The books about The Wizard of Oz were written as satire on American politics, but Hollywood, in its inimitable way, turned them into a song-and-dance picture for children. Still, one scene in the film has a sense of the author’s intent. That scene is when Dorothy, in Emerald City, approaches a closet-like structure, which, as it happens, is the Wizard’s control booth for sounds and smoke and lights, his special effects for intimidating visitors and impressing them with non-existent power.
The entrance curtain happens to be open, so Dorothy sees a modest man busily pulling levers and pushing buttons and speaking into a microphone which alters his voice into a great booming one, echoing like a great organ in a cathedral. When the man realizes that he is being watched, he makes a last effort and booms out words along the lines of “Pay no attention to the man in the booth.” Of course, the jig is up, and we all understand there is no wizard.
What better allegory for events in Washington today could there be? We have booming noises and smoke and glaring lights, and it all comes from a rather sad little—little in the sense of failed—man with about two weeks left to sit at his big desk and pretend that he is a great and powerful wizard. Except, when you are president, as this man is, you can never be observed in your control booth and you have your stunts and booming claims seconded by a chorus of flacks, hangers-on, and political appointees, presumably lending a semblance of authenticity and substance.
What the controversy engendered by “the Russians did it” has achieved is almost the opposite to what was intended. Dubious claims and pretend evidence have caused lights to shine brightly over what is a blanketing fabric of dishonesty in America’s establishment. The fabric covers everything from foreign affairs and the military to the details of domestic affairs. It is an immense, complex, and carefully constructed covering, and those who created it have very little tolerance for any of it being scrutinized under spotlights. Achieving this scrutiny may be regarded as Obama’s final act of failure.
Whether it is “the Russians hacked the DNC” or “America has been bombing ISIS in Syria” or “the Russians threaten Eastern Europe” or “the Russians committed atrocities in Aleppo” or “Russia shot down Flight MH-17,” the same tiresome actors making the same unsupported claims have for eight years expected that just their inflated job titles should intimidate us into believing them. Proof? Who needs that? Would I lie to you about such matters? Once you start something foolish as Obama has done, and it is widely understood as being foolish, you only weaken your authority over all the other less-obviously dubious claims you have been making. The fabric of lies becomes weakened, and that is one of Obama’s small, but unintended, achievements now.
Even as I write these words, the first big wave of the Obama-Clinton unsupported claims, unsupported, that is, except by hack appointees like James Clapper, is receding. The world quickly reached a verdict of “nonsense.” But a second wave now laps up with an equally unsupported claim that the Russians have a compromising dossier on Donald Trump, an attempt to plant the idea that Russia will have direct influence over Trump’s policies. This malicious effort at “poisoning the well” for a political successor, brings to mind the time, some years back, when the ugliest of clutch of Israeli settlers, those who swaggered around Gaza behind barbed wire enclosed-compounds, full of attitude and always toting light machine guns while under the malevolent guard of Israeli soldiers, decided to leave their hopeless situation. They quite literally poisoned the water wells they had used before strutting away. I cannot imagine a much shabbier act. But here is Obama and his appointees doing much the same thing, effectively hacking away at what little democracy America has left out of sheer maliciousness.
I don’t mean to say that such gross lying began with Obama. The wizard’s control booth for smoke and lights and thundering sounds was not invented by him. There was nothing but eight years of lies from the weird triumvirate presidency of Cheney-Rumsfeld-Bush and from the corrupt and often-inept Clinton government. Lies are what big countries or organizations do when their activities will not stand up to public scrutiny. When countries secretly play dirty tricks, when they kill, and when they apply mafia-like pressure on allies and international organizations to do as they are told, they simply lie about all of it, always. Such activity has characterized America for a very long time. How can it be otherwise when you try to control the planet?
It’s just that eight years ago, we had some reason to believe Obama would be different, at least a little different, but he is not. He is just as shabby, murderous, and deceitful as his immediate predecessors, sometimes even more so. He has been at war somewhere every single day of his eight years. He has bombed seven countries. In his last year alone, he is said to have dropped over 26,000 bombs. Literally hundreds of thousands have died at the hands of the Peace Prize winner with the big boyish smile. I’ve often asked myself what it is that motivates Obama, and I don’t know. Sometimes he seems to fit the well-known pattern of the charming, smiling psychopath who secretly likes to kill.
