Has The US Corporate Media Become “Adversarial”?

Editor’s note: Originally posted on CounterCurrents on February 18 but I did not find it until yesterday. The aspects in the article were compiled on February 17, I believe, so some of the stories cited are dated, but the ideas of the post are still valid. There actually were mentions of Trump’s use of the term “legendary warriors” in the Washington Post, Washington Times, and Washington Examiner, but only the latter actually interpreted his remarks, saying that he was talking about “U.S. special operation commandos.”

With President Donald Trump’s claims of the “dishonest media” and “fake news” at his recent press conference, and liberals defending the corporate media as a “watchdog,” the reality of the situation is hard to determine. Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines adversarial as “of or characterized by opposition, disagreement, hostility” and watchdog as “a person or group that keeps watch to prevent waste, unethical practices.” Using those definitions, I looked at the US corporate media garnering the most praise by liberals currently, apart from any Fox affiliate which is pro-Trump.

I look at CNN’s website, and there are stories about Trump’s recent press conference, ousted National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, Trump issuing a new immigration order, the border wall, a “Russian spy ship” off Connecticut, and the liberal sketch comedy show, SNL. As I look at MSNBC’s website, it isn’t much different. Other than obviously promoting their TV shows, the stories range from Trump’s admission to a wrong claim about the Electoral College, why Kellyanne Conway isn’t booked on Morning Joe, an interview with Rep. Elijah Cummings, and Netanyahu on the two-state solution. Other stories include Chuck Todd declaring that Trump has an “anti-media” stance, an interview with Rep. Seth Moulton saying that Trump is a “serial liar,” a GOP senator defending Trump, Congress removing an Obama gun law, resistance against Trump’s deportations, and Susan Sarandon on Trump. NBC News has a similar feel. There are stories about Mike Flynn, Trump’s Muslim immigration ban, Trump’s EPA pick Scott Pruitt, ICE startling lawmakers, the Congressional Black Caucus, anti-Muslim groups, “the Russians” according to US officials, immigrants in the United States, and Trump’s new labor pick, Alexander Acosta. Additionally, a number of MSNBC stories are reprinted on NBC News’s website.

CBS News and ABC News aren’t any better. CBS News has a story on Trump’s “achievements,” Trump’s lie about Electoral College numbers, Mattis speaking with Russian counterparts, Flynn’s replacement turning down the job, Trump asking a black reporter about the Congressional Black Caucus, and Trump blaming the media for the Flynn firing. Stories also focus on the pro-immigrant protest across the country, “Day Without Immigrants,” Elijah Cummings wanting to meet Trump, Trump overturning a coal mining debris law, Nikki Haley on the two state solution, and the Russian “spy ship.” As for Disney-owned ABC News, the stories are about the same. They focus on Trump’s recent press conference, a new immigration order to be issued by Trump, the “Russian spy ship,” Acosta’s nomination by Trump, rise of hate groups across the country, undocumented immigrants, the “Day Without Immigrants,” Russian spies and the White House, and Trump’s “battle with the press,” Other stories include the vital role of immigrants in the US economy and the House GOP considering an investigation into leaks which discredited Flynn.

The Washington Post and New York Times might be seen as reputable by some but looking at their stories, this is thrown into question. The Post has stories about Flynn’s conversation with the Russian ambassador, Flynn’s replacement turning down the offer, Trump family lifestyle, Trump’s recent news conference, federal immigration raids, EPA nominee Scott Pruitt, House GOP plan to eliminate Obamacare, and possible review of US intelligence agencies discarded. Other stories focus on depleted uranium used by the Pentagon, ICE detention, and many more. The New York Times, often called “The Grey Lady,” now days,  is not any better. Its top stories include Trump’s recent press conference, the 2 state solution, Trump’s new pick for labor secretary, Flynn’s replacement turns down the job, EPA nominee Scott Pruitt, and GOP plan to replace Obamacare. Other articles focus on powers of border agents, claims of a “deep state” in the US, the “Day Without Immigrants,” bookstores resisting Trump, and a number of other subjects.

All in all, none of these stories fulfill the “adversarial” or “watchdog” role the corporate media is claimed to have. Trump thinks that the media is “too tough” on him, which a third of Americans agree with, however, the media’s realm of criticism covers very small area. For one, the corporate media has not challenged Trump on his obfuscation over Afghanistan. Trump recently, in a call with Afghani President Ashraf Ghani, seemed to advocate a continuation of the war, by pledging to continue to implement the US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement, signed in 2012. The agreement declares that Afghanistan is a “NATO ally” and that US forces will be in the country until 2024 in order to fight “al-Qaeda and its affiliates,” among other aspects. By advocating for the continuation of this agreement, Trump is also supporting, by extension, the Bilateral Security Agreement, signed in 2013. This agreement, in force until 2024, declares that U.S. military operations “to defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates may be appropriate in the common fight against terrorism,” allows US forces to control certain facilities and areas within the country, frees US vehicles, vessels, and airplanes from “inspection, regulation, or registration requirements,” exempts US military contractors from certain requirements, and exempts US forces from paying taxes or other charges, to name a few aspects.

There were no stories challenging the Trumpian views of Iran, Cuba, or Venezuela, largely because the media agrees with them, as those countries are seen as “enemies” of the empire. Of course there were no stories on Trump’s endorsement of Special Forces across the world. Earlier this month he called them “legendary warriors” engaged in the “most secret, sensitive and daring missions,” showing that the golden age of the “gray zone,” started under Obama, will continue. There were also no stories, except in progressive media, about the implications of Trump’s pro-cop and anti-Black Lives Matter executive orders.

While it is right to call out Trump’s lies, deceptions, and deceit, the corporate media is largely ignoring many of his policy maneuvers. Instead, it is better to engage in solidarity with countries under attack by US imperialism and resist Trump’s fascist moves, especially when it comes to anti-immigrant and pro-cop measures, but not get caught up in the supposed Trump-Russia “connection.”

Trump’s strategy to fight ISIS: more imperialism?

This comes from a recent article by Whitney in CounterPunch.
This comes from a recent article by Whitney in CounterPunch.

While the bourgeois media is focused on Trump’s racist immigration ban, something has been missed by these complaint media outlets. I’m not talking about the five year lobbying ban (which may not be fully enforced) or the negotiating with Big Pharma to “bring down” drug prices (which just seems like an elaborate nothingness) but rather the long-awaited strategy of Trump to fight ISIS which has “arrived” on our doorstep.

A memorandum, published on January 28, declares a “Plan to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” Apart from the preamble which paints ISIS as a horrid, brutalistic, and barbarian organization, the short memo says that “it is the policy of the United States that ISIS be defeated” (section 1) with the policy coordination, review, guidance, and other aspects of this memo described elsewhere (section 2). The document referenced in section 2 is one issued the same day, a document that reshuffles the organization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council. It declares that the National Security Advisor and Homeland Security Advisor will determine the agenda of each of these committees, headed by Trump (or Pence in his place), with regular attendees including the Secretaries of Defense, Energy, State, and Treasury, the Attorney General, and US Ambassador to the United Nations, along with allowing, depending on the issue at hand, the Secretary of Commerce, US Trade Representative, and National Intelligence Director Without getting into any more detail, this memo could be said to engage in a major overhaul of the upper echelons of the National Security apparatus in the United States.

The document outlining the anti-ISIS “Plan” goes on, saying that a “new plan to defeat ISIS (the Plan)” will be developed “immediately” with the Secretary of Defense writing a draft. This draft will be, within a month, submitted to Trump, comprising “a comprehensive strategy and plans for the defeat of ISIS…recommended changes to any United States rules of engagement and other United States policy restrictions…public diplomacy, information operations, and cyber strategies to isolate and delegitimize ISIS…identification of new coalition partners in the fight against ISIS…mechanisms to cut off or seize ISIS’s financial support…[and] a detailed strategy to robustly fund the Plan.” The memo ends by saying that the Secretaries of Defense, State, Treasury, and Homeland Security, along with the Director of National Intelligence (DIA), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Security Advisor, and Homeland Security Advisor, will develop the plan, compiling all the relevant information, and seeking any further information from “any appropriate source,” likely even right-wing and bigoted ones.

The two memos issued on January 28 don’t exactly outline the actions that the Trump Administration to “fight ISIS,” only proposing possible avenues. One way to tell how the policy will unfold in the coming months is to look at who will be developing the plan: Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, DIA Dan Coats, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford. If Mnuchin, Bosser, and Coats are confirmed, working with Tillerson and others, then the policy will involve working with NATO, working with regional US imperial proxy states like Jordan, and continued support for the Saudi bombing in Yemen. Beyond this, the formulated policy would likely include a push for more markets, “ground troops” in countries like Syria, striking at “Islamist terrorism” with Islamophobic policy, and a continued war in Afghanistan. However, this doesn’t tell the whole story.

Recent actions shine a light on how the possible strategy will unfold. Raids by US special forces will continue as part of national policy, along with drone strikes, to fight ISIS and any group deemed as “radical Islamic terrorists,” the new code words for the “enemy” in this era. While some thought that the recent raid in Yemen, which the Trump administration justified even though dozens of civilians were killed, including young children, would result in the government there stopping such strikes, this does not seem to be the case at all. Such raids may even bolster Al-Qaeda, though in saying this one should not be caught in the idea of “blowback” which many bourgeois progressives use as a reason for why the bombing is “bad.” Simply, Trump has revealed himself to be a war criminal, there’s no other way to put it.

As Nick Turse wrote on January 5, on the eve of the Trump Administration, we live in, as a result of the Obama presidency, a “gray zone,” a time when there is a “murky twilight between war and peace,” a time when elite troops were deployed in 138 countries across the world last year, with deployments across the African continent and ringing China, Russia, and Iran. For what we know so far, especially from his recent speech in which he called SOCOM‘s troops “legendary warriors” who engage in “the most secret, sensitive and daring missions in defense of the United States of America” with no enemy standing “a chance against our Special Forces — not even a chance.” Additionally, it seems evident that this horrid reality, coupled with private mercenaries for hire, will continue full force under Trump’s watch.

In terms of seeking “new coalition partners” to fight ISIS, there is a possibility these new partners would include Russia or maybe even Syria, the army of which is advancing in their fight against Western-backed terrorists. However, cooperation with Syria may be too optimistic since “safe zones” still seem to be on the mind of Trump. A Reuters report, on January 29, said that Trump and King Salaman of Saudi Arabia agreed to mutually “agreed to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen,” purportedly for refugees. As anyone with sense knows, this is just a dressed up version of no-fly-zones and expanded US imperialism in the Syrian Arab Republic. In terms of safe zones in Yemen, this implies continued US support for the Saudi aggression in Yemen, which has, already, killed over 11,000 people, and destroyed much of the country, including its vital infrastructure. There is no doubt that that Trump administration will ally with Gulf autocracies such as the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, and Qatar, along with Yemen of course.

In the same Reuters report, it said that the White House agreed to work with Saudi Arabia to counter “Iran’s destabilizing regional activities” and debating if the Muslim Brotherhood should be deemed a terrorist organization by the US, then subject to sanctions. Clearly, on the issue of Iran, fundamentally little will change from Obama under the Trump administration. Sure, the agreement on Iran’s non-existent nuclear program will go away and Western mega-corporations will lose out on the “new” market in Iran, but the aggressive feelings of the United States toward the Islamic Republic will not go away. This much was indicated when National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, in a “muscular” response, declared that recent Iranian actions “underscore…Iran’s destabilizing behavior,” saying that the missile launch violates UN Security Council Resolution 2231, claimed that the Iranians backed the Houthi forces in Yemen, and said that the Obama Administration was “weak and ineffective” in responding to “Tehran’s malign actions” but that the Trump Administration will condemn “such actions by Iran that undermine security, prosperity, and stability throughout and beyond the Middle East and place American lives at risk,” with this stance meaning that they are “officially putting Iran on notice.”

After the recent immigration ban, under which Trump gave the Saudis a free pass, which will likely harm the US, there have been calls to ban Americans from Iran, which will lead to continued aggression of an imperial nature. This also means that Saudi funding of terrorists in Syria (and across the region) may also get a pass, which would show the continuation of policy from Obama to Trump. Additionally, it seems very evident that war may be in the cards, with Trump directly threatening Iran, and possible war with Iran in the cards.

Other articles recent add to this, noting that more threats and sanctions (also see here) are being used against Iran by the United States (which could inflame the region), with the Trump Administration wanting to contain Iran, with Russia (and China for that matter) standing on the side of Iran in this war of words and actions. Iran is also preparing itself for self-defense if need be with new military equipment and other measures (also see here) while a Trump cabinet pick paid by MKO terrorists, Iran stands against partition of Iraq, and Iranian army commanders seeing the threats as nonsense, as they defy the United States to the best of their ability.

It is worth quoting what Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution said in a recent speech:

“The new U.S. president says Iran should thank Obama! Why?! Should we thank him for creating ISIS, the ongoing wars in Iraq and Syria, or the blatant support for the 2009 sedition in Iran? He was the president who imposed paralyzing sanctions on the Iranian nation; of course, he did not achieve what he desired. No enemy can ever paralyze the Iranian nation…Trump says fear me! No. The Iranian nation…will show others what kind of stance the nation of Iran takes when threatened. We actually thank this new president [Trump]! We thank him, because he made it easier for us to reveal the real face of the United States. What we have been saying, for over thirty years, about political, economic, moral, and social corruption within the U.S. ruling establishment, he came out and exposed during the election campaigns and after the elections. Now, with everything he is doing—handcuffing a child as young as 5 at an airport—he is showing the reality of American human rights. The incident of the February 8, 1979 [referring to the day that the Army Air Force began its allegiance with Imam Khomeini (Homafaran Allegiance) and about the final days of the Iranian revolution] was unexpected for the regime and a blessing from God we were not counting upon. An unexpected provision should be hoped for in anything that the believing front does: it is true that logical and material calculations are necessary, but sometimes we should open up to counting on the supernatural too…if we use wisdom and prudence along with trusting the Satan, the result will be a mirage. In any matter, including diplomacy and the country’s problems it is true that trusting demons and the materialistic power, which oppose your essence, leads to a mirage.”

James Petras, a Marxist who seems to take the side of Trump, even said, in a recent piece, that Trump will continue the murderous reign of the empire. While he praised Trump for his seeming “protectionism” and certain “critiques,” Petras admitted that Trump ignores “the enormous regional economic and military power of Iran” and has proposed to “re-negotiate the recent six-nation agreement with Iran in order to improve the US side of the bargain” possibly to placate Israel, and then said that “Trump will most probably maintain, but not expand, Obama’s military encirclement of China’s maritime boundaries which threaten its vital shipping routes.” Petras, who describes Trump as a “market realist who recognizes that military conquest is costly and…losing economic proposition for the US” who views “Russia as a potential economic partner and military ally” and sees China as a “powerful economic competitor,” said that Trump is a “capitalist-nationalist, a market-imperialist and political realist.” Still, he seems unsure about what will happen next in his administration.

Of course, Petras is not seeing through the smoke of “economic nationalism” of Trump, which is tied with his anti-worker nature and racist imperialism. While there is no doubt that Trump is different than Obama in his actions or behavior, on US imperial foreign policy, to say the least, it is clear that Trump will support the Zionist project in Israel and US imperialism worldwide in his own patented way, even if that includes playing both sides of the “anti-ISIS war.” Hence, all of Trump’s “critiques” of elites are worthless junk not worth paying attention to since he will benefit the capitalist elites, already infusing his advisors with Goldman Sachs, engaging in a “globalism of the 1%” which supports empire and buttressing Islamophobia, making it national policy. Of course, he will also not oppose continued militarization of the country (and world) and expansion of the security apparatus, coupled with mass surveillance. Hence, it is accurate to describe Trump as a president who has “openly exhibited racist, nativist, sexist, arch-authoritarian, police-statist, Islamophobic, pro-torture, and even neo-fascist sentiments and values.”

Where the murderous empire goes next is clear. While countries like the Philippines are plying the double game by claiming to resist the United States but also crack down on communist forces and allow US troops in the country, China is rising more so on the world stage. The latter will hopefully pose as a possible counter to the horrid (and racist) imperialism that will spew out of the Trump administration like left over trash falling out of a garbage truck, policies that leave destruction in their wake.Perhaps Chinese media has a point in saying that “the court,” “the media,” “the public,” “domestic and international politics,” and the “economy” could  keep Trump in check, but they might be believing too much in those elements.

Those who think that Trump will change US policy, be anti-interventionist, or end the slew of wars, are dead wrong. As he declared in a speech just a couple of days ago, he said, following typical dogma, said that the US military is “fighting for our security and freedom,” while also saying that “defense of our nation” is important to him, at least in his mind, that the military will never be “forgotten” by the Trump administration (i.e. it will get more money), and that the US strongly supports NATO. In his speech, he declared that SOCOM and Central Command will be the “very center of out fight against radical Islamic terrorism,” saying that more focus will be placed not only on Central Asia, the Middle East, and Egypt, but across the world. He also declared to the “forces of destruction” by which he means ISIS, Al Qaeda, and “associated forces,” that “America and its allies will defeat you.  We will defeat them,” while saying, as typical militaristic boilerplate, but also showing his loyalty to the war machine, that the “men and women of the United States military provide the strength to bring peace to our troubled, troubled times.”

It seems obvious that the military will expand, with Trump acting as a bully for Western capitalists to gain new markets, using his “twitter diplomacy” and imperial might, along with other “tools” at his disposal. Cuba, the DPRK, and China will remain under imperialist assault. Zimbabwe and Venezuela likely will as well. In the end, one must cast off any illusions about Trump, recognizing his racist and imperialist nature, while rejecting the arguments of bourgeois liberals and progressives who do not challenge the fundamental nature of the murderous empire.

“Our country is in deep trouble”: Trump’s fast-moving authoritarianism

Based off a Mr. Robot quote by Angela Moss, but also applying to horrid Trump of course.
Based off a Mr. Robot quote by Angela Moss, but also applying to horrid Trump of course.

In November 2015, in a campaign ad quoted by Wikiquote, Trump declared that “our country is in deep trouble because let’s face it: politics are all talk and no action…I don’t disappoint people, I produce.” These same words can easily (and reflexively) apply to his presidency at the present, only nine days old at the writing of this article. I know this could get outdated very quickly, but that doesn’t concern me at all. I could have added more analysis here I guess, but I think this is a good stab at what has happened so far. This is basically almost like a stream of consciousness, so pardon me if I missed something along the way.

Before January 20

In order to recognize the reality, it is best to provide some context, which goes beyond the likely policies of his administration or Obama’s legacy. Frank Newport, the CEO of Gallup, one of the firms that publishes polls for the interest of PR peoples across the United States, not the general populace of course, declared on December 20 that

“the U.S. president is the CEO of the government…the government will soon become President-elect Donald Trump’s biggest responsibility. This is no minor challenge…Trump has appointed high-level business and military executives to his Cabinet posts, individuals who presumably have experience in making large organizations work well. Only time will tell how effective they can be in using this expertise to affect the operations of massive federal bureaucracies…Trump’s most important governmental challenge, in my view, will be dealing with the public’s basic lack of confidence in the men and women they elect and send to Washington to represent them…Trump’s best course of action may be to move in a positive direction — attempting to work with Congress, cooperating in a rational way, getting things done and in general helping convince Americans that the legislative branch can actually work.”

