“The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.” D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature
Individual U.S. Presidents come and go, but the Oval Office is reserved for the Killer-in-Chief. If, as these war-mongers like to say, “the buck stops here,” then our latest incarnation of a “leader,” Donald Trump, has in a few months accumulated enough guilt to last endless lifetimes. There are no excuses. While the headlines scream distractions from the bloodbath, Trump and his “team” are slaughtering innocents in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and countless other places off the American public’s radar.
That’s the way the story goes. That’s the way it always has gone. That’s the way the public and the killers want it to go. Pure innocents, killers at heart. The victims out of sight.
Let me retract that statement about guilt. Our chieftains feel no guilt; they seek the job because they lack a sense of guilt. They relish killing, but always wash their hands and deny responsibility. Or say “we didn’t mean it.” They lie.
Forget the “deep state” for the moment, forget Obama’s and Bush’s and Clinton’s blood-stained hands, forget Obamacare and Trump’s ultimatums to Republicans, forget Neil Gorsuch, forget March Madness, and forget your forgetting.
Remember this: In the past few days in Mosul, Iraq, the U.S. Commander-in-Chief, Donald Trump, slaughtered 200-300 civilians, mostly women and children, through airstrikes. Read this article by Jason Ditz. This technological terror included a single strike against a large building that killed more than 130 civilians: This massacre is just one of many in recent weeks across the region in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Read further in this article by Bethan McKernan.
American exceptionalism has always justified the killers – yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Trump has ably succeeded his predecessors in this divine right to kill. The recent dead in Mosul just add to the total waged against Iraq since this criminal war was launched by George W. Bush on March 19, 2003.
Focus on Trump’s tweets or his hair or his face all you want, but if you look at his hands you will see they are covered in blood. He is an able Killer-in-Chief.
Tolstoy once said that the difference between state violence and rebel violence is the difference between bullshit and horseshit. He was right. The same can be said of our glorious leaders.
Bob Dylan first sang in 1963: “For you don’t count the dead/When God’s on your side.”
But some of us are counting, Mr. Trump.
Trump = Obama = Bush = Clinton, On Four Core Issues
On a superficial level, Trump and Bush couldn’t be more different from Clinton and Obama. Indeed, pollsters say that many people voted for Trump because they wanted change … Just like they voted for Obama because he promised “hope and change” from Bush-era policies.
But beneath the surface, Trump, Obama, Bush and Clinton are all very similar on 4 core issues.
Clinton and Obama intentionally lied us into various “humanitarian wars” … which had nothing to do with our security or defense.
And the same idiots who lied us into the Iraq war are now trying to lie us into a cold (or maybe even hot) war with Russia.
And what about Trump?
He campaigned on peace and non-interventionism …
But he’s already ramped up the war in Syria.
And he’s already increased drone strikes by 432%.
We’re going to war in the South China Sea … no doubt
So it doesn’t look like peace is going to break out any time soon.
And sadly, top experts say the geopolitical policies pursued by Trump – which are very similar to those pursued by Obama, Bush and Clinton – will lead to more terrorism.
Lap Dogs for Wall Street … Making the Rich Richer
Obama, Bush and Clinton all pushed economic policies which made the rich richer, and the poor poorer.
Clinton repealed the Depression-era law which separated regular deposit banking and speculation (Glass-Steagall), allowed the giant banks to grow into mega-banks, and acted as a cheerleader for unregulated derivatives. And Clinton – like Bush and Obama – decided that white collar financial fraud didn’t exist, or at least shouldn’t be prosecuted.
What’s the effect of these policies?
Rick Baum notes, using official U.S. governments statistics, that inequality steadily increased under all 3 presidents:
Real wages plummeted through the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations.
What about Trump?
Spying On Americans
The NSA’s mass surveillance on Americans started by 1999 or earlier … under the Clinton administration.
3 months before 9/11, the head of the NSA admitted that the NSA was collecting so much information from spying that it was drowning in too much data.
Mass surveillance expanded under Bush … and then even more under Obama.
It’s gotten to the point that the government is spying on virtually all of our electronic communications and transactions.
Given that he’s called for whistleblowers like Snowden and Assange to be executed for treason, and quickly implemented gag orders as soon as he took office, he is almost certain to continue the expansion of mass surveillance on the American people.
