Uncle Sam: The Ultimate Gun Nut

The murky motive behind the Las Vegas massacre – carried out by a heavily armed “gun nut” – parallels the incomprehensible rationales for the global wars waged by the ultimate “gun nut,” Uncle Sam, writes JP Sottile.

By JP Sottile

It’s beginning to look like we may never fully understand Stephen Paddock’s “military-grade” assault on the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. Law enforcement keeps looking in vain for some sort of motive in the dark abyss of Paddock’s odd life. Alt-Right conspiracists are churning out click-baited concoctions that often border on the comical. And the rest of us are left to ponder how and why a wealthy cipher amassed a huge arsenal of weapons that allowed him to become a one-man army.

Frankly, what would motivate anyone to buy 33 guns in 12 months if it wasn’t to plot a spectacular, action movie-style attack on human beings? To wit, much of Paddock’s year-long spending spree ended-up in the 23-gun “armory” he assembled in the fully-comped Mandalay Bay suite that served as his ghoulish sniper’s nest. And that wasn’t all. Police found additional caches of weapons, ammunition and explosives in Paddock’s car and in his homes in both Reno and Mesquite, Nevada. By the time Paddock murdered 58 non-combatants in his inexplicable war, he’d stockpiled 47 guns and many thousands of bullets.

Stephen Paddock is not alone. His high-powered hoarding made him one of America’s 7.7 million “super-owners” who on average possess 17 firearms. That’s 3 percent of Americans loaded for bear with half of America’s approximately 265 million guns, according to a report in Newsweek. And the Pew Research Center found that another 42 percent of Americans either “own a gun themselves or live in a household” with at least one gun.

Taken together, that means America is by far the world’s leading gun-toting country, with nearly 90 firearms per 100 residents. But it’s those “super-owners” like Paddock who truly stand out as the troubling exemplars of America’s well-documented “gun culture.” As Newsweek succinctly put it, Paddock was a “gun nut.”

The Biggest ‘Gun Nut’

But when it comes to gun nuts, can any one individual super-owner ever compare to the gargantuan gun-nut known as “Uncle Sam”? Just like the disproportionate arsenal held by America’s corps of one-man armies, super-owning Uncle Sam represents about 4.4 percent of the world’s population but accounts for over one-third of the planet’s total military spending. And like Paddock during his pre-attack buying binge, Uncle Sam keeps adding to his already ample collection.

In 2017, Uncle Sam is slated to lavish $700 billion-plus on just the defense budget alone. There will also be more defense-related spending on “upgrading” America’s 6,800 nuclear weapons, on funding the opaquely-named “Overseas Contingency Operations” account that fuels various wars, on floating the titanic Department of Homeland Security and on the militarization of law enforcement. That’s a gun-buying bonanza that’d make Rambo blush. But unlike the murderous “lone wolves” who pass through the news cycle with alarming regularity, Uncle Sam and his taxpayer-funded gun-nuttery

— along with the civilian casualties those weapons often produce doesn’t seem to garner anything close to the level of media scrutiny, political hand-wringing or somber opinioneering that accompanies each new All-American slaughter.

In fact, the Fourth Estate completely ignored a made-to-order chance to examine the broader contextual implications of Uncle Sam’s gun obsession just four days after Paddock used a bump-stock to hit the bullet-spraying “happy spot” that deluged almost 600 people in roughly ten minutes. That opportunity came from the gun-friendly Heritage Foundation. It is perhaps the most aptly-named think tank to ever weigh-in on Uncle Sam’s unabashed, yet widely unacknowledged, gun addiction.

Super-Duper Gun Owner

On Oct. 5, Heritage issued its annual assessment of the world’s largest, most powerful and most widely-deployed military. But just like last year, this year’s “Index of U.S. Military Strength” described an “unsettling trend” that, according to Heritage’s Center for National Defense, “leaves no room for interpretation — America’s military has undoubtedly grown weaker.” That’s right. The head-knockers at Heritage believe Uncle Sam desperately needs more guns … and more bullets, more bombs, more missiles and ever-more powerful nuclear weapons.

That also means more pilots to fly more sorties and, logic dictates, to drop all those new bombs. Like Paddock’s 12-month shopping spree, it stands to reason that buying more weapons will ultimately lead to using more weapons. That’s certainly how it’s gone since Uncle Sam designated the entire planet as a de facto (but not de jure) battlefield back in 2001.

But you don’t have to take Heritage’s word for it. Right before Paddock unleashed his arsenal, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson went to the Air Force Association’s annual gabfest to cry poverty over America’s recently-passed $700 billion splurge. Secretary Mattis bemoaned the existential threat posed by the “caps” on defense spending and Secretary Wilson lamented the fact that Uncle Sam was depleting his stockpile of “modern” and “mature” Tomahawk Missiles (Stock Tip: buy Raytheon).

That’s because Uncle Sam is actively using his prodigious arsenal of weapons, drones, missiles, fighter jets and bunker-busters … and he has done so on a continual basis for years. One might even say that Uncle Sam is an “active shooter” in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria and Somalia and Yemen and, it was revealed the same week Paddock went ballistic, in Niger. The four Green Berets who died in the little-known African nation are just one small part of the often-overlooked deployment of 1.3 million well-armed Americans around the world.

Civilians are dying overseas, too … and at an alarming rate since President Donald “Non-Interventionist” Trump loosened the Rules of Engagement to make killing innocent bystanders more acceptable. In Las Vegas, 58 died (plus Paddock) and over 500 more were injured. In one airstrike in Mosul last March, more than 200 men, women and children were killed in one fell swoop by what is essentially a flying gun.

Rising Casualties

Over in Afghanistan, the United Nations found a “50% increase” in civilian casualties this year. The last nine months of Uncle Sam’s longest war killed 205 civilians and wounded another 261 non-combatants … and “more than two thirds of the civilian victims were women and children,” according to Reuters.

And then there’s Somalia, where a horrific terrorist truck bombing that killed over 300 people was likely in response to a “botched” U.S.-led raid last August that killed 10 civilians, including three children. It would seem that “botched” is in the eye of the beholder.

However, one thing is certain … all of this shooting is taking a toll on Uncle Sam’s stockpile. And that’s really what Heritage is driving at with their warning about “weakness.”

The world is, in fact, getting more dangerous as America uses more weapons that generate more enemies. Heritage thinks that danger requires even more weapons, which, in turn, will make the world more dangerous as they are used in new and exciting places. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy, but, of course, the Heritage think-tankers don’t make that obvious connection.

For Heritage, this is all part of a supposed “readiness crisis” resulting from an overstretched military that is, some say, particularly strained after engaging in multiple relief efforts after a series of hurricane-wrought disasters. But Mattis, Wilson and the Heritage Foundation are not suggesting that Uncle Sam stock-up on packaged meals, bottled water and “beautiful” paper towels that President Trump will no doubt gladly distribute himself.

Instead, the thrust of these assessments — like many of those churned-out by the Beltway’s bevy of defense-interested war-partiers — is that Uncle Sam needs more weapons and more ways to deliver those weapons to more places around the globe. That’s sometimes called “peace through strength,” but it’s really just hoarding on an epic scale.

Not surprisingly, the reality show-like excessiveness of the hoarding doesn’t even enter the thinking of Heritage’s analysts or the Pentagon’s public-facing representatives or the denizens of Capitol Hill. It is simply taken as a given that more weapons is the answer to every question.

And why not? Hoarding guns is a logical response when the globe looks like a great big movie set just waiting for Uncle Sam’s action heroics to come save the day from a world stage teeming with villainy. The only real question left to answer is: How much firepower is needed to the job?

Size Matters

First, let’s recall that the United States, a.k.a. Uncle Sam, is home to around 4.4 percent of the world’s population, yet somehow accounts for over one-third of all military spending. That spending may have something to do with how 4.4 percent of the world’s population is able to consume, on average, about a quarter of the world’s various resources, but that’s another issue.

Instead, let’s look at China. Considered to be something between a cordial competitor and a full-blown adversary, China is home to approximately 20 percent of the world’s population (about five times America’s share), but it only spends about one-quarter of what the U.S. does on its arsenal. Still, that makes China the world’s second biggest spender with a budget of $151.43 billion for 2017. Frankly, that’s dwarfed by America’s $700+ billion. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Compare the two side-by-side (thanks to globalfirepower.com) and you might start thinking of Uncle Sam as a committed gun nut.

For example, Uncle Sam has 20 aircraft carriers … and China has one, with one on the way.  Uncle Sam has 41,062 armored fighting vehicles … and China has 4,788. Uncle Sam has 6,065 helicopters … and China has 912. Uncle Sam has 2,785 attack aircraft and 2,296 fighters. China has about half of that with 1,385 attack aircraft, 1,271 fighters.

The Chinese do have about 600 more tanks and a bunch more small naval craft, but that’s more a function of their geographical challenges than some willy-nilly binge by the world’s third-strongest military. After all, they do have land borders with historically hostile powers. And Uncle Sam does continue to pressure them at sea. Apparently, it’s Uncle Sam’s job to control what the Chinese do in the South China Sea.

Russia’s Piddling Sums

It’s also quite telling to make these same comparisons to Russia. It is the world’s “second-strongest” military and, according to the drumbeat of conventional wisdom-makers, it is Uncle Sam’s main global competitor. Home to less than 2 percent of the world’s population, Russia is “now the world’s third largest military spender,” according to a grabby headline by CNNMoney.

Sounds ominous … that is, until you see that it only takes $69.2 billion for Russia to secure the third spot. For perspective, that’s less than the amount ($80 billion) Uncle Sam’s added to this year’s budget over last year’s budget. That’s also less than the amount of money ($75.9 billion) Uncle Sam made for the defense industry this year by selling weapons to other countries.

