Today, I string together excerpts from two brilliant articles by Chris Hedges. While he is as unsparing as ever, these do not bludgeon you into submission, like when he is writing on the looming climate catastrophe.
Retake Our Democracy on KSFR 101.1 FM, Saturday, November 16, 8:30am– 9 am. I interview Miranda Viscoli, Co-President of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence. She lays out what NMPGV got done in the 2019 session, what’s been going on since then, and what to expect in 2020. On Nov. 9 I interviewed Rebecca Sobel, Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner for Wild Earth Guardians, one of Retake’s closest allies. We discussed NM’s contribution to global warming, the Governor’s energy policies, and the produced water issue. Rebecca offered insights into NM’s plan to treat and reuse toxic fracking bi-products that industry wants you to accept as “water,” produced or otherwise. Great show that went well over the 30 minutes, so be sure to check out the podcast at KSFR.org under “Programs.”
2020 Legislative Preview, Preparation & Training: What You Can do.
Tuesday, Nov 19, 6:30pm-8:30pm, Center for Progress & Justice, 1420 Cerrillos, Santa Fe. Join us in person in Santa Fe or via live stream at the Retake Facebook page at this link. Learn which bills are likely to be on the Governor’s :agenda” in 2020: Abortion Decriminalization? Red Flag? Community Solar? A Just Transition Plan? Find out how to advocate now to get bills on the agenda, and learn about effective advocacy strategies to use during the Session.
We’ll guide you through resources Retake has developed to help you advocate effectively from home or at the Roundhouse. And you’ll hear first-hand tips from some of Retake’s most active volunteers in the 2019 Session. Finally, Sydney Tellez, Associate Director of Common Cause, will tell you how you can help pass a bill calling for a constitutional amendment to create salaries for legislators and legislative staff, the only way we will ever have a Legislature that truly represents all the people and communities of our state. Please RSVP by clicking here (Facebook) or by emailing RetakeResponse@gmail.com
Hedges on the Military Industrial Complex and the Oligarchy
Today, we feature a review of two recent Chris Hedges TruthDig articles. The first piece, The Enemy Within, focuses on the ways in which the military industrial complex maintains its control of our foreign policy and how it remains in power through one administration after another. The second piece, Death by Oligarchy, reports on how the 1% maintains an iron grip on our political framework and the implications of that grip on the 2020 election.
As always, Hedges’ writing is crisp, fact-based, and eloquent, so rather than try to summarize, I have excerpted passages and in a sentence or two tied the passages together. The abiding impression is that we are faced with an immense challenge in freeing ourselves from the grasp of these two iron-tight grips, but only by understanding the scale of our challenge, can we hope to address it.
From The Enemy Within:
Dying empires historically squander the last capital they have, economic, political and military, on futile, intractable and unwinnable conflicts until they collapse. They seek in these acts of micro-militarism to recapture a former dominance and lost stature. Disaster piles on disaster. The architects of our imperial death spiral, however, are untouchable. The clueless generals and politicians who propel the empire into expanding chaos and fiscal collapse are successful at one thing—perpetuating themselves. No one is held accountable. A servile press treats these mandarins with near-religious veneration. Generals and politicians, many of whom should have been cashiered or put on trial, are upon retirement given lucrative seats on the boards of the weapons manufacturers, for whom these wars are immensely profitable. They are called upon by a fawning press to provide analysis to the public of the mess they created. They are held up as exemplars of integrity, selfless service and patriotism.Truthdig, The Enemy Within, Chris Hedges
Recall how often in mainstream media, whenever a foreign policy crisis emerges, the talking heads invite retired generals, former leadership from the State Department and Department of Defense to sort out the issues. What they are really doing, as Hedges points out above, is to circumscribe the debate and impose the parameters within which discussion should occur. Seldom do these talking head experts ever challenge the abiding assumptions that, as a nation, we have a right to impose our wills on the rest of the world. And yet, as the next excerpt describes, the long history of US intervention is fraught with one failure after another. In this context, why are we looking to the shepherds of this past failure to help us understand the present?
