Hey, remember back in those “good ol’ days” we called the Cold War when we thought World War Three would begin over some penny-ante border skirmish in Europe? You know, a Soviet plane gets close to the border, we panic, it gets shot down. Then the Soviets decide to shoot down the next plane that tries that again. Then it escalates from there. Well, folks, have a look at this.
There. Putin just placed some long-range surface-to-air missiles in Syria. The next Turkish F-16 pilot to play Top Gun is going to get a hotfoot he’ll never forget. Ok, but let’s get back to the Cold War for a second. Can anyone imagine it being 1983 and Reagan giving the okey-dokey to shoot down a Soviet aircraft? Of course not. Not even Reagan was that bonkers. If Turkey had said they were going to do that, they’d have been told in no uncertain terms: Absolutely not. We’d have never allowed a NATO nation to threaten such a thing, much less carry out that threat. They’d have been told to follow the protocols which are to send up planes and escort the aircraft away. That’s what NATO has been doing since they provoked the Russians into resuming Bear bomber excursions close to NATO airspace. They escort the planes away. They don’t shoot them down, no matter how many bloodthirsty whack-jobs were calling for it.
Also, the surviving crewman of the shot-down Russian plane has been recovered. Guess where? Syria! Gee, how’d that happen? If the Russian plane was in Turkey, how comes the Turks didn’t capture the guy? And since the pilot was killed by ground fire coming from al-Qaida, there are only two possibilities there. One, the plane was in Syria, which we can pretty much say is a given. Or, two, the plane was in Turkey and al-Qaida is getting safe haven in Turkey. So, ok, Turkey, which one was it? Was the plane in Syria when your F-16s ambushed it? Or are you harboring al-Qaida?
I bet NATO nations that want to stay out of this are crapping enough bricks to build a pyramid at this point. I hear tell that Turkish F-16s cross into Syria with some regularity. Sooner or later, one will get bagged by a Russian SAM crew. Or the next F-16 to shadow a Russian plane is going to get a supersonic parting gift. “Vanna, tell our contestant what he’s won!” “He’s won a surface-to-air missile and a free trip by parachute into the arms of his air rescue crew!” Turkey goes whining to NATO and demands assistance. There, we’re in World War Three. I tend to think this entire thing has been staged and Turkey was coached in it by those who want to get us into a war by any means necessary. I tend to think that actor is the Pentagon. They probably think the President and Congress aren’t getting us into a war fast enough.
Here’s what’s obviously going down over there. Turkey is, and always has been, supporting al-Qaida and ISIS. Both of them are covertly supported by the United States which is why a year-plus-change-you-can-believe-in’s worth of airstrikes haven’t even cost ISIS a magazine subscription. ISIS and al-Qaida have been using Turkey as a safe haven and that’s the starting point of the ISIS version of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. How come ISIS keeps getting resupply? Because Turkey is where the supply depot is. So, ok, ISIS ends up nuttier than a fruitcake but we still need them to get rid of Assad, so we just kick the can down the road, hoping an international coalition will get rid of ISIS later. But here came the Russians and no one thought that would happen. And it might not have if NATO and the U.S. had minded their own business in Ukraine. So Putin moved up his pieces on the board. But now here was the chance to get the war we wanted to start in Ukraine started in Syria and kill two birds with one stone. So to speak. Hence, Turkey was not challenged and warned off by the U.S. when they said they were going to shoot down Russian planes. In fact, that’s exactly what the Pentagon needed. And now it’s happened.
See, the Pentagon thinks it can win a war with Russia. Seriously. They do. Because even if it goes nuclear, as long as we wipe them out and we’ve got a handful of bureaucrats and generals alive in their bunkers, we won! Hooray! Aren’t you all excited and proud to be an American right now? Gee, it’s swell to know we didn’t scrap all those nuclear weapons after the Cold War. We scrapped the air raid sirens so, hey, if you’re in the shower you might not even know the world is going to end before you’re done washing your hair. Don’t worry about drying it, the heat flash will do that for you.
Don’t you just love it? I can’t see any other conclusion that can be arrived at except that we’re about to risk a war with Russia over al-Qaida. Makes you wonder if al-Qaida ever was formally off the CIA payroll.
The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is determined to end its reliance on Russian technology for space travel, paying billions of dollars to Boeing and SpaceX to come up with an alternative to Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.
The organization, which risks losing its reputation for reliability over a series of failed launches, is hiring Boeing and the private aerospace manufacturer and commercial space transport company, SpaceX, to carry out manned missions to the International Space Station (ISS), the ABC News reported Monday.
Boeing received a $4.2 billion order for sending a crewed flight to space in May, and SpaceX was assigned a $2.4 billion order this Friday.
“It is important to have at least two healthy and robust capabilities from US companies to deliver crew and critical scientific experiments from American soil to the space station throughout its lifespan,” NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders said in a statement.
NASA expects to blast off its first commercial crew mission in late 2017.
If successful, the new plan will put an end to NASA’s long-standing reliance on Russian technology for such purposes.
This will also allow NASA to save money as it has been paying more than $70 million per astronaut to the Russian Federal Space Agency to reserve seats on board the three-seated Soyuz spacecraft.
However, it is not yet clear if the new alternatives boast the same reliability as Russians’ space technology, since this will be the first time that a private company will take on the task.
SpaceX is developing a capsule design for the mission known as the Crew Dragon, or Dragon V2, which is based on the company’s Dragon cargo capsules.
The commercial company has been already working with NASA on cargo resupply missions to the ISS.
SpaceX uses its own Falcon 9 launch vehicles to deliver the capsule. Despite having an impressive streak of 18 successful launches, the Falcon 9 received much criticism after disintegrating mid-air in July, destroying a 5200 lbs (2359kg) cargo which included a cutting-edge docking port for the space station, a new spacesuit and hours of research.
The incident marked NASA’s third launch failure in 8 months.
Boeing’s spacecraft is under development in collaboration with Bigelow Aerospace. It is also a capsule design, known as the Starliner.
Interestingly enough, the Starliner is designed to be launched by multiple vehicles, with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 among them.
NASA’s own manned vehicle, the Space Shuttle Program, met its end in 2011, after several unfortunate missions that killed all of the astronauts on-board.
Over the past few decades, insurgent mass movements reflecting political discontent with the domestic economy and imperialist foreign policy have emerged to challenge the leadership and policies of the Democratic Party (DP). There are good reasons for this: The Democratic Party in power in Congress and the White House presided over (1) the deepening of inequality between labor and capital; (2) the decline of real wages; (3) the approval of repressive legislation; (4) the reduction of trade union membership by two-thirds; (5) deepening inequality between the races, (6) a trillion dollar (and counting) bailout of the banks and Wall Street; (7) mortgage foreclosure against millions of homeowners; (8) endless ‘police state’ abuses by federal and local police; (9) deregulation of the financial system and (10) the off-shoring of manufacturing jobs and service employment.
Over the same period, the Democratic Party has supported wars and invasions against Indo-China, Panama, Grenada, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Somalia and scores of ‘clandestine’ military operations – including the recent and current proxy-wars in Georgia and Ukraine.
