“Massive, dangerous and wasteful”: US imperialism repositions itself in Syria

Comes from the official mouth of the national military establishment.

This post was posted on anti-imperialism.org two days before but somehow I didn’t catch that until yesterday, so it was posted here.

You’ve probably heard the recent news that the Trump Administration is ending the CIA program to fund “anti-Assad” “moderate rebels,” who are actually terrorists. [1] The bourgeois media and run-of-the-mill imperialists cried bloody murder. Some say it was a “victory” for Russian president Vladimir Putin, although it was seen, even by crusty analysts, as a failed program. Removing CIA support is a victory for the Syrian people, not for the Russians or Trump and his advisers. In defending this action on Twitter, Donald Trump, in his typical bullish style, attacked the “Amazon Washington Post” and CNN, saying they are pumping out “fake news” about his policy and questioned if the Post is being used to keep “politicians from looking into Amazon’s no-tax monopoly.” He, of course, framed the program as his accomplishment, as the end of “massive, dangerous and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad,” although these “rebels” are, again, terroristic elements. Even with US imperialism ending CIA support for such elements, the murderous empire has not given up the goal of toppling the Syrian government. Rather, it has “repositioned” itself.

In the article announcing the end of the CIA program, the CIA mouthpiece, the Washington Post bellowed that there was a “potential risk” of ending the program. They claimed that ending the program would mean that the US may be unable to stop other countries from “funneling more sophisticated weapons” to “anti-Assad” terrorists. [2] This implies a “loss of control” over world events by the murderous empire, and it is part of the anxiety that comes with US imperialism loosing its footing. Still, the murderous empire is not bumbling like Sideshow Bob stepping on rakes, as “acclaimed” journalist Jeremy Scahill (a brand) noted in one tweet some time ago, but it just facing more challenges. The removal of this support, which was reportedly a foreign policy move to improve ties with Russia, ended a program which had begun in 2013 under the supposedly “smart” imperialism of the Obama presidency. [3] The program itself, in the minds of anonymous “US officials” quoted, and perhaps within upper echelons of the empire itself, “produced little success.” Reuters denoted that US support will not end. Quoting the magical (and often deceptive) anonymous “US officials,” it was noted that the US military will train, arm, and support certain Syrian terrorists with airstrikes and other actions. [4] It would not be surprising if this is the case. The Syrians recognize that the ending of the CIA program is a start to to “solving the Syrian crisis” but not a “genuine policy shift.” Rather it was an admission by the murderous empire that they have failed as Syrian government minister Ali Haidar pointed out. [5]

As it seems evident, US imperialism has “repositioned” itself in Syria by allying with the “good” Kurds, by Western standards, the ones clustered around the illegitimate regional government in northern Iraq and those related to Rojava. Stephen Gowans points out that not only is the YPG, one of the groups which is associated with Rojava, basically the PKK, but that they would control regions currently occupied by Arabs, a move supported by Israel and the US. However, Turkey does not support it as they detest the Kurds, but also the Syrian government, with their own designs for “regime change” in the country, and the current Syrian government opposes it as a clear violation of their sovereignty and independence. Such a takeover of Arab areas, which could be a prelude to ethnic cleansing, is supported by illegal no-fly-zones by the US over parts of Syria, and the partition of Syria along “ethno-sectarian lines,” favored by Washington and Tel Aviv. Some will say that the YPG, SDF, and other forces associated with Rojava, are somehow revolutionary. For one, if this was the case, why would they have allowed the US to build two military bases within “their territory” by March 2016? [6]

When Black nationalist Robert Mugabe led the liberation struggle of the then-Maoist Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe, alongside the more moderate Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu-PF, he did not go the US asking for help to fight the white colonists. When Hugo Chavez and his newfangled movement were gaining traction in Venezuela, they didn’t turn to the European imperialists. There are many other examples that could be given. Allowing an imperialist power to create bases within one’s territory means that one’s anti-imperialism is partially, if not completely, non-existent.

Around the same time that it was revealed that the US had two military bases in Syria, the special presidential envoy to the coalition against Daesh, Brett McGurk, visited Rojava, showing the US-“good” Kurd alliance was in the making. Since then, the murderous empire has increased their support for these Kurds. The same Kurds who tortured two Arab prisoners to demand they tell them

“where are the Daesh fighters,” threatening their life and limb when they didn’t answer “correctly.” Recently, the murderous empire armed these Kurds directly to mount an assault on Daesh’s de facto capital, Raqqa. More than that, over 1,000 US special forces are within Syria, with the US helping Rojava-associated forces, since 2014, take control of territory with their “overwhelming” air power. Furthermore, not only are these Kurds wedded to their alliance with the Western imperialists, who also back, with arms, those in Northern Iraq, but they are liked by Western European, Japanese, and Scandinavian governments, along with some in Central Europe and Eastern Europe as well. This is indicated by their diplomatic outposts all across Europe to spread the “reality” of their supposed “struggle,” with the impression that they are a “real” country. Even the Russian Federation seems to favor them to an extent. Such favoritism, mainly by those in the West, is related to the fact that Rojava is opposed to the Syrian government is a “resources-rich” mine for imperialism even though it is basically an illegal entity. Its existence violates the UN charter, especially article 2, and the Syrian Constitution (at least 5 articles). Some may cry that Rojava and the Kurds need “self-determination” but the entity itself violates Syrian sovereignty and such a claim to self-governance by the “good” Kurds is utterly (and completely) illegitimate.

If arming and providing direct military support to these Kurds is not enough, the US had reportedly provided advice on branding, a feature of modern capitalism in the Western world. Raymond Thomas, General and commander of US Special Operations, said at the Aspen Forum recently that the US told the YPG that they needed to re-brand because of their ties to the PKK, and called the name of SDF a “stroke of brilliance” since “democratic” was within the name. This account was also posted on SoL international, a site run by the Turkish Communist Party. In their summation, it was noted that Thomas said that the YPG and PKK have to “work on their own branding,” acting like they are separate. In response, Erdogan, a murderous leader of Turkey who represents that country’s bourgeoisie, said that “friends” should not deceive each other, implying that the US and Turkey are still “friends.” This is true to an extent, but the US and Turkey are pursuing different methods to overthrow the Syrian government. This is indicated by stories in the Turkish state media, which has an anti-Kurdish flair to it, such as one claiming that a US Army Magazine showed a PYD individual, associated with Rojava, with a patch displaying the face of the PKK’s jailed leader, Ocolan. To put it simply, relations between the murderous empire and ethno-nationalist Turkey are fraught. This is proven not only by Erdogan’s remarks noted above but declarations by the Turkish government that it will not allow a “terrorist state” of Rojava on their borders and claims that hundreds of trucks from the US are aiding the Kurds with a large amount of weapons. The latter article, which lists the exact location of 10 US outposts/bases in Rojava, was also written up by The Daily Beast. [7] This article notes that there is US presence from “one end to the other end” of Rojava, with two bases in northern Syrian and eight outposts, one of which is the communications center for the US-led coalition “fighting” Daesh.

With ten bases, effectively, in northern Syria, US imperialism has easily positioned itself to assist covertly and overtly in the overthrow of the Syrian government. Add to this the illegal US presence in Syria coupled with the bombing of Syria and Iraq which has killed a minimum of 600 people with the actual total likely topping over 7,000 civilians. Take for example a raid in Syria on July 4, by US bombers, which killed nine civilians and damaged civilian housing. Assisting the murderous empire in its “regime change” operation are the Israeli Zionists who frequently bomb inside Syria, directly helping the “anti-Assad” terrorists, accompanied by propaganda from outlets, such as National Geographic, to smear the Syrian government, as represented in their upcoming documentary which is totally fraudulent. If that isn’t enough, there have been direct provocations in Syria by the murderous empire. In June, the US shot down a Syrian Su-22 fighter jet which was carrying out attacks on Daesh, a “blatant violation of Syrian sovereignty and international law.” This was only part of such provocations stemming from the dropping of thousands upon thousands of bombs on Syria, since 2014, thousands of US troops being sent into the region, false stories of chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government, and other provocations, sometimes with the help of British special forces. Additionally, the UAE, the Turks, Qatar, the Saudis, and numerous others, want a piece of the action, sending “tens of thousands of mercenary and reactionary forces to bring down the Syrian government.

While US imperialism under Trump is “re-positioning” itself by seeking new alliances and harsher policies toward alleged US enemies, the goal in Syria has not changed. As noted earlier, the US wants to overthrow Syria’s duly-elected government, the government a secular, socially democratic state. Gowans explains this simply. He notes that the murderous empire is angry that Bashar Al-Assad hasn’t integrated the Syrian economy into the “US-superintended economy,” while possessing principles of “Arab socialism,” anti-imperialism, and anti-Zionism. Such ideas also come with Syria’s support of the Palestinian liberation movement and Hezbollah. Hence, since the 1960s the US had tried to undermine Syria, with the idea since 2003 that the US would eliminate Arab nationalists in the region by invading their countries.

Iran puts a damper on such regime change plans, as does Russia. Already Iran and Russia have developed close relations, like Syria and Russia, with the idea that Iran-Russia contact can prevent Washington’s further intervention in Syria. As Raymond Thomas, quoted earlier, admitted, since Russia has established a “more credible foothold” in Syria, it could, in his summation, use this influence to expel US forces from the country. Whether this would actually happen is not known. As the murderous empire sees it, Iran, Syrian, and Russia are part of an “evil axis” to them. That is why the CIA’s mouthpiece, the Washington Post, declared that the US is threatening Iranian naval vessels in the Persian Gulf whether a “shot across the bow” actually happened or not. [8]

The same goes for the 98-2 vote in the US Senate in favor of increased sanctions on Iran and Russia in mid-June. Only two Senators, with enough political capital, voted against it: “socially democratic” imperialist Bernie Sanders and libertarian-Republican Rand Paul. The sanctions themselves, introduced by Bob Corker, did not pass the House. The legislation not only claims that Iran threatens the US (and allies) in the Mideast, North Africa, and beyond, but it shows US apprehension about Iran’s influence.

In the past month, a new round of sanctions passed both legislative houses, incorporating some of Corker’s legislation on Russia and Iran, but also adding harsh sanctions against the DPRK. On July 25, the House passed the legislation 419-3, with only Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, and Jimmy Duncan voting no, all of whom were Republicans. The vote in the Senate two days similar was similar to the one the month before: Sanders and Paul voted against it.

Specifically, the new sanctions are slapped on Iran for its missile program and “human rights abuses” while squeezing the Russian economy and removing authority from the presidency to ease Russian sanctions. The latter is due to the unsubstantiated and feverous phobia over Russia, propagated by the US intelligence establishment, desperate Democrats and complaint Republicans, and much of the bourgeois media. The fact that Trump approves of the sanctions legislation flushes away all possibility he is “pro-Russia” in any way, shape, or form. Furthermore, the fact that Vladimir Putin and the Russian leadership declared that the US’s diplomatic mission in Russia has to “reduce its staff by 755 employees” was a justified “aggressive response” that the New York Times, in typical fashion, called something which was seemingly “ripped right from the Cold War playbook.” Russia cannot respond by military force to these sanctions, so this reduction is a way of firing back, sending a message to Washington that the sanctions are not OK. [9]

As it seems evident, the murderous empire wants to weaken Iran (and Russia to an extent) to cause the dominoes (Syrian government, Hezbollah, and Hamas) to fall so that imperial hegemony can reign across the region. [10] The Russians, Syrians, and Iranians aren’t standing for it. With Iran having “Washington’s moves under close surveillance,” they have worked to build military cooperation with Iraq, a major step forward in regional security to counter destabilization by the US and its affiliates.

Such an agreement, which disappoints the US, involves both countries working together to improve border security while providing the military forces of each country with “training, logistical…and military support.” Furthermore, the Iranian Parliament recently allocated $600 million to strengthen the country’s defensive missile program and the IRGC’s Quads force. Even with such measures, the moderate Iranian leadership is trying to create linkages with European capitalists created by the nuclear deal they negotiated with the West. The idea is that Iran should be “self-reliant and self-sufficient” since it has strong bilateral relationships with Russia, China, and a “remarkable number of European countries.” As Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, recently put it, there is an opportunity of strong relations between Iran and Europe, with creation of “indigenous technology using international advanced technology.” The Iranians also likely see such linkages as a way to partially deter some of the effects of sanctions imposed on them. Some capitalists, like the French, have jumped at the bit. Just recently, Total S.A., a French oil giant, signed a 20 year contract with Iran, with an “estimated cost of 2 billion US dollars.” This would result in 30 wells, 2 offshore platforms, and two pipelines as part of the Iranian Petroleum Contract (IPC) they signed with the Iranian government.

Even with Iran’s moves to court Western European capitalists, there are evident challenges. For one, Trump is continuing to push for “regime change” in Iran, dismantle the “Obama-era balance of power” and return to anti-Iran policies of Bush II. This isn’t much of a surprise since his foreign policy team is filled with Iran hawks, those who want to be more aggressive toward the country. Additionally, there are individuals like the chain-smoking, brutish, covert to Islam, whose name is “Mike Roger” when undercover and nicknamed “Ayatollah Mike.” [11] His full name is Michael D’Andrea. He is leading the anti-Iran campaign but previously ran the drone program, is brash, and was involved in the illegal torture program. [12] As one person quoted, in the CIA propaganda-filled New York Times, says, this is a sign of an “aggressive line toward Iran.”

For having a man who is a Muslim (converted because his wife was Muslim) leading a covert effort to undermine (and ultimately topple) a government rooted, bourgeois liberals and progressives will likely scream “intersectionality!” In reality, it is just imperialism with a nice bow on it, but the same tactics as before. Nothing has changed in that way at all.

In a recent article in the Monthly Review, Fred Magdoff noted that when corporations of “leading capitalist states have problems abroad,” they use the international structure they helped shape, also working to create “more favorable conditions at home and abroad to increase their flexibility and ability to make profits with the fewest restraints” evidenced by thirty CEOs of major US corporations visiting “Saudi Arabia with Trump.” He adds that economic elites and corporations use the power “of their home nation to secure advantages globally” with the nation state’s power of a “significant use to capital” with corporations, no matter the historical era, using “whatever leverage is at their disposal…to get their way,” to gain access to “foreign markets and investment opportunities.”

