JOHN KIRIAKOU: Hold the Fireworks

From the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade to the persecution of whistleblowers, this July 4th exploded with reasons not to celebrate.   

July 4, 2019, parade in Washington, D.C. (Joe Lauria)

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

A friend of mine is one of the producers of the annual July 4 celebration in Washington, D.C. Every year he gives me VIP tickets to watch the performances on the west lawn of the Capitol.  I get to see A-list music stars and then the city begins its legendary fireworks display, featuring pyrotechnics from the biggest employer in my hometown of New Castle, Pennsylvania, Pyrotechnico, formerly Zambelli Fireworks.  No Chinese fireworks for us! 

Most Washingtonians end the evening feeling energized and patriotic.  I left this year feeling disgusted and angry.  News flashes about shootings during the 4th — a deadly one in a Chicago suburb that reportedly killed six people and wounded many others, followed by the wounding of two police officers in Philadelphia — confirmed my sense of so much going wrong.  I know I’m going to take some heat for my “un-American” thoughts after this Independence Day.  But I can’t help it.  

I can’t celebrate a country this year where the highest court in the land sets society back a century with rulings so out of the mainstream of society that they harken back to the Dred Scott decision

Newspapers on the morning of July 4 told the story of a 10-year-old pregnant rape victim who, thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, was denied an abortion and told that she would have to carry her rapist’s baby to term.  Her parents had the wherewithal to take her to neighboring Indiana for an abortion.  It’s not that Indiana is in any way a progressive state.  It’s just that the legislature there hasn’t banned abortion yet.  That’s supposed to come in the next couple of weeks.

I can’t celebrate a country this year where police try to pull over a driver for a traffic offense, he leads them on a chase and then they shoot him 60 times.  Not six times.  That would be bad enough.  They shot him 60 times.  They fired 90 shots.  Have we learned nothing as a nation from George Floyd, Breona Taylor, Stephon Clark, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner or any of the other African-American victims of police violence?  Will this never stop?

I can’t celebrate a country this year where whistleblowers who tell the public about the crimes that the government is committing in their name find themselves in prison suffering under conditions one would expect in a banana republic, a tin horn dictatorship or a Soviet gulag. 

Vigil for George Floyd at Chicago Avenue & 38th Street, Minneapolis, May 30, 2020. (Fibonacci Blue, Flickr)

Drone whistleblower Daniel Hale should be celebrated. 

His heroism should be taught in schools.  Instead, he’s in a maximum-security penitentiary that also holds some of the most dangerous and notorious criminals in the world.  Joshua Schulte is in a prison unit in New York that does not even meet the most basic level of human decency.  And Julian Assange can expect no better if and when he is extradited to the United States.

I can’t celebrate a country this year that sends unaccountable billions of dollars to a government in Ukraine known widely for its corruption, while the United States has underfunded schools, an embarrassment of a healthcare system and a national infrastructure in shambles. 

I want my children and my children’s children to have the best of everything, including education and healthcare.  We can certainly afford it as a country.  So why throw away our money on unnecessary (and illegal) wars, aid to Israel that is used to prop up an apartheid regime and a bigger overall military budget than the world’s next nine largest countries combined?

The Pentagon. (Joe Lauria)

I can’t celebrate a country this year where nearly half the population supports a man with an obvious mental illness to be our once-and-future president, a man who has divided our country like no other president in generations, a man who has taken his responsibility to the country so lightly that he recently told an associate, “Why can’t people realize what you guys realize about me, that I’m playacting and full of it at least 50 percent of the time?”  Hanging the vice president of the United States, encouraging insurrection and supporting a coup are all just hilarious, aren’t they?

I can’t celebrate a country this year where the corrupt political duopoly is so entrenched that they work together to force third-party candidates off the ballot.  A friend of mine, Matthew Ho, is the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate in North Carolina

He received a text message last week saying, “Hi Matthew.  My name’s Drew and we’re texting you because your name was listed on a petition submitted to help place the Green Party and its candidates on the North Carolina ballot in 2022 and 2024.  We just wanted to confirm whether you signed this petition.” 

