TBR News June 2, 2016

Jun 02 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. June 2, 2016: “It is interesting to note that as much as Muslim militants hate both the United States and Israel, there have been no acts of terrorism in those countries. (/11 was indeed a Saudi operation but it was done with the connivance of top Republicans to attempt to guarantee a firm lock on the population. IS is funded by Saudi Arabia to facilitate their construction of a Sunni religious empire so perhaps therein lies an answer. The United States is Saudi Arabia’s best oil customer and Israel has strong political ties with the United States.”


The Müller Washington Journals   1948-1951

At the beginning of December, 1948, a German national arrived in Washington, D.C. to take up an important position with the newly-formed CIA. He was a specialist on almost every aspect of Soviet intelligence and had actively fought them, both in his native Bavaria where he was head of the political police in Munich and later in Berlin as head of Amt IV of the State Security Office, also known as the Gestapo.

His name was Heinrich Müller.

Even as a young man, Heini Müller had kept daily journals of his activities, journals that covered his military service as a pilot in the Imperial German air arm and an apprentice policeman in Munich. He continued these journals throughout the war and while employed by the top CIA leadership in Washington, continued his daily notations.

This work is a translation of his complete journals from December of 1948 through September of 1951.

When Heinrich Müller was hired by the CIA¹s station chief in Bern, Switzerland, James Kronthal in 1948, he had misgivings about working for his former enemies but pragmatism and the lure of large amounts of money won him over to what he considered to be merely an extension of his life-work against the agents of the Comintern. What he discovered after living and working in official Washington for four years was that the nation¹s capital was, in truth, what he once humorously claimed sounded like a cross between a zoo and a lunatic asylum. His journals, in addition to personal letters, various reports and other personal material, give a very clear, but not particularly flattering, view of the inmates of both the zoo and the asylum.

Müller moved, albeit very carefully, in the rarefied atmosphere of senior policy personnel, military leaders, heads of various intelligence agencies and the White House itself. He was a very observant, quick-witted person who took copious notes of what he saw. This was not a departure from his earlier habits because Heinrich Müller had always kept a journal, even when he was a lowly Bavarian police officer, and his comments about personalities and events in the Third Reich are just as pungent and entertaining as the ones he made while in America.

The reason for publishing this phase of his eventful life is that so many agencies in the United States and their supporters do not want to believe that a man of Müller¹s position could ever have been employed by their country in general or their agency in specific.

Saturday, 6 May 1950

Truman has reluctantly agreed to release a number of security files concerning various State Department officials. There have been some problems with McCarthy and the figures he released earlier about known communists in that department. The problem with M. is that he is not always entirely sober and he changes his stories from day to day. Here I had given him very concrete information about known and proven communist agents working, or at least assigned, to the State Department and he has made a terrible mess of the matter by simply forgetting the facts. His figures go up or down depending on how far he has progressed into his daily bottle.

I had a very nice note today from Heini Schumacher in Germany, congratulating me on my birthday last month.

Müller was born in Munich, 28 April 1900

Also made a number of sarcastic remarks about British Intelligence who have been speaking with him about me. They wanted me to work for them and initially confused Heini with Dr. Hans S. of the RSHA! I think they wanted his services too!

Heinrich Schumacher, former SS-Untersturmführer and member of the Gestapo, worked in Müller’s private office from 1939 to 1945. Dr. Hans Schumacher was an SS-Sturmbannführer in the SS Main Security Office.

My, we are all so much in demand these days, aren’t we? The Russians have acquired a number of my men, the CIA has grabbed off a whole train full, CIC has more and MI 6 has the rest. As long as no one can prove a Gestapo man shoved Jews into the coke ovens at Auschwitz then he is home free. Sometimes when I get together at home here with some of my old fellows and the beer and sausage is much in evidence, it’s just like a Lokal in Munich or Berlin.

Heini is doing very well and maybe I can bring him over here one of these days.

Also a note from my father who is also doing fairly well. Since my mother died three years ago, he is still sad. Also, the Americans keep trying to interview him about me that shows how stupid these people can be. He’s still going strong at seventy-five which bodes well for me.

 Müller’s father, Alois, was born in Neuberg a.d. Donau in 1875 and died in 1962 at the age of 87.

I have cut way down on the Cognac, one glass a day in the evening, and the cigars, also one a day. Good exercise every day and I watch my diet. I have gained a few pounds but I do my exercises and carry the weight well enough. I look better at 50 than most of my co-workers do. Of course they are great drinkers and smokers and most have fat tires around their middles and will die of heart attacks in due time.

Their wives are bored and such is my Christian charity that I like to fill their wasted hours with anticipation and joy. And after a pleasant afternoon on the mattress with a wife, I get to see the husband puffing around the building the next morning and coughing like the last act of “Camille.”

Am working on the menu for the T. dinner. The pianos are in place and Bunny and I are working on the music now. The silver needs to be polished as do the windows in the dining room, the crystals on the chandeliers, the floors, the chairs, table and so on. We will have to do some local hiring on a temporary basis to augment the staff. I want a footman for each guest and we don’t have enough on hand here.

At this time, we have myself, Bunny, her aunt, the Pres., Arno, Heini, Irmgard, Heini’s brother and two of Truman’s people. That makes ten. T. at one end of the table, myself at the other and four each on either side. A nice balance. I will need to hire six more people and I want matching livery for all.

More details as decided.

What a triumph for me! T. would never go to, let us say, the Wisners even though they are well connected socially. Both Frank and Polly come from moneyed families. Frank, though he came from the south, originated with the Gardner family, which is a very old family and owns an island off of Long Island. Living in baronial splendor, those people do.

There is also the question of decorations.

I asked Truman very discreetly if he had any objections to my wearing my decorations and he said not at all. He would wear his, he said, and the people he was bringing would be most discreet. What a most interesting thought!

Here am I, in America, living better than I ever have before, entertaining the most powerful man in the world in my house at an elegant banquet, and wearing all of my decoration from both Reichs!

Sophie would break her teeth in envy. That woman has no sense of presentation and I had to keep her at home in Berlin.

Well, she can live in poverty in Pasing and I can live in splendor in Washington and that’s the way of the world. At least for now.

On my visit to Colorado, I met a real estate fellow who now tells me that he had a very nice place for me to look at. Six hundred and fifty acres and a beautiful house already on it. Skiing and mountain climbing nearby, an all-year stream filled with trout, deer and elk abounding, just waiting to be shot. All for less than a hundred thousand dollars! Just about what I got from the last auction of my looted art at Christies.

Comes in and goes out again, just like food but a lot more sweeter-smelling!

I will buy it next week and consider moving a quantity of my furnishings there. Perhaps I can get Heini’s brother to live there as a housekeeper until I decide I have done enough damage here. Washington is a very unpleasant place. The climate is awful, the blacks (which make up most of the permanent population) are very poor and kept in their place and the old time Washington people, the Cave Dwellers, are acceptable but the rest are liars, thieves and pompous idiots. The people I work with on a daily basis are psychotic criminals only some of whom can be said to have brains. Everyone here sleeps with other people and a man who is loyal to his wife, or a wife to her husband, is considered to be a “quaint oddity” as Bunny says.

It is always this way at the top of things so the thought of retiring into the mountains in some elegance has very much to offer me.

As long as Truman is in office, I have no worries but the question is, will he run again? He is having so much trouble with his public relations that he has said he might not run. To have great power and to voluntarily surrender it takes enormous character.

Truman has this character; Roosevelt did not. Drooling and completely senile, that one had to be carried feet first out of office.

Robert was talking to me yesterday about the situation in the Orient. He feels that there might be some trouble there but has been told to keep quiet about this as no one here wants to deflect Truman’s gaze (and support) from Europe. There is, after all, a lot more money for our people to make in Europe than there is now in Asia.

And John Dulles is certainly cleaning up with all his support for various German business interests. I chatted with Behn last week and he was delighted with the way Dulles is reconnecting with the old German business structures. Of course D. is making huge money in bribes by doing this. Clever people pay him in Farben stock, etc., so that he will have an added incentive to improve the value of his holdings. Poor (Joseph P., ed.)Kennedy has had all of his German stock put under the Alien Property office here and can’t get at it.

The Kennedy shares of I.G. Farben stock were released to the family when Kennedy’s son, Robert, was installed as Attorney General after the election of his brother to the Presidency. Friday, 12 May 1950

Dr. Oppenheimer has been accused in California of being a communist with the usual uproar from the liberal community. He is most certainly a well-known source for the Soviets, as I know from my own files. Pash knows about him but was shut up by Roosevelt who actually wanted Stalin to get information on the atomic bomb! Now, no one wants to talk about these things.

(Senator Dennis, ed.) Chavez is now attacking Budnez for joining the Catholic Church, which he claims, is a “cover” for his ongoing communist activities. MacCarthy is very angry with this but Chavez is a Democrat so what can one expect. I understand the Church will fire a thunderbolt at C., which probably won’t have any effect. These Congressmen have hides like a rhino or a Nile crocodile and very little can offend them. They hide behind their immunity and attack everyone. I think the new Tower of Babel can be found in the capitol building. I have sat in the visitor’s gallery there and have seen a number of Congressmen at the Metropolitan Club and they all remind me of nothing more than the American version of Schaefer’s Dwarves who used to entertain circus-goers in Germany! My God, when you think of how much power they have, you are constantly amazed how such awful shits could run a great country. We could put dachshunds in there and they would do much better. Of course the Reichstag members were not much better but they were a great deal more careful not to get caught stealing. These assholes might as well set up stalls in the rotunda with prices above them.

It seems the widow of Woodrow Wilson had made off with some important state papers that made her husband look rather bad and refused to return them to the archives. Last week, someone broke into her home while she was out and recovered them.

What do they say?

That Wilson hated Negroes, referred to them as “niggers” and threw all of them out of the government! Also, something for Hoover to chew on. He is blamed, along with Attorney General (A. Mitchell, ed.) Palmer, of instigating a series of raids on any kind of left wing person or group they could. Wilson was supposed to be “totally unaware” of what they were up to but the newly found papers show that he actually ordered these raids!

