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TBR News August 4, 2018

Aug 04 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. August 4, 2018:”There have been lunatic postings, aimed at easily aroused, badly-educated far right supporters of Donald Trump. This is called ‘Q-Anon’ and is designed to stuff these people with Alex Jones types of outrageous fictions to the point where there are loud public displays of what the rest of the voting public would consider to be raving lunatics. Trump’s strange rantings, semi-literate tweetings, and general bizarre behavior had caused many rumors about him to grow in Washington. One now most often heard at cocktail parties or in offices across town, is that Trump is a closeted gay with a lust for the handsome son in law, Kushner. A psychologist I spoke with said, very firmly, that men like Trump who strut around the scene, loudely slapping women on the buttocks or grabbing their breasts and proving to themselves that they really aren’t gay and by their obnoxious behavior, try desperately to convince anyone in sound of their voice that they are genuine he-men. There were several episodes when Trump was in a military academy as a young man that might give credence to this theory but we understand such matter are being prepared for publication.”

Table of Contents

  • U.S. court orders Trump administration to fully reinstate DACA program
  • Would War With Iran Doom Trump?
  • Turkey’s Erdogan threatens sanctions against US officials over pastor spat
  • Paul Manafort Was Deep in Debt. He Saw an Opportunity in Trump.
  • Revelations of suspected spy at US embassy in Moscow could be tip of the iceberg
  • Capitalism Killed Our Climate Momentum, Not “Human Nature”
  • Conversations with the Crow

U.S. court orders Trump administration to fully reinstate DACA program

August 3, 2018

by Andrew Chung


NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal judge on Friday ruled that the Trump administration must fully restore a program that protects from deportation some young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children, including accepting new applications for the program.

U.S. District Judge John Bates in Washington, D.C., said he would stay Friday’s order, however, until August 23 to give the administration time to decide whether to appeal.

Bates first issued a ruling in April ordering the federal government to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, including taking applications. He stayed that ruling for 90 days to give the government time to better explain why the program should be ended.

On Friday Bates, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, a Republican, said he would not revise his previous ruling because the arguments of President Donald Trump’s administration did not override his concerns.

Under DACA, roughly 700,000 young adults, often referred to as “Dreamers”, were protected from deportation and given work permits for two-year periods, after which they must re-apply to the program.

The program was created in 2012 under former President Barack Obama, a Democrat.

Two other federal courts in California and New York had previously ordered that DACA remain in place while litigation challenging Trump’s decision to end it continued. Those rulings only required the government to process DACA renewals, not new applications.

Another lawsuit in a Texas federal court is seeking to end DACA.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice said on Friday that the government would continue to defend its position that it “acted within its lawful authority in deciding to wind down DACA in an orderly manner.”

Congress so far has failed to pass legislation to address the fate of the Dreamers, including a potential path to citizenship.

Friday’s ruling came in lawsuits filed by several groups and institutions, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Princeton University

Reporting by Andrew Chung Editing by Sue Horton


Would War With Iran Doom Trump?

August 3, 2018

by Patrick J. Buchanan


A war with Iran would define, consume and potentially destroy the Trump presidency, but exhilarate the neocon never-Trumpers who most despise the man.

Why, then, is President Donald Trump toying with such an idea?

Looking back at Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, wars we began or plunged into, what was gained to justify the cost in American blood and treasure, and the death and destruction we visited upon that region? How has our great rival China suffered by not getting involved?

Oil is the vital strategic Western interest in the Persian Gulf. Yet a war with Iran would imperil, not secure, that interest.

Mass migration from the Islamic world, seeded with terrorist cells, is the greatest threat to Europe from the Middle East. But would not a U.S. war with Iran increase rather than diminish that threat?

Would the millions of Iranians who oppose the mullahs’ rule welcome U.S. air and naval attacks on their country? Or would they rally behind the regime and the armed forces dying to defend their country?

“Mr Trump, don’t play with the lion’s tail,” warned President Hassan Rouhani in July: “War with Iran is the mother of all wars.”

But he added, “Peace with Iran is the mother of all peace.”

Rouhani left wide open the possibility of peaceful settlement.

Trump’s all-caps retort virtually invoked Hiroshima: “Never, ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the like of which few throughout history have suffered before.”

When Trump shifted and blurted out that he was open to talks – “No preconditions. They want to meet? I’ll meet.” – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo contradicted him: Before any meeting, Iran must change the way they treat their people and “reduce their malign behavior.”

We thus appear to be steering into a head-on collision.

For now that Trump has trashed the nuclear deal and is reimposing sanctions, Iran’s economy has taken a marked turn for the worse.

Its currency has lost half its value. Inflation is surging toward Venezuelan levels. New U.S. sanctions will be imposed this week and again in November. Major foreign investments are being canceled. U.S. allies are looking at secondary sanctions if they do not join the strangulation of Iran.

Tehran’s oil exports are plummeting along with national revenue.

Demonstrations and riots are increasingly common.

Rouhani and his allies who bet their futures on a deal to forego nuclear weapons in return for an opening to the West look like fools to their people. And the Revolutionary Guard Corps that warned against trusting the Americans appears vindicated.

Iran’s leaders have now threatened that when their oil is no longer flowing freely and abundantly, Arab oil may be blocked from passing through the Strait of Hormuz out to Asia and the West.

Any such action would ignite an explosion in oil prices worldwide and force a U.S. naval response to reopen the strait. A war would be on.

Yet the correlation of political forces is heavily weighted in favor of driving Tehran to the wall. In the U.S., Iran has countless adversaries and almost no advocates. In the Middle East, Israelis, Saudis and the UAE would relish having us smash Iran.

Among the four who will decide on war, Trump, Pompeo and John Bolton have spoken of regime change, while Defense Secretary James Mattis has lately renounced any such strategic goal.

With Israel launching attacks against Iranian-backed militia in Syria, U.S. ships and Iranian speedboats constantly at close quarters in the Gulf, and Houthi rebels in Yemen firing at Saudi tankers in the Bab el-Mandeb entrance to the Red Sea, a military clash seems inevitable.

While America no longer has the ground forces to invade and occupy an Iran four times the size of Iraq, in any such war, the U.S., with its vastly superior air, naval and missile forces, would swiftly prevail.