When he confirmed that he had, indeed, signed the petition, “Drew” texted again. 

“Thank you for confirming.  If the Green Party is on the ballot it will give Republicans a huge advantage that will help them win in North Carolina in 2022 and 2024.  In past elections, we’ve seen that the Green Party takes votes away from Democrats, which helps Republicans win.  With abortion rights in the balance, we can’t afford to give Republicans more of an advantage.  Are you interested in asking the elections board to have your name removed from this petition?” 

Matthew said no, he did not want his name removed from his own election petition.  But “Drew” was persistent. 

“I understand this seems like a lot of effort, but we want to make sure the Democratic candidates have the best chance to win this November and this could make a big difference.  Would you be willing to have your name removed?”  Matthew asked, “What organization is this?”  “Drew’s” answer was “the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.”  In the end, the Democrats were successful in throwing Matthew off the ballot.  That’s not democracy.  And the Republicans do exactly the same thing to the Libertarian Party.

I could go on, but I’m starting to really make myself angry.  I’m going to write some checks to the Green Party, the National Abortion Rights Action League and a small charity that puts Palestinian students through medical school.  I’m tired of the propaganda being force fed to the American people.  In the immortal words of Howard Beale, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

41 comments for “JOHN KIRIAKOU: Hold the Fireworks

  1. R. Billie
    July 7, 2022 at 23:31

    Jeroen, have a little respect for hygiene please, take your head out of your backside.
    Thanks John for a great article. For me, it’s just an affirmation that I made the right choice when I packed up and left the states over fifty years ago. Now I’m happily ensconced up here where we get ten months of winter and two months of poor sledding every year. No matter, I’ve never looked back. Seems like it just keeps getting worse all the time in your “shithole” country. Get out while you still can folks, If Trump regains the white house he might close down the borders totally, nobody in, nobody out. The handwriting was on the wall by the late sixties, and it’s been downhill ever since then.

  2. Scott Harmon
    July 7, 2022 at 22:33

    Wow, this is a lot to unpack. I don’t disagree with any of your points, John. There are certain points that I might shade a little differently, but not a big difference. My question for you, and others, is how we might start fixing the problems most of us know exist. As the next generation is coming into power, and as many of us are being awakened by alternative media sources (forget Mainstream Media), there will be opportunities for change. I don’t think the solutions are entirely political (i.e., who gets elected). Our focus should be on reversing some disastrous trends and offering ways to make better changes happen. Considering some of the worst things, like a rotten news media, or horrible special-interest groups that have afflicted our society, I tend to think that grass-roots organization is the key. And the key to that is a system of pressure that does not rely on emails and letters. I believe we need to focus on creative, information-based solutions. We know how the opponents operate (money, lobbying, extortion). It is time right-minded people develop their own ways to put pressure on the systems which aggrieve us.

  3. July 7, 2022 at 05:56

    OMG I did not realize that the Democratic Party in North Carolina actually contacted Matt Hoh to remove his own name from his own ballot access petitions. Why do people think this corporate party respects democracy? Because it is less bad than the other corporate party? But Democrats stand by twiddling their thumbs when the GOP is pushing or blocking legislation. The only thing I can see Democrats fighting for is keeping 3rd parties off the ballot.

  4. Carolyn L Zaremba
    July 6, 2022 at 14:58

    Just remember that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. I feel no allegiance whatsoever to the government of this country and have not since the 1960s. If holding a corrupt government to account is considered to be “un-american”, I would like to know what, then, IS “American”? Endless imperialist wars? Right-wing Christofascists? Gun mania? Lack of social services? Dog eat dog? Do or die? (Mostly die, like the young man in Akron.) Killer cops with military armaments stalking the streets throwing peaceful protesters into vans and hauling them to who knows where? If that is being “American” I want no part of it.

    • robert e williamson jr
      July 6, 2022 at 19:02

      Ms. Zaremba I agree 100%.