Popular movements have emerged and mass public opinion has expressed hostility toward both major parties. Hence, the third parties struck a responsive note among the electorate to which the Democratic Party leadership felt threatened by a possible defection by wage and salaried voters, especially to supporting Ralph Nader.
Yet in the end, nothing came of the discontent. Despite large-scale and deeply felt anger and popular outbursts of protests, including the million-strong street demonstrations against the invasion of Iraq in 2002-2003, the Democratic Party continued to dominate the ‘progressive’ electorate or relegated it to demoralized abstention.
This essay addresses the following questions:
(1) Why have mass movements and genuinely disaffected progressive voters and activists been unable to break with the Democratic Party, despite its consistently abominable record on foreign and domestic policy.
(2) How was the pro-Wall Street, pro-imperialist Democratic Party able to retain the support of an electorate, which overwhelmingly polls in favor of health care reform via a national, single-payer health plan, a living minimum wage, the end to police-state surveillance and against serial wars and invasions?
From Protest to Political Hostages
American mass movements have been successful in mobilizing hundreds of thousands in opposition to Washington’s support of the South African apartheid regime, Central American dictators, wars in the Middle East and racist legislation. Progressives have educated and organized millions to oppose Wall Street and the Democratic Party’s more recent bailout of banks.
Without fail every time mass movements and the popular electorate have opted for independent social action outside of the Democratic Party, a ‘dissident’ politician has emerged from within the Party mouthing many of the criticisms and demands of the social movements and the critical electorate.
These Democrat ‘dissidents’ organize ‘grass roots’ campaigns in popular venues, soliciting small scale contributions and making promises to put an end to ‘Big Money and Big Business’ domination of the electoral process.
Such Democrat ‘dissidents’ round up millions of votes and hundreds of delegates to the Democratic Convention and then…they inevitably lose to the Party machine and meekly submit…reasserting their loyalty to the ‘greater good’ against the ‘greater evil’.
The radical rhetoric used during the campaign is consciously designed to obscure the ‘dissidents’ fundamental loyalty to the Democratic Party, its military machine, its billionaire fundraisers and its Wall Street economic policy strategists.
The pre-ordained primary campaign defeat of the Democrat ‘dissidents’ is not the real issue here: The essential political consequence is that the “dissidents” channel mass social disaffection back into the Democratic Party thereby undermining any independent political initiative capable of breaking the duopoly stranglehold. In animal husbandry, they are like the handsome goat who tricks the flock into entering the big slaughter-pen of their social and political aspirations.
By endorsing the crowned Party nominee, these ‘dissidents’ discredit the very critical ideas and social programs they claimed to promote. They demoralize and depoliticize important segments of the electorate. They demobilize and disorient the social activists who had worked for the social transformation promised by their campaign program.
Most important, by reorienting the peace and justice movements and the neighborhood and anti-racism community organizations into Democratic Party electoral politics, they empty the streets, neighborhoods and workplaces of effective activists.
A brief survey of presidential campaigns over the past thirty-five years confirms this analysis.
Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Hustle: 1984 and 1988
Jesse Jackson was an important leader-activist in the civil rights movement. Based in Chicago, he helped organize tens of thousands of Afro-Americans and develop ties with other minorities, white progressives and trade unions.
Jackson opposed President Reagan’s assault on the trade unions, especially the firing of thousands of air controllers. Jackson’s opposition to Apartheid South Africa and Reagan’s invasion of Grenada and the escalation of military spending gained him credibility in the peace movement.
Millions looked to Jesse Jackson for political leadership and a new political direction. He negotiated with the bosses of the Democratic Party for his entry into the primaries. The deal was that he would compete with the traditional politicians, but immediately submit to the leadership if he lost the nomination.
Jackson mobilized hundreds of thousands of activists from the northern ghettos to the Ivy League college campuses and from the textile factories of North Carolina to the cotton fields of Mississippi. He rolled out the rhetoric about social justice, raising the minimum wage, a single payer (Medicare for All) national health plan and a massive transfer of public funds from the Pentagon to domestic social programs.
He secured an impressive 18% of the vote in the 1984 Democratic primaries. Upon defeat, he immediately capitulated and endorsed the Wall Street Cold Warrior Walter Mondale. He campaigned for Mondale with the promise that the ‘Rainbow Coalition’ would influence the campaign and subsequent Mondale presidency. Nothing of the sort happened. Mondale lost. Reagan was re-elected. The ‘rainbow coalition’ was as ephemeral as its namesake.
Four years later, a recycled Jesse Jackson trotted out the same rhetoric, the ‘grass roots’ organizing, the ghetto gab, the poverty hustle and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow coalition with white and black togetherness… to the amusement of the party bosses and corporate funders.
It was ‘All hands on deck’: The street movements shifted from concrete local struggles to door-to-door voter registration for the Democrats. Trade union locals were attracted to Jackson’s ‘save American jobs’ rhetoric. Middle class progressives were attracted to Jackson’s promise to cut the military budget.
Jackson received a substantial 29% of the Democratic primary vote. Michael Dukakis won the nomination and, as promised, Jesse Jackson endorsed the party’s choice and instructed all the civil rights, social justice and peace activists and anti-Wall Streeters to work for his election. Dukakis was resoundingly defeated by George Bush Sr. in the 1988 election.
At the end of the ‘rainbow’ and over a demoralized and de-politicized peace movement, the Bush Administration led the US into the First Gulf War. The wreckage from the popular movements- turned- electoral machines offered little resistance.
Confused by Jackson’s double discourse, the disaffected masses fractured. Four years later, the few pieces were picked up by Wall Street flunky “Bill” Clinton. Once in office and after tooting his victorious saxophone, President ‘Slick Willy’ proceeded to decimate welfare programs, roll back the Glass-Steagell Laws and deregulate the banks, launch a merciless ninety day war to break up Yugoslavia and maintain ten years of bombs and starvation sanctions against Iraq – causing the deaths of 500,000 children and many more adults.
Cowboy Dennis Kucinich and the 2004 Primaries: Keeping Progressive Livestock in the Democratic Party Corral
Just when disgust at the consequences of Clinton’s rotten policies and peccadilloes and George Bush, Jr’s grotesque wars were beginning to unite the disaffected, Dennis Kucinich popped up ‘from nowhere’ to launch a white working class version of the Jesse Jackson ‘Rainbow Coalition’ in the Democratic Party primaries of 2004. Saving a lot of money on placards, he re-cycled the same slogans about a national health system, minimum wage boost, higher taxes for the rich, anti-Wall Street rhetoric and public ownership of utilities – from the Jacksonites.
Since there was still a substantial strong anti-war movement, he called for the impeachment of President Bush (Jr.) for lying to the American people about Iraq. He criticized Congressional Democrats for supporting the fabricated pretexts to invade Iraq and called for the withdrawal of US troops from the Middle East.
His presidential primary campaign within the Democratic Party attracted a small army of disaffected voters and contributors who otherwise would have bolted from the party for the Greens and their candidate, Ralph Nader. In the Democratic Party Convention, Dennis (looking more like ‘Alfred E. Newman’ than any righteous working class leader) petered out with nary a mumble. He lost the nomination to the uber-militarist and upper class hero, John Kerry, without even a floor-fight or speech. He endorsed the obnoxious crown prince of the Democratic bosses, Kerry, an ardent pro-war, member of the billionaire class and defender of the US Constitution-shredding Patriot Act.