After nearly two decades, every purported objective used to justify our wars in the Middle East has been upended. The invasion of Afghanistan was supposed to wipe out al-Qaida. Instead, al-Qaida migrated to fill the power vacuums the deep state created in the wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen. The war in Afghanistan morphed into a war with the Taliban, which now controls most of the country and is threatening the corrupt regime we prop up in Kabul. The deep state orchestrated the invasion of Iraq, which had nothing to do with the attacks of 9/11. It confidently predicted it could build a Western-style democracy and weaken Iran’s power in the region. Instead, it destroyed Iraq as a unified country, setting warring ethnic and religious factions against each other. Iran, which is closely tied to the dominant Shiite government in Baghdad, emerged even stronger. The deep state armed “moderate” rebels in Syria in an effort to topple President Bashar Assad, but when it realized it could not control the jihadists—to whom it had provide some $500 million in weapons and assistance—the deep state began to bomb them and arm Kurdish rebels to fight them. These Kurds would later be betrayed by Trump. The “war on terror” spread like a plague from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya to Yemen, which after five years of war is suffering one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. The financial cost for this misery and death is between $5 trillion and $8 trillion. The human cost runs into hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded, shattered cities, towns and infrastructure and millions of refugees.Truthdig, The Enemy Within, Chris Hedges
Hedges then goes on to project how much, or rather how little, removing Trump from office would change this situation.
The removal of Trump from office would not threaten corporate power. It would not restore civil liberties, including our right to privacy and due process. It would not demilitarize the police or champion the rights of the working class. It would not impede the profits of the fossil fuel and banking industries. It would not address the climate emergency. It would not disrupt the warrantless surveillance of the public. It would not end extraordinary renditions, the kidnapping of those around the globe considered to be enemies of the state. It would not halt the assassinations by militarized drones. It would not halt the separation of children from their parents and the warehousing of these children in filthy, overcrowded conditions. It would not remedy the consolidation of wealth and power by the oligarchs and the further impoverishment of the citizenry. The expansion of our prison system and of black sites throughout the world, sites where we torture, would continue, as would the gunning down of poor, unarmed citizens in urban wastelands. Most importantly, the catastrophic foreign wars that have resulted in a series of failed states and wasted trillions of taxpayer dollars, would remain sacrosanct, enthusiastically embraced by the leaders of the two ruling parties, puppets of the deep state.Truthdig, The Enemy Within, Chris Hedges
And from Hedges, more on why removing Trump will not address the root cause of the problem, the intractable control exercised by the powers that be and that reside behind the curtain.
The impeachment of Trump, despite the enthusiasm of the liberal elite, is mostly cosmetic. The entire political and governmental system is corrupt. Hunter Biden was reportedly paid $50,000 a month to sit on the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings, although he has no training or experience in the gas industry. He had previously worked for the credit card corporation MBNA, which was one of Joe Biden’s largest campaign contributors when he was a senator from Delaware. Hunter Biden was hired by Burisma Holdings for the same reason he was hired by MBNA. His father, long a tool of corporate power and the military-industrial complex, in short the deep state, was a senator and later the vice president. Joe Biden, the Clintons and the Democratic Party leaders personify the legalized bribery that defines their rivals in the Republican Party. Corporate candidates in the two ruling parties are preselected, funded and anointed. If they do not abide by the demands of the deep state, which protects corporate interests and the management of empire, they are removed. There is even a word for it—primarying. Corporate lobbyists write the laws. The courts enforce them. There is no way in the American political system to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, AT&T, Amazon, Microsoft, Walmart, Alphabet, Facebook, Apple, Exxon Mobil, Lockheed Martin, UnitedHealth Group or Northrop Grumman.Truthdig, The Enemy Within, Chris Hedges
We, the American public, are spectators. An audience. Who will be seated when the game of musical chairs stops?
While most of us cheer as we watch the impeachment proceedings advance, Hedges sees a darker threat within this process: How the Deep State can exercise its absolute rule over any deviation from its agenda.
The impeachment of Trump marks a new and frightening chapter in American politics. The deep state has shown its face. It has made a public declaration that it will not tolerate dissent, although Trump’s dissent is rhetorical, mercurial and ineffectual. The effort to impeach Trump sends an ominous message to the American left. The deep state not only intends to prevent, as it did in 2016, Bernie Sanders or any other progressive Democrat from achieving power, but has signaled that it will destroy any politician who attempts to question the maintenance and expansion of empire. Its animus toward the left is far more pronounced than its animus toward Trump. And its resources to destroy those on the left are nearly inexhaustible.”Truthdig, The Enemy Within, Chris Hedges
And how does Hedges see this playing out?