What Magdoff writes has relevance for the geopolitical position and relation of Iran, Syria, Russia, and the United States, to name a few international “actors” at the current time. Each of these countries has their respective bourgeoisie. For Iran and Syria, their national bourgeoisie is revolutionary in character. Specifically for Iran, this bourgeoisie, especially the reformist faction, is trying to entice European capitalists to invest in their country in order to become “self-sufficient” and create their own products. The principalist or “hardline” faction seems to not be fundamentally opposed to the prospect of self-development, as they support investment, but they are wary of Western influence from capitalists of Europe (mostly) since the involvement of Western international capitalist combines had a role in the overthrow of Mohammad Mossedegh in 1953 and were part of the pillaging of their country up until the victory of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The reformist faction, which was reinforced by the recent election in Iran’s populace, seems to be in a current truce with the “hardline” faction, the latter of which wants a “revolutionary economy” as Ayatollah Khomeini puts it, but does not oppose privatization, for example. The Western capitalists are salivating at the opportunity for a new market with US companies likely furious about the new sanctions since this closes markets for them, inadvertently giving the Europeans a head start in this new market, benefiting them and isolating the United States. Iran needs capital for its self-development, but accepting this capital means that Western capitalists will be able to use the “universal whore, the universal pimp of peoples,” money, as Karl Marx once described it, to try and corrupt Iranian society to make it more consumerist, accepting more and more Western values. [13] If that ultimately happens, then the Iranian Revolution will have failed and capitalism will be triumphant in Iran.

Like Iran, Syria has a national bourgeoisie. Stephen Gowans can say that Syria is a socialist state, saying that they follow the confines of “Arab socialism.” While you could argue, like Gowans that that this is correct, more realistically, the state is socially democratic and secular. Hence, they have a national bourgeoisie. But, they are dedicated to progressive principles (anti-Zionist and anti-imperialist for example) and independence from Western influence. As a result, the Syrian leadership courts the Russian capitalists, along with those of other friendly countries like socialist Cuba, so that they can build their economy since they are under attack from reactionary religious terrorists backed by Gulf and Western states. As Karl Marx wrote in 1844,

“…it is precisely the ability of the capitalist to direct his capital elsewhere which either drives the worker into starvation or forces him to submit to the capitalist’s demands” [14]

In the case of Syria, unlike Iran, they do not desire normalization with the West at this time but rather seek to build alliances, to be part of what Ahmad Sa’adat, imprisoned General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), once called the “international left alliance.” Still, they are affected by competition among capitalists, as this influenced policies of those countries which are attacking them.

As for Russia, it is an interesting case. It is clearly capitalist, but it also has a progressive foreign policy. Partially this policy was forced on it by “isolation” pushed upon it by the US, but also due to its effort of building alliances with those countries under harsh attack by the murderous empire. Still, we cannot forget the Russian oligarchs, who are the Russian bourgeoisie. Even so, they are not like the US in interfering in the affairs of other countries, seeming to follow the principle that sovereignty is the “essence of the state” and that the sovereignty of the leader is based on the people since the “political state is…only a self-determination of the people.” [15] They are, as was noted by the Workers World Party at discussion at the Left Forum earlier this year, wanna be imperialists. Rome, and now the murderous empire, along with competing neo-colonial Western capitalistic states, treats “conquered countries….as private property.” [16] Russia, even if you said that it “conquered” Crimea, which it didn’t since there was a referendum where the people of the peninsula voted to be part of the Russian Federation, is not treating this area or any other area under their influence as their “private property.” Due to US restrictions and that of Russophobic European capitalist states, their markets are limited, so their imperialistic tendencies have not been developed as of yet. If these restrictions were lifted they would become a semi-imperialist state.

The murderous empire has “re-positioned” itself when it comes to Syria, and states associated with it, but as noted in this article, the goals remain the same. This was indicated in a recent speech by Vice President Mike Pence who bemoaned the “grave and growing threat posed by the missile capabilities of dangerous regimes in North Korea and Iran” and noted that Trump called on Russia to “cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and to cease its support for hostile regimes like North Korea and Iran.” If this sentiment is held by numerous other policymakers in the echelons of the intelligence and military establishments, which it likely is, it means they see Russia as the “puppetmaster,” directing other countries like Iran and Syria. This could not be farther from the truth. Both Iran and Syria have self-interested and justified reasons for their amiable relations with Russia” to counter the aggression of the murderous empire.

As those who care about the world around us, whether we are communists, socialists, or radicals of any flavor, we should recognize what Marx said in September 1843: “nothing prevents us from…taking sides in politics…we simple show the world the way it is struggling and…[push for] the reform of consciousness.” [17] If we can take that to heart, standing in international solidarity with Iran, Syria, and Russia, even though each of these countries has a national bourgeoisie, against the murderous empire, that is a step in the right direction. We should take heed from Marx when he says that revolutions are “not made by shame” and arguing that

“A Ship of Fools can perhaps be allowed to drift before the wind for a good while; but it will drift to its doom precisely because the fools refuse to believe it possible. This doom is the approaching revolution.” [18]

While Marx was talking about Germany in March 1843, this sentiment applies to the present. The capitalists and their lackeys, imperialists of any character, of the murderous empire are the “fools” and they can be usurped by a revolution. In closing, we should believe it possible to engage in such actions to undermine (and ultimately overthrow) the capitalist class wherever, whether in the core, the periphery, and semi-periphery, standing in solidarity, in whatever way we can, with those fighting against the beast of capitalism.

Notes

[1] Anti-Assad is in quotation marks because that is how they are framed, although the Syrian government is much more than just Bashar Al-Assad, who was duly re-elected, like the rest of the government last year.

[2] Greg Jaffe and Adam Entous, “Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move sought by Moscow,” Washington Post, July 19, 2017.

[3] BBC News, “Syria war: Trump ‘ends CIA arms programme for rebels’,” July 20, 2017.

[4] John Wolcott, “Trump ends CIA arms support for anti-Assad Syria rebels – US officials,” Reuters, July 19, 2017.

[5] Dahila Nehme, “Syria says US halting aid to rebels is step toward ending war,” Reuters, July 25, 2017.

[6] Reuters, “US builds two air bases in Kurdish-controlled north Syria: Kurdish report,” Mar. 6, 2016.

[7] Roy Gutman, “Turkey Leaks Secret Locations of U.S. Troops in Syria,” The Daily Beast, July 19, 2017.

[8] Andrew deGrandpre, “An Iranian ship refused to heed the Navy’s warning. Then shots were fired,” Washington Post, July 25, 2017.

[9] Neil MacFarquhar, “Putin, Responding to Sanctions, Orders US to Cut Diplomatic Staff by 755,” New York Times, July 30, 2017.

[10] It is clearly not a big “conspiracy” as they might think it is.

[11] Greg Miller, “CIA official who directed hunt for bin Laden is being removed from post,” Washington Post, Mar. 25, 2015.

[12] Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo, “Deep Support in Washington for C.I.A.’s Drone Missions,” New York Times, Apr. 25, 2015; Matthew Rosenburg and Adam Goldman, “C.I.A. Names the ‘Dark Prince’ to Run Iran Operations, Signaling a Tougher Stance,” New York Times, June 2, 2017.

[13] Karl Marx, “Money” within 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, which is part of Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 377. On page 295, also within the “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts,” Marx describes capital as the power to command labor and products, and stored up labor.

[14] Karl Marx, “Wages of Labor” within 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, which is part of Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 283.

[15] Karl Marx, “Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State” in 1843 within Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 82, 85, 89.

[16] Ibid, 179.

[17] Marx’s letter to Ruge in September 1843 within the Franco-German Yearbooks and part of Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 208-209.
[18] Marx’s letter to Ruge in March 1843 within the Franco-German Yearbooks and part of Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 200.

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Naomi Klein “resists” Trump by embracing bourgeois progressive politics

Sampled from her Twitter on August 4, 2017.

Recently, I read Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. It is a relatively quick read, only 273 pages long, much shorter than her This Changes Everything book a few years back. Even so, it has thirteen chapters, a conclusion, a postscript, and an introduction.

In the introduction to the book sets the theme: that Trump is applying “shock politics” to the US, trying to pull off a “domestic shock doctrine” against public institutions and “public interest.” She goes on to describe Trump’s reactionary advisers like Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner while claiming there is a “corporate takeover” in DC (there is actually a long trend of corporate control in America, so it’s not something new), with Trump forming a brand in and of himself. She, of course, stops short of calling Trump fascist, only describing him as anti-“democratic” (relying on the idea of bourgeois democracy) and drawing parallels to policies in Greece, after Hurricane Katrina, in Baghdad after 2003, and in Britain, which resemble “Trumpism.” As she states clearly, her book’s argument is that Trump is a culmination of the “worst trends” of the 20th century that have “used race as a weapon to advance brutal economic policies,” pioneered by Milton Friedman, and other “market fundamentalists.” She also seems optimistic, calling for “change so fundamental that today’s corporate takeover will be relegated to a historical footnote,” although the “change” she later explicates is not even close to being “fundamental,” challenging the Trump superbrand, as she puts it.

After a lackluster introduction with broad vagueness, Klein has a chapter that focuses on Trump the brand, noting that Trump won because of the electoral college, not the popular vote, with his victory as a “shock.” She adds that there is a “surge of authoritarian, xenophobic, far-right politics” in France, India, the Philippines, UK, and Turkey, implying that the morally corrupt socially democratic politics in the West is a “solution.” Also her usage of useless words like “authoritarian” which is often used to shame countries deemed as “communist” or “socialist,” regardless of whether they are or not, means that she is legitimizing this word as speech that’s fine, showing her lack of comprehension in this realm, to say the least. She goes on to talk about Trump’s “cabinet of billionaires and multibillionaires” like it something new (it’s not), and acts like Bernie Sanders was a savior who made Wall Street shake, celebrates “concessions” to Black Lives Matter and the “climate movement” by political elites. She further adds that Trump’s election is part of a backlash against social movements, with a supposed “takeover” benefiting capitalists and removing environmental protections, for example. Apart from this claptrap which shows that she does not have understanding for how the capitalist state functions, and had changed over time, is a part about branding. She writes that starting in the 1980s companies like Nike and Apple, among many others, believes their fortunes were in branding with the concept that an idea or brand surrounding a company can connect with consumers, tying to a “profound human desire to be part of…a circle of belonging.” As a result, the product became (and was part of) the brand, meaning that this brand could be projected into “seemingly unconnected physical commodities.” Hence, products were produced at low price by subcontractors and contractors, with horrid work conditions in sweatshops. As a result, capitalist combines everywhere engaged in a brutal “race to the bottom” with complex supply chains involving contractors. As for Trump, after he had been a real estate developer for years he branded “high-end real estate” which could be a “single global luxury brand,” which was boosted by his show, The Apprentice, gaining revenue from “Trump-branded properties” with leasing his name, pulling in the dollars. When anyone noted horrible conditions his products were created in, the Trump Organization shrugged them off, defending a brand that “stands for wealth” itself, making this part of the reason scandals don’t stick to him: he plays by the “rules of branding” as Klein writes.

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

The second chapter promises to find ways to pierce “Trump’s brand bubble.” After noting how Trump’s presidency made the Trump “family of brands more valuable,” including those of Ivanka and Melania, she notes that cities and companies pay millions to “lease the Trump brand.” It is at this point she says that Bill and Killary spent decades blurring ethical lines” at the Clinton Foundation even as she basically says that Trump is worse. It is not beyond belief to think this about Bill & Killary Clinton, and Trump have destructive and exploitative brands. But Klein will not consider this possibility, shrugging it off by omission. The chapter is ended by her saying that Trump embodies Reagan (a former actor), briefly says that “the system is corrupt,” noting the rules of Democrats such as Bill Clinton and Obama, and then moving onto Trump’s “personal brand,” claiming that making Trump look “like a puppet” “jams” “The Trump Show.” So using the fake, deceptive, and worthless “Russia connection,” first concocted during the campaign by Killary Clinton’s camp, to call Trump “Putin’s Puppet” weakens his brand? This doesn’t even make sense in the slightest. Additionally, she is sidelining the reality: that Obama set the foundation for Trump. With over 2 million deported, continuing mass incarceration, and drone strikes, among other horrid elements of his “legacy,” the fascism of Trump had a comfortable breeding ground when he was inaugurated on January 21, 2017.

The following chapter is similarly about Trump’s branding. It talks about the structure of a show like The Apprentice, how it applies to “income inequality,” connects to his books, and notes that he brought “reality TV expertise to electoral politics,” which means that the “Trump show is now broadcasting live from the Oval Office.” With that, Trump made promises on the campaign trail (like every politician these days) which he won’t fulfill and edits “reality to fit his narrative.” Klein briefly talks about “progressive messaging” by Justin Trudeau in Canada which dazzled people, and “carefully crafted symbols” by the Obama administration to move the conversation away from discussion about the destruction he caused. Once again, she engages in another oversight. As the Wrong Kind of Green folks have notes, Obama is/was a brand, and so is Trudeau. She seems to forget what she wrote in 2009: that a “superfan culture…brought Obama to power” saying that we are “all going to have to stop hoping and start demanding.” Add to this that as even Noam Chomsky pointed out, Obama is a brand, who won the “highest advertising campaign accolade and attracted unprecedented sums of money” as also noted by John Pilger.

“Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products…we are being duped”- Chris Hedges in a May 2009 article

To close out the chapter, she notes that Trump is pushing for more war (which is continuing the warmongering that Obama engages in, expanding upon the foundation left by Bush, Clinton, and predecessors going back years), making it a “spectacle,” just like the Gulf War in 1990 and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. As Deirdre Griswold remarked recently in Worker’s World, “imperialist diplomacy has the same objective as imperialist war. If negotiations are to take place, either openly or secretly, the DPRK will have to weigh every word very carefully before agreeing to anything with the treacherous and arrogant bunch of marauders who run the U.S. government.”  She ends by saying that Trump’s rise to victory in the election last year was fueled by a “decline of communal institutions and the expansion of corporate brands” in US culture as a whole.