Kucinich managed to corral the anti-war and anti-Wall Street Democrats into submission, seriously undermining the anti-Bush mass movements, especially the anti-war activists, and the rising tide of Americans who openly favored the Single Payer National Health program – an extension of Medicare for All.
Kucinich ran again in 2008 but he was already damaged goods. His ‘belly crawl’ performance at the 2004 Democratic Convention had alienated most of his backers. But even more important in relegating Dennis to the dustbin was the emergence of a new, slicker and infinitely more persuasive con-man: Barack Obama, the Hawaii-raised, Ivy-league polished and Chicago-crowned chameleon of many colors, cadences and clichés, who burst on the scene playing every instrument in the band!
Barack Obama: The Ultimate Progressive Rabble Rouser and Master of Deceit
Barack Obama’s con-job far surpassed any previous effort by Jackson or Kucinich. His mind-boggling ascension on rhetorical bubbles left rival Hillary Clinton, long used to the cant of ‘Slick Willie’, literally pop-eyed and slack jawed. During the 2008 primary he embraced the progressive demands of the anti-war movement, promising to end the Iraq war, bring home the troops from Afghanistan and close the US torture camp at Guantanamo Bay. He promised to finally develop a national health plan (hinting broadly at a Medicare-for-All model) and regulate Wall Street’s unbridled swindles and speculation.
Easily seeing through his fluffy rhetoric, the Democratic Party’s Wall Street backers secured hundreds of millions from billionaires with which to finance a real ‘grass roots movement in style’ defeating an astonished Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries and swamping the mega-millionaire Republican candidate ‘Mitt’ Romney in the general election.
The Zelig-like Obama adopted the Baptist minister’s deep and musical cadences in front of black audiences while savaging and disowning his militant black religious mentor from his Chicago ‘community-organizing’ days, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who had condemned the war in Iraq in frank Biblical terms and alienated his Chicago Zionist financial backers and Israel-centric inner council. No longer useful, the good Reverend was effectively ‘thrown under the bus’ – an object lesson on introducing Ivy League graduates into mass community struggles and enabling their ambitions.
In office, Obama allocated a trillion dollars to bailout Wall Street while letting two million American householders sink under mortgage debt and foreclosures.
He expanded on-going wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and went on to launch new wars in Libya, Syria and Yemen. He supported the violent coups against popularly elected governments (‘regime changes’) in Honduras, Ukraine and Egypt.
The re-cycled and bamboozled anti-war leaders, who backed his candidacy and lies, were discredited, the remaining “movement” fractured.
Initially upward of 80% of US public opinion expressed support for the anti-Wall Street ‘Occupy Movement’ but they had no mass-based political organization to sustain the struggle after many of their leaders swam and ultimately sank, tied to the lies of Obama.
Under Obama more American blacks have been murdered by police with complete impunity; more abortion providers assassinated and clinics bombed than under any white Republican president. As for ‘humanitarian intervention’: In Libya, tens of thousands of ethnic sub-Saharan Africans (contract workers and Libyan citizens) died in the post-Kaddafi ethnic cleansing of Libya by the racist warlords unleashed by Obama’s air assault.
The bewitched progressives were befuddled by the Ivy League’s ‘black’ president and didn’t notice that social inequalities had deepened at an alarming rate. As for access to health care, the American people were forced to ‘buy private insurance plans’ (many of which were worthless), meanwhile deductibles and co-pays skyrocketed forcing all but the well-salaried to forego necessary medical care. The notion that ‘access to health insurance’ was equivalent to having effective health care has been one of the biggest shams of the Obama era: Life expectancy for large segments of the low income rural and small town Americans has dropped – an unimaginable development in previous eras.
During Obama’s Presidency, the political climate turned rabid right-wing and the progressives turned tail and ran. Right wing extremists swept the Republican Party and then seized control of the Congress and the Senate.
After seven years of failures, frustration and futility under Obama, progressives found themselves without a movement or prospects. Over 92% of US private sector workers were unorganized and faced continued decline in their standard of living. Black, Chicano and Asian neighborhoods were subject to large-scale, brutal police raids and the extra-judicial killing of minority youth, the homeless, mentally ill and the poor continued with impunity. Over 2 million immigrant workers were incarcerated and expelled. Tens of thousands of young immigrant and refugee mothers and their children were held in private prison camps.
The Republicans promised to extend Obama’s reactionary agenda without the smiling blackface mask. They assured greater tax handouts to Wall Street, with none of the embarrassing rhetorical flourishes, and more wars, without the sanctimonious ‘humanitarian’ cant.
Against this expanding panorama of social deterioration and war-weariness, (a backdrop, which would normally open up the possibility for alternative politics…), Bernie appeared. Bernie Sanders was to incarnate the Fourth Coming of the progressive Democratic primary campaigner-messiah and scupper any real movement to the left.
Bernie Sanders: After the Black Con-Artist Bring out the Jewish House Radical!
By 2015, US society was deeply polarized. After seven years of Wall Street pillage, under Democratic President Obama, the mass of working people were looking for an alternative. On the horizon there was only more of the same promised from the rabid right which ran the Republican Party. Massive voter abstention had propelled the Republicans to power in ‘both Houses’ in the elections of 2010, 2012 and 2014. Terror-mongering, the so-called Global War on Terror, no longer cut any ice with a population terrified of losing their miserable jobs or getting bankrupted by an illness in the family. The Pentagon resorted to paying unemployed actors to stage ‘spontaneous’ displays of patriotism at huge sporting events – dressing up as veterans and running about on the fields with huge flags. There has been a big drop in healthy young Americans willing to ‘sign up’ and fight in overseas wars despite the continued prospect of being mired in poverty-wage jobs in the so-called ‘recovered domestic economy’. The mass of disaffected working people were not flocking to the Democratic Party’s plutocrat-of-choice, Hilary Clinton, the war monger, Wall Street favorite and pro-Israel candidate par excellence. The stage was now set for mass voter abstention and a resounding electoral defeat for a deflated Democratic Party with a disgusted electorate. As a presidential candidate Hillary would have to fight tooth and nail to meet the challenge of even the most marginal lunatic candidate from the increasingly bizarre Republican Party – because the Democrat’s disaffected voter base would stay home.
Behold! A raspy rabble rouser, a ‘democratic socialist’, floated in on a cloud of self-righteousness, conjuring up the illusion of a movement with promises of ‘profound (and even profounder) changes’.
Like Jackson and Kucinich before him, Sanders launched right into The Rant: Against Wall Street, for a National Health Plan and a reduction of military spending (but not too much…). He added a few new planks about cancelling student debt, lowering tuition, ending the cap on the social security tax and greater regulation of Wall Street.
Early polls have given Sanders 25% of the Democratic preferences.
Bernie assured his worried Democratic Party handlers that should Madame Clinton win the primaries, Bernie (and his followers) would immediately and unconditionally support the Party’s war mongering, Wall Street candidate of choice.