Sometimes he just seems weak and, yes, cowardly, someone who has allowed the brass and big suits around those conference tables to run roughshod over him, leaving him with nothing but the pretense of authority. This could explain what is a remarkable sense of arrogance observed at times when he is around outsiders as a kind of psychological reflex to his living in his job under constant bullying. After all, Bush’s whole presidency was a pretense: he pretended to be president, and Cheney and Rumsfeld—the precise quality of men who, had they lived in 1930s’ Germany would have been seen happily “working towards the Führer” as they used to say—deferentially allowed him to do so as they ran everything. Bush was the first president to prove America doesn’t even need a president except to sign documents, much like the formal requirement for a witness’s signature on a legal document.
We know, too, that Bush was as close to a moron as ever held the office, because we watched his insipid face and listened to his inability to articulate a clear sentence for eight years. Sometimes, we do see glimmers of something similar from Obama, statements and behaviors that would not be expected from someone of forceful intelligence—the unsupported Russian hacking accusations being one, but also such matters as his foolish public dismissal of Russia, the only country which can literally obliterate the United States, as a great power—only with Obama we don’t see Bush’s Alfred E. Neuman look, we see a serious, stiff mien and a tone and posture of arrogance. A well-practiced cover-up behavior for inadequacies?
I don’t know, and it really does not matter. He has been a terrible president in every important respect, but he maintains a fair number of supporters who I guess are impressed with the big boyish smile, although that is seen far less often now, the baritone voice, and perhaps the sheer, unprecedented fact of a black man standing in his position. There’s no accounting for taste or popularity, as we see in every corner of contemporary celebrity culture, and American politics absolutely has an important element of celebrity culture, just as it loves to use celebrities as endorsements. Think of the last days of Hillary Clinton’s tired campaign when she had, yes, Beyoncé and Jay Z appearing in Ohio. It is hard to imagine what political or economic or social information that pair of pop celebrities had to offer voters, and it was reported by some that they were quietly paid millions for some minutes of effort to help swing the state with razzle-dazzle. After all, this was the Hillary Campaign, a glorious travelling circus that is estimated to have burned through $1.2 billion.
Many do expect something different from Trump, and we can hope their expectations are well-founded. His entire path to the presidency does show some unorthodox attitudes and methods—unorthodox, that is, by the claustrophobic standards and practices of that center of world empire, Washington, not unorthodox in some wider sense—and they show a very tough and driven man. It is simply a fact that anyone missing the last quality cannot function effectively as president in 21st-century America. The general environment in Washington, without the least exaggeration, may be compared to the proverbial snake pit or to scenes from the last days of the Roman Empire.
That is why, for example, Bernie Sanders is such a hopeless hope. The man conducted an impressive crusade, displaying considerable skills, yet he just folded in the end, leaving his enthusiastic followers in limbo and giving up to Hillary Clinton who represented almost everything he opposed and who stood before him as someone who had just clearly cheated him out of the nomination through a whole range of cheats, ploys and gimmicks. Yet, he just accepted her and even did some campaigning for her.
Such a personality offers zero promise in face-to-faces with Pentagon generals, CIA Big Suits, mega-corporation presidents, and some foreign leaders who are closer to Mafiosi than politicians. What do you expect out of a little place like Vermont? It’s lovely. I’ve spent time there. But it resembles a great deal something from a backlot set for “Lassie Come Home” or “Anne of Green Gables.” I know, I know, Bernie originally came from hard-bitten New York, but the operative word there is “came.” Whatever his reasons for seeking bucolic, low-stress bliss, they do not make him material for presiding over Washington’s Chamber of Horrors.
Many Americans themselves, including both liberals and conservatives, are well aware of the dishonesty of their government, if only in a vague sense, but they know the task of doing anything about it is just too overwhelming and difficult to consider. After all, peasants on a 17th century estate hardly dared dream of changing the “natural order” in which they lived. And ordinary Americans work extremely hard to raise their families, and a great many of them do not work at all. They do not command great resources for all the costs and activities of a crusade. The general human condition in Western countries has not changed quite so much as some like to imagine over a few centuries of enlightenment and progress. A huge number of Americans count only for brief moments when their ballots are sought with sound-bites and vacuous ads. Afterwards, the establishment goes on just as before, ignoring them and getting back to the business of lying.
