Feeling a “Berning” dose of honesty

This was originally published on Leftist Critic on Apr 7, 2016.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. At times, this is a bit over the top, but it also tells another side of Bernie often ignored by his supporters.

Editor’s note: This is a speech Bernie Sanders would give if he was honest about his record and his run for president. I wrote this to set the record straight, not to expand on my articles about mass surveillance and a criticism of Ta-Nehisi Coates. Some may cry that Sanders is a social democrat and that he should be supported for U.S. President even though he is within the capitalist Democratic Party but I refuse to acquiesce to that position whatsoever. This is not intended to be pro-Killary piece either, for those Sanders supporters trolling the net. This is not a manifestation of my personal view, by my interpretation of what Sanders would say, hypothetically at times. There may be some aspects that I would say otherwise, but all in all, it is my interpretation of Sanders.

Hello fellow capitalists,

The one-man political revolution has reached its end. I am glad that the group, Capitalists for Bernie hosted this event. I won’t let you down one bit. I will do everything in my power to listen to the concerns of the well-to-do, the ruling capitalist class of the United States! (wild cheers from audience). Hillary Clinton may have been funded by all of you, but I intend to work with you as much as I can in my capacity as President.

You may remember in my campaign I had that promise of free college tuition. I must remind you that my argument was that it would create strong economy, the best educated work force in the worldrebuild our middle class and allow the US to be “competitive in the global economy.” I also promised to expand programs like Pell Grants. As you may remember, my idea only applies to public colleges and universities, not to private ones. Additionally, even with a financial transaction tax, the cost of room and board and the cost of textbooks won’t be covered under my plan. All you will still be able to exploit students with high textbook prices and keep them in debt servitude. (wild cheers from audience). I announce today that my plan to make public colleges tuition-free will be paid not through a financial transaction tax as I claimed in my campaign but by seizing some of those frozen assets of the Russian government and keep those sanctions in place because the entire world has got to stand up to Putin! (cheers from audience).

As all of you know, we have to beat those Chinese. Otherwise, we will be left in the dust, like a second-rate imperialist power. WE CANNOT LET THAT HAPPEN! (cheers from audience). My wife, Jane Sanders who was ousted from Burlington College, for unknown reasons, leaving the college in a state of near financial collapse. Even we sink deep into debt, just like that college, I can assure you that like my wife, any college presidents fired will receive a $200,000 severance package from the federal government. We’ll just steal some of Russia’s oil and sell it on the world market. Otherwise we are nothing better than television ad buyers who get $30,000 in commissions each year. Regardless, we will make sure that the status quo in the education system remains in place, stopping people with force who try to confront presidents of their colleges or demand policy reforms. All of you can get your money from private security contracts to defend the colleges of this country from these pesky types, you know who they are. (cheers from audience).

On the campaign trail I said that I was a democratic socialist. But anyone who knows, I’m a social democrat, not a socialist. All of you know that the talk of socialism was just a facade. It might have punctured a few times, like when I called the late Hugo Chavez, a man who loved the poor with all of his heart, a “dead communist dictator” but the Sandersnistas or Bernie Bros believed it without question. How dumb they were, that they bought into that lie. Weren’t they so naive? (laughs from the audience).

As you all know, I have supported neoliberal policies more than my loyal supporters would admit. I voted to deregulate derivatives two times, once in October 2000 and another time in December of that year. I’m glad to have served all of you and voted to create an unregulated derivatives market despite the threats to the overall U.S. economy. I also voted not that long ago for an extension of the harsh neoliberal African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which really does, as the International Trade Administration put it, offer tangible incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets. I’m glad to play my part to open the U.S. market to African products and continue in the NAFTA tradition, to strengthen the hand of transnational corporations, while simultaneously restricting the ability of host countries to tax them. I may have voted against a number of free trade agreements in the past, like the one with South Korea, and even the Export-Import Bank, but I’m definitely not going to pass off an initiative that was pushed by a coalition of U.S.-based multinational corporations, including oil companies. People might think I’m pretty progressive, but I’m willing to serve the capitalist class if it is in the national interest of the United States, especially if it benefits US-based companies! (cheers from audience).

I said earlier about supporting free tuition for public colleges. As a reminder, private colleges can continue to exploit people all they want and even expand. I’m not going to mess with their affairs. You can do what you want. (cheers from CEOs of private colleges). The media vetted me so horribly that they missed my support for neoliberal education reform, or neoliberal capture to be more accurate. It was great that the corporate media didn’t focus on this so the  general public and my supporters don’t realize my stance. So thank you. (corporate media CEOs stand and clap). I’ve supported the neoliberal No Child Left Behind initiative. In fact I voted for its first iteration back in 2001 (later I changed my mind). How my supporters could miss this is beyond me. (laughs from the audience).