Not surprisingly, Newport does not expand on this analogy whatsoever. If the President of the United States is the CEO of the government, then the board of directors is the capitalist class, not just Wall Street, and the “people” of the United States are the shareholders, who really don’t have a vote or voice unless they hold a large amount of shares (i.e. big campaign contributors). Hence, Trump, or any president, is managing the affairs of the country for the capitalist elite, not engaging in his own policy. While the capitalist class would have preferred Killary of course, they can adapt and work with Trump easily, no doubt.

Trump’s management of the country won’t be easy in the sense that he could incur popular resentment. As another Gallup poll earlier this year noted, while most of those in the US think that “the country is on the wrong track,” there are also divisions between views of former Clinton and Trump backers, but there is also agreement on high healthcare costs, the “threat” of Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons, worries of loss of US world leadership, that the US should be the “world’s top military power,” opposition to “building a wall along the border with Mexico,” favoring legalization of marijuana, “favoring the death penalty,” critical of more gun control measures, and even agreement on gay marriage to an extent. Still, public opinion can be manipulated no doubt, even if he doesn’t “like tweeting” or the differing sources of election news for Trump and Clinton voters, so he may have no trouble after all.

In the days before Trump’s inauguration, an event which is a spectacle for every President, Obama made some “last minute” actions, some of which were symbolic. Due to public pressure and likely to give himself a “good” legacy (despite the fact that his legacy is actually atrocious), he pardoned transgender whistleblower Chelsea Manning  and Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar Lopez Rivera, along with a number of nonviolent drug offenders. [1] Of course, many political prisoners are still locked behind bars and his action was symbolic as it did not challenge or undermine the reality of mass incarceration in the United States as a whole but instead contributed to an image of Obama as a “hero” or “savior.” It worth saying however that if Manning’s sentence had not been reduced, Trump likely would have extended the sentence and left her in prison for life, with the head of the military, Ash Carter opposing this move from what I’ve read.

As the days toward inauguration neared, the signs of “change” became clear. Fewer people said they would watch the Trump inauguration, with lower numbers likely coming from distraught bourgeois liberals and progressives along with those angry at the US capitalist system, and more than before, people said they were satisfied with immigration levels into the US which actually may not be a bad thing. And finally, a report was released saying that Trump and his team were aiming for dramatic cuts in the Departments of State, Justice, and Education, along with other social programs while growing the budget of the Pentagon. Not only does this show that those who thought that Trump was non-interventionist, like the libertarian goofs at Antiwar.com, are wrong, but it shows that he is playing a key role in the coming years of capitalism in the United States. Such a report indicates that cuts on social spending will increase, aggressive imperial posturing (and wars) will spike, and ordinary people will suffer.

In order to indicate the events of the Trump Administration so far, it is best to break down the events day by day since the Trumpster is acting very quickly indeed.

Day One: January 20

On the day of his inauguration, Trump made a speech written by two of his closest advisors: white supremacist and bigot Steve Bannon and anti-immigrant political operative Stephen Miller, which set a tone for dark days ahead. On the streets, some were rightfully restless, with smashing of windows “of a Starbucks and Bank of America in Washington, DC.” [2] While some may criticize these actions as counter-productive or that we should be “peaceful,” it is clear that they are a justified form of resistance in a society that values capitalist property so highly.

With the media focusing on that, they clearly passed over Trump’s first executive order, which targeted Obamacare, in preparation for legislation to ultimately repeal it. While the law is absolutely horrid, leading to a growth of underinsurance in the United States which had not been there before and benefits pharmaceutical and health insurance companies, the GOP replacement for this law will likely make conditions worse. Of course, Democrats are not pushing for universal healthcare at this stage but instead are clinging to their sacred cow of Obamacare.

Also, the same day, the US Senate pushed through three of Trump’s appointees. One of them was only approved to go forward, while John Kelly for Secretary of Homeland Security and James Mattis for “Defense” Secretary were passed with overwhelming supermajorities, indicating yet again that the Democrats are not an opposition party, but are easily falling in line.

There is one more aspect to note about the events of January 20. On that day, Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, was interviewed by a site which declares that “the tendency to view Latin America and the Caribbean in isolation of world policy and under the shadow of U.S. hegemony is anachronistic,” as noted by Libya 360 a few days later. In the interview, with the imperialist news outlet almost handing him the answers, Tillerson declared that the US would continue cooperating with Mexico on “important issues of common interest,” endorsed the imperialistic Plan Colombia,” thought that a “calamity that has befallen Venezuela” as a product of “its incompetent and dysfunctional government-first under Hugo Chavez, and…Nicolas Maduro,” arguing that there should be a “negotiated transition to democratic rule in Venezuela.” This not only gives an indication of continuation of US-backed coups in the region but a continuation of US policy. Beyond this, Tillerson said that he would “denounce the Maduro government’s undemocratic practices,” engage with Cuba but “reform of its oppressive regime” by supporting supposed “human rights defenders and democracy activists,” promote TV and Radio Marti, work to extradite Assata Shakur to the US, try to “mobilize international support to share the burden of U.S. assistance for Haiti,” and enforce “all congressionally-mandated sanctions including the measures in the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Extension Act of 2016,” along with much more.

Five days before, one article in the bourgeois liberal Huffington Post, written by those who want to privatize state organs in Venezuela, argued that Tillerson had a troubled relationship with the country. [3] They wrote that “ExxonMobil’s history in Venezuela starts in 1921,” that Venezuela’s ties to the company were “severed in 1976, when president Carlos Andres Pérez sought to nationalise the oil industry” and were “reestablished in the 1990s” but then ended in 2007 when Hugo Chavez re-nationalized “the oil business” under the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA. The article went on to say that ExxonMobil, then under Tillerson’s leadership (since the year before), won an arbitration decision by the World Bank to “compensate ExxonMobil $US1.6 billion” and that when “ExxonMobil launched oil operations off the coast of neighbouring Guyana,” the Venezuelan government not surprisingly, and rightly so, accused the horrid oil company of “trying to destabilise the region by siding with Guyana.” The article ends by saying that while “Tillerson and ExxonMobil have been against economic sanctions as international policy,” the current relationship with Venezuela could lead to increased sanctions, maybe even including “severing diplomatic relations or suspending or significantly reducing Venezuelan oil purchases” but that another possibility is that Tillerson would “compel Venezuela to honour its international financial commitments” and privatize its oil (and other) “unproductive industries” (in the minds of the writers).

Day Two: January 21

On this day, the second day of the Trump Administration, the opposition began to come to more fruition, giving hope for the future, maybe (unlikely though). There were clearly mixed ideologies among the millions joining women’s marches that day, but of course, anti-imperialism from the marchers was absent. Some may be right that such marches were “a watershed mark in American activist history” and that “the list of speakers was impressive and widely divergent” but that “tone and militancy of marches in other areas were mixed.” However, I think, it had more problems that that and was almost a “Farce on Washington” like the famed 1963 March on Washington, as Malcolm X put it, with saying that everyone should be “nonviolent” not defending themselves with force. I think there could be some change and the movement could separate from the Democrats, I also think it will dissipate and not go on an independent path. But we’ll see.

The same day, apart from an article showing how connected the Obama Foundation was to the capitalist class, Trump gave a speech to the spooks at the CIA. In a speech which was first reprinted by the UK tabloid, The Daily Mirror, was boastful but also telling on what Trump won’t change. In the speech, which of course was praised by Trump himself and by CIA apologist David Ignatius, calling the CIA “very, very special people,” saying that “we have to get rid of ISIS.  Have to get rid of ISIS.  We have no choice,” praising his team, while saying that the Senate will get through all the intelligence and military appointments “through, but some will take a little bit longer than others.” There’s need to even quote anything else in the speech other than noting that Trump being arrogant while praising the military and CIA as “important” and “special,” not changing their current role in the imperial structure of the United States, saying that he is behind the CIA “1,000 percent” and that he respects them. The fact that his first real speech, was to the CIA, apart from the inaugural speech which is usually worthless listening to or reading in any way, shape or form, is significant and should be noted.

Day Three: January 22

On the same day that hundreds protested in Northern Italy against a US military base, media in East Asia decried the “isolationist” nature of Trump, fearing possible diplomatic turmoil. Such concerns, of course, are not unfounded due to the increasing aggression the Trump Administration has shown to China as I noted in my post about his “diplomacy” late last year. On this day, the libertarian Antiwar.com folks declared that there had been the first US drone strikes under Trump. This was also confirmed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism which has noted four confirmed drone strikes, some engaged in even without Presidential approval. Further strikes were noted on January 25 and numerous days before. So the global assassination program is not ending, clearly. Yet another set of powers that Obama literally handed to Trump.

The same day, Trump had a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the right-wing extremist who rules the murderous (and Zionist) state of Israel. They spoke, as a readout of the call noted, on “ways to advance and strengthen the U.S.-Israel special relationship, and security and stability in the Middle East,” including consulting “on a range of regional issues, including addressing the threats posed by Iran” and promising Netanyahu that the US will have an “unprecedented commitment to Israel’s security.” Of course, Netanyahu would praise Trump’s push for a border wall, as both him and Trump are engaging in racist policy and are right-wing reactionaries. [4] It is worth considering the horrid settlements Trump is supporting in the “West Bank,” a region given that name as it is the area West of the Jordan River that the state of Jordan has claimed in the past.

Day Four: January 23

On this day of the Trump Administration, he fulfilled one of his key promises during the presidential campaign. He issued a memorandum which withdrew the US from TPP. While some complained that “foes of war should rejoice and congratulate Trump” but didn’t do so, this seems silly because to “give credit where credit is due,” it is better to thank the grassroots movement and numerous individuals across the spectrum against the deal which Trump was responding to, rather than thanking Trump for killing the agreement. There is no doubt there was “imperial aspects of the TPP” but this aspect has been replaced by aggressiveness toward China. While Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary has been more cautious and less hawkish than Tillerson who outwardly pushed for imperialism, he did say that “The U.S. is going to make sure that we protect our interests there [in the South China Sea]. It’s a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we’re going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country.” [5] Some have noting that Tillerson and Spicer’s comments imply US military action or a naval blockade against “China’s growing naval fleets would risk dangerous escalation.” [6]

Beyond this imperial aggressiveness, the Trumpster enforced his ideological supporters. He restricted abortions, with more official sanction to “pro-life,” more accurately anti-abortion sentiment, than before. The same day, Trump ended the mortgage rate cuts, which the National Realtors Association was not happy about whatsoever, saying it will hurt homeowners. If that wasn’t enough, the US Senate approved another one of Trump’s nominees 66-32-1, Mike Pompeo, to be the head of the CIA. As a reminder, Pompeo supports NSA surveillance, opposes the current “Iran deal,” wants the CIA’s “black site” prisons to come back, and wants the Guantanamo Prison to stay open.

The only other news that day was about Trump’s approval rating, mainly. Some sources said that he had a low approval rating coming into office, while others noting that Trump’s positions broadly do not “resonate with majority public opinion on a number of his most visible policy and issue positions” except in his “direct attack on the federal government itself.” Another worthwhile poll is a Pew Research Center survey finding that “65% of Americans give priority to developing alternative energy sources” while only 27% “would emphasize expanded production of fossil fuel sources.” Other than this, some wondered, considering Trump’s focus on Cuba and Mexico, how much of Obama’s “soft” coups that Trump’s admin will continue. It is also worth mentioning Trump’s other memorandums that day and staying the course with military appointments.

Day Five: January 24

On this day, the Trump administration took a hard stand against environmentalism. Apart from a memorandum “streamlining regulations,” the Trumpster passed memos that approved the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) for now, declaring that TransCanada can resubmit its application to the Keystone XL pipeline, and declaring that all new pipelines have to use materials from within the United States. The memo on DAPL received the most attention, with some saying that it clearly benefits billionaires who funded him and others saying that it violates indigenous law clearly. As for the Keystone XL pipeline which is barreling ahead more than under Obama’s deceptive “rejection” of it, seemingly under pressure from the environmental movement and bourgeois environmentalists, resubmitted its application for the pipeline which is likely to be approved.

Beyond Trump’s pro-business and anti-environmental moves, he reinforced imperial inter-relationships. In a readout of a call with Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, Trump declared that “the United States considers India a true friend and partner in addressing challenges around the world” and continued this imperialistic relationship, obviously as a way to ensure “security in the region of South and Central Asia” which means countering the influence of China in the region, while maintaining the sphere of influence of the murderous US empire. Also on the foreign policy front, Nikki Haley was confirmed by the US Senate in a 96-4 vote in which only four senators voted against, showing once again the milquetoast nature of the Democratic Party in relation to Trump.

On another topic entirely, Trump reinforced his ideological supporters and economic nationalism (some of which is likely a put on). He met with big automakers, from General Motors, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler, telling them to create factories in the US and saying he would change environmental regulations to make them more business-friendly. [7] Interestingly, “foreign automakers such as Toyota and Honda were not invited” which may indicate where his interests lie and which companies will be benefited by corporate subsidies and which will not in the years to come. In terms of ideological supporters, the Trump Administration declared support for a bill to end federal funding to abortion completely. This goes a different way than Obama, but is worth noting that Obama supported abstinence-only education in Africa up to at least 2013, if not later. [8]

Day Six: January 25

The authoritarianism of Trump’s administration began to show even quicker than it did under Obama, of course. In one executive order, it declared that it would be administration policy to crack down on sanctuary cities (called “sanctuary jurisdictions” in the order) for undocumented immigrants, that such immigrants would have to be removed, and that 10,000 new immigration officers would need to be hired. The order also put sanctions on individuals from numerous countries and, to to continue the racist, anti-immigrant measures, an office on immigrant crimes was established, tasked with producing quarterly reports on “the effects of the victimization by criminal aliens present in the United States,” along with engaging in surveillance and data gathering on immigrants.

To give even more specifics of the order, in section 12, the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State work together to implement sanctions, with the Secretary of State specifically ensuring that “diplomatic efforts and negotiations with foreign states include as a condition precedent the acceptance by those foreign states of their nationals who are subject to removal from the United States.” Like his other executive orders, the specifics are shrouded in legalistic language. The specific provision of law, available here and here  says that the Attorney General is the person who determines that if an “alien who is a citizen, subject, national, or resident” of a certain country is banned, with the Secretary of State ordering “consular officers in that foreign country to discontinue granting immigrant visas or nonimmigrant visas, or both, to citizens, subjects, nationals, and residents of that country” until the Attorney General let the Secretary know if “the country has accepted the alien.” Basically, this implies that such refugees or immigrants would be detention until they can be fully deported.

This executive order was only the beginning. The same day Trump declared that the US-Mexico border wall will be built, he declared that sanctuary cities would be stripped of funding. The same day, the New York Times claimed that “Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen” were listed in draft executive order, but the exact law cited, which was Division O, Title II, Section 203 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, only lists the Iraq and Syria, along with “any other country or area of concern.” [9] Clearly, this means that this draft would only apply to Iraq and Syria, meaning that mentioning Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen is just guesswork.

It is worth also mentioning that the draft of the order, apart from obvious “Muslim Ban,” as it is accurately called, creates “safe zones” in Syria. However, considering this was not on the final order, which will be noted later in this article, but it is in consideration. This means that “safe zones” which are obviously just code for a no-fly-zone and increased US imperialist intervention in Syria are under consideration by those in the highest parts of the Trump Administration. This is not a good sign and it would not be a surprise if something like the “safe zones” surfaces again at some point.

Even more disturbing is the draft executive order of Trump to review the use of CIA “black prisons” overseas. [10] The order declares that the US needs “critical intelligence” on “developing threats” and that it was wrong for Obama to push for civilian trials for those at Gitmo. Even more than that, it says that the push to “close” it should end, military commissions should return, and Gitmo should remain open. If that isn’t enough, the order complains that the CIA is limited in maintaining an “effective and lawful interrogation program” by NDAA in 2016 and revokes executive orders 13491 and 13492 while reinstating executive order 13440. This means that E.O. 13491 which pushed for “lawful interrogations” and E.O. order which ordered the closure of Gitmo are taken away while E.O. 13440, a Bush order in 2007, allowing only limited compliance with the Geneva Convention among those captives captured by the CIA and held in extrajudicial detention. If this isn’t enough, this draft order declares that keeping Gitmo open is critical to fight “radical Islamists” across the world, says that the US remains in global conflict with ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and “associated forces” across the world (a continuation of language of the Obama era) and says that any existing transfer efforts out of Gitmo will be removed. The order ends by saying that the DIA director, Attorney General, CIA director, and other senior members will recommend if interrogation of “high-value” terrorists should be reopened, if “black sites” of the CIA should reopen, if executive order 13440 should be revised, and recommend how “enemy combatants detained in the armed conflict with violent Islamic extremists” should be tried swiftly and justly. It then claims that no one will suffer cruel or unusual punishment, which seems silly with such torture chambers revived.

The weirdest part about this order is that is was basically denounced by the Trump Administration. First of all, it was blasted by Rand Paul and John McCain, while other Republicans took a “wait and see” approach. [11] However, reportedly, the order “shocked” Mattis & Pompeo, with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, saying he didn’t know where it came from. [12] Now, this could be denial just for the case of denial. At the same time, they could also be covering their tracks and bring back the order at an “opportune” time. If the order is not a statement of administrative policy, then who would draft this and why? I don’t know.

As for immigrants, they took even more of the brunt on January 25, just like on other days. One article said that Trump basically called for concentration camps for immigrants while the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), a bourgeois group as I have previously described, declared that Trump’s Muslim ban is “real and even more draconian than many anticipated,” saying that it it is “written in such a broad manner that it may also prohibit dual nationals of those countries who are citizens of non-targeted countries from entering the U.S. on a visa.”

More directly, Trump issued another immigration-related executive order, which was as racist as his previous pronouncements. In order to understand it, it is best to look at specific sections. One section, section 7, declares that the Secretary of Homeland Security will “take appropriate action, consistent with the requirements of section 1232 of title 8, United States Code, to ensure that aliens described in section 235(b)(2)(C) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(2)(C)) are returned to the territory from which they came pending a formal removal proceeding.” Once again, this is legalistic language, and needs to be broken down. The section of US code referenced talks about “treatment of aliens arriving from contiguous territory,” saying that immigrants arriving on land from a foreign country “contiguous to the United States,” like Canada or Mexico, can be returned by the Attorney General to the country “pending a proceeding.” Going further from there, in the case of an immigrant (called “alien” throughout the code) who is applying for admission to the US, if an “examining immigration officer” determines that an immigrant seeking to enter the US is “not clearly and beyond a doubt entitled to be admitted,” then they are detained. If this happens, then an immigration judge conducts proceedings, with determination whether the immigrant is deported, with such a judge having the power to “administer oaths, receive evidence, and interrogate, examine, and cross-examine the alien and any witnesses,” even to issue “subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and presentation of evidence” if need be. Such powers of a judge may seem fundamentally undemocratic, but apparently it is allowed. The judge also has the ability to “sanction by civil money penalty any action (or inaction) in contempt of the judge’s proper exercise of authority under this Act,” meaning that an immigrant can be sanctioned for not following “proper procedures” or accused of not following them, then fined. The proceeding for the immigrant can take place either in person, through a video or telephone conference, and the immigrant can be represented by a lawyer of their choosing, who can “examine the evidence” against the immigrant, present evidence on their behalf, and cross-examine witnesses. However, immigrants do not have the right to “examine such national security information” used to justify their deportation, which almost dooms the immigrant to losing their case. After this is all done, then the immigration judge decides whether the immigrant is to be deported, with their decision based “only on the evidence produced at the hearing” and the immigrant will have access to their visa or entry document, or otherwise which is “not considered by the Attorney General to be confidential.”