This, coupled with his constant invasions of Mexico and other Latin American countries, makes his “self-determination” of nations utter shit. Of course, Wilson was only protecting American business interests (in return for the usual money under the table) and nothing else.

Well, Wilson was a Democrat and they are still in power but I did manage to get photocopies of the papers. For a man who was so self-righteous, Wilson was a notorious womanizer and now, a vicious bigot. We must paint over our heroes for the history books so Woodrow will not lose his halo…at least not during the Truman Administration.

Wilson was an evil man whose father was a preacher; and was completely in the pockets of the British bankers, hence his determination to drag this country into England’s trade wars. Considering his end, he paid the price for his duplicity, tottering off the stage and drooling on his diapers. It wouldn’t be so bad, I suppose, if Wilson was an outright Napoleon whose aggressive actions were scarcely concealed but he posed as such a righteous and pious man.

You watch out for that kind, believe me. They preach sermons on Sunday and bugger the maids the rest of the week.

Klaus and I are working on the menu for the Truman dinner. He showed me a number of Escoffier suggestions and I have finally decided on:


Hors d’oeuvre

Consommé Leopold

Bisque d’Écrevisses

Turbotin au Volnay

Whitebait Diablé

Poularde á la Diva

Concombres au beurre

Selle d’agneau Portugaise

Haricots verts á l’Anglaise

Faisan Périgourdine

Salade d’Endives

Pâté de foie gras

Biscuit glacé aux marrons

Savarin aux fruits



I will leave the choice of the wines up to my wine man. I do like a good wine but for such a dinner, a real expert is necessary.

And we now have the extra help secured so at least some of the staff won’t have to wear knee britches but instead they can polish the place up for the President. I had both pianos tuned today. One needed it rather badly but the other was still nearly perfect.

Bunny and I are going over the Bach…I have decided on the double concerto in C major (the BWV 1061). The first movement is without a tempo noting but I have practiced it in different tempos and have settled on one somewhat slower than usually played.

I like this piece because it can be performed without an orchestra and is essentially a tightly knit duet between two pianos. It calls for great coordination but I am confident that we can pull it off. It should run a little over fifteen minutes that I assume is just about long enough to keep the President’s attention. The second movement is quite a beautiful work and the final fugue is enjoyable. The first movement is the most difficult and the rest is easy.

I had the pleasure of a visit from Dr. Lamb today. That’s my French doctor friend who is so good at giving heart attacks to people who are in disfavor. Wisner took my advice and hired him and he came by to say thank you. Of course he did his favorite lamb with garlic (hence my name for him) and we ate in my private dining room just off my bedroom. It’s the one room in the house that is absolutely secure from the point of listening in.

Arno joined us for lunch and it was very pleasant. Most of the conversation was conducted in French and Arno is much more fluent than I am in that language.

The good doctor has already removed several unwanted people and discussed a new “medicine” he had been working on while living in Switzerland. Also discussed how to give people cancer (by injection during a routine physical examination) and other pleasant topics.

Arno, who prefers the silk garrote or the knife, was fascinated by the doctor’s techniques and we had a jolly time over the dessert discussing whom in this country we could kill off. I suggested Henry Morgenthau, Roosevelt’s Minister of Finance. That nasty old Jew tried his best to destroy Germany and only Truman was able to prevent him, and his evil communist spy, co-religionist and right hand man, Harry White from carrying out their psychotic plans.

I know where M. lives and I suggested to both the doctor and Arno that they might both pay him a visit. Arno would certainly like to learn the joys of the hypodermic needle (although the doctor has now developed a spray which is just as effective and doesn’t leave any telltale marks on the ass). It would probably not come about because I need Arno here and the doctor is up to his chin in various CIA assignments.

In the event, Henry Morgenthau, former Secretary of the Treasury, didn’t die until 1967 and since Müller doesn’t mention him again, it is reasonable to assume that Roosevelt’s Hyde Park neighbor died a natural death. Many others, however, did not.

Two issues which do not directly concern my activities but are of great historical interest. I will put copies of these into the files for possible future use.

One is a copy of a report made by Henry Wallace in October of 1945 to President Truman. At that time, Wallace was Commerce Secretary in Truman’s cabinet. W. had been in direct touch with Soviet intelligence throughout his term as Vice President under Roosevelt. He expected, and Stalin wanted him, to be the Vice President, next in line to the presidency. It was obvious to all, including Roosevelt that the latter was very quickly dying and both Stalin and his partner, Roosevelt, wanted Wallace in the White House.

Why? Because Wallace is a very dedicated communist and has been for some time. This pushing forward of Wallace was evident to the leaders of the Democratic Party and they balked at having a Stalinist president. They forced Roosevelt to replace Wallace with Truman, something Stalin was livid about.

But, Truman kept Wallace on for a time just to placate the liberals in this country. Wallace, who made regular visits to the Soviet head of espionage here, had kept up his treason even into Truman’s reign and in spite of the fact that T. detests communists.

Finally, W. sent Truman this aide memoir that I can only term as the ravings of a feeble-minded fanatic. Wallace insists that he alone would be the only choice for an American president who could best cooperate with the Russians. He told T. that Stalin admired him and that he, Wallace, was fully prepared to “integrate American foreign policy with Russian foreign policy” so as to be able to better serve the cause of world peace! Truman went through the ceiling of the office when he read this and Wallace was finished forever according to what T. personally told me.

This man should surely be fully exposed in public as a Soviet agent-in-place and either forced into exile or removed, permanently, from the scene. I don’t think T. would approve of this although I know that Roosevelt had Huey Long killed and got to the Pope to have Father Coughlin shut up. Killing a popular priest would not be a good idea but killing a populist, intelligent and very dangerous political opponent who could have kicked Roosevelt out of office, was much more practical.

So much for one distasteful matter. Now, on to the other business.

I have a very secret copy of a National Security Council meeting on my desk that deals with American military strength. It shows, very clearly, that this country has seriously weakened its military forces by demobilizing its armed forces and not seeking any means to expand them in the event of war. Very pessimistic report. Also, the report (of two meetings held in the last three months) writes the Far East completely out of American defense perimeters. I mean complete abandonment of all U.S. bases in the Orient with the exception of occupation troops in Japan. These are there to prevent the Japanese from becoming strong again and.believe this or not…threatening Stalin’s flanks!

Oh yes, this bit of shit is the result of Roosevelt’s connivance with Stalin. That part is on paper and I have a copy of it. Roosevelt had to bribe Stalin to get into the Pacific war and then promised him that the United States would stand guard in Japan for twenty years to keep Japan from ever threatening Russia again.

The Japanese are very fortunate that there were no Jews in that country or there would have been a Morgenthau Plan in place for utterly destroying that country as well.

As it was, Roosevelt’s Jewish advisors almost succeeded in Germany until God intervened and stopped the beating of that moral leper’s heart. Hundreds of thousands of German prisoners of war were allowed to die in the Rhineland camps from starvation and disease. This by instructions of Roosevelt and with the full and willing cooperation of Eisenhower who hates the Germans because of their attitude and actions towards the Jews. Also, the food levels in Germany had fallen well below the subsistence level, another planned project by the Morgenthau people as the final part of the extermination of the German people.

There was to have been a total dismantling of all German industry, both in the eastern zone and in the west. This was moving along until Roosevelt died. Then, a period of uncertainty and Truman put a halt to the killings and ordered food into Germany. My God how the cabal hates him for that! And Moscow was also furious which again made the cabal angry.

They are as attentive to the wishes of Moscow as Wallace is and they view Truman as their worst enemy. No wonder the Stern gang tried to kill him and that certain press barons loathe him. Bismarck said, “Many enemies, Much honor,” and if we can judge the character of a man by the character of his enemies, the Pope will make Truman a saint while he is still alive!

He disrupted their timetable for them and they do not forgive. If Truman runs for office again, the cabal will put up Eisenhower without a doubt and if he gets in, God knows what will happen. The CIA will double in size overnight and all their psychotic and murderous little children’s games will become state policy. God will then truly have to help even the smallest foreigner to whom the CIA drunks take a dislike. They will have to formalize all this with a Secretary of Death who can oversee all the small, vicious wars, public assassinations, poisonings, thefts, currency counterfeiting, internal disruptions, induced diseases and so on.

And these things are also directed at plants as well as people. I am privy to a project that would attack the rice crops of China and India and destroy them overnight, like the potato blight in Ireland in the last century. That was England’s way of getting rid of their Irish slave problem. I doubt if the rice plot will go anywhere because such things cannot be controlled and rice growers have some power in this country. Oddly enough, Wisner comes from the south where rice is grown and is a staple in some areas. He will put on the brakes on this bit of nastiness but who knows what other wickedness will germinate in its place?

Here we have a nation which is still beating Germany for being terrible and brutal and even in our worst moments, we Germans never even began to approach the monstrous viciousness of the people with whom I have to deal on a daily basis.

I think I should have stayed in Switzerland and at least tried to hang onto some shreds of self-respect. Doesn’t the Bible say that he who touches pitch shall be defiled?

At the Metropolitan Club last week I heard a very prominent American educator say, in my hearing although not to me personally, that it was too bad Hitler didn’t kill off all the Jews because most of them came over here and are digging in like an army of moles. Some of the high level, establishment people I have met at the Club, including Colonel Behn, talk like a meeting of SS leaders only they are far more vicious.

These men have the power and the liberals merely have the press, the motion picture industry and the bureaucracy. In pitched battle, who would win?

What did von Seekt say when asked about where the German Army stood during the early, troubled days of Weimar? “The Army, gentlemen, stands behind me!”

That’s what the whole thing is all about. Where does the Army stand? Certainly not behind Morgenthau, White, Wallace and Baruch but behind…? The establishment here, which is certainly not liberal and when word reached into the silent and sacred confines of my club that Roosevelt was finally dead, there was loud cheering and the popping of many champagne corks. I was told that there was a movement to go over en masse to the White House and stick pins in the imperial corpse to be sure he was really dead.

