There’s way too much fear mongering in America, which helps to drive the paranoid nature of U.S. foreign and domestic policy. This is the subject of my latest article at TomDispatch.com, which I’ve included below in its entirety. If you don’t read TomDispatch, I urge you to subscribe (top right corner on the home page). Tom Engelhardt has been running the site for 20 years (I’ve been writing for it for 15 of them), and I’ve found the content to be stimulating and thought-provoking. Many thanks for your continued interest in “Bracing Views” as well, which, I joke to Tom, is a little like a baby TomDispatch.
Dystopia, Not Democracy
I have a brother with chronic schizophrenia. He had his first severe catatonic episode when he was 16 years old and I was 10. Later, he suffered from auditory hallucinations and heard voices saying nasty things to him. I remember my father reassuring him that the voices weren’t real and asking him whether he could ignore them. Sadly, it’s not that simple.
That conversation between my father and brother has been on my mind, as I’ve been experiencing America’s increasingly divided, almost schizoid, version of social discourse. It’s as if this country were suffering from some set of collective auditory hallucinations whose lead feature was nastiness.
Take cover! We’re being threatened by a revived red(dish) menace from a “rogue” Russia! A “Yellow peril” from China! Iran with a nuke! And then there are the alleged threats at home. “Groomers”! MAGA kooks! And on and on.
Of course, America continues to face actual threats to its security and domestic tranquility. Here at home that would include regular mass shootings; controversial decisions by an openly partisan Supreme Court; the Capitol riot that the House January 6th select committee has repeatedly reminded us about; and growing uncertainty when it comes to what, if anything, still unifies these once United States. All this has Americans increasingly vexed and stressed.
Meanwhile, internationally, wars and rumors of war continue to be a constant plague, made worse by the exaggeration of threats to national security. History teaches us that such threats have sometimes not just been inflated but created ex nihilo. Those would, for instance, include the non-existent Gulf of Tonkin attack cited as the justification for a major military escalation of the war in Vietnam in 1965 or those non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq used to justify the 2003 U.S. invasion of that country.
All this and more is combining to create a paranoid and increasingly violent country, an America deeply fearful and perpetually thinking about warring on other peoples as well as on itself.
My brother’s doctors treated him as best they could with various drugs and electroshock therapy. Crude as that treatment regimen was then (and remains today), it did help him cope. But what if his doctors, instead of trying to reduce his symptoms, had conspired to amplify them? Indeed, what if they had told him that he should listen to those voices and so aggravate his fears? What if they had advised him that sanity meant arming himself against those very voices? Wouldn’t we, then or now, have said that they were guilty of the worst form of medical malpractice?
And isn’t that, by analogy, true of America’s leaders in these years, as they’ve driven this society to be ever less trusting and more fearful in the name of protecting and advancing their wealth, power, and security?
Fear Is the Mind-Killer
If you’re plugged into the mental matrix that’s America in 2022, you’re constantly exposed to fear. Fear, as Frank Herbert wrote in Dune, is the mind-killer. The voices around us encourage it. Fear your MAGA-hat-wearing neighbor with his steroidal truck and his sizeable collection of guns as he supposedly plots a coup against America. Alternately, fear your “libtard” neighbor with her rainbow peace flag as she allegedly plots to confiscate your guns and brainwash your kids. Small wonder that more than 37 million Americans take antidepressants, roughly one in nine of us, or that, in 2016, this country accounted for 80% of the global market for opioid prescriptions.
A climate of fear has led to 43 million new guns being purchased by Americans in 2020 and 2021 in a land singularly awash in more than 400 million firearms, including more than 20 million assault rifles. A climate of fear has led to police forces being heavily militarized and fully funded rather than “defunded” (which actually would mean a bit less money going to the police and a bit more to non-violent options like counseling and mental-health services). A climate of fear has led Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives who can agree on little else to vote almost unanimously to fork over $840 billion to the Pentagon in Fiscal Year 2023 for yet more wars and murderous weaponry. (Of course, the true budget for what is still coyly called “national defense” will soar well above a trillion dollars then, as it often has since 9/11/2001 and the announcement of a “global war on terror.”)
The idea that enemies are everywhere is, of course, useful if you’re seeking to create a heavily armed and militarized form of insanity.
It’s summer and these days it just couldn’t be hotter, so perhaps you’ll allow me to riff briefly about a scene I’ve never forgotten from The Big Red One, a war film I saw in 1980. It involved a World War II firefight between American and German troops in a Belgian insane asylum during which one of the mental patients picks up a submachine gun and starts blasting away, shouting, “I am one of you. I am sane!” In 2022, sign him up and give him a battlefield commission.
Where fear is omnipresent and violence becomes routinized and normalized, what you end up with is dystopia, not democracy.
We Must Not Be Friends but Enemies
At this point, consider us to be in a distinctly upside-down world. Reverse Abraham Lincoln’s moving plea to Southern secessionists in his first inaugural address in 1861 — “We must not be enemies but friends. We must not be enemies” — and you’ve summed up all too well our domestic and foreign policy today. No, we’re neither in a civil war nor a world war yet, but America’s national (in)security state does continue to insist that virtually every rival to our imperial being must be transformed into an enemy, whether it’s Russia, China, or much of the Middle East. Enemies are everywhere and must be feared, or so we’re repetitiously told anyway.
I remember well the time in 1991-1992 when the Soviet Union collapsed and America emerged as the sole victorious superpower of the Cold War. I was a captain then, teaching history at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Those were also the years when, even without the Soviet Union, the militarization of this society somehow never seemed to end. Not long after, in launching a conflict against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, this country officially kicked ass in the Middle East and President George H.W. Bush assured Americans that, by going to war again, we had also kicked our “Vietnam Syndrome” once and for all. Little did we guess then that two deeply destructive and wasteful quagmire wars, entirely unnecessary for our national defense, awaited us in Afghanistan and Iraq in the century to come.
Never has a country squandered victory — and a genuinely global victory at that! — so completely as ours has over the last 30 years. And yet there are few in power who consider altering the fearful course we’re still on.