The US code goes on. Other sections of related code say that any immigrant claimed to have a “communicable disease of public health significance,” who has a “physical or mental disorder” which “threatens” others, a “drug abuser or addict,” who wants to enter the US, will be denied on the spot! Now, if that doesn’t sound racist, I don’t know what is. The last section of code I’ll reference here is one about “classes of Deportable Aliens.” saying that immigrants can be deported if they: (1) overstay their VISA, (2) fail to maintain their “nonimmigrant status,” (3) are convicted “of a crime involving moral turpitude” committed within five or ten years depending on their status, (4) if they are convicted of a crime with a sentence of more than one year, (5) if they are convicted of “two or more crimes involving moral turpitude,” (6) if they violate supposedly (or in reality) any drug laws, (7) if they are a “drug abuser or addict,” (8) if they sell, purchase, or exchange “any weapon, part, or accessory which is a firearm or destructive device,” (9) if they are convicted of “domestic violence…stalking…child abuse, child neglect, or child abandonment,” (10) if they lie to immigration authorities, (11) if they engage in any “activity to violate any law of the United States relating to espionage or sabotage,” (12) if they engage in “any other criminal activity which endangers public safety or national security,” (13) if they engage in an activity opposing the control or advocating “overthrow of, the Government of the United States by force, violence, or other unlawful means,” among many other aspects. Apart from some of these measures, like #13 being anti-communist, others of these measures, even if you agreed with them, are part of a racist immigration system aimed at Latin American immigrants clearly, especially with crimes like “moral turpitude” (link here) which can be so broadly defined as it can mean something that isn’t “socially acceptable.” It is also worth noting here that an immigrant owning a gun, which is justified under the Second Amendment as the “right to bear arms” is a deportable offense, saying that immigrants, under law do not have the legal right to defend themselves with force and showing that gun control is again used as a form of social control like I noted in my previous post.

On January 25, there were many other developments. A National Security Advisor was announced by the Trump administration, Trump promoted a positive image of himself, personal propaganda on the official White House website (a shocker, not really), and guidance on Trump’s federal hiring freeze was released publicly. If that wasn’t enough, news media reported that Steve Bannon was registered in two places which says that maybe the “major investigation” into voter fraud that Trump wants should begin in his own administration, and Trump seemingly backing away from efforts to scrub climate change information from EPA websites even as “political appointees are exerting more oversight over the agency’s scientific communications.” [13] Other news worth noting is that Ben Carson, a person who believes that the housing market should be deregulation, was approved by a Senate committee, even by bourgeois progressives like Elizabeth Warren who apparently believed in his lies and that the millions of dollars John Kerry handed to the Palestinian Authority (was it just a PR stunt?) was canceled by Trump, with Kerry’s action seeming very last minute.

Day Seven: January 26

On this day, the war of the Trump Administration with the media took another step forward. Steve Bannon, the White House Chief Strategist declared that because of the election result, “the media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while. I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.” [14] He went on to say that “the elite media got it [the presidential election] dead wrong, 100 percent dead wrong…[the election was] a humiliating defeat that they will never wash away, that will always be there. The mainstream media has not fired or terminated anyone associated with following our campaign. Look at the Twitter feeds of those people: They were outright activists of the Clinton campaign…That’s why you have no power. You were humiliated.” He was also quoted as saying that “you’re [the media are] the opposition party. Not the Democratic Party. You’re the opposition party” with Bannon citing The New York Times and Washington Post, saying that “the paper of record for our beloved republic, The New York Times, should be absolutely ashamed and humiliated. They got it 100 percent wrong.”

While I am critical of the bourgeois media, I don’t think what Bannon is saying should be brushed off so easily. There is no doubt that much of this media favored Clinton over Trump, some predicting that Trump would lose. However, to say that the media is the “opposition party” and to be so opposed to the press in the manner he is acting is utterly authoritarian, there is no doubt. While restricting newspapers in socialist countries and those under US imperialist attack is justified, in this case, it is dangerous. I’m no fan of the Washington Post or New York Times, but to restrict media from covering the Trump Administration means that all we will get is Trump propaganda, allowing no sort of room for opposition to his reactionary, right-wing nature. I do think it is interesting that he says that the media are the opposition party, not the Democrats, as it shows he recognizes that the Democrats are milquetoast and not really resisting Trump. On that, he is definitely right. Otherwise, I worry about his anti-press rhetoric not because of my belief in the “free speech” of the First Amendment which has never been “free” and should never be fully “free,” with the ability of such speech dictated by one’s social class in US capitalist society, but the fact that it will limit the information flow from the Trumpster and his goons of destruction.

Again there was more about Trump’s anti-immigrant policy. Reuters claimed that they had seen a “draft executive order” which would “block the entry of refugees from war-torn Syria and suspend the entry of any immigrants from Muslim-majority Middle Eastern and African countries Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen while permanent rules are studied.” [15] Coming days would prove if this was true or not. What was clearly true was the payment of the expanded border wall with a 20% tariff on Mexico. One article noted that Republicans support the 20% tariff on Mexico, called a “border adjustment,” but major retailers oppose it. [16] The same article said that such retailers argued that it would drive up consumer prices and violate WTO rules, the former which is more of a valid concern than the latter. Steve Horn of DeSmogBlog argued that the wall would grease the way for a “handful of gas pipelines proposed to cross the U.S. border into Mexico, several of them owned by Keystone XL builder TransCanada and another one owned by Dakota Access pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners,” sending fracking gas south of the border, but that if the 20% tariff passes, then the volume of oil from Mexico to the US could rise. Horn also argued that this proposal has “split the oil refining and oil-producing sectors, with producers supportive and refiners critical of the tax scheme” with companies like American Fuels and Petrochemical Manufacturers and Koch Industries against it, and Rex Tillerson for the measure, with Goldman Sachs mildly for it.

The other news of that day was not any better. Trump declared national school choice week showing that he endorses school privatization (continuing the anti-public education policy of Obama), the impact of the anti-Obamacare order was explicated. Shockingly, one poll, released the same day said that almost half of Americans think that there are “some circumstances under which the use of torture is acceptable in U.S. anti-terrorism efforts.” Luckily there was also resistance to Trump, brewing. Raul Castro, like many in Latin America, is wary and not trusting of Trump, which is part of the reason he told Trump to respect Cuban sovereignty (and also to protect the island from imperialist assault. One article in Consortium News, argued that Trump was continuing to lie and disdain the truth, so that people think it is true, with the consequence of this action leading to “an ill-informed constituency, incapable of engaging in the kind of well-informed debate that serves as a check against ill-advised foreign policies and can muster solid support for well-advised ones.” Of course, such a development should be criticized. Finally there was a new poll saying that Trump fared poorly with the public, claimed that few supported the border wall, many wanted Trump to “fully divest from his business interests” and few with a “favorable opinion of Russia” or of Putin reportedly.

Day Eight: January 27

Statements of imperial policy became even clearer on January 27. Mattis, the new head of the Pentagon, declared that the US would continue to be committed to the NATO alliance, citing that importance of Germany as a US base, and that NATO is important to fight against terrorism. [17] The same day Mattis also told the Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, that he had “unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.” Such statements are not a surprise since Trump declared the same day to the Pentagon’s top brass that the military should be bulked-up, even as he “pointed to expensive programs,” calling for an increased “military campaign against the Islamic State,” likely expanding the “about 6,000 military personnel in Iraq and Syria, including trainers, advisers and special operators.” [18]

In terms of foreign policy, more imperial inter-relationships were reinforced. In the first press conference of Trump’s presidency, it was clear that May, the first foreign leader to meet Trump in the Oval Office, wanted to discuss “post-Brexit trade opportunities” with him, while the British government made it clear that Britain was still a “fully engaged member of the European Union.” What more comes of this will only be known in the days ahead.

Beyond this, it as clear that other relationships were supported. This included support for the existing one with Australia and possibly an improved relationship with Mexico though these is unlikely. Before moving onto the horrendous executive order, it is worth noting that since 2012, net flow of migration from Mexico decreased, with people who were “fleeing gang-related violence spiraling out of control in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala,” with stricter enforcement of “immigration laws and greatly expanded its use of deportations” by Obama. [19] Along with more Asian immigrants recently who are “well educated and as such compete with a different set of Americans for jobs, but also contribute to faster-growing sectors of the American economy.”

With this background it is worth discussing the horrid executive order. The Guardian described the order as a “draconian shift in US policy,”says that the action would close “US borders to refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis in war-torn Syria,” with a de facto ban of those across North Africa and Middle East, with “a 90-day block on entry to the US from citizens from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia” and runs counter to the principle in the US Constitution of discrimination on basis of religion, with Trump saying that he would elevate “persecuted Christians in the Middle East and North Africa” above Muslims. [20] The article also noted that Republicans were embraced the order, while “Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi…invoked dramatic images of a sorrowful Statue of Liberty” and the pro-Syrian war Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said they would challenge the order with a lawsuit.

Beyond The Guardian’s quibs is the text of the executive order itself. The order says, in section 2, that US policy is to protect US citizens “from foreign nationals who intend to commit terrorist attacks in the United States; and to prevent the admission of foreign nationals who intend to exploit United States immigration laws for malevolent purposes.” The following section said that the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, along with the Director of National Intelligence, conducting a review to determine information needed from any country to determine “that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.” The section adds that all of those individuals will then submit to the President “report on the results of the review” within 30 days of the order, with reducing investigative burdens during the review “to ensure the proper review and maximum utilization of available resources for the screening of foreign nationals.” Trump declared that “the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from [certain] countries…would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order.” After that, the Secretary of State requests that all foreign governments “start providing such information regarding their nationals within 60 days of notification,” and after this expires, then the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State would submit to the President a list of different countries that were “recommended for inclusion on a Presidential proclamation,” with such secretaries submitting “the names of any additional countries recommended for similar treatment.”

The specific law referenced in section 3 of the executive order notes two specific countries: Iraq and Syria, but also says that it can include those from

“a country that is designated by the Secretary of State…a country, the government of which has repeatedly provided support of acts of international terrorism; or any other country or area of concern designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security.”

The law adds that by Feb. 16, 2017, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence determines whether other countries will be part of the ban, with the Secretary considering

“whether the presence of an alien in the country or area increases the likelihood that the alien is a credible threat to the national security of the United States…whether a foreign terrorist organization has a significant presence in the country or area; and…whether the country or area is a safe haven for terrorists.”

If this is taken to its fullest extent, then it would imply that people could ultimately be banned, if the executive order was expanded, from Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Algeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, and Mauritania, Tunisia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Senegal, India, Somalia, Uzbekistan, and the Philippines. [21]

Getting back to the executive order, the DIA director, Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, FBI director, in section 4, would be told to implement a program which will identify those individuals “seeking to enter the United States on a fraudulent basis with the intent to cause harm, or who are at risk of causing harm subsequent to their admission,” which they would report on within 60 days, then again within 100 days, and another report within 200 days. Section 5 of the order than declares that the Secretary of State would “suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days,” with the “entry of nationals of Syria as refugees” suspended until the program is improved so that Syrian refugees can be admitted in a way “consistent with the national interest,” that there can only be 50,000 refugees entering “in fiscal year 2017,” that Secretaries of State and Homeland Security can jointly “determine to admit individuals to the United States as refugees on a case-by-case basis.” Then section 6 says that Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, along with Attorney General, might rescind certain authority, and section 7 says that the Secretary of Homeland Security would “expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the United States,” another racist measure, with reports every 180 days until the horrid system is “fully deployed and operational.” Also, the Secretary of State, is told in section 8, to suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program, while requiring “that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview, subject to specific statutory exceptions,” while expanding the Consular Fellows Program in part by “substantially increasing the number of Fellows, lengthening or making permanent the period of service.”

To end the discussion of the order, section 9 and 10 need a some attention. Section 9 says that the Secretary of State will “review all nonimmigrant visa reciprocity agreements to ensure that they are, with respect to each visa classification” and section 10 says that the Secretary of Homeland Security and Attorney General, will collect and publicly display “information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been charged with terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; convicted of terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; or removed from the United States based on terrorism-related activity, affiliation, or material support to a terrorism-related organization, or any other national security reasons.” Yet again, this is meant to attack immigrants in a racist and bigoted way which fuels those anti-immigrant organizations on the right-wing that already exist. Other than this, in the order, sections 11 and 12 are basically boilerplate, as is section 1.

There are a number of other aspects of January 27 worth noting. For one, Trump reinforced his “economic nationalism” by meeting with business leaders from across the US to improve manufacturing which make the capitalist class smile with glee. Also, it is worth noting that Trump signed his bigoted executive order on the SAME DAY as Holocaust remembrance day, which shows how insensitive and disgusting he is. Additionally, the “pro-life”/“right to life,” actually anti-abortion, received official sanction as Pence addressed their rally in DC on the behest of Trump. Pence then declared that

“we will not grow weary. We will not rest, until we restore a culture of life in America for ourselves and our posterity…next week President Donald Trump will announce a Supreme Court nominee who will uphold the God-given liberty enshrined in our Constitution in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia…Life is winning again in America. That is evident in…the historic election of a president…who I proudly say stands for the right to life.” [22]

Of course, Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, addressed the crowd too, saying that “yes, I am pro-life…This is a new day, a new dawn, for life…[the right to life] is not a choice. It is God-given…This is a time of incredible promise for the pro-life, pro-adoption movement. We hear you. We see you. We respect you. And we look forward to working with you.” It seems that with anti-abortion to gain such official sanction is dangerous as it hurts any effort to advance reproductive rights, and hurts impoverished women, whether cisgender, transgender, or otherwise.

The same day there were a number of news releases. One was a poll showing that many of those in the US still support Obamacare, many are concerned about health insurance convergence, many oppose cutting federal funding to Planned Parenthood by a large martin, even among Republicans, only 31% think that abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, with everyone else thinking it should be legal in all or most cases, and 70% support Roe v. Wade. In the realm of foreign policy, Hollande, the horrid (neoliberal and disgraced) leader of France declared that “there are challenges, there are the challenges the US administration poses to our trade rules, as well as to our ability to resolve conflicts around the world.” [23] Others commentators noted that Trump is making up facts, ignoring realities, which mirrors the lies during the Obama administration about chemical weapons by the Syrian government (proven false) and concealing evidence about “who was behind the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014,” but that Trump is not helping himself by “making easily debunked claims about crowd sizes and voter fraud” meaning that for now he “has gotten off to a very rocky start by telling some very petty lies.” Other commentators went beyond Trump. One specifically noted that Rex Tillerson “confirmed before the US Congress that hostilities and agitation toward both Moscow and Beijing will only expand over the next 4-8 years,” saying that US foreign policy won’t change, as the US will “continue meddling across Asia and provoking conflict with China,” just like under Obama, tensions with Russia will continue, and that “nothing, short of war, will backup Tillerson’s statements about a sea literally an ocean away from US shores.” The final commentary was on Global Research Center. This commentator noted Trump’s horrible policies, ranging from the DAPL construction resuming, a border wall between the US and Mexico, an immigration ban, some of Trump’s tweets, Trump’s lies, and declared that there is hopefulness of resistance to Trump despite Wall Street seeming to warm up to him but saying such resistance should change:

“…The ascendancy of Trump provides an important opportunity for the building of a broad-based united front of democratic forces including African Americans, Latin Americans, Native peoples, immigrants, women, LGBTQ communities, environmentalists and other working class constituencies. However, this alliance which represents the majority of the population within the U.S. must be based on sound political principles and not opportunism…This coalition of genuine popular forces should be organized outside the framework of the Democratic Party which represents the same ruling class elements as the Trumpist Republicans and their Wall Street and Pentagon supporters…A revolutionary mass party of the working class and the oppressed is the only solution to the current political and economic crises.”

Day Nine: January 28

Note: I published this right at midnight on Jan. 29, meant to cover everything Jan. 28 and before, so when it says “today” it is referring to Jan. 28, not today

The racist and bigoted immigration order of Trump played out today. For one, many “refugees and migrants holding valid visas” who were en route to the US were stopped, specifically “detained at U.S. airports and restricted from the country as a result of President Trump’s executive order,” with such people detained or not allowed in including Iraqis, Yemenis, Syrians, and Iranians, to say the least, with groups like the International Refugee Assistance Project on their side. [24] Even those who have green card holders from target countries, all of which are Muslim majority but do not include Saudi Arabia or any of the Gulf autocracies of course, are banned.

Rightly so, many reacted with anger. Arabs and Iranians who planned trips to the US were angry, saying that the ban was “insulting and discriminatory,” and some said it made them feel humiliated. [25] Even the director of an Oscar-nominated film, Asghar Farhadi, was apparently not allowed to attend the Academy Awards next month as a result of the ban. [26] His film is a French-Iranian drama which tells the story of a couple who play lead roles in Death of a Salesman, have a fraught relationship. Not surprisingly, Silicon Valley, also called Sexist Valley or Surveillance Valley more accurately, was at least partially mad. Google and Facebook CEOs slammed the orders as “loss of talent,” detracting from those who are “real threats,” and making people live in “fear of deportation.” [27] This of course was driven more by the fear of loss of profit by these mega-corporations than caring about actual people, no doubt.

The reality of the order has been playing out all day. One Iraqi man was released even as another is detained (or was before he was released also) as a result of the order. Additionally, as a result of the ban, enforced by Customs and Border Protection officials on the ground, led to warnings from Qatar Airways to travelers, Iran criticizing the ban, The International Rescue Committee, The International Organization for Migration, UNHCR, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and weepy Democrats slamming the order, while House Speaker Paul Ryan defended it, saying that “our number one responsibility is to protect the homeland.” [28] The same article even claimed that “the list of seven countries [Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia] whose citizens are now banned from the US was likely just a starting point” with the administration weighing it if could add even more countries to the list! The racism clearly continues.

Many other organizations and individuals condemned the ban today. These included Jewish organizations ranging from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and J Street to the Anti-Defamation League,” the latter of which are horribly pro-Israel, without a doubt. [29] The revolutionary Iranian government struck back as well. The Iranian Foreign Ministry declared that while respecting people of the US is important, with it being vital to distinguish between them and hostile US actions, “Iran will implement the principle of reciprocity until the offensive U.S. limitations against Iranian nationals are lifted,” as they argued that “restrictions against travel by Muslims to America…are an open affront against the Muslim world and the Iranian nation in particular and will be known as a great gift to extremists.” [30] Additionally, President Hassan Rouhani said earlier today that there is no reason to build walls between nations, implying Trump, saying

“Today is not the time to erect walls between nations. They have forgotten that the Berlin wall fell years ago. To annul world trade accords does not help their economy and does not serve the development and blooming of the world economy. This is the day for the world to get closer through trade.”

While he makes a valid point against walls, he is also endorsing corporate globalization which has devastated indigenous peoples across the world and allows capitalism to gain new markets wherever it nests, leading to exploitation and destruction, including in Iran. So, his statement is wrongheaded (in part because he doesn’t note the anti-fascist nature of the Berlin Wall) but also aligned with Western business elites without a doubt.