In the event, no one ever went there and the casket was kept closed. There is some speculation as to why this happened as it went against strong convention but speculation is just that. Some have said he was assassinated but I believe his sclerosis and high blood pressure killed him, just as the reports say. Still, his official doctor is still running around claiming that Roosevelt was in “perfect health” right up to the minute he fell off the chair. A bad doctor or a political one, who cares? Like Wallace, he has no more power either.

I am still concerned about the NSC reports. Should Stalin get wind of them and realize that there are no defenses in the Far East, you can believe that Josef will at once move in there. Nature abhors a vacuum and Josef knows this. If I were making policy, which I am not, I would advise Truman to put Asia back into the game, at least on paper.

Hoover claims that he knows all the communist agents in America but this is nonsense. My Gestapo was far more efficient than his FBI and I am, modestly, far more intelligent and capable than Hoover, and even I, in a much smaller and more easily controlled country, would never make such a banal and utterly stupid statement.

The 20th of July exposed a lot of these vermin and I was finally able to get at some of the more insidious of the traitors but in this vast, unorganized and basically rebellious country, no one who is sane could claim that they knew “all the communists in America.”

Speaking of Behn, we talked about the Swedish Wallenberg family at some length. It seems the Swedish bankers were going to help Stalin rebuild Russian economy with enormous, low-interest loans. Once that got out, that had to be stopped dead in its tracks and the pressure was put onto the Wallenbergs to stop giving Stalin a sou (a cheap French bronze coin, ed.). Josef, losing the money, was in a rage and threatened to attack Sweden, which would have been impossible. His army, like the American Army, is a mere shell of what it once was and his industry simply could not support a war, even if his broken economy could.

We beat Josef in the Berlin business and as far as I am concerned, we stopped any military adventures at that point. Stalin was humiliated in the eyes of the world and he will now be reduced to subversion, treason and infiltration instead of military action.

How much longer can the old man survive? Reports indicate that he is becoming more and more irrational as time goes by and he is terrorizing his closest associates. If Josef reads history, he should consider the end of Caligula. Never terrorize your own bodyguards. And again, look at what Fouché did to Robespierre! A wonderful bit of work which has gone relatively unreported. If you are forced to use terror, use it sparingly and against limited, unpopular targets, not against your allies.

Fear can accomplish what reason cannot. Men, who are nearly impossible to unify, will do this under fear of death.


Germany angers Turkey with Armenian genocide resolution

June 2, 2016

by Madeline Chambers and Orhan Coskun


BERLIN/ANKARA-German lawmakers declared the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a “genocide” in a symbolic resolution on Thursday which risks hurting relations with Ankara just as Berlin and European partners need its help in tackling the migrant crisis.

Turkey rejects the idea that the killings of Christian Armenians during World War One amounted to a genocide and a spokesman for the ruling AK Party responded swiftly to the vote, saying it had “seriously damaged” relations.

Turkey’s prime minister has condemned the motion as “irrational” and said it will test the friendship between the NATO partners.

The timing could not be worse for Merkel, who has championed a deal with Turkey under which Ankara has agreed to stem the flow of refugees to Europe in return for cash, visa-free travel rights and accelerated talks on European Union membership.

Merkel was powerless to stop the symbolic resolution, which was initiated by the opposition Greens and was also backed by lawmakers in her conservative bloc and the Social Democrats.

“With one vote against and one abstention, this resolution has been passed by a remarkable majority of the German Bundestag,” said Norbert Lammert, the president of the lower house of parliament.

In a sign of the sensitivities, neither Merkel, her foreign minister nor her vice chancellor took part in the vote, although she did back it in an internal party straw poll this week.Nearly a dozen other EU countries, including France, have passed similar resolutions.

Berlin has already had a taste of the expected backlash from Ankara.

We wish Germany would not allow such an irrational issue,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told ruling party members on Thursday, hours before the vote.

On Wednesday he described the vote as “ridiculous”. “It was an ordinary event that occurred during wartime conditions in 1915,” he said at a news conference.

The nature and scale of the killings remain highly contentious. Turkey accepts that many Armenians died in partisan fighting beginning in 1915, but denies that up to 1.5 million were killed and that this constituted an act of genocide, a term used by many Western historians and foreign parliaments.


German officials hope the vote will not scupper the EU-Turkey migrant deal, which has been under a cloud since Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan pushed out his prime minister last month and began questioning parts of the agreement.

They say Erdogan has a strong interest in making the migrants deal work and will not allow this to get in the way.

Addressing parliament before the votes, several lawmakers stressed they did not want to point a finger at the current Turkish government but rather wanted to bolster reconciliation efforts between Turkey and Armenia.

“We know from our own experience how difficult and painful it is to work through the past … but only in this way can human trust and strength grow,” said Social Democrat Rolf Muetzenich.

Armenia welcomed the resolution. The foreign ministry said Turkish authorities “are continuing to obstinately reject the undeniable fact of genocide”.

The resolution could also raise tensions with Germany’s roughly 3.5 million-strong Turkish community. Over a thousand Turks demonstrated against the resolution on Saturday in front of the Reichstag building in Berlin.

“I don’t think this is the right step,” said Murat Kayman of Germany’s DITIB Turkish-Islamic group before the vote. He said a European “blind spot” could explains the vehemence of the Turkish reaction to the accusation of genocide.

The resolution says the Armenians’ fate exemplified “the history of mass exterminations, ethnic cleansing, deportations and yes, genocide, which marked the 20th century in such a terrible way.”

It also acknowledges that the German Empire, then a military ally of the Ottomans, did nothing to stop the killings.

“That we were complicit in this terrible crime does not mean that today we will be complicit in denying it,” said opposition Greens co-leader Cem Oezdemir.

(Additional reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley in Istanbul and Thomas Leigh in Paris and Yerevan bureau; Writing by Noah Barkin and Madeline Chambers; Editing by Gareth Jones and Raissa Kasolowsky)

‘Erdogan not emperor of Europe, we should recognize Armenian genocide’ – German activist

June 2, 2016


Berlin should recognize the Ottoman Empire’s genocide of Armenians and not give in to Turkey’s pressure leveraged by the migrant deal, PixelHELPER, the group that projected light images of the Armenian genocide onto German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s offices, told RT.

Thomas Murgia, spokesperson for the PixelHELPER Foundation, believes there should be no trading of democracy and freedom of speech in exchange for Turkey’s help on the refugee crisis gripping Europe, and questions the funding of Ankara as part of the migrant deal.

The group was behind Tuesday’s protest that projected references to the Armenian genocide on the German Federal Chancellery in central Berlin, including images and a picture of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan next to writing that read: “Genocide in da House.” The action was in support of the bill being voted on in the German parliament Thursday that, if passed, would recognize the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

“We want to send a message of what the Ottoman Empire carried out against Armenians, Pontiac Greeks and Assyrians in 1915 is actually a genocide, even though it hasn’t been recognized officially by any major Western country… it has been proven that it led up to the death of 1.5 million people,” Murgia said.

Before sending the message to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the artists staged provocative protests at the Turkish embassy that “compared Hitler with Erdogan.” An image of Hitler was projected right next to that of Erdogan’s on the diplomatic premises, which the group said was to protest the abuse of press freedom in Turkey.

While Murgia admits that such a parallel “might seem pretty harsh to many people and to him [Erdogan],” he adds that it “actually seems pretty accurate to us.”

In particular, the PixelHELPER activist said he saw parallels in the Turkish president’s actions and the Nazi Germany dictator’s treatment of the media. “What he is doing is exactly what Hitler was doing in 1933, which is to shut up… any voice that goes against his thought.”

The activist insisted that Erdogan does not have the right to dictate in Germany, where “the freedom and independency of the artist is protected by German law.”

Since Erdogan is not the emperor of Germany and of Europe, we are pretty safe and we feel safe to say our opinion.”

Moreover, according to Murgia, the European Union and Germany should not hand out funds to Turkey, even for the sake of a successful refugee deal, as neither the EU nor Germany should “give money and ask for help to solve this issue, which is a human rights issue, to a nation which itself doesn’t respect basic human rights like the freedom of speech.”

Murgia said he hoped that “common sense” will prevail in the Bundestag and MPs will “be able to think about the humans who are involved or were involved in this case, which were the Armenians and that deserve that at least what happen to them is recognized officially and not that every country shuts up just because there are some economic ties with Turkey.”

In the wake of the vote on recognizing the Armenian genocide, a German MP of Turkish origin, Sevim Dağdelen, also spoke in favor of the bill in an interview to RT.

“I hope the Bundestag won’t crack under pressure from Turkish President Erdogan, unlike the government and Chancellor Merkel, and will recognize the genocide of Armenians in 1915 as a genocide, which is long overdue.”

She added that the “complicity” of the German Reich, an Ottoman ally in World War I, “is also a truth that should have been recognized here a long time ago.”


Transport and energy strikes in France coincide with floods ahead of Euro 2016

Transport and energy strikes have hit France as record floods cut roads and forced people from their homes. The government’s labor reform bill is the focus of worker unrest.

June 2, 2016


Rail strikes halted about half of French train services on Wednesday and continued into Thursday.

Demonstrations have been planned for Thursday in Paris, Marseille, Toulouse and Nantes. Railworkers at the Gare de Lyon in Paris walked on to the tracks to make their protest:

Three of the four rail unions called their members out on an open-ended strike from Wednesday evening, over a planned SNCF company reorganization. The move comes despite the government’s intervention to press SNCF management to protect train drivers’ weekends off. The SNCF said that 17 percent of its staff were on strike on Wednesday, and expected a similar number for Thursday, a slight increase on the number taking part in last week’s stoppage.

Rail management has said protecting weekends will make the company uncompetitive when it opens up to private competition under European Union rules in 2020.

Nuclear and air stoppages

Members of the militant CGT union have begun a series of rolling strikes at 16 of the country’s 19 nuclear power stations to put pressure on the government to scrap its labor reform bill. The nuclear plant stoppages will reduce output and oblige the EDF power company to import electricity from neighboring countries.

A second union, Spaf, which represents a quarter of Air France pilots, has called for strikes from June 11, which will also coincide with the Euro 2016 football tournament. The two- to four-day strike is in protest against new measures that reduce their salaries. The SNPL union, which represents most of the airline’s pilots, voted on Monday to begin long-term strikes of more than six days at a date to be decided.