Still, Russia is fairly well-armed. Unlike Uncle Sam, Russia is not surrounded by two oceans and two friendly, militarily weak allies. Quite to the contrary. In fact, Uncle Sam and his proxies have crowded Russia with forces to its West, South and East. U.S. forces also encircle China, but let’s stay on target.

As a result of their geography and history, Russia is heavier on tanks (20,216) and armored fighting vehicles (31,298) than Uncle Sam. Yet, the Russian Bear lags on attack aircraft (1,428), on fighter aircraft (806), on helicopters (1,389) and it is way behind on power-projecting aircraft carriers with just one “notoriously rickety” ship.

Russia does have 7,300 nuclear warheads, but it is nowhere near America’s capability to deploy forces through its vast network of approximately 800 bases and facilities in more than 70 countries. On the other hand, scholar David Vine estimates that “Britain, France and Russia … have about 30 foreign bases combined.”

These significant imbalances probably account for Russia’s recent move into “non-violent” forms of hybrid and asymmetrical warfare. It’s one way to close current and future gaps. And both Russia and China are making inroads on drones, but neither has the reach of Uncle Sam’s fleet … which is advancing and growing all the time. So far, neither China nor Russia has demonstrated a willingness to use drones as roving kill machines in other people’s countries. That remains Uncle Sam’s gun-slinging claim to fame … as does the unchallenged ability to dwarf the next eight biggest military spenders combined.

Gun Showmanship Of Fools

Let’s face it, Uncle Sam is, globally speaking, an armament “super-owner.” Like many of America’s civilian “super-owners,” it could be said that Uncle Sam just likes guns … or that he’s just an avid collector … or that guns are not just his hobby, but also his business. And that’s true, too.

As a matter of fact, Uncle Sam has turned foreign policy into a great big, rolling gun show. He often attends actual, government-sponsored military “trade shows” like the bi-annual Special Operations Forces Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi. Each year there are dozens of these military-themed events and air shows around the world. These glorified gun shows are golden opportunities for the State and Defense Departments to attract buyers to America’s growing supermarket of weaponry.

America used to be “the Arsenal of Democracy.” Now it is the “World’s Gun Shop,” and Uncle Sam is selling everything from THAAD missile defense systems (Stock Tip: buy Lockheed Martin) to boondoggled F-35 jets (still buy Lockheed). And in an amazing bit of gun nut symmetry, the “Trump administration is preparing to make it easier for American gun makers to sell small arms, including assault rifles and ammunition, to foreign buyers,” according to Reuters.

That final bit of salesmanship is probably a response to the sharp decline in domestic small arms sales after Trump replaced President Barack Obama in the Oval Office. Under President Obama, federal gun background checks increased for 19 straight months. By the end of Obama’s tenure the gun industry had grown by a staggering 158 percent and the “total economic impact of the firearms and ammunition industry in the U.S. increased from $19.1 billion in 2008 to $49.3 billion in 2015,” reported Forbes. It rose to $51.3 billion in Obama’s final year.

This buying binge was stoked by gunmakers’ de facto sales reps in the National Rifle Association and in the Right-Wing media … who told gun-loving Americans that the first Black President was coming to take their firearms. So, they went out a stocked-up before Obama and George Soros could deploy an army of U.N. gun-grabbers in powder blue helmets deep into the blood-red heart of America. The grabbers never came, but the profits spiked handsomely for Sturm Ruger, Remington Outdoor, Smith & Wesson and seven more of America’s leading gunmakers.

Ironically, the party ended when the NRA’s most beloved candidate of all-time took the oath of office. Trump purposefully and quite effectively ran as a defiant gun nut. He repeatedly touted his love of guns and his admiration of his sons’ love of killing animals with guns. And when he won, gun-lovers stopped hoarding guns at a record pace. For them, the prophesied “gunpocalypse” had been avoided, so they relaxed a bit. But the collateral damage of America’s exceptional gun-nuttery keeps on mounting, both at home and abroad.

Uncle Sam Is A Gun Nut

The Independent (UK) found that “nearly 1,400” people were shot around America in the week following the Las Vegas massacre. That’s just one week’s worth of shooting. Even more daunting, they determined that “24,862 [Americans] have been injured and 12,208 have been killed as a result of gun violence” so far this year. It’s a bloody, but sadly unsurprising addendum to the ponderous aftermath of the “worst mass shooting” in U.S. history.

At the same time, Americans remain largely ignorant of the “mass casualty event” that’s unfolded around the world over the last 16 years. Fortunately, the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University has done the thankless job of keeping tabs on Uncle Sam’s Global War on Terror. Their “Costs of War” project estimates that Uncle Sam’s wars are directly responsible for 370,000 deaths, responsible for another 800,000 indirect deaths and that some 200,000 civilians died “at the hands of all parties to the conflict” America instigated.

And like those solitary super-owners who spend freely on guns without batting an eye, Uncle Sam seems decidedly nonplussed by the $4.8 trillion “price tag” for his post-9/11 wars.

Even more telling, this prolonged, costly slaughter has done little to slake Uncle Sam’s thirst for more guns. In fact, one of the hallmarks of Donald Trump’s candidacy was not just his full-throated praise for the NRA, but his constant claim that America’s military had been “depleted.” Of course, he promised a Paddock-like spending spree to make it bigger than ever before. Trump essentially presaged Heritage’s lament about Uncle Sam’s supposed military weakness. And it set up a spike in defense spending that will ensure that America stands alone as the world’s sole “super-owner.”

All of which points to some obvious, if seldom asked, questions: Is the Heritage Foundation’s report on the U.S. military really that different from the NRA’s repeated exhortations to individual gun owners? Don’t the makers of weapons big and small both profit from the thinly veiled salesmanship of Heritage and the NRA, the collateral damage be damned? Really, what’s the difference between Smith & Wesson and Lockheed Martin? Or between bystanders being shot with lead bullets or struck by a high-tech Tomahawk?

Aren’t we as a military power much like those 7.7 million super-owners who stockpile arms like a paranoid survivalist who sees boogeymen and gun-grabbers around every corner? And don’t we as a globe-trotting nation differ little from the individual Americans who “open-carry” guns into a Wendy’s or Walmart … as if they are not just looking for a chance to flaunt them, but also for a reason to use them?

Sadly, though, that’s not where it ends because just like Stephen Paddock had his outsized arsenal of weapons stashed in his homes and his car, so too does Uncle Sam have his arsenal dispersed in caches strewn around the world. And the only logical reason to build up an arsenal well beyond what’s needed to protect your personal safety or national security … is because you intend on using that arsenal to kill people. That much is clear about Stephen Paddock. Isn’t it also clear about Uncle Sam? It is certainly clear to millions of people around the Muslim world.

Ultimately, is Uncle Sam really that different from Stephen Paddock? More to the point, if we are looking for answers to the Las Vegas shooting, perhaps we should ask if Stephen Paddock is really that different from Uncle Sam?  Because the truth is that Uncle Sam — the collective “we” also known as America — is the world’s paragon of gun-nuttery. He is the author of many senseless slaughters with inexplicable motives and unclear ends. And it seems unlikely that we’ll ever be able to explain Stephen Paddock’s gun-craziness until we finally make some effort to look in the mirror and examine Uncle Sam’s exceptional role as the world’s leading gun nut.

JP Sottile is a freelance journalist, radio co-host, documentary filmmaker and former broadcast news producer in Washington, D.C. He blogs at Newsvandal.com or you can follow him on Twitter, http://twitter/newsvandal.




Man Bites Dog: NYT Does Journalism

Exclusive: When the Trump administration blamed Cuba for a “sonic attack” on U.S. diplomats, a New York Times reporter did something unusual for his newspaper: he tried objectively to assess the evidence, as Robert Parry reports.

By Robert Parry

I often criticize The New York Times, Washington Post and other major mainstream media outlets for a very simple reason: they deserve it – especially for their propagandistic, unprofessional and reckless coverage of foreign crises.

But there are occasional moments when some reporter at an MSM outlet behaves responsibly and those instances should be noted at least under the classic definition of “news” – something that is unexpected – or as the old saying goes, “dog bites man is not news; man bites dog is news.”

One such moment occurred earlier this month when a Times science editor assigned science reporter Carl Zimmer to look into the mysterious illnesses affecting U.S. diplomats in the recently reopened U.S. embassy in Cuba.

About two dozen U.S. diplomats supposedly were suffering hearing loss and cognitive difficulties due to what has been labeled a “sonic attack.” The Trump administration blamed the Cuban government even though the Cubans claimed to be mystified and would seem to have little motive for disrupting a long-sought détente with Washington along with the expected boon to their tourist industry. President Trump “retaliated” by expelling 15 Cuban diplomats.

Zimmer recounted the background to his story in a reporter’s notebook piece on Oct. 6: “On Tuesday, Michael Mason, my editor on the science desk, shot me an email. Would I consider writing an article about ‘this sonic “attack” business’? I knew exactly what he was talking about. I had been vaguely puzzled about this business for months.”

Checking Out the Story

Zimmer then did what professional journalists are supposed to do: he started contacting impartial experts to get their assessments of what was possible, what was likely, and what didn’t make sense.