Sudan echoed the statement of Iran. Their foreign ministry declared that the ban was unfortunate after progress on sanctions, saying that “It is particularly unfortunate that this decision coincides with the two countries’ historic move to lift economic and trade sanctions…and just as economic and financial institutions as well as businessmen in the country were set to continue developing their investment projects.” [31] Then there’s education campaigner Malala Yousafzai, who seems she has been taken in by the glamor and acceptance of Western bourgeois institutions, saying that she is “heartbroken that today President Trump is closing the door on children, mothers and fathers fleeing violence and war. I am heartbroken that America is turning its back on a proud history of welcoming refugees and immigrants – the people who helped build your country, ready to work hard in exchange for a fair chance at a new life…I ask President Trump not to turn his back on the world’s most defenseless children and families.” [32]

I’ve also heard recently that the bigoted immigration order has been stayed by several federal judges which turns it to be correct. It was after a case filed by the ACLU which has a horrible history, along with other cases across the country. It is also clear that Trump will stay in defending it, saying it isn’t a “Muslim ban,” working out as he planned, with the former an utter lie. [33]

Beyond his bigotry, Trump made outreaches on the foreign policy front. He called Russian President Vladimir Putin today in hopes of having “a great relationship” between the US and Russia (and stabilizing US-Russia ties), along with calls to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on “security and trade issues between the two countries and the mutual threat posed by North Korea,” speaking to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with likely calls with French President François Hollande and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. [34] It has also been reported that there has been a “sudden resignation” in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) by Norman Bay, resulting in leaving the commission with only two commissioners, “not enough for the required quorum to make decisions,” meaning that “even if the president chooses someone quickly, the process will likely take several months,” with an appointment process that “requires Senate confirmation.” [35]

Beyond January 28

There is much still to come in the later days of Trump’s presidency. For one, seemingly on January 30, Trump will announce that the US embassy in Israel will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He also will continue to advocate on path, making it worth looking at those financial disclosures of his nominees who include as I previously noted:

“…former Goldman Sachs partner Steve Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary, arch-conservative Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, ex-Navy Seal Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior, conservative (and wife of Mitch McConnell) Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation, former governor of Texas Rick Perry for Energy Secretary, long-time investment banker Wilbur Ross as Secretary of Commerce, restaurant CEO Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor, Georgia politician Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services, conservative commentator Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, billionaire education “reformer” Elisabeth “Betsy” DeVos as Secretary of Education, investment banker Gary Cohn as Director of the National Economic Council, and Director of Ameritrade Todd M. Ricketts as Deputy Secretary of Commerce…Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as administrator of the EPA, California politician Mick Mulvaney as director of the OMB (Office of Management and Budget), pro-wrestling tycoon Linda McMahon as administrator of the SBA (Small Business Administration), and Wall Street lawyer Walter “Jay” Clayton as director of the SEC (Securities and Exchanges Commission).”

At the same time, it is worth noting that Trump has only signed, so far, a small number of executive orders” but is in a “long line of incoming commanders-in-chief flexing their executive muscles the first week on the job” and likely many of those before him, “the President is using his new executive powers to make his campaign promises a reality.” [36]

That’s not all. The Japanese government is apparently fearful, trying to “please the new foul-speaking lord? 10 billion dollars will be spent…in the United States by Toyota car giant, in order to appease the new Emperor” but notes at Trump is “preaching protectionism and an extreme form of nationalism” while he also “decides to exceed all previous rulers by his brutality and aggressiveness, and re-hire the old and well-tested samurai, Japan, for his deadly onslaught against humanity.”  It is also worth noting that Russia is still quite muted about Trump, likely even after the call today, as they are “carefully reading the signals from Trump” and that Moscow is “literally gun-shy of America, the distance between micro-events, like my treatment a couple of days ago on Russian television, and macro-developments, like improving bilateral relations, is very small indeed.”

I don’t have much else to add here, other than saying that for one the billionaires must be made extinct, and that two, Trump should be resisted at all costs but bourgeois liberals and bourgeois progressives cannot be trusted, instead independent and radical structures (and movements) should be built and expanded, because otherwise Trumpian fascism will roll right over the US without a real fight, something that none of us really should want if we care about the world around us.

Notes

[1] Roberta Rampton and Ayesha Rascoe, “Obama shortens sentence of Manning, who gave secrets to WikiLeaks,” Reuters, Jan. 18, 2017.

[2] Daniella Diaz, Sophie Tatum, Amanda Wills and Alysha Love, “Inauguration live coverage,” CNN, January 20, 2017.

[3] Sary Levy-Carciente and María Teresa Romero, “Rex Tillerson Has A Long, Troubled History With Venezuela,” HuffPost, Jan. 15, 2017.

[4] Rory Jones, “Israel PM Netanyahu Praises Trump’s Plan for Mexico Border Wall,” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 28, 2017.

[5] Alex Lockie, “White House: The US will stop China from taking over territory in international waters,” Business Insider, Jan. 23, 2017; Reuters, “Trump White House Pledges to Block China from Taking South China Sea Islands,” Jan. 23, 2017, reprinted in Newsweek.

[6] Reuters, “Trump White House Pledges to Block China from Taking South China Sea Islands,” Jan. 23, 2017, reprinted in Newsweek.

[7] Bill Vlasic, “Trump, in Meeting, Urges Automakers to Build in United States,” New York Times, Jan. 24, 2017.

[8] Michaeleen Doucleff, “U.S. Spent $1.4 Billion To Stop HIV By Promoting Abstinence. Did It Work?,” May 3, 2016, NPR News; Andy Kopsa, “Obama still funding failed ‘faith-based’ programmes,” Al Jazeera, March 27, 2013.

[9] Julie Hirschfeld Davis, “Trump Orders Mexican Border Wall to Be Built and Is Expected to Block Syrian Refugees,” New York Times, Jan. 25, 2017.

[10] Greg Miller, “White House draft order calls for review on use of CIA ‘black site’ prisons overseas,” Washington Post, Jan. 25, 2017.

[11] Katie Bo Williams, “Trump review exposes GOP divide on torture,” The Hill, January 25, 2017.

[12] Austin Wright, “Mattis, Pompeo stunned by CIA ‘black sites’ report,” Politico, January 25, 2017.

[13] Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, “Trump administration backs off plan to scrub climate pages from EPA website,” Washington Post, January 25, 2017; Michael D. Shear and Peter Baker, “After His Claim of Voter Fraud, Trump Vows ‘Major Investigation’,” New York Times, Jan. 25, 2017.

[14] Michael M. Grynbaum, “Trump Strategist Stephen Bannon Says Media Should ‘Keep Its Mouth Shut’,” New York Times, Jan. 26, 2017.

[15] Julia Edwards Ainsley, “Trump moves ahead with wall, puts stamp on U.S. immigration, security policy,” Reuters, Jan. 26, 2017.

[16] Neil Irwin, “How to Interpret the Trump Administration’s Latest Signals on Mexico,” New York Times, Jan. 26, 2017.

[17] The article also says correctly that “the US accounts for nearly 70 percent of the NATO budget and has long urged its European allies to step up their contributions, particularly in the face of what Washington calls the “Russian aggression” in Ukraine.”

[18] Greg Myre, “At Pentagon, Trump Declares His Aim Of ‘Rebuilding’ The Military,” NPR News, Jan. 27, 2017.

[19] Max Bearak, “Even before Trump, more Mexicans were leaving the U.S. than arriving,” Washington Post, Jan. 27, 2017.

[20] Sabrina Siddiqui, “Trump signs ‘extreme vetting’ executive order for people entering the US,” The Guardian, Jan. 27, 2017.

[21] These countries come from ISIL territorial claims, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an Islamic group, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, other organizations listed by the State Department, and state sponsors of terrorism.

[22] Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “Mike Pence tells March for Life in Washington: ‘We will not rest, until we restore a culture of life’,” Washington Post, Jan. 27, 2017, reprinted in National Post.

[23] This article also says and I quote, “the US president is also expected to scrap the agreement’s European equivalent, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Area (Nafta),” but this is ultimately questionable.

[24] Emma Brown and David Nakamura, “Refugees, migrants detained at U.S. airports challenge Trump’s executive order,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017; Michael D. Shear and Nicholas Kulish, “Trump’s Immigration Ban Blocks Travelers at Airports Around Globe,” New York Times, Jan. 28, 2017; Amy R. Connolly,”Syrian refugees detained at N.Y. airport file legal challenge,” UPI, Jan. 28, 2017.

[25] Eric Knecht and Maher Chmaytelli, “In Middle East, US travel curbs decried as unjust, insulting,” Reuters, January 28, 2017.

[26] CBS, “Oscar-nominated film’s director can’t attend amid Trump immigration ban, group’s leader says,” Jan. 28, 2017.

[27] Laura Mandaro, “Google CEO troubled by Trump refugee ban that ‘creates barriers’ to talent,” USA TODAY, Jan. 28, 2017.

[28] Jeremy Diamond, “Trump’s immigration ban sends shockwaves,” CNN, Jan. 28, 2017

[29] Laura Koran, “Jewish groups pan Trump for signing refugee ban on Holocaust Remembrance Day,” CNN, Jan. 28, 2017.

[30] Parisa Hafezi, “’An open affront against the Muslim world’: Iran says it will ban Americans in response to Trump’s refugee order,” Reuters, Jan. 28, 2017, reprinted in Business Insider

[31] Reuters, “Sudan calls Trump ban unfortunate in light of sanctions progress,” Jan. 28, 2017

[32] The same article notes that in December 2015, those who denounced Trump’s proposed ban included “Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Republican House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), who said the ban was “not what this party stands for.” “More importantly,” Ryan added at the time, “it’s not what this country stands for.”” Ryan, of course, has switched his position in favor of bigotry now.

[33] Doug Stanglin and Alan Gomez, “Trump says immigration ban working ‘nicely’ as protests, detainments hit airports,” USA Today, Jan. 28, 2017.

[34] Philip Rucker and David Filipov, “Trump holds calls with Putin, leaders from Europe and Asia,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017; Laura Smith-Spark and Ivan Watson, “Trump and Putin talked about stabilizing ties, Kremlin says,” CNN, Jan. 28, 2017.

[35] Marie Cusick, “As Trump Reboots Pipeline Expansion, An Unexpected Delay Emerges,” NPR News, Jan. 28, 2017.

[36] Lauren Said-Moorhouse, “What’s Trump done so far? His productive first week and how it stacks up to previous presidents,” CNN, Jan. 26, 2017

Obama’s legacy: nice, kind imperialism?

Obama's statement not surprisingly was basically endorsed by Huffington Post.
Obama’s statement not surprisingly was basically endorsed by Huffington Post.

Recently, the Chinese Communist Party publication, Global Times, rated Obama positively in a “fair review” of his legacy. They mentioned Obama’s farewell speech, saying that  Obama’s accomplishments included “economic performance…better than other major Western nations” with an increased GDP per capita, lower unemployment rate, and a long bull run for the US stock market. The piece then declared that one of Obama’s legacies is Obamacare, devoting himself to “Affordable Care Act and gun control” which they almost implied was worth the effort. They even said that Obama was not as “bold” as Bush, relatively “cautious in military actions,” saying that he was the most “peaceful US president compared with several of his immediate predecessors,” not leading the US into any new wars, and not taking a leading role in the war in Libya. Even on the East Asia/Pacific pivot, which was “unsuccessful” in their view, they said that Obama was “not radical in the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy,” which prevented ruptures in Sino-US relations, adding that there are “mechanisms for bilateral exchanges” between the US and China, with ties between the two complicated but “mature” at the same time. They ended by saying that “Obama is a nice person, calm and not too extreme” but that he failed “show his special leadership,” and criticized Donald Trump without naming him, calling Trump a person who “wants to be different in every category…and is obsessed with seeking the limelight.” In terms of criticisms of Obama’s presidency, the piece only mentioned that the US had “made the Syrian civil war last for five years, which led to the emergence of the Islamic State and the refugee crisis” leading to a weakening of “Washington’s control over the Middle East” and that “the gap in income distribution is growing larger,” with US citizens “feeling little sense of accomplishment.” Since such revisionist thought does not accurately describe the Obama legacy, it is important to set the record straight.

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Obama was an imperialist of the highest order. Clearly the Global Times was writing a hit piece on Trump, who I wrote about two days ago, which should surprise no one since Trump is spewing BS on the issues of pharmaceuticals, the F-35 program, hacking, and others. For these, he may be partially right in one aspect but wants to push his image as a “tough” president, including supporting Taiwan to the hilt. As for Obama, the idea that he was a “nice person, calm and not too extreme” (or a “Woodrow Wilson“) is invalidated by his imperialist declaration last month that Russia was a “smaller” and “weaker” country that didn’t “produce anything that anybody wants to buy except oil and gas and arms,” but still said it could pose a serious threat, somehow (that doesn’t even make sense!). I guess this is no surprise for a president who loves Reagan and has an administration that promotes the Russian hacking conspiracy, not a “kinder” imperialist by any stretch. With Trump administration coming in it is clearly time for armed self-defense.

Let’s go through the “accomplishments” and “legacy” of Obama and his administration one by one:

  1. Voting AGAINST UN resolutions condemning glorification of Nazi and denial of Nazi war crimes in 2014 and 2016, supported by 115 member states in 2014 and 131 in 2016, a resolution proposed by the Russian Federation since 2006 reportedly. Last year, the US claimed that the resolution had an “overly narrow scope and politicized nature” and said it called for “unacceptable limits on the fundamental freedom of expression,” showing that the murderous empire values speech of Nazis (and white supremacists) above all others.
  2. As Nick Turse wrote in an investigative piece earlier this month, US special forces can be found in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, partnering with “unsavory types” (you know who they are). Specifically, he noted that 70,000 special forces under Special Operations Command (SOCOM). across the world, are engaged in “shadow wars against terror groups…[along with] activities…outside acknowledged conflict zones…every single day” with the most elite forces of the US, including Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets “deployed to 138 countries in 2016” which is the highest Obama’s presidency, typifying “what has become the…murky twilight between war and peace.”
  3. Continuing the imperialist war in Afghanistan, with 8,400 troops STILL stationed there, with no end in sight under Trump.
  4. Increase in the use of private mercenaries under Obama’s watch, who may be threatened by Trump. However, Erik Prince of Blackwater backed Trump, with the latter with an even more direct connection manifested in the fact that the brother of his Secretary of Education pick, Betsy DeVos, is Erik Prince! As of August 2016, the “number of U.S. service members in Afghanistan is dwarfed by the nearly 29,000 Department of Defense private contractors [private mercenaries in actuality] in the country, outnumbering American troops three to one” which is a decrease from the past, but the use of them is a still major part of imperial operations. Even The Atlantic bellowed that “America is waging a war largely via contractors, and U.S. combat forces would be impotent without them. If this trend continues, we might see 80 or 90 percent of the force contracted in future wars” with such contracts as big business for those cashing in.
  5. As Cornel West recently argued, “today we are on the edge of an abyss…[in] the most powerful empire in the history of the world” leading to a “postmodern version of the full-scale gangsterization of the world” where Obama’s reign contributed to the “nightmare of Donald Trump.” West also argued that Obama followed the advice of his “neoliberal advisers to bail out Wall Street,” that no Wall Street executives went to jail (doing too little too late), he continued drone strikes killing civilians, he replied to Black Lives Matter with “with words about the difficult plight of police officers” and in response to Israeli aggression he funded the Israeli army with many more millions of dollars, along with calling black youth in Baltimore “criminals and thugs” (so did Jay Carney). West also reminds us that “Obama’s education policy unleashed more market forces that closed hundreds of public schools for charter ones,” “labor insurgencies” in the Northwest overlooked, demonizing “truth-tellers” (mainly whistleblowers), creating a market-based healthcare policy which “provide[d] healthcare for over 25 million citizens, even as another 20 million are still uncovered.” West finally added that Obama was a “deporter-in-chief – nearly 2.5 million immigrants were deported under his watch” which prefigures “Trump’s barbaric plans.”
  6. As Glen Ford wrote last month, “looking at the number from a different angle, Obama released only one out of every two thousand of the nation’s 2.3 million prison inmates, the largest incarcerated population in the world, both in raw numbers and in the proportion of U.S. society living behind bars. In other words, Obama’s clemencies, like all other presidents’, are statistically meaningless and morally and politically distractive. But, of course, that’s what Obama’s good at – distracting people.”
  7. As Jon Reynolds argued, “…when President Obama oversaw the brutal force-feeding of untried prisoners at a detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, they [pro-Obama liberals and progressives] said nothing. When President Obama’s mass-deportations of undocumented immigrants in the US outpaced deportations under his predecessor, they stayed silent…when President Obama spent his first term in office outspending his predecessor on raids against legal marijuana dispensaries , his supporters had little to say…When President Obama extended the US military occupation of Afghanistan until 2024, anti-war Democrats under George W. Bush were nowhere to be found. When President Obama fabricated a reason to bomb oil-rich Libya in 2011, and then just a year later, reauthorized the US invasion of Iraq, they were voiceless…when it came to light that President Obama had a “kill list” and US citizens were on it, and were being killed, all without due process — again, barely a peep. When Obama granted legal immunity to telecom companies that had conducted invasive spying during the George W. Bush years, when he extended the Patriot Act, when he prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act…when he expanded the NSA’s surveillance programs, and…green-lit indefinite detention of US citizens without trial, Democrats remained complacent. From January 2009 to the end of 2016, there has been a near-virtual silence from those identifying as Democrats against a variety of violations committed under President Obama, violations which were widely protested during the George W. Bush years…under a Democratic president, the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan was continued, US boots hit the ground in Syria and Iraq, US bombs fell in Libya, US drones terrorized the skies over Pakistan and Yemen, America’s nuclear arsenal was upgraded, and highly provocative military drills were conducted along the borders ofRussia and China. Eight years of warmongeringObama, like Bush before him…offered support to regimes like Saudi Arabia , which are notorious for oppressing homosexuals and women…from 2008 to 2014, one-quarter of a million people were deported for nonviolent drug offenses, often due to low-level marijuana possession. The idea that the Democratic Party is in any way, shape, or form entitled to the moral high ground over the equally horrific opposing party is a beyond ridiculous assertion without any basis in reality…Kill lists, defense of torture, mass surveillance, US citizens being picked off by drone missiles, the continued buildup of a vast empire [all under Obama].”
  8. Expanded Bush’s drone program to create a “kill list” where he would select people to be killed in the world every Tuesday, what is called “terror Tuesday” by some, killed by the secretive JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command), engaging in what are arguably war crimes.
  9. Hopes that race relations between whites and blacks would improve were quickly dashed, the bourgeois “middle class” continued to be “hollowed” out, income inequality reached its highest level since 1928, more Mexican immigrants have returned to Mexico than those who enter the US, partisan divides are harsher than ever, ordinary Americans were skeptical of the government’s economic policies toward the populace (and toward national policies in general), serious concerns about privacy rose, anger at the established media remained, and pessimism in the US is rising as noted in a recent Pew Research report.
  10. “Normalizing” relations with Cuba and Iran, which allowed US capitalists to salivate even as restrictions remained on these “new” markets ready for Western capitalist exploitation of the highest order.
  11. The auto bailout in 2008 and 2009, begun by Bush and continued by Obama, which “saved” the auto industry but didn’t change ANYTHING about it, even though the industry was temporarily nationalized and new jobs could have been created, maybe even in renewable energy, who knows.
  12. The refusal to prosecute ANY Bush administration officials for torture.
  13. The failure to close the hellish Guantanamo Prison Camp, which still has 55 detainees, where people are routinely tortured and numerous people have died from hunger strikes, or the huge naval base there. The base at Guantanamo which occupies over 5,880,483 square feet, with 1,362 buildings, according to the US military’s count. Furthermore, the base, which occupies 45 square miles, according to the official site, ensures, “regional security” in the Caribbean, supports U.S. Navy, and Coast Guard ships, while helping the wicked Department of Homeland (In)Security “care” for migrants, and helping “control the flow” of undocumented immigrants into the United States. The “official history” of the base which boasts about their “self-sufficiency” doesn’t mention, context for seizure of Gitmo or the US military’s three imperialist occupations of Cuba (1898-1902, 1906-1909, 1917-1922), with the land taken “during the [imperialist] Spanish-American war of 1898, then codified in the Cuban-American treaty of 1903″ which was signed during a time when the sovereignty of Cuba was limited.
  14. The New York Post says Obama’s legacy is a “devastated Democratic Party,” an assessment which is actually pretty accurate to be honest.
  15. The presence of 5,000 troops in Iraq, one of the wars that Global Times forgets for some reason.
  16. As noted by NBC News, “the president’s policy moves…firmly aligned Latinos with the Democrats…[while] white, economically-insecure American increasingly drifted from his party [to Trump], despite Obama policies aimed at them.”
  17. Even a pro-Obama tepid liberal in Truthout argued that under Obama, “as with the torturers, none of the Wall Street thieves who eviscerated the economy to their great profit were ever prosecuted for any of their crimes…[he] all but ignor[ed]…Standing Rock as he champions fracking and tar sands oil pipelines…[he] champions the middle class while peddling the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership [along with other “free trade” treaties and he] sold more weapons to the world than any administration since World War II.”
  18. Beyond an increase in national debt, he escalated US presence in Syria with special forces rushing to the country, backing “moderate” Syrian rebels who are actually terrorists and “rebels” in Ukraine to fight “Russian aggression.”
  19. Pushing for a war or some sort of conflict with Russia, an idea advocated by US intelligence agencies, Democrats, the US media, and numerous others like Joy Ann Reid, and so on
  20. As James Bovard argued, Obama “became judge, jury, and executioner” when it came to drone bombing, the US is bombing, as of now, “seven foreign nations” (Libya, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and Pakistan). rebels backed by the Pentagon and those backed by the CIA have battled each other. Beyond this, the opinion notes that during the US bombing in Libya in 2011, the US joined “the French and British assault on the Libyan government” and toppled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, while “federal agencies slammed the door on routine requests – especially from the media” with numerous FOIA denials, and the TSA “became far more intrusive and abusive” to say the least.
  21. As further strengthened the repressive capacities of the state” including increasing its propaganda abilities, to “curtail speech and control information” [which I talked about here] connecting to its legacy of “increased surveillance of the public to the use of the espionage act to prosecute journalists and whistleblowers.” Baraka said that the “latte left” and liberal allies have fully collaborated with this, with efforts to “weaken the incoming administration by attempting to split it from its Republican legislative arm,” with Trumpism becoming “a useful tool for enforcing neoliberal ideological consensus,” leading to the reappearance of the phenomenon of neo-fascism, nothing new to Black America who which has “suffered from the racist, arrogant assaults of this criminal state to maintain the Pan-European colonial/capitalist project.”
  22. Said “no” to Israel recently, but has consistently supported Israel through its numerous bombing campaigns over the years. Trump aims to be even more Zionist than Obama, which is apparently possible.
  23. Leading on the “environmental movement” and bourgeois environmental groups so they would “await” his rejection of Keystone XL which happened, but also didn’t since he approved the southern half in 2012 (when he boasted about more pipelines) and “disapproved” of the northern half but actually didn’t since oil-by-rail continues onward as noted on Wrong Kind of Green and elsewhere.
  24. Continuing the imperialist assault on states like Zimbabwe, Russia, Eritrea, the DPRK, and others full force, without stop. Trump will likely increase this with his “Trumpian diplomacy” with intervention in the African continent on the rise.
  25. Using states ranging from Saudi Arabia (including voting against that 9/11 bill) to Qatar as imperial proxies to carry about US policies of mass murder over the years.
  26. As I noted in my post in July, President Obama “extended the imperial war and occupation in Afghanistan beyond his time in office, leaving more troops “than planned” with the empire as “strong as ever” despite “growing US debt from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” I also pointed out the lack of domestic opposition to imperial adventures, with most peace groups as bourgeois, noted that there have been “US-backed coups in Ukraine (2014), Honduras (2009), Paraguay (2012), Maldives (2012), and Brazil (2016), coupled with drone strikes across the Muslim world from secretive drone bases, shadowy attack teams (JSOC, CIA, and so on), private mercenaries-for-hire, and authoritarian imperial proxy states such as Saudi Arabia.” Additionally I noted that “Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Cuba, Syria, Belarus, and the DPRK are under fierce overt and covert imperial assault coupled with imperial destabilization efforts” along with saying that “the United States certainly has colonies like the “empires of old” manifested in its inhabited territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa (supposedly “self-governing” since 1967), Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands” along with the “mainstay of the murderous empire comes in the hundreds of military bases, numbering 500 at minimum (most of which the military calls “installations” [11]), scattered across the world.” This shows that quotes like these are true.

