Unlikely Savior

 

Trump came into office critical of the bi-partisan foreign policy establishment while promising to end America’s endless wars.

Since then he’s been under relentless pressure, like Obama before him, to follow the “Washington Playbook.” Whether, North Korea or Syria or Venezuela, Trump’s coterie of neocons that includes Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Advisor John Bolton, have been clamoring for war, war, war.

And now it’s Iran, where the neocons are joined with Saudi Arabia and Israel in a maximum push for another Middle-East conflagration.

However, there appears to be an unlikely savior in Fox News host, Tucker Carlson, who’s emerged as a leading media voice against American intervention. Since Trump’s election, Carlson has been a rare, outspoken non-interventionist voice on prime time network news, aggressively questioning US military presence and past regime change actions in places like Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, as well as Washington’s long-time weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. For that he’s faced a barrage of flak for hosting foreign policy skeptics like Tulsi Gabbard, Glenn Greenwald, Rand Paul, and others.

And now, a surprising figure is paying attention. The Daily Beast headline claims that  “Tucker Carlson Is Privately Advising Trump On Iran”. The report says “there’s been another, far different voice in the president’s ear: that of Fox News host Tucker Carlson.”

Apparently the president is relying on Carlson as a dissenting voice in the ongoing dispute with Iran. A source familiar with the conversations told The Daily Beast that, in recent weeks, the Fox News host has privately advised Trump against taking military action against Iran. And a senior administration official said that during the president’s recent conversations with the Fox primetime host, Carlson has bashed the more “hawkish members” of his administration.

The popular Fox host has publicly pushed back against the march to war against Iran in recent weeks, saying an escalation and war scenario would likely not be “in anyone’s interest,” while also being a persistent critic of Bolton for his well-known bellicosity towards Iran.

Bashing the neocons is nothing new for Carlson who wrote a book explaining why Trump won the Republican primary by going against them.

“It is possible to isolate the precise moment that Trump permanently alienated the Republican establishment in Washington: February 13, 2016. There was a GOP primary debate that night in Greenville, South Carolina, so every Republican in Washington was watching. Seemingly out of nowhere, Trump articulated something that no party leader had ever said out loud. “We should never have been in Iraq,” Trump announced, his voice rising. “We have destabilized the Middle East.”

Many in the crowd booed, but Trump kept going: “They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. And they knew there were none.”

Pandemonium seemed to erupt in the hall, and on television. Shocked political analysts declared that the Trump presidential effort had just euthanized itself. Republican voters, they said with certainty, would never accept attacks on policies their party had espoused and carried out.

Republican voters had a different reaction. They understood that adults sometimes change their minds based on evidence. They themselves had come to understand that the Iraq war was a mistake. They appreciated hearing something verboten but true.

Rival Republicans denounced Trump as an apostate. Voters considered him brave.

Trump won the South Carolina primary, and shortly after that, the Republican nomination.

Republicans in Washington never recovered. When Trump attacked the Iraq War and questioned the integrity of the people who planned and promoted it, he was attacking them. They hated him for that.”

With Trump, who appears to have the attention span of a 3 year old distracted by bright shiny objects, it’s hard to tell if heed Carlson’s advice or be pressured into another disastrous war by the neocons. He did, after all, appoint them into his administration.

Let’s hope he listens to Carlson.

Update: This is getting interesting.

Yesterday evening Tucker Carlson, a FOX News host with a direct line to the White House, had two strong anti-war segments on his show (vid). In the second segment Carlson talks with retired army Colonel Douglas McGregor. Both argue for pulling back on sanctions. This was likely a preplanned exchange (at 9:56 min) designed to give Trump cover for his decision:

Carlson: Is there some good reason to maintain this level of sanctions against Iran? Are we getting something out of that?McGregor: Well, I think the idea was to destroy the Iranian economy to bring the nation to its knees. That is really not what we should be trying to do at this point. I think the president senses that there is now an opportunity for diplomacy, for a new approach to Iran that could deescalate this set of conditions and produce a positive outcome.