There will come a moment of reckoning, as there has during the last few days in Lebanon and Chile. Social unrest is inevitable. Any population can be pushed only so far. The deep state, incapable of reform and determined to retain its grip on power, will morph under the threat of popular unrest into a corporatized fascism. It has at its disposal the legal and physical tools to instantly turn the United States into a police state. This is the real danger behind the deep state’s drive to impeach Trump. It is a stark message to obey or be silenced. Trump, in the end, is not the problem. We are. And if the deep state fails to rid itself of Trump it will, however reluctantly, use him to carry out its dirty work. Trump, if he manages to survive in power, will get his military parades. We will get, with or without Trump, tyranny. “Truthdig, The Enemy Within, Chris Hedges
To read the full article, The Enemy Within, click here
From Death by Oligarchy:
Here Hedges describes the threat posed by the oligarchy to the 2020 election and challenges to the 1% posed by Warren and Sanders, and he suggests that these forces may align behind Trump if the Democrats show the nerve to nominate someone who might seriously challenge that status quo.
Should Warren or Sanders miraculously become the Democratic candidate, which the oligarchs are working hard to prevent, they will reluctantly back Trump. Trump may be vulgar, corrupt and inept, he may have turned the United States into an international pariah, but he slavishly serves the financial interests of the oligarchs.”Truthdig, Death by Oligarchy, Chris Hedges
And how does the oligarchy or the 1% continue to concentrate wealth and undermine governmental functioning?
Oligarchs, freed from outside oversight and regulation, wantonly pillage the political and economic institutions that sustain them. They run up huge government deficits by slashing taxes on the rich. This forces an underfunded government to borrow from the banks, further enriching the oligarchs, and impose punishing austerity programs on the public. They privatize traditional government services, including utilities, intelligence gathering, large parts of the military, the police, the prison system and schools to make billions in profits. They create complex financial mechanisms that ensure usurious interest rates on mortgages, personal and student loans. They legalize accounting fraud and suppress wages to keep the public trapped in a crippling debt peonage. They loot trillions in taxpayer money when their speculative bubbles burst.Truthdig, Death by Oligarchy, Chris Hedges
Hedges provides one example of corporate greed run amok. JP Morgan.
Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase with an estimated worth of $1.4 billion, is the poster child for corporate greed and criminality. He directed JPMorgan Chase to underwrite fraudulent securities in the years leading up to the 2008 financial crash. He overcharged members of the military on mortgages and mortgage refinancing transactions. He overcharged customers for overdraft fees. He manipulated bidding on California and Midwest electricity markets. He overcharged homeowners for flood insurance. He billed customers for nonexistent credit card monitoring services. He charged minorities higher rates and fees on mortgages than those paid by white borrowers. He failed to pay overtime to company workers. Yes, JPMorgan Chase had to pay more fines than any other financial institution in the country, but the profits more than offset its fraudulent and criminal activity.Truthdig, Death by Oligarchy, Chris Hedges
And in two final excerpts, Hedges describes how the 1% will respond to a challenge from Warren or Sanders.
It is Dimon, along with fellow oligarchs Gates and the billionaire investor Leon Cooperman, who has recently led the attack on Warren. Dimon chastised her for her “wealth tax” plan and for allegedly vilifying “successful people.” Cooperman accused Warren of seeking to wreck the American dream. Gates also denounced her wealth tax plan, although if he did have to pay the tax, he would still be worth $6 billion. When questioned, Gates refused to say whether, if Warren becomes the Democratic nominee, he would support Trump.Truthdig, Death by Oligarchy, Chris Hedges
Greed is bottomless.
Note that while we expect the Koch brothers and their ilk to support Trump, even Bill Gates has hedged his bets and will not commit to opposing Trump. Hedges is quite sure of one and one thing only: the oligarchs will not abide the election of Warren or Sanders and should it happen, would undermine their presidency with all the resources at their command. Bottom line: Hedges sees the only path to freedom from these forces coming from some kind of revolution and his sense is that this revolution will come from the Christian right, not from the left.
The oligarchs are the last to understand the consequences of their moral depravity. The political reformers, such as Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, who could save the system from self-destruction are demonized in the same way the Russian oligarchs demonized Alexander Kerensky, the socialist revolutionaries and Mensheviks, paving the way for the tyrannical Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin. When the end comes, and the end will come, most probably in our case with a tyranny imposed by Christian fascists, the oligarchs will be blissfully unaware, gorging themselves at their palatial estates or on their mega yachts like the clueless French or Russian aristocrats on the eve of their revolutions.”Truthdig, Death by Oligarchy, Chris Hedges
Paul & Roxanne