“From its origins in the nineteenth century Industrial Revolution, fossil capital has developed into a monstrous complex generating multiple biospheric crises, including climate change. To head off a catastrophic warming of the atmosphere, it will be necessary to de-fossilize the global economy over the next several decades. The growth of fossil fuel use must stop now, followed by absolute reductions of carbon emissions to near zero levels by sometime later in the twenty-first century. Nothing less is acceptable if we want a livable planet for the majority of humanity and other species. Such a transition has been shown to be, physically speaking, quite feasible…Unfortunately, under mature capitalism things are not done according to human needs, environmental sustainability, or common sense. Both economically and politically, this system is dominated by monopoly-finance capital (MFC) and its state functionaries. Two basic facts must be noted here. First, MFC’s ideology and policy program are both constituted by neoliberalism (deregulation, privatization, and anti-union policies—in short, market fundamentalism—combined with militarism and imperialism). Second, MFC is inextricably tied to the fossil-capital complex. It follows from these two facts that at this point in history, de-fossilizing the economy means overthrowing MFC power and moving toward a worker-community controlled economy, socialism.”- Paul Burkett

The fourth chapter changes focus to the climate. After giving a personal story about her child and the Great Barrier Reef, along with her work for The Guardian, she notes how Rex Tillerson led ExxonMobil through increased drilling as CEO. She, however, also notes that one crisis is not more important than the other but that climate change is a current emergency, with Killary having a “web of corporate entanglements” that needs to be questioned while Trump seems to deny climate change as he supports more fossil fuel extraction. In framing Trump, she makes Trump out as the destructor rather than recognizing he is not doing this from scratch but on a basis formed by Obama’s faux environmentalism with a “Clean Power Plan” and supposedly “stopping” Keystone XL and a pipeline going through Standing Rock, when he was actually just appeasing social movements, engaging in “good-natured” deception. This was able have so much influence that if Obama approved the Keystone XL pipeline, the “letdown from the high expectation levels built on the many protests would be devastating to the morale and energy of the movement.” Additionally, he was able to strongarm Gang Green to be silent on climate change, the same groups that framed his issuing of “production permits were issued to oil and gas corporations for drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, both onshore and offshore” as responsible, especially the Sierra Club, and NRDC, meaning that they were cheering “Obama…eagerly bringing the total destruction of our planet’s climate and ecosystems.” Avoiding this discussion, Klein notes that many across the world are demanding “real action on climate change” (whatever that means), that Trump is pushing through varied cuts to the EPA which she says serves people of color (she seems to forget the arguments by Robert Ballard and others that the EPA has engaged in environmental racism), that prices determine which areas are drilled for fossil fuels, and that people don’t understand what neoliberalism [1] is. She then gives a tepid endorsement of “socialism” (which doesn’t mean anything radical to her), and calls for public sector investments on a large scale, which she says is more than just “tweak[ing] the existing system.” She says this despite the fact that her approaches are clearly just another “tweak” of the capitalist system.

Her next chapter notes how she is a “Berniecrat,” saying that Bernie was “the only candidate…serious about battling income inequality and taking on the banks.” [2] She also says that many establishment Democrats haven’t learned their lesson (only worried about Russian hacking now), that Trump spoke to the “economic panic” some whites faced with the idea that the election was a backlash pushed by some sexism toward Killary, with sexual abuse by “the men who surround Trump.” She says that the many voted for Trump were not among the Black and Latino populations most effected by “neoliberal policies” but were white men are losing their economic security and privilege. This doesn’t explain, however, why white women voted more for Trump than Clinton, but it cold be explains due to male dominated households, and/or that they also felt their privilege as white people was slipping. Klein continues her chapter by purposely framing social services as “entitlements” (why concede this to the right-wing?) in order to argue in favor of them, saying that “the stupid economics of neoliberalism” lost Clinton the election, again ignoring Clinton’s brand by only pointing out “Clinton’s brand of identity politics,” and talking about the “tweak[ing of] the system” to lead people of color, other genders, and sexual orientations to “the top,” with justice “to trickle down to everyone else,” which doesn’t work. G. William Domhoff noted this some time ago, but she seems to not even note his work, yet another oversight on her part. Even so, she remarks that it was “important that a generation of kids grew up seeing Obama in the most powerful office of the world.” I do not understand why, realistically this is important, with Black entertainers and politicians already, as his Black face seems just be an invitation to internalize neoliberal values with a happy face. [3] She also adds that we have to recognize how “forms of oppression intersect” (the idea of intersectionality that no progressives actually follow) as manifested in “racial capitalism” as noted by Cedric Robinson, citing another bourgeois progressive scholar named Michelle Alexander, a prison reformer, and talking about Reagan’s role in stirring up White resentment against people of color, with Trump having a role of this by calling for the return of the death penalty to execute the Central Park Five. The chapter ends by saying that white supremacy and fascism has a good breeding ground because of economic stresses, that Trump’s election should not be watered down to one or two causes since Trump (and associated forces) attack on many fronts.

The chapter after that focuses on varying topics. The first aspect is union leaders who embraced Trump who planned for more energy extraction and his bluff he will negotiate “better” deals, which will actually be “better” for him and “his corporate empire,” the capitalist class, with a “race to the bottom” for such trade deals. Even, reportedly, in a renegotiation of NAFTA will be the incorporation of horrible elements of the TPP. She did note that some union members stood up to Trump in an area he spoke, and that much of the “political battleground has been ceded by liberals to the Right.” After giving her personal experience as involved in social movements, she noted that while the movement was standing to win, the September 2001 attacks led to “shock” with the movement’s participants under attack, with those who remained active engaging in “thin and tactical” demands rather than more expansive ones. Adding to this are the facts that these demands may remove the necessary focus on the right-wing, fueling the “growth of far-right parties around the world,” with a supposed “progressive anti-free trade coalition” which is, as she won’t admit, bourgeois in character and “populist,” including those like socially democratic imperialist Bernie Sanders. In the last part of the chapter, she notes how the “super rich” like Oprah, Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk, can’t save us (despite what Ralph Nader argued), with “elite liberals” looking to a sector of the capitalist class, which she calls the “billionaire class” or the “Davos class.” It is this class which is “horrified by the Trump presidency” even though those in this group share many ideas with Trump as she places hope in “progressives” to speak about the “grotesque levels of inequality,” and that we have to “save ourselves.”

In a recent statement against torture, Sanders accepted imperial precepts, basically saying that the US is “great” and worrying about helping our “enemies.” Hence, his argument against torture is not progressive but is actually an imperialist one.

In the next chapter she again professes her support (or “love”?) of Bernie Sanders. While she says she doesn’t like candidate endorsements, she thought that Bernie “had a shot at beating Hillary Clinton” (no he didn’t), calling him a person with “genuine warmth and without personal malice,” what she claims is a “transformative option on the ballot,” although Bernie is farm from it. To be frank, she is being a cheerleader of Bernie, supporting HIS brand, now channeled through “Our Revolution” groups and his persona as inflated in bourgeois progressive media. Of course she doesn’t say she is supporting the brand, only praising him by saying that he showed that “populist” leftist positions were popular, “understanding” why people of color, women, and other marginalized people didn’t support him, citing Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michelle Alexander as “evidence.” She ends the chapter by saying that Trump won because of the “absence of a progressive alternative” (was Bernie this at all?) and that there needs to be a “radical political and economic change” whatever she means by that. It is interesting that Klein keeps changing the stated reasons why Trump won, as noted in previous paragraphs, making one wonder if she believes all of them are causes or only some of them.

Chapter 8 returns the focus to Trump. After talking about Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath of the Iraq invasion (Paul Bremmer, Dick Cheney, the Green Zone, and all), she notes that “shock tactics” follow a pattern in which a crisis is fomented (or waited or) with a moment when “extraordinary measures” are declared, some “democratic norms” are suspended, and a “corporate wishlist” is rammed through very quickly. She notes that this happened in Chile, Russia, Detroit, Flint, and many other places since the early 1970s. She notes that most neoliberal policies are unpopular apart from cutting “red tape” in theory and tax cuts (for the “middle class” or lower), which is done fast, with cover for “neoliberal political transformations” because of “radical political transitions” (which really aren’t radical), with crises exploited. Trump, as Klein puts it, embraces “shock doctrine logic” (referring to her 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine), with his philosophy of being a winner, extracting from those who suffer like a vampire. The idea of what she calls “disaster capitalism” is embodied in his cabinet in every possibly way, with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as a blueprint, the idea of what “we” can expect from Trump apparently. It is in this context she calls Muammar Gaddafi a “despised dictator,” without elaborating. While criticism of Gaddafi is warranted, especially when it comes to his relations with the West, calling him a dictator shows she doesn’t understand international solidarity and has internalized imperialistic logic. As Commie Dad writes,

“Qaddafi was ousted after a set of imperialist-backed rebels launched a racist campaign to topple a revolutionary government in North Africa, which succeeded precisely because of NATO’s assistance. He died beaten, broken, sodomized, tortured, and executed in a muddy sewage pipe without trial…The DPRK did not suffer the same fate as Libya precisely because it did not disarm [which some say opened up to invasion]”

Her next chapter follows a similar format. It starts by focusing on those who profited off Hurricane Katrina, cites Omidyar’s plaything, The Intercept, uncritically, says that having a “state of emergency” after a disaster, like Trump would want, is not unprecedented: the Conservative government of the UK did this after attacks in March 2017 and the French government of social democratic Francois Hollande did this in 2015. She goes on to note Trump’s closeness to Eric Prince of Blackwater and its mercenaries, how Trump’s policies help ISIS (is that purposeful?), and that countries like Syria and the DPRK are targets. Again she doesn’t even try to reject imperialistic propaganda about the two countries, implying that Syria committed chemical attacks (inadvertently playing into propaganda of the White Helmets) and that the DPRK, which she calls “North Korea,” is somehow menacing. She shows this in the rest of the chapter, talking about Exxon, citing a person she even defines as a “right-wing, Ukrainian-born British [oil] businessman,” Alexander Temerko uncritically, calling Vladimir Putin a “strongman” and basically an imperialist. She also doesn’t even try to defend Venezuela, which she only briefly describes as an oil-dependent country. It is much more than that, it is a place that exercises popular democracy, a beacon for those who want a better world as Commie Dad argued, just like Cuban socialism. Even so, Klein does not that antiwar action should be paired with “averting climate chaos,” notes how removing Obama’s tepid economic reforms, specifically Dodd-Frank, will lead to disaster, with varied descriptions of “shocks” and Trump’s reactions, with people in luxury building shelters to protect themselves or “Green Zones” while the rest of the world are unprotected and vulnerable or “Red Zones.” In the last part of the chapter she treats the “Syrian uprising” in 2011 as legitimate (although it wasn’t), talks about where drone strikes have occurred, along with a “dramatic rise in right-wing nationalism anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, and straight-up white supremacy,” adding that we have it “in our power to change ourselves,” engage in “shock resistance.”

Her next chapter focuses on the failure of the “shock doctrine” as she calls it. She talks about the Trump administration strategy to “overwhelm their adversaries” with a multipronged attack, how Argentina said no to neoliberalism even though political changes were “far from utopian,” how Spain did the same during the Iraq war, and the fact that “past traumatic events” in US history were broadly misunderstood. From here, she focuses on resistance to Trump from groups across various movements and lauds the Women’s March not critiquing its neoliberal elements as Feminist Current did at the time, especially its pro-prostitution position, with a lot of hype. She further says there is a “spirit of unity” among anti-Trump forces, specifically against his Muslim ban (and in favor of “sanctuary cities” which are not all they claim to be), supporting science (and new activists among students of all types), donors to Planned Parenthood, and other protests across the world against neoliberalism. She floats the thought that many activist relationships made now will be strong enough during a state of emergency (we’ll see about that). It is clear that she seems to laud the “Indivisible Guide” despite the fact it is defensive in nature and basically copies Tea Party tactics, and praises the March for Science despite the fact it was mostly dominated by bourgeois science. Again, her argument clearly lacking in Marxist theory and analysis, showing she is not thinking critically in a holistic manner and is totally embracing bourgeois progressivism.

The chapter following this focuses on resistance to “shock” tactics and how Obama supposedly did good (really?) but abandoned many opportunities as a time for change. She admits that in 2009, “too many of us were waiting for change to be delivered on high” with the “us” undoubtedly including herself. In 2008 she called for Obama to denounce Islamophobia, but also took Obama at his word that he would “purge Washington of the scourge of Friedmanism,” although she said he had “ideological housecleaning of his own to do,” and seemed to support Obama’s idea of a “promise of change” warily. She quickly summarizes US history of destruction, exploitation, and genocide, lauding progressive “public policy,” not remembering that Social Security was crafted by corporate moderates. She seems to recognize that radicals and social movements in the past and that the New Deal was used by Roosevelt to “save capitalism” in order to “prevent full-scale revolution,” with the saving of capitalism almost seeming as a necessity to her. Revolution of the type they had in mind seems foreign to her, even as she recognizes that many programs were used to blunt popular movements. The chapter is ended by talking about the struggle against neoliberalism and how social movements should be about “yes” instead of just “no” (why so reductionist?).

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

Her next to last chapter focuses on Standing Rock. While she completely describes the struggle against the Dakota Access pipeline, a perspective that fully understands indigenous history, connecting with genocidal policies against them is lacking, only briefly mentioned. The chapter is instead just a recounting of the resistance at Standing Rock, relating it to other struggles as she uses racist words like “tribe” instead of group or nation. She ends the chapter by almost casting Obama’s administration as heroes for rejecting the pipeline through Standing Rock, although his administration just declared that “things are on hold at Lake Oahe until the powers that be think it through some more” giving people the “illusion of victory” as Kelly Hayes argued. In contrast she casts Trump as a villain for allowing the pipeline to go through Standing Rock. This is inaccurate as the reality is that Trump AND Obama were villains, each in their own way.

Her last chapter declares that a major “transformative change” needs to happen (which is just empty rhetoric). She cites a story of political discussions in Canada, how Black and Brown people being killed is connected to climate change, how those who “use and abuse” women’s bodies” is connected with the notion that humans can “do the same thing to the earth,” what she calls a “dominance-based logic.” She could have taken this to the next step, calling for an end to speciesism, endorsement of some level of animal rights or such, but she didn’t do so, of course. Klein adds that there needs to be more than modesty, a “people’s shock,” with a “grand economic and political transition” with the description of what went into creating their magical Leap Manifesto. This is the same document that is part of the “marketed and branded opposition to capitalism” with opposition limited to certain forms of capitalism like “Crony capitalism” , “corporate capitalism” and “the excesses of capitalism” which were used by “Avi Lewis for Klein’s NGO campaign, “The Leap Manifesto”” with anti-capitalist expression become “hallowed” out, to say the least. She also says that an “economy built on destruction” should be replaced “with an economy built on love.” So, we should have “loving” capitalism then? How will that be any better? After going on about how the manifesto was made, specifics not worth noting here, she says that people can “save themselves” and remains optimistic about social movements, mainly to county Trump and his policies. She even notes that the “center-left” New Democratic Party in Canada passed a resolution to “endorse the spirit of the Leap Manifesto,” making it clear it is bourgeois and milquetoast, regardless of what Klein says about it.

Screenshot from the Soviet animated film “Mr. Wolf”

Finally there is her conclusion. She says that Trump should be a shock at all, with more horror at Trump than shock, seeing his presidency as a “dystopian fiction come to life,” implying that she still doesn’t fully grasp the reality, and saying that Trump is the “logical culmination of the current neoliberal system.” Her solution? Say no and fiercely protect “some space to dream and plan for a better world.” That sounds pretty worthless to me, especially the dreaming part. She also says we should kill out “inner Trump” with which we see “ourselves as brands in the marketplace…as rival products competing for market share,” joining those who “shame and attack those who disagreement with us. She ends by saying that centrist parties aren’t the solution but apparently bourgeois progressives are (they aren’t), that the “spell of neoliberalism has been broken,” pushing for a “plank in a true people’s platform,” and resisting what she claims is a “corporate coup.”