In 2012 I declared to your friend, Arne Duncan, that I supported the Race to the Top Program (RTTT), pushed by the previous administration, and the next year I again asserted my approval, saying that it would significantly improve early-childhood education in our state and better prepare our kids for school and the challenges and opportunities in life. I even called for NCLB “reform” which you all know was a joke, since while I claimed it would allow schools to move away from standardized testing, but it actually kept in place the RTTT program. I am aware that this program is the direct cause of our national wave of school closings and mass teacher firings from Philadelphia to Atlanta and Los Angeles to Rhode Island. But that’s the price you have to pay for neoliberalism. I know that my deluded supporters are too naive to see the reality that is staring them in the face. I hope this makes you happy, because I’m glad to be serving the capitalist class. (cheers from the audience).

I’m glad to play my part. My supporters probably will never investigate into my non-objections to Mickey Mouse Protection Act, which passed by voice vote or the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which also passed by voice vote, both parts of the modern US copyright regime. My social democracy includes, of course, protecting the intellectual property of multinational corporations from those nasty digital pirates. (cheers from audience). I’ve even voted for that American Taxpayer Relief Act which increased payroll taxes, extended numerous corporate tax breaks, and so on. I even voted to open up the Gulf of Mexico to more oil drilling when I voted FOR the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement. But hey, my supporters won’t remember this, right? (laughs from audience).

I’m glad to do my part to protect the gun industry here in America. I know I get all of crap from those liberals for shielding gun manufacturers from lawsuits by gun violence victims, but I really do oppose federal firearms laws since this isn’t one of my major issues, after all. You may remember that I was the one to vote against the Brady Act. What good days those were. Some people said that the statement I made about difference between guns in Vermont and shootings in Chicago was a “dog whistle” that parroted points from the NRA. But let me make clear as I told Playboybackground checks won’t solve the problems we have with guns in America. Protecting gun manufacturers is as right as protecting those who make hammers. I refuse to apologize for that vote in 2005 to protect to the gun industry and I stand by it. I will support gun manufacturers from legal consequences for as long as I am in office! You’ll get your money’s worth! (cheers from audience)

And then we get to issues of race. Oh that’s been a big topic since those black women interrupted me in Seattle all those months ago. Gosh they were so rude. Their action was completely uncalled for. But hey I remedied it by meeting with that neoliberal activist, your friend, Deray, and I supported the confirmation of Loretta Lynch for an Attorney General. I know she made some harsh statements opposing marijuana legalization and so on, but hey, that’s politics. I might support decriminalizing marijuana, unless one of you has a better idea, but I definitely think that people who do hard drugs should be punished to the full extent of the law. You can count on me for that! The drug war will continue in a new form. It will not end! (cheers from audience).

Oh my record on race is so helpful to all of you, but my supporters have never recognized the reality. I did vote for the Clinton Crime Bill in 1994 and said that I regretted it. I am aware that it increased the size of the carceral state in the United States and has been broadly criticized, even giving money to states to incarcerate undocumented immigrants. While I oppose private prisons, and have talked about incarceration currently existing, I just want it to be a nicer form of imprisonment. In fact, I will replace those private prisons with public ones. All of you will be handsomely paid. (cheers from audience).

During the campaign I said that white people don’t know what its like to be poor and face police brutality. I basically said, in summary, that white people don’t know what its like to be in poor communities, experience police brutality, that the criminal justice system should be reformed, and that institutionalized racism must end. But that was all just for show. I was trying to appease the Black Lives Matter people, like the woman who challenged me. The truth is, regardless of those comments, I plan strengthen the police forces across this country with that supposed reform of body cameras so they keep in place the necessary status quo. We don’t want any riots like what happened in Baltimore or Ferguson. That would be bad for business, bad for all of you, bad for me. So help me by giving me the tools to expand their powers! (cheers from audience).

Oh and then there’s Sierra Blanca. My wife is still a Commissioner on the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Commission, which dealt with this matter. I worked with George W. Bush, your friend, to send nuclear waste to a poor Latino community in Texas. I knew they wouldn’t fight back. When those pesky people of the Vermont chapter of the Sierra Club, a group that helps all of you from time to time, I rightly dismissed their concerns. I was aware that it was already a toxic waste dump and I told some activists that my position was unchanged. Ultimately it didn’t matter because it wasn’t even built there because of resident opposition and was put somewhere else instead. Some people even called my actions environmental racism, saying that I couldn’t be trusted because of it and that I made a cold political calculation that affected the lives of hundreds of poor people of color. The latter is preposterous. Still, I lied in saying that I was not personally responsible for sending nuclear waste to Sierra Blanca. Of course I was. I also knew the opposition in that area of the country existed and that there was an environmental justice aspect to the Sierra Blanca site. I’m glad my campaign said what I did because it was clearly threatening my progressive political brand. Any marketing executives that are here know that’s threats to a brand are a horrible thing. To be absolutely clear, I did support environmental racism in Sierra Blanca and I regret none of it. It was completely the right decision. (WE SUPPORT YOU, BERNIE bellow the capitalists).