A significant culprit here is the military-industrial-congressional complex that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned Americans about in his farewell address in 1961. But there’s more to it than that. The United States has, it seems, always reveled in violence, possibly as an antidote to being consumed by fear. Yet the intensity of both violence and fear seems to be soaring. Yes, our leaders clearly exaggerated the Soviet threat during the Cold War, but at least there was indeed a threat. Vladimir Putin’s Russia isn’t close to being in the same league, yet they’ve treated his war with Ukraine as if it were an attack on California or Texas. (That and the Pentagon budget may be the only things the two parties can mostly agree on.)
Recall that, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia was in horrible shape, a toothless, clawless bear, suffering in its cage. Instead of trying to help, our leaders decided to mistreat it further. To shrink its cage by expanding NATO. To torment it through various forms of economic exploitation and financial appropriation. “Russia Is Finished” declared the cover article of the Atlantic Monthly in May 2001, and no one in America seemed faintly concerned. Mercy and compassion were in short supply as all seemed right with the “sole superpower” of Planet Earth.
Now the Russian Bear is back — more menacing than ever, we’re told. Marked as “finished” two decades ago, that country is supposedly on the march again, not just in its invasion of Ukraine but in President Vladimir Putin’s alleged quest for a new Russian empire. Instead of Peter the Great, we now have Putin the Great glowering at Europe — unless, that is, America stands firm and fights bravely to the last Ukrainian.
Add to that ever-fiercer warnings about a resurgent China that echo the racist “Yellow Peril” tropes of more than a century ago. Why, for example, must President Joe Biden speak of China as a competitor and threat rather than as a trade partner and potential ally? Even anti-communist zealot Richard Nixon went to China during his presidency and made nice with Chairman Mao, if only to complicate matters for the Soviet Union.
If imperial America were willing to share the world on roughly equal terms, Russia and China could be “near-peer” friends instead of, in the Pentagon phrase of the moment, “near-peer adversaries.” Perhaps they could even be allies of a kind, rather than rivals always on the cusp of what might potentially become a world-ending war. But the voices that seek access to our heads prefer to whisper sneakily of enemies rather than calmly of potential allies in creating a better planet.
And yet, guess what, whether anyone in Washington admits it or not: we’re already rather friendly with (as well as heavily dependent on) China. Here are just two recent examples from my own mundane life. I ordered a fan — it’s hot as I type these words in my decidedly unairconditioned office — from AAFES, a department store of sorts that serves members of the military, in service or retired, and their families. It came a few days later at an affordable price. As I put it together, I saw the label: “Made in China.” Thank you for the cooling breeze, Xi Jinping!
Then I decided to order a Henley shirt from Jockey, a name with a thoroughly American pedigree. You guessed it! That shirt was plainly marked “Made in China.” (Jockey, to its credit, does have a “Made in America” collection and I got two white cotton t-shirts from it.) You get my point: the American consumer would be lost without China, the present workhouse for the world.
You’d think a war, or even a new Cold War, with America’s number-one provider of stuff of every sort would be dumb, but no one is going to lose any bets by underestimating how dumb Americans can be. Otherwise, how can you explain Donald Trump? And not just his presidency either. What about his “Trump steaks,” “Trump university,” even “Trump vodka”? After all, who could be relied upon to know more about the quality of vodka than a man who refuses to drink it?
Learning from Charlie Brown
Returning to fears and psychiatric help, one of my favorite scenes is from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” In that classic 1965 cartoon holiday special, Lucy ostensibly tries to help Charlie with his seasonal depression by labeling what ails him. The wannabe shrink goes through a short list of phobias until she lands on “pantophobia,” which she defines as “the fear of everything.” Charlie Brown shouts, “That’s it!”
Deep down, he knows perfectly well that he isn’t afraid of everything. What he doesn’t know, however, and what that cartoon is eager to show us, is how he can snap out of his mental funk. All that he needs is a little love, a little hands-on kindness from the other children.
America writ large today is, to my mind, a little like Charlie Brown — down in the dumps, bedraggled, having lost a clear sense of what life in our country should be all about. We need to come together and share a measure of compassion and love. Except our Lucys aren’t trying to lend a hand at the “psychiatric help” stand. They’re trying to persuade us that pantophobia, the fear of everything, is normal, even laudable. Their voices keep telling us to fear — and fear some more.
It’s not easy, America, to tune those voices out. My brother could tell you that. At times, he needed an asylum to escape them. What he needed most, though, was love or at least some good will and understanding from his fellow humans. What he didn’t need was more fear and neither do we. We — most of us anyway — still believe ourselves to be the “sane” ones. So why do we continue to tolerate leaders, institutions, and whole political parties intent on eroding our sanity and exploiting our fears in service of their own power and perks?
Remember that mental patient in The Big Red One, who picks up a gun and starts blasting people while crying that he’s “sane”? We’ll know we’re on the path to sanity when we finally master our fear, put down our guns, and stop eternally preparing to blast people at home and abroad.
Copyright 2022 William J. Astore
77 thoughts on “The Nasty Voices in Our Heads”
You’re right like always, mr. Astore. There are things about the current state of the world that we should be rightly fearful of, but a lot of people either fear something completely different or blame the cause of their fear on something completely unrelated. I suspect it has to do with how this country encourages people to be always fearful because if you can take something by force, other can do the same thing to you (looking at America’s sordid history with the native people of North, Central and South America.)
I tried to talk sense in people close to me, and they would have agreed to a lot of things you’ve written, but just give them an hour before the TV or the Internet and they go crazy out of fear again. The best I could do is try to help them find a new hobby and new friends so that they don’t end up looking at the screen.
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Yes. There’s a deliberate effort on our various “screens” to portray constant violence and turmoil, to arouse intense suspicion of some dangerous “other,” which appeals to our tendency toward tribalism.
We need to disconnect from the haters and connect with the community around us, including the natural community, i.e. nature. We need relations based on compassion, tolerance, and understanding, but it’s so easy to get distracted when people are being divided and sicced on various “out” groups.
So we’re witnessing constant infighting as the rich get richer.
Great piece of work Lt. Col. This is why I come to your site. As we say in new Zealand….”Well done that man!”
By the way the latest research coming out of the UK suggests that these big pharma antidepressants, the so-called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are based on bogus science. The 37-million Americans you mention, I was one of them, are taking what are no more than placebos. (There is now evidence that placebos can have effects even when the patient is aware that the treatment is a placebo!) So roughly one in nine of us were duped into taking sugar pills! Ripped off as it were!