There’s no doubt that even if Obama was “better” than Bush in some regards (which I seriously doubt), he was a bloody imperialist. There are numerous aspects I didn’t touch on here, especially in the realm of social policy, but I wanted to avoid praise here as I’m trying to be critical in this area rather than having the idea of “balance” whatever that entails. I could go on and give other aspects of Obama’s legacy. However, rather than continuing the list I’d like to show some charts:

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As noted from a revised map I put on twitter.
Countries the US is currently bombing as I noted on twitter
Countries the US is currently bombing as I noted on twitter
sofmap1_large
This map displays, as noted by Nick Turse, “the locations of 132 of those countries” with 129 (blue) supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command and 3 (red) — Syria, Yemen and Somalia — “were derived from open-source information.”
U.S. Special Operations forces deployed to 138 nations in 2016. Locations in blue were supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command. Those in red were derived from open-source information. Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and Russia are not among those nations named or identified, but all are at least partially surrounded by nations visited by America’s most elite troops last year.
As Nick Turse notes in the original caption for this image, “Locations in blue were supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command. Those in red were derived from open-source information. Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and Russia are not among those nations named or identified, but all are at least partially surrounded by nations visited by America’s most elite troops last year.”
sofmap3baltic_large
Original caption by Nick Turse: “a closer look at the areas of the “undeclared campaigns in the Baltics, Poland, and Ukraine” mentioned by retired Lieutenant General Charles Cleveland. Locations in blue were supplied by U.S. Special Operations Command. The one in red was derived from open-source information.”
US bases near Iran, as of 2015
US bases near Iran, as of 2015, an image usually used to demonstrate US imperial power in the region
US bases near China as of Feb. 2016
US bases near China as of Feb. 2016
US bombs dropped in 2016 in the Middle East (and part of central Asia), most of which were in Syria, Iraq & Afghanistan.
US bombs dropped in 2016 in the Middle East (and part of central Asia), most of which were in Syria, Iraq & Afghanistan. Data here comes from the CFR, but also uses this map and bombs from this anti-US poster in Iran. A US flag was put on each bomb, with some countries, like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, representing the exact number of bombs, while others (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria) are just representational
libya-2016-bombs-dropped
A graphic I made, putting into place each bomb individually (taking about an hour at least) showing ALL the bombs dropped on Libya in 2016, using this map as a basis, with data from CFR.
us-bombs-dropped-in-2015-300x184
After making all those maps, I’m a bit tired, so here is a chart of US bombings in 2015 also from the CFR. Part of the reason I didn’t make a map also is that Iraq & Syria are put into one category.

I don’t really have anything else right now since I’m tired and this post is going out later today. But, comments are welcome.

“Somebody with strong views”: the likely agenda of Trump’s administration

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Perhaps Trump won’t be a fan of Wikileaks as some media had been claiming. This quote here is no endorsement of Trump but is just a quote from his wild twitter.

Every day since November 8, the media blares about a new “decision” by Donald Trump and his advisers, something that we should be concerned about, apparently. The bourgeois media, a large chunk of which threw their support behind neoliberal war criminal Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, has been thrown into a tizzy over Trump’s picks. Some say it is hard to “glean a political agenda” from Trump due to his changing positions, others say that he is assembling a pro-business “conservative dream team,” the “most conservative” cabinet since Reagan, an “unorthodox cabinet” that will lead to deregulation, the “richest administration in American history” which is worth more than $250 million, or a racially homogenous cabinet, mostly consisting of white, straight men. [1] Hence, there is no consensus in the media, or among those opposing him, on what Trump will do, or where he will go. However, it is simple to see his agenda, removed from a focus on the his “twitter diplomacy.” Instead, it is best to look Trump’s picks for cabinet and high governmental positions to assess how he will be “somebody with strong views…that are maybe a little bit unpopular,” as he told an interviewer Rona Barrett in 1980, assisting the capitalist class with his “old fascist strain” unlike the fascism of the Obama administration.

The individuals who Trump has chosen so far show a conservative, right-wing agenda in the works, which includes his informal advisers like Jared Kushner as well.. He’s chosen, so far: Reagan conservative Mike Pence as Vice-President, former Goldman Sachs partner Steve Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary, arch-conservative Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, ex-Navy Seal Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior, conservative (and wife of Mitch McConnell) Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation, former governor of Texas Rick Perry for Energy Secretary, long-time investment banker Wilbur Ross as Secretary of Commerce, restaurant CEO Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor, Georgia politician Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services, conservative commentator Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, billionaire education “reformer” Elisabeth “Betsy” DeVos as Secretary of Education, investment banker Gary Cohn as Director of the National Economic Council, and Director of Ameritrade Todd M. Ricketts as Deputy Secretary of Commerce. He also picked RNC Chairman, Reince Preibus, as White House Chief of Staff, and Steve Bannon, head of the bigoted outlet called “Breitbart News,” as a strategist, to spread his deceptive Trumpian message. Apart from the patronage to the elements of the Republican Party who supported him, by choosing Chao, Bannon, and Preibus, he chose Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as administrator of the EPA, California politician Mick Mulvaney as director of the OMB (Office of Management and Budget), pro-wrestling tycoon Linda McMahon as administrator of the SBA (Small Business Administration), and Wall Street lawyer Walter “Jay” Clayton as director of the SEC (Securities and Exchanges Commission).

What will happen next is clear: the Trump administration will undoubtedly help big capitalists by scaling back those regulations seen as “harmful” to economic growth, such as the pathetic Dodd-Frank reform law, there will be less enforcement, and an increase in privatization. This means that offending companies will get off scot-free for committing capital crimes, a continuation of the relatively hands-off approach of officials of the Obama administration. In the area of public education, existing policy of school privatization will be continued, but will even more aggressive with a push for school vouchers, charter schools, and opposition to the Common Core State Standards Initiative (Common Core), supported by some capitalists and “reformers.” Such policies would be coupled with a “lower taxes” on the capitalist class, “balancing” the deficit by cutting Food Stamps and other programs, while privatizing Medicare and Social Security. Additionally, the federal workforce would be slashed, unions would be under even more attack, and “Obamacare” would be repealed (with arguments about how long it will take to repeal or “fix” the law), the latter angering insurance and pharmaceutical companies who have benefited from the law. At the same time, the surveillance apparatus will continue (and likely expand), a higher minimum wage will be opposed, anti-discrimination and hate crime laws will be stopped dead in their tracks, increased restrictions on abortion will blossom, the “drug war” will be intensified resulting in opposition to medical (or non-medical) marijuana legalization, and oil and gas drilling on federal lands will increase. These changes build off the status quo of surveillance continuing under Obama’s rule and a hostile environment against abortion since right-wing reactionary backlash to Roe v. Wade, and existing large-scale fossil fuel drilling which Obama has boasted about on occasion. This included the time that he approved the southern half of the Keystone XL in 2012, with not much of a peep from bourgeois environmental groups, sometimes called “Gang Green,” like the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, World Wildlife Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, to name a few.

Other aspects of Trump’s picks are worth noting. In the realm of immigration, future policy is very evident. For Secretary of Homeland Security, he chose John Kelly, a former commander of US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) and long-time Marine Corps veteran who fought in the first (1991) and second (2003) phases of the twenty-five year war with Iraq (1991-2016), and helped quell the 1992 urban uprising by thousands of Black folks in Los Angeles. There is no doubt that his experience with SOUTHCOM, the southern department of US imperialism in the Americas, will help him implement strong border control, which would be harsher than existing measures. However, immigration policy would expand Obama’s hardline policy of deporting over two million immigrants during his time in office, along with immigration raids and a militarized border, with drones and other equipment, along with acceptance of reactionary anti-immigrant “militias.” [2]

Imperialism will continue to run rampant with Trump’s jingoistic idea of “America First,” declaring last month that “there is no global anthem, no global currency, no certificate of global citizenship. We pledge allegiance to one flag, and that flag is the American flag. From now on, it’s going to be America first. OK? America first. We’re going to put ourselves first.” In area of foreign policy, Trump has chosen South Carolina governor Nimrata “Nikki” Haley as UN Ambassador, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, retired Marine Corps General James “fun to shoot people” Mattis as Secretary of Defense, lawyer Robert Lighthizer for United States Trade Representative, Kansas politician Mike Pompeo for CIA director, and Indiana politician Dan Coats. Some may say that the imperial policies of bombing seven countries (Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria), using killer drones to “eliminate” supposed terrorists (who are more often than not civilians), use of special forces and small strike forces across the world, and use of private mercenaries (“private contractors”) to do the bidding of empire, will be ameliorated by Trump. Such people may say that likely increased investment in Russia (and good relations), with Trump standing up to the US intelligence community, on their conclusion Russia is behind the election hacking (it definitely isn’t even even as he has ACCEPTED US intelligence on this matter), along with some supposing he will engage in “non-interventionism.” While the anti-Russian campaign pushed by the Democratic Party, certain Republicans, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, along with internal (FBI) and external (CIA) police of the empire, and “left” journalists of The Intercept like Glenn Greenwald, and other “respected”  publications like Mother Jones, Trump may (seems more unlikely now than ever) pare back the budget of the CIA, if the Wall Street Journal is to be believed in this regard, this analysis misses the bigger picture at hand. Undoubtedly a possible conflict within the administration is brewing about the threat of Russia as some want to take more of a defiant stance and others want to be more cordial. [3]

For one, Tillerson will likely push for expanded energy markets while Lighthizer would push for protectionist policies. It is possible that these two views, along with Trump’s economic nationalism, may be balanced in some way or another. Regardless, the capitalist class will pleased if Trump can help them gain new markets and create a better “business-friendly” environment, even in the United States. Based on the fact that ExxonMobil (and its subsidies) has locations in 58 countries, along with a number of US colonies (Northern Marinas Islands and Guam for example) more than half of which are in Europe and the Asia Pacific region, this might be an area of future US policy under the Trump administration, along with a push for more markets in the Middle East, the South American and African continents, where ExxonMobil does not have as many “operations.”

While the United States has strongly supported the murderous Zionist state of Israel since the 1960s, with billions upon billions of dollars in weaponry to “defend” itself from a basically imaginary threat, the Trump’s administration will amp up the support. This will include, with extremist David Friedman as the US ambassador to Israel, a strong position against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, continuing to support Israel to the hilt, continuing the never-ending negotiations for the “two-state solution,” and supporting illegal settlements on stolen (and occupied) Palestinian land. It will also include a possible war with Iran (or threat of such a war) since Trump and some of his advisers want to re-negotiate the Iran nuclear deal. Such a move is ridiculous since the existing deal is already beneficial to US imperial aims by punishing the Islamic Republic for even having “peaceful” (yet environmentally destructive) nuclear power. If the deal is changed, it is possible that the pro-Western moderates in Iran, like Hassan Rouhani, will loose favor and a more “hardline” Iranian politician will take charge, leading the country to oppose US imperialism more effectively and chart its own course more independently.

The military and security establishment will undoubtedly be pleased by the coming policies of Trump’s administration. For one, the Guantanamo Bay prison camp (and naval base) will be kept open, continuing Obama’s non-closure policy, CIA black sites across the world will be re-established, and a strong effort to fight terrorism will commence, whatever that entails. Even if the US intelligence community stops giving arms and equipment to terrorists disguised as “Syrian rebels,” imperial policy will continue. With Pence declaring that his model for a Vice-President would be Dick Cheney, who concentrated power in that political office, it means we are in for dark times, with a return to waterboarding as accepted policy and harsh “anti-terror” policies.

Trump is targeting the People’s Republic of China (PRC), possibly with tariffs. The country, since Mao Zedong’s death in 1976, abandoned anti-revisionist beliefs by combining their socialist ideals with capitalist ones. It is hard to say how leftist their country is anymore due to presence of a “socialist” market economy after it transitioned from a centrally-planned economy for the benefit of the masses. Future articles will focus on this transition, but I’ll write them after I’m finished writing about Soviet history. Regardless, they do counter US imperialism in its march for world domination, even though they work with such imperialists on issues such as terrorism and help restrict the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Due to Trump’s hardline position on Taiwan, his likely continuation of Obama’s “Pacific pivot,” which encircles the PRC with personnel (and bases), his criticism of the country for seizing a US spy drone, and likely demanding that the PRC be labeled as a “currency manipulator,” they have begun preparing for the worst. [4] While the PRC is not a socialist state, but a semi-capitalist and revisionist one, those with sense should defend it from US imperialist aggression, especially in the South China sea.

The next target of the new administration is the DPRK. On multiple occasions, as part of his “twitter diplomacy,” Trump declared that the country’s plan to build a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the US “won’t happen” and criticized China for not doing enough, the former which may come back to “haunt him” as preventing a test will be hard to do. [5] The Koreans take such provocations seriously. An editorial after the US presidential election, in the Rodong Sinmun, a newspaper of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), declared that the Obama administration “put the security of the US mainland in the greatest danger” by attacking the DPRK and that the new administration now has the “difficulty of facing the Juche nuclear state.” [6] In months the followed, the DPRK’s state media made similar arguments, brashly attacking the imperialist behemoth, saying that the strategic position of the socialist state has “reached its highest level,” declaring that “no force on earth can block the DPRK’s advance. Neither sanctions nor blockade nor military pressure can ever frighten it,” saying that the Korean people cannot be overpowered by the US, and arguing that the US is not qualified to be the “human rights judge” of the world. [7]

Such viewpoints are a justified form of resistance to the empire. The DPRK believes that “national peace, prosperity and dignity” in the world, by an anti-imperialist (and socialist) state like themselves, hinges on a “powerful nuclear force” and that they should have the ability to build their “powerful socialist country” with self-development and self-reliance while fending off US attacks. [8] As they are under siege, they have fought back with counter-propaganda to: point out that the US electoral system favors capitalists (which is correct), criticize dismal human rights record of the US, say that the downfall of the US empire is inevitable, and otherwise condemn US imperial foreign policy. [9]

As a civilized socialist nation, where, in the past year, numerous technical senior middle schools (and a new middle school for orphans) opened, the public health service (part of their socialist healthcare system) was improved, the art and literature sector was invigorated, thousands of new homes were opened, and a Natural History Museum opened its doors, the Korean people will undoubtedly do what they can to resist US imperialism, assisted by the WPK. [10] In his New Year’s address, Kim Jong Un, chairman of the WPK, chairman of the DPRK’s State Affairs Commission, and supreme commander of Korea’s armed forces, offered warm greetings to the Korean people and “progressive peoples across the world,” saying that in 2016 the DPRK consolidated its self-defense by achieving the status “of a nuclear power, a military giant, in the East which no enemy, however formidable, would dare to provoke” which is aimed at people like Trump. [11] Kim Jong Un, after reviewing the accomplishments of the previous year and challenging the country to more, then said, referring to the DPRK and the Korean people, “we should turn out again in the new year’s march towards a greater victory…we should concentrate our efforts on implementing the five-year strategy for national economic development.” He later declared, after outlining economic industries to improve, that the country’s defense forces should “politically and militarily and maintain full combat readiness to firmly defend the socialist system and the people’s lives and property” and said that the DPRK will “continue to build up our self-defence capability…and the capability for preemptive strike as long as the United States and its vassal forces [the South Koreans and Japanese] keep on nuclear threat and blackmail.” In sum, whatever Trump does to attack them, the DPRK will be ready in force while they continue to push for reunification of the Korean peninsula even if the murderous US empire opposes it.

