Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016
The Trump Revolution in The United States: What Will Be the New President’s Herculean Works?
Monday, July 11, 2016
The New Immoral Age: How Technology Offers New Ways of Killing People and of Destroying the World
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
The 2016 U.S. Election: A Possible Repeat of the 1964 Election?
Monday, May 30, 2016
Barack Obama’s Meager Legacy of incomplete accomplishments and of provoked wars: What happened?
Saturday, February 20, 2016
The Lies, Fabrications and Forgeries of the Bush-Cheney administration to Go to War Against Iraq, for Oil and for Israel
Saturday, January 23, 2016
Financial Turmoil and Increasing Risks of a Severe Worldwide Economic Recession in 2016-17
Saturday, January 23, 2016
Financial Turmoil and Increasing Risks of a Severe Worldwide Economic Recession in 2016-17
By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay
“May you live in interesting times."
Popular curse, purported to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse
"The sources of deflation are not a mystery. Deflation is in almost all cases a side effect of a collapse of aggregate demand —a drop in spending so severe that producers must cut prices on an ongoing basis in order to find buyers. Likewise, the economic effects of a deflationary episode, for the most part, are similar to those of any other sharp decline in aggregate spending—namely, recession, rising unemployment, and financial stress."
Ben S. Bernanke (1953- ), on November 21, 2002
“I’m about to repeat what I said at this time last year and the year before…Sooner or later a crash is coming and it may be terrific. The vicious circle will get in full swing and the result will be a serious business depression. There may be a stampede for selling which will exceed anything that the Stock Exchange has ever witnessed. Wise are those investors who now get out of debt.”
Roger Babson (1875-1967), on September 5, 1929
The onset of 2016 has been most chaotic for global financial markets with, so far, a severe stock market correction. As a matter of fact, the first month of 2016 has witnessed the most severe drop in financial stocks ever, with the MSCI All-Country World Stock Index, which measures major developed and emerging stock markets, dropping more than 20 percent, as compare to early 2015. For sure, there will be oversold rallies in the coming weeks and months, but one can expect more trouble ahead.
Many commentators are saying that the epicentre of this unfolding financial and economic crisis is in China, with the Shanghai Composite Index beginning to plummet at the beginning of the year. In my view, reality is more complex and even though China’s financial and economic problems are contributing to the collapse in commodity prices, the epicenter of the crisis is still in Washington D.C.
That is because the current unfolding crisis is essentially a continuation of the 2007-08 financial crisis which has been temporarily suspended and pushed into the future by the U.S. central bank, the Fed, with its aggressive and unorthodox monetary policy of multiple rounds of quantitative easing (QE), i.e. buying huge quantities of financial assets from commercial mega-banks and other institutions, including mortgage-backed securities, with newly created money. As a consequence, the Fed’s balance sheet went from a little more than one trillion dollars in 2008 to some four and a half trillion dollars when the quantitative easing program was ended in October 2014. Other central banks have followed the Fed example, especially the central bank of Japan and the European central bank, which also adopted quantitative easing policies in monetizing large amounts of financial assets.
Why did the Bernanke Fed adopt such an aggressive monetary policy in 2008? Essentially for three reasons: First, the lame-duck Bush administration in 2008 was clueless about what to do with the financial crisis that had started with the de facto failure of Bear Stearns in the spring of 2008 and of Merrill Lynch in early September 2008, culminating on September 15, 2008, with the failure of the large global investment bank of Lehman Brothers. So the U.S. central bank felt that it had to step in. In fact, it financed the merger of the two first failed mega-banks with the JPMorgan Chase bank and the Bank of America respectively. (For different reasons, it did not intervene in the same way when the Lehman Brothers bank failed.)
Secondly, bankers who have a huge influence in the way the Fed is managed did not want the U.S. government to nationalize the American mega-banks in financial difficulties, as it had been done in the 1989 when the George H. Bush administration established the government-owned Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) to take over some 747 insolvent savings and loans thrift banks.
Thirdly, the Bernanke Fed was very worried that the 2007-08 banking crisis would lead to a Japanese-style deflation that would wreak havoc with an overleveraged economy. The hope was to avoid a devastating debt-deflation economic depression like the one suffered in the 1930s.
By injecting so much liquidity in the system, the Bernanke Fed created a gigantic financial bubble in stocks and bonds, even though the real economy has grown at a somewhat languishing 2 percent growth rate. Stock prices went into the stratosphere while interest rates fell as bond prices rose. Last December 16, the Fed announced officially that it will no longer blow into the financial balloons and that it was raising short-term interest rates for the first time since the financial crisis, setting the target range for the federal funds rate to between 1/4 to 1/2 percent. This was a signal that the financial party was over. And what’s more, this means that the stock market and the bond market will once again go in different directions, as a reflection of the state of the real economy, no matter what the Fed does.
Since 2008, the U.S. Fed has painted itself into a financial corner from which I personally felt it would be difficult to extricate itself. Indeed, it would be extremely difficult to correct the financial bubbles it has created —as an unintended consequence of salvaging the mega-banks in creating trillions of free money —without damaging the real economy of production and employment. If global stock markets collapse and if price deflation accelerates, making it more difficult to service the debt of consumers, corporations, and government alike, a repeat on a larger scale of what has happened in Japan over the last twenty-five years can be feared. This, at the very least, could lead to a global economic recession in 2016-17. If we go back in history, it could also be a repeat of the 1937-38 crash and recession, eight years after the crash and financial crisis of 1929-32.
One thing can be made clear: The creation of the Fed in 1913, as a semi-public American central bank, has not prevented the occurrence of financial crises. It has, however, been a boon to large banks because it has served as an instrument to socialize their losses.
Saturday, February 20, 2016
The Lies, Fabrications and Forgeries of the Bush-Cheney administration to Go to War Against Iraq, for Oil and for Israel
By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay
We [the United States] spent $2 trillion, thousands of lives. ... Obviously, it was a mistake… George W. Bush made a mistake. We can make mistakes. But that one was a beauty. We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East…
—They [President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney] lied… They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.
Donald Trump (1946- ), during a CBS News GOP presidential debate, on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016.
[George W. Bush] wants to remove Saddam Hussein, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).
—But the intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy.
Richard Dearlove (1945- ) Head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), (in ‘Downing Street memo’, July 23, 2002).
There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.
Dick Cheney (1941- ), comment made at the Veterans of Foreign Wars 103rd National Convention, Aug. 26, 2002
Spinning the possible possession of WMDs as a threat to the United States in the way they did is, in my opinion, tantamount to intentionally deceiving the American people.
Gen. Hugh Shelton (1942- ), former Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2001, (in his memoirs ‘Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior’, 2010)
We [the USA] went to war [in Iraq] not just against the Iraqi forces and insurgent groups but also against a large part of the Arab world, scores and scores of millions…It is a strategic error of monumental proportions to view the war as confined to Iraq… [The Iraq war] is turning out to be the greatest strategic disaster in our history.
Gen. William E. Odom (1932-2008), in a testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, January 18, 2007
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has rendered a great service to the truth and to historians in stating publicly, on Saturday, February 13, 2016, what most people by now know, i.e. that the US-led war of aggression against Iraq, in March 2003, was not only illegal under international law, it was also an exercise in pure deceptive propaganda, and it was promoted thanks to well-documented lies, fabrications and forgeries.
I personally published a book in early 2003 detailing how the Bush-Cheney administration, with the help of pro-Israel neocons in the higher echelons of the U.S. government, built a case for war under false pretenses.
The publishing house ‘Les Intouchables’ in Montreal, initially published the book in Canada, in French, under the title of ‘Pourquoi Bush veut la guerre’. It was then published in the U.S., by Infinity Publishing, in English, under the title ‘The New American Empire’. The book was also published in Europe by l’Harmattan in Paris under the title ‘Le Nouvel Empire Américain’, and later on translated into Turkish by Nova Publishing in Ankara, under the title ‘Yeni Amerikan Imparatorlu›u’.
The machinations and deceptions behind the disastrous war against Iraq, which have resulted in literally hundreds of thousands of deaths and created millions of refugees, and which has completely destabilized the entire Middle East, constitute therefore a topic that I have been studying for many years.
