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Obamacare is the name given a law that says you must buy overpriced private health insurance from companies that fund election campaigns. Yes, it's got some lipstick on it, but compared to a civilized healthcare system like other wealthy nations use it's awful. But how awful? Surely not as awful as . . .
Obamatrade, which is the name not given to a potential treaty, a.k.a. the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which says that . . .
You must let foreign corporations overturn national laws.
You must throw millions of people out of work.
You must pay more for medicine.
You must allow banks to gamble on and crash the economy.
You must not know what's in your food.
You must be censored online.
You must destroy family farming.
You must wreck the environment.
You must get paid less.
ALL OF THIS doesn't bother anybody?
The Supreme Court of the United States recently ruled in favor of Obamacare, and a considerable number of people apparently lost their minds and their bowels.
Again, I admit that Obamacare is an awful law, but it is actually a law passed by Congress. The President and the one before him have been writing laws with signing statements and secret memos, and nobody seems to have gone insane over it.
That same previous president was installed by the same Supreme Court, which stopped an election in Florida so that his opponent couldn't be shown to have defeated him. Ho hum.
That same Supreme Court has given corporations human rights, made the spending of money an activity protected under the First Amendment as speech, and legalized political bribery. Yawn.
Is it me, or is everything related to Obamacare just a little bit out of whack?
If we were to rename the single largest and most destructive program that the U.S. government wastes money and lives on "Obamawar," would it then start to bother people?
Can we call the subsidizing of fossil fuels "Obamasmoke"? Would the earth win a few more supporters if we did?
The House and Senate have rammed through Fast Track.
Here are the senators who voted for Fast Track: http://1.usa.gov/1GtAdTH
And the House members who voted for Fast Track: http://1.usa.gov/1GAl1TT
We always said this would virtually guarantee passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But it doesn't absolutely guarantee it.
One way to stop it would be to pull out a seldom-used tactic in the United States that is indispensible in other nations. We could threaten consequences at the polling place for TPP supporters.
Yes, yes, yes, yes, I know -- No, not kidding, I actually know -- that in some small percentage of cases this could end up meaning that you've committed to voting against someone who faces in a future election someone else who looks even worse. But fear of that has in fact produced a pattern of, in fact, worse candidates followed by even worse candidates for years now. How, pray tell, do you propose to ever get any better candidates?
The TPP is a disaster that towers over considerations of gentility and lesser-evilism. This is Congress, as our supposed representatives, giving the power to overturn its own laws to corporations. Why would you care whom you elect to a body that no longer has the power to make laws? It's already given up the power to stop wars.
The TPP is NAFTA on steroids, economically and environmentally destructive at home and abroad. Most of it has nothing to do with trade, but is rather about empowering banks and corporations with powers that couldn't be passed separately or transparently because they're too terrible and unpopular.
It's time we take a stand against wrecking the world, even with corrupt politicians who can find someone slightly more corrupt to run against.
It's time we signed this petition:
If you don't oppose and vote against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, I will oppose and vote against you in every future primary and general election in which you are a candidate.
Congress members are often pressured in how to vote by the moneyed interests that buy their television ads, which in turn persuade the media to "cover" them nicely and dumb people to vote for them. But more often they are pressured in how to vote by the leaders of their two mega-parties who in turn answer to greater moneyed interests.
Thus three Republicans who voted against their leader's wishes in one of a package of votes intended to ram through the Trans-Pacific Partnership disaster have now been stripped of their leadership positions.
But carrots are used as often as sticks. In May 2009, 60 congress members voted against dumping another $97 billion into the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. My own misrepresentative Tom Perriello voted for it. Then, in June 2009, 202 congress members voted against that same war funding combined with a massive bailout for East European bankers. Perriello voted for both, even though both progressives AND the Tea Partiers in his district were opposed. The White House immediately rewarded him. Van Jones and Steny Hoyer came down to this district and did events, and shortly later the Secretary of Agriculture did the same. They were all rather pointless events intended as oppotrunities to pose for cameras with Perriello. Obama later did one himself.