The other country Trump has under his radar is less talked out: Syria. While US aid to terrorists in the country may end, along with US aid to Kurds, Bashar Al-Assad saying that Trump could be a “natural ally” to help fight terrorism, a military attack on the country is more possible than ever. [12] Other than his claim to relentless bomb ISIS and cut off its oil during the campaign, he also promised safe zones for refugees within the country. [13] After the election, in December, Trump reiterated this promise, saying that “when I look at what’s going on in Syria, it’s so sad…we’re going to help people. We’ll build and help build safe zones in Syria, so people will have a chance,” building such zones with money from Gulf monarchies, imperial proxies. [14] Thus humanitarian effort of building these zones sounds like veiled reference to no-fly-zones, which will be difficult to establish and lead to US troops on the ground. [15] So, in sum, Trump is calling for war in the socially democratic and secular state of Syria, something that all thinking people should oppose.

Some readers may think something is missing in this article. They may balk at conservative Christianity taking more of a role in government and anger by the incoming administration at pushes for diversity and “political correctness,” the latter which be should described as political respectfulness since it is about respecting other people, regardless of their cultures or beliefs. They might also mention possible attacks to come on “public” media like NPR and PBS, and stronger gun rights. While some of these concerns are justified, others are not. For one, it is worth being concerned about the encroachment of religious beliefs on governments, as they are often tied to socially conservative ideals which distort governments in a way that disturbs efforts of human betterment. However, there is no need to defend “public” media like NPR (National Pentagon Radio) or PBS (Petroleum Broadcasting Service) because they have already corrupted themselves by promoting military contractors, agribusiness, and other capitalistic propaganda. The same goes for gun rights. Considering that US society is racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and otherwise bigoted, it is criminal and irresponsible to fight for gun control. Anyone who is a person of color, whether female, transgender, bisexual, homosexual, intersex, or is otherwise considered a “minority” in current society, should have the right to defend themselves with arms as necessary. That right is already claimed by white, straight men, so why can’t others in society arm themselves to fight off bigots? You can’t fight a revolution with flowers and sayings, but political power, as Mao Zedong put it, “grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Gun control, if decided as necessary, should happen after a socialist revolution, not before it.

With this article, there must be a plan of action, even as the Chairman of Council of Economic Advisers, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and Secretary of Agriculture have not been nominated yet. While there have been some protests of Trump nominees Jeff Sessions and Steve Bannon, there has not been a widespread effort to oppose his nominees. [16] Even, the Democrats, led by New Yorker Chuck Schumer in the Senate, and Marylander Steny Hoyer and Californian Nancy Pelosi in the House, not even Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and the like cannot be trusted to stand against Trump. They are clearly milquetoast liberals and progressives, with the possibility of Trump and Schumer working together in the future, and the Clinton team (Bill & Hillary) attending Trump’s inauguration. [17]

There is much that can be done to resist the horrid nature of the coming Trump Administration. As Worker’s World has argued, there doesn’t need to be a protest against rapprochement with Russia, but instead against a reactionary Russophobic position by Obama, Clinton, McCain, and the like, along with opposing “his overall reactionary program of vile xenophobia, racism and sexism” with a mass movement. Since this is needed, there should be a push to reject every nominee he has put forward, to reject David Friedman, Steve Mnuchin, Jeff Sessions, Ryan Zinke, Elaine Chao, Rick Perry, Wilbur Ross, Andrew Puzder, Tom Price, Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos, Gary Cohn, Todd M. Ricketts, Steve Bannon, Scott Pruitt, Mick Mulvaney, Linda McMahon, Jay Clayton, John Kelley, Nikki Haley, Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, Robert Lighthizer, Dan Coats, and Mike Pompeo. Only a united approach of opposing all these individuals can reject the agenda wholesale. If nothing is done, it is possible that the Republicans will move quickly to enact their reactionary social and economic policies, to say the least, leaving little time for resistance. Such opposition cannot be bourgeois in character, meaning that it cannot be funded by foundation-money or wealthy donors who need not be named, hence involving solidarity to defend existing socialist states like the DPRK and Cuba, revolutionary states like Iran and Syria, and others, like China, from imperialist assault. The bourgeoisie cannot be allowed to gain more victories and all efforts to expand their influence and power should be resisted at all costs. What happens next is up to you, the reader, to organize to stop the “orange menace” not because of his supposed “friendly” nature with Russia, but for the fascism he will bring to the homefront, imperialist destruction that will rein down on the peoples of Korea, Syria, China, and Iran, and unwavering support for the murderous Zionist state of Israel.

UPDATE:

Currently, the confirmation hearings for Jeff Sessions is going on in the Senate, with activists engaging in political theater by calling him out as a racist and allied with the KKK, a position the NAACP has also taken at this time. This in and of itself is not bad, as Sessions has praised law enforcement, representing the “old South,” and claims he wouldn’t participate in unlawful behavior. Confirmation hearings for Sessions and Rex Tillerson will be happening in the coming days.

Notes

[1] Jane C. Timm, “The 141 Stances Donald Trump Took During His White House Bid,” NBC News, Nov. 28, 2016; Andrew Restuccia, Nancy Cook, and Lorraine Woellert, “Trump’s conservative dream team,” Politico, Nov. 30, 2016; Matthew Cooper, “Donald Trump Is Building the Most Conservative Cabinet In U.S. History,” Newsweek, Dec. 9, 2016; Noah Bierman and Evan Halper, “Trump’s Cabinet picks are among the most conservative in history. What that means for his campaign promises,” LA Times, Dec. 15, 2016; Niall Stange, “Trump’s unorthodox Cabinet,” The Hill, Dec. 15, 2016; Stephen Collinson, “Donald Trump’s Cabinet a boon for conservatives,” CNN, Dec. 20, 2016; Nick Timiraos and Andrew Tangel, “Donald Trump’s Cabinet Selections Signal Deregulation Moves Are Coming,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 8, 2016; Jim Tankersley and Ana Swanson, “Donald Trump is assembling the richest administration in modern American history,” Washington Post, Nov. 30, 2016; Danielle Kurtzleben, “How The Donald Trump Cabinet Stacks Up, In 3 Charts,” NPR, Dec. 28, 2016.

[2] Its possible that the idea of birthright citizenship enshrined in the 14th Amendment may be under attack as well, but it is hard to know, but it is clear that harsher immigration laws, possibly emulating the one in Arizona, will be pushed on a national level along with a ban on immigration from certain countries.

[3] Bryan Bender, “Trump’s team tries to stifle rift on Russia,” Politico, Jan. 5, 2017; Reuters, “Trump accepts U.S. intelligence on Russia hacking: chief of staff,” Jan. 8, 2017; Kyle Bullack, “Graham: Trump worried blaming Russia will undermine his legitimacy,” The Hill, Jan. 8, 2017.

[4] Chinese state media reports aircraft carriers conducting drills in the South China Sea and arguing if the country should alone “shoulder responsibility to fight global warming” if climate change denial becomes official policy in the Trump administration.

[5] AFP, “Trump dismisses N.Korea nuclear threat, baits China in tweets,” Jan. 3, 2017; Rebecca Morin, “Trump: North Korea will be stopped,” Politico, Jan. 2, 2017; Choe Sang-Hun, “North Korea will test intercontinental ballistic missile, Kim says,” New York Times, Jan. 2, 2017; Reuters, “North Korea cannot ‘tip’ missile with nuclear warhead: U.S. State Department,” Jan. 3, 2017; David Brunnstrom and Arshad Mohammed, “Trump’s North Korea red line could come back to haunt him,” Reuters, Jan. 3, 2017.

[6] AFP, “North Korea urges policy shift from Trump administration,” Nov. 10, 2016.

[7] Ri Hak Nam, “No Force on Earth Can Overpower Strength of DPRK,” Rodong Sinmun, Dec. 29, 2016; KCNA, “U.S. Has No Force to Block DPRK’s Advance,” Jan. 4, 2017; Miniu Joson, “Press Review,” KCNA, Nov. 8, 2016;

[8] Choe Yong Nam, “History proves DPRK’s choice correct,” The Pyongyang Times, Dec. 31, 2016.

[9] KCNA, “In brief,” The Pyongyang Times, Nov. 8, 2016; Pak Song Il, “Dismal human rights record of the US,” The Pyongyang Times, Nov. 27, 2016; KCNA, “US downfall is the course of history,” The Pyongyang Times, Nov. 9, 2016; Choe Yang Nam, “Obama’s DPRK policy a fiasco,” The Pyongyang Times, Dec. 22, 2016; Choe Yang Nam, “American human rights situation gets worse,” The Pyongyang Times, Dec. 29, 2016.

[10] Jong Sun Bok, “2016 sees remarkable progress in the building of civilized socialist nation,” The Pyongyang Times, Dec. 26, 2016; Jong Sun Bok, “With KPA as main force of revolution,” The Pyongyang Times, Dec. 27, 2016; Yung Kyong Il, “Marked improvement of people’s livelihood under socialist system,” The Pyongyang Times, Dec. 27, 2016; PT Staff, “Supreme Leader poses with participants in Party conference, sees joint performance,” The Pyongyang Times, Dec. 29, 2016; PT Staff, “Kim Jong Un presides over first conference of chairpersons of primary Party committees,” The Pyongyang Times, Dec. 30, 2016.

[11] Rodong Sinmun, “Kim Jong Un’s New Year Address,” Jan. 2, 2017.

[12] Reuters, “Syria’s Assad: Trump can be our natural ally,” Dec. 14, 2016.

[13] Ali Vitali, “Trump on refugees: Create ‘safe zone’ in Syria, don’t ‘destroy all of Europe’,” NBC News, Nov. 16, 2015; Netasha Bertand, “Trump says he wants to set up safe zones in Syria ‘so people can have a chance’,” Business Insider, Dec. 16, 2016.

[14] Mark Landler, “‘It’s So Sad,’ Donald Trump Says of Syria, Promising ‘Safe Zones’,” New York Times, Dec. 15, 2016; Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton, “Trump promises Syria ‘safe zones’, Obama says no easy fix,” Reuters, Dec. 16, 2016.

[15] Paul D. Stinkman, “Donald Trump Says U.S. Should Establish Safe Zones in Syria,” U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 16, 2016.

[16] Sari Horowitz, “More than 1,100 law school professors nationwide oppose Sessions’s nomination as attorney general,” Washington Post, Jan. 3, 2017; Jay Croft, “Arrests end NAACP sit-in at Jeff Sessions’ office,” CNN, Jan. 4, 2017.

[17] Dan Merica and Theodore Schleifer, “Bill, Hillary Clinton to attend Trump Inauguration,” CNN, Jan. 3, 2017; Eugene Scott, “Schumer confirms Trump told him he likes him better than Republicans,” CNN, Jan. 3, 2017. Such “resistance” that exists now is pathetic and toothless, seeming to go little beyond jingoism in the name of empire. Bourgeois liberal commentators or Democrats won’t save us from Trump’s fascism. With Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, they can easily pass Trump’s agenda, and a good number of Democrats will likely fall in line. Existing “resistance” includes a site to resist the “fascist America” of Trump organized by activists, artists, indigenous peoples, and writers, but is sadly, although rightfully anti-fascist, is devoid of radical analysis, especially concerning class and capitalism itself, making it an easy appeal to middle-class, bourgeois audiences.

David Swanson, the USSR, and the Kellogg-Briand Pact

screenshot_2017-01-06-01-59-55-1
A screenshot from a 1949 animated Soviet propaganda film by Victor Gromov, titled “Mr. Wolf,” focusing on a pacifist capitalist, like Andrew Carnegie perhaps, who, fed up with the horrible nature of war, moves to an “island of peace.” But when he finds oil, he gets greedy, dropping his belief in pacifism, demands control of it, reveals his secret stash of arms, and seizes control of the oil with the help of (presumably) the US Navy. The message of greedy capitalists and duplicitous pacifists is very clear while some are flummoxed.

As Trump promises to increase military spending, including 350 more ships for the Navy (likely costing over $126 billion dollars), strengthening the murderous US empire, which builds off the brashly imperialist foreign policy of the Obama administration, it is important to recall our history. This article will first outline the narrative by David Swanson, a former press secretary for bourgeois Democratic “peace” politician, Dennis Kucinich, during his presidential candidacy, and peace activist, on the history of how the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 came into fruition, summarizing his book to the best of my ability, there will be a counterpoint to his history, and finally it will end with my conclusion on where to go from here.

David Swanson’s narrative of what happened

David Swanson’s book is a good place to start. While he is not radical, and arguably a bourgeois pacifist, he does help tell this story. As he tells it, the peace movement in the 1920s, depending on new female voters, united around the idea of war outlawry, previously split by the League of Nations, seen as a glorious and noble cause. [1] This movement was strengthened by outrage at the horrible effects of WWI, despite the manipulation of emotions, by Woodrow Wilson’s “propaganda machinery,” in the form of the Committee of Public Information, to influence Americans to support war. [2] Such manipulation was preceded by Wilson winning election in 1916, with slogans like “he kept us out of the war,” but turning around and involving the US in WWI in April 1917. Many in the US, disillusioned with promises of war, distrusted European peace efforts, as the US membership in the League of Nations and World Court did not materialize, along with other failed negotiations in the 1920s, the peace movement grew. [3] Leading intellectuals, robber-barons, like Andrew Carnegie who founded the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and politicians, like Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, promoted peace. At the same time, “peace societies” were created in the US, along with a litany of other pro-peace organizations, such as the American Friends Service Committee and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, some of which spread  “a barrage of peace propaganda.” [4]

There are number of individuals who specifically pushed for “war outlawry” or the abolishment of war. Swanson cites 22 individuals. [5] One of these individuals was Salmon Oliver Levinson, a Yale graduate and Chicago lawyer who led the American Committee for the Outlawry of War, which tried to make war illegal and recognized as an institution. [6] Others, such as Kirby Page and temperance activist Carrie Chapman Catt, also pushed for war outlawry, allied with other forces, like the Progressive Party which represented interests of farmers, petty urban bourgeoisie, and trade unions, collapsing after the 1924 election, along with public opinion in favor of prohibiting war. [7] Pro-peace clubs and organizations sprung up by the hundreds, with thousands of members, eliminating the divides in the past between more wealthy organizations, like the Carnegie Endowment and the American Foundation for Peace, and more radical ones pushing for disarmament and opposing militarism. [8] The former profited from war with hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonds from the U.S. Steel Corporation. However, it is worth pointing out that Outlawrists, tapping into widespread skepticism of collective defense agreements, “favored the rule of the written word” to prevent war, creating a world court which had international jurisdiction, but were muddled when they didn’t always consider the distinction between “aggressive” and “defensive war.” [9] Beyond this, such a push for outlawing war was an effort to change people’s conceptions of what they consider “morally acceptable,” hoping that society could be organized for peace, but not always taking into account that some engage in statements of desire about ending war and peaceful resolution rather than the reality. [10]

From then on, there was a push for Western diplomats to negotiate what became the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Illegal diplomacy by pro-peace US citizens, led to debate among French, German, and British diplomats about being involved in the treaty, boosted by supportive writings in The New Republic, New York Times, and Foreign Affairs, along with sympathetic congressmembers like socially conservative William Borah and Republican Robert LaFollette, among others. [11] Aristide Briand, a long-time prime minister, advocate of “personal diplomacy,” and breaker of a railroaders strike, made the first move, with a Minnesota Republican, Secretary of State Frank Kellogg, no active advocate of peace, forced into action even as he cursed pacifists privately. [12] Obviously in an effort to reinforce US imperialism, Kellogg was willing to threaten war to enforce the Monroe Doctrine in the Americas, derided by the new Soviet government, but was pushed into action by a strong peace movement, negotiating a treaty with the French secretly, making it multilateral even though Briand did not want this to happen originally. [13] Some of the French showed their true colors, like Paul Claudel, who said that outlawing war was sentimental and would please “cranks,” Bolsheviks and socialists, proposing a joint declaration of principles but Kellogg stuck by his demand for a treaty, later coming over to public negotiations of the treaty as the US and British allowed their respective imperialisms to fall under the idea of “self-defense” and not be covered by the treaty. [14] The Kellogg-Briand Pact, also called the Pact of Paris, was signed in Paris in 1928, picketed by feminists saying that an equal rights treaty should be proposed and anti-imperialists who said that US imperialism would continue, and survived the US Senate (votes in favor 85-1), despite broad questioning of its effectiveness, then entering the canons of international law in July 1929. [15]

Swanson continues by saying that the pact’s ideas were influential. He says that it inspired the UN’s principles in 1945 and International Criminal Court, claiming the pact was the “first U.S. recognition of the Soviet Union’s existence.” [16] He also says that Henry Stimson tried to stop the USSR and nationalist China from supposedly going to the “brink of war.” He doesn’t note that this was part of a “Sino-Soviet conflict over the Manchurian railway line,” which was settled with a protocol that “affirmed the original status of the railroad as a joint enterprise” and Soviet victory. At the time, Persia (Iran) defended the USSR rhetorically when it took defensive measures against nationalist China in the 1929 spat. [17] Swanson also points out Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931, Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, and Germany invading Poland on Sept. 1, 1939 and the Soviets on Sept. 17, 1939 as violations of the pact. Not surprisingly, Swanson does not say that this intervention was in accordance with the secret Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact since the Soviets felt that the Polish could no longer defend themselves because of the collapse of their state after a Nazi attack, and the Soviets were welcomed by the Polish people as “true liberators.” Swanson goes on to say that the treaty was not ordinary, but meant to outlaw war, with the reality that the US quickly violated the pact, with peace structures not stopping the coming war. Some supported Outlawry at the time (Stimson) but opposed it later, and others, such as, a Wall Street lawyer named William Chanler, a friend of Stimson, used it as a basis for criminal trials of the Germans and Japanese for war crimes at Nuremberg and the UN Charter as a whole. [18] Eventually, Kellogg was given a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the treaty even as he didn’t stop advocating for US imperial aggression.

Before ending the section on Swanson’s narrative, it worth noting how taken in he is about this story. He thinks war outlawry be revived and that we should have a “Kellogg-Briand Day” on August 27 every year, celebrating a “step toward peace” but war’s abolishment or end. [19] He goes on to say that his book, dispelling the well-kept secret that war is illegal, continues the campaign for outlawry, which includes pushing countries to comply with the pact, and says that a public referendum on war is an intriguing idea. [20] At the end of his book, he outlines numerous proposals for reducing the US war machine, [21] and says that his self-published book, where he had complete editorial control, is meant to help people learn about the Kellogg-Briand Pact and study peace activism that got us to Outlawry. [22]

What Swanson missed

Another screenshot from the Soviet animated film "Mr. Wolf."
Another screenshot from the Soviet animated film “Mr. Wolf.”