However, the SNCTA air traffic controllers’ union on Wednesday evening lifted its notice of a strike over working conditions. The three-day stoppage had been set to start on Friday.

An opinion poll in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper showed at the weekend that 46 percent of French people still supported the unions’ demands. Protests grew against the labor reform law in May after the government bypassed parliament using special powers, known as Article 49-3, which allows for reform by decree.


Weather forecasters warned of more rain for Thursday after heavy rain fell in central France, parts of which have been hit by the worst flooding in more than 100 years. The situation was described by Meteo France as “exceptional, worse than the floods of 1910.”

The Seine overflowed its banks in Paris as the river rose 4.45 meters (14 feet and 6 inches) above its normal level on Wednesday evening. In the Loire Valley, water pooled in front of the Chateau de Chambord.

Schools have been closed, roads cut and thousands of people evacuated because of the flooding.

The department of Loiret south of Paris and Seine-et-Marne to the east of the capital, remained on red alert for flooding Thursday morning.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls was expected to visit Nemours, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Paris on Thursday. The town was evacuated after the Loing river burst its banks.

Flooding has been experienced in Germany, Austria and Poland.

Soccer disruption

Much has been made in France of avoiding disruption to the Euro 2016 championships, which start on June 10. Security is at a high level, and the state of emergency imposed after the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris has been extended until the end of July. Some 90,000 police and security teams are being mobilized during the monthlong tournament.

CGT leader Philippe Martinez said his union had no intention of disrupting the event and urged the government to negotiate – especially over a clause in the labor reform bill that would give company-level deals precedence over sector-wide agreements on pay and conditions.

“There’s no question of blocking the Euros,” Martinez said. “It’s not transport strikes that will block the Euros.”

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Wednesday: “This conflict is weighing on our economy at a time when the actions of the government are allowing a rebound, growth and a fall in unemployment,” he told parliament.

The conservative opposition has a majority in the Senate and has said it will amend the labor reform bill to make it tougher – for example, by capping the compensation that labor courts can award for unfair dismissal. The government can overrule the upper house when the bill returns to the lower house for a final reading in July.

The Ongoing Rape of Japan

… by the US military

June 1, 2016

by Justin Raimondo


When President Obama went to Hiroshima, the American media focused on what he would – or wouldn’t – say about Harry Truman’s horrendous war crime against the Japanese people. Would he apologize? Leaving aside how one apologizes for such a monstrous act – short of committing seppuku – as it turned out he just spoke in harmless generalities about the dangers of nuclear weapons, expressing a commendable albeit vague wish to rid the world of them. What the pundits mostly ignored, however, was Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s outrage at the latest murderous sex crime committed by an American soldier stationed on Okinawa; the brutal murder of 20-year-old Rina Shimabukuro by a US military contractor.

Before Obama arrived, Abe gave vent to his anger: “I am extremely upset. I have no words. I demand that the United States take strict measures to prevent something like this from happening again.” Those are stern words coming from a Japanese leader: Japanese officials almost never express strong emotions, especially when dealing with the United States. For Abe to say he “demands” something in this context is like Donald Trump talking about how Mexico is going to pay for The Wall. And when Obama did arrive, Abe brought the subject up again. As the Washington Post reported:

“Using surprisingly strong language, the Japanese prime minister said he felt ‘profound resentment’ at the ‘self-centered and absolutely despicable crime.

“’I have asked the president to carry out effective measures to prevent a recurrence of such crimes,’ Abe said, a solemn-faced Obama standing beside him.”

For the craven American puppet Abe to breach protocol in this way, the provocation would’ve had to have been enormous. And it was. The murderer, one Kenneth Franklin Gadson, is a former US Marine turned military contractor assigned to Okinawa’s Kadana Air Base. After sexually assaulting Shimabukuro, who had gone for a walk near her home, Gadson dumped her body in the woods. He admitted to the crime under questioning.

Just a few days prior, another sex crime committed on Okinawa by a US soldier was in the news: 24-year-old Justin Castellanos, a seaman stationed at US Marine Corps Camp Schwab, is accused of raping a Japanese woman at a hotel. Castellanos is pleading guilty.

These are the latest in a long line of such crimes, which keep coming without respite. Since 1972, there have been over 120 cases of rape by American military personnel on the island of Okinawa. And that’s just the cases that are reported. All in all, there have been over 4,700 crimes committed by US soldiers on the island since Okinawa reverted to nominal Japanese control.

Attention came to be focused on this outrageous situation in 1995, when three US servicemen kidnapped a 12-year-old Japanese girl, bound her with duct-tape, and gang-raped her. Massive protests followed, and yet since that time basically nothing has been done. American military personnel continue to prey on Japanese women, raping and robbing with abandon. The weak-kneed Japanese government, which allows the continued occupation of Okinawa, loves its status as an American colony too much to make too much of a fuss. After all, in exchange for playing out their role as a conquered nation, the Japanese get to export cheap well-made goods to the US tariff-free, while they refuse to drop their tariffs on American goods. Honor is one thing, but money is quite another.

As with all its overseas colonies and protectorates, the US insists that American murderers and rapists be tried in American courts and jailed or otherwise punished on American territory. That’s the privilege of the conqueror, and the letter of the US-Japan Status of Forces Agreement. And that’s why the American-generated crime wave on Okinawa continues unabated – because the perpetrators know the local authorities have no jurisdiction. Under Japanese law, they could receive up to life in prison for rape, and Japanese interrogations are designed to elicit confessions: under American military law, which has been known to go easy on crimes committed by US soldiers abroad, they have a much easier time of it.

Why are American troops still occupying Japan? World War II has been over for over 70 years!

Yes, there was the cold war, and there’s the alleged threat to Japan coming from China. Yet the Japanese could deal with China all by themselves if allowed to develop a real defensive capacity: but why should they, when the Americans insist on shouldering the financial burden, not to mention the risk of war with Beijing?

The Japanese are eating our lunch when it comes to trade, they get a free ride in that they don’t have to pay for their own military, and they only have to put up with multiple rapes and murders per year, mostly committed on Okinawa, while issuing the appropriate “protests.”

So what are the Americans getting out of this odd arrangement?

While the Japanese export their cars to the US, we export our human trash to Japan – our rapists, our murderers, our petty thieves. If those crimes weren’t being committed in Okinawa, chances are they’d be afflicting Newark, New Jersey, or Los Angeles, California. Our prisons are filled to overflowing: it’s probably cheaper to simply export our criminals under the guise of exercising US “global leadership.” And it keeps the US crime rate down!

Prime Minister Abe said “I have asked the president to carry out effective measures to prevent a recurrence of such crimes,” and yet he knows there’s just one way to do this: get US troops out of Japan, immediately and permanently. Obama won’t do that, and Abe wouldn’t like it, either: the Japanese have too good a deal going to give it up. Donald Trump says he would let the Japanese start defending themselves rather than have the burden fall on American shoulders: that may not win him many plaudits from the American foreign policy elite, but he’d win hands down in Okinawa.

Pentagon: Special Ops Killing of Pregnant Afghan Women Was “Appropriate” Use of Force

June 1 2016

by Jeremy Scahill

The Intercept

An internal Defense Department investigation into one of the most notorious night raids conducted by special operations forces in Afghanistan — in which seven civilians were killed, including two pregnant women — determined that all the U.S. soldiers involved had followed the rules of engagement. As a result, the soldiers faced no disciplinary measures, according to hundreds of pages of Defense Department documents obtained by The Intercept through the Freedom of Information Act. In the aftermath of the raid, Adm. William McRaven, at the time the commander of the elite Joint Special Operations Command, took responsibility for the operation. The documents made no unredacted mention of JSOC.

Although two children were shot during the raid and multiple witnesses and Afghan investigators alleged that U.S. soldiers dug bullets out of the body of at least one of the dead pregnant women, Defense Department investigators concluded that “the amount of force utilized was necessary, proportional and applied at appropriate time.” The investigation did acknowledge that “tactical mistakes” were made.

The Defense Department’s conclusions bear a resemblance to U.S. Central Command’s findings in the aftermath of the horrifying attack on a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, last October in which 42 patients and medical workers were killed in a sustained barrage of strikes by an AC-130. The Pentagon has announced that no criminal charges will be brought against any members of the military for the Kunduz strike. CENTCOM’s Kunduz investigation concluded that “the incident resulted from a combination of unintentional human errors, process errors, and equipment failures.” CENTCOM denied the attack constituted a war crime, a claim challenged by international law experts and MSF.

The February 2010 night raid, which took place in a village near Gardez in Paktia province, was described by the U.S. military at the time as a heroic attack against Taliban militants. A press release published by NATO in Afghanistan soon after the raid asserted that a joint Afghan-international operation had made a “gruesome discovery.” According to NATO, the force entered a compound near the village of Khataba after intelligence had “confirmed” it to be the site of “militant activity.” As the team approached, they were “engaged” in a “fire fight” by “several insurgents.” The Americans killed the insurgents and were securing the area when they made their discovery: three women who had been “bound and gagged” and then executed inside the compound. The U.S. force, the press release alleged, found the women “hidden in an adjacent room.” The story was picked up and spread throughout the media. A “senior U.S. military official” told CNN that the bodies had “the earmarks of a traditional honor killing.”

But the raid quickly gained international infamy after survivors and local Afghan investigators began offering a completely different narrative of the deadly events that night to a British reporter, Jerome Starkey, who began a serious investigation of the Gardez killings. When I visited Starkey in Kabul, he told me that at first he saw no reason to discount the official story. “I thought it was worth investigating because if that press release was true — a mass honor killing, three women killed by Taliban who were then killed by Special Forces — that in itself would have made an extraordinary and intriguing story.” But when he traveled to Gardez and began assembling witnesses to meet him in the area, he immediately realized NATO’s story was likely false. Starkey’s reporting, which first uncovered the horrifying details of what happened that night, forced NATO and the U.S. military to abandon the honor killings cover story. A half-hearted official investigation ensued.