But if Iran called into play Hezbollah, the Shiite militias in Syria and Iraq, and sectarian allies inside the Arab states, U.S. casualties would mount and the Middle East could descend into the kind of civil-sectarian war we have seen in Syria these last six years.

Any shooting war in the Persian Gulf could see insurance rates for tankers soar, a constriction of oil exports, and surging prices, plunging us into a worldwide recession for which one man would be held responsible: Donald Trump.

How good would that be for the GOP or President Trump in 2020?

And when the shooting stopped, would there be installed in Iran a liberal democracy, or would it be as it was in Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, with first the religious zealots taking power, and then the men with guns.

If we start a war with Iran, on top of the five in which we are engaged still, then the party that offers to extricate us will be listened to, as Trump was listened to, when he promised to extricate us from the forever wars of the Middle East.


Turkey’s Erdogan threatens sanctions against US officials over pastor spat

In a tit-for-tat move, the Turkish president said he would freeze the assets of the “American justice and interior ministers.” US-Turkish relations have deteriorated over the fate of an imprisoned American preacher.

August 4, 2018


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday announced tit-for-tat sanctions targeting US officials after Washington imposed financial penalties against Turkey’s interior and justice minister earlier this week.

“Today I will give our friends instructions to freeze the assets in Turkey of the American justice and interior ministers, if they have any (such assets),” said Erdogan in a televised speech.

It is unclear which officials will be targeted by the sanctions since the US has different offices for those functions in Turkey. Jeff Session is US attorney general, while Kirstjen Nielsen serves as homeland secretary and Ryan Zinke as interior secretary.

The US Treasury on Wednesday imposed sanctions against Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu for their role in the detention of 50-year-old Andrew Brunson, an evangelical pastor.

‘Needs to come home’

Turkish authorities have charged Brunson with “committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member” and espionage.

Prosecutors have accused him of maintaining links with Fethullah Gulen, a self-exiled cleric based in the US who was wanted by Turkey for allegedly plotting a failed coup in 2016.

On Friday, State Secretary Michael Pompeo said he discussed Brunson’s case with his Turkish counterpart.

“Brunson needs to come home. As do all the Americans being held by the Turkish government,” Pompeo told reporters. “They’ve been holding these folks for a long time. These are innocent people.”

‘Lose-lose games’

Erdogan on Saturday suggested he did not want deteriorating relations with its military ally to fallout further.

“We don’t want to be a party to lose-lose games,” Erdogan said. “Moving political and judicial disputes into an economic dimension will be harmful for both sides.”

While largely seen as symbolic by analysts, Washington’s sanctions threw Turkey’s currency into a downfall, reaching 5 to a dollar on Friday for the first time in its modern history.


Paul Manafort Was Deep in Debt. He Saw an Opportunity in Trump.

August 3, 2018

by Matt Apuzzo, Eileen Sullivan and Sharon LaFraniere

New York Times

WASHINGTON — Paul Manafort’s services did not come cheap. His consulting work helped prop up foreign strongmen, who in turn kept him in $12,000 bespoke suits from Beverly Hills.

But by 2016, Mr. Manafort was broke. His longtime cash cow, the Ukrainian president Viktor F. Yanukovych, was out of office, living in exile. Mr. Manafort had $1 million in clothing debt alone, his business was hemorrhaging money and he was angling for bank loans to stay afloat.

He was in such bad shape that one of his accountants, Cynthia Laporta, who testified on Friday at Mr. Manafort’s fraud trial, said she had agreed in 2015 to fraudulently lower his reported income on a tax return because she had been told he was unable to pay what he owed. She saved him about a half-million dollars in taxes.

The problems did not go away by 2016, so it was a peculiar time to volunteer his services to the Trump campaign. “I am not looking for a paid job,” Mr. Manafort wrote in a memo proposing he help Donald J. Trump secure the Republican nomination for president.

Mr. Manafort’s work running the campaign is the backdrop to his federal bank and tax fraud trial in Northern Virginia. Prosecutors are not addressing that work. But as they present evidence that he was growing desperate for money, the question of why Mr. Manafort, now 69, agreed to an unpaid job for Mr. Trump has become increasingly tantalizing.

While his trial is unlikely to reveal the answer, there is evidence that Mr. Manafort saw Mr. Trump’s campaign as a potential loss leader — an upfront freebie that he could use to boost his stature and eventually parlay into more work for foreign clients. After working decades earlier for Bob Dole, George Bush, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, Mr. Manafort viewed the Trump campaign as a chance to return to prominence on the biggest stage in American politics, his associates said.

Mr. Manafort’s memo made its way to Mr. Trump through a mutual friend, Thomas J. Barrack Jr., who described Mr. Manafort to the candidate as “the most experienced and lethal of managers” and “a killer.” For the notoriously stingy Mr. Trump, the price was right. And he liked the fact that he and Mr. Manafort lived in the same Trump-owned Manhattan high rise. He once quipped that it was great to have a campaign chairman who paid him money, and not the other way around, campaign officials said.

Running a winning presidential campaign is a surefire path to a White House job. But Mr. Manafort told people he had no interest in working in the Trump administration. “My dad is Trump’s right-hand man right now and will be through November,” Mr. Manafort’s daughter, Andrea Manafort Shand, wrote in a text message that was publicly disclosed after her phone had been hacked. “But he won’t accept any position in the White House.”

But Mr. Manafort recognized that his work with the Trump campaign was worth something. In April 2016, just days after becoming a Trump campaign strategist, he tried to use his positive news media coverage as leverage in a debt dispute with a Russian oligarch, Oleg V. Deripaska.

“I assume you have shown our friends my media coverage, right?” Mr. Manafort wrote in an email to a business partner.

“Absolutely,” the partner, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, responded. “Every article.”

“How do we use to get whole,” Manafort asked. The emails were reported by The Washington Post and The Atlantic.

Later, Mr. Manafort suggested providing campaign briefings to Mr. Deripaska. No evidence has emerged that such briefings occurred.

As Mr. Manafort ascended to one of the premier jobs in American politics, prosecutors now say, his career was privately in shambles. In early 2016, his accountant testified, he worked to mortgage some of his seven or eight homes. Prosecutors said he had become accustomed to a lavish lifestyle and was preoccupied with clinging to it.