Ending her book is a postscript titled “The Leap Manifesto.” The document calls for respecting inherent rights of indigenous communities, “fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” the idea that there should be “energy democracy,” and that indigenous peoples should receive “public support for clean energy projects” as should communities dealing with health impacts from “polluting industrial activity.” This manifesto also calls for building of energy-efficient homes, retrofitting existing housing (starting with the poor), training for workers in carbon-intensive jobs for a “clean energy economy,” renewable-powered high-speed rail, “affordable public transit,” investing in decaying public infrastructure, and moving to a “more localized and ecologically based agricultural system.” Other demands include ending corporate-friendly trade deals, ensuring immigration status, and protection for workers, expanding low-carbon sectors of the economy, having a national childcare program, and universal basic income. The last parts of the manifesto reject austerity as a concept, push for end to fossil fuel subsidies, vow support for any policy based on the “polluter pays” principle, calling for town hall meetings across the country, and moving to a system where all votes county while “corporate money is removed from political campaigns.” While this may be more than those on Canada’s political scene are offering (I hope there is something more radical), it is very constrained. It could be said to be “bold” but it is definitely NOT revolutionary as it is abstracted from social movements, revolutionary struggle or international solidarity.

There are a few words I have to say before closing out this article, Klein makes a good point about Trump as a brand but misses many other points because of her bourgeois progressivism. The major point she misses is obvious: she IS a brand. She is among the “heat vampire” including celebrated bourgeois progressives, like Rebecca Solnit and Chris Hayes, that Tarzie wrote about. As Luke Orsbourne wrote in December 2015, she had an “enormous following…best selling books, and perhaps most glaringly, the megaphone and media attention the Guardian had just given her to write her own piece of acquiescence,” condemning climate change marchers outside COP 21 that year, just like 350.org and others. Others added that her book slogan, for This Changes Everything, was “used to advance capital” which was pushed by the Ford Foundation and The Rockefeller Brothers Fund and that she is part of a brand called 350.org/1Sky, which used the Obama brand in their anti-KXL campaign logo, allowing there to be a “pro-Obama, pro-Democrat veneer” to their logo, with their campaign reinforcing the illusion that “change” is still in front of us, reinforcing the thirst in society for “lies that enable the populace to continue to ignore reality…[and] disregard our collective role in it.”

The book itself, with the title “No Is Not Enough” on an orange background, with the letters in white except the word Not (in red) with praises from Arundhai Roy, Noam Chomsky, Junot Diaz, Michelle Alexander, Cornel West, Bill McKibben, Yanis Varovfakis, Michael Stripe, Keeanga Yamatitta Taylor, Danny Glover, and Eve Ensler. Could there not be a bigger panoply of (mostly) bourgeois progressives, some of whom have their own brands consisting of themselves? [4] Hence, Klein herself is a brand “in the marketplace” as was alluded to earlier in this article, and is part of a bigger brand: Haymarket Books. Sure, they sell book of “radical” and progressive authors, but they engaging in branding, just like Verso Books. As was noted in a recent article,

“Today, brands, ideologies, and even invasions of sovereign states, achieve authenticity through association. Thus, celebrity has become as vital a tool for empire as the NGO itself. Together they are akin to nuclear fusion…Today’s 21st century powerhouse NGOs have proven successfully that hate can be neutralized, and even be turned into adoration, as demonstrated by Avaaz co-founder, MoveOn.org. In a world of make-believe where lies are preferred over truth, charismatic warmongers of the past (Barack Obama) are embraced while vulgar warmongers in the present (Donald Trump) are crucified among the allegedly “unbiased left”. Branding supersedes reality straight across the board”

Furthermore, the organization she is part of, 350.org, is branding to the max, which is interesting considering it is not mentioned AT ALL in this book, apart from the dust jacket. The book itself is a product, a commodity to put in more evident terms. How can Klein not recognize she is a brand? The same goes for Matt Taibbi, Edward Snowden, Michelle Alexander, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and Chris Hedges, to name a few. These members of the “celebrity left,” as some have called it, are not the only brands. Bourgeois progressive media like Truthdig, Democracy Now!, Mother Jones, and the Nation, foundations like the Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and non-profits like Public Citizen are all brands. This lack of understanding shows that while Klein is knowledgeable, she is lacking radicalism, and is, for all her rhetoric, fine with regulated capitalism, while she does not engage in international solidarity. Hence, she falls into the category of those who “brand ourselves as moral citizens standing in unity with Indigenous nations” while maintaining capitalism, the same people who are willfully blind “to the Bakken frack oil,” and are not aware of how “Obama’s move into WWF headquarters…could be an acceleration of the implementation of payments for ecosystems services…by the world’s most powerful institutions and states.” This is a book she in which she only mentions Marx in passing and never uses any of his idea or that of Marxists to form her understanding of ANYTHING. In the end, we can read Klein’s claptrap if we want to (I don’t recommend it) but we should always remember she is a brand, a commodity, and a “heat vampire.”

 

Notes

[1] She defines neoliberalism as an “extreme form of capitalism…shorthand for an economic project that vilifies the public sphere and anything that’s not…the workings of the market or the decisions of individual consumers…the primary tools of this project are…privatization…deregulation…cuts to public services…[and] corporate-friendly trade deals.”

[2] She claims that “if the Right specializes in turning backward, the Left specializes in turning inward and firing at each other in a circular hail of blame.” So there aren’t internal conflicts on the Right? This is a very pessimistic view to say the least, even if she is right ultimately.

[3] As Ajamu Baraka wrote in 2015, “…the lack of moral outrage and opposition to the reactionary policies of Barack Obama is changing and will change even more rapidly as the new generation of black activists shift the center of oppositional politics back to the radical black tradition.”

[4] The Michelle Alexander Brand, the Bill McKibben Brand, the Eve Ensler Brand, and the Noam Chomsky Brand for example.

The immigrant proletariat, the Muslim ban, and the capitalist class

Editor’s note: This piece was originally written on February 1, 2017 so it is outdated in some respects, but broadly still valid. This is reposted from Dissident Voice.

The Trump administration has dug in its heels, declaring that the 90-day (for now) Muslim ban on refugees, from seven predominantly Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia), enshrined in a January 27th executive order, is just “extreme vetting” and that the media is engaging in “false reporting.” In contrast, hundreds of diplomats have criticized the travel ban, top Democrats have criticized the ban while Republicans like Paul Ryan have said it necessary to protect the “homeland.” Also Jewish groups, over six thousand academics, varying UN agencies, and pro-refugee groups have criticized Trump’s action, along with protests in airports across the country, while immigrants have suffered with more crackdowns to come.

Numerous companies and CEOs have put out critical statements about Trump’s order. This included the top executives of Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, Airbnb, Box, GE, Lyft, Uber (later on), Koch Industries, TripAdvisor, SpaceX/Tesla Motors, JPMorganCase, and Goldman Sachs, most of whom pledged to help their own employees directly affected. [1] Others that spoke out on the ban included the head of the Internet Association, an industry trade group for the Internet industry, with some investors, like Chris Sacca, sending thousands of dollars to the ACLU, just like Lyft, Tim Cook of Apple declaring that “Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do” and Twitter mirroring this by saying “Twitter is built by immigrants of all religions. We stand for and with them, always.” [2] Some exploited the misery of the order by trying to help their bottom line: Airbnb said that it would “provide free housing to detainees and travelers” affected and Starbucks is planning to hire 10,000 refugees “over five years in the 75 countries where it does business,” starting with those people who “have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel.” [3] What seems clear is that the actions of Trump may have crossed a “red line” as Hunter Walk, a partner at the San Francisco-based venture capital firm Homebrew VC, told the Washington Post, indicating possible anti-Trump action by Silicon Valley in the future, as more companies realize it is a “bigger risk to their investors and bottom line to stay quiet than it is to protest Trump’s ban on refugees and travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, betting vocal opposition to the executive order scores them a moral and fiscal victory.” [4]

Such statements mean that the one group that remains constant in opposition to the racist executive order is a sect of the capitalist class. While the recent lawsuits filed in Darweesh v. Trump, Aziz v. Trump, Doe v. Trump, Sarsour v. Trump, San Francisco v. Trump, Louhghalam et al v. Trump, have mainly made constitutional arguments against the racist immigration ban, one suit revealed more about the interests of the capitalist class, especially those in the tech industry. This lawsuit, filed by the Attorney General of the State of Washington, Bob Ferguson, and joined by Expedia and Amazon, among other companies, declared the following, showing how this industry depends on immigrants:

Immigration is an important economic driver in Washington. Many workers in Washington’s technology industry are immigrants, and many of those immigrant workers are from Muslim-majority countries. Immigrant and refugee-owned businesses employ 140,000 people in Washington. Many companies in Washington are dependent on foreign workers to operate and grow their businesses. The technology industry relies heavily on the H-1B visa program through which highly skilled workers like software engineers are permitted to work in the United States. Washington ranks ninth in the U.S. by number of applications for high-tech visas. Microsoft, a corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, is the State’s top employer of high-tech—or H-1B visa holders and employs nearly 5,000 people through the program. Other Washington-based companies, including Amazon, Expedia, and Starbucks, employ thousands of H-1B visa holders. The market for highly skilled workers and leaders in the technology industry is extremely competitive. Changes to U.S. immigration policy that restrict the flow of people may inhibit these companies’ ability to adequately staff their research and development efforts and recruit talent from overseas. If recruiting efforts are less successful, these companies’ abilities to develop and deliver successful products and services may be adversely affected Microsoft’s U.S. workforce is heavily dependent on immigrants and guest workers. At least 76 employees at Microsoft are citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, or Yemen and hold U.S. temporary work visas. There may be other employees with permanent-resident status or green cards. These employees may be banned from re-entering the U.S. if they travel overseas or to the company’s offices in Vancouver, British Columbia. Seattle-based company Amazon also employs workers from every corner of the world. Amazon’s employees, dependents of employees, and candidates for employment with Amazon have been impacted by the Executive Order that is the subject of this Complaint. Amazon has advised such employees currently in the United States to refrain from travel outside the United States. Bellevue-based company Expedia operates a domestic and foreign travel business. At the time of this filing, Expedia has approximately 1,000 customers with existing flight reservations in or out of the United. States who hold passports from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, or Yemen. The Executive Order will restrict business, increase business costs, and impact current employees and customers.

Such a section comprises six paragraphs of Washington State’s argument against the immigration order, a section that the lawsuit depends on to be successful. Immigrants are clearly vital to the tech industry. Of the 250,000 Muslims living in the San Francisco Bay Area, who are mostly of Arab or South Asian descent, many of them work at “companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft.” [5] These immigrants are seen as “essential” to the growth of Silicon Valley, with 37 percent of workers in the area being foreign-born, with immigrants creating “some of America’s biggest tech companies,” like Yahoo, Apple, or Google, and allowing them to survive (and “boom”), since they rely on “talent from abroad to fill positions and to meet their global ambitions.” [6] After all, the “superstars of the high-tech industry are all immigrants” as one article points out.

Since immigrants account for a “significant part of the workforce in the tech industry,” the industry has advocated for looser laws to “increase the flow of skilled immigrants into the U.S.” and is heavily reliant on the H-1B visa program. The program, which started in 2000 with bipartisan support, “allows software engineers and other skilled workers to work in the U.S.,” resulting in their active role in the political arena to push for looser immigration restrictions. [7] Hence, Silicon Valley is afraid of the upcoming immigration restrictions during the Trump administration. This is especially the case since Trump has reportedly drafted an executive order to overhaul the H-1B visa program, which companies depend on so they can “hire tens of thousands of employees each year,” the “talent” they need to thrive, with their support of Trump basically non-existent in the recent presidential campaign. [8]

By the mid-1990s, those who live in the Valley divided “along racial and economic lines” with older and wealthier whites “concentrated in the west Valley,” Latinos have fanned across the floor of the valley, with many of the immigrants poor, bringing with them “crowding and new welfare burdens,” a division that angers many Latinos. [9] In recent years, the immigrant community which undergirds Silicon Valley has been in trouble. [10] With immigrant youth comprising a major portion of “both the population and the workforce in the Silicon Valley,” the Valley had “deep disparities when it comes to the lives of undocumented immigrants,” with such youth facing barriers in accessing education, concentrated in low-wage jobs, and serving as a diverse and “core part of the Silicon Valley community.” Immigrants from the Asian continent, whether Chinese, Filipino, or otherwise, form, as of April 2015, the “largest racial block in Santa Clara County, exceeding the proportion of non-Hispanic white residents for the first time.”

Despite such dependence on immigrants, the tech industry does not treat these employees fairly or justly. One academic report in 2012 says that the stated reasons of the tech industry (lack of study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), rapid technological change, and needing to hire best and brightest workers for “innovations” to occur) cannot be confirmed upon close inspection, leaving cheap labor as “the remaining explanatory factor.” The report goes on to say that legal loopholes allow for foreign workers to be unpaid drastically compared to American-born workers, with many of the workers coming from India, China, and the Philippines, along with other Asian immigrants, comprising from 50-80% of the workforce of top technology companies, with the tech industry claiming a “labor shortage” and lack of talent, although this cannot be supported by existing data. Interestingly, even the conservative media scoffs at the claims of the tech industry, with arch-conservative National Review declaring that work permits “are basically de facto green cards and give the foreign national complete flexibility in the job market” and that the visa program will hurt the middle class (not sure if that’s true) while the similarly aligned FrontPage Magazine questioned the shortage of “high-skilled American labor,” saying that the visa program provides “a supply of lower-wage guest workers.” [11] Of course, they oppose the claims for anti-immigrant reasons and don’t really care about the well-being of immigrant workers in the United States.

Mistreatment of immigrants in Silicon Valley is nothing new. There is no doubt that high-skilled immigrant workers “are being exploited by employers,” with the H1-B visa program benefiting the corporate bottom line, especially providing protection against unions and labor strikes, but hurting the workers. The program itself gives employers great power over workers, allowing them to “hire and fire workers…grant legal immigration status…[or] deport the worker” if they don’t do what they like. In 2014 Wired magazine reported on a study showing that major tech companies (ex: Cisco, Apple, Verizon, Microsoft, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, and Google) have pocketed wages and benefits from workers, especially among new Indian immigrants to the Valley, leading to an “ecosystem of fear” in the area among the workforce. The tech companies collectively withheld at least $29.7 million from such workers, forcing them to pay fees they shouldn’t have to pay, creating a form of indentured servitude, as some called it, where there exists an “underground system of financial bondage by stealing wages and benefits, even suing workers who quit,” making “business and profit by having cheap labor” as one worker put it. [12] This shows that the tech companies are, in their own way, engaging in a form of organized crime against the immigrant proletariat. Such crimes are only part of their business model which includes top Silicon Valley CEOs conspiring in wage-fixing to drive down the wages of 100,000 engineers, ultimately involving one million employees in all.

