Friday, May 10, 2019

Today America Has Become the Nightmare

Today America Has Become the Nightmare
Peter Schultz

            In reading L. Fletcher Prouty’s book, JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy, I read this quote from Arnold Toynbee, written in the NY Times in 1971, but still and maybe more relevant today.

“To most Europeans…America now looks like the most dangerous country in the world. Since America is unquestionably the most powerful country, the transformation of America’s image within the last thirty years is very frightening for Europeans. It is probably still more frightening for the great majority of the human race who are neither European nor North Americans, but are Latin Americans, Asians, and Africans. They, I imagine, feel even more insecure than we feel. They feel that, at any moment, America may intervene in their internal affairs, with the same appalling consequences as have followed from the American intervention in Southeast Asia.
            “For the world as a whole, the CIA has now become the bogey that communism has been for America. Wherever there is trouble, violence, suffering, tragedy, the rest of us are now quick to suspect the CIA had a hand in it. Our phobia about the CIA is, no doubt, as fantastically excessive as America’s phobia about world communism; but in this case, too, there is just enough convincing guidance to make the phobia genuine. In fact, the roles of America and Russia have been reversed in the world’s eyes. Today America has become the nightmare.” [pp. 230-31]

            Suffice it to say about Prouty’s book that it is concerned with arguing that John F. Kennedy was aware of these dangers and sought to corral the CIA and the US policies of waging limited war throughout the world. And as a result, Prouty argues, Kennedy was assassinated. Seems rather extreme to me but then so does how the US behaves today throughout the world.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Politics 101: Trump, the Democrats and Impeachment

Politics 101: Trump, the Democrats and Impeachment
Peter Schultz

Politics 101: Of course, Pelosi won't comment on impeachment because (a) the last thing the Democrats want to do is impeach and remove Trump from office but (b) they have to leave it out there as a distraction and incitement. It's just part of the 2020 presidential campaign and a way for the Dems to distract from their own flawed, oligarchic policies, policies that will be continued by whatever "centrist" the Dems nominate for president, perhaps with the help of their "superdelegates." The Dems no more want Trump impeached then the Republicans wanted Clinton removed prior to the 2000 presidential election because if they had done that Gore could have run as an incumbent president and even seek two full terms. And (c) listen as the talk about impeachment ramps up, becomes louder and louder, taking over the political arena. But Trump will not be impeached or removed. All of which Mueller's report was drafted to facilitate: "Well, he might have done something but then we don't know that he did or didn't but it wouldn’t matter anyway because he's president."

Monday, April 15, 2019

What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been: Castro, Kennedy, and the Dance of Nations.

What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been
Peter Schultz

            Once it becomes apparent that the United States is an oligarchy, that is, governed by the wealthy few for their own benefit, it also becomes apparent that almost everything mainstream politicians do is geared to preserving the oligarchy’s power, their power. Consider for example American foreign policy and, specifically, US foreign policy toward Cuba after the Cuban revolution when Castro overthrew Batista and took control of the Cuban government.

            What did our oligarchs do? Well, to put it simply, they did everything to make Cuba look like our enemy. In this they had help from Castro, as he too was doing things to make the US look like Cuba’s enemy. It was like a choreographed dance the two nations were performing, a dance choreographed to ensure that the two nations acted like, became enemies.

            For example, on the US side, nothing was done to show support to those Cubans, the moderates in Cuba, who were happy Batista was gone but were not all that enamored of Castro. If the US had shown some support for the revolution, instead of treating it as a Communist plot supported by the USSR, these moderates would have been able to oppose Castro without seemingly undermining Cuba independence or the Cuban revolution, without seeming like traitors. However, once the US decided to punish Cuba for its revolution, these moderates were forced to support Castro because, otherwise, they would be acting like traitors to Cuban independence. Once the US decided to become Cuba’s enemy, then even Cubans opposed to Castro had to support him or risk being charged with treason to the revolution, to Cuba.

            Why did the US then make Cuba an enemy? The conventional wisdom is that this happened only when it was apparent that Castro was a communist. But even if he were, and it isn’t clear that he was, this does not explain why the US reacted as it did, why US policy intended to create a war like situation between the two nations. But this war like state benefitted the Eisenhower administration just as it benefitted Castro’s regime by making both seem strong, by making both seem properly concerned with “national defense.” Both Eisenhower and Castro were seen as protecting the “homeland” and, therefore, worthy of support by all who weren’t “traitors,” “capitalist dogs,” or “pinkos.”