And speaking of all things being made in China, I used to have a no-China buying policy. I even had a standard letter on my computer that I sent to companies when I noticed they were selling Chinese stuff – warning them of the dangers of practice. But I long since gave up! In new Zealand 80% of what we buy is made in China. Including this new all singing and dancing HP computer, its keyboard and mouse that I am using this morning.
Today I forwarded Bracing Views to friends, family and acquaintances. Wonder if they will be bothered to read it. Or whether I will get more emails to cease and desist sending this sh*t!
Yes, they’re much worse than sugar pills, Dennis. Those SSRIs are very difficult to come off of. And they create problems of their own.
There is a great article about them in The Nation. Hold on a minute … here it is:
These pills can be useful for people suffering from profound depression, who are in a dark, even suicidal, place. But they are over-prescribed and often do more harm than good.
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Yes Lt. Col, I ended up in the ambulance off to the hospital emergency room withdrawing from these SSRI’s. It’s a neat trick – give somebody a pill and have them find out they can never get off them! Any person prescribed these pills would be very wise to read that Nation article before they go down that road.
And I always think off something 10-minutes after I have pushed the Post Comment button. This time about the emergence in the modern idiom of the slang word “libtard”. Which is extremely offensive to me. We discussed the word “pejorative” a few days ago. A word or phrase that has negative connotations, is inflammatorily, and is intended to disparage or belittle. In this case a play on the cross of “liberal” and” retard”.
I don’t know about you but I was always taught that to call someone “retarded” was one of the cruelest, mean-spirited thing one could do. In fact, in New Zealand when I was growing up, a word that one was never to be used. Like the “n” word in America. With the challenges you and your family have with your poor brother (I hope he is doing OK) I’m sure you find it extremely offensive as well. And of course in America the word “liberal” has always had negative connotations.
And I was thinking, here in New Zealand if we sanctioned Chinese products the shelves of all our retail stores would be 80% empty. Our hardware stores shelves 100% empty. In the 40’s we in New Zealand made our own steam locomotives! Now we could not make a pitch fork.
Yes to all you said. I had an aunt who was “retarded.” It was a word used commonly when I was young in the 1960s and into the 1970s; it was never a good word, but it became even worse over time as people started applying it to anyone and everyone who disagreed with them.
“Libtard” is just a throwaway term that says everything about the person using it and nothing about the person to whom it’s applied.
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Nailed it again, Colonel. Like i said earlier, Lots to chew on there.
Just as one example, and as You put it:
And then there’s this which indicates that sharing is definitely not on America’s agenda…
CHINA IS ISSUING THE SAME “RED LINE” WARNINGS ABOUT TAIWAN THAT RUSSIA ISSUED ABOUT UKRAINE by Caitlin Johnstone
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has continued to pour gasoline on the foreign policy dumpster fire that is her planned visit to Taiwan next month, now reportedly encouraging other members of congress to come along for the ride.
“Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has invited a small group of lawmakers on her official trip to Taiwan, including the top Democrat and Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee,” NBC News reports.
This trip, which Beijing perceives as an egregious transgression of Washington’s longstanding one-China policy, is already so incendiary that the Pentagon is now planning to send in fighter jets and other war machinery to protect Pelosi’s plane in case of attacks by the Chinese military.
Continued at https://caitlinjohnstone.substack.com/p/china-is-issuing-the-same-red-line
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Why the fuck is Pelosi going to Taiwan? What purpose does this serve?
With all the problems we face in America, and the House Speaker wants to pose as tough on China. What an absurd joke.
Can’t she just stay home and eat Jeni’s ice cream and count her money?
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DFQ of the Day, Colonel. My guess is that she has been instructed to do that; i seriously doubt that she came up with that idea on her own.
So the real question is: Why would somebody in Swampland want Pelosi and Gang to go to Taiwan at this juncture in the proceedings? What possible GOOD for Anybody ~ American, Taiwanese or Chinese ~ could be accomplished?
Other than our Navy, i guess: “Pentagon is prepared to protect Pelosi with fighter jets and ships if she visits Taiwan after China warned her not to, report says.” [ https://www.yahoo.com/news/pentagon-prepared-protect-pelosi-fighter-132007280.html ]
This will be very interesting to see how it plays out in the end.
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Jeff: Please call me “Bill,” unless Army training won’t let you. 🙂
Nancy is trying foreign policy and she’s decided she likes it! At the start of the Ukraine situation she got Congress to sit for a speech from Zelenskyy himself and they gave him a standing ovation! Everybody told her what a good show it was! And then she went to Kiev, promised Volodymyr weapons in perpetuity and they gave her a medal fashioned after a famous Ukrainian princess! So she figures, I wonder what’s up with Taiwan? We’re sending an aircraft carrier (Ronald Reagan) to keep her company and mainland China is thinking about a fighter escort for her! So that should be fun! And she might as well get the trip now because, who knows, she may not be Speaker much longer (sad face). And anyway, what is government power for if it’s not to have fun?
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“The Chinese president has warned Joe Biden against “playing with fire” over Taiwan in a highly anticipated phone call that lasted more than two hours on Thursday, as tensions remain high over the House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s potential trip to the island next month.
“Those who play with fire will be perished by it. It is hoped that the US will be clear-eyed about this,” Xi Jinping, according to a Chinese statement.”
The Pantophobia Mongering started on 9/11, Colonel, and has continued steadily ever since.
It continued with, as You noted, Saddam’s WMDs, then the 2008 Too-Big-To-Fail financial “¢risi$,” then the coming of Trump and Trumpatismo, then the Pandemic and Recession, Election2020, and January 6, and then the threat of World War III starting in Europe.
And now comes a resurgent COVID, borderline hyperinflation, looming food and fuel shortages, increasing weather-related disasters, a possible second front in World War III in Asia, and ~ drum roll ~ another election coming up in November.
Americans for two decades have been subjected to this relentlessly sustained and very effective psychological warfare campaign; and there is an entire generation of Americans who have never known anything else.
