The Truth Needs Its Own Channel

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W.J. Astore

Today’s article is a potluck of observations.  Please fire away in the comments section if I stimulate some thoughts!

  1. My wife today noticed how the weather is now militarized.  An “arctic invasion” of cold air is coming our way, or so the Weather Channel warned.  Do we need a new “Weather Force” to meet this “invasion”?
  2. The other day at the gym, I was watching the impeachment drama on two TVs tuned to Fox News and MSNBC.  For Fox News and its parade of Republican guests, the impeachment was a “hoax.”  For MSNBC, it was a foregone conclusion Trump is as guilty as sin.  I mentioned this to my wife and she had the perfect comment: “The truth needs its own channel.”
  3. A reader wrote to me about a piece I wrote in 2008 about all the “warrior” and “warfighter” talk used by the U.S. military today.  It got me to thinking yet again about the rhetoric of war.  Back in World War II, when we fought real wars and won them, we had a Department of War to which citizen-soldiers were drafted.  After World War II, we renamed it the Department of Defense, and after Vietnam we eliminated the draft, after which you began to hear much talk of warriors and warfighters.  In the 75 years since 1945, America has fought many wars, none of them formally declared by Congress, and none of them “defensive” in any way.  The longest of those wars (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq) have been utter disasters.  Which is not surprising, since wars based on lies and fought for non-compelling reasons usually are losers.  So, how do you buck up the morale of all those volunteer troops while encouraging them not to think about the losing causes they’re engaged in?  Get them to focus on their warfighter identities, their warrior “cred,” as if it’s a great thing for democracies to fight constant wars.
  4. The New York Times endorsed Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar today as the Democrats best prepared to serve as president.  Looks like Jimmy Dore is right: establishment Democrats would rather lose to Trump than win with a true progressive like Bernie Sanders.
  5. The other day, I went to my local post office and saw the POW/MIA flag flying.  It got me to thinking: Who are the POWs/MIAs we need to remember today?  Don’t get me wrong.  As a retired military officer, I think we should remember America’s POWs and MIAs.  But I see no reason to fly flags everywhere to remind us of those veterans who were prisoners of war or missing in action.  Sadly, the POW/MIA flag is associated with conservative activism and reactionary views; it also can serve as a distraction from the enormous damage inflicted overseas by the U.S. military.  As Americans, we are constantly told by our leaders to focus on American victims of war; rarely if ever are we encouraged to think of war itself as a disaster, or to think of the victims on the receiving end of American firepower.

More on the POW/MIA issue: In the early 1990s, when I was a young captain, there were persistent rumors of American POWs who’d been deliberately left behind by our government.  These rumors were strong, so strong that the George H.W. Bush administration had to issue denials.

What are we to make of this?  One thing strikes me immediately: an often profound mistrust of our government exists within the military.  Our government has lied to us so often that some of my fellow officers believed it was lying again when it said there were no POWs remaining in Southeast Asia.  We just assumed our government was so wretched and dishonest that it would abandon our troops to their fate.

This is nearly 30 years ago but it’s stayed in my memory — the suspicion back then that those commie bastards still held U.S. troops and our own government was part of the cover-up.  (All those Chuck Norris and Rambo movies didn’t help matters.)

For more on this: The POW/MIA issue is still very much alive and is discussed by H. Bruce Franklin in his article,  “Missing in Action in the 21st Century,” available at hbrucefranklin.com.  As Franklin noted recently to me, “What we now think of as the Trump base was organized originally in this [POW/MIA] movement.”  Now that’s a fascinating comment.

What say you, readers?

The Democratic Debate, Part 7

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W.J. Astore

I watched the Democratic Debate last night from Iowa featuring the top six candidates.  Here’s my take on the candidates and their prospects:

Joe Biden: It’s bizarre that Biden, still ahead in most polls, is hailed as doing well in these debates as long as he shows up and avoids making major gaffes.  To use a sports analogy, it’s as if you put your ace pitcher into the game and applaud him for giving up only ten runs while walking five and throwing three wild pitches.  At least he competed, right?  Biden didn’t do poorly last night, but he didn’t shine either.  Mr. Excitement he’s not, and that doesn’t bode well if he’s the Democratic candidate for president against Trump.