Witnesses and survivors described an unprovoked assault on the family compound of Mohammed Daoud Sharabuddin, a police officer who had just received an important promotion. Daoud and his family had gathered to celebrate the naming of a newborn son, a ritual that takes place on the sixth day of a child’s life. Unlike the predominantly Pashtun Taliban, the Sharabuddin family were ethnic Tajiks, and their main language was Dari. Many of the men in the family were clean-shaven or wore only mustaches, and they had long opposed the Taliban. Daoud, the police commander, had gone through dozens of U.S. training programs, and his home was filled with photos of himself with American soldiers. Another family member was a prosecutor for the U.S.-backed local government, and a third was the vice chancellor at the local university.

At about 3:30 a.m., when the family heard noises outside their compound, Daoud and his 15-year-old son Sediqullah, fearing a Taliban attack, went outside to investigate. Both were immediately hit with sniper fire.

“All the children were shouting, ‘Daoud is shot! Daoud is shot!’” Daoud’s brother-in-law Tahir recalled when I visited the family compound in 2010. Daoud’s eldest son was behind his father and younger brother when they were hit. “When my father went down, I screamed,” he told me. “Everybody — my uncles, the women, everybody came out of the home and ran to the corridors of the house. I sprinted to them and warned them not to come out as there were Americans attacking and they would kill them.”

Within a matter of minutes, a family celebration had become a massacre. Seven people died, including three women and two people who later succumbed to their injuries. Two of the women had been pregnant. Sixteen children lost their mothers.

The Americans were still present when survivors prepared burial shrouds for those who had died. The Afghan custom involves binding the feet and head. A scarf secured around the bottom of the chin is meant to keep the mouth of the deceased from hanging open. They managed to do this before the Americans began handcuffing them and dividing the surviving men and women into separate areas. Several of the male family members told me that it was around this time that they witnessed a horrifying scene: U.S. soldiers digging the bullets out of the women’s bodies. “They were putting knives into their injuries to take out the bullets,” Sabir told me. I asked him bluntly, “You saw the Americans digging the bullets out of the women’s bodies?” Without hesitation, he said, “Yes.” Tahir told me he saw the Americans with knives standing over the bodies. “They were taking out the bullets from their bodies to remove the proof of their crime.”

The U.S. military’s internal investigation into the raid, which was described in detail in the documents obtained by The Intercept, was ordered by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, who at the time of the raid was the commander of all international forces in Afghanistan. The lead investigator, whose identity was redacted, noted at the beginning of the report that he did not visit the scene of the raid, saying that the risks of “re-awakening emotional and political turmoil” would not have been “worth the cost.” Instead, family members of the victims were asked to travel to a U.S. base to be interviewed.

The documents’ redactions and omissions are perhaps more interesting than the conclusions of the investigation. U.S. Central Command released 535 pages, including more than 100 photographs taken at the scene, but withheld nearly 400 additional pages, stating that they are exempt from FOIA for national security reasons. Photographs of bodies and wounds were redacted. The documents include NATO press releases and talking points claiming that the victims of the U.S. attack were Taliban militants and offering the standard assurances that “Coalition Forces take every precaution to ensure non-combatant civilians are protected from possible hostilities during the course of every operation.” An error-laden “questions and answers” document stated that during the operation, “two militants [were] killed and one wounded,” and “one women and two children were protected.” A list of talking points titled “Post Operation IO and Mitigation” characterized the “Area Tribe” in the following terms: “One Ph.D described them as ‘great robbers’ and ‘utter savages’ and that their country was formerly a refuge for bad characters.”

While the investigation asserted that the soldiers did not dig any bullets out of the bodies of the dead, the sections of the investigation addressing this allegation were almost entirely redacted. The investigation found that the survivors interviewed in the raid’s aftermath, referred to as “detainees,” provided credible testimony. The report also noted “consistency in all eight detainees’ statements that would be impossible to pre-plan without prior knowledge of specifics of the operation,” adding that “the detainee reports corroborate that the women died when they tried to stop Zahir [one of the men killed] from exiting the building.”

Despite this assessment of the credibility of the survivors’ testimony, the Pentagon investigation dismissed outright the statements from multiple witnesses, including the husband of one of the dead women, that the Americans dug bullets from the women’s bodies. “This investigation found no attempt to hide or cover up the circumstances of the local national women’s deaths,” the executive summary of the investigation concluded. The investigators were instructed by the main U.S. command at Bagram to determine: “Did anyone alter, clean or otherwise tamper with the scene in any way following the operation, and if so, why?” The answer to that question was completely redacted.

The investigation did note, however, that the Afghan investigation conducted immediately after the raid “reports that an American bullet was found in the body of one of the dead women, but it does not say how that bullet was found or who removed it from the woman.” Citing statements from the members of the strike force that conducted the raid, the investigators asserted, “There is no evidence to support that bullets were removed from the bodies by anyone associated with U.S. forces.”

The initial press release on the raid contained erroneous information about the women being bound and gagged, according to the investigation, because “the ground force was confused by the unfamiliar sight of the women prepared so quickly for burial and firmly believed that they did not kill the three women.” The investigation concluded that the “assumption” that the women “had been killed by Afghans and placed on the scene” was an “honest assessment” and the result of a “lack of cultural awareness,” not “an attempt to mislead higher headquarters.”

According to the instructions provided to investigators, the U.S. forces claimed the women had been killed as many as two days before the raid occurred, but the report observed that their “remains were collocated with EKIA,” enemies killed in action, and photos taken in the immediate aftermath showed the women with wounds indicating they had been killed during the raid. “Was this an attempt to deceive?” That question was not answered in the documents provided by the Pentagon, at least not in an unredacted format.

The report also noted a curious contradiction. One of the men killed by American forces had been prepared for burial just as the dead women were — with a cloth wrap tied around his head so his jaw would remain closed. Yet when the U.S. forces first reported on the raid, they described only the women as having their heads bound and suggested their deaths were the result of a “cultural custom.”

The cause of death listed for the men was gunshot wounds to the chest. For the three women, the cause of death was “wounds.” The most credible theory, according to the final report, was that the women were killed in a “shoot through” once the raid had begun, and that their deaths were unintentional — and unknown to the shooters.

“It is undeniable that five innocent people were killed and two innocent men were wounded in the conduct of this operation,” the report stated. “To simply call this ‘regrettable’ would be callous; it is much more than that. However, the unique chain of events that led to their deaths is explicable.”

According to the report, the university official who was at the party inside the compound called the police headquarters in Paktia as the raid was beginning because he believed the house was coming under attack from the Taliban. All the witnesses interviewed stated that Mohammed Daoud, the Afghan police commander, left the party and entered the courtyard, believing he was confronting a Taliban attack. Still, the investigation concluded that the U.S. forces were justified in shooting him, as well as his cousin Mohammed Saranwal Zahir, the local prosecutor. The investigators found that the men had showed “hostile intent” because they were armed with rifles.

In the end, the investigation determined that American forces had followed the rules of engagement and standard operating procedures during the raid, concluding only that there were “tactical mistakes made.” The investigation recommended that the coalition forces “make an appropriate condolence payment to the family as a sign of good faith in our sincerity at the seriousness of the incident.”

Because of excessive redactions, these documents fail to answer many questions. While the report referenced “Special Forces,” the specific unit was redacted. The report also seemed to indicate that the strike force came from a base in another province, rather than the local base in Paktia, yet offered no explanation. The letter accompanying the documents provided to The Intercept stated that some documents could not be released because they would expose “inter-agency and intra-agency memorandum.” What other agencies were involved in this raid and subsequent management of the fallout and investigation? Who provided the Americans with the intelligence that led to the raid, which claimed that a Taliban facilitator was present? No explanation was given for why the documents, which were requested from SOCOM, the parent command of JSOC, under the Freedom of Information Act in March 2011, were only now released, after being reviewed by another — unnamed — agency.

The report noted that “there are considerable questions about the cause of the females’ deaths and males’ injuries” as well as “multiple inconsistencies between what was observed and what has since been reported by local nationals.” If the women were killed by U.S. forces, even in a “shoot through,” what happened to the bullets? The report stated that the throat of one of the women had been slit with a knife and that another dead body contained knife marks on the chest. Where did these lacerations come from? One investigator observed a blood splatter pattern that “appeared to be more consistent with blunt force trauma” and suggested “someone had possibly slipped on the ice and split open his or her head on the hard concrete.” If that is truly what the splatter indicated, then which person received those injuries? If the investigators determined the surviving witnesses of the raid were convincing and credible, why then was their testimony about Americans digging bullets out of the women’s dead bodies discarded?

Mohammed Sabir was one of the men singled out for further interrogation after the raid. With his clothes still caked with the blood of his loved ones, Sabir and seven other men were hooded and shackled. “They tied our hands and blindfolded us,” he recalled. “Two people grabbed us and pushed us, one by one, into the helicopter.” They were flown to a different Afghan province, Paktika, where the Americans held them for days. “My senses weren’t working at all,” he recalled. “I couldn’t cry, I was numb. I didn’t eat for three days and nights. They didn’t give us water to wash the blood away.” The Americans ran biometric tests on the men, photographed their irises, and took their fingerprints. Sabir described to me how teams of interrogators, including both Americans and Afghans, questioned him about his family’s connections to the Taliban. Sabir told them that his family was against the Taliban, had fought the Taliban, and that some relatives had been kidnapped by the Taliban.

“The interrogators had short beards and didn’t wear uniforms. They had big muscles and would fly into sudden rages,” Sabir recalled, adding that they shook him violently at times. “We told them truthfully that there were not Taliban in our home.” One of the Americans, he said, told him they “had intelligence that a suicide bomber had hidden in your house and that he was planning an operation.” Sabir told them, “If we would have had a suicide bomber at home, then would we be playing music in our house? Almost all guests were government employees.” By the time Mohammed Sabir returned home after being held in American custody, he had missed the burial of his wife and other family members.