Then we get to imperial foreign policy. I am glad that few recognized that I would leave in place the American empire. We all have to acknowledge it exists now. I’m still leaving Guantanamo Bay Prison (Gitmo) open, which is only a part of the total base there. I even voted against closing it in 2009 but my loyal supporters will never bring that up. How deluded they are. (audience laughs). Before I get to my support for militarism and how I want to maintain this imperial presence, I must outline my support for the Zionist cause. US imperialism has to bolster settler colonialism in Israel, otherwise it isn’t worth anything. Then all of you can get your money from what’s going on there and I can support you in that effort. Sound good to all of you? (A resounding YES! from the audience).

Before going on, I must make it clear that I’m as pro-Israel as they come. I believe in a  modified form of Zionism, Labor Zionism to be exact. Anyway, there was some petition going around from those pesky pro-Palestinian activists, who aren’t too radical, which greatly helps our cause. Anyway, some news outlets reported on that speech I didn’t “give” to AIPAC and said that I wasn’t there in person because I was campaigning in western states. That’s true. I’ll never turn my back on AIPAC. No way in the world. I respect them as an organization, fully and truly. I never was really against Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, I just opposed it on procedural grounds. As a reminder I didn’t object to the support for Israel missile “defense” program, tested in an assault on Palestinians in 2014 and later sold to Indiathe Iron Dome. I also helped the cause of Zionists by shouting down pro-Palestinian voices in a summer 2014 town hall as videos far and wide across YouTube stand to show. I also supported Israel in a resolution in summer 2014 and didn’t object to the United States-Israel Partnership Act of 2014.

Most importantly was the speech I would have given to AIPAC. I may have said some things that shook the current status quo, but I am clearly a friend of Israel. I think there should be a nicer form of settler colonialism in place that takes away the right of armed self-defense by Palestinians, keeps that never-ending “peace process” going and ending some of the more brutal assaults by Israel but doing it in a nicer fashion. Additionally, I firmly oppose Hamas, think that hideous monster called ISIS must be destroyed by any means necessary, especially by helping US imperial proxies, Muslim authoritarian states like Jordan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, to fight for the soul of Islam. In that speech let me remind you that I claimed, for public relations purposes that the US is not the policeman of the world when we all know what it is. I also touted the success of US interventionism citing the success in 1990 Gulf War, said that Assad should be removed from power, and opposed Iran’s power grabs in the region. I even said that war against Iran would be on the table, along with sanctions if they don’t comply with what the empire wants. We can’t let them threaten our interests either when they intersect with Israel or with our imperial hegemony. Otherwise our imperial position in the Middle East would be compromised and that would be disastrous. We must maintain imperialism in the Middle East by all necessary means, even it means more debt! (cheers from audience).

Before I get to my endorsement of imperial destabilization of those pesky rogue states that threaten our honored empire, I must remind all of you of my militaristic credibility. While I called out repeatedly Pentagon waste, all of you know full well that I support a strong military. What that means in real terms is that I think a huge war machine is a good thing, a thing which can defend the world since the empire is already tied to so many countries economically and legally obligated to protect 25% of the world as even the Washington Post noted. First and foremost I must say that I do not oppose the wonderful global assassination program, the drone program. I just want selective and effective strikes. More exact killings for a more dangerous age. I think the US should defend itself from terrorism but not get those Constitution-loving freaks mad about us violating their civil liberties. That would not be good. I may not support ground troops to fight ISIS, but I think that there should be Saudi forces fighting as US proxies, along with other countries. I will continue the efforts of the previous administration to bomb ISIS, which I have called in the past, a fanatical and brutal organization, which is a danger to the region and the world. We need more airstrikes like the ones I supported in the past to continue this new war. I also must remind all of you that I fully and completely support the imperial occupation of Afghanistan. There is no need to withdraw from a country we are currently exploiting. I think all of you will agree with that. I will do everything in my power to stop China gaining influence in that country. I can assure you of that. (wild cheers from audience).

As a reminder, let me go through my pro-war record. I said in the campaign that I voted against the Iraq war in 2002. That is true and I think it was a mistake and a dumb war just like a young Obama said at the time. Let’s start with Bosnia. At the time I voted in favor of “peacekeeping operations” in Kosovo and in favor of missile strikes against Yugoslavia. I even said on the House floor point-blank the following: “I have supported the NATO bombings of military targets” in Bosnia. I stand by that decision. I know I lost some supporters from endorsing the destruction of Yugoslavia in a 78 day bombing campaign which drenched Serbia in depleted uranium. But who cares. This war was important in setting a precedent for the wonderful humanitarian imperialists like your good friend, Samantha Power, as used in the Libyan war of 2011 to rid the country of the that brutal socialist dictator, Gaddafi. If he had just been neoliberal then I would have been fine with him. But, no, he had to be a socialist. How despicable. Anyway, I know there was the creation of a humanitarian pretext for intervention in Bosnia, that it was just part of a  way to create favorable conditions for corporate profit-making. I’m also aware that calling this war humanitarian is a big joke since it was really, as we all know, about maintaining its imperial dominance, with the humanitarian guise part of a broader propaganda offensive, with a similar approach used in the Libyan war, since the US basically oversaw the most massive acts of ethnic cleansing to occur during the Bosnian war. But can you blame me? I had the war fever. Supporting imperialism is my lifeblood and it will stay that way as long as I hold this office of the presidency! (cheers from audience).

