The Most Curious Creature of All

The world of politics, as they say, makes for strange bedfellows indeed. The Right sleeps around with the Left, the Left sleeps around with the Right, and the Center sleeps around with just about anybody they can find across the spectrum. Nothing unusual about that, though, right? Politics, after all, is arguably the world’s oldest profession.

But among all the individuals that we can find whenever we explore the wondrous world of politics, none is more exotic, alien, peculiar and vexing than the most curious political creature of them all. I’m talking, of course, about the White American Liberal (WAL).

What makes this creature so curious in the political animal kingdom? No. 1 is the double standard. Every person in politics has a double standard of some sort or another, naturally. But the White American Liberal has perfected the double standard and raised it to an art form.

For a recent example of such a curious creature, we need look no further than to Dennis Kucinich, the former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the midwestern state of Ohio. Kucinich, an American of European descent, has long stood as a champion of liberal causes in everything from abortion to war — sometimes in contradiction to that towering castle of American neo-liberal capitalism to which he belongs, the Democratic Party. Kucinich even won a “Gandhi Peace Award” in 2003 from a U.S. non-profit organization run by other White American Liberals.

Kucinich ran for president of the United States twice (2004 and 2008) on liberal campaign platforms, but lost. After retiring from the U.S. Congress in 2013, Mr. Kucinich decided to become a “political analyst”. For which media company, you ask? Why, for none other than the bastion of right-wing extremism, Fox News. Yes, you read that right: Dennis Kucinich has been using his credentials as a WAL pundit these past few years on such popular Fox News programs as “The O’Reilly Factor” (goodbye and good riddance, Bill).

It was on
one of these recent Fox News programs that Kucinich and Fox program host Sean Hannity, an unapologetic and mostly uninformed right-winger, wholeheartedly agreed about the existence of a “deep state”, an invisible government of sorts operating behind the public façade of the U.S. government today and working beyond anyone’s control. “You have politicization of the agencies that is resulting in leaks…and the intention is to take down a president,” Kucinich said, referring to current U.S. president Donald Trump and his many problems with U.S. intelligence agencies. “Now, this is very dangerous to America. It’s a threat to our republic. It constitutes a clear and present danger to our way of life.”

Mighty scary words there: “a clear and present danger” to the American Way of Life, or AWOL. We should all be concerned about something so dangerous to the public. But wait a minute — hasn’t Dennis Kucinich himself, as a vaunted member of the White American Liberal class, served the aims of the deep state in the past? The answer is yes, in fact, he has.

On September 14, 2001 — just three days after the 9-11 attacks —
Kucinich joined 419 other members of both houses of the U.S. Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, in passing House Joint Resolution 64, which would allow then-U.S. president George W. Bush sweeping powers in the newly declared “war on terrorism”. Only one member of the U.S. Congress bothered to vote against that resolution, and that was African American representative Barbara Lee of California. For Lee’s brave vote of conscience and her well-placed concern about giving the U.S. president such broad powers, she was condemned by conservatives and liberals alike.

President Bush signed the resolution into law as
Public Law 107-40, “Authorization for Use of Military Force”, on 18 September 2001, a week after the 9-11 attacks. The law was used from then on by the Bush administration to justify, among many other bad things, the suspension of fundamental habeas corpus rights of hundreds of illegally held prisoners at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and the wiretapping of innocent U.S. citizens on a mass scale at home.

Fifteen years and several overseas wars later, Barack Obama, on his way out the door as U.S. president,
issued a report that essentially gave his legal blessing to that same law as “provid[ing] the domestic legal authority for the United States to use military force against the terrorist threats” of organizations like al Qaida and the Taliban, justifying Obama’s decision to bomb Syria. That was just about the best possible Christmas present that president-elect Donald Trump could have asked for, and in the short time he has been in office, Trump has continued those war policies of the Bush-Obama years to devastating effect.

And to think: All of this was made possible in part by White American Liberals in the U.S. Congress like Dennis Kucinich, who helped get the law passed in the first place. Now, in 2017, Kucinich crows wildly on Fox News about the dangers of a deep state that seems intent on taking Trump down (not that some of us wouldn’t enjoy watching Trump being disgraced and led out of office in an orange jumpsuit). Yet, the blame for the current state of political affairs, and the continued rise of the deep state, must also be laid at the feet of Kucinich and other WALs like him who played footsie with the U.S. deep state at key moments since 2001.

