Politicians are known liars; military officers are supposed to put integrity first
Newly elected Congressman George Santos of New York has become the butt of many jokes about his serial lying. Santos lied about pretty much everything: his education, his religion, his parents, his work background. It’s hard to say what he didn’t lie about. So far, he has survived because the Republican Party has stood behind him but also because Americans collectively expect politicians to lie. Another lying politician? Say it ain’t so, Joe!
George Santos is a symptom of a much larger disease: a lack of honor, a lack of shame, in America. Honor, truth, integrity, simply don’t seem to matter, or matter much, in America today. What matters is making money, getting ahead, gaining power, at any price. Rarely are liars called to account, especially in politics, where everything is spin.
But how do you have a democracy where there is no truth?
As much as George Santos has been lampooned (here in a funny segment by Bill Maher), as many times as he’s been called on to quit, one group of Americans is never called to account for their lies: U.S. military leaders.
U.S. military leaders appeared before Congress to testify the Iraq War was being won. They appeared before Congress to testify the Afghan War was being won. They talked of “progress,” of corners being turned, of Iraqi and Afghan forces being successfully trained and ready to assume their duties as U.S. forces withdrew. As events showed, it was all spin. All lies.
Where is the accountability? The Congressional hearings? The calls for those military leaders to explain themselves?
Of course, it wasn’t just the U.S. military but other sectors of the U.S. government that lied. Peter Van Buren’s book, “We Meant Well,” documents the lies and exaggerated stories he was pressured to sell as a member of the State Department working with U.S. military units in Iraq. Going along with the lies got you promoted. Trying to tell the truth, as Van Buren did, earned him pariah status and got him forced into retirement at State after a tense fight with his superiors, up to and including Hillary Clinton.
The Afghan War papers, released by the Washington Post in 2019, revealed the systemic lying of U.S. military leaders about that war. Even as they spoke publicly of progress and corners being turned, these same leaders spoke privately of lack of progress and dead ends. It was exactly those “private” concerns that should have been made public.
As the Washington Post put it in 2019: A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.
Prolonging wars based on lies is far more serious than the headline-grabbing sins of Santos. U.S. troops paid for these lies with their lives, as did the peoples of Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. Again, where is the accountability in a U.S. military that allegedly prides itself on its integrity?
In fact, there were officers with integrity, like Matthew Hoh, who served in the Marine Corps before he joined the State Department. Hoh resigned from State in 2009 because he knew plans to “surge” in Afghanistan were wrongheaded and that reports of progress were false. Privately, his superiors agreed with most of his critique. Publicly, they continued to speak of victory being in sight, just as their predecessors had done during the Vietnam War.
Indeed, Hoh’s honesty and courage created a rare opportunity for then-President Barack Obama. Obama could have latched on to Hoh’s honest critique and used it to modify his own initial misreading of the Afghan War as the “good” war (as opposed to the “bad” Iraq War under Bush/Cheney). But Obama continued on course to military escalation in Afghanistan, a surge that produced nothing except more death and destruction. A dozen years later, U.S. forces finally withdrew from that country, chaotically and ignominiously.
Ironically, Members of Congress often know that senior military leaders are lying to them, but they refuse to act, notes Matt Hoh, mainly because they’re concerned to protect their political careers. In the case of the “surge” in Afghanistan, Democrats lined up to support Obama in part because they wanted no distractions as the president fought to get the Affordable Care Act passed into law.
So, the generals lie and Congress goes along with them, whether for profit, political expediency, and similar reasons, which only highlights further the rot throughout the military-industrial-congressional complex. In short, rather then challenging the lies, Congress is complicit in them.
Today, Republicans in the House want to investigate the 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan, which is good, except their motivation is purely partisan. They want to attack the Biden administration, to paint it as weak and inept, when the real focus should be on all the lies, blunders, and profiteering by the military-industrial complex throughout the Afghan War.
A mendacious military is a very dangerous thing—far more dangerous than run-of-the-mill politicians like Santos with Pinocchio syndrome. Lies in military settings are matters of life and death. This is precisely why integrity is allegedly so highly valued, why honor is allegedly so highly esteemed, in the U.S. military.
It’s high time for real, honest, Congressional truth hearings on America’s disastrous wars. Just don’t appoint Santos and his ilk to serve on the committee.