To close out this section I must remind my audience here today at this event, hosted by my wonderful friends, Capitalists for Bernie, about my support for the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998. I voted for this law, which was about liberating Iraqis from a brutal dictator, Saddam Hussein. Perhaps we had supported that dictator when it was convenient and perhaps he had made progress in some some domains. Still, Clinton was right to sign the legislation into law, pushed by the Republican Congress at the time. Not Hillary Clinton, but your friend Bill. (laughs from audience). There is no doubt that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction back then. We are sure of it. We can’t forget how Senator Sam Brownback used it to advocate for bringing capitalism to Iran, and how it was used to argue for the Iraq War in 2003, even by George W. Bush himself that year. Even in the preamble to the 2002 bill for the war’s authorization, the law was cited. While the Iraq Liberation Act was the prelude to a war I voted against, I can’t regret giving Iraqi opposition groups millions of dollars so they could make the Middle East that much better for our existing empire.

Finally let me mention two things. For one, I voted in favor of the imperial Afghan war in 2001. I don’t regret that one bit. Let me also remind you that in 2011 I said that we couldn’t withdraw all of our troops immediately and that our men and women fighting overseas for empire, fighting for all of you, are doing a tremendous job under very difficult circumstances, since we need a victory over the Taliban, those horrid monsters. Many years later, I voted to expand the intelligence apparatus. This was a law that created the position of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Counterterrorism Center, and many other anti-terror institutions, while expanding punishment for those accused of terrorism. I even defended the Department of Homeland Security when it was at its weakest from those who wanted to deny it funding and voted to give it funding. Hey, I even told Yahoo! News said that surveillance of “potential terrorists” is ok. I’m glad all of you heard this because you can know for certain that I support these efforts because I think social control for the capitalist class by the federal government is important in these trying times of need. (wild applause, standing ovation by audience)

Let me move onto a vital subject of importance. I am in favor of imperial destabilization of rogue nations across the world that threaten not only the national cohesiveness of our grand empire but your financial assets. I have said before that we are an oligarchy. But let me be even more specific. As a capitalist government, we will protect you, the capitalist class, even if we claim to be a democracy, since we are really just a constitutional oligarchy, just no one really says it. (loud applause from audience).

Let me start with Cuba. In the past, I positively treated Cuba’s government. But that was when I was really a socialist, not like now when I head a government geared to protect your interests. As the available evidence shows, I support the democratic opposition to Cuba’s socialist government, headed currently by President Raul Castro and the Communist Party of Cuba. I know that the imperial machinations of empire such as USAID and NED, and other organs of empire, along with the allies in corporate publications ranging from the Washington Post to the New York Times call them democratic. But we all know, as USAID documents of the Cuban Transition Project have shown, the ultimate goal is to get in power a US-friendly government and privatize all the publicly-owned parts of Cuba’s economy, then destroy its socialist system. That way we can create a calm Caribbean that reflects a positive image of our empire, rather than a failing one that allows Cuba to withstand sustained assault from imperialists of the American empire since 1959. That is unacceptable. (wild applause from the audience).

I can also say that when this new government takes control we will find Assata Shakur and snatch her. We can’t let noble black liberationists make us look bad. This is why I voted to extradite her all these years ago. But few ever bring it up because it would ruin my public image. I thank my supporters for that.

There are other rogue states I want to eliminate as well. Let me make a comment first. The wonderful David Graeber, who is now my Secretary of State, once declared that he wasn’t pro-Assad and that Assad is the most murderous dictator on earth. After I found out about this statement I applauded him and realized he would make a great fit for the empire after reading his other statements, including his tweets. Some may say he is radical for his role in the Occupy movement or his book on debt, but all in all, that movement was no communist or socialist uprising, it was just a progressive sputtering. The capitalist federal government can easily handle such puny efforts. It was crushed within a number of months and then there was a level of infighting, partially instigated by agents of this government to protect, all of you, the capitalist class. (applause from audience).

The Occupy movement is so discredited now, that even publications like Adbusters, that started this supposed revolution, are a joke in and of themselves. It is good to see this outcome. In order to complement this, I appointed all the major players in those circles, ranging from a moderately successful writer, Charles Davis, a white female artist, Molly Crabapple, and Gary, the Human Rights Watcher, to high levels in my administration. They will all be vital in maintaining the glorious empire we have created. They did their part before in promoting our initiatives, serving as imperial agents whether they wanted to or not, but now they can directly serve the empire in all of their capacities. (standing ovation and applause from audience).