At the end of last week, 28 Democrats voted against the interests of Obama, which happen to be identical on the TPP as on so many things with the interests of the Republican leadership. Some of those Democrats may not have needed carrots or sticks. But some clearly got them. Four in particular, we know, were given a ride in a aeroplane. Wheeeeee! Obama took them to the G7 with him on Air Force One. They are the four horses asses of the coming TPP apocalypse. They are:
Gerry Connolly D - 11 - VA 202 225 1492 @gerryconnolly
Jim Himes D - 4 - CT 202 225 5541 @jahimes
Eddie Bernice Johnson D - 30 - TX 202 225 8885 @repebj
Mike Quigley D - 5 - IL 202 225 4061 @repmikequigley
From ABC some images of Quigley and Bernice Johnson:
Here are the other Democrats who voted for corporate power on Friday. Watch how they vote today and in coming votes, and watch what rewards they're offered:
Brad Ashford D - 2 - NE 202 225 4155 @repbradashford
Ami Bera D - 7 - CA 202 225 5716 @repbera
Don Beyer D - 8 - VA 202 225 4376 @repdonbeyer
Earl Blumenauer D - 3 - OR 202 225 4811 @repblumenauer
Suzanne Bonamici D - 1 - OR 202 225 0855 @repbonamici
Jim Cooper D - 5 - TN 202 225 4311 @repjimcooper
Jim Costa D - 16 - CA 202 225 3341 @repjimcosta
Henry Cuellar D - 28 - TX 202 225 1640 @repcuellar
Susan Davis D - 53 - CA 202 225 2040 @repsusandavis
John Delaney D - 6 - MD 202 225 2721 @repjohndelaney
Suzan DelBene D - 1 - WA 202 225 6311 @repdelbene
Sam Farr D - 20 - CA 202 225 2861 @repsamfarr
Ruben Hinojosa D - 15 - TX 202 225 2531 @usrephinojosa
Derek Kilmer D - 6 - WA 202 225 5916 @repderekkilmer
Ron Kind D - 3 - WI 202 225 5506 @repronkind
Rick Larsen D - 2 - WA 202 225 2605 @repricklarsen
Greg Meeks D - 5 - NY 202 225 3461 @gregorymeeks
Beto O'Rourke D - 16 - TX 202 225 4831 @repbetoorourke
Scott Peters D - 52 - CA 202 225 0508 @repscottpeters
Jared Polis D - 2 - CO 202 225 2161 @repjaredpolis
Kathleen Rice D - 4 - NY 202 225 5516 @repkathleenrice
Kurt Schrader D - 5 - OR 202 225 5711 @repschrader
Terri Sewell D - 7 - AL 202 225 2665 @repterrisewell
Debbie Wasserman Schultz D - 23 - FL 202 225 7931 @repdwstweets
Wednesday afternoon, by a vote of 288-139 with one voting "present" and five not voting (roll call of who voted which way is here) the U.S. House of Representatives voted down a resolution (H.Con.Res.55) that would have required the President to . . .
"remove United States Armed Forces deployed to Iraq or Syria on or after August 7, 2014, other than Armed Forces required to protect United States diplomatic facilities and personnel, from Iraq and Syria. (1) by no later than the end of the period of 30 days beginning on the day on which this concurrent resolution is adopted; or (2) if the President determines that it is not safe to remove such United States Armed Forces before the end of that period, by no later than December 31, 2015, or such earlier date as the President determines that the Armed Forces can safely be removed."
While some number of the 139 yes votes were apparently cast by Congress members wanting a chance to vote yes on more war during the next 30 days or the next 6.5 months, most were presumably cast by Congress members actually favoring withdrawal or wanting to go on record as favoring withdrawal in a vote that stood little chance of succeeding. Almost two years ago now, Congress was compelled by public pressure to indicate its intention to vote no on missile strikes into Syria. Since that time it has refused to vote wars up or down, while allowing them to be launched and waged and escalated.
Of course, votes for wars have a history of pleasing campaign funders and displeasing voters. Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, in Wednesday's debate, made clear that she wanted to have the war continue but maintain the right to denounce it as completely ill-conceived. That's why a vote needed to be forced, to put Congress members on record one way or the other, to not let them have it both ways. There are now 288 of them who should be removed from office at the earliest opportunity and, like Hillary Clinton in 2008 and hopefully in the future, blocked in the pursuit of higher office.