“I decided to try to find something out — not as a political reporter but as a science writer,” Zimmer wrote in the sidebar that accompanied his news article. “I usually base my ideas on scientific research that has matured far enough that it is beginning to get published in peer-reviewed journals. … I knew that an article on sonic weapons would be very different from the ones I usually write. …

“I learned there was not even an official medical report. I decided to try to draw some boundary lines for all the speculation swirling around the story. Is the idea of a sonic attack plausible, based on what scientists know about sound and the human body? …

“So I hit the phone. I didn’t want to talk with just anyone — I looked for people with lots of experience in research that had direct bearing on this question. I started with Timothy Leighton, whose job title at Southampton University is, literally, professor of ultrasonics and underwater acoustics. Better yet, Dr. Leighton has published the only thorough recent scientific review of the effects of environmental ultrasound that I’m aware of.

“When I interviewed Dr. Leighton and others, I made clear I didn’t expect them to solve this mystery; I just wanted them to reconcile the question with what we know through science. …

“The consensus was that it was extremely unlikely the diplomats were the victims of a sonic weapon. It would be necessary to rule out less exotic possibilities before taking that one seriously.”

Yet, despite this skeptical scientific consensus among experts, Zimmer noted, “The notion [of a sonic attack] has ricocheted like mad around the press, making it possible for readers to assume that [the sonic attack explanation] has been generally accepted by experts. But it most certainly has not. I’ll be curious to see if articles like mine can put the brakes on the speculation.”

Suspecting Putin

Well, Zimmer could have read the Times editorial in the same day’s (Oct. 6) newspaper for a partial answer. While critical of the Trump administration for rushing to judgment in blaming the Cuban government and expelling 15 diplomats, the editorial concluded: “The sonic attacks on Americans are too serious to be used for cynical political ends.”

So much for the editorial writers reading their own newspaper, but clearly they were driven by a higher agenda. A New York Times editorial about some unpleasant topic anywhere in the world these days wouldn’t be complete without taking the opportunity to blame Russia or, in this case, at least suggest Russia as a possible villain in the mystery.

The Times wrote: “Other parties, most notably Russia, must also figure as suspects: President Vladimir Putin would probably welcome a setback to American-Cuban relations.”

Yes, every possible conspiracy theory must somehow circle back to Vladimir Putin, a real-life Dr. Evil. When he is not plotting how to flood Facebook with images of puppies or manipulate Americans in their pursuit of Pokemon Go characters, he is building secret sonic weapons to disorient U.S. diplomats in Havana and provoke President Trump to act rashly (when we all know how cool and collected Trump normally is).

But I thought the earlier conspiracy theory was that Putin had secret videos of Trump cavorting with prostitutes in a five-star Moscow hotel – knowing years ago that Trump would surely become the U.S. president – and thus all Putin would have needed to do was call Trump up and tell his Manchurian Candidate to ship home some Cuban diplomats.

Why would the evil Putin go to the trouble of inventing a sonic weapon when simply pulling Trump’s puppet strings would have done the trick? Perhaps it’s just that Putin is so evil that he delights in dastardly tricks for the sheer sadistic joy of hurting people. Yes, that must be the ticket!

Once again, the Times editors seem to be onto something – if only they could rein in their one journalist who still seems to think it’s necessary to report a story by seeking out genuine experts who don’t have some ax to grind or some lucrative government contract to audition for. It saves so much time and energy to just blame Putin.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).




Trump’s Nihilism on Healthcare

Petulant bombast is a dangerous approach to governance – what the Founders associated with the British crown – but now President Trump has brought that style to U.S. policymaking on healthcare, as Michael Winship observes.

By Michael Winship

A couple of things observed after successful surgery and a week in the hospital: For reasons seemingly unrelated to your operation, you will find bits of surgical tape attached to odd parts of your body for days after your return home. While confined to your hospital bed, you will hear and say the words “urine” and “urinate” more than you have in your entire previous life.

Most important, time and again you will be amazed and comforted by the dedication, competence and patience of virtually every doctor, nurse, nursing assistant, physical therapist and cleaner you meet — especially the nurses and nursing assistants, who clearly are in charge of the joint.

Which is why it’s so infuriating to compare the true public service of these men and women to the man who is supposed to be our public-servant-in-chief — he who insists on trying to torpedo Obamacare and on running our country and government into the ground by fomenting policies fueled not by duty or patriotism but by incompetence, ego and petty vindictiveness.

It’s a given that our health care system, one-sixth of our nation’s economy, is a nightmare. And that despite my encomiums of praise for the medical profession stated above, there also are stinkers out there quick to abuse the system and make a big fast buck, especially in the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries.

Yet while Obamacare is a deeply flawed program — ultimately, single-payer is the way we must go or face economic and social ruin — it still has been a step in the right direction (“the end of the beginning of the reform we need,” in the words of advocate Wendell Potter), and could in some ways be patched until we yield to the obvious and make universal health care a right for every one of us.

But no. Dear Leader, frustrated by the Republican congressional majority’s repeated inability to repeal and replace Obamacare, decided to take matters into his own hands and issue executive orders that make a mockery of medicine’s guiding principle: First, do no harm. And all to take revenge on his predecessor, whose name he believes must be expunged and thrown down the memory hole.

One executive order allowed cheaper policies but fewer protections and benefits. The other cut subsidies to health insurers that help cover the costs of medical insurance for low-income individuals and families, resulting in projected premium increases of up to 25 percent by 2020 and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, costing the government $194 billion over the next 10 years. Genius.

Helping Nobody

As Sarah Kliff at Vox observed, “This is a policy that helps nobody and hurts millions.”

But at his Monday Cabinet meeting, Trump brayed, “Obamacare is finished. It’s dead. It’s gone. You shouldn’t even mention it. It’s gone. There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore.

Yet like so much of Trump’s bragging, it wasn’t so. Or so we thought. Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander came forward with a bipartisan compromise that restores the subsidies for a couple of years but also yields to conservatives and gives states more leeway in regulating health plans. Trump seemed to say he supported it. And then he didn’t. What’s more, many conservatives, especially in the House, are opposed. So… more mayhem.

All of this is reflective of what commentator Andrew Sullivan calls “nihilist, mindless reactionism.” The President, Sullivan writes, is “a reactionary fantasist, whose policies stir the emotions but are stalled in the headwinds of reality. He can’t abolish Obamacare because huge majorities prefer it to any Republican alternative, so he is sabotaging it.”

On the campaign trail, Trump bragged how he would immediately “terminate” Obamacare and replace it with something “really, really great that works.” But if for some reason you don’t know by now, he’s all radio talk show bombast and no substance. To fix our health care system requires hard work, study and a solid determination to create something that serves the collective need and protects each of us at our most vulnerable. There’s no evidence of that hard work happening in the White House or on Capitol Hill.

As I’m recovering from my time under the knife, I’ve been reading Keeping On Keeping On, the latest volume of diaries and other ephemera from the English playwright and essayist Alan Bennett. Now in his 80s, one of his bête noires is conservative attacks on Britain’s National Health Service.

“The word patient means a sufferer,” Bennett writes, “and when someone comes to the doctor they are coming not because they want to buy something but because they want help. Structure and restructure the Health Service how you will doctors are not shopkeepers, patients are not customers and medicine is not a product.”

A hospital stay has a way of making you focus and realize things about yourself and the structures that keep us alive and well. Proper medical care for all should be a boon to our society, a miracle of public policy that sustains and protects. Mindless cant and empty braggadocio are not policy. They’re a disease that threaten the health of the nation. And Mr. Trump, you’re the Typhoid Mary spreading the contagion.

Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWinship. [This article first appeared at http://billmoyers.com/story/obamacare-trump-sickness-and-health/]




The Indonesia Massacre’s Historic Message

Exclusive: The U.S. mainstream media’s credulity toward today’s Official Narratives is especially troubling given the false storylines from the past, such as the cover-up of Washington’s hand in the Indonesia massacres, as Jonathan Marshall describes.

By Jonathan Marshall

Fifty-four years after the assassination of President Kennedy, historians are still waiting to see whether President Trump will approve the final release of secret records related to that crime by the Oct. 26 deadline set by a unanimous Congress in 1992 with the JFK Records Act.

Senior Republicans in both the House and Senate have called on the President to “reject any claims for the continued postponement” of declassification. “Transparency in government is critical not only to ensuring accountability; it’s also essential to understanding our nation’s history,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Just days before the scheduled release of JFK records, the National Archives — with much less fanfare — declassified nearly 30,000 pages of documents from the U.S. embassy in Jakarta from 1964 to 1968. That might seem in contrast like an obscure matter of interest only to a handful of specialists, but the period covers what the CIA once called “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century”: the massacre of half a million Indonesians, and the arrest of a million more, by the country’s army and its supporters in the name of wiping out Communism.

Whether and how the U.S. government abetted that bloodbath is as “essential to understanding our nation’s history” as learning what transpired two years earlier on the streets of Dallas. Indeed, the two events are related, as the murder of Kennedy prompted a hardline shift in U.S. policy to support a military coup in Indonesia. Yet despite the worthy new release of documents, Washington has been neither transparent nor accountable when it comes to the Indonesia massacre of 1965-66.

In particular, the U.S. government has yet to declassify any but a handful of operational files from the CIA or Defense Department. As a result, “we have only the barest outlines of what covert campaigns the CIA was undertaking and what assistance the United States was providing,” historian Bradley Simpson, founder and director of the Indonesia and East Timor Documentation Project, told me.

The Prelude to a Slaughter

The frightful massacres in Indonesia followed years of growing social, economic and political strife. Following a disastrously botched CIA coup attempt in 1958, Indonesia’s leader and independence hero, Sukarno, treated Washington with deep suspicion. All through the early 1960s, Sukarno adopted an increasingly strident nationalist stance. He flirted with Soviet Russia and even with Communist China while he threatened military confrontations with the Dutch and British, legacy colonial powers. At home, he encouraged the rising influence of Indonesia’s communist party, the PKI.

