ROBERT PARRY: More Second Amendment Madness

Robert Parry, founder of this site, exposed in this Jan. 2013 article the dangerous & false idea that the Constitution Framers wrote the 2nd Amendment so an armed population could fight the government the Framers had just created.

By Robert Parry
Special to Consortium News
Jan. 14, 21013
The Right’s powerful propaganda apparatus has sold millions of Americans on the dangerous and false notion that the Framers of the U.S. Constitution incorporated the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights so an armed population could fight the government that the Framers had just created.

As a result of that historical lie, many right-wingers today appear to be heeding a call to arms by buying up assault weapons at a frenetic pace. A “Gun Appreciation Day” is scheduled for the Saturday before Barack Obama’s Second Inaugural, which coincidentally falls on Martin Luther King Day. Thousands of gun owners are expected to turn out waving flags and brandishing rifles.

The organizer of that effort, right-wing activist Larry Ward, wrote that “the Obama administration has shown that it is more than willing to trample the Constitution to impose its dictates upon the American people.”

In recent weeks, this bogus narrative of the Framers seeking to encourage violence to subvert the peaceful and orderly process that they had painstakingly created in Philadelphia in 1787 also has been pushed by prominent right-wingers, such as radio host Rush Limbaugh and Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano

Napolitano declared: “The historical reality of the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to keep and bear arms is not that it protects the right to shoot deer. It protects the right to shoot tyrants, and it protects the right to shoot at them effectively, with the same instruments they would use upon us.”

The suggestion is that armed Americans must confront the “tyrannical” Barack Obama the twice-elected President of the United States (and the first African-American to hold that office) if he presses ahead seeking commonsense gun restrictions in the face of the massacre of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, and hundreds of other horrendous incidents of gun violence.

These “revolutionary” Americans have been persuaded that they are channeling the intent of the Framers who supposedly saw armed uprisings against the legally constituted U.S. government as an important element of “liberty.”

But that belief is not the historical reality. Indeed, the reality is almost the opposite. The Second Amendment was enacted so each state would have the specific right to form “a well-regulated militia” to maintain “security,” i.e. to put down armed rebellions.

The Framers also made clear what they thought should happen to people who took up arms against the Republic. Article IV, Section 4 committed the federal government to protect each state from not only invasion but “domestic Violence,” and treason is defined in the Constitution as “levying war against” the United States as well as giving “Aid and Comfort” to the enemy (Article III, Section 3).

Second Amendment’s History

The historical context of the Second Amendment also belies today’s right-wing mythology. At the time of the Constitutional Convention, the young nation was experiencing violent unrest, such as the Shays’ Rebellion in western Massachusetts. That armed uprising was testing the ability of the newly independent nation to establish order within the framework of a democratic Republic, a fairly untested idea at the time. European monarchies were predicting chaos and collapse for the United States.

Among the most concerned about that possibility was General George Washington, who had sacrificed greatly for the birth of the new nation. After the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781 and their acceptance of American independence in 1783, Washington fretted over the inability of the states-rights-oriented Articles of Confederation, then governing the country, to deal with its economic and security challenges.

Washington grew disgusted with the Articles’ recognition of 13 “independent” and “sovereign” states and the correspondingly weak central government, called not even a government, but a “league of friendship.”

As Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Washington had watched his soldiers suffer when various states reneged on their commitment to supply money and arms. After the war, Washington retired but stayed active in seeking reforms that would strengthen the central government’s ability to organize national commerce and to maintain order.

His fears deepened in 1786 when Daniel Shays, a former Continental Army captain, led an uprising of other veterans and farmers in western Massachusetts, taking up arms against the government for failing to address their economic grievances.

Washington received reports on the crisis from old Revolutionary War associates in Massachusetts, such as his longtime logistical chief, Gen. Henry Knox, and Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, who accepted the British surrender at Yorktown as Washington’s second in command. They kept Washington apprised of the disorder, which he feared might encourage renewed interference in American affairs by the British or other European powers.

On Oct. 22, 1786, in a letter seeking more information about the rebellion from a friend in Connecticut, Washington wrote: “I am mortified beyond expression that in the moment of our acknowledged independence we should by our conduct verify the predictions of our transatlantic foe, and render ourselves ridiculous and contemptible in the eyes of all Europe.”

In another letter on Nov. 7, 1786, Washington questioned Gen. Lincoln about the unrest: “What is the cause of all these commotions? When and how will they end?” Washington was especially concerned about the possibility of a hidden British hand.

Lincoln responded: “Many of them [the rebels] appear to be absolutely so [mad] if an attempt to annihilate our present constitution and dissolve the present government can be considered as evidence of insanity.”

However, the U.S. government under the Articles of Confederation lacked the means to restore order. So wealthy Bostonians financed their own force under Gen. Lincoln to crush the uprising in February 1787. Afterwards, Washington remained concerned the rebellion might be a sign that European predictions about American chaos were coming true.

“If three years ago [at the end of the American Revolution] any person had told me that at this day, I should see such a formidable rebellion against the laws & constitutions of our own making as now appears I should have thought him a bedlamite a fit subject for a mad house,” Washington wrote to Knox on Feb. 3, 1787, adding that if the government “shrinks, or is unable to enforce its laws anarchy & confusion must prevail.”

Just weeks later, Washington’s alarm about Shays’ Rebellion was a key factor in his decision to take part in and preside over the Constitutional Convention, which was supposed to offer revisions to the Articles of Confederation but instead threw out the old structure entirely and replaced it with the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution shifted national sovereignty from the 13 states to “We the People” and dramatically enhanced the power of the central government.

The key point of the Constitution was to create a peaceful means for the United States to implement policies favored by the people but within a structure of checks and balances to prevent radical changes deemed too disruptive to the established order. For instance, the two-year terms of the House of Representatives were meant to reflect the popular will but the six-year terms of the Senate were designed to temper the passions of the moment (and senators were initially chosen by state legislatures, not the people).

Within this framework of a democratic Republic where peaceful change was possible though intentionally gradual the Framers criminalized taking up arms against the government. But it was the Constitution’s drastic expansion of federal power that prompted strong opposition from some Revolutionary War figures, such as Virginia’s Patrick Henry who spearheaded the Anti-Federalist movement.

Prospects for the Constitution’s ratification were in such doubt that its principal architect James Madison joined in a sales campaign known as the Federalist Papers in which he tried to play down how radical his changes actually were. To win over other skeptics, Madison agreed to support a Bill of Rights, which would be proposed as the first ten amendments to the Constitution. The Bill of Rights was a mix of concessions, some substantive and some rhetorical, to both individual citizens and the states.

The Second Amendment was primarily a right granted to the states. It read: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Madison’s political maneuvering narrowly secured approval of the Constitution in key states, such as Virginia, New York and Massachusetts. The First Congress then approved the Bill of Rights, which was ratified in 1791. [For more details on the Constitution, see Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Behind the Second Amendment

As the preface to the Second Amendment makes clear, the concern was about enabling states to organize militias that could maintain “security,” which fit with the Constitution’s goal of “domestic Tranquility” within the framework of a Republic.

This concept was amplified by the actions of the Second Congress amid another uprising which erupted in 1791 in western Pennsylvania. This anti-tax revolt, known as the Whiskey Rebellion, prompted Congress in 1792 to expand on the idea of “a well-regulated militia” by passing the Militia Acts which required all military-age white males to obtain their own muskets and equipment for service in militias.

At the time, Madison was in the U.S. Congress and Washington was in the presidency with both supporting the new laws so the “original intent” of the Framers could not be easily misunderstood.

The right “to keep and bear arms” was always within the context of participating in militias or today the National Guard not as the right of individuals to possess devastating weapons that could be used to violently overthrow the U.S. government or to kill its officials. (The recognition of a collective rather than individual right was only reversed in 2008 when right-wing ideologues had gained control of the U.S. Supreme Court and then overturned longstanding legal precedents.)

But if there was any doubt about how the actual Framers saw the Second Amendment, it was answered in 1794 when President Washington led a combined force of state militias against the Whiskey rebels in Pennsylvania. The revolt soon collapsed; many leaders fled; and two participants were convicted of high treason and sentenced to hanging, though Washington later pardoned them.

Beyond this clear historical record that the Framers’ intent with the Second Amendment was to create security for the new Republic, not promote armed rebellions there is also the simple logic that the Framers represented the young nation’s aristocracy. Many, like Washington, owned vast tracts of land and favored domestic tranquility to promote economic development and growth.

So, it would be counterintuitive as well as anti-historical to believe that Madison and Washington wanted to arm the population so the discontented could resist the constitutionally elected government. In reality, the Framers wanted to arm the people at least the white males to repulse uprisings, whether economic clashes like Shays’ Rebellion, anti-tax protests like the Whiskey Rebellion, attacks by Native Americans or slave revolts.

Fabricated History

However, the Right has invested heavily over the last several decades in fabricating a different national narrative, one that ignores both logic and the historical record. In this right-wing fantasy, the Framers wanted everyone to have a gun so they could violently resist their own government.

To build that narrative, a few incendiary quotes are cherry-picked, taken out of context or invented. [See, for instance, Steven Krulik’s compilation of such apocryphal references.]

This “history” has then been amplified through the Right’s powerful propaganda apparatus Fox News, talk radio, the Internet and ideological publications to persuade millions of Americans that their possession of semi-automatic assault rifles and other powerful firearms is what the Framers intended, that today’s gun owners are fulfilling some centuries-old American duty.

It should be noted, too, that Thomas Jefferson, one of the most radical-sounding (though hypocritical) leaders of the Revolutionary War, was not a Framer of the Constitution. In 1787, when the document was written, he was the U.S. representative in France.

There is also the obvious point that the Framers’ idea of a weapon was a single-shot musket that required time-consuming reloading, not a powerful semi-automatic assault rifle that could fire up to 100 bullets in a matter of seconds without the necessity to reload.

However, people like Andrew Napolitano on the Right as well as some dreamy revolutionaries on the Left still suggest that the Framers enacted the Second Amendment so the firepower of people trying to overthrow the U.S. government and kill its agents would be equal to whatever weapons the government possessed.

This crazy notion would be laughable if its consequences were not so horrible. The human price for this phony concept of “liberty” and this bogus history is the horrendous death toll that gun violence inflicts on American society, including the recent slaughter of those children in Newtown.

Yet, instead of recognizing the actual history and accepting that the Constitution was an attempt by the Framers to create a democratic process for peaceful change, today’s advocates of a violent revolution whether from the Right or the Left feed the paranoia and the ignorance of their followers.

The late investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. He founded Consortium News in 1995, considered the first online, independent news site.




A USS Liberty’s Hero’s Passing

On the 52nd anniversary of the attack on the USS Liberty, Ray McGovern focuses on Terry Halbardier, who sent the SOS that saved the ship from Israeli destruction. 

This article was written in 2014 on the occasion of Halbardier’s death. 

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

Terry Halbardier, who as a 23-year old seaman in 1967 thwarted Israeli attempts to sink the USS Liberty, died on Aug. 11 in Visalia, California. It took the U.S. government 42 years after the attack to recognize Halbardier’s heroism by awarding him the Silver Star, a delay explained by Washington’s determination to downplay Israeli responsibility for the 34 Americans killed and the 174 wounded.

On June 8, 1967, during the Six-Day War, the Israeli military attacked the USS Liberty, an American spy ship which had been monitoring Israeli transmissions about the conflict. Intercepted Israeli communications indicated that the goal was to sink the Liberty and leave no survivors.

Warplanes and torpedo boats had already killed 34 and wounded 174, when Halbardier slid over the Liberty’s napalm-glazed deck to jury-rig an antenna and get an SOS off to the Sixth Fleet.  The Israelis intercepted the SOS and broke off the attack immediately. In effect, Halbardier prevented the massacre of all 294 onboard. Still, the infamy of the attack on the Liberty was two-fold.

First, the Liberty, a virtually defenseless intelligence collection platform prominently flying an American flag in international waters, came under deliberate attack by Israeli aircraft and three 60-ton Israeli torpedo boats off the coast of the Sinai on a cloudless June afternoon during the six-day Israeli-Arab war. Second, President Lyndon Johnson called back carrier aircraft dispatched to defend the Liberty lest Israel be embarrassed, the start of an unconscionable cover-up, including top Navy brass, that persists to this day.

Given all they have been through, the Liberty survivors and other veterans who joined Halbardier to celebrate his belated receipt of the Silver Star on May 27, 2009 can be forgiven for having doubted that the day of the hero’s recognition would ever come.

In the award ceremony at the Visalia (California) office of Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican congressman pinned the Silver Star next to the Purple Heart that Halbardier found in his home mailbox three years ago. Nunes said, “The government has kept this quiet I think for too long, and I felt as my constituent he [Halbardier] needed to get recognized for the services he made to his country.”

Nunes got that right. Despite the many indignities the Liberty crew has been subjected to, the mood in Visalia was pronouncedly a joyous one of Better (42 years) Late Than Never. And, it did take some time for the moment to sink in: Wow, a gutsy congressman not afraid to let the truth hang out on this delicate issue.

Treatment Accorded the Skipper

I was present that day and I could not get out of my head the contrast between this simple, uncomplicated event and the earlier rigmarole that senior Navy officers went through to pin a richly deserved Medal of Honor on another hero of that day, the Liberty’s skipper, Captain William McGonagle.

Although badly wounded by Israeli fire on June 8, 1967, McGonagle was able to keep the bombed, torpedoed, napalmed Liberty afloat and limping toward Malta, where what was left of the bodies of the 34 crewmen killed and the 174 wounded could be attended to. Do the math: yes, killed and wounded amounted to more than two-thirds of the Liberty crew of 294.

I remembered what a naval officer involved in McGonagle’s award ceremony told one of the Liberty crew: “The government is pretty jumpy about Israelthe State Department even asked the Israeli ambassador if his government had any objections to McGonagle getting the medal.”

When McGonagle received his award, the White House (the normal venue for a Medal of Honor award) was all booked up, it seems, and President Lyndon Johnson (who would have been the usual presenter) was unavailable.

So it fell to the Secretary of the Navy to sneak off to the Washington Navy Yard on the banks of the acrid Anacostia River, where he presented McGonagle with the Medal of Honor and a citation that described the attack but not the identity of the attackers.

Please don’t misunderstand. The Liberty crew is not big on ceremony. They are VERY-not-big on politicians who wink when Navy comrades are killed and wounded at sea. The Liberty survivors are big on getting the truth out about what actually happened that otherwise beautiful day in June 1967.

The award of the Silver Star to Terry Halbardier marked a significant step in the direction of truth telling. Halbardier said he accepted his Silver Star on behalf of the entire 294-man crew. He and fellow survivor Don Pageler expressed particular satisfaction at the wording of the citation, which stated explicitly — with none of the usual fudging — the identity of the attackers: “The USS Liberty was attacked by Israeli aircraft and motor torpedo boats in the East Mediterranean Sea.”

In the past, official citations, like Captain McGonagle’s, had avoided mentioning Israel by name when alluding to the attack. I think former U.S. Ambassador Edward Peck put it best in condemning this kind of approach as “obsequious, unctuous subservience to the peripheral interests of a foreign nation at the cost of the lives and morale of our own service members and their families.”  Strong words for a diplomat. But right on.

Just a Guy From Texas

Were it not for Halbardier’s bravery, ingenuity, and technical expertise, the USS Liberty would surely have sunk, taking down much if not all of the crew.

You see, the first thing the Israeli aircraft bombed and strafed were the Liberty’s communications antennae and other equipment. They succeeded in destroying all the antennae that were functional. One antenna on the port side, though, had been out of commission and had escaped damage.

In receiving the Silver Star, Halbardier made light of his heroism, claiming that he was just a guy from Texas who could do a whole lot with simple stuff like baling wire. (In the infantry we called this kind of thing a “field expedient.”)

In any case, with his can-do attitude and his technical training, he figured he might be able to get that particular antenna working again. But first he would have to repair a cable that had been destroyed on deck and then connect the antenna to a transmitter.

The deck was still being strafed, but Halbardier grabbed a reel of cable, ran out onto the deck, and attached new cable to the antenna so a radioman could get an SOS out to the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean.

Voila. “Mayday” went out; almost immediately the Israeli aircraft and torpedo ships broke off the attack and went back to base; the Israeli government sent a quick apology to Washington for its unfortunate “mistake;” and President Johnson issued orders to everyone to make believe the Israelis were telling the truth, or at least to remain silent.

To their discredit, top Navy brass went along, and the Liberty survivors were threatened with court martial and prison if they so much as mentioned to their wives what had actually happened. They were enjoined as well from discussing it with one another.