I fully support the imperial destabilization of Syria’s socially democratic government. As I said earlier, I am a social democrat, but I am also a fully-blooded imperialist. All of you know that, but my supporters have often forgot this, living in the land of delusion so long that they’ll just become mindless zombies for my cause, which is exactly what I want. Anyway, I think that Assad is a terrible dictator at war with his own people and that we need to provide arms to the Kurds while making sure they support our imperial cause in the future, without having perpetual war of a bad kind. Just like my combative attitude toward Russia, the record shows time and time again that I support the Syrian opposition. I know that it is hard to tell who is in the opposition at times, but I think it is clear that Assad must be eliminated at all costs and that the socially democratic elements of the Syrian constitution must be removed. That way all of you here today and many others will get a chance to exploit Syrians and create a whole new market. When this new government takes power I will make sure, in all of my efforts as President, that this comes to fruition. I will not fail you. (thunderous applause from the audience).

The methods of imperial destabilization have worked in Venezuela. If a socialist government takes power in Venezuela again then it will be time to, as I have said in the past, cut ourselves loose of oil from that country. As the record shows, I have time, time, and time again not objected to bills to destabilize the then-socialist government. Now that the former socialist government is in the opposition and former right-wing opposition is now in power, the capitalist federal government of the United States can help Venezuela. We will use every means possible to push Maduro out of power. If this means violent means, then all be it. The Venezuelan government can and should be a plaything of empire. That way Venezuela, like Syria, can become another market for wonderful capitalists like yourselves. I would have it no other way. (loud applause from audience).

There is one more rogue state that must be taken care of: North Korea or the DPRK. This anti-imperialist haven and socialist state has stopped US imperialism for too long. The sanctions on this country, which I support, must remain. However, this country, which I classify as a belligerent totalitarian state of hideous proportions must be dealt with first through diplomatic means coupled with efforts by the CIA, USAID, and NED to fund opposition in the country in order to undermine the regime. After all of those diplomatic means have been exhausted or when they threaten a vital imperial interest of the United States or its corporate partners, we will launch a full-scale invasion of North Korea by the US military. If we are ultimately successful then a US-friendly government will take power in North Korea, helping capitalists like those here today. I can tell you that destabilizing this rogue state and installing a US-friendly, pro-market regime will be one of our top foreign policy priorities. I can assure you of that 100%. (loud applause by audience).

There is one last country I wish to touch on: China. I have said in the past that we should avoid a cold war with China like that with the Soviet Union but that the US should support those elements in China fighting for a democratic society. What I mean by this is that the capitalist US government must support the opposition to the regime in place. (applause by audience). In the past, as I have used China either as a foil to promote protectionism, we must beat them at their own game, called them out on their unfair trade policies.

The voting record on bills of interest, noted in Table A-2 on the site of the State Department, shows my record. In 1999, I ultimately voted for the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2000, even though I originally voted against it, a bill which gave millions of dollars to support Tibetan anti-communist resistance, support NED initiatives to foster democracy in China, and for more intelligence on their dealings. In 2000, I voted against normal trade with China since I didn’t want trade with a communist country. In 2001, in a number of different roll calls, throughout the year, I voted for a law which gave millions upon millions of dollars to support democracy, human rights, and much more within China’s borders. I must regret my vote in 2003 on one occasion and another to vote against a bill that provided more money for NED to destabilize China. But that bill was crap and I didn’t like it one bit. However, I recovered lost ground the next year by voting twice in favor, in one roll call then another, for a law that gave money for a Political Prisoner Database and at least $19 million to support democracy and human rights in China. In 2005 I voted in one roll call after another for a law to fund Tibetan anti-communist development and resistance, consisting of hundreds of thousands of dollars in human rights and democracy programs by NED.  In 2007, I continued this trend voting twice, at one time and then another for a bill that gave millions upon millions to fund democracy and rule of law programs, along with other support for the Chinese opposition. In 2009, I again voted to fund Tibetan anti-communist resistance as a consolidated bill showed. Also that year I had no objection to a law that gave millions to distribute propaganda concerning the environment, governance, transparency, and corruption within the borders of the communist Chinese beast.

I am hopeful that this record convinces you that I am supportive of imperial destabilization of China. I am glad to report that the Chinese government has fulfilled our imperial aims by siding with our efforts to sanction North Korea to death in an effort of destabilization. Still, I will commit here and now to putting in place a friendlier government in China. That way all of you wonderful capitalists can have a share of the wealth and exploit a whole new market of consumers even more effectively. (wild cheers from audience).