            Both regimes were then strengthened domestically by creating a war like state between the two nations. There was “political gold” in such a situation for the prevailing political classes in both nations. And US policy served Castro well by helping him secure his revolution. He became a national hero by facing down the “giant from the north.” And Eisenhower looked less like the grandfather golfer he seemed to be. And with an election approaching, Richard Nixon could look like the “cold warrior” he wanted to be. He would “take care” of Castro.

            This state of affairs led, first, to the Bay of Pigs invasion and, secondly, to the Cuban missile crisis, when the game almost got out of hand and went nuclear. It was never the intention of either the US or Castro to start a full scale or nuclear war between the US and the USSR as this would lead to the annihilation of millions of human beings. And then, of course, all that “political gold” that each side got as a result of the war like state between the two nations would be lost or would lose its value. The same could be said of any attempt by Castro to assassinate JFK, as some have charged. Castro needed Kennedy, as much as Kennedy needed Castro, to solidify their credentials as “leaders.” The same could be said of killing Castro, which helps explain why the attempts by the CIA to do so repeatedly failed and seemed so inept. To reap the “political gold” available the US needed Castro in power, just as Castro needed to ensure that the US remained Cuba’s enemy, while avoiding a full-scale war. A state of war without a full-scale war was best for both nations; that is, for protecting the regimes governing both nations, the oligarchs in the US and the communists in Cuba. US oligarchs and Cuban communists were, as intended, “indispensable enemies.”

            And after the assassination of JFK, LBJ saw that it was incumbent on him to derail any attempts to pin the blame on Castro, as that would have meant in all likelihood full-scale war with Cuba and then with the USSR. Hence, the need for the Warren Commission and for the fairy tale that Oswald acted alone and was not part of any conspiracy. Moreover, it had to be shown that the assassination itself was not the result of any conspiracy, especially one pointing to Castro and Cuba. And as a result the Warren Commission was an invitation to conspiracy theories because it was so ineptly concocted to reach the conclusion that Oswald acted alone.

            More generally, could it be that the Cold War itself was dramatized, choreographed to allow the oligarchs in the US and the communists in the USSR to reap that “political gold” the US and Castro reaped as a result of the war like state between the two nations? While a big topic, obviously, let it be said that with very few exceptions the US and the USSR – and China – never got close to full-scale war, those exceptions being the Korean War and the Cuban missile crisis. Otherwise, the dance of these indispensable enemies continued in ways that created a war like situation without creating full-scale, that is, nuclear war. And both US oligarchs and Soviet and Chinese communists benefitted.

            If so, that would be an interesting situation.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

What does Trump Mean?
Peter Schultz

What does Trump mean? What did JFK’s assassination mean?

They both meant/mean that the existing political order was/is unraveling, was/is coming apart at the seams, was/is disintegrating.

So all the king’s horses and all the king’s men tried to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Monday, April 1, 2019

The Bush Pardons: Why He Threw the 1992 Election to Clinton

From America's Stolen Narrative: From Washington and Madison to Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes to Obama

"[Attorney James] Brosnahan[, who had been tapped by Iran-Contra special counsel Lawrence Walsh to be the lead prosecutor in the trial of former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, which had been scheduled to start January 5, 1993] said, 'It was all so transparent that I was disappointed that more people didn't pick up on the fact that all they were trying to do was obstruct the trial of Caspar Weinberger.  I'm talking about obstruction of justice.  The statute, I took it out of the book and made a Xerox copy out of it and stuck it up on my wall.  ...  [Walsh] was obstructed starting in '86 and [Bush's Christmas Eve '92] pardon was the final coup de grace.'

"According to Brosnahan, Bush's pardons were admired by some, ignored by many, and seen as a threat to our democratic form of government by a number, of which I am one.  ...  And that's the only way they could get rid of [Walsh].  They couldn't have a trial.  They couldn't allow witnesses to be asked where they were, what they heard.  They couldn't have Weinberger's notes out in public because it said that the President [Ronald Reagan] approved all of this'" (Parry 146-147).

"'The cross-examination of Caspar Weinberger was going to be an event,' Brosnahan told me.  'The thing about cross-examination in a trial is that there's no place to hide.  The political bullshit is over.  There's only the question where were you?  You're in charge of the missiles, what did you hear?  What did te President say?  What about this document?  What about your notes?  What about your testimony?'