At the helm of Mr. Trump’s candidacy, Mr. Manafort knew from experience that he was well positioned to bounce back. In the early 1980s, Mr. Manafort used his experience as a midlevel campaign aide for Reagan to build the pre-eminent lobbying and consulting shop of Reagan-era Washington. He helped major corporations broker access to the president’s inner circle — and he was paid handsomely for his services.

A Trump victory would have positioned him for a triumphant and lucrative return to Washington lobbying.

At the F.B.I., agents began to wonder whether Mr. Manafort had something else in the works. In late July 2016, agents learned that Russian operatives had offered help to a Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos. A second campaign adviser, Carter Page, traveled that month to Russia and met with a suspected Russian intelligence officer.

The F.B.I. began investigating whether Mr. Manafort, with his deep ties to the pro-Russia political movement in Ukraine, was involved in the Russian operation to interfere in the election. The Justice Department never brought charges accusing him of any involvement, but the investigation helped unravel whatever career plans Mr. Manafort plotted for himself.

The news media attention that he once saw as so valuable ultimately helped knock him from his powerful post. Journalists revealed confidential details about his work in Ukraine, including a ledger showing millions of dollars in secret payments — revelations that forced his departure in August 2016.

Prosecutors, who had scrutinized Mr. Manafort’s foreign lobbying for years, began investigating that area in earnest. By the time Mr. Trump was sworn into office, Mr. Manafort was under scrutiny in at least two investigations. If convicted of the charges against him, he faces years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.

Mr. Manafort’s lawyers say he almost certainly would not have faced charges if not for his brief, unpaid stint with the Trump campaign.

Matt Apuzzo and Eileen Sullivan reported from Washington, and Sharon LaFraniere from Alexandria, Va. Nicholas Confessore and Maggie Haberman contributed reporting from New York, and Glenn Thrush from Washington.

 Revelations of suspected spy at US embassy in Moscow could be tip of the iceberg

Intelligence analysts warn that Russian worker believed to have had full access to secret data is unlikely to be an isolated case

August 3, 2018

by David Smith in Washington

The Guardian

Revelations that a suspected Russian mole worked at the US embassy in Moscow for a decade could just be the tip of the iceberg.

This week the Guardian learned that a female Russian national, hired by the secret service, was dismissed after being caught holding regular and unauthorised meetings with the Russian intelligence agency the FSB.

The explosive report that came just hours after an extraordinary joint press conference in Washington by America’s top five national security officials who warned of a “broad and deep” effort by Russia to destabilise American democracy. Yet it is a threat that Donald Trump apparently fails to take seriously.

The suspected Russian spy came under suspicion after a routine security sweep by the state department. But intelligence analysts warned that this is unlikely to be an isolated example.

“The story is very credible and not very surprising to those of us who have worked in embassies,” said John Sipher, whose 28-year career in the CIA’s national clandestine service included serving in Moscow and running the CIA’s Russia operations. “It is a constant problem – especially with the FSN-I [Foreign Service National Investigator] position. Those foreign nationals are hired to work with the local police and security services. They often come from those services.

“In high counter-intelligence threat countries they are almost always reporting to the local service. In Russia it is a given. The Russians would never let someone occupy that position that wasn’t reporting to them.”

Sipher added: “These jobs are an accident waiting to happen. In countries that don’t have basic rule of law and a culture of service, the embassy needs people to make connections and help them get things done…. It helps the embassy get things done and helps the local service have eyes and ears inside the embassy.”

The Russian national is understood to have had access to intranet and email systems, giving her potential access to highly confidential material including the schedules of the president and vice-president. A source said the secret service tried to minimise its embarrassment by firing the woman last summer when Russia ordered the removal of 750 personnel from the US embassy during a diplomatic spat.

Valerie Plame, a former undercover CIA operations officer, said: “This woman would have had access to the schedules of principals coming to Russia. You’re just handing information to the FSB on a silver platter. It makes their jobs so much easier.

“The secret service were going through all sorts of real problems of discipline and training under President Obama. There was a series of real muck-ups. This appears to fall into the same bucket, that same period of time, and show clearly from the top down there were organisational, morale, bureaucratic, security problems.

Plame added: “We’ve been dependent on foreign nationals around the world for decades. It’s just part of the accepted risk. It seems to me that, given she was hired under the auspices of the secret service, which has had its own deep problems, that means elsewhere in the world there are potentially foreign intelligence services that have exploited that weakness as well.”

Indeed, although the discovery of the suspected spy came at a highly sensitive moment – investigations into possible collusion in the 2016 election, alleged Russian agent Maria Butina’s attempts to infiltrate the Republican party, the Novochok poisoning in the UK – it points to a threat that is both widespread and decades old.

Paul Pillar, non-resident senior fellow at the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, said the case is a reminder of two unavoidable security vulnerabilities. “One is the need to rely for some embassy functions on local nationals, who always are subject to recruitment by host country intelligence services. A second is the skill and resourcefulness of the Russian services, which have a long history of operating against the US embassy in Moscow.

“The vulnerability involving the employment of local nationals can arise in any large overseas mission, but the Russians are a cut above most other intelligence services in being able to exploit such vulnerabilities.”

There are likely to be similar cases at other embassies, and especially western embassies, in Moscow, he added. “Some will go undetected. Most, even if officially detected, we will not hear about publicly.”

Larry Pfeiffer, a former CIA chief of staff and now director of the Michael V Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security, said: “This incident only underscores the persistence and pervasiveness of the Russian counter-intelligence threat. It has historically been and remains our greatest and most sophisticated threat. We should be glad this one has been caught but remain vigilant against those who, through exquisite tradecraft, remain undetected.”


Capitalism Killed Our Climate Momentum, Not “Human Nature”

August 3, 2018

by Naomi Klein

The Intercept

This Sunday, the entire New York Times Magazine will be composed of just one article on a single subject: the failure to confront the global climate crisis in the 1980s, a time when the science was settled and the politics seemed to align. Written by Nathaniel Rich, this work of history is filled with insider revelations about roads not taken that, on several occasions, made me swear out loud. And lest there be any doubt that the implications of these decisions will be etched in geologic time, Rich’s words are punctuated with full-page aerial photographs by George Steinmetz that wrenchingly document the rapid unraveling of planetary systems, from the rushing water where Greenland ice used to be to massive algae blooms in China’s third largest lake.