To close out this speech, I must thank the Capitalists for Bernie group for hosting this event. If you had not secretly funneled money to my campaign disguised as numerous individual contributions to make me seem like a grassroots candidate, then I would not be President today. I’d also like to thank my undying supporters, people who rarely ever questioned me or my brand of politicking. I’d also like to thank the corporate media for helping the general public not know that I am an imperialist who willingly support the capitalist class, and instead painting me as some populist who will save the day. With that God Bless America and God Bless this Glorious American Empire.

The Intercept, the CIA, and corporate surveillance

Originally published on Leftist Critic on Feb 26, 2016.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism.

As avid followers may know I had some interesting conversations with members of Omidyar’s play thing, The Intercept, which is part of a broader effort known as “First Look Media” that funds certain projects such as the recent movie, Spotlight. Anyway, this conversation begins with Jon Schwartz (@tinyrevolution) of The Intercept and ends with head honcho/celebrity left personality Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald). In this article I tie together both of these conversations not only to a broader critique of the CIA but of surveillance, corporate and governmental.

The reality of Jon Schwartz’s “pro-reality” article 

Jon Schwartz recently published an article in The Intercept which justifies Bernie Sanders’s position in 1974 to abolish the CIA when he ran as part of the still-existing-democratic socialist party called the Liberty Union Party. While some have convincingly argued that since he doesn’t have the position now that he shouldn’t be taken seriously and that “pragmatic” progressives won’t recognize why the CIA should be abolished today, Schwartz makes a stranger argument. In an article that could have called for the CIA’s abolishment but actually took a pro-Sanders bent, in my view, he says that Sanders’s position is NOT radical by claiming (and implying at times) that John F. Kennedy (JFK), Harry S. Truman, Dean Acheson, the final report of the Church Committee, and Daniel Moynihan wanted to abolish the CIA. Then he claims that the original article in POLITICO, that revealed this information, is part of a smear campaign against Sanders, implying that the Clinton campaign gave him the information about Sanders’s position to begin with. However, it is not worth wasting time with such silly speculation. It is better to look at Schwartz’s article to see if what he is saying is accurate.

Schwartz starts off with a quote from JFK to “prove” he wanted the CIA’s abolishment. The quote, for context was after the failed debacle, to unseat the newly communist Cuban government, known as the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. Kennedy said and I quote: “I wanted to splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces, and scatter it into the winds.” Now, that sounds like he would want to abolish it, and numerous people come have claimed this as well. There is no record that he pushed for the abolishment of the CIA in his other two years in office. Secondly, JFK did NOT want to blame the entire agency for the Bay of Pigs invasion. Thirdly, JFK turned to Operation Mongoose not long after. As a reminder, Operation Mongoose was, like the Bay of Pigs Invasion, an imperialist destabilization effort aimed at Cuba. Hence it easy to conclude that JFK was just angry about the Bay of Pigs invasion failing so miserably and hence was not serious about abolishing the CIA. After all, JFK was ok with CIA operations for the rest of his time in office until his assassination, so to say he would want to eliminate them is laughable.

We then move onto an article by Truman which Schwartz cites in which he apparently calls for the CIA’s abolishment. The quote from the article from Truman’s article, which cannot be accessed unless you have a subscription, which Schwartz uses as follows

“I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations. … I, therefore, would like to see the CIA be restored to its original assignment as the intelligence arm of the president … and that its operational duties be terminated or properly used elsewhere.”

As helpful comrade @nancyhoffner pointed out, Truman is lying just by looking at the Truman Doctrine (also see here) itself since there were “cloak and dagger operations” and the purpose of the CIA. While, as I noted above, the article cannot be accessed without a subscription, I could find most of it transcribed in the book Shadow Warfare: The History of America’s Undeclared Wars, but it is fully transcribed and posted here.

In the article itself, Truman acts disappointed that the CIA isn’t acting enough like “an arm of the President” who, in his view, needs “immense task and requires a special kind of an intelligence facility.” After talking about information the president receives, he claims that he set up the CIA to as an organization “charged with the collection of all intelligence reports from every available source, and to have those reports reach me as President without department “treatment” or interpretations” not with destabilization. This seems suspicious enough. He then goes on to say that the CIA apparently would would “guard against the chance of intelligence being used to influence or to lead the President into unwise decisions” and that no information should be kept from the CIA. Then he goes on to be “disturbed” by recent CIA actions, saying: “for some time I have been disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government.” Before going on, I don’t understand the logic that the CIA was never a policy-making arm, as it has been policy-making since the beginning. Anyway, Truman continues and says this “new” assignment has “has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties” because of “peacetime cloak and dagger operations” and that it is is “being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue—and a subject for cold war enemy propaganda.” Hence he is saying that the CIA must change because it is serving as a form of Communist propaganda, a strong anti-communist view. He then says that Adm. Souers, Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg and Allen Dulles were “men of the highest character, patriotism and integrity” in leading the CIA. He concludes by saying that he would “like to see the CIA be restored to its original assignment as the intelligence arm of the President” and that “there is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it.”