President Kennedy tried to work with Sukarno. One of JFK’s first acts as president was to invite the Indonesian leader to the White House. Kennedy’s assassination, however, “unquestionably changed the direction of U.S. policy toward Indonesia,” writes Simpson in his authoritative account of U.S.-Indonesia relations, Economists With Guns. Whereas Kennedy was willing to expend political capital to work with Sukarno, President Lyndon Johnson dismissed him as a “bully” who, if appeased one day, would “run you out of your bedroom the next night.”

Administration leaders increasingly looked to Indonesia’s U.S.-trained-and-supplied army as a political alternative to Sukarno.

In the fall of 1964, as relations with Jakarta soured, the CIA proposed a covert action program to “build up strength” among anti-communist groups and instigate “internal strife between communist and non-communist elements.” The Agency raised the possibility of fomenting riots or other disorders that “might force the Army to assume broad powers in restoring order.”

U.S. and other Western intelligence agencies began planting stories about PKI plots to assassinate army leaders and import weapons from Communist China, elements of a “strategy of tension” that the Agency would later use in Chile to provoke the 1973 military coup.

The Johnson administration curbed economic aid — intensifying the country’s economic crisis — while continuing to train and assist the military. “When Sukarno leaves the scene, the military will probably take over,” one senior State Department official told a congressional committee in executive session. “We want to keep the door open.”

Bitter Fruit

In the fall of 1965, Washington’s strategy bore fruit when several junior Indonesian military officers, apparently with the support of certain PKI leaders, killed six Indonesian army generals in a bungled power play that remains poorly understood. The military struck back decisively. It rounded up the alleged plotters, accused them (falsely) of sexually mutilating the murdered generals, and then unleashed a nationwide campaign to murder PKI cadre and sympathizers.

The U.S. ambassador, Marshall Green, was thrilled by the opportunity to crush the communists. “It’s now or never,” he told Washington.

Green proposed fanning anti-communist violence by a covert propaganda campaign to “spread the story of PKI’s guilt, treachery and brutality (this priority effort is perhaps most-needed immediate assistance we can give army if we can find way to do it without identifying it as solely or largely US effort).”

He instructed to U.S. Information Agency to use all its resources to “link this horror and tragedy with Peking and its brand of communism; associate diabolical murder and mutilation of the generals with similar methods used against village headmen in Vietnam.”

As reports filtered in of the execution or arrest of thousands of PKI supporters by the army and allied Muslim death squads, Green said he had “increasing respect for [the army’s] determination and organization in carrying out this crucial assignment.”

The killings occurred on such a vast scale that “the disposal of the corpses has created a serious sanitation problem in East Java and Northern Sumatra where the humid air bears the reek of decaying flesh,” reported Time magazine in December 1965, in one of the first U.S. stories on the massacre.

“Travelers from these areas tell of small rivers and streams that have been literally clogged with bodies. River transportation has at places been seriously impeded.”

Previously classified documents from the U.S. embassy in Jakarta released this week add details to this story.

We learn, for example, from one cable that as prison overcrowding became a problem, “Many provinces appear to be successfully meeting this problem by executing their P.K.I. prisoners, or by killing them before they are captured, a task in which Moslem youth groups are providing assistance.”

By December 1965, the embassy was reporting on the “striking Army success” in taking power, noting its killing of at least 100,000 people in just 10 weeks.

Yet we also learn that U.S. officials had reliable information that the PKI as an organization had no advance knowledge of or involvement in the murder of the six generals that triggered the nationwide bloodbath. A senior embassy officer also reported on the army’s “widespread falsification of documents” to implicate the PKI in various crimes.

We owe these and other revelations to the persistent efforts of human rights activists, scholars, and politicians like Senators Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, to promote full disclosure of U.S. involvement in Indonesia’s mass killings.

Following in their footsteps, Steve Aftergood, head of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, contacted the National Declassification Center (established by President Obama), to urge the release of more Indonesia records. Historian Bradley Simpson and the non-profit National Security Archive then teamed with the U.S. National Archives to digitize 30,000 pages of decades-old embassy files to facilitate public access to the documents.

But without CIA and military operational files, the full, ugly story of Washington’s complicity will remain obscured. Previous administrations have released deeply troubling CIA files on coups in Chile, Guatemala and Iran. Those files cast a terrible stain on our history but their release powerfully demonstrated the commitment of at least some American leaders to learn from the past. In that spirit, the time has come to open up our history with Indonesia as well.

Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international relations and history.




Why the Vengeance Toward Sgt. Bergdahl

The angry politics around Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s “desertion” in Afghanistan revolve around right-wing hatred for President Obama who engineered Bergdahl’s freedom from the Taliban, as Matthew Hoh describes.

By Matthew Hoh

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s guilty plea begins the end of this phase of an embarrassing, sad and morally absurd saga of American history.

Sergeant Bergdahl was dismissed from the Coast Guard because of mental illness, was recruited into the Army in spite of such issues, and then was sent to the frontlines of Afghanistan where he walked away from his base and was captured, kept as a prisoner, and tortured by the Taliban for nearly five years. Yet, he has been offered almost no compassion, sympathy or forgiveness by large swaths of the American public, political classes, veterans and the media.

The shameful blood-crazed calls for vengeance against Sergeant Bergdahl, screamed across Fox News, talk radio and Twitter, by millions of right -wing Americans have begun again with Sergeant Bergdahl’s guilty plea.

This hostility has resumed despite an Army investigation finding no Americans were killed by Sergeant Bergdahl’s departure of his unit; despite the Pentagon admitting it was known that Sergeant Bergdahl was in Pakistan within a few days of his capture, thus negating the validity of the right-wing talking points of continuous search missions for Sergeant Bergdahl that jeopardized American lives; despite the general who led the investigation of Sergeant Bergdahl’s disappearance stating Sergeant Bergdahl should not be punished and the colonel who led the Army’s version of a grand jury trial recommending the same; despite the United States military’s top prisoner of war expert testifying that Sergeant Bergdahl endured more torture at the hands of the Taliban than any American prisoner of war has endured since the Vietnam War, undoubtedly due to his multiple escape attempts and unwillingness to cooperate with his kidnappers; and despite repeated calls made by President Trump for Sergeant Bergdahl to be executed, as well as calls for retaliation against the military if Sergeant Bergdahl is not sent to jail by Senator John McCain, clear and blatant forms of wrongful and illegal command influence prohibited by military law against a defendant.

Despite all that, Sergeant Bergdahl finds himself having just entered a guilty plea and putting himself at the mercy of a U.S. Army judge.

In time, Sergeant Bergdahl may become just a footnote to America’s wars in the Muslim world, wars that have killed well over a million people since 2001. But his individual story relays some fundamental truths of these American wars against Sunnis and Shias, and Arabs, Africans and Pashtuns, (it is a fact that nearly all the people we have killed, maimed and made homeless have been Muslim and dark skinned). One truth is that there is no logic to our violence, only the unending and insatiable requirement for more war and more destruction.

No Forgiveness

There is also no forgiveness in this loudly and righteously proclaimed Christian nation, only the scapegoating of a young man and his family for the failures of immoral and unwinnable wars on the murderous altar of the twin godheads of American Exceptionalism and White Supremacy.

Sergeant Berghdal’s story does not just inform us of the madness of our wars overseas, but highlights our wars here at home; for our wars abroad come from the same root causes as our wars at home.

It was Sergeant Bergdahl’s parents standing outside the White House with President Obama that began the rage against him and his family. This was the treason that so angered and upset the white conservative audiences of Megyn Kelly and Rush Limbaugh. Sergeant Bergdahl’s white parents standing at the White House with that black president and thanking him for freeing their son began the scorn, the vitriol and the outrage against Sergeant Bergdahl, his mother and his father.

Jani and Bob Bergdahl, who were just released from the captivity of the unimaginable nightmare of the imprisonment and torture of their son for five years by the Taliban, had the audacity to stand with Barack Hussein Obama and to give him thanks. That was a betrayal to the usurped, rightful and white structures that underlie so many white Americans understanding of United States history and society.

Military Mythology

The grand mythology of American militarism, a key pillar of both American Exceptionalism and White Supremacy, does not allow for figures such as Sergeant Bergdahl. The greatest military in the history of the world is a required statement of faith for all American politicians and public persons, even though the American military has not achieved victory in war in over 70 years, so an explanation of collusion and cooperation with anti-American and anti-white forces is necessary to provide the causation of such an undermining.

Of course, once Bob and Jani Bergdahl stood with President Obama, the racially fueled reactionary political anger appeared in Facebook posts and twitter rants and the lies needed to sustain that anger and turn it into a useful political tool arrived: Sergeant Bergdahl attempted to join the Taliban, Sergeant Bergdahl gave information to the enemy, Sergeant Bergdahl got Americans killed, Sergeant Bergdahl had anti-American beliefs, Sergeant Bergdahl’s father is a Muslim…all claims that were untrue and disproved over time, but such a straightening of facts is almost always inconsequential to those whose identity is an abominable mix of race, right-wing politics and nationalism.

People of such a type as those who believe Jesus would be okay with them carrying handguns into church, demand that Santa Claus can only be white, and that the Confederate flag is a symbol of a proud heritage, have little time or consideration for the particulars of anything that triggers the base tribalism that dominates and informs their lives.

The fundamental aspects of Sergeant Bergdahl’s disappearance were well known and documented years prior to that White House announcement of his release. Veterans’ organizations called for his rescue and return at rallies and Republican senators enacted legislation to help release him “Bring Him Home” and “No Man Left Behind” were echoed repeatedly by Republican politicians and pundits, and even Ronald Reagan’s most famed acolyte and Fox News hero, Oliver North, wore a Bowe Bergdahl POW bracelet.