"Brosnahan asked me, Do you understand why there was a pardon?' He then answered his own question, 'There was a pardon because an awful lot of people wanted this to go away'" (Parry 148).

"Walsh also understood how self-serving Bush's pardons had been because Bush was, in effect, ensuring that the scandal would not reach him.  The Iran-Contra pardons may have represented the first time in U.S. history when a sitting president used his extraordinary pardoning power to stop an unvestigation into which he was a potential defendant" (Parry 155).

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Lyndon and Bobby

Lyndon and Bobby
Peter Schultz

            In reading the book Mutual Contempt, I learned that, allegedly, RFK had a “Lyndon problem.” That is, Bobby Kennedy could not afford to be too critical of Johnson’s Vietnam policies without it costing him politically, that is, electorally. So Bobby compromised, didn’t express himself as candidly as he might have were he not a political actor or not seeking the presidency.  

            However, Bobby had another political problem, viz., his agreement with our “politics of credibility,” whereby the US had to be “involved” in the world and had to stay “involved” to prove its “credibility.” Once such a politics is accepted, then if that led to large-scale bombing in Vietnam or to large-scale troop infusions, then so be it. These things had to be done.

            Bobby did try to distinguish himself from Johnson, in a way summed up as follows: “We have erred . . . in regarding Vietnam as a purely military problem. . . . [p. 267] While this may be true, there is a greater “error” Bobby doesn’t mention, viz., the assumption that Vietnam was an American problem. And of course this error stems from the idea that America must be “involved” in the world almost everywhere. As Bobby put it: “My only concern is that we emerge from these crises [Vietnam and the Dominican Republic] in an honorable position to continue our leadership in the world at large.” [p. 268]

            Once you decide, as both Bobby and LBJ did, that America’s honor requires her “leadership in the world at large,” the only question is “how should the US be in Vietnam?” There other question, which our “involvement” in Vietnam should have raised, viz., “should the US be in Vietnam?” is ignored. And because Bobby did not raise this other, more important question, he was compelled to compromise with Johnson about how the US should be involved in Vietnam, as well as the Dominican Republic.

So RFK was not boxed in simply by LBJ and electoral politics; he was also boxed in by his own politics, a politics of “involvement,” or a politics of “credibility.” Without questioning such politics, which are essentially euphemisms for imperialism, Bobby was compelled to compromise with LBJ because he remained “committed” to the war in Vietnam, that is, to American imperialism. As Francis Fitzgerald has written, the US didn’t get caught in the quagmire of Vietnam; Vietnam got caught in the quagmire of American politics. Our politics of “credibility, “ of “honor,” of imperialism was the quagmire into which the Vietnamese stumbled in their pursuit of national unity.

And the “feud” between LBJ and RFK, as presented by the press, only served to obscure the more important issue, the issue of the character of American foreign policy in general. Their “feud” was essentially over the details of US imperialism, whether it should be “purely military” or both military and political. Whether one or the other, it would still be imperialism. And to get to the more important question it would be necessary to get beyond the politics of credibility, beyond our politics of imperialism.  


Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Politics of Credibility
Peter Schultz

            “Vietnam itself meant virtually nothing; it was a ‘little piss-ant country,’ [Lyndon] Johnson scoffed. What truly hung in the balance was American credibility in the larger war against Communist expansion….” [Mutual Contempt, p. 261, emphasis added]

            If Vietnam meant almost nothing and American credibility meant almost all, the sacrificing the lives of Americans and Vietnamese in large numbers makes perfect sense, even without a victory. In fact, to prove US “credibility,” to prove US constancy, reliability, the more Americans that are sacrificed, the better. “Look how credible we are – we are willing to sacrifice our youths, lots of them, for a country that in itself means almost nothing to us. We sacrifice our own to prove our credibility. You can trust us to sacrifice our own for almost nothing.”

            This is the result of a “politics of credibility,” a politics that not only LBJ embraced but many, many others as well. And this is why so many felt betrayed by their own government. They were being sacrificed for "a little piss-and country" that meant virtually nothing. 

What would be an alternative kind of politics? How about a “politics of justice?” Maybe it would be worth a try.

[The book cited is Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, and the Feud that Defined a Decade, by Jeff Shesol]