Some people may cheer at Truman’s words and say that he is completely right. However, the reality is different. The CIA is described by the State Department’s Office of the Historian in a similar way to Truman: “The CIA served as the primary civilian intelligence-gathering organization in the government.” The National Security Act of 1947 that established the CIA declared that it would have the purpose

“of coordinating the intelligence activities of the several Government departments and agencies in the interest of national security… advise the National Security Council…to make recommendations to the National Security Council…to correlate and evaluate intelligence relating to the national security, and provide for the appropriate dissemination of such intelligence within the Government…to perform, for the benefit of the existing intelligence agencies, such additional services of common concern… to perform such other functions and duties related to intelligence affecting the national security”

Within this, I can see the actions such as CIA coups and other forms of destabilization as being justified. I don’t think that is much of a stretch ans I don’t even have to go through official diplomatic history to prove this.

Schwartz goes on to cite the memoirs of Truman’s Secretary of State, Dean Acheson who had a similar “warning” about the CIA. He specifically wrote “I had the greatest forebodings about this organization [CIA] and warned the President that as set up neither he, the National Security Council, nor anyone else would be in a position to know what it was doing or to control it.” While he said this, Acheson had a problematic history. While he apparently sympathized with Third World nationalism, he was staunchly anti-communist, blamed Mossadegh for not cooperating with the British, and kept in place U$ imperialist foreign policy manifested in the Truman Doctrine as noted in Kinzer’s All the Shah’s Men and Robert Beisner’s Dean Acheson: A Life in the Cold War. It is important to note that Acheson also supported the creation of NATO and perpetrated the U$/Soviet divide as noted in his biography by the Office of the Historian. So, lets not praise him at all.

Moving on, Schwartz cites two more sources, among others, including this, to argue that the Church Committee and Daniel P. Moynihan supported the abolishment of the CIA. As it turns out both arguments are very reserved. The Church Committee final report (sections can be read here and here), declares that

“The Committee concludes that the policy and procedural barriers are presently inadequate to insure that any covert operation is absolutely essential to the national security. These barriers must be tightened and raised or covert action should be abandoned as an instrument of foreign policy…Covert operations must be based on a careful and systematic analysis of a given situation, possible alternative outcome, the threat to American interests of these possible outcomes, and above all, the likely consequences of an attempt to intervene…With respect to congressional oversight of covert action, the Committee believes that the appropriate oversight committee should be informed of all significant covert operations prior to their initiation and that all covert action projects should be reviewed by the committee on a semi-annual basis. Further, the oversight committee should require that the annual budget submission for covert action programs be specific and detailed as to the activity recommended. Unforeseen covert action projects should be funded only from the Contingency Reserve Fund which could be replenished only after the concurrence of the oversight and any other appropriate congressional committees. The legislative intelligence oversight committee should be notified prior to any withdrawal from the Contingency Reserve Fund.”

While some could say that this is calling for the abolishment of the CIA, I don’t really see that. I basically see more restrictions on the CIA’s activities, ending covert ops if certain requirements can’t be met. I can tell you that the agents of 24 (ex: Jack Bauer), Mission Impossible, and other spy thrillers, would be pissed off at something like this. All those forms of mass media entertainment treat even minimal oversight by Congress as the worst thing ever, restricting their action to kill/torture/maim the “bad guys,” a theme which is more common than not in our current post-2001, “anti-terror” era.

Finally, Schwartz cites a section of the Congressional Record in 1995 in which he claims that Daniel P. Moynihan is calling for the abolishment of the CIA. Unlike the Church Committee’s final report, it turns out this was a reality. Not only does Moynihan take a predictably anti-communist bent, he says that “secrecy is a disease. It causes hardening of the arteries of the mind” and that US foreign policy institutions should be reformed. But his act abolishing the CIA is problematic because “all of the functions, powers and duties of the Director of Central Intelligence, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and any officer or component of the Central Intelligence Agency” would be transferred to the US Secretary of State. Some may think this is great, except when you realize all the implied powers the CIA had gained from 1947 to 1995 including assassination, despite it sorta being banned by executive order, concocting forms of destabilization such as coup d’etats. So basically the Secretary of State would have these powers. How does this solve anything? Why not just abolish the CIA and all of its powers?