With the exploitation of the immigrant proletariat, mainly those that are “high-skilled,” by the tech industry, this explains the harsh opposition from Silicon Valley to Trump’s executive order. Without the visa program, the industry would likely collapse or at least be weakened. As for other industries, immigrants are employed in jobs across the US economy, even as they face similar constraints to the native-born poor along with restrictions related to their citizenship status, especially in cities like New York. As a result, it can be said that immigrants ultimately benefit the US economy, even those that are undocumented, and are not a drag on the “native-born” section of the working class, making the country a better place for all, as even free-marketeers and libertarians would admit. [13] This is important to point out with nativists getting a new lease on life under the Trump administration.

As we stand now, the authoritarianism of the Obama administration has increased under Trump’s nightmarish state in regards to immigrants, Muslims killed by drone bombing, and violence supported by the murderous empire across the world, among much more. While we should undoubtedly be critical of bourgeois liberals and bourgeois progressives who claim to have the “answers” and solution to fighting Trump, rejecting their pleas to move the capitalist Democratic Party “more left” to fight the “bad Republicans,” there is no reason to sit idly by. We must get involved in pushing for revolutionary politics by at minimum engaging in actions that show solidarity with the immigrant proletariat, whether documented or undocumented, in the United States. In the end, perhaps we should heed what Homer Simpson declared about immigrants all those years ago:

Most of here were born in America. We take this country for granted. Not immigrants like Apu [who immigrated from India and on a green card], while the rest of are drinking ourselves stupid, they’re driving the cabs that get us home safely. They’re writing the operas that entertain us everyday. They’re training out tigers and kicking our extra points. These people are the glue that holds together the gears of our society. [14]

 

Notes

[1] Nathan Bomey, “Elon Musk to seek CEO consensus on changes to Trump immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 29, 2017; Fredreka Schouten, “Koch network slams Trump immigrant ban,” USA Today, Jan. 29, 2017; Jill Disis, “Starbucks pledges to hire 10,000 refugees,” CNNMoney, Jan. 29, 2017; David Pierson, “Facing Trump’s immigration ban, corporations can’t risk keeping silent,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 31, 2017. As Elon Musk (of Tesla Motors and SpaceX) tried to “seek a consensus” among fellow business CEOs who were affected with the order and trying to work with Trump, Uber changed course from crossing a picket line and profiting from the misery, to condemning Trump’s action as impacting “many innocent people” and the CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, declaring “I’ve…never shied away…from fighting for what’s right,” even as they continue their horrid practices with exploitation of their workforce.

[2] Jessica Guynn and Laura Mandaro, “Microsoft, Uber, Apple, Google: How the tech world responded to Trump’s immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 28, 2017.

[3] Jill Disis, “Starbucks pledges to hire 10,000 refugees,” CNNMoney, Jan. 29, 2017

[4] Brian Fung and Tracy Jan, “Tech firms recall employees to U.S., denounce Trump’s ban on refugees from Muslim countries,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017; David Pierson, “Facing Trump’s immigration ban, corporations can’t risk keeping silent,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 31, 2017; John Ribeiro, “US tech industry says immigration order affects their operations,” CIO, Jan. 29, 2017; Anthony Cuthbertson, “How Silicon Valley Is Fighting Back Against Trump’s Immigration Ban,” Newsweek, Jan. 30, 2017;

Eric Newcomer, “Silicon Valley Finds Its Voice as Immigration Ban Fuels Outrage,” Bloomberg Technology, Jan. 30, 2017; PCMag staff, “Here’s What Silicon Valley Is Saying About Trump’s Immigration Ban,” PC magazine, Jan. 29, 2017; Matt Richtel, “Tech Recruiting Clashes With Immigration Rules,” New York Times, Apr. 11, 2009. On the subject of US-Mexico migration some companies have tried to get on the game as well: an Israeli company said they will help build the “great wall” on the US-Mexico border.

[5] Brian Fung and Tracy Jan, “Tech firms recall employees to U.S., denounce Trump’s ban on refugees from Muslim countries,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017.

[6] John Blackstone, “Tech industry, fueled by immigrants, protesting Trump’s travel ban,” CBS News, Jan. 31, 2017; Kerry Flynn, “Immigrants have built America’s tech industry,” Mashable, Jan. 31, 2017; Carmel Lobello, “The tech industry’s case for immigration reform,” The Week, June 2, 2013; Sarah McBride, “One quarter of U.S. tech start-ups founded by an immigrant: study,” Reuters, Oct. 2, 2012. Even a Forbes contributor, David Shaywitz,” said that immigrants are an “inextricable part of the valley’s cultural fabric and a vital element of its innovative potential.”

[7] Jessica Guynn and Laura Mandaro, “Microsoft, Uber, Apple, Google: How the tech world responded to Trump’s immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 28, 2017; Katie Benner, “Obama, Immigration and Silicon Valley,” BloombergView, Jan. 22, 2015; Gregory Ferenstein, “No Exceptions For Tech Industry: High Skilled Visas Now Tied To Comprehensive Reform,” TechCrunch, Dec. 1, 2012; Stephen Moore, “Immigration Reform Means More High-Tech Jobs,” CATO Institute, Sept. 24, 1998; Jessica Leber, “Silicon Valley Fights for Immigrant Talent,” MIT Technology Review, July 26, 2013; Amit Paka, “How Legal Immigration Failed Silicon Valley,” TechCrunch, Sept. 7, 2015.

[8] Peter Elstrom and Saritha Rai, “Trump’s Next Immigration Move to Hit Closer to Home for Tech,” Bloomberg News, Jan. 30, 2017; Gretel Kauffman, “How Trump’s immigration stances could affect the tech industry,” Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 20, 2016; David Z. Morris, “Tech Industry Could be “First to Suffer” From Trump’s Immigration Stances,” Fortune, Nov 19, 2016; Salvador Rodriguez, “Why Tech Companies Need Immigrants to Function,” Inc, Jan. 30, 2017; Paresh Dave and Tracey Lien, “Trump’s shocking victory could squeeze Silicon Valley on immigration and trade,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 9, 2016; David Jones, “Silicon Valley Up in Arms Over Proposed H-1B Overhaul,” E-Commerce Times, Jan. 31, 2017; Marisa Kendall, “Trump poised to overhaul H-1B visas relied on by Silicon Valley tech,” Mercury News, Jan. 31, 2017; Hansi Lo Wang, “In Silicon Valley, Immigrants Toast Their Way To The Top,” NPR News, Apr. 19, 2014; Marie-Astrid Langer, “Silicon Valley Wants High-Skilled Immigration on Campaign Agenda,” Wall Street Journal, Sept. 18, 2015.

[9] Andrew Murr, “Immigrants In The Valley,” Newsweek, Dec. 25, 1994.

[10] Some immigrants are doing well however. Even by 1998, one study found that “Chinese and Indian immigrants were running a quarter of the high-tech businesses in Silicon Valley, collectively accounting for more than $16.8 billion in sales and over 58,000 jobs.”

[11] Ian Smith, “Obama Games the Visa System to Lower Wages and Please the Tech Industry,” National Review, September 30, 2015; Arnold Ahlert, “The Tech Industry’s Immigration Lies,” FrontPage Magazine, April 2, 2014.

[12] The report shows that most of those who are the “well educated, highly skilled and specialized foreign workers” accepted under the H1-B Visa program are from China, India, the Philippines, and South Korea, with thousands of other petitions accepted from the United Kingdom, Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, France, Pakistan, Germany, Turkey, Brazil, Nepal, Venezuela, Colombia, Italy, Russia, and Spain, among other countries.

[13] H.A. Goodman, “Illegal immigrants benefit the U.S. economy,” The Hill, Apr. 23, 2014; Rowena Lindsay, “How immigration helps the US economy: Report,” Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 24, 2016; Ted Hesson, “Why American Cities Are Fighting to Attract Immigrants,” The Atlantic, Jul. 21, 2015; Daniel Griswold, “Immigrants Have Enriched American Culture and Enhanced Our Influence in the World,” Insight (CATO Institute publication), Feb. 18, 2002; Rohit Arora, “Three Reasons Why Immigrants Help the U.S. Economy,” Inc, Feb. 24, 2015; Timothy Kaine, “The Economic Effect Of Immigration,” Hoover Institution, Feb. 17, 2015; Sean Hackbarth, “Immigrants are Good for the Economy,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Dec. 5, 2014; A. Barton Hinkle, “Immigration Is Good for the U.S. Economy,” Reason, Jul. 21, 2014; Minyoung Park, “The vast majority of undocumented immigrants in the US are here working: BAML,” Yahoo! News, Jul. 21, 2016.

[14] This speech is made by Homer near the end of the Simpsons episode, Much Apu About Nothing (Season 7, episode 23, May 1996) when Homer has the realization that the measure that would deport immigrants from Springfield, proposition 24, proposed by the loyal mayor, Joe Quimby, to distract from the “bear tax” to pay for the worthless “Bear Patrol” is wrong. Regardless, the measure passes anyway, with 95% approval, and Homer declares that democracy “doesn’t work” while all of the immigrants have gained citizenship (after passing the citizenship test), except for Groundskeeper Willie, who goes on a ship back to Scotland.

Acceptance of Trump and imperial white propaganda

beckermann
Not only are Democratic leaders falling in line with Trump but so are tech leaders.

Recently, Congress passed a military spending bill of over $618 billion dollars, with wide margins (92-7 in the Senate and 375-34 in the House) in both houses. [1] Like with Trump’s diplomatic maneuvers, there is a level of fake outrage at play once again. Some articles have decried that the spending bill gives Trump power over a US propaganda arm named “Voice of America” (VOA). [2] While this is correct, there is more to the story than this simplistic analysis pushed around by the bourgeois media.

In order to determine what this media is talking about, one has to look at the actual law itself. The one section they are referring to is section 1288 of the law (titled “Modification of United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994′). This section declares that the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) will continue to exist but will led by a Chief Executive Officer appointed by the President and approved by the Senate, with a term of three years. This section also abolishes the “Director of the International Broadcasting Bureau” position, with the CEO as the head of the BBG which oversees “RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Asia, or the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.” Additionally, this section also removes the International Broadcasting Bureau, replacing it with an International Broadcasting Advisory Board, with members appointed by the President, and consisting of five members including the Secretary of State, with their terms lasting three years, advising the CEO of the BBG. [3] Of the four other members other than the Secretary of State, they would be appointed from lists drawn up by the Chair and a ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the same in the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations. Finally, this section says that the CEO of the BBG may “condition annual grants to RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks on the consolidation of such grantees into a single, consolidated private, non-profit corporation,” with the mission of the BBG to

“counter state-sponsored propaganda which undermines the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States and its allies…provide uncensored local and regional news and analysis to people in societies where a robust, indigenous, independent, and free media does not exist…help countries improve their indigenous capacity to enhance media professionalism and independence…promote unrestricted access to uncensored sources of information, especially via the internet, and use all effective and efficient mediums of communication to reach target audiences.”

Beyond this, not only will the “officers and directors of RFE/RL Inc., Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks” may be named by the CEO of the BBG but “additional [propaganda] brands may be created as necessary.” [4]

Basically, the concern, among some in the bourgeois media, is that Trump would appoint the CEO of Breitbart to head this information agency, becoming propaganda that would benefit him. However, most of the articles only focus on VOA, and NOT other forms of (arguably) white propaganda outlets, under the BBG’s umbrella, such as RFE (Radio Free Europe)/RL (Radio Liberty) which is thoroughly anti-Russian, Radio Free Asia (RFA) which promotes imperial policy in East Asia, Radio y Televisión Martí which is anti-Cuban, Alhurra which was imagined as a counterweight to Al Jazeera, and Radio Sawa which has failed in its mission. Three of these outlets (VOA, RFE/RL, Radio y Televisión Martí, and RFA) have their roots in anti-communist propaganda against the Soviet Union (and Communist China until they became “friendly” with the US), and other socialist states, but the white propaganda aim of these outlets is evident. For instance, VOA can publish an article saying that “the gradual collapse of the Soviet Union…had wide-ranging effects across Africa [affecting deeply] Marxist-inspired governments and movements,” with a ripple effect in Angola, Ethiopia, Benin, while “U.S. and European backed anti-communist authoritarian governments also slowly turned to multi-party elections” while also saying that “in Africa…the late Fidel Castro was both loved and despised…Castro is not remembered fondly in Somalia today…Castro’s influence in Africa greatly declined,” which while acting like they are “progressive” is messaging that reinforces US imperial power with false “objectivity.”

The other dimension to this is that the Obama administration is giving Trump and his cronies more power! So, basically, there is not really an opposition party (who some would say are the Democrats) to his policies. This is buttressed by the fact that outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid declared that Trump is “not as bad as I thought he would be” citing Trump saying he isn’t going to repeal Obama’s executive order on dreamers, and “not going to prosecute Hillary Clinton criminally,” while also saying  that he does not “have hate in my soul for Donald Trump” but hopes that Trump “does well….hopeful that he will lessen his rhetoric and work toward a safer, more productive America.”

The outrage over Trump gaining this power over propaganda networks is understandable, but why isn’t the outrage directed at Obama for passing this power to Trump? Also, the outrage is misguided because the spending bill has many other horrid elements. Apart from the other aspects of the bill [5], which I will not go into detail here, these elements are worrying enough. The expansion of imperial might by building a new aircraft carrier by 2022 (sec. 127), limits on money to destroy cluster bombs (sec. 143), along with the expansion of expansion of “electromagnetic spectrum warfare” and “electronic warfare” (sections 234, 240) is problematic enough. Additionally, the strengthening of the military’s position into cyberwarfare, possibly with “cyber professionals,” with a “unified combatant command for cyber operations forces” and into space with a the newly created “Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center” which is supposed to “create unity of effort and facilitate information sharing across the national security space enterprise” is also not good (sections 509, 923, 1615).