Of course, President Barack Obama has made clear that he will wage war with or without Congress, but a vote by Congress to withdraw, and (if needed) perhaps a further vote to cut off funding, and (if needed) perhaps a further vote to impeach, would at the very least be interesting.
The resolution was brought by Reps. Jim McGovern, Barbara Lee, and Walter Jones under the War Powers Resolution, which allows any Congress member to force a debate and vote on any war that a president has launched without legal authorization. Congressman McGovern chose, however, not to use the debate he had forced in the manner in which then-Congressman Dennis Kucinich used to use it, namely as a debate on ending a war. Instead, McGovern framed this as a debate on whether to have a debate.
So, for two hours on Wednesday, proponents of war advocated at length with great passion and fear mongering for more war, while proponents of having a debate advocated procedurally for the proper use of Constitutional war powers and for having a debate. But of course they knew the resolution was very likely to fail, meaning that their debate on whether to have a debate would be all there was in the way of debating.
McGovern also chose to frame the debate defensively, arguing against opponents' assertions that his resolution required withdrawal in 30 days, claiming on the contrary that the resolution gave the President until the end of the year "if he chooses." But, of course, the resolution, quoted above, didn't say "if he chooses" -- rather "if the President determines that it is not safe to remove." McGovern seemed to be admitting that that was nonsense. It's dangerous to leave troops in a war; it's always safe to remove them, but McGovern was prepared to allow Obama to pretend the opposite "if he chooses."
A number of opponents of the resolution, in fact, pretended the opposite on Wednesday, arguing for more war "to protect the troops." Meanwhile another opponent of the resolution, Brad Sherman, argued that the resolution would indeed pull troops out in 30 days because they were in no danger.
The highlights of the debate came when four Congress members spoke against war, and one in particular did so with passion and wisdom. His name was John Lewis. He said that people are "sick and tired of war" and that war only makes matters worse, "Terrorism is not stopped by weapons. Bombs don't end hate." I've asked his office to send me his written remarks and am also hoping they post them here.
The others who spoke against war were Barbara Lee, very briefly, Rick Nolan, also briefly, and Charlie Rangel who pushed myths about the inherent violence of the Middle East and the goodness of past Good Wars, but who also said there was no reason for U.S. troops to be over there, and that ISIS wasn't invading our jobless communities. Rangel was the first to bring war opposition into Wednesday's "debate."
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey had on Wednesday in a committee hearing pushed the idea that religious sectarianism had created the disaster that in fact U.S. war-making has created in Iraq. Dempsey also said that there was no military solution, so instead he would use both the U.S. military and arming and training of Iraqis. So now you know what "no military solution" means -- a phrase that has apparently maintained the same relationship to its dictionary definition as "imminent" or "combatant."
Speaking in favor of war on Wednesday were Reps. Ed Royce, Eliot Engel (a believer in well-vetted moderate rebels and possibly the tooth fairy), Vicky Hartzler, Gerald Connolly, Joe Wilson (who seems to think Congress should take orders from military), Brendan Boyle, Lee Zeldin, Ted Poe, George Holding, David Cicilline, Adam Kinzinger (who wants Assad overthrown), Brad Sherman, and Michael McCaul.
Rep. Thomas Massie spoke for Constitutional war powers, but not for or against war. So did Walter Jones and Jim McGovern for that matter. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee wants a war debate, but paints war as philanthropy for its foreign victims, and restraint as greedy self-interest. Rep. Jerrold Nadler says he doesn't know if war should go on but that he and his colleagues should decide if war should go on. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton wants a vote for DC for or against war, but speaks only in praise of war. Rep. Mark Sanford wants a war debate, mentions war's financial cost, but never quite says yes or no to more war.
Royce gave a long pro-war closing after McGovern's quick procedural wishy-washy closing that never actually opposed war.
Royce claimed there was no third option beyond war or doing nothing. Here are some of those missing options.
To email Congress your opinion, click here.
Democratic-Party-based activist groups are urging each other to praise and support Senator Chris Murphy (Democrat, Connecticut) for laying out a better-than-average foreign policy and setting up a website at http://chanceforpeace.org.