So many people vote for a Democrat or Republican without having a clue what their candidate stands for. Politicians are adept at refusing to take positions; profiles in courage they are not. This is one big reason why I respect Matthew Hoh, candidate for the U.S. Senate in North Carolina. He takes firm stances based on his personal convictions and principles. Here, courtesy of INDY Week in North Carolina, is an article that details these. Not surprisingly, the Democratic and Republican candidates chose not to answer these questions.
My suggestion: Find a candidate in your district who’s willing to go on the record with strong stances that you believe in. If you can’t find such a candidate, write someone in, or don’t vote for that office, or (big ask) consider running for office yourself in the future, or consider joining new parties that seek to break the corrupt hold on our politics that the Democrats and Republicans have enjoyed for far too long.
1) What are your primary concerns for the State of North Carolina?
I have been to all parts of North Carolina throughout the campaign, and the three things I hear everywhere are healthcare, housing, and drugs.
Millions of people in NC live without healthcare due to being uninsured or underinsured, while more than 20% of NC adults are in collections for medical debt. Housing is unaffordable across the state. Home prices are out of reach for most working families, while rents have increased at a criminally staggering rate of 25-50%. Individuals, families and communities, particularly Black, Latino, and Native American communities, have been devastated by the War on Drugs. Every day 12 North Carolinian lives are lost from fatal overdoses. At the same time, the mass incarceration and prohibition policies of Republicans and Democrats have ruined lives and wrecked families, destroyed neighborhoods, and sustained cycles of crime.
These are the same issues I see in my life. My family, friends and neighbors suffer and are hurt by these deliberate bipartisan policies. I’m running to make sure there is a voice in this race for Medicare for All and not for for-profit healthcare; that there are meaningful, affordable housing policies that are not simply tax breaks and subsidies for developers and banks; and that we end the War on Drugs and treat substance abuse and addiction as public health matters rather than as crimes.
2) What in your background qualifies you to represent the people of this state effectively? What would you cite as your biggest career accomplishments?
I’m a disabled Marine Corps combat veteran. I live paycheck to paycheck, often solely on my veteran disability payments. Due to my disability, I went five years unable to earn an income. This, more than anything else, has prepared me to represent working families in Washington, DC.
In 2009, I resigned my position with the State Department in Afghanistan in protest over the escalation of that war. I’ve worked in Washington, DC with members of Congress and their staff for over a decade on war and peace, veterans issues and foreign policy. I’m very familiar with how Congress and the DC establishment operate, and this, perhaps, is the best explanation as to why I am running with the Green Party and not as a Democrat or Republican.
Locally, I have done peer support in the veterans and homeless communities.
If elected, what three policies would you prioritize and how would you work across the aisle to enact those initiatives?
I believe there are Democrats who are willing to break with their party and support meaningful climate and healthcare legislation (not giveaways to the fossil fuel industry and healthcare insurance companies such as the Inflation Reduction Act and the Affordable Care Act.) At the same time, some Democrats and Republicans are willing to reduce the bloated military-industrial complex, rein in the gross violations of constitutional rights and liberties by law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and end corporate subsidies. I look forward to working with progressives and libertarians on ending the War on Drugs, protecting and expanding civil liberties, particularly LGTBQIA+ rights, and ending our militarized foreign policy.
To accomplish this, I will work in a manner similar to how Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have operated these past two years. However, rather than my efforts being for the benefit of fossil fuel companies and hedge fund managers, as with Senators Manchin and Sinema, my efforts will be for the working and middle classes. I have said repeatedly: no one will get $15 billion aircraft carriers unless our people get healthcare.
3) More than 1 million Americans have died due to COVID-19 and millions more are struggling with astronomical medical bills. Do you believe the American health system is working? What is your plan for making sure health care is affordable and accessible to all American citizens? Are you in favor of a single-payer option?
I’m running because I have many people in my life, people I love, that must check their bank account before calling their doctor. Around a third of all COVID deaths occurred due to people’s inability to afford medical care. That is a consequence of our for-profit healthcare system and a legacy of the Affordable Care Act. Before the pandemic, tens of thousands of Americans were dying each year as a result of not being able to pay for healthcare. I support Medicare for All, which would provide people with affordable and quality healthcare under a single-payer system. This would save our society hundreds of billions of dollars annually while ensuring everyone can get the healthcare they need. I’m also in favor of canceling all medical debt.
4) What factors are fueling the country’s growing political polarization and how will you work to mend it?