As Liberty crewman Don Pageler put it, “We all headed out after that, and we didn’t talk to each other.” The circumstances were ready-made for serious Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The stories shared by Liberty survivors after the award ceremony, including descriptions of the macabre but necessary effort to reassemble torpedoed body parts, and the plague of survivor’s guilt, were as heart-rending as any I have heard. They are stories that should be shared more widely for those muzzled far too long.

These were the deep emotional scars to supplement the ones all over Halbardier’s body, some of which he uncovered when asked by the local press gathered there in Visalia. Typically, Halbardier made light of the shrapnel that had to be plucked out of his flesh, emphasizing that he was lucky compared to some of the other crew.

No Mistake

Despite Israeli protestations, the accumulated evidence, including intercepted voice communications, is such that no serious observer believes Israel’s “Oops” excuse of a terrible mistake. The following exchanges are excerpts of testimony from U.S. military and diplomatic officials given to Alison Weir, founder of “If Americans Knew” and author of American Media Miss the Boat:

Israeli pilot to ground control: “This is an American ship. Do you still want us to attack?”

Ground control: “Yes, follow orders.”

“But sir, it’s an American ship, I can see the flag!”

Ground control: “Never mind; hit it!”

Haviland Smith, a CIA officer stationed in Beirut during the Six-Day War, says he was told that the transcripts were “deep-sixed,” because the U.S. government did not want to embarrass Israel.

Equally telling is the fact that the National Security Agency (NSA) destroyed voice tapes seen by many intelligence analysts, showing that the Israelis knew exactly what they were doing. I asked a former CIA colleague, who was also an analyst at that time, what he remembered of those circumstances. Here is his e-mail reply:

“The chief of the analysts studying the Arab-Israeli region at the time told me about the intercepted messages and said very flatly and firmly that the pilots reported seeing the American flag and repeated their requests of confirmation of the attack order. Whole platoons of Americans saw those intercepts. If NSA now says they do not exist, then someone ordered them destroyed.”

One need hardly add at this point that the destruction of evidence without investigation is an open invitation to repetition in the future. Think the more recent torture-interrogation videotapes.

As for the legal side: the late Captain Ward Boston, unburdened himself on his accomplice role as the Navy lawyer appointed as senior counsel to Adm. Isaac Kidd, who led a one-week (!) investigation and then followed orders to pronounce the attack on the Liberty a case of “mistaken identity.” Boston signed a formal declaration on Jan. 8, 2004, in which he said he was “outraged at the efforts of the apologists for Israel in this country to claim that this attack was a case of ‘mistaken identity.’” Boston continued:

“The evidence was clear. Both Adm. Kidd and I believed with certainty that this attack was a deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew Not only did the Israelis attack the ship with napalm, gunfire, and missiles, Israeli torpedo boats machine-gunned three lifeboats that had been launched in an attempt by the crew to save the most seriously wounded, a war crime

“I know from personal conversations I had with Adm. Kidd that President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered him to conclude that the attack was a case of ‘mistaken identity’ despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

W. Patrick Lang, Col., USA (ret.), who was the Defense Intelligence Agency’s top analyst for the Middle East for eight years, recounted the Israeli air attacks as follows: “The flight leader spoke to his base to report that he had the ship in view, that it was the same ship he had been briefed on, and that it was clearly marked with the U.S. flag

“The flight commander was reluctant. That was very clear. He didn’t want to do this. He asked them a couple of times, ‘Do you really want me to do this?’ I’ve remembered it ever since. It was very striking. I’ve been harboring this memory for all these years.”

Lang, of course, is not alone. So too Terry Halbardier, who told those assembled at his Silver Medal award ceremony, “I think about it [the attack on the Liberty] every day.”

Why Sink the Ship?

What we know for sure is, as the independent commission headed by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Thomas Moorer put it, the attack “was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew.”

What we do not know for sure is why the Israelis wanted that done. Has no one dared ask the Israelis? One view is that the Israelis did not want the United States to find out they were massing troops to seize the Golan Heights from Syria and wanted to deprive the U.S. of the opportunity to argue against such a move.

James Bamford offers an alternative view in his excellent book, Body of Secrets. Bamford adduces evidence, including reporting from an Israeli journalist eyewitness and an Israeli military historian, of wholesale killing of Egyptian prisoners of war at the coastal town of El Arish in the Sinai.

The Liberty was patrolling directly opposite El Arish in international waters but within easy range to pick up intelligence on what was going on there. And the Israelis were well aware of that. But the important thing here is not to confuse what we know (the deliberate nature of the Israeli attack) with the ultimate purpose behind it, which remains open to speculation.

Also worth noting is the conventional wisdom prevalent in our Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) that Egypt forced Israel into war in June 1967. An excellent, authoritative source has debunked that, none other than former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin! In an unguarded moment in 1982, when he was prime minister, he admitted publicly:

“In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that [Egyptian President] Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”

Thus, the Israeli attack admittedly amounted to starting a war of aggression, and the occupied West Bank territories and the Golan Heights gained by the Israelis in the 1967 war remain occupied to this day. The post World War II tribunal at Nuremberg distinguished a “war of aggression” from other war crimes, terming it the “supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes only in that it contains the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Perhaps the attempt to sink the Liberty and finish off all survivors qualifies as one of those accumulated evils. Terry Halbardier summed it up this way when he was awarded his Silver Star:  “There’s lots of theories but let’s just say they didn’t want us listening in to what they wanted to do.”

Getting Away With Murder

In sum, on June 8, 1967, the Israeli government learned that it could get away with murder, literally, and the crime would be covered up, so strong is the influence of the Israel Lobby in our Congress, and indeed, in the White House. And those USS Liberty veterans who survived well enough to call for an independent investigation have been hit with charges of, you guessed it, anti-Semitism.

Does all this have relevance today? Of course. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands that there is little that Israel could do that would earn the opprobrium of the U.S. Congress or retaliation from the White House, whether it’s building illegal settlements or slaughtering civilians in Gaza. The Israelis seem convinced they remain in the catbird’s seat, largely because of the Israel Lobby’s influence with U.S. lawmakers and opinion makers.

One of the few moments when a U.S. official has had the audacity to face Israel down came from significantly a U.S. Navy admiral. In early July 2008, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, was sent to Israel to read the riot act to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who seemed to be itching to start hostilities with Iran while President George W. Bush was in office.

We learned from the Israeli press that Mullen, fearing some form of Israeli provocation, went so far as to warn the Israelis not to even think about another incident like the attack on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967, that the Israelis should disabuse themselves of the notion that U.S. military support would be knee-jerk automatic if Israel somehow provoked open hostilities with Iran.

This is the only occasion I am aware of in which a U.S. official of such seniority braced Israel about the Liberty incident. A gutsy move, especially with Vice President Dick Cheney and national security aide Elliott Abrams then in the White House, two hawks who might well bless, or even encourage, an Israeli provocation that would make it very difficult for Washington to avoid springing to the defense of its “ally.”

The Israelis know that Mullen knows that the attack on the Liberty was deliberate.  Mullen could have raised no more neuralgic an issue to take a shot across an Israeli bow than to cite the attack on the Liberty. The Jerusalem Post reported that Mullen cautioned that a Liberty-type incident must be avoided in any future military actions in the Middle East.

Perhaps Mullen had learned something from the heroism of Terry Halbardier

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. After serving as an Army infantry/intelligence officer, he spent a 27-year career as a CIA analyst. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).




ROBERT PARRY: With the US Meddling Again in Latin America, a Look Back at How Washington Promoted Genocide in Guatemala

As the U.S. declares a new government in Venezuela, we look back at how the Reagan administration promoted human rights violations in Guatemala, including genocide inflicted on Indian villages, as the late Robert Parry reported on Feb. 21, 2013.

By Robert Parry
Special to Consortium News

Soon after taking office in 1981, President Ronald Reagan’s national security team agreed to supply military aid to the brutal right-wing regime in Guatemala to pursue the goal of exterminating not only “Marxist guerrillas” but their “civilian support mechanisms,” according to a newly disclosed document from the National Archives.

Over the next several years, the military assistance from the Reagan administration helped the Guatemalan army do just that, engaging in the slaughter of some 100,000 people, including what a truth commission deemed genocide against the Mayan Indians in the northern highlands.

Recently discovered documents at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, also reveal that Reagan’s White House was reaching out to Israel in a scheme to circumvent congressional restrictions on military equipment for the Guatemalan military.

In 1983, national security aide Oliver North (who later became a central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal) reported in a memo that Reagan’s Deputy National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane (another key Iran-Contra figure) was approaching Israel over how to deliver 10 UH-1H helicopters to Guatemala to give the army greater mobility in its counterinsurgency war.

According to these documents that I found at the Reagan library and other records declassified in the late 1990s it’s also clear that Reagan and his administration were well aware of the butchery underway in Guatemala and elsewhere in Central America.

The relaxed attitude toward the Guatemalan regime’s brutality took shape in spring 1981 as Reagan’s State Department “advised our Central American embassies that it has been studying ways to restore a closer, cooperative relationship with Guatemala,” according to a White House Situation Room Checklist dated April 8, 1981.

The document added: “State believes a number of changes have occurred which could make Guatemalan leaders more receptive to a new U.S. initiative: the Guatemalans view the new administration as more sympathetic to their problems [and] they are less suspect of the U.S. role in El Salvador,” where the Reagan administration was expanding support for another right-wing regime infamous for slaughtering its political opponents, including Catholic clergy.

“State has concluded that any attempt to reestablish a dialogue would require some initial, condition-free demonstration of our goodwill. However, this could not include military sales which would provoke serious U.S. public and congressional criticism. State will undertake a series of confidence building measures, free of preconditions, which minimize potential conflict with existing legislation,” which then barred military assistance to Guatemala because of its long record of human rights crimes.

The “checklist” added that the State Department “has also decided that the administration should engage the Guatemalan government at the highest level in a dialogue on our bilateral relations and the initiatives we can take together to improve them. Secretary [of State Alexander] Haig has designated [retired] General Vernon Walters as his personal emissary to initiate this process with President [Fernando Romeo] Lucas [Garcia].

“If Lucas is prepared to give assurances that he will take steps to halt government involvement in the indiscriminate killing of political opponents and to foster a climate conducive to a viable electoral process, the U.S. will be prepared to approve some military sales immediately.”

But the operative word in that paragraph was “indiscriminate.” The Reagan administration expressed no problem with killing civilians if they were considered supporters of the guerrillas who had been fighting against the country’s ruling oligarchs and generals since the 1950s when the CIA organized the overthrow of Guatemala’s reformist President Jacobo Arbenz.

Sparing the ‘Non Politicized’

The distinction was spelled out in Talking Points for Walters to deliver in a face-to-face meeting with General Lucas and his senior advisers. As edited inside the White House in April 1981, the “Talking Points” read:

“The President and Secretary Haig have designated me as [their] personal emissary to discuss bilateral relations on an urgent basis.

“Both the President and the Secretary recognize that your country is engaged in a war with Marxist guerrillas. We are deeply concerned about externally supported Marxist subversion in Guatemala and other countries in the region. As you are aware, we have already taken steps to assist Honduras and El Salvador resist this aggression.

“The Secretary has sent me here to see if we can work out a way to provide material assistance to your government. We have minimized negative public statements by US officials on the situation in Guatemala. We have arranged for the Commerce Department to take steps that will permit the sale of $3 million worth of military trucks and Jeeps to the Guatemalan army.

“With your concurrence, we propose to provide you and any officers you might designate an intelligence briefing on regional developments from our perspective. Our desire, however, is to go substantially beyond the steps I have just outlined. We wish to reestablish our traditional military supply and training relationship as soon as possible.

“As we are both aware, this has not yet been feasible because of our internal political and legal constraints relating to the use by some elements of your security forces of deliberate and indiscriminate killing of persons not involved with the guerrilla forces or their civilian support mechanisms. I am not referring here to the regrettable but inevitable death of innocents though error in combat situations, but to what appears to us a calculated use of terror to immobilize non politicized people or potential opponents.

“If you could give me your assurance that you will take steps to halt official involvement in the killing of persons not involved with the guerrilla forces or their civilian support mechanism we would be in a much stronger position to defend successfully with the Congress a decision to begin to resume our military supply relationship with your government.”

In other words, though the “talking points” were framed as an appeal to reduce the “indiscriminate” slaughter of “non politicized people,” they amounted to an acceptance of scorched-earth tactics against people involved with the guerrillas and “their civilian support mechanism.” The way that played out in Guatemala as in nearby El Salvador was the massacring of peasants in regions considered sympathetic to leftist insurgents.

Cables on Killings

As reflected in the “Talking Points” and as confirmed by other U.S. government documents from that time period, the Reagan administration was well aware that the Guatemalan military was engaged in mass killings of Guatemalan civilians.

According to one “secret” cable also from April 1981, and declassified in the 1990s, the CIA was confirming Guatemalan government massacres even as Reagan was moving to loosen the military aid ban. On April 17, 1981, a CIA cable described an army massacre at Cocob, near Nebaj in the Ixil Indian territory, because the population was believed to support leftist guerrillas.

A CIA source reported that “the social population appeared to fully support the guerrillas” and “the soldiers were forced to fire at anything that moved.” The CIA cable added that “the Guatemalan authorities admitted that ‘many civilians’ were killed in Cocob, many of whom undoubtedly were non-combatants.” [Many of the Guatemalan documents declassified in the 1990s can be found at the National Security Archive’s Web site.]

In May 1981, despite these ongoing atrocities, Reagan dispatched Walters to tell the Guatemalan leaders that the new U.S. administration wanted to lift the human rights embargoes on military equipment that former President Jimmy Carter and Congress had imposed.

In essence, Walters was giving a green light to Guatemala to continue the practice of slaughtering guerrillas and their civilian supporters, a counterinsurgency strategy that was practiced during some of the darkest days of the Vietnam War in such infamous incidents as the My Lai massacre.

The “Talking Points” also put the Reagan administration in line with the fiercely anti-communist regimes elsewhere in Latin America, where right-wing “death squads” operated with impunity liquidating not only armed guerrillas but civilians who were judged sympathetic to left-wing causes like demanding greater economic equality and social justice.

In the 1970s, Argentina, Chile, Brazil and other South American countries even banded together in a cross-border assassination program that hunted down leftist and other political opponents around the world, including inside the United States.

Called “Operation Condor,” the wave of assassinations reached Washington D.C. on Sept. 21, 1976, when Chilean intelligence assets exploded a car bomb killing former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and American co-worker Ronni Moffitt as they drove down Massachusetts Avenue through an area known as Embassy Row.

The original cover story for the assassination plot had been a meeting at the CIA with Vernon Walters, who was then deputy CIA director under CIA Director George H.W. Bush. Walters also had served as U.S. military attache to Brazil at the time of a right-wing military coup in 1964.

Reagan again turned to Walters in 1981 to serve as the President’s ambassador-at-large. One of his key roles was coordinating with right-wing governments across Latin America in their escalating wars against leftist insurgencies.

Right-Wing Butchery

Despite his aw shucks style, Reagan found virtually every anticommunist action justified, no matter how brutal. From his eight years in the White House, there is no historical indication that he was morally troubled by the bloodbath and even genocide that occurred in Central America while he was shipping hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to the implicated forces.

The death toll was staggering, an estimated 70,000 or more political killings in El Salvador, possibly 20,000 slain from the Contra war in Nicaragua, about 200 political “disappearances” in Honduras and some 100,000 people eliminated during a resurgence of political violence in Guatemala. The one consistent element in these slaughters was the overarching Cold War rationalization, emanating in large part from Ronald Reagan’s White House.

Despite their frequent claims to the contrary, the evidence is now overwhelming that Reagan and his advisers had a clear understanding of the extraordinary brutality going on in Guatemala and elsewhere, based on their own internal documents. As they prepared to ship military equipment to Guatemala, White House officials knew that the Guatemalan military was engaged in massacres of the Mayans and other perceived enemies.

According to a State Department cable on Oct. 5, 1981, when Guatemalan leaders met again with Walters, they left no doubt about their plans. The cable said Gen. Lucas “made clear that his government will continue as before, that the repression will continue. He reiterated his belief that the repression is working and that the guerrilla threat will be successfully routed.”

Human rights groups saw the same picture. The Inter-American Human Rights Commission released a report on Oct. 15, 1981, blaming the Guatemalan government for “thousands of illegal executions.” [Washington Post, Oct. 16, 1981]

But the Reagan administration was set on whitewashing the ugly scene. A State Department “white paper,” released in December 1981, blamed the violence on leftist “extremist groups” and their “terrorist methods” prompted and supported by Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

What the documents from the Reagan library now make clear is that the administration was not simply struggling ineffectively to rein in these massacres as the U.S. press corps typically reported but was fully onboard with the slaughter of people who were part of the guerrillas’ “civilian support mechanisms.”