Murphy's position would be considered militarist in the extreme outside of the United States, but advocates point out how much worse most other U.S. senators' are.
This is in the context, of course, of Democratic activists having failed to nominate Elizabeth Warren for President (despite her awful foreign policy), cheering for Bernie Sanders (despite his virtual avoidance of the whole topic of militarism; urging proper budgetary procedures but not morally decent reductions or restraint), and pretty well ignoring Lincoln Chaffee (the only candidate for president from either mega-party to thus far mention peace or military budget cutting, but who seems, as a former Republican, to just be in with the wrong clique).
Murphy has attempted to block any funding for any major new U.S. ground war in Iraq. That's certainly better than nothing, although an air war or a proxy war or a secret and limited and illegal war can be just as deadly and destructive. Murphy and two other Democratic senators have laid out their vision here.
They begin thus: "[T]errorist groups such as Islamic State (also called ISIS) and al Qaeda present a grave threat to U.S. national security." Now, this is obvious nonsense that has been admitted to be obvious nonsense by the U.S. "intelligence" agencies, who say ISIS is no threat. Our Senate heroes are in agreement on the ISIS threat, rather, with this former Navy SEAL who also wants every mosque on earth attacked.
Their next claim is just as dangerous and false: "Traditional powers such as Russia and China are challenging international norms and pushing the boundaries of their influence." WHAT? This from members of a government building bases and deploying weapons and troops to the borders of those two countries, spending vastly more on militarism than the pair of them combined, and facilitating a coup in Ukraine that could yet kick off WWIII.
Then our three senators distinguish themselves from their most rightwing colleagues. They recognize climate change as a problem. They advocate something other than only militarism, something they call non-kinetic statecraft, which seems to by a synonym for non-lethal actions. Then they lay out eight proposals.
First, a Marshall plan. This should be a warning (along with the actual history of the Marshall Plan) to peace activists against using the term themselves. These senators understand it as including "military protection" and aid aimed at bringing countries "under the American banner." Of course any humanitarian aid, in any combination with propaganda and political sabotage, may be preferable to purely "kinetic" killing, but there's a reason the USAID is distrusted, and these guys don't seem to get it. The version of this proposal on Murphy's own website reads: "Military spending shouldn’t be 10 times our foreign aid budget. We need a new Marshall Plan for at risk regions." But military spending is some $1.2 trillion a year, while foreign aid is $23 billion. So, military spending also shouldn't be 52 times the foreign aid budget. And, one might ask, "at risk" of what?
Second, coalitions of the killing.
Third, exit strategies before entering new slaughters.
Fourth, plans for post-killing politics.
These are tweaks to militarism, not a redirection.
Ideas five, six, and eight are where praise is really warranted. First, look at idea seven: "How can the United States preach economic empowerment overseas if millions of Americans feel economically hopeless? If Washington is to maintain credible U.S. global leadership, the United States need significant new investments in infrastructure and education, and new policies to address the stagnant incomes and rising costs that are crippling too many American families." Since when does the United States preach or seriously act on such proposals for the poor nations of earth? Why would it be hypocritical for a rich nation to help a poor nation? Shouldn't the U.S. help both its own and the world by cutting military spending and giveaways to billionaires and, for the first time, really investing in people seriously both at home and abroad? How is the U.S. engaging in global leadership? And who asked it to?
Now, these proposals deserve our attention:
"Fifth, we believe that covert actions such as mass surveillance and large-scale CIA lethal operations must be constrained." The version on Murphy's website hints at something a little stronger: "It's time to reign in the massive covert operations and intelligence apparatus that has emerged since 9-11. Mass surveillance and drone strikes, unchecked, steal moral authority from America." What is an appropriately small-scale CIA lethal ("kinetic"?) operation? What's involved in "checking" a drone strike? When you dig into this, there's nothing concrete there, but there's the hinting at it.