Pete Buttigieg: Mayor Pete has one talent: he knows how to please older people with vapid talk that seems sincere and serious.  He has almost zero support among African-Americans and very little support among people his own age and younger.  What is his path to victory?

Amy Klobuchar:  Klobuchar poses as the adult in the room, a moderate who rejects the “crazier” notions of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  Clearly, she’s against progressive politics, but what does she stand for?

Bernie Sanders: Sanders is the one true progressive on the stage.  The man is a model of consistency and heart, and he has the strongest movement behind him.  He has the best chance of defeating Trump, but his dedication to people over corporations and profits makes him an anathema to establishment Democrats.

Tom Steyer: Steyer, a billionaire, has embraced climate change as his issue of choice.  At least he puts his money where his mouth is, but he has virtually no chance to gain the nomination.

Elizabeth Warren: Warren’s campaign concocted a phony controversy in an attempt to gain traction as the Iowa caucuses loom.  Basically, the Warren campaign claims Bernie Sanders said a woman can’t win the presidency.  It’s total nonsense.  Sanders denied it, and there are multiple video clips of Bernie advocating for a woman as president.  After Sanders issued his denial, Warren refused to address it.  She also appeared to refuse to shake his hand after the debate.  Apparently, Warren thinks the best way to distinguish herself from Bernie is to play the gender card, just as Hillary Clinton attacked Bernie in 2016 for the alleged misogyny of the so-called Bernie Bros.

As the debate dragged on, I thought carefully about which one of these candidates truly has a chance to defeat Trump in November.  Who has passion, vision, heart, and the ability to take on Trump and to call him out on all his lies and misdeeds?  I see only one candidate who can do this and win: Bernie Sanders.

Trump Wishes Peace to Iran while Accusing Democrats of Enabling Attacks on U.S. Troops

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Trump boasting of big missiles while denouncing Democrats

W.J. Astore

I watched Trump’s speech today to the nation on Iran.  It had the usual boasts about the U.S. military and its “big” and “lethal” missiles, the usual bombast, the usual lies.  But this passage of his speech truly struck me as beyond the pale:

Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013, and they were given 150 billion dollars, not to mention 1.8 billion dollars in cash. Instead of saying thank you to the United States, they chanted Death to America.

In fact, they chanted Death to America the day the agreement was signed. Then Iran went on a terrorist spree funded by the money from the deal and created hell in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration.

That’s right: the missiles used against U.S. forces last night we’re paid for by the Obama administration.  Not only that: Iran went on a “terrorist spree” funded by the “foolish” Iran nuclear treaty, spreading “hell” throughout Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  I’m sure glad Saudi Arabia, Israel, the United States, and other military actors in the region never spread any “hell,” despite all those Hellfire missiles launched from American drones.

So here’s a new claim for you.  If the U.S. military is losing in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, the culprit is clear: the Obama administration and by extension the Democrats, the appeasers who funded Iran and made possible all of its “terrorist” activities.

Best of all, Trump wished peace and prosperity to the Iranian people, but you heard nothing about working peacefully and in prosperous ways with the Democrats.

Clearly, Trump sees the real enemy of America: Obama and the Democrats.

Americans want free stuff!

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W.J. Astore

Once again, I’ve come across the talking point that Americans who support candidates like Bernie Sanders just want a bunch of free stuff.  You know: non-essentials like health care and education.  What are these freeloading Americans thinking of?

We live in the richest country in the world, yet we seemingly can’t afford health care and education for our people.  Yet we can afford roughly a trillion dollars each and every year for national “defense.”  Why does the Pentagon want so many “free” bombers, fighter jets, drones, aircraft carriers, and missiles?  Why do the militarists always get what they want, with few complaints about the price?  (And let’s not forget roughly $6 trillion wasted on the Iraq and Afghan Wars, or for that matter the trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street and the banks.  Why did they get so much “free” stuff at taxpayers’ expense?)