It is no surprise that I was pleased to hear Mr. Trump forcefully conveying the truth to the American people, even though those who have engaged in war crimes under the Nuremberg Charter and the United Nations Charter have never been indicted for gross negligence and duplicity—if not outright treason—let alone prosecuted. Worse still, there has never been a serious public inquiry into this sordid episode at the beginning of the 21st Century and how the Bush-Cheney administration planned a pre-meditated military attack against Iraq in order to bring about a political “regime change” in that country.
Let us summarize the sad series of events that have led to what American General William Odom has dubbed “the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history”. We may add that this has also led to a great disaster for the Middle East populations, and it could also prove to have been a disaster for Europe and the world as a whole, if the current mess in that part of the world were to lead to World War III.
1- DECEPTION: When George W. Bush took power in January 2001, his Treasury Secretary, Paul H. O'Neill (1935- ), the former CEO of Alcoa, recalls that the goal of removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq was raised by Bush during the very first cabinet meeting of the new administration. In O’Neill’s biography written by journalist Ron Suskind and titled The Price of Loyalty, it is stated that George W. Bush fully intended to invade Iraq and was desperate to find an excuse for pre-emptive war against Saddam Hussein. As Mr. Suskind writes it, there was even a Pentagon document, dated March 5, 2001, and entitled “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield contracts”, which included a map of potential areas in Iraq for oil exploration. Such a detailed plan for a U.S.-led military take-over of Iraq had never been mentioned during the 2000 U.S. presidential election, let alone debated.
However, a pro-Israel neoconservative think-tank, The Project for the New American Century, had drafted a blueprint for regime change in Iraq as early as September 2000. The fundamental goal was to secure access to Iraq’s oil reserves and remove a potential enemy to the state of Israel. This think-tank, founded by William Kristol and Robert Kagan, was mainly run by vice-president Dick Cheney; by defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld; by Paul Wolfowitz, (Rumsfeld's deputy at the Defense Department); by George W. Bush's younger brother Jeb Bush, then governor of Florida; and by Lewis Libby, Cheney’s deputy.
Their document about Iraq was entitled “Rebuilding America's Defences: Strategies, Forces And Resources For A New Century”. It stated clearly that: “The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein”. It was this plan that the newly elected Bush-Cheney administration obviously intended to implement in secret, eight months before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
It is also most relevant to mention that the document on Iraq mentioned above was mimicking a previous report written in 1996 for the Benjamin Netanyahu Israeli government and titled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm”. The latter outlined a strategy for the state of Israel in the Middle East in these terms:
“Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq –an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right –as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.”
In 2001, the Bush-Cheney administration seemed to have made its own the proposed strategy.
2- POSSIBLE NEGLIGENCE: To what extent was the Bush-Cheney administration negligent in not preventing the 9/11 terrorist attacks? This is a legitimate question, considering that the George W. Bush White House received, on Monday August 6, 2001, 36 days before the terrorist attacks, a confidential report by the CIA entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US”. Mr. Bush was then on a month-long vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, and no special security steps seem to have been taken to alert various authorities of the threat.
3- A PARALLEL GOVERNMENT: Early on, the new Bush-Cheney administration established a special bureaucratic agency for intelligence gathering, propaganda and war preparations. This was the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plan (OSP) placed under the supervision of Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense. It was designed, as reported by renowned journalist Seymour Hersh, to circumvent the CIA and the Pentagon’s own Defense Intelligence Agency, the DIA, and to serve as President Bush’s main source of intelligence regarding Iraq’s possible possession of weapons of mass destruction and its possible connection with al-Qaeda. That is also where various fake arguments were invented to steer the United States into a war against Iraq. Douglas Feith, a defense undersecretary, ran the shadow agency with the assistance of William Luti, a former navy officer and an ex-aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.
Something that should have been investigated, but has not been, is how some Israeli generals had free access to the OSP, as reported by Karen Kwiatkowski who worked in that agency.
4- WAR PROPAGANDA: After 9/11, few Americans were blaming Iraq for the terrorist attacks, since none of the 19 terrorists involved had any connection with Iraq. In fact, the 19 hijackers in the September 11 attacks of 2001 were affiliated with the Islamist terrorist group al-Qaeda. Fifteen out of 19 were citizens of Saudi Arabia, 2 were from the United Arab Emirates, and the other 2 came from Egypt and Lebanon. None were from Iraq. And their training camps had been in Afghanistan.
That is why in polls taken soon after Sept. 11, 2001, only 3 percent of Americans mentioned Iraq or Saddam Hussein as the dark forces behind the attacks. Obviously, such a perception had to be changed if the Bush-Cheney administration were to start a war with Iraq. That is when the fear of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the possible links of Saddam Hussein with al-Qaeda were invented, with the active assistance of neocon media. By September 2003, the propaganda had worked so well that, according to a Washington Post poll, 69 percent of Americans had come to believe that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the attacks carried out by al-Qaeda, even though there had been no proof of such a link between the two. Such is the force of government propaganda when the mass media collaborate in the exercise.
This propaganda was instrumental in building a case for a war with Iraq, without regard to factual evidence. History will reckon that the United States did not retaliate against Saudi Arabia, a country that had a lot to do with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but it did react viciously against Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the attacks.
All these facts are well documented and corroborated. Future historians will have numerous sources to establish the historical truth.
The fact that presidential candidate Donald Trump has alerted the American people to the treachery used by the Bush-Cheney administration to go to war against Iraq is a welcome development. Undoubtedly, the Iraq War has unleashed untold destruction and misery in Iraq and in the entire Middle East. And the sequels to the initial disaster continue today, thirteen years after the 2003 U.S.-led military invasion of Iraq.
The only recent comparable historical event, when a powerful country invaded militarily another weaker country, was the decision by the German Chancellor Adolf Hitler to invade Poland on September 1, 1939, thus plunging Europe into chaos for many years. Let us hope that the current turmoil in the Middle East, with so many countries conducting military operations in the devastated countries of Iraq and Syria, will not lead to even greater catastrophes.
Monday, May 30, 2016
Barack Obama’s Meager Legacy of incomplete accomplishments and of provoked wars: What happened?
By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay
“The evil that men do lives after them.”
William Shakespeare (1564-1616), ‘Julius Caesar’
“The Constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care, vested the question of war in the Legislature…
—No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
James Madison (1751-1836), in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 1798, (and, in ‘Political Observations’, 1795)
“…War is sometimes necessary, and war at some level is an expression of human folly.”
Barack H. Obama (1961- ), Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Dec. 2009
“As a nuclear power, as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act… today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
Barack H. Obama (1961- ), in a speech in Prague, Czech Republic, on April 5, 2009, [N.B.: On May 27, 2016, Pres. Obama repeated essentially the same commitment at Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, in Japan, calling for a "world without nuclear weapons"]
“As commander-in-chief, I have not shied away from using force when necessary. I have ordered tens of thousands of young Americans into combat…
I’ve ordered military action in seven countries.” [Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia]
Barack H. Obama (1961- ), in a speech at the American University, Aug. 5, 2015
Ever since Neocons de facto took over American foreign policy, after the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991 and the end of the Cold war, rejecting the ‘Peace Dividend’ that many had logically expected, the cry in Washington D.C. has been to impose an America-centered New World Order, mainly through military means.
Successive administrations, both republican and democratic, have toed the line and dutifully pursued the same policy of world domination by launching a series of unilateral, direct or covert, wars of aggression around the world, in violation of international law. This explains why the United States has over 1,400 foreign military bases in over 120 countries, and why they are being expanded.
First there was the Gulf War of 1991, when Saddam Hussein’s regime felt into a trap, thinking it had Washington’s tacit go ahead to integrate Kuwait, a territory that had been part of Iraq throughout the nineteenth century and up until World War I. Then there were the 1998-1999 U.S. military interventions in the Yugoslavia’s ethnic conflicts, under the cover of NATO, in order to undermine Russian influence in that region. In 2001, the “Pearl Harbor” type attack of 9/11 was also a “god-given” event on the march to the new world order. Some high-ranking U.S. officials had implicitly hoped for such an event to justify huge increases in the U.S. military budget. Nevertheless, it served as a justification to launch the 2001 war in Afghanistan, eventually leading to a U.S.-led “preventive war” to “liberate” Iraq, in 2003.