"Sixth, we believe that the United States should practice what it preaches regarding civil and human rights, and defend its values internationally. . . . Actions abroad that are illegal under U.S. law and out of step with American values, such as torture, must be prohibited." Of course, torture is already prohibited, as is any other action that is illegal under U.S. law (and also international law, incidentally) -- that's what it means for something to be illegal: it's prohibited. Congress doesn't need to keep prohibiting it time and again. The version on Murphy's own website is better: "We need to practice what we preach on international human rights. No more secret detention centers. A categorical rejection of torture." Since torture is illegal, a rejection of it would seem to suggest enforcing the laws against it through prosecutions. And "no more" secret prisons would seem to suggest similar enforcement of a complete ban. These points are the closest to concrete proposals and should be pursued. There is no reason Congress cannot interrogate, impeach, and try any attorney general failing to enforce the law.
"Finally, we believe climate change presents an immediate threat to the world, and the United States must invest time, money, and global political capital to address this crisis." And from Murphy's website: "Climate change is a national security threat. Combating this threat should be interwoven into every aspect of American foreign policy." This could mean a couple of very useful things: 1) A major effort to cease subsidizing fossil fuels and begin investing in renewables at home and abroad. 2) If a war will increase climate change -- as any war will -- it cannot be launched. Now, that I'd cheer for.
Senator McCain and friends have a new push on to once again ban torture (except for exceptions in the Army Field Manual) that is being presented as an effort to preempt future Republican presidents' torturing. This reinforces two false beliefs. One is that torture is not ongoing today under President Peace Prize. The other is that torture wasn't banned before George W. Bush was ever selected by the Supreme Court.
Last December, Senator Ron Wyden had a petition up at MoveOn.org that read "Right now, torture is banned because of President Obama's executive order. It's time for Congress to pass a law banning torture, by all agencies, so that a future president can never revoke the ban." This is the same mythology being pushed by McCain yet again. Wyden went on to explain:
"We live in a dangerous world. But when CIA operatives and contractors torture terrorist suspects, it doesn't make us safer -- and it doesn't work. The recent CIA torture report made that abundantly clear. Right now, the federal law that bans torture only applies to the U.S. military -- not our intelligence agencies. President Obama's executive order barring all agencies from using torture could be reversed, even in secret, by a future president. That's why it's critical that Congress act swiftly to pass a law barring all agencies of the U.S. government, and contractors acting on our behalf, from engaging in torture. Without legislation, the door on torture is still open. It's time for Congress to slam that door shut once and for all."
Why in the world would anybody object to this unless they supported torture? Well, let me explain.
Torture and complicity in torture were felonies under U.S. law before George W. Bush moved into the White House, under both the torture statute and the war crimes statute. Nothing has fundamentally changed about that, other than the blatant lack of enforcement for several years running. Nothing in those two sections of the U.S. code limits the law to members of the U.S. military or excludes employees or contractors or subcontractors of so-called intelligence agencies. I emailed a dozen legal experts about that claim in the above petition. Michael Ratner replied "I don’t see where they get that from." Kevin Zeese said simply "They're wrong." If anyone replies to me with any explanation, I'll post it as an update at the top of this article on davidswanson.org -- where I can be contacted if you have an explanation.
For the past several years, the U.S. Congress, White House, Justice Department, and media have gone out of their way to ignore the existence of U.S. laws banning torture. When silence hasn't worked, the primary technique has been proposing over and over and over again to ban torture, as if it were not already banned. In fact, Congress has followed through and banned it a number of times, and done so with new exceptions that by some interpretations have in fact weakened the war crimes statute. This is my best guess where the nonsense about applying only to "intelligence agencies" comes from: laws like the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that claimed to pick and choose which types of torture to ban for whom.
When President Obama took President Bush's place he produced an executive order purporting to ban torture (again), even while publicly telling the Justice Department not to enforce any existing laws. But an executive order, as Wyden seems to recognize, is not a law. Neither can it ban torture, nor can it give legal weight to the pretense that torture wasn't already banned. In fact the order itself states: "Nothing in this order shall be construed to affect the obligations of officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government to comply with all pertinent laws and treaties of the United States governing detention and interrogation, including but not limited to: the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution; the Federal torture statute, 18 U.S.C. 2340 2340A; the War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 2441 . . . ."
Senator Wyden said he would introduce yet another bill to "ban torture." Here's how the Washington Post was spinning, and explaining, that:
"Torture is already illegal, but Wyden notes that protections can be strengthened. To oversimplify, the U.S. is a signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, in which participating states agreed to outlaw intentionally inflicting severe pain for specific purposes. The Bush administration obviously found a (supposedly) legal route around that."