However, to be white and to stand tearfully and gratefully alongside that black president is unconscionable and unforgivable to many “true Americans” and so the parents’ sins became the son’s and Sergeant Bergdahl’s treason was a dog whistle to those who believe anti-whiteness and anti-Americanism are inseparable.

For the man who used race so overtly and effectively to become President of the United States, calling during his campaign for a traitor like Sergeant Bergdahl to face the firing squad, or be thrown out of a plane without a parachute, was a rudimentary requirement in order to Make America Great Again. Even General James Mattis, who hung outside his office a horseshoe that had belonged to Sergeant Bergdahl and had been given to the general by the sergeant’s father, understands the political importance of Bergdahl’s treason.

General Mattis who previously had supported the soldier and given great comfort to the family, now, as Secretary of Defense, is silent. I believe Secretary Mattis to have higher ambitions than simply running the Pentagon and keeping that white base of support in his favor is not anything such a savvy and cunning careerist, such as James Mattis, would imperil.

We will soon know what, if any punishment Sergeant Bergdahl is to receive. Hopefully, he and his family will be spared further pain and they can begin rebuilding lives that were shattered by the unending war in Afghanistan and then shattered again by the race-fueled partisan politics of the unending war against people of color in the United States.

For Bowe Bergdahl, a young man who never should have been inducted into the Army to begin with, his suffering is testament to the viciousness, callousness and hate that dominates American actions both at home and abroad. We deserve no forgiveness for what has been done, and may still be done, to him and his family.

Matthew Hoh is a member of the advisory boards of Expose Facts, Veterans For Peace and World Beyond War. In 2009 he resigned his position with the State Department in Afghanistan in protest of the escalation of the Afghan War by the Obama Administration. He previously had been in Iraq with a State Department team and with the U.S. Marines. He is a Senior Fellow with the Center for International Policy.




The Thwarted Dreams of Kurdistan

Almost a century ago, European powers promised the Kurds a state but soon reneged on the deal, leaving Kurdish nationalists to fume for generations and leading to Iraq’s recent military capture of Kirkuk, reports Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

It was in 1916, in the midst of World War I, that Britain and France (pitted against the Germans, Austrians and Ottoman Turks) made their infamous Sykes-Picot agreement. In grand imperial style, they used this agreement to divide up the Middle East between them.

It was a daring move, considering that the war was at a stalemate and the two allies did not know if they were going to win the struggle. Nonetheless, they went ahead with the agreement and in doing so made a number of decisions that continue to shape the region to this day.

Besides bringing traditional European imperialism forward into the Twentieth Century, what made Sykes-Picot infamous was the fact that it broke a significant previous promise made to the Arabs. By 1916 the Arabs had taken to the battlefield against the Turks. For their doing so, the British had promised to support the creation of a large Arab state.

But this promise had always clashed with the imperial ambitions of Britain and France, and so, in the end, they secretly conspired to betray their non-Western ally. Among the eventual consequences of this betrayal, the “Arab state” was confined to what is, today, Saudi Arabia; Palestine (which originally was to be part of the Arab state) would become a “national home for the Jews”; Syria went to the French, and much of the rest of the region was given over to the British.

The Sykes-Picot agreement allowed for one further change. It made possible a state for the Kurds – a people who constituted the fourth largest ethnic group in the Middle East. This state, known as Kurdistan, was to be carved out of territory within the eventually defeated Ottoman Empire. This intent was publicly confirmed in the Treaty of Sevres in 1920.

The Kurdish leaders, who by this time must have been aware of the Western powers’ betrayal of the Arabs, therefore should not have been surprised when, despite the treaty, the British and French betrayed them as well. The 1923 Treaty of Lucerne amended the Treaty of Sevres, and sure enough, the state of Kurdistan was omitted. The lands that would have made up the Kurdish nation instead become parts of Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Thus, the Kurds remained stateless. However, they never gave up statehood as a goal.

Now we can fast-forward to March 19, 2003, the date that President George W. Bush took the fateful step of invading Iraq. Bush had an array of flimsy excuses for doing this: Saddam Hussein’s non-existent nuclear weapons and other WMD, Saddam’s alleged plot to assassinate Bush’s father, the dream (really the nightmare) of forceable “regime change” as a way of making the Middle East safe for the U.S. and Israel, or perhaps just the cutting loose of neoconservative bellicosity. Whatever the President’s depth of ignorance led him to anticipate, the invasion set loose forces that Bush and his White House successors have been unable to control. Among these are the consequences that followed the falling apart of Iraq.

Kurdish Issue Resurfaces

Like the destruction of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, the destruction of Iraq that resulted from the 2003 U.S. invasion opened up a Pandora’s Box of potential territorial changes. Not the least of these was the possible creation of the state of Kurdistan.

Like the Arabs in World War I, the Kurds became a fighting ally of the West in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent Syrian civil war. The region’s chaos allowed for the emergence of the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (aka ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh). ISIS turned out to be a grim and brutal manifestation of religious fanaticism run amok. Its growth threatened just about every state in the region, as well as the citizens of the European Union and the U.S.

If stability was to eventually prevail, ISIS had to be defeated, and the Kurds played (and continue to play) a notable role in this fight. There is little doubt that one of their goals in doing so is to create favorable conditions for a Kurdish state.

For all those regional powers (Turkey, Iran, Syria, Iraq) seeking to reestablish the status quo ante, the prospect of an independent Kurdish state is anathema. Each state has Kurdish minorities and is afraid that an independent Kurdistan, even one carved out of another state’s territory, would lead to or exacerbate Kurdish insurgencies in their own countries. The possibility that such a state might instead cause a lessening of minority Kurdish restiveness through voluntary immigration seems not to have occurred to the leaders of Iran, Turkey and Syria.

As Jonathan Cook has recently made clear, the question of Kurdish independence has been complicated by Israeli influence in this matter. The Israelis have long been keen on an independent Kurdistan not because, as some of their politicians disingenuously claim, the Kurds have a “moral right” to a state (so do the Palestinians). Rather, the Israelis have an undeclared but official policy aimed at “Balkanizing” the Arab states. They have been encouraging “sectarian and ethnic discord” in order to destabilize their neighbors. In other words, Israeli support of the Kurds is an effort to weaken primarily Iraq, and secondarily, Syria and Iran (Turkey is just “collateral damage” in this process).

The Best Option

One can hardly blame the Kurds for taking help where they can get it – in this case from Israel – in a fight for independence that has been going on for centuries. Nonetheless, one can also understand that Israeli meddling seriously frightens the other states affected.

Leaving aside the Israeli issue for a moment, the question that should guide policy here is: can Iraq be reestablished as a viable state? Putting the question more informally, in 2003 a rather stupid American president — working under the influence of Zionists, witless neoconservatives, and Iraqi nationalists bearing false witness — knocked the Iraqi Humpty Dumpty off its precarious wall. Can it be put back together again? The answer is, well, maybe – but there seems to be only two ways to do this. One is a near-genocidal war waged by regional powers against the Kurds. Alternatively, Iraq might be resurrected if the Kurds are willing to settle for half a loaf in the form of being an autonomous part of a confederated state.

Right now the future is uncertain. One has the impression that the Turks and Iraqis (whose forces assaulted the Kurdish claimed city of Kirkuk on Oct. 16) are quite willing to try to solve the matter by prolonged war. This would be a big mistake. It would lead to an Iraq that may be technically united but in truth would be even weaker than it is now, and not really independent at all.

Its northern region would probably be under the de facto control of Turkey and Iran, and the rest of the country would continue to be in a decentralized mess experiencing an ongoing sectarian civil war. On the other hand, a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish issue could lead to the stabilization of the rest of Iraq as a confederated state. Also, as part of a confederated Iraq, Kurdistan’s autonomy can preclude an independent foreign policy, thus minimizing Israeli influence.

Despite the recent Kurdish vote for independence, their leaders must know this can only be made real if they can win a prolonged war against Turkey, Iran and Iraq. Israel is not in a geographical position to effectively help them do this. And so, the Kurds probably cannot endure such a struggle. That leaves them with only one rational choice.

The Kurds are now closer to independent status than at any time since the near-miss days of World War I. Their best strategy is to make the best (if not the most) of that status within a confederated Iraq and end their interaction with Israel. This has to be better than a near-genocidal war in which they would be the victims. However – and this is the usual question in such situations – will the emotions roiling on all sides allow sanity to prevail?

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism. He blogs at www.tothepointanalyses.com.




Understanding the ‘Fake News’ Hysteria

The mainstream media’s hysteria over “fake news” is aimed less at the few instances of intentionally fabricated stories than at well-reported articles that challenge the U.S. government’s dubious official narratives, says David P. Hamilton.

By David P. Hamilton

For the most part, “fake news” is a fake concept designed by the corporate news media to discredit those who challenge the official U.S. hegemonic narrative. The typical MSM fake news accusation starts with some egregious fictionalization and then morphs over to the real targets: the subversives, those who would dispute foundational elements of the official history or its recent approved updates.

These subversive elements are likely to question important myths, such as the necessity of the nuclear incineration of Hiroshima or – before the Iraq War – Saddam Hussein possessing WMD, and hence must be silenced.

There are people in this world who write what they know to be fiction and try to pass it off as fact. Many of them work for the CIA and related institutions. Then, there are satirists like The Onion who write fictionalized truth. These professional prevaricators are not what draws the ire of the corporate “news.”

The approved rendition of U.S. history is a composite of lies, euphemisms and dubious rationales taught in schools, public and private, since the nation’s founding. It is continuously updated by the corporate news media. There is an army of PR types and psy-op warriors working constantly on this project; some private sector, some public, who often switch roles and sectors, but work hand-in-glove regardless.

The real fake news is the fake narrative that flows perpetually forth from these functionaries of the MSM to dominate the discourse which the billionaire owners allow voiced via their facilities. In this manner, we are all being played, all the time, and have been since birth.

For the record, the official narrative follows certain principles.  Among them are:

  1. The U.S. is never wrong in any conflict with other nations.
  2. If the U.S. ever happens to be wrong, it was a reasonable mistake.
  3. U.S. intentions are always benign and honorable.
  4. U.S. judgment is always objective and fair.
  5. The U.S. is a democracy and always supports democracy.
  6. Americans are a peaceful people.
  7. Americans are a superior people, so American lives matter more.
  8. Americans are always on the high moral ground because God is on our side.
  9. The word of our leaders is sufficient proof of any assertion.
  10. The U.S. is the greatest nation in history.
  11. Private is always better than public.
  12. Individualism is always better than collectivism.

One-Sided ‘News’

In application of these principles, NPR’s “All Things Considered” never considers the Maduro government’s position in Venezuela, nor is Noam Chomsky, often voted the world’s foremost public intellectual, to be heard on this “public” radio. Nor will North Korea’s negotiating position relative to their nuclear weapons program be explained. It requires the U.S. military to refrain from conducting war games on North Korea’s border in exchange for freezing their weapons program; unmentionable because the U.S. militaristic leadership is unwilling to consider the proposal and because it sounds too rational.

You will hear from the world’s greatest exporter of terrorism that Iran, which hasn’t invaded a neighbor since Darius I in 500 BCE, is the world’s greatest exporter of terrorism. And that apartheid Israel is a democracy. And that the Saudis are jolly guys in silk robes you want to hold hands and dance with.

Are the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, et al, lying knowingly? Not exactly. The news media doesn’t have to invent the lies, only repeat them. They are mainly the stenographers of governmental agencies that provide the raw material to be quoted, invariably substantiating the validity of the official position. The owners of those news outlets likely believe that narrative, but mainly they want you to believe it.

The pundits and talking heads of those news media, the on-camera personalities, must think within the parameters the official narrative or they wouldn’t have been hired to the position of highly paid spokesperson for it. Wolf Blitzer is a Zionist true believer who used to do P.R. for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).  Anderson Cooper is a Vanderbilt heir worth $100 million.

How objective can you be about issues of income inequality when you’ve been the top .0001% for six or seven generations? And if one dare to go off the reservation, the next thing you know you’ll be working for RT for a lot less money like Ed Schultz.

This process of narrative creation is principally a matter of focus, parameters and interpretation. On major U.S. cable news channels, the great bulk of coverage involves domestic politics, mass murders and “natural” disasters. In Europe, the focus is far more on international relationships.

The spectrum of opinion allowed in the U.S. is limited to the point that Hillary Clinton is considered “the left” and the anti-capitalist left might as well not exist. The range of permissible opinion typically stretches from pro-capitalist social liberals to pro-capitalist social conservatives. This is hardly surprising if one considers that billionaire investors own the controlling interest in all major U.S. news media. One outcome is that the U.S. is the only major industrial nation without a significant socialist political party.

The private interests that own the news media don’t have to get together and compare notes because they all have a high level of ruling-class consciousness that includes shared economic fundamentals, e.g., socialize debts and privatize profits. Their message control is described far more clearly by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman in Manufacturing Consent, chapter 1 on “the propaganda model”.

Dubious Conformity

It is generally accurate to assume that there is an entirely reasonable interpretation of news events that contradicts what you are being told to believe by the corporate news media. Cases of official duplicity are notorious and legion: the Gulf of Tonkin, WMD in Iraq, the black kid killed by the police had a gun, etc.

Central among the American myths is that the myth surrounding the origins of the Cold War. This myth would have you believe that the Soviet Union in 1945, despite having lost over 30 million of its citizens during two German invasions in less than 30 years and with a devastated infrastructure, would suddenly decide to invade Western Europe, into the teeth of the world’s sole nuclear armed military power, the USA, and its various formidable allies.

Furthermore, that the Soviets would do this despite having achieved their major war aims, a divided and demilitarized Germany and a “sphere of influence” between themselves and Germany, an arrangement agreed upon by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt at Yalta. This Cold War creation myth of Soviet aggressive intent is essentially a U.S. cover story to mask U.S. aggression disguised as defensive.

Like Germans in 1939 believing the Polish horse cavalry was about to attack their tanks, Americans bought this spurious interpretation. These steady U.S. “defensive” efforts have now brought NATO, essentially an agency of U.S. foreign policy, to Russia’s very doorstep in the Baltic states, with Ukraine up next for NATO membership. Who is the aggressor?

Every other late Twentieth Century storyline of official U.S. history had to conform to the basic foundational concept of the U.S. defending freedom against an expansionist Soviet Union/Russia bent on destroying us. And so, today, we have thousands of NATO troops, innumerable missile batteries and nuclear-armed aircraft carrier-led naval battle groups patrolling Russia’s borders and shorelines, including the Black Sea, because “THEY are the aggressor.”

Try to imagine the U.S. reaction to a Russian fleet cruising the Gulf of Mexico, although that might be difficult given that 11 of the world’s 17 aircraft carriers, a uniquely aggressive weapon, belong to the U.S., all with unlimited range, and Russia’s only puny little single carrier rarely leaves Russian territorial waters and doesn’t have enough range to get to the U.S. and back.

The U.S. has an estimated 800 foreign military bases in well over 100 countries while Russia has three in two countries. U.S. military budget is at least ten times that of Russia’s and was just increased by 10 percent while the Russians just reduced theirs by 7 percent. Who is the aggressor?

David P. Hamilton is a long-time Austin activist and writer. An archive of his other articles can be found at http://www.theragblog.com/tag/david-p-hamilton/. His Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/david.hamilton.71066700.




Iraqi Forces Clash with Kurdish Militia

Iraqi military forces have seized strategic positions around the oil-rich city of Kirkuk as a showdown over Kurdish calls for independence enters a dangerous new phase, writes Joe Lauria.

By Joe Lauria

Overreaction in Baghdad, Ankara and Tehran to what in essence was a symbolic vote for independence by Iraqi Kurds last month has brought the Iraqi government to the brink of full-scale war with Kurdish authorities over the disputed, oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

According to the latest reports, the Iraqi army on Sunday night launched a military operation to take back the city and its environs. So far it has seized a military base occupied by Kurdish forces as well as Kirkuk airport.

The Iraqi army had built up its forces outside the oil-producing city over the past several days while the Kurdish peshmerga militia re-enforced the town with 6,000 fighters. According to peshmerga intelligence, the Iranian army, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and Shi’ite militias joined Iraq’s military build-up.

Some peshmerga units fled from advancing Iraqi forces on Monday, while others have stood their ground and engaged in clashes. The long dispute between Baghdad and the Kurds over control of Kirkuk may well come to a head if the Iraqi army enters the city, where fighting could be intense.

All this came about because of a referendum for independence held on Sept. 25, in which 93 percent of Kurds voted to leave Iraq. However, Kurdish leaders repeatedly made clear they would not declare independence, despite their overwhelming mandate. Instead they want a one- to two-year negotiation with Baghdad to achieve sovereignty.

That has been flatly rejected by the central government, which asserted that there would be no negotiations for independence. Regionally, the Kurds also are isolated. Only one country openly supported the referendum and said it would recognize Kurdish independence – Israel.

Iraqi Kurds have enjoyed quasi-independence since the 2003 U.S. invasion. It has its own flag, army, and government ministries, and issues its own visas to foreign visitors. It has a robust oil industry, selling petroleum illegally through Turkey. Massive corruption and mismanagement however has not allowed the Kurds to build a modern state. It has no railroad, only one stretch of a highway inside the Kurdish capital city Erbil; government workers go months without pay; and the regional government cannot provide electricity without frequent power cuts throughout the day.

A Risky Fantasy

Despite a legitimate argument to be a sovereign state, the idea of independence in the current political climate was a fantasy.

Except for the Kurds, it was a meaningless referendum. The vote was also a political move to build support for the ruling Kurdish Democratic Party in presidential and parliamentary elections in two weeks, on Nov. 1. Otherwise, this referendum was not unlike a 2005 independence vote, which also garnered more than 90 percent in favor, but which also went nowhere.

The Kurdish vote has made negotiations with Baghdad over oil, Kirkuk and other disputed territories virtually impossible, as the central government demanded Erbil first cancel the referendum’s results. A planned 2007 referendum for the people of Kirkuk to decide whether they wanted to belong to Baghdad or Erbil was never held. Instead the fate of the city appears set to be decided by force of arms.

Given the tense, but stable situation, last month’s referendum could have been simply ignored by its opponents. It would have died of its own accord. Instead the governments of Iraq, Turkey and Iran have severely overreacted, giving it more legitimacy than it had on its own.

Turkey and Iran feared the vote could stir up their own restive Kurdish populations who already have been agitating for years. Turkey has fought a 30-year insurgency against its Kurds, and Iran periodically puts down uprisings. Turkish and Iranian Kurds did not need an Iraqi Kurdish referendum to continue pursuing their separatist aims.

For Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, however, the overly strong reaction to the vote bolsters his domestic political support ahead of parliamentary elections next April. It is a reckless electioneering strategy risking bloodshed.

On Sept. 29, Baghdad imposed an international flight ban on the Kurdish region. On Sunday, Iran closed its three border crossings with the Kurdish region and has cut off all trade.

Border crossings from Turkey have been taken over inside Turkish territory by the central government. But so far Turkey has not cut off billions of dollars of exports to the landlocked Iraqi Kurds. Ankara is still importing the banned Kurdish oil, which Baghdad has demanded be sold through the central government.

The Iraqi military has been conducting joint exercises with Turkish and Iranian troops just kilometers from the Kurdish borders with those countries. Baghdad gave Erbil a 2 a.m. Sunday deadline to cancel the referendum and pull the peshmerga out of Kirkuk.

According to a local media report, Baghdad’s other demands were to turn over Kirkuk airport; return an Iraqi military base; give back all oil fields; hand over ISIS prisoners held by the peshmerga; permit the Iraqi army to return to positions it vacated when ISIS attacked the city in 2014, which allowed the peshmerga to take control of the city; and remove the Kurdish governor of Kirkuk governorate, who was fired by the Iraqi parliament but who has refused to step down. The Iraqi army now has enforced the first three demands.

Like the rest of the world, the U.S. opposed the referendum and urged negotiations. On Friday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said: “We can’t turn on each other right now. We don’t want this to go to a shooting situation. These are issues that are longstanding in some cases … We’re going to have to recalibrate and move these back to a way (in which) we solve them politically and work them out with compromised solutions.”

Yet Washington was unable to stop the Iraqi army’s advance on Kirkuk and the possibility of a new conflict breaking out in the Middle East.

Joe Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist. He has written for the Boston Globe, the Sunday Times of London and the Wall Street Journal among other newspapers. He is the author of How I Lost By Hillary Clinton published by OR Books. He can be reached at joelauria@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @unjoe.

 




How Netanyahu Pulls Trump’s Strings

Special Report: It turns out that Hillary Clinton was partly correct: President Trump is a “puppet,” but his puppet master isn’t Russian President Putin but Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

In the final presidential debate of 2016, Hillary Clinton famously called Donald Trump the “puppet” of Russian President Vladimir Putin. But what’s increasingly clear is that Trump has a more typical puppet master for a U.S. politician – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Since Sept. 18, when the two men met in New York around the United Nations General Assembly, Netanyahu has been pulling Trump’s strings on almost every foreign policy issue. Arguably, the puppet/puppeteer relationship began much earlier, but I’ve been told that Trump bridled early on at Netanyahu’s control and even showed a few signs of rebellion.

For instance, Trump initially resisted Netanyahu’s demand for a deeper U.S. commitment in Syria by ordering the shutdown of the CIA operation supporting anti-government rebels, along with the Trump administration’s statement that U.S. policy no longer sought “regime change” in Damascus.

Immediately after that announcement, Netanyahu had some success in getting Trump to reverse direction and fire 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base on April 6. The attack followed what one intelligence source told me was a staged chemical weapons incident by Al Qaeda operatives in the rebel-controlled town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province, possibly using sarin delivered via drone from a Saudi/Israeli special operations base in Jordan. Yet, although apparently duped by the subterfuge into the missile strike, Trump still balked at a complete reversal of his Syrian policy.

Then, in May, Trump picked Saudi Arabia and Israel as his first overseas trip as president – essentially following the advice of his son-in-law Jared Kushner – but I’m told he came away feeling somewhat humiliated by the over-the-top treatment that involved him getting pulled into a ceremonial sword dance in Saudi Arabia and facing condescension from Netanyahu.

So, over the summer, Trump listened to advice about a possible major overhaul of U.S. foreign policy that would have checked Israeli/Saudi regional ambitions, opened diplomatic doors to Iran, and addressed the Korean crisis by brokering negotiations between the North and the South over some form of loose confederation.

There was even the possibility of a Nixon-goes-to-China moment with tough-guy Trump meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the two countries restoring diplomatic ties, a process that could have given U.S. companies a better chance to compete in the Iranian market.

Those proposed moves had the advantage of reducing international tensions, saving the U.S. government money on future military adventures, and freeing U.S. corporations from the tangle of economic sanctions – exactly the “America First” strategy that Trump had promised his working-class base.

However, instead Netanyahu succeeded in pulling Trump’s strings during their conversations on Sept. 18 in New York, although exactly how is still a mystery to some people close to these developments. One source said the Kushner family real-estate company has exposure to substantial Israeli financing that could be yanked, although Jared Kushner’s financial disclosure form only lists a $5 million unsecured line of credit, held jointly with his father, from the Israel Discount Bank.

Trump also has major pro-Netanyahu donors to his political war chest and his legal defense fund who are strong advocates for war with Iran, including casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, who has plowed $35 million into the pro-Trump Super PAC Future 45 and has publicly called for dropping a nuclear bomb on Iran as a negotiating tactic. So, Netanyahu had a number of potential strings to pull.

Going on Rants

Whatever the precise reasons, on Sept. 19, Trump turned his maiden speech to the U.N. General Assembly into a war-like rant, personally insulting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man,” threatening to “totally destroy” his nation of 25 million people, and parroting Netanyahu’s calls for another regime change project aimed at Iran.

Most diplomats in the audience sat in stunned silence as Trump threatened aggressive war from the podium of an organization created to prevent the scourge of war. The one notable exception was Netanyahu who enthusiastically applauded his  success in jerking Trump into the neocon camp.

So, rather than shift U.S. policy away from confrontation, Trump jettisoned the diplomatic strategy although it already had dispatched intermediaries to make contacts with the Iranians and North Koreans. Instead, Trump opted for the classic neocon approach favored by Netanyahu, albeit with Trump dressing up his neocon surrender in some “America First” rhetoric.

The U.N. speech left some of the U.S. intermediaries scrambling to explain to their contacts in Iran and North Korea why Trump had repudiated the messages that they had been carrying. Privately, Trump explained to one that he just liked to “zigzag” and that the intended end point hadn’t change.

Some of these tensions surfaced in late September when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took the extraordinary step of announcing the behind-the-scenes contacts with North Korea during a state visit to China.

“We are probing, so stay tuned,” Tillerson said. “We ask, ‘Would you like to talk?’ We have lines of communications to Pyongyang — we’re not in a dark situation, a blackout.” Tillerson added, “We have a couple, three channels open to Pyongyang … We do talk to them. ,,, Directly. We have our own channels.”

In reaction to Tillerson’s efforts to salvage the backchannel initiatives, Trump showed that his obeisance to Netanyahu and the neocons outweighed loyalty to either his Secretary of State or the intermediaries who had ventured into dicey situations on Trump’s behalf.

In Twitter messages, Trump belittled the idea of a dialogue with North Korea, tweeting: “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.”

“Save your energy Rex,” Trump added, before slipping in another thinly veiled threat of a military strike: “we’ll do what has to be done!”

While on the surface, Trump’s repudiation of Tillerson might have been viewed as another “zigzag,” it is now clear that Trump’s “zigzag” explanation was just another lie. Rather than zigzagging, he is instead following a straight line marked out by Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, in Syria, Netanyahu seems to have won more concessions from Trump. The U.S. military appears to be helping the remnants of Islamist forces still fighting the government, according to Russian officials. Their accusation is that the U.S. is secretly aiding the Islamist terror groups with weapons, tactical advice and aerial reconnaissance.

In other words, Trump appears to be continuing U.S. military intervention in Syria – just as Netanyahu desires.

Falling in Line

Trump further showed that he is following Netanyahu’s marching orders with the extremist speech about Iran on Friday, essentially repeating all the Israeli propaganda lines against Iran and burning whatever bridges remained toward a meaningful diplomatic approach.

Trump’s Iran speech was so ludicrous it almost defies serious analysis. It ranks with the reckless rhetoric of President George W. Bush when he pronounced an “axis of evil,” with the incongruous linking of Iraq and Iran (two bitter enemies) and North Korea accompanied by Bush’s bogus claims about Iraq’s WMD and Iraq’s alleged collaboration with Al Qaeda.

In Friday’s speech, which looked like the handiwork of John Bolton, one of Bush’s neocon advisers who was seen entering the White House last week, Trump repeated all the nonsense tying Iran to Al Qaeda, presumably thinking that the American people still don’t understand that Al Qaeda is a fanatical Sunni terror group that targets both the West and Shiites, the dominant Muslim faith in Iran, as heretics deserving death.

The inconvenient truth is that Al Qaeda has long been connected to Saudi Arabia, which has supported these fanatics since the 1980s when Saudi citizen Osama bin Laden was supported in his jihad against Soviet troops in Afghanistan, who were there trying to protect a secular regime.

Though officially the Saudi monarchy insists that it is opposed to Al Qaeda, Saudi intelligence has used Al Qaeda as essentially an unconventional fighting force deployed to destabilize and terrorize adversaries in the region and around the world. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The Need to Hold Saudi Arabia Accountable.”]

As the Israelis have developed a de facto alliance with Saudi Arabia in recent years, they also have expressed a preference for an Al Qaeda victory in Syria if necessary to destroy what Michael Oren, former Ambassador to the U.S. and now a deputy minister under Netanyahu, has described as the Shiite “strategic arc” running from Tehran through Damascus to Beirut.

One of the frequent Israeli complaints about Iran is that it has assisted the sovereign government of Syria in defeating Al Qaeda and its militant allies (as well as Al Qaeda’s spinoff Islamic State), which should tell you a lot about where Netanyahu’s loyalties lie.

A Compromised Media

Yet, as dishonest as Trump’s Iran speech was, the U.S. mainstream media won’t criticize it as harshly as it deserves because virtually all the important journalists and talking heads have swallowed Israel’s anti-Iran propaganda whole. They have frequently repeated the canard about Iran as “the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism” when that title clearly should go to the Saudis and the Qataris if not others.

The West’s major news outlets also have ingested all the sophisticated propaganda against the Assad government in Syria, particularly the claims about chemical weapons attacks while ignoring evidence that Al Qaeda’s operatives and their “civil defense” collaborators have staged attacks with the goal of provoking a direct U.S. military intervention. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A New Hole in Syria-Sarin Certainty.”]

In his Friday speech, Trump also touted one of the earliest canards about Iranian “terrorism,” the attack by Lebanese Shiite militants on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 killing 241 Americans.

When that attack happened, I was working at The Associated Press as an investigative reporter specializing in national security issues. While the precise Iranian role was not clear, what should have been obvious was that the attack was not “terrorism,” which is classically defined as violence toward civilians to achieve a political goal.

Not only were the Marines not civilians but the Reagan administration had made them belligerents in the Lebanese war by the decision to order the USS New Jersey to shell Muslim villages. Reagan’s National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, who often represented Israel’s interests inside the administration, was the spark plug for this mission creep, which killed Lebanese civilians and convinced Shiite militants that the United States had joined the war against them.

Shiite militants struck back, sending a suicide truck bomber through U.S. security positions, demolishing the high-rise Marine barracks in Beirut. Reagan soon repositioned the surviving U.S. forces offshore. At the AP, I unsuccessfully argued against calling the Beirut attack “terrorism,” a word that other news organizations also sloppily applied. But even senior Reagan officials recognized the truth.

“When the shells started falling on the Shiites, they assumed the American ‘referee’ had taken sides,” Gen. Colin Powell wrote in his memoir, My American Journey. In other words, Powell, who was then military adviser to Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, recognized that the actions of the U.S. military had altered the status of the Marines in the eyes of the Shiites.

(Although this “terrorism” is always blamed on Hezbollah, the group did not officially come into existence until 1985 as a resistance movement against the Israeli occupation of Lebanon which did not end until 2000.)

Opposed to Putin

So, Trump is now on the path to wars with both North Korea and Iran, neither of which Russian President Putin favors. Putin, who played a key role in helping President Obama achieve the Iran-nuclear agreement, now sides with the Europeans in opposition to Trump’s decertification.

Putin also favors a prompt end to the Syrian conflict with the defeat of Al Qaeda and its allies, and he wants peaceful negotiations with North Korea over its desire for security against threatened American aggression. Trump is on the opposite side of all these Putin priorities.

In other words, not only does the Russia-gate hysteria have core evidentiary problems – both on the issues of “hacking” Democratic emails and claims about suspected “Russia-linked” entities paying for an infinitesimal number of ads on social media (including some about puppies and another promoting a critical documentary about Donald Trump’s golf course in Scotland) – but Trump is behaving in ways that are directly contrary to Putin’s desires and interests.

If indeed Clinton were right that Trump was Putin’s “puppet,” then he would have agreed to negotiations to address the North Korean crisis; would have accepted constructive diplomacy toward Iran; and would have ended all U.S. support for the Syrian militants and encouraged a quick end to the bloodletting.

Instead, Trump is moving in opposite directions, lining up with Netanyahu and the neocons, whom some European allies refer to as “America’s Israeli agents.” Although dressing up his capitulation to Netanyahu in tough-guy phrasing, Trump is doing what most U.S. politicians do – they grovel before Bibi Netanyahu.

And, if you have any doubts about that reality, you can watch how often both Republicans and Democrats jump to their feet when Netanyahu addresses a joint session of Congress, an honor that he has received three times, tying him with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Those moments of American humiliation – as almost all 535 members of Congress act like puppets on invisible strings – represent the actual subservience of the U.S. government to a foreign power. And that power is not Russia.

President Trump is just the latest American politician to have his strings yanked by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).




Trump Ignores Israeli/Saudi Abuses

By offering a propagandistic tirade on Iran’s role in the Mideast – a classic neocon screed – President Trump has demonstrated his inability to bring any fresh or honest thinking to the regional crises, as Kathy Kelly explains.

By Kathy Kelly

Mordechai Vanunu was imprisoned in Israel for 18 years because he blew the whistle on Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program. He felt he had “an obligation to tell the people of Israel what was going on behind their backs” at a supposed nuclear research facility which was actually producing plutonium for nuclear weapons. His punishment for breaking the silence about Israel’s capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons included 11 years of solitary confinement.

On Friday, reading about President Donald Trump’s new strategy on Iran, Vanunu’s long isolation and sacrificial commitment to truth-telling came to mind. Donald Trump promised to “deny the Iranian regime all paths to a nuclear weapon.” But it is Israel, which possesses an estimated 80 nuclear warheads, with fissile material for up to 200, which poses the major nuclear threat in the region. And Israel is allied to the nation with the world’s largest nuclear arsenal: the United States.

Israel doesn’t acknowledge its nuclear arsenal publicly, nor does Israel allow weapons inspectors into its nuclear weapons facilities. Along with India and Pakistan, Israel refuses to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. And it has used conventional weapons in numerous destabilizing wars, which include aerial bombing of Gaza, Lebanon and the West Bank.

Vanunu, designated by Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg as the “the pre-eminent hero of the nuclear era,” helped many people envision nations in the region making progress toward a nuclear weapons-free Middle East.

In fact, Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jawad Zarif, spoke eloquently about just that possibility, in 2015, holding that “if the Vienna deal is to mean anything, the whole of the Middle East must rid itself of weapons of mass destruction.”

“Iran,” he added, “is prepared to work with the international community to achieve these goals, knowing full well that, along the way, it will probably run into many hurdles raised by the skeptics of peace and diplomacy.”

Significantly, since the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” pact with Iran was concluded in 2015, the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) has steadily verified Iran’s compliance with inspections. Iran has accepted around-the-clock supervision by IAEA officials.

What’s more, “Iran has gotten rid of all of its highly enriched uranium,” according to Jessica Matthews, writing for the New York Review of Books. Matthews continues:

“It has also eliminated 98 percent of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, leaving only three hundred kilograms, less than the amount needed to fuel one weapon if taken to high enrichment. The number of centrifuges maintained for uranium enrichment is down from 19,000 to 6,000. The rest have been dismantled and put into storage under tight international monitoring.

“Continuing enrichment is limited to 3.67 percent, the accepted level for reactor fuel. All enrichment has been shut down at the once-secret, fortified, underground facility at Fordow, south of Tehran. Iran has disabled and poured concrete into the core of its plutonium reactor — thus shutting down the plutonium as well as the uranium route to nuclear weapons. It has provided adequate answers to the IAEA’s long-standing list of questions regarding past weapons-related activities.”

U.S. Government’s Sabotage

What do the Iranians think of the U.S. government? Ordinary Iranians might well think that whatever discontent they have with their own government the U.S. is their most implacable and most immediate enemy. Invective like Trump’s recent words could be a precursor of disastrous invasion. Many Iranians remember the U.S.-backed coup that ended their democracy in 1953, and they remember the fierce U.S. support given to Saddam Hussein in the brutal eight years of the Iran-Iraq war.

Noam Chomsky rightly names the U.S. “shock and awe” attack against Iraq as the greatest destabilizing force at work in the Middle East. “Thanks to that invasion,” writes Chomsky, “hundreds of thousands were killed and millions of refugees generated, barbarous acts of torture were committed — Iraqis have compared the destruction to the Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century — leaving Iraq the unhappiest country in the world according to WIN/Gallup polls. Meanwhile, sectarian conflict was ignited, tearing the region to shreds and laying the basis for the creation of the monstrosity that is ISIS. And all of that is called ‘stabilization.’”

Trump’s record of statements and of cabinet appointments suggests that regime change in Iran is a long-term goal. Despite his close Saudi ally’s massive involvement in funding and fomenting terrorism, Trump’s evolving strategy for the Middle East strangely emphasizes Iranian impacts on the region, particularly regarding the conflict in Yemen.

Yemen is entering conflict-driven famine, with a correspondingly lethal cholera outbreak, making it the worst of the region’s “Four Famines,” now widely recognized as collectively the worst starvation crisis in the 72-year history of the United Nations.

“In Yemen,” says Trump, “the IRGC, (the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp), has attempted to use the Houthis as puppets to hide Iran’s role in using sophisticated missiles and explosive boats to attack innocent civilians in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as to restrict freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.”

But it is Saudi Arabia and its UAE ally, with crucial U.S. backing, that have been intensely bombing Yemen since 2015 and maintaining a punishing Red Sea blockade against shipments often vital to famine relief.

“The Saudi-led coalition’s ships are preventing essential supplies from entering Yemen,” according to an Oct. 11, 2017 Reuters report. The report goes on to assess the dire consequences, for Yemen, caused by blocking and delaying ships carrying food and medicine. It documents many cases in which vessels were thoroughly searched, certified not to be carrying weapons, and still not allowed to enter Yemen.

In a time when 20 million people face starvation, it’s particularly obscene for any country to pour resources into nuclear weaponry. Mordechai Vanunu took extraordinary risks and endured incredible suffering to rescue the human species from the foolhardiness of building and maintaining nuclear arsenals.

I wonder if people worldwide can rise to a level of courage and seriousness needed to simply recognize, and then, where possible, act in response to the world’s real threats. Within the U.S., can several decades of U.S. government bipartisan lying about Iran be overcome with saner, more humane narratives?

Can the threat of U.S. invasion be lifted long enough to allow Iran’s people a window for once again considering democratic reforms? Silence about these issues seems ominous. But silence can be broken. We have Vanunu’s courageous example. Let’s not waste the precious time we have in which to follow it.

Kathy Kelly (kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence, (www.vcnv.org), a campaign to end U.S. military and economic wars.