Kucinich has also advocated over the years the creation of a new “
Department of Peace” that would replace the current U.S. Department of Defense (aptly named the Department of War up until 1947, two years after the end of World War II). This new “DoP” as proposed by Kucinich would be a cabinet-level department in the executive branch of government.

While the idea of such a Peace Department overseen by a U.S. president sounds nice in theory, all kinds of questions and liberal double standards arise: Wouldn’t this new Department of Peace then become part of, or at least serve the aims of, the deep state that Kucinich is so alarmed about? Could this new department even begin to make a dent in the worldwide military-industrial complex that has come to make war the ultimate profit-making venture in the 21st century? Would world peace then be something controlled and manipulated by the U.S. government, instead of fostered by the people themselves? So many questions abound.

Another factor that distinguishes the curious White American Liberal in the political animal kingdom is the deathly fear of being branded unpatriotic. Such liberals will say anything, do anything, to avoid being branded with a scarlet
U (for Unpatriot) on their chests and being called a coward to their faces. It strikes fear into the very hearts of white liberals, activating a primitive flight-or-fight instinct deep within them like nothing else can.

I happened to be in the United States at the time of 9-11, and I saw firsthand how members of major U.S. news media organizations — many of them liberal and white individuals — literally trampled over each other in the rush to follow the self-appointed patriotism police at Fox News in shamefully cheerleading for war. One TV episode from around that time still stands out clearly in my mind: a live Fox News program in which the host was berating another White American Liberal icon, Medea Benjamin of the women’s activist group
Code Pink, who was rightly criticizing Bush. “Why do you hate America?” the Fox News host demanded to know. Benjamin was aghast. “I don’t hate America!” she shot back, “I love America!” The conversation went downhill from there.

The White American Liberal, like a fish in water, will always bite on the bait of being called “unpatriotic” or “un-American” out of fear. To be fair, though, Japanese liberals here in Japan do the same thing with right-wing accusations of being a
hi-kokumin — literally, a “non-citizen” or traitor. I guess it’s just something in the liberal DNA worldwide that you can’t change.

If you ask me, we should just stop dealing with such curious political creatures as White American Liberals altogether, step around them and the political obstacles they seem to be constantly erecting, and then muster the truly progressive, grassroots people out there who are ready to get down and fight for the changes that we all seek. No more liberal double standards or patriotic fears or wishy-washy apologies or weak-kneed compromises: We all come together across our societal differences and join hands to fight the good fight (of course, using the Gandhi/King principle of nonviolent action to guide us), and really make things happen.

Then, what to do with that most curious creature of all? One idea might be to just gather together all the best and brightest of the White American Liberals in one nice, air-conditioned museum someplace in the continental United States and make those WALs the subject of a major public exhibit. There, paying visitors could point and gawk and be awed at how those liberal marvels of nature sitting there behind the thick glass wall have driven themselves to near-extinction in the U.S. political scene today.

That solution could work well in two ways: It would give the curious White American Liberals on display at the museum a permanent, captive, non-questioning liberal audience — a new base. And, more importantly, it would free up the rest of us to move progressively ahead and get down to the serious work of
real social change, now and for the future. Advance tickets for the museum show, anyone?

The ‘Other September 11’ — A Remembrance

People around the world are remembering today, September 11, 2013, as the 12th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks in New York City, in which more than 3,000 innocent people from the U.S. and other countries died.

People around the world today are also remembering a different 9-11 from 40 years ago, in which the United States was not the victim but the victimizer. This was September 11, 1973, the day when the U.S. government set in motion a military coup in the South American nation of Chile. At least 3,000 innocent people were killed there too, with hundreds or possibly thousands more “disappeared”; their bodies have never been found.

Just as in 2001, the “other 9-11” of 1973 was on a Tuesday morning. By the end of that day 40 years ago, the Chilean air force had bombed the La Moneda presidential palace to force out the democratically elected president Salvador Allende, had taken over the media and offices of government, had put a military state of emergency in place and had begun rounding up Chilean citizens and putting them in stadiums and arenas — makeshift concentration camps where thousands were imprisoned, tortured and even executed.

The “other September 11”: How many U.S. citizens know about this infamous day, four decades on? And among those who know, how many of them really care?