The novella-length piece represents the kind of media commitment that the climate crisis has long deserved but almost never received. We have all heard the various excuses for why the small matter of despoiling our only home just doesn’t cut it as an urgent news story: “Climate change is too far off in the future”; “It’s inappropriate to talk about politics when people are losing their lives to hurricanes and fires”; “Journalists follow the news, they don’t make it — and politicians aren’t talking about climate change”; and of course: “Every time we try, it’s a ratings killer.”

None of the excuses can mask the dereliction of duty. It has always been possible for major media outlets to decide, all on their own, that planetary destabilization is a huge news story, very likely the most consequential of our time. They always had the capacity to harness the skills of their reporters and photographers to connect abstract science to lived extreme weather events. And if they did so consistently, it would lessen the need for journalists to get ahead of politics because the more informed the public is about both the threat and the tangible solutions, the more they push their elected representatives to take bold action.

Which is why it was so exciting to see the Times throw the full force of its editorial machine behind Rich’s opus — teasing it with a promotional video, kicking it off with a live event at the Times Center, and accompanying educational materials.

That’s also why it is so enraging that the piece is spectacularly wrong in its central thesis.

According to Rich, between the years of 1979 and 1989, the basic science of climate change was understood and accepted, the partisan divide over the issue had yet to cleave, the fossil fuel companies hadn’t started their misinformation campaign in earnest, and there was a great deal of global political momentum toward a bold and binding international emissions-reduction agreement. Writing of the key period at the end of the 1980s, Rich says, “The conditions for success could not have been more favorable.”

And yet we blew it — “we” being humans, who apparently are just too shortsighted to safeguard our future. Just in case we missed the point of who and what is to blame for the fact that we are now “losing earth,” Rich’s answer is presented in a full-page callout: “All the facts were known, and nothing stood in our way. Nothing, that is, except ourselves.”

Yep, you and me. Not, according to Rich, the fossil fuel companies who sat in on every major policy meeting described in the piece. (Imagine tobacco executives being repeatedly invited by the U.S. government to come up with policies to ban smoking. When those meetings failed to yield anything substantive, would we conclude that the reason is that humans just want to die? Might we perhaps determine instead that the political system is corrupt and busted?)

This misreading has been pointed out by many climate scientists and historians since the online version of the piece dropped on Wednesday. Others have remarked on the maddening invocations of “human nature” and the use of the royal “we” to describe a screamingly homogenous group of U.S. power players. Throughout Rich’s accounting, we hear nothing from those political leaders in the Global South who were demanding binding action in this key period and after, somehow able to care about future generations despite being human. The voices of women, meanwhile, are almost as rare in Rich’s text as sightings of the endangered ivory-billed woodpecker — and when we ladies do appear, it is mainly as long-suffering wives of tragically heroic men.

All of these flaws have been well covered, so I won’t rehash them here. My focus is the central premise of the piece: that the end of the 1980s presented conditions that “could not have been more favorable” to bold climate action. On the contrary, one could scarcely imagine a more inopportune moment in human evolution for our species to come face to face with the hard truth that the conveniences of modern consumer capitalism were steadily eroding the habitability of the planet. Why? Because the late ’80s was the absolute zenith of the neoliberal crusade, a moment of peak ideological ascendency for the economic and social project that deliberately set out to vilify collective action in the name of liberating “free markets” in every aspect of life. Yet Rich makes no mention of this parallel upheaval in economic and political thought.

When I delved into this same climate change history some years ago, I concluded, as Rich does, that the key juncture when world momentum was building toward a tough, science-based global agreement was 1988. That was when James Hansen, then director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, testified before Congress that he had “99 percent confidence” in “a real warming trend” linked to human activity. Later that same month, hundreds of scientists and policymakers held the historic World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere in Toronto, where the first emission reduction targets were discussed. By the end of that same year, in November 1988, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the premier scientific body advising governments on the climate threat, held its first session.

But climate change wasn’t just a concern for politicians and wonks — it was watercooler stuff, so much so that when the editors of Time magazine announced their 1988 “Man of the Year,” they went for “Planet of the Year: Endangered Earth.” The cover featured an image of the globe held together with twine, the sun setting ominously in the background. “No single individual, no event, no movement captured imaginations or dominated headlines more,” journalist Thomas Sancton explained, “than the clump of rock and soil and water and air that is our common home.”

(Interestingly, unlike Rich, Sancton didn’t blame “human nature” for the planetary mugging. He went deeper, tracing it to the misuse of the Judeo-Christian concept of “dominion” over nature and the fact that it supplanted the pre-Christian idea that “the earth was seen as a mother, a fertile giver of life. Nature — the soil, forest, sea — was endowed with divinity, and mortals were subordinate to it.”)

When I surveyed the climate news from this period, it really did seem like a profound shift was within grasp — and then, tragically, it all slipped away, with the U.S. walking out of international negotiations and the rest of the world settling for nonbinding agreements that relied on dodgy “market mechanisms” like carbon trading and offsets. So it really is worth asking, as Rich does: What the hell happened? What interrupted the urgency and determination that was emanating from all these elite establishments simultaneously by the end of the ’80s?

Rich concludes, while offering no social or scientific evidence, that something called “human nature” kicked in and messed everything up. “Human beings,” he writes, “whether in global organizations, democracies, industries, political parties or as individuals, are incapable of sacrificing present convenience to forestall a penalty imposed on future generations.” It seems we are wired to “obsess over the present, worry about the medium term and cast the long term out of our minds, as we might spit out a poison.”

When I looked at the same period, I came to a very different conclusion: that what at first seemed like our best shot at lifesaving climate action had in retrospect suffered from an epic case of historical bad timing. Because what becomes clear when you look back at this juncture is that just as governments were getting together to get serious about reining in the fossil fuel sector, the global neoliberal revolution went supernova, and that project of economic and social reengineering clashed with the imperatives of both climate science and corporate regulation at every turn.