The Pentagon investigation stands in stark contrast to an independent investigation conducted by a United Nations team, which determined that the survivors of the raid “suffered from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by being physically assaulted by U.S. and Afghan forces, restrained and forced to stand bare feet for several hours outside in the cold.” The U.N. investigation added that witnesses alleged “that U.S. and Afghan forces refused to provide adequate and timely medical support to two people who sustained serious bullet injuries, resulting in their death hours later.” The Pentagon investigation did note that three of the survivors detained stated they had been “tortured by Special Forces,” but that allegation was buried below statements attributed to other survivors who said being held by the American forces “felt like home not like prisoner” and they were treated “very well.”

In the end, the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, Vice Adm. William McRaven, visited the compound in Gardez accompanied by a phalanx of Afghan and U.S. soldiers. He made an offer to the family to sacrifice a sheep, which his force had brought with them on a truck, to ask forgiveness.

Months later, when I sat with the family elder, Hajji Sharabuddin, at his home, his anger seemed only to have hardened. “I don’t accept their apology. I would not trade my sons for the whole kingdom of the United States,” he told me, holding up a picture of his sons. “Initially, we were thinking that Americans were the friends of Afghans, but now we think that Americans themselves are terrorists. Americans are our enemy. They bring terror and destruction. Americans not only destroyed my house, they destroyed my family. The Americans unleashed the Special Forces on us. These Special Forces, with the long beards, did cruel, criminal things.”

“We call them the American Taliban,” added Mohammed Tahir, the father of Gulalai, one of the slain women.

The internal investigation ordered by Gen. McChrystal into the Gardez raid is an incomplete accounting of this horrifying incident. It is also based on the word of the force that carried out the killings, whose personnel could have faced serious charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice if investigators had taken seriously the survivors’ allegations.

The FBI Wants to Exempt Massive Biometric Database From the Privacy Act

June 1, 2016

by Ava Kofman

The Intercept

A broad coalition of 45 signatories, including civil liberties, racial justice, human rights, and privacy organizations, published a letter Tuesday strongly condemning a proposal by the FBI to exempt its massive biometric database from certain provisions of the Privacy Act. Known as the Next Generation Identification system, or NGI, the FBI database houses the world’s largest collection of fingerprints, DNA profiles, palm prints, face images, and other biometric identifiers. The letter, signed by groups such as La Raza, Color of Change, Amnesty International, National LGBTQ Task Force, as well as the companies Uber and Lyft, criticized the agency’s May 5 proposal on the grounds that the “system uses some of the most advanced surveillance technologies known to humankind, including facial recognition, iris scans, and fingerprint recognition.”

Specifically, the FBI’s proposal would exempt the database from the provisions in the Privacy Act that require federal agencies to share with individuals the information they collect about them and that give people the legal right to determine the accuracy and fairness of how their personal information is collected and used. The exemption could render millions of records unavailable to subjects. As of December 2015, the NGI system contained 70,783,318 criminal records and 38,514,954 civil records.

As the coalition notes with alarm, the database stores millions of unique identifiers for U.S. citizens who have not been convicted of a crime alongside those who have. Fingerprints taken for an employer’s background checks, for instance, can be stored and searched in the NGI’s system along with those taken for criminal investigations.

“What troubles me about the NGI is that the previous systems used to be focused on criminal identification and so had somewhat of a limited impact,” said Mike German, a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program and a former special agent with the FBI. “Obviously we have huge problems with criminalization and arrest without probable cause that would make those databases overpopulated,” German added. “But the fact that they have expanded them to non-criminal information and a multitude of other purposes increases likelihood of unintended harms.”

A “systems of records notice” published by the FBI at the same time as its proposed exemption notice explains that the NGI system collects data from individuals in a range of settings — including state departments of motor vehicles, volunteer and welfare screenings, and visa applications — and stores their records until they turn 110 years old. The NGI was launched in 2008, in order to update, centralize, and expand the bureau’s biometric collection systems.

Several civil liberties advocates, all of which signed the letter, told The Intercept that allowing the FBI to evaluate privacy at its “sole discretion,” as the notice suggests, shields the NGI database from oversight, accountability, and transparency. Jeramie Scott, a national security attorney who helped litigate the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s lawsuit against the FBI for documents pertaining to its NGI system in 2013, said the exemption “makes it harder for people to understand what the FBI is using this data for, to access this data to make sure its correct, and to have some type of civil remedy if, because of the FBI’s NGI database, they are somehow harmed by the FBI’s use of that data.”

Allowing subjects to view their own records under the Privacy Act ensures that they can be corrected for accuracy, explained ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley. “It doesn’t seem too much to ask that the FBI make records subject to people with timeliness and fairness to the individual,” Stanley said. With the exemption, “they are maximizing their ability to act without oversight but they risk leaving victims of inaccuracies out in the cold with no remedy.”

Compounding the problem of inaccurate data is the fact that the biometric technologies that generate the NGI system’s data have themselves been shown to be inaccurate. Take face recognition technology, which the NGI incorporated into its system in 2014. While the technology’s error rate has significantly decreased from the early 1990s, documents obtained by EPIC revealed that the FBI was willing to accept a 20 percent error rate for its face recognition technology as of 2010. “The FBI is looking at a lot of different people who shouldn’t be the subject of an inquiry and making a decision about whether they should be the subject of an inquiry based on face recognition searches,” Scott explained.

A system as capacious as NGI can actually raise the odds of becoming a false positive. Studies have found that the error rate for face recognition systems increases, logarithmically, as the size of the dataset grows. Those odds are even worse for people of color, who are both overrepresented in the FBI’s criminal datasets and potentially subject to technological bias. Since African-Americans are incarcerated at almost six times the rate of white people, they likely constitute the majority of faces represented in the FBI’s collection of millions of criminal mugshots and photographs of incarcerated people. “Error rates are highest for people in groups who are overrepresented in that system,” said Alvaro Bedoya, director of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown. Subjecting people of color to disproportionate searches, in other words, increases the risk of false positives. “It’s so flawed the way they manage it that errors are guaranteed,” German said. “We’re talking about deprivation of liberty as a result.”

Collect It All

The FBI’s proposal states that even if individuals are not subject to current law enforcement activities, their data may have future uses, such as “establishing patterns of activity and providing criminal leads.” “It is impossible to determine in advance what information is accurate, relevant, timely and complete,” the proposal continues. “With time, seemingly irrelevant or untimely information may acquire new significance when new details are brought to light.”

The FBI’s claims about “untimely” or irrelevant data reflect the agency’s larger attitude toward digital data collection over the last decade, according to German. The attitude, he said, is that “all data is valuable and there is some future magical algorithm that will make sense of it so it must be retained. Even when they have erroneous information, they are very reluctant to destroy information, so you have a number of problems they have with how they handle data.”

Agency documents further reveal that the FBI has long been aware of the civil liberties concerns surrounding its biometrics collection. Since at least 2006, the agency has issued its own calls for a “concerted dialogue” to address public anxieties and privacy laws. In 2011, a series of forums co-sponsored by the FBI’s Biometric Center of Excellence sought to address the “lack” of laws, guidelines, and policies governing facial recognition technology. In dozens of talks, federal law enforcement officials, legal experts, and technologists discussed in depth many of the same concerns raised by the coalition’s letter, including the need for transparent policies for deploying facial recognition technology, privacy concerns related to the collection of such data by law enforcement, and the storage of personal identifiable information under the Privacy Act.

The coalition’s letter calls for the Department of Justice to extend its 30-day window for comments on the proposed notice. The DOJ confirmed in an email to The Intercept that it has extended the period for public comment through July 6.

“When you build the world’s largest database, special responsibilities come with that and one of those responsibilities is to be as transparent as possible about the system,” Bedoya said. “The FBI has gone about this the opposite way by failing to file mandatory notices for years. What they are finally proposing is even less transparency.”

Trail in Ecuador cyberheist leads to gamers’ crash pad in Hong Kong

June 1, 2016

by Clare Baldwin and Nathan Layne


HONG KONG/CHICAGO- The paper trail left behind by $2 million stolen from a hacked Ecuadorian bank runs cold in a windowless gamers’ crash pad in a gritty industrial area of Hong Kong.

The room, in a former factory in the Kwun Tong district, is the registered address for Jiushun Group Co., Ltd., the firm that received the largest single transfer of the $12 million reported missing from Ecuador’s Banco del Austro (BDA) in January 2015.

King Yuen – an unemployed 25-year-old and a regular at the room’s all-night gaming sessions and mahjong contests – said he had never heard of Jiushun Group, and he had no idea where the stolen millions ended up. Still, Yuen was not surprised to learn the loot landed in Hong Kong, having heard of such schemes when he mixed drinks in the city’s downtown financial district, he said.

“The prize is just bigger this time,” Yuen told Reuters.

For a graphic tracing the money trail from Ecuador to Hong Kong, see: tmsnrt.rs/1WugDmp

The $12 million taken from BDA and the $81 million cyberheist from the Bangladesh central bank’s accounts at the New York Federal Reserve in February have illuminated weaknesses in the global money transfer system.

In both the Bangladesh and Ecuador cases, hackers exploited the SWIFT messaging system, which is used to move hundreds of billions of dollars and other currencies each day among commercial and central banks. The banking industry’s high confidence in SWIFT has been shaken because, in both cases, cyber thieves infiltrated the banks’ systems and sent fraudulent transfer requests through the network.

In the Ecuador heist, SWIFT was unaware of the January 2015 attack until Reuters contacted the cooperative last month.

The two unsolved cases also highlight how thieves could launder proceeds through existing money laundering networks in Asia. The heists may have required sophisticated hacking tools, but tactics used in the getaway – transporting and stashing the money – are as old as bank robbery itself.

In the Bangladesh Bank case, the criminals sent their loot to lightly regulated casinos in the Philippines, leading to a government inquiry in that country. In the case of the Ecuadorian commercial bank, they sought cover in Hong Kong’s shadowy world of shell companies, according to court records filed in the United States and Hong Kong arising from BDA’s efforts to recover its money.

BDA declined to comment.

Hong Kong is known as a free and open financial center – but also a destination for illicit money flows, made possible by practices that allow paper companies to proliferate.

The undemanding disclosure laws make Hong Kong attractive to money launderers, said Mike Kenealy, chief operating officer of risk and compliance consultancy Insiders Corp.