More Massacres

U.S. intelligence agencies continued to pick up evidence of these government-sponsored massacres. One CIA report in February 1982 described an army sweep through the so-called Ixil Triangle in central El Quiche province.

“The commanding officers of the units involved have been instructed to destroy all towns and villages which are cooperating with the Guerrilla Army of the Poor [the EGP] and eliminate all sources of resistance,” the report said. “Since the operation began, several villages have been burned to the ground, and a large number of guerrillas and collaborators have been killed.”

The CIA report explained the army’s modus operandi: “When an army patrol meets resistance and takes fire from a town or village, it is assumed that the entire town is hostile and it is subsequently destroyed.” When the army encountered an empty village, it was “assumed to have been supporting the EGP, and it is destroyed. There are hundreds, possibly thousands of refugees in the hills with no homes to return to.

“The army high command is highly pleased with the initial results of the sweep operation, and believes that it will be successful in destroying the major EGP support area and will be able to drive the EGP out of the Ixil Triangle.  The well documented belief by the army that the entire Ixil Indian population is pro-EGP has created a situation in which the army can be expected to give no quarter to combatants and non-combatants alike.”

On Feb. 2, 1982, Richard Childress, another of Reagan’s national security aides, wrote a “secret” memo to his colleagues summing up this reality on the ground:

“As we move ahead on our approach to Latin America, we need to consciously address the unique problems posed by Guatemala. Possessed of some of the worst human rights records in the region, it presents a policy dilemma for us. The abysmal human rights record makes it, in its present form, unworthy of USG [U.S. government] support.

“Beset by a continuous insurgency for at least 15 years, the current leadership is completely committed to a ruthless and unyielding program of suppression. Hardly a soldier could be found that has not killed a ‘guerrilla.’”

The Rise of Rios Montt

However, Reagan remained committed to supplying military hardware to Guatemala’s brutal regime. So, the administration welcomed Gen. Efrain Rios Montt’s March 1982 overthrow of the thoroughly bloodstained Gen. Lucas.

An avowed fundamentalist Christian, Rios Montt impressed Official Washington where the Reagan administration immediately revved up its propaganda machinery to hype the new dictator’s “born-again” status as proof of his deep respect for human life. Reagan hailed him as “a man of great personal integrity.”

By July 1982, however, Rios Montt had begun a new scorched-earth campaign called his “rifles and beans” policy. The slogan meant that pacified Indians would get “beans,” while all others could expect to be the target of army “rifles.” In October, Rios Montt secretly gave carte blanche to the feared “Archivos” intelligence unit to expand “death squad” operations. Based at the Presidential Palace, the “Archivos” masterminded many of Guatemala’s most notorious assassinations.

The U.S. embassy was soon hearing more accounts of the army conducting Indian massacres. On Oct, 21, 1982, one cable described how three embassy officers tried to check out some of these reports but ran into bad weather and canceled the inspection. Still, the cable put the best possible spin on the situation. Though unable to check out the massacre reports, the embassy officials did “reach the conclusion that the army is completely up front about allowing us to check alleged massacre sites and to speak with whomever we wish.”

The next day, the embassy fired off its analysis (which the Reagan administration knew to be contradicted by the facts) that the Guatemalan government was the victim of a communist-inspired “disinformation campaign.” Dated Oct. 22, 1982, the analysis concluded “that a concerted disinformation campaign is being waged in the U.S. against the Guatemalan government by groups supporting the communist insurgency in Guatemala.”

The Reagan administration’s disingenuous report claimed that “conscientious human rights and church organizations,” including Amnesty International, had been duped by the communists and “may not fully appreciate that they are being utilized.  The campaign’s object is simple: to deny the Guatemalan army the weapons and equipment needed from the U.S. to defeat the guerrillas.

“If those promoting such disinformation can convince the Congress, through the usual opinion-makers, the media, church and human rights groups, that the present GOG [government of Guatemala] is guilty of gross human rights violations they know that the Congress will refuse Guatemala the military assistance it needs. Those backing the communist insurgency are betting on an application, or rather misapplication, of human rights policy so as to damage the GOG and assist themselves.”

Hailing the Dictator

Reagan personally joined this P.R. campaign seeking to discredit human rights investigators and others who were reporting accurately on human rights crimes that the administration knew, all too well, were true. On Dec. 4, 1982, after meeting with Rios Montt, Reagan hailed the general as “totally dedicated to democracy” and added that Rios Montt’s government had been “getting a bum rap” on human rights. Reagan discounted the mounting reports of hundreds of Maya villages being eradicated.

On Jan. 6, 1983, Rios Montt was informed that the United States would resume military sales to Guatemala. The dictator expressed his thanks, according to a cable from the U.S. Embassy, “saying that he had been convinced that the USG had never abandoned Guatemala. He commented that the guerrillas in country and its propaganda machine abroad would now launch concerted attacks on both governments.”

On Jan. 7, 1983, Reagan formally lifted the ban on military aid to Guatemala and authorized the sale of $6 million in military hardware. Approval covered spare parts for UH-1H helicopters and A-37 aircraft used in counterinsurgency operations. Radios, batteries and battery charges were also in the package.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government’s cover-up of the Guatemalan bloodshed continued. State Department spokesman John Hughes said political violence in Guatemalan cities had “declined dramatically” and that rural conditions had improved too.

In February 1983, however, a secret CIA cable noted a rise in “suspect right-wing violence” with kidnappings of students and teachers. Bodies of victims were appearing in ditches and gullies. CIA sources traced these political murders to Rios Montt’s order to the “Archivos” in October to “apprehend, hold, interrogate and dispose of suspected guerrillas as they saw fit.”

Despite these grisly facts on the ground, the annual State Department human rights survey praised the supposedly improved human rights situation in Guatemala. “The overall conduct of the armed forces had improved by late in the year” 1982, the report stated.

A different picture, far closer to the secret information held by the U.S. government, was coming from independent human rights investigators. On March 17, 1983, Americas Watch condemned the Guatemalan army for human rights atrocities against the Indian population.

New York attorney Stephen L. Kass said these findings included proof that the government carried out “virtually indiscriminate murder of men, women and children of any farm regarded by the army as possibly supportive of guerrilla insurgents.”

Rural women suspected of guerrilla sympathies were raped before execution, Kass said, adding that children were “thrown into burning homes. They are thrown in the air and speared with bayonets. We heard many, many stories of children being picked up by the ankles and swung against poles so their heads are destroyed.” [AP, March 17, 1983]

Involving Israel

Publicly, senior Reagan officials continued to put on a happy face. In June 1983, special envoy Richard B. Stone praised “positive changes” in Rios Montt’s government, and Rios Montt pressed the United States for 10 UH-1H helicopters and six naval patrol boats, all the better to hunt guerrillas and their sympathizers.

Since Guatemala lacked the U.S. Foreign Military Sales credits or the cash to buy the helicopters, Reagan’s national security team looked for unconventional ways to arrange the delivery of the equipment that would give the Guatemalan army greater access to mountainous areas where guerrillas and their civilian supporters were hiding.

On Aug. 1, 1983, National Security Council aides Oliver North and Alfonso Sapia-Bosch reported to National Security Advisor William P. Clark that his deputy Robert “Bud” McFarlane was planning to exploit his Israeli channels to secure the helicopters for Guatemala. [For more on McFarlanes’s Israeli channels, see Consortium NewsHow Neocons Messed Up the Mideast.“]

“With regard to the loan of ten helicopters, it is [our] understanding that Bud will take this up with the Israelis,” wrote North and Sapia-Bosch. “There are expectations that they would be forthcoming. Another possibility is to have an exercise with the Guatemalans. We would then use US mechanics and Guatemalan parts to bring their helicopters up to snuff.”

However, more political changes were afoot in Guatemala. Rios Montt’s vengeful Christian fundamentalism had hurtled so out of control, even by Guatemalan standards, that Gen. Oscar Mejia Victores seized power in another coup on Aug. 8, 1983.

Despite the power shift, Guatemalan security forces continued to murder with impunity, finally going so far that even the U.S. Embassy objected. When three Guatemalans working for the U.S. Agency for International Development were slain in November 1983, U.S. Ambassador Frederic Chapin suspected that “Archivos” hit squads were sending a message to the United States to back off even mild pressure for human rights.

In late November, in a brief show of displeasure, the administration postponed the sale of $2 million in helicopter spare parts. The next month, however, Reagan sent the spare parts anyway. In 1984, Reagan succeeded, too, in pressuring Congress to approve $300,000 in military training for the Guatemalan army.

By mid-1984, Chapin, who had grown bitter about the army’s stubborn brutality, was gone, replaced by a far-right political appointee named Alberto Piedra, who was all for increased military assistance to Guatemala. In January 1985, Americas Watch issued a report observing that Reagan’s State Department “is apparently more concerned with improving Guatemala’s image than in improving its human rights.”

According to now declassified U.S. records, the Guatemalan reality included torture out of the Middle Ages. A Defense Intelligence Agency cable reported that the Guatemalan military used an air base in Retalhuleu during the mid-1980s as a center for coordinating the counterinsurgency campaign in southwest Guatemala.

At the base, pits were filled with water to hold captured suspects. “Reportedly there were cages over the pits and the water level was such that the individuals held within them were forced to hold on to the bars in order to keep their heads above water and avoid drowning,” the DIA report stated. Later, the pits were filled with concrete to eliminate the evidence.

The Guatemalan military used the Pacific Ocean as another dumping spot for political victims, according to the DIA report. Bodies of insurgents tortured to death and of live prisoners marked for “disappearance” were loaded on planes that flown out over the ocean where the soldiers would shove the victims into the water.

Regional Slaughter

Guatemala, of course, was not the only Central American country where Reagan and his administration supported brutal counterinsurgency operations, and then sought to cover up the bloody facts.

Reagan’s attempted falsification of the historical record was a hallmark of the conflicts in El Salvador and Nicaragua as well. In one case, Reagan personally lashed out at an individual human rights investigator named Reed Brody, a New York lawyer who had collected affidavits from more than 100 witnesses to atrocities carried out by the U.S.-supported Contra rebels in Nicaragua fighting to overthrow the country’s leftist Sandinista government.

Angered by the revelations about his pet “freedom-fighters,” Reagan denounced Brody in a speech on April 15, 1985. The President called Brody “one of dictator [Daniel] Ortega’s supporters, a sympathizer who has openly embraced Sandinismo.”

Privately, Reagan had a far more accurate understanding of the true nature of the Contras. At one point in the Contra war, Reagan turned to CIA official Duane Clarridge and demanded that the Contras be used to destroy some Soviet-supplied helicopters that had arrived in Nicaragua. In his memoir, Clarridge recalled that “President Reagan pulled me aside and asked, ‘Dewey, can’t you get those vandals of yours to do this job.’” [See Clarridge’s A Spy for All Seasons.]

It was not until 1999, a decade after Ronald Reagan left office, that the shocking scope of the grisly reality about the atrocities in Guatemala was revealed by a truth commission that drew heavily on documents that President Bill Clinton had ordered declassified.

On Feb. 25, 1999, the Historical Clarification Commission estimated that the 34-year civil war had claimed the lives of some 200,000 people with the most savage bloodletting occurring in the 1980s. The panel estimated that the army was responsible for 93 percent of the killings and leftist guerrillas for three percent. Four percent were listed as unresolved.

The report documented that in the 1980s, the army committed 626 massacres against Mayan villages. “The massacres that eliminated entire Mayan villages are neither perfidious allegations nor figments of the imagination, but an authentic chapter in Guatemala’s history,” the commission concluded.

The army “completely exterminated Mayan communities, destroyed their livestock and crops,” the report said. In the northern highlands, the report termed the slaughter “genocide.” [Washington Post, Feb. 26, 1999]

Besides carrying out murder and “disappearances,” the army routinely engaged in torture and rape. “The rape of women, during torture or before being murdered, was a common practice” by the military and paramilitary forces, the report found.

American Blame

The report added that the “government of the United States, through various agencies including the CIA, provided direct and indirect support for some [of these] state operations.” The report concluded that the U.S. government also gave money and training to a Guatemalan military that committed “acts of genocide” against the Mayans.

“Believing that the ends justified everything, the military and the state security forces blindly pursued the anticommunist struggle, without respect for any legal principles or the most elemental ethical and religious values, and in this way, completely lost any semblance of human morals,” said the commission chairman, Christian Tomuschat, a German jurist.

“Within the framework of the counterinsurgency operations carried out between 1981 and 1983, in certain regions of the country agents of the Guatemalan state committed acts of genocide against groups of the Mayan people,” Tomuschat added. [NYT, Feb. 26, 1999]

The report did not single out culpable individuals either in Guatemala or the United States. But the American official most directly responsible for renewing U.S. military aid to Guatemala and encouraging its government during the 1980s was Ronald Reagan.

The major U.S. newspapers covered the truth commission’s report though only fleetingly. The New York Times made it the lead story the next day. The Washington Post played it inside on page A19. Both cited the troubling role of the CIA and other U.S. government agencies in the Guatemalan tragedy. But, again, no U.S. official was held accountable by name.

On March 1, 1999, the Washington Post’s neoconservative editorial board addressed the findings but did not confront them, except to blame President Carter for having cut off military aid to Guatemala in the 1970s, thus supposedly preventing the United States from curbing Guatemala’s horrific human rights conduct.

The editorial argued that the arms embargo removed “what minimal restraint even a feeble American presence supplied.” The editorial made no reference to the substantial evidence that Reagan’s resumption of military aid in the 1980s made the Guatemalan army more efficient in its slaughter of its enemies, armed and unarmed. With no apparent sense of irony, the Post editorial ended by stating: “We need our own truth commission” though there was no follow-up of that idea.

During a visit to Central America, on March 10, 1999, President Bill Clinton apologized for the past U.S. support of right-wing regimes in Guatemala dating back to 1954. “For the United States, it is important that I state clearly that support for military forces and intelligence units which engaged in violence and widespread repression was wrong, and the United States must not repeat that mistake,” Clinton said. [Washington Post, March 11, 1999]

However, back in Washington, there was no interest, let alone determination, to hold anyone accountable for aiding and abetting the butchery. The story of the Guatemalan genocide and the Reagan administration’s complicity quickly disappeared into the great American memory hole.

For human rights crimes in the Balkans and in Africa, the United States demanded international tribunals to arrest and to try violators and their political patrons for war crimes. In Iraq, President George W. Bush celebrated the trial and execution of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein for politically motivated killings.

Rios Montt (who died on April 1, 2018 at 91), after years of evading justice under various amnesties, was finally indicted and put on trial. (He was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity in 2013, but a higher court, filled with political allies, overturned his conviction.)

Yet, even as Latin America’s struggling democracies have made tentative moves toward holding some of their worst human rights abusers accountable, no substantive discussion has occurred in the United States about facing up to the horrendous record of the 1980s and Reagan’s guilt.

Rather than a debate about Reagan as a war criminal who assisted genocide, the former president is honored as a conservative icon with his name attached to Washington National Airport and scores of other public sites. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews has gushed over Reagan as “one of the all-time greats,” and Democrats (including Barack Obama) regularly praise Reagan in comparison to modern right-wing Republicans.

When the U.S. news media does briefly acknowledge the barbarities of the 1980s in Central America, it is in the context of how those little countries are bravely facing up to their violent pasts. There is never any suggestion that the United States had a big hand in it and should follow suit.

The late investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can become a Consortium News member and receive a set of three books written by Parry.




US-Funded Neo-Nazis in Ukraine Mentor US White Supremacists

Short-sighted U.S. foreign policy that backs jihadists in the Middle East and neo-Nazis in Ukraine is once again blowing back on the United States, as Max Blumenthal explains.

FBI: Azov Battalion Trained Rise Above Movement

By Max Blumenthal

Last month, an unsealed FBI indictment of four American white supremacists from the Rise Above Movement (RAM) declared that the defendants had trained with Ukraine’s Azov Battalion, a neo-Nazi militia officially incorporated into the country’s national guard. The training took place after the white supremacist gang participated in violent riots in Huntington Beach and Berkeley, California and Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

The indictment stated that the Azov Battalion “is believed to have participated in training and radicalizing United States-based white supremacy organizations.”

After a wave of racist violence across America that culminated in the massacre of twelve Jewish worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue, the revelation that violent white supremacists have been traveling abroad for training and ideological indoctrination with a well-armed neo-Nazi militia should cause extreme alarm.

Not only are white supremacists from across the West flocking to Ukraine to learn from the combat experience of their fascist brothers-in-arms, they are doing so openly — chronicling their experiences on social media before they bring their lessons back home. But U.S. law enforcement has done nothing so far to restrict the flow of right-wing American extremists to Azov’s bases.

There is one likely explanation for the U.S. government’s hands-off approach to Azov recruitment: the extremist militia is fighting pro-Russian separatists as a front-line proxy of Washington. In fact, the United States has directly armed the Azov Battalion, forking over anti-tank rocket launchers and even sending a team of Army officers to meet in the field with Azov commanders in 2017.