All this was followed by a string of covert operations to overthrow governments, elected or not, and to impose regime changes in independent countries, such as in Syria, Libya, Ukraine, Honduras, Haiti, Somalia… etc., as this has been done in other countries since 1953.
The election of Senator Barack Obama, in 2008, was expected to stop these destructive American military vendettas around the world, most of them under the initiative of the Executive, with little input from Congress, contrary to what is stipulated in the U.S. Constitution. After all, in 2009, President Obama accepted the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize, which carried a stipend of about $1.4 million, for his promise of creating a “new climate” in international relations and of promoting “nuclear disarmament“. Instead, it can be said that “Two Full Terms of War” is the legacy of his two terms in office. Mr. Obama didn’t settle any war, and he initiated many more.
In accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama, referring to the more or less discredited theory of “Just War” in modern times, said that wars must be waged “as a last resort or in self-defense; if the force used is proportional; and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.”
Note, however, that Obama was honest and lucid enough to acknowledge that there were people “more deserving” than him to receive such a peace prize, stating that his “accomplishments were slight”. —As it turned out, he was right. Antiwar candidate Obama did not rise to the high expectations placed on him in 2008: He did not bring peace to the world; he did not stop American wars of aggression around the world, he did not stop the American policy of overthrowing other independent countries’ governments, nor did he bring “nuclear disarmament”. In the latter case, he did just the reverse, as we will see below.
That is why, after a double mandate in the White House, it can be demonstrated that President Barack Obama’s legacy is indeed very slight, if not net negative. Let us look more closely, beginning with the positive side of President Obama’s legacy, and following with the severe failures of his administration.
Obamacare: A timid step in the right direction toward social justice
Before spelling out the Obama administration’s main failures, it is only fair to stress some important successes it has achieved, even though some may deplore that they have been few and far between. For one, in domestic affairs, President Obama succeeded in getting a Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, passed by Congress, in 2010. That law brought health coverage to close to some 20 million Americans who previously had been left out of secured access to health services through employer-sponsored insurance. A similar attempt by Hillary Clinton in 1993 had failed.
Obamacare, a private-based health insurance program, was copied from a Republican program signed into law in Massachusetts, in 2006, by then Governor Mitt Romney. The initial objective was to adopt a universal health plan similar to the 1965 single-payer Medicare program for the elderly, but Republican opposition in Congress made that option impossible. It is estimated that slightly more than 30 million Americans are still lacking comprehensive health insurance. Nevertheless, it can be said that the Obamacare program, even though flawed, was a step in the right direction.
It is worth noting, however, that many American doctors are in favor of a Single-Payer Health system. Last May, an impressive group of 2,231 physicians called for the establishment of such a system to cover all Americans in need of medical care. The only presidential candidate, this time around, who proposes a universal single-payer health system, is Senator Bernie Sanders.
President Obama has, on occasion, stood up to pro-war pressures
In foreign affairs, President Barack Obama has taken some initiatives, which have distanced himself from President George W. Bush, by resisting pressures to enlarge some ongoing military conflicts.
For instance, in 2013, the governments of Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, anxious to overthrow the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, orchestrated what is widely believed to have been a false flag operation, in order to place the blame on the Assad government for having allegedly used chemical weapons against rebels. The objective was to provoke a hesitant Obama administration into getting involved militarily in the Syrian conflict. Such a gimmick had worked in 1986 in persuading the Reagan administration to bomb the country of Libya.
To his credit, President Obama did not fall for the plot, and resisted the “intense” pressures coming from neocons, and from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in his own administration, for a direct U.S. military involvement in Syria. He backed instead a Russian proposal to remove chemical weapons from Syria, thus avoiding the deaths of thousands of people.
The Iran deal as a triumph of diplomacy over waging destructive wars
Other neocon-inspired pressures were exerted on President Obama, coming also from the Israeli government, to have the U.S. launch military attacks against Iran, a country of 80 million people. The pretext advanced this time was that Iran was threatening Israel’s nuclear monopoly in the region in allegedly developing a nuclear weapon of its own.
Even though the Iranian government asserted that its nuclear program was to produce energy and was exclusively peaceful, President Obama was under strong pressure to attack Iran “preventively” to destroy its nuclear installations. To his credit, President Barack Obama resisted the pressures to launch what would have been another illegal war of aggression, similar to the one George W. Bush initiated against Iraq in 2003.
Instead, President Obama opted to rely on diplomacy, and on July 14, 2015, six countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. and the United States) reached an Iran deal, which removed the possibility that Iran develop nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future. Here again, an unnecessary war was avoided and thousands of lives were saved.
The ending of more than half a century of an American boycott of Cuba
President Barack Obama must also be congratulated for having accepted Pope Francis’ mediation, in 2014, to end the more than half a century of hostilities between the government of the United States and the government of Cuba, two neighboring countries. The Pope had written a personal appeal to Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro and led closed-door negotiations between the delegations of both countries.
In December 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced that they would begin normalizing diplomatic relations between the two nations. On April 11, 2015, President Obama and Cuban President Castro met in Panama to finalize the new reality and declared themselves ready to “turn the page and develop a new relationship between our two countries”, in Mr. Obama’s words.
Since then, the two leaders have reopened embassies in each other's countries and normalized exchanges. President Obama even visited Cuba in March 2016.
Therefore, President Obama’s decision put an end to a sad chapter in the history of 20th Century American foreign policy, especially considering that the U.S. government has established full diplomatic relations with countries such as China and Vietnam.
The list of favorable actions by the Obama administration is not very long. There is, however, a longer list of policies that belie many of Barak Obama’s promises and the expectations he created when he ran for president in 2008.
President Obama enlarged the powers of the White House to launch imperial wars with no temporal or geographical limits
As the quote above by James Madison indicates, the U.S. Founding Fathers were well aware of the danger of giving a king or dictator the right to launch wars on his own. They feared that this would bring tyranny and oppression to their nation.
President George W. Bush, in power from 2001 to 2009, behaved in a way the U.S. Founding Fathers would have strongly disapproved, since he vied with the Congress to concentrate the power to wage war in his own hands, using Congress as a rubber stamp.
One would have thought that newly elected President Barack Obama, in a democratic spirit, would have attempted to reverse this dangerous move toward turning the U.S. presidency into an initiator of foreign wars. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama did the reverse, increasing rather than reducing the president’s discretionary powers to wage wars.
Indeed, Nobel Peace Laureate Obama didn’t waste any time in arguing that he had, as U.S. president, the authority to wage war in Iraq, in Syria, in Libya, or elsewhere, without U.S. Congress’s approval, contending that previous so-called ‘use of force congressional authorizations’ remain in effect indefinitely. Indeed, President Obama claimed, just as President George W. Bush had done before him, that the broad ‘Authorization for use of Military Force’ on terror (AUMF) passed by Congress after Sept. 11, 2001, and the 2002 ‘Authorization to use Military Force’ in Iraq had, in fact, no expiration date and that they authorize an American president to act like an emperor or a king, and to unilaterally use military force or wage war of his own volition.
This is a very serious matter, because if this theory were to be confirmed and entrenched in practice, without a formal constitutional amendment, the precedent would mean that the U.S. Constitution has de facto been pushed aside and the United States has become less of a republic, and more of an empire. [This would tend to confirm the title of my book ‘The New American Empire’]
What is more, President Obama has acted aggressively according to his theory of presidential war powers. He has launched eight times as many drone strikes in other countries as did President George W. Bush; and, according to his own boasting, he has “ordered military action in seven countries”. This is not a legacy he should be proud of.
The destruction of the independent nations of Iraq, Libya and Syria and the worsening of the chaos in the Middle East
As far as U.S. involvements in the Middle East are concerned, President Barak Obama did not substantially break away from the neocon-inspired imperial policies of the George W. Bush administration.