Politicians in both parties have increasingly relied on culture war rhetoric to maintain voter loyalty, despite taking millions of dollars from corporations who couldn’t care less about issues like LGBTQ rights or religious freedom. Additionally, partisan gerrymandering has increasingly resulted in noncompetitive districts, denying voters the chance to support candidates from other parties. I support reforms like ranked-choice voting, proportional representation for legislatures, and public campaign financing. These improvements would take the pressure off voters not to “split the vote” and allow them to vote for candidates based on issues and policies and not party identity.
Rent, property taxes, and home sale prices have generally been rising over the past several years. What, if anything, should the federal government do to address this growing affordability crisis?
The federal government plays a dominant role in housing as it backs loans and mortgages, subsidizes development and construction, and provides grants to developers. This allows the federal government to institute rent control, which should be done. Public banking would allow working families to qualify for home loans based on their rental histories. Corporations, banks, and investment firms should be banned from purchasing single-family homes. Housing policy, like other areas of the economy, needs a reversal of the decades of bi-partisan support for corporations, banks and the wealthy at the expense of the working and middle classes. Our homeless epidemic, a massive moral failing, is the direct consequence of this choice to prioritize profit over people.
5) Do you believe the federal minimum wage should be increased? If, by how much? If not, why?
I support a federal living wage that annually increases to match inflation and the rising cost of living, particularly housing costs. That would currently equal around $22 an hour. I fully support the right of workers to organize through unions for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions. Additionally, we need to incentivize employee ownership, cooperatives and workplace democracy.
6) What specific policies or programs do you endorse or would pursue to combat inflation? Do you foresee the US heading into a larger economic recession and if so, what is the best way for Congress to address it?
Food and energy price increases are a result of climate change and war. Droughts, floods, and wildfires will continue to impact our economy, as will foreign wars, while our dependence on fossil fuels will keep us at the mercy of US and foreign oil companies. We need a Real Green New Deal to address these causes.
Supply chain shortages, resulting from decades of infrastructure neglect, are another reason for inflation. Most significantly, however, the current inflation rate is driven by corporate greed and price gouging, not labor costs or productivity issues. Fed interest rate hikes, meant to cause unemployment and which will fully push us into a recession, are not the answer.
Economic inequality has devastated the working and middle classes. This has resulted from deliberate policies over decades meant to ensure those at the top not only remain at the top but see their wealth grow. Working families have been squeezed to the point that 60% of us now live paycheck to paycheck while a third of families can’t make ends meet, with that number rising to more than half of Black and Latino families. I’m the only candidate in the race for US Senate calling for Medicare for All, rent control, public banking, universal public education from pre-K through university, including vocational and trade schools, and living wages adjusted annually for cost of living increases. These measures will substantially and fundamentally address economic inequality and establish healthcare, housing, education and jobs as human rights.
7) The US Supreme Court issued a ruling this summer overturning Roe v. Wade. Do you believe abortion should be a fundamental human right? If elected, would you support a federal ban on abortion? What role, if any, should Congress play in restricting or expanding access to abortion?
Abortion, like other reproductive rights, is healthcare, and healthcare is a human right. Abortion is ultimately the sole decision of a woman. Like all other forms of healthcare, abortion should be available through a universal single-payer healthcare system available to all people without cost at the point of service. Abortion should be available without conditions and judgment. We must ensure women and their families have all the resources they need for healthy and productive lives, and we must protect abortion seekers and providers from violence.
8) Please state three specific policies you support to address climate change.
Ban fossil fuel extraction techniques and infrastructure, such as fracking, offshore drilling, and oil and gas pipelines. Invest in green energy tech, industry, transportation, agriculture and infrastructure to decrease and end our dependence on fossil fuels. Support training programs to help workers in fields like mining and farming transition to high-paying jobs in sustainable energy and agriculture. These and other actions to mitigate the climate collapse and to assimilate to our changing world, particularly transforming and strengthening our economic and societal infrastructure, are key elements of the Green Party’s Green New Deal.
9) What more, if anything, should Congress do to regulate firearms?
I carried rifles and pistols in combat. The American people have the right to use firearms for self-defense and hunting. Still, measures like background checks, proper training standards, and mandatory waiting periods need to be implemented so that these weapons don’t end up in the hands of people who plan to harm others. A thorough in-person licensing and training program should be a requirement for possessing a firearm, especially outside the home. These measures must be consistent across states. We must also work to dismantle the gun lobby, whose continued obstruction of common sense gun regulations puts us all in danger.