Though Congress passed legislation this year forbidding military aid to Azov on the grounds of its white supremacist ideology, the Trump administration’s authorization of $200 million in offensive weaponry and aid to the Ukrainian military makes it likely new stores of weapons will wind up the extremist regiment’s hands. When queried by reporters about evidence of American military training of Azov personnel, multiple U.S. army spokespersons admitted there was no mechanism in place to prevent that from happening.

Today, Azov boasts combat experience, unlimited access to light weapons, and supporters honeycombed throughout the upper echelons of Ukraine’s military and government. No longer just a militia, the organization has developed into a political juggernaut that can overpower Ukraine’s government. Two years ago, the group flexed its muscle on the streets of Kiev, bringing out 10,000 supporters to demand that the government bend to their will or face a coup.

With its military experience and weapons, Azov has the ability to blackmail the government and defend themselves politically against any opposition. They openly say that if the government will not advance an ideology similar to theirs, they will overthrow it,” Ivan Katchanovski, a professor of political science at the University of Ottawa and leading expert on Ukraine’s far-right, commented to me. He continued, explaining:

Currently the organizations that are fascist are stronger in Ukraine than in any other country in the world. But this fact is not reported by Western media because they see these organizations as supportive of the geopolitical agenda against Russia. So condemnations are limited to violence or human rights abuses.”

The revelations of collaboration between violent American white supremacists and a neo-Nazi militia armed by the Pentagon add another scandalous chapter to a long history of blowback that dates back to the 1950’s, when the CIA rehabilitated several Ukrainian Nazi collaborators as anti-communist assets in the Cold War.

The almost unbelievable story exposes an axis of fascism that stretches across the Atlantic, from the Ukrainian capital of Kiev to the sun-washed suburbs of Southern California, where some of the most rabid modern white supremacist gangs were born.

White Nationalist Fight Club

This October, four members of the RAM gang — Robert Rundo, Benjamin Drake Daley, Michael Paul Mirelis, and Aaron Eason — were arrested by FBI agents. They were accused of “using the internet to encourage, promote, participate in, and carry out riots” from Huntington Beach to Berkeley, California. Four other members had been arrested in connection with their participation in the white supremacist riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was killed in a vehicular homicide by a white supremacist.

RAM first appeared in the national limelight during a celebration of Donald Trump’s election victory in Huntington Beach in March 2017. As about one hundred far-right activists marched along the beach donned in red “Make America Great Again” caps and waving Trump flags, they were confronted by a small group of masked anti-racist counter-demonstrators. When a melee ensued, RAM members assaulted their outnumbered opponents, pummeling them into submission and even attacking a local reporter. Afterwards, Orange County police arrested several anti-racist demonstrators, but the RAM gang walked free.

RAM markets itself as a self-defense organization that protects the free speech of white Americans against an onslaught of “Cultural Marxism,”  a classic anti-Semitic trope. Its founders emphasize a vaguely anti-consumerist Fight Club mentality along with a rigorous dedication to mixed martial arts. Its co-founder, Rundo, operates an online clothing and apparel company, Right Brand Clothing, that hawks slickly designed t-shirts promoting “European Brotherhood,” stickers emphasizing a straight-edge “nationalist lifestyle,” and ethically sourced designer “Demagogue pants” (yes, white supremacists apparently care about sweatshops). RAM members can be seen at the site modeling their gear with a clean-cut “fashy” look that contrasts sharply with the stereotypical image of skinheads in jackboots.

RAM’s careful attention to its public image has not stopped its members from putting their crude neo-Nazi ideology on display at rallies, however. During the Huntington Beach riot, for example, RAM’s Robert Boman was seen waving a sign reading “Da Goyim Know.” This alt-right slogan refers to the white nationalist understanding of the supposed Jewish plot to dominate the world.

I’m a big supporter of the Fourteen, I’ll say that,” RAM’s Rundo proclaimed into a camera in Huntington Beach. The gang leader was referring to the notorious 14-word slogan coined by convicted white supremacist terrorist David Lane, which has become a rallying cry for fascists across the globe: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

Two months after the violence in Huntington Beach, two RAM members were photographed in the same spot dousing literature they dubbed as “Cultural Marxist” with lighter fluid and setting it ablaze. Among the volumes they torched were “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “The 9/11 Commission Report,” and “Schindler’s List.” Besides evoking memories of the early days of Nazi Germany, the spectacle cast the group’s purported devotion to free speech in an extremely ironic light.

Following RAM’s highly publicized street battles, the group became the subject of intense media scrutiny. In October 2017, the investigative outlet ProPublica produced a video that exposed the identities of RAM’s core membership and wondered why they had not been investigated by law enforcement for their violent actions in Huntington Beach and elsewhere.

But the media coverage of RAM glossed over the group’s attraction to a burgeoning trans-Atlantic conglomeration of white supremacists that centered on U.S.-allied Ukraine as the base for a fascist reconquest of Europe. By the Spring of 2018, RAM leadership was barnstorming through Germany and Italy and heading east to meet fascist cohorts from across the West at a conference in Kiev.

RAM’s Ukrainian Hate-cation

Buried in the FBI indictment of RAM members are details of their meetings with one of the key figures in Ukraine’s neo-Nazi Azov Battalion militia.

In August, according to the indictment, RAM members published photos on Instagram showing themselves meeting with Olena Semanyaka, the leader of the international department of the Ukrainian National Corps, which functions as a civilian arm of the Azov Battalion:

The indictment also referenced a video of RAM co-founder Benjamin Drake Daley performing a crossed-forearm salute to the Southern California-based white supremacist Hammerskin gang while in Ukraine:

 

RAM’s Gab account provides additional details of the group’s foray through Ukraine this May. The trip centered around the Paneuropa conference, an event that brings together fascists from across the West to encourage international collaboration. It is hosted at the Reconquista Club in Kiev, and included an a mixed martial arts competition.

One of our guys has had the honor to be the first American to compete in the pan european organization Reconquista in Ukraine!” RAM declared on its Gab account. “This was a great experience meeting nationalist[s] that came [sic] as far as Portugal and Switzerland to take part.”

The visit, which followed on the heels of meetings with white supremacists in Germany and with Italy’s fascist CasaPound party, highlighted the centrality of Ukraine to international fascist organizing. Further, the Paneuropa conference, where fascists build connections across national borders, revealed the Azov Battalion as much more than a militia fighting for control of a sliver of contested territory in eastern Ukraine.

Semanyaka did not respond to an interview request delivered through Facebook messenger; however, she told Radio Free Europe’s Christopher Miller that RAM “came to learn our ways” and showed interest in learning how to create youth forces in the way Azov has.

Today, Azov leaders openly acknowledge that were it not for the U.S.-backed coup that unfolded in Kiev’s Maidan Square in 2014, their organization would never have developed into the powerhouse it is. As Semanyaka said this year, according to a summary:

The Ukrainian nationalist movement would have never reached such a level of development unless the war with Russia had begun. For the first time since the Second World War, nationalist formations have managed to create their own military wings, the brightest example being the Azov regime of the National Guard of Ukraine.”

Right-wing Maidan Revolution

The 2013-14 Maidan revolt was the cataclysmic event that Ukraine’s already potent ultra-nationalist camp had been waiting for. The protests erupted in Kiev’s Maidan Square after the democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an economic association agreement with the EU. Celebrated in the West as a pro-Western movement guided by tech-savvy middle-class youth, EuroMaidan depended heavily for its success on phalanxes of black-masked hardmen from Right Sector (see appendix at bottom), an ultra-nationalist party that did battle with the government’s Berkut riot police.

Along with Right Sector, the leadership of the far-right Svoboda Party assumed a prominent role at the Maidan, dubbing the protests a “Revolution of Dignity.” Svoboda co-founder Oleh Tyahnybok — who had once demanded an investigation of the “Jewish-Muscovite mafia” that he saw controlling Ukraine — appeared on stage at the square beside U.S. Senators John McCain and Chris Murphy when they arrived to encourage the protesters.

Another key figure in Ukraine’s neo-Nazi scene was Andriy Biletsky. A university Ph.D. who stressed physical violence as a means to revolutionary change, Biletsky led the Patriot of Ukraine militia, an early forerunner of Azov that attacked migrant camps and menaced foreigners. In a manifesto published during the height of the Maidan clashes, Biletsky outlined his post-revolutionary agenda: “The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival,” he wrote. “A crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”

In May 2014, Right Sector and an assortment of far-right forces banded together to massacre their opponents in Odessa, attacking a pro-separatist protest camp with iron pipes then burning the fleeing protesters alive after they took shelter in a local trade union building. Over 40 pro-separatist Ukrainian citizens were consumed in the flames. The U.S. and EU studiously looked the other way, legitimizing the violence and setting the stage for more.

Behind the scenes, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt were carefully stage managing the opposition, positioning the pliable Arseniy Yatsenyuk as the future leader of a U.S. client-state. Meanwhile, billionaire-backed U.S. soft-power entities like the Omidyar Network and Open Society Foundation plowed money into the opposition, providing it with high-tech organizing capacity and establishing new media outlet Hromadske overnight.

Given the amount of U.S. investment in regime change in Ukraine, it was necessary for American pundits who cheered on the operation to downplay or simply deny the central role neo-Nazi forces played in making it all possible. In perhaps the most absurd attempt at whitewashing the fascist presence, the neoconservative pundit James Kirchick described Right Sector in an article for Foreign Affairs as “Putin’s imaginary Nazis.” Meanwhile, groups like the Anti-Defamation League — which supposedly exist to battle anti-Semitism — refused to support a congressional effort to ban arms to groups affiliated with Right Sector, because “the focus should be on Russia.”

With all the cover he needed from Washington, Biletsky organized the “imaginary Nazis” of Patriot of Ukraine, Right Sector, and assorted football ultras into a real militia called the Azov Battalion. Together, they fought under the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel symbol, which also happens to be incorporated into the logo of the U.S.-based Aryan Nations.

On the frontlines of eastern Ukrainian flashpoints, Azov did battle with Russian-speaking separatists and set up government-sponsored indoctrination camps for children and teens closer to the country’s interior, instructing ten year olds on marksmanship and the evils of foreigners. Azan was subsequently absorbed into Ukraine’s military as a national guard unit, and began appearing in the field with PSRL-1 rocket launchers supplied under the watch of the U.S. Department of Defense. In November 2017, Azov leadership received a team of U.S. Army officers for training and logistical discussions (see photo below and to the right).

By the time Congress approved a ban on arms to Azov this year, the Trump administration had already authorized a new shipment of offensive weapons to the Ukrainian military, including advanced Javelin anti-tank missiles. As in Syria — where the CIA-backed Free Syrian Army functioned as a de facto “weapons farm” for jihadist groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS — any new U.S. arms are likely to wind up in the possession of Azov, the congressional ban notwithstanding.

It’s very corrupt in Ukraine and money can be stolen — the same as in Syria where extremist fighters got guns from U.S.-backed units,” said Katchanovski. “Azov can just establish new political fronts so they can circumvent the U.S. prohibitions.”

Foreign Fighters for Fascism

The Azov Battalion has received not only U.S. weapons, but also volunteer American military veterans like Brian Boyenger. “It’s not illegal,” Boyenger told a Ukraine Today interviewer of his presence in an Azov camp. “From a U.S. perspective, as long as you’re not fighting with a terrorist group or committing war crimes or things like that. It is legal — mostly I’ve been serving as kind of like an advisor.”

Azov has also welcomed Islamist fighters from Chechnya to continue their long war against Russia in a new theater. A sniper from Sweden with “typical neo-Nazi views,” Mikael Skillt, has been assigned to oversee an entire Azov regiment. And neo-Nazis from as far away as Brazil have flocked to Ukraine to join the fascist crusade. One foreign fighter from France, a young anti-Semite named Gregoire Moutaux, returned from a Ukrainian militia camp in 2016 “armed to the teeth and ready to strike” synagogues, mosques and the 2016 soccer championships when he was arrested on the Ukrainian border by national police.

To consolidate its political influence over the country, the Azov Battalion established a National Druzhina, or street patrol unit. A slickly produced recruitment video released in 2017 featured drone footage of National Druzhina members marching in formation into Kiev as Biletsky, their ideological guide, impelled them to “restore Ukrainian order” to a corrupted society. The street patrol was openly backed by Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, a powerful patron of Azov who belongs to the ruling party of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

This year, the National Druzhina and state-funded neo-Nazi militias like C14 (the “14” represents the notorious “fourteen words” mantra) staged a series of lethal pogroms against the local Roma population, vandalized the offices of insufficiently pliant politicians, stormed city council meetings, and even sued the Hromadske station that was established with U.S. funding for describing their members as neo-Nazis.

Their connection to power is why they can commit any crime and they will never be punished,” Katchanovski said of Azov and its various street-muscle brigades. “Because they have the police and senior police members like [Vadym] Troyan, they can intimidate people and intimidate politicians with impunity.” (Once a member of Azov, Troyan now serves as Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Interior).

The U.S. has not only kept silent about the wave of ultra-nationalist violence sweeping across Ukraine, it has been complicit in legitimizing the perpetrators. This November, America House Kyiv — a U.S. government-funded cultural center — hosted a speech by a uniformed leader of the neo-Nazi C14 gang, Serhiy Bondar. Months earlier, Republican House Majority Leader Paul Ryan and the NATO-funded Atlantic Council hosted Andriy Parubiy, the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and co-founder of the fascist Social-National party, for a friendly exchange on Capitol Hill.Given the free rein and open acceptance right-wing extremists enjoy in post-Maidan Ukraine, it is no wonder the country has become a haven for fascists from across the West.

Grand Reconquista Strategy

As the international secretary of Azov’s National Corps, Olena Semanyaka has emerged as one of the most prolific publicists of Eastern European fascism. With jet black hair and a faintly gothic look, she brands herself as a “traditionalist,” emulating her hero, Julius Evola, the late Italian occultist philosopher who espoused a “racism of the spirit.” Though she has been photographed bearing a Nazi flag and throwing up a sieg heil salute, Semanyaka has also been a welcome guest on Ukrainian nationalist TV to promote her campaign for the release of Ukrainian nationalist activists held by Russia.

In her role with Azov, Semanyaka organizes conferences aimed at popularizing the concept of “the great European Reconquista” — a pan-European fascist-nationalist takeover that begins in the former Soviet satellite states and ultimately sweeps through Western Europe on the strength of anti-foreigner resentment.

Semanyaka laid out the fascist grand strategy in Kiev at a December 2016 gathering of Black Metal fans from across Europe called the “Pact of Steel:”

For the first time [in] a long period, the success of the Right in Western Europe — the rise of the Right because of refugee influx and terror — gives the chance for the realization of our ‘pact of steel’ between East and West, between Western and Eastern European nationalists.”

She continued:

Our main task today is to show to Western nationalists, to inform them that Putin’s Russia is no alternative to the EU of the West and that the only ally for them is an alternative axis of European integration which is being formed now in Kiev, Central and Eastern Europe, as a springboard for the all-European reconquest, for the new Europe between the EU and neo-Soviet neo-Bolshevik Putin’s Russia.”

Semanyaka and other Ukrainian fascist ideologues refer to the regional springboard for the European reconquest as the “Intermarium.” This is a concept originally envisioned after World War One by Polish military leader Jozef Pilsudski, who imagined a confederation of countries from the Baltic to the Black Sea as a counter-weight to German and Russian aggression. Though his idea never materialized, Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the failure of the EU and NATO to prevent it revived interest in the Intermarium. One of the biggest boosters of the alliance, the right-wing Polish President Andrzej Duda, saw it primarily through the prism of regional security. The extreme right in Ukraine, however, understood the Intermarium as an ethnically pure base for exporting their revolution to the rest of Europe.

The first Intermarium conference was held in Kiev in January 2016 under the banner of Azov’s National Corps. Semanyaka headlined the event alongside Biletsky, the Azov founder, welcoming far-right activists from Poland and the Baltic States. Within a year, the concept was promoted at an officially sanctioned event at the Latvian embassy in Kiev. There, the Latvian ambassador welcomed a who’s who of the Ukrainian fascist scene, from Svoboda to National Corps representatives like Semanyaka, for a ceremony honoring Peter Radzins, a Latvian general who advocated for the Intermarium.

Organized by Latvia’s far-right National Alliance party, a member of the country’s governing coalition, the spectacle provided Azov leaders with the sheen of international legitimacy. As Matthew Kott, an academic expert on the European far-right, argued, Latvia’s “membership in the EU and NATO allows it to act as a Trojan horse for increasing the clout of the far-right in the Euro-Atlantic community.”