In his happy good lucky story of the road to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, Swanson glosses over a number of details, almost portraying the US imperialists as “peacemakers” in the process. As the Great Soviet Encyclopedia argued, the US tried to use the Paris Peace Conference, from 1919-1920, to marginalize the USSR, Harding’s administration, favoring monopolies, used the Washington Conference of 1921-1922 to force the UK to agree to equality between US and UK battle fleets, Coolidge’s administration was unfriendly to the USSR, and US warships helped bomb Nanking in 1927. [23] Additionally, Swanson’s book barely ever mentions the Soviets, usually only referring to them in passing except for one time when he notes that a delegate from the USSR,  Maxim Maimovich Litvinov, proposed to the League of Nations’s commission on disarmament in Nov. 1927 that there be the “immediate and total abolition of all armies, navies, and air forces; the sinking of all warships; the scrapping of all war material; and the demolition of all arms factories” but Western governments rejected this, and the French even voted to expand their navy. [24] He never expands on other Soviet policies in favor of peace but has a very Western-centered approach, likely written with his audience of liberals and progressives in mind who scowl at the Soviet Union.

There is another aspect of the process that Swanson barely talks about, if he even alludes to it: the interests of Western capitalist states who engaged in the pact. Kellogg himself wanted to desperately avoid the treaty, which was, as some writers put it, “the product of Realpolitik and cynical political calculations,” with the French seeing the pact as a possibility for a “defensive alliance aimed at Germany” while in the US, many believed that “the solution to the scourge of war lay in the universal renunciation of its practice.” [25] More specifically, while Briand’s offer for negotiations on a treaty to end war “thrilled pacifist-minded Americans,” it also served “France’s strategic needs,” a way to sideline the US “should France go to war” but Kellogg understood “what Briand was trying to accomplish and wanted nothing to do with the offer” and did not like Briand’s “bid to energize U.S. peace groups and thereby box in the Coolidge administration.” Beyond this, Kellogg agreed to talk with the French, engaging in a multilateral treaty outlawing war rather than a bilateral treaty, which supposedly “rendered it largely ineffective, more a toy handcuff than an iron manacle” and Briand was hardly in a position to argue against it. Paris served as “the site for the historic meeting to renounce war” and US Senators had few illusions about the treaty, knowing “it was the international equivalent of an air kiss,” voting the same day “to fund the construction of fifteen new warships.”

The US State Department admits this much in their write-up about the pact. They argue that the pact had “little effect in stopping the rising militarism of the 1930s or preventing World War II” but also note the movement that pushed for the peace pact. France was facing, they note, “continuing insecurity from its German neighbor and sought alliances to shore up its defenses,” but the US was less eager to enter into a bilateral peace pact, worrying that it “could be interpreted as a bilateral alliance and require the United States to intervene if France was ever threatened” so they suggested that it be multilateral, which aligned with war outlawry being “immensely popular in international public opinion.” The State Department history also says that the pact’s language “established the important point that only wars of aggression – not military acts of self-defense – would be covered under the pact,” resulting in many nations signing it, and the U.S. Senate ratifying the agreement after making “reservations to note that U.S. participation did not limit its right to self-defense or require it to act against signatories breaking the agreement.” The pact was first tested, argues this history, during the Mukden Incident which led to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, but the fact of a “worldwide depression and a limited desire to go to war to preserve China” led to no action from the League of Nations or the US. Later threats to the agreement “from fellow signatories Germany, Austria and Italy” made it clear there “was no way to enforce the pact or sanction those who broke it” with many ways around the terms, the pact not helping prevent WWII but very idealistic in the view of the State Department history.

In missing this aspect of the pact, Swanson, of course, did not mention the imperial nature of the pact itself. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia argued that the pact was originally used by the US and other imperialist powers as a “means of isolating the USSR” but that under “the pressure of public opinion they were forced to invite the USSR to subscribe to the pact.” [26] The Soviets adhered to the pact on August 29, 1928, details of which will be discussed later in this article. Such an action led to anger from Trotskyists who saw themselves as righteous in their “revolutionary” feelings, even though Leon Trotsky supported a continuation of the NEP, opposed measures to ensure the security of the Soviet state from opportunists and foreign enemies, and pushed the idea of “permanent revolution” while rejecting the more practical idea of “socialism in one country” proposed by Joseph Stalin, as noted in a previous post on this blog. The Trotskyists claimed that the signing of this pact marked a departure from a “revolutionary path,” strengthened “bourgeois illusions,” struck at Lenin’s work, and that Western powers are not interested in peace but wanted to check the “successful robber activities of the Nipponese competitor,” Japan. [27] While most of these statements take an unrealistic counter-revolutionary viewpoint, the last statement about Western powers is one the Soviets would actually agree with.

The Soviet government had a good reason for signing the pact regardless of what the counter-revolutionary Trotskyists said. While they would have, a few years before, possibly sneered at the effort as “bourgeois sentimentalism,” the USSR wanted to join the world community even as the initial invitations for the pact excluded the Soviets, leaving them to believe there was the tacit formation of an anti-Soviet bloc, but the French invited the Soviets to be signatories and they did so, with their affirmation of the pact showing a “Soviet desire for peace.” [28] Signing the pact was also a continuation of previous Soviet policy. Beyond what Swanson briefly mentioned, in the 1927 and 1928 disarmament conferences, Litvinov offered wide-sweeping proposals for disarmament, which was popular among the public, even when the USSR adhered to the pact, one newspaper, the Inprecor, argued that Britain, France, and capitalist satellites like Poland, were continuing preparation for war on the USSR. [29]

However, not everyone in the Soviet government wanted to ratify the pact. The People’s Commissar of the Soviet Union (1924-1930) Georgy Chicherin, opposed ratification, while Nikolai Bukharin (who supported NEP’s continuation and wanted socialism at a “snail’s pace”) and Litvinov supported it, arguing that it would allow Western powers to interfere in Soviet foreign affairs, the same reason he opposed the Soviets joining League of Nations. [30] His supporters pointed to British & French reservations about the pact, arguing that it would have no effect.

Despite this argument, the Soviets signed the pact, but mad they were not invited to signing ceremony [31], taking the position that “all international wars must be prohibited, in particular, wars with the aim of suppressing movements of national liberation,” along with prohibition of “intervention, blockade, military occupation of foreign territory, foreign ports” along with “severance of diplomatic relations” since this “contributes to…an atmosphere that favors the occurrence of war.” [32] The Soviet government as a whole took the position that signing the pact showed they were consistent advocates of peace, and believed that only a “universal and complete disarmament plan” could prevent armed conflicts, while admitting the pact would be a dead letter unless growth of arms was limited. Some, such as Evgeny A. Korovin, argued that the pact was a “serious blow to the system of the Anglo-French capitalist bloc” and that it weakened the League of Nations. [33] The Soviets also declared that the pact did not go far enough renouncing war by “failing to cover all methods of aggression,” saying that the fact that the pact didn’t have provisions for disarmament showed the “insincerity of bourgeois pacifism.” [34] Looking at articles 1 and 2 of the pact itself [35] shows their criticism to be valid, as it is very loosely worded, only condemning recourse to war internationally and renouncing it as form of national policy:

ARTICLE I: “The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.”

ARTICLE II: “The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means.”

Additionally, the pact, unlike Soviet treaties of nonaggression which renounced war “completely, totally, and without qualification,” seemed to exclude warlike action and the right of self-defense from the pact’s operation, meaning that it, arguably, watered down and truncated the “concept of nonaggression.” [36] Later on, the Soviets would argue that a declared war or any “de facto military actions initiated by any state” should be considered a breach of the pact. [37]

More importantly, the pact inadvertently gave Soviet foreign policy a boost. As a result of the pact, the Soviets proposed their own security policy, inviting neighbors to bring the pact into force by themselves, with what was called the “Litvinov Protocol,” named after the Soviet diplomat, signed by the USSR, Poland, Latvia, and Estonia, later joined by Lithuania, Turkey, Persia, and Free City of Danzig, with Finland not as a signatory. [38] This showed that the USSR was a champion of the principles in the pact and an “active proponent of the idea of curbing the freedom of states to indulge in waging war in order to promote their interests.” This pact, signed in February 1929, represented the “spirit of the Pact of Paris,” while it renounced the use of force and recourse to warlike measures, and while it provided little security for the neighbors of the USSR, its intention was more important than its application. [39] Part of the text of the agreement is reprinted below:

“…[the following governments] being desirous of promoting the maintenance of peace between their respective countries and for this purpose of putting into force without delay, between the peoples of those countries, the Treaty for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy, signed at Paris on August 27, 1928, have decided to achieve this purpose by means of the present Protocol…

Article I. The Treaty for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy, signed at Paris on August 27, 1928…shall come into force between the Contracting Parties after the ratification of the said Treaty of Paris of 1928 by the competent legislative bodies of the respective Contracting Parties.
Article II. The entry into force in virtue of the present Protocol, of the Treaty of Paris of 1928 in reciprocal relations between the Parties to the present Protocol shall be valid independently of the entry into force of the Treaty of Paris of 1928…
Article IV. In order to give effect to Article I of the present Protocol, each of the High Contracting Parties, after ratification by its legislative bodies of the Treaty of Paris of 1928, shall immediately notify the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and all the other Parties to the present Protocol, through the diplomatic channel.”

This agreement, also called the Moscow Protocol or more formally the “Protocol for the Immediate Entry into Force of the Treaty of Paris of August 27, 1928, Regarding Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy,” was immediately effective unlike the prolonged Kellogg-Briand Pact, with the Soviet negotiated agreement entering into force many months before the latter pact, and helping to improve Soviet relations with Poland. [40] The Soviet pact also disapproved the views of Western capitalists that “Red Russia would [not] keep a pledge to disarm.” [41]

Later on, in 1933, the USSR concluded a convention on the definition of aggression with Afghanistan, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Persia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey, and the next day a similar convention with Czechoslovakia, Turkey, and Yugoslavia. [42] This agreement defined aggression as a “declaration of war, invasion, assault, naval blockade and support of armed bands” along with outlining false excuses and justifications for such aggression by capitalist states. [43] Over the years to come, as even noted by this anti-communist but partially fair account of Soviet foreign policy, the Soviets recognized the danger posed by the Nazis, trying to “restrain German militarism by building coalitions hostile to fascism,” adopting a policy of “cooperation with socialists and liberals against fascism, thus reversing its line of the early 1930s,” with the county joining the League of Nations in 1934, and Litvinov advocating “disarmament and collective security against fascist aggression.” Beyond this, the Soviets also, in 1935, made alliances with France and Czechoslovakia, and “from 1936 to 1939 it gave assistance to antifascists in the Spanish Civil War,” leading to Germany and Japan signing the “Anti-Comintern Pact in 1936” but the West did not want to “counter German provocative behavior,” and after France and Britain appeased “Hitler’s demands for Czechoslovak territory at Munich in 1938,” Stalin then abandoned his “efforts to forge a collective security agreement with the West” apparently.

After this, Stalin came to an “understanding with Germany,”replacing Litvinov with his confidante, Viacheslav Molotov as commissar of foreign affairs, with the Nazis and Soviets engaging in “intensive negotiations,” leading to the Nonaggression Pact of August 23, 1939, which “pledged absolute neutrality in the event one of the parties should become involved in war, while a secret protocol [that] partitioned Poland,” and soon thereafter the WWII began. Despite this, one cannot blame the Soviets for war, since felt they could not trust the Western powers to fight the Nazis by allying with them, and they did not want destruction of their country like happened during WWI. In later years, the Soviets pushed the UN for a new definition on aggression which encompassed viewpoints from across the Third World in 1953 and 1956. [44] After that point, when Khrushchev unfairly and traitorously denounced Stalin in his “secret speech” and cozied up more to the Western capitalists, revisionism took hold in the country, only to be uprooted by 1964, seemingly, when Leonid Brezhnev took power. All of these aspects will be covered in later articles about Soviet history.

The fact that Swanson did not address the Soviet perspective on the pact at all is not much of a surprise. While he is good-intentioned in writing about this subject and his book is a worthy history, he also is a bourgeois pacifist who does not talk about the role of capitalism, class relations, or imperialist struggle in bringing this agreement to fruition. I don’t wish to talk about that history in regards to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, as that would require a good amount of additional research on the subject. As a result, this article is just meant to criticize Swanson and bring a new perspective to light on this subject, leading to future discussion.

Concluding thoughts

Final screenshot from the Soviet animated film "Mr. Wolf" I'm using in this article.
Final screenshot from the Soviet animated film “Mr. Wolf” I’m using in this article.

Some may say that it isn’t even worth reading the works of a bourgeois pacifist like David Swanson and that I’m giving him free press. While I can see where such a viewpoint is coming from, I also think it is unfair. It is worth reading other points of view in order to improve your own. There is no doubt that Swanson spent time and resources on writing his history, but his ideological viewpoint distorted his history so he did not, as a result, recognize the full reality. What I mean by this is that he is writing from a white, privileged, and Western perspective geared toward audiences in the United States. You could even add in that his perspective does not mention perspectives by women, not even white women, since only a smattering of the war outlawrists he cites are women. Additionally, where is a mention of race in this book? Doesn’t the Kellogg-Briand Pact effect people of color across the world? Also, a more robust analysis of European imperialisms and US imperialism would have improved the narrative to be more critical of established power structures. This agreement led to a sort of “capitalist peace” you could say.

The current Kellogg-Briand Pact, coupled with Articles 1 and 51 of the UN Charter, is a good tool to restrain the murderous empire. However, one must be wary of the demands of bourgeois pacifism in this regard, as such pacifism does not recognize the possibility of revolutionary wars for liberation and often says that people should not have the right to armed self-defense, instead just engaging in peaceful measures. This should be rejected wholesale. If Palestinians have the right to fire back rockets in response to never-ending Israeli bombing then blacks in the United States have the right to defend themselves with arms against bigots trying to harm them. To be realistic, there will only be peace once socialist revolutions sweep the world and remove the virus of capitalism because militarism is deeply tied to such a horrid economic system. Sure, we can support the idea of outlawing war. However, we should not think that it, even if connected with an international court and other instruments of international law, will bring justice in a way that prevents capitalist exploitation. This is especially the fact if such a push does not include a demand for strong enforcement mechanisms, something that the Kellogg-Briand Pact lacks, not even allowing for sanctions, as much as they can be destructive and an instrument of imperialist aggression, of countries that violate its provisions. [45]

Notes

[1] David Swanson, When the World Outlawed War (Charlottesville, VA, 2011), p. 6, 11-12.

[2] Swanson, 11-15, 19-20. Such propaganda stayed in people’s minds before Wilson saw public opinion as “something to use, rather than avoid,” Swanson argues.

[3] Ibid, 16-17.

[4] Ibid, 17-18. The organization that paid for this was one group called the National Council for Prevention of War.

[5] War Outlawrists that Swanson cites: John Dewey, Robert Farrell, Thomas Hall Shastid, Sherwood Eddy, Robert Farrell, Murray Butler, James Thomson Shotwell, Andrew Carnegie, Salmon Oliver Levinson, John Chalmers Vinson, John E. Stoner, Kirby Page, Charles Clayton Morrison, Arthur Capper of Kansas, William Borah, Warren G. Harding, John Haynes Holmes, Raymond Robins, Frances Keller, Calvin Coolidge, James Brown Scott, and Carrie Chapman Catt.

[6] Swanson, 24-27, 30-33.

[7] Ibid, 27-28, 60-69, 111-114; LeftistCritic, “Annotating A Section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 38.

[8] Ibid, 20-23, 73-74.

[9] Ibid, 34-37, 41-42. The idea of such enforcement was a court of law, with enforcement of rulings relying on good faith of nations, not military action, an economic blockade or sanctions, with the court as a form of “dispute resolution.”

[10] Ibid, 37-40, 43-47.

[11] Ibid, 49-59, 75-82, 90-91, 100-106.

[12] Ibid, 5, 71-72, 84-85, 92-99.

[13] Ibid, 85-89, 107-110.

[14] Ibid, p. 111-123.

[15] Swanson, 6, 125, 131-134, 136-142.

[16] Ibid, 144-146; Kellogg said that the pact did not mean the US recognized the USSR, but the Soviets hoped the pact would be a way to gain rapprochement (American Foreign Relations Since 1600: A Guide to the Literature, Vol. 1 (ed. Robert L. Beisner and Kurt W. Hanson, Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2003), 851.

[17] Also see “The Sino-Soviet Border Conflict, 1969: U.S. Reactions and Diplomatic Maneuvers” published on the National Security Archive’s website in 2001.

[18] Swanson, 6, 146-155. As Chen Tiqiang argues, “Article 1 of the Anti-War Pact of Paris concluded on August 27, 1928, stipulates that the signatory countries to the pact “renounce…recourse to war as an instrument of national policy.” The Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East; pronounced on November 12, 1948, pointed out that a war in violation of the Paris pact is illegal by international law and that “those who plan and wage such a war with its inevitable and terrible consequences are committing a crime in doing so.” Thus, it is clear that wars of aggression had already been prohibited by international law before Japan launched its war of aggression. The Japanese Government, therefore, had launched its war of aggression against China wittingly and deliberately with full knowledge of its legal significance” (Chen Tiqiang, “Conclusions Confirmed by History,” Beijing Review, Aug. 30, 1982, vol. 25, no. 35, p. 27). Another writer notes that “in the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact (or Pact of Paris), the States Parties solemnly declared “that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.” The Pact did not, however, specify criminal liability either for States or for individuals in the event of a violation of the Pact; whether the norm set forth in the Pact reflected a general rule of international law or one binding solely upon those States that had ratified the Pact was uncertain. As such, after the outbreak of World War II, many believed that no “international agreement criminalising wars of aggression was in force in 1939, and therefore, on the basis of the nullum crimen sine lege principle, the Allies were not legally entitled to prosecute the top Nazi leaders for aggression” but at the San Francisco conference in April 1945 they asserted that the original intent of the Kellogg-Briand Pact requires trying Nazis and Japanese fascists as war criminals (Sean D. Murphy, “The Crime of Aggression at the ICC,” Public Law and Legal Theory Paper No. 2012-50, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-50, 2012, p. 3-4). It is worth noting that WWII commenced even with the pact in place, but that the pact influenced Japan’s pacifist constitution.

[19] Swanson, 6-8.

[20] Ibid, 5, 9-10, 49, 163-165.

[21] Other peaceful proposals include simple disarmament, disentangling ourselves from alliances that cause us to go to war like NATO, pressure those in power, enacting numerous strategies and create a holiday for the pact on August 27, that war is good for nothing (p. 165-167, 169). His ideas, outlined in p. 166 to 167 include: (1) cutting half of a trillion dollars out of the national security budget, half into tax cuts for everyone, half into useful social spending; (2) bring the National Guard back home and de-federalize it; (3) ban redeployment of personnel suffering from PTSD; (4) ban no-bid military contracts; (5) restore constitutional war powers to Congress; (6) have a public referendum before any war; (7) close foreign bases; (8) ban weapons from space; (9) ban extralegal prisons; (10) ban “kangaroo courts” outside the US justice system; (11) restore habeas corpus; (12) ban use of mercenaries; (13) limit military spending; (14) ban secret operations, agencies, and budgets; (15) ban drone strikes; (16) forbid transfer of student info. to military recruiters without permission; (17) comply with Kellogg-Briand Pact; (18) reform or replace the UN; (19) join the ICC and make it independent of the UN; (20) disarm.

[22] Swanson, 157-162, 170-171.

[23] LeftistCritic, “Annotating A Section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 35, p. 37-39.

[24] Swanson, 106.

[25] James M. Lindsay, “TWE Remembers: The Kellogg-Briand Pact,” Council on Foreign Relations, August 27, 2011.