You concluded with: “We — most of us anyway — still believe ourselves to be the ‘sane’ ones. So why do we continue to tolerate leaders, institutions, and whole political parties intent on eroding our sanity and exploiting our fears in service of their own power and perks?”
i think a very significant reason for that is because there are ~ at present ~ no viable, realistic alternatives to those leaders, institutions, and parties whose only way to stay in power IS by eroding our sanity and exploiting our fears. And that’s because that 21-year Psyop that started on 9/11 has been a complete and total success.
Jeff, you have to be a little bit careful with your generalizations here my man.
My two American daughters, in their early 40’s, both doctors, live happy lives. They do not sit at the computer all day reading about, and worrying, about resurgent COVID, borderline hyperinflation, looming food and fuel shortages, increasing weather-related disasters, a possible second front in World War III in Asia, and another election coming up in November. They just get on with their jobs and raising their kids just like we did. And being involved with politics as much as they can – just as we did in our day. If there is a very effective psychological warfare campaign they seem to be immune to – I don’t see it. And besides who is planning and conducting this campaign?
Sometimes I think we internet keyboard warrior critters, of which I am one, get ourselves all in a stew about nothing. Maybe when we get to ruminating that our leaders, institutions, and parties whose only way to stay in power is by eroding our sanity and exploiting our fears – then its time to step away from your computer and go for a hike in the fresh air in the mountains. Our leaders, institutions, and parties staying in power by eroding our sanity and exploiting our fears has been a fact of life long since before the internet was invented. And we survived.
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Being doctors, I assume well-paid and compensated, they are fortunate indeed. Being immersed in a community of likeminded people surely helps. Staying away from the news and people like us helps. 🙂
But even the “happy,” I think, must sense a growing sense of unease in this country. And of course the damage being done to our environment by fossil fuels and our exploitative approach to nature.
When even monarch butterflies are being added to the endangered list, you know something serious is rotten in the state of America.
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Yeah; the Monarchs making the List is a very powerful Warning Signal that things may be starting to get a bit closer to The Edge where lots of things we take for granted start tipping.
Lt. Col., another way of looking at this! My daughters worked damn hard to achieve what they did. The only fortunate thing they had was being able to go the finest medical schools in the World. In America.
Dennis, i’m very happy for You and them that Your physician daughters seem to be immune to that 21-year Fear Campaign and live happy lives. It’s a shame more people our age can’t say the same about their Kids and Grandkids.
And i assume by Your comment that You are immune to it, as well. Congratulations. You ~ like Your daughters ~ are a rare breed of American, indeed.
Jeff, go watch some of those old videos of the Woodstock Rock Festival. In 1969 – 53-years ago now. All us kids were convinced that America was doomed. With the same laundry list of paranoids and fears about their futures. And that there was a psychological warfare campaign being waged. Just listen to the lyrics of the songs – Country Joe and the Fish!
And there wasn’t. America stumbled along. Computers were invented. Cures for Aids and cancer were found. And the WA beltway continued to piss off most Americans. Those kids having sex in their tie-dyed tee-shirts grew up and had jobs and families. And some of us are still pissing and moaning about the same things on the internet. The world goes on.
And BTW, I certainly not immune to “it”. I can make myself physically ill reading all this doom and gloom on the web everyday.
Yep. Those kids having sex in their tie-dyed tee-shirts grew up and had jobs and families. And became The Baby Boomers. Who now control a significant slice of Economic Wealth and Political Power in America.
And who ~ more than anybody else in America today ~ are directly responsible for the condition that America is in today as:
a Bankrupt Debtor State;
an Imperialist Warfare State;
a Redistributionist Welfare State;
a Secrecy/Surveillance/Security/proto-Police State;
an Oligarchic/Plutocratic Deep State;
a Failing or at best Flailing State;
an Overshoot State; and, perhaps most importantly,
a People and Nation no longer merely “divided,” but fractured ~ even to the point of disintegration ~ in ways not seen in more than 160 years, since the eve of what may very well have been merely the FIRST American Civil War.
And like You said: “The world goes on.”
Jeff, if you are going to describe the great nation you were merely by birth right lucky to be born into and to live in as a Bankrupt Debtor State; an Imperialist Warfare State; a Redistributionist Welfare State; a Secrecy /Surveillance/Security/proto-Police State; an Oligarchic/Plutocratic Deep State; a Failing or at best Flailing State; and an Overshoot State, then I am going to have to bookmark you as doomer and gloomer my friend.
That’s entirely Your call, Dennis.
So how then, would You describe America and the States that America is in? Not the place You lived in for several decades until, what is it, eight or so years ago; but America today.
If America is not a Debtor, Warfare, and Welfare State, what is it?
If America is not an SSS proto-Police State, Deep State, Failing, and Overshoot State, what is it?
Jeff, there is no doubt that America has been going through a rough spell. Even more so since I left in 2018, especially if one reads the many articles on the web written by America detractors. And yes, all those adjectives are apropos. But for the sake of my kids and grandkids I choose to remain optimistic about the resolve of the American people.
You have heard of the great American Dale Carnegie, the lecturer and developer of his famous courses in self-improvement, sales, corporate training, and public speaking.
Three things he thought were the key to success: Act as if you were already happy and that will tend to make you happy. Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurt his sense of importance and arouses resentment.
Heh. Well if America has been going thru a “rough spell,” Dennis, what’s that make what Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and now Ukraine have been and are still going thru for the past 21 years? Courtesy of the US of A, with a little help from our friends in Tel Aviv, Riyadh, London, Moscow, and elsewhere?
And while i can understand and appreciate Your desire to remain optimistic about America’s future for the sake of Your Kids and Grandkids, i have no offspring to serve as a basis or inspiration for wishful thinking.
And i would say that the generations of Your Kids and Grandkids would be much better served by a healthy dose of Sceptical Realism and Reality Checking by Everybody: starting with them and us, their Parents and Grandparents.
And if all those adjectives about America today are indeed apropos, Who is doing anything to change how this nation is run to make those adjective inappropriate?
And finally, are those three things that Mr Carnegie thought and taught were the key to “success” applicable to the individuals, organizations, and institutions starring in and running the show in DC? Or are the Rules different in that world?
Five questions, Jeff. My sense is these are rhetorical — you already know the answer and are looking to put the other guy on the spot.