It is sometimes argued that president Obama’s decision to withdraw American troops from Iraq, in 2011, marked a break with the previous administration. In fact, the Bush-Cheney administration had already decided on such a withdrawal in 2008, when the Iraqi government refused to grant legal immunity to American troops in that country.
In supervising the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the Obama administration was simply implementing a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which had previously been signed between the U.S. government and the Iraqi government to that effect. According to the agreement, U.S. combat troops had to be out of Iraq by December 31, 2011.
With one or two exceptions mentioned above (the Iran deal and the normalizing of relations with Cuba), President Obama has not failed to embrace a military solution to serve the neocons’ many narratives in the Middle East and elsewhere.
In fact, if it can be said that President George W. Bush destroyed the country of Iraq, President Barack Obama, through his policies and actions, most of the time without the support of Congress, destroyed two other Middle East countries, i.e. Libya and Syria, while extending the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan, and while supporting an embarrassing ally, Saudi Arabia, in destroying Yemen.
These countries were no threat to the United States. Even though President Obama received a Nobel Peace Prize, he was no peace president, by a long shot. As a matter of fact, President Obama has been continuously at war longer than any other American president in U.S. history. With his administration, it was really more of the same and a far cry from his campaign promises to “change things in Washington D.C.”
Under the cover of fighting terrorism, and to destabilize, divide and provoke “regime changes” in Libya and in Syria, for example, the United States—but also European countries such as France and the U.K., leading members of NATO—has relied on covert operations to support foreign mercenaries and Islamist groups of terrorists in these countries, giving them arms and logistics support, and inciting them to overthrow the established governments.
Thanks to the financial assistance given these terrorist groups, especially the self-proclaimed Sunni Islamist State (ISIS), by Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Turkey, the pro-Israeli neocons, who wanted to redraw the Middle East according to their mad theory of “constructive chaos”, have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, with a devastating international refugee crisis as an extra. Ironically, European countries are, for now, the main victims of the waves of refugees resulting from the politics of chaos.
As the de facto head of NATO, President Barack Obama and his neocon advisers, with the latter’s Manichean view of the world, must bear a large part of the responsibility for these disastrous results. The chaos in the Middle East is a huge failure for him, even though the neocons in his administration would deem such a manufactured chaos, a success!
Indeed, the countries of Iraq, Libya and Syria were considered, to different degrees, to be regional rivals of Israel, besides having large reserves of oil. Moreover, the latter countries have been on top of the list of seven countries discovered by General Wesley Clark, in late September 2001, as being the very countries the Pentagon planned to attack and destroy.
The destruction of Iraq can be attributed to the Bush-Cheney administration, since they are the politicians who used different subterfuges to launch an illegal war of aggression against that country, on March 20, 2003. However, what is most amazing is the fact that the Obama administration decided to follow the same policy in Libya and in Syria. Sooner or later, Mr. Barack Obama will have to explain why.
President Obama has sided with Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries in their efforts to spread Wahhabi extremism around the world
The world, and especially Western Europe, is under the threat of the most virulent brand of Islamism, i.e. Wahhabi extremism, a theo-fascist ideology, which is promoted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries, and which is, to a large extent, behind global Islamic terrorism. Instead of denouncing that curse of the 21st Century, President Obama has gone out of his way to be subservient and even to bow to the leaders of Saudi Arabia during multiple trips to that country. The question has been often raised: Why has President Obama been so cozy with the Saudi Royal Family, even when the latter snubbed him publicly?
There is no country in the world that violates more openly basic human rights than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. One would think the United States would be at the forefront to denounce such violations. The Wahhabi, either from Saudi Arabia or other Islamic countries, have used hundreds of billions of petro-dollars to build madrassas and huge mosques in Western countries, including in the United States, to promote their corrosive ideology. The Obama administration did not raise any objection when the largest mosque in the United States was built, in Lanham, Maryland. It is worth noting that, in 2010, Norway did refuse the construction of mosques with foreign money in that country.
The Obama administration has extended the neocon-inspired politics of chaos to Ukraine and Russia, and it has rekindled a Cold War II with Russia
Why has the Obama administration been so anxious to start a New Cold War with Russia? We see here another contradiction between what President Barack Obama says, and what he does. For a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, are an aggressive military encirclement of a country and the sending of military forces to its borders acts of peace or acts of war? Why is Obama doing precisely that to Russia? Why is he risking a nuclear confrontation with Russia? That defies logic.
The only stretch of logic to explain such warmongering is that it is an attempt by the U.S. government to sabotage any economic and political cooperation between Russia and European countries, in order to keep Europe under some sort of an American protectorate.
Why is President Obama following the neocon plan? Why did he choose Ashton Carter as Secretary of Defense, a known warmonger and the Pentagon’s former chief weapons buyer, who is on record as wanting a military confrontation with Russia?
These are important questions that should be addressed to Mr. Obama, and all the more so since Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has indicated she would push in the same direction, if she were elected president.
Let us keep in mind that in February 2014, the Obama administration eagerly jumped at the opportunity to support a coup in Ukraine to overthrow that country’s elected government. It also armed the putchists, and encouraged them to commit atrocities against Ukraine’s ethnic Russian population. Such interference in the affairs of another nation is part of a larger neocon-inspired policy of militarizing Eastern Europe under the cover of NATO.
President Obama’s personal contribution to the nuclear arms race and to the threat of nuclear war
Even though president Barack Obama promised a nuclear-free world, and pledged, in a speech delivered in Prague, on April 5, 2009, “to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” and to “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy”, and again in Hiroshima, on Friday May 27, 2016, his words have not been followed by concrete steps in that direction. Instead, Mr. Obama seemed satisfied to passively pursue the same nuclear “modernization” program that involved the development of a new set of American nuclear weapons, initiated under the previous George W. Bush administration.
On September 30, 2004, then Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, in a debate with President George W. Bush, complained that the Bush administration was “spending hundreds of millions of dollars to research bunker-busting nuclear weapons. The United States is pursuing a new set of nuclear weapons. It doesn’t make sense. You talk about mixed messages. We’re telling other people, ‘You can’t have nuclear weapons,’ but we’re pursuing a new nuclear weapon that we might even contemplate using.”
In a Nuclear Posture Review on April 6, 2010, the Obama administration seemed to echo Mr. Kerry and stated that the United States would “not develop new nuclear warheads or pursue new military missions or new capabilities for nuclear weapons.”
However, President Barack Obama wasted no time in violating his promise of not “developing new nuclear warheads” and of “reducing the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. military strategy”. Instead, he seemingly embarked on the same nuclear program, which had apparently not been stopped at all, to develop an array of new nuclear weapons that made contemplation of their use more acceptable (smaller, more accurate, less lethal), just as the Bush II administration had done before. In other words, Mr. Obama has prepared the United States to get engaged in “small nuclear wars” in the future. This is quite a “legacy”!
The new American nuclear weapon is, as the New York Times has reported, the B61 Model 12, a nuclear bomb tested in Nevada in 2015. This is the first of five new nuclear warhead types planned as part of an American atomic revitalization program budgeted at a cost estimated at $1 trillion over three decades. So much for “a world without nuclear weapons”!
Domestically, income and wealth inequalities have continued to rise to high levels and poverty to increase under the Obama administration
On Jan. 20, 2014, a Gallup poll found that two-thirds of Americans were dissatisfied with the way income and wealth are distributed in the U.S. —People are therefore vaguely aware that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way the economic system works, and they are right to think that the economy is rigged against the interests of the majority and in favor of special interests.
According to a new Pew Research Center analysis of public data, the American middle class is shrinking, its proportion among U.S. households falling from 55 percent in 2000 to 51 percent in 2014. [N.B.: An American middle class family of two adults and two children, in 2014, is one earning a minimum of $48,083]. This shift has produced a wave of discontent throughout the United States.
Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, on opposite sides of the electoral spectrum, reflect this deep dissatisfaction and even the anger at the economic, financial and taxation policies pursued by the U.S. government and the establishment, over the last thirty years.
Indeed, for the last fifteen years, from 1999 to 2014, the median income of American households globally has declined by 8 percent.