What are we to make of his promises and his radical program, if from one day to the other he can easily make a 180 degree turn to support the most discredited dregs of the Democratic Party – those largely responsible for the country’s social and economic decline?
The whole history of Democratic Party ‘progressives’ is one of deceit, hypocrisy and betrayal of millions of workers, minorities and other oppressed and excluded groups.
They rant and rave, till the votes are counted and then they dissolve their electoral organization and push their supporters into the Party electoral campaign!
They do not continue the struggle outside of the corrupt party – they simply go belly up, ‘graciously conceding defeat’ and wagging their tails hoping for a reward (like some inconsequential, toothless position within the administration) if the Democrats win.
After every one of the ‘radicals’ defeats, their supporters are left adrift. Indeed, they are worse off than before because their movements had been diverted into the Democratic primaries and away from the communities. The historical record is clear: After Jesse Jackson lost, the Rainbow Coalition fell apart; civil rights movements were weakened; police violence against blacks continued and even worsened.
After Kucinich ran and lost, his grassroots supporters within the trade unions had no mechanism to block the relocation of auto, steel and textile plants overseas.
After Obama conned progressive Americans, the peace and justice movement virtually disappeared. The church, trade union, neighborhood alliances who celebrated Barack Obama’s ‘historic victory’ have in reality experienced historical retreats. The only things “historic” about Obama’s terms in office have been (1) the trillion dollar bailout of Wall Street, (2) the number of simultaneous wars waged by the Pentagon, (3) the millions of people of color slaughtered in Libya, Syria, and Yemen (4) the thousands of minorities killed in cities, big and small of the USA (5) and the tens of thousands lost to premature deaths in economically devastated rural and small town America.
The current “Bernie” Sanders road-show is just recycling the past, right down to the same rhetorical and inconsequential promises of his predecessors.
Some of his gullible followers claim that he is important for “raising issues” – when in fact he will just raise them and then demoralize their advocates.
Other pundits claim he is ‘challenging’ the Democratic Party ‘from the Left’ when in fact he is doing everything possible to prevent millions of disaffected ex-Democratic voters, mostly workers and minorities, from rejecting the Democrats and joining or forming alternative political movements.
The key to understanding why millions of Americans, fed up with 30 years of declining living and health standards, deepening inequalities and perpetual wars, do not form an ‘alternative party’ is that they have been repeatedly conned and corralled in the Democratic Party by the “house radicals”.
Jackson, Kucinich, Obama, and Sanders promised radical changes in the primaries and then have gone on to hand their supporters, mostly disaffected workers, over to the Party oligarchs, abandoning them without their past social movements or future hope: like cast-off condoms. Is there any wonder why so many abstain!
Last week the US House dealt a blow to President Obama’s plan to resettle 10,000 Syrians fleeing their war-torn homeland. On a vote of 289-137, including 47 Democrats, the House voted to require the FBI to closely vet any applicant from Syria and to guarantee that none of them pose a threat to the US. Effectively this will shut down the program.
The House legislation was brought to the Floor after last week’s attacks in Paris that left more than 120 people dead, and for which ISIS claimed responsibility. With the year-long US bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, there is a good deal of concern that among those 10,000 to be settled here there might be some who wish to do us harm. Even though it looks as though the Paris attackers were all EU citizens, polling in the US shows record opposition to allowing Syrian refugees entry.
I agree that we must be very careful about who is permitted to enter the United States, but I object to the president’s plan for a very different reason. I think it is a sign of Washington’s moral and intellectual bankruptcy that US citizens are being forced to pay for those fleeing Washington’s foreign policy.
For the past ten years the US government has been planning and executing a regime change operation against the Syrian government. It is this policy that has produced the chaos in Syria, including the rise of ISIS and al-Qaeda in the country. After a decade of US destabilization efforts, we are now told that Syria is totally destabilized and we therefore must take in thousands of Syrians fleeing the destabilization that Washington caused.
Has there ever been a more foolish and wrong-headed foreign policy than this?
The American people have been forced to pay untold millions for a ten-year CIA and Pentagon program to undermine and overthrow the Syrian government, and now we are supposed to pay millions more to provide welfare for the refugees Obama created.
Who should pay for the millions fleeing the chaos that Washington helped create? How about the military-industrial complex, which makes a killing promoting killing? How about the Beltway neocon think-tanks that continue to churn out pro-war propaganda while receiving huge grants from defense contractors? How about President Obama’s national security advisors, who push him into one regime change disaster after another? How about Hillary Clinton, who came up with the bright idea that “Assad must go”? How about President Obama himself, a president elected to end wars, but who has ended up starting more wars than his predecessor? It’s time those who start the wars start paying for the disasters they create. Then perhaps we might have some relief from an interventionist foreign policy that is destroying our financial and national security.
If Obama wants to take in refugees from the chaos in Syria, there are probably plenty of vacant rooms in the White House.
The FDA has been called an arm of the drug industry because of how often it smiles on questionable new drugs and new drug approvals only to issue greater warnings or even withdraw them after the drugs made billions. Remember Vioxx, Baycol, Trovan, Meridia, Seldane, Hismanal and Darvon? They are not around anymore. Why? Remember how popular statins, brand name asthma and psychiatric drugs and GERD drugs were? Once they went off patent, the FDA “discovered” serious side effects and began to list warnings. Sorry about that.
There is a stereotype of backwoods courtroom “justice” in which prosecutors and defense attorneys who appeared to be adversarial leave arm in arm and go for a beer after a judicial decision. No hard feelings. The same collegiality oozes at FDA hearings with FDA staffers seeming to suck up to industry, perhaps for jobs in which they return to squeeze their prior colleagues. (Who remembers former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s chief of staff leaning on Perry to vaccinate all the state’s girls with the Merck vaccine Gardasil after he left for industry?)
FDA advisory panels, whose recommendations the FDA usually follows, are supposed to include “patient representatives” to see that the public’s interests are balanced against Big Pharma consultants. So many doctors and researchers now live on 5 and 6 digit drug company stipends, the FDA actually relaxed conflict of interest rules a few years ago–it could not find enough unlinked doctors!
But the “patient representatives” can be a sham. At one meeting I attended, one “patient representative” was a member of the drug industry-funded National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) which was investigated by Congress for its hidden Pharma income and many consider a front group. The other so-called patient representative” had given keynote speeches at NAMI. So much for transparency.
Because of the huge amount of money to be made from a blockbuster drug like Lipitor—it was the best selling drug in the world—there is a natural tension between drug companies who want to hurry the march to Wall $treet and drug regulators who want to slow it down to protect the public.
That is why the nomination of unapologetic drug industry supporter, Robert M. Califf, for FDA Commissioner is so concerning. A disclosure statement on the website of Duke Clinical Research Institute lists 25 drug companies Califf receives “research” funds from including drug giants like Johnson & Johnson, Lilly, Merck, Schering Plough and GSK.
Califf has gone on record that collaboration between industry and regulators is a good thing. He told NPR, “Many of us consult with the pharmaceutical industry, which I think is a very good thing. They need ideas and then the decision about what they do is really up to the person who is funding the study.” What?
He is known for defending Vioxx which is reported to have caused at least 50,000 heart attacks and events before its withdrawal. (Merck is said to have known about Vioxx’ cardio effects but marketed the blockbuster drug anyway.)