The papers people read—and, thanks to the spreading, corrosive effects of American imperialism, I include other Western countries, not just the United States—and the broadcasts to which they listen are uniform in discouraging any truly fresh way of looking at things and in suppressing the hope that arrangements can be much different. They universally avoid telling the truth where government prefers that they don’t. The idea of independent and principled journalism is something you only find in brochures for journalism schools or in Hollywood films.
The two major American political parties—together forming a duopoly of political power little different overall in its effect from the kind of monopoly power American authorities like to disparage in other, “less free” places—certainly do not provide much room for fresh voices or new initiatives. Over long periods, they can actually be quite stifling, much like high officials in a church concerning accepted truth and doctrine. The parties are totally dominated by money—money that can only come in the volumes, required for marketing, advertising, polls, make-up artists, wardrobe consultants, facilities of every kind, publicity, and travel expenses, from extremely wealthy people and special interests who are not the least interested in any significant change to a very cozy and comfortable situation.
The dominance of the Clintons in the Democratic Party through their money connections has been an arrangement to defend the status quo. It was a clever construction. The Clintons got to be center stage, play-acting as liberals and agents of change, in exchange for the kind of money which absolutely guaranteed that they never for a moment could forgot that they were just playing parts, not really doing anything of consequence. Bill Clinton’s record as president is interchangeable, remarkably so, with what might have been expected from a traditional Republican. Hillary’s record as secretary of state made her promise for the future, if anything, far more extreme in the same direction, and especially when it came to serving special interests and waging bloody war. The woman wore $11,000 Armani suits regularly and commanded $300,000 a pop plus expenses and comforts (right down to a standard demand for a certain bottled water to be supplied) for a long series of tedious speeches on America’s military given to investment bankers, and she made private jokes about people dying, as we know she said of Julian Assange, “Couldn’t we just drone him or something?” Or there was her appalling joke about the murder of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, a man who had been a good leader to his people, “We came, we saw, he died! Ha, ha, ha!”
The Democratic Party, given its distant past, especially the now all-but-forgotten legacy of Franklin Roosevelt, is the one from which an outsider viewing America, with no close knowledge of it, might reasonably have expected to find some prospect for change. But that seems a naïve hope if you understand who are the interests keeping the wheels of the organization turning.
The Democratic Party has become completely an establishment party, and one that literally morphed into the War Party along the way. Today, it offers a menu of the lightest possible offerings of social interest—the political equivalent of a platter of Ladies’ Tearoom sandwiches and dainties served by waiters in white gloves—just to differentiate itself from the Republicans and to make Americans of any degree of genuine liberal sentiment feel a little more comfortable. Since there aren’t a great number of the latter left in America by all appearances, the offerings can indeed be extremely modest.
Of course, these menu offerings consist of suggestions, attitudes, and slogans, not hard proposals for change, real change, in anything. The Democrats’ recent history of political behavior much resembles what mega-corporations do when they stick an image of a pink bow on their product packaging for a while and run a few, likely tax-deductible, ads promising purchasers that they will be helping in the fight against breast cancer by buying the brand. Imagine a package of Marlboros with a pink bow printed on it, and you get the picture.
Nothing better represents this modern Democratic leitmotif than Hillary Clinton’s long record of sound-bite concerns on many topics accompanied by a record of no actual effort spent on doing anything beyond getting elected. She started her last campaign saying every woman who is a rape victim deserved to be believed—something surely many young women and sympathetic men found reassuring—yet she herself had dismissed privately, out-of-hand, for years a platoon of women pointing to her own predatory husband with the same charge.
Again, her displeasure with the Electoral College—echoed recently after her defeat—was first declared back in 2000, when George Bush won with a popular minority, but there is no record of her doing any work towards amending that outdated and anti-democratic provision of the Constitution, as during her eight years as a senator. No, that would be a huge task to undertake, and political rewards are greater for sound-bites than they are for actual slogging hard work on anything most people do not even understand. Captains on the bridge with their gold braid and brass buttons on immaculate uniforms get noticed, not the sweating engineers actually running the ship down in the boiler room.
Make no mistake, the Democrats are bedrock establishment today, a party defending mostly backward views of the world and of American society. They are nothing more than the political Coke to the Republican’s Pepsi, or vice versa. And all the endorsements and advertising in the world do not change the reality of two sugary, dyed, fizzy drinks, indistinguishable in taste to many. Eight years of Obama—a man whose first campaign saw him sometimes wearing sandals and eschewing a totemic, imperialistic American flag pin on his lapel and intoning to cheering crowds, “Yes, we can”—proved that beyond all doubt.