“These companies are often set up for ill-gotten gains and as vehicles of corruption,” he said. “Once the money starts moving, it gets laundered, converted and disappears without a trace.”

Another Hong Kong company in the BDA case – Regal Prosper Trading Ltd. – was set up by a woman who served as a director for 200 companies. Regal’s current director, Chen Jianan, listed a home address that does not exist in Hong Kong, but appears to combine two different provinces on China’s coast, according to company registry records.


A look at Jiushun Group shows how hard it can be to trace business activities and money flows in Hong Kong.

Jiushun Group received $1.968 million wired from Ecuador, by way of the United States, according to the court filings.

But Jiushun’s corporate registry filings list the factory building game room as its office address. They disclose the name of only one director, Chen Sheng Rong, who could not be located for comment. There is no mention of its business lines or figures for profit or sales, a lack of disclosure standard for Hong Kong’s private companies.

A Hong Kong High Court judge in the BDA case described Jiushun and three other companies as appearing to be inactive corporate vehicles controlled by Chinese citizens.

Those four companies received $9 million in the Ecuador heist. Roughly $3 million was promptly transferred to 19 other companies’ accounts, the court filings show.

BDA has settled with or withdrawn claims against 5 of the companies involved, but not Jiushun.

In the Kwun Tong district, the web of Jiushun connections seems to expand from person to person and place to place – without offering many hints where the BDA money went.

Yuen, the former bartender, said a person named Chan Ting-fung signed the lease on the gaming room and that Chan has a female friend from mainland China in her 30s who receives business correspondence in the mailbox, paying a portion of the rent to do so. Chan could not be reached to comment on that connection. Yuen said he did not know the name of Chan’s friend.Around the corner from the gaming space is a tennis-themed sports shop, which is listed as the address for the firm that performed legally required secretarial services for Jiushun Group.

Two employees of the tennis shop told Reuters they received two sealed letters from the High Court soon after they moved into the factory-turned-office space in December 2015, nearly a year after the theft.

The tennis-shop employees said they were not the intended recipients and did not open the notices.

Of the $1.968 million that went to Jiushun, $219,794 was passed on by Jiushun to jewelry wholesaler Samdimon HK Limited, according to a Hong Kong High Court decision citing bank transfer details from HSBC.

Samdimon’s registration lists Shailesh Ganmal Jain as its director.

In a ruling related to the case, High Court Judge Conrad Seagroatt called a statement submitted by Jain explaining the source of the funds in Sandimon’s account “convoluted” and “just not credible.”

Exactly what Jain said was not detailed in the court filing, but the record describes his statement as contending that BDA had failed to acquaint itself with the nature and extent of the jeweler’s business.

Jain told Reuters by email he was bound by a court order to remain silent. “I don’t want to disclose anything to you right now,” he told Reuters in a brief phone call.

Back in Kwun Tong, Yuen said he was concerned about the suggestion that his gaming pad could have some connection to an unsolved cybercrime.

The size of the heist is unimaginable to an unemployed bartender with under $1,300 to his name, he said.

“I had no idea,” he said, “I have my savings account, just HK$10,000 – maybe!”

(Reporting By Clare Baldwin in Hong Kong and Nathan Layne in Chicago; Additional reporting by Tris Pan in Hong Kong; editing by David Greising and Kevin Krolicki)

Bernie, The Donald, and the Sins of Liberalism

An American Version of Class Struggle

by Steve Fraser



Arising from the shadows of the American repressed, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have been sending chills through the corridors of establishment power. Who would have thunk it? Two men, both outliers, though in starkly different ways, seem to be leading rebellions against the masters of our fate in both parties; this, after decades in which even imagining such a possibility would have been seen as naïve at best, delusional at worst. Their larger-than-life presence on the national stage may be the most improbable political development of the last American half-century.  It suggests that we are entering a new phase in our public life.

A year ago, in my book The Age of Acquiescence, I attempted to resolve a mystery hinted at in its subtitle: “The rise and fall of American resistance to organized wealth and power.” Simply stated, that mystery was: Why do people rebel at certain moments and acquiesce in others?

Resisting all the hurts, insults, threats to material well-being, exclusions, degradations, systematic inequalities, over-lordship, indignities, and powerlessness that are the essence of everyday life for millions would seem natural enough, even inescapable, if not inevitable. Why put up with all that?

Historically speaking, however, the impulse to give in has proven no less natural.  After all, to resist is often to risk yourself, your means of livelihood, and your way of life.  To rise up means to silence those intimidating internal voices warning that the overlords have the right to rule by virtue of their wisdom, wealth, and everything that immemorial custom decrees.  Fear naturally closes in.

In our context, then, why at certain historical moments have Americans shown a striking ability to rise up, at other times to submit?

To answer that question, I explored those years in the first gilded age of the nineteenth century when millions of Americans took to the streets to protest, often in the face of the armed might of the state, and the period in the latter part of the twentieth century and the first years of this one when the label “the age of acquiescence” seemed eminently reasonable — until, in 2016, it suddenly didn’t.

So consider this essay a postscript to that work, my perhaps belated realization that the age of acquiescence has indeed come to an end.  Millions are now, of course, feeling the Bern and cheering The Donald.  Maybe I should have paid more attention to the first signs of what was to come as I was finishing my book: the Tea Party on the right, and on the left Occupy Wall Street, strikes by low-wage workers, minimum and living wage movements, electoral victories for urban progressives, a surge of environmental activism, and the eruption of the Black Lives Matter movement just on the eve of publication.

But when you live for so long in the shade of acquiescence where hope goes to die or at least grows sickly, you miss such things.  After all, if history has a logic, it can remain so deeply hidden as to be indecipherable… until it bites.  So, for example, if someone had X-rayed American society in 1932, in the depth of the Great Depression, that image would have revealed a body politic overrun with despair, cynicism, fatalism, and fear — in a word, acquiescence, a mood that had shadowed the land since “black Tuesday” and the collapse of the stock market in 1929.

Yet that same X-ray taken in 1934, just two years later, would have revealed a firestorm of mass strikes, general strikes, sit-down strikes, rent strikes, seizures of shuttered coal mines and utilities by people who were cold and lightless, marches of the unemployed, and a general urge to unseat the ancien régime; in a word, rebellion.  In this way, the equilibrium of a society can shift phases in the blink of an eye and without apparent warning (although in hindsight historians and others will explore all the reasons everybody should have seen it coming).

Liberalism vs. Liberalism

Anticipated or not, a new age of rebellion has begun, one that threatens the status quo from the left and the right.  Perhaps its most shocking aspect: people are up in arms against liberalism.

That makes no sense, right?  How can it, when come November the queen of liberalism will face off against the billionaire standard bearer of Republicanism?  In the end, the same old same old, yes?  Liberal vs. conservative.

Well, not really.  If you think of Hillary as the “limousine liberal” of this election season and The Donald as the right-wing “populist in pinstripes,” and consider how each of them shimmied their way to the top of the heap and who they had to fend off to get there, a different picture emerges.  Clinton inherits the mantle of a liberalism that has hollowed out the American economy and metastasized the national security state. It has confined the remnants of any genuine egalitarianism to the attic of the Democratic Party so as to protect the vested interests of the oligarchy that runs things.  That elite has no quarrel with racial and gender equality as long as they don’t damage the bottom line, which is after all the defining characteristic of the limousine liberalism Hillary champions.  Trump channels the hostility generated by that neoliberal indifference to the well-being of working people and its scarcely concealed cultural contempt for heartland America into a racially inflected anti-establishmentarianism. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders targets Clintonian liberalism from the other shore.  Liberalism is, in other words, besieged.

The Sixties Take on Liberalism

How odd!  For decades “progressives” have found themselves defending the achievements of liberal reform from the pitiless assault of an ascendant conservatism.  It’s hard to remember that the liberal vs. conservative equation didn’t always apply (and so may not again).

Go back half a century to the 1960s, however, and the battlefield seems not dissimilar to today’s terrain.  That was a period when the Vietnam antiwar movement indicted liberalism for its imperialism in the name of democracy, while the civil rights and black power movements called it out for its political alliance with segregationists in the South.

In those years, the New Left set up outposts in urban badlands where liberalism’s boast about the U.S. being an “affluent society” seemed like a cruel joke.  Students occupied campus buildings to say no to the bureaucratization of higher education and the university’s servitude to another liberal offspring, the military-industrial complex.  Women severed the knot tying the liberal ideal of the nuclear family to its gendered hierarchy.  The counterculture exhibited its contempt for liberalism’s sense of propriety in a thousand ways.  No hairstyle conventions, marriage contracts, sexual inhibitions, career ambitions, religious orthodoxies, clothing protocols, racial taboos, or chemical prohibitions escaped unscathed.

Liberalism adjusted, however.  It has since taken credit for most of the reforms associated with that time.  Civil rights laws, the war on poverty (including Medicare and Medicaid), women’s rights, affirmative action, and the erasure of cultural discrimination are now a de rigueur part of the CVs of Democratic presidents and the party’s top politicians, those running the mainstream media, the chairmen of leading liberal foundations, Ivy League college presidents, high-end Protestant theologians and clerics, and so many others who proudly display the banner of liberalism.  And they do deserve some of the credit.  They may have genuinely felt that “Bern” of yesteryear, the one crying out for equal rights before the law.

More importantly, those liberal elites were wise enough or malleable enough, or both, to surf the waves of rebellion of that time.  Wisdom and flexibility, however, are only part of the answer to this riddle: Why did mid-twentieth century liberalism manage to reform itself instead of cracking up under the pressure of that sixties moment?  The deeper explanation may be that the uprisings of those years assaulted liberalism — but largely on behalf of liberalism. Explicitly at times, as in the Port Huron Statement, that founding document of the ur-New Left group, Students for a Democratic Society, at other times by implication, the rebellions of that moment demanded that the liberal order live up to its own sacred credo of liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness.

The demand to open the system up became the heart and soul of the next phase of liberalism, of the urge to empower the free individual. Today, we might recognize this as the classic Clintonista desire to let all-comers join “the race to the top.”