-The median incomes of lower-income families fell by 10 percent during the same period, from $26,373 to $23,811.
- The median income of middle-income households decreased by 6 percent, from $77,898 to $72,919.
- And, reflecting the large inequalities even among upper-income households, the median income in that group also fell by 7 percent, even though, as a group, the relative importance of this segment of American households went from 17 to 20 percent. The group’s median income fell from $186,424 in 1999 to $173,207 in 2014.
In fact, the only segment of the U.S. population that has benefited from the economic, financial and taxation policies of the last three administrations (Clinton-Bush-Obama), and from technological changes that have occurred during the period, is the top echelon of the upper-income class.
The super rich have raked in the most, while profiting the most from various tax loopholes, which have lowered their average tax rate from 27 percent in 1992 to less than 17 percent in 2012. In fact, America's super rich get richer and they are laughing their way to tax havens!
There is something fundamentally wrong and corrupt going on in the U.S. economy, and obviously, the Obama administration has been unable or unwilling to address the problem.
Official government statistics tend to underestimate real unemployment and real inflation
All those wars waged abroad and the trillions of dollars spent on them have enriched some super wealthy Americans, but not ordinary Americans. Instead, they have impoverished them. Ordinary Americans are falling behind because their incomes are stagnant or falling, and because real unemployment rates and inflation rates are higher than reported.
According to official statistics, the annual rates of unemployment and of inflation (the consumer price index) would seem to be under control. For the first quarter of 2016, the U.S. unemployment rate hovers around 5.0 percent, while the inflation rate is just above 1.0 percent, pushed down by the decline in oil prices and by a relatively strong U.S dollar.
The problem with official statistics, however, is that the method to measure them has changed over time. This doesn’t mean that the new measures are willfully misleading. It only means that the old measures may be a better indicator of how unemployment and inflation impact certain sectors of the population.
In fact, some economists prefer to rely on the old methods of calculating unemployment and inflation to get a more realistic picture of what ordinary people are going through. For example, U.S. economist Walter J. Williams calculates so-called “alternate” statistics of unemployment and inflation.
For unemployment, certain categories of unemployed people have been excluded from the published official statistics. For instance, long-term and short-term discouraged workers, not actively searching for work, were excluded from the new official measure of unemployment rates, in 1994. Neither do official statistics count part-time workers who are forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time employment.
As a consequence, when labor force participation rates drop because of the above, official unemployment figures indicate a decline in unemployment, even though this is not really exact. According to some estimates, if unemployment and underemployment were taken into consideration, the alternate rate of unemployment, in April 2016, would have been 22.9 percent, not the narrow official measure of 5.0 percent.
Similarly, official measures of inflation were changed in 1980 and in 1990, as a way to reduce the annual cost-of-living-adjustments for retirement benefits. For instance, when the price of certain items increases, they are replaced in the basket of consumer goods by other items, which cost less. Similarly, even if the price of some goods increases, such increase is reduced by a factor reflecting the higher quality of the goods available. If the old method of calculating inflation had been used, in April 2016, the alternate annual inflation rate would not have been 1.13 percent, as the official CPI measurements indicated, but would have been close to 5.0 percent, according to one measure, and even close to 9.0 percent according to another measure.
All this is to say that when people see their rents, condo fees, taxes, grocery purchases, etc., increase in price, and they experience a drop in their standard of living because of their stagnant or declining incomes, they are not necessarily hallucinating.
The Obama administration has allowed corporations and megabanks to offshore jobs and profits
A major feature of our times is that corporate profits are way up, while wages are stagnant, and corporate taxes are way down.
Indeed, a partial answer to the many issues raised above is the fact that the Obama administration has been guilty of pursuing and even intensifying the move toward lower taxes for corporations, and more profits for large corporations and megabanks on two accounts.
First, the Obama administration has initiated two mammoth international “trade deals”. Those trade “deals” were mostly kept secret because one of their main objectives is to guarantee legal protection to world corporations and megabanks against elected national governments and give them immunity from national prosecution.
The most recent examples of such “deals” are the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with Europe and the Transpacific Trade Partnership (TTP) with countries in Asia.
It must be understood by all that these so called “free trade” agreements are really not genuine free trade agreements for the unhampered movement of goods between countries, based on comparative national advantages, but are really instead corporate and banking agreements to protect corporations and megabanks against national governments, their taxation and their regulations.
Such agreements, negotiated in near complete secrecy, pursue geopolitical objectives. They are an attempt to build a worldwide economic and financial order that supersedes national states and they represent also an effort to protect the corporate and banking elites—the establishment 1%—against national governments. In the case of the TTIP, its geopolitical objective is to prevent European countries from developing comprehensive trade agreements with Russia. In the case of TTP, the objective is to isolate China. In the eyes of Washington D.C. neocon planners, they are part of ongoing economic warfare.
Second, the Obama administration has not taken the necessary steps to stop rich individuals and profitable corporations and banks from using tax havens and industrial inversion schemes to avoid paying taxes at home.
The Obama administration, and even more so the entire U.S. Congress, are under the influence of those interests whose objective is to build a worldwide economic and financial system that shields the 1% establishment’s wealth and power against any encroachment by national governments, at least from those governments the international elite does not yet fully control. We are talking here about an unelected world economic and financial empire with no frontiers, unencumbered by normal democratic rules.
This may be a big factor in explaining why the economy is languishing. Indeed, when corporate profits are not reinvested in the economy, but are hoarded and stashed away in tax havens, they do not increase domestic demand. U.S. corporations have about $1,400 billion ($1.4 trillion) sleeping in foreign tax havens. If all that money were repatriated, not only would the government have a lower deficit, but also the economy would greatly benefit from increased investments.
This is a somewhat scandalous situation the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress have done very little about. On the contrary, both have been slow in putting a stop to so-called corporate “inversions”, which have allowed companies to find a foreign suitor and switch their headquarters abroad to dodge taxes. Both have also extended patent protection to already entrenched corporations at the expense of startup companies. And it is only recently that they have moved to block so-called megamergers—all developments that have reduced competition, created oligopolies, increased corporations’ market power and raised prices.
This maybe the most glaring example of a lack of economic leadership on the part of the Obama administration, second only perhaps to the imperial wars it has initiated and encouraged. It is true that Mr. Obama has himself little competence or experience in economics and in finance, and that may explain why the above issues have not received all the attention they deserve.
President Barack Obama let neocons infiltrate his administration at the highest levels
After President Obama began making appointments to senior positions in his new administration, in late 2008, a leading neocon, Richard Perle, former chair of the Defense Policy Board under President George W. Bush and a leading architect of the Iraq war, expressed his contentment in these words: “I’m quite pleased… There’s not going to be as much change as we were led to believe.”
Therefore, it can be said that President Obama’s betrayal of his promises to enact change began very early in his administration. For instance, he kept George W. Bush’s Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, in his post, as an indication he wanted continuity and not a break with the previous administration.
Then, he went on paying his electoral debts. First, he named Rahm Emanuel as his White House chief of staff, a neocon member of the House of Representatives, and also a former assistant to President Bill Clinton and a supporter of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Then, in a move that brought glee to the ranks of neoconservatives, he appointed belligerent and neocon-supported Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. The neoconservative Weekly Standard applauded her nomination, calling her a “Warrior Queen”! Even Bush’s Vice President Dick Cheney declared to be “impressed” with her nomination. As MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough branded her, Hillary Clinton is a “neocon’s neocon”, because “there’s hardly been a military engagement that Hillary hasn’t been for in the past twenty years.”
President Barack Obama went on to appoint a long list of other neocons to senior positions in his administration, not the least being the nomination of Ms. Victoria Nuland, a Dick Cheney adviser, as Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, in May 2013. From then on, the die was cast as to what kind of administration President Obama would lead. Real change would have to wait.
President Obama had zero influence in solving the secular Palestinian-Israeli Conflict (1948- )
For nearly three quarters of a century now, the rotten Palestinian-Israeli conflict has endured for two main reasons: the intransigence of the Israeli government in closing the door to any new settlements, and the active pro-Israel veto of the U.S. government at the United Nations.
In 2008, one of presidential candidate Barack Obama pledges was to actively pursue a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. He had, as he said, a two-fold strategy: restoring America’s tarnished image among Muslims and persuading the Israeli government to stop settlement expansion on Palestinian lands. On both accounts, he failed. As it has been the case with Mr. Obama’s other promises, there was less substance behind the rhetoric and the platitudes than met the eye. For example, he did not set up a special task force to implement the policy he professed to wish to put forward.
Consequently, President Barack Obama has had no observable influence in stopping the far-right Netanyahu Israeli government from pursuing its illegal settlements in Palestinian territory. He did not get any success either in persuading the government of Israel to enter into serious peace talks to solve the festering conflict and end the occupation of Palestine. And the reason is obvious: President Obama did not dare withdraw the U.S. veto protecting the state of Israel at the United Nations, even though there were some rumblings to that effect.
Worse maybe, is the fact that President Obama let himself be publicly snubbed and humiliated by Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in early 2015, when the latter disregarded a non-invitation by the Obama administration and nevertheless entered the United States and addressed the U.S. Congress. This created a weird occurrence, because this was a violation of basic diplomatic rules. It was a public display of the Israeli government’s contempt for the American President.
In 2001, Benjamin Netanyahu boasted that he knew “what America is. —America is a thing that you can move very easily, move it in the right direction.” What Netanyahu meant, of course, is that the pro-Israel lobby in the United States is so financially and politically powerful that an Israeli leader can publicly insult the American president, with no consequences, and even with the enthusiastic approval of an obliging U.S. Congress. President Barack Obama never looked so weak and so despondent as during this awkward and unreal situation.
President Obama did not release elements of proof linking Saudi Arabia to the 9/11 terrorists
A last point is also worthy of mention. Despite numerous requests, President Obama has refused to inform adequately the American people on the extent of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in supporting the 9/11 terrorists. The families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks and scores of others have called on Mr. Obama to release the classified 28-page portion of a special House-Senate congressional report on the 9/11 attacks, produced in 2002, and purportedly identifying individuals at the highest levels of the Saudi government as the financing agents of some of the 9/11 terrorists. In mid-April, President Obama even said that a decision to release the information was “imminent”.
After his trip to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia last April, it seems that the “imminence” of the release was postponed sine die. Rather, President Obama went even further and promised to refuse to sign into law a bill that would have made the kingdom of Saudi Arabia liable for damages stemming from the September 11 terror attacks. However, he did not extend the same privilege to the Government of Iran, which is being sued by Americans for alleged damages.
Even though president Barack Obama promised, on January 29, 2009, “a new era of transparent and open Government”, this seemingly did not apply to the rights of Americans to know who was behind the 9/11 attacks that resulted in 3,000 horrific American deaths. This has led some observers to call his administration “the least transparent in history”. This is another example of Mr. Obama saying one thing and doing the opposite. It seems to be a pattern in his modus operandi.
Why has there been such a contrast between President Obama’s words and his deeds? After all, he promised “to end the mindset that got us into war”.
There are three possible explanations. First, as a politician, Barack Obama may not have been completely sincere when he said he wanted to change the mentality in Washington D.C. He may have thought that these were only words to be soon forgotten. —Politicians are ambitious opportunists and Mr. Obama was not different. Second, those who wrote his speeches may not have been the same ones making the policies. Thus, the gulf observed between the flowery speeches and the actual policies. Third, there is possibly a less generous explanation: Mr. Obama may have been a convenient figurehead used by those who really control the U.S. government in the shadows. —It could be a mixture of all these explanations.
One can surely argue that the Obama administration, on the whole, was ‘less bad’ than the previous Bush-Cheney administration, both domestically and internationally. However, because elected presidential candidate Barack Obama arrived at the White House without any administrative experience and without having his own brain trust, and seemingly, without having a clear plan on how to implement his lofty promises, he had to submit himself to the same neocon advisers and warmongering interventionists who were omnipresent in the previous administration. He ended up reacting rather than acting; following rather than leading.
That is why the Obama administration’s policies, especially foreign policy, with a few notable exceptions, did not diverge appreciably from those imperial policies pursued by the previous Bush-Cheney administrations. President Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has failed to live up to the promises he made and the hopes he raised.
Both neocon-inspired administrations ended up creating an enduring mess in the world that future governments, and even future generations, will have to deal with.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
The 2016 U.S. Election: A Possible Repeat of the 1964 Election?
By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay
(Author of the books “The Code for Global Ethics”,
“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
Barry Goldwater (1909-1998)
US Senator (R-Arizona) and 1964 Republican Presidential candidate, (in his Acceptance speech as the 1964 Republican Presidential candidate, in San Francisco, July 16, 1964)
“Sometimes, I think this country would be better off if we could just saw off the Eastern Seaboard and let it float out to sea.”
Barry Goldwater (1909-1998)
US Senator (R-Arizona) and 1964 Republican Presidential candidate, (in a December 1961 news conference)
“We’re going to hit them and we’re going to hit them hard. I’m talking about a surgical strike on these ISIS stronghold cities using Trident [nuclear] missiles.”
Donald Trump (1946- ), Republican presidential candidate, (in an interview with ‘Meet the Press’, NBC News, August 9, 2015)
…“They asked me the question [about torture], ‘What do you think of waterboarding?’ —Absolutely fine. But we should go much stronger than waterboarding.” Donald Trump (1946- ), Republican presidential candidate, (in a statement during a campaign event at a retirement community, in Bluffton, S. C., Feb. 17, 2016)
The way this 2016 American presidential election is unfolding, there is a good chance that it could be a repeat of the 1964 U.S. election. In both instances, a Democratic presidential candidate is facing a flawed and frightening Republican presidential candidate who multiplies provocative and reckless statements and off-hand comments.
Politicians sometimes forget that, once elected, they are expected to serve all the people, not their narrow base of fanatical partisans. In that regard, their public statements are very important because they give a clue about what type of public servant a candidate would be. A candidate can easily self-destruct if he or she forgets that, when talking to partisans, the entire electorate is listening. Strong statements, good or bad, remain in people’s consciousness when time comes to vote.
Let us look back 52 years to the 1964 U.S. election. Seeking election in his own right was sitting Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973), who had taken office in 1963 following President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and who was about to escalate the Vietnam War, which ended up costing the lives of 58,000 Americans and the lives of more than a million Vietnamese. His Republican opponent was Senator Barry Goldwater (1909-1998) of Arizona, who had fought against the party establishment and succeeded in winning the Republican nomination over New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller.
In 1964, Republican candidate Barry Goldwater soon developed an image as an extremist on many issues with a series of reckless and ill-thought out statements. For instance, in foreign policy, he advocated using ‘low-yield’ nuclear weapons in Vietnam and in Europe. Domestically, he wanted to make Social Security voluntary. He even suggested that the United States would be better off if the entire East Coast of the country were cut off and sent out to sea!
Goldwater was never able to shake off his image as an extremist on many issues, and he was never in a position to unmask the Democratic candidate’s war plans. This was a key factor in his crushing defeat in November 1964: Lyndon B. Johnson won about 61 percent of the vote to Goldwater’s 39 percent, and took all but six states.
Therefore after the election, President Johnson had a free hand in escalating the Vietnam War, especially considering that the U.S. Congress had already adopted the infamous Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, on August 7, 1964. The disastrous war would last ten more years, until 1975.
There is a good chance that history might repeat itself next November.
Indeed, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has been acting as if he doesn’t really care whether he wins the election or not, drawing attention to himself with outlandish statements and reckless comments, presumably designed to shock and create free “publicity” for his candidacy.
One day candidate Trump wants to adopt torture as a public policy. The next day, he wants to prevent Muslims from entering the United States and build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to stop illegal Mexican immigration. Later on, he advocates using nuclear missiles against Islamist terrorists in the Middle East, and—throwing away any humanitarian principle—even kill their families. Domestically, he wants to abolish Obamacare, but so far, he has not spelled out any replacement. Etc. etc. etc!
Moreover, he doesn’t mind contradicting himself. Sometimes, he rebuts the pro-Israel lobby, professing not to need its money. But then, he lets his Middle East advisor state that a Trump administration would give the Israeli government a free hand in expropriating the Palestinians.