Califf was instrumental in the Duke drug trial of the blood thinner Xarelto and a cheerleader of the drug despite medical experts’ objections to its approval and 379 subsequent deaths. Duke, where Califf directed clinical research, is still recovering from a major research fraud scandal that resulted in terminated grants, retracted papers and a Sixty Minutes special. It is the least appropriate place from which to choose an FDA Commissioner.
If approved as FDA Commissioner, as many expect, will Califf recuse himself from decisions on the dozens of drugs whose manufacturers pay him? Or will he rule on them anyway? Either way, his nomination is a slap in the face of every honest doctor, researcher and regulator and the public that puts its trust in the FDA. In fact, if the FDA Commissioner is funded by industry, why have an FDA?
Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).
I generally feel that the questioning by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now could be a lot stronger, but today, she did ask a good question of Rep. Barbara Lee: “The U.S. has just sealed, the Obama administration, yet another arms deal with Saudi Arabia, in the last year signed the biggest arms deals in the history of the world with Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia behind a lot of the militant activism from al-Qaeda to ISIS. Do you condemn these sales?”
This is Lee’s full response: “Well, first, we need to reduce the sale of arms throughout the world. Also, I think when you look at the—for example, trying to rid Iran of the ability to develop nuclear weapons, we engaged in a strong, robust diplomatic effort. Many years ago, I introduced the first resolution calling for the end of no contact policy, for a special envoy and for us to begin to negotiate with Iran the elimination of their program of developing nuclear weapons. So far, those negotiations and that Iranian deal has worked. And so I think that we need to move in that direction in terms of diplomacy, in terms of trying to seek global peace and security without selling arms to all countries, because what you will have is an arms buildup throughout the world, and then weapons will be pointed at—each country will have weapons—of course, a nuclear weapon is the ultimate weapon—pointed in all directions. And so, we need to determine ways, as the president has done with regard to Iran, ways in which to engage to reduce the threats and to reduce the sale and the use of force and armaments and military weapons, because these can only make the world more dangerous.”
Notice Lee does not condemn the weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. Indeed, she doesn’t utter the word “Saudi”. Instead, she talks about alleged Iranian nuclear weapons designs — a total staple of officialdom — and speaks generally against arms sales.
Nor do the hosts highlight this. Juan Gonzalez, who I think often asks more probing questions that Goodman, immediately proceeded to ask a somewhat fawning question: “And I’m wondering what advice you might have to parliamentarians in France now, as France is going through the same kind of crisis that this country went through after the attacks of 2001. The president is now seeking authorization from the French Parliament for extraordinary measures in his country. What advice might you give to the parliamentarians of France?”
We’re not going to get very far if we’re looking to politicos for leadership who can’t condemn policies like the U.S. government has to the Saudis. And we’re not going to get very far if presumably tough, independent programs like “Democracy Now” can’t keep officials accountable about that.
Mr. Obama, Mr. Cameron. Mr. Hollande, Madame Merkel, Mr. Erdogan and all the other members of the criminal conspiracy to dominate the world, I ask you, do you intend to test our patience to its limit? How much longer will your killing frenzy madden us? At what point do you stop your reckless push to the very brink of world war. Have the Nuremberg trials, the UN Charter, international law, have the fears and protests of the people, have your continual defeats in one war after another, your crimes against mankind revealed to the light time and time again, had no effect on you at all? Do you not know that your plans have been exposed, that the conspiracy and the conspirators have been identified? Which of us does not know what you were up to yesterday evening, what you were up to last night and this morning, who you talked with, what plan of action you decided on? For the plan is always the same, and never changes, to dominate, to control or to destroy.
Many think they are lucky if they can just stay out of your way but we know better. We know that no one is safe from your criminality and depravity. Not even children returning from Sharm El Sheihk, from their holiday, are safe from the blade of death you hold in your hands, nor the citizens of Paris enjoying a night out on the town. You proved that when Metrojet Flight 9268 was destroyed in mid-air. No official cause has yet been determined but circumstances indicate the possibility of a bomb on board is a strong one. You proved it again when attackers murdered scores of people in Paris on Friday November 13th. ISIS is reported to have claimed responsibility but the claim that a Syrian passport was found on the body of one attacker, an Egyptian passport on another and a French one on another forces the question as to why anyone conducting such an attack would walk around with identification especially passports and more why would a French national carry his passport in France? The Paris attack and the Russian airliner attack both smell of false flag operations and when we ask the first question in any criminal investigation, who benefits from these attacks on civilians, then it is you who fall in line, one after the other, as the prime and usual suspects.
There has been a lot of speculation that the attack on the Russian plane was made by you or your allies in ISIS to “punish” Russia for its assistance to Syria and to try to affect public opinion in Russia against that assistance. But that never made sense since Russians know the high stakes for Russia in this struggle. The real reason for the attack is made clear by you every day in your mass controlled media. Your thinking, your plans, your crimes are exposed in the very propaganda you use to manipulate the minds of your own peoples and what you have told us is that the Russian plane was destroyed, all those innocent people trying to enjoy a small holiday were murdered, in order to justify your calls for an invasion of Syria. It is as clear as the deaths heads etched into your souls that those Russian men, those Russian women and those Russian children were sacrificed, used, as means of justifying a great war in the middle east. And now the citizens of France are sacrificed as well.
On CNN the other day your prime time king of war propaganda, Wolf Blitzer, showed an interview between the CNN queen of war propaganda, Christiane Anampour, and the Turkish Prime Minister. I use it because he says what you, Obama, Merkel, Hollande, and Cameron have all said in complete synchronicity, that the “plane attack is a call to action.” Prime Minister Davutoglu said,
“This is not an attack against a Russian airplane, but it is an attack against all of us. So therefore it shows that if the crisis is not solved in any particular country or region, then it is going to affect us all.” The same is now claimed by western leaders about the Paris attack.
On the same programme Blitzer hosted Senator Lindsay Graham, one of the most rabid of the American dogs of war who stated, “I believe you have to have boots on the ground to destroy ISIL, ….you need Turkey and the Arabs coming together with us, and you need 90 per cent them and 10 per cent us. 5,000 to 10,000 of Americans to be part of a regional force to go on the ground to destroy ISIL in Syria, or they will never be destroyed and they will hit us here at home.” And now Paris has been struck.
We have seen the same calls made from all the NATO capitals in recent days and all made just after the NATO leaders, with one notable exception, expressed their insincere condolences to the families of the victims of the airliner disaster but not to Russia or its government. The exception was President Obama who kept a sinister silence.
CNN stated on November 5th that the possibility that ISIS is behind the plane crash raises the spectre of a new potential for devastating attacks on Americans. “If another Islamist group has acquired the motivation and the capacity to attack civilian airliners, a future target could be U.S. jets.’ said a man named Aaron David Miller a “former middle east peace negotiator” with the Wilson Center in Washington who also said ‘It’s a long war and you, we have just seen maybe a very significant turn and escalation in that war…. and this will increase pressure … to forestall similar strikes against a US target.” But Paris was hit first.
I could cite many other similar statements in which your propagandists claim ISIS to be the new Al Qaeda. You and your fellow conspirators plan to amplify this propaganda to hysterical levels to generate overwhelming fear in your domestic populations in order to justify a large scale war against Syria where your proxy forces are being defeated by the combined arms of Russian air power and the fighting spirit and skills of the Syrian Arab Army. This has been achieved with the attack in Paris. The sudden flow of refugees into Europe is being used for the same purpose.
No doubt we can expect similar attacks in other NATO capitals. It does not matter to you if you use the misery of millions fleeing war and poverty to justify your plans for war or Russian children returning from happy days on the beach, or people enjoying a concert or football match in Paris. All deaths are the same to you. And so, when we ask who murdered those children, who murdered those Parisians, are you surprised if we turn our heads your way?
We owe a great debt of gratitude to those who defeated fascism in the Second Word War, and we cannot permit those forces of reaction and tyranny to torment us again for now you are not threatening this country or that, this leader or that, you are threatening the existence of civilization itself. Is this not madness? Is there anything that gives you pleasure except death and more death? Is there a single person on the planet that does not fear you, not a single person who does not hate you? Is there any mark of disgrace with which you have not been branded, any dishonour that does not stain your reputation? From what crime have you ever abstained?
There is no need to answer. We all know the answers to these questions.
Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto, he is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and he is known for a number of high-profile cases involving human rights and war crimes.
The US military has reportedly delivered a new consignment of weapons and ammunition to a group of militants fighting against the Syrian government.
The weapons were delivered by land to the so-called Syrian Arab Coalition which Washington regards as a “moderate rebel group,” a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Reuters news agency on Sunday.
The official did not say who transported the ammunition into Syria but added that US troops did not drive them into Syria.
The first delivery to the group was carried out by an air drop back in October. US Central Command spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder said the ammunition was for those “moderate” militant groups whose leaders were “appropriately vetted by the United States and have been fighting to remove ISIL from northern Syria.”
Since the Syria conflict started in 2011, the US and its allies have been providing military and financial aid to the militants who are accused of widespread war crimes and crimes against civilians.
The US has on several occasions airdropped weapons for anti-Damascus militants, which ended up in the hands of the Daesh terrorists.
The years-long crisis in Syria has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people and displaced millions of others.
The United States and its regional allies, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have been backing militants fighting against the Syrian government and people.
President Barack Obama, having met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on Nov. 9 at the White House, is considering Israel’s request for a 50 percent increase of nearly $1.5 billion in U.S. military funding, which would bring the U.S. donation – used for killing Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza – to $4.5 billion a year.
As it stands now, more that half of the U.S. foreign military aid for 2016 goes to Israel. As in all things, Israel gets special treatment by the U.S. allowing Israel to spend 25 percent of its U.S. gift to pay itself for buying weapons from its own weapons industry.
According to a recent congressional report, Israel has received $124.3 billion in military assistance from the U.S. since its founding in 1948. The report states that “strong congressional support for Israel has resulted in Israel receiving benefits not available to any other countries; for example, Israel can use U.S. military assistance both for research and development in the United States and for military purchases from Israeli manufacturers.
“In addition, U.S. assistance earmarked for Israel is generally delivered in the first 30 days of the fiscal year, while most other recipients normally receive aid in installments, and Israel (as is also the case with Egypt) is permitted to use cash flow financing for its U.S. arms purchases.
”In addition to receiving U.S. State Department-administered foreign assistance, Israel also receives funds from annual defense appropriations bills for rocket and missile defense programs. Israel pursues some of those programs jointly with the United States.”
As Obama was meeting Netanyahu, eight blocks away at the Palestine Center in Washington, D.C., a surgeon from Norway who works part of each year in al Shifa hospital in Gaza, told of the devastation, destruction and human suffering these American weapons and dollars cause.
Dr. Mads Gilbert spoke of 51 days of terror in Gaza in the summer of 2014 as the Israeli attack forces brutalized the people of Gaza with Israeli and U.S. artillery, drone ordnance for assassinations, F-16s, hellfire missiles and dense inert military explosives.
Gilbert said the 2014 Israeli attack on Gaza was 500 percent stronger than Israel’s 2009 attack, when he was also working at al Shifa hospital when the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) attacked Gaza. In 2014, the IDF fired 50,000 shells into Gaza and conducted over 6,000 air strikes, destroying over 3,500 buildings in Gaza City alone including over 50 percent of the hospitals in Gaza.
At the end of the 51-day attack, 2,250 Palestinians were dead, including 551 children and 299 women. Some 3,500 Palestinian children were wounded and the 1 million children and youth who live in Gaza were all deeply affected by the attacks. Sixty percent of the 1.8 million who live in Gaza are under the age of 22.
Dr. Gilbert’s presentation included photos of the carnage caused by Israeli attacks and the audio of the sounds of jets racing overhead, bombs exploding and buildings collapsing.
Citing the report of the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict, Gilbert said that the IDF purposefully targeted the civilian population including entire families and that the IDF purposefully targeted hospitals, ambulances and four UN shelter facilities.
The report said, “Hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed in their own homes, especially women and children. At least 142 families lost three or more members in an attack on a residential building during the summer of 2014, resulting in 742 deaths. The fact that Israel did not revise its practice of air-strikes, even after their dire effects on civilians became apparent, raises the question of whether this was part of a broader policy which was at least tacitly approved at the highest level of government.”
Additionally, “the commission is concerned about Israel’s extensive use of weapons with a wide kill and injury radius; though not illegal, their use in densely populated areas is highly likely to kill combatants and civilians indiscriminately. There appears also to be a pattern whereby the IDF issued warnings to people to leave a neighbourhood and then automatically considered anyone remaining to be a fighter. This practice makes attacks on civilians highly likely. During the Israeli ground incursion into Gaza that began in mid-July 2014, hundreds of people were killed and thousands of homes destroyed or damaged.”
The commission report added: “Palestinian armed groups fired 4,881 rockets and 1,753 mortars towards Israel in July and August 2014, killing 6 civilians, including one child and injuring at least 1,600.” A total of 66 Israeli soldiers were killed in military operations inside Gaza.
The commission also reported: “In the West Bank including East Jerusalem, 27 Palestinians were killed and 3,020 injured between June and August 2014. The number killed in these three months was equivalent to the total for the whole of 2013. The commission is concerned about what appears to be the increasing use of live ammunition for crowd control by the Israeli Security Forces, which raises the likelihood of death or serious injury.”
The report continued, “Impunity prevails across the board for violations allegedly committed by Israeli forces, both in Gaza and the West Bank. ‘Israel must break with its lamentable track record in holding wrong doers accountable,’ said the commissioners, ‘and accountability on the Palestinian side is also woefully inadequate.’”
Signaling further attacks on Gaza during a Nov. 10 talk at the Center for American Progress in Washington, Netanyahu said Gaza has “become this poison thumb, this poison dagger that sends rockets” into Israel and that Israel must be prepared for a long period of tension.
The U.S. government’s blind backing for whatever Israel does, while providing the weapons for Israel to do it, is dangerous for both the United States and Israel.
As Israeli journalist Gideon Levy recently wrote concerning Hillary Clinton’s unwavering support for Israel: “support [for] the continued occupation is like a person who continues to buy drugs for an addicted relative. This is neither concern nor friendship; it is destruction. … ‘false’ friends of Israel – have been one of the curses on this country for years. Because of them, Israel can continue to act as wildly as it likes, thumbing its nose at the world and paying no price. Because of them, it can destroy itself unhindered.”
Levy’s comments about former Secretary of State Clinton equally applies to the unqualified support for Israel given by both Republican- and Democratic-led U.S. administrations.
Israeli attacks on people in Gaza and the West Bank will end only when we the citizens of the United States force our government to stop its military and diplomatic backing of the State of Israel.
Ann Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. She also was a U.S. diplomat for 16 years and resigned in 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She has been in Gaza six times and was on the 2010 Gaza Flotilla that was attacked by the IDF, which executed nine passengers and wounded 50.
Washington needs “boots on the ground” in Syria in addition to its air campaign against ISIS, which is not fruitful despite some progress. US Air Force secretary has admitted that “ground forces” is a must in order to “occupy” and “govern” parts of Syria.
In her comments, Secretary Deborah Lee James stressed the importance of the US-led air campaign, but admitted that airstrikes need to be backed by ground forces.
“Air power is extremely important. It can do a lot but it can’t do everything,” James said, just two days after Secretary of Defense Ash Carter supported President Obama’s “willingness to do more” in terms of US troops on Syrian ground.
“Ultimately it cannot occupy territory and very importantly it cannot govern territory,” James told reporters at the Dubai Airshow. “This is where we need to have boots on the ground. We do need to have ground forces in this campaign.”
When it comes to support, the US should assist the “Iraqi army, the Free Syrians and the Kurds” in the fight against Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL), James said.
Joined at the news conference by the head of Air Force’s Central Command, Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr, the civilian chief of the US Air Force also said that the US sought to speed up the resupply of munitions used by its allies in campaigns against IS militants in Syria and Iraq.
“That’s a key message that I’m going to be taking back to Washington, and it’s one that we are working pretty hard,” she told reporters, stressing that the Air Force is committed to a quicker process of approving foreign military sales.
“We need to redouble our efforts and get the message delivered back home that it is important to give much more quick consideration if at all possible,” she said.
Last week, Secretary Carter said that the US needed “much more than airstrikes” to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria.
“I don’t think it’s enough. I think we’re looking to do more. But the fundamental strategy in Iraq and Syria for dealing with ISIL and dealing a lasting defeat to ISIL is to identify then train, equip, and enable local forces that can keep the peace,” Carter said.
On October 30 the White House announced that it is planning to send up no “more than 50 troops” [special forces] to advise “moderate opposition” in Syria on the ground.
The White House spokesman Josh Earnest stressed that “these forces do not have a combat mission” while telling the reporters that the US has shown “a desire to intensify those elements of our strategy that have shown the most promise.”
According to a report from Lebanon’s satellite television channel, Al Mayadeen, American military advisors already arrived in Syria last week and started training “moderate rebels” near the city of Salma, located in the western province of Latakia.
The recent development contradicts President Obama’s 2013 promise not to put any “American boots on the ground in Syria” while also bringing up the issues concerning the previous failures of the US train and equip program.
The Pentagon gave up on the training part of the project in October, after senior Obama administration officials admitted that the US had only trained a handful of fighters, despite the program’s $500 million budget.
In September, it was revealed that one group of trainees had surrendered one quarter of their US-supplied weapons, ammunition, and vehicles in exchange for safe passage through territory held by another rebel group affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
The rebel training program’s $500 million budget in 2015 was in addition to the $42 million the Pentagon had already spent in 2014 to set it up.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to work with Suraia Suhar, an Afghan-born woman who now lives in Toronto, Canada. At the time, Suraia was organizing with Afghans for Peace (AFP), and I was serving on the board of directors for Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).
Back in 2012, NATO held their annual summit in Chicago, where thousands of antiwar protesters showed up to support AFP and IVAW, and to protest NATO’s ongoing and ever-expanding militarism. The rallies and actions culminated when members of IVAW discarded their medals, echoing the actions of Dewey Canyon III in 1971, when Vietnam Veterans Against the War threw their military mementos on the steps of the Capitol in Washington D.C.
The anti-NATO protests were the last massive antiwar demonstrations to take place in the U.S. Since then, and even in the preceding years (2008-2012), the antiwar movement has been all but absent. However, even when the antiwar movement was active and visible (2002-2007), the war in Afghanistan was a taboo topic. In short, progressives and leftists in North America have never come to terms with the fact that the war in Afghanistan was, is and will always be catastrophic and immoral.
No less than a few weeks ago, as most people know, the U.S. military bombed a civilian hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing 12 members of the health organization, Medecins Sans Frontieres, along with 10 Afghan civilians who were being treated for illnesses linked to NATO’s ongoing occupation. Without doubt, the horror continues for the Afghan people, with no end in sight, as Obama decided that he would keep 5,500 troops in Afghanistan until he departs office in January, 2017.
Recently, I had the chance to briefly speak with Suraia, who currently works with anti-racist organizations in Toronto. When asked about the bombing in Kunduz, Suraia said that the world should support Medecins Sans Frontieres’ current campaign and hopefully use this brutal event to apply political pressure, both in the U.S. and abroad. What’s needed, according to Suhar, is an independent investigation. As IVAW showed with its Winter Soldier hearings, the U.S. military will not properly investigate their own. When the military does investigate and occasionally prosecute, low level enlisted servicemen and women are the ones who face the music, not higher ranking officials.
Regarding Obama’s recent announcement concerning U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, she said, “It’s just an extension of the ongoing occupation. Concerning the future, well, I think a lot of that will depend on who’s elected after Obama leaves office.” In other words, “Obviously Trump would have a different approach to foreign policy than Sanders. And given her reputation, I’m worried that a Clinton administration would lead to more war hawk policies abroad than Obama’s failed policies.”
But what about the Afghan women? Suraia isn’t buying it. “This is a tired and debunked orientalist argument. Given that we live in the Information Age, my hope is that those who believe and repeat these claims make the effort to read statistical reports on the quality of life for women in Afghanistan, and how much of the progress, albeit with flawed results, had little to nothing to do with military warfare.” Turns out, bombs aren’t conducive to gender equality or political rights – imagine that.
In fact, NATO’s bombs and raids have created more insecurity. “The entire occupation has been rife with corruption, escalations of violence, preventable casualties, and further disempowerment of the Afghan people. The high numbers of internally displaced people and rise in refugee populations is evident of the deteriorating security in Afghanistan.” Indeed, the situation continues to deteriorate in Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan was considered the good (legal) war, and a justified response to 9/11. Almost immediately fear-mongering was fueled with a rise in Islamophobia, xenophobia, and the media had no trouble propagating anti-terrorism rhetoric in the form of jingoism.” Further, Suhar notes that, “When the Afghanistan war was escalated at the end of 2009, a Democrat (Obama) was in power, so the anti-war movement subsequently, and cowardly I might add, dissipated. It was disappointing to say the least.”
Biting criticism? No doubt. But true nonetheless. I can personally attest to the cowardly position many antiwar organizations took with regard to the war in Afghanistan. Even on the Left, people never understood how to deal with the “good war.” Part of the problem, at least from my perspective, is that we did a poor job of educating peace and justice activists about American Empire, its history and the legacy of so-called humanitarian interventions and counterinsurgency operations.
As far as the antiwar movement is concerned, I asked Suraia what advice she would have for those seeking to rebuild the movement, or better yet, build a new movement to oppose militarism and empire. “I can’t stress enough the importance of working alongside people from Afghanistan who are well informed, experienced, and already doing community organizing. This goes for all conflict regions that the anti-war movement is involved with.”
Moreover, according to Suhar, “I also think it’s important to know how to counter and find alternative solutions to military warfare, so better understanding long-term sustainable development, restorative justice and reparations would tremendously help the peace movement.” Additionally, “The anti-war movement should be aware of the problems that can arise from certain areas of identity politics. A prime example of this is celebrating diversity in the US military, when that military is still serving the interests of the US government and corporations.”
At the end of the conversation, I asked Suraia what life has been like for her, an Afghan woman living in Toronto, who’s outspoken and public:
I think more people are becoming aware that the current climate of Islamophobia and racism has been used to support police state policies, wars abroad, and laws against civil liberties, so there’s been a growing resistance to it. To be clear, being a publicly outspoken Afghan woman living in North America in the post-9/11 world hasn’t been without its challenges.
Running into misinformed and heavily biased views aside, one thing I’ve noticed has been consistent sexist criticisms directed towards myself and the Afghan women I’ve worked with, which has come from many sources – pro-warlord Afghans who support the NATO mission, neoconservative media figures and their followers, and racists in general. Keep in mind, I’m talking about Canadians here. They’ve targeted us with vitriolic harassment and online stalking for being vocal Muslim women from Afghanistan with a political opinion, which of course differs from theirs. This reveals their hypocrisy in claiming to support women’s rights and liberation through Western wars. It’s unavoidable, so I’ve come to expect that it happens. I realize the intent is to silence dissent, but it’s a cowardly tactic. A good defense is transparency and allied support.
Suraia’s advice and reflections are very similar to the guidance and reflections I’ve heard from other Afghans and Iraqis over the years. In short, these activists need solidarity and true allies – allies who are willing to put aside petty differences in the pursuit of ending U.S. Empire abroad and Islamophobia and militarism at home. After all, we’re talking about war, so let’s get serious my friends, because our brothers and sisters abroad require our solidarity and commitment.
Vincent Emanuele can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Just when the prospects for single-payer or full Medicare for everyone, with free choice of doctors and hospitals, appear to be going nowhere, from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley comes a stirring that could go national and make single-payer a reality.
Throwing down the gauntlet on the grounds of efficiency and humanness, businessman Richard Master, CEO of MCS Industries Inc., the nation’s leading supplier of wall and poster frames, is bent on arousing the nation’s business leaders to back single-payer – the efficient full Medicare for all – solution.
The woefully wasteful and profiteering health care industries have blocked majority opinion, and a majority of physicians and nurses, to keep the present sky-high costly system in place, that receives huge taxpayer subsidies without any reasonable, and meaningful, price restraints. Health care companies exploit the complexities of Obamacare, which is powerless to restrain price spirals (note the staggering rise in recent prices of certain drugs). But the health care industry cannot defeat an organized business community fed up with uncontrollable cost burdens and the further competitive disadvantages they experience with western European countries, Japan or Canada – countries that have single-payer systems at half the per capita costs or less.
Mr. Master’s first step is now complete. He has produced a short movie called “Fix It: Healthcare at the Tipping Point” which makes a powerful business case for replacing the current wasteful multi-payer system with a single payer one. He traveled with his award-winning filmmakers to Canada, where he interviewed doctors, nurses and conservative business people. The latter were aghast over why their fellow conservatives in the U.S. are not seeing the light.
One industrialist, Dann Konkin, told the filmmakers that he embraces the Canadian healthcare system because it reduces his company’s costs. The film quotes Michael Grimaldi, former president of General Motors of Canada, as declaring that the Canadian healthcare system “significantly reduces total labor costs for automobile manufacturing firms.” His predecessor, Jack Smith, who went on to head the entire General Motors, said much the same.
Master and his crew then traveled to Taiwan, which has free choice of physician and hospital, and spends just 1.6 percent of its total operating health care budget on administration. Compare that figure with what Master estimates to be over 30 percent in the United States, with every doctor on average paying $80,000 a year on such administration costs.
It is always fascinating to learn what the “aha” moment is for leaders of reform movements. With Master it was a trip to Santiago, Chile to meet the family of his son’s fiancé. They went to a pharmacy to buy their usual brand of inhaler, which they purchased for $15. Back home in Easton, PA, the same brand cost between $120 and $140. Then Master had to buy his blood pressure medicine which he did for $4. Back in the U.S. it was $40. That’s when Master turned to his family and said, “we have to do something about this.”
Master has his numbers down. This year, health care will exceed the $3 trillion level in the U.S. People are anxious and worried about whether they are covered, what their co-pays, deductibles and exclusions will be or what they qualify for under the health industry fine-print contract, or the Obamacare criteria. Master believes that lifting the burgeoning burden and paperwork by enacting a system with public insurance and private delivery of health care will make our economy more efficient and our business more expansive.
His own company just got a 35 percent initial premium increase this year. That amounts, he says, to be $1.50 to $2.00 an hour for a production or warehouse worker in his firm.
The fifty members of the House of Representatives who have signed on to H.R. 676 legislation for single-payer, full Medicare for all will probably be delighted hear about Richard Master’s film and his plans to spark a movement through our nation’s small and big businesses. He is coming to Capitol Hill soon, and he will be on the mass media– starting with the business cable news that is always looking for new energy from the private sector won’t be able to resist his compelling arguments.
It is interesting to see how Master meticulously argues his case. Spending on health care is at 18 percent of GDP, he says, while the average in other industrialized countries is below ten percent. “We can’t compete,” he adds, “and if we go to 20 percent or 25 percent, we are going to have to give up on education and on any work we are doing on our infrastructure.” He thinks “of this painting by Goya – Saturn Devouring His Son. The healthcare system is essentially devouring the rest of the economy whole.”
I asked Master why the business community, surely knowing what he knows about the costs, did not unfurl the single-payer flag long ago. He replied that they are misinformed by legions of insurance agents and others in the industry who populate chambers of commerce everywhere. He knows that single-payer actually strengthens the free, competitive market of delivering health care, far more than the insurance companies and restrictive networks do (Listen to my interview with Mr. Master at http://www.ralphnaderradiohour.com).
There is another reason businesses haven’t championed this issue. Businesses do not like to take on other sectors of business or changes that present an existential peril to the latter. Single-payer, as Medicare for the elderly did in the mid-Sixties, replaces the health insurance companies. That is too much conflict for corporations.
The next step for this historic advance is for Mr. Master to take his film to business audiences around the nation. I suggested that Mr. Master also organize a major conference of representatives of all business sectors in Washington, D.C. to make the definitive statement that rational health care by full Medicare for all is about to be put on the national policy agenda. What issue could more enliven more a presidential election year?
Master’s film can be found at http://www.fixithealthcare.com.