Prohibition and poverty are and have long been, the primary root causes of crime. End the decades-long, failed, counterproductive and shameful War on Drugs. We must address the deep state of poverty by ensuring all people are paid a living wage and have healthcare and access to free public education from pre-K through college (including trade/vocational programs.)
10) Are there any issues this questionnaire has not addressed that you would like to address?
Environment: I’ve lost track of the number of NC communities that can’t drink their water. The poisoning of our air, land and water by corporations backed and protected by Democrat and Republican politicians is a mass environmental catastrophe that has caused immense environmental harm, devastated wildlife and sickened and killed North Carolinians.
Immigration: My grandparents were immigrants. If any other nation were treating people at its border the way the US treats people at its southern border, we would decry it as a crime against humanity. The bipartisan Democrat and Republican border policies have not only been failures but are massive human rights violations. We must treat all people with dignity and address the systemic reasons why people leave their home countries.
This nation needs immigrants to grow and develop our economy. There is no reason we cannot achieve an immigration policy that treats people humanely, allows for a pathway to citizenship, and provides economic benefits to our society. It’s simply a question of choosing to do so rather than continuing decades of racist fearmongering for political gain.
Democracy: Voting should be expanded, strengthened and made more inclusive. We need to make voting more accessible and easier for individual voters and we must update and modernize our political process.
A Pew poll found that 70% of Americans support the need for more political parties. Voters should have more options. I support ranked choice voting, proportional representation, abolishing the electoral college, ending gerrymandering, establishing term limits and fighting continuously to get money out of politics.
This past summer, the North Carolina Green Party and my campaign had to go to federal court to participate in this election. This was necessary because of a well-funded legal campaign by the Democratic Party to keep the Green Party off the ballot. At all levels, the Green Party prevailed (multiple county boards of elections, NC State Boards of Elections, Wake County Superior Court, US District Court and US Federal Appeals Court); however, the effect on our ability to participate in elections and to represent voters who otherwise would not be represented was dramatically impacted. Voter suppression occurs in multiple forms by both of the major parties.
Reparations: I support Black and Indigenous-led efforts to provide reparations.
As a progressive-leaning person, I’m deeply disappointed by Joe Biden and the Democratic Party. I’m an independent and have no allegiance to either party. The Republican Party, dominated by Trump, is a non-starter for me. The Democratic Party is corporate dominated, a party of the moneyed interests, so I have little interest in it at the national level.
The Progressive Caucus keeps praising Biden instead of pushing him, so they’re part of the problem. The so-called Squad (AOC and company) never seem to use their combined power for anything meaningful. A concerted minority can make a difference: look at the Tea Partiers. But the Squad basically does as they’re told by Nancy Pelosi.
People tell me the Squad is small and their influence is limited by the mathematics of Congress. But what Congressional hills have they chosen to hold fast and fight on, if any, to effect true change? United, a squad of progressives could drive policy because Pelosi often needs their votes. Yet they refuse to come together to drive change that might upset Pelosi/Biden, so how progressive are they, truly?
When you look at the specifics of Democratic actions, they (the actions) disappoint. A climate change bill saluted and applauded by the oil and gas industry. Changes in drug pricing that don’t take place until 2025, and only to a short list of drugs. The complete abandonment of a government-option for health care. Basically, the Democrats have kowtowed to lobbyists for fossil fuel, big pharma, and private health insurance companies.
In short: nothing has fundamentally changed, exactly what Biden promised to his big donors. He is what he’s always been: a conservative-leaning Democrat who serves the moneyed interests, who supports expanding police forces and prisons, and who believes the best way to promote peace is by supporting massive military budgets and overseas wars.
Even if there’s truth to my critique, my Democratic friends say, you must still vote blue no matter who, because the Republicans are so much worse. Yet if we continue to vote for Democrats because they give us a few more crumbs than the alternative, all we’ll ever get is crumbs.
A colleague of mine, Matthew Hoh, is running for the Senate as a Green in North Carolina. The Democratic Party there did everything it could, legal and less-than-legal, to block his access to the ballot. It took a lawsuit and a federal judge to get his name added to the ballot.
Matt Hoh is a former Marine and State Department guy who resigned publicly to protest the Afghan War. He has strong progressive principles and unassailable integrity and supports policies most Americans would loudly applaud. Again, the Democrats did everything they could to block him from the ballot.