In other words, a president who severely punishes anyone trying to reveal the extent of spying on Americans probably has no intention of reigning it in.
Supporting Dictators Who Support Terrorism
Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest sponsor of radical Islamic terrorists. The Saudis have backed ISIS and many other brutal terrorist groups. And the most pro-ISIS tweets allegedly come from Saudi Arabia.
According to sworn declarations from a 9/11 Commissioner and the Co-Chair of the Congressional Inquiry Into 9/11, the Saudi government backed the 9/11 hijackers (see section VII for details). And declassified documents only amplify those connections. And the new Saudi king has ties to Al Qaeda, Bin Laden and Islamic terrorism.
And the Saudis – with U.S. support – back the radical “madrassas” in which Islamic radicalism was spread.
And yet the U.S. has been supporting the Saudis militarily, with NSA intelligence and in every other way possible through the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations.
It appears that the voters have been played … again.
Postscript: If you think that the presidents are more different than we’re giving them credit for, then you must conclude that they have been overridden by other forces. In that case, you may wish to consider whether the Deep State and big banks have more power than democratically-elected officials.
Trump Slips into ‘Endless War’ Cycle
There was, during the course of the 2016 campaign, a small but vocal group of antiwar libertarians and conservatives who had convinced themselves that Donald Trump was preferable to Hillary Clinton because he, Trump, had made his (fictitious) opposition to the Iraq War a cornerstone of his candidacy.
Trump, some believed, was a Republican in the mold of Senator Robert Taft, someone who would turn away from neoconservative, interventionist orthodoxy.
If, as the adage suggests, we can judge a man by his enemies, a cursory look at Trump’s most vocal Republican critics would seem to confirm this judgment. Why, here’s Bill Kristol in January 2016, asking “Isn’t Donald Trump the very epitome of vulgarity?” Commentary’s John Podhoretz declared that Trump “would be, unquestionably, the worst thing to happen to the American common culture in my lifetime.” Professor Eliot A. Cohen and his merry band of think tank militarists published an open letter in opposition to Trump’s candidacy while National Review convened a symposium of anti-Trumpers for a special issue titled “Against Trump.”
Perhaps, though, Kristol, Cohen, Podhoretz, NR and the rest needn’t have worried so. Trump, it turns out, seems every bit as captive to the bipartisan foreign policy consensus as was his predecessor. Many supporters of Barack Obama held the errant hope that Obama would finally break the cycle of wars begun a quarter-century ago when George H.W. Bush launched Operation Desert Storm against Iraq and in defense of desert petro-states, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Trump partisans may object that he’s only been in office for about two months. Give him time, they say. That’s fair enough, but it is worth reviewing Trump’s foreign policy record up to this point.
An administration’s budget is generally a reliable indicator of its priorities. Here we find, in Trump’s first budget proposal, nearly $11 billion in cuts to the U.S. Department of State, a cut of roughly 29 percent, while the Pentagon is budgeted for an additional $54 billion, an increase of 9 percent.
Afghanistan, where the U.S. has been at war for 15½ years, is by far American’s longest and perhaps most futile overseas engagement. Here the Trump administration seems intent on ratcheting up airstrikes on the Taliban in a departure from the narrower focus on anti-terrorism that characterized the late Obama administration policy.
The head of U.S. Central Command, U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that he will recommend an increase in troops in order “to make the advise-and-assist mission more effective.” This comes on the heels of testimony by the top commander in Afghanistan, Army General John Nicholson telling Congress in February that he would need “a few thousand more” troops to carry out the mission.
Meanwhile, more troops are being deployed to Kuwait. On March 9, the Army Times reported that the U.S. is sending “an additional 2,500 ground combat troops to a staging base in Kuwait from which they could be called upon to back up coalition forces battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.” This is in addition to the already roughly 6,000 American troops that are currently in Syria and Iraq assisting in the fight against the Islamic State. American units are now in the northern Syrian city of Manbij and on the outskirts on Raqqa.
The latter deployment of Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit marks, according to the Washington Post, “a new escalation in the U.S. war in Syria, and puts more conventional U.S. troops in the battle.” The Post, like all other mainstream outlets, leaves out mention that this new deployment is illegal under international law, a point Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made in an interview with Chinese state media last weekend.
And then, perhaps worst of all, there is the ongoing American support for Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen. As Council on Foreign Relations analyst Micah Zenko recently pointed out, Trump has already “approved at least 36 drone strikes or raids in 45 days — one every 1.25 days.” These include, according to Zenko, “three drone strikes in Yemen on January 20, 21, and 22; the January 28 Navy SEAL raid in Yemen; one reported strike in Pakistan on March 1; more than thirty strikes in Yemen on March 2 and 3; and at least one more on March 6.” The strikes, we are told, are a necessary part of the “global war on terror” and are portrayed by military and administration spokesmen as such.
A Pentagon spokesman told longtime CNN stenographer Barbara Starr that the wave of 30 strikes on March 2 and 3 were “precision strikes in Yemen against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” in order to “maintain pressure against the terrorists’ network and infrastructure in the region.” The U.S.-Saudi war on Yemen has predictably resulted in a humanitarian catastrophe. According to the Brookings Institution’s Bruce Reidel,
“a Yemeni child dies every 10 minutes from severe malnutrition and other problems linked to the war and the Saudi blockade of the north.”
All this on behalf of our old friends the Saudis. In the decade and a half after aiding the 9/11 hijackers, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has, with American acquiescence, embarked on a campaign to destroy Yemen because of an illusory threat posed by Iran. Yet the reason behind KSA’s aggression on the southern end of the Arabian peninsula has not a bit to do with “security” or Iranian “aggression” or fighting “terrorism”; it is a sectarian campaign waged by Saudi extremists, nothing more. What could possibly be America’s interest in assisting the Saudis in such an endeavor?
Yet, despite the heinous nature of Saudi Arabia’s anti-Houthi campaign in Yemen, its mastermind, the young Saudi Defense Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was treated to lunch at the White House with the President this week. In an ominous sign of things to come, a statement from the Saudis noted that Trump and bin Salman “share the same views on the gravity of the Iranian expansionist moves in the region.”
And so, to sum up: President Trump, in the space of two months, has proposed a budget that slashes funding for diplomacy, spends lavishly on military, has committed thousands of troops, conducted dozens of airstrikes, and cemented the U.S. commitment to the wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, he and his team have signaled to the Saudis that they fully share the Kingdom’s obsession with Iranian “expansion.”
An Unending Cycle
What can be done to break the seemingly unending cycle of American intervention in the Middle East? What all the aforementioned interventions have in common is that they are, as the constitutional lawyer and former Justice Department official Bruce Fein has pointed out, presidential wars, which he defines as “wars in which the President decides to take the United States from a state of peace to a state of war.”
Fein, a founding member of the anti-interventionist Committee for The Republic, has written at length on what he views as the steady erosion of the congressional prerogative in matters of war and peace. Fein writes that the Founders “unanimously entrusted to Congress exclusive responsibility for taking the nation to war in Article I, section 8, clause 11 of the Constitution” because they understood “to a virtual certainty that Congress would only declare war in response to actual or perceived aggression against the United States, i.e., only in self-defense.”
Accordingly, the Committee for The Republic has embarked on a timely project aimed at having “the House pass a resolution that defines presidential wars under the Constitution going forward and declares them unconstitutional in violation of Article I, section 8, clause 11 (Declare War Clause).” Furthermore, the “End Presidential Wars” project seeks a further resolution, which would warn “the President that such wars will be deemed high crimes and misdemeanors under Article II, section 4 of the Constitution resulting in his or her impeachment, conviction, and removal from office.”
Fein points to Alexis de Tocqueville’s observation in Democracy in America that,
“All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and shortest means to accomplish it.”
Unless we come to grips with our current mania for overseas intervention and find a remedy for Congress’s abdication of its constitutional responsibilities, we are doomed to remain in the 25-year grip of endless, counterproductive and illegal military interventions in the Middle East and beyond.
James W Carden is a contributing writer for The Nation and editor of The American Committee for East-West Accord’s eastwestaccord.com. He previously served as an adviser on Russia to the Special Representative for Global Inter-governmental Affairs at the US State Department.