We truly need a political revolution in this country, which is why I support Bernie Sanders.  He’s the only candidate who truly gets how rigged our system is — how it’s become an oligarchy, even a kleptocracy, that favors the richest and most powerful among us.  Sanders has been a model of consistency for decades, and he’s as genuine as a public servant can be.

No candidate is perfect, but Bernie will move this country in a fairer, more humane, direction.  He realizes health care is a human right.  He realizes education shouldn’t put students into a form of debt peonage.  He realizes hardworking Americans deserve to be paid more, deserve better benefits, deserve to be treated with dignity.

We need to combat an attitude in this country that says rich people are our winners and the poor are losers.  We in America are still taught to idolize the rich and fear or despise the poor. The rich represent “success” and the poor are supposedly lazy or just losers. Can’t they just get a job?  Can’t they pull themselves up by their boot straps?  If you’re poor, it’s all your fault — this is still an all-too-common idea.

We need leaders who understand the working classes and want to work for them.  Bernie Sanders is that kind of leader.

Impeaching Trump the Cynical Way

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#NoResistance

W.J. Astore

Dare I say I haven’t been watching the impeachment proceedings against Trump?  That’s because the charges brought against Trump by the Democrats are weak.  They are basically for Trump acting like Trump.  The Donald is not, never has been, and never will be a public servant.  His existence as president revolves around rallies, golfing, watching Fox News, tweeting, and attending an occasional meeting, party, or other photo op.  If you want to impeach him, why not for not doing his job as chief executive?

What Trump did with Ukraine is what Trump has always done.  He pressured a guy to dig up dirt on another guy who could be a potential rival for his job.  For Trump, this isn’t a crime: it’s business as usual.  He has no grasp of his constitutional duties as president and no interest in learning.

Trump’s next crime has been to stonewall with lawyers and the like while going on the attack.  Again, this is par for the course for him.  He tells his underlings not to obey Congressional orders to testify.  He fights delaying actions.  He lies.  He’s used these and similar tactics his whole life and has lived to fight another day.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think Trump is unqualified to be president.  I’d like to see him gone.  But the charges the Democrats have brought are incredibly weak compared to the damage Trump has already wreaked.  That damage, however, is largely bipartisan, meaning if the Democrats (like Nancy Pelosi) were to call Trump to account for his real crimes against America, they’d implicate themselves as well.  And that’s not about to happen.

The analogy I’ve heard more than once for Trump’s impeachment is that it’s like going after Al Capone for income tax avoidance rather than his murderous reign as a gangster.  Even here, though, it seems more like we’re going after Capone for unpaid parking tickets or for playing Italian opera too loud.

We’ve been told impeachment is a political act, not, strictly speaking, a legal one, and that surely is the case here.  The cynic in me says this: Establishment democrats, led by Nancy Pelosi, knew they had to do something against Trump, if only to appease activists within the party.  Yet they also know they can’t remove Trump, not only because the Senate is controlled by Republicans, but because they can’t charge him with real crimes without implicating themselves, e.g. continuing to sell arms to Saudi Arabia and supporting the House of Saud no matter what in the name of profit and the petrodollar, even if that means a genocide in Yemen.  (It’s a lot worse than cajoling Ukraine to issue a negative statement about the Bidens, right?)

The Democrats know impeachment will fail in the Senate, but they can at least say they took a stand, even if they’re up to their necks in the swamps of DC.  It’s all so sad and sordid, and so predictably the behavior of an opposition party that offers no real opposition.

Readers, what do you think?

Don’t Vote for the Person You Believe In!

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Feel the Bern

W.J. Astore

The corporate-owned media is at it again, urging Democrats to vote for a sensible centrist like Joe Biden.  According to Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post:

“Warren is a much bigger risk for Democrats (and the survival of our democracy) than is Biden. There may be candidates who could, if they managed to rise to the top of the Democratic polls and win nomination, be as competitive as Biden, but Warren and Sanders fail to attract a chunk of voters that Biden grabs, and by the way they are campaigning, they are unlikely to remedy that deficit.”