Some people say that a vote for Matt Hoh and third-party candidates like him is a vote for Trump and the Republicans. For me, that’s total BS. Candidates like Matt Hoh help us. They drive an agenda that’s truly for workers, that’s truly for change. If nothing else, they force corporate-tool Democrats to turn slightly leftward rather than always toward the right.
Perhaps you know the saying about Democrats: fake left, run right. They fake left in the primary, exciting the “liberal” base, then they run right in the main election and, if they win, they then rule and legislate from the right as well. The mainstream corporate press terms this “sensible” and “moderate.”
We need more principled leaders like Matt Hoh to drive real change. If they “help” Trump and the Republicans by “stealing” votes, that’s not their fault: it’s the fault of the Democrats who are reluctant to be seen as truly liberal or progressive and who are basically tools of the moneyed interests.
If Matt Hoh wins lots of votes in North Carolina (and I hope he does), all credit to the voters for seeing him as he is and for voting for what they believe in. Indeed, instead of people insisting that Matt Hoh should drop out to help the mainstream Democrat, it’s the mainstream Democrat who should drop out to help Matt Hoh.
I do my best to vote for what I believe in. Which is why I won’t be voting for Trump, or DeSantis, or Biden (or Harris or Mayor Pete or whomever) in 2024. I’ll be voting for candidates who in their words and deeds promise us something more than crumbs. Leaders like Matt Hoh.
If the Republican and Democratic Parties are virtually identical on most issues involving big money, like the military, banking, corporations, and so on, you don’t have a democracy. Democracy implies choice among many alternatives. We have virtually no alternatives. Hence this video by Briahna Joy Gray, which spells out a “Dem-Exit” in progress, as many Democrats wake up to the fact that the party almost never keeps its promises and is mainly engaged in raising money for itself and maintaining its increasingly tenuous grip on power.
Even worse, when other parties try to offer true choice, like the Green Party, the Democrats scheme to block legitimate candidates. Consider the case of Matthew Hoh, who’s running for the Senate in North Carolina as a candidate for the Green Party. I know Matt. He’s a former Marine who resigned in 2009 from the State Department in protest against U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Matt knew that Obama’s so-called surge wasn’t working and he spoke out against it. Matt had (and has) integrity. If only more people in the U.S. military and the foreign policy establishment had Matt’s combination of integrity, intelligence, and guts.
Matt gathered more than 22,000 signatures to get on the ballot in North Carolina (he needed 13,685), so surely he was easily approved because we Americans love democracy and principled politicians like Matt Hoh, right? Wrong.
The Democratic establishment did everything possible, legal and illegal, to block him from getting on the ballot in North Carolina. And it appears they’ve blocked him.
What are they afraid of? Well, they’re afraid to lose a bit of their money and power, and they’re especially afraid of a principled person like Matt Hoh, who actually believes what he says, and says what he believes.
Matt Hoh is a disabled combat veteran who ably served his country, who is indeed still serving it to the best of his ability, with a mixture of candor and courage that has won me over and plenty of people in North Carolina and elsewhere. And we can’t allow that! so sayeth establishment Democrats.
Blocking Matt Hoh from running is yet another clear sign of the death of democracy in America.
A short statement from Matt Hoh:
“We represent single-payer health care. We represent affordable housing. We represent living wages, action on the climate, etc, etc. And those things aren’t represented by the [Cheri] Beasley campaign [the Democratic candidate for Senate] at all. They claim to be for working-class people, but you and I know, the Democratic Party, it’s been decades since they’ve addressed the needs of working class people.”
The Matthew Hoh Campaign is appealing the decision by the State Board of Elections, which voted 3-2 against, with all three Democrats voting against Hoh getting on the ballot.
There is a mid-August deadline for Matt Hoh’s name getting on the ballot. It’s a safe bet that establishment Democratic leaders in North Carolina will do everything in their power, legal or illegal, to block him. Why? Because Matt Hoh represents the people; the Democratic Party represents the owners and donors.
Godspeed, Matthew Hoh. Thank you for fighting for North Carolina and for America.
Heck, even I chipped in $100, and I rarely donate to political campaigns. As Matt said today on “The Jimmy Dore Show,” people are being brutalized by America’s political system. If we keep simply voting Democrat or Republican, all we’re doing is “perpetuating a deadly status quo.”
Time to try real democracy. Time to vote for candidates like Matthew Hoh.