Well, I do. I know and care about the pain that the September 11 military coup caused to the Chilean people, a pain that has not really healed over these many years. And I want to take a few moments here to salute the Chileans and to express my solidarity with them, as the world pauses to reflect on the events of that day and the course of history since then.

Salvador Allende, a medical doctor by profession, had first come into office as president of Chile in 1970, despite massive amounts of money secretly funneled by the United States government to Allende’s opponents in the election campaign. Although Allende had aligned himself with socialist and communist platforms, essentially he was a constitutionalist and a strong supporter of the working class of people. He believed in revolution, yes, but a nonviolent one.

He vowed that if elected, Chile would nationalize some of its industries, particularly mining, that were firmly in the grip of U.S. and other western powers, alleviate the mass poverty of that country and distribute the wealth of the nation in a more balanced way. Once elected, Allende kept his promises and Chilean society was changing.

“The Dream” — that was how much of the Chilean populace saw it: a chance for the poor, the workers, the women, the young people and minorities of all kinds to finally have a say in their government and their society. For the U.S., “The Dream” represented a real threat to its politico-economic control of Chile and other Latin American nations. So, from 1970 through the summer of 1973, the U.S. government worked steadily to lay the groundwork for a coup by Chile’s military to overthrow Allende.

The Chilean poet and author Pablo Neruda, recipient of the Nobel Prize and perhaps the most celebrated writer of modern times, summed up the situation back then aptly with this poem, titled “Portrait of the Man,” in which he expressed what many Chilean people had felt about Washington’s hostility to Chile’s new democracy (translated from the original Spanish):

It is necessary to judge those hands stained
by the dead he killed with his terror;

the dead from under the earth
are rising up like seeds of sorrow.

Because this is a time never before dreamed of.

And Nixon, the trapped rat,
his eyes wide with fear,
is watching the rebirth of flags shot down.

He was defeated every day in Vietnam.
In Cuba his rage was driven away
and now in the buried twilight
this rodent is gnawing at Chile
not knowing that Chileans of little importance
are going to give him a lesson in honor.

And indeed, a lesson in honor is what the Chilean people gave then-U.S. president Richard Nixon and the U.S. government.

As the danger of a possible military coup increased in the summer of 1973, many of President Allende’s strongest leftist supporters in Chile constantly urged him to allow the Chilean people to take up arms against the Chilean military if necessary. Allende, a leftist himself, refused, saying that Chile now had a democratic constitution in place and that the Chilean people should stand by that constitution no matter what.

Allende must have been politically astute and experienced enough to know that if he had allowed the people to take up arms against their own armed forces (which were closely aligned with the U.S.), then it would have been a massacre of the people by the military. In the end, the people of Chile stood by Allende and the Chilean constitution, and did not take up arms against the military forces of their own nation. A lesson in honor, to be sure.

And then, the whole damn thing came crashing down.

The U.S.-sponsored coup by Chile’s military on Tuesday morning, September 11, 1973, put one of Allende’s top generals, Augusto Pinochet, in place as the de facto dictator-in-chief. Allende died at the presidential palace that day, and blood literally began to flow in the streets of Santiago and other Chilean cities as a new reign of terror and fear began. Pinochet held power until 1990, following his defeat in a public referendum held on his presidency. But for the Chilean people, the painful memories of their own 9-11 still run deep and have not completely healed even today.

If it is possible for a nation to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), then Chile today is suffering from it. The economy and political system of Chile are squarely back in the U.S. camp now, but there is little or no talk anymore of Allende, The Dream and true democracy in today’s Chile, where a generation or two of young people have grown up under a materialistic, capitalistic economy. It is almost as if Chile has been shocked into silence these many years.

But the Chilean people’s pain is still there. Forty years after Chile’s 9-11, it is still there — even if it is too hard to talk about, like a cancer in the family that no one really wants to face up to. And it is the United States that still has blood on its hands from the September 11 attacks of 1973 in Chile.

It is time for the American people today, with a new president now “gnawing” at Syria and other countries in the Middle East, to understand that they are not the only ones who remember September 11 every year. In some ways, the 9-11 attacks of 1973 were a precursor to what was to happen on that same day in 2001 in New York City. The chickens of a different time and place had come home to roost, so to speak. And no one — not Nixon or then-U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger (the main orchestrators of the Chilean coup) or anyone else in the U.S. government — has ever been held accountable for the “other 9-11”.