Poor Elizabeth Warren.  Not only is she a “bigger risk for Democrats.”  Her very emergence as a contender imperils “the survival of our democracy.”  And I thought a Trump presidency was bad!

Unsurprisingly, the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post is against Warren, Bernie Sanders, and other progressives.  Bezos loves his billions and doesn’t wish to share them with anyone.  Taxes, after all, are for the little people, not for the mega-billionaire owner of Amazon.

It’s amazing how the mainstream media peddles the same narrative election cycle after election cycle.  Democrats are always told to reject “radical” or “extreme” politicians like Warren and Sanders, even though Warren is a former Republican and Bernie is basically FDR-lite.  Instead, Democrats are supposed to embrace the “sensible centrist,” someone like Joe Biden, who is basically a corporate hack who will run and rule as an Eisenhower Republican (just as Barack Obama did, as he himself admitted in an interview).

It’s funny how the “radical” Republicans got their man (Donald Trump), but Democrats are advised to reject “radical” candidates who promise them better health care, student loan debt relief, taxpayer-subsidized college education, affordable housing, and the like.  That’s crazy talk!  You can’t have your man (or woman), progressives.  You need to vote for solid old Joe Biden, or Milquetoast Mayor Pete, or someone similar who’s “safe” and “moderate” in their views.

What arrant nonsense.  We need to vote for the man or woman we believe in.  The one who excites us.  The one who stands for what we believe in.

For me, that candidate is Bernie Sanders.

The Democratic Debate That Wasn’t

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W.J. Astore

Last night witnessed another scrum among the top twelve Democratic challengers.  It wasn’t really a debate since each candidate only had a minute or two to respond to questions.  I’ve seen headlines describing the debate as “the moderates versus the progressives,” with the usual scorecards about which candidates “won” and “lost,” but I don’t think any candidate “won.”  And it was the American people who clearly lost.

First, what was missing.  There was no serious discussion of U.S. foreign policy, of America’s military-industrial complex and colossal “defense” budgets, or of climate change.  The situation in Syria was discussed in the context of President Trump’s alleged betrayal of the Kurds, but that was all.  There was no discussion about nuclear weapons and their proliferation (and America’s decision to “modernize” our arsenal at a cost of at least a trillion dollars).  There was no discussion of America’s overseas empire of 800 military bases.  There was no serious discussion about ending the Afghan War, or the enormous cost of America’s wars since 9/11.

So, what was discussed?  Trump’s impeachment, of course.  Medicare for all versus “choice.”  A woman’s right to control her own body (obviously a very important subject).  How and whether to change the Supreme Court.  Taxes.  Guns.  Tech monopolies.  Opioid abuse and holding drug companies responsible for the same.  Even Ellen’s friendship with George W. Bush.

CNN and the New York Times sponsored the debate, hence they controlled the questions.  The initial goal seemed to be to get Elizabeth Warren to admit she’d have to raise taxes to pay for her Medicare plan.  She largely ducked the issue, insisting the rich and corporations would pay for it.  Another question raised the specter of Bernie Sanders’s health after his recent heart attack, and also of Joe Biden’s age, i.e. that if he’s elected, he’ll turn 80 while he’s in office.  It was that kind of “debate.”

Speaking of Joe Biden, he didn’t perform well in this debate.  He often misspoke and his answers drifted off course.  I can see why the smart money is gravitating toward Elizabeth Warren.

Another person who suffered from the debate format was Tulsi Gabbard.  Few questions were directed her way, and she was often ignored or cut off as she tried to speak.  Her attempt to challenge Elizabeth Warren on her qualifications to be commander-in-chief went unanswered as CNN cut to commercials.  Nice try, Tulsi, but CNN was having none of that.

With respect to Trump and Syria, only Tulsi Gabbard attempted to explain the long history of U.S. involvement in the area, which was, in essence, a regime-change war directed against Bashar al-Assad.  (Recall that President Obama in 2015 said that Assad had to go.)  But again CNN was having none of that, and Tulsi’s point was left hanging as other candidates babbled about not serving the agenda of Vladimir Putin.

And there you have it: yet another debate from which the American empire and the military-industrial complex emerged as the clear victors.