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.

“Until imperialism is defeated in the region”: The Kurds and the Syrian Arab Republic

Overlay of oil/gas pipelines with Rojava territory. I created this for one of the articles on Rojava I wrote, posting it on Imgur. I am sharing here since I feel it is relevant to this topic. As I said in my article, this map overlay “shows that oil and natural gas pipelines snake through it [Rojava], including one north from Aleppo, and others going through the heart of the territory in Northeast Syria where there is also a concentration of oil and gas fields.”
Recently, I read an article in Worker’s World by an author called Damien or “D. Angelpoulos,” a man who may be a student at a Michigan University. For reasons not yet known, it was deleted (also see here). Regardless, I feel it is only a fair to address his article after writing a two-part series on Dissident Voice about Rojava. The first part, titled “”A Liberated Area in the Middle East”?: Western Imperialism in Rojava” focused on the broad contours of the supposed “state” while the second one, titled the “The Illegal Entity of Rojava and Imperial “Divide and Rule” Tactics” focused on how this entity is illegal and had illegitimate sovereignty under existing law. Each of those pieces will be quoted and summarized below.

Responding to Mr. Angelpoulos’s article

Mr. Angelpoulos has a very different, while informed, perspective than yours truly. He writes that..

For the past six years, the United States, Israel, NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council have waged an unrelenting proxy war against the sovereign, secular state of Syria. The U.S.-funded Free Syrian Army, called “moderate rebels” in the corporate-owned media, fights openly alongside forces backed by U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Turkey. These forces, really mercenaries or contras, which include the Islamic State, Jabhat Al-Nusra (al-Qaida in Syria), Jaysh al-Islam and others, are largely constituted of foreign fighters.

While this is undoubtedly true, it is more than just the Free Syrian Army or FSA. As I noted in “The Illegal Entity of Rojava and Imperial “Divide and Rule” Tactics,” herein called “The Illegal Entity of Rojava” there is a new “rebel” group in town: the Free Idlib Army or the FIA, a part of the FSA:

…the Free Idlib Army (FIA), [is] a division of the FSA which would theoretically fight “jihadist groups and pro-government forces in [the] northwestern Idlib province” even as it faces likely targeting from such “al-Qaida-linked factions,” even though it has coordinated with them before. The FIA entity, consisting of 30,000 to 35,000 people, is undoubtedly, as one analyst put it, “100 percent an American project,” with weaponry, financial aid, and more, funneled through Müşterek Operasyon Merkezi (MOM), an operations center based in Turkey, operated by the CIA with the supervision of the Turks.

I do not know why Mr. Angelpoulos did not mention this in his article. He almost seems to play the clickbait tab, saying that the “anti-imperialist left” of which he does not define is missing out on “one front in this proxy war” omitting it from their analyses of the situation:

Since last August [2016], the U.S. has been engaged in Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria, claiming this is an attempt to “liberate” Raqqa, the proclaimed capital of the Islamic State…The U.S. has aided the Turkish-led operation in an alliance with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

For one, this is confusing way of wording it, since Operation Euphrates Shield is actually a name for the Turkish military invasion of the sovereign Syrian state, not a US-led operation. However, articles from the “Turkish military intervention in Syria” Wikipedia page, only a good starting point on this subject, not a good source in general, indicate that the US has provided air support for Turkish military operations (and in general), but seemed to halt such support in November of last year. Furthermore, there are reports that the operation has “ended” which he also doesn’t say.

The SDF’s largest fighting force is the YPG…The YPG is allied with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and both are allied with the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK). The PKK has been engaged in a decades-long fight for self-determination of the Kurdish region inside Turkish boundaries against the brutally oppressive Turkish state.

This is partially deceptive. Although I admit that I do not know everything about this conflict, I think it is worth pointing out that while the PKK has been involved in a decades-long fight within Turkish in which they have been brutally attacked by the Turkish state, they dropped their demand for an independent Kurdistan when Abdullah Öcalan, the “Wizard-of-Oz” of Rojava, was arrested. Furthermore, lest us forget, as I noted in “”A Liberated Area in the Middle East”?: Western Imperialism in Rojava,” called “A Liberated Area in the Middle East” in the rest of this article, the YPG and SDF were helped by US airpower in their efforts to seize control of about 26,000 sq km of Syria, including a 250 mile “stretch of territory along the Turkish border,” which basically constitutes Rojava.

In a sign of the contradictions inherent in U.S. imperialist policy toward Syria, on April 25 Turkish planes attacked units of the YPG in northern Syria, killing as many as 70 fighters. While U.S. diplomats said they raised concerns with NATO-ally Turkey regarding this strike, nothing concrete was done to stop future Turkish attacks against Kurdish fighters. (Reuters, April 25) This is one example in Washington’s long history of apparently backing one oppressed people and then turning on them.

You could call this an imperialist contradiction. However, but I would also say it fits with the imperial divide-and-rule tactics to break up the Syrian Arab Republic and nearby “hostile” states so they can ruled effectively to benefit Western capitalists. So, in many senses it isn’t as much as a contradiction as you might think, since the Turks AND and these Kurdish fighters are assisting Western imperialist objectives.

Many progressive people see the YPG, which is mostly made up of Kurdish fighters but includes other ethnic minorities as well as Western “foreign volunteers,” as representing the just struggle for Kurdish national liberation. Organized along democratic principles without a vertical chain of command, the forces of the YPG and their movement in northern Syria claim to model their “non-state” on anarchist, eco-socialist principles. The YPJ, the Women’s Protection Units, provide an active leadership role for women in their struggle.

I think that “progressive people” who see the YPG as representing a “just struggle for Kurdish liberation” and as organized “along democratic principles” is typical of the Western and some across the international left. However, as I noted in “The Illegal Entity of Rojava” the “state” itself is ILLEGAL. Not only does its creation clearly violate the Syrian Constitution, tearing at the national fabric of unity, but it violates the UN Charter. Hence, it is an illegal entity with illegitimate sovereignty. As I said throughout my series on this topic, Rojava would not exist if it was not for intervention of Western capitalist powers.

The Kurds are a historically oppressed nation of 30 million to 35 million people. They are the world’s largest nation without a state. Most live in the contiguous, underdeveloped, mountainous region spanning four countries and speak their own language. About 14.5 million to 16 million Kurds live in Turkey, 6 million in Iran and 5 million to 6 million in Iraq. The 1.5 million to 2 million Kurds in Syria are the smallest grouping of this nation.

The estimates of how many Kurds there are worldwide vary. The Kurdish Project, a rabidly pro-Kurd website, claims there are 30 million within the ethnic community whereas the Encyclopedia Britannica says it could be as low as 25 million and Cultural Survival says it is 18 million. So, for him to say that they are the world’s largest group of people who is stateless seems questionable if best. This puts his other claims of population figures into question. As I noted in “A Liberated Area in the Middle East,” some have said that there are 4.6 million people within the illegal entity of Rojava. I am aware that the UN Charter talks about self-determination and that the principle, as stated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is that all peoples “have the right of self-determination” and the ability to “freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” Some would say that Rojava falls under their requirements, which could be interpreted in an anti-imperialist manner. However, I would argue that just because people have that right, which the good “Kurds” have shown they have exercised, does NOT mean they have to use that right. In this case, the right should be waived and not enforced as that would mean, ultimately, victory for the sneering imperialists. Furthermore, it is worth noting that “self-determination is limited by conditions on territorial integrity” as an anti-Soviet bourgeois scholar even admitted (also see here).

Mr. Angelpoulos goes on to say that

During the Kurdish people’s fight for liberation from Turkey, Washington has supplied arms, logistical and satellite assistance, and political support for the Turkish ruling classes against the PKK, which the U.S. labels as “terrorist.” Yet in Syria, Washington has a cynical, opportunistic alliance with the YPG, using those forces to accomplish its aims of destroying the Syrian state. At times, the Syrian Democratic Forces/YPG have coordinated with the Syrian Arab Army in the fight against IS and other mercenary armies. However, SDF/YPG now operate in coordination with the U.S. military. Despite the SDF/YPG’s progressive principles and organizational structure, the Pentagon’s aim is to have it function as an effective proxy for the U.S. geopolitical goal of dismantling the Syrian state.

There is no doubt that the US has allied with the Turks to suppress the Kurds in the past. I think he is right that the YPG, along with other “good” (by Western standards) Kurds, unlike the “bad” (by Western standards) pro-Syrian government Kurds, as I note in “The Illegal Entity of Rojava” is serving as an US proxy force. However, I think he is giving the SDF and YPG too much credit.

It is not obvious what aggression the U.S. plans next for Syria after its deadly April 6 strike on the Sharyat airfield and the May 18 bombing of a Syrian government convoy. If Washington significantly steps up direct U.S. intervention, it will expect cooperation from the SDF in providing ground forces. The Pentagon has already been able to build two air bases in northeastern Syria in the past few months.

It is a good point that U.S. plans for Syria after the April 6 act of aggression and imperial show of force, are not clear. However, as I see it, that attack was a turning point. It meant that US foreign policy was basically being handed over to the Pentagon carte blanche, without restriction. Instead of colluding with the imperialists like Obama, Trump seems to be willing to let them do whatever they want.

Since last year, the U.S. has been sending special forces troops to northern Syria. As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has stated since the U.S. sent several hundred more ground troops to Syria in the beginning of March, “All foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation … are invaders.” Assad, who is constantly demonized in the U.S. corporate media, is the democratically elected leader of the people of Syria.

On this count, Mr. Angelpoulos is right. As I said in the opening of “A Liberated Area in the Middle East” currently over 17.1 million living in the socially democratic and secular  Syrian Arab Republic which is “ravaged by overt and covert imperialist machinations” the government led by the duly elected National Progressive Front (NPF) with its majority in the Syrian’s People’s Council, the Syria’s parliament, reaffirmed in April 2016 elections by the Syrian people. It is recently that Trump dealt such Syrians “a blow” by directly supporting the “good” Kurds.

The YPG has been bolstered not only by U.S. special forces but also by foreign volunteers including people from the U.S., Canada, Britain and other countries. Among them is Brace Belden, who had a Rolling Stone magazine centerfold feature on his role and inspired an upcoming Hollywood film starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the “punk florist-turned-revolutionary.” Another volunteer is Gill Rosenberg, a Canadian-Israeli woman and former soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces, and the first foreign volunteer in the Women’s Protection Units. These individuals violate Syrian sovereignty and package the  U.S. invasion of Syria as a progressive, “socialist” struggle against Islamic state fascism.

This is undoubtedly true. In “A Liberated Area of the Middle East” I noted how that fact that the YPG were US proxy forces dismayed “two deluded Marxists who thought they were fighting for an “egalitarian utopia”.” If you were going to fight at all in Syria, why not fight on behalf of the Syrian state. To fight on behalf of the YPG and the “good” Kurds is a violent act aimed at the Syrian proletariat and makes those that engage in such acts clear and blatant class traitors. There is no question about this. Such people undoubtedly violate Syrian sovereignty as well, there is no question.

The Rand Corporation think tank has drawn up various “peace plans” throughout the war, detailing the U.S. and its allies’ latest plans for the partition of Syria. The most recent, dated this year, projects large swathes of Kurdish-administered territory extending about halfway to Raqqa in the south and almost to Manbij in the west, as well as a corner encompassing Azaz in northwestern Syria. Buffering these zones are “proposed international administration” zones, code words for NATO occupation and Turkish-controlled areas. Notably, these “Kurdish zones” in northeastern Syria encompass much of the country’s greatest natural wealth, including its largest oil reserves.

I would not be surprised by the fact that Rand would engage in such politicking and call for the break-up of the country. After some searching, I found the report (I think) referenced here, and is one of RAND’s “scenarios” on what could happen:

In Syria, a peace process has resulted in recognized “zones of control” divided among the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the regime, and the opposition…After the zones are announced, a wave of internal displacement further consolidates Kurdish populations in the PYD zone of control; minorities including ‘Alawis, Christians, and Druze in the regime zone of control; and Sunni Arabs in the opposition zone of control. Mixed towns and border areas where the zones abut are the sites of particular ethnosectarian bloodletting. Even in microstates too small to partition, Sunni and Shi‘a self-segregate by neighborhood, with Manama and Kuwait City, particularly, divided between heavily Sunni and heavily Shi‘a neighborhoods…On the one hand, less interaction between sects decreases the daily incidence of conflict. On the other hand, the segregation of communities deepens prejudices, foreshadowing a brewing conflict

Hence, this does not seem to be what they are advocating, but it is a proposal they have under advisement to say the least. Another report actually seems to advocate intervention in the region, showing that the “good” Kurds can (and should stay) allies for the murderous empire:

…Located almost entirely in the north of the country, Syrian Kurds have a longstanding history of opposition to the Assad regime…Syrian Kurds are pressing forward against IS with U.S. military support, and their surging confidence led them to claim an independent state in the northwest…the most effective Kurdish forces engaged with IS…[are more] effective at offensive operations and, ostensibly, more useful for postconflict stability…the extreme violence of the Syrian war has made reconciliation with al-Assad all but impossible…this option seeks to protect Sunni, Kurdish, and other non-Alawi Syrians; create safe spaces for the return of refugees; and establish alternative governance in non-Alawi areas. Military force, including ground forces, may be used to expel GoS military forces from southern Syria and to expel IS from urban area. All military activities will focus on the reduction of the IS threat and the creation of safe zones for Syrian civilians. In the medium term, the United States and the coalition will invest in repatriation and reconstruction activities within these safe zones, focusing on the eventual development of legitimate local and regional governance. These efforts will be leverage to press Russia to negotiate and help remove Bashar al-Assad from power, while retaining Russian and many Iranian equities in Syria…To defeat IS and prevent its return, the United States will have to help mitigate or resolve all the major issues currently destabilizing Iraq. This means that the United States will have to remain heavily engaged in Iraq for many years, perhaps decades, just as it has remained engaged in Korea after the mid-20th century Korean War and in Kosovo more than two decades after U.S.-led coalition intervention there…this plan would…[include] a national program to recognize the bravery of Shi’a, Sunni, and Kurdish militia fighters… the incorporation of Kurdish paramilitary units into the ISF [Iraqi Security Force]…As Iraq stabilizes, it will become far more attractive to regional states as a safe investment for both private and capital wealth funds…the United States could ignore the civil war and focus on the tactical defeat of IS, leveraging Kurdish; Arab; and, if necessary, American and coalition military forces to expel the group from Raqqa and render it incapable of international terror attacks…All efforts should be made to keep the Kurds within a legitimate Syrian state, at least until Syria is fully stabilized…Ideally, Turkey will be a signatory to the Syria agreement and will accept the incorporation of YPG and other groups into the Syrian armed services in exchange for reduced Kurdish independence in the north

Not only does this raise the idea of creating zones for certain ethnicities so they can be easily controlled by the West within Syria, but it would mean, if implemented, a stronger military presence in Iraq (and in Syria undoubtedly), accompanying the overthrow of the duly elected Syrian government with the installation of a “friendly” government. Then after all of that, the US would use the Kurds as imperialist enforcers! Additionally, as a result, the US could easily accept the creation of a Kurdish state by this logic, as the above quote makes clear. This is a terrifying prospect because such a state and these machinations would lead to more chaos and destruction in the Mideast.

If the U.S. aids the SDF to annex northeastern Syria, this will not lead to any meaningful form of Kurdish independence. Rather, it will mean the Kurdish forces will be subordinate to and will collaborate with the U.S., much as the Kurdish regime does inside Iraq. Meanwhile, the U.S. will destroy what remains of Syria and purge any progressive forces in the Kurdish movement.

While I could see this as a possibility, based on the RAND report quoted above, a Kurdish state could be created, but it would be subservient to US imperialism. If what he says occurred, there is no doubt that Syria would be destroyed and any progressives in the Kurdish movement could be purged, although the latter may not matter as long as such progressives are willing to bow to their new masters in Washington. More worrying is the fact that Trump seems to be taking DIRECTLY out of the RAND playbook by sending arms and equipment to the “good” Syrians:

Washington has found an effective partner in the mixed Kurdish and Sunni Arab Syrian Defence Forces (SDF), which is dominated by a Syrian Kurdish faction closely linked to a violent separatist movement in Turkey in conflict with the Turkish state. This force has isolated Raqqa and is poised for an assault on the city, but lacks the weaponry that may be necessary for success. Turkey is strongly opposed to any further extension of Kurdish control within Syria and equally opposed to any American effort to arm the SDF. Washington must therefore choose whether to ignore Turkish objections and arm the SDF, seek direct Turkish army participation in the assault as a substitute, or add some American units to the assault force. Waiting for the Turkish army and its Syrian allies to arrive will require postponing the operation several months, with an uncertain end result. Arming the Kurdish‑dominated SDF and introducing additional American forces into Syria,beyond the special operations troops already there, may be the fastest and surest way of retaking Raqqa and other Islamic State territory…Employing Kurdish led forces to liberate Raqqa requires the United States to convincingly assure Turkey that Kurds will not occupy this region once it has been cleared of the Islamic State. This will in turn require some clear understanding between Washington and the Syrian Kurdish authorities. It also requires the availability of some alternative hold force. Once Raqqa and the surrounding region have been cleared, the United States will need to help that hold force resist attacks from residual Islamic State fighters, other violent extremist groups, and the regime…We suggest Washington should offer to place Raqqa, once liberated, under some form of international administration

Once again, these Kurds would be serving Western imperialism, and Raqqa would be in the hand of gleeful imperialists. There is no doubt about that.

At this point, Washington sees the claims to a separate Kurdish region based out of northern Syria as fitting its goal of dividing Syria. With the Syrian state under siege, the attempt to create a Kurdish “autonomous” zone under U.S. guidance is in direct contradiction to the preservation of Syrian sovereignty in defense against imperialism. The U.S. has made this abundantly clear, saying that it plans to station its forces in Syria even once IS has been eliminated.

He is right about that. Creating a Kurdish region that is “autonomous” would clearly violate Syrian sovereignty. But it also would serve the interests of imperialist destruction. Hence, it could be a precursor to further US presence in the county.

Moreover, all of these events obscure the fact that the Syrian government and Kurdish groups have negotiated greater autonomy for the latter on their own terms before. If there is to be any change in the relationship between the Syrian state and its Kurdish inhabitants, it is clear that this change cannot be imposed by the imperialist powers. The U.S., NATO and their allies should have no say in this history.

In this case, I think he is exaggerating the relations between the “good” Kurds and Syrian government. Such relations seem to include possibly partial recognition, but also have been in question since the Syrian government may see such groups as imperial proxies. They likely prefer the “bad” Kurds better, those groups that want to work with the Syrian government, not against it. I definitely agree with the sentiment that there should be non-interference in Syria, which means no meddling by the US imperialists.

The imperialists in the U.S. and elsewhere have planned a grim end for Syria: the destruction of the sovereign secular state in favor of Balkanized ethnic enclaves in the manner of Iraq, Libya, Yugoslavia and any other state that has defied destruction and imperialist plundering since the fall of the Soviet Union. This includes the current aggression against Syria, Venezuela and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

I understand his viewpoint here, but I would not say that Iraq, Libya, and Yugoslavia are Balkanized ethnic enclaves. In fact, the US imperialists failed in that endeavor in Iraq, and likely in Libya which is in the midst of the bloody civil war, from what I can tell. However, it is true that this measure did happen in Yugoslavia, a place where the most of the inhabitants of this former system of federalism “seem willing to share their societies with ethnic and religious groups different from their own” with a few exceptions. Hence, in that case, US imperialism did not succeed either. But, undoubtedly this idea is carried over to Venezuela (which Trump wants to “fix,” whatever that means) and the DPRK as well, which is troubling and should be stopped at all costs.

There can be no genuine liberation for any peoples — Arab, Kurdish or otherwise — until imperialism is defeated in the region and the right of self-determination is fully realized and respected. Anti-war and other activists in the U.S. and NATO states must stand in full solidarity with the right of all nations to develop their collective livelihood, culture and economy without interference from imperialists. Hands off Syria! All mercenaries out of Syria! Uphold self-determination!

Again, he is correct. Defeating imperialism in the Middle East is needed for genuine liberation of any people to occur. As I noted in a footnote of “The Illegal Entity of Rojava,” if circumstances were different, with the “good” Kurds asking “for direct support from Russia, China, and the Syrian government, instead going directly to grinning Western imperialists, then I would be inclined to engage in international solidarity with them.” I still stand by that claim. I would add Cuba, Iran, Belarus and Zimbabwe (which is facing its threats of violence against the elected government coming from the US-backed opposition) to the list of nations under attack as well, along with others that could easily be added to the list.

Further comments on the “notion of American empire” (a.k.a. the murderous empire)

“The action of U.S. warplanes bombing a Syrian government military convoy near the town of al-Tanf on May 18 marks a sharp escalation of the U.S. campaign to overthrow the elected Syrian government and to dismember the country. It must be protested by all who oppose U.S. imperialism’s aggression. With bloody irony, the Pentagon claimed it attacked the Syrian government convoy because the Syrian trucks had entered “an established ‘de-confliction zone’.”The convoy had moved within 18 miles of a U.S. military base…The Pentagon set up this base without permission by the Syrian government…The Russian government called the U.S. attack a breach of Syrian sovereignty. The air attack took place as President Donald Trump left the U.S. to visit Saudi Arabia…The U.S. bombing also comes just after an agreement creating “de-escalation” zones in Syria was signed by Russia, Iran, Turkey, Syria and non-al-Qaida groups that operate in Syria…The U.S. bombing was clearly designed to torpedo this agreement. Its goal is to re-enforce U.S.-defined “safe zones”…partition Syria and overturn the Bashar al-Assad government.”- Workers World Party, May 22.

While some telling the Kurds what they should focus on, Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, head of the DIA, is declaring that “Kurdish independence is on a trajectory where it is probably not if but when. And it will complicate the situation unless there’s an agreement in Baghdad,” showing that the imperialists are accepting the “inevitable.” Furthermore, are the stories about how the US-Turkey relationship could be permanently damaged if the “good” Kurds stay in Raqqa while the US gives the “good” Kurds armored vehicles, arms, “machinery, equipment, supplies” along with, as NPR even admitting, in their pro-military manner: “more American troops to head into Syria – maybe a couple of hundred” who are trainers along with “maintenance people to help with these armored vehicles” which would be there along with “some American troops close to the front lines in Syria, special operations forces like Green Berets and Navy SEALs, helping these local forces.”

Hence, the destruction of Syria will continue full force. I stand by what I said at the end “The illegal entity” about possible next steps for everyone reading the article:

…the next steps forward are up to everyone out there reading this and…the international “left[,]” which needs to get its act together with a strong message of international solidarity with governments (and peoples, but not the “good” Kurds) under attack, not division on countries such as Syria.

Hence, there needs to be a united front. After all, Trump is unpredictable in many ways, which some may say is positive but actually bodes badly in trying to counter US imperialism as it is hard to predict what will happen next. This reality of Trump was noted in a fawning Time magazine cover story. This piece said that Trump is not only tuning out “bad news about himself” but he “comes to office with no well-formed ideology,” which sounds a bit like Obama and the “blank screen.” The article further claims that he has “an evolving understanding of history and government” which is clear from his comments about Andrew Jackson ending the Civil War, and uses “his business acumen to help is more fervent supporters” while he is “extremely confident in his own judgment.” The article also notes that Trump has a social media director, Dan Scavino, formerly the general manager of Trump’s Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, New York, and that his “willingness to fight is unabated and unfiltered.”

Beyond that, the recent visit to Saudi Arabia seems to indicate that the US has its sights set on the Islamic Republic of Iran. As the Parliament Speaker of Iran, Ali Larijani, argued “it was both interesting and unbelievable to hear that the US President clearly announced the volume of cash he had received in order to make the visit” which seems to be true since he was not only there for US imperialism but to benefit his cronies (also see here) a sort of “foreign triumph” as he faces the never-ending “Russia conspiracy” the Democrats are using to push him out of office, to unseat him, to overthrow him. I say this even as I dislike Trump very much and feel he is an utter monster. Still, I don’t believe the claims of a such a conspiracy in the slightest. It is all a smokescreen to me even if questions about his stability in the future. Focusing on such a conspiracy distracts from the damage Trump and his loyal minions are doing to public lands, education, public assistance, and worldwide imperial aggression of course, while supporting increased police brutality at home. As for the journey to Saudi Arabia, it is part of a plan to create an “Arab NATO” which is an idea that threatens the region, which would cause increased instability since the Saudis sponsor many of the Islamic reactionary groups within the region. Clearly, this an anti-Iran move, anger at their measures to mitigate US imperialism.

The looming threat of war against Iran seems to be occurring at the same time the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) seems to be winning on the battlefield, implying that Washington wants to stop such successes. As Al-Jaafari put it, their goal is to combat terrorism, but “state terrorism is being practiced against Syria” with violations of international humanitarian law. I could go on, but the reality is that the Russian and Syrian government forces are the only ones earnestly fighting terrorists. The US and their international coalition which killed 255 civilians last month as the worthless piece of junk, the Syrian Observatory for “Human Rights” (SOHR) which is an imperialist, anti-Syrian government outlet, claimed. The Syrian government is even moving its planes back to the airfield the US bombed in April, showing that the US show of force was worthless and pathetic. At the same time, the Russians seem to be willing to weaken the Syrian state and benefit the “good” Kurds possibly because they have a capitalist class as well and see something positive in the “good” Kurds. This is happening at the same time that the US slaps more sanctions on the Syrian government and by extension the Syrian people as a whole.

The Syrian government (and people) will continue to be in a precarious situation until the end of the conflict and withdrawal of Western imperialism from the region. The best we can do is pledge solidarity with those fighting the mercenaries of imperial conquest, not only Daesh but the “rebel” forces and “good” Kurds, and all of those standing against global capitalism, even with our respective critiques.

A bunch of baloney: The Trump-Russia “connection”

A scene from “Two Bad Neighbors” (S7E13), a Simpsons episode where Homer fights with George H.W. Bush after Bart accidentally destroys his novel and Bush spanks him

Two nights ago, 60 Minutes came on at 7:00. They claimed they had an “exclusive” interview with James Comey, the FBI Director and long-time bureaucrat. It cast Comey as a nice, well-spoken person, not a showboater as Trump has called him. Hence, it was, like pieces they have done on Apple, drones, and many other subjects, a puff piece. Since May 9, bourgeois liberals and progressives have been waiving their hands, which has even been joined by “progressive” media like The Real News, putting out three stories trying to attest that Mr. Comey was fired because of (1) Trump’s “collusion” with Russia, (2) considering the hypothetical of such interference while claiming there is financial ties between Trump and Russia, (3) and acting the Trump-Russia connection is real. Of all the media, not Democracy Now or any of the other left-leaning media was of note, but rather Liberation News, a publication of the Party of Socialism and Liberation (PSL) had the best perspective on the topic. Brian Becker, the coordinator of ANSWER, noted how the Democratic Party and liberal organizations closed ranks in their call for a “special prosecutor to “protect our democracy” from the Russian menace” and held up Mr. Comey as “the martyred champion” just like 60 Minutes. He goes on to say, rightly, that it is ridiculous to think that Mr. Comey was “the one person who had the goods on Russia” with his firing ending the investigation, that Clinton blamed Comey and the Russians for her defeat, not the arcane Electoral College, that “the Watergate investigation was based on an actual criminal act” unlike this “connection,” and that none of the allegations have been proven. Mr. Becker interestingly noted that not only did the FBI tell the DNC that its “email servers had been compromised by “Russian hackers”” but Crowdstrike, was allowed by the FBI, even though it was “a privately owned Democratic Party-aligned cybersecurity firm,” to provide supposed evidence Russians did it, which is suspect since “CrowdStrike is owned by Dmitri Alperovitch, who is Russian and a virulent opponent of Putin.”

Previously I’ve written about the supposed “connection” between Trump and Russia. I’ve argued that the Trump Administration was making Russophobic moves, continuing the same policies of the Obama “era,” while also hoping that a pro-Russia approach by such an administration could reduce conflict, and saying that there should be solidarity with those countries under attack by US imperialism and against Trumpian fascism instead of getting “caught up in the supposed Trump-Russia “connection.”” Before that, I said that Trump was considering Russia as a partner against terrorism even as he proposed more imperialism to “solve” the problems in the world but warned that tensions with Russia will continue while pointing out Obama’s hawkishness when it came to Russia (and to the rest of the world) with Clinton undoubtedly doing the same, since she likely would have “started WWIII with bombing Russian troops in Syria.” Four months ago, I summed up the whole hullabaloo around this issue, writing (links have been removed for easier reading):

…the anti-Russian campaign [is being] pushed by the Democratic Party, certain Republicans, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, along with internal (FBI) and external (CIA) police of the empire, and “left” journalists of The Intercept like Glenn Greenwald, and other “respected”  publications like Mother Jones…a possible conflict within the administration is brewing about the threat of Russia as some want to take more of a defiant stance and others want to be more cordial…there doesn’t need to be a protest against rapprochement with Russia, but instead against a reactionary Russophobic position by Obama, Clinton, McCain, and the like…[we must] organize to stop the “orange menace” not because of his supposed “friendly” nature with Russia, but for the fascism he will bring to the homefront, imperialist destruction that will rein down on the peoples of Korea, Syria, China, and Iran, and unwavering support for the murderous Zionist state of Israel.

I still stand by this same viewpoint, but I went through a Wikipedia article titled “Russian interference in the 2016 United States election” so you don’t have to, and what I found confirmed by perceptions. As a disclaimer, this article is NOT pro-Trump in any way, shape or form, but only shows the Trump-Russia “connection” as fraudulent based on analysis of existing articles written on the subject and that such bourgeois media that wrote these articles should generally not be trusted.

Muddying through Wikipedia

There is no doubt that like Google, Wikipedia is fundamentally bourgeois, even with the “non-profit” status of the Wikimedia Foundation will controls the site. I say this even as a person who has edited numerous Wikipedia articles myself in hopes to countering bourgeois distortions. The following is a list of sources, with articles in the footnotes, that have been cited as “proof” that there is a Russia connection:

  • Unnamed “U.S. officials,” current and former, always ranging in number, sometimes “senior” and have “access to information,” sometimes in the White House. [1]
  • Unnamed “Western intelligence” officials, either in U.S. or foreign intelligence. [2]
  • Information or reports “obtained by a Western intelligence service” that only the media can see, like a secret CIA assessment. [3]
  • Obama administration officials (prior to November 8 election), including Ben Rhodes, Josh Earnest, and President Obama himself [4]
  • Christopher Steele dossier on Trump-Russia “connections,” with documents that haven’t been verified but may have been used as a “roadmap” for investigation by the FBI, who was open to paying him for the information, among other aspects [5]
  • Crowdstrike, the pro-Dem firm run by an anti-Putin individual contracted by the DNC to investigate the hack, blamed the Russians [6]
  • “Guccifer 2.0,” the Romanian hacker who claims he gave docs to Wikileaks even though this has not been confirmed, to whom Roger Stone claims he talked to and has a “backchannel” to Assange, both of which can’t be proven. [7]
  • “suspicious” supposedly “pro-Russia” actions by DCLeaks and Wikileaks or weak supposition [8]
  • DHS, DNI, and private security companies “conclusions,” with specific reference to a  14-page document by CIA, DNI, and FBI, had “high confidence” in Russian involvement, a report commissioned by Obama, even though the Intelligence Community Assessment or ICA was drafted by the CIA, FBI, and NSA, relies on “reporting” of varied sources and “multiple corroborating sources,” their “assessment” based on how they see Russian behavior, claims that Putin and Russian government had preference for Trump over Clinton, claim Moscow used disclosed documents, accessing DNC databases, because RT, other Russia state outlets, was critical of Clinton (that means they swung the election for Trump?), criticizing US shortcomings in civil liberties and democracy using an open source report published in 2012, criticizing US (means that RT is somehow pro-Trump?), RT hosts criticize fracking (so they serve Russian interests?), they even admit near the end of the report that even as RT has more YouTube views and subscribers, CNN has the most Twitter followers, Facebook likes, and Facebook likes of the bourgeois news organizations they list (Al Jazeera English, BBC News World, along with RT), admit at the end that even an assessment of “high confidence” could “be wrong” with the assessment not necessarily a “fact or certainty” [9] Later, these same agencies, CIA, FBI, and NSA stood by their previous assessment, of course.
  • Claims of Russian business ties with Newsweek even admitting that they can’t find any illegal action, and noting there are business ties across the world [10]
  • Claims Putin “praised” Trump, even though he didn’t. [11] Further articles showed that Putin just called Trump a colorful figure or flamboyant, but did NOT call him a genius or any of the other “praise” he supposedly gave.
  • Pending investigations by FBI, NSA, CIA, DOJ, FINCEN (Treasury Dept), and ODNI reps; also some individual agencies are sometimes cited. [12]
  • Max Boot, Clinton campaign, a lawsuit by Bayrock, Toronto Life magazine, news media itself (WashPO and Bloomberg), claimed “Russian trolls,” FBI insiders, and magical “experts” [13]
  • Joint ODNI-DHS statement even admitting that they are only “confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails” and they only “believe” top Russian officials involved; also Clapper, the DNI, but not “17 agencies” agreeing as some claimed. [14]
  • Private security companies ThreatConnect (likely US military/intelligence contractor), Symantec which received a license from the US military in 2005, FireEye run by a former Pentagon officer, and Dell-owned Secureworks which maintains “close ties to various public and private organizations involved in information security” such as the federal government, intelligence and military sectors [15]
  • Unnamed US, European, and Arab officials [16]

Apart from these piss-poor “sources” of collusion, there are confirmed meetings between Trump Administration officials and the Russians, but every administration, even through the Cold War has met with the Russians, and as some US diplomats admitted, including Clinton ally Michael Morrell, this is not a crime as even James Clapper said at one point. [17] Then there’s Michael Flynn. There is no doubt he was paid by RT for three talks, but so has Ron Paul and other US political personalities they’ve had on their show, so how does this show that the Russians “rigged” the election? [18] The truth is it doesn’t do this at all. Perhaps its better to focus on the fact that he was a registered foreign agent for Turkey, that he was the board member of the pro-drone group (Drone Aviation Holding Corp) for which he gained $24,000, consultant for the hawkish Center for a New American Security, among much more that would make him chummy with the capitalist class. All of this has led to some thinking that the Pentagon is right but that Russian media “lies,” claims that the Russians hacked the Trump campaign too but didn’t release information (disproving the whole collusion), as the Russians note that they also spoke with Clinton advisers, and Putin said that the Democrats should get over their loss in November (they should). [19] As a result of the determination that Russia was “behind” the hacking, a number of events went into motion. The FBI spied on Carter Page for at least 90 days, and Trump conceded Russia role sort of but also didn’t, later decrying a “witch hunt” by the Democrats. [20]

Of course, the FBI and intelligence establishment, along with the lackey bourgeois media are wrong. Still, Clinton strongly believes in Russia role as do some former Intel chiefs and Evan McMillian (former CIA) but RNC doesn’t and neither does David Nunes. The media are so caught up in this, they were angry about publication of official photos, with the Russian Foreign Ministry saying that if they hadn’t published pictures from the meeting, the photos would have leaked, which is probably correct.

With such a predictable propaganda assault by the bourgeois media and Russophobes within the military and intelligence establishments, US public opinion reflects this reality. 51-56% of the public, depending on the poll, believes in such interference, with at minimum, 39% opposing this viewpoint. [21] Furthermore, over 60% of those living in the US have said that they are “concerned” about ties to Russia. Some may say these viewpoints are residual effects of the Cold War, with strongly rooted in anti-communism of that time. However, it is more likely that even with waning popularity of bourgeois media in the United States many still rely on it for news and viewpoints that are critical of US empire are marginalized. It may also have to do with uber-nationalism of Americans, many of whom may not trust Trump and see him as a shyster. The real explanation here is not known.

Trump’s tweets and other commentary

Some may say cite Trump’s tweets as “evidence” of the collusion. A search through his tweets for the word “Russia” shows that this is faulty. Looking through tweets from 2011 to 2016 shows that he is more uber-nationalist, jingoist to use the right word, than having any sort of favoritism toward Russia. [22]

The tweets this year, after his election, which are displayed in the search, are worth focusing on here. They range from Trump declaring that Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi met with the Russians, basically saying that meeting with the Russians is normal, calling these Dems “hypocrites,” while again blaming Obama, even claiming he colluded with Russia (no proof of that). He goes on to say that the “so-called Russia story” is (1) “fake news,” (2) claims that there is a magical deal the Clintons made with Russia over uranium which is somehow connected to John Podesta somehow, (3) that the “Trump Russia story is a hoax,” and (4) calls the Russia-Trump connection “phony.” He then said that “things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia” with everyone eventually coming to their “senses,” that the story about Trump’s connection to Russia is an excuse used by Democrats, that Democrat “dealings with Russia” are not investigated by the media, that Clapper noted that there is no collusion between Trump and Russia, asks if Obama was too “soft” on Russia (implying he would be more hardline), and says that the Russians might be laughing at the whole story. Most strikingly is a tweet on May 8, in which he declares “the Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”

Then there are two tweets the bourgeois media claims are “evidence” that Trump gave classified information to the Russians. In them, Trump says that it is “absolute right” to share facts with them which pertain to “terrorism and airline flight safety” which he says he is doing not only for “humanitarian reasons” but because he wants “Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.” I don’t see how this “proves” that classified information was shared. Just because Trump says he shared information, who is to say this is classified information? Also, who is to say that these tweets aren’t just part of Trump’s bravado and he’s making the whole thing up?

Five days before this, Trump, in an interview with NBC News, declared the following:

“This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

Predictably, PolitiFact showed its Russophobia in response. They said that the FBI and intelligence community have “credible evidence” and that Democrats weren’t behind it, cites magical “evidence” in assessments, shows even Federation of American Scientists believes in collision, and also cites Comey and Clapper. As noted earlier in this article, this is utter baloney. While I think there is validity to his statement that the “Russia thing with Trump” is made-up, it is more than just the Democrats. The military and intelligence establishments of the United States, the Democrats, numerous Republicans, other Western intelligence services, and capitalist governments across the “West” have a coordinated Russophobic propaganda offensive. This goes back to 2014 at least, when the “crisis” in Ukraine begun with a coup in the country by Nazi and reactionary forces, seemingly assisted by the CIA and US intelligence in general. In fact, such Russophobia goes back further, perhaps all the way to 1917 when the Soviet Union was founded, but it was a different strain back then, with a lapse in that strain after the demise of the USSR in 1991, and picking up again in 2000 with Vladimir Putin coming to the helm of the independent capitalist Russian state.

The staff of the PSL’s Liberation News put it best, even better than Mike Whitney, as they centered it in an anti-capitalist context.It is worth quoting what they said in part:

“Clinton’s leaked emails have never been conclusively linked to Russia, or to the Russian government. Nor was the leak that novel — the whole game of modern electoral politics is to dig up dirt which compromises one’s opponent…It is likely that Gen. Mike Flynn, then the incoming national security chief, came to some understanding in December with the Russian ambassador about the easing of sanctions. Again, the people who think that this is exceptional — as if presidential campaigns and incoming administrations do not start striking deals before they formally take over — have serious delusions about the workings of politics. What was exceptional was that Flynn lied about it to his own superiors…Most of the Trump team’s purported “collusion” with Russia amounts to rather standard contacts with a foreign government. Trump was open throughout the campaign that he wanted to reorient U.S. policy towards Russia — which would indeed have signified a seismic shift in geopolitics, and would have had dramatic ramifications on crisis flashpoints such as Syria and Ukraine. In this context is it really surprising that his subordinates and team would have developed Russian contacts and back-channels? Why is every conversation with a Russian suddenly proof of foreign control?…the Russia realignment died almost as soon as Trump came into office — CIA-CNN-DNC pressure campaign after the election made sure of that. The administration changed its tone and then doubled down on the new Cold War when it bombed Syria in March [he means April]…But as a political card, the Russia connection remains particularly convenient to the DNC and its associated liberal organizations such as MoveOn. It taps into a long-held and well-indoctrinated prejudice — fear of Russians — while directing the struggle against Trump into channels they can more easily control: investigative committees, special prosecutors, and made-for-tv intrigue…The Russia card gives the Democratic leadership a strategy to weaken or potentially bring down Trump — as their base wants — without actually meeting the demands from below to move the party in a more left-wing, progressive direction.”

A conclusion

It’s hard to know the reason for Trump’s firing of Mr. Comey on May 9, one week ago. Perhaps it was because Marylander Rod J. Rosenstein, who only became Deputy Attorney General on April 26 after near unanimous approval of the US Senate, had convinced Attorney General Jeff Sessions that through revealing the investigation of Killary before the election, he had weakened the “public confidence in the FBI.” [23] Mr. Rosenstein said such in his letter recommending the firing of Mr. Comey, writing in part:

“Over the past year, however, the FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage…I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken….The director was wrong to usurp the Attorney General’s authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution…When federal agents and prosecutors quietly open a criminal investigation, we are not concealing anything; we are simply following the longstanding policy that we refrain from publicizing non-public information….former Attorneys General and Deputy Attorneys General from different eras and both political parties…concluded that the Director violated his obligation to “preserve, protect and defend” the traditions of the Department and the FBI…Although the President has the power to remove an FBI director, the decision should not be taken lightly…The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong…the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.” [24]

Taking this letter into account, one could almost say that the removal of Mr. Comey was in a sense, a PR move to improve the “reputation” of the FBI, which would appeal to the law-and-order approach of Mr. “expand the drug war” Sessions and Trump himself. This would also explain the timing of the letter. While Trump has supposedly said that the “Russia investigation” was on his mind when he fired Mr. Comey, the decision to fire was likely about improving the FBI’s “image” among the populace as a “nonpartisan” agency although it has never been non-political in any way. I could see how firing Mr. Comey damages Mr. Rosenstein’s “independence,” but I would be wary of calling him a “lackey” of Trump just yet.

With pending investigations in the House and Senate, the “Trump-Russia connection” seems destined to continue as a “legitimate” topic for the rest of this year, maybe for his whole first term. In the meantime, Trump’s EPA has greenlighted a gold mine in Alaska despite the environmental effects, the Trump State Department cited the discredited Amnesty report to smear Syrian government for its “brutality” (which has been rightly dismissed by the Syrian government), the Trump Pentagon continues to kill Syrian civilians every day, and most startlingly, and Trump’s plan to review protections on 27 national monuments could very well open up “more than 2.7 million acres of iconic US landscape” through extraction of oil, coal, and natural gas.

But, instead, say the hard-nosed bourgeois liberals and progressives, let’s all dance around with glee, allying with the US intelligence and military establishments, and impeach Trump for his “traitorous” action of talking with the Russians, who they think, based on the propaganda from the bourgeois media, rigged the election for Trump. Nothing could be more ridiculous. There is no doubt that the Electoral College is an institution which supported slavery, racism, bigotry, and exploitation, while muting popular movements. However, as it stands now, this means that by the existing laws, based in the “supreme” law of the land, the US Constitution, Trump was elected legally. This was not only because Killary didn’t care about the white section of the working class but due to her crass elitism like calling all of Trump’s supporters “the basket of deplorables…[they are] racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it,” a faux pas as bad as Mitt Romney’s remarks in which he said that 47% of the populace will vote for the populace and are entitled, people who “pay no income tax,” whom Romney doesn’t care about at all.

The talk of Trump-Russia “collusion” will go on, but as reasonable people we must be above this, rejecting such narratives and work with those affected by Trumpian fascism Lest us not be dupes of the bourgeois media as many bourgeois liberals and progressives already are, trapping many publications in self-made deception, while the capitalist class laughs in glee as they continue to destroy the work, crushing resistance wherever it can be found, and by whatever means at their disposal.

Notes

[1] Greg Miller and Adam Entous, “Declassified report says Putin ‘ordered’ effort to undermine faith in U.S. election and help Trump,” Washington Post, Jan. 6, 2017; AP, “Trump transition raised flags about Flynn Russia contacts,” May 5, 2017; Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe, “Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador,” Washington Post, May 15, 2017; William M. Arkin, Ken Dilanian, and Cynthia McFadden, “U.S. Officials: Putin Personally Involved in U.S. Election Hack,” NBC News, Dec. 15, 2016; Yara Bayoumy, “Putin turned Russia election hacks in Trump’s favor: U.S. officials,” Reuters, Dec. 16, 2016; Barbara Starr, Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, and Elise Labbott, “Intel analysis shows Putin approved election hacking,” CNN, Dec. 16, 2016; , “Putin-linked think tank drew up plan to sway 2016 US election – documents,” Reuters, Apr. 21, 2017; Jack Stubbs and Denis Pinchuk, “Russia denies Reuters report think tank drew up plan to sway U.S. election,” Reuters, Apr. 21, 2017; Ken Dilanian and William M. Arkin, “Blackwater Founder Repped Trump at Secret Meeting Overseas: Sources,” NBC News, Apr. 3, 2017; Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, Jake Tapper, and Carl Bernstein, “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him,” CNN, Jan. 12, 2017; Washington Newsroom of Reuters, “U.S. intel report identifies Russians who gave emails to WikiLeaks -officials,” Reuters, Jan. 6, 2017; Michael S. Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti, and Matt Apuzzo, “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence,” New York Times, Feb. 14, 2017; Matthew Rosenberg, Adam Goldman, and Michael S. Schmidt, “Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking,” New York Times, Mar. 1, 2017.

[2] Kurt Eichenwald, “Trump, Putin and the Hidden History of How Russia Interfered in the U.S. Presidential Election,” Newsweek, Jan. 10, 2017; CBS News, “More details on U.S. probe of Russian hacking of DNC,” YouTube, Dec. 14, 2016; Brian Ross, Rhonda Schwartz, and James Gordon Meek, “Officials: Master Spy Vladimir Putin Now Directly Linked to US Hacking,” ABC News, Dec. 15, 2016; Ali Watkins, “Intel Officials Believe Russia Spreads Fake News,” BuzzFeed, Nov. 30, 2016; Ken Dilanian, “Official: Flynn Discussed Sanctions With Russians Before Taking Office,” NBC News, Feb. 10, 2017; Spencer Ackerman, “Intelligence figures fear Trump reprisals over assessment of Russia election role,” The Guardian, Dec. 11, 2016; Shane Harris, “Donald Trump Fuels Rift With CIA Over Russian Hack,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 11, 2016; Luke Harding, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, and Nick Hopkins, “British spies were first to spot Trump team’s links with Russia,” The Guardian, Apr. 13, 2017.

[3] Kurt Eichenwald, “Trump, Putin and the Hidden History of How Russia Interfered in the U.S. Presidential Election,” Newsweek, Jan. 10, 2017; Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House,” Washington Post, Dec. 9, 2016.

[4] Euan McKirdy, “WikiLeaks’ Assange: Russia didn’t give us emails,” CNN, Jan. 4, 2017; Fox News, “Obama says US needs to respond to Russian cyberattacks — ‘and we will’,” Dec. 15, 2016; Yara Bayoumy, “Putin turned Russia election hacks in Trump’s favor: U.S. officials,” Reuters, Dec. 16, 2016.

[5] Adam Goldman, “Russian Spies Tried to Recruit Carter Page Before He Advised Trump,” New York Times, Apr. 4, 2017; Scott Shane, “What We Know and Don’t Know About the Trump-Russia Dossier,” New York Times, Jan. 11, 2017; Julie Pace, “Trump campaign adviser Carter Page met with Russian spy in 2013,” Chicago Tribune, Apr. 3, 2017; Ali Watkins, “A Former Trump Adviser Met With A Russian Spy,” BuzzFeed, Apr. 3, 2017; David Corn, “A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump,” Mother Jones, Oct. 31, 2016; Tom Hamburger and Rosalind D. Helderman, “FBI once planned to pay former British spy who authored controversial Trump dossier,” Washington Post, Feb. 28, 2017; BBC News, “Meeting the man behind the Trump memos,” Jan. 14, 2017; Rosie Gray, “‘It Is Fake News Meant to Malign Mr. Trump’,” The Atlantic, Jan. 10, 2017; Natasha Bertrand, “The FBI is reportedly using the explosive Trump-Russia dossier as a ‘roadmap’ for its investigation,” Business Insider, Mar. 30, 2017; Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz, and Manu Raju, “FBI used dossier allegations to bolster Trump-Russia investigation,” CNN, Apr. 18, 2017.

[6] Thomas Rid, “How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History,” Esquire magazine, Oct. 20, 2016; Clint Watts, “Why Russia Wants the U.S. to Believe the Election Was Hacked,” PBS NOVA Next, Oct. 26, 2016; Dmitri Alpervitch, “Bears in the Midst: Intrusion into the Democratic National Committee,” Crowdstrike, Jun. 15, 2016.

[7] Thomas Rid, “How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History,” Esquire magazine, Oct. 20, 2016; Trump adviser Roger Stone repeatedly claimed to know of forthcoming WikiLeaks dumps,” CNN, Mar. 20, 2017; Chas Danner, “Trump Adviser Roger Stone Admits Messaging With Alleged DNC Hacker,” New York magazine, Mar. 11, 2017; Martin Matishak, “Roger Stone takes center stage as Congress lines up Russia probe witnesses,” Politico, Mar. 20, 2017; Maggie Haberman, “Roger Stone, the ‘Trickster’ on Trump’s Side, Is Under F.B.I. Scrutiny,” New York Times, Mar. 21, 2017; Matthew Rosenberg and Maggie Haberman, “Trump Adviser Had Twitter Contact With Figure Tied to Russians,” New York Times, Mar. 11, 2017.

[8] Thomas Rid, “How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History,” Esquire magazine, Oct. 20, 2016.

[9] Greg Miller and Adam Entous, “Declassified report says Putin ‘ordered’ effort to undermine faith in U.S. election and help Trump,” Washington Post, Jan. 6, 2017; Clint Watts, “Why Russia Wants the U.S. to Believe the Election Was Hacked,” PBS NOVA Next, Oct. 26, 2016; Office of the Director of National Intelligence, “ODNI Statement on Declassified Intelligence Community Assessment of Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections,” IC On the Record (tumblr), Jan. 6, 2017; Bryon Tau, “Trump’s top intelligence officials accept conclusion that Russia hacked election,” Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2017; New York Times, “Intelligence Report on Russian Hacking,” Jan. 6, 2017.

[10] Kurt Eichenwald, “How the Trump Organization’s Foreign Business Ties Could Upend U.S. National Security,” Newsweek, Sept. 14, 2016; Inside Trump’s financial ties to Russia and his unusual flattery of Vladimir Putin,” Washington Post, Jun. 17, 2016.

[11] Inside Trump’s financial ties to Russia and his unusual flattery of Vladimir Putin,” Washington Post, Jun. 17, 2016; Jeremy Diamond and Greg Botelho, “Putin praises ‘bright and talented’ Trump,” CNN, Dec. 17, 2015.

[12] Ken Dilanian, Robert Windrem, William M. Arkin, and Tom Winter, “FBI Making Inquiry Into Ex-Trump Campaign Manager’s Foreign Ties,” NBC News, Nov. 1, 2016; Peter Stone and Greg Gordon, “FBI, 5 other agencies probe possible covert Kremlin aid to Trump,” McClatchy, Jan. 18, 2017; Zeeshan Aleem, “6 different agencies have come together to investigate Trump’s possible Russia ties,” Vox, Jan. 21, 2017; Stephen Collinson, “FBI: Trump campaign, Russia ties investigated, no wiretap evidence found,” CNN, Mar. 20, 2017.

[13] Jeff Nesbit, “Donald Trump’s Many, Many, Many, Many Ties to Russia,” Time, Aug. 15, 2016; Rachel Roberts, “Donald Trump fired James Comey because ‘he refused to end Russia investigation’, say multiple FBI insiders,” Independent, May 11, 2017; Leo Benedictus, “Invasion of the troll armies: from Russian Trump supporters to Turkish state stooges,” The Guardian, Nov. 6, 2016; Andrew Weisburd, Clint Watts, and JM Berger, “Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy,” War on the Rocks, Nov. 6, 2016; Jill Dougherty, “The reality behind Russia’s fake news,” CNN, Dec. 2, 2016; Craig Timberg, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say,” Washington Post, Nov. 24, 2016 (the infamous story in which they promoted PropOrNot, which STILL hasn’t been deleted).

[14] DHS and Director of National Intelligence, “Joint DHS and ODNI Election Security Statement,” Oct. 7, 2016; Spencer Ackerman and Sam Thielman, “US officially accuses Russia of hacking DNC and interfering with election,” The Guardian, Oct. 8, 2016; Ellen Nakashima, Karoun Demirjan, and Philip Rucker, “Top U.S. intelligence official: Russia meddled in election by hacking, spreading of propaganda,” Washington Post, Jan. 5, 2017; Fred Flitz, “Was Friday’s declassified report claiming Russian hacking of the 2016 election rigged?,” Fox News opinion, Jan. 7, 2017; Tessa Stuart, “A Who’s Who of the Trump Campaign’s Russia Connections,” Rolling Stone, Mar. 2, 2017.

[15] ThreatConnect, “Does a BEAR Leak in the Woods?,” Aug. 12, 2016; Kevin Poulsen, “How the U.S. Hobbled Its Hacking Case Against Russia and Enabled Truthers,” The Daily Beast, Jan. 6, 2017; SecureWorks, “Threat Group-4127 Targets Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign,” Jun. 16, 2016.

[16] Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel,” Washington Post, Apr. 3, 2017.

[17]Michael S. Schmidt, Matthew Rosenberg, and Matt Apuzzo, “Kushner and Flynn Met With Russian Envoy in December, White House Says,” New York Times, Mar. 2, 2017; Mark Landler and Eric Lichtblau, “Jeff Sessions Recuses Himself From Russia Inquiry,” Mar. 2, 2017; Jo Becker and Matthew Rosenberg, “Kushner Omitted Meeting With Russians on Security Clearance Forms,” New York Times, Apr. 6, 2017; Jonathan Easley, “Diplomats warn of Russia hysteria,” The Hill, Mar. 11, 2017; Ken Dilanian, “Clinton Ally Says Smoke, But No Fire: No Russia-Trump Collusion,” NBC News, Mar. 16, 2017; NBC Meet the Press, “Full Clapper: ‘No Evidence’ of Collusion Between Trump and Russia,” 2016?; Todd Shepard, “James Clapper: Still no evidence of any Russian collusion with Trump campaign,” Washington Times, May 8, 2017; Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller, “Sessions met with Russian envoy twice last year, encounters he later did not disclose,” Washington Post, Mar. 1, 2017; Julie Pace, “Senate committee calls on former Trump adviser Carter Page in Russia investigation,” Associated Press, Mar. 6, 2017; Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel,” Washington Post, Apr. 3, 2017; David Ignatius, “Why did Obama dawdle on Russia’s hacking?,” Washington Post opinion, Jan. 12, 2017; Marshall Cohen and Eli Watkins, “Who is Carter Page?,” CNN, Mar. 4, 2017.

[18] Michael Isikoff, “Moscow paid $45,000 for Flynn’s 2015 talk, documents show,” Yahoo News, Mar. 16, 2017; Lachlan Markay, “Michael Flynn Failed to Disclose Payments From Russian Propaganda Network,” The Daily Beast, Apr. 1, 2017.

[19] Clint Watts and Andrew Weisburd, “How Russia Dominates Your Twitter Feed to Promote Lies (And, Trump, Too),” The Daily Beast, Aug. 6, 2016; Carl Schreck, “FBI Director: No Evidence Russia Successfully Hacked Trump Campaign,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty (US government propaganda outlet), Jan. 10, 2017; David Filipov, “Putin to Democratic Party: You lost, get over it,” Washington Post, Dec. 23, 2016; Olivia Beavers, “Kremlin spokesman: Russian ambassador met with advisers to Clinton campaign too,” The Hill, Mar. 12, 2017.

[20] Julie Hirschfield Davis and Maggie Haberman, “Donald Trump Concedes Russia’s Interference in Election,” Jan. 11, 2017; Ellen Nakashima, Devlin Barrett, and Adam Entous, “FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page,” Washington Post, Apr. 11, 2017; Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Carrie Dann, “Trump Cries ‘Witch Hunt’ as Russia Questions Pile Up,” NBC News, Mar. 3, 2017.

[21] Gregory Holyk, “Republicans and Democrats split over Russia probes: Poll,” ABC News, Apr. 26, 2017; Steven Shepard, “Russia investigations a ‘witch hunt’? Not according to polls,” Politico, Mar. 3, 2017; Reid J. Epstein, “About Half of Americans Think Russia Interfered With Election Through Hacking, Poll Finds,” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 17, 2017; Quinnipac University Poll, “American Voters Back Sanctions For Russian Hacking, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Israel, Palestinians Not Sincere About Peace, Voters Say,” Jan. 13, 2017.

[22] In 2011 and 2012, Trump was still a real estate developer and ravenous capitalist. He displayed his unbridled nationalism by declaring Obama weak for not getting the Chinese and Russians to agree on sanctions, while also saying that Obama’s plan to get Russia to “stand up” to Iran has failed, making America a “laughingstock.” He later called Obama weak (again) and showed his affinity with Mitt Romney. The following year, he took a hardline stand in support of an US nuclear deterrent (against Russia), slammed Snowden first as a “traitor” and then as a pawn of the Russians, saying that Russians are “embarrassing” the US, among much more. Trump also said that the Russians are “laughing” at the US, that Snowden is a traitor (and another time), that Russia doesn’t “respect” the US, that Putin is “laughing at Obama,” and that Snowden is a Russian agent (again here). He also claims he spoke with the LGBT community in Russia, that it doesn’t make sense to go in Syria with military force, that the Russians are “better prepared” for war than the US, and that OPEC, China, and Russia are “laughing” at the US (variant of this here). That’s not all. He also said that Obama’s Syria conflict could become a “worldwide conflict,” promoted the Miss Universe pageant in Russia (also see here), that US looks “worse” to Russia than before, that Russian and Chinese leaders are “smarter” than those in the US, that the war in Iraq is “stupid,” that Russia may have driven the US into a “deeper mess,” and that the US looks “weak.” He goes on to say later that the US must be “smart and strategic” when it comes to Russia, mocks Obamacare (also see here),  Russia beat the US in Olympics, which is another “embarrassment,” Russia laughing at the US yet again, that Putin is much more popular than Obama, that Russia should be watched, Putin and Russia have more leadership than Obama, and calls Snowden a piece of “human garbage” who should be brought back to stand trial. He later tweets about Russian moves in Ukraine, a China-Russia oil deal, the country seeming “weaker” in comparison to Russia, joking about Obama’s “trade” with Russia, China and Russia not helping fighting ISIS which angers him (also see here), and slamming Jeb Bush (also see here). Later years, in 2014 and 2015 he says that the US needs “great leadership,” that Russia isn’t a regional power, that China and Russia are “smart” unlike US leaders, Russia and the world “respecting” the US because of Trump (oh really), slamming the Iran deal as helping Russia. There are the tweets that some would say are “pro-Russia.” With his bravedo, Trump claimed, before he was elected/selected via the Electoral College in November 2016, that (1) “Putin likes me,” (2) he has “ZERO investments in Russia,” (3) says that Putin called him a genius (he didn’t), and (4) said that if any country had the deleted emails of Killary, including the Russians, they should leak them. Yet, this is countered by the fact that he criticized Russia for its occupation of Crimea (which was done by referendum, which he doesn’t believe), blaming Obama, and condemning Russia’s nuclear capabilities, to give a few examples.

[23] Charlie Savage, “Deputy Attorney General’s Memo Breaks Down Case Against Comey,” New York Times, May 9, 2017; David Leonhardt, “Rod Rosenstein Fails His Ethics Test,” New York Times, May 10, 2017; Doyle McManus, “All eyes in Washington are on Rod Rosenstein. Does he have what it takes to investigate Trump?,” LA Times, May 10, 2017; Pamela Brown and Eric Lichtblau, “Rod Rosenstein: Trump’s unlikely hatchet man,” CNN, May 10, 2017; Steve Reilly, “Rosenstein: ‘Prosecutor’s prosecutor’ at center of Comey firestorm,” USA Today, May 10, 2017; Benjamin Wittes, “Et Tu Rod? Why The Deputy Attorney General Must Resign,” LawFare, May 12, 2017; Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Sari Horwitz, and Robert Costa, “Inside Trump’s anger and impatience — and his sudden decision to fire Comey,” Washington Post, May 10, 2017 (claims to tell the “story” of the behind-the-scenes of the Comey firing).

[24] BBC News, “Rod Rosenstein’s letter recommending Comey be fired,” May 10, 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE:

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

Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The US-Saudi imperial interrelationship

7c09ab2d8e69b27c2afdfde6bcf01f41f28960f2-jpg

While the society of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is corrupted, there is another dimension to mention: the US-Saudi imperial interrelationship and where it currently stands. It seems that this relationship is good straits, but could easily bounce back as the masters of war of the murderous empire smile with glee. [1] The plan to “mold” opinion proposed in 1950 has not worked:

“…if the President and the Government and the Department of State…felt there was a menace to the interests of the United States, American public opinion could be molded, if not for the sake of Ibn Saud, for the sake of the interests of the United States and Saudi Arabia”

The KSA was founded in 1932, the year that Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) won the presidential election against “discredited” Republican Herbert Hoover. For years, the Saud family had been hiding in Kuwait, a protectorate of the British Empire, while the Ottomans controlled much of the Mideast. After the collapse of Ottoman Empire in 1923, the Saud family sprung into action. They began establishing the foundation of what would become the KSA. By 1932, when the state was declared to the world, few countries recognized it as there were no resources “of importance” and the country was composed mainly of nomads, delineated into varying ethnic groupings. Later that year, the fortunes changed for the Saud family, which was experiencing an “economic crisis,” when black gold was found. With the oil wealth, the Saud family became the Royals, and their brutal monarchy was cemented. With that, the teachings by Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab on the Arabian Peninsula, originally part of am “18th-century revival and reform movement,” often called Wahhabism in the West, received state sanction. This form of Islam, which insists on a “literal interpretation of the Koran” and declares that those who don’t practice it are “heathens and enemies,” would be promoted for years to come even as it was used by all sorts of Islamic reactionaries.

As years passed, the US, along with many other countries, swooped in and recognized the KSA as a state, and Western oil corporations, like Standard Oil, established their roots in the country. Later a camp was established for foreign oil workers, creating a sort of bubble of security, at least in theory. Years later, some argued that Saudi Arabia and the Islamic movement were part of an anti-imperial front. Canadian socialist Paul Saba, wrote in 1980 that colonialists tried to suppress Islam, which made it stronger and part of anti-colonial struggle, meaning that many Muslim groups often played a “progressive role in supporting national liberation.” He also said that because sentencing in the Islamic world is “far less than severe than the torture and murder which existed under the Shah,” that it is fine, a position which should be unacceptable to any reasonable person. Saba also said that the Islamic movement wanted development and progress apart from “imperialist control,” with the US as a key target for hatred and defiance due to, as he put it, “historical plunder and domination of the Middle East and its backing for Israeli Zionism and the Shah of Iran.” While he makes valid points about countries such as Iran, which is currently at a crossroads geopolitically, he does not recognize that many of these countries are religiously conservative and as a result, do not have true liberation, especially for women, homosexuals, and non-Muslims.

In the 1940s, the equation changed once again. While the US sent engineers to work on Saudi roads, financial loans to the KSA were nixed by the US government because of British support for the Kingdom. [2] Even as veteran diplomat Alexander Comstock Kirk agreed with this assessment, he rejected the idea of “a division of hemispheres of influence” in which the British would take a leading role instead of the United States. US diplomats even debated sending agricultural and technical assistance to the KSA based on what was done on reservations of the remaining indigenous nations in the United States. [3] At the same time, certain policymakers turned their attention to the Kingdom where a “massive oilfield has been discovered in 1938,” and strengthened a relationship with the country, trying to cultivate it as a friend.

All of this happened even as the Kingdom had established diplomatic relations with the Nazis and Italian fascists, both of whom tried to bring the Saudis to their side, sometimes by promising to send armaments. [4] Even so, the US was successful in bribing the Saudis to switch sides and declare war on the Nazis by 1945, even inviting them to a UN conference, a proposal which was roundly rejected by the Soviets.

As time passed, relations changed. Not only did FDR’s meeting with Ibn Saud (known in the Arab world as Abdulaziz), in Great Bitter Lake, Egypt, reinforce the US-Saudi relationship, but the US began sending the oil-rich country military aid. [5] The US began seeing protection of the KSA as vital to the security of the empire. This was a time that the US saw the Kingdom as “a bulwark to peace in the Near Eastern world” supported the extension of a 15 million dollar Export-Import Bank loan to the country to develop its railroads, highways and generally its transportation system. [6]

This relationship was helped because the Saudis were staunchly anti-communist. Millions of dollars of US investments in the country were considered as an “effective weapon against the advance of Communism.” In exchange for such investment, the Saudis allowed their airfield of Dharan to hold US warplanes and US commercial flights by the early 1950s. Afterword, the US sent military advisers to “protect” the Kingdom and reassert US military rights in the country. In later years, during the 1972 border conflict between North Yemen (backed by Jordan, KSA, the US, UK, Taiwan, and West Germany) and South Yemen, also called the Peoples Democratic Republic of Yemen (backed by the Soviet Union, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, and Libya), and after, the Saudis saw South Yemen as a threat. The country was even praised by the World Bank for satisfying basic needs of the population, raising education standards, and more. The government of South Yemen also engaged in campaigns to eradicate illiteracy, emancipate women, develop a safe drinking water system, and engage in agriculture collectivization. Eventually, the imperial and capitalistic forces got their way, uniting the North and South Yemen behind Ali Abdullah Saleh, a former leader of North Yemen, in 1990, who would be predictably US-friendly until his ousting in 2012. However, in 1994 there was a civil war between the pro-Western northerners and socialist southerners, which was launched by North Yemen, which again led to reunification and purging of the left from Yemeni society. Even since 2013, people resisted Yemeni occupation of the southern part of the country “through the division of labor and through popular committees” which is mainly expressed through peaceful protest as the last secretary general of the Yemeni Socialist Party, Ali Salim al-Beidh, noted in a 2013 interview.

While the Saudis became anxious for not receiving military assistance, they were likely glad that the US negotiated an agreement between them and ARAMCO (Arab-American Oil Company). [7] At the same time, the US had the appearance as a “neutral mediator” in disputes, mainly between the British and Saudis, handled in arbitration sessions. These disputes were over oil field claims near Farsi island, Qatar, the town of Buraimi, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, and other border areas. Those involved in the disputes, which had been festering since the late 1940s, included Aramco and British oil companies such as Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC). Ultimately, the Saudis found the British, who were exploring oil drilling in a disputed zone, to be impolite and were angry at them, which the British found disconcerting.

In subsequent years, as the formal British Empire weakened, which would become, at least for the Saudis, “hostile,” the US would pledge to protect them and their oil from those they perceived as the “aggressors”: the Soviets. Still, in 1952, the Join Chiefs of Staff believed that “from a military point of view, grant aid to Saudi Arabia and certain other Middle East countries is not justified,” even though they agreed that the Kingdom had unique position in the Mideast.The US pledge for support was noted in a summary of a March 1950 conversation, between the US, Britain, and the KSA:

“the United States has an extremely strong interest in the American investment in petroleum in Saudi Arabia. This is an interest which is vitally important to the security of the United States and to the world…it is necessary that the United States render assistance to nations who find themselves threatened by aggression or subversion from the north…The United States feels that the only important long-range security menace that faces the world is the obviously aggressive designs of the USSR…if at any time it [Saudi Arabia] is menaced by aggressive action or subversive activities from any neighboring power, the United States Government will take most definite action…The United States on its side is gratified that American investors, both oilmen and others, have chosen to come here to work with the Saudi Arabian Government”

However the relationship between the United States and the KSA developed a hiccup in the form of the state of Israel.

In 1947, after years of Zionist efforts to establish a state, Israel was established in the Holy Land of Palestine. The area was already torn by strife between Jews and Arabs, which the British imperialists saw as a dilemma to quickly extricate themselves from. While the state of Israel was founded on violence and religious ideals like the KSA, it was different in the fact that it was founded on the genocide of the Palestinians. The Saudis were strongly opposed to this new state and seemed to favor the Palestinians. Ibn Saud, from 1947 to his death in 1953, was strongly anti-Zionist and warned the US of consequences if they supported Israel. [8] Even as FDR has reassured Ibn Saud that the US would not change its policy on Palestine, “without consulting the Arabs,” this was disregarded. Ibn Saud stayed outspoken on Zionism, even canceling an Aramco concession, alarming the military and foreign policy establishment. Eventually, Saud found he could distinguish between US foreign policy elsewhere in the Mideast and ARAMCO, arguing that oil royalties could allow Arab states to resist “Jewish pretensions,” and staying formally hostile to Zionism. Whether it was to curry Jewish votes in the upcoming election (1948) or to establish more of a foothold in the Middle East, the US supported Israel, although not as strongly until the 1960s and 1970s.

Despite this, the US-Saudi relationship persisted. Presidents, whether from the capitalist Democratic and Republican parties, have tried to favor the KSA in whatever way they can, whether that is through arms deals or accepting ceremonial gifts. The US even sent a medical team, led by President Truman’s personal physician, to the Kingdom to make sure that Ibn Saud was healthy before his death! In 1957, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared the “Eisenhower Doctrine,” said that the US would, within constitutional means, oppose “overt armed aggression” in the Kingdom and the Middle East by Soviet and Soviet-aligned agents. Years later, John F. Kennedy, still lauded by conservatives and liberals alike, ordered that a squadron of fighters be sent to the country to protect it from Egyptian air assaults. Years later, the US was grateful for the Saudi effort to avoid a “serious shortfall in oil supplies,” stabilize the world oil market, and the Saudi decision to increase production due to the Iranian revolution in 1979.

In later years, the relationship between the KSA and the US strengthened. A senior fellow at the elite Council on Foreign Relations, Rachel Bronson, wrote in 2004 that the “close, cozy relationship” between the two countries began with Ronald Reagan, not George W. Bush, with the relationship cemented in efforts to counter claimed “Soviet aggression.” She continues, saying that the Saudis had their own reasons for fighting the Soviets including their fear that the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan would “threaten” their Kingdom. Bronson goes on to say that the Saudis also played a role in funding the contras in Nicaragua, Reagan’s “freedom fighters” for capitalism, along with funding opposition to Ethiopia’s Soviet-aligned government and horrid rebel leader Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA to fight the Marxist government in Angola. She then claims that current attention to Bush family “misses the longer history of the American and Saudi Arabian contemporary relationship.” However, by saying this, she is whitewashing the Bush family’s history with the Saud family.

In 1990, former CIA director and then-President George H.W. Bush brought troops into the Kingdom during the Persian Gulf quest for oil, declaring that the US would “assist the Saudi Arabian government in the defense of its homeland.” This was not a surprise as then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney personally flew to the oil kingdom to ask King Fahd to allow the US to “station thousands of troops there,” saying to the US Senate that the US was coming to their aid because of the agreement between Roosevelt and Ibn Saud all those years ago. [9] Not long after, he subsequently supported the war against Iraq. Years later, George W. Bush would declare the country was “expanding the role of its people in determining their future” even as they remained an authoritarian, brutal state.

Still, there have been disagreements and snipes over the years. Even disgraced war criminal Hillary Killary Clinton, in excerpts of speeches, released by Wikileaks and organized later by the National Security Archive, to bankers and well-off constituencies, criticized the Saudis. She said that they (and the Emiratis) feared “organized efforts for political Islam,” saw the Muslim Brotherhood as threatening, and were against missile defense in the Mideast. She also said that the Saudis did not have a stable government (perhaps indicated by the killing a Saudi royal by head chopping recently), that the Saudis have backed the Sunni fighters in Syria with large amounts of arms, and that the “Saudis have exported more extreme ideology than any other place on earth over the course of the last 30 years.” [10] This statement aligns with earlier Wikileaks cables saying that the country was “the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups,” with the government not even trying to stop the flow of money, and recent releases saying that the Kingdom and Qatar “fund ISIS.”

As for Clinton, while she may have angered top policymakers when she spoke her mind about Israeli and Saudi actions, she also stated the obvious. She said that that as a result of the so-called “Arab Spring,” Israel and the KSA are “more closely aligned in their foreign policy…[on] Iran…Egypt…Syria and…a lot of other things.” [11] This is was also clear when the late King Abdullah said that the US should “cut off the head of the snake” and bomb Iran before it was too late. [12] More recently, the Saudis even allowed Israeli newspapers to be viewed in the country.

Apart from the powerful (but currently weakened) Saudi lobby, there is the bourgeois media. When King Abdullah died in January of last year, this media could not let down on its praise, calling him “something of an advocate for women” (The Telegraph), “a reformer at home” (BBC), a “reformer and often came up against the more hard-line clerics” (CNN), “accepted limited change” (The Guardian), “pushed cautious changes” (Reuters), “earned a reputation as a cautious reformer…[and] became, in some ways, a force of moderation” (New York Times), “to his supporters, [he]…was a benign and…progressive monarch” (Wall Street Journal), “was seen by many as a gentle reformer” (The Independent), and “was considered a savvy and plainspoken modernizer, if not a reformer” (The New Yorker). [13] While BBC, the Wall Street Journal, and The Independent were more reserved in their praise, they were still part of the general trend.

Apart from crap infotainment sites like BuzzFeed claiming that King Abdullah’s “legacy” was important to care about, President Obama declared that the Saudi king was “always candid and had the courage of his convictions” and corporatist Secretary of State John Kerry, in a bubble of misunderstanding and confusion, said that the US “lost a friend…the world has lost a revered leadera man of wisdom and vision…a brave partner in fighting violent extremism.” To top this off is the State Department-connected and bourgeois Human Rights Watch declaring that King Abdullah’s reign has “brought about marginal advances for women but failed to secure the fundamental rights of Saudi citizens,” which basically offering of praise.

Some criticized such praise at the time. One of these people was Jacob Mchangama, the director of the Justia think tank, on the conservative website of Forbes. He wrote that the reactions to the death of the Saudi king “has been a rude awakening.” He criticized the responses of leaders including John Kerry, former UK prime minister David Cameron, and IMF chief Christine Lagarde, saying that “acknowledging the victims of King Abdullah rather than singing false praises would be a good start” in the right direction. His tepid criticism doesn’t go far enough: the bourgeois media and Western capitalist leaders are supporting the imperialist US-Saudi relationship by whitewashing the crimes of the authoritarian Kingdom. If anything, people should be celebrating the death of a tyrant like King Abdullah, not praising him as a reformer, and should be recognizing that Saudi society is still violent, like that of the United States, but also in a very different way, with routine executions of “subversives.”

The Iranian leaders clearly agree with Clinton on this point. In a recent speech to the UN General Assembly, the moderate reformist President, backed by the Western capitalists, Hassan Rouhani, argued that if the Saudis are serious about development and regional security they must stop their “divisive policies, spread of hate ideology and trampling upon the rights of neighbors.” He further criticized the US government for not following on the Iran deal, along with the Supreme Court decision earlier this year, to which only chief justice John Roberts and associate justice Sonia Sotamayor dissenting, to seize Iranian assets because they “committed terrorism.” He also said that Iran had a good relationship with the people of the United States, and that their “problem is with the American government, not companies, people and universities.”

Apart from the internal dynamics and land grabs, there are obvious realities which should be pointed out. For one, the Saudis are backing the religiously reactionary opposition in the Syrian Arab Republic, which was not “moderate” but are basically Al Qaeda type-organizations, like Al Nusra. They even offered Russia an oil deal secretly if they withdrew backing of the Syrian government, which they refused, and they provided chemical weapons to Syrian “rebels.” The goal of the Saudis interconnect directly with US imperial interests, which entail the displacing the secular, nationalist, socially democratic government headed by Bashar Al-Assad and replacing him (and the government) with one that benefits imperial power and allows Western investments to flow. The Kingdom is, as as result, an arm of US imperial foreign policy. The KSA even allied with the US-supported authoritarian state of Kazakhstan, and the US, which has a drone base in the Kingdom, has propped up the brutal autocratic state and its leaders. All of this isn’t a surprise since in 2011, the US Senate Intelligence Committee found a list of direct members of the Saudi royal family who were connected with 9/11, a discovery which connects to the fact the Kingdom arguably divided into fiefdoms, with specific princes having their own interests which may have had a “severe impact on 9/11.”

Recently, the relationship between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the United States has been decisively shaken. On September 28th, the US Congress roundly overrode President Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), a law which allows families of victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for involvement in the attacks, which makes sense since 15 of the 19 hijackers came from the country. [14] Scholar Binoy Kampmark argued that the law was a “very American formula, one born in the court room and litigation process,” that any avenue of legal action “against an ally was tantamount to a confession,” and noting that the Saudi foreign minister said that their assets could be seized due to the law. He also argued that this bill’s passage meant that “various imperial efforts of the US would be compromised,” with US imperial engagements and actions, along with those of US allies, suddenly facing “the prospect of legal targeting,” with the law serving as one the most overt challenges to “assumptions of sovereign immunity.”

Those for the law include president-elect (and fascist) Donald Trump, Killary, Nancy Pelosi, John Cornyn, and a majority of Congress. The main force behind the law, other than feelings of jingoism conjured up even by mention of the September 11 attacks, was a New Jersey group named 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, which is pro-military but critical of the Saudis. The group’s chair, Terry Strada, a former director of J.P. Morgan Chase’s Human Resources department, joined the group in 2002 and became chair in 2012. [15] One of their lawyers, James P. Kreindler, declared that “Saudi Arabia doesn’t want to see this continue in the media or court…we are going to prevail. We are going to win. Either the Saudis will come to the table or we’ll go to court and win there.”

The groups against the law are varied. They include the Saudi government, President Obama, who warned it would lead countries to sue the US in foreign courts for war crimes, CIA director John Brennan, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Gulf Cooperation Council, a bipartisan group of former executive officials saying that the law would harm US interests and undercut security of the empire. [16] The Saudi foreign ministry declared that the law would lead to “serious unintended repercussions” such as threats to sovereign immunity. Some have said that the law, coupled with other measures, is a setback for the Saudis, whose influence on Capital Hill is waning, and that “anti-Saudi activity” on the Hill is the strongest it has been in decades. [17] These “concerns” were as bad as an ABC News fluff piece about the law, with their hand-picked experts saying that the law cold lead to “potentially any nation” sued, could make the US “much more vulnerable,” is “very dangerous…a huge mistake,” undermining counter-terrorism, and hilariously that “some countries would be interested in saying our military aid to Israel is aiding and abetting things that they would allege are sometimes war crimes against the Palestinians” which “we” need immunity from.

A Yale-educated individual formerly in the military establishment, named Michael Rubin, went the furthest of all. He said that without oil, the KSA “would be a very different place” and that oil money led the country into “modernity.” After saying that JASTA would shake “Saudi financial stability,” he declared that the Kingdom would become “bankrupt” because of the law, saying that this is not “good for America” since “what happens in Riyadh doesn’t stay in Riyadh.” Then, almost like a giddy neo-con, he worried that political instability in the country would not be “good” because decades of “Islamist education and indoctrination” would lead unemployed Saudi youth to not embrace “liberalism and tolerance if suddenly put in desperate straits.” Basically, this means that the country would not be a bastion of imperialism and could become, hypothetically, anti-imperialist and antagonistic to the US, which he sees as “dangerous.” Reasoned people should welcome such a change in Saudi Arabia if it is pushed by those who want to challenge imperial control, apart from the Islamic reactionaries.

Congressional criticism and efforts to curtail the Saudis only goes so far. In late September, the US Senate passed a law, by a supermajority, to approve the sale of Abrams tanks and other armaments to the KSA, with bigwig Senators like John McCain, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, and Mitch McConnell in support. Those that objected were led by libertarian-Republican Senator Rand Paul and liberal-Democratic Senator Chris Murphy. While Paul opposed giving the KSA more arms because Congress hadn’t discussed the Saudi bombing of Yemen, which has killed over 3,800 civilians and resulted in much turmoil, Murphy had other reasons. He argued that there is “an American imprint on every civilian life lost in Yemen,” a statement proved by the fact that that the KSA is using US-supplied white phosphorous in Yemen. He also said that the KSA was not “immune from criticism” and that the US should not dictate what “form of Islam wins out around the world.” However, he said that the US should still have a strong relationship with the KSA, which he considered vital, that allows “for one party to object to the behavior of the other when it’s not in the party’s mutual national security interests” and that the relationship can survive US challenges. Despite these reservations, criticism of the Saudis in Congress, and generally, is a good sign of things to come. Bourgeois left-liberals have their answer to these problems in (and relating to) Saudi Arabia embodied by veteran peace activist Medea Benjamin. She argues in her new book that the current US-Saudi relationship is destructive and that the US State Department should use its existing policies to sanction the KSA. [18] While this may be satisfying to some, this article will go further be recognizing how the relationship is connected to the capitalist system, imperialism, and the murderous US empire.

On the other hand, the imperial interrelationship with Saudi Arabia could be in trouble. For one, during the continuing US-backed Saudi destructive war in Yemen, some top government officials, especially in the State Department were worried. They said in emails, from mid-last year to earlier this year, that they were concerned about legal blowback from US participation in the Saudi bombing. These officials believed that the US could be “implicated in war crimes” and that the Saudis would kill civilians due to their “lack of…experience with dropping munitions and firing missiles” coupled with weak intelligence, even as they attempted to maintain the US-Saudi relationship. Further emails showed that the Saudis disregarded a list prepared by senior officials to prevent destruction of “critical infrastructure” and reduce casualties, bombing a bridge to the Yemeni capital of Sanaa which was a major rout for humanitarian food aid. Even former military prosecutor and California liberal senator Ted Lieu declared, that due to the assistance in the horrid bombing, the Obama administration is “now in an untenable situation.” This situation is complicated by the fact that risks to US military personnel, the footsoldiers of empire, even those on Navy destroyers, is increasing due to Saudi airstrikes on Yemeni civilians. [19]

Still, there is no doubt that the murderous empire had purposely turned looked away from the abuses of women, non-Muslims, foreign workers, and many others in the Kingdom, as previously noted. Not only is the country a murderous state, but it is effectively a client state of the empire, since without US support it could not destabilize the region whether it is backing horrid “rebels” in Syria or decimating the small country of Yemen. This is not a surprise since diplomats, even in 1946, declared that the US should provide “such assistance as may be necessary and feasible to strengthen and maintain that country as a sovereign state free of internal and external disturbances which might threaten its stability.” But the empire is not the only one that is defending the Kingdom.

As it should be obvious, supporting a relationship, even a “bilateral partnership,” with a tyrannical government like the KSA is against the principles of democracy, freedom, and justice the US supposedly stands for. Some policymakers might speak of the “reforms” in the country such as “expanding rights of women in Saudi Arabia,” but they will never gut the relationship. The fact that the NSA partnered with brutal Saudi state police and that the country’s currency is directly tied to the US dollar, showing that the relationship is entrenched. Even Bernie Sanders, the professed progressive and “antiwar” candidate in the capitalist Democratic Party, believed that rich authoritarian Arab states, such as the Kingdom, should fight against ISIS. Such an approach is not anti-interventionist since it means that the US-backed imperial proxies would be fighting against it, which does not, in any way, shape, or form undermine US imperialism. It also provides the potential for Saudi aggression to expand beyond Syria to the whole Mideast, causing more reactionary responses.

Readers may be looking for a “call to action” after reading this piece. I’m not going to follow the pattern of so many liberal documentaries which say you should go to a website and sign a petition. However, it is my hope that this article helps people start to challenge not only the accepted narrative about Saudi Arabia in the West but informs criticisms of bourgeois liberals. Much of the criticism of the US-Saudi relationship, and the Kingdom itself, mainly focuses on violations of “human rights,” as flawed a concept as that is, and stays within the bounds of accepted discourse in our capitalist society. There needs to be an analysis of Saudi Arabia and US imperial power which recognizes the interconnected nature of imperialism, capitalism, and other systems of oppression. This includes even criticizing states, even those one may be inclined to support, which have relationships with Saudi Arabia. While this article does not have all the answers and is only a first stab at this subject, but hopefully it opens the door for more discussion.

Notes

[1] Under the Obama administration, there was biggest arms deal in US history, at the time, with up to $60 billion dollars of military equipment bought for the Saudis, which was largely ignored by the corporate media.

[2] Wallace Murray, “Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray),” May 29, 1941, 890F.51/21, Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Alexander Comstock Kirk, “The Minister in Egypt Kirk to the Secretary of State,” June 26, 1941, 890F.21/23: Telegram; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Cordell Hull, “The Secretary to the Minister in Egypt (Kirk),” August 22, 1941, 890F.51/29: Telegram; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Alexander Comstock Kirk, “The Minister in Egypt (Kirk) to the Secretary of State,” August 30, 1941, 890F.51/30: Telegram; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Cordell Hull, “The Secretary to the Minister in Egypt (Kirk),” September 10, 1941, 890F.51/30: Telegram; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Alexander Comstock Kirk, “Minister in Egypt (Kirk) to the Secretary of State,” September 23, 1941, 890F.51/39: Telegram; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Sumner Welles, “Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Welles) to the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray),” September 26, 1941, 890F.515/1⅓, Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016. Even the US was not on board with a Saudi request for 2 million in gold pieces in 1946.

[3] Harold I. Ickes, “The Secretary of Interior (Ickes) to the Secretary of State,” May 21, 1941, 102.64/100; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Gordon P. Merriam, “Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Gordon P. Merriam of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs,” September 19, 1941, 800F.00/67; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016.

[4] Francis R. Nicosia, Nazi Germany and the Arab World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 43, 76, 88, 110-114, 124-125, 126-127, 130-132. Reportedly, late Saudi King Abdullah treasured the dagger Hitler gave the Saudis in 1939.

[5] Adam Taylor, “The first time a US president met a Saudi King,” Washington Post, January 27, 2015. Accessed October 14, 2016; Rudy Abramson, “1945 Meeting of FDR and Saudi King Was Pivotal for Relations,” Los Angeles Times, August 9, 1990. Accessed October 14, 2016; G. Jefferson Price III, “Saudis remember FDR’s broken promise,” Baltimore Sun, September 1, 2002. Accessed October 14, 2016.

[6] “Memorandum by the Deputy Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Villard) to the Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Clayton),” September 27, 1946, 890F.51/9–2746, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1946, The Near East and Africa, Volume VII. Accessed October 14, 2016; “Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Hare) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Thorp),” June 30, 1950, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016; “Memorandum of Conversation, by the Acting Officer in Charge of Arabian Peninsula Affairs (Awalt),” July 28, 1950, 866A.10/7-2850, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016; “Editorial Note,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016.

[7] “Editorial Note,” 1950, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016; “Editorial Note,” 1950, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016; Fred H. Awalt, “Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Fred H. Awalt of the Office of African and Near Eastern Affairs,” October 5, 1950, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V, Accessed October 14, 2016; “The Chief of Staff of the United States Army to the Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army, 786A.5/4–350: Telegram, April 3, 1950, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016; Raymond A. Hare, “The Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Hare) to the Secretary of Defense (Johnson),” March 8, 1950, 711.56386A/2–1350, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1441: Memorandum of Conversation, by Robert Sturgill of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs,” August 19, 1952, 786A.5 MSP/8–1952, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1432: Memorandum of Conversation, by Robert Sturgill of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs,” January 21, 1952, 711.5886A/1–2152, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1451: Memorandum by the President to the Director for Mutual Security (Stassen),” March 14, 1953, 786A.5 MSP/3–1453, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1453: The Under Secretary of State (Smith) to the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister (Faisal),” 786A.5 MSP/3–2653, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1510: Memorandum of Conversation, by the Officer in Charge of Arabian Peninsula–Iraq Affairs (Fritzlan),” April 1, 1953, 780.022/4–153, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1448: The Officer in Charge of Arabian Peninsula–Iraq Affairs (Fritzlan) to the Ambassador in Saudi Arabia (Hare),” January 16, 1953, 786A.5 MSP/1-653, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1454: Editorial Note,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; Walter B. Smith, “No. 1450: The Under Secretary of State (Smith) to the Director for Mutual Security (Stassen),” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016.

[8] He was also reportedly anti-Semitic. As Tariq Ali writes in his review of Gilbert Archar’s book about Arabs and the Holocaust, he writes that Archar didn’t add that “the late Ibn Saud…was in the habit of presenting visiting Western leaders with copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a virulently anti-Semitic book. Other sources such as an article by Anthony Sampson in the Observer Review titled “Desert Diary” on March 9, 1975 partially confirms this.

[9] Additionally, it is worth noting that Osama Bin Laden used the fact of US troops in the country as a rallying cry to bring support to his cause. He argued that he hated the US also for US sanctions against Iraq and “American policies toward Israel and the occupied territories,” also noting he was infuriated by US troops stationed in the country as he told journalist Robert Frisk.

[10] Clinton also asserted that the Iranians were behind the planned murder of a Saudi ambassador, which was proven false. Investigative journalist Gareth Porter argued, convincingly, that the US government’s narrative on the assassination plot was an an elaborate set up to implicate Iran as part of a campaign against the country and possibly lead to war.

[11] Perhaps this is also why Erdogan thanked Saudi Arabia for its post-coup solidarity as he tries to make Turkey and the Saudis have a common cause.

[12] Wikileaks cables, from the 2010 release with documents gathered by Chelsea Manning, also suggested deals for jetliners given to heads of states and airline executives in multiple Mideast countries, that the Kingdom proposed energy ties with China if Beijing backed sanctions against Iran, and that the country is a major source of financing of Islamic reactionary groups.

[13] “King Abdullah Ibn Abdulaziz al-Saud – obituary,” The Telegraph, January 22, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; “Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz dies,” BBC, January 23, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Anas Hamdan, Catherine E. Shoichet, and Dana Ford, “Saudi Arabia’s ‘reformer’ King Abdullah dies,” CNN, January 23, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Ian Black, “Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah dies at 90,” The Guardian, January 23, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Angus McDowell, “Saudi King Abdullah dies, new ruler is Salman,” Reuters, January 22, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Douglas Martin and Ben Hubbard, “King Abdullah, Shrewd Force Who Reshaped Saudi Arabia, dies at 90,” New York Times, January 22, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Ellen Knickmeyer and Ahmed Al Omran, “Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Dies,” Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Helen Nianias, “King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz dead: What did he do for Saudi Arabia?,” The Independent, January 23, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Robin Wright, “Postscript: King Abdullah, 1924-2015,” The New Yorker, January 23, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016.

[14] CBS News, “Obama vetoes bill allowing 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia”, Sept. 23, 2016. Accessed October 10, 2016; Associated Press, “Obama’s veto of 9/11 bill aimed at Saudi Arabia sets up standoff with Congress,” September 23, 2016. Reprinted in The Guardian. Also see articles in NBC News and Politico.

[15] For more information, also see Strada’s posts on Huffington Post and her appearance on C-Span. Also of note is the response of their lawyers. I would add all of the press releases of Strada’s group here, but there are so many that the links would take up too much space.

[16] See articles in Al Arabiya, Slate, Al Jazeera, ABC (Australian), BBC, DW, and ABC (American).

[17] Karoun Demirjian, Washington Post, “Saudi Arabia is facing unprecedented scrutiny from Congress,” Sept. 21. Accessed October 12, 2016; Steven T. Dennis and Roxana Toxon, Bloomberg, Sept. 21, 2016, “Saudi Arabia’s Clout in Washington Isn’t What It Used to Be.” Also see an article in Euro News.

[18] This is mild compared to the absurd, silly, downright dumb approach of Charles Davis, called Chuckles by many critical radicals on the twittersphere, instituting a no-fly-zone over Saudi Arabia to stop their war.

[19] Articles in Fortune, Bloomberg, and Foreign Policy claimed when the war began that oil prices were negatively effected. However, a CNBC piece quoted a high-level Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Francisco Blanch, who argued that “I don’t think that Yemen had a lot of importance for the oil market…I’m not very worried about physical supply disruptions coming out of Yemen…The main issue…is whether the airstrikes…end up being a proxy war…a proxy war in the Middle East is always a risky event for oil market; there’s no question about it.” Some even claimed that the war in Yemen was a “proxy battlefield” between Iran-backed Houthis and US allies (Yemen and Saudi Arabia). Recently, the Saudis intercepted a missile from the Houthis which they claimed was headed to Mecca, but they could be twisting the truth.

A bastion of imperialism: the corrupted nature of Saudi society

A shopping mall in Saudi Arabia (2011)
A shopping mall in Saudi Arabia (2011)

Editor’s note: Reading this again, I see it as wholly underdeveloped in structure and content. I think it necessary to keep on here, but it is not one of my better pieces. Perhaps I’m being too hard on myself, but I’m a bit embarrassed to have a piece like this on such a site like this where I engage in better, more thoughtful analysis. Still, I think this is a necessary part of understanding Saudi Arabia. As always, I’m open to comments and criticism.

Every day, more of a black gooey substance, black gold as some call it, is pumped out of the ground in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Like the socially democratic state of Venezuela, which is struggling for dear life against US-backed neoliberal opposition, “oil is the economy of Saudi Arabia,” meaning that depletion of oil will undoubtedly weaken their economy. The Saudi economy is so dependent on the substance, despite some efforts to purportedly diversify their economy in recent days, that officials overstated their country’s crude oil reserves by about 40 percent and owe billions of dollars to contractors which they did not pay because of an “oil slump.” As it stands now, the oil Kingdom is a client state of the murderous US empire, a bastion of imperialism with feudal shiekhdoms in place, in no way representing Arab nationalism of the past. This Persian Gulf protectorate is not only authoritarian, but it uses its “oil weapon” to push its agenda. This article is the first in a series about Saudi Arabia, focusing on the corrupted nature of Saudi society as it currently stands.

At the current time, there is the possibility of political instability in the country. The KSA is backed by the imperial juggernaut. Its leaders can easily placate the Saudi citizenry with decisions like slashing the salaries of government ministers, even as they ask ordinary families to cut back their salaries. Another method to maintain control could be the acquisition of millions of acres of prime farmland, mostly in the Senegal River Valley. One of the corporations participating in the land grab is owned by the father of now-deceased Osama Bin Laden: the Bin Laden Group. These land grabs were fully supported by the Saudi state, headed by late King Abdullah, with an idea of acquiring cropland abroad, growing corn, wheat, and soybeans, to feed those in the homeland. In Ethiopia, 1,000 locals every day load, pick, and pack hundreds of tons of fresh produce into waiting trucks, with the food going through the country, one of the “hungriest places on the planet,” and back to those living in the Kingdom. The Saudis are not the only ones engaging in such land grabs, with other states taking land in order to feed those living in their respective homelands. This practice, which leads to exploitation of the poorer, “underdeveloped” countries by ones that are much more wealthy, a form of imperialism which is inherent in the dynamics of capitalism itself.

At the same time, the Sauds can also stir nationalism in an effort to gain territory , such as two islands in the Red Sea, Tiran and Sanafir, handed over by Egypt’s authoritarian (and US-backed) government to the Saudis. This was in exchange for Saudi aid to the Egyptians, to boost their ailing economy, a deal which was recently greenlighted by a court in Cairo. The Saudis could exploit this incident to cull nationalistic feelings in their own country.

The class dynamics of Saudi society are important to recognize in order see its true nature. For one, in imperial client states such as Bahrain, KSA, Qatar, and other monarchies, there has been a large rallying cry against US presence in the country by Islamic reactionaries and by a “significant layer of Saudi society” which see foreign troops, partially, as an affront to national pride. However, an armed uprising in the country could be unlikely due to oil wealth since “Saudi citizens enjoyed a high standard of living” if they stayed quiet and didn’t engage in democratic debate. At the same time, tensions are rising because new migrant workers plus unemployment among young Saudis is creating much resentment, with the creation of a “native Saudi working class.” This could lead to a possible social basis for Saudi social movements and resistance from the working class.

The thousands of migrant workers in the country are also part of the dynamics of the Saudi class society. Due to few opportunities in their home countries in Southeast Asia and the horn of Africa, “millions of poor, desperate men and women” annually immigrate, and are vulnerable at home and abroad. Many are abused, killed, and enslaved through the kafala sponsorship system which ties the status of migrant workers to their employers. This system means that employers control any ability for the eight million workers, comprising one-third of the Saudi population, to leave the country. Additionally, there are excessive working hours, wages withheld, and numerous forms of personal abuse and horrific events, such as sexual violence.

Adding to the misery of workers in KSA, racism is spread across the country’s society. Migrant workers are tarred as “black” and Ethiopians are placed at the bottom of this racist hierarchy. This is reinforced by the fact that all religions, but Islam, are banned inside the country and access to translators is denied to migrants. Some migrants are deported (“repatriated”), in theory, to help native Saudis, but this actually hurts them  since the crackdown on migrants weakens the fabric of society in and of itself even as many Saudis are caught up in anti-migrant sentiment. Some have argued that unless root causes of “poverty, poor education and lack of opportunities…extreme social and economic inequality” are not addressed than many immigrants will “migrate elsewhere…placing themselves at risk of further exploitation, abuse and even death.” Recently, a building bust has trapped thousands of starving (South Asian) Indian workers in Saudi Arabia who are stranded in the desert leading to a “food crisis” and direct action by workers.

The class and racial elements of Saudi society are addressed in the recent Hollywood Hollyweird comedic drama named A Hologram for the King which bombed at the box office. Usually movies about Arabs are utterly horrible. Jack G. Shaheen, an authority on media images and stereotypes of Muslims and Arabs, argues in his tome which reviews 900 Hollyweird films, says that the vast majority of them distort Arabs of all ages and genders, saying that from 1896 to the present, “Hollywood’s caricature of the Arab has prowled the silver screen…[staying] as repulsive and unrepresentative as ever…[with] Arabs are brute murderers, sleazy rapists, religious fanatics, and abusers of women,” treated as the other. [1] The problem with this, of course, is while Arabs can be villains in movies, “almost all Hollywood depictions of Arabs are bad ones” with repetitive and duplicitous images going across generations.

This movie was a bit different in that there were no heroes, no villains, just star actor Tom Hanks playing a businessperson, Alan Clay, who is trying to find his way in a culture foreign to him. Without getting into the movie too much, in one instance, one character, a Saudi cab driver, Yousef (a white actor named Alexander James Black who acts as a person of color, yet again, ugh), asks Clay “so if I start a democratic revolution here, you would support me?,” to which Clay says that he would personally fight for a revolution, but that the US would not send troops, air support, or other assistance. The conversation, of course, is just brushed off, but is telling since it seems to indicate the tensions in society itself. At another point, Clay says when looking at workers working on the roads of a future “desert city” that “I’m guessing these aren’t union men.” Yousef responds “Oh, we don’t have unions here. We have Filipinos.” This is also not addressed any further and is passed by, but is worth noting regardless.

Later, there is a scene when Clay talks to a nearby Saudi who asks “You work for CIA or something?” after seeing him take a lot of picture, with him joking “Just a little freelance work. Nothing full-time.” Of course, the Saudi takes this joke seriously and Hanks tells his cab drive to head off what he deems is a “ludicrous question” by telling the Saudi “if I was from the CIA, I wouldn’t tell the first person who asked me” and shakes his hand. You could say this makes Saudis look dumb for asking about the CIA, but at the same time it is treated as normal and expected as Saudis, like many in the “Third World,” know to watch out for the CIA based on what they’ve done. Also, it pokes at Hanks’s character (and by extension all Americans) are naive about the actions of the CIA. All Hollyweird movies have problems, but this one seemed more positive about Arabs and Saudis than other movies, so that is a good thing. To be clear, I’m not trying to promote this movie, I’m just trying to bring in something I thought was relevant to the subject of this article. If you wish to watch or not watch this movie, that’s up to you.

Back to Saudi society, apart from the racist and class elements, there is a sexist dimension. A recent article on Time’s website described the country as having a private society “rooted in a conservative strand of Islam” that requires adult women to have male guardians, which some call “gender apartheid.” The article further noted that men have more power in relationships since they are allowed to unilaterally divorce their wives while women cannot do the same thing. When men do divorce their wives, mediators and judges are typically conservative men, and the husband remains the guardian of the wife. The article describes specific cases and says that there are consequences for women who engage in legal challenges to male authority, with many women have struggling with “being a women in Saudi” showing that none of them are passive.

The horrid nature of the kingdom is evident. Any dissent or perceived challenge to the absolute monarchy of the Saudi Royals is crushed either by brutal force, concessions, or is outright banned (like unions and labor strikes). The Saudi state includes an internal security agency, the Ministry of the Interior, which has used its power and unlimited budget to train their forces, purchase cameras and surveillance technology in an effort to put in enforce social control. During the so-called “Arab Spring,” the Saudi religious establishment declared that peaceful demonstrations were “a sin against God,” and $36 million in monies was given to the general population with promises of housing and employment. [2] While Pakistan helped suppress dissent in the country, the late King Abdullah granted “reforms” such as the ability of women to participate in local elections in 2015 and the ability to be members of the Consultative Assembly, a formal advisory body, in an effort to blunt protest.

After reading all of this, no one of the right mind should support a relationship with this country. If one considers themselves a feminist or defender of gay rights, they should oppose this country for demeaning women and homosexuals. This can reflexively apply to the United States, which would require challenging existing norms in society. While I am not talking about the US-Saudi imperial interrelationship, these aspects are covered in the next article in this series. This article, for any of those critics out there, is just meant as a brief overview to start a conversation, not to say everything that is possible to say about Saudi society, which would fill a large book easily.

Notes

[1] Jack G. Shaheen, Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (New York: Olive Branch Press, 2001), 1-2, 6-8, 11, 13, 21-22, 28.

[2] Saudi forces also suppressed protest in the nearby kingdom of Bahrain, with a huge military base, after they were asked by the government for assistance