The failure to make even a passing reference to this other global trend that was unfolding in the late ’80s represents an unfathomably large blind spot in Rich’s piece. After all, the primary benefit of returning to a period in the not-too-distant past as a journalist is that you are able to see trends and patterns that were not yet visible to people living through those tumultuous events in real time. The climate community in 1988, for instance, had no way of knowing that they were on the cusp of the convulsive neoliberal revolution that would remake every major economy on the planet.

But we know. And one thing that becomes very clear when you look back on the late ’80s is that, far from offering “conditions for success [that] could not have been more favorable,” 1988-89 was the worst possible moment for humanity to decide that it was going to get serious about putting planetary health ahead of profits.

Recall what else was going on. In 1988, Canada and the U.S. signed their free trade agreement, a prototype for NAFTA and countless deals that would follow. The Berlin wall was about to fall, an event that would be successfully seized upon by right-wing ideologues in the U.S. as proof of “the end of history” and taken as license to export the Reagan-Thatcher recipe of privatization, deregulation, and austerity to every corner of the globe.

It was this convergence of historical trends — the emergence of a global architecture that was supposed to tackle climate change and the emergence of a much more powerful global architecture to liberate capital from all constraints — that derailed the momentum Rich rightly identifies. Because, as he notes repeatedly, meeting the challenge of climate change would have required imposing stiff regulations on polluters while investing in the public sphere to transform how we power our lives, live in cities, and move ourselves around.

All of this was possible in the ’80s and ’90s (it still is today) — but it would have demanded a head-on battle with the project of neoliberalism, which at that very time was waging war on the very idea of the public sphere (“There is no such thing as society,” Thatcher told us). Meanwhile, the free trade deals being signed in this period were busily making many sensible climate initiatives — like subsidizing and offering preferential treatment to local green industry and refusing many polluting projects like fracking and oil pipelines — illegal under international trade law.

I wrote a 500-page book about this collision between capitalism and the planet, and I won’t rehash the details here. This extract, however, goes into the subject in some depth, and I’ll quote a short passage here:

We have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe — and would benefit the vast majority — are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets. That problem might not have been insurmountable had it presented itself at another point in our history. But it is our great collective misfortune that the scientific community made its decisive diagnosis of the climate threat at the precise moment when those elites were enjoying more unfettered political, cultural, and intellectual power than at any point since the 1920s. Indeed, governments and scientists began talking seriously about radical cuts to greenhouse gas emissions in 1988 — the exact year that marked the dawning of what came to be called “globalisation.”

Why does it matter that Rich makes no mention of this clash and instead, claims our fate has been sealed by “human nature”? It matters because if the force that interrupted the momentum toward action is “ourselves,” then the fatalistic headline on the cover of New York Times Magazine – “Losing Earth” — really is merited. If an inability to sacrifice in the short term for a shot at health and safety in the future is baked into our collective DNA, then we have no hope of turning things around in time to avert truly catastrophic warming.

If, on the other hand, we humans really were on the brink of saving ourselves in the ’80s, but were swamped by a tide of elite, free-market fanaticism — one that was opposed by millions of people around the world — then there is something quite concrete we can do about it. We can confront that economic order and try to replace it with something that is rooted in both human and planetary security, one that does not place the quest for growth and profit at all costs at its center.

And the good news — and, yes, there is some — is that today, unlike in 1989, a young and growing movement of green democratic socialists is advancing in the United States with precisely that vision. And that represents more than just an electoral alternative — it’s our one and only planetary lifeline.

Yet we have to be clear that the lifeline we need is not something that has been tried before, at least not at anything like the scale required. When the Times tweeted out its teaser for Rich’s article about “humankind’s inability to address the climate change catastrophe,” the excellent eco-justice wing of the Democratic Socialists of America quickly offered this correction: “*CAPITALISM* If they were serious about investigating what’s gone so wrong, this would be about ‘capitalism’s inability to address the climate change catastrophe.’ Beyond capitalism, *humankind* is fully capable of organizing societies to thrive within ecological limits.”

Their point is a good one, if incomplete. There is nothing essential about humans living under capitalism; we humans are capable of organizing ourselves into all kinds of different social orders, including societies with much longer time horizons and far more respect for natural life-support systems. Indeed, humans have lived that way for the vast majority of our history and many Indigenous cultures keep earth-centered cosmologies alive to this day. Capitalism is a tiny blip in the collective story of our species.

But simply blaming capitalism isn’t enough. It is absolutely true that the drive for endless growth and profits stands squarely opposed to the imperative for a rapid transition off fossil fuels. It is absolutely true that the global unleashing of the unbound form of capitalism known as neoliberalism in the ’80s and ’90s has been the single greatest contributor to a disastrous global emission spike in recent decades, as well as the single greatest obstacle to science-based climate action ever since governments began meeting to talk (and talk and talk) about lowering emissions. And it remains the biggest obstacle today, even in countries that market themselves as climate leaders, like Canada and France.

But we have to be honest that autocratic industrial socialism has also been a disaster for the environment, as evidenced most dramatically by the fact that carbon emissions briefly plummeted when the economies of the former Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s. And as I wrote in “This Changes Everything,” Venezuela’s petro-populism has continued this toxic tradition into the present day, with disastrous results.

Let’s acknowledge this fact, while also pointing out that countries with a strong democratic socialist tradition — like Denmark, Sweden, and Uruguay — have some of the most visionary environmental policies in the world.

From this we can conclude that socialism isn’t necessarily ecological, but that a new form of democratic eco-socialism, with the humility to learn from Indigenous teachings about the duties to future generations and the interconnection of all of life, appears to be humanity’s best shot at collective survival.

These are the stakes in the surge of movement-grounded political candidates who are advancing a democratic eco-socialist vision, connecting the dots between the economic depredations caused by decades of neoliberal ascendency and the ravaged state of our natural world. Partly inspired by Bernie Sanders’s presidential run, candidates in a variety of races — like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York, Kaniela Ing in Hawaii, and many more — are running on platforms calling for a “Green New Deal” that meets everyone’s basic material needs, offers real solutions to racial and gender inequities, while catalyzing a rapid transition to 100 percent renewable energy. Many, like New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon and New York attorney general candidate Zephyr Teachout, have pledged not to take money from fossil fuel companies and are promising instead to prosecute them.

