Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.
Kourosh Ziabari: You have called elections in the United States “a rigged referendum for this thoroughly corrupt and murderous system.” Would you please explain more about your idea? It has always been a question in my mind that why all the U.S. Presidents come from either the Democrat or Republican Party. Why are the alternative political parties in the United States always marginalized with trivial and insignificant impact on the political developments?
Linh Dinh: The two parties that dominate US politics, Democratic and Republican, both serve the military banking complex. Both of them sanction one war after another, protect the criminal banks and corporations, and side with Israel on every issue. When it comes to money and war, they differ not at all, but the Democrats are presented as being more sympathetic towards women, minorities and gay people, while the Republicans are painted as defenders of traditional values. In every election, however, these two parties will get roughly 98% of the votes, and Congress will be divided roughly 50/50 among them. This is convenient, since each party can blame the other for whatever ills the country, though they both have had a hand in ruining it. These two parties work together to advance the agenda of their sponsors, the banks and corporations, many of them military contractors, that really run this country. A gargantuan source of corruption, the Pentagon funnels huge amount of money to these companies, but American politicians have been bought off by these same companies, so of course they will make sure the US war budget remains obscenely large.
For politicians who don’t toe the line, their private indiscretions, perversions or crimes can be aired out by the corporate media, as happened to Eliot Spitzer, for example, so American politicians are kept in check through both bribery and blackmail. With so much going to war, there’s little left for anything else, and that’s one reason the US is falling apart. Many Americans go along with this because US industries have been mostly gutted, except for weapon manufacturing. The US now accounts for 53% of arms sales worldwide. While posing as a peace maker, it is most nakedly a merchant of death.
Promoting endless war and enabling banking frauds, these political parties work together to wreak havoc on the world, and on the American populace itself, yet Americans keep voting for them. In many countries, there are easily half a dozen, or more, parties represented in parliament, but the American congress only has two, with one or two token “independents.” After 21 years, for example, the Green Party has managed to elect no senator, congressman or even a state governor. Its presidential candidate usually gets only 1% of the votes. Third party candidates, then, stand no chance because the corporate media will not pay them any attention.
The US mainstream media are owned by only half a dozen corporations or so, and these are the same companies that benefit from Pentagon contracts, so of course the talking heads on TV will push a war agenda, all the while pretending to be objective. Fox News caters to Republicans, while CNN appeals more to Democrats, but they are both propaganda mouthpieces for the military banking complex. Neither one will raise questions about 9/11; the obviously staged death of Bin Laden, with its conveniently missing corpse; the Federal Reserve banking cartel; Israel’s serial crimes; or why Uncle Sam is using al-Qaeda terrorists to wage war against Syria, all the while pretending to fight al-Qaeda. No urgent issues are seriously examined on these TV channels, but they will each spend two weeks discussing Michael Jackson’s death.
Soldiers are inserted into televised sporting events and even music videos. When the media don’t push war, they tranquilize the populace with trivial nonsense. Your average American is overwhelmed by so much pointless noise broadcast nearly all day into his skull, he can hardly think straight, and of course his attention span is shot.
Many Americans still don’t know that their media is one big joke, and so is their democracy with its sham elections. Americans are kept satisfied by the relatively high standard of living that still exists here, but this wealth is illusory. This is the most indebted country on earth, and merchandise still flows here thanks to the reserved currency status of the US Dollar, as enforced by American guns pointing in all directions, but this unsustainable and indefensible situation is unraveling even as we speak. One day soon Americans will wake up to their true poverty.
Ziabari: I have always wondered why the United States wages so many wars and military expeditions around the world. It seems the U.S. foreign policy doesn’t work without intervention in the internal affairs of other countries and warmongering, and one who dares to criticize these hawkish policies will be easily banned from the mainstream media. Why is it so?
Dinh: If you’re a gun dealer, all shootings are good for business. If you make bombs, then, no bombs are dropped in vain, whether on Serbian, Iraqi, Afghan or Libyan heads. If you make drones, the world shall be swarmed with drones, God willing. Simply put, the American ruling class loves war because that’s how it makes lots of money. Of course, what benefits the American ruling class impoverishes America, so as these war profiteers get richer and richer, the country and its ordinary people become poorer and poorer. Beyond this, the US uses its war machinery to get access to oil, natural gas and even opium, and to protect the US Dollar. Without its heavy military presence in the Persian Gulf, for example, many oil producing countries will accept other currencies for their oil, thus gutting the universal demand for the American Dollar. The American military, then, is used as worldwide threat to make sure this doesn’t happen, although it is starting to happen already, with many countries now trading in their own currencies, and bypassing the US Dollar.
Ziabari: There are several alternative progressive and anti-war publications in the U.S., and many prolific and high-ranking activists and authors write for them. However, the voice of antiwar, anti-imperialism community is usually unheard amongst the loud hullabaloo of the neoconservative elite. Do you agree?
Dinh: The best and sanest American political analysts have no access to the mainstream media. Morons and liars appear regularly on television, but Paul Craig Roberts, F. William Engdahl, Chris Floyd, Michel Chossudovsky and John Michael Greer, for example, are never seen, and I mean never. America’s best political writers publish for free on the web, and have a tiny fraction of the audience of sycophants featured in the mainstream media.
I publish nearly all of my articles for free. In fact, I can barely give my articles away, and it’s not because of my flaws as a writer or thinker, I don’t think, but because of what I choose to write about. I’ve published a few times in the New York Times and the Guardian [1,2,3,4], supposedly open minded newspapers, but these places sidestep many of the most critical issues. They don’t welcome independent thinking, in fact, but delimit what’s acceptable to discuss. These and other supposedly liberal venues do as much harm as good because they block from the conversation issues that would really illuminate our predicaments. I used to publish regularly on Common Dreams, for example, and my articles always received many positive comments, but now Common Dreams won’t touch anything I write because it’s election season, you see, and they must rally their readers behind Obama. Or take The Nation. You would think it has been chastened by its orgasmic jubilation towards Obama’s election in 2008, considering what has happened since, but, no, The Nation is again cheerleading for Obama. It’s shameful, really, the American acceptance of war crimes and tyranny. Of course, there are invaluable webzines where Americans can go to learn what’s really going on, places such as CounterPunch, Global Research, Information Clearing House and Dissident Voice, for example, but their audiences are tiny, I’m sorry to say, while well known and better funded “left” venues such as The Nation and Huffington Post are little more than petting zoos where liberals can go to lick and sniff each other, and feel all warm and fuzzy, inside and outside.
Half-assed critics of the US government serve a cathartic function for their half-assed audiences. They are no different from television clowns like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, since they allow the increasingly frustrated masses to vent and even to laugh, without solving anything. The American liberal is also prone to making feeble gestures, such as going on a one-afternoon march to show that he is antiwar, but comes election time he’ll vote for yet another war criminal, and Clinton was a war criminal too, let us not forget. To divert attention from his blow job scandal, he suddenly bombed Iraq, for example.
Ziabari: In one of your articles, “Lawless Police State,” you talked about the rising unemployment in the United States and the consequent layoff of the cops and police’s inattention to such crimes as extortion, embezzlement and burglary in some U.S. states. Is the situation really so horrendous and chaotic?
Dinh: Yes, it is getting truly horrible in many cities, but other places are still relatively tranquil. Many neighborhoods of Philadelphia, where I live, for example, are strictly off limit after dark, and avoided by most residents even during the day. There are no statistics about this, but there seems to be more unprovoked beatings by bored or angry youths. In September, six teen-aged girls beat a mentally handicapped woman in Chester, a suburb of Philadelphia, for no apparent reason, while in August, three boys, with the oldest only ten-years-old, beat up a 51-year-old Philadelphia woman, and stole $20 from her. The same month, a 15-year-old high school student shot at two other students inside a crowded subway car, and a cop was robbed and killed after he has just gotten off work. For a while, there were all these flash mobs in Philly, where a huge number of young people would rush down a street, with some of them hitting and/or robbing strangers. Almost all of these flash mobbers were black, it must be said, but our black mayor has apparently solved this problem by imposing a curfew on certain busy streets, and increasing police patrol, but the underlying causes of so much anger and lawlessness remain, I’m sure, to explode into the open in some other ways, or at some other times. In Philadelphia and elsewhere, there is also the new phenomenon of flash mob burglary, where a group of people, usually teens, will swarm into a store and take whatever they want, most casually. As the economy falls apart—and trust me, there’s no recovery—Americans become more desperate or crazier, yet cops are being laid off everywhere, so yes, it is getting truly horrible in many places, but this is just the beginning. It will get much worse, I’m afraid.
Ziabari: Who are running the U.S. mainstream media? Some progressive thinkers hold this view that the majority of the U.S. media are in the hands of a small group of influential and rich Zionists who dictate their political will to these media. Do you agree? Is this why the criticism of Israel cannot take place in the American media smoothly and unrestrictedly?
Dinh: The US mainstream media are owned and run by the military banking complex, by war profiteers and banksters, and that’s why the American mainstream media always obfuscate the many crimes committed by the ruling class.
As for Zionist influences on American politics and media, it is clear that no American politician can rise to national prominence without declaring absolute fealty to Israel. When Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech to the American Congress in 2011, he received 29 standing ovations, such is the abject subservience of the American politician towards Israel. In the American mainstream media, then, every Israeli crime is ignored or explained away, then quickly forgotten. Americans don’t like to talk about divided loyalty, but it is an important factor in many people’s behavior. Just as many American blacks will vote for Obama primarily because he’s black, many American Jews cannot think straight when it comes to Israel. One must remember, however, that many of the harshest critics of Israel are also Jewish. On balance, however, Israel benefits greatly from the tremendous influence of American Zionists. Many of the most belligerent neoconservatives are Zionists, for example.
I want to cite a small, rather personal anecdote that can shed some light on this situation. For several years, I was a part-time professor of creative writing at Bard College. Joel Kovel was a professor of social studies, and the college president, then as now, was Leon Botstein. After Kovel published a book that was critical of Israel, he was terminated from Bard. Seeing a causal effect, Kovel charged that he was being fired for his political views. I knew neither man personally, but I wanted to engage others in a discussion over this, so I sent an email to a Bard listserv, but to my astonishment, no one responded. As a Bard professor, there is nothing to gain, and much to lose, by questioning the school president, it is clear. Botstein is best known as a conductor, of the Jerusalem Orchestra among others, but Kovel is also Jewish, so what you have here is a conflict between two Jewish men, and the stronger one won.
Ziabari: How do you see the situation of religious and racial minorities in the United States? As to what we have been hearing from the media, it’s clear and evident that Muslims are subject to discriminatory policies, and African Americans are also denied many social and civil liberties. What’s your take on that?
Dinh: In my political writing, I’ve always stressed the common bonds that should unite Americans of all ethnicities and backgrounds. I’ve always said that Americans of any color should recognize that they have a common enemy in the military banking complex. American society is riven by serious divisions, however, so that there’s quite a bit of mistrust, if not outright hostility, between liberals and conservatives, urban and rural, black and white, or educated and uneducated, etc., and everyone has been led to view Muslims with suspicion, at best, if not outright hatred. These divisions benefit the ruling class, so they are often exacerbated in the mainstream media.
The Obama presidency, then, was a brilliant move by this ruling class, actually. Propping up Obama, it has managed to pacify many blacks, intellectuals and liberals, all the while keeping their war and banking-fraud agenda intact. Having a black president also gives white racists a false target for their anger. They think all their problems would be solved if only America had a white president again. The fact that Obama happens to be half-black is only symbolically significant, however, and completely irrelevant in every other way. It’s interesting that’s he’s often depicted in the racist or conservative press as non-native, Socialist and a secret Muslim, even though he bombs half a dozen Muslim countries, protects banks and weakens unions. This caricature frightens white racists into voting for Romney, and since Romney is already a caricature of himself, he’s used to frighten liberals into voting, again, for Obama, but as I’ve already said so many times, they are on the same tag team, here to enrich the military banking complex while wrecking both the world and the USA. Romney is the right sock hand puppet, while Obama is the left.
Ziabari: The United States has been accusing Iran of developing nuclear weapons, while it’s said that it possesses 12,000 nuclear warheads. Isn’t this hypocritical? What do you think about the economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. against Iran? These sanctions have restricted Iranians’ access to medicine, foodstuff and other humanitarian goods. Aren’t these sanctions contradicting the principles of human rights?
Dinh: In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have nuclear weapons, but Iran should have nuclear bombs to protect it against the US and Israel. Iran has been threatened by the US for several decades, and it is now surrounded by American troops stationing in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Bahrain, among other countries. As American troops besiege Iran, the US is also imposing a criminal sanction on the Iranian people, but the US doesn’t care about human rights, especially of a people it has demonized for a long time now.
Ziabari: Since 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government started a War on Terror, which more or less can be seen as a War on Islam. Where does this inexplicable animosity with the Muslims and Islamic nations stem from? Does the U.S. government really think that they are the Muslims who are the source of violence and terrorism in the world?
Dinh: A war on Islam serves two primary purposes. The US demonizes Muslims to steal their oil and to protect Israel. In the US, Muslims are often portrayed as fanatical and insane, but Americans forget, not that they’re paying much attention to anything serious anyway, that the US has often funded and supported fanatical Muslims, as in precursors to the Taliban during their war against the Soviet, or al-Qaeda in its current war against Syria. The US supported and funded Bin Laden, for example, then turned him into this monster who somehow managed to pull off the 9/11 attacks, but there is literally no evidence of this, none that can stand scrutiny in an actual trial. They didn’t kill Bin Laden in Pakistan during that ridiculously staged raid, of which every published detail is a lie, but even if they had caught him, then or whenever, they wouldn’t have dared bring him to court, because they simply had no case against him. The accusation against Bin Laden as the mastermind of 9/11 has been conjured up entirely through the US corporate media, but Americans are so brainwashed, many still believe in this preposterous official narrative.
The image of a fanatical Islam hell-bent on destroying the West is used to justify the open-ended American war against Muslim countries, but when this narrative doesn’t quite fit, as with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or Bashar al-Assad’s Syria, then America will resort to the dictator narrative, as in we must save these people from their own rulers. The US hasn’t targeted Hussein or Assad because they were dictators, however, since the US has always supported dictators, including Hussein himself when he waged war against Iran. In fact, the CIA helped Saddam Hussein to gain power in the first place by staging a coup against Abd al-Karim Qasim. Qasim had to be killed because he had challenged the Anglo-American control of Iraqi oil. Of course, the CIA toppled Iran’s democratically-elected Mohammad Mosaddegh for a similar reason.
In any case, Uncle Sam loves a corrupt and brutal dictator, since he can usually be bribed into selling out his country to American interests, and his long reign allows American corporations to loot said country unmolested for decades at a time. A true democracy not only protects the people, but is unpredictable, but a dictator will guarantee “stability” for his foreign sponsors for as long as he’s in power, until he’s killed or deposed, as happened to the Shah.
So America will use the dictator narrative as an excuse to attack a country, but it should be pointed out that after the US invasion of Iraq, for example, hundred of thousands of Iraqis fled to Iran and Syria, among other places, and only a fraction have returned. In Syria, these Iraqis live as refugees and not as citizens, meaning they don’t have full rights, but they still prefer to stay in Syria, under Assad, than live in their homeland as “liberated” by America. Now the US is attacking Syria, and I’m afraid this war will only escalate after the US election; refugees are streaming out of that country also. Declaring himself a harbinger of peace and angel of mercy, the death merchant kills and generates millions of refugees.
Ziabari: What do you think about the upcoming presidential elections in the U.S.? You had argued that it’s now time to boycott the elections, because going to ballots is tantamount to giving legitimacy to a corrupt government. However, by the end of the day, a certain number of people will take part and a president will be elected. How do you see the future of U.S. in the wake of the upcoming elections? Will Obama be reelected?
Dinh: I’m advocating for an election boycott as a way to delegitimize this fraudulent and criminal government, then a general strike to shut it down until clearly stated demands are met. These actions are only the first steps, but without them no progress can be made. For all the noise caused by the Occupy Movement, it never got beyond the sign waving stage. Its original aim, however, was to stop Wall Street from functioning, but by announcing their intention beforehand on the Internet, they gave authorities plenty of time to respond to this threat. The government sent hundreds of cops to protect the New York Stock Exchange, so what was meant as Occupy Wall Street became an occupation of Zuccotti Park, several blocks away, and this occupation of a small public space became the model nationwide, but you can occupy as many parks as you want, and the system will not change. At the very least, you must disrupt the system, as was the Occupiers’ original premise.
Many Occupiers talked about revolution, but a revolution is not camping in a city park and waving signs at passersby. One must become much more aggressive, and the first step in that direction is to reject these farcical elections. If you can’t even do that, then you won’t be able to do anything else. I mean, you can’t vote for a proven war criminal, then complain that he is a war criminal.
There are only a few who are openly advocating for an election boycott, but one should remember that only about half of eligible voters usually go to the polls anyway. Granted, some are merely apathetic, but others are so disgusted with this system, they would rather not vote.
As this country collapses economically and socially, the number of disillusioned and enraged Americans will swell, but the government is prepared to counter any unrest with a militarized police force, and laws that allow it to arrest and even kill anyone deemed an enemy of the state.
This election will be the last with American naiveté about the true state of their government still relatively intact. After November 6th, promises will be broken, bombs will be dropped, heads will be cracked, and scales will fall from the eyes of even the most thick skulled among them.
Kourosh Ziabari is an Iranian independent, freelance journalist.