One reason many Americans distrust politicians, is because we believe they are paid off, perhaps by lobbyists for corporations. Some politicians think of really creative ways to make money. For example President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary had siblings who phoned people offering them presidential pardons – for money! There’s a whole book on this titled Pardongate: How Bill & Hillary Clinton and Their Brothers Profited from Pardons. However, dishonesty in politics can appear in other ways – the activists and idealists who protest in favor of a particular cause may not be really interested in that cause. How can this be?
Take the Green New Deal, a proposal to convert America to run on renewable energy rather than carbon containing fuels. The proponents must believe in an existential crisis of man made global warming, correct?
On a Wednesday morning in late May, emissaries of two of the strongest political voices on climate change convened at a coffee shop a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol. Saikat Chakrabarti, chief of staff to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), was there to meet Sam Ricketts, climate director for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who is running for president almost exclusively on a platform of combating global warming. A newly released plank of Inslee’s climate change agenda had caught the attention of Chakrabarti and his boss, who had tweeted that Inslee’s “climate plan is the most serious + comprehensive one to address our crisis in the 2020 field.” Pleased by the positive reception from the demanding Green New Deal wing of the climate struggle, Ricketts had set up this meeting with Chakrabarti to establish a personal connection and share approaches to climate advocacy.
“Congrats on the rollout,” Chakrabarti told him as they sat down. “That was pretty great.”
“Thank you again for the kudos you guys offered,” said Ricketts. “We wanted to be pace-setting for the field, and I think we’re there now. … I want to ask you for input … in addition to hearing what you guys are working on.”
Chakrabarti had an unexpected disclosure. “The interesting thing about the Green New Deal,” he said, “is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all.” Ricketts greeted this startling notion with an attentive poker face. “Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?” Chakrabarti continued. “Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”
So which is it – saving the planet from CO2, or changing the economic system? It could be both of course, but which of the two is more important?
Consider the words of Christine Stewart – Canadian Environment Minister: “No matter if the science is all phony, there are still collateral environmental benefits…Climate change [provides] the greatest chance to bring about justice and equality in the world.”
Yes, but then why not argue for justice directly?
I remember reading in some environmental journal about the environmental campaign to save the spotted owl. It became clear that the author regarded the owl as a tool to preserve large tracts of forest. The owl itself was incidental. Again, there is a component of dishonesty here.
And we see this odd phenomenon. in other causes – Western feminists who say nothing about the second-class status of women under Sharia, for instance. Surely if you care about women, you care about all women?
In his book “Radical In Chief”, Stanley Kurtz writes about the formation of the Citizen/Labor Energy Coalition. it was formed in 1978, 43 years ago. It was supposedly formed to fight for lower gas and oil prices. But there were broader goals. It was an initial attempt to build a nationwide populist movement, quietly directed by socialists, and designed to unify a fragmented American left. C/LEC called for creation of a publically owned energy company to compete with private ones. It crafted a regulatory regime for the energy industry that would effectively have put it under government control. And as with today’s energy battle, in public C/LEC emphasized solar energy and what we now call “green jobs”. Yet this seems to have been something of a cover for C/LEC’s top priorities: price controls and higher energy taxes.
So again, this is an example of a public image of a political group that claims it is for particular goals, when those goals are not the overriding ones.
Before she entered politics, Alexandra Ocasio Cortez was present at the protest against the Dakota access oil pipeline. According to LegalInsurrection.com:
The people who claimed they were protesting the Dakota Pipeline to save the environment have a funny way of showing it. They left behind so much garbage that the site has become a potential environmental disaster.
Officials estimated that the price of cleaning up the protesters’ mess would cost the taxpayers one million dollars.
The protests often became violent as protesters repeatedly resorted to extreme behavior to stop the building of the oil pipeline.
I’m sure protestors thought they were helping the environment, (though some might have seen the protest as just another way of radicalizing people against the Capitalist system), but in practice, if you can’t clean up after yourself, maybe you should not be protesting against pollution.
The basic point I’m trying to make in this post, and a point that Stanley Kurtz demonstrates often in his book, is that people with dramatic new visions for how our society may be structured can latch on to specific causes that are not really what they are about.
In my lifetime, most U.S. presidents wanted to be friendly with Russia.
President Ronald Reagan described it as an “evil empire” in a speech in 1983, and while being recorded joked “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes”. The joke was meant to be off the record.
But other presidents were more trusting, even when Russia was Communist.
In 1977 President Jimmy Carter gave a speech renouncing America’s “inordinate fear of communism.”
Then the Russians invaded Afghanistan.
“My opinion of the Russians has changed most drastically in the last week than even (sic) the two-and-a-half years before that. It’s only now dawning upon the world the magnitude of the action that the Soviets undertook in invading Afghanistan.” said Carter in an interview with ABC News on December 31, 1979.
Then came a supposedly post-Communist Russia and Vladimir Putin.
Republican president George W. Bush met with Putin in 2001 and said he got “a sense of [Putin’s] soul.”
Later, Bush explained that
“…he did not make a mistake in his initial and often-ridiculed assessment of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, when they first met in 2001 and Bush said he got “a sense of [Putin’s] soul.”
Instead, Bush said, Putin became a different person.
“I think, to a certain extent, he changed,” Bush said Monday in an interview with conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt.
“The reason why I said that is because I remembered him talking movingly about his mother and the cross that she gave him that she had blessed in Jerusalem,” Bush told Hewitt. “Nobody knows that, and I never tried to make an explanation of why I said what I said until the book” (Bush wrote a book titled ‘Decision Points’ about his time as president).
In the book, Bush writes that he interrupted Putin as the then-Russian President spoke from note cards and “seemed a little tense.” Bush asked whether the story of his mother giving him a cross was true, and writes that “a look of shock washed over Putin’s face.”
Putin then told the story of recovering the cross from a house fire and said that when a worker found the piece of jewelry it was as if it was meant to be. Bush writes that he remarked, “Vladimir, that is the story of the cross. Things are meant to be.”
Under Putin’s leadership freedom of speech and a free press have withered in Russia. Journalists who have been too aggressive have died suspicious deaths, and Putin has imprisoned business leaders who have been too open in opposing his will.
The extent to which Bush had misjudged Putin became clearest in August 2008 when Russia invaded the Republic of Georgia, a former Soviet bloc country on its southern border. The two leaders had an intense exchange in the stands of Beijing’s Bird’s Nest stadium during the 2008 Olympics opening ceremony.
Bush told Putin he had warned him that the Georgian leader, President Mikhail Saakashvili, was “hot-blooded.”
“I’m hot-blooded too,” Putin said.
“I stared back at him,” Bush writes in his book. “‘No Vladimir,’ I said. ‘You’re cold-blooded.”
Then came Barack Obama.
Obama, who had been a left wing radical in his youth, wanted to be friends with Putin. The N.Y. Times reported at one point (Putin was Prime Minister at the time): “As a pool of television journalists gathered for a news conference on the leaders’ meeting, Mr. Obama leaned in to deliver private assurances to Mr. Medvedev. President Obama found his private moment of political candor caught by a live microphone as he told President Medvedev that he would have “more flexibility” to negotiate on the delicate issue of missile defense after the November election.” In other words, he was assuring the president of Russia that he would be cooperative, but he didn’t want the American public to know how cooperative.
In the Obama administration, the wife of former President Bill Clinton, Hillary, was Secretary of State.
Hillary’s campaign Chairman John Podesta “sat on the board of a small energy company alongside Russian officials that received $35 million from a Putin-connected Russian government fund.”
Podesta sat on the board of a tiny energy company named Joule Unlimited. A mere two months after he joined the board, Rusnano, founded by Vladimir Putin in 2007, invested $35 million in the company. Podesta sat on three separate boards of Joule-affiliated corporate entities, but only reported two.
Moreover, Podesta’s own leftist think tank, the Center for American Progress, got $5.25 million from a group called the Sea Change Foundation in the four years ending in 2013. Sea Change, in return, had received what the authors call “a large infusion of funds from a mysterious Bermuda-based entity called ‘Klein Ltd.,’ ” which appeared to have Russian ties.
“This puts Clinton’s actions while in office under deep suspicion.” Hillary was quite the leftist in her youth. She joined the Venceremos brigades in Castro’s Cuba, and her college dissertation was on the leftist saboteur Saul Alinsky (author of “Rules for Radicals”).
Then came President Donald Trump.
President Trump seemed initially to be the most openly friendly president to Putin.
In fact Hillary suggested that Donald Trump “has shown a very troubling willingness to back up Putin, to support Putin, whether it’s saying that NATO wouldn’t come to the rescue of allies if they were invaded, talking about removing sanctions from Russian officials after they were imposed by the United States and Europe together, because of Russia’s aggressiveness in Crimea and Ukraine, his praise for Putin which is I think quite remarkable.”
Given that Hillary’s own record was spotty, lets look deeper:
Trump has said contradictory things about Putin according to a CNN KFile review of Trump’s public statements. CNN’s article says:
Since 2013 — when Trump’s Miss Universe pageant was held in Moscow — Trump has at least nine times claimed to have spoken to, met, or made contact with Putin. But as the 2016 campaign wore on and his statements on Putin began to attract more scrutiny, Trump changed course, denying having ever met the Russian president.
“I never met Putin,” Trump said at a July 2016 news conference. “I don’t know who Putin is. He said one nice thing about me. He said I’m a genius. I said thank you very much to the newspaper and that was the end of it. I never met Putin.”
March 3, 2014 Amid Russian aggression in Ukraine, Trump tells “Fox and Friends” that Mitt Romney was right about Russia being a “geopolitical foe.”
“Well Mitt Romney was so right, and nobody knew how right he was going to be, and you look at Obama’s response and just take a look at what’s going on,” said Trump. “Syria was propped up by Russia. Syria’s now back in their fold 100% and that whole deal is coming to an end because Russia’s taken over.”
Trump added, “There are a lot of things we could be doing economically to Russia. Russia is not strong economically and we could do a lot of different things to really do numbers on them if we wanted to.”
March 13, 2014 Trump tells NBC’s “Today” that the US should “definitely do sanctions” against Russia for their aggression in Ukraine.
“And we have to show some strength. I mean, Putin has eaten Obama’s lunch, therefore our lunch, for a long period of time,” he said. “And I just hope that Obama, who’s not looking too good, doesn’t do something very foolish and very stupid to show his manhood. I just hope that doesn’t happen.”
March 24, 2014 Trump tells “Fox and Friends” Mitt Romney was right that Russia was “our biggest problem.”
“Well, Mitt was right, and he was also right when he mentioned in one of the debates about Russia, and he said, ‘Russia’s our biggest problem, and Russia is, you know, really something,'” Trump said.
“He said it’s a hell of a problem, and everybody laughed at him, including certain media, by the way,” continued Trump. “They laughed. It turned out that he’s absolutely right. You look at what Russia’s doing with Iran, how they controlled the situation, and Syria, and virtually every other place that … We were thrown out of every place. I’m not saying we should be there. We should rebuild our own schools and our own bridges and highways and everything else. To be scoffed at and thrown around the way we’re being thrown around is absolutely unthinkable.”
March 18, 2015 Trump tells the Daily Mail about his relationship with Putin: “the relationship is great, and it would be great if I had the position I should have.”
Trump also said he received “a gift from Putin – an award and a beautiful letter.” He does not confirm or deny meeting with Putin when asked.
Aug. 29, 2015 Trump says that Putin “hates Obama,” but that he would get along great with the Russian president.
“Putin hates us,” he said. “He hates Obama. He doesn’t hate us. I think he’d like me. I’d get along great with him I think. If you want to know the truth.”
Sept. 28, 2015 Trump tells reporters at Trump Tower that “Putin is a nicer person than I am.”
Dec. 18, 2015 Trump said on Morning Joe that Putin was a better leader than Obama, and dismissed Joe Scarborough’s allegations that the Russian president “kills journalists that don’t agree with him.”
“He’s running his country and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country,” Trump said.
He added: “I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, a lot of killing going on, a lot of stupidity.”
Dec. 20, 2015 In an interview with ABC’s “This Week,” Trump defends against allegations Putin has ordered the killings of journalists and dissidents.
“As far as the reporters are concerned — as far as the reporters are concerned, obviously I don’t want that to happen. I think it’s terrible — horrible. But, in all fairness to Putin, you’re saying he killed people. I haven’t’ seen that. I don’t know that he has. Have you been able to prove that? Do you know the names of the reporters that he’s killed? Because I’ve been — you know, you’ve been hearing this, but I haven’t seen the name. Now, I think it would be despicable if that took place, but I haven’t’ seen any evidence that he killed anybody in terms of reporters.”
In practice, once he became president Trump argued he has been tougher on Russia than any of his predecessors.
“Ideally we want to get along with Russia. Getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with Baltic state leaders.
“Probably no one has been tougher to Russia than Donald Trump,” he added, citing investments in the U.S. military and NATO.
Trump gave weapons to the Ukranians defending themselves against Russian aggression. Obama had refused to do that.
Now that it looks like Joe Biden will be president, its important to remember that his son Hunter received a $3.5 million wire transfer from Elena Baturina, the richest woman in Russia and the widow of Yury Luzhkov, the former mayor of Moscow.
In his book “Radical in Chief“, Stanley Kurtz traces the socialist influences on Barack Obama who at the time of writing, had been president for two years. Obama was a radical, but he had to conceal just how radical to appeal to the U.S. electorate. The book is not just about Obama, its also about what the left in America was doing after the initial excitement of the 60’s. One interesting aspect of the book is that it foreshadows what is happening today in 2020.
In the 1967 Socialist Scholars Conference, Stanley Aronowitz said this: “Racism is based on the profit system.” The police, he continued, are the arm of the ruling class in the ghettos.
“Speaking in the aftermath of urban riots, Aronowitz noted that blacks had already led the way by forming anti-police self-defense committees.”
Maybe the phrase “systemic racism” that we hear today reflects this belief of Aronowitz that the profit system causes racism, since the profit motive (among others) are what motivates our businesses.
In that same conference in a “Black Power” panel session plans were made to lever the next summer’s season of urban riots into full-scale revolution. A scheme to burn down twenty American cities was floated, to be followed by a “military struggle in the streets.”
In the nineteen eighties, Harold Washington’s successful insurgent campaign for mayor of Chicago showed Socialists they could win at the ballot box. That may seem surprising, since Harold Washington never described himself as a socialist.
“Yet the progressive coalition that defeated the Chicago machine and lifted Washington into office was the very model of socialist hopes for America’s political future. Washington was carried to victory by a popular movement of newly politicized black and Hispanic voters, supplemented by progressive whites. These groups were mobilized by activist Chicago churches (like Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ) and Chicago’s many leftist community organizations…this coalition was buttressed behind the scenes by Chicago’s powerful but discreet contingent of democratic socialists.”
“Anyone who reads Obama’s Dreams from My Father will know how important Harold Washington’s example was to Obama”…
Michael Harrington was the leader of the Democratic Socialist of America (DSA). His overall strategy was
“to force a two-party “realignment” by pulling the Democrats sharply to the left. Harrington expected that this would drive business interests away from the Democrats and into the Republican Party. In theory, however a flood of newly energized minority and union voters would more than make up for the Democrat’s losses.”
“Could minority voters be a sleeping giant that, once awakened, would vanquish Reagan and usher in a progressive future?”
Peter Dreier spoke at the 1983 Cooper Union Conference (which Obama probably attended). Dreier was a member of the DSA’s National Executive Committee. (Remember in what follows that Obama started his career as a “Community Organizer.”) Dreier seeked public control of America’s economy from below, through pressure from leftist community organizations. (Dreier would later serve as a key strategist in ACORN’s campaign to pressure banks into funding high-risk mortgages to low-credit customers.). In Dreier’s vision…with community organizations leading the way to a more collectively oriented national consciousness, changes like the importation of a Canadian-style government-run health-care system would eventually follow.”
Dreier’s strategy also included (in his words) “injecting unmanageable strains into the capitalist system, strains that precipitate the economic or political crisis.”
Stanley Kurz explains: “So Dreier’s plan is to gradually expand government spending until the country nears fiscal collapse. At that point, a public accustomed to its entitlements will presumably turn on its capitalist masters when they propose cutbacks to restore fiscal balance. Dreier fears that ths intentionally wrought crisis might actually backfire and produce fascism instead of socialism. That is why he believes it’s so important to have a left-wing grassroots movement already in place. Left-wing community organizers will turn the national fiscal crisis in a socialist direction.”
Its interesting to look at our 22 trillion dollar deficit and wonder if it will achieve Dreier’s goals (thats not to say that our deficit was created deliberately, of course). His goal of moving the Democratic party to the left has been achieved (again, I’m agnostic as to what caused this movement to the left).
Peter Dreier served as an advisor to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Manning Marable was a vice chair of the DSA who wrote a book titled “How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America”. While many argue that black poverty is caused by a history of systematic exclusion from the American system, Marable claims that the system itself is designed to make blacks poor: “America’s ‘democratic’ government and ‘free enterprise’ system are structured deliberately and specifically to maximize Black oppression.”
Marable says that black crime is not the fault of the young men who commit it, but of the capitalist system itself.
Marable’s program echoes what Obama could have heard at the Social Movements panel: Penetrate the legislatures, expand entitlements, restrict capitalism through regulation, and place all of this in synergy with a proto-socialist grassroots movement.
All the above is within the first 55 pages of a 393 page book. I haven’t read past this, but I’m curious where Obama fit in with this general left wing zeitgeist that was developing while he was at Occidental college and Columbia, and the influence of the various Socialist conferences he attended. For those readers who are also interested, a link to the book on Amazon follows:
Its dismaying to me to see how minorities get involved in the Socialist push, but recently I was reading just how the Socialist view is pushed in college courses in Australia, and I see that its everywhere.
In the first World War Jews fought for various warring countries, including Germany. My (Jewish) grandfather fought for the Germans, and my father tells me that his relatives were “rabid German nationalists”. A distant relative was a German Jewish air ace.
In Britain, established Jews volunteered for service to fight the Germans, except for recent immigrants from Russia, who had no desire to fight on the side of Russia, given the anti-Semitism they had suffered there. In his book “Jews and the Military”, Derek Penslar puzzles over the fact that German Jews preferred to commemorate their dead than pay attention to their wounded. This contrasted with Britain, where there was extensive conversation in the Jewish press throughout the war about the Jewish wounded. He says that German-Jewish soldiers at times felt powerful solidarity with their Gentile fellow fighters, glorified the community of fighting men, and believed in heroic, redemptive death.” Penslar adds that “In any society people do not deal comfortably with the war wounded, or with disabled people of any type. Viewing the disabled…evokes guilt over being hale, not doing enough to assist the unfortunate or both…For the wounded in defeated countries, that guilt is aggravated by shame, for the broken body of the veteran symbolizes the humiliation of the nation.”
Amid Revolutionary chaos after the war (in the fall of 1918 and the winter of 1920), Jewish veterans formed self-defense squads, and when riots threatened Jewish neighborhoods they armed themselves with pistols and rubber truncheons and brawled with German toughs. Joseph Kurt is an example of a Jewish soldier imbued with patriotism but excluded by anti-Semitism. He served during the war in the air corps, and returned to Berlin during the Spartacist rebellion. Deeply opposed to socialism, Kurt assembled a phalanx of government supporters who took on a group of advancing Spartacists, disarmed them, and took them prisoner. Later he volunteered to command a Freikorps unit on the Polish border but when troops in another unit threatened to kill him for being a Jew, he returned to Berlin.
Penslar points out that the German Jews were not fascists; there was no cult of the leader, no internal enemy, and little interest in territorial expansion. Jewish support for fascism was far greater in Italy than in Germany, in fact over seven hundred Jews took part in Mussolini’s March on Rome or were members of the Fascist Party at the time. Victor Klemperer, a German Jew who survived World War 2, described being holed up with other Jews in a cellar in 1944, and chatting “naturally” about their service in World War 1. “…it goes without saying that each of us is attached to the German army of the First World War and to its opponents in this world war with the same degree of passion”. The puzzle to me was that the Jews who were patriotic and wanted to prove themselves (not all classes of Jews were interested in super-patriotism), didn’t understand that their societies could turn against them, and that anti-Semitism could prevail instead of being something that could be surmounted. They didn’t understand their environment. Or maybe, their environment changed.
Dusko Popov warned the United States in advance of the coming attack on Pearl Harbor. The Nazis thought he was their spy (he was a double agent) and they showed him Japanese requests for information on two topics – the attack by the British that sunk the Italian fleet at Taranto, and for any information on the ammunition dumps and mine depots on Oahu, (Hawaii), where Pearl Harbor is located. Dusko Popov realized what this meant, and traveled from Europe to America to deliver his warning. Four months later, Dusko was on a ship from South America to New York on Dec 7, 1941 when the ship’s loudspeaker announced that all passengers were to assemble in the first-class lounge. The captain said that the Japanese navy had attacked Pearl Harbor, and then one of the ship officers told the passengers that since the United States was at war, their boat could be attacked by a German submarine. Popov writes (in his book “Spy Counter Spy”):
“The seriousness of the moment could be read on everyone’s face. Except mine. It was the news I had been awaiting. I couldn’t say anything to relieve the tension of my fellow passengers, but I was sure the American fleet had scored a great victory over the Japanese. I was very, very proud that I had been able to give the warning to the Americans four months in advance. What a reception the Japanese must have had! I paced the deck, no not paced it, I floated above it exultantly…. Then the news started trickling in. Involuntarily, I shook my head till my brain felt as though it was coming unstuck. The bulletins simply were not believable. The Japanese had scored a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. How, I asked myself, how? We knew they were coming. We knew how they were going to come. Exactly like at Taranto. And that’s how they came, combined torpedo and dive-bomber attacks, exactly as employed by Admiral Cunningham against the Italians. Except that the Japanese planes hardly should have go off the deck. More news. The battleships West Virginia and California had been sunk at their moorings. At their moorings, I moaned. They couldn’t have been at their moorings. They had to be steaming to attack the Japanese fleet. Then it was the Arizona. Blown up…In one and a half hours the mastery of the Pacific had passed from American to Japanese hands. I had the right information to forestall the attack. I had traveled thousands of miles to deliver the information, which would certainly have shortened the war by a year of more. And American red tape had stopped the information going through.
Popov tried to ascertain how the failure happened. His conclusion was the culprit was probably the head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, who he had spoken with personally, and not the president of the U.S. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). About FDR he says
“For a while, there was what I believe to be a canard circulating that President Roosevelt deliberately allowed the attack to take place so as to draw the United States into the war….I have had to discount the Roosevelt theory on the basis of pure logic. Granted even that Roosevelt might have welcomed an attack as a means of coercing the American people to unity in a war he was sure must come sooner or later, he still could have accomplished the same result by alerting his armed forces to the eventuality….there was no need for a defeat to accomplish this. No need to sacrifice the American Pacific fleet and thousands of soldiers, sailors and civilians on 7 December.
Popov’s book raises various interesting issues. Whoever heard or read Popov’s warning must have discounted it. Why? J. Edgar Hoover had thrown Popov out of his office (partly because Popov had carried on with other women despite being married), but Popov did submit the documentation for his warning. Maybe since Hoover did not like or respect the person who was his source of information, he ignored the information. Another reason people dismiss evidence is that they have a rigid theory or expectation, and the evidence doesn’t fit their expectation. In the same war (World War II), Stalin, the leader of Russia, refused to believe his own spy that Germany would invade Russia. There is an entire blog unheededwarnings.wordpress.com that discusses this and other examples of disasters that resulted from not heeding warnings. (full disclosure, I am the author of that blog too).
We all discount information on a regular basis. For instance, the half of the voters in the U.S. that just voted for Joe Biden for president discounted reports that he enriched himself and his family by selling ‘access’ to foreign companies and governments. Some of those voters probably never heard of this accusation, but if they did, it did not prevent them from voting for him. There was disturbing information about Trump too, when he was first elected, and plenty of disturbing info on the candidate he was running against (Hillary Clinton). It was either discounted or it didn’t reach their voters. Its an interesting issue.
Rich Higgins was a munitions expert who saw a need for his skills in Iraq, where Americans and their allies were being blown up by IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). He has written a scathing book called “The Memo” about the denial of reality in the various American administrations he served in. He put together an team to deal with the IED problem, and they went to Iraq. But:
“…we never had enough resources. Not enough people. Not enough equipment or the right equipment. We felt short-handed and under equipped, and we were always struggling to catch up. We did the best we could and we did very good and very important work. We did as much as we possibly could with what we had. But we were just a few guys—seven of us on the team. We were working out of a garage behind the FBI building, driving around in a beat-up old pickup, and trying to get a handle on these bombs that are killing hundreds of Americans. We had no resources. Command wasn’t interested in us. It was still focused on the hunt for WMDs and spending, literally, billions on the futile search. They were like those generals on the Western Front in World War One, still dreaming of cavalry charges when the machine gun had changed war and was slaughtering their troops. We failed to know our enemy. And we failed, for a long time, to appreciate and understand his weapon of choice.”
Rich Higgins says that it is important to identify who we are fighting. The name “war on terror” was misleading. Terror is a tactic”.
Under George W. Bush:
“The Official line from the Pentagon and the rest of the administration, including the White House, was that we were fighting “terrorism” in Iraq. That fallacy, again. Bomb tech training taught me to view any incident or attack through the eyes of the enemy. Hard to do when you refused to acknowledge him and didn’t respect him.”
But did it really matter what we called the war, or the enemy, as long as we were fighting him? Mr. Higgins says it was indeed important. He shows why:
“So the IED attacks were simply random acts committed by terrorists — specifically al Qaeda — and not an organized resistance. We were not, then, facing an insurgency and we didn’t have to create a plan and a structure for dealing with it. It might be necessary to come up with some better armor for our vehicles, so they could survive an IED blast. And we still needed to find those WMDs. But other than that … Well, like I say, I knew that was wrong. … we had to understand what we were up against and the word for that is . . . “insurgency.” And what follows, logically, is that you adopt counter-insurgency measures and tactics. This means you become a lot more like a police and law enforcement operation and less like a military occupation. You begin depending on police tactics. You develop informers. You make arrests and conduct interrogations. You treat the locations where attacks took place as crime scenes and you mine them for evidence. You provide security for the local populations and develop relationships and rapport with people in the communities and you rely on them for information, which they will be a lot more willing to provide once they feel safe. These are not the things that the American Army had been trained to do. It considered its mission to be war fighting at the heavy end of the scale and it had gotten very good at it. Success in the two wars against Iraq was testimony to that. But that was conventional, big unit warfare with an emphasis on firepower and maneuver. That’s what was meant by the phrase “shock and awe.” That doesn’t work when you are fighting an insurgency. At least not when using tactics acceptable to Americans.”
He does say that the Marines have more of a history and tradition for this kind of warfare”. But they too took a while to catch on what was going on in Iraq.
Meanwhile, the IEDs kept going off and we were losing 80 Americans a month and a lot more Iraqis than that. And we were still looking for WMDs. Our government has had plenty of experience in dealing with insurgencies and, as I have written, there is a counterinsurgency doctrine. But first you have to admit you have a problem and call it, by its right name.
Rich Higgins wrote up his recommendations, which were presented by his boss, Tom O’Connell.And as he was presenting the list, O’Connell used the word “insurgency.” “Now stop right there,” he is told, by Doug Feith (Undersecretary of Defense). “We are not using that term here in this building.”
Higgins was very frustrated: “ all my work had been waved away, like an annoying fly, because ‘we don’t use that word around here.’
What happens when you are so determined not to accept reality that you won’t even call something by its name. Won’t use the name—in this case “insurgency’-‘—and are ordering people to use other words instead? Ordering them to say “dead-enders” instead of ” insurgents”? What I witnessed was the creation at the Pentagon of a sort of fantasy world where people not only denied the reality in front of their faces but created a make-believe rhetoric designed to justify their own errors of judgment (to use the kindest description) and further their own agendas and careers. The other beneficiary of this reality denial was al Qaeda, who gladly accepted the credit for the ferocity of the insurgency mounted by Saddam’s former henchmen.”
On reading Higgin’s description above, I am somewhat confused myself. He says the Bush and Obama administrations refused to recognize that Islam has Jihad as a fundamental element, but he also says that they refused to see that the insurrection was of the loyalists of the Saddam’s Hussein’s government, who presumably would not be primarily motivated by religious concerns.
“What replaces reality is what I call ‘the narrative,’ though I wasn’t using that word at the time. It was a while before I came around to a complete understanding of what was going on and how it worked. Before, that is, I began to appreciate the reality of the Deep State. I wasn’t using that phrase, either, back then. In those days, fairly early in the Iraq war, I still believed that if I could just make the right people listen, then maybe they would understand. But those people, who should have known better, believed in things that were way beyond unrealistic. They were fantasies. Some of those people were sincere in their beliefs. Maybe even most of them. But there was a lot of calculation and political maneuvering. And there were people who tested the wind and went whichever way it was blowing. Human nature is what it is and it doesn’t change.”
Higgins gives examples of huge wastes of money in Iraq, but adds “Meanwhile, I couldn’t get the funding we needed to stand up a task force to hunt down the bomb makers.
Eventually the strategy in Iraq improved, such as the decision to work with tribes who, in return for cash and protection, helped find and “neutralize’ insurgents.
An FBI agent called Rich Higgins to a meeting with other government types, any of them in law enforcement. The briefing started and a speaker said:
“Hey, this is who we are. We’ve been working counterterrorism for five years now. We believe we have a major issue. That issue is. . . we don’t understand the enemy and how he operates.” I remember thinking, Well, yeah. I guess you could call that an issue. “We don’t understand Islam. Not the reality. We are in a state of denial.” First time I’d ever heard anyone put it right out front that way. “We’re not training our guys adequately and this is causing a lot of problems. And we want to share with you what we’ve found inside our organization and ask you to share a little bit about what you’re seeing inside your own organizations. And we are going to have a couple of folks in here today to brief us on what we are dealing with and what we are denying.” The briefers were all frustrated by the resistance they were getting from the top where the official line was still, “Islam is a religion of peace.” Their response, in short, was, “No it is not.” And they proceeded to explain exactly why. I listened and as I did, things became very clear. For me, it was in a very real way, a “red pill moment,” like that scene from the movie “Matrix.” The one with the line that goes, “You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. That briefing opened my eyes to just how deeply into the rabbit hole of denial we had gone. We had bought into a totally false narrative where Islam was a “religion of peace.” That it had been “hijacked” by radicals who were responsible for 9/11 and other acts of terrorism. And we needed Muslims to come into the Pentagon to explain this to us.”
Studying Islam led Rich Higgins to give a warning that got him into trouble but proved to be right:
“In late 2010, maybe early 2011, for instance, I was accused, in an official and threatening way, of being a racist, xenophobe, and a bigot. It started with an army private named Naser Abdo who went on Al Jazeera with a video in which he’s making all these statements that to the normal ear just sounded like he was complaining about life in the U.S. Army and how he wished it were more multi-cultural and all that sort of stuff. It could be passed off as just the usual soldier bitching but what I and a few others realized was . . . this guy was threatening to attack Americans just like Major Hassan had done at Fort Hood. On Al Jazeera. In his army uniform. He was, straight up, a traitor. I sent an email, through two channels. First, to the appropriate Pentagon office asking, “Who is this guy and why is he on television and who is his commander and why isn’t he doing something about it? And, oh, by the way, this guy is threatening an attack.” Second, to an email distro list I participated on that included some very influential national security people. There was never any official response. The distro list response that came back basically said I was not just wrong, but I was making this stuff up because I was a racist and I should be fired for saying it. Well, about four months after that e-mail exchange, then-specialist Abdo was arrested at Fort Hood, where he had gone to do another terrorist attack. An alert gun store owner caught on to him, and he is now in Colorado at the supermax prison. The point of that story is that, unless you know Islam and you know what people like that are talking about—where, you might say, they are “coming from”—you can’t understand what they are actually saying. What they are communicating to you. “
So what are Rich Higgin’s recommendations now?
He’s for getting out of Afghanistan:
“The war in Afghanistan is a pure example of the Deep State in action. Whole careers were built on that war. Massive contracts were let out. We constructed all kinds of things in that country. Twelve thousand-foot runways, air-conditioned office complexes… twenty first century infrastructure in a nation where many, many people still lived in mud huts. The war generated countless conferences, studies, and factfinding missions. We could have papered over the whole country with the reports that were written by all the experts. war was studied and analyzed almost as much as it was fought. It was good for the Pentagon and the State Department and the whole Deep State foreign policy establishment, what some now call “the blob.” Not so good, though, for the American kids who got sent there to do an impossible job and got blown up and killed, or crippled for life or, even if they weren’t physically injured, came home with PTSD. We went in there to fight al Qaeda and kill Osama bin Laden. We broke up al Qaeda and we chased bin Laden into a hole. It took a while to find where he was roached-up and kill him, but we finally did it.” “And.. .still, four years after bin Laden’s demise, we were stuck in Afghanistan”
Rich Higgins believes that given the doctrines and strength of Islam in that country, there was no way to win without killing huge numbers of people, which obviously Americans would not want to do. So the remaining option is to leave a hopeless cause.
Rich Higgins supported Trump. Trump wanted to get out of that war, and that was one reason for the support. Rich did not think much of Republicans (or Democrats): He says that Trump’s biggest mistake was not to staff the administration with people who were not on the same wavelength:
“It’s the Republican party that didn’t do the Obamacare thing he wanted. It’s the Republican Party that would not adjourn Congress the first two years of the Trump presidency to allow him to make recess appointments. It’s the Republican Party that fought him on a lot of his policy objectives on immigration, on the Islam issue, and on and on. Guys like Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney are a far greater threat to Trump’s MAGA agenda than Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer And the most distressing part is that even when things started to go wrong, he didn’t understand why and he didn’t change. He kept going to the same old roster of conventional old political hacks from the permanent Washington establishment.”
I’m not sure this is completely fair. On Obamacare, for example, it was only three Republican senators that voted against Trump’s efforts to repeal it, the rest voted for him.
But then again, I wasn’t part of the U.S. government, military or president of a company dealing with National Security Threats”, and Rich has been in all three roles. The lessons in his book should be taken to heart.
In his book “Quantum”, Manjit Kumar talks about Albert Einstein and the other scientists who came up with Quantum theory. While some of the book is on the science, he also writes a bit about their lives. This is what he says about Germany after the first World War:
In November (of 1923), one dollar was worth 4,210,500,000,000 marks, a glass of beer cost 150 billion marks and a loaf of bread 80 billion. With the country in danger of imploding, the situation was brought under control only with the help of American loans and a reduction in reparation payments….
Einstein’s international celebrity and his well-known anti-war stance made him an easy target for a campaign of hate. ‘Anti-Semitism is strong here and political reaction is violent,’ Einstein wrote to Ehrenfest in December 1919. Soon he began receiving threatening mail and on occasions suffered verbal abuse as he left his apartment or office. In February 1920, a group of students disrupted his lecture at the university, one of them shouting, “I’m going to cut the throat of that dirty Jew.”
When we read about this anti-Semitism, we should remember that Hitler didn’t get into power until 1933. Einstein quite sensibly had been against World War I. The minister of culture wrote to reassure him that Germany, “was, and will forever be, proud to count you, highly honored Herr Professor, among the finest ornaments of our science.” That’s also interesting – Germany was a country of different environments, and for instance some of my ancestors, who were Jewish, felt comfortable there. But the ‘wave of the future’ was Nazism. Einstein himself was treated like a celebrity by some Europeans: “Women fainted in his presence. Young girls mobbed him in Geneva (Switzerland).” But eventually, his books were burned in Germany.
In his book “Bringing Down America“, Larry Grathwohl, a Vietnam veteran, tells the story of how he infiltrated a radical American group called the “Weathermen” in the 1970s. I was curious about the book because of the recent leftist violence that has caused so much destruction from Portland to Minneapolis to New York. And there are indeed similarities. Larry believed in the war he fought in, but he believed that “a lot of my buddies wouldn’t have had their arms and legs blown away or had their lives completely wasted if we had been able to fight the war properly. And the reason we hadn’t been able to fight was that the Americans who stayed at home didn’t support the men in the field. Many a time we had been fired at by North Vietnam troops and Viet Cong from across the Cambodian border and we hadn’t been allowed to fire back–even though we were taking casualties.” Larry’s view contrasted with a veteran Larry met (during his infiltration) named Mark Stivic who hated Asia, and the war, and the United States because of the war. “This group,” Stivic said, referring to the Weathermen, “is where it’s at. They’ll stick it to this fucking country.” The Weather Underground’s handbook, Prairie Fire, described their objectives as follows “We are communist women and men… our intention is to disrupt the empire…to incapacitate it…to attack from the inside.”
It is interesting that today, the Black Lives Matter movement that is so much in the news was founded by three women, one of which, Patrisse Cullors, claimed that she and cofounder Alicia Garza are trained Marxists. Marxism looks at American society as divided between oppressors and oppressed, and one of the oppressed groups, according to the Weathermen, was the black population. The Weathermen also believed that American Capitalism oppressed Third World countries.
Grathwohl writes that the Weather Underground had thousands of sympathizers–including ministers, lawyers, college professors, students, and community leaders– who helped them travel from city to city without detection. These sympathizers provided hiding places, money, and food.
Before he got involved, Grathwohl was sitting with some friends on the steps of a Church when two activists approached with leaflets. A conversation ensued and what fascinated Grathwohl about them was “They were young. They hated America. They couldn’t have seen very much of it, yet they hated it…It wasn’t their words that bothered me; it was their attitude, the unflinching way they spoke of violence…”
After Grathwohl started investingating the Weathermen, he went to one meeting where a speaker, an attractive girl of about 21 named Karen Ashley, said this: “We’re building an international Liberation Army in America…We’ll join this fight in Chicago. Eight political prisoners are on trial there, and we want them freed. Now. Chicago will be the beginning of a violent revolution.”
The book describes what ensued in Chicago. “The attack on Chicago was scheduled to begin on Wednesday, October 8. But some of the Weathermen couldn’t wait. Late Monday night, when most of Chicago was trying to sleep, an explosion rocked Haymarket Square. A ten-foot-high statue commemorating seven Chicago policemen killed by a bomb blast during a labor riot in 1886 was dynamited.”
“Around 10 P.M. …the helmeted mob moved down Clark Street carrying clubs, bats, bricks and Viet Cong flags on the way to the wealthy Lake Shore Drive section of the city. As the mob passed the North Federal Savings and Loan Bank someone hurled a brick through the window. The sound of the glass shattering sent the mob running through the streets smashing windows and busting up cars. In some cases private homes were attacked because they belonged to the wealthy capitalistic establishment. A Rolls Royce was destroyed; when another man came out to protect his Cadillac, he was beaten to the ground. As the mob ran on, a line of police formed at State and Division streets to stop the rampage. Without hesitation, the Weathermen ran right into them, swinging clubs and fists…the battle continued under the rallying cry, “Tear the f—ing state down!”
By midnight, police managed to contain the mob, but 21 policemen needed hospital treatment. The area was filled with shattered glass and ruined automobiles. The next day TV news told the story to the nation, which of course pleased the Weathermen. Then the women’s militia started attacking policemen who stood in their line of march. One woman who got arrested, a leader and founder, a graduate of Chicago Law School named Bernadine Dohrn, stated that “We are born in 1969 in America behind enemy lines” in a short speech before the women marched. Years later Bernadine ended up as professor of law (she is now retired).
On Saturday, 300 Weathermen gathered, charging down Madison, smashing windows and fighting police. A cop was thrown through a Railway Express office window. Shortly after that, Assistant Corporation Counsel Richard Elrod was knocked to the ground by a group of Weathermen, then kicked in the head and back. He was rescued by police and rushed to the hospital with a broken neck…. By Saturday night, at least $1 million in property damage was reported to the police, three demonstrators had been shot, one city official lay paralyzed, 250 Weathermen had been arrested on charges including felony and attempted murder, and 57 policemen were hospitalized, at least one critically.
Later, Grathwohl was shown a song in a Weatherman song book that went like this:
Stay, Elrod stay Stay in your iron lung; Play, Elrod, play Play with your toes for a while
This raises a question in my mind – why would the Weathermen hate people so much (like Elrod) that had done nothing either to them or to anyone else? Were they both idealists and psychopaths?
The Weathermen did not only demonstrate by themselves, they took advantage of other people’s peaceful demonstrations. At the “Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam” demonstration in Washington D.C. a mob of 5000 converged on the Justice Department. They hurled bottles, bricks, and rocks. Someone shimmied up the flagpole in front of the building and cut down the American flag amid cheers and whistles. In its place, he raised a Viet Cong flag. As he started down the pole, the MOBE marshals rushed over to capture him, but girls in helmets screamed and kicked at the marshals, and guys in helmets hit them with sticks. “Pig lovers,” they shouted at the marshals. “You abandoned the people for the pigs.”
Today (in 2020), we have Antifa chanting “No border, no wall, no USA at all”. They too piggyback on peaceful demonstrations, as well as engaging in their own actions. They are more advanced than the demonstrators described above, in that they have used lasers, and other innovative weapons.
I’ve just reached page 60 in Larry Grathwohl’s 184 page book. I haven’t reached the part where he meets the Weatherman leadership, and what he learned when the Weathermen really got going. Eventually the Weathermen declared him an “enemy of the people”.
In the 1992 book The Rise and Fall of the American Left, John Diggins describes how the American left, which seemed to have fallen on hard times in the 1970s, found a new home in the universities. He talks about the ironies involved. Here is an excerpt, which is very relevant today..
“Although the New Left saw itself as the victim of history, in at least one respect it became its beneficiary. In the sixties and early seventies American higher education expanded enormously. University enrollments increased and new campuses opened on the East and the West coasts to accommodate the postwar baby boom children now reaching college age. Consisting to a large extent of graduate students, the New Left entered the academic profession en masse and found respectable positions at virtually every distinguished university except Chicago. Appointed at a time of expansion, the “tenured Left” survived the budget-cutting contractions of the early Reagan years. With no new massive hiring expected in the immediate future, the remnants of the New Left are the most significant ideological presence on the American campus today and most likely will continue to be so well into the next century.
“The New Left’s finding an afterlife in the academic world is replete with ironies. It will be recalled that at the turn of the century Daniel DeLeon and other socialist theoreticians worried about the implications of a radical intelligentsia whose interest may not coincide with that of the proletariat. With the dreams of the New Left shattered in the seventies, no one had to worry about whether the Academic Left could articulate the needs and aspirations of an American proletariat, since that creature had no existence. With no constituency in the real world, the New Left had no choice but to ascend to the ivory towers of theory. Yet the move into the groves of academe is surprising in many ways. No one who had watched campus demonstrations in the sixties could have anticipated the eagerness with which former protesting graduate students later accepted positions at the very institutions they said were responsible for racism, imperialism, fascism, sexism, and other evils of “liberalism.” At Berkeley, Columbia, San Francisco State, and several other campuses in the sixties there seemed to be two incompatible worlds—academic gentility and revolutionary fury. Inside the university building was the faculty member: nicely dressed, family photo on office desk, surrounded by books, polite and patient, wondering when the troubles would end so that the sacred serenity of the library might again be enjoyed. On the outside the graduate student: with ragged army jacket and beard, fist raised, noisy, rude, impatient with explanations. Facts are fictions. Scholarship is for squares. The system sucks. Fuck you, faculty; you’re either for us or against us.
“And so it went for half a dozen years. But in the end the majority of New Left graduate students, after repeating again and again that they would never allow themselves to be “co-opted,” did so without so much as a blush.”
The above is all an excerpt from the book. Diggins, who is a professor of history, says that these radicals became gatekeepers who changed who could become a professor. He writes: “In the field of American History, for example, a liberal PH.D. who subscribed to consensus instead of class conflict, or a white male conservative who admired Madison more than Marx, had about as much chance of getting hired on some faculty as Woody Allen of starting as point guard for the Knicks” (Woody Allen is a Jewish actor and producer who looks very nerdy)
The book is also interesting because it shows that the left was usually (not always) believers in Marx, and it also shows that current un-democratic manifestations of the left were already getting foreshadowed (for instance conservative speakers were being heckled on campus, including Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick.
When the Bolsheviks took over Russia, World War I was raging. The Bolshevik leader, Lenin made peace with the Germans, which dismayed the British and French, who were still fighting the Germans.
After the war was over, the allies had 180,000 troops on Russian territory – British, French, American, Japanese, Italian and Greek, as well as Serb and Czech contingents – plus 300,000 men of various anti-Bolshevik Russian forces. Nonetheless, Bolshevism won. The reasons given by Paul Johnson in his history “Modern Times” are that most of the allied statesmen did not grasp the significance of the new type of totalitarian dictatorship in Russia. Winston Churchill was the exception – he did realize, and he wanted to defeat the Bolsheviks.
On February 14, 1919, President Wilson (of the U.S.) said he was for withdrawal. He said that “Our troops were doing no sort of good in Russia. They did not know for whom or for what they were fighting.”
Prime Minister Lloyd George was worried about British public opinion and he said “To send our soldiers to shoot down the Bolsheviks would be to create Bolshevism here.[in Britain].”
The War Office warned of ‘revolutionary talk in the Brigade of Guards’ and General Ironside, in charge at Archangel, cabled home news of ‘very persistent and obstinate’ mutinies among his own troops. Leninism had let go of the small nations on its fringes, and it claimed to be for self-determination. So most western opinion saw the Bolsheviks as non-expansionist. To these Westerners, it was the anti-Bolshevik commanders, Admiral Kolchak and General Denikin, who stood for Tsarist imperialism, the old fear images of ‘the Bear’, the ‘Russian Steamroller’ and so forth. This view was by no means unfounded. Kolchak persistently refused to give the Allies the assurances they wanted about confirming the independence of Finland and the Baltic states after he had overthrown Lenin. General Denikin was strongly anti-Polish. Moreover, Denikin identified Bolshevism with Jewry and his troops committed anti-Semitic atrocities. This damaged the image of the ‘White Russians’ (the anti-Bolsheviks) in the West. The allies just pulled out, leaving the White Russians to face the Bolsheviks. Many of the Whites deserted. Today we know that the Bolsheviks ended up killing tens of millions of people, and the story may not be over yet. Stopping them initially would have made a lot of sense.