These candidates, whether or not they identify as democratic socialist, are rejecting the neoliberal centrism of the establishment Democratic Party, with its tepid “market-based solutions” to the ecological crisis, as well as Donald Trump’s all-out war on nature. And they are also presenting a concrete alternative to the undemocratic extractivist socialists of both the past and present. Perhaps most importantly, this new generation of leaders isn’t interested in scapegoating “humanity” for the greed and corruption of a tiny elite. It seeks instead to help humanity — particularly its most systematically unheard and uncounted members — to find their collective voice and power so they can stand up to that elite.

We aren’t losing earth — but the earth is getting so hot so fast that it is on a trajectory to lose a great many of us. In the nick of time, a new political path to safety is presenting itself. This is no moment to bemoan our lost decades. It’s the moment to get the hell on that path.


Conversations with the Crow

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy.

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks.”

Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

One of Crowley’s first major assignments within the agency was to assist in the recruitment and management of prominent World War II Nazis, especially those with advanced intelligence experience. One of the CIA’s major recruitment coups was Heinrich Mueller, once head of Hitler’s Gestapo who had fled to Switzerland after the collapse of the Third Reich and worked as an anti-Communist expert for Masson of Swiss counterintelligence. Mueller was initially hired by Colonel James Critchfield of the CIA, who was running the Gehlen Organization out of Pullach in southern Germany. Crowley eventually came to despise Critchfield but the colonel was totally unaware of this, to his later dismay.

Crowley’s real expertise within the agency was the Soviet KGB. One of his main jobs throughout his career was acting as the agency liaison with corporations like ITT, which the CIA often used as fronts for moving large amounts of cash off their books. He was deeply involved in the efforts by the U.S. to overthrow the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile, which eventually got him into legal problems with regard to investigations of the U.S. government’s grand jury where he has perjured himself in an agency cover-up

After his retirement, Crowley began to search for someone who might be able to write a competent history of his career. His first choice fell on British author John Costello (author of Ten Days to Destiny, The Pacific War and other works) but, discovering that Costello was a very aggressive homosexual, he dropped him and tentatively turned to Joseph Trento who had assisted Crowley and William Corson in writing a book on the KGB. When Crowley discovered that Trento had an ambiguous and probably cooperative relationship with the CIA, he began to distrust him and continued his search for an author.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas in 1993 when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publications.

In 1998, when Crowley was slated to go into the hospital for exploratory surgery, he had his son, Greg, ship two large foot lockers of documents to Douglas in Wisconsin with the caveat that they were not to be opened until after Crowley’s death. These documents, totaled an astonishing 15,000 pages of CIA classified files involving many covert operations, both foreign and domestic, during the Cold War.

After Crowley’s death and Trento’s raid on the Crowley files, huge gaps were subsequently discovered by horrified CIA officials and when Crowley’s friends mentioned Gregory Douglas, it was discovered that Crowley’s son had shipped two large boxes to Douglas. No one knew their contents but because Douglas was viewed as an uncontrollable loose cannon who had done considerable damage to the CIA’s reputation by his on-going publication of the history of Gestapo-Müller, they bent every effort both to identify the missing files and make some effort to retrieve them before Douglas made any use of them.

He has.



Conversation No. 9

Date: Wednesday, April 17, 1996

Commenced: 8:45 AM CST

Concluded: 9:21 AM CST


RTC: Hello?

GD: Robert…

RTC: Good morning, Gregory. You’re a bit early today.

GD: I was talking with Corson about ten minutes ago. He started talking to me about Kennedy and said he had the whole story in his safe deposit box. Is that true?

RTC: Did he tell you anything else?

GD: He acted cute with me and said when he died, Plato would have the whole story. Why not Aristotle?

RTC: Plato is a local fix lawyer Bill uses from time to time. They all eat from the same trough. Was Bill specific?

GD: No, just that he had a big secret that he bet I’d just like to lay my hands on.

RTC: I’ll have to have a little talk with him. Bill gets it into his head that he’s an important person and has to be brought down a peg. Plato is a Greek and I never trusted him.

GD: I recall a newspaper headline. It said: ‘If Russia attacks Turkey from the rear, will Greece help?’

RTC: And so early in the morning, Gregory. This whole town is a moral whorehouse. They all hang out together, lie together, steal together and generally know nothing. I wouldn’t worry about Bill and his secret information. What he has is a DIA report that I gave him a copy of.

GD: You mentioned this before.

RTC: Yes and when the box comes and it works, then we can talk about a copy for you.

GD: I’m not poking but did you hate Kennedy?

RTC: You are poking, Gregory, but no, I did not hate Kennedy. Kennedy came from a family that was as crooked as a dog’s hind leg. His father was a rum-runner and a whore monger and vicious as hell. Jack wasn’t so bad but he couldn’t keep it in his pants and used drugs in the White House. And enough of him for the time being. Besides, maybe I can entertain you discussing the downfall of Richard Nixon.

GD: That would be interesting. You should have the box in a week or so and then we can discuss other matters. What about Nixon?

RTC: The Company brought Nixon down but of course he made it easy to do.

GD: Watergate

RTC: And other matters. Yes, Watergate. Shall I continue?

GD: Go right ahead.

RTC: Nixon’s problem is that he was a jealous outsider and never fit into the political or intelligence community. But a smart man, Gregory, very smart, and very ambitious.

GD: I met him once. My step-mother, who had big money, was a strong supporter of Nixon and when he was running for Governor of California, she dragged me to a rubber chicken affair and I got to talk with him.

RTC: What did you think of him?

GD: He had come across badly on the idiot box but in person, he was taller than I thought and very sharp. I liked him as a person because he knew I was nobody but had no problem having a very good conversation with me.

RTC: No doubt your step-mother’s money helped.

GD: True, but you can tell when someone is being pleasant to you for politic reasons and when he is being genuinely communicative. He had the left wing press after him and he hated them, believe me.