Political figures like Ralph Nader or Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein are pretty close to irrelevant in the steaming boiler room of real American politics. Ideas are virtually never an issue in American elections. Neither is improving government’s service to citizens, from education to healthcare. Neither is the proper financing and budgeting of government. Neither is a reduction to insane military and security spending. How can it be otherwise in this “pounding fist” of an imperial society? All such American politicians tend to remind one of some naïve political science professor lecturing a rapt first-year audience of undergraduates excited about being out of high school and entering “the real world.”
This is the center of a world empire. It maintains a gigantic military which virtually never stops fighting wars, none of them having anything to do with defense. It has created an intelligence monstrosity which makes old outfits like Stasi seem almost quaint, and it spies on everyone. Indeed, it maintains seventeen national security establishments, as though you can never have too much of a good thing. And some of these guys, too, are engaged full-time in forms of covert war, from fomenting trouble in other lands and interfering in elections to overthrowing governments.
Barack Obama is not one of those marginal American politicians, having gained the leadership of one of the two great parties, and yet in eight years he changed almost nothing worth changing. Whether the plight of whistleblowers in America or the third-world conditions prevailing in American cities where many of his fellow black people survive in squalor. He did nothing to reform a financial system that gave the world a collapse from which it still has not recovered. He did virtually nothing about the nation’s rotting schools or rotting infrastructure. He whined about guns but never acted in a serious way on the huge problem of police who shoot people dead on the nation’s streets, more than 1,100 of them last year alone
Yet he signed, time after time, record legislation for squandering money on the military and Big Intelligence. Under his command, the Pentagon literally burned pallet-load shipments of cash on bad programs such as the failed F-35 fighter, a new super-aircraft carrier that doesn’t work, a new type of littoral combat ship that doesn’t work, and a new Zumwalt-class destroyer that has proven an embarrassment. And there are the hugely expensive and highly intrusive NSA Supercomputer Data Centers. This is not a record of which to be proud, and it is about as far from liberal or progressive as you can go.
And, of course, this “liberal,” as so many insist still on calling him, ended by killing more people than any dictator or demagogue of this generation on earth you care to name, several hundred thousand of them in his eight years. And he found new ways to kill, too, as by creating the world’s first industrial-scale extrajudicial killing operation. Here he signs off on “kill lists,” placed in his Oval Office in-box, to murder people he has never seen, people who enjoy no legal rights or protections. His signed orders are carried out by uniformed thugs working at computer screens in secure basements where they proceed to play computer games with real live humans as their targets, again killing or maiming people they have never seen.
If you ever have wondered where all the enabling workers came from in places like Stalin’s Gulag or Hitler’s concentration camps, well, here is your answer. America itself produces platoons of such people. You could find them working at Guantanamo and in the far-flung string of secret torture facilities the CIA ran for years, and you could find them in places like Fallujah or Samarra or Abu Ghraib, at the CIA’s basement game arcade killing centers, and even all over the streets of America dressed as police who shoot unarmed people every day, sometimes in the back.
Obama has told more lies than anyone could possibly count while conducting so much killing and destruction, and he has done so unblinkingly. If you have ever noticed, government officials doing shameful and illegal things do tend to lie about what it is they are doing. And when Obama wasn’t telling lies, he made secrecy and lack of transparency hallmarks of his administration. He is said to feel very harshly towards whistle-blowers and leakers. He ends his grubby term of office with baseless, self-serving public accusations comparable in every way to those of Senator Joe McCarthy of the early 1950s.
McCarthy, a Republican, was also someone the establishment quietly supported for a time. He served their purposes, until he started weaving dangerously on the road, much like a drunken driver. He departed from the accepted script and began hurling accusations everywhere, and not just accusations about “commies” in the State Department, a place the establishment of the time hated. He came to relish accusing some targets of being sexual perverts, and he attacked new target after new target, threatening the ability of government even to function. For those who don’t know, J. Edgar Hoover, perpetual director of the FBI and an early supporter of McCarthy, was gay and a cross-dresser in private.