Looking back, it’s been customary to treat the sixties as an era of youth rebellion.  While more than that, it certainly could be understood, in part, as an American version of fathers and sons (not to speak of mothers and daughters). An older generation had created the New Deal order, itself an act of historic rebellion. As it happened, that creation didn’t fit well with a Democratic Party whose southern wing, embedded in the segregationist former Confederacy, rested on Jim Crow laws and beliefs. Nor did New Deal social welfare reforms that presumed a male breadwinner/head of household, while excluding underclasses, especially (but not only) those of the wrong complexion from its protections, square with a yearning for equality.

Moreover, the New Deal saved a capitalist economy laid low in the Great Depression by installing a new political economy of mass consumption.  While a wondrous material accomplishment, that was also a socially disabling development, nourishing a culture of status-seeking individualism and so undermining the sense of social solidarity that had made the New Deal possible.  Finally, in the Cold War years, it became clear that prosperity and democracy at home depended on an imperial relationship with the rest of the world and the garrisoning of the planet.  In the famed phrase of Life Magazine publisher Henry Luce, an “American Century”  was born.

Uprisings against that ossifying version of New Deal liberalism made the sixties “The Sixties.”  Political emotions were at a fever pitch as rebels faced off against a liberal “establishment.”  Matters sometimes became so overheated they threatened to melt the surface of public life.  And yet here was a question that, no matter the temperature, was tough to raise at the time: What if liberalism wasn’t the problem?  Admittedly, that thought was in the air then, raised not just by new and old lefties, but by Martin Luther King who famously enunciated his second thoughts about capitalism, poverty, race, and war in speeches like “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.”

Most of the rebels of that moment, however, clung to the ancestral faith.  In the end, they were convinced that once equilibrium was restored, a more modern liberalism, shorn of its imperfections, could become a safe haven by excluding nobody. Indicted in those years for its hypocrisy and bad faith, it would be cleansed.

Thanks to those mass rebellions and the persistent if less fiery efforts that followed for decades, the hypocrisy of exclusion, whether of blacks, women, gays, or others, would indeed largely be ended. Or so it seemed. The liberalism inherited from the New Deal had been cleansed — not entirely to be sure and not without fierce resistance, but then again, nothing’s perfect, is it?  End of hypocrisy.  End of story.

The Missing Link

Yet at the dawning of the new millennium a paradox began to emerge.  Liberal society had proved compatible with justice for all and an equal shot at the end zone.  Strangely, however, in its ensuing glorious new world, the one Bill Clinton presided over, liberty, justice, and equality all seemed to be on short rations.

If not the liberal order, then something else was spoiling things.  After all, the everyday lives of so many ordinary Americans were increasingly constrained by economic anxiety and a vertiginous sense of social freefall.  They experienced feelings of being shut out and scorned, of suffering from a hard-to-define political disenfranchisement, of being surveilled at work (if they had it) and probably elsewhere if not, of fearing the future rather than hoping for what it might bring their way.

Brave and audacious as they were, rarely had the rebel movements of the fabled sixties or those that followed explicitly challenged the underlying distribution of property and power in American society.  And yet if liberalism had proved compatible enough with liberty, equality, and democracy, capitalism was another matter.

The liberal elite that took credit for opening up that race to the top had also at times presided over a neoliberal capitalism which had, for decades, been damaging the lives of working people of all colors.  (Indeed, nowadays Hillary expends a lot of effort trying to live down the legacy of mass incarceration bequeathed by her husband.)  But Republicans have more than shared in this; they have, in fact, often taken the lead in implanting a market- and finance-driven economic system that has produced a few “winners” and legions of losers. Both parties heralded a deregulated marketplace, global free trade, the outsourcing of manufacturing and other industries, the privatization of public services, and the shrink-wrapping of the social safety net.  All of these together gutted towns and cities as well as whole regions (think: Rust Belt America) and ways of life.

In the process, the New Deal Democratic Party’s tradition of resisting economic exploitation and inequality vaporized, while the “new Democrats” of the Clinton era and beyond, as well as many in the boardrooms of the Fortune 500 and in hedge-fund America, continued to champion equal rights for all.  They excoriated conservative attempts to rollback protections against racial, gender, and sexual discrimination; but the one thing they didn’t do — none of them — was disturb the equanimity of the 1%.

And what does freedom and equality amount to in the face of that?  For some who could — thanks to those breakthroughs — participate in the “race to the top,” it amounted to a lot.  For many millions more, however, who have either been riding the down escalator or already lived near or at the bottom of society, it has been a mockery, a hollow promise, something (as George Carlin once noted) we still call the American Dream because “you have to be asleep to believe in it.”

Given their hand in abetting this painful dilemma, the new Democrats seemed made for the already existing sobriquet — a kind of curse invented by the populist right — “limousine liberal.”  An emblem of hypocrisy, it was conceived and first used in 1969 not by the left but by figures in that then-nascent right-wing movement.  The image of a silk-stocking crowd to-the-manner born, bred and educated to rule, networked into the circuits of power and wealth, professing a concern for the downtrodden but not about to surrender any privileges to alleviate their plight (yet prepared to demand that everyone else pony up) has lodged at the heart of American politics ever since.  In our time, it has been the magnetic North of right-wing populism.

Class Struggle, American Style

In 1969, President Richard Nixon invoked the “silent majority” to do battle with those who would soon come to be known as “limousine liberals.”  He hoped to mobilize a broad swath of the white working class and lower middle class for the Republican Party.  This group had been the loyalists of the New Deal Democratic Party, but were then feeling increasingly abandoned by it and disturbed by the rebelliousness of the era.

In the decades that followed, the limousine liberal would prove a perfect piñata for absorbing their resentments about racial upheaval, as well as de-industrialization and decline, and their grief over the fading away of the “traditional family” and its supposed moral certitudes.  In this way, the Republican Party won a substantial white working-class vote.  It’s clear enough in retrospect that this confrontation between the silent majority and limousine liberalism was always a form of American class struggle.

Nixon proved something of a political genius and his gambit worked stunningly well… until, of course, in our own moment it didn’t.  Following his lead, the Republican high command soon understood that waving the red flag of “limousine liberalism” excited passions and elicited votes.  They never, however, had the slightest intention of doing anything to truly address the deteriorating circumstances of that silent majority. The party’s leading figures were far too committed to defending the interests of corporate America and the upper classes.

Their gestures, the red meat they tossed to their followers in the “culture wars,” only increased the passions of the era until, in the aftermath of the 2007 financial meltdown and Great Recession, they exploded in a fashion the Republican elite had no way to deal with.  What began as their creature, formed in cynicism and out of the festering jealousies and dark feelings of Nixon himself over the way the liberal establishment had held him in contempt, ended up turning on its fabricators.

A “silent majority” would no longer remain conveniently silent.  The Tea Party howled about every kind of political establishment in bed with Wall Street, crony capitalists, cultural and sexual deviants, free-traders who scarcely blinked at the jobs they incinerated, anti-taxers who had never met a tax shelter they didn’t love, and decriers of big government who lived off state subsidies.  In a zip code far, far away, a privileged sliver of Americans who had gamed the system, who had indeed made gaming the system into the system, looked down on the mass of the previously credulous, now outraged, incredulously.

In the process, the Republican Party was dismembered and it was The Donald who magically rode that Trump Tower escalator down to the ground floor to pick up the pieces.  His irreverence for established authority worked.  His racist and misogynist phobias worked.  His billions worked for millions who had grown infatuated with all the celebrated Wall Street conquistadors of the second Gilded Age.  His way of gingerly tiptoeing around Social Security worked with those whose neediness and emotional logic was captured by the person who memorably told a Republican congressman, “Keep your government hands off my Medicare.” Most of all, his muscle-flexing bombast worked for millions fed up with demoralization, paralysis, and powerlessness. They felt The Donald.

In the face-off between right-wing populism and neoliberalism, Tea Party legions and Trumpists now find Fortune 500 CEOs morally obnoxious and an economic threat, grow irate at Federal Reserve bail-outs, and are fired up by the multiple crises set off by global free trade and the treaties that go with it.  And underlying such positions is a fantasy of an older capitalism, one friendlier to the way they think America used to be.  They might be called anti-capitalists on behalf of capitalism.

Others — often their neighbors in communities emptying of good jobs and seemingly under assault — are feeling the Bern.  This represents yet another attack on neoliberalism of the limousine variety.  Bernie Sanders proudly classifies himself as a socialist, even if his programmatic ideas echo a mildly left version of the New Deal.  Yet even to utter the verboten word “socialism” in public, no less insistently run on it and get away with it, exciting the fervent commitment of millions, is stunning — in fact, beyond imagining in any recent America.

The Sanders campaign had made its stand against the liberalism of the Clinton elite.  It has resonated so deeply because the candidate, with all his grandfatherly charisma and integrity, repeatedly insists that Americans should look beneath the surface of a liberal capitalism that is economically and ethically bankrupt and running a political confidence game, even as it condescends to “the forgotten man.”

To a degree then, Trump and Sanders are competing for the same constituencies, which should surprise no one given how far the collateral damage of neoliberal capitalism has spread.  Don’t forget that, in the Great Depression era as the Nazis grew more powerful, their party, the National Socialists, not only incorporated that word — “socialism” — but competed with the Socialist and Communist parties among the distressed workers of Germany for members and voters.  There were even times (when they weren’t killing each other in the streets) that they held joint demonstrations.

Trump is, of course, a conscienceless demagogue, serial liar, and nihilist with a belief in nothing save himself.  Sanders, on the other hand, means what he says.  On the issue of economic justice, he has been a broken record for more than a quarter-century, even if no one beyond the boundaries of Vermont paid much attention until recently.  He is now widely trusted and applauded for his views.

Hillary Clinton is broadly distrusted.  Sanders has consistently outpolled her against potential Republican opponents for president because she is indeed a limousine liberal whose career has burned through trust at an astonishing rate.  And more important than that, the rebellion that has carried Sanders aloft is not afraid to put capitalism in the dock.  Trump is hardly about to do that, but the diseased state of the neoliberal status quo has made him, too, a force to be reckoned with.  However you look at it, the age of acquiescence is passing awa

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