While historical tensions between the Intermarium nations are still simmering, Semanyaka has pleaded with her international allies to heed the call of the late pro-Hitler British Blackshirt leader Oswald Mosley for a “great act of oblivion…of all our former struggles, conflicts, historical enmity. What we need,” she argued, “is the revival of a sense of the new European aristocracy, a new European unity as a real basis for the union I am talking about.”

There are no historical grievances between American white supremacists and their cohorts in Ukraine. After all, the U.S. government has made itself the main guarantor of Ukraine’s security, going as far as directly arming Azov in its bid to bleed Russia. And decades before the U.S. backed extremists in contemporary Ukraine, the CIA ran a program to rehabilitate former Nazi collaborators from the country as anti-communist intelligence assets. Backing Ukrainian fascists is a grand American tradition, indeed.

This November, during the latest Paneuropa conference organized by Semanyaka as a safe space for fascists from across the West, she played host to one of the most prominent self-styled intellectuals of America’s white nationalist movement, Greg Johnson.

I think that what’s happening in Ukraine is a model and an inspiration for nationalists of all white nations and I wanted to learn as much as possible about what you’re doing here and see as much as possible,” Johnson told his rapt audience. “And I’m enormously impressed and I’m taking notes.”  Johnson is a highbrow racist who publishes a journal, Counter-Currents, that advances what he calls “white identity politics.” Like the Rise Above Movement leaders before him, he was clearly inspired by his visit to Kiev. “I’m already planning to come back,” Johnson exclaimed during a break-out session. “I’m very impressed with what I’ve seen here. I want to come back and learn more.”

__________________

Svoboda Party: Originally called the Social-National Party of Ukraine, a Ukrainian political party with long history of anti-Semitism. Led by Oleh Tyahnybok, Svoboda played a prominent role in the 2013-2014 Maidan uprising, where Tyahnybok shared the stage with U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Chris Murphy (D-CT). Andriy Parubiy, who had co-founded the Social-National Party of Ukraine, is now Speaker of Parliament.  

Azov Battalion: 3,000-member neo-Nazi formation in Ukraine’s National Guard. Azov began as a paramilitary, originally formed out of the Patriot of Ukraine neo-Nazi gang led by Andriy Biletsky, and is now a Ukrainian National Guard unit. The battalion’s logo incorporates the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel and black sun symbols. Biletsky is now a member of Ukrainian Parliament. Vadim Troyan, another  Azov veteran, is now Deputy Interior Minister.  

Ukrainian National Corps: Azov’s civilian arm, responsible, among other things, for coordinating with and recruiting neo-Nazis and white supremacists from around the world. The international outreach is led by Olena Semanyka, who’s been photographed with a swastika flag.  

National Druzhina: Azov’s street patrol organization, established in January 2018 with the aim of “restoring Ukrainian order” to the streets. The National Druzhina — whose members pledge personal loyalty to Biletsky — has been involved in pogroms against the Roma, LGBT, and other activists.  

Right Sector: Loose formation of neo-Nazis and football ultras, which supplied street muscle to the 2013-2014 Maidan uprising. Later involved in lethal suppression of anti-Maidan movements in places like Odessa.  

C14: Ukrainian neo-Nazi gang that receives government funding and has been responsible for some of the lethal Roma pogroms as well as anti-LGBT violence. The 14 is a reference to the Fourteen Word slogan of white supremacy. Led by Serhiy Bondar, who spoke at America House, a cultural center funded by the U.S. government.

This article was originally published on Mint Press News.

Max Blumenthal is the founder and editor of GrayzoneProject.com, the co-host of the podcast Moderate Rebels, the author of several books, and producer of full-length documentaries including the recently released Killing Gaza. Follow him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal.

 

 




American Terror is Not New

There were hate crimes before Donald Trump ran for president, most of them sanctioned by the state, including anti-black violence, as old as white settlement on this continent, says Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report.
American Terror is Not New

By Margaret Kimberley
Black Agenda Report

The casual, endemic and racist violence that characterizes American behavior at home and abroad cannot be laid at the doorstep of the current buffoon in the White House.

Within the past week very disturbing and violent events took place in quick succession across the country. Two black people were shot to death in a Louisville, Kentucky supermarket. The white shooter made it clear that his goal was to kill black people when he said, “Whites don’t shoot whites,” as he was apprehended. No sooner had this crime occurred than a Florida man was arrested and charged with sending explosive devices to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, George Soros, Maxine Waters, and Eric Holder among others. One day later a shooting at a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania synagogue left 11 people dead.

The unnamed suspect in all of these cases is Donald Trump. The bombing suspect made clear his love for the 45th president. He was described by his attorney as a previously apolitical man who nonetheless “found a father in Donald Trump.” The Louisville killing is the latest in a long line carried out by white racists. Anti-black violence is as old as white settlement on this continent.

Analysis of these recent incidents must be made very carefully. Trump differs from his predecessors mostly by tearing away the veneer of humanity and civility from a system which is relentlessly brutal. But the façade keeps many would-be terrorists from carrying out their sick fantasies. There are people who keep their hatred to themselves until they know that they may be given some cover and acceptance. Hatred expressed by a president emboldens people who might not ordinarily act upon their racist impulses.

It is very dangerous for these hidden haters to think they can come out of their closets. At the same time we cannot forget that a racist shooter succeeded in entering a black church in Charleston, South Carolina and killing nine people in 2015 when Barack Obama was president. The most prevalent racially motivated murders are carried out by police across the country when they kill an average of 300 black people every year.

It is a mistake to see Trump as a singular evil in American history. He is also not an anomaly among world leaders. An avowed fascist just won a presidential race in Brazil. White supremacists march openly in European countries like Ukraine where the Obama administration helped to overthrow an elected president and install Nazis among the new leadership. Fascism is carried out daily not only by the police but by the neoliberal state and by the military as it carries out a war of terror all over the world.

The current moment is perilous and requires serious analysis. Trump is the low hanging fruit in any discussion of racism and other forms of bigotry. But the country cannot be given a pass and allowed to behave as if all was well until he was elected.White people cannot play innocent and black people can’t relax when the day comes that he is out office.

Trump Given Pass for Raising Nuclear Danger  

If Trump can be connected to all of these incidents it should be with the knowledge that the entire country is suffering from a terrible sickness that few want to confront. Americans prefer to think well of themselves and their nation and treat any information contradicting that belief as an inconvenience to be avoided at all costs. There were hate crimes before Donald Trump ran for president and most of them weren’t carried out by individuals. Most of them are still sanctioned by the state.

The crazed Trump lover may have tried to send bombs to Obama and Clinton but they sent bombs to Libya and destroyed a nation that still suffers from their terrorist acts. They are quite literally guilty of committing hate crimes, along with other NATO leaders and their predecessors in high places. The fact that they know how to express diplomatic niceties is no reason to see them as being on our side as we fight to defeat fascism at home and around the world.

Their enablers cannot be given a pass either. When we fight to make war and peace a political issue we are derided as purists and spoilers who ought to be quiet and allow imperialism to take place without hindrance. The people who join in the chorus of denunciation should not be allowed to wring their hands when dead bodies appear within our borders too.

If they want to denounce Trump they had an excellent opportunity recently. Trump announced that the United States was withdrawing unilaterally from the INF missile treaty with Russia. This decision quite literally puts the world closer to nuclear war. But the liberal Trump haters have had very little to say about a policy change which quite literally endangers all life on the planet. The numbers of people who realize the danger and speak against this action is minuscule, unlike the near unanimous condemnation of racist gun men and the would-be mail bomber.

We have always lived in a very dangerous nation. Trump makes it more difficult to be in denial. But we must fight against the crowd which averts its eyes until a racist buffoon enters the White House. There is nothing new about American terrorism. It can be found in high and low places regardless of presidential civility or lack thereof.

This article originally appeared on BlackAgendaReport.com

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com . Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.




Welcome to the Jungle

A troubling new era has begun in Brazil with the election on Sunday of the far-right Jair Bolsonaro as president, writes Pepe Escobar.

By Pepe Escobar
Special to Consortium News

It’s darkness at the break of (tropical) high noon.

Jean Baudrillard once defined Brazil as “the chlorophyll of our planet”. And yet a land vastly associated worldwide with the soft power of creative joie de vivre has elected a fascist for president.

Brazil is a land torn apart. Former paratrooper Jair Bolsonaro was elected with 55.63 percent of votes. Yet a record 31 million votes were ruled absent or null and void. No less than 46 million Brazilians voted for the Workers’ Party’s candidate, Fernando Haddad; a professor and former mayor of Sao Paulo, one of the crucial megalopolises of the Global South. The key startling fact is that over 76 million Brazilians did not vote for Bolsonaro.

His first speech as president exuded the feeling of a trashy jihad by a fundamentalist sect laced with omnipresent vulgarity and the exhortation of a God-given dictatorship as the path towards a new Brazilian Golden Age.

French-Brazilian sociologist Michael Lowy has described the Bolsonaro phenomenon as “pathological politics on a large scale”.

His ascension was facilitated by an unprecedented conjunction of toxic factors such as the massive social impact of crime in Brazil, leading to a widespread belief in violent repression as the only solution; the concerted rejection of the Workers’ Party, catalyzed by financial capital, rentiers, agribusiness and oligarchic interests; an evangelical tsunami; a “justice” system historically favoring the upper classes and embedded in State Department-funded “training” of judges and prosecutors, including the notorious Sergio Moro, whose single-minded goal during the alleged anti-corruption Car Wash investigation was to send Lula to prison; and the absolute aversion to democracy by vast sectors of the Brazilian ruling classes.

That is about to coalesce into a radically anti-popular, God-given, rolling neoliberal shock; paraphrasing Lenin, a case of fascism as the highest stage of neoliberalism. After all, when a fascist sells a “free market” agenda, all his sins are forgiven.

The Reign of BBBB

It’s impossible to understand the rise of Bolsonarism without the background of the extremely sophisticated Hybrid War unleashed on Brazil by the usual suspects. NSA spying – ranging from the Petrobras energy giant all the way to then President Dilma Rousseff’s mobile phone – was known since mid-2013 after Edward Snowden showed how Brazil was the most spied upon Latin American nation in the 2000’s.

The Pentagon-supplicant Superior War College in Rio has always been in favor of a gradual – but surefire – militarization of Brazilian politics aligned with U.S. national security interests. The curriculum of top U.S. military academies was uncritically adopted by the Superior War College.

The managers of Brazil’s industrial-military-technological complex largely survived the 1964-1985 dictatorship. They learned everything about psyops from the French in Algeria and the Americans in Vietnam. Over the years they evolved their conception of the enemy within; not only the proverbial “communists”, but also the Left as a whole as well as the vast masses of dispossessed Brazilians.

This led to the recent situation of generals threatening judges if they ever set Lula free. Bolsonaro’s running mate, the crude Generalito Hamilton Mourao, even threatened a military coup if the ticket did not win. Bolsonaro himself said he would never “accept” defeat.

This evolving militarization of politics perfectly meshed with the cartoonish BBBB (Bullet, Beef, Bible, Bank) Brazilian Congress.

Congress is virtually controlled by military, police and paramilitary forces; the powerful agribusiness and mining lobby, with their supreme goal of totally plundering the Amazon rainforest; evangelical factions; and banking/financial capital. Compare it with the fact that more than half of senators and one third of Congress are facing criminal investigations.

The Bolsonaro campaign used every trick in the book to flee any possibility of a TV debate, faithful to the notion that political dialogue is for suckers, especially when there’s nothing to debate.

After all, Bolsonaro’s top economic advisor, Chicago Boy Paulo Guedes – currently under investigation for securities fraud – had already promised to “cure” Brazil by bearing the usual gifts: privatize everything; destroy social spending; get rid of all labor laws as well as the minimum wage; let the beef lobby plunder the Amazon; and increase the weaponizing of all citizens to uber-NRA levels.

No wonder The Wall Street Journal normalized Bolsonaro as a “conservative populist” and the “Brazilian swamp-drainer”; this fact-free endorsement ignores that Bolsonaro is a lowly politico who has only passed two pieces of legislation in his 27 lackluster years in Congress.

WhatsApp Me to the Promised Land

Even as large misinformed masses progressively became aware of the massive Bolsonaro campaign manipulative scams on WhatsApp – a tropical post-Cambridge Analytica saga; and even as Bolsonaro pledged, on the record, that opponents would have only two options after Sunday’s elections, jail or exile, that was still not enough to arrest Brazil from inexorably slouching towards a dystopian, militarized BET (Banana Evangelical Theocracy).

In any mature democracy a bunch of businessmen – via black accounting – financing a multi-tentacle fake news campaign on WhatsApp against the Workers’ Party and Lula’s candidate Haddad would qualify as a major scandal.

WhatsApp is wildly popular in Brazil, much more than Facebook; so it had to be properly instrumentalized in this Brazilian remix of Cambridge Analytica-style Hybrid War.

The tactics were absolutely illegal because they qualified as undeclared campaign donations as well as corporate donations (forbidden by the Brazilian Supreme Court since 2015). The Brazilian Federal Police started an investigation that now is bound to head the same way of the Saudis investigating themselves on the Pulp Fiction fiasco in Istanbul.

The fake news tsunami was managed by the so-called Bolsominions. They are a hyper-loyal volunteer army, which purges anyone who dares to question the “Myth” (as the leader is referred to), while manipulating content 24/7 into memes, viral fake videos and assorted displays of “Bolso-swarm” ire.

Consider Washington’s outrage at Russians that may have interfered in U.S. elections allegedly using the same tactics the U.S. and its comprador elites used in Brazil.

Smashing the BRICS

On foreign policy, as far as Washington is concerned, Reichskommissar Bolsonaro may be very useful on three fronts.

The first one is geo-economic: to get the lion’s share of the vast pre-salt reserves for U.S. energy giants.

That would be the requisite follow-up to the coup de grace against Dilma Rousseff in 2013, when she approved a law orienting 75 percent of oil wealth royalties towards education and 25 percent to health care; a significant U.S.$ 122 billion over 10 years.

The other two fronts are geopolitical: blowing up the BRICS from the inside, and getting Brazil to do the dirty work in a Venezuela regime change ops, thus fulfilling the Beltway obsession on smashing the Venezuela-Cuba axis.

Using the pretext of mass immigration from Venezuela to the Brazilian stretch of the Amazon, Colombia – elevated to the status of key NATO partner, and egged on by Washington – is bound to count on Brazilian military support for regime change.

And then there’s the crucial China story.

China and Brazil are close BRICS partners. BRICS by now essentially means RC (Russia and China), much to the disgust of Moscow and Beijing, which counted on Haddad following in the footsteps of Lula, who was instrumental in enhancing BRICS geopolitical clout.

That brings us to a key point of inflexion in the rolling Hybrid War coup, when the Brazilian military became convinced that Rousseff’s cabinet was infiltrated by agents of Chinese intel.

Still, China remains Brazil’s top trade partner – ahead of the U.S., with bilateral trade reaching $75 billion last year. In parallel to being an avid consumer of Brazilian commodities, Beijing has already invested $124 billion in Brazilian companies and infrastructure projects since 2003.

Chicago Boy Guedes has recently met with Chinese diplomats. Bolsonaro is bound to receive a top Chinese delegation right at the start of his mandate. On the campaign trail, he hammered that “China is not buying in Brazil, China is buying Brazil”. Bolsonaro might attempt to pull a mini-Trump sanction overdrive on China. Yet he must be aware that the powerful agribusiness lobby has been profiting immensely from the U.S.-China trade war.

A mighty cliffhanger is guaranteed to come at the 2019 BRICS summit, which will take place in Brazil: picture tough guy Bolsonaro face to face with the real boss, Xi Jinping.

So what is the Brazilian military really up to? Answer: the Brazilian “Dependency Doctrine” – which is a true neocolonial mongrel.

On one level, the Brazilian military leadership is developmentalist, geared towards territorial integration, well-patrolled borders and fully disciplined, internal, social and economic “order.” At the same time they believe this should all be carried out under the supervision of the “indispensable nation.”

The military leaders reason that their own country is not knowledgeable enough to fight organized crime, cyber-security, bio-security, and, on the economy, to fully master a minimal state coupled with fiscal reform and austerity. For the bulk of the military elite, private foreign capital is always benign.

An inevitable consequence is to see Latin American and African nations as untermenschen; a reaction against Lula’s and Dilma’s emphasis on the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and closer energy and logistical integration with Africa.

Can’t Rule Out Military Coup

Despite this there is internal military dissent – which could even open a possible way towards the removal of Bolsonaro, a mere puppet, to the benefit of the real thing: a general.

When the Workers’ Party was in power, the Navy and the Air Force were quite pleased by strategic projects such as a nuclear submarine, a supersonic fighter jet and satellites launched by Made in Brazil rockets. Their reaction remains to be seen in the event Bolsonaro ditches these techno-breakthroughs for good.