Of course, the establishment doesn’t have to worry about the embarrassing excesses of Obama and pompous appointees like James Clapper, as they finally did about those of McCarthy, because this pair of vicious clowns faithfully did just as they were supposed to do, and they are now headed for the exit doors. But they do have to worry about Trump, a man who already has expressed intelligent skepticism over the offerings of Big Intelligence as well as intelligent skepticism about the shameful and immense waste of the Pentagon. Importantly, he has asked why the entire Mideast is on fire and why Russia should be viewed as an enemy. And that is why the likes of Obama and Clapper have taken on a last-minute, rearguard destructive operation on behalf of those fearful of change.
It is certain that Joseph McCarthy’s rise to power could not have happened without important silent support, and his fall, after pretty much disgracing himself, allowed members of the establishment to congratulate themselves in public over protecting America from such demagoguery. All of this, from beginning to end, was complete hypocrisy, the very kind of hypocrisy we have screaming at us today from Washington. A similar claque of powerful people today congratulates themselves on efforts to interfere with the proper and peaceful transition of power to a man they’ve arbitrarily labeled a demagogue.
America’s mainline press has supported the claque by painting Trump as a dangerous demagogue, and I think it is largely over their resentment for his literally hi-jacking a very tired, almost worn-out, Republican Party—which resembled a becalmed antique sailing ship going nowhere—and promising to power it off in new directions. Of course, those loyal to the Clinton-Obama War Party greedily join in the accusations against Trump, seemingly completely innocent or even unaware of behavior ranging from insider plots to steal Hillary’s nomination from a contender to killing a third of a million people in Syria and who knows how many in Libya.
Also, they literally hate the prospect that the War Party, which they have faithfully supported for years, may be crumbling. And, who knows, even the possible further prospect of its demise after recent events revealed it to the public as a mafia-like operation with little respect for democratic process or principles of any kind? Stranger things in politics have happened, and political parties are no more guaranteed eternal life than the crowds at American revival meetings who raise their arms in child-like fantasy towards some huckster-preacher banging the Bible at the podium.
You must always remember, America’s press, which loves to congratulate itself regularly on its journalistic principles, is a mature and in some ways declining industry which is owned, through consolidations, by a very small number of corporate interests who completely support the Neocon Wars and a highly aggressive American foreign policy which puts American corporate interests first, everywhere, and reduces foreign governments, such as those in Europe or Japan, to American satrapies. The dominant views of America’s establishment are not enlightened, not democratic, not open-minded. They are “me-first” and keep competitors abroad under your thumb.
The subject of the Neocon Wars raises the related issue of the Israel Lobby’s influence in American politics. These destructive wars and an associated hyper-aggressive American foreign policy reflect this influence. The term “Neocon” refers to a coterie of influential people in Washington over the last fifteen years or so, people who have openly advocated for a highly aggressive policy of asserting American global dominance, always including a subsidiary aim, expressed with the euphemism, “the birth of a new Middle East.” Eliminating any independent-mindedness in the countries of the Mideast and assuring Israel’s complete imperialistic dominance over the region are the primary goals of the wars and interventions which have cost about two million lives and immense destruction over the Bush-Obama era. The extent of much of this holocaust is allowed to remain hidden from the public by our obliging corporate press, and efforts at explaining the causes has been a great throbbing engine for the production of lies.
But what is the long-term sense of assuring total dominance by eight million people, many of them immigrants, over hundreds of millions of others with centuries of history in the region? Eight million people who have no relationship or common history or culture and views with the great masses over which they are to dominate? An essentially European, urban people who share only a religion—and many of them not even that since Israel has a high proportion of non-believers—with the ancient Hebrews who once lived there? Even that number of eight million is deceptive since it includes over a million Arabs who are accidentally, and not with full equality, technical citizens of Israel.
These terrible Neocon Wars are, in addition, largely responsible for two devastating developments in our time. The first is huge movements of terrified refugees into Europe, millions of them, causing immense difficulties and putting great stress on the very foundations of the EU.
The second is the phenomenon we call international terror, which in fact is a side effect of the Neocon Wars. A huge amount of weaponry has been scattered around in the region by supporters of the American policy. Then, large numbers of mercenaries and rootless, violent people have been deliberately recruited, paid, and supplied to assist in carrying out America’s policy, as in Libya and Syria. Finally, there are large numbers of angry young men now who seek revenge for what has been done to their homes and families. It is a witches’ brew our press deliberately confuses by calling it international terror while constantly promoting the idea of Arabs and Muslims being undependable, unstable, and backward people, a concept welcomed and supported by the residents of the American crusader fortress we call Israel. The entire effort has been a guaranteed formula for instability and human misery.
In reality, what we call international terror is largely the “blowback” of American policies which themselves amount to state terror. Israel, of course, finds comfort in headlines in the West about “international terror” since the fear of that notion helps Americans and Europeans feel a bit more bonded to the fears Israel has always felt in its position as a colony planted by violence in an alien region. Many Israelis undoubtedly feel about their millions of neighbors much the way the Old South’s planters used to feel about the large number of inhabitants in the slave quarters as they went to bed each night with pistols and daggers kept under their pillows. Fear of rebellion was constant and worked like a poisonous substance in the Old South society, even though there was only one rebellion, a small one too, that ever happened. That endless unease explains why Old South society was well known for its inclination to violence, as in the infamous “code of the Old South.” Doesn’t Israel have much the same reputation?
America’s assistance and policies keep a garrison state not only going but growing, growing through the regular seizure of their neighbors’ property, a terrible practice which successive American governments fear addressing. Why? I think the Israel Lobby’s extremely well-organized efforts in American politics explain that. Support Israel, almost unconditionally, and you will receive large campaign donations and positive press coverage (remembering, it is a much-consolidated American press owned by quite a small number of companies). Criticize Israel and your opponents will get the donations and you will get negative press coverage. This has been an on-going pattern since the days when Harry Truman first agreed to recognize Israel, against his private best judgment, at a time when he felt vulnerable because his own re-election was quite uncertain.
While in the short term this massive bloodshed and destruction may be reassuring for Israel, having pretty much everything around it flattened, over the long term I do not see how this can be anything but destabilizing.
Destabilizing just as is the $38 billion, ten-year military-assistance agreement Obama just extended to Israel, a country perfectly able to pay for its own defense. This amount vastly exceeds what the United States gives any other country, even far larger ones in far greater economic need. The amount represents an increase of more than a quarter over the previous decade’s assistance agreement. And Obama gave it without a single condition imposed on Israel at a time when Israel’s government is constantly violating laws, rights, and international norms and agreements. I can’t think of any other place on earth where it is regarded as just fine suddenly to march out and seize someone else’s farms or homes. You cannot not build a sound future society for yourself that way, quite apart from the injustice and misery inflicted on others.
Yet, the press often gives the impression that Obama is no friend to Israel. It is well-known that Obama and Netanyahu personally dislike each other intensely, and Netanyahu has gone out of his way to demean or embarrass Obama several times. So, does the immense size of this military-assistance agreement reflect the influence of the Israel Lobby? I think it does, and it all points again to Obama’s total inability in office to fight for anything worth fighting for, such as conditions at least placed on a criminal government being handed a vast fortune, something approaching $500 each year for each citizen of Israel, almost a national basic personal income, if you will, supplied by America.
It is often asserted that the term “Israel Lobby” indicates prejudice, but saying that is just a form of reverse-prejudice, another version of the worn-threadbare accusation that if you criticize Israel, you are, ipso-facto, anti-Semitic. Indeed, this false idea has become as common as rain, and Israel has made considerable diplomatic efforts through the years, with some success, in Europe and in North America to have criticism of Israel criminalized in one fashion or another.
Two distinguished American scholars—John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government—wrote a serious book on the subject of the Israel Lobby, establishing the fact and of its existence beyond question. Others, too, have contributed to understanding the phenomenon.
And we also see, from time to time, events which bring the reality forcefully home. Israeli diplomats in London were just caught on video discussing bringing down British MPs regarded as unfriendly to Israel. Well, talk about direct interference in the internal affairs and elections of others! Newt Gingrich, when last running for his party’s presidential nomination, went around making speeches about how there really was no such thing as a Palestinian after receiving the best part of $20 million dollars in campaign donations from a very wealthy and avid supporter of Israel. Freshmen American congressmen after an election are routinely “offered”—I put that in quotes because it is not an offer to be declined without political consequences—paid holidays to Israel for indoctrination. Recently, the New York Times confirmed the discovery that all of its stories concerning Israel are routinely passed by the official Israeli censor before being published. Hillary’s most massive contributors over the years are members in good standing of the Lobby.