These efforts are only scratching the surface of this bill which increases and reinforces the duties of empire. The bill also declares that the military will continue to assist in “counterdrug activities or activities to counter transnational organized crime” of other Federal organizations, foreign law enforcement, or other government bodies, along with extending the “unified counterdrug and counterterrorism campaign” of the military to Colombia (sections 1011 and 1013). There is also the declaration that no military spending can be used to “transfer, release, or assist in the transfer or release to or within the United States, its territories, or possessions” any detainee, at Guantanamo prison at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba naval base, to facilities in the United States (sections 1032, 1033). Interestingly, not only are detainees from Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen are specifically also prohibited from being released from the prison, but no military spending can be used to close to abandon the naval base at Guantanamo Bay (sections 1034 and 1035). If that isn’t enough, the military is apparently interested in “directed energy weapons” and systems, with a senior military official having principal responsibility for them, the Air Force now “piloting” drones instead of the CIA, and the military told to “better align its posture and capabilities to meet the growing array of challenges” in the Arctic, “a region of growing strategic importance to the national security interest of the United States” (sections 219, 1052, and 1095). There are also, in keeping with the anti-Russian declarations across the media, prohibitions on

  1. “bilateral military-to-military cooperation between the Governments of the United States and the Russian Federation” until Russia ends their supposed “occupation of Ukrainian territory and its aggressive activities” and abide by “the Minsk Protocols regarding a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine”
  2. money to “implement any activity that recognizes the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea”
  3. spending to “invite, assist, or otherwise assure the participation of the Government of Cuba in any joint or multilateral exercise or related security conference between the Governments of the United States and Cuba” until Cuba stops its supposed “human rights abuses against civil rights activists and other citizens of Cuba,” ceases assistance to “the military and security forces of Venezuela,” ceases supposed “persecution, intimidation, arrest, imprisonment, and assassination of dissidents and members of faith-based organizations,” drops its demand that “the United States relinquish control of Guantanamo Bay,” and other measures (sections 1232, 1234, 1286).

The latter section would mean that Cuba would have to be run by a government that is not anti-imperialist and is pro-US which is doubtful despite “Cuban moderates” like Raul Castro, who seem to be willing to be friendly with the US to an extent, in power at the present. There is no doubt that all of these measures will strengthen the empire and assist Trump in his diplomatic maneuvers except for his possible “good relations” with Russia in the future.

The military spending bill also reinforces other elements of existing US policy. For one, there is the development and production of the “Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system and Israeli cooperative missile defense program” in cooperation with Israel, taking actions “as may be necessary to…recognize India’s status as a major defense partner of the United States,” helping sub-Saharan African countries develop free trade agreements, with help of USAID and other monies, and preventing the “use of rocket engines from the Russian Federation for the evolved expendable launch vehicle program” (sections 1292, 1293, 1601, 1602, 1690). The US relationship with the murderous Zionist state of Israel, which will likely remain unchanged under Trump, is also supported by one section which says that the Secretary of Defense shall submit a report on “the potential for cooperative development by the United States and Israel of a directed energy capability to defeat ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, mortars, and improvised explosive devices that threaten the United States, deployed forces of the United States, or Israel” (section 1274). Apart from the outlining of a “strategy for United States defense interests in Africa” by the Secretaries of State and Defense in the next year, the bill establishes a Global Engagement Center, by the Secretaries of State and Defense, along with other federal organizations, which will “lead, synchronize, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests” (section 1273 and 1287).

Very few articles have mentioned the Global Engagement Center apart from the horrid Human Rights First organization, the Center for Research on Globalization, and a few other places. The Washington Post defended this, with Craig Timberg, the same one who wrote the article promoting Prop Or Not (with its list of “Russian propaganda” news organizations which almost seems like a Cold War relic) and spreading Russophobic propaganda, by declaring that the bill “calls on the State Department to lead government-wide efforts to identify propaganda and counter its effects…[and] would be the most significant initiative against foreign governments’ disinformation campaigns since the 1990s,” a sentiment shared by Senators Rob Portman, Ron Wyden, Chris Murphy, and others to fight a supposed “heavy tide of Russian propaganda” and other “propaganda campaigns by…other foreign powers, including China.” [6]

There are only a number of other aspects of this bill worth mentioning. For one, the bill gives Trump tools to increase his hostility toward China. While one section says that the Secretary of Defense shall “carry out a program of exchanges of senior military officers and senior officials between the United States and Taiwan designed to improve military to military relations between the United States and Taiwan,” another says that the military will revise its assessment of China to include a “summary of the order of battle of the People’s Liberation Army, including anti-ship ballistic missiles, theater ballistic missiles, and land attack cruise missile inventory…A description of the People’s Republic of China’s military and nonmilitary activities in the South China Sea” (sections 1271 and 1284). So, Trump could use, this, in conjunction with the measure in the law allowing the President to impose sanctions on

“any foreign person…[who] is responsible for….gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against individuals in any foreign country who seek…to expose illegal activity carried out by government officials; or to obtain, exercise, defend, or promote internationally recognized human rights and freedoms” (sec. 1263)

Of course, such humanitarian imperialism was likely meant for someone like President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, or Kim Jong Un of the DPRK, Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea. However, it could easily be used against Xi Jinping, President and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, along with other top Chinese government officials for “human rights violations” and would be cheered on by the CIA (which calls China a “communist state”), Human Rights Watch (which calls China “a one-party authoritarian state”), and Amnesty International (which describes China in a similar light). There is only one good part of the law I can see: that the military and other departments will “post on the public Internet website of the Department of Defense the costs to each United States taxpayer of each of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria” (section 1090). This transparency obviously will not stop wars, but can be used as propaganda against the national military establishment itself, as much as the counters on the National Priorities Project of military costs can be used in the same way.

I was going to originally end this post with an analysis of Trump’s cabinet picks, but that will be for another day. For now, I think it is important to oppose the horridness of Trump while rejecting the liberal fake outrage about him, which seems to be centering around “his ties” to Russia now or the Podesta emails, and standing against US imperial propaganda by recognizing the anti-imperialist front of those countries opposed to the United States from time to time.

Notes

[1] Patricia Zengerle, “U.S. Congress passes $618.7 billion annual defense bill,” Reuters, December 9.

[2] David Folkenflik, “An Obama-Backed Change At Voice Of America Has Trump Critics Worried,” NPR, December 14, 2016; Lauren Fox, “Report: Big Changes To Voice Of America Could Make It Trump’s Mouthpiece,” Talking Points Memo, December 12, 2016; “VOA promises editorial ‘firewall’,” BBC News, December 13, 2016; Taylor Link, “Will Donald Trump have complete control of America’s propaganda arm?,” Salon, December 12, 2016; Tara Palmeri, “Trump to inherit state-run TV network with expanded reach,” Politico, December 12, 2016; Howard Kurtz, “Double Standard? Media warn Trump could exploit US ‘propaganda’ arm – under bipartisan law,” Fox News, December 13, 2016.

[3] Those who are currently on the BBG board will be the first members of this board until vacancies are filled.

[4] Finally, this section also says that if RFE/RL is not carrying out its functions in an economical and effective manner, another entity may be granted its duties. The section also talks about the duties of the Inspector General in “checking” the BBG, the foreign policy guidance of the Secretary of State.

[5] Other provisions include: (1) says the Secretary of the Army can purchase AH–64E Apache helicopters (sec. 111 and 112); (2) says secretary of army can order training of certain military units (sec. 113); (3) determination of delivery of navy vehicles (sec. 121); (4) construction and design of “the LHA Replacement ship designated LHA 8” (sec. 122); (5) report on Littoral Combat Ship (sec. 123); (6) limits on some naval shipbuilding (sec. 124); (7) limit on funds for advanced arresting gear on numerous vessels such as the U.S.S. Enterprise and U.S.S. John F. Kennedy (sec. 125); (8) limit on funds for procurement for the U.S.S. Enterprise (sec. 126); (9) report on P-8 Poseidon Aircraft (sec. 128); (10) design of a landing ship (sec. 129); (11) Compass Call aircraft (sec. 131); (12) repeal of requirement (secs. 132, 133); (13) A-10 aircraft cannot retire (secs. 134, 135); (14) Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft cannot retire (sec. 136); (15) elimination of annual report on aircraft inventory (sec. 137); (16) standardization of certain rifle ammunition (sec. 138); (17) fire suppressment and other standards for vehicles (sec. 142); (18) report on military use of munitions for combat situations (sec. 144); (19) reporting on combat ammunitions is annual instead of quarterly (sec. 145); (20) review of F-35 Lightning II (secs. 146, 147); (21) briefing on ground utility vehicle (sec. 148); (22) capabilities of aircraft (sec. 149); (23) technology reinvention labs created and still funded (secs. 211-213, 217); (24) research and development at National Defense University (sec. 214); (25) manufacturing engineering education program established (sec. 215); (26) certain activities (sec. 216); (27) Distributed common ground system (sec. 220); (28) Limiting funds for “countering weapons of mass destruction situational awareness information system commonly known as “Constellation”” (sec. 221); (29) Limiting funds for experimental military unit (sec. 222); (30) limitation of funds for JSTARS program (sec. 223); (31) annual reports on f-35 strike fighter modernization (sec. 224); (32) access to trusted microelectronics (sec. 231); (33) evaluating commercial information technology (sc. 232); (34) more technology testing (sec. 233); (35) pilot program on disclosure of certain information to federal research and development centers (sec. 235); (36) advanced interaction between DARPA and service academies (sec. 236); (37) review of certain procedures (sec. 237); (38) b-21 bomber development program (sec. 238); (39) study on helicopter crash prevention (sec. 239); (40) fielding of certain systems (sec. 241); (41) energy installations (sec. 311); (42) alternative fuel requirement (sec. 312); (43) data management for facilities (sec. 313); (44) alternative technologies for munitions disposal (sec. 314); (45) report on how to reduce military costs of installations (sec. 315); (46) sense of congress related to climate change (sec. 316); (47) rating system (sec. 321); (48) guidance related to corrosion control (sec. 322); (49) manufacturing and retooling initiative (sec. 323); (50) repair, and other duties at drydocks (sec. 324); (51) private sector port loading (sec. 325); (52) revitalizing organic “industrial base” of the army (sec. 326); (53) modifications to quarterly readiness report to congress (sec. 331); (54) report on travel costs (sec. 332); (54) report on certain helicopter rescue program (sec. 333); (55) air navigation (sec. 341); (56) contract working dogs (sec. 342); (57) review related to explosive ordinance disposal (sec. 343); (58) process of communicating for surplus ammunition (sec. 344); (59) cords in military units (sec. 345); (60) access to military installations (sec. 346); (61) secretary of army should assess capacity of Apache helicopters to attack, “chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear capabilities and modernization needs” and capability of field artillery (sec. 114); (62) outlining specifics of claims of retaliation with report of sexual assault in the military (sec. 543); (63) creation of anti-hazing database (sec. 549), (64) Defense Sec. will “ensure the effective organization and management of the electromagnetic spectrum used by the Department of Defense” (sec. 1065), (65) “not later than the last day of the first fiscal year quarter beginning after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 90 days thereafter, the Director of National Intelligence shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report describing any confirmed ballistic missile launch by Iran during the previous calendar quarter” (sec. 1226); (66) “not later than the last day of the first fiscal year quarter beginning after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 90 days thereafter, the Director of National Intelligence shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report describing any confirmed ballistic missile launch by Iran during the previous calendar quarter” (sec. 1226), (67) military has a “biological select agent and toxin biosafety program” which is supposedly safer now (sec. 218) and many more.

[6] Craig Timberg, “Effort to combat foreign propaganda advances in Congress,” Washington Post, November 30, 2016; Craig Timberg, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say,” Washington Post, November 24, 2016. Other articles show where Timberg stands and how he spreads propaganda, with examples including “Why Facebook and Google are struggling to purge fake news” (November 15, 2016), “Could better Internet security have prevented Trump’s shocking win?” (November 10, 2016), “Tech investments show an Iran eager to end isolation” (April 6, 2015); “Sony Pictures hack appears to be linked to North Korea, investigators say” (December 3, 2014), “Iraq tries to censor social media to disrupt ISIS communication, but its success is limited” (July 13, 2014), “Vast majority of global cyber-espionage emanates from China, report finds” (April 22, 2013); “Chinese cyberspies have hacked most Washington institutions, experts say” (February 20, 2013).

“If he can put a few dents…I’ll fucking take it”: Trump and imperial diplomacy

Trump attacks a union leader, foreshadowing his anti-union moves in the future
Trump attacks a union leader, who called out Trump on his lies about the Carrier deal, foreshadowing his anti-union moves in the future

Recently I read a post by Sassy Sourstein (@rancidsassy) about Trump’s diplomatic maneuvers as you could call them. To his credit, he writes that “I’m not ready to stop gloating about the loss of Hillary Clinton yet. When Trump is inaugurated I’ll turn the knives on his administration — for now, it’s still the Obama-Clinton administration and I’m still focusing on these cretins.” This article will go through his post and address it, arguing that it is best to not be as optimistic about “changes” under Trump but to rather recognize the general continuance and continue fighting.

Trump, Taiwan and China

There isn’t a lie but it is the broader implications that matter.

Liberals don’t even know there’s a forest, forget seeing it for the trees. This week in Facebook includes people horrified that Trump would even acknowledge the government of Taiwan, let alone congratulate its new president! This will enrage China, our largest trading partner! They even brought out the specter of WWIII, which they laughed at when it was said it would be Clinton who would start it. Thing is Clinton was going to start it by following through on a promise to bomb Russian troops in Syria.

There is no doubt that liberals have engaged in what can be accurately called fake outrage, which is when someone is “outraged” at something but doesn’t see the whole picture simply put. Sassy has a point that Clinton would likely have started WWIII with bombing Russian troops in Syria and that liberals exhibited this fake outrage on this issue.

However, Trump’s position is not something out of the blue. Apart from whether his criticism of China is correct, which it seems to is clearly not, he is tapping into the sentiment of angry American multinationals who don’t like “new rules,” “rattled” as state-owned enterprises take more of a role in the economy, and are reportedly leaving China for Mexico, as the country loses its “allure” supposedly. Even Ho-Fung Hung, Johns Hopkins University Sociology professor who seems to be in the liberal camp of critics of China’s government by supporting the Western-backed “democracy” movement in Hong Kong, described Trump’s call with Taiwan’s new President, Tsai Ing-wen, who is part of a Taiwanese nationalist bourgeois liberal party, as “signaling a deeper shift in Washington’s Asia policy rather than just an impulsive act.”

As it turns out, that sentiment is well-placed. The call was reportedly “an intentionally provocative move that establishes the incoming president as a break with the past” which was the product of preparations stretching before he even “became the Republican presidential nominee.” [1] Talking with Tsai Ing-wen reflects, according to the article, views of Trumps’ advisers “to take a tough opening line with China,” even as it is publicly portrayed as just a “routine congratulatory call” (and non-political) which removes the fact that “it appeared calculated to signal a new, robust approach to relations with China,” to make Taiwan a “more strategic ally in East Asia.”