Since Mr. Trump has no government experience of any kind, one would think that he would consult about policy issues he knows little about, before issuing a statement. This does not seem to be the case. He even jokes: “my primary consultant is myself.” That is a sobering thought. The candidate does not seem to have an overall plan; everything seems to be left to improvisation. This indicates a lack of discipline. Indeed, candidate Trump seems to be his own worst enemy. As a businessman, Mr. Trump may have great qualities. As a politician, he seems to be lacking in political instincts, self-control and restraint.
As a result of his flippancy and inconsistencies, Mr. Trump's poll numbers are slipping badly, not because people necessarily like the alternative Democratic choice, but mainly because they become increasingly disillusioned by the lack of seriousness on candidate Trump’s part. They sense that he is unstable and unpredictable, that he has no plan and no program.
All this is a free gift to Democratic presidential Hillary Clinton who has to defend 40 years of political involvement. Unless an unexpected event occurs, and unless Mr. Trump changes profoundly his approach, the choice in the U.S. next November will be between two main candidates with net negative approval ratings, and the candidate with the lowest net negative rating will win, by default. One would think that the American electorate deserves better.
Monday, July 11, 2016
The New Immoral Age: How Technology Offers New Ways of Killing People and of Destroying the World
By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay
“It turns out … that I’m really good at killing people.”
President Barack Obama (1961- ), (as reported in Reed Peeples, ‘A President and his Drones’, June 29, 2016, —a review of the book ‘Objective Troy: A Terrorist, a President, and the Rise of the Drone’, S. Shane, 2015)
“We hold that what one man cannot morally do, a million men cannot morally do, and government, representing many millions of men, cannot do.
—Governments are only machines, created by the individuals of a nation for their own convenience; they are only delegated bodies, delegated by the individuals, and therefore they cannot possibly have larger moral rights of using force, or, indeed, larger moral rights of any kind, than the individuals who delegated them.
—We may reasonably believe that an individual, as a self-owner, is morally justified in defending the rights he possesses in himself and in his own property—by force, if necessary, against force (and fraud), but he cannot be justified in using force for any other purpose whatsoever.”
Auberon Herbert (1838-1906), British writer
“Nothing that is morally wrong can be politically right.”
Hannah More (1745-1833) English writer and philanthropist
“A belligerent state permits itself every such misdeed, every such act of violence, as would disgrace the individual.”
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), Austrian psychiatrist and philosopher
We not only live in the computer and digital age, we also live in a profoundly immoral age, in which the use of violence against people has become easily justifiable, nearly routinely, either for religious, military or security reasons.
Let us recall that the Twentieth Century was the most politically murderous period ever in history. It is estimated that political decisions, mostly made by psychopaths in various governments, resulted in the death of some 262 million people—a democide or political mass murder, according to scholarly works by political scientist Rudolph J. Rummel. It remains to be seen if the Twenty-first Century will regress from this barbarism or exceed it. So far, things do not look too good. Human morality and empathy is not increasing; it is declining fast. And with nuclear weapons in the hands of potential psychopaths, the next big step toward oblivion will not be a cakewalk.
Indeed, a new brand of immorality has permeated into some political minds, according to which what one individual cannot morally do on his own, i.e. cold-blooded murder of another human being, a head of state, a government or a group of public officials can do, in his place. Under what moral code can individuals delegate to governments or public officials authority to do crimes that they themselves cannot do without being immoral? Wouldn’t that be extremely hypocritical and a parody of morality?
According to basic humanitarian or humanist morality, as the Auberon Herbert’s quote above illustrates, what is immoral for one individual does not become moral because one million individuals do it, under the cloak of a government or any other umbrella organization. In other words, a head of state or a government cannot enjoy a wider choice of moral rules than the ones that apply to every individual. The agent (the public person) cannot have looser moral rules than the principal (the people). There cannot be one morality for an individual in private life, and another one for an individual acting within a government.
For example, it is widely accepted under basic moral rules that an individual may only use deadly force in self-defense, when his own life or the lives of his family are threatened. Therefore, the delegated morality to a state by its citizens to use deadly force cannot extend beyond the requirements of self-defense against actual or imminent attack, of the maintenance of order, and of the implementation of justice. Any unprovoked act of deadly aggression, resulting in the untimely and extrajudicial death of people, by a head of state, a government or its officials against other people becomes automatically immoral, if not illegal, notwithstanding in what legal mumbo jumbo such an aggression is couched.
It is true that the current chasm between individual and official morality has been long in developing. When the Roman Emperor Theodosius (347-395), in 380, adopted Christianity as its official state religion, it was difficult to apply Jesus Christ’s pacifist and non-violence admonition that “all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword”. Christian theologians such as Augustine of Hippo (354-430) were thus obliged to develop the argument that moral rules designed for individuals did not necessarily apply to an individual becoming an emperor, a king or a head of state who must administer justice or wage wars. In particular, the Commandment “Thou shall not kill” was redefined to exclude heads of state involved in so-called “just wars”, waged by a ‘legitimate authority’. It was spelled out, however, that such wars could not be pre-emptive, but strictly defensive to restore peace. Otherwise, such a war would become immoral.
Nowadays, there is a basic public morality inscribed in the United Nations Charter and in the Nuremberg Charter. The latter clearly prohibits crimes against peace, defined as referring to the “planning, preparation, initiation, or waging of wars of aggression”… A war of aggression is defined as is a military conflict waged without the justification of self-defense, usually for territorial gain and subjugation. The U.N. General Assembly adopted these definitions, on December 11, 1946, as part of customary international law. Such was the core of public morality after World War II.
However, over the years, public morality has steadily declined, most recently illustrated in 2003 when U.S. President George W. Bush launched a U.S.-led war of unprovoked aggression against the country of Iraq, assisted by British Prime minister Tony Blair. The latter unnecessary and disastrous war, launched on a mountain of lies, has been thoroughly investigated in the United Kingdom, but hardly at all in the United States, the center of it all.
Therefore, notwithstanding that no serious post-administration inquiry has been carried out in the United States regarding the mischief caused by the George W. Bush-Dick Cheney tandem, at the very least, future historians will have the 12-volume Chilcot Report to assess how some British and American politicians fooled the people, in 2002-2003, and launched a war of aggression against an independent country, with no direct consequences for themselves.
More generally indeed, in the Twenty-first Century, it can be said that killing technology has advanced at the same time as public morality and personal accountability have declined.
In the U.S., for instance, it has long been suspected that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), (a sort of secret government within the government created by President Harry Truman in 1946), was involved in covert illegal activities, especially when it came to sponsoring terrorist death squads in various countries. In 1975, for example, the U.S. Senate established a Select Committee to study governmental operations with respect to illegal intelligence activities, chaired by Senator Frank Church (D-ID). That important committee investigated illegalities by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Among the matters investigated were the covert activities of the CIA involving attempts to assassinate foreign leaders and attempts to subvert foreign national governments. Following the reports and under the recommendations and pressure by the Church committee, President Gerald Ford issued Executive Order 11905 (ultimately replaced in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan's Executive Order 12333) with the express intent to ban U.S. sanctioned assassinations of foreign leaders.
Now, let us move fast forward. The most recent instance of a public official known to have assigned to himself the task of targeting some people, even American citizens, to be assassinated with unmanned drones or other means, without charge and outside of judicial procedures, and without geographic limits, is under President Barack Obama. Indeed, Mr. Obama seems to be the first American president to have institutionalized what is called the “Terror Tuesday” meetings, during which the American president, with the help of the head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), decides about the assassination or the capture of individuals deemed to be enemies of the United States around the world.
Last July 1st, the Obama administration released its own assessment of the number of civilians assassinated by drone strikes in nations where the U.S. is not officially at war. It claimed it has killed between 64 and 116 “non-combatant” individuals in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya, between January 2009 and the end of 2015. However, the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism has estimated that as many as 380 to 801 unarmed civilians have been recorded to have been killed with the new technology of unmanned drones.