[26] LeftistCritic, “Annotating A Section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 39.

[27] Max Shachtman, “War, Kellogg Pact and the Soviet Union,” March 1929, The Militant, Vol. II No. 5, 1 March 1929, pp. 1 & 4; Jack Weber, “March of Events,” July 13 1935, New Militant, Vol. I No. 29, 13 July 1935, p. 3; Sam Gordon, New Developments in Far East: Western Imperialists Register Protests as Japs Hold on to Booty, February 1932, The Militant, Vol. V No. 6 (Whole No. 102), 6 February 1932, p. 1.

[28] Alastair Kocho-Williams, Russia’s International Relations in the Twentieth Century (New York: Routledge, 2013), 52; Akira Iriye, The New Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations: The Globalizing of America, 1913-1945, Vol. 3 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 84-85, 106.  Some say that the USSR remained “somewhat isolated diplomatically” by the West at least, but this is only one opinion on the matter. It is also worth noting that the provisions of the Kellogg-Briand Pact also applied to Soviet relations with Finland, Latvia, and Lithuania (Jan F. Triska and Robert M. Slusser, The Theory, Law, and Policy of Soviet Treaties (Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press, 1962), 250-251).

[29] J.L. Black, Canada in the Soviet Mirror: Ideology and Perception in Soviet Foreign Affairs, 1917-1991 (Canada: Carleton University Press, 1998), 66. The Comintern didn’t take Litvinov’s moves them seriously and got ready in case of invasion.

[30] Jan F. Triska and Robert M. Slusser, The Theory, Law, and Policy of Soviet Treaties (Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press, 1962), 259.

[31] On August 5, 1928, Chicherin argued that “the exclusion of the Soviet government from these negotiations leads us…to the assumption that among the real objectives of the initiators of this pact there obviously was and is an endeavor to make of this pact a weapon for isolating and fighting the Soviet Union. The negotiations regarding the conclusion of the Kellogg Pact was obviously an integral part of the policy of encircling the Soviet Union, which at present occupies the central point of the international relations of the whole world” (Xenia Joukoff Eudin and Harold Henry Fisher, Soviet Russia and the West, 1920-1927: A Documentary Survey (Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press, 1957), 352).

[32] Triska and Slusser, 259.

[33] Triska and Slusser, 260.

[34] Triska and Slusser, 262. On the subject of the Litvinov Protocol also see Rudolf Bernhardt, Use of Force · War and Neutrality Peace Treaties (N-Z) (New York: North Holland Publishing Company, 1982), 36.

[35] Documents about it here on the Avalon Project’s website.

[36] Triska and Slusser, 258.

[37] International Law and International Security: Military and Political Dimensions (ed. Paul B. Stephan and Boris Mikhaĭlovich Klimenko, London: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1991), 9, 296.

[38] George Ginsburgs, Moscow’s Road to Nuremberg: The Soviet Background to the Trial (London: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1996), 4.

[39] Richard C. Hall, Consumed by War: European Conflict in the 20th Century (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2010), 97; Miron Rezun, The Soviet Union and the Iran: Soviet Policy in Iran from the Beginnings of the Pahlavi Dynasty until the Soviet Invasion of 1941 (Geneva: Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales, 1981), 148, 154, 247; Marcel Mitrasca, Moldova: A Romanian Province Under Russian Rule : Diplomatic History from the archives of the Great Powers (New York: Algora Publishing, 2002), 8, 124, 330, 372, 377.

[40] KAZIMIERZ GRZYBOWSKI, “INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE SOVIET POINT OF VIEW,” p. 885; David A. Kaplow, “Nuclear Kellogg-Briand Pact: Proposing a Treaty for the Renunciation of Nuclear Wars as an Instrument of National Policy,” Georgetown University Law Center, p. 139; “When the Soviet Union Entered World Politics” ebook, “Diplomatic Isolation and the Beginnings of Stalinism” chapter, UC Press.

[41] Time Magazine, “RUSSIA: Litvinov’s Protocol,”KAZIMIERZ GRZYBOWSKI, “INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE SOVIET POINT OF VIEW,” p. 885.

[42] KAZIMIERZ GRZYBOWSKI, “INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE SOVIET POINT OF VIEW,” p. 885.

[43] Triska and Slusser, 262-263.

[44] Ibid.

[45] The lack of such provisions in the Kellogg-Briand Pact is not a surprise because Western capitalist states would have never stood for strong enforcement, rejecting it in an effort to defend their own empires.

Is Star Wars really anti-fascist?

han-solo-quote

Recently, a group of neo-Nazis has declared that the upcoming Star Wars movie, Rogue One, is “anti-white,” “SJW propaganda,” and “another Jew masturbation fantasy of anti-white hatred,” saying that the film should be boycotted, with advocates incensed after screenwriter Chris Weitz said “please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization,” and Write Gary Whitta retweeted this, adding that it was “opposed by a multi-cultural group led by brave women.” Of course, the reactionary forces will make wild proclamations but I thought it was best to come back to the topic of Star Wars and politics once again after my last post months ago, in which I wrote that “I still have some hope in the Star Wars series…this hope could obviously be shattered into many pieces,” which is what I aim to take aim at once again.

In order to go forward a summary what I pointed out in my last post on the subject is not necessary. [1] There is no reason to make the same points again. I have tended, in the past year, to drift away from Star Wars to Futurama, because of the incessant mention of war, and said that I wouldn’t watch the new movie. But, now with this controversy, which is probably, like with liberal anger at Trump’s diplomacy, fake outrage, I am intrigued. I wholehartedly recognize that the series is white-dominated by nature, easily quotable by imperialist politicians, seems to be nostalgic, can be used to ward off apologists for anti-Syrian terrorists, and has a growing number of female fans in a fan-base that is still male-dominated. On top of that, some may have made reference to Star Wars when talking about supposed anti-Trump resistance, along with the claims that politics is “like Star Wars.”

There have been a plethora of thinkpieces on the subject of Star Wars and politics as of late. Since I think the pieces are crap, I think it is worth just listing the titles and publications, just for laughs and giggles:

  • “Star Wars isn’t political, says Disney chief responding to boycott by Trump supporters. He’s wrong.” (Washington Post) (says that films don’t exist in a political void, Vietnam references in the early Star Wars movies, echoes of Vietnam in Rogue One, soldiers of empire are called stormtroopers and modeled a bit after Nazis, and ends with no strong conclusion)
  • “Star Wars Is Not Anti-Trump, But It Is Anti-Fascism,” Esquire magazine
  • “Star Wars Is and Always Has Been Political,” Gizmodo
  • “Outrage Warriors Are Only Ruining Their Own Fun by Trying to #DumpStarWars,” Forbes
  • “Disney’s CEO is wrong about Star Wars and politics, but right about the Rogue one boycott,” The Verge
  •  “Disney’s Star Wars screenwriters need to shut up about politics,” Red Alert Politics
  • “Why Star Wars Needs To Be Political,” The Young Folks
  •  “#DumpStarWars Is The First Shot In A New (Pop) Culture War,” Forbes

I could go on, but I think you get the point. There is undoubtedly public enthusiasm about Star Wars, but the connection to politics is nothing new, with horrid neoliberal comedian (who isn’t all that funny) declared that Star Wars Episode II (2002) could be analogous to Bush’s government, and some liberal critics casting Bush as Darth Vader and Cheney as Chancellor Palpatine. [2] But there are fundamental truths about the series, which will undoubtedly carry into the newest movie. For one, apart from weak character development in some movies, there is the creation of an “ideologically conservative future…[a] modern quest narrative” with Princess Leia in Episode 4 as a “damsel in distress” and the movies serving as a harbinger of “renowed American conservatism of the Reagan presidency” with the rebellion lead by “clean cut, well-spoken white youths.” [3] To add onto this, the Rebel Alliance, while it is fighting against an “evil empire,” is hierarchical (possibly authoritarian), celebrating its victory (at the end of episode 4) in a scene that seems to echo famed Nazi propagandist Leni Reifenstahl, with the white males “naturally” in positions of authority, with alien races downgraded while gender, class, and race relations are not challenged. [4] This return to “traditional morality” is not an “adventurous quest-narrative” that was part of Hollywood’s “revitalization” but it is a blockbuster which promotes nostalgia for the 1950s. [5] If this isn’t enough, the series, which has interwoven itself into familial relationships, and originally meant for children, moving family films back to the center of the global entertainment industry, while closing the “window for creative experimentation” in filmmaking that had supposedly begun in 1970. [6]

There is much more to be said about Star Wars. Apart from the obvious nostalgia for the past, and in this case for past films of the Star Wars franchise, dominates the spectator with crowd-pleasing entertainment, with a sword-wielding “elite warrior cadre,” the Jedi, honored in film after film of the series. [7] With the films being almost like a “myth of a fairytale,” a cultural dream, which have situations like athletic contests where various characters engage in a story set in a mythological time, with a story of broad proportions, supports the idea of male dominance. [8] There is no doubt symbolism in the movies with Chewbacca embodying a “wild man stereotype” some say, Christian imagery, a simplistic good vs. evil conflict, and some dreamlike locations like Dagobah in Episode 5. [9]

But there is more than this. It seems that progressives and bourgeois liberals saying the movie could be anti-fascist, and by extension the whole series is anti-fascist. In theory this would be a feat for such a successful franchise, even mocked hilariously in Mel Brooks’s Spaceballs, to be against fascism. However, that is too easy of a connection to make. There is no doubt that the Empire and First Order (the latter in ‘The Force Awakens’) are fascist and imperialist. The allusions are obvious. But what about the resistance? Well, in episodes 4, 5, 6, and 7, the Rebel Alliance, New Republic, and Resistance are undoubtedly anti-imperial forces. However, they are not like the soldiers of Cuba who fought in Angola against the murderous US imperialists and South African racists, the Soviets who fought off the Nazi fascists, the Koreans who fought off the US imperialists, or the varying anti-colonial efforts against faltering European empires. These forces, and no doubt those in the new movie, might be anti-fascist, you could say, but they are not by extension anti-capitalist. This means that the Rebel Alliance, New Republic, and Resistance, along with rebels in animated series, are bourgeois liberal forces. So, nothing to cheer for, really.

To expand on this topic, the Rebel Alliance in episodes 4-6 has monarchist elements (Princess Leia), underworld elements (Han Solo and Chewbacca). This puts doubt on whether this organization is really anti-fascist. Any radical with any sense would decry monarchical rule as anti-democratic and call for something more representative, so to sympathize with the rebels is to support monarchy, glimmers of fascism in an organization basically run by young white men, and underworld elements. In episodes 4-6 there is a subplot of Han Solo and Chewbacca, who represent the lumpenproletariat, are painted as outcasts, rebels-for-hire who are on the run from the wealthy Jabba the Hut (a crime lord that is like a Mafia figure) who demands payment, works with the empire, and has hired goons (bounty hunters who track down Han Solo in episode 5). In the animated series, these horrid figures return, and also have state sponsors, this time the Confederacy of Independent Systems (CIS) which is a bit like the early United States (1776-1787) which had a similar form of government.

One may ask about the first three movies (1, 2, and 3). In the first movie, a beleaguered galactic republic, a bit like the United States’s federal-style of government, is plagued by an invasion in a capitalist haven of Naboo by the mercantile alliance called the Trade Federation, with their own private army of robots that serve to enforce their interests. Ultimately, the Sith Lord, a person who led an order of ancient religious warriors, Palpatine/Darth Sidious takes power in the republic in order to carry out his ultimate plan to massacre the widely regarded elite religious warriors called the Jedi. In episodes 2 and 3, Palpatine engineers a brutal war between the republic and the CIS which had a legislative body, the Separatist Senate, a bit like the British House of Commons, more than the House of Lords, with both sides having profiteers gaining fat sums from the war. With the end of the war in episode 3, an empire is established in place of the galactic republic, and the Jedi are almost all killed in a pogrom (order 66), with the clones becoming the stormtroopers who enforce the dictates of the new empire. So, these movies don’t necessarily take an anti-fascist take. You could say they are critical of authoritarian government, but the forces on both sides, the Republic and the CIS are not forces to cheer for, although the audience is supposed to sympathize with the Jedi and the Republic, as was made clear in the animated series.

There’s not much left to say here. I’d say that the politics in Futurama, the Simpsons, and Star Trek, among other science fiction, are much better and leave much less to be desired than Star Wars. I haven’t decided if to watch Rogue One when it comes out later this week, but regardless of this we should stay critical of the Star Wars franchise while looking at imagined Communist life in space, existing relationships between socialism and science fiction, manifested in authors like H.G. Wells. By the same token, depending on films in the Star Wars series to be anti-fascist (if it even is), without looking to actual examples of anti-fascism such as the Soviets fighting the Nazis (mentioned earlier), the Black Panthers standing against the capitalist system with their form of black liberation, and new efforts to defend one’s self using armed self-defense against bigots and fascists from Robert F. Williams in the 1950s to the unfortunately dogmatic Red Guards in Austin, Texas and people pushing to arm themselves since the advent of Donald Trump as President. As always comments are welcome.

Notes

[1] I argued, replying to another commentary on the subject, that: (1) Jar Jar Banks is a racial stereotype, a “modern version of Stepin Fetchit; (2) greedy Neimodians of the Trade Federation who could represent an Asian stereotype; (3) the major “six Star Wars movies are white and male-dominated with female characters mostly pushed to secondary roles [for the most are]…and male characters are put in the primary role. Literally there are only two black characters I can think of”; (4) Rebels (in episodes 4-6 and in the animated series) are not leftists, only a rebellious force and arguably right-wing, with monarchist elements, and almost a guerrilla movement, but could still be considered a state to an extent; rebellion is made up of middle-class folks; (5) Leia is part of rebellion, not leading it; (6) Galactic Republic is not elitist but like the “American federal system”; (7) Galactic Empire is evil, and not democratic, authority goes to the Emperor; an authoritarian government, a worthless legislative body, the Imperial Senate, abolished in Episode 4; (8) First Order in ‘The Force Awakens’ is also not democratic, and is a fascist military junta; (9) Luke is part of the petty bourgeoisie?; (10) Rebellion includes, arguably “lumpenproletariat people like gangster Han Solo and his companion Chewbacca”; (11) Naboo had an elected monarchy and was not a democracy; (12) Jedi almost act a bit like slavemasters of the clones; they are elite warriors but also arguably religious leaders (the Force is a religion); (13) Jedi want a coup in the Galactic Republic which would have made them “theocrats and actually kinda philosopher kings too in a sense”; (14) Jedi didn’t start the war, it was started by Dark Sidious; (15) Audience is cheering for “right-wingers/rightests [sic]”; (16) Not accurate to say that the Gungans in episode 1 are “slaughtered by Aztecs as that almost implies that the movie condemns imperialism which it obviously does not”; (17) Jedi are not racial supremacists, but might believe in genetic supremacy, which is akin to the Nazis; this doesn’t arguably constitute eugenics; the Jedi could be arguably theocrats but are not fascists; (18) Jedi and Smith are conflicting religious warriors who are rogue; (19) Blowing up of the Death Star (and the space station in ‘The Force Awakens’) is not “ludicrous” because the Empire was “over-confident”; (20) Luke and Leia were never in charge of the rebellion; (21) Han later becomes “a loyal footsoldier of the Rebellion”; (22) Yoda never headed an “official state religion,” and never was more than a religious force or feeling of any government of force; (23) Luke was not a leader, only a valued footsoldier of the rebellion; (24) “Palpatine was more like a religious leader who masqueraded as a political leader than the latter. He is almost more a theocrat than the Jedi since he holds a leading position in government”; (25) Anakin is “a religious warrior who will serve an authoritarian Empire and/or the Emperor” and is not won over by democratic values; (26) “Jedi were like high-level thinkers or philosopher kings to some extent, except that they didn’t really have political power but had political prestige”; (27) “if the Empire is secular, it is a murderous secular state”; (28) Empire that blew up Alderaan, not the force; (29) Star Wars is not a “state propaganda film”; (30) There is no “Skywalker regime” but only “two rightist forces fighting each other”; (31) Lucas was “broadly a conservative and wanted to reinforce “traditional” values coming from the 1950s”; (32) “…the six major movies have a conservative element and reinforces traditionalism along with arguably patriarchalism”; (33) one historical analogy in Star Wars is Vietnam in Episode 4 with the killing of Skywalkers family (a My Lai), help from the natives and “Third World mystics” in the “anti-imperial adventure” some argue; (34) others argue that the film is not critical of the United States, saying Episode IV with the West and the Empire with the Soviet Union, painting the West in a positive light, allusions to Vietnam and the US in Episodes 4, 5, and 6, and say Luke is an “optimistic Reaganite,” (35) another author says that the episodes 4-6 constitute a “post-Vietnam critique of military superiority” with the films offering a dual reading of US military might, with the rebels and empire as one and the same side; (36) yet other writers says that episodes 4-6 portray the Vietnam War positively, and feeds into feelings of frustration in the audience while endorsing “traditional structures of racism, sexism and social hierarchy that have helped to create and maintain those frustrations”; (37) in a book about the making of Star Wars, Lucas originally said he wanted to make “Apocalypse Now…a very antiwar and anti-Vietnam War film” and Lucas, since he was apparently in debt and poor, turned to Star Wars, implying that “Star Wars was about the Vietnam War with political ideas he was going to put in that movie going into Star Wars” including the idea, as Lucas puts it of “a large technological empire going after a small group of freedom fighters or human beings”; (38) numerous books say Star Wars is “a reflection on the Vietnam War”; (39) “argument that the Rebels and the Empire are just two sides of the same coin, representing different elements of the United States, is relatively convincing”; (40) both forces, “good” and “evil,” are arguably right-wing”; (41) “I guess I still have some hope in the Star Wars series and think that it has at least some value due to its deeply problematic aspects. But, this hope could obviously be shattered into many pieces”; (42) we need to stay critical of Star Wars.

[2] Marc Diapolo, War, Politics, and Superheroes: Ethics and Propaganda in Comics and Film (London: McFarland & Company, 2011), 32, 169, 180.

[3] Peter Lev, American Films of the 70s: Conflicting Visions (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), 166-168, 170. Lev also says that “some phrases borrowed from the film became key ideological points during the Reagan years.”

[4] Lev, 171, 174, 175.

[5] Lev, 179; “Introduction,” Action and Adventure Cinema (ed. Yvonne Tasker, New York: Routledge, 2004), 2, 7; Martin Flangan, “‘Get Ready for Rush Hour’: The Chronotype in action,”  Action and Adventure Cinema (ed. Yyonne Tasker, New York: Routledge, 2004), 103, 108; Yvonne Tasker, “The family in action,” Action and Adventure Cinema (ed. Yyonne Tasker, New York: Routledge, 2004), 254; Peter Kramer, “‘It’s aimed at Kids–The Kid in Everybody’: George Lucas, Star Wars, and Children’s Entertainment,” Action and Adventure Cinema (ed. Yyonne Tasker, New York: Routledge, 2004), 358.

[6] Kramer, 361, 363-366; Barry Langford, Post-Classical Hollywood: Film Industry, Style and Ideology Since 1945 (Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press, 2010), 128.

[7] Langford, 207, 221, 230, 250, 278.

[8] Steven A. Galipeau, The Journey of Luke Skywalker: An Analysis of Modern Myth and Symbol (Chicago: Open Court, 2001), 1-2, 4, 5, 11, 14, 16.

[9] Galipeau, 38, 60, 66, 116.