RTC: That’s one of the factors that brought him down. Nixon’s downfall started in early ’72 when he went to China. It was a bold move and it had an effect everywhere. It also had an effect in Taiwan. Old Chaing Kai-shek had a bloody fit when he saw this. I mean a bloody fit. He saw this as the beginning of the end of U.S. support for him and he wanted desperately to stop the slide. His intelligence chief and a couple of bigwigs came to see our DCI and wept in his office. If Nixon normalized relations with the PRC, it would spell the end of a mutual special relationship, just like our special relationship with Israel. The long and the short of it, Gregory, is that they wanted Nixon out of power before he went any further. And, the pleasant part of this is that they were more than willing to pay us very, very well for accommodating them.

GD: They wanted you to kill him?

RTC: No, just removed so he couldn’t do them any more damage. We later did discuss killing him but two dead presidents in ten years was a bit much, so we hit on another ploy. We would discredit him. Our main man in all of this was Howard Hunt, who had wonderful ideas of his importance and, besides writing bad books, he had been very helpful in the Kennedy business in ’63. He was our station chief in Mexico between August and September of that year and set up the fake ‘Oswald’ visit to Mexico City.

GD: Wasn’t Oswald there? Getting a visa for Cuba?

RTC: No, that was bullshit. Anyway, Howard arranged for faked pictures, testimony that Oswald had been there at the Russian embassy, and so on. Useful. Now let’s move ahead a few years. Nixon had won his last election in a landslide and you know he was never too well wrapped. He had a huge inferiority complex and the press did not like him. Herblock the cartoonist with the Post really made some ugly cartoons of him and Nixon was overly sensitive about that sort of thing. So with his victory at the polls, he got a swelled head and began to get even with his opponents by turning the FBI and the IRS loose on them. Things like that. Remember the enemies list? Fine. So Hunt was connected with the Nixon people as a trouble-shooter and got involved with going after Nixon’s perceived enemies. He planted the idea that McGovern, a raging liberal twit, was in contact with Castro and getting Cuban money. The next thing was to suggest that they bug the DNC offices to get proof of this and ruin McGovern. A break-in, and they had been breaking into offices and homes for some time, a break-in was planned but it was planned to fail. They taped a self-locking door open, someone tipped off Watergate security and you know the rest.

GD: But there was no guarantee that Nixon would do what he did. I mean the stonewalling.

RTC: We could read Tricky Dick like a dime novel. True to form, he believed he was an imperial figure and acted that way right up to the end. Hunt played his part and I’m sure you watched the thing unfold, right on the five o’clock news every night. For a smart man, Nixon was very stupid and played right into our hands.

GD: But Hunt was destined for the big house…

RTC: Of course. He had to fall on his sword but Howard didn’t like the idea and he began to whine about this. We had to show him the light and after that, he went right along with the schedule.

GD: A serious talk?

RTC: No, we had to kill his wife as a serious warning to follow the game plan.

GD: More killing. Someone shoot her from an office building?

RTC: No, we arranged for an accident when she was flying west. Dorothy was helping Howard with some little project he thought would help him so we sabotaged her plane in DC.

GD: Put a bomb on it?

RTC: No tampered with the equipment. Plane came in for a stopover at Midway, suddenly lost altitude and smashed into some local houses. Midway is a terrible field, believe me. Right in the middle of an urban area and the runways are far too short. Anyway, down it came on top of people and the wife was dead. The local authorities found ten thousand in cash in her purse by the way. But it had an effect on Howard…..

GD: I can imagine. How many people died?

RTC: A few on the ground and forty or so in the plane. But the point is, Howard kept to his end of things or he would have been next or perhaps a close relative. He knew the score, Howard did.

GD: And Nixon left office in disgrace.

RTC: Well, yes, he did. Remember Al Haig? The General? Yes. Well we were afraid that Nixon wouldn’t leave peacefully and might turn to the military for help so we put Al in to keep Nixon on the straight and narrow and limit his actions in that area. Worked out fine. And the chinks were happy as a clam with the results.

GD: Forty people, probably innocent at that, is a bit much, don’t you think?

RTC: Well, Lenin said you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs first. And Gregory, you surely can’t believe that there any really innocent people in this world? We are born in original sin as you know.

GD: That’s the Catholic view. Well, I suppose that’s water under the bridge now.

RTC: I think Teddy Kennedy said that after Chappaquiddick.

GD: Is it possible I could write about this?

RTC: Actually, I would rather you didn’t. Hunt is still alive and there’s no point pushing him. He’s fallen from grace and is in decline so he might not be too receptive to having all of this aired.

GD: No problem. Anyway, who would publish it? It’s bad enough that I am writing about the CIA hiring the head of the Gestapo without adding insult to injury. Does Nixon know about this?

RTC: I don’t really know and I don’t really care. He knows enough to keep quiet and count his money. I don’t think he wants his twilight years terminated with prejudice. He might be paranoid but he is a pragmatist in the end. That ought to hold you until we move on to other presidential removals.

GD: It sounds like a Mayflower moving van ad.

RTC: If it works, don’t knock it.

GD: Well, the chinks are not that happy. Look at all the money they spent and look at our relations with the PRC.

RTC: Some things are destined to happen and all they did was to prolong the final act. Jerry Ford was no threat. A wonderfully cooperative man, Jerry was. During the Warren Commission, he called up old Hoover every night with the latest confidential dirt. No, Jerry was no problem. And the peanut farmer was too self-righteous to bother with and harmless. Actually, Nixon was lucky. If the Watergate thing hadn’t worked, we would have found something a little more permanent.

GD: Nixon didn’t know anything about the Kennedy business, did he?

RTC: No. Nixon was a Quaker and God knows what he would have thought about that. Nixon wasn’t into what our Russian friends call wet actions.

GD: I’m not fishing here but did you people have anything to with Bobby’s ascension to heaven?

RTC: No, that was Hoover. The Colonel [1] hated Bobby for calling him an old faggot and harassing him. And King too. He hated King because he was having an affair with a white woman and, on top of this, had gone to the Lenin school in Russia. Bobby was a quid pro quo for his brother in our eyes.

GD: It sounds like the Borgias.

RTC: Gregory, these are matters of state, not an exercise in morality. We have to do unpleasant things from time to time…I recall our man driving around in Africa with the rotting body of Lumumba stuffed into his trunk back in ’61 after we killed him. People go off fast in that climate. He said he was sick for days trying to get the stench out of his nose. Feel sorry for the poor man, why not? That sort of work is never easy. There are often sleepless nights.