You and Dennis, from my perspective, are more in agreement than not. In the Army, I heard this termed as “violent agreement.” Officers liked to argue minor points even as they agreed on the big picture.
I don’t want “violent agreement” here, nor lots of questions aimed at other readers.
And to answer Your question “And besides who is planning and conducting this [21-year Psychological Warfare] campaign?” :
the military-industrial-congressional complex,
the banking-finance-printing press web,
the techno-infotainment matrix,
the petro-food-guns-n-drugs cartels,
the pharmo-medico-insurance-legal cabals, and
the surveillance-secrecy-security-safety panopticon that owns and operates and commands and controls the politicians and bureaucrats at center stage in America’s reality-tv extravaganza; and America’s $ 1 = 1 Vote system of government and governance that gets, puts, and keeps them there.
Jeff, but this is not a phenomena of the last 20-years. These cabals were being written about 40 years ago.
For example, the military-industrial-congressional complex: Seymour Melman, 1985, The Permanent War Economy, American Capitalism in Decline.” And “Profits without Production” in 1983.
And all those other cabals you list, save for the the techno-infotainment matrix, have been around for much longer than 20-years.( And BTW the Hollywood infotainment matrix has been around since you and I. You don’t think that Hollywood shaped America thinking eh?) Politicians and bureaucrats at center stage in America’s reality-tv extravaganza; and America’s $ 1 = 1 Vote system of government and governance that gets, puts, and keeps them there was baked in the cake with the founding fathers.
I am yet to be persuaded that this Psychological Warfare campaign you imagine is a product of the 2,000’s. I challenge you to write an essay explaining that the the petro-food-guns-n-drugs cartels are a recent phenomena.
i never said that any of those folks are “recent phenomenon” or a “product of the 2000s,” Dennis.
You asked Who was and is running the Pantaphobia Mongering PsyOp program over the last 21 years since 9/11, and i answered You.
To have been able to wage the 9/11 Campaign so effectively, those folks HAD to have been in business for a while.
Jeff, Dennis: You are both passionate and opinionated — and willing to contest most issues at my site!
But sometimes it’s best if you agree to disagree — and move on. Or go offline and go mano a mano via email.
Roger that. Will do.
Among what You termed “actual threats” to America’s security and domestic tranquility, Colonel, You included “growing uncertainty when it comes to what, if anything, still unifies these once United States.”
What ~ if Anything indeed ~ still unifies these once United States is another DFQ. Even better than “Why is Pelosi going to Taiwan?”
At this stage of the game, i would say Not Much. There is unification within Factions about what should and should not be done by the government to deal with America’s Problems; but very little common ground or even grounds for communication between those Factions. That’s why ~ to take the most blatant example ~ one person can control virtually everything that the US Senate can accomplish.
The American People and Nation are no longer merely “divided,” but are fractured ~ to the point of disintegration ~ in ways not seen in more than 160 years and the eve of what may end up being merely the FIRST American Civil War.
The question of “What unifies America?” could be approached, asked, and answered from a slightly different perspective by asking “Are You proud to be an American?” And if so, Why; and if not, Why Not?
It saddens me, Jeff, that too many Americans take pride in having the strongest military, the most guns, etc. Or they just cite song lyrics: Where at least I know I’m free.
We used to take pride in our modern infrastructure, our science, the space program, schools and universities, health care, and the like. But is anyone really proud anymore in these areas?
Or perhaps we took a little price in having a Republic that worked, more or less, and also a system where workers earned decent pay and people could afford a decent house, maybe on just one income.
Those days are gone, perhaps never to return. All the money is being hoovered up by the already very rich, so …
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Heh. Yeah… the strongest military that hasn’t won a war in 77 years.
And CAN anybody take pride in any of those things anymore? Or anything else about America these days?
So the Question becomes: “So What and Now What?” What ~ if anything ~ can be done to change any of this? And change it without making things worse than they already are?
And the kids at Woodstock Jeff were asking exactly the same question!
Heh. Yeah; and their answer was to pop another cube and take another hit. See my earlier response to Your comment about Woodstock Nation.
Lt. Col, you mentioned the US’s infrastructure.
Once the best and most advanced in the World.
Now the US cannot even a build a High Speed Rail.
California’s “train to nowhere”. This is really discouraging.
We need to import Chinese workers and exploit them as in “the good old days.”
I don’t think its a shortage of labour Lt.Col.
Its the bureaucracy and red tape.
I know from experience that doing a large construction project in California is almost impossible now.
Just the environmental stuff takes literally years. The legal stuff crippling. Permitting is ridiculous.
(China has no such problem is it wants to build another 2,000km of High Speed Rail!)
Except if you are the military!
If the Navy wants another dock in San Diego – it miraculously gets permitted in 6-mths!
Dennis: Please call me “Bill.” Almost no one uses my military rank anymore.
Seventeen years “retired,” Dennis!
Let’s just get China to build them, then. Strike a deal. Admit that the Chinese are much better at this stuff than we are. China builds most of our stuff nowadays …
Bill, I read an article saying that the Chinese are building their 1,000’s of Kms of High Speed Rail at a quarter of the cost per mile than what the Californians are spending on their unfinished train to nowhere! And by all accounts the Chinese design, engineering and construction is the best in the World. Even better than the French who pioneered HSR.
The high-speed rail (HSR) network in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is the world’s longest and most extensively used – with a total length of 40,000 kilometers (25,000 mi) by the end of 2021.
The high-speed rail (HSR) network in the United States Of America (USA) is 54 kilometers (34 mi) by the end of 2021.
The one great accomplishment of President Johnson’s 1965 transportation act was that it did lead to the construction of the Metroliner, a so-called “higher-speed rail” that connected Washington D.C. to New York. Though the Metroliner only ran at 90 mph, which was pretty dismal compared to its Japanese competition, it was definitely a step in the right direction. Progress stopped there unfortunately, and by 2006 the Metroliner was replaced by Amtrak’s Acela Express line, which continues to be the closest thing the U.S. has to a bullet train.
Sadly the Acela Express is a tortoise. Sure, it can occasionally speed up to 150 mph (hardly high speed), but the average speed on the Acela line is … um, 68 mph. Yeah. Your 1999 Toyota Corolla can go faster than that…….