In other words, because it was done by a president, it was legal -- the worldview of the Post's old buddy Richard Nixon.
"After the Abu Graib revelations, John McCain helped pass a 2005 amendment that would restrict the military from using specific brutal interrogation tactics — those not in the Army Field Manual. (This didn’t preclude intel services from using these techniques, which might explain why CIA director John Brennan felt free to say the other day that future policymakers might revert to using them). In 2008, Congress passed a measure specifically applying those restrictions to intelligence services, too, but then-President Bush vetoed it. Senator Wyden would revive a version of that 2008 bill as a starting point, with the goal of codifying in law President Obama's executive order banning the use of those specific techniques for all government employees, those in intelligence services included."
But let's back up a minute. When a president violates a law, that president -- at least once out of office -- should be prosecuted for violating the law. The law can't be declared void because it was violated. Loopholes can't be created for the CIA. Reliance on the Army Field Manual can't sneak into law the loopholes built into that document. Presidents can't order and un-order things illegal. Here's how the United Nations Special Rapporteur on counter terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson responded to the release of the Senate's report summary:
"The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes. The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorised at a high level within the U.S. Government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability. International law prohibits the granting of immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture. This applies not only to the actual perpetrators but also to those senior officials within the U.S. Government who devised, planned and authorised these crimes. As a matter of international law, the U.S. is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice. The UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances require States to prosecute acts of torture and enforced disappearance where there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. States are not free to maintain or permit impunity for these grave crimes."
Now, one could try to spin the endless re-banning of torture as part of the process of enforcing an international treaty that under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. But banning a practice going forward, even when you ban it better, or ban it more emphatically for the 8th time, does absolutely nothing to fulfill the legal obligation to prosecute those crimes already committed. And here we are dealing with crimes openly confessed to by past officials who assert that they would "do it again" -- crimes that resulted in deaths, thus eliminating any attempt at an argument that statutes of limitations have run out.
Here's a different sort of petition that we've set up at RootsAction.org along with Witness Against Torture and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee: " We call on President Obama to allow the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce our laws, and to immediately appoint a special prosecutor. As torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction, we call on any willing court system in the world to enforce our laws if our own courts will not do so."
The purpose of such a petition is not vengeance or partisanship or a fetish with history. The purpose is to end torture, which is not done by looking forward or even by pardoning the crimes, as the ACLU has proposed -- to its credit recognizing that the crimes exist. That should be a first step for anyone confused by the endless drumbeat to "ban torture."
Exposing Lies of Empire by Andre Vltchek is an 800-page tour of the world between 2012 and 2015 without a Western tour guide. It ought to make you spitting-mad furious, then grateful for the enlightenment, and then ready to get to work.
The 4% of us humans who have grown up in the United States are taught that our government means well and does good. As we begin to grasp that this isn't always so, we're duly admonished that all governments do evil -- as if we were being simplistic and self-centered to blame Washington for too much.
But take this tour of the world with out nationless friend Andre. We see U.S. medical troops operating on Haitian civilians in the most unsafe conditions, while proper facilities nearby sit unused; these troops are practicing for battlefield surgeries. We see millions slaughtered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at U.S. instigation and with U.S. support. We see U.S. militarism inflicting immeasurable suffering in Somalia. We witness the U.S. training and arming in Turkey of troops from around the Middle East to be sent into Syria to attempt to overthrow another government. We follow the horrors that U.S.-driven militarism, capitalism, and racism have brought to Indonesia, as well as Colombia, the Philippines, and locations around the globe. We investigate the ongoing state of disaster in Iraq and Libya, even the everlasting crisis created by the long-forgotten U.S. war on Panama, and for that matter the ongoing injustice of the century-old German genocide in today's Namibia. We meet the people of occupied Okinawa, and the people of the rest of Asia who view theirs as an evil island hosting threatening U.S. troops. We examine the crushing of popular movements in Egypt, the corruption of four "anchor nations" in four U.S.-created regions of Africa, and the imposition of violent coups in Central America and Ukraine.