For the record, I think the CIA should be abolished. After all, lets just look at the things the CIA has done over the years:

  1. Involvement in 1963 Baghdad Coup with funding of the Baath Party which just happens to be the same party as Saddam Hussein. [1] What a coincidence, not.
  2. A campaign to destabilize Cuba codenamed Operation Mongoose or the Cuban Project, which is related to Operation Northwoods where the U$ agents would commit acts of terrorism within the U$ and then blame them on Cuba in order to justify a war
  3. Involvement in Operation Gladio
  4. The failed Bay of Pigs invasion
  5. Operation 40, which was a group of Cuban exiles who worked to destabilize Cuba, a group which apparently disbanded in 1970 after ten years in existence
  6. A mind-control program named MKUltra (discovered in 1977) which consisted of illegal tests on numerous people to test certain psychedelic drugs like LSD and heroin. Related to this is a former mind control project called Operation ARTICHOKE, and a connected sub-project called Operation Midnight Climax in which there were CIA safehouses in San Fransciso and “prostitutes paid by the government to lure clients to the apartment served up acid-laced cocktails to unsuspecting john.” [2] Also see this and information about Project MKOften
  7. A domestic intelligence operation called Operation CHAOS [3]
  8. Giving money and assistance to pro-Tibet forces such as the Dalai Lama for years and years as part of a plan to destabilize China. [4]
  9. A secret program named Operation Mockingbird to influence media with recruiting of “leading American journalists into a network to help present the CIA’s views, and funded some student and cultural organizations, and magazines as fronts”
  10. An operation called Project COLDFEET to extract intelligence from an abandoned Soviet Arctic drilling station
  11. A program called the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) program developed in 1961 to train the South Vietnamese military
  12. The famed program called Operation Cyclone to arm and finance the Afghan mujahideen which ultimately became Al Qaeda. Later the CIA apparently tried to buy the weapons back in Operation MIAS but this failed.
  13. Project FUBELT, a code name for CIA operations to destabilize and topple Salvador Allende’s government in Chile.
  14. A program, assisted by the British, called Operation Gold, to tap into communication lines of Soviet Army headquarters in Berlin
  15. Battalion 3-16 was a murderous Honduran military unit that received training and support from the CIA
  16. CIA involvement in drug trafficking like the information revealed in Gary Webb’s Dark Alliance series
  17. All sorts of medical experiments, which made the US citizenry a laboratory for testing, as noted in this article. These experiments aren’t a surprise considering they funded one such program called Project 112 run by the military from 1962 to 1973.
  18. A project called Project Azorian to obtain a sunken Soviet sub. Related is an operation called Operation Matador.
  19. A secret covert OPs and intelligence fathering station called JMWAVE which was operated by the CIA in Florida from 1961 until 1968.
  20. A secret operation named Operation IA Freedom where the U$ government UNITA and FNLA militants in Angola’s Civil War.
  21. A guerrilla training program during the Laotian Civil War which was called Operation Momentum. Related is Operation Pincushion.
  22. Of course, I can’t forget about the Phoenix Program.
  23. Operation Washtub, a program to plant a phony Soviet arms cache in Nicaragua in an attempt to overthrow the Guatemalan president
  24.  A recon program called Project Dark Gene of the CIA and Iranian airforce to engage in recon of the Soviet Union
  25. According to William Blum, between 1949 and 1999, the CIA was involved in the assassination of thirty-three “prominent foreign individuals” not including the 200 political figures on a CIA/Neo-Nazi hit list, nine Sandinista commandantes. [5]
  26. As noted in the chapter of William Blum’s Rogue State about torture, the CIA taught torture techniques in Greece, Iran, Germany, Vietnam, Bolivia, Brazil, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Panama
  27. As noted in  the chapter of William Blum’s Rogue State titled “A Concise History of the United States Global Interventions, 1945 to the Present,” it is noted that the CIA meddled in the internal affairs of China, France, Italy, Greece, Philippines, Eastern Europe, Germany, Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Western Europe, Guyana, Iraq, Soviet Union, Vietnam, Laos, Ecuador, Congo, Algeria, Cuba, Ghana, Chile, South Africa, Bolivia, Australia, Portugal, South Yemen, Chad, Fiji, Afghanistan, Haiti, and Peru.
  28. As also noted in William Blum’s Rogue State, the CIA perverted elections in Lebanon, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan, Nepal, Laos, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Portugal, Jamaica, Panama, Nicaragua, and Haiti.
  29. The documents revealed in the Family Jewels report showing the that CIA: (1) confined a KGB defector, (2) wiretapped two syndicated columnists, (3) engaged in surveillance of investigative journalist Jack Anderson and associates, (4) engaged in surveillance of reporter Michael Getler, (5) broke into the homes of three people, two of whom were two former CIA employees, (6) opening of mail to and from the USSR from 1953 to 1973, (7) opening of mail to and from communist China from 1969 to 1972, (8) unsuccessful assassination plots against foreign leaders (Fidel Castro, Patrice Lumumba, Rafael Trujillo, and Rene Schneider), (9) surveillance of dissident groups between 1967 and 1971, (10) surveillance of particular individuals (including Victor Marchetti), and US citizens in Detroit, (11) amassing files on citizens involved in the antiwar movement, (12) polygraph experiment in California, (13) fake CIA ID documents that could violate state laws, and (14) testing electronic equipment on US telephