From Election Justice USA
July 25, 2016
Democracy Lost: A Report on the Fatally Flawed 2016 Democratic Primaries
From Election Justice USA
July 25, 2016
Democracy Lost: A Report on the Fatally Flawed 2016 Democratic Primaries
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is a rarity in American politics: a self-described socialist running for the White House. And this September, Sanders sought to distance himself from one of the most well known socialists of the new millennium — Hugo Chávez.
Sanders accused Hillary Clinton supporters of attempting to smear him by linking him with the divisive figure. Clinton is Sanders’s biggest rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, and the comments were allegedly made by pro-Hillary Clinton Super PAC Correct the Record. But in trying to distance himself from Chávez, Sander is making many Venezuelans angry.
“Yesterday, one of Hillary Clinton’s most prominent Super PACs attacked our campaign pretty viciously…They suggested I’d be friendly with Middle East terrorist organizations, and even tried to link me to a dead communist dictator,” Sanders wrote in a fundraising email.
The senator’s strong words are likewise stirring up trouble. One Venezuela news website dryly noted that Sanders dictator remark was “referring to Venezuela’s three time democratically-elected former president Hugo Chávez.” Maximilien Arvelaiz, Venezuela’s ambassador in the United States, also defended the the late leader in the American media.
“Venezuela has become…the bad guy. We’re the villain,” Arvelaiz said. “I could send a couple of good books to Bernie Sanders.”
Sanders’s email was one of his first statements dealing with foreign policy. So far, the politicians has instead focused on rising income inequality. According to the Pew Research Center, the wealthiest 10% of Americans own 80% of the country’s stocks and mutual funds.
Supporters of Chávez were quick to point out that the democratic socialist president addressed similar concerns in Venezuela. And if he wants to become president, then perhaps Sanders could take lessons from Chávez’s many supporters around the globe.
In the United Kingdom, fellow socialist Jeremy Corbyn recently won a decisive election to become the Leader of the Labour Party. Corbyn has publicly endorsed Chávez in the past.
Hope can be positive by pushing people into political action, but it’s also exploited by the establishment as shiny bait. Obama, for example, fished for votes using “hope” and reeled in the presidency.
He then clubbed “hope” senseless by betraying his promises, continuing war and maintaining the domestic policies of the 1%. Hope was so thoroughly thrashed that a new messiah of hope was needed to cure the Obama-fortified hopelessness.
Bernie’s version of hope is deeper than Obama’s shallow PR electoral campaign, but under capitalism real “hope” isn’t a simple recipe, and Bernie is missing some key ingredients, most notably “anti-imperialism,” which is exemplified in Bernie’s reactionary foreign policy positions.
Imperialism can be loosely defined as the multitude of actions that maintain the U.S. global empire. Most Americans don’t realize the true political depth of imperialism — or don’t even know they live in the largest empire in world history, which adds urgency to the educating and organizing around this issue.
Some on the left would dismiss anti-imperialism as a “secondary” issue, accusing those who insist on its inclusion as “dogmatic” or “purist.” “Bernie is doing so many great things,” they insist, “that focusing on his weak points is counter-productive.”
It’s of course perfectly reasonable that many progressive/liberal and working class people would be attracted to Sanders’ platform. But socialists/revolutionaries must have a broader perspective. Imperialism is, in some ways, the beating heart of U.S. capitalism: a central power of the “billionaire class” that stops progress abroad while blocking progress at home.
The rabidly pro-imperialist section of the establishment is the most powerful and class-conscious section of the ruling class, with deep roots in the military industrial-complex. It also has deep, racist roots in the South, where military enlistees remain vastly over-represented, and where many military bases are named after pro-slavery civil war heroes. This is the most hideously reactionary section of the establishment, who’d be the first to support fascism domestically, since they’ve already supported it in various forms abroad.
The U.S. pro-imperialist establishment has helped to create a network of global military alliances that funnel weapons internationally, while cash flows globally into the hands of the 1% via free trade agreements crafted by the pro-imperialist establishment.
Without this imperialism the exports or markets of the largest U.S. corporations would suffer: including the big banks, big oil, big healthcare/insurance corporations, defense contractors (the arms industry), agro-corporations, tech firms, etc.
Bernie’s failure to confront this specific, crucial power of the “billionaire class” isn’t a “blind spot” of his politics, since imperialism is like a tank parked in your living room, too big to ignore. By consciously allying with this imperialist-section of the establishment, Sanders has exposed himself as a push over, whenever the imperialists decide its push comes to shove over war.
This imperialist pressure to “fall in line” extends beyond war. Sanders helped write and gave crucial political support to Obamacare, betraying his longstanding “dedication” to universal health care.
Sanders knew that Obamacare was not “a step in the right direction,” but a decision to spend all of Obama’s political capital on a scheme that strengthens the health care/pharmaceutical corporations that act as the biggest barrier to universal health care. If elected, President Sanders would abandon much of his campaign promises and “fall in line” as quickly and ingloriously as Obama did.
Sanders surely knows that foreign policy cannot be separated from domestic policy. They are two sides of the same coin that directly affect each other. What happens abroad affects what is possible domestically, and vice versa.
For example, the U.S. imperialist project — via “defense” spending —— drains the U.S. national budget (57% of discretionary spending), which could otherwise actually fund the things Bernie is proposing; universal health care and fully fund public schools, free college education, job creation, etc.
A Harvard study estimated that the full cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars alone will cost over $4 trillion, a number that is already increasing as the wars get indefinitely extended. This is a big reason why public schools are being shuttered and health insurance remains unaffordable or absent for tens of millions of people.
This kind of imperialist spending has effectively vetoed the job and social programs that people would enthusiastically vote for. This imperialist veto over domestic programs exemplifies how oppression abroad limits your freedoms at home. True freedom and economic security cannot be won in a bubble within an international economic system, especially within a U.S. imperialist system.
Imperialism also directly affects race relations in the United States. The U.S. establishment finds it acceptable to commit atrocities against people of color abroad because people of color at home live in dehumanized conditions and are treated as second-class citizens.
The imperialist actions abroad reinforce the oppression domestically, the most recent example being the Muslim people who are bombed overseas and then discriminated against at home. This racism is purposely exacerbated by politicians and the media, serving to reinforce the position of the establishment by dividing working class people in both affected nations.
The same dynamic is used in Africa, where the underlying racism against African Americans is projected abroad, aiding and abetting the regimes that committed the Rwandan and Congo genocide. These U.S.-supported atrocities are then blamed on the “inexplicably savage” behavior of African “tribalism”, a racist lie used to legitimize the racism, mass incarceration, job discrimination, and crushing poverty experienced by African Americans.
It’s no exaggeration to say that U.S. imperialism is the most politically reactionary force in the world, directly and deeply shaping governments and militaries/police across the world that then use these U.S.-made weapons against their own citizens.
For example, a recent article in Salon was named “35 Countries where the U.S. has supported Fascists, Drug Lords, and Terrorists.” The point is well made; U.S. imperialism artificially shoves governments across the globe far to the right, preventing these governments from becoming examples or allies for social movements within the United States.
The 700+ U.S. military bases across the globe directly affect the politics of every hosting nation, while U.S. imperialist political pressure is also applied via military alliances (NATO), arms sales, training military/police, supporting dictators, supporting military coups, proxy wars, direct military intervention, etc.
Supporting Bernie Sanders means ignoring — or minimizing — his imperialism, since political campaigns are won through cheerleading not criticism. And by ignoring Bernie’s foreign policy — because it might “hurt the campaign” — imperialism is reinforced through valuable political cover. The most powerful section of the U.S. establishment thus benefits.
Some Sanders supporters might respond; “at least his foreign policy is better than Hillary’s.” But Sanders himself has been unable to provide a real argument to support this claim during the ongoing debates.
When Sanders attempted to frame Hillary as “pro-regime change” in relation to the catastrophe she created in Libya, Hillary pointed out that Sanders voted “yes” to support that regime change. As the war machine rolled into Libya Sanders wasn’t a speed bump; he was a lubricant. Clinton and Sanders both have Libyan blood on their hands.
Sanders has Afghan blood on his hands too, having voted for the invasion of the now-endless Afghan war that triggered the beginning of the flurry of Middle East wars. And while Sanders brags about voting “no” for the 2003 Iraq war, his vote soon morphed into a “yes,” by his several votes for the ongoing funding of the war/occupation.
Sanders also voted “yes” for the U.S.-led NATO destruction of Yugoslavia, and supports the brutal Israeli military regime that uses U.S. weapons to slaughter Palestinians.
When it was announced that Obama was choosing sides and funneling guns to the Syrian rebels — thus exacerbating and artificially extending the conflict — Bernie was completely silent; a silence that helped destroy Syria and lead to the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.
Sanders is consistently on the wrong side of history; he’s also been a direct accomplice to a series of massive war crimes.
Sanders often uses weak rhetoric to mitigate his imperialism. On his campaign website he says that the U.S. needs a “strong national defense infrastructure” and a “strong defense system,” but adds the caveat that he’s “concerned” about the military budget, and wants “accountability” for the enormous amounts that are spent. Obama the candidate spoke more clearly about war and peace than Sanders does.
Highlighting Sanders imperialism is especially important because the left has been repeatedly duped by imperialist wars in recent years, to the point that imperialism is becoming increasingly ignored, and consequently strengthened.
Large sections of the left were silent about the destruction of Yugoslavia, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria. They were blissfully ignorant of the ongoing imperialist adventures throughout Africa, most spectacularly in Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia and the Congo. The worst dictators in Africa — for example in Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda — are “good friends” of the United States.
By not giving adequate focus to the U.S. foreign military adventures, valuable political cover is given to allow these wars to continue. The U.S. anti-war movement was mostly silent about Obama’s imperialism while two historically important countries of the Middle East — Libya and Syria — were obliterated.
By not educating and organizing against imperialism, it’s impossible to make alliances with forces fighting imperialism abroad. Creating international alliances has a long tradition among the left among unions, Black liberation, and the socialist/communist movements.
There have also been powerful connections that helped curb apartheid South Africa, strengthen the Venezuelan revolution and empower Palestinians against the apartheid Israeli government.
However, the people on the ground in the Middle East who preferred that the U.S. not destroy their nations, have had little solidarity with people in the United States. In fact, the United States in many of their eyes is the number one enemy, which in turn makes them think that terrorism against U.S. citizens is justified.
Ultimately, the nationalist demands of the Sanders’ campaign cannot be achieved while simultaneously allowing international imperialism to thrive. Imperialism is a bogeyman that haunts social progress, re-appearing in countless forms to keep resources flowing endlessly into wars abroad that stunt domestic spending and distract from working class demands. A new military “crisis” will always strive to take priority over domestic considerations.
It’s obligatory for the left to challenge imperialism by any means necessary, waging campaigns and raising demands to stop foreign aggression.
By lowering our voices in response to Bernie’s campaign, an opportunity is missed to amplify our voices in strategic interventions such as the successful Black Lives Matter actions at Sanders’ rallies. Silence on these issues always benefits imperialism at the expense of everybody else.
By William Blum
Posted on Global Research, May 24, 2015
She was a redheaded rebel, the singer in the family, a trash-talking, tattooed 21-year-old wrapped up in a hip-hop dream of becoming Holland’s Eminem. Then Betsy found Allah. After her sudden conversion to Islam last summer, Betsy began dressing in full Muslim robes. By January, the once-agnostic Dutch woman, raised in a home where the only sign of religion was a dusty Bible on a shelf, began defending homegrown terrorists. … Denis Cuspert, a German hip-hop artist known as Deso Dogg who converted in 2010 and later joined The Islamic State [ISIS], delivers a rap-like chant portraying the path to jihad as a chance for empowerment, spiritual fulfillment, vengeance and adventure. … ‘The door to jihad is standing there waiting for you,’ says a Swedish convert to Islam in a video. ‘It is the fastest way to paradise.’ “
Tales told many times in recent years, all over Europe, at times in the United States. Parents and authorities are deeply distressed and perplexed. How can young people raised in the West – the freedom-obsessed, democratic, peace-loving, humanitarian, fun-filled West – join the Islamic State and support the public cutting off of the heads of breathing, living human beings? Each of us in our own way are lost souls searching for answers to the awful mysteries of life. But THIS? What life-quest does The Islamic State satisfy that our beloved West can’t satisfy? ISIS is unique in the world in making US foreign policy look good. The Defense Department and the State Department have special task forces studying the new enemy; the latter regularly puts out videos to counteract the many Islamic State videos.
I hope those researching the question look inwardly as well as at ISIS. How do young people raised in the West – the same West we know and love – coldly machine-gun to death more than a dozen Iraqis, men, women, children, reporters, absolutely in cold blood, in the video made famous by Chelsea Manning; but this of course is nothing compared to Fallujah with its two-headed babies, even three-headed, an eye in the middle of the forehead. The Islamic State has done nothing compared to what the United States did to the people of Fallujah. Can anyone name a horror in all of history more gruesome? Yes, there are some, but not many; and much of Fallujah was personally executed by nice, clean-cut, freedom-obsessed, democratic, peace-loving, humanitarian, fun-filled made-in America young men.
Here’s US Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, in his memoir, April 6, 2004, the time of Fallujah, in video teleconference with President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “We’ve got to smash somebody’s ass quickly,” said Powell. “There has to be a total victory somewhere. We must have a brute demonstration of power.” Then Bush spoke:
“At the end of this campaign al-Sadr must be gone. At a minimum, he will be arrested. It is essential he be wiped out. Kick ass! If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can’t send that message. It’s an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal. … There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!”
“Years from now when America looks out on a democratic Middle East, growing in freedom and prosperity, Americans will speak of the battles like Fallujah with the same awe and reverence that we now give to Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima” in World War II. – George W. Bush, 2006
Well, George, it’s either that or Fallujah was one of the key reasons for the rise of ISIS.
My point here is not that United States foreign policy is as barbaric and depraved as The Islamic State. It’s not. Most of the time. I simply hope to make it a bit easier to understand the enemy by seeing ourselves without the stars in our eyes. And I haven’t even mentioned what the United States has led the world in for over a century – torture.
The ever-fascinating and ever-revealing subject of ideology
Jeb Bush has gotten himself into trouble because, like all politicians running for office, he is unable to give simple honest answers to simple straightforward questions, for fear of offending one or another segment of the population. How refreshing it would be to have a politician say only what s/he actually believes, even if it’s as stupid as usual.
The brother of the previous president has been asked repeatedly: “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion of Iraq?” At first his answer was “yes”, then at times “I don’t know”, even “no” at least once, or he’s refused to answer at all. Clearly he’s been guessing about which reply would win him points with the most people, or which would lose him the least.
This caused a minor uproar, even among conservatives. Right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham was moved to make a rare rational remark: “You can’t still think that going into Iraq, now, as a sane human being, was the right thing to. If you do, there has to be something wrong with you.”
Such discussions always leave out a critical point. Why did millions of Americans, and even more millions abroad, march against the war in the fall of 2002 and early 2003, before it began? What did they know that the Bush brothers and countless other politicians didn’t know? It was clear to the protesters that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were habitual liars, that they couldn’t care less about the people of Iraq, that the defenseless people of that ancient civilization were going to be bombed to hell; most of the protesters knew something about the bombings of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Panama, Yugoslavia, or Afghanistan; and they knew about napalm, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, etc. Those who marched knew that the impending war was something a moral person could not support; and that it was totally illegal, a textbook case of a “war of aggression”; one didn’t have to be an expert in international law to know this.
Didn’t the Brothers Bush, Hillary Clinton (who voted for the war in the Senate), et al know about any of these things? Of course they did. They just didn’t care enough; supporting the empire’s domination and expansion was a given, and remains so; no US politician gets very far – certainly not to the White House – questioning the right of American Exceptionalism to impose itself upon humanity (for humanity’s sake of course).
Consider the darlings du jour of the American Left, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. They very seldom speak out critically about US foreign policy or even the military budget. The anti-war/anti-imperialist segment of the American left need to put proper pressure on the two senators.
Mr. Sanders should also be asked why he routinely refers to himself as a “democratic socialist”. Why not just “socialist”? It’s likely a legacy of the Cold War. I think that he and other political figures who use the term are, consciously or unconsciously, trying to disassociate themselves from communism, the Soviet Union, Marxism, etc., all those things that are not good for you. (The word “socialist” once connoted furtive men with European accents, sinister facial hair, and bombs.)
It would be delightful to hear Sanders openly declare that he is simply a “socialist”. Socialism can be democratic; indeed, a lot more so than capitalism, particularly concerning the distribution of wealth and all the ramifications of that. Presented here are some relevant thoughts on these issues, from myself and others:
It’s only the socialists who maintain as a bedrock principle: People before Profit, which can serve as a very concise definition of socialism, an ideology anathema to the Right and libertarians, who fervently believe, against all evidence, in the rationality of a free market. I personally favor the idea of a centralized, planned economy. (Oh my God, a damn Commie!) Modern society is much too complex and technical to leave its operation in the hands of libertarians, communitarians, or anarchists seeking to return to a “community” or “village” level.
“Washington has always regarded democratic socialism as a greater challenge than totalitarian Communism, which was easy to vilify and made for a handy enemy. In the 1960s and ’70s, the favored tactic for dealing with the inconvenient popularity of economic nationalism and democratic socialism was to try to equate them with Stalinism, deliberately blurring the clear differences between the world views.” – Naomi Klein
“If it is true, as often said, that most socialist regimes turn out to be dictatorships, that is largely because a dictatorship is much harder to overthrow or subvert than a democracy.” – Jean Bricmont, Belgian author of “Humanitarian Imperialism” (2006)
Without a proclaimed socialist vision, radical change becomes too many different things for too many different individuals and groups.
“Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children.” – Martin Luther King
The United States is so fearful of the word “socialism” that it changed the “social sciences” to the “behavioral sciences”.
If for no other reason than to save the environment, the world needs to abandon the capitalist system. Every day, in every spot on earth, in a multitude of ways, corporations are faced with a choice: to optimize profits or to do what’s best for the planet.
The great majority of people in any society work for a salary. They don’t need to be motivated by the profit motive. It’s not in anyone’s genes. Virtually everybody, if given the choice, would prefer to work at jobs where the main motivations are to help others, improve the quality of life of society, and provide themselves with meaningful and satisfying work. It’s not natural to be primarily motivated by trying to win or steal “customers” from other people, no holds barred, survival of the fittest or the least honest.
And what about this thing called “democracy”, or “majority rule”? Many millions marched against the invasion of Iraq before it began. I don’t know of a single soul who marched in favor of it, although I’m sure there must have been someone somewhere. That lucky soul was the one they listened to.
Finally, the question being asked of Jeb Bush and others is not the best one. They’re asked: “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion of Iraq?” A more important question would be: “Knowing what we knew then, would you have authorized the invasion of Iraq?” And the answer should be “no”, because we knew that Saddam Hussein had destroyed his weapons of mass destruction. This is very well documented, from diverse sources, international and Iraqi, including Saddam himself and his chief lieutenants.
The American Mainstream Media – A Classic Tale Of Propaganda
“When an American warplane accidentally struck the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999 during the Kosovo campaign …”
These words appeared in the Washington Post on April 24, 2015 as part of a story about US drone warfare and how an American drone attack in Pakistan in January had accidentally killed two Western aid workers. The Post felt no need to document the Belgrade incident, or explain it any further. Almost anyone who follows international news halfway seriously knows about this famous “accident” of May 7, 1999. The only problem is that the story is pure propaganda.
Three people inside the Chinese embassy were killed and Washington apologized profusely to Beijing, blaming outdated maps among other problems. However, two well-documented and very convincing reports in The Observer of London in October and November of that year, based on NATO and US military and intelligence sources, revealed that the embassy had been purposely targeted after NATO discovered that it was being used to transmit Yugoslav army communications. The Chinese were doing this after NATO planes had successfully silenced the Yugoslav government’s own transmitters. The story of how the US mainstream media covered up the real story behind the embassy bombing is absolutely embarrassing.
Over and above the military need, there may have been a political purpose served. China, then as now, was clearly the principal barrier to US hegemony in Asia, if not elsewhere. The bombing of the embassy was perhaps Washington’s charming way of telling Beijing that this is only a small sample of what can happen to you if you have any ideas of resisting or competing with the American juggernaut. Since an American bombing campaign over Belgrade was already being carried out, Washington was able to have a much better than usual “plausible denial” for the embassy bombing. The opportunity may have been irresistible to American leaders. The chance might never come again.
All of US/NATO’s other bombing “mistakes” in Yugoslavia were typically followed by their spokesman telling the world: “We regret the loss of life.” These same words were used by the IRA in Northern Ireland on a number of occasions over the years following one of their bombings which appeared to have struck the wrong target. But their actions were invariably called “terrorist”.
Undoubtedly, the US media will be writing of the “accidental” American bombing of the Chinese embassy as long as the empire exists and China does not become a member of NATO.
P.S On May 20 the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a list of 39 English-language books recovered during the raid that reportedly killed Osama bin Laden. Noam Chomsky and I are the only two authors on the list with two books.
As some of you may remember, in January, 2006 bin Laden, in an audiotape, recommended that Americans read my book Rogue State. This resulted in the US media discovering my existence for a week. You can read the full story in my book America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy (pp. 281-84).