One of the most predictable and bordering-on-absurd regular happenings in Washington around this subject is Senator Lindsey Graham suddenly leaping to his feet at any mention of Israel which has even a hint of less-than-fulsome praise or at any proposal to give a less-than-lordly hand-out and going into paroxysms. I’ve asked myself why that would be. Why should Senator Graham, who represents Baptists in South Carolina, choose the role of political pit bull on guard for Israel? Why should he care so intensely and constantly about Israel? Well, I spent a short time reading about him and looking at photos, and I couldn’t help being struck by the distinct possibility of Senator Graham’s being gay.
Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being gay, unless you happen to represent South Carolina, surely one of the more backward and least tolerant states in the Union. My guess, and it is only a guess, is that Senator Graham was caught, years ago, in a “honey trap” by Mossad, and he has been given to understand that compromising photos exist. Today, he is a tireless defender of all things Israeli. It is hard to explain such sustained motivation otherwise. Exactly the same kind of thing happened to the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover early in his career. The Mafia is said to have had compromising photos of him and a male lover, and that old bull dog-faced lawman eventually became notorious for not pursuing the Mafia, allowing it decades of comfortable growth after the repeal of Prohibition.
He always chased instead almost non-existent Communists, keeping the Communist Party of America’s ranks packed with undercover FBI Agents and its coffers filled with their expensed donations so that it kept the appearance of something formidable when it wasn’t and served to justify constant FBI budget increases. It might be called the “self-fulfilling prophecy” approach to spying, much like the CIA’s approach to its annual Soviet estimates during the Cold War. The estimates were always wildly inflated, and the CIA always got the budget increases it sought. Security service empires have a way of growing exponentially regardless of the threat level. They share with the military the almost magical ability to be always discovering dire new needs for their services.
The whole set of matters concerning Israel forms a huge indigestible mass at the very center of American politics. Clearly, it is better in every way to halt the neocon wars. Clearly, also, it is better to force Israel to make peace and define its still undefined borders by accepting the status quo of 1967. Clearly, it is better to have a stable, peaceful region with good long-term relations with the United states. But, these things are easier said than done, and precisely because of the Israel Lobby which always defends Israel, even when it pursues destructive policies and goals, as it so frequently does.
A lot of people hope Trump will halt the stupid wars, and a lot of people, recognizing his political history of being an upstart without a lifetime’s obligations to the usual political crowd, think he may be in a good position to do something important in the Mideast. There is ambiguity here though, owing to some references about moving America’s embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, a non-starter for peace, if ever there was one, but the references are also quite possibly a deal-maker lure, for there can be little doubt that Jerusalem will be the capital of both Israel and Palestine in the end.
At least, ending the wars is the sine qua non of anything to be called progress. It is also part of a needed de-escalation in America’s current hyper-aggressive global posture. If you want a better domestic economy, there are few better places to start than paring back the unbelievable waste of great masses of ships and planes and tanks rumbling around everywhere and creating nothing of economic value. Nothing is more wasteful and destructive than maintaining such a military establishment. No one better knows how to waste money than the military with its every movement of a truck or plane costing immensely more than the same act in the civilian economy and none of the movements producing any worthwhile good or service. And the nonsense of keeping Europe and Russia as near-enemies rather than flourishing economic partners only impoverishes everyone.
But it is not sound economic thinking or a sensible approach to world affairs which has governed America’s use of its military for years. It is indulgent, uncaring pride, the arrogance of a wealthy establishment which does what it does simply because it can. It is a formidable barrier against progress which is not going to just fade away. And Trump’s political base, while clearly excluding neocons, does include the belly-over-the-belt types who, perhaps unthinkingly, like to see Old Glory waving everywhere. So, there is a big set of difficulties for him to work through, and it is not at all clear how he can do so.
The establishment’s waste and arrogance and paying-no-attention to ordinary people really are what motivated a lot of Americans to vote for Trump, especially when the other choice was the very embodiment of those arrogant qualities, annoyingly and patronizingly taking a moment, here and there, to nibble a piece of fried chicken with the folks in some obscure diner. Good photo-op. Americans very much feel they have a national government which behaves more as an occupying power than as a legitimate institution to serve them. And the fact that it spends so much time and money and credibility on trying to control the planet does have a tendency to influence its resources and its very attitudes at home. After all, they are occupied with earth-shattering matters abroad, and you, well, you just don’t count in the scheme of things.