      John I swore an oath when I was inducted into the Army 1968. I contend that I am no longer bound by an oath that is ignored by American courts and the elite ruling class, some of wh0m I need not remind you , imprisoned you in the name of THEIR concept of Patriotism.

      Times have changed John and it my contention that it’s damned sure time for you to be mad as hell. We all need to harness this energy and strive to cut the bullshit carried out by the Political Monster of the fascist ruling elite who apparently make up major portions of both ruling political parties in D.C.

      Thanks CN and special thanks to Carolyn L Zaremba for rattling my cage with her very valid comment.

  5. robert e williamson jr
    July 6, 2022 at 14:41

    John I support your efforts and most all of your beliefs.

    I do however have a question or three, at what point does a system become so Perverted by corruption, Perverted by those evil doers who secretly support agendas that victimize have-nots, Perverted by a congress made up of so many willing to “look the other way” and make deals only to insure their re-election, All perversions that service no-one but those IN government and those who pay off all the above, do we realize this system is so wrought with waste, corruption, mismanagement and no accountability that the model needs a major overhaul.

    I fear you are still depending on the no-count faux two party system that has been the most significant major contributor to the nations deadly malaise turn vicious cancer! A system I might ad that travels to the greatest of lengths to prevent healthy involvement of the voting masses.

    A system that very effectively kill voter motivation.

    While the entire time peoples of various religions force feed their beliefs through the most corrupt SCOTUS EVER to grace the grand sin city of Washington D.C. by way of the USA’s golden calf, the almighty dollar.

    Keep it Up John I feel better now.

    Thanks CN

  6. Caliman
    July 6, 2022 at 12:43

    Interesting mix of items … some are obvious poor or malicious anti-liberty governance that are obviously against American ideals, others are just democratic differences of opinion that should be celebrated on a day like the 4th! That “half of the country” disagree with you on choice of chief administrator is a feature of the system we have, not a bug.

    As for abortion, the tenth amendment says “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Abortion rights were never a right delegated to the national govt by the constitution. The SC has therefore returned the power back to the states and the people thereof to decide what they want to do. That is right and proper and my feeling and hope is that most states will keep some measure of abortion, like first trimester abortion, legal, which matches most countries in the world.

    • Mammal Rabbit
      July 7, 2022 at 03:25

      If “The SC has therefore returned the power back to the states and the people” is important, why don’t you want any individual people to choose?

  7. Diana
    July 6, 2022 at 10:20

    I came to the USA in August of 1992 from the former Soviet Union, it used to be a great country that everyone wanted to be in.

    Now it is just like a third-world country, and every day I am thinking that I do not want to be here. It is a country where there is no justice, women have no rights to their bodies, children get killed in schools, vaccines get forced on us, food is poison, health insurance is a complete scam, and the Head Clown of this county belongs in the nursing home. I feel like we just time traveled…

  8. Frank Lambert
    July 6, 2022 at 08:56

    Excellent article, by a hero of mine, Mr. John Kiriakou, who himself, a truth-teller, and was punished by the “one-party duopoly” of R’s and D’s who have done their best in keeping alternative parties off the ballot, and like here in California, off the ballot in the General Election in November, as they they conned Californians to vote for the “Top Two” candidates a number of years ago, where the two candidates who receive the most votes in the Primary Election are on the ballot for the General Election in November thus eliminating “alternative party” candidates that received a small percentage of votes in the Primaries. Oregonians, to their credit, voted down the “Top Two” legislation after they saw what happened in California.

    R B, J A, & R R, I agree with your comments. Thanks!

    Not only Jill Stein & Tulsi Gabbard but some former Green Party council members in my area were dismayed years ago, when one of our own Greens ran for Congress against a long time Democrat incumbent. They worried that if the Democrat lost and the Republican won, the Greens would be blamed for his loss! Needless to say, many Greens don’t have the courage or integrity to support their own candidates because they “drank the Kool-aid” that we are a “fringe party”, whatever that means, and I have seen most of the former county council members re-registered as Democrats.

