The Looming War Against Iran

by Eric Margolis (July 28 2018)

President Donald Trump and his neocon advisors have been trying to provoke a war with Iran and Syria for many months.

The neocons are echoing Cato the Elder’s cry, delenda est Carthago!. Iran must be destroyed.

So far, Tehran and its ally Damascus have refused to respond to US naval and air incursions or Israel’s growing air attacks in Syria. But the war of words between the US and Iran has now reached a critical phase.

Last week, Trump, who evaded military service during the Vietnam War, made his loudest threats yet against Iran, bringing the danger of war to the boiling point. On 21 May, the hard-line US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a thunderous ultimatum to Iran during an address to the US Heritage Foundation, a rich, influential arm of America’s Israel lobby.

Pompeo made twelve totally unacceptable demands on Iran that were clearly designed to be rejected by Tehran. Not since Austria-Hungary’s ultimatum against Serbia in 1914 have we seen such a clear effort to bring about war. Tehran quickly dismissed Pompeo as “a gangster”.

We are by now used to blood and thunder rhetoric between Washington and Tehran. But this time White House policy is clearly being directed by pro-Israel American neocons who want the US military to crush Iran as it did Iraq.

Crushing Iran will leave Israel with unfettered control of the Mideast and its oil – unless Russia or Turkey intervene against Israel, which is most unlikely. Some think Russia and Israel – and the US – have already made a deal to divvy up the central Mideast.

“Let the Americans come”, one Iranian militant told me, “they will break their teeth on Iran”. Very colorful but hardly accurate. The US and Israel will surely avoid a massive, costly land campaign again Iran, a vast, mountainous nation that was willing to suffer a million battle casualties in its eight-year war with Iraq that started in 1980. This gruesome war was instigated by the US, Britain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia to overthrow Iran’s new popular Islamic government.

The Pentagon has planned a high-intensity air war against Iran that Israel and the Saudis might very well join. The plan calls for over 2,300 air strikes against Iranian strategic targets: airfields and naval bases, arms and petroleum, oil and lubricant depots, telecommunication nodes, radar, factories, military headquarters, ports, waterworks, airports, missile bases and units of the Revolutionary Guards.

Iran’s air defenses range from feeble to non-existent. Decades of US-led military and commercial embargos against Iran have left it as decrepit and enfeebled as was Iraq when the US invaded in 2003. The gun barrels of Iran’s 1970s vintage tanks are warped and can’t shoot straight, its old British and Soviet AA missiles are mostly unusable, and its ancient MiG and Chinese fighters ready for the museum, notably its antique US-built F-14 Tomcats, Chinese copies of obsolete MiG-21s, and a handful of barely working F-4 Phantoms of Vietnam War vintage.

Air combat command is no better. Everything electronic that Iran has will be fried or blown up in the first hours of a US attack. Iran’s little navy will be sunk in the opening attacks. Its oil industry may be destroyed or partially preserved depending on US post-war plans for Iran.

The only way Tehran can riposte is by staging isolated commando attacks on US installations in the Mideast of no decisive value, and, of course, blocking the narrow Strait of Hormuz that carries two-thirds of Mideast oil exports. The US Navy, based nearby in Bahrain, has been practicing for decades to combat this threat.

China vows to keep buying Iranian oil in spite of the US blockade to be imposed this fall. This could put the US and China on a collision course.

While Iran may be able to interdict some oil exports from the Arab states and cause maritime insurance rates to skyrocket, it’s unlikely to be able to block the bulk of oil exports unless it attacks the main oil terminals in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf with ground troops. During the Iran-Iraq war, neither side was able to fully interdict the other’s oil exports.

Direct western intervention in a major ground campaign seems unlikely. But the US and Israeli war plan would aim to totally destroy Iran’s infrastructure, communications, and transport (including oil) crippling this important nation of eighty million and taking it back to the pre-revolutionary era. That was the plan for Iraq, the Arab world’s most industrialized nation. Today Iraq still lies in ruins.

One recalls the words of the great Roman historian, Tacitus: “they make a desert and call it peace”.

Copyright Eric S Margolis 2018

Will Next Steps on Iran …

… Point towards a New “Big Three” or World War Three?

James George Jatras

Strategic Culture Foundation (July 28 2018)

On July 22, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a bizarre speech on Iran. Delivered from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, and ostensibly addressed to the Iranian-American community, the speech’s staging clearly sought to evoke the fall of communism, casting the Ayatollahs in the role of Leonid Brezhnev and company.

Iranian “regime change” is not the publicly stated goal of the Trump Administration’s policy. But it is hard to see how US demands on Tehran don’t amount to exactly that, with Pompeo comparing the Iranian “regime” (a term used dozens of times to imply illegitimacy) to a “mafia”. He asserted that Iran’s behavior is “at root in the revolutionary nature of the regime itself”. What can change its “root” or “nature” without ceasing to be itself?

Pompeo demanded not just a total change in policy from Tehran but a different mode of governance amounting to Iran’s ceasing to be an independent regional power. The Reagan venue’s analogy to the collapse of communism in the USSR and Eastern Europe echoed in the Secretary’s heavy emphasis on “a new 24/7 Farsi-language TV channel” spanning “not only television, but radio, digital, and social media format, so that the ordinary Iranians inside of Iran and around the globe can know that America stands with them”.

The US position on Iran is that it is solely a question of removing a layer of malign governance, after which democracy, tolerance, peace, and general niceness will spontaneously break forth, and justice will roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream. Just like happened in Iraq after 2003. Just like in Libya.

Never mind that Iran isn’t North America or Europe. Never mind that American and European ideas of social and personal liberty would be anathema to an unknown but significant percentage of Iran’s population. Never mind that the replacement for the Ayatollahs envisioned by many Administration big shots, the cultish People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (Mojahedin-e Khalq, MEK), may not be particularly democratic or popular with Iranians. Don’t bother us with details – the neo-Bolshevik myth of a spontaneous uprising by the oppressed masses (with a little help from outside, like the Kaiser’s generals were kind enough to provide Lenin) is alive and well in Washington.

One is reminded of “true believer” Condoleezza Rice in 2006 denouncing as – you guessed it! – racist any objections to militant democracy promotion in the Middle East, specifically in Iraq:

“Well, growing up in the South and having people underestimate you because one of the reasons for segregation, one of the reasons for the separation of the races was supposedly the inferiority of one race to the other”, she explains. “And so when I look around the world and I hear people say, ‘Well, you know, they’re just not ready for democracy’, it really does resonate. I hear echoes of, well, you know, blacks are kind of childlike. They really can’t handle the vote. Or they really can’t take care of themselves. It really does roil me. It makes me so angry because I think there are those echoes of what people once thought about black Americans.”

Pompeo heavily emphasized Iran’s internal problems, such as political repression, corruption, economic distress, many of which are no doubt are quite real. Still, it was hard to listen to the Secretary without mentally comparing how the identical litany of abuses would apply to Washington’s perennial darling of the Islamic world, Saudi Arabia, which in every particular is far, far worse than Iran. But nobody is talking about what amounts to regime change in Riyadh or even any sanctions against them. Accusations of Iranian state support for terrorism would be risible if arming myriad Sunni jihadist groups by the US and our various partners, the Saudis chief among them, were a laughing matter.

Pompeo’s speech triggered a rebuke by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that “peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars” – an unfortunate choice of words given how Saddam Hussein’s “mother of all battles” turned out. Trump immediately shot back with a tweet threatening that Iran could “SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE”. Predictably, Trump’s ubiquitous critics focused as much on the all capital letters as on the substance of the exchange.

No one knows where any of this is leading. The memory immediately triggered was that of harsh verbal exchanges between North Korea’s “Little Rocket Man” Kim Jong-un and the “mentally deranged US dotard” Trump prior to their love fest in Singapore. Justin Raimondo of was succinct in his optimism: “This means he’ll be scheduling a Rouhani summit in a few months”.

On the other hand, instead of Singapore 2018, we could be seeing a repeat of the lead-up to Iraq 2003. So many of the same people who were beating the drums for the war with Iraq under President George W Bush are playing the same tune now with respect to Iran. It is significant that whereas with respect to North Korea our foremost regional partner, South Korea, is pushing hardest for a peaceful outcome, Israel and Saudi Arabia, the two foreign states that exercise almost total control over the political class in Washington, are itching for the US to take care of their Iran problem for them. The hare-brained “Arab Nato” idea has been revived.

Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis has denied a report that the US was identifying targets in Iran to be struck as early as next month and disowned regime change. For what it is worth (probably not much) a recent poll shows that Americans are against war with Iran by a better than two-to-one margin. But, as Raimondo observes,



there are plenty of warmongers in Washington who just can’t wait for the shooting to start in the Middle East again, and they have targeted Iran as their next victim … Such a war would destroy Trump’s presidency precisely because his base would oppose it. And yet … despite the fact that the President’s advisors are pushing war with Iran, Trump routinely ignores them and does exactly as he pleases: that’s why we had the Singapore summit and the Helsinki meeting with Putin.


We can hope that Trump will decide on his next steps with regard to Iran based on much broader international considerations that impact his domestic goals. Taken most optimistically, that could mean a concept that some of us have been suggesting for almost two years: a new “Big Three” understanding among Trump, Putin, and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Indeed, Professor Michael T Klare, writing in, claims this is Trump’s conscious intention:



An examination of his campaign speeches and his actions since entering the Oval Office – including his appearance with Putin – reflect his adherence to a core strategic concept: the urge to establish a tripolar world order, one that was, curiously enough, first envisioned by Russian and Chinese leaders in 1997 and one that they have relentlessly pursued ever since.

Such a tripolar order – in which Russia, China, and the US would each assume responsibility for maintaining stability within their own respective spheres of influence while cooperating to resolve disputes wherever those spheres overlap – breaks radically with the end-of-the-Cold-War paradigm. During those heady years, the United States was the dominant world power and lorded it over most of the rest of the planet with the aid of its loyal Nato allies.

For Russian and Chinese leaders, such a “unipolar” system was considered anathema. After all, it granted the United States a hegemonic role in world affairs while denying them what they considered their rightful place as America’s equals. Not surprisingly, destroying such a system and replacing it with a tripolar one has been their strategic objective since the late 1990s – and now an American president has zealously embraced that disruptive project as his own …

The big question in all this, of course, is: Why? Why would an American president seek to demolish a global order in which the United States was the dominant player and enjoyed the support of so many loyal and wealthy allies? Why would he want to replace it with one in which it would be but one of three regional heavyweights? …

In the Trumpian mindset, this country had become weak and overextended because of its uncritical adherence to the governing precepts of the liberal international order, which called for the US to assume the task of policing the world while granting its allies economic and trade advantages in return for their loyalty. Such an assessment, whether accurate or not, certainly jibes well with the narrative of victimization that so transfixed his core constituency in rustbelt areas of Middle America. It also suggests that an inherited burden could now be discarded, allowing for the emergence of a less-encumbered, stronger America – much as a stronger Russia has emerged in this century from the wreckage of the Soviet Union and a stronger China from the wreckage of Maoism. This reinvigorated country would still, of course, have to compete with those other two powers, but from a far stronger position, being able to devote all its resources to economic growth and self-protection without the obligation of defending half of the rest of the world.

Listen to Trump’s speeches, read through his interviews, and you’ll find just this proposition lurking behind virtually everything he has to say on foreign policy and national security. “You know … there is going to be a point at which we just can’t do this anymore”, he told Haberman and Sanger in 2016, speaking of America’s commitments to allies. “You know, when we did those deals, we were a rich country … We were a rich country with a very strong military and tremendous capability in so many ways. We’re not anymore.”

The only acceptable response, he made clear, was to jettison such overseas commitments and focus instead on “restoring” the country’s self-defense capabilities through a massive buildup of its combat forces. (The fact that the United States already possesses far more capable weaponry than any of its rivals and outspends them by a significant margin when it comes to the acquisition of additional munitions doesn’t seem to have any impact on Trump’s calculations.)



If such is indeed Trump’s calculation, his likelihood of attacking Iran is very low.

Conversely, the forces benefitting from the status quo Trump would dismantle cannot be expected to accept such a future with equanimity: the Pentagon and Nato military establishments, the intelligence community, the hordes of contractors and think tank denizens, and others. Perhaps even worse, Trump’s domestic critics face the terrifying prospect that he could emerge as the greatest peacemaker in modern history, as well as restorer of America’s economic might.

We can thus expect an added zeal born of desperation from former “CIA director John Brennan, FBI director James Comey, Robert Mueller, James Clapper, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and the Democratic National Committee”, who, Paul Craig Roberts aptly says, are “engaged in high treason against the American people and the President of the United States and are actively engaged in a plot to overthrow the President of the United States”. Just in recent weeks the intensity of this campaign prevented Trump from agreeing to anything of substance with Putin in Helsinki, forced him to tap-dance around what he did or didn’t say at the post-summit press conference, and postpone according to Grand Inquisitor Mueller’s convenience a follow-up US-Russia summit (no doubt to the delight of his own appointees no less than to his enemies).

We can expect that between now the November 2018 Congressional elections Mueller will come out with several indictments against Trump associates with the hope of tipping the House of Representatives to the Democrats. If that happens, despite an anticipated GOP retention of the Senate, Trump will be removed or forced to resign in 2019, with a substantial percentage of Republicans ready to jump at the prospect of putting Mike Pence into the Oval Office, with current UN Ambassador Nikki Haley a virtual shoo-in as Vice President.

Such a development would prompt an anguished but futile outburst from Trump’s base. But with l’ancien regime back in power, the guardians of the neoliberal, unipolar order the interloper had imperiled will move quickly to repudiate any understandings he might have had with Moscow and Beijing. The slide toward a catastrophe of literally unimaginable proportions, which Trump had sought to arrest, will become for all intents and purposes irreversible.

At that point Iran will be the least of our worries.


Republishing is welcomed with reference to Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal

How We Got Sold on Endless Wars

by Howard Lisnof

CounterPunch (July 23 2018)

I receive so many emails and pitches for one cause or another that I am not able to cite them all. Some of those emails call attention to the fact that there is virtually no protest against the US-backed Saudi-led war in Yemen {1} that has killed an untold number of people and caused one of the most egregious health crises since World War Two, a cholera epidemic, in that country. Regime change is not an unpopular cause.

After the terror attacks of 2001, most in the US backed the endless wars in which the US was involved, along with its allies such as England and France. Those endless wars in places like Afghanistan and Iraq seemed to be a given with trillions of dollars and massive profits for war industries like Lockheed Martin and Boeing seeing profits going off of the charts. The military-industrial-financial complex has become so profitable that almost no one asks the question as to why this is happening. The Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and others morphed in some cases into ISIS, and a host of other murderous militias and gangs, and no one makes the observation that maybe the US and its allies helped to fuel these lethal and profitable enterprises. Central America seethes with drug wars (with an insatiable demand generated mainly from the US), causing a steady flow of immigration to the US, and Trump makes a spectacle of this debacle while targeting innocent children in its wake. Indeed, some, but not all, of the current outcry against Russia has to do with finding a “worthy” enemy so that the insatiable appetite of the arms manufacturers goes on and on. Indeed, while not a perfect analogy, gun manufacturers in the US benefit to a degree by war and the machismo and frontier mentality that goes along with war. As I write, Israel has attacked the almost defenseless Gaza Strip once again, this time over a border incident, and almost no one raises an eyebrow. It is as if the gross immorality of war, whatever its causes, is now made moral in a dystopian universe.

The laws or rules of war that have been developed over thousands of years have been thrown into the dustbin of history. After all, with murderers like ISIS, who needs or wants rules of military engagement? Even the hard-fought and hard-won lessons of World War Two about the horror of contemporary warfare have almost been forgotten. The Geneva Conventions, the UN Charter, and military rules of engagement regarding prisoners of war and noncombatants have been tossed aside.

Groups like Veterans for Peace {2} and Win Without War {3} make excellent cases against the horror of contemporary warfare but almost no one cares to listen besides a committed group who have developed a perspective on the issues that arise as a result of war and planning for war. While Bernie Sanders has moved toward a careful consideration of the impact of US-led wars, the millions of young people, who rallied to his cause as a presidential candidate in 2016, seem largely to be asleep at the wheel regarding issues of war and peace. Since only a small percentage of people enlist in the military, there is little attention paid to military issues. The media would rather put its resources into following Donald Trump’s daily Tweets than covering any of the wars the US now fights or supports.





Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017). More of his articles at

“Putin’s War on America” …

… is Nothing Compared with America’s War on Democracy

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

by Paul Street

Truthdig (July 22 2018)

The noted North Korean political commentator Kim Jong Un got it right last year: Donald Trump is a “mentally deranged dotard”.

Consider the US president’s bizarre performance next to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.

Asked about Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, President Trump said this: “I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

He continued: “So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today”.

Talk about walking into your enemy’s wheelhouse. Trump looked, acted, and sounded like a big floppy and supine plaything of his smirking Russian master. It was surreal.

I’m no fan of “Russiagate” and never have been. But it was as if Trump had let Russia-mad MSNBC and CNN craft the Helsinki news conference and write his lines for him.

The response from the US corporate media minus Fox News was swift, harsh, and unremitting. Cable news went wild. Its talking heads (except for Trump State Television/Fox) were unanimous: A “treasonous” Trump had “thrown his own country” – with “country” understood to mean the US “intelligence” (spying and subversion) apparatus – “under the bus” and “sided with the enemy instead”.

A sour POTUS had to reluctantly walk his comments back the next day, awkwardly claiming that he’d really meant to say, “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be”.

Right. I lied more convincingly than that in second grade.

Does Putin have the dirty photos after all? Does Trump have a late-life schoolboy crush on “strong and powerful” Vlad? Or on the related binding powers of head-of-state authoritarianism and senior white maleness? Political power envy? Bicep envy? Trump’s knee-jerk revulsion at any suggestion that his “great victory” in the 2016 Electoral College was tainted? All or some of the above?

We can only guess about the real source(s) of Trump’s peculiar Putin jones at this point.

By contrast, I can say with full confidence that nothing Trump said Monday or Tuesday was as ridiculous as something I heard leading Democrat and US Senator Mark Warner (Democrat, Virginia), tell CNN the night of Trump’s Helsinki debacle.

“It is the role of the US intelligence community”, Warner said to Anderson Cooper, “to speak truth to power”.

Read that again: “It is the role of the US intelligence community to speak truth to power”.

Never mind that the FBI has long surveilled, hounded, harassed, oppressed, slandered, maimed and even murdered US labor, civil rights, peace, social justice and environmental activists and leaders – people fighting concentrated wealth, privilege and power. The FBI’s long record of domestic police-state repression has continued to the present day, up through Occupy, the Fight for $15, Black Lives Matter, and Standing Rock.

Never mind the CIA’s longstanding central role in the crushing and subversion of national independence and social justice movements, popular revolutions, and democratically elected governments the world over. Or the CIA and FBI’s central role (current Russiagate investigator Robert Mueller’s having been a top player) in the creation of false intelligence pretexts for George W Bush’s monumentally criminal, mass-murderous invasion of Iraq.

There was nothing close to the hint of a pushback against Warner’s idiotic statement from Cooper (a former CIA intern) or anyone else in the “mainstream media”. It doesn’t enter cable news’ talking heads’ minds to see the nation’s spying, surveillance, and police state for what it is at its core: an instrument of class, racial, and imperial oppression.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper could be heard on CNN using the same phrase – “speaking truth to power” – to describe the mission of “the intelligence community”.

Clapper was just one among dozens of former US military and intelligence officials and experts – all proud agents and defenders of the American global empire and so-called capitalist democracy – paraded across the CNN and MSNBC sets to express horror at Trump and Russia.

The more Russia- and Trump-obsessed cable news I watched last week, the crazier it got. Things went really off the rails Wednesday night. That’s when MSNBC‘s Russia-mad talk-show host Rachel Maddow leaped from reporting a ridiculous Sarah Huckabee Sanders comment on how the Trump White House was discussing whether to honor Putin’s request to hand over a former US diplomat (Barack Obama’s Russian ambassador, Michael McFaul) for questioning in Russia (which would be a bizarre and astonishing development and was obviously never going to happen) to telling ordinary individual Americans that they could soon be at risk of being picked up by the White House and handed over to Russia to be killed by Putin (or “other foreign dictators”). Who was more wacky – White House press secretary Huckabee Sanders, for saying the White House was considering handing over a former US ambassador to Russian authorities (something that was never going to occur), or Maddow, for telling everyday Americans that Trump may one day mark them for rendition to Russia at the behest of the Kremlin (also never going to occur)?

Cable news commentators also expressed concern for another “American” sought for questioning (and torture and murder, purportedly) by Putin: financial mogul Bill Browder, who happens, hilariously enough, to be the grandson of the former Soviet-captive US Communist Party head Earl Browder. Putin’s interest has to do with tax disputes related to Browder’s onetime investments and “human rights” activism in Russia. Here’s a fun little fact about Bill Browder that wasn’t highlighted by MSNBC and CNN: The multimillionaire “American” renounced his US citizenship and “re-domiciled” to England in 1998 to avoid paying US taxes on foreign investments. It’s hard to imagine the Boston patriots of 1773 forming a Tea Party in defense of the “great American” Bill Browder.

Speaking on behalf of power – imperial power in this case – nothing Trump said Monday and Tuesday was quite as absurd as the undisputed condemnation US corporate news talking heads and pundits heaped on Trump for saying in Helsinki that he held “both countries responsible” for the decline in US-Russia relations. “I think we’re all to blame”, Trump said.

Outraged US media authorities fell over themselves to express shock and horror at this “Orwellian” statement of “false equivalency”. CNN and MSDNC (I mean MSNBC) likened it to the white-supremacist Trump’s deservedly infamous comments likening so-called “alt-left” civil rights protesters to neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August.

In historical reality, as the “mainstream” US media would never acknowledge, Trump’s “both countries responsible” comment understated Washington’s primary culpability in the rise of the “new”, that is, post-Soviet, US-Russia Cold War. The record of imperial US aggression and provocation is clear to anyone who pays remotely serious attention to the record of the recent past:

* President Bill Clinton’s decision to annul a 1990 agreement with Moscow not to push the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (“Nato“) farther east after the reunification of Germany and not to recruit Eastern European states that had been part of the Soviet-ruled Warsaw Pact.

* Widespread US interference in Russian electoral politics and civil society – including brazen US intervention in Russia’s pivotal 1996 presidential election – before, during and ever since the collapse of Soviet socialism.

* US-led Nato’s decisions to renege on its 1997 pledge not to install “permanent” and “significant” military forces in former Soviet bloc nations and to place four battalions on and near the Russian border.

* The 1999 US-Nato military intervention in the Yugoslav civil war, leading to the dismemberment of Serbia and the building of a giant US military base in the Nato- and US-created state of Kosovo. (That recent history has hardly prevented Washington from shaming Russia for “forcibly redrawing borders in Europe” by annexing Crimea.)

* President George W Bush’s unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

* President Obama’s decision to deploy anti-missile systems (supposedly aimed at Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons and really meant to intercept Russian missiles) in Romania and Poland.

* Obama’s decision to invest more than $1 trillion on an upgrade of the US, nuclear weapons arsenal, which was already well enough stocked to blow up the world fifty times over. The upgrade continues under Trump. It involves “strategic” bombs with smaller yields, something that dangerously blurs the lines between conventional and nuclear weapons. It has helped spark a new nuclear arms race with Russia and, perhaps, China.

* Longstanding US efforts “to move Ukraine out of Moscow’s orbit and integrate it into the West” (to quote US foreign relations scholar John Mearsheimer).

* US provocation and endorsement of a right-wing 2014 coup against the pro-Russian government in Ukraine, on Russia’s repeatedly invaded western border – a development that constituted a severe national security threat to Russia and predictably created war in eastern Ukraine and a crisis that led to numerous dangerous incidents between Nato and Russian forces.

* Washington’s constant self-righteous denunciation of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, a thoroughly predictable Russian response to the United States’ installation of a right-wing and heavily neo-Nazi-affiliated, pro-Nato and anti-Russian government in Kiev, Ukraine.

American political writer Diana Johnstone stated in June 2014:


Nato leaders feign surprise at events they planned months in advance. Events that they deliberately triggered are being misrepresented as sudden, astonishing, unjustified “Russian aggression”. The United States and the European Union undertook an aggressive provocation in Ukraine that they knew would force Russia to react defensively, one way or another.


One does not have to be a fan of Vladimir Putin or a left critic of US imperialism (guilty here) to understand the nationalist logic behind the Russian president’s concerns with US and Western aggression – and the popularity of Putin’s resistance to that aggression among millions of Russians fed up with decades of national humiliation by the West.

As the mainstream “realist” Mearsheimer argued in a 2014 article – “Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault” – published in the establishment Council on Foreign Relations’ journal Foreign Affairs, Putin reasonably viewed Washington’s commitment to Nato expansion and Nato’s US-led recruitment of Ukraine as “a direct threat to Russia’s core interests … [and] who can blame him?” Mearsheimer asked, adding that “the United States does not tolerate distant great powers deploying forces anywhere in the Western hemisphere, much less on its borders”.

“We need not ask”, Noam Chomsky wrote two years ago, “how the United States would have reacted had the countries of Latin America joined the Warsaw Pact, with plans for Mexico and Canada to join as well. The merest hint of the first tentative steps in that direction would have been ‘terminated with extreme prejudice”, to adopt the CIA lingo.”

An honest look at the history of US and Western aggression in Eastern Europe and, well, meddling in Russia itself, suggests plenty of reasons why Russia would have wanted some say in the 2016 US election – and why it would have preferred a bizarre “isolationist” Nato critic with a long and strange personal and financial history with Russia (Trump) over a committed Russia-hating, Nato-expansionist, and global imperialist like Hillary Clinton.

If you don’t want other countries messing, or trying to mess, with your nation’s internal politics, then don’t mess with theirs – and don’t set up armies and hostile regimes on their borders. The United States, which maintains more than 800 military bases spread across more than 100 “sovereign” nations, regularly interferes in the internal affairs – including elections – of the other states and societies.

A final preposterous thing that “mainstream” US news media has been repeating over and over in the last several days is the charge that “Russia tried to undermine our democracy”. In three days of informal but regular monitoring of CNN and MSNBC, I heard that phrase or some variation of it (including “Russia waged war on our democracy”) at least thirty times.

To what “American democracy” are they referring? University of Kentucky history department chair Ronald Formisano’s latest book is titled American Oligarchy: The Permanence of the Political Class (2017). By Formisano’s detailed account, US politics and policy are under the control of apermanent political class” – a “networked layer of high-income people”, including congressional representatives (half of whom are millionaires), elected officials, campaign funders, lobbyists, consultants, appointed bureaucrats, pollsters, television celebrity journalists, university presidents and executives at well-funded nonprofit institutions. This “permanent political class”, Formisano finds, is taking the nation “beyond [mere] plutocracy” to “the hegemony of an aristocracy of inherited wealth”. The super-opulent moneyed elite it minds and apes is a product of US history and has nothing to do with Russia.

Formisano is just one of many distinguished and mainstream American thinkers who understands that the US is simply not a democracy. (Even some conservative elites like the veteran federal jurist and economist Richard Posner concede this basic reality.) As the distinguished liberal political scientists, Benjamin Page (Northwestern) and Martin Gilens (Princeton), showed in their expertly researched book Democracy in America? (2018):


The best evidence indicates that the wishes of ordinary Americans actually have had little or no impact on the making of federal government policy. Wealthy individuals and organized interest groups – especially business corporations – have had much more political clout. When they are taken into account, it becomes apparent that the general public has been virtually powerless … The will of majorities is often thwarted by the affluent and the well-organized, who block popular policy proposals and enact special favors for themselves … Majorities of Americans favor … programs to help provide jobs, increase wages, help the unemployed, provide universal medical insurance, ensure decent retirement pensions, and pay for such programs with progressive taxes. Most Americans also want to cut “corporate welfare”. Yet the wealthy, business groups, and structural gridlock have mostly blocked such new policies [and programs].


We get to vote? Big deal. An “unelected dictatorship of money” (Edward S Herman and David Peterson) reigns nonetheless in the United States, where, Page and Gilens find, “government policy … reflects the wishes of those with money, not the wishes of the millions of ordinary citizens who turn out every two years to choose among the preapproved, money-vetted candidates for federal office”.

But, okay, so how significant was “Russian interference” in tipping the 2016 election to one of the money-vetted capitalist candidates (Trump) over the other one (Clinton)? Russia’s impact on the outcome was negligible. An important source here is the brilliant political scientist and money and politics analyst Thomas Ferguson’s study (co-authored with Paul Jorgensen and Jie Chen), “Industrial Structure and Party Competition in an Age of Hunger Games: Donald Trump and the 2016 Presidential Election” (Institute for New Economic Thinking, January 2018). Ferguson finds that Russia’s sway over the contest was (no surprise for serious analysts) tiny compared with that of the homegrown US corporate and financial oligarchs who sit atop “America, the Best Democracy Money Can Buy”.

The billionaire rentier-capitalist Trump used his own personal fortune to leap over his more traditional Wall Street Republican competitors – absurdly posing as a champion of the forgotten “heartland” working class – in the 2016 presidential primaries. To win the general election, however, he depended on a remarkable influx of big campaign cash from dodgy right-wing US billionaires and equity capitalists in the late summer and fall of 2016. Even more significant, perhaps, was Clinton’s remarkable, record-setting funding by big financial and other business interests (including corporate sectors that normally supported Republicans but came over to the Democrats’ side thanks largely to candidate Trump’s declared protectionism and isolationism) that helped create the dismal centrist awfulness and deafening policy silence of Clinton’s miserable campaign.

“Putin’s war on America” was nothing compared with the American ruling class’ war on America when it comes to the inside story of how “American democracy” was pre-empted as usual by big money (among other and related vectors of concentrated wealth) during the last great quadrennial electoral extravaganza.

Russia did not make Hillary Clinton into one of the worst political candidates ever to disgrace the campaign podium. (I saw her quite a few times in Iowa in 2007. She had less charisma and inspiration than any other politician I’d ever seen.)

Russia didn’t turn her into an elitist, right-wing, Walmart-and-Wall Street neoliberal corporatist. Yale Law, the corporate and financial “elite”, the plutocratic US party and elections system, the Democratic Leadership Council, and Clinton’s own craven wealth- and power-worship did that all on their homegrown own, no help from Moscow required, long before 2016.

Russia didn’t make the “lying, neoliberal warmonger” Clinton avoid real policy issues to an astonishing degree (more than any major party presidential candidate in recent history) during the 2016 general election campaign.

Russia didn’t make the Clinton campaign decide to run almost solely on candidate quality and character when its own unpopular candidate was highly vulnerable on precisely those “issues.”

Russia did not make Clinton fail to buy ads in Michigan and fail to set foot in Wisconsin after the Democratic National Convention.

Russia didn’t create the massive economic inequality and insecurity and bipartisan corporatism and parasitic state-capitalist globalism that Trump was able to exploit – with no small help from Steve Bannon, Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers and the Mercer family – in 2016.

Russia didn’t make the Clinton machine and the Democratic National Committee collude to rig the 2016 primaries and Democratic National Convention against Bernie Sanders, who likely would have defeated Trump in the general election.

Should there be an investigation of Hillary Clinton as a Russia asset?

After Trump’s pathetic Helsinki debacle, US cable news talking heads were agog with claims that “malign Russia” – “America’s ruthless adversary” – has been waiting for the conclusion of the World Cup to unleash new assaults on Western and US “democracy”, understood to mean upcoming Western and US elections. What, they ask, are federal, state, and local governments doing to “protect our elections and democracy” from the “malign influence of Russia”?

Strangely, yet predictably – since corporate media personalities are themselves parts of Formisano’s American oligarchy – missing from this media hysteria is the question of who will protect US elections and purported “democracy” from the unmentionable malign influence of US oligarchs. They sit atop a New Gilded Age in which the top tenth of the upper one percent owns as much wealth as the nation’s bottom ninety percent, and three absurdly rich people (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett) possess among them the same net worth as the nation’s poorest half. “We must make our choice”, US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said in 1941: “We may have democracy in this country, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both”.

That’s a timeworn problem in the United States and indeed across the supposedly democratic capitalist world. If you want to blame the horrible authoritarian consequences of that core contradiction on Russia and its supposed “asset” Donald Trump, then you are an even bigger idiot or cynic than the dotard’s own dumb self.


Paul Street’s column will appear in Truthdig each Sunday through August 12. Its regular schedule will resume when Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges returns from vacation.

Round the Bend

by James Howard Kunstler (July 27 2018)

Zero Hedge (July 27 2018)

The political insanity roiling the USA only gets worse, with no end in sight. On Wednesday, Senator Ed Markey (Democrat, Massachusetts), made the astonishing statement on CNN that “the American people wanted a confrontation, not a conversation”, between Presidents Trump and Putin in Helsinki.

Really? We wanted a mud wrestling bout and all we got was some lousy chit-chat? Next time, maybe Mr Trump will bring a fungo bat to the room and “tune up” his counterpart – a popular negotiating technique from the rough-and-tumble New York City construction scene back in Mr Trump’s halcyon days. Some people you just can’t reason with, especially the hell-spawned man-beast who personally directed Russian “meddling” and “interference” in our election and stole certain victory from president-designee Hillary. (I know this because The New York Times and The Washington Post said so.)

Another astonishment: in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US would not recognize Crimea as part of Russia and would demand the return of the region to Ukraine. Not to put too fine a point on it, Mr Pompeo is pissing up a rope on that one. Russia will not give up its warm-water naval bases on the Black Sea anymore than the US will return its San Diego naval installation to Mexico, and Mr Pompeo knows it. So do the posturing idiots on the Senate committee, who apparently forgot that our own government officials fomented the 2014 Ukrainian coup that prompted Russia to annex Crimea and its military assets in the first place.

How many of you feel a gnawing disgust and contempt for both sides of the US political spectrum? The news, day and night, reveals a nation unable to think, unable to discern reality from fantasy, avid to dissemble and lie about absolutely everything, eager to support any racketeering operation designed to fleece its own citizens, and utterly ignoring the genuine problems that can drive us into a new dark age.

On balance, and just for now, I’m more disturbed by the side represented by the Democratic Party, aka the “progressives” or “the Resistance”, because they are responsible for politicizing the FBI before, during, and after the 2016 election and that was a dastardly act of institutional debauchery in an agency with the power to destroy the lives and careers of American citizens. The product of that corruption is a dangerous manufactured hysteria inciting hostility and aggression against another nation that could lead to a war that humanity will not recover from.

Nobody in that group of rogue FBI agents and their Department of Justice enablers has had to answer for any of this, especially those whose misdeeds have been identified in detail by the DOJ’s own Inspector General. Am I the only one in the country wondering why they have not been called to a grand jury? That is generally how the rule of law works when evidence of criminal misbehavior comes to light and a formal inquiry must determine whether indictments are warranted. You’d think The New York Times or The Washington Post would want to ask Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein why he has not assigned a federal prosecutor to walk these cases into grand juries. What is he waiting for? What are the papers waiting for?

Mr Trump seems completely over his head in all this. The permanent Washington bureaucracy and all its handmaidens on K Street and news media are determined to expel him from the Deep State’s craw like a lump of under-chewed hanger steak so they can get back to business-as-usual, namely asset-stripping what’s left in the nation that’s not nailed down. Mr Trump lacks even the most rudimentary rhetorical skills to defend his legitimacy in office, and obviously, his enemies deny that there’s anything legitimate about him, not least his presence in their swamp.

Nobody can say where all this is tending, but if we do not stumble into some version of World War Three before Christmas, I foresee a drawn-out, bloody house-cleaning in American leadership that will make the French Revolution look like a simple civic colonic.

Democratic Institutions?

Ten Lessons From History That Will Destroy Your Trust in the CIA

by Tyler Durden

Zero Hedge (July 20 2018)

A somewhat recently declassified CIA memo unearthed by the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA“) collective MuckRock shows that in the midst of the historic Church Committee hearings which attempted to bring various shocking and illegal US intelligence practices and operations to public light, the National Security Council considered the move for strong Congressional oversight a “personal holocaust” that could result in Americans losing faith in the CIA and intelligence officials.

MuckRock, drawing lessons from this historical CIA archived memo, rightly observes that it “reveals how hostile the Intelligence Community could be to the concept of oversight”.

In a “straight from the horse’s mouth” moment, the “eyes only” classified memo demonstrates in stunning clarity that a top concern for the agency has always fundamentally been fear of exposure over its “illegal and improper activities”.

As the MuckRock report explains:



Decades before Donald Trump infamously compared the CIA to Nazi Germany, the National Security Council made its own allusion to the Holocaust – the difference was that in the NSC’s version, it was CIA that was cast as the potential victim of a “Final Solution” that might be imposed by Congress in response to the exposure of the Agency’s illegal and improper activities.

And this is true and essential to remember now more than ever given intelligence officials’ increased role in setting the agenda of national debate through their close and longtime acknowledged ties to the mainstream media.

With a continuing avalanche of unverified and unproven assertions inundating the American and Western public from every corner of Washington’s deeply rooted intelligence establishment, we think it necessary to pause and reflect on the many reasons to remain skeptical of the claims and allegations coming from US officials.

Below are ten Lessons from history that will destroy your trust in the CIA, via the Off Guardian

* * * * *

In the hysterical wake of the Trump-Putin Summit in Helsinki, President Donald Trump was roundly criticized in the media for taking the side of a “hostile state” over his own intelligence agencies. The Guardian referred to Mueller as a “heroic marine” who Trump disbelieved in favour of a “Russian dictator”.

In the past, when Trump has criticized the FBI, CIA, or NSA he has been accused of “undermining faith in our institutions”. He’s been blamed for a collapse of trust in the government. But was this trust ever earned?

At every corner, we are urged to simply believe what we are told. Whether it is about believing Porton Down and MI6 about “novichok”, or believing the White Helmets about Sarin, or believing the FBI about “collusion”, we are presented with no facts, just assertions from authority. Those who question those assertions are deemed “bots” at best or “traitors” at worst.

Well here, fellow “traitors”, are the Top Ten reasons to question anything and everything the CIA – or any intelligence agency – has ever told you (in descending order) …


We’ll start with an oldie but a goody. In 1945, as the allies were advancing on Berlin from both sides, American Army Intelligence (this was before the CIA were founded) were “capturing” (read: recruiting) over 1600 Nazi scientists and engineers. Most famous of them was Werhner von Braun … sorry, SS Sturmbannfuhrer von Braun.

Whilst Allied soldiers died in the name of defeating fascism, the CIA’s predecessors were actively recruiting Nazis to come and build bombs for them.


The original, and important, precedent for accusations that the CIA et al might engage in false-flag attacks. Operation Northwoods was a joint CIA/Pentagon proposal designed around the idea of escalating a war with Cuba by stoking public anger:

The proposals called for the Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA“) or other US government operatives to commit acts of terrorism against American civilians and military targets, blaming it on the Cuban government, and using it to justify a war against Cuba.

The idea was vetoed by President Kennedy. Fifty years later, the CIA and Pentagon still very much exist, but there’s no longer a Kennedy there to veto their more psychopathic ideas. Funny how that worked out.


In 1970 Salvador Allende was elected to the Chilean Presidency. A Physician and dedicated socialist, Allende was the first socialist president elected in South America. The Nixon-lead government of the United States immediately implemented “economic warfare” (as they do, to this day, against Cuba, Venezuela, and others). The economic warfare did not work, and in 1973 Allende’s socialist party increased their parliamentary majority.

In response, the US “assisted” (read: instructed) the Chilean military in carrying out a coup. Allende allegedly shot himself, and Augusto Pinochet was placed in power as the first dictator in Chile’s history. Pinochet was a fascist who executed Chilean “subversives” by the thousand … and was the darling of Western leaders.


I could just copy-and-paste the above paragraph and the change the names for this entry. In 1953, the Prime Minister of Iran – Mohammad Mosaddegh, a democratic socialist – wanted to audit the income of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company with an eye to limiting foreign control of Iran’s oil. Within a few months, a joint US/UK operation – Operation Ajax – had removed Mosaddegh’s elected government and turned over full control of the state to the Shah. He was a brutal absolute monarch, but the question of Western control of Iran’s enormous oil reserves wasn’t raised again under his leadership.


A CIA operation that you could deduce existed, even if were not proven … and it is proven. Mockingbird was the CIA project to coerce, train, control or plant CIA-friendly journalists in major news networks all across the country and in every medium. Its existence is no longer disputed, thanks to FOIA releases of internal memos.

Mockingbird was allegedly shut down in 1976 – just after its existence was leaked – then CIA director George HW Bush claiming:



… effective immediately, CIA will not enter into any paid or contractual relationship with any full-time or part-time news correspondent accredited by any US news service, newspaper, periodical, radio or television network or station.


If you’re willing to stake anything on the word of a Bush, well, good luck with that. It’s a decision that flies in the face of historical evidence.

Remember this one when you hear about the need to trust the CIA from some pundit on CNN or MSNBC.


It’s not really talked about much these days – what with the vast majority of the media and huge sections of the supposedly “anti-establishment” progressive left marching in-step with the Deep State – but the NSA spied on the whole world. The whole world. We know this to be true because an employee of the Deep State – Edward Snowden – leaked the information.

When challenged on this issue, representatives of the NSA and CIA lied. They lied to the public, and they lied to Congress. When they were proven to have lied, they carefully qualified their lies.

A qualified lie is still a lie.

There is no indication they have stopped this illegal surveillance, but they may have passed laws to make it legal.


A classic of “atrocity propaganda”, Nayirah should be required reading material for anybody looking top hop on a pro-war bandwagon. Nayirah – who originally gave only her first name – was a fifteen-year-old girl who testified in front of the United States Congress. She claimed to be a volunteer from at a Kuwaiti hospital, and to be an eye-witness to Iraqi soldiers throwing Kuwaiti babies out of incubators and leaving them to die:



I volunteered at the al-Addan hospital with twelve other women who wanted to help as well. I was the youngest volunteer. The other women were from twenty to thirty years old. While I was there I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators and left the children to die on the cold floor. It was horrifying.


It was later revealed, not only that her full name was Nayirah al-Sabah and she was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador, but that she had never volunteered at a hospital and had seen no babies, soldiers, or incubators. The whole thing was a fiction. A fiction paid for by the “Citizens of Free Kuwait”, an NGO (and obvious CIA front) set up to lobby the US to intervene in the Iraq-Kuwait war.

By the time this fiction was revealed it was too late, and the US had launched Operation Desert Storm … which was, of course, the entire point of the exercise

Remember this, when you hear about Assad gassing children or bombing kittens.


The FBI’s long-running (and sometimes illegal) COunter INTELligence PROgram, COINTELPRO, was a series of domestic projects carried out by the FBI (with cooperation from other agencies), over decades, with the aim of “surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations”.

These political organizations included anti-Vietnam protestors, civil rights groups (including both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X), socialists, Communist Party USA, environmental groups, and feminist organizations.

The brief for these “disruptions” came straight from J Edgar Hoover who wanted the FBI to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise Neutralize” people he perceived to be enemies of the state. The capital N in “neutralize” is no accident, as the FBI was implicated in the deaths of several Black Panther leaders, including Fred Hampton.

COINTELPRO didn’t just involve undermining left-wing groups, but also creating right-wing groups:

The FBI also financed, armed, and controlled an extreme right-wing group of former Minutemen, transforming it into a group called the Secret Army Organization that targeted groups, activists, and leaders involved in the Anti-War Movement, using both intimidation and violent acts.

Whether this was done to actually push a right-wing agenda, create a fake threat to step up police powers, or just sow division and chaos, is unclear. But it definitely happened.

Much like MKUltra (below), COINTELPRO was “officially shut down”, not long after the public found out it existed. However, the accidental outing of an undercover policeman at a rally in Oakland, and recent relaxation of the laws limiting the FBI’s powers means that COINTELPRO – or a modern successor – is very likely still a thing.

The aim of COINTELPRO was to “Neutralize” anti-establishment political figures – the vast majority of targets were left wingers – through “smearing individuals and groups using forged documents and by planting false reports in the media”. Remember that when you see Rand Paul called a “traitor” on Twitter, or read about “Russian collusion”, or see Jeremy Corbyn branded an anti-Semite.

Remember that it is proven that the Deep State – our trusted intelligence agencies – pay people to plant false stories and discredit political opponents.


It might sound like something from a 1970s sci-fi TV series, but it is unfortunately real. MKUltra was a series of (illegal) experiments carried out by the CIA from 1953 until it was *cough* “officially halted” in 1973 (just after its existence was leaked). The experiments were wide-ranging, achieved varying levels of success, but pretty uniformly brutal and unethical. They included, but were not limited too:

*Giving LSD to unsuspecting soldiers to see what happened.

* Mass hypnosis and mass suggestion

* Torture studies

*Studies on the effect of verbal and/or sexual abuse

We’ll never know the full range of studies, or how they were carried out, because in 1973 Richard Helms, then director of the CIA, ordered all MKUltra files destroyed. Only a fraction of them survive, thanks to FOIA requests, but it’s reasonable to assume they destroyed the worst parts and kept the more quote-unquote innocent files.

The CIA was not unique in this regard either, MKUltra was their baby – but there were parallel projects in other quarters of the deep state. Army Intelligence had Edgewood Arsenal, whilst the Department of Defense had Project 112. All these projects were “officially halted” in the early 1970s … just around the time the public found out they existed.

The CIA (et al) have strongly denied that these experiments and projects have ever been continued in any way, shape or form … but if you’d asked them in 1969, they would have denied they had ever taken place at all.


This might not be the most callous, the most dangerous, the most recent, the most secret or the most insidious of the items on this list, nevertheless it is – must be – number one … because it is the most brazen.

The war was started in the name of “weapons of mass destruction” that everyone – everyone – knew never existed. They all knew the truth, but they lied.

The President lied, the vice-president lied, the secretary of defence lied, the secretary of state lied. The Prime Minister lied, the defense minister lied, the foreign minister lied. They lied to the press, the people, and the UN.

The CIA, the NSA, the FBI – then headed by the “heroic marine” Robert Mueller – they lied too. The press repeated these lies, without question (see: Operation Mockingbird). They weren’t “misinformed”, they weren’t “mistaken”. They lied, they lied repeatedly – and provably – and they did it in order to start a war, make money, take control, spread influence.

One million Iraqis died.

Our ruling class is peopled with psychopaths and war criminals who have so little regard for the people they lie to, they recycle the same childishly simple falsehoods to further their evil agenda again and again and again. They tried the same in Libya … it worked again. They tried again in Syria … luckily, it didn’t work there.

Our “democratic institutions” lie to start wars. There’s no reason to think they aren’t doing – or wouldn’t do – the same thing about Iran, North Korea … or Russia.

* * * * *

That’s our list, and there’s really only one lesson you can take away from it: These people, agencies, and institutions deserve no trust, have earned no trust and have abused every micron of trust ever placed in them. To suggest we have a duty to believe them – or that they have ever done anything to serve the public good – is to live in a dream world.

This list is not a full catalogue of Deep State crimes, it would be 1000s of entries long if it were, but these ten are important. They’re important because they are admitted, proven, and beyond debate. They are important because they show the many facets of dishonesty, hypocrisy, and abuses of power that Intelligence agencies engage in, and they are important because they form the best riposte to the disingenuous clamour for “trust” in our “democratic institutions”.

Never trust the CIA, they have proved they don’t deserve it.

American Society Would Collapse …

… if It Weren’t for These Eight Myths

by Lee Camp

Truthdig (July 25 2018)

studiostoks / Shutterstock

Our society should’ve collapsed by now. You know that, right?

No society should function with this level of inequality (with the possible exception of one of those prison planets in a “Star Wars” movie). Sixty-three percent of Americans can’t afford a $500 emergency. Yet Amazon head Jeff Bezos is now worth a record $141 billion. He could literally end world hunger for multiple years and still have more money left over than he could ever spend on himself.

Worldwide, one in ten people only make $2 a day. Do you know how long it would take one of those people to make the same amount as Jeff Bezos has? 193 million years. (If they only buy single-ply toilet paper.) Put simply, you cannot comprehend the level of inequality in our current world or even just our nation.

So … shouldn’t there be riots in the streets every day? Shouldn’t it all be collapsing? Look outside. The streets aren’t on fire. No one is running naked and screaming (usually). Does it look like everyone’s going to work at gunpoint? Number We’re all choosing to continue on like this.


Well, it comes down to the myths we’ve been sold. Myths that are ingrained in our social programming from birth, deeply entrenched, like an impacted wisdom tooth. These myths are accepted and basically never questioned.

I’m going to cover eight of them. There are more than eight. There are probably hundreds. But I’m going to cover eight because (a) no one reads a column titled “Hundreds of Myths of American Society”, (b) these are the most important ones and (c) we all have other shit to do.

Myth Number 8 – We have a democracy.

If you think we still have a democracy or a democratic republic, ask yourself this: When was the last time Congress did something that the people of America supported that did not align with corporate interests? … You probably can’t do it. It’s like trying to think of something that rhymes with “orange”. You feel like an answer exists but then slowly realize it doesn’t. Even the Carter Center and former President Jimmy Carter believe that America has been transformed into an oligarchy: A small, corrupt elite control the country with almost no input from the people. The rulers need the myth that we’re a democracy to give us the illusion of control.

Myth Number 7 – We have an accountable and legitimate voting system.

Gerrymandering, voter purging, data mining, broken exit polling, push polling, superdelegates, electoral votes, black-box machines, voter ID suppression, provisional ballots, super PACs, dark money, third parties banished from the debates, and two corporate parties that stand for the same goddamn pile of fetid crap!

What part of this sounds like a legitimate election system?

No, we have what a large Harvard study called the worst election system in the Western world. Have you ever seen where a parent has a toddler in a car seat, and the toddler has a tiny, brightly colored toy steering wheel so he can feel like he’s driving the car? That’s what our election system is – a toy steering wheel. Not connected to anything. We all sit here like infants, excitedly shouting, “I’m steeeeering!”

And I know it’s counterintuitive, but that’s why you have to vote. We have to vote in such numbers that we beat out what’s stolen through our ridiculous rigged system.

Myth Number 6 – We have an independent media that keeps the rulers accountable.

Our media outlets are funded by weapons contractors, big pharma, big banks, big oil and big, fat hard-on pills. (Sorry to go hard on hard-on pills, but we can’t get anything resembling hard news because it’s funded by dicks.) The corporate media’s jobs are to rally for war, cheer for Wall Street, and froth at the mouth for consumerism. It’s their mission to actually fortify belief in the myths I’m telling you about right now. Anybody who steps outside that paradigm is treated like they’re standing on a playground wearing nothing but a trench coat.

Myth Number 5 – We have an independent judiciary.

The criminal justice system has become a weapon wielded by the corporate state. This is how bankers can foreclose on millions of homes illegally and see no jail time, but activists often serve jail time for nonviolent civil disobedience. Chris Hedges recently noted,


The most basic constitutional rights … have been erased for many … Our judicial system, as Ralph Nader has pointed out, has legalized secret law, secret courts, secret evidence, secret budgets, and secret prisons in the name of national security.


If you’re not part of the monied class, you’re pressured into releasing what few rights you have left. According to The New York Times,


97 percent of federal cases and 94 percent of state cases end in plea bargains, with defendants pleading guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence.


That’s the name of the game. Pressure people of color and poor people to just take the plea deal because they don’t have a million dollars to spend on a lawyer. (At least not one who doesn’t advertise on beer coasters.)

Myth Number 4 – The police are here to protect you. They’re your friends.

That’s funny. I don’t recall my friend pressuring me into sex to get out of a speeding ticket. (Which is essentially still legal in 32 states.)

The police in our country are primarily designed to do two things: protect the property of the rich and perpetuate the completely immoral war on drugs – which by definition is a war on our own people.

We lock up more people than any other country on earth. Meaning the land of the free is the largest prison state in the world. So all these droopy-faced politicians and rabid-talking heads telling you how awful China is on human rights or Iran or North Korea – none of them match the numbers of people locked up right here under Lady Liberty’s skirt.

Myth Number 3 – Buying will make you happy.

This myth is put forward mainly by the floods of advertising we take in but also by our social engineering. Most of us feel a tenacious emptiness, an alienation deep down behind our surface emotions (for a while I thought it was gas). That uneasiness is because most of us are flushing away our lives at jobs we hate before going home to seclusion boxes called houses or apartments. We then flip on the TV to watch reality shows about people who have it worse than we do (which we all find hilarious).

If we’re lucky, we’ll make enough money during the week to afford enough beer on the weekend to help it all make sense. (I find it takes at least four beers for everything to add up.) But that doesn’t truly bring us fulfillment. So what now? Well, the ads say buying will do it. Try to smother the depression and desperation under a blanket of flat-screen TVs, purses, and Jet Skis. Now does your life have meaning? No? Well, maybe you have to drive that Jet Ski a little faster! Crank it up until your bathing suit flies off and you’ll feel alive!

The dark truth is that we have to believe the myth that consuming is the answer or else we won’t keep running around the wheel. And if we aren’t running around the wheel, then we start thinking, start asking questions. Those questions are not good for the ruling elite, who enjoy a society based on the daily exploitation of 99 percent of us.

Myth Number 2 – If you work hard, things will get better.

According to Deloitte’s Shift Index survey: “Eighty percent of people are dissatisfied with their jobs” and “[t]he average person spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime”. That’s about one-seventh of your life – and most of it is during your most productive years.

Ask yourself what we’re working for. To make money? For what? Almost none of us are doing jobs for survival anymore. Once upon a time, jobs boiled down to:

I plant the food –> I eat the food –> If I don’t plant food = I die.

But nowadays, if you work at a cafe – will someone die if they don’t get their super-caf-mocha-frap-almond-piss-latte? I kinda doubt they’ll keel over from a blueberry scone deficiency.

If you work at Macy’s, will customers perish if they don’t get those boxer briefs with the sweat-absorbent-ass fabric? I doubt it. And if they do die from that, then their problems were far greater than you could’ve known. So that means we’re all working to make other people rich because we have a society in which we have to work. Technological advancements can do most everything that truly must get done.

So if we wanted to, we could get rid of most work and have tens of thousands of more hours to enjoy our lives. But we’re not doing that at all. And no one’s allowed to ask these questions – not on your mainstream airwaves at least. Even a half-step like universal basic income is barely discussed because it doesn’t compute with our cultural programming.

Scientists say it’s quite possible artificial intelligence will take away all human jobs in 120 years. I think they know that will happen because bots will take the jobs and then realize that eighty percent of them don’t need to be done! The bots will take over and then say, “Stop it … Stop spending a seventh of your life folding shirts at Banana Republic”.

One day, we will build monuments to the bot that told us to enjoy our lives and … leave the shirts wrinkly.

And this leads me to the largest myth of our American society.

Myth Number 1 – You are free.

And I’m not talking about the millions locked up in our prisons. I’m talking about you and me. If you think you’re free, try running around with your nipples out, ladies. Guys, take a dump on the street and see how free you are.

I understand there are certain restrictions on freedom we actually desire to have in our society – maybe you’re not crazy about everyone leaving a Stanley Steamer in the middle of your walk to work. But a lot of our lack of freedom is not something you would vote for if given the chance.

Try building a fire in a parking lot to keep warm in the winter.

Try sleeping in your car for more than a few hours without being harassed by police.

Try maintaining your privacy for a week without a single email, web search, or location data set collected by the NSA and the telecoms.

Try signing up for the military because you need college money and then one day just walking off the base, going, “Yeah, I was bored. Thought I would just not do this anymore.”

Try explaining to Kentucky Fried Chicken that while you don’t have the green pieces of paper they want in exchange for the mashed potatoes, you do have some pictures you’ve drawn on a napkin to give them instead.

Try running for president as a third-party candidate. (Jill Stein was shackled and chained to a chair by police during one of the debates.)

Try using the restroom at Starbucks without buying something … while black.

We are less free than a dog on a leash. We live in one of the hardest-working, most unequal societies on the planet with more billionaires than ever.

Meanwhile, Americans supply 94 percent of the paid blood used worldwide. And it’s almost exclusively coming from very poor people. This abusive vampire system is literally sucking the blood from the poor. Does that sound like a free decision they made? Or does that sound like something people do after immense economic force crushes down around them? (One could argue that sperm donation takes a little less convincing.)

Point is, in order to enforce this illogical, immoral system, the corrupt rulers – most of the time – don’t need guns and tear gas to keep the exploitation mechanisms humming along. All they need are some good, solid bullshit myths for us all to buy into, hook, line, and sinker. Some fairy tales for adults.

It’s time to wake up.


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Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor, and activist. Camp is the host of the weekly comedy news TV show “Redacted Tonight With Lee Camp” on RT America. He is a former comedy writer for …