The key question may be whether there is a direct connection between the cream of the crop of Brazilian military academies; the “dependency generals” and their psyops techniques; different evangelical factions; and the post-Cambridge Analytica tactics deployed by the Bolsonaro campaign. Would it be a nebula congregating all these cells, or is it a loose network?

Arguably the best answer is provided by war anthropologist Piero Leirner, who conducted deep research in the Brazilian Armed Forces and told me, “there’s no previous connection. Bolsonaro is a post-fact. The only possible connection is between certain campaign traits and psyops.” Leirner stresses, “Cambridge Analytica and Bannon represent the infrastructure, but the quality of information, to send contradictory signals and then an order resolution coming as a third way, this is military strategy from CIA psyop manuals.”

There are cracks though. Leirner sees the arch of disparate forces supporting Bolsonaro as a “bricolage” which sooner or later will disintegrate. What next? A sub-Pinochet General?

Why Bolsonaro is not Trump

In The Road to Somewhere; The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics, David Goodhart shows that the driving force behind populism is not the fascist love of an ultra-nation. It’s anomie – that feeling of a vague existential threat posed by modernity. That applies to all forms of Right populism in the West.

Thus we have the opposition between “Somewheres” and “Anywheres”. We have “Somewheres” that want their nations’ democracy to be enjoyed only by the “home” ethnicity, with the national culture not contaminated by “foreign” influences.

And we have “Anywheres” who inhabit the roootless postmodern vortex of multiculturalism and foreign travel for business. These are a demographic minority – but a majority within political, economic, educational and professional elites.

This leads Goodhart to make a crucial distinction between populism and fascism – ideologically and psychologically.

The standard legal distinction can be found in German constitutional law. Right populism is “radical” – thus legal. Fascism is “extreme,” thus illegal.

Trump being labeled a “fascist” is false. Bolsonaro in the West has been labeled “The Tropical Trump.” The fact is Trump is a Right populist – who happens to deploy a few policies that could even be characterized as Old Left.

The record reveals Bolsonaro as a racist, misogynist, homophobic, weaponizing thug, favoring a white, patriarchal, hierarchical, hetero-normative and “homogenous” Brazil; an absurdity in a deeply unequal society still ravaged by the effects of slavery and where the majority of the population is mixed race. Besides, historically, fascism is a radical bourgeois Final Solution about total annihilation of the working class. That makes Bolsonaro an outright fascist.

Trump is even mode moderate than Bolsonaro. He does not incite supporters to literally exterminate his opponents. After all, Trump has to respect the framework of a republic with long-standing, even if flawed, democratic institutions.

That was never the case in the young Brazilian democracy – where a president may now behave as if human rights are a communist, and UN, plot. The Brazilian working classes, intellectual elites, social movements and all minorities have plenty of reasons to fear the New Order; in Bolsonaro’s own words, “they will be banned from our motherland.” The criminalization/dehumanization of any opposition means, literally, that tens of millions of Brazilians are worthless.

Talk to Nietzsche

The sophisticated Hybrid War rolling coup in Brazil that started in 2014, had a point of inflexion in 2016 and culminating in 2018 with impeaching a president; jailing another; smashing the Right and the Center-Right; and in a post-politics-on-steroids manner, opening the path to neo-fascism.

Bolsonaro though is a – mediocre – black void cipher. He does not have the political structure, the knowledge, not to mention the intelligence to have come so far, our of the blue, without a hyper-complex, state of the art, cross-border intel support system. No wonder he’s a Steve Bannon darling.

In contrast, the Left – as in Europe – once again was stuck in analog mode. No way any progressive front, especially in this case as it was constituted at the eleventh hour, could possibly combat the toxic tsunami of cultural war, identity politics and micro-targeted fake news.

They lost a major battle. At least they now know this is hardcore, all-out war. To destroy Lula – the world’s foremost political prisoner – the Brazilian elites had to destroy Brazil. Still, Nietzsche always prevails; whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The vanguard of global resistance against neo-fascism as the higher stage of neoliberalism has now moved south of the Equator. No pasarán.

Pepe Escobar, a veteran Brazilian journalist, is the correspondent-at-large for Hong Kong-based Asia Times. His latest book is 2030. Follow him on Facebook.

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Sex, Lies and Privilege: The Kavanaugh Case

The use of identity politics by establishment Democrats to obscure a violent and hegemonic foreign policy has led many clear-minded people to conflate the very real problem of sexual assault, with a liberal Democratic agenda, says Joe Lauria.

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

We may not learn anything new about the Brett Kavanaugh affair when the FBI finishes its week- long investigation. It may still ultimately come down to who you believe. But based on his performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh left few doubts about his fitness for the U.S. Supreme Court.

His tirade, crying, petty lies, interruptions of senators and demands they answer his questions—often about beer—and not theirs, showed Kavanaugh lacks the emotions and honesty to sit on a bench.

His blatant partisan attacks shattered the myth of impartial justices who just stick to the law.

Lawyers who stand before the Supreme Court are warned not to anger a justice, lest it override the merits of a case. Imagine being a Democrat and standing before Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

His performance was difficult to satirize. Saturday Night Live‘s routine is as troubling as what actually happened.

Brett the Belligerent

Kavanaugh stormed into the hearing with a strategy: go ballistic, deny everything and hope indignant outrage will carry the day. His supporters saw this as refreshing.

It’s said Donald Trump coached him. Trump has certainly created an atmosphere to enable such behavior, even in the Senate. Some Kavanaugh supporters like the frank talk as a repudiation of “aristocratic” speech by those in power.

With Republican votes in his vest pocket, Kavanaugh was free to shout down Democrats on the panel. It won’t go down as a great moment in U.S. Senate history:

(SEN. SHELDON) WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): So the vomiting that you reference in the Ralph Club reference, related to the consumption of alcohol?

KAVANAUGH: Senator, I was at the top of my class academically, busted my butt in school. Captain of the varsity basketball team. Got in Yale College. When I got into Yale College, got into Yale Law School. Worked my tail off.

WHITEHOUSE: And did the world “ralph” you used in your yearbook…

KAVANAUGH I already — I already answered…

WHITEHOUSE: … refer to alcohol?

KAVANAUGH … the question. If you’re…

WHITEHOUSE:: Did it relate to alcohol? You haven’t answered that.

KAVANAUGH I like beer. I like beer. I don’t know if you do…

WHITEHOUSE: OK.

KAVANAUGH … do you like beer, Senator, or not?

WHITEHOUSE: Um, next…

KAVANAUGH What do you like to drink?

WHITEHOUSE: Next one is…

KAVANAUGH Senator, what do you like to drink?

The word “beer” came up 53 times in the testimony. Kavanaugh badgered other senators about their drinking habits.

After his meltdown in the witness chair, a single senator raised what should have been obvious to all. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) asked Kavanaugh: “Is temperament also an important trait for us to consider?”

He uttered a muffled “Yes.” But he then launched into his filibustering. “So the answer is yes,” Hirono cut him off. “I am running out of time. You know, we only have five minutes, so let me get to something else,” which was: did Kavanaugh get belligerent when drunk?

No, he said. But he indeed showed how belligerent he could be when sober.

Brett the Partisan

In earlier testimony in September, Kavanaugh appeared the model of judicial restraint and non-partisanship. On Thursday he dropped all the pretenses.

This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit,” he said, “fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”

This is a circus,” Kavanaugh said. “The consequences will extend long past my nomination. The consequences will be with us for decades.” He then issued what can only be seen as a threat: “And as we all know, in the United States political system of the early 2000s, what goes around comes around.”

The judge’s outburst unleashed an attack from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the ranking member of the opposition party.

I hope the American people can see through this sham,” Graham screamed. “This is going to destroy the ability of good people to come forward because of this crap… If you vote no, you’re legitimizing the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics.”

And what would that be? The alleged Democratic conspiracy to use the alleged victim to smear Kavanaugh and derail his confirmation.

Feinstein said she tried to keep the name of Kavanaugh’s accuser secret. Her staff had not leaked her name, she said, leaving the accuser’s friends as the only ones who could have done it. After reporters had begun stalking the alleged victim, she went on the record.

The Democratic Party did not invent Christine Blasey Ford. Keeping her name confidential, the Democrats tried unsuccessfully to get the FBI to investigate.

Kavanaugh’s partisan background was revealed well before last Thursday’s hearing. For instance, David Brock, a former conservative and now Clinton operative, wrote on Sept. 7: ”Brett and I were part of a close circle of cold, cynical and ambitious hard-right operatives being groomed by GOP elders for much bigger roles in politics, government and media. And it’s those controversial associations that should give members of the Senate and the American public serious pause.”

As this close circle was watching Bill Clinton’s 1998 State of the Union address, Brock noticed than “when the TV camera panned to Hillary Clinton, I saw Brett — at the time a key lieutenant of Ken Starr, the independent counsel investigating various Clinton scandals — mouth the word ‘bitch.’”

In a rough division of labor,” within this group, Brock writes, “Kavanaugh played the role of lawyer — one of the sharp young minds recruited by the Federalist Society to infiltrate the federal judiciary with true believers.” That plan will succeed if he is confirmed.

Kavanaugh played another part in the Starr investigation. “Kavanaugh took on the role of designated leaker to the press of sensitive information from Starr’s operation,” said Brock, who opposes his nomination. “That critical flow of inside information allowed Starr, in effect, to set a perjury trap for Clinton, laying the foundation for a crazed national political crisis and an unjust impeachment over a consensual affair.”

Stirring up right-wing conspiracy theories was another of Kavanaugh’s tasks, Brock said. “A detailed analysis of Kavanaugh’s own notes from the Starr Investigation reveals he was cherry-picking random bits of information from the Starr investigation — as well as the multiple previous investigations — attempting vainly to legitimize wild right-wing conspiracies.”

In one of the biggest partisan, political footballs of the 1990s, Kavanaugh also represented, on a pro bono basis, six-year-old Elian Gonzalez after the Clinton administration’s Immigration and Naturalization Service decided to return him to Cuba.

It gets worse. Because of his work in the George W. Bush administration, Amnesty International called for a hold on Kavanaugh’s confirmationunless and until any information relevant to Kavanaugh’s possible involvement in human rights violations—including in relation to the U.S. government’s use of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, such as during the CIA detention program—is declassified and made public.”

Francis Boyle, an international law professor at the University of Illinois, said:

Contrary to the mantra that the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have it in for Kavanaugh, they’ve largely let him off the hook on a number of critical issues, instead favoring theatrics.”

“While there’s substantial attention being paid to the serious charges of sexual assault by Kavanaugh, there’s been very little note that he is a putative war criminal. Specifically, recently released documents show that while Kavanaugh worked for the George W. Bush administration, one of the people he attempted to put on the judiciary was John Yoo, who authored many of the justifications for torture that came out of the Bush administration.”

Brett the Liar 

After the hearing Hirono told CNN Kavanaugh hadn’t spoken the truth about witnesses at the party where his accuser testified he’d tried to rape her.

Kavanaugh denied the attack ever happened. He said the potential witnesses denied it happened too. In fact they said they didn’t recall it happening. Hirono said a judge should know the difference between denial and not knowing.

There were other fibs.

WHITEHOUSE: … Judge, have you — I don’t know if it’s “boufed” or “boofed” — how do you pronounce that?

KAVANAUGH: That refers to flatulence. We were 16.

WHITEHOUSE:: Devil’s triangle?

KAVANAUGH: Drinking game.

WHITEHOUSE: How’s it played?

KAVANAUGH Three glasses in a triangle.

WHITEHOUSE: And?

KAVANAUGH You ever played quarters?

WHITEHOUSE: No (ph).

KAVANAUGH: OK. It’s a quarters game.

Online “urban dictionaries” give quite different meanings to the terms “boofing” and “three glasses in a triangle.”

He claimed he had no connections to Yale, but apparently his grandfather went to Yale.

Smearing the Alleged Victim

The use of identity politics by establishment Democrats to obscure a violent and hegemonic foreign policy has led many otherwise clear-minded people to conflate the very real problem of sexual assault with a liberal Democratic agenda

That has led to facile belief in Kavanaugh’s rant that this is all a Democratic plot against him.

It is up to him to prove that. In the meantime, believing this to be only a political game makes it easy to dismiss what we know about how sexual assault victims remember, and react to their attacks. There is a big body of evidence about memory, and the reluctance to report such crimes.

Dr. Ford has at times been criticized for what she doesn’t remember from 36 years ago,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said at the hearing. “But we have numerous experts, including a study by the U.S. Army Military Police School of Behavioral Sciences Education, that lapses of memory are wholly consistent with severe trauma and stressful assault.”

Ford is being smeared on social media for supposedly making things up and for waiting too long to speak up. Being smeared is a principal fear that keeps victims silent.

Some of those questioning Ford’s memory have evidently never been sexually attacked.

I am not questioning it, because someone tried to sexually attack me. I was an altar boy at a parish church in the Bronx. After mass a certain priest would talk to me about religion. Then one time he gave me the wine to drink that was used in the ceremony. That led to him massaging my shoulders. Then one day he suddenly swooped down to kiss me on the lips and attempted to un-zip my trousers. I did not understand what it meant but I knew it was wrong. I immediately ran away, all the way back to my house across the street and quit being an altar boy. As we know today, many children have not been so lucky to escape the clutches of pedophile priests.

If you ask me how old I was I can’t remember. I may have been eight or nine or ten. I don’t remember what season it was. I can’t remember just about any other details. But I remember exactly what was done to me and the name of the person who did it. And that was more than 50 years ago.

So when Ford cannot recall the date or the exact place where she says she was attacked, it does not mean she wasn’t. People who ask why she waited 36 years, don’t understand the reluctance to report these crimes: many people won’t believe you and when they do, often blame the victim.

I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t think they’d believe that a priest was capable of such a thing. This was in the mid-1960s before the pedophile priests scandal had broken.

I remember this priest once joking that he wanted to be pope. In this fantasy if he had really been a candidate for pope years later I would have come forward, yes, out of a sense of civic duty. That’s what Ford said motivated her, despite the pain she knew she’d put herself through.

When the first stories of the priests scandals started to appear during the 1980s I told my family for the first time what had happened to me. One family member ridiculed me, laughing about me and the priest being a couple.

I do not feel traumatized by my experience and rarely think about it. But I was reminded of it as this story continues to dominate. And it gave me insights into Ford’s memory.

In contrast to Kavanaugh’s outbursts, she was composed, though shaken, as she spoke of what happened.

Had she or any woman at the hearing behaved liked Kavanaugh in that situation, she would of course have been immediately dismissed as lacking all credibility. The double standard was on full display. Kavanaugh carried on and he’s on the verge of a lifetime appointment. Had any of the five female senators in the room (all Democrats) behaved like Lindsey Graham, they would have put their political futures in jeopardy. 

There Goes the Judge

Democrats on the panel wasted much of their time trying to get Kavanaugh to call for an FBI investigation. He refused to. If he was as innocent as he professed, why should he worry?

Of all the witnesses the FBI is talking to, probably none is more important than Mark Judge, the Kavanaugh friend that Ford said was in the room during the alleged assault. The FBI began questioning Judge on Monday, according to his lawyer.

It was inexcusable, though perfectly understandable, that the Republican majority on the committee did not subpoena Judge. Instead he offered a statement, written by his lawyer, which he signed “under penalty of felony.”

Testifying to Congress under oath is under penalty of perjury. Lying to an FBI agent is a crime.

Judge’s statement said: “I have no memory of the alleged incident … I do not recall the party described in Dr. Ford’s letter. More to the point, I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes.”

Making a statement prepared by your lawyer is in no way the same as being examined by a senator or an FBI agent in which the subject’s memory can be probed and his answers questioned.

Yet Kavanaugh, a lawyer and federal judge who presumably knows these things, tried to palm off Judge’s letter as the same thing.

LEAHY: If she’s saying Mark Judge was in the room then, then he should be in the room here today. Would you want him called as a witness?

KAVANAUGH: Senator, this allegation came into the committee…

LEAHY: No, I’m just asking the question. Would you want him to be here as a witness?

KAVANAUGH: He’s — he’s already provided sworn testimony to the committee. This allegation’s been hidden by the committee…

LEAHY: Now, well…

KAVANAUGH: … by — by members of the…

LEAHY: … it hasn’t been — it has not been investigated by the FBI. The committee has refused to allow it to be.

KAVANAUGH: It was dropped on …

KAVANAUGH: … it was sprung.

LEAHY: It was not investigated by the FBI, and he has not been called where he might be under oath.

KAVANAUGH You see (ph) he’s provided sworn testimony and the…

LEAHY: He has — he has not…

KAVANAUGH … Senator — Senator, let me — let me finish. He — the — the allegation came in weeks ago and nothing was done with it by the ranking member.