    With respect for your comments, J Vonk, I totally disagree about the “killing babies” premise, and have had some fierce and heated debates with anti-abortionists over the years and ridiculed and said I was going to some imaginary “Hell” when I eventually pass on for my pro-abortion sentiment. The Republicans, especially, want control of a woman’s body and once a baby comes out of the womb, they forget about it and cut as many social programs they call “entitlements” to help the baby and its mother (and father).

    And another false slogan they use is the “sanctity of life” regarding a women’s right to choose, but are not qualmish at all when it comes to killing men, women, children, and babies in unnecessary wars of aggression of which the US is second to none!

    John’s article is very timely and appropriate for the sad state of affairs in the United States and our penchant to control the world.

  9. Joe B
    July 6, 2022 at 05:41

    We are all shipwrecked, as economic power has seized the tools of democracy and resurrected aristocracy. The Roman empire long pacified its subjects with “bread and circus,” and the US does the same far more effectively. It can continue to tyrannize its own people long after it is embargoed and its military scoundrels defeated worldwide. Moral and political education is independent of religion and mass media are now the moral educators, entirely corrupted by money power. Americans have no morality or decency at all beyond required appearances and laws, and seek every excuse to be amoral. Americans truly believe that their greed and lust for genocide proceeds from sacred rights to lie, cheat, steal, bully, harass, and vandalize, and their sacred four freedoms of ignorance, selfishness, hypocrisy, and malice. Liberty and Justice for gangsters! Glory be to Gold! Religion and Patriotism are the first and last refuges of scoundrels.

  10. Jeff Harrison
    July 5, 2022 at 21:38

    John, if you continued to believe in the United States after all you’ve been through, all I can say is that I’m sorry for you. I figured out that the US wasn’t what it was billing itself as or, more importantly, the nation I started growing up in over 70 years ago

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      July 6, 2022 at 15:02

      I agree, Jeff. I admire John for his stands against the MIC, but anyone not a billionaire oligarch who thinks the USA is the greatest country in the world is missing some pieces of history.

  11. Lois Gagnon
    July 5, 2022 at 20:26

    I agree completely John. And thanks for mentioning what the Democrats are doing to Mathew Ho and the Green Party. The reality is they can’t deliver on their promises because they are owned so they have to eliminate Green candidates who are not owned by big money and can actually deliver the real change we know we all need for future generations to survive on this planet. They have proven they will break the law to prevent real grassroots democracy from having a chance to succeed.

    The Dems could have codified Roe during both the Clinton and Obama administrations, but that would have eliminated the fear factor which keeps people voting for them as we are seeing going into the midterms now that Roe has been overturned. Too bad for the poor women who will suffer the consequences.

    Washington is a cesspool of cynicism, greed and lust for power. They will drag us all down if we let them.

  12. C. Parker
    July 5, 2022 at 19:08

    On the morning of July 4th I read my favorite independent news sites. As I read a sense of worry that the corporate controlled government has attempted to silence the writers, the real journalist of our day. Then I read another story regarding Afghanistan and how those people are suffering all because of US actions. Then I recalled Joe Biden’s decision to keep Afghanistan money and gift it to the survivors of 911, which after a long 21 years why bother. That story has disappeared from he news. Then the Supreme Court decisions which overturned issues that have been used as political blackmail for the last 25 years, cannot surprise us. However, it is the Biden administration’s plans to enact the Misinformation Governance Board that creeps me the most. The erosion of our civil liberties is criminal. Now the government plans to control the First Amendment by way of a Ministry of Truth? Unless the people take action there will never be a July 4th worth celebrating.

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      July 6, 2022 at 15:04

      I haven’t celebrated the 4th of July in many decades. Once you realize how violent and corrupt the government is, you can never forget it.

  13. Bob - Enough
    July 5, 2022 at 18:02

    You could change but a few words, a few examples or facts – and you will also have a story reflecting people’s view in the UK as well.

    It has got so bad in both with sleaze, lunacy, deceit, lies, stupidity and everything else negative in both the US and UK ESPECIALLY, I assume the politicians are just mocking us as they push their global agenda.

