence minister, Hossein Dehghan. “We warn them [the Saudis] against doing anything ignorant,” he said, “but if they do something ignorant, we will leave nowhere untouched apart from Mecca and Medina.” In other words, it’s time to start building air raid shelters in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dhahran, Aramco headquarters and all those other locations dear to American hearts.

Indeed, it’s difficult not to recall an almost identical Sunni hubris – almost four decades ago – to that of MbS today. The latter boasts of his country’s wealth and his intention to diversify, enrich and broaden its economic base. In 1980, Saddam was determined to do the same. He used Iraq’s oil wealth to cover the country in super-highways, modern technology, state-of-the-art healthcare and hospitals and modern communications. Then he kicked off his “lightning war” with Iran. It impoverished his oil-rich nation, humiliated him in the eyes of his fellow Arabs – who had to cough up the cash for his disastrous eight-year adventure – led to Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, sanctions and the ultimate Anglo-US invasion of 2003 and, for Saddam, the hangman’s noose.

Yet this leaves out the Syrian dimension. Sharmine Narwani, a former senior associate of St Antony’s College – and an antidote for all those sickened by the mountebank think-tank “experts” of Washington – pointed out this week that US support for Kurdish forces fighting under the dishonest label of “Syrian Democratic Forces” are, by advancing on Raqqa, helping to cut Syria off from Iraq. And that Kurdish forces are now reported as “retaking” Christian or Muslim Arab towns in the Nineveh province of Iraq, which were never Kurdish in the first place. Kurds now regard Qamishleh, and Hassakeh province in Syria as part of “Kurdistan”, although they represent a minority in many of these areas. Thus US support for these Kurdish groups – to the fury of Sultan Erdogan and the few Turkish generals still loyal to him – is helping to both divide Syria and divide Iraq.

This cannot and will not last. Not just because the Kurds are born to be betrayed – and will be betrayed by the Americans even if the present maniac-in-charge is impeached, just as they were betrayed to Saddam in the days of Kissinger – but because Turkey’s importance (with or without its own demented leader) will always outweigh Kurdish claims to statehood. Both are Sunnis, and therefore “safe” allies until one of them – inevitably the Kurds – must be abandoned.

Meanwhile, you can forget justice, civil rights, sickness and death. Cholera has quite a grip on Yemen now, courtesy of the criminal bombing attacks of the Saudis – ably assisted by their American allies long before Trump took over – and scarcely any of the Muslim leaders whom Trump meets in Riyadh do not have torturers at work back home to ensure that some of their citizens wish they had never been born. It will be a relief for the fruitcake president to leave Israel for the Vatican, albeit given only a brief visitation to – and short shrift by – a real peacemaker.

That only leaves one nation out of the loop of this glorious charivari: Russia. But be sure Vladimir Putin comprehends all too well what is going on in Riyadh. He will watch the Arab Nato fall apart. His foreign minister Lavrov understands Syria and Iran better than the feckless Tillerson. And his security officers are deep inside Syria. Besides, if he needs any more intelligence information, he has only to ask Trump.

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared.

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Trumpenstein’s Tomahawk Dog-Wag: on Real and Fake News

By Paul Street. This article was first published on Counterpunch.

Photo by DonkeyHotey | CC BY 2.0

Photo by DonkeyHotey | CC BY 2.0

 

I had five thoughts the minute I heard last Thursday night that the Orange-Tinted Freak Show – the “Unbelievable Baby Man” (Tom Tomorrow) – in the White House had launched 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria as a response (supposedly) to the Syrian regime’s (alleged) chemical bombing of innocent civilians in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun.

The first thought was that there was something very shady about the claim that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had crossed the chemical weapon “red line.” Assad handed over his chemical weapons stock for destruction years ago. At the same time, it made no political or military sense for him to have provoked the West by deploying whatever chemical weapons he might have retained (or developed since) against innocents. Hadn’t the Trump administration just signaled that removing Assad was not a U.S. priority? Why would Assad want to mess with that?  It didn’t add up.

My second thought was that Trump’s missile attack was very likely an act of theater driven largely by domestic political considerations.  Clockwork Orangatun is plagued by incredibly low public approval numbers and a dismal early policy record.  That has put him in dire need of a “wag the dog” moment – a “national security” event to rally people around the flag, to make him look like a big decisive and powerful man, and to divert public attention from his failures in Washington. The Syrian thing was perfect in that regard.  It was an all-too made-to-order right-on-time pretext.  Bombing Syria (well, hurling some missiles at an old Syrian airfield bearing a handful of broken-down Russian jets) would help Herr Donald look like a “man of action” compared to the weak, “do-nothing” Barack Obama, who passed (as Trump urged at the time) on a chance to bomb Syria after a chemical weapons incident there in 2013.

More importantly, Trump’s Tomahawk raid would help him come out from under the cloud of the preposterous Democratic Party and mainstream media charge that he is a tool or at least an ally of Russia.  Russia is one of Assad’s critical allies.

My third thought was that it was difficult to take seriously Trump’s claim to have been moved to action by horror at the sight of Arab children and babies being murdered. The orange-haired beast has been more than willing to slaughter Arab women, children and other non-combatants in Yemen and Iraq.  The terrible images of Syrian children who have suffered under the civil war there have not driven the vicious Baby Man to reconsider his nativist Muslim travel ban on Syrians.  They have not led him to question the broader American policy of keeping all but a few refugees from (the U.S.-devastated) Middle East (and North Africa) out of the U.S.