Drone killing may be the most controversial legacy that President Barack Obama is leaving behind. To my knowledge, this is without precedent in U.S. history, at least at the presidential level, that assassinations of people, including some Americans, are carried outside of the legal framework, under direct supervision of a U.S. lethal president. In a democracy based on checks and balances, this would seem to be an example of executive overreach.
With such an example originating in the White House, it may not be a surprise that an American military officer has recently requested the “authority” to assassinate people without presidential approval, in his geographical area of responsibility, in Africa.
It is very disturbing to empower a government, any government, with the power to execute people without trial or due process. This may be a sign of our times, but this is not what we could call a progress of civilization or of human morality. It seems rather that as killing technology has advanced, and as power has become less constrained, humanitarian morality has badly declined.
It is a sad truth that advances in military technology over time have always been used to kill people. Even the dreadful atom bomb has been used to kill hundreds of thousands people. It is only a matter of time before it could be used again. It would only take one psychopathic madman in power to destroy humanity.
All this immorality permeates into the management of the economy, under the motto “greed is good”. As I assessed at the beginning of this year, the world economy is ripe for a huge awakening. A mixture of wars of aggression and of financial market crashes could shake the world in the coming months.
That is because the people who fan the flames of war are the same ones who are pushing financial markets to their limits and created a huge asset bubble.
Barak Obama’s little known neocon-inspired goal has been to expand NATO to Russia’s borders and to isolate Russia. This mischievous brinkmanship policy is being played out to the fullest. Indeed, there is presently a suspicious and dangerous buildup of NATO troops at the Russian border, with the obvious intent of provoking Russia into some sort of conflict. These professional warmongers may get their wish and they may soon plunge the world into chaos.
Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016
The Trump Revolution in The United States: What Will Be the New President’s Herculean Works?
By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay
“When you give [money to politicians], they do whatever the hell you want them to do… As a businessman, I need that.”
Donald J. Trump (1946- ), in an interview to the Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2015.
“We [the United States] spent $2 trillion, thousands of lives. ... Obviously, it was a mistake… George W. Bush made a mistake. We can make mistakes. But that one was a beauty. We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East…
—They [President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney] lied… They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.”
Donald J. Trump (1946- ), during a CBS News GOP presidential debate, on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016.
“In my opinion, we've spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that frankly, if they were there and if we could’ve spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems; our airports and all of the other problems we’ve had, we would’ve been a lot better off. I can tell you that right now.
—We have done a tremendous disservice, not only to the Middle East; we’ve done a tremendous disservice to humanity.
—The people that have been killed, the people that have been wiped away, and for what? It’s not like we had victory.
It’s a mess. The Middle East is totally destabilized. —A total and complete mess.
—I wish we had the $4 trillion or $5 trillion. I wish it were spent right here in the United States, on our schools, hospitals, roads, airports, and everything else that are all falling apart.”
Donald J. Trump (1946- ) in a GOP presidential debate, on Tues. Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas, NV.
“Throughout history, any profound political and social change was preceded by a philosophical revolution, at least among a significant section of the population.”
M. N. Roy (1887-1954), in ‘The Future of Democracy’, 1950.
There has just been a generational political earthquake in the United States and the after shocks are potentially going to be huge. Indeed, on November 8, 2016, against all odds, the Republican candidate Donald Trump (1946- ) was elected to serve as the 45th American President, repeating ad nauseam his main slogan “Make America Great Again”. He will be the first American president since Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) to occupy the White House without having personal political experience.
Trump’s rhetoric and proposals have been squarely anti-establishment and anti-status quo, both domestically and internationally. As such, Trump’s victory is a political revolution in the making because it announces a break from American policies pursued by both Republican and Democrat U.S. administrations since the 1990’s.
For this reason, Trump’s election inspires both fear and hope. Fear among the established elites, especially among the dominating Washington/media/financial establishments, because the Trump victory will undoubtedly be seen as a repudiation of their values and policies. And after last June’s Brexit, the writing may also be on the wall for the current crop of European elites, who have also actively pushed for a globalized world, with open frontiers, illegal immigration, technological changes, and the deindustrialization of the more advanced economies.
There is hope, however, among those who have been left behind economically, politically and socially, especially among those in the American middle class whose real incomes have been stagnant or declining, and who have suffered badly from the agenda and policies pursued during the last three decades. Over the last 30 years, indeed, the upper 10 % and the super-rich 1 % segments of the U.S. population have greatly benefited from a shift from a manufacturing to a service economy, while the bottom 90 % was left behind.
Many disenfranchised American workers, especially those with less than a high school diploma, saw in Republican candidate Donald Trump and in defeated Democratic primary candidate Bernie Sanders the hope to see things change for the better. It is symptomatic that Americans in large urban areas voted massively democratic, while industrial and rural areas voted massively republican. Contrary to polls, the forecasting models that included the historical context and the desire for change in their prediction had it right. This is the case of American University professor Allan J. Lichtman’s model.
Trump’s Herculean task ahead
President-elect Donald Trump and his team have a Herculean task ahead of them if they are to deliver on the promises they made.
1- Let us begin with the main foreign policy changes to be expected.
The biggest losers of the November 8 election will be the foreign policy hawks and the Neocons in the previous U.S. administrations, from the Bill Clinton administration to the current Obama administration. They are the ones who have pushed to rekindle the Cold War with Russia and who have designed the interventionist policies, which are destroying the Middle East.
It is expected that a Trump administration will reverse the U.S.-led NATO policy to provoke Russia by multiplying hostile military moves at its borders. Also, it can be expected that a Trump administration will strike a deal with the Russian government of Vladimir Putin to bring the disastrous Syrian conflict to an end. This is bad news for the murderous Middle-Ages style ISIS organization.
Of course, a Trump administration can be expected to turn U.S. trade policy on its head. Trade policy would likely be paired with an industrial policy. In practice, this could mean that the two large multilateral free trade and free investment treaties, the Transatlantic Free Trade agreement (TAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) will be stopped in their tracks.
In this sense, the Trump revolution could mean that economic and financial globalization is dead.
2- The main domestic policy shifts expected from a Trump administration.
A Trump administration will attempt to prime-pump the U.S. economy through a series of economic policies. After all, candidate Trump has promised to boost the U.S. growth rate to an average of 3.5 percent and to create 25 million jobs over the next decade. He has also promised the “overhaul of our tax, regulatory, energy and trade policies.”
How can a Trump administration stimulate growth? First, by proposing a massive $ 4.4 trillion tax cut to spur growth, not dissimilar from the 2001-2003 Bush-Cheney administration $1.3 trillion tax cut program, which met with dubious results, besides increasing the U.S. government fiscal deficit.
Second, a Trump administration will attempt to boost U.S. manufacturing jobs. For that, it would have to do better than the record achieved during the two Bush-Cheney terms, when the United States lost over six million manufacturing jobs. To reverse that trend, Trump may attempt to force the repatriation of the $2.1 trillion profits that U.S. companies are holding overseas and induce those corporations to invest more within the United States. He may also raise some import taxes to persuade American-owned corporations to create jobs in the U.S. — To what extent a Republican-controlled Congress will acquiesce to such a protectionist trade policy remains to be seen.
Finally, candidate Trump has promised to launch a massive infrastructure investment program, stating that he wanted to “build the next generation of roads, bridges, railways, tunnels, seaports, and airports.”
3- The Trump government’s social challenges
By far, the biggest challenge that a Trump administration will face will be to make good on candidate Trump’s promise to abolish the national health program known as the Obamacare. He has proposed to replace the American health care law with a transfer of Medicaid to the states, accompanied by a state block grant program, and to provide tax exemption for employer-based health insurance plans, to be extended to individuals who purchase coverage on their own. Candidate Trump has even flirted with the idea of having the U.S. adopt a single-payer health care system. It remains to be seen how such a complex issue can be resolved.
It will take weeks and months before the Trump administration’s real agenda becomes clear. Under a Donald Trump presidency, the United States can be expected to change direction on many policies. As this revolution unfolds, the eyes of the world will be on the Trump administration and on the new policies it will attempt to implement. Let us hope that this will be done with care and intelligent thinking, and not in precipitation and chaos.