All Trump did was talk to the leader of a country that the United States arms and is sworn to protect — from China. And hey, China knows this. If these morons think China is just concerned with being “dishonored” *gong sound, deep bow* they’re not just racist, they’re also so stupid as to be dangerous. Give felons back their vote and disenfranchise these criminals of common sense.

Once again, Sassy makes a good point that Trump did talk to the president of Taiwan, a country whom the US has generously armed over the years with thousands upon thousands of weapons, including almost $2 billion in armaments sold to them almost a year ago in December 2015, trying to prevent them from “burning.” [2] There is no doubt that China is not just concerned with being “dishonored” with the call, but that they recognize US relations with Taiwan, and that liberals should be mocked for their response. However, as always, there is something deeper here.

Apart from what was said before, Bob Dole was behind the scenes in setting up the call with Tsai Ing-wen. Dole works currently as “a foreign agent for the government of Taiwan,” working for six months secretly (praised $140,000) to establish “high-level contact between Taiwanese officials and President-elect Donald J. Trump’s staff,” is a lobbyist for the multi-million dollar law firm Alston & Bird, and was part of a “well-orchestrated plan by Taiwan to use the election of a new president to deepen its relationship with the United States” which was assisted by Dole. [3] It might be worth remembering that Dole voted against even moderate social safety net proposals that were part of the revolution-calming “Great Society” while in the US Senate, was much in favor of the Vietnam War, and became a spokesperson for many corporate interests after his political career ended with Bill Clinton’s victory in 1996.

Apart from the misplaced optimism of the Chinese government about Trump (like many governments across the world), liberals and the corporate media have, as Sassy was criticizing, went all up and arms about this phone call:

Some actually praised the action by Trump, a view promoted by William Arkin who helped found a branch of Human Rights Watch in the 1990s! In related news, the Taiwanese alleged that the Chinese circled the island a week before Trump’s call, but this is likely a lie. What isn’t a lie, however, is a statement by former Trump adviser, Stephen Moore, likely in line with the position of Trump and his advisers: “Taiwan is our ally. That is a country that we have backed because they believe in freedom. We oughta back our ally, and if China doesn’t like it, screw ’em.” [4]

Beyond this is the actual response of the Chinese government. There is no doubt that he call made the Chinese angry, but officials blamed Taiwan for setting it up rather than Trump and hardly criticized the call. [5] The Chinese know that the Taiwan Relations Act not only “ended US recognition of Taiwan but also made the US responsible for military intervention in the case of an attack or invasion from China.” However, the anger goes deeper than that and goes beyond asking the US to bar Taiwan’s president from traveling through the US.

The People’s Daily Overseas Edition, a paper of the Chinese Communist Party, took an interesting tone. [6] This article by a researcher from the China Institute of International Studies, Wang Hai Lou, notes that Trump has consistently criticized China and could become “the weathervane for US future policy toward China” especially based on the fact he is “surrounded by a group of neo-conservative thinking” which is not good. Hai Lou goes on to say that Trump has a “lack of diplomatic experience” and is “ignorant of China-US relations” especially when it comes to “the exchange rate, trade and the South China Sea,” that provoking “friction between China and the United States…will only be counterproductive.” He ended by saying that

“China is well aware of the dual nature of US policy toward China…China’s foreign policy in line with international trends, the United States no matter…the…foreign strategy, it is difficult to exclude cooperation with China…China should develop itself according to established goals, build up a circle of friends, build a favorable international environment by cooperation and win-win, and limit US hostile choice and willful choice…the transition of Sino-US relations requires a long-term and long-term strategic plan.”

Very strategic thinking, no doubt. More directly, the Chinese government lodged “solemn representations with the relevant party on the US side both in Beijing and Washington” and got its “message across to the world as a whole with regard to Taiwan-related issues,” with the Foreign Minstry’s spokesperson, Lu Kang, saying, not surprisingly, “we will not speculate on what motivates President-elect Trump and his team into taking certain moves. But we will surly make ourselves clear if what they say concerns China.” The comment of the other foreign ministry spokesperson on the issue was not much different. Differently, some of the readers on People’s Daily criticized Trump for his anti-China rhetoric. The strongest opinion was an op-ed by Curtis Stone in the same publication, with him arguing the following:

“The U.S. cannot (and should not) try to dictate the policy of another sovereign state. Sovereignty means that China…is not always going to do what the U.S. wants. Furthermore, China will never bow to U.S. pressure…China is an independent, sovereign state with its own national interests. As a sovereign state, China sets its own policy and can retaliate if necessary. Trump does not seem to understand what China is doing with its currency, because he has repeatedly accused China of devaluing its currency. Many U.S. economists and currency experts agree that China is not a currency manipulator, and Chinese leaders have long insisted that market forces determine the price of the yuan…China wants peace and stability in the South China Sea, not tension and conflict. No doubt, China is determined and willing to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, but the claim that China is militarizing the South China Sea is completely false…An irrational and hasty “get tough with China” policy would be detrimental to U.S. long-term interests…world peace and prosperity depend on the healthy develop of China-U.S. relations. Trump needs to get the China-U.S. relationship right.”

Other writers took a similar stand. In the Chinese state media publication, Global Times, editorials said that:

  • peace through strength will be an important diplomatic principle of Trump” with a likely increase in East Asia of the military presence
  • Trump “has zero diplomatic experience and is unaware of the repercussions of shaking up Sino-US relations…China should understand Trump has two faces…we need to be clear-minded”
  • the One-China policy is a widely acknowledged principle in international relations..there is no motive in the US or the world that can break the principle…If Trump wants to overstep the One-China principle, he will destroy Sino-US ties…The Chinese mainland is capable of punishing Tsai’s administration for any moves that crosses the red line…It is hoped that Trump will gradually understand the reality and shape his China policy based on it”
  • “…he stirred up troubles against China before he is sworn in, which contradicts his isolationism…it remains uncertain if someone egged him on to challenge China…Sino-US ties will witness more troubles in his early time in the White House than any other predecessor…We should stand firm and remain composed…Trump’s reckless remarks against a major power show his lack of experience in diplomacy…Trump’s China-bashing tweet is just a cover for his real intent, which is to treat China as a fat lamb and cut a piece of meat off it…We must confront Trump’s provocations head-on, and make sure he won’t take advantage of China at the beginning of his tenure.”
  • But does China need to make deals with Trump that only benefit the US for making peace with him? Apparently not. The negotiations between China and the US must be carried out on an equal footing with mutual benefits, and won’t come to any agreement under Trump’s coercion. What if someone tries to leverage China in negotiations in an unacceptable way and tries to create an arrogant atmosphere?
    In this case, the best China can do is to return an eye for an eye. China won’t pay into Trump’s protection racket. It should use the money to build more strategic nuclear arms and accelerate the deployment of the DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile…We need to get better prepared militarily regarding the Taiwan question to ensure that those who advocate Taiwan’s independence will be punished, and take precautions in case of US provocations in the South China Sea.”

On a related note, in the English-language China Daily, they wrote that the leader of Taiwan “is desperate for support from the United States in her cross-Straits standoff with the Chinese mainland” and that Trump “values the island as a business partner,” and that the response from Beijing “indicates a strong desire for healthy China-US relations in the coming Trump era.” Just like other writers have noted, “Trump broke a decades-old bilateral diplomatic consensus and touched an ultra-sensitive diplomatic nerve” and that he should “stop acting like the diplomatic rookie he is…otherwise, he will make costly troubles for his country, and find himself trying to bluster his way through constant diplomatic conflagrations.” That actually is a good point that even Sassy didn’t bring up.

In comparison, other publications were more strident. In the Russian publication, pravada.ru, Lyuba Lulko (Stepushova) argued that “China resorted to tough rhetoric,” noting that the US welcomed Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui in 1995 which made Beijing mad, while noting that Trump’s position “could provoke not only a military, but also an economic confrontation with China that will not be easy to win” with China vetoing “other US initiatives in the UN Security Council, for example, a resolution against the proliferation of North Korea’s nuclear weapons or the sanctions policy against Iran” which could lead to a better position for Russia. In CounterPunch, writers noted that “today, more than 400 American military bases encircle China with missiles, bombers, warships and, above all, nuclear weapons” with a coming war with China a possibility, with targeting of China’s core interests, and that there could be a war over Taiwan, with increased tensions as a likely possibility. This aligns with a recent poll where more Chinese than before are wary of the United States, which is nothing new.

Liberals and Fidel Castro

These same “pragmatic” types will nonetheless spend their time shitting on the legacy of Fidel Castro who despite lifting millions out of extreme poverty, did terrible things to innocent people that objectively pale in comparison to anything the US has done to its own minorities, but forget that. It’s about the morality — but just in that case.

Terrible things to innocent people? Who? Which innocent people? I do think Sassy makes a good point about liberal analysis of Fidel here. All I have to say is that Fidel was a great revolutionary (Evo Morales of Bolivia agrees not surprisingly) and those in Cuba have memorialized him rightly so:

Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Theresa May

That’s not all Trump “fucked up” on the foreign policy front. In less than a week he praised the “dictator” of Kazakhstan, said he’d — horrors!! — like to visit Pakistan, “a terrific country,” and treated the British Prime Minister as if she were the leader of any other of the world’s countries. That last “disaster” involved him calling Theresa May only after calling NINE probably non-white leaders.

At this point Sassy bunched together a number of different issues: meeting the leader of Kazakhstan, visiting Pakistan, and talking to Prime Minister Theresa May. Once again, the anger over this translates to fake outrage. However, it is still worth addressing each topic on its own merit.

Trump praised that Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s leader, and said that the country,  since its independence “achieved fantastic success that can be called a ‘miracle.’” [7] Now, that’s much more than just an ordinary phone call. It was enough for the Washington Post to write a thinkpiece about it and some scholars to say that Kazakhstan will fair well under Trump, possibly finding the supposed “key” to fighting the Islamic State. We must recognize that Kazakhstan is a country that is utterly open for business and relations with many countries, such as Russia, China (also see here), Qatar, other Gulf states, and South Korea, along with the United States of course. [8] This state, apart from being part of OPEC, is its strategic importance to the US, likely in part because of its “wonderful” economic transformation. [9]

Sassy put “dictator” in quotations like it was something not true, something trotted out by the Western media. I think there should be no doubt that the leader of the country is a bit self-absorbed to say the least. Apart from the arrests of Islamic State-supported citizens (which isn’t necessarily bad), the country had jailed activists for dissenting (also see here) and might have a “great firewall” like China. Considering that that could be twisted into propaganda, it is best to consult other articles. These articles show that the government seems repressive, supports an higher education system pushed by the World Bank (part 1, part 2, part 3), was praised by the Bushes as freedom-loving, is part of “Eurasian integration,” poured money into a Clinton Initiative project (also see here), and provides the US with logistical support in the Afghanistan imperial war. If that’s not enough, consider that apart from Kazakhstan as part of China’s New Silk Road (also see here) partially driven by oil resources in the country and part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (it also works with Russia), benefits Western oil companies, along with other companies, and such. Now, you can say that the Western media isn’t portraying the country fairly, with some thinking of Borat as the image of the country, but even the right-wing Heritage Foundation, which is disappointed with the country’s “progress,” says that there have been “large-scale privatizations” and that the economy is not in a great state. So, its not a country anyone should consider part of an anti-imperialist front, even as it has good relations with China and Russia, with thirteen US soldiers in the country according to the most recent data.

Now we get to Pakistan. Some media say that Trump called Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, a “terrific guy,” others noted that Trump’s advisers claim he will will “solve” the problems in the Kashmir region, while others said that Pakistan was trying to “woo” Donald Trump. [10] There is no doubt that Pakistan is key to “fighting terrorism” in the region with their strong-armed approach, however, it is worth remembering that Pakistan helped in the past in funding the anti-Soviet Islamic reactionaries from 1979 to 1989 at least, but also has been angered by recent US efforts. The drone bombing, which is basically Obama’s project (Bush started it, but he didn’t engage in as many bombings), is part of war which spans seven countries: Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, along with the interventions in multiple African countries. So, Pakistan’s government, on the face, not very happy with US bombing, including outing at least three CIA station chiefs. In fact, the citizens of Pakistan have said they do not approve of the US’s mass surveillance, and a wide swath of the population since 2002 (ranging from 73-90% over the years) they declared that they have an unfavorable view of the United States and the US President (since 2005) while they have a much more positive view of China, reaching into the supermajority. In fact, the government is playing a double game. The Pakistanis have long ties to the imperial client state, Saudi Arabia, which is in an imperial interrelationship with the United States, and have a powerful military which, of course, served US interests for the most part and dominates the country’s politics.

Prime Minister Sharif, who Trump talked to, is not only one Pakistan’s most wealthy people, but he is very conservative, supported the 1991 invasion of Iraq, and pushed a direct privatization program, in his first term (1990-1993). In his second term of office (1997-1999), he expanded Pakistan’s nuclear program, had better relations with the Muslim world, and had good relations with the Pakistani military. In his third, and more recent term of office, he took a centrist stand on social policy, worked with the IMF to restructure Pakistan’s economy, engaged in privatization, strengthened Pakistan’s security establishment, seemed to have better relations with China than before along with good relations with Afghanistan and Russia, and the US claimed it was assisting Pakistan in fighting terrorism…by bombing the country! Not surprisingly, there was criticism of Sharif from the left and right, definitely more principled on the left of course.

Now we get to Theresa May, the UK’s new Prime Minister, and Trump. The media says that Trump told May that he values the “special relationship” (while recognizing NATO’s importance) while May said that talking to Trump was “easy.” [11] Other media said that Trump also said that Nigel Farage should serve as the UK’s Ambassador to the US, who has been a long-time friend of Trump (and tied to the GOP) for some time now. [12] May is the second female Prime Minister of the UK, after arch-conservative (and war criminal) Margaret Thatcher, supported mass surveillance in the UK, gave police more powers to crack down on the citizenry, and said that immigration to the island should be reduced as Home Secretary. In her recent days as prime minister she has supported the horrendous Saudi bombing in Yemen backed by the US and seems favorable to Brexit. As for Farage, who is part of a basically fascist UK Independence Party (UKIP), he has spread Islamophobic opinions on Muslim immigrants, hates wind power and takes a conservative opinion on the economy even if he has “good” positions on the EU, funding “rebels” in Syria, Putin’s role in Europe, UK-Saudi relations, and so on.

Trump putting in a “few dents” in the imperial diplomatic system?