My fourth thought was that the Democrats and their media allies bear significant responsibility for whatever terrible consequences might follow from Trump’s missile adventure.  They have been leading the ridiculous charge that Trump is a Kremlin agent.  Surely some of them must have considered the possibility that Trump would be driven to do something to suggest the falsity of the charge by “standing up to Russia.”

My fifth thought is that Trump’s missile spasm was completely illegal under national and international law.  He responded without authorization from Congress, with no call for any sober investigation into who and/or what caused the chemical release in Khan Sheikhoun, and with no effort to garner sanction from the United Nations. (There’s nothing surprising about this, of course. Whoever sits in the White House, the U.S. “imperial presidency” has long and routinely trashed national and global law whenever that law doesn’t suit White House purpose.)

I am hardly alone in having such scurrilous if elementary thoughts. Go to the Website of The Real News Network (RNN) and you can watch RNN host Paul Jay interview former Colin Powell chief-of-staff Larry Wilkerson and the prolific American historian Gerald Horne on what’s really going with Trump and Syria. Wilkerson reports hearing from his sources that the Syrian government may well not be responsible for the chemical attack.

Jay, Wlikerson, and Horne all agree that Trump’s criminal act of war is rooted in the very “wag the dog” domestic political considerations I immediately suspected. None of them take seriously the notion that Trump was suddenly driven to act by humanitarian concerns.  All of them note that any number of actors other than Assad – including jihadis trying to bring down Assad – might have been the real perpetrators in Khan Sheikhoun.

The Real News Network is a left outlet dedicated to, well…to real news.  It is therefore marginalized in the reigning U.S. media landscape, which is all about the fake news of imperial propaganda. The most depressing thing for me about the Trump missile launch last Thursday wasn’t the action itself.  It was the reporting and commentary it got in the mainstream television I viewed in the aftermath.  Consulting CNN and “P”BS, I was disgusted (though not surprised) to hear outwardly knowledgeable and sophisticated (and deeply indoctrinated) journalists and foreign policy “experts”:

+ Raise no serious questions about the veracity of the chemical bombing allegation.

+ Say nothing whatsoever about the role that domestic political considerations – including desires to boost his approval ratings and to counter Russiagate – certainly played in Trump’s theatrical attack on some Syrian airfields.

+ Take seriously the claim that Trump was driven to act impulsively by moral outrage over the chemical killing of Syrian “children of God.”

The main criticism of the missile attack that I could pick up from the yakking bobble-heads was a faulting of Trump for appearing to have no worked out longer-term strategy behind his action – for acting “impulsively” and “emotionally.” (“P”BS “NewsHour” commentators David Brooks and Mark Shields argued over whether such “impulsivity” was a good thing or not: Brooks liked it “in this case”).  The basic and obvious suspicion that there might have been political calculation (above all a desire to t/Trump Russiagate) behind the missile launch did not seem to cross commentators’ minds at CNN or “P”BS (at least it didn’t during the times I was watching). Trump’s brazen violation of national and international law was completely irrelevant to these power-serving chatterboxes

MSNBC’s disgraceful imperial cheerleader Brian Williams set a new standard for obsequious war worship.  “We see these beautiful pictures, at night, from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean,” Williams ejaculated during a Thursday night broadcast. The anchor even quoted a line from Leonard Cohen, “I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.” Williams continued: “They are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them a brief flight over to this air field.”

It’s hard to imagine a corporate media operative sinking any lower than that. But CNN’s official in-house foreign policy guru, the suave globalist Fareed Zakaria, may have done so. “I think,” Zakaria proclaimed last Friday, “Donald Trump became President of the United States last night.” It was what CounterPunch’s Jeffrey St. Clair calls “yet more proof of the old maxim that you’re not really CEO of the Empire until you’ve killed a bunch of people in a foreign country.” (Though in fact, as St Clair noted, Trump drew his first blood in Yemen last February).

It’s one thing to have an openly disgraced buffoon like Brian Williams (who was kicked off his anchor position atop the NBC Nightly News two years ago for embellishing his overseas reporting with fake claims of having faced enemy fire) wax with sexualized glee over Baby Man’s dog-wagging military thrusts.  It’s another and far worse thing for Zakaria to lend his imperial gravitas to Trump’s sordid projectile escapade, which reportedly moved the Kremlin to disconnect the U.S.-Russia “deconfliction line” – a communication channel meant to help prevent the thermonuclear self-elimination of homo sapiens.

I was on a television-equipped elliptical machine at the University of Iowa Recreation Center when I learned that the Orange Haired Beast had gone Tomahawk.  As I got got off the machine I suggested to a young lady college student working out next to me that she “turn for a second to CNN. I think Trump could be starting World War III.”  She screwed up her face and disgust and said “who cares? I don’t pay attention to that crap.”

That statement might seem criminally apathetic but it makes a certain amount of sense to me.  The dominant U.S. media is a relentless purveyor of endless bullshit on numerous levels but with especially noxious distortion when it comes to U.S “foreign affairs” – an overly polite establishment term for American imperialism. To use a favorite term from the Trump era, it’s fake news. We need real news – like on the Real News Network.

The more you watch of U.S. “mainstream” news coverage without an eye trained to detect propaganda, the dumber and more dangerous to the world and yourself you get.  The planet is probably better off without young Americans watching CNN or “P”BS.  Now if we could get more of them to care about what they can learn at places like CounterPunch and the Real News Network and other left and actual news sites.

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