And that being so, on this national day of mourning today for 9-11 in the United States and for 9-11 in Chile, I will close here with the words of Salvador Allende himself, spoken during his
final radio address to the nation and broadcasted from the presidential palace in downtown Santiago, as it was being bombed and the U.S.-sponsored coup of 1973 was well underway. (audio version here)

Allende thanked the people of Chile for having supported him over the years but urged the people not to go out into the streets at that dangerous time, presuming there would be a bloodbath. He spoke of the “treason” of the Chilean armed forces, which were then in the process of subverting democracy. But looking back today, we can see that the treason of September 11, 1973 could well be applied to the centers of power in Washington DC and Wall Street, New York as well:

Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Keep in mind that, much sooner than later, great avenues will be opened again, through which the free man will pass to build a better society.

Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers!

These are my last words, and I’m certain that my sacrifice will not be in vain. I’m certain that, at the very least, it will be a moral lesson that will punish felony, cowardice and treason.

The 21st Century’s New ‘Silk Road’

President Barack Obama is today basking in the glow of being the president who will end what he calls the U.S. “war of necessity” in Afghanistan, which was waged by U.S. president Bush from 2001. Two days ago, Obama, in his important “State of the Union” address, however, mentioned the word “Afghanistan” only four times:

“Tonight, we stand united in saluting the troops and civilians who sacrifice every day to protect us. Because of them, we can say with confidence that America will complete its mission in Afghanistan and achieve our objective of defeating the core of al Qaeda. [applause] 

“Already, we have brought home 33,000 of our brave servicemen and women. This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue and by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over. [applause]  

“Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change. We’re negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions — training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counterterrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.”

The New York Times reported that the Obama’s decision to bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan in 2014 was based on his “careful balancing of political and military requirements.”

But there is one very important fact that both President Obama and the American news companies are not telling us about: a major natural-gas pipeline that cuts through Afghanistan. The Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline (TAP) is seen by the world’s economic powers as the 21st-century continuation of the ancient “Silk Road” trade routes that once linked Asia, Africa and Europe — the pipeline is that important. 2014 is the year that, barring any unforeseen problems, the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline is expected to finally be completed. Why is this critical fact being left out?

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the U.S. government and oil industry have been influential for many years in promoting the $7 billion pipeline —
a pet project of the mighty Asian Development Bank — which will send natural gas of the Caspian Sea region over a distance of more than 1,700 kilometers (1,000 miles) from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan and Pakistan and on to India. Influence in the geopolitics of the region (especially concerning the nearby nation of Iran) is certainly a key motivation for the U.S. government here, if not for any financial gain the U.S. oil companies can reap as well.

After 2014, when most (but not all) of the U.S. and NATO military presence is scheduled to leave Afghanistan, it will be “mission accomplished” for the U.S. in that country after 13 years of war. On the surface, though, it looks like President Obama is simply keeping his promise to “bring the troops home” and that is how it is being dutifully reported in the U.S. media. You can almost see a halo hovering above President Obama’s head in the news reports as he speaks about bringing democracy to the Afghan people and security to the region after the longest war in U.S. history.

It is important to remember one thing, as we look back today on the U.S.-led wars that have nearly devastated the countries of Iraq and Afghanistan: that in Iraq, it’s about the natural resources (oil); in Afghanistan, it’s about the
flow of natural resources (gas). Either way, the U.S. has intended to control the natural resources of the region and exercise its geopolitical influence there, and has largely succeeded in doing so.

The trans-Afghan gas pipeline, the “New Silk Road of the 21st Century,” is said to be about one year away from picking up where the Silk Road of ancient times left off. How far we have come since those olden times, and how little we have learned today about respecting the natural resources of the Earth itself.

■ Energy & Capital:
"Trans-Afghan Natural Gas Pipeline" [U.S., 2013]
■ RIA Novosti:
"What the Future Holds for the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline" [Russia, 2012]
■ Journal of Energy Security:
"NATO, Post-2014 Afghanistan, and the Energy Dimensions of Security" [U.S., 2012]
The Express Tribune: "Gas pipeline: Afghan parliament approves TAPI project" [Pakistan, 2011]
The Hindu: "U.S. brings Silk Road to India" [India, 2010]
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