Anything that makes US diplomats “aghast” is fabulous by me. These slimebags deserve much worse for what they’ve done to the world’s people. They’re the ones who keep every country softened up for the plunder and just in case any objections arise, war…I’m not interested in whether or not Trump knows that what he’s doing is destructive to the diplomatic system. It’s irrelevant. I know that the outcome must be good if these enemies of all good people are upset by it. That tells me all I need to know. Diplomacy as a tool of empire predates the birth of Donald Trump and unfortunately will outlive him. If he can put a few dents, intentionally or not, in these fuckers’ Mercedes well I’ll fucking take it.

Now, we get to one of the “kickers” of Sassy’s piece: the argument that Trump shocking US diplomats is good, since diplomacy is “a tool of empire” and that “if he can put a few dents…in these fuckers’ Mercedes well I’ll fucking take it.” This viewpoint is the fundamental belief in his post and what is mentioned in the title of this post. That viewpoint makes sense in that Sassy is clearly optimistic. However, as I’ve laid out in this article, Trump’s diplomatic maneuvers are not this simple. Already, Trump will align with those who feel “anti-terror policies” are not adequate enough, stay the course with US participation in NATO (despite his comments during the election), say that “the large number of refugees leaving Iraq and Syria is especially worrisome,” and deal with domestic problems before addressing international issues as a poll in May of this year noted. There’s not really anything else I can say here other than that diplomats, like liberals are engaging in “fake outrage” of course but that Trump’s maneuvers are still important.

Trump, Boeing, and Air Force One

Trump tweeted that the new Air Force One planes being built by Boeing were too expensive and should be canceled. When the markets opened this morning the Boeing stock took a dive! Can you think of a more deserving corporation to take such a hit?

I completely understand Sassy’s optimism here. I also think that Boeing is a horrible company since they are a huge military contractor, making bombers, fighters, satellites, and numerous other military equipment. Sassy is not alone in this commentary, with some describing it as a “brilliant move.”

As always, there is a deeper explanation needed. One article in the Chicago Tribune said that Boeing likely cringes every time Trump “riffs on foreign policy, especially when it comes to dealing with China” with the possibility that Trump’s administration will “test the Boeing CEO’s statesmanship, especially when it comes to dealing with China.” It also says that since it seems “Trump is eager for a China confrontation,” this goes against the interest of Boeing, which doesn’t want “an international trade war that could raise tariffs or greatly disrupt long-standing, albeit imperfect, global agreements.” The article goes on to quote Boeing’s CEO who said that “one of the overarching themes [of the recent election] was apprehension about free and fair trade,” says that an influx of jet orders from China “means more work for Boeing’s thousands of U.S. workers” and that Trump should heed his (Boeing CEO’s) advice (which is very economically nationalist ironically enough: “If we do not lead when it comes to writing these rules, our competitors will write them for us.” The article then asks how nationalist trump’s will be, with a “lot of unanswered questions and concerns.”

Of course the Chicago Tribune piece is pro-business and takes the side of Boeing, there is still important insights there on the further implications of Trump’s remarks, which are worth recognizing, which Sassy doesn’t even address.

Concluding words

In the last sentence of Sassy’s piece, he declares facetiously “I’m loving the Trump presidency and it hasn’t even started.” I’m not sure that such optimism is warranted, even if a majority of Americans say Trump can keep his businesses, which isn’t arguably an “empire.” Already, Trump is trying to court the capitalist class, many of whom supported Killary for her more overtly pro-corporate policies, including those in the technology sector mainly based around Silicon/Sexist/Surveillance Valley. [14] At the same time, he may moderate his opinions on issues like the Affordable Care Corporatist Act (“Obamacare”) if he follows the lead of Republican leaders in the houses of Congress, follows a similar “political blueprint” to Obama,” and his expected energy policy which includes: (1) more oil & gas drilling, (2) approval of LNG terminals quicker, (3) reducing energy subsidies, and other destructive policies to the environment, going even farther than Obama’s destructive (and deceptive) nature on the environment. [15] Beyond this, with the “new” rules of the “Trump game,” the militarization of space will be quickly expedited, brinkmanship will be even more prominent with with Michael T. Flynn as National Security Adviser, the continuing privatization of public education, and billionaires will benefit, with a cabinet that reeks of cronyism, and lies about “great deals” for new jobs (see here, here, here, and here for example).

It is best to move beyond the “tweet shaming” that people claim Trump has done, the fake outrage (also see here), fake news, or that one guy who is a faithless elector. The same goes for Al Gore meeting with Trump, Obama handing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) off to Trump, and numerous other issues. [16] Not only has Trump said he will approve the pipeline, but his advisers have declared that “We should take tribal land away from public treatment [privatize it]…As long as we can do it without unintended consequences, I think we will have broad support around Indian country,” a move which is broadly opposed by indigenous peoples, represented by groups such as the Indigenous Environmental Network and Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota, among others. [17] I think is valid to say that Trump will unleash neofascism (assisted by Obama continuing his harsh immigration measures), and that Trump is a showman, with governing style that makes Corporate America nervous. [18]

The most uneasy of all about Trump are the Iranians. The Western-backed moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently said, in a speech at Tehran University, after expressing anger that the U.S. would tear up the nuclear agreement (with cheers of “Death to America), “America cannot influence our determination, this nation’s resistance and its struggle. America is our enemy; we have no doubt about this. The Americans want to put as much pressure on us as they can.” [19] Beyond this, with this tone because of more pressure from “hard-liners,” some analysts in Iran said that Rouhani has proved that “trusting America is useless and a waste of time, energy and money” and should not be re-elected, but there is continued dedication to the nuclear agreement as some Iranian lawmakers “have proposed a boycott of American products…[and 88 others] have even suggested restarting nuclear activities and the enrichment of uranium.” The renewal of US sanctions on Iran for the next ten years has vindicated the “hardliners,” as some still try to bring in foreign companies to invest as the country’s leaders want the sanctions to expire. As I noted on this blog before, Iran is currently beset by the forces of Western imperialism, but this might be an opening to prevent more damage.

There really isn’t any more to say here, even about the optimistic comments of Putin about Trump (which despite his previous comments should be more wary), the Pentagon burying evidence of $125 billion in waste, the “Chinese dream,” and the widening income gap between the wealthy and the mass of the population. [21] Perhaps we should, other than recognizing the successes of socialism in the USSR, go farther than Sassy, who said, as I noted in the beginning of this post, “when Trump is inaugurated I’ll turn the knives on his administration,” and turn the knives on Trump NOW, instead of buying into delusions of optimism when it comes to Trump, his cabinet, and his policies which will most definitely benefit the bourgeoisie, even more than Obama, who the capitalist class liked very much.

Notes

[1] Anne Gearan, Philip Rucker, and Simon Denyer, “Trump’s Taiwan phone call was long planned, say people who were involved,” Washington Post, December 4, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016. Reportedly this was only one of many calls with foreign leaders that were planned after Trump’s election on November 8th. There was also a “tougher language about China” in the GOP platform this year than before, and a number of pieces in Foreign Policy (Trump transition advisers) and the Council of National Interest (Trump transition adviser) may give clues to his future moves forward.

[2] Obama administration authorizes $1.83 billion arms sale to Taiwan,” Reuters, December 16, 2015. Accessed December 7, 2016. This article says that “the Obama administration formally notified Congress on Wednesday of a $1.83 billion arms sale package for Taiwan, including two frigates, anti-tank missiles, amphibious assault vehicles and other equipment, drawing an angry response from China…Although Washington does not recognize Taiwan as a separate state from China, it is committed under the Taiwan Relations Act to ensuring Taipei can maintain a credible defense…”Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory. China strongly opposes the U.S. arms sale to Taiwan,” Xinhua quoted Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang, who summoned Lee, as saying. Zheng said the sales went against international law and basic norms of international relations and “severely” harmed China’s sovereignty and security…the arms package included two Perry-class guided-missile frigates; $57 million of Javelin anti-tank missiles made by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin; $268 million of TOW 2B anti-tank missiles and $217 million of Stinger surface-to-air missiles made by Raytheon, and $375 million of AAV-7 Amphibious Assault Vehicles.”

[3] Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Eric Lipton, “Bob Dole Worked Behind the Scenes on Trump-Taiwan Call,” New York Times, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016. Dole also pushed for the plank in the GOP Party Platform which took a harder line on China than previously.

[4] Other articles I don’t feel like relating here are: (1) an apparent US-China-Japan space race, with Japan wanting to send explorers to Mercury and Venus instead of Mars like the US and China, connected with growth of the “space industry,” along with related tweets and (2) rejection of a China-linked semiconductor, displaying the fanatical economic nationalism at play.

[5] Associated Press, “Trump speaks directly with Taiwan’s leader, irking China,” Mercury News, December 3, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016; Damian Paletta, Carol E. Lee and Jeremy Page, “Donald Trump’s Message Sparks Anger in China,” Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016.

[6] Ting Shi and Taylor Hall, “China Seeks ‘Strategic Composure’ in Trump Era of Diplomacy,” Bloomberg News, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016.

[7] Louis Nelson, “Trump praises Kazakhstan ‘miracle’ in call with president,” Politico, December 1, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016; Reena Flores, “Kazakhstan: Trump praised “miracle” achieved under our president,” CBS News, December 2, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016.

[8] Theodore Karasik, “Kazakhstan: At the Crossroads of Security,” U.S. News and World Report, December 5, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016.

[9] “Kazakhstan to join talks with OPEC, undecided on output cut,” Reuters, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016.

[10] Seema Guha, “Donald Trump may play hardball on Kashmir, but India is no pushover,” First Post, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Rama Lakshmi, “Trump can resolve Kashmir impasse with ‘dealmaking skills,’ his running mate claims. It won’t be easy,” Washington Post, December 5, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Carlos Munoz, “Pakistani aide sees opening for better ties with Trump administration,” Washington Times, December 5, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Denis Slatery and Cameron Joseph, “Donald Trump speaks to Taiwan, Philippines and Pakistan leaders over the phone — signaling a major U.S. foreign policy shift,” New York Daily News, December 3, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Joshua Berlinger and Sophia Saifi, “Donald Trump reportedly praises Pakistan’s ‘terrific’ PM,” CNN, December 2, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Damien Paletta and Saeed Shah, “Pakistan Says Donald Trump Called Its Leader ‘Terrific Guy’,” Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Shashank Bengali and Aoun Sahi, “In phone call with leader, Trump lavishes praise on Pakistan, ‘fantastic place of fantastic people,”” Los Angeles Times, December 1, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Jackie Northam, “Trump Gushes About Pakistan In Call With Its Prime Minister,” NPR, December 1, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Jeff Nesbit, “Donald Trump’s Call With Pakistan Was a Hypocritical Mess,” Time, December 1, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Matt Bearak, “Pakistan’s surprisingly candid readout of Trump’s phone call with prime minister,” Washington Post, November 30, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Steve Benen, “Trump has ‘bizarre’ conversation with Pakistani leader,” MSNBC, December 1, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Charles Tiefer, “Trump’s Ignorant Call To Pakistan’s Sharif May Send India An Unwelcome Message,” Forbes, November 30, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[11] Joe Watts, “Theresa May praises ‘easy to talk to’ Donald Trump despite previous criticism,” The Independent, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; “Donald Trump values special relationship with UK and is ‘easy to talk to’, says Theresa May,” The Telegraph, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Robert Nisbet, “Theresa May: Talking to Donald Trump is ‘very easy’,” Sky News, December 7, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; “Theresa May calls Donald Trump to discuss ties, transition and NATO,” Sky News, November 29, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Ian Silvera,”Donald Trump and Theresa May agree on Nato importance in second phone call,” International Business Times, November 29, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Peter Walker, “Concerns over ‘special relationship’ allayed as Trump calls May,” The Guardian, November 10, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[12] Martin Pengelly, “Nigel Farage is willing to serve Donald Trump ‘formally or informally’,” The Guardian, December 3, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; “Nigel Farage meets with top Republicans raising fresh questions for Theresa May,” The Telegraph, December 3, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Feliz Solomon, “Donald Trump Says ‘Many People’ Want Nigel Farage to Become Britain’s Ambassador to the U.S.,” Time, November 21, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Rowena Mason, “Nigel Farage: I share concerns with Donald Trump,” The Guardian, July 15, 2015. Accessed December 8, 2016; Karla Adam, “Nigel Farage: Trump is ‘a very loyal man’,” Washington Post, November 22, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[13] Robert Reed, “Boeing CEO waits for Trump’s trade play,” Chicago Tribune, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[14] David Streitfield, “Donald Trump Summons Tech Leaders to a Round-Table Meeting,” New York Times, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[15] Burgess Everett and Jennifer Haberkorn, “GOP still splintered over Obamacare after Pence meeting,” Politco, December 7, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Rachel Bade and Burgess Everett, “GOP may delay Obamacare replacement for years,” Politico, December 1, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016; Rich Lowry, Trump Follows Obama’s Blueprint, Politico, December 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[16] See Michael Rosenburg’s article in the New York Times titled “Trump Adviser Has Pushed Clinton Conspiracy Theories,” December 5, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016. Other articles of note from Russia Today (about US role in the arms trade), Mint Press News (US tolerance of war crimes), Military Times (returning Okinawa to Japan), New York Times (“House G.O.P. Signals Break With Trump Over Tariff Threat,” by Jennifer Steinhauer), Slate (Trump congratulated Duerte on his anti-drug crackdown), Raw Story (KKK membership increasing after Trump’s election), PressTV (huge military budget passed by the US house), LeftVoice (inadequate criticism of Sanders’s opinion on the Carrier deal), Reuters (Dustin Voltz, “FBI to gain expanded hacking powers as Senate effort to block fails,” December 1, 2015, accessed December 8, 2016), Twitter (Cordelier’s thread), Guardian (what Trump means for Africa), CNN (Trump’s conflicts of interest), Forbes (Trump may not propose a budget in 2017), The Hill (Union leader at Carrier plant mad at Trump, saying he lied), and Pakistan Observer (Trump claiming he will mediate the conflict in Kashmir).

[17] , “Trump advisors aim to privatize oil-rich Indian reservations,” Reuters, December 5, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[18] Drew Harwell and Rosalind D. Harman, “Trump’s unpredictable style unnerves corporate America,” Washington Post, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[19] Thomas Erdbrink, “Iran’s President Says Donald Trump Can’t Tear Up Nuclear Pact,” December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[20] Craig Whitlock and Bob Woodward, “Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste,” Washington Post, December 5, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.

[21] Patricia Cohen, “A Bigger Economic Pie, but a Smaller Slice for Half of the U.S.,” New York Times, December 6, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.