But politics never provides complete change, as some naïve political thinkers like to believe. America remains a huge imperial power essentially run by wealthy people for the interests of wealthy people, and that is not going to change any time soon, but that does not preclude some changes in the way things have been conducted because not all wealthy people see their interests as being identical, and wealthy people making decisions do sometimes make very bad ones. Never mind how the Pentagon and CIA, under Obama and Bush, have stomped their heels into the necks of countless thousands of innocents and wrecked whole societies, just look on the home front at the shabby way corporate giants can behave.
We have Amazon’s Jeff Bezos buying the Washington Post and turning it into a more complete propaganda factory than ever, publishing, for example, a scurrilous, libelous list of Internet sites said to be under Russian influence, a list obtained from an “anonymous source” which almost certainly just happens to reside in Langley, Virginia. We have Facebook’s shuffling, T-shirted multi-billionaire appointing himself American Guru of Truth and Fakery in the News. This from the founder of one of the most fake-filled sites on the Internet, notorious previously for fake reader “likes” which affect advertising rates, but, more importantly, an outfit which ceaselessly censors and spies on its users, sucking information from them like a Dyson whirlwind vacuum cleaner to sell to marketers and send along to the security services. Recently, when I use my Google bookmark link for Russia’s Sputnik (formerly, RIA Novosti, The Voice of Russia), an informative and entertaining site I have checked for years, Google frequently inserts a warning page telling me that it is dangerous to proceed, a page which includes a button marked “Back to Safety,” as though I were approaching a phishing or pornographic site. This from the company that started years ago with a motto, “Do no harm,” but, of course, today Google is a vest-pocket affiliate of the CIA, an outfit which does almost nothing but harm. And look at the way Microsoft introduced Windows 10, including violations of fundamental conventions on the Internet such as a pop-up “install” box whose “dismiss command” did precisely the opposite when the “x” was selected, or the way another giant, Apple, has treated some of its customers, including things like “bricking” their costly phones if any effort is made to change or repair anything.
It is simply about the arrogance of power, a phrase the late Senator Fulbright wrote years ago to describe America’s murderous and pointless crusade in Vietnam.
Politics can shake-up a few institutions which need shaking-up, expose a few rotten actors and send them packing, turn around a few dangerous policy paths, and it can grant the people at large a sense of some new possibilities. Sometimes, and this may be one of those times. But the fanatical wing of Trump supporters, especially those on the “alt-right” are almost certain to be disappointed when he does not re-create America the way “accepting Christ” is supposed to re-create a sinner.
Trump seems a man of enough independent-mindedness and independent wealth and seasoned toughness of personality to withstand the assaults he will face from the establishment in Washington. Actually, I shouldn’t say “will” because he is facing waves of them before he even takes the oath, and he is doing admirably well at handling them. There is a claque of very rich and influential people who are not going to disappear into the woodwork despite losing control now. However, he is himself a rich man with a rich man’s interests, and he is not likely to lose his sense of direction in a wave of patriotic fervor which some Americans confuse with religion. He will have done as much as any candidate could if he ends the killing and the mindless interference in the affairs of others and creates some programs which bring jobs to large numbers of now-hopeless Americans. He actually does have a chance at genuine political greatness, but I would not bet the farm on it.
John Chuckman is former chief economist for a large Canadian oil company. He has many interests and is a lifelong student of history. He writes with a passionate desire for honesty, the rule of reason, and concern for human decency. John regards it as a badge of honor to have left the United States as a poor young man from the South Side of Chicago when the country embarked on the pointless murder of something like 3 million Vietnamese in their own land because they happened to embrace the wrong economic loyalties. He lives in Canada, which he is fond of calling “the peaceable kingdom.” John’s columns appear regularly on Intrepid Report, CounterPunch, Media Monitors, Politics Canada, Baltimore Chronicle, Intrepid Report, Scoop (New Zealand), Asian Tribune, Aljazeerah.info, Smirking Chimp, Dissident Voice, and many other Internet sites. He has been translated into at least ten languages and is regularly translated into Italian and Spanish. Several of his essays have been published in book collections, including two college texts. His first book has just been published, “The Decline of the American Empire and the Rise of China as a Global Power,” published by Constable and Robinson, London. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.