Look, this will ruin our economy if we engage Iran in a war. Iran will have instantly have support from around the world. They will be the victim of this “limited strike” that is being discussed. The limited strike idea is sheer insanity. It will provoke a war. Everyone, China, Russia, India, many European states will come to the aid of Iran. We will end up with a larger coalition of the willing against us, than we have seen in decades.

I think the president has figured this out. He’s got good instincts. But he needs to get rid of the warmongers. He needs to throw these geniuses and their limited strikes out of the Oval Office. The last thing the America First agenda needs is a stupid pointless unnecessary war with Iran and he knows that and he needs to act.

[Tucker Carlson agrees]

 

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The Blob

 

Perhaps–The Blob–is a better description of America’s permanent national security bureaucracy than–Deep State.

Former President Obama certainly thought so. The moniker comes from Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes who nicknamed the US foreign policy establishment as “The Blob” in a New York Times Magazine profile. Obama also talked about breaking with “the Washington Playbook” when he decided not to declare a no-fly zone in Syria in response to the disputed use of chemical weapons.

Of course, Obama did initiate Timber Sycamore, a covert CIA program to train and utilize al Qaeda terrorists to overthrow the Syrian government of Bashar Assad. So in reality, Obama didn’t actually break with the Washington Playbook, he just followed the Democratic method of utilizing terrorist proxies and drone strikes rather than the Republican style of violent invasions to affect regime change. It was a matter of style, really.

Otherwise those $400,000 speaking payments wouldn’t be on offer, now would they? Or all the millions of dollars that corporate supporters plowed into his Chicago presidential museum?

This state of affairs is starting to become problematic for a so-called democratic republic. Despite all the power that has flowed to the modern executive branch, apparently every president is still beholden to The Blob and by extension, the Washington Playbook.

It’s always been obvious that Russia-gate was about making this relationship clear to Trump, the interloper.

It’s an open secret that the so-called foreign policy establishment did not think Donald Trump was qualified to become US president. While it is not too surprising that Democratic foreign policy experts would oppose a Trump presidency, there was enormous push back from the Republican side of the foreign policy establishment.

Indeed, the most obvious obstacle between any noninterventionist candidate and mainstream success is D.C.’s foreign-policy Establishment. The establishment is made up of politicians and foreign policy intellectuals and media personalities and intelligence professionals and defense-company contractors who determine the bounds of acceptable thinking on war and peace. This foreign policy establishment will acknowledge that past American wars of regime change, for which it enthusiastically advocated, have been disastrous, but it somehow maintains faith in the power of America hegemony, which in practice means overthrowing governments that The Blob doesn’t care for, like Cuba or Venezuala or Iran, or Russia, or China.

If you’ll recall, The Blob went into a hysterical hissy fit when Trump lambasted the invasion of Iraq and the regime-change-happy foreign polices of recent years, while promising a reset with Russia.

The Blob then responded to Trump’s 2016 election win with a fantastic story of Trump being a Russian agent under the express control of Vladimir Putin, rather than examining the disastrous neoliberal/neoconservative policies of the last 40 years. In doing so they deployed every aspect of the liberal corporate media to disseminate and relentlessly promote this story on a daily basis for nearly three years, and appointing a special prosecutor to conduct an official investigation in order to lend it the appearance of legitimacy. Every component of the ruling establishment (i.e., the government, the media, the intelligence agencies, that make up The Blob colluded in a soft coup to neuter or remove an American president from office on the basis of an invented conspiracy.

While not driving Trump from office it appears that Russia-gate has managed to block Trump from efforts at detente with Russia, to initiate Cold War 2.0, and to turn liberals into bloodthirsty war mongers.

Like a recent president, who we’ll not mention, declared–Mission Accomplished.

Still, things are not all hunky dory inside The Blob. What truly worries the foreign policy establishment  is that America’s unipolar moment is coming to an end, thanks in large part to the sheer incompetence of the elites that make up the very same foreign policy establishment. The problem is compounded by the emergence of a multipolar world led by the alliance between Russia and China, a strategic partnership, that’s thrown these elites into a hysterical overreaction.

If we’re honest, that’s what’s driving US foreign and domestic policies. From Russia-gate to the trade war with China to the threatened attack on Iran to the use of al Qaeda terrorists in Syria, it’s apparent that The Blob will stop at nothing to maintain their empire.

Update: Jesus! It’s worse than I could have imagined.

“For all the outrage that liberals display whenever a high-profile Republican utters the phrase “deep state”, it sure is interesting that the Commander-in-Chief has found himself in a situation where he is at the whim of a collective of warmongers who are advancing pre-existing agendas against a nation they perceive as a geostrategic threat to US hegemony. It begs the question, who is really in charge?”

 

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Better policies, please

 

Why is right-wing populism surging while left-wing populism lies moribund?

Historically, we know how right-wing populism advances. Economic malaise coupled with liberal paralysis. When the economy sucks, workers are ripe for appeals against scapegoats. Immigrants, minorities, woman and queers are all fair game when times are hard. Witness Europe’s experience since the 2008 financial crisis, when the EU’s turn towards austerity has led to the reemergence of home-grown fascism across the continent.

In this milieu, right-wing populism is the flip-side of neoliberal market freedoms that our elite have embraced for 40 odd years. For the political class and corporate media, however, this racism or sexism or xenophobia is simply the result of “deplorable’s” being deplorable as if the bi-partisan governance that fronts for the oligarchs, bears no responsibility for the consequences of four decades of neoliberal rule.

Here in the US, the Democrats co-invented identity politics to defer blame for the consequences of their policies. If they cared about combatting racism and xenophobia, none of the Democratic Party establishment would be considered for public office. Watching the DNC move heaven and earth to squash Bernie’s campaign while promoting Biden’s, it’s apparent that Talleyrand was on to something when he remarked about the Bourbons, “they have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.”

If the Democrats truly wanted to defeat Trump, they have a clear path to victory via Bernie Sanders. But placating their corporate donors is their first priority, not carrying out the will of the people. As far as the DNC is concerned, it’s more important to squelch the Progressive wing of their own party than to oust the current administration.

Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — e.g. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism’s ills, rather than capitalists — will win back those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate.

Why hasn’t the Democratic Party heeded this truism? In, Listen Liberal, Thomas Frank demonstrated that the Democratic Party has transformed into the party of wealthy professionals who prefer the Democratic Party to be left on social issues but right on economic issues. The party elite see these wealthy folks as part of the party, and don’t want to nominate a candidate who accurately sees them as class enemies.

The party’s leaders see themselves as the left wing of capital — supporting social policies that liberal rich people can get behind, never daring to enact economic reforms that might cause rich liberals to have to pay more taxes. Hence, the establishment seems intent on anointing the centrist Democrats of capital, who push liberal social policies and neoliberal economic policies.

This is why identity politics are all the rage with wealthy liberals.

With identity politics, there is no such thing as collective action. By shifting the burden of responsibility to individuals for their own power and wellbeing, identity politics has been able to disenfranchise huge segments of the electorate and sell us on a political action that’s harmless to the ruling elite. Identity politics shift the burden of change to the individual, just like the advertising industry uses manufactured problems, like bad breath, or body odor, to sell us products. We can celebrate our identity all we want, there’s even a product they’ll sell us to magnify our differences. Or to herd us into our own self reinforcing enclosure of highly-individualized feeds, where market-approved talking points are slipped through paid ads and recommended content.

I could care less if a leader is a man or a woman, black or white, straight or gay, or a transexual. All I care about are policies that aid the vast majority of Americans and make our lives better. Ultimately, it’s the policies and incentives behind them that shape our leaders rather than their skin color or sexual orientation. For instance, liberals thrilled at the election of Barak Obama, a brilliant and charismatic African-American senator, who promised Hope and Change. Of course, he provided neither and his election appears now to have been one big con, propelled by marketing.

At the time, many Americans were anticipating that Obama would initiate a crackdown on the “banksters” who had knowingly rigged the economy out of short-sighted greed. However, Obama’s Secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner, believed that foaming the runway with American homeowners for Wall Street’s crash landing was the proper response. Meanwhile, it was clean getaway for the “banksters”, who’ve been made whole due the Fed’s quantitative easing policies and are now more powerful than ever. The whole exercise was the opposite of FDR’s Pecora Commission, which investigated the causes of the 1929 Wall Street crash and subpoenaed high profile bankers to testify.

Well-run societies don’t need heroes, and the way to keep terrible impulses in check isn’t to dethrone antiheros and replace them with good people. As we’ve seen, replacing George W. Bush with Barak Obama did not suddenly transform America. Nor did the election of Donald Trump suddenly make America great again.

It’s all about the policies.

Better policies, please.

 

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Manufacturing Representation

 

The United States is nominally a democratic republic, where we have congressional members and senators who represent us, but I’ve come to understand that it’s more like a managed democracy.

In Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, published in 1988, Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky exposed the techniques that the corporate media used to promote and defend the economic, social and political agendas of the ruling elites. This controversial book, deconstructed the idea that the media is objective and argued instead that it’s a disseminator of state and business propaganda.

To analyze the corporate media, Herman and Chomsky devised a propaganda model with five filters that determine the type of news that is presented in news media. These are: OwnershipFunding, Sourcing, Flak, and Anti-communism or “fear ideology”.

What if we use their propaganda model as a device to examine how our representative democracy truly operates?

  1. Ownership. Many of our representatives and almost all of our senators are quite wealthy. Similar to large media corporations, this wealth strongly influences their class interests and skews the type of policies they pursue, which primarily is the maintenance of private regimes of power. As Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi explained–“We’re capitalists and that’s just the way it is.”
  2. Funding. Our legislators spend 4 hours on average per day raising money for re-election. Think that might influence the laws they pass? And, where does that money come from? With all that money to raise, they logically have to pursue funding from those who have lots of it–the 1% and the corporations they control.
  3. Sourcing or expertise. Our legislators are notoriously stupid. (For example, my representative, a Democrat, has proposed a balanced budget amendment). Plus they have bigger concerns than policy expertise, like raising money. For policy expertise they largely rely on their staff, and on ideological think-tanks, like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), for policy expertise. Never heard of ALEC? You’re not alone. This right-wing think tank provides cut-and-paste bills for our congress-critters to introduce and is secretly responsible for so much of the horrible legislation that gives Congress the approval rating of pool slime.
  4. Flak. This is the means by which powerful interests discipline our representatives or senators who might slip off the reservation and support legislation that actually does something good for the American people. Think of the Chamber of Commerce, or the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), or the American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC). The last one might be the most powerful source of flak on Capital Hill, forcing our representatives to reflexively support the sorts of belligerent foreign policies that have kept the US bogged down in the Middle-East for decades.
  5. Anti-communism or fear ideology. This relates to flak, in that it’s a powerful cudgel that’s used to keep representatives in line as far as pursuing the interests of empire. In case you haven’t noticed the Cold War against communism has been over for 30 years, yet terrorism filled in nicely until Russia-gate came along to resurrect a peer competitor necessary to keep the Military/Industrial/Complex (MIC) humming along. And, even after the success enjoyed by Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primaries, socialism is still a pejorative right up there with communism. For Democratic Socialist representatives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) this hatred has led to numerous death threats. While you may not appreciate her political orientation, watch this video of AOC questioning lobbyists about the role of money in politics to see how a true representative should behave.

This is just a quick snapshot of how our political system functions. Don’t like the bank bailouts, endless wars, obscene drug prices, savage inequality, tax cuts for the wealthy and environmental devastation? Too bad. This the representation that we have and it’s far from a democratic republic that our founders envisioned.

This little exercise also demonstrates how our rigged system of representation dovetails with our corporate media propaganda in a way that maintains this state of affairs. Manufacturing Consent was published 30 years ago in a bygone era. Since then we’ve had the introduction of 24-hour cable news stations, the rise of right-wing radio and Fox News, and the creation of the internet and social media.

Now, not only does the corporate media generate propaganda to manufacture consent, they also manufacture hatred that keeps us  all in our tribal enclosures.

Our faux system of representation has followed this divisive blueprint. Instead of policies it’s personalities, keeping the American people distracted by the spectacle that I’ve described before as kayfabe.

With our Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame-president, its never been easier.

 

 

 

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Strange Bedfellows

 

The New Deal, which did much to equalize and humanize American capitalism, has always been despised by the plutocracy that owns our country. The reasons for this hatred were largely about power and control as outlined in the Political Aspects of Full Employment, in 1943, by Polish economist Michael Kalacki.

“Every widening of state activity is looked upon by business with suspicion, but the creation of employment by government spending has a special aspect which makes the opposition particularly intense.  Under a laissez-faire system the level of employment depends to a great extent on the so-called state of confidence.  If this deteriorates, private investment declines, which results in a fall of output and employment (both directly and through the secondary effect of the fall in incomes upon consumption and investment).  This gives the capitalists a powerful indirect control over government policy: everything which may shake the state of confidence must be carefully avoided because it would cause an economic crisis.  But once the government learns the trick of increasing employment by its own purchases, this powerful controlling device loses its effectiveness.  Hence budget deficits necessary to carry out government intervention must be regarded as perilous.  The social function of the doctrine of ‘sound finance’ is to make the level of employment dependent on the state of confidence.”

So basically the New Deal, which put Americans back to work through government efforts, subsumed the wealthy owners power and control. No wonder they hated it.

Neoliberalism was their response to the progressive reforms brought about by this  government intervention. While the economists and political theorists who met at Mont Pèlerin, depicted their efforts as saving humanity from the long and painful road to serfdom, the end result has been a return to the type of power enjoyed by the robber barons of the Gilded Age.

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

The neoliberal theory that best sums up how the masters of the universe have been able to reestablish control over the economy is shareholder capitalism. “Epitomized by neoliberal economist Milton Friedman, the theory of shareholder capitalism states that the only social responsibility of a corporation is to increase its profits, laying the groundwork for the idea that shareholders, being the owners and the main risk-bearing participants, ought therefore to receive the biggest rewards. Profits therefore should be generated first and foremost with a view toward maximizing the interests of shareholders, not the executives or managers who (according to the theory) were spending too much of their time, and the shareholders’ money, worrying about employees, customers, and the community at large. The economists who built on Friedman’s work, along with increasingly aggressive institutional investors, devised solutions to ensure the primacy of enhancing shareholder value, via the advocacy of hostile takeovers, the promotion of massive stock buybacks or repurchases (which increased the stock value), higher dividend payouts and, most importantly, the introduction of stock-based pay for top executives in order to align their interests to those of the shareholders. These ideas were influenced by the idea that corporate efficiency and profitability were impinged upon by archaic regulation and unionization, which, according to the theory, precluded the ability to compete globally.”

This pernicious theory has long had its critics, including yours truly, but now something strange is happening.

Marco Rubio, of all people, has fired the latest salvo against shareholder capitalism. Rubio–neocon extraordinaire–normally spends his days plotting regime change against Cuba or Nicaragua or Venezuela.

In a new report, “American Investment in the 21st Century,”  Rubio sounds almost like socialist Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, and puts the blame squarely on institutional changes in corporate management and capital markets that demand a single-minded emphasis on short-term financial results over sustainable growth. What’s amazing is that the only reason this sounds so radical is because for so long Republicans like Rubio have reflexively supported anything that the plutocracy and the corporations they own have proposed.

I really don’t know what’s gotten into him but Rubio argues that the prevailing business model of shareholder value—the idea that the only goal of a corporation is to return the maximum value to its owners—is ruining us. “The decline of business investment in the U.S. is not due to inexplicable secular shifts in the economy, nor a lack of capital available for investment, but a misallocation of productive resources. This misallocation is driven by the choices of political and social institutions that do not properly prioritize the obligation of the American economy to reproduce itself.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I guess politics really does make strange bedfellows.

Update: What the fuck! Is there something in the water?

Rahm Emanuel says It’s Time to Hold American Elites Accountable for Their Abuses. “[E]ven after being bailed out, the nation’s banking executives never faced any real consequences. No one went to jail. They never had to repay the personal fortunes they’d made by passing out those bad loans. Once again, the middle class was called to bail out the elites who were responsible for the mess while the elites got off scot-free…. As the White House chief of staff, I argued, unsuccessfully, that the American people needed the catharsis of seeing that the bankers who had gotten the country into this mess were being forced to take responsibility—that faith in government would plummet if we failed to deliver some ‘Old Testament justice.’”

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The man from Delaware

 

For the corporate and elite Democratic supporters who are desperate to stop a Sanders campaign, Joe Biden’s official entrance has been a godsend. Early polls put Biden ahead of Sanders by as many as 20 points and the same pundits who called the 2016 race prematurely on both sides of the aisle were quick to pronounce the primary all but over.

Biden’s campaign is also the clearest sign yet that the Democratic party elites and donors, who are faced with a restless party base and an insurgent Sanders candidacy that appears popular, will continue to look to anyone they believe might restore a sense of normalcy.

As you, dear reader, might imagine, I’m not happy. I mean, Joe Biden? Joe-freakin-Biden? Jesus! It’s almost like the DNC is trolling us with Biden’s entry into the crowded Democratic presidential primary.

If there’s one person who represents pretty much all that’s wrong with America, it’s Biden, who is a hawkish, corporate sycophant and one of the principal architects of American mass incarceration that’s decimated African-American households. Going further, Biden epitomizes the abject corruption of our elite that set the table for Donald Trump. If we’re honest it’s apparent that a large part of Trump’s appeal was his attack on the sort of business-as usual and corruption that Biden represents.

Biden’s not even shy about it. Recently Biden told supporters at a private fundraising event in Los Angeles that he hails from the “corporate state of Delaware”.

In fact, Biden’s exactly the sort of Democrat that for decades has traded working-class votes for employer-class donations. Biden supported NAFTA, most-favored-nation trading status with China, and the Trans-Pacific-Partnership. Democrats don’t just have a problem with working-class white voters, but a problem with working-class voters of all races and backgrounds — lost to the party over the years due to frustrations with free-trade policies, a 50-year decline in real wages, disillusionment with bipartisan-supported foreign wars and their costs for military families, failure to regulate an increasingly exploitative financial-services sector, exploding incarceration rates, etc.

Biden was there every step of the way as America was transformed from a manufacturing economy where the gains were more equally shared to a financial economy that funnels all the gains to the 1%. In the process, Americans went from largely sharing in the productive economy with rising wages to being shackled with debt.

Biden also represents something deeper and darker in a Democratic Party that’s embraced a neoliberal dispensation that’s left our nation riven by a vast inequality not seen since the robber baron era. Indeed, Biden represents the wholesale capture of Democratic Party politics by the big banks and financial services industry. According to the New York Times, Biden was seen as so close to MBNA, the credit card company that was purchased by Bank of America, that he was referred to as the “senator from MBNA.” Instead of the standard senate designation (D-Delaware), he was (D-MBNA).

Biden is a senator from Delaware, where as he noted, pretty much all of US corporations are incorporated. Delaware, the second smallest of US states, is home to many of the worlds biggest corporations, and is a key cog in the offshore tax haven system. Delaware has long been a refuge for financial capital thanks largely to the du Pont family, who used their tremendous influence in state governance to adopt a new and permissive corporate law that allowed corporate owners and managers enormous powers at the expense of other stakeholders. Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1971 and no doubt has spent more than three decades getting financial support from the banking interests that call Delaware their home.

I believe that one of the key reasons for Biden’s ascendency is precisely because he’s the man from Delaware, where the tiny state is a key node in the financing of US deficits by attracting foreign capital that flows in due to the tax-free treatment and secrecy that afforded.

Ultimately, what Biden and Delaware represent is a world where there are set of rules for the rich and powerful and another set of rules for the rest of us.

 

 

 

 

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The Opportunity Costs of Empire

 

So far, the large and growing cohort of Democratic presidential candidates have been focused on domestic policies and largely avoided (with the sole exception of Tulsi Gabbard) examining America’s empire.

Conventional wisdom has it that Americans vote their pocketbooksIt’s the economy, stupid. Absent a war or recent terrorist attack, political consultants believe that voters prioritize domestic issues. Right now, this appears to be correct. According to the latest Pew Research poll, the five most important issues for Democrats are–healthcare, education, Medicare, poverty and the environment.

So it’s not surprising that the major Democratic presidential contenders’ campaigns are focusing on economic and other domestic issues. Nor is it shocking that the corporate media is ignoring their stances on foreign policy, and especially ignoring Tulsi Gabbard.

But, the foreign policies that America pursues reflect our values and ultimately our morality, as Martin Luther King expressed in his Riverside Church speech exactly one year before he was assassinated.

At the Riverside Church, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, King portrayed the war in Vietnam as an imperial one, prosecuted at the expense of the poor. Vietnam, he said, was “the symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit,” and, if left untreated, if the malady continued to fester, “we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”

This speech, which has been dropped from the more politically-tame memory of King civil-rights activism, was intensely controversial at the time, angering enemies and supporters alike. Many of his close personal aides felt that he shouldn’t have given it.

The reason for the hostility was the same then as it is now. King made the connection between foreign and domestic policies, drawing clear the inexorable ties between domestic policy and unjust aggression abroad. This link should not be surprising. Everyone from Eugene Debs, to Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and Paul Craig Roberts have known you cannot sustain freedom at home in a global context shaped by militarism, unchecked corporate power, and empire.

50 years on it’s clear that King’s words were prophetic. “I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.”

It’s probably a safe bet that none of the leading Democratic contenders for president will acknowledge this truth. They probably won’t talk much at all about US foreign policies or the fact that the US spends more on war than any other country, largely to maintain our far-flung empire.

But they should. Our foreign policies are simply a reflection on our morality, and an examination of said policies would reveal a sharp contradiction to the feel-good American exceptionalism that passes for reflection.

Not only that but foreign policy is a subject that should put Trump on his back-foot. For all  his campaign rhetoric about ending regime-change wars and nurturing better relations with Russia, Trump has turned out to be just like Obama, who turned out to be just like Bush. It seems that when it comes to foreign policy, US presidents are locked into the Deep-State consensus.

In Trump’s case, the hysteria around Russia-gate has severely limited his options. In my opinion, the three year effort has made it clear that Trump could deviate from the Deep-State script at his own peril.

Still, a lot of Trump’s aggressive foreign policies revolve around domestic considerations. Whether threatening Iran with destruction to please the Jewish neoconservatives, and evangelicals who would welcome Armageddon. Or threatening Venezuela to pander to the right-wing Cubans of South Florida who would celebrate an overthrow of the Maduro administration, these belligerent foreign policies are a way for Trump to appeal for votes ahead of the 2020 election.

It’s not just Trump either. Our bi-partisan, ruling establishment has made it quite clear that the most important thing is an American-empire based on violence.

Unfortunately, for the vast majority of us, endless war for empire has come at an outrageous expense to our soul and our pocketbook. Recently, former US President Jimmy Carter articulated these opportunity costs of empire.

“The US is the most warlike nation in the world, forcing other countries to adopt our American principles. How many miles of high-speed railroads do we have in this country? China has around 18,000 miles (29,000 km) of high speed rail lines while the US has wasted, I think, $3 trillion on military spending; it’s more than you can imagine. China has not wasted a single penny on war, and that’s why they’re ahead of us. I think the difference is if you take $3 trillion and put it in American infrastructure, you’d probably have $2 trillion leftover; we’d have high-speed railroads that are maintained properly. Our education system would be as good as that of, say, South Korea or Hong Kong.”

Carter means well, but I think he’s confusing a bug with a feature of our New World Order.

In George Orwell’s 1984Emmanuel Goldstein explains that the purpose of war, “is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.”

 

 

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