Read More: https://www.grunge.com/155798/the-real-reason-the-united-states-has-no-high-speed-rail-network/?utm_campaign=clip
For a free market, free trade libertarian perspective on this, see…
THE CASE FOR BEING ECONOMICALLY DEPENDENT ON CHINA : Do The Costs Of Free Trade With China Outweigh The Benefits? Consumers Don’t Seem To Think So. By Patrick Carroll
Like it or not, China is America’s superstore. They create tons of products for Americans to consume, and Americans benefit immensely from the arrangement. The good news is, trade provides a strong incentive for China to avoid conflict, because they stand to lose a lot if they suddenly cut America off.
This point can be summarized with a common saying usually attributed to Bastiat: “WHEN GOODS DON’T CROSS BORDERS, SOLDIERS WILL.” THE OPPOSITE IS ALSO GENERALLY TRUE. WHEN GOODS DO CROSS BORDERS, SOLDIERS DON’T.
In short, trade creates interdependence, and interdependence has a remarkable track record of maintaining peace.
https://fee.org/articles/the-case-for-being-economically-dependent-on-china/ [EMPHASIS added.]
Yes Jeff, it rolls along splendidly until the Americans whose jobs were offshored to China no longer have money to buy even cheap imported goods!
You raise a very interesting series of questions, Dennis. And piqued my interest to do some research.
Exactly how many jobs in what industries and regions of the U.S. have been outsourced/offshored from the U.S. since, say, 2000?
How many of those lost jobs from which industries and regions went to China?
What percentage of those lost jobs were Union jobs?
What was the average new pay for laid off workers upon getting a new job, as compared to their average pay before they got laid off?
What percentage of laid off workers have never taken another job?
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“Workers saw 3.7 million U.S. jobs lost to China since 2001, with more than 700,000 lost in the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency, according to a study released Thursday by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
From 2001 to 2018, every state and every congressional district has suffered job loss due to the U.S.-China trade deficit, though five states in particular have been crushed, based on total jobs lost: California (654,200 jobs lost), Texas (334,700), New York (185,200), Illinois (162,300) and Florida (150,500).”
My Google Hunt n Gather found that EPI Report referred to by the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM).
It’s particularly interesting that 19% of the jobs lost since 2001 came during Trump’s first two years on the throne. Guess that’s part of making America “Great” again, eh? His China tariffs did a Great job protecting American jobs, eh? I wonder how many Trumpatistas are aware of that inconvenient fact.
In any event, my original questions still remain to be answered and are still being researched:
What percentage of those lost jobs were Union jobs?
What was the average new pay for laid off workers upon getting a new job, as compared to their average pay before they got laid off?
What percentage of laid off workers have never taken another job and are surviving on Public Assistance at or below the official Poverty level?
And a new question: If that many jobs were lost to China [and more to India and elsewhere, particularly in Asia] during that period, how many new jobs were created in America over these past 20 years?
And i also need to do some more research to understand why the EPI claims that the job losses are CAUSED by the US-China trade deficit, rather than the job losses being a contributing factor to that deficit. Time for a little Economics 401.
The project was ill-considered to begin with. Californians already have highways and airplane transportation to take them between LA and SF. They only way they sold the voters on the project was by promising that someone else (i.e. American taxpayers) would pay for most of it. Talk about greed – getting something for nothing. And politicians have this habit of going gaga over bullet trains.
Jeff, I’d say the very big thing that unites Americans is not political but the consumer paradise we live in. Inflation could destroy this and there are certainly plenty who cannot afford a house, but we love what we can buy, going into debt to keep doing it if income is not enough. This applies to both the 1% and the 99%, whether one is going to visit the Mercedes dealer or to Walmart to get a big screen TV. The number of things we can buy and the intensity with which companies compete for our every material desire staggers me when I stop to think about it. I am astounded at the price of going out to dinner yet restaurants are everywhere and doing a big business. Absolutely nobody needs to go out to eat. Nobody has to go to a movie yet movies take in billions. The frugal consumer, careful to buy only what is needed, can get by, barring unstoppable inflation. New cars on the streets are not unusual, but the rule. The obscenely rich are tolerated, if not praised, for the things they have initiated (Zuckerberg, Musk, Gates) that once mass produced are incredibly cheap. Wow, have you seen the latest smartphone apps? What is coming next!?
This ties in with WJA’s essay in that there is an exchange with China, far beyond all precedent in international trade, that should never be far from our minds, exposing the stupidity of aggressive posturing a la Pelosi. We pay them to have what we are well rid of: filthy environment, in particular air pollution, and in exchange we get a flood of stuff cheaply bought. China is not forcing their way of governance on us nor threatening us militarily. We alone are dreaming up the threat. Capitalism triumphant, if only for the short term as global warming tells us it must be, should impress every one of us. It surely keeps most people from going over the edge, though the superficial and transient pleasures of materialism don’t answer life’s greatest needs.
Take a look at photos of LA’s container ship docks with fleets of huge container ships waiting to unload, or pass by any railroad center in the country to see countless shipping containers, by far most from China. Our consumption is what is threatened when we threaten China. China could cut us off without firing a shot, the mighty US military helpless to stop it. Would we “sacrifice” Taiwan to keep the container ships moving? You bet we would and it would be an overwhelming demand from we the people that the mighty MICC would be helpless to oppose.
The US is floundering; personal problems are rampant as exhibited by drug addiction and far too much suicide. There is decaying infrastructure all around, but we keep watching commercials and scooping up the stuff. In consumption we are united, all agreed that the supply of stuff needs to continue uninhibited. The Trump fan and the liberal, both overweight, will happily be seated right next to each other at McDonald’s or camp out next to each other before Black Friday waiting to grab the special offers the next day.
And here I thought we were SUPPOSED to be afraid. Covid, Monkeypox, guns, white supremacy, MAGA, Donald Trump, fascists, January 6, and most off all climate change, wherein every breath we exhale increases the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and shortens the days until our cities are all underwater. And ever more powerful government was going to save from all of that after reminding us we are surrounded by fearful times. Is that right or should I stop watching TV news?
My brother posted a good saying the other day. The gist of it was that you were never meant to shoulder all the wrongs in the world.
The news today bombards us with everything that is wrong. It’s good to know the troubles we face — but everything in moderation.
It’s easy to get buried in a shitstorm if you’re not careful.
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How to go to war fashionably:
Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy is a corrupt puppet of the US State Department. How long before we see him flee with a truck load of cash to live out the rest of his life in a luxury Miami Fl mansion?
“In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the nationwide protests it sparked over two years ago, among the other alarming developments that eventually came to light was the level of government surveillance of Americans protesting Floyd’s death at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department. Not only was the surveillance carried out by federal, state, and local law enforcement in Minneapolis, but apparently in every state where protest activity occurred, based on prior reporting by the New York Times, The Intercept, the ACLU of Northern California, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and others.
Federal players involved in the surveillance included Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the DEA. But one particular US government department’s involvement sparked even greater concern: the Department of Defense.”
Those “nasty voices” have a demonstrated habit of recurring in American heads at regular intervals, usually — as the saying goes — about the time the last veteran of the previous war grows too old to draft. From my experience with the phenomenon:
Dragooned and Bullied Ex-Patriot
(From The Triumph of Strife: an homage to Dante Alighieri and Percy Shelley)
In early manhood’s time they came for us
Distressed that we might plot a course our own
And not one pledged to serve their animus
We had begun to reap what they had sown;
From seeds of dragons’ teeth sprang fighting men
On fields of battle far from homeland grown.
Yet grim news filtered back both now and then
Of great success that almost had expired
From using up its youth time and again
A great success, indeed, that then required
A fresh transfusion of the red supply
Of winning fights, old Pyrrhus never tired
Yet few could smell the stinking, reeking lie:
Our youth was spent for what the old would buy
And so to mask just what they had in store
For us who had no choice and lived in dread,
They tried to feed us patriotic lore
Designed to earn our trust but not our bread
But when that didn’t work as warfare bait
They switched to using threat of jail instead
They worked on us from early dawn till late:
The Press, the Church, the School, the Law combined
To wipe us blank of thought as any slate
The Great Success abroad seemed to have dined
On all the easy lives it could obtain;
And yet it hungered still for our young kind
Our leaders, though, felt not the slightest pain
To them we meant no loss but only gain
Some Fear Itself had seeped into our land:
Reactionary Panic, Mystic Dread,
And Abstract Anger gained the upper hand.
Then fearing “communists” beneath each bed
The Best and Brightest shipped us overseas
To shoot a bad idea in the head
Despite some vaguely heard pathetic pleas
From those whose brains had better things to think
The ones in charge cared only for their ease
They hesitated not, nor did they shrink,
As they from off our backs our freedoms flayed
They sent us to a swamp to swim or sink
Our youth again found its young self betrayed
To die from history our elders made.
Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2006
Some more Nasty Voices: https://scheerpost.com/2022/07/29/fun-fun-fun/
And another: https://scheerpost.com/2022/07/29/donkey-punch/
“Ukrainians have become cannon fodder for the US geopolitical goals, just as the South Vietnamese were.
It is now clear that the LBJ’s escalation in 1965 was a huge and costly mistake. The needless war did immense damage to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. It is also had enormous negative ramifications in the United States.
Will the US and allies continue to escalate the conflict in Ukraine, to “double down” on an intervention half way around the world with the goal of hurting Russia? Have we learned nothing from Vietnam and subsequent US/Western foreign policy disasters of the past 40 years?”
Certain people have learned that war can be useful and profitable for them.
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And a couple more “Nasty Voices”…
‘TOTAL BULLS***’: ANGER BOILS OVER AFTER REPUBLICANS BLOCK BILL TO HELP VETS EXPOSED TO BURN PITS by Dylan Stableford
Democratic lawmakers and activists, including Jon Stewart, expressed their anger and frustration on Capitol Hill on Thursday toward Republican senators who blocked a bipartisan bill that would expand health care access for military veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.
“This is total bulls***,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said at a press conference outside the Capitol on Thursday morning. “This is the worst form of politicization I’ve literally ever seen. This is total BS. We had the votes.”
Last month, the Senate voted 84-14 in favor of the legislation, called the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, which had passed the House earlier this year.
The measure would boost health care services and disability benefits for veterans suffering from exposure to the burn pits that were used in Iraq and Afghanistan to incinerate waste, with troops often using jet fuel as an accelerant.
Stewart, who has spent the past few years advocating on behalf of military veterans, did not mince words while speaking alongside vets and their families at Thursday’s press conference.
“SO AIN’T THIS A BITCH,” STEWART SAID. “AMERICA’S HEROES, WHO FOUGHT IN OUR WARS, SWEATING THEIR ASSES OFF OUTSIDE WITH OXYGEN, WHILE THESE MOTHERF***ERS SIT IN THE AIR CONDITIONING, WALLED OFF FROM ANY OF IT. THEY DON’T HAVE TO HEAR IT. THEY DON’T HAVE TO SEE IT. THEY DON’T HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THAT THESE ARE HUMAN BEINGS.
“I’M USED TO THE HYPOCRISY,” HE CONTINUED. “I’M USED TO THE COWARDICE. THE SENATE IS WHERE ACCOUNTABILITY GOES TO DIE.
“I’M USED TO ALL OF IT,” STEWART ADDED. “BUT I’M NOT USED TO THE CRUELTY.”
Continued at https://news.yahoo.com/total-bull-outrage-gillibrand-tester-jon-stewart-toomey-senate-blocks-burn-pit-bill-170939445.html [EMPHSASIS added.]
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That might be another reason why the Army is having a hard time filling Recruiting targets.
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Surprise! Ever heard of “cannon fodder”? (I know you have, Jeff.)
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i have indeed, Bill. Both where they were foddered out in the field; and if they survived, what they looked like and were as post-fodder.
They did the same to my Brother Firefighter’s out of the NYFD post 9-11 and their Related Cancers, and other debilitating, and recurring, chronic, associated Illnesses & disorders from! Its unbelievable the cruelty and lack of any ethics, morality, or compassion.