And then it’s sprung on me…

Though the Republicans resisted it, bringing in the FBI, even for just a week, shows the country the Senate is doing its due diligence. If in the end the GOP confirms him, that will benefit the party. It’s amazing the Republicans resisted the FBI involvement for so long, as if  Kavanaugh has something to hide.

Entitlement

There are possibilities that Kavanaugh is not lying, but instead doesn’t remember the incident.

First, he was not a victim so he might well have forgotten it, especially if there were similar escapades at the numerous high school parties he attended.

Second, Ford was outside his circle of friends. He may not have known her name.

Third, he may have been so drunk that he didn’t remember what he did, which would mean he lied under oath that he was never so drunk that he couldn’t remember what he did.

His supporters are going on about “innocent until proven guilty.” But of course as many commentators have noted, this is not a court of law but a glorified job interview under oath. The reverse may well be true: he has to prove he has the character and qualifications for the job.

Kavanaugh came off like a very privileged white guy who went ballistic because he thinks someone without power is trying to stop him from a job he thinks he is owed and was groomed for.

It always comes down to power, doesn’t it?

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

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Coming Attraction: Lunatic Loose in West Wing

As Uber-Hawk John Bolton prepares to take over as national security adviser on Monday, Ray McGovern looks back at when Bolton was one of the “crazies” in the George W. Bush administration.

By Ray McGovern Special to Consortium News

John Bolton’s March 22 appointment-by-tweet as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser has given “March Madness” a new and ominous meaning.  There is less than a week left to batten down the hatches before Bolton makes U.S. foreign policy worse that it already is.

During a recent interview with The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill  (minutes 35 to 51) I mentioned that Bolton fits seamlessly into a group of take-no-prisoners zealots once widely known in Washington circles as “the crazies,” and now more commonly referred to as “neocons.”

Beginning in the 1970s, “the crazies” sobriquet was applied to Cold Warriors hell bent on bashing Russians, Chinese, Arabs — anyone who challenged U.S. “exceptionalism” (read hegemony).  More to the point, I told Scahill that President (and former CIA Director) George H. W. Bush was among those using the term freely, since it seemed so apt.  I have been challenged to prove it.

I don’t make stuff up.  And with the appointment of the certifiable Bolton, the “the crazies” have become far more than an historical footnote.  Rather, the crucible that Bush-41 and other reasonably moderate policymakers endured at their hands give the experience major relevance today.  Thus, I am persuaded it would be best not to ask people simply to take my word for it when I refer to “the crazies,” their significance, and the differing attitudes the two Bushes had toward them.

George H. W. Bush and I had a longstanding professional and, later, cordial relationship.  For many years after he stopped being president, we stayed in touch — mostly by letter.  This is the first time I have chosen to share any of our personal correspondence.  I do so not only because of the ominous importance of Bolton’s appointment, but also because I am virtually certain the elder Bush would want me to.

Scanned below is a note George H. W. Bush sent me eight weeks before his son, egged on by the same “crazies” his father knew well from earlier incarnations, launched an illegal and unnecessary war for regime change in Iraq — unleashing chaos in the Middle East.


Shut Out of the Media

By January 2003, it was clear that Bush-43 was about to launch a war of aggression — the crime defined by the post-WWII Nuremberg Tribunal as “the supreme international crime differing from other war crimes only in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”  (Think torture, for example.)  During most of 2002, several of us former intelligence analysts had been comparing notes, giving one another sanity checks, writing op-eds pointing to the flimsiness of the “intelligence” cobbled together to allege a weapons-of-mass-destruction “threat” from Iraq, and warning of the catastrophe that war on Iraq would bring.

Except for an occasional op-ed wedged into the Christian Science Monitor or the Miami Herald, for example, we were ostracized from “mainstream media.”  The New York Times and Washington Post were on a feeding frenzy from the government trough and TV pundits were getting high ratings by beating the drum for war.  Small wonder the entire media was allergic to what we were saying, despite our many years of experience in intelligence analysis.  Warnings to slow down and think were the last thing wanted by those already profiteering from a war on the near horizon.

The challenge we faced was how to get through to President George W. Bush.  It had become crystal clear that the only way to do that would be to do an end run around “the crazies” — the criminally insane advisers that his father knew so well — Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and Undersecretary of State John Bolton.

Bolton: One of the Crazies

John Bolton was Cheney’s “crazy” at the State Department.  Secretary Colin Powell was pretty much window dressing.  He could be counted on not to complain loudly — much less quit — even if he strongly suspected he was being had.  Powell had gotten to where he was by saluting sharply and doing what superiors told him to do.  As secretary of state, Powell was not crazy — just craven.  He enjoyed more credibility than the rest of the gang and rather than risk being ostracized like the rest of us, he sacrificed that credibility on the altar of the “supreme international crime.”

In those days Bolton did not hesitate to run circles around — and bully
— the secretary of state and many others.  This must be considered a harbinger of things to come, starting on Monday, when the bully comes to the china shop in the West Wing.  While longevity in office is not the

hallmark of the Trump administration, even if Bolton’s tenure turns out to be short-lived, the crucial months immediately ahead will provide Bolton with ample opportunity to wreak the kind of havoc that “the crazies” continue to see as enhancing U.S. — and not incidentally — Israeli influence in the Middle East.  Bear in mind, Bolton still says the attack on Iraq was a good idea.  And he is out to scuttle the landmark agreement that succeeded in preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon any time soon.

Trying to Head Off War

In August 2002, as the Bush-43 administration and U.S. media prepared the country for war on Iraq, the elder Bush’s national security advisor, Gen. Brent Scowcroft, and Secretary of State James Baker each wrote op-eds in an attempt to wean the younger Bush off the “crazies’” milk.  Scowcroft’s Wall Street Journal op-ed of August 15 was as blunt as its title, “Don’t Attack Saddam.” The cautionary thrust of Baker’s piece in the New York Times ten days later, was more diplomatic but equally clear.

But these interventions, widely thought to have been approved by Bush-41, had a predictable opposite effect on the younger Bush, determined as he was to become the “first war president of the 21st Century” (his words).  It is a safe bet also that Cheney and other “crazies” baited him with, “Are you going to let Daddy, who doesn’t respect ANY of us, tell you what to do?”

All attempts to insert a rod into the wheels of the juggernaut heading downhill toward war were looking hopeless, when a new idea occurred.  Maybe George H. W. Bush could get through to his son.  What’s to lose?  On January 11, 2003 I wrote a letter to the elder Bush asking him to speak “privately to your son George about the crazies advising him on Iraq,” adding “I am aghast at the cavalier way in which the [Richard] Perles of the Pentagon are promoting the use of nuclear weapons as an acceptable option against Iraq.”

My letter continued: “That such people have the President’s ear is downright scary.  I think he needs to know why you exercised such care to keep such folks at arms length.  (And, as you may know, they are exerting unrelenting pressure on CIA analysts to come up with the “right” answers.  You know how that goes!)”

In the letter I enclosed a handful of op-eds that I had managed to get past 2nd-tier mainstream media censors. In those writings, I was much more pointed in my criticism of the Bush/Cheney administration’s approach to Iraq than Scowcroft and Baker had been in August 2002.

Initially, I was encouraged at the way the elder Bush began his January 22, 2003 note to me: “It is only ‘meet and right’ that you speak out.”  As I read on, however, I asked myself how he could let the wish be father to the thought, so to speak.  (Incidentally, “POTUS” in his note is the acronym for “President of the United States;” number 43, of course, was George Jr.)

The elder Bush may not have been fully conscious of it, but he was whistling in the dark, having long since decided to leave to surrogates like Scowcroft and Baker the task of highlighting publicly the criminal folly of attacking Iraq.  The father may have tried privately; who knows.  It was, in my view, a tragedy that he did not speak out publicly.  He would have been very well aware that this was the only thing that would have had a chance of stopping his son from committing what the Nuremberg Tribunal defined as “the supreme international crime.”

It is, of couse, difficult for a father to admit that his son fell under the influence — this time not alcohol or drugs, but rather the at least equally noxious demonic influence of “the crazies,” which Billy Graham himself might have found beyond his power to exorcise.  Maybe it is partly because I know the elder Bush personally, but it does strike me that, since we are all human, some degree of empathy might be in order. I simply cannot imagine what it must be like to be a former President with a son, also a former President, undeniably responsible for such widespread killing, injury and abject misery.

Speaking Out — Too Late

It was a dozen years too late, but George H.W. Bush finally did give voice to his doubts about the wisdom of rushing into the Iraq War.  In Jon Meacham’s biography, “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush,” the elder Bush puts most of the blame for Iraq on his son’s “iron-ass” advisers, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, while at the same time admitting where the buck stops.  With that Watergate-style “modified, limited hangout,” and his (richly deserved) criticism of his two old nemeses, Bush-41 may be able to live more comfortably with himself, hoping to get beyond what I believe must be his lingering regret at not going public when that might have stopped “arrogant” Rumsfeld and “hardline” Cheney from

inflicting their madness on the Middle East.  No doubt he is painfully aware that he was one of the very few people who might have been able to stop the chaos and carnage, had he spoken out publicly.

Bush-41’s not-to-worry note to me had the opposite effect with those of us CIA alumni alarmed at the gathering storm and the unconscionable role being played by those of our former CIA colleagues still there in manufacturing pre-Iraq-war “intelligence.”  We could see what was going on in real time; we did not have to wait five years for the bipartisan conclusions of a five-year Senate Intelligence Committee investigation.  Introducing its findings, Chairman Jay Rockefeller said: “In making the case for war, the Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent.”

Back to January 2003: a few days after I received President Bush’s not-to-worry note of January 22, 2003, a handful of us former senior CIA officials went forward with plans to create Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).  We had been giving one another sanity checks before finalizing draft articles about the scarcely believable things we were observing — including unmistakable signs that our profession of intelligence analysis was being prostituted.  On the afternoon of February 5, 2003, after Powell misled the UN Security Council, we issued our first (of three) VIPS Memoranda for the President before the war. We graded Powell “C” for content, and warned President George W. Bush, in effect, to beware “the crazies,” closing with these words:

“After watching Secretary Powell today, we are convinced that you would be well served if you widened the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”

Team B

When Gerald Ford assumed the presidency in August 1974, the White House was a center of intrigue.  Serving as Chief of Staff for President Ford, Donald Rumsfeld (1974-75), with help from Dick Cheney (1975-76), engineered Bush’s nomination to become CIA Director.  This was widely seen as a cynical move to take Bush out of contention for the Republican ticket in 1976 and possibly beyond, since the post of CIA director was regarded as a dead-end job and, ideally, would keep you out of politics. (Alas, this did not turn out the way Rumsfeld expected — damn those “unknown unknowns.”)

If, at the same time, Rumsfeld and Cheney could brand GHW Bush soft on communism and brighten the future for the Military-Industrial Complex, that would put icing on the cake.  Rumsfeld had been making evidence-impoverished speeches at the time, arguing that the Soviets were ignoring

the AMB Treaty and other arms control arrangements and were secretly building up to attack the United States. He and the equally relentless Paul Wolfowitz were doing all they could to create a much more alarming picture of the Soviet Union, its intentions, and its views about fighting and winning a nuclear war.  Sound familiar?

Bush arrived at CIA after U.S.-Soviet detente had begun to flourish.  The cornerstone Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty was almost four years old and had introduced the somewhat mad but stabilizing reality of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).  Crazies and neocons alike lived in desperate fear of losing their favorite enemy, the USSR.  Sound familiar?

Bush was CIA Director for the year January 1976 to January 1977, during which I worked directly for him.  At the time, I was Acting National Intelligence Officer for Western Europe where post-WWII certainties were unravelling and it was my job to get intelligence community-wide assessments to the White House — often on fast breaking events.  We almost wore out what was then the latest technology — the “LDX” (for Long Distance Xerography) machine — sending an unprecedentedly high number of “Alert Memoranda” from CIA Headquarters to the White House.  (“LDX,” of course, is now fax; there was no Internet.)

As ANIO, I also chaired National Intelligence Estimates on Italy and Spain.  As far as I could observe from that senior post, Director Bush honored his incoming pledge not to put any political gloss on the judgments of intelligence analysts.

Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, of course, had made no such pledge.  They persuaded President Ford to set up a “Team B” analysis, contending that CIA and intelligence community analyses and estimates were naively rosy.  Bush’s predecessor as CIA director, William Colby, had turned the proposal down flat, but he had no political ambitions.  I suspect Bush, though, saw a Rumsfeld trap to color him soft on the USSR.  In any case, against the advice of virtually all intelligence professionals, Bush succumbed to the political pressure and acquiesced in the establishment of a Team B to do alternative analyses.  No one was surprised that these painted a much more threatening and inaccurate picture of Soviet strategic intentions.

Paul Warnke, a senior official of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency at the time of Team B, put it this way:

“Whatever might be said for evaluation of strategic capabilities by a group of outside experts, the impracticality of achieving useful results by ‘independent’ analysis of strategic objectives should have been self-evident. Moreover, the futility of the Team B enterprise was assured by the selection of the panel’s members. Rather than including a diversity of views … the Strategic Objectives Panel was composed entirely of individuals who made careers of viewing the Soviet menace with alarm.”

The fact that Team B’s conclusions were widely regarded as inaccurate did not deter Rumsfeld.  He went about promoting them as valid and succeeded in undermining arms control efforts for the next several years. Two days before Jimmy Carter’s inauguration Rumsfeld fired his parting shot, saying, “No doubt exists about the capabilities of the Soviet armed forces” and that those capabilities “indicate a tendency toward war fighting … rather than the more modish Western models of deterrence through mutual vulnerability.”

GHW Bush in the White House

When George H. W. Bush came into town as vice president, he got President Reagan’s permission to be briefed with “The President’s Daily Brief” and I became a daily briefer from 1981 to 1985.  That job was purely substantive.  Even so, my colleagues and I have been very careful to regard those conversations as sacrosanct, for obvious reasons.  By the time he became president in 1989, he had come to know, all too well, “the crazies” and what they were capable of.  Bush’s main political nemesis, Donald Rumsfeld, could be kept at bay, and other “crazies” kept out of the most senior posts — until Bush the younger put them in positions in which they could do serious damage.  John Bolton had been enfant terrible on arms control, persuading Bush-43 to ditch the ABM Treaty.  On Monday, he can be expected to arrive at the West Wing with his wrecking ball.

Even Jimmy Carter Speaks Out

Given how difficult Rumsfeld and other hardliners made it for President Carter to work with the Russians on arms control, and the fact that Bolton

has been playing that role more recently, Jimmy Carter’s comments on Bolton — while unusually sharp — do not come as a complete surprise.  Besides, experience has certainly shown how fo

olish it can be to dismiss out of hand what former presidents say about their successors’ appointments to key national security positions.  This goes in spades in the case of John Bolton.

Just three days after Bolton’s appointment, the normally soft-spoken Jimmy Carter became plain-spoken/outspoken Jimmy Carter, telling USA Today that the selection of Bolton “is a disaster for our country.”  When asked what advice he would give Trump on North Korea, for example, Carter said his “first advice” would be to fire Bolton.

In sum, if you asked Bush-41, Carter’s successor as president, how he would describe John Bolton, I am confident he would lump Bolton together with those he called “the crazies” back in the day, referring to headstrong ideologues adept at blowing things up — things like arms agreements negotiated with painstaking care, giving appropriate consideration to the strategic views of adversaries and friends alike. Sadly, “crazy” seems to have become the new normal in Washington, with warmongers and regime-changers like Bolton in charge, people who have not served a day in uniform and have no direct experience of war other than starting them.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  He served as an Army Infantry/Intelligence officer and then as a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years.  In January 2003, he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) and still serves on its Steering Group.




Trump Finds Fellow Bully in Bolton

President Donald Trump’s appointment of John Bolton as his national security adviser is his most dangerous move yet, argues Marjorie Cohn.

By Marjorie Cohn

Nothing Donald Trump has done since his inauguration 14 months ago is more dangerous – to the United States, and indeed, to the world – than his selection of John Bolton for National Security Adviser. It is not surprising the president would feel most comfortable receiving advice from a fellow bully.

Trump bullies people on a nearly daily basis, directing his ire at immigrants, Muslims, women, LBGTQ people, the poor and the environment. He hurls Twitter attacks at those who disagree with him.

The president has encouraged police brutality, suggesting in a Long Island speech that law enforcement officers bang suspects’ heads against police car doors. “Please don’t be too nice” when arresting people, Trump advised. “Like when you guys put somebody in the car, and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put your hand over” their head, “I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?’”

After being told someone might throw tomatoes at him at a campaign rally, Trump urged his supporters to “knock the crap out of them … I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.” He stated on Fox News that a Black Lives Matter activist who was attacked at a Trump rally “should have been roughed up.”