Some of us occasionally hear about polls such as Gallup's at the end of 2013 which found that most nations surveyed believed the United States to be the greatest threat to peace on earth. But many Americans must believe such results are mistakes, and must not find any cause for concern when Gallup chooses never again to ask that question.
Do other nations do evil as well, including nations not put up to it by the United States? Of course, but the blaming of other governments for their human rights abuses is both odd for Americans and beside the point. It's odd because the United States imprisons more people than any other country. Its police kill more people. It tortures. It executes. And it funds, arms, trains, and legally supports numerous dictators who engage in every outrage yet conceived. It's beside the point because the greatest evil underway is U.S. imperialism, as imposed by the U.S. military, State Department, banks, corporations, bribes, spies, propaganda, movies, and television shows. It kills directly and indirectly, it impoverishes, disempowers, humiliates, and impedes inconceivable potential for progress.
We can stand with the resisters and victims of injustice in any nation. But that shouldn't stop us from appreciating the handful of nations that resist U.S. domination. And it certainly can't justify accepting as enemies those nations that are resisting the greatest evil on earth. Nor should it excuse inaction. We live in a society of selfish inaction, of self-indulgence, of self-centeredness, of criminally negligent cruelty toward the majority of people on earth. Many Americans don't think so, of course, don't mean so, don't wish it so. Wars are imagined as philanthropy for their victims. But their victims don't see it that way. Only a small number of collaborators adapt that perspective. When I give speeches in person or through media in the U.S., I'm not asked "How can we support resisters in South Korea?" or for that matter North Korea, nearly so often as I'm asked "How did you become an activist?" as if it were a bizarre decision, or "How do you keep optimistic?" as if I have time for giving a fuck whether I ought to be optimistic or not, as if there weren't a crisis calling for all hands on deck.
What has been done to our minds?
"If in thousands of brainless Hollywood films," Vltchek writes, "millions of people continuously vanish, victims of mutants, robots, terrorists, giant insects or microorganisms invading the earth, then the public becomes hardened, and 'well prepared for the worst.' Compared to those horrors of pseudo-reality, the real agony of millions of men, women, and children in places like Iraq, Libya, or Afghanistan appear to be quite insignificant."
". . . No other system has spilled more blood; no other system plundered more resources and enslaved more people, than the one we are told to describe in lofty and benign terms like 'Western parliamentary democracy.'"
It's a system that has built in acceptance of whatever it produces. "'Politics is boring' is one of the main messages we are encouraged to spread around. Because people are not expected to mingle in 'what is not their business'. Ruling the world is reserved for corporations and a few gangsters with excellent PR. The voters are there only to give legitimacy to the entire charade."
At one point, Vltchek remarks that at best Westerners demand higher wages for themselves. Are we to understand the labor movement and liberalism to be selfish? Wouldn't a better distribution of wealth mean a better distribution of power and consequently perhaps a less evil foreign policy? Is the politics of Bernie Sanders who wants the wealthy taxed but hardly acknowledges the existence of the Pentagon just incomplete, or is it viciously self-indulgent? And when Americans do notice wars and make noise about how many schools or roads they could have had in their town instead of a particular war, is that enlightened or blinkered?
Well, the main thing the United States does as a society, its largest public project, is the mass killing of foreigners, the preparation for more of it, and the manufacture and sale of weapons with which they can kill each other. Millions of lives could be spared by ending this project, and tens of millions saved by redirecting even a bit of the money into useful areas. Permitting others to proceed on their own could work further miracles. We can't continue to survive U.S. militarism economically, governmentally, morally, environmentally, or in terms of the growing risk of widespread and nuclear war. We are, most of us, well off compared with much of the world, even as the concentration of wealth in the hands of our billionaires disgusts us. And a lot of our wealth is stripped out of the natural and human resources of the other 96%. How dare we talk about solidarity and justice while confining our morality and our politics within arbitrary political and militarized borders!