Given the carnage, murder, and mayhem that the US has perpetually perpetrated against the entire Planet since the end of World War II, cruelty against and the lack of any ethics, morality, or compassion for American Citizens ~ even Firefighters ~ shouldn’t come as a very big surprise to anyone.
And given the mis-, dis-, and mal-information that the US government, its media, academia, and entertainment sectors have jammed down Americans’ throats about 9/11, screwing the 9/11 First Responders fits right in with screwing Forever War Burn Pot victims and Vietnam War Agent Orangers..
Thank you, thank you ,THANK YOU!!! It’s a huge relief to see someone announce that the Pentagon, Government and military corporations are essentially insane. I’ve been saying that to anyone who will listen for years, and using the same examples you do. I really liked your analogy about how doctors who would tell a patient to believe in the crazy voices he hears would be committing a medical crime, and the same thing can be said of our insane military obsessed government – both Repubs and Dems. I hope vast numbers of people read this and start writing or calling their elected reps including the President.
Our military leaders and our government ( all branches) know they are committing criminal acts by lying to us, that’s why they have a massive propaganda system set up with the mainstream media to promote those lies and to prevent any possibility of truth to sneak in.
The insane criminality of what we are doing and have been doing for the past 30 years and more (Viet Nam was more than 30 years ago) has to stop. I hope you will continue to write on this subject – indeed I hope you will harp on it until we start to get a public response.
Have you been asked in the past years to come on any show on MSNBC or PBS or CNN or FOX; have you ever submitted a letter to the NYT or the Wa Post? I suspect that no national tv show has invited you (they barely bother to invite Andrew Bacevich on rare occasions) and if you submitted a guest op ed letter to any national paper it would not be printed. You are one of the hundreds (or should I say thousands?) who have been “disappeared” – no longer allowed to nationally comment on what is happening, even though you are clearly as informed, or more so, as the many who we see on the air. It is good that you have your blog which I look for each day.
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No. No invitations. Andrew Bacevich was once on MSNBC but didn’t get a chance to speak.
Of course, the MSM relies heavily on revenue from ads from the military-industrial complex, so no critics need apply (or appear). In fact, in some cases the MSM is basically owned by the MIC.
Fortunately, I have my regiment of followers here at Bracing Views! Charge, I say! Into the valley of death rose my 1100 or so “followers.”
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Of course RANNEY the age old trick played by MSNBC or PBS or CNN or FOX is to have a panel of one WJ Astore or Andrew Bacevich on – up against three retired Generals!
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Or in “The View” wherein three or four leftists go up against one moderate-conservative and then complain that the moderate-conservative is too outspoken (i.e. she makes too much sense). So they get rid of her. It’s just TV nonsense.
The good old US’s MYOB foreign policy eh Bill? Not!!
What in the hell are we doing in Nigeria?
For goodness sake!
“U.S. PLAYED SECRET ROLE IN NIGERIA ATTACK THAT KILLED MORE THAN 160 CIVILIANS
The 2017 bombing of a displaced persons’ camp was termed a “U.S.-Nigerian” operation, according to a document obtained by The Intercept.
Experts say the U.S. government needs to come clean about its involvement in the Rann airstrike — and other similar instances around the world that the U.S. may be keeping secret.
“I think this example raises the question of, when the U.S. provides weapons and equipment that can be used for attacks, and when it provides intelligence that inform those attacks, what responsibilities should it have to make sure those capabilities and that information is used responsibly and carefully?” the former Pentagon official told The Intercept. “The U.S. provides more arms internationally than anyone and we provide training and advising on their use, but we still provide very little advisory support or capabilities to help partners to avoid harm to civilians.”
Bill you wrote about Americans not having pride in their health care.
The United States has the worst health-care system overall among 11 high-income countries, while spending the highest proportion of its GDP on health care. In 2021, around 30 million people in the United States had no health insurance. Nearly 45,000 annual deaths are associated with lack of health insurance, according to the American Journal of Public Health.
All this could be mitigated if America adopted single payer Universal MEDICARE4ALL health coverage. Every American would be covered, and it is estimated that it would reduce national health-care expenditure by more than $458 billion, corresponding to 13.1 percent of health-care expenditure in 2017. It would also save more than 68,500 lives every year, compared with the status quo. 80% of Americans say they are in favor of MEDICARE4ALL.
But Nancy Pelosi will not put it up for vote in the House of Representatives. Pelosi told Medicare For All campaigners she wouldn’t bring the measure, HR1384, to the House floor because it would definitely lose, and she didn’t want to put vulnerable Democrats on the spot by forcing them to vote on the legislation.
Dystopia, Not Democracy
Even if it passed in the House, it would go about as far in the Senate as the two impeachment proceedings went. Or as far as the Burn Pot Bill went.
Lets face it if you really want to know what’s “really” going on in any War be it Mafia, or between Countries you go to the Mattresses & the Trenches, especially not some Rear Echelons (REMF), or the Warring Dons &
Elitist Generals plus their military bureaucracy in general they will only give you the official Line of BS. I’ll take my News from a Grunt/ Soldier, or Low to Mid-Level Officer any day of the Wk. over them–thankyou…! Think Stanley Kubrick’s Classic: “Paths of Glory” One of the greatest war movies ever made…Yes.., Life can be Nasty in Nations of Evil.
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Republicans Explain Why They Voted Against Veterans’ Healthcare [Slide show]
China Threatens To Retaliate For Pelosi’s Taiwan Trip By Letting Her Return Safely
BEIJING—Warning the United States that the House Speaker would be spared, China reportedly threatened to retaliate Thursday for Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan by letting her return safely. “Should Nancy Pelosi follow through with her planned trip to Taiwan, China will be forced to take the hostile measure to weaken America by allowing her to return unscathed,” said President Xi Jinping, warning that any move by Pelosi to legitimize the Taiwanese regime would be met with a first class ticket back so that she is well-rested and ready to return to legislative matters. “The folly of America’s intransigence on China’s territorial claims will be be made clear when Ms. Pelosi is permitted to set foot back on U.S. soil and continue to shape national policy. We have the entire might of the Chinese military standing by ready to defend Ms. Pelosi from any possible threat.” At press time, Chinese leadership was tested in their resolve to keep Pelosi alive after hearing her speak.
I read this on Tom Dispatch. It’s powerful writing, sir.
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