  14. July 5, 2022 at 16:42

    That was wonderful John! I agree with every word! I’m pleased to see that a few other opeds have also confessed to not being proud of America. We really need to do something about it.

    Although every one of your examples are important, there is one example that I hope you or someone at CN will write more about, and that is a discussion about the fact that the Supreme Court is violating the Constitution’s express statement abut not establishing a religion. The 1st Amendment clearly states ” Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” But that is precisely what the 6 insane Supreme court judges have done in taking Roe down, and for some reason, no one seems to be noticing that the law prohibiting abortions is a RELIGIOUS law!!! The people putting this law forward in states across the country are right wing religious nuts. This is exactly comparable to Muslims forcing Sharia law onto an entire society. Remember when right wing Repubs were complaining that some mulsim groups in America might force Sharia law? Remember how idiotically fervid and angry they were? Why aren’t liberal Democratic organizations talking about the illegality of this judgement? Can you think of any reason other than religion that would make people so fixed on establishing the abortion ban? It’s not as though people who think God doesn’t approve are forced to have one, no, in a religious free environment people are able to make their own religious and health choices, and not have rigid, authoritarian Republicans force their religious beliefs on us. So why haven’t we seen alot of opeds making this point? In point of fact I have seen none, nor have I heard anyone on TV news discuss this break of the first amendment.

  15. Litchfield
    July 5, 2022 at 16:41

    I don’t doubt Kariakou’s sincerity, but his targets are all over the place.

    I, too, am disgusted by a lot that I see going on in this country.

    But a list of personal betes noirs doesn’t add up to much in terms of understanding what the underlying problems actually are.

    Hint: The problems of the USA are not named Donald Trump. Get over it.

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      July 6, 2022 at 15:08

      The problem is the capitalist system, which is eating the planet alive. Billions spent on military buildup to destroy the betes noir of the imperialist government and nothing pent on health care, education, social security, infrastructure maintenance, science — anything that benefits the citizens. Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t matter. They are all capitalists and that system must be overthrown. It is rotting on its feet and may just possibly result in a nuclear war. The madness of the US in its quest to rule the world will get us all killed.

  16. Georges Olivier Daudelin
    July 5, 2022 at 15:57

    Tant et aussi longtemps que la constitution et les institutions de Washington ne seront pas totalement rejetées du revers de la main, le fascisme, le militarisme, le racisme, l’affairisme, le cléricalisme, le libéralisme, le nombrilisme, le féodalisme politico-économique, resteront à demeure dans cet État voyou, criminel barbare, tueur, assassin et meurtrier washingtonien.

    Il n’y a qu’un seul et unique pouvoir, et ce pouvoir est unilatéral, unipolaire; un seul pouvoir pour les BESTIALISER tous, et à la destruction de notre HUMANITÉ, les contraindre tous à la guerre; et la BÊTE IMPÉRIALISTE OCCIDENTALE WASHINGTONIENNE ne partage pas ce pouvoir.

  17. RootBier
    July 5, 2022 at 15:47

    “I can’t celebrate a country this year that sends unaccountable billions of dollars to a government in Ukraine known widely for its corruption,” and embraces Nazis, embedding them in their armed forces and governmental structures.

    Also don’t forget there are still 36 people at Guantanamo, none of whom are convicted of a crime but have been there for 20 years.

    • Charles Carroll, U.S. Navy Retired
      July 5, 2022 at 18:28


  18. JoAnn
    July 5, 2022 at 15:30

    John, every sentence you wrote echoes my feelings exacting. Thank you for writing this especially after paying an unbelievable price for just telling the truth.
    Our country is an embarrassment to the world. I am personally embarrassed.

  19. Rob Roy
    July 5, 2022 at 15:26

    I’m with you. John!
    Look what happened to Jill Stein and Tulsi Gabbard. Notice (thanks, Hillary) every time a candidate who cares about the people and stopping eternal wars and getting along with other countries, the Dems and Repubs both accuse them of their favorite stand-by, “Russian puppet.”