GD: Speaking of that, let me leave you now and I’ll call up my construction expert and see how the blessed Swiss bell ringing box is coming along.

RTC: You just do that, Gregory, and I will be very, very happy if and when.


[1] Roosevelt had made J. Edgar Hoover an honorary colonel in the U.S. Army during the Second World War but Hoover, outraged that he had not been made a general, refused to use the title. It was an inside joke in Washington official circles.

Myth of benevolent ‘Western democracies’ stoking aggression abroad, quelling dissent at home

August 3, 2018

by Robert Bridge


Western policymakers brazenly advocate that to be taken seriously, nations must emulate the Western democratic tradition. But peel back the veneer of these so-called democracies, and there lurks something sinister and rotten.

Just about 2,500 years ago, democracy took its first breath in that fertile hotbed of philosophical thought known as Athens, one of the many city-states that made up ancient Greece. This early experiment in ‘rule by the people’, which Winston Churchill once described as “the worst form of government, except for all the others,” has gone on to generally define the political structure of what is known today as ‘the Western world’.

Somewhere along the road of democracy’s bumpy evolution, which witnessed a major growth spurt with the American and French Revolutions, the idea took root that ‘Western-style democracy’ was the sine qua non of political philosophy. In other words, no nation was considered complete (or safe) unless it pledged allegiance to the political ideals of the ‘Western world’ – shorthand for ‘America’s world’. It was upon that contaminated soil that the seeds of mischief and mayhem were first planted.

In 1917, for example, US President Woodrow Wilson, in an effort to justify his call for declaring war on Germany, boldly advised Congress: “the world must be made safe for democracy.” In other words, America would serve as custodian, the global policeman, of the sacred political tradition. Leading intellectuals, including Noam Chomsky, believe this idea was the driving force behind many of America’s future military entanglements in places like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Korea, to name just a few jolly little romps.

Wilson’s evangelistic brand of what amounts to US imperialism was echoed 81 years later by Madeleine Albright, then secretary of state, when she remarked without batting an eyelid: “If we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see the danger here to all of us.” This is the same representative of ‘Western-style democracy’ who said in 1996 she thought the US-backed UN sanctions against Iraq – which led to the deaths of an estimated half a million Iraqi children – were “worth it.” Personally, I’d like to see Albright attempt to explain the merits of ‘Western-style democracy’ to the parents of those kids.

That line of pathological thinking continued with George W. Bush when, in March 2003, he ordered an invasion of Iraq so as to “democratize the country.” Funny how the countries that always seem to need a fatal dose of Western-style democracy, delivered via drone and cruise-missile sortie, just happen to straddle an ocean of oil reserves. The irony doesn’t end there.

Just before the US military began pulverizing a relatively stable and developed Middle Eastern country in the name of democratic values , millions of anti-war protesters were parading around the major capitals of the Western world, demanding the cessation of hostilities. In fact, Rome broke the world’s record for protest participation at 3 million; Madrid came in second with 1.5 million, followed by London with 1 million. A magnificent turnout on behalf of democracy, indeed, but the leaders of the ‘free’ Western world never blinked. They arrogantly dismissed this demonstration of democracy in action, going ahead with their illegitimate, wanton aggression.

Yet, as eventually transpired, the people were vindicated; there was absolutely no legitimate reason for invading Iraq for “harboring weapons of mass destruction.” It was all fake news before fake news was even a thing. The powers-that-be, however, blamed that disastrous “mistake,” which has killed, injured, and displaced untold millions of innocents, on an “intelligence failure.”

These days, the so-called Western democracies, many of which are card-carrying members of anachronistic NATO, rarely need to worry about anti-war protesters, or any major Western media outlet condemning their blatantly anti-democratic activities abroad. The reason is difficult to nail down, but I believe it derives from a dual phenomenon: the voters/consumers, consumed by the very freedoms that democracy has made available, have become too obsessed with identity politics to worry about what is happening across the planet in their name. At the same time, they have come to understand that no amount of political protest will change a thing. As a result of this democratic apathy and disillusionment at home, Western policymakers are free to initiate regime change at will against imagined enemies.

It needs to be emphasized, however, that the denizens of Western democracy are every bit as victimized by their political system as are the embattled people in foreign lands. After all, when do democratic principles really work to the advantage of the people in the Western world? I would argue almost never. Several recent examples prove the point.

On July 5, 2015, Greece, the very birthplace of democracy, held a referendum in which the people were asked if they wanted to accept an austerity-driven bailout agreement proposed by the European Commission, the IMF, and the European Central Bank. Over 62 percent of Greeks, understanding the IMF loan could never be paid back, rejected the plan. But what do the demos know about such things? Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, ignoring the results of the referendum, signed on to a crippling bailout by international creditors.

Mario Monti, former prime minister of Italy, admitted the Greek government “very undemocratically” rejected the result of the referendum, assuming a debt load that will hurt Greeks for many generations to come.

Meanwhile, it looks increasingly likely that the Brexit referendum, which resulted in a vote for the British to leave the EU, may suffer a similar failure of democracy like its Greek counterpart. With the government of Theresa May muddling along without direction, and prominent pro-Brexit Cabinet members, like Boris Johnson, dropping like flies, the British press is already preparing the 17 million people who voted Leave two years ago for a major disappointment.

Finally, the people of ‘democratic’ Europe had no say whatsoever in the highly controversial decision by several major EU states (most notably Germany, which has taken in around 1.4 million people) to bring in millions of migrants within their borders. Considering that the move has placed considerable burdens on individual nation states, it is astonishing that the initiative went ahead without consulting the public.

In light of these disturbing developments, how can it be realistically argued that the ‘Western world’ abides by the standards of ‘Western-style democracy’ that it imposes on the rest of the world? At the very least, the notion reeks of glaring hypocrisy.

In summary, ‘Western-style democracy’ has become a play thing in the hands of Western policymakers, used to initiate regime-change operations abroad, while tamping down ‘unpopular’, public-supported initiatives at home. The charade needs to end.

Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. Former Editor-in-Chief of The Moscow News, he is author of the book, ‘Midnight in the American Empire,’ released in 2013.



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