Trump’s fellow bully Bolton also engages in abusive behavior. Melody Townsel, working on a USAID project in Kyrgyzstan, became the object of Bolton’s wrath in 1994. Townsel had complained about incompetence, poor contract performance and inadequate funding of the project by a contractor Bolton represented.

In a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Townsel wrote that Bolton “proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door, and generally behaving like a madman.” Townsel claimed Bolton threatened employees and contractors who refused to cooperate with him. She maintained Bolton’s behavior “wasn’t just unforgivable, it was pathological.”

Carl W. Ford, former Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research, and a conservative Republican, called Bolton a “kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy” who “abuses his authority with little people,” characterizing him as a “serial abuser.” Bolton chairs the Gatestone Institute, which publishes hateful, racist anti-Muslim rhetoric, calling refugees rapists and hosts of infectious diseases.

Bolton was such a lightning rod that in 2005, even the GOP-controlled Senate refused to confirm him as US ambassador to the United Nations. To avoid the need for Senate confirmation, George W. Bush named Bolton to the post in a recess appointment.

But Bolton doesn’t just bully individuals. He pushed for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, advocates military attacks on North Korea and Iran, favors Israel’s annexation of the Palestinian West Bank, and falsely claimed that Cuba had biological weapons.

As undersecretary of state for Arms Control and International Security in the Bush administration, Bolton was instrumental in withdrawing the United States from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which heightened the risk of nuclear war with Russia.

Anthony J. Blinken, deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration, wrote in The New York Times, “Mr. Bolton had a habit of twisting intelligence to back his bellicosity and sought to remove anyone who objected.”

Colin Kahl and Jon Wolf, writing in Foreign Policy, described Bolton’s “pattern of warping and misusing intelligence to build the case for war with rogue states; a disdain for allies and multilateral institutions; a blind faith in US military power and the benefits of regime change; and a tendency to see the ends as justifying the means, however horrific.”

When he left his position at USAID in the late 1980s, Bolton’s colleagues presented him with a bronzed hand grenade.

Bolton Eschews Diplomacy and Slams the UN

Bolton sees every international situation as an opportunity to make war, notwithstanding the United Nations Charter that mandates the peaceful resolution of disputes and forbids military force except in self-defense.

After two world wars claimed millions of lives, countries around the globe – including the United States – came together and established the United Nations system, “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”

Yet in 1994, Bolton famously claimed, “there is no such thing as the United Nations.” He stated caustically, “If the UN Secretariat building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”

When Bolton officially withdrew the US signature from the International Criminal Court treaty, he declared it “the happiest moment of my government service.”

Bolton Led the Charge to Invade Iraq

Bolton led the charge to invade Iraq and forcibly change its regime in 2003, falsely claiming that President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In 2002, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter affirmed that Hussein had destroyed 90-95% of its WMD; the remaining 5%, Ritter said, “doesn’t even constitute a weapons program . . . just because we can’t account for it doesn’t mean Iraq retains it. There’s no evidence Iraq retains this material.”

To bolster the case for war, Bolton pushed Bush to include in his State of the Union address the false statement that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger, over the objection of the State Department.

Before the US invaded Iraq, Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said there was no evidence Hussein had any viable nuclear program. Hans Blix, chief inspector of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, verified that weapons inspectors had found no evidence of WMD.

In 2002, Bolton orchestrated the ouster of Jose Bustani, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, to prevent him from inspecting and revealing that Hussein had no chemical weapons. When Bustani argued he should stay in the post, Bolton threatened, “You have to be ready to face the consequences, because we know where your kids live.”

No WMD were found after the US invasion of Iraq. Some one million Iraqis were killed and the US-led regime change led to a vacuum of leadership that was filled by ISIS.

A 2006 report prepared under the direction of former Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) concluded that “members of the Bush Administration misstated, overstated, and manipulated intelligence with regards to linkages between Iraq and Al Qaeda; the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iraq; the acquisition of aluminum tubes to be used as uranium centrifuges; and the acquisition of uranium from Niger.”

Those “misstatements were in contradiction of known countervailing intelligence information, and were the result of political pressure and manipulation.” A key source of that pressure and manipulation was Bolton.

In spite of the horror the US military unleashed on Iraq 15 years ago, Bolton wrote in 2016 that the removal of Hussein was “a military success of stunning scope and effectiveness, achieved in just three weeks.”

After the disastrous US invasion of Iraq, Bolton tried to get the Iran file removed from ElBaradei in order to lay the groundwork for an unjustified attack on Iran.

Bolton Wants to Rip Up the Iran Nuclear Agreement

Bolton favors bombing Iran and changing its regime and he opposes the Iran Nuclear Agreement. He has advocated an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities and encouraged the United States to support it.

In the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran agreed to cut back its nuclear program and in return, received billions of dollars of relief from punishing sanctions. Iran has complied with its obligations under the deal, says a bipartisan group of over 100 national security veterans called the National Coalition to Prevent Nuclear Weapons.

Under the US Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the president must decide every 90 days whether Iran remains in compliance with the JCPOA and whether the agreement continues to serve US interests. Trump reluctantly certified Iran’s compliance in April and July 2017. But in October, to the consternation of his secretary of state, secretary of defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Trump refused to certify Iran’s compliance with the agreement. He did not, however, pull out of the deal at that time.

On May 12, Trump will decide whether or not to end US participation in the agreement. Bolton and CIA director Mike Pompeo, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, both favor renouncing the deal. If the US breaches the agreement, Iran may well resume the unlimited production of nuclear fuel.

“Bolton is an unhinged advocate for waging World War III,” according to Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council. “Bolton now represents the greatest threat to the United States,” he added, stating, “Trump may have just effectively declared war on Iran.”

Bolton Wants to Attack North Korea

In February, contrary to the overwhelming weight of legal authority, Bolton argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that mounting a first strike on North Korea would comply with international law.

Bolton stated on Fox News, “I think the only diplomatic option left is to end the regime in North Korea by effectively having the South take it over.” During another Fox appearance, Bolton declared, “the way you eliminate the North Korean nuclear program is to eliminate North Korea.” He maintained that North Korea having nuclear weapons was worse than the “millions” of North and South Koreans who would be killed if the US attacked North Korea.

If Trump destroys the Iran deal, it will send a dangerous message to Pyongyang that his word cannot be trusted. North and South Korea are slated to meet in April and Trump has indicated he will meet with North Korean President Kim Jong-Un. Diplomacy at this moment is critical.

Bolton has provocatively suggested a linkage between Iran and North Korea on nuclear weapons. In January, he wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Little is known, at least publicly, about longstanding Iranian-North Korean cooperation on nuclear and ballistic-missile technology. It is foolish to play down Tehran’s threat because of Pyongyang’s provocations. They are two sides of the same coin.”

The dangers inherent in following Bolton’s favored policies in Iran and North Korea cannot be overestimated.

Bolton Falsely Claimed Cuba Had Biological Weapons

Bolton argued unsuccessfully for the inclusion of Cuba in Bush’s “axis of evil” (which consisted of Iraq, Iran and North Korea). Bolton advocated a military attack on Cuba one year before Bush invaded Iraq. After Bolton falsely claimed Cuba was developing a bio-warfare capacity, a congressional investigation found no evidence to support such an allegation.

As Nicole Deller and John Burroughs from the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy have documented, Bolton is widely credited with the defeat of the Protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention, which would have created an inspection system to protect us against those deadly weapons.

Bolton Wants to Give “Pieces” of Palestine to Jordan and Egypt

Bolton’s solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to give “pieces” of Gaza to Egypt and “pieces” of the West Bank to Jordan since, he thinks, Palestine is composed of “bits and pieces” of the former Ottoman Empire.

In January, Bolton wrote in The Hill: “Once it becomes clear the two-state solution is finally dead, Jordan should again be asked to exercise control over suitably delineated portions of the West Bank and have the monarchy’s religious role for holy sites like the Temple Mount reaffirmed. Accepting Jordan’s sovereignty would actually benefit Palestinians, as would Egyptian sovereignty over Gaza, by tying these areas into viable, functioning states, not to the illusion of ‘Palestine.’”

Neither Jordan nor Egypt supports this proposal, and Palestinians are vehemently opposed to it. Jewish Voice for Peace stated, “The appointment of Bolton is a complete disaster for the Middle East, the US, and the entire world.”

Bolton’s Appointment is “a Disaster for Our Country”

The National Security Adviser’s job is to inform the president of the different options that affect national security, briefing him on the National Security Council’s findings. Bolton is such an ideologue, he will invariably slant his advice toward waging war. Bolton is so extreme, he reportedly promised Trump he “wouldn’t start any wars” if appointed, according to CNN. In light of Trump’s aversion to reading daily intelligence reports, Bolton will play an even greater role in the formulation of policy.

Unfortunately, National Security Adviser is not a cabinet position, so Bolton doesn’t need Senate confirmation.

Former President Jimmy Carter said in an interview with USA Today that Bolton’s appointment is “a disaster for our country,” adding it may be “one of the worst mistakes” of the Trump presidency.

But as Stormy Daniels and Robert Mueller close in on Trump, the president will seek to create a major distraction. With bully Bolton egging him on, that may well be a military attack on North Korea or Iran. The consequences would prove disastrous.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. She is the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law, and her latest book, Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues, was recently published in a second, updated edition. See http://marjoriecohn.com/.




The Bolton Appointment: How Scared Should We Be?

Exclusive: Donald Trump’s appointment of war hawk John Bolton is a cause for concern, Daniel Lazare writes, but what is perhaps an even bigger concern is that both major U.S. political parties are dominated by war hawks.

By Daniel Lazare

John Bolton is a hawk’s hawk, a militarist who never saw a U.S. war of aggression he didn’t like. The best thing one can say about his appointment as national security adviser is that Trump will probably ignore him the way he does all his other advisers and fire him six months down the road. If so, the sky won’t fall right away. But make no mistake – it will soon.

Rarely has war fever in Washington been deeper and more broad-based.  Everybody’s jumping on board – liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, human-rights advocates and neoconservatives. With the 2018 midterms fast approaching, it seems that the only choice voters will have is between a military conflict from column A and one from column B.  Which will it be – the clash with Putin that liberals are talking themselves into? Or the showdown with Iran that Bolton has long advocated?

It’s a choice between cyanide and arsenic. One moment, Trump is threatening “Little Rocket Man” Kim Jong Un with “fire and fury” while, in the next, the New York Times is demanding that he take off the gloves with regard to the Kremlin. The title of a Times editorial on Friday, March 15, said it all: “Finally, Trump Has Something Bad to Say About Russia.”

It blasted the Orange-Haired One for being slow to impose sanctions in retaliation “for the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election” – still unproven, by the way – and of holding off “for reasons that have never been made completely clear.” This last point was rich considering how often the Times denounces Trump as a “Siberian candidate” that Russia installed in the White House to do its bidding. The editorial slammed Putin as “an authoritarian leader” who “has paid little or no price for his aggressions” in Syria and the Crimea, and it predicted that the Russian president “won’t stop until he knows that the United States will stand up to him and work with its allies to impose stronger financial and diplomatic measures to rein him in.”

If financial and diplomatic measures don’t work, what then – military force? Five days later, Editorial Page Editor James Bennet issued another schoolyard taunt, this time an editorial entitled, “Why Is Trump So Afraid of Russia?” The occasion was a remark that ex-CIA Director John Brennan had just made on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: “I think he’s afraid of the president of Russia. …  The Russians, I think, have had long experience with Mr. Trump and may have things they could expose.”  (Quote begins at 5:05.)  The comment was an excuse for yet more Times paranoia:

“The possibility that Mr. Putin could have some hold on the American president has lurked in the background over the past year as Mr. Trump displayed a mystifying affection for the Russian leader and ignored or excused his aggressive behavior and nefarious activities, most important, his interference in the 2016 campaign, a subject of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.”

Of course, it’s a subject of Mueller’s investigation, and it will continue to be so as long as Congress gives him carte blanche to look for dirt wherever he pleases, regardless of whether it has anything to do with Russian collusion or not.  The editorial then went at Trump once again for the sin of insufficient hostility: “…it’s hard to see how praising and appeasing a bully will advance American interests.  That’s not the approach Mr. Trump has taken with adversaries like North Korea or Iran, or, for that matter, even with some allies.”

“If Mr. Trump isn’t Mr. Putin’s lackey,” it concluded, “it’s past time for him to prove it” – perhaps by threatening to incinerate Moscow the way he has threatened Pyongyang.

The relationship between adolescent rhetoric like this and Trump’s decision to bring semi-fascists like Bolton and Tea Partier Mike Pompeo on board is clear. The more the Times, not to mention the Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, and others, taunt him as soft on Russia, the more he taunts them right back for being soft on Iran and then adopts confrontational tactics to demonstrate his own machismo.

Bolton is the latest example of where such tit-for-tat madness is leading. The former U.S. ambassador to the UN is famous as an opponent of the 2015 Iran nuclear accord and advocate of Iranian regime change. On this, he and Trump see eye to eye, which suggests that years of fist-shaking may finally give way to something more concrete, like cruise missiles and bunker-busting bombs.

With Pompeo as secretary of state, Trita Parsi, leader of the National Iranian American Council, tweets that “Trump is assembling a WAR CABINET” – and the judgment may well be on the mark. If so, Tehran will undoubtedly respond by shoring up its defenses along the “Shi‘ite crescent” stretching across Iraq and Syria to Lebanon.  The Arab gulf states will ratchet up their anti-Shi‘ite sectarianism while Turkey and Israel may conclude that it’s now open season on Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and likewise send in the bombers and troops.

After a momentary lull, the effect will be to thrust the region into yet another round of war, one even bigger and more ferocious than the last. All the usual horrors will ensue – refugees, terrorism, social collapse, and renewed xenophobia in Europe and the US.

But Iran is where things get complicated. It’s allied with Russia while both states are allied with Assad, whom Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Barack Obama spent years trying to topple. Trump opposes the 2015 Iran accord but wants to make nice with Putin, while liberals back the agreement while at the same time viewing the Russian president as the devil incarnate even though he helped negotiate it. Their neocon allies are meanwhile hostile to all three.

Chuck Schumer, leader of the glorious anti-Trump #Resistance in the Senate, voted against the Iran agreement, as did fellow New York Democrat Eliot L. Engel in the House. William Kristol, leader of the never-Trump neocons, campaigned against it along with fellow neocon Trump-basher Max Boot.

So the more Trump moves against Iran and Syria, the more divisions are likely to emerge in the anti-Trump camp between neocons who see nothing wrong with confronting Tehran and liberals who would be more comfortable with a stepped-up military response in the eastern Ukraine. Regardless of where it takes place, war will grow more likely rather than less. Bernie Sanders may finally speak out against such spiraling levels of insanity, but it will be too little too late.

John Bolton is without doubt a dangerous man. Not only did he champion the war against Saddam Hussein, but, even before U.S. troops had set foot in Iraq, he told Israeli leaders that the next step would be to take out Syria, Iran, and North Korea, a goal he has pursued with single-minded consistency ever since. For Bolton, the aim is to create a growing cascade of Third World wars so as to propel the U.S. into a position as unchallenged military dictator of the entire globe.  The more numerous the conflicts, the more he’s convinced that the U.S. will come up on top.

The problem though is that Democrats have been no less bellicose. Breaking ranks with Democrats like Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis, Bill Clinton set the pace in 1984 by allowing the Arkansas National Guard to be transferred to Honduras in support of Ronald Reagan’s regime-change efforts in neighboring Nicaragua.  Democrats supported George Bush Sr.’s invasion of Panama in late 1989 and the 1990-91 Gulf War too. As president, Bill Clinton launched round-the-clock air attacks on the Balkans while Hillary championed the post-9/11invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Clinton, Obama, and John Kerry upped the ante even more after the 2011 Arab Spring by launching a bombing campaign that reduced Libya to anarchy and spending billions more to do the same to Syria.

The former has been set back generations as Al Qaeda and ISIS-linked Islamist militias battle one another in the streets, black African migrants are bought and sold as slaves, and women are subjected to draconian Saudi-like restrictions. According to the World Bank, Syria has suffered an estimated $226 billion in war damage, a staggering sum for a country of 21 million people with a per-capita income as of 2010 of just $1,700.

The problem with Washington is that it doesn’t have one war party, but two. The more they go at one another, the more they export America’s domestic chaos overseas in the form of Third World military conflict. Could it be that America is turning into the biggest failed state of them all?

Daniel Lazare is the author of The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy (Harcourt Brace, 1996) and other books about American politics. He has written for a wide variety of publications from The Nation to Le MondeDiplomatique, and his articles about the Middle East, terrorism, Eastern Europe, and other topics appear regularly on such websites as Jacobin and The American Conservative.