    • maxine
      July 5, 2022 at 17:25

      I too support everything that John stands for….I, however, have one problem with one of your comments, namely the goodness of Tulsi Gabbard….Although she’s largely known as a left-leaning politician who really cares about the interests of real people, she also hugely supports one of the world’s most hideous dictators….The leader of India, Modi….Also there is no excuse for her having taken part in one of America’s evil wars.

    • Realist
      July 5, 2022 at 17:30

      The Russians are the altar boys, the boy scouts, the virtuous ones in this milieu. Hilary is more like a puppet of Satan (whether he is just an idea or not), along with his many neocon minions whom both Hilary and Clueless Joe have seen fit to avidly recruit into Dem administrations directly giving us this proxy war with Russia. If Ukraine and that slimy toad Zelensky wins anything it will be a triumph for overt fascism and a catastrophe for the whole human race, the prelude to more turbulence, mass destruction and human suffering than the world has ever seen.

      • Carolyn L Zaremba
        July 6, 2022 at 15:10

        Hear, hear. Couldn’t agree more.

  20. Jeroen Vonk
    July 5, 2022 at 15:26

    You really must be someone without love for children if you are okay with the millions of children that are killed in de womb! If you are a real patriot, you not only feel somethong for a raped woman, but for her child too, that is denied life. Why not adoption? Have respevct for life, please.

    • Rob Roy
      July 5, 2022 at 16:47

      A ten year old recently RAPED, thanks to this insane Court, now has to carry a pregnancy to term. For god’s sake, what will that do to her young body? We are now run by a Catholic Mafia. By the way, zygotes aren’t children.

    • maxine
      July 5, 2022 at 17:28

      I’m afraid you are grossly mistaken….There aren’t any children inside womens’ wombs, only fetuses.

    • Charles Carroll
      July 5, 2022 at 18:29

      The American CIA has never been a supporter of life anywhere.

    • Ayn Rand
      July 5, 2022 at 18:31

      Jeroen, apart from my introducing you to something called “Spell Check,” perhaps you’d like to join the rest of us living in the 21st century? A little study on biology might be helpful for you, as well.

    • Sikuvit
      July 5, 2022 at 20:12

      Ah, look. An American who gives money to the biggest war machine on the planet crying about respect for life. Keep flying those virtue flags. They’re easy and they cost you nothing.

    • Jeff Harrison
      July 5, 2022 at 21:40

      Kindly leave your religion out of this. You are one of the reasons why we have some of these problems.

    • michael888
      July 6, 2022 at 05:55

      While I respect your view and those of the 65% of Americans (VOX poll) who feel that abortion should be restricted to certain circumstances (survival of the “mother”, rape, incest, early stage pregnancy), but “my body, my choice” is one of the last freedoms we have left in America, and that is under assault (people lost their livelihoods for refusing the mandated vaccines, which didn’t block infection or spread of the virus, and had no significant effects on death from Covid in clinical trials– which the FDA wanted to bury for 75 years). It is easy to say abortion must never be used for contraception, but the reality is that for many young women it may be the better choice, the lesser of two evils (which now rule our lives.)
      An abortion is a tragedy, but an unwanted child is more so. We have enough stunted Americans, without adding yet more compulsory mothers and unloved children. Our systems for adoption, foster homes, orphanages are abysmal; our money all goes to the Elites and to War.

      • maxine
        July 6, 2022 at 16:03

        Why do you say abortion is a tragedy?….For most women/girls, it is an overwhelming relief.

    • John R
      July 6, 2022 at 08:34

      How many children have you adopted or are contributing money to ? My guess is none. What any woman decides to do is none of your business.

    • Dennis Nilsson
      July 6, 2022 at 08:43

      You don’t really have any love for children!

    • richard baker
      July 6, 2022 at 11:36

      Forcing children who have been raped to give birth to the rapist’s child is your idea of having love for children?

    • Tim N
      July 6, 2022 at 12:55

      Fetuses are not babies, son. Babies dont get aborted. There are plenty of babies and older children who you personally can adopt, so look into it.

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