Europe comes in for criticism as severe as that Vltchek bestows on the United States. And he faults U.S. Europhiles for misplacing their affections: "That famed 'social system' is built on the enslavement of colonized peoples; it is built on the unimaginable horrors visited on those hundreds of millions of men, women, and children who were slaughtered mercilessly by colonial European powers. . . . To admire it is like admiring some brutish thuggish oligarch who has amassed huge wealth by extortion and open plunder, built a gigantic palace and provided his family or his village with free medical care, education, some theaters, libraries, and parks. . . . How many Asian and African families have to starve, in order to have some early-retired, still strong, German man or woman farting deep holes into his or her sofa, immobilized in front of the television set?"
Now it is possible to admire Europe's healthcare system over the U.S. sickcare system, as the former provides more for less by cutting out the corrupt for-profit insurance companies. But the larger point remains: much of the world lacks good healthcare and could easily have it for what the West spends on inventing new ways to murder.
One element of Western culture that comes in for particular blame is Christianity: "Were Christianity to be a political party or a movement, it would be condemned, banned and declared to be the most brutal creation of humanity." Does that mean that someone who actively resists imperialism does harm in being Christian? Not in a simple way, I think. But it does mean that they are supporting a religion that has managed over the centuries to align itself with racism and militarism with incredible consistency, as Vltchek documents.
On this global voyage we encounter Western writers who claim to have nothing to write about, and artists who paint abstract frivolity for lack of any political inspiration. Vltchek points us in several directions for where inspiration ought to be found and whom we ought to be joining with and supporting. He finds resistance alive and well in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, China, Russia, Eritrea, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, and Iran -- as well as in the BRICS alignment of nations (Brazil, Russia, China, South Africa, and less-so: India; Vltchek hopes that Indonesia and Turkey can be kept out of BRICS). He finds a burst of possibility in the development of Russia's RT, Venezuela's TeleSur, and Iran's Press TV. He doesn't discuss how well these new media outlets cover their own nations, but that's not the point. They cover U.S. politics without bowing down before it.
"Entire modern and ecological neighborhoods are growing up all over China; entire cities are being built, with enormous parks and public exercise grounds, with childcare centers and all the modern sanitation facilities, as well as wide sidewalks and incredibly cheap and super modern public transportation. In Latin America, former slums are being converted into cultural centers." This and nothing else makes China, like Venezuela, a "threat" to U.S. "national security."
Does that begin to sound insane?
Vltchek translates a statement from U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, as an example of how insane U.S. propaganda is: "Bashar al-Assad, we helped to create ISIS in order to overthrow you . . . . Now we hold you responsible for not managing to destroy our offspring . . . . Therefore we are going to bomb your country, kill thousands of your people, and possibly overthrow you in the process."
Vltchek quite reasonably traces the creation of violent Islam to British support for Wahhabis and U.S. support for what would become Al Qaeda in the 1980s, followed up by U.S.-led wars and the arming and training of fighters to attack Syria. Of course, U.S. wars against U.S. creations are nothing new (Saddam Hussein and Muamar Gadaffi being recent examples from a long list of pet dictators fallen from grace).
One complaint with Vltchek (other than the need for a native-English editor for the book's preface) is his lack of explicit advocacy for the powerful tools of nonviolence that Erica Chenoweth's study found more likely to succeed than violence. Vltchek throws in a few vague romanticized references to "force" as what's needed: "Fascism will be fought. Humanity will be defended! By reason or by force. . . ." And: "Let us do it by reason and by force!" And: "The West is increasingly acting as a Nazi entity, and one does not do 'peaceful protests' in front of the Reichstag, when flames are consuming the world, when millions are being murdered!" Actually 1933 would have been an excellent time for nonviolent noncompliance with Nazism, which would have displayed its then-little-known powers even more powerfully than did the women in Rosenstrasse 10 years later.
Vltchek also urges us to be less "fussy" about picking our allies in resistance to U.S. empire. I think that's good advice when not combined with the previous references to "force," as the combination would seem to support the idiocy of running off and joining ISIS. That's not a way to resist the war machine, which created the conditions for ISIS, armed and trained fighters knowing something like ISIS was likely to emerge, and attacked knowing what its attacks would do for ISIS recruitment. The war machine is hell-bent on World War III, thriving on a culture in absolute love with World War II.
As decent Israelis should support boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against their horrible government, decent Americans should support the same against theirs, and join the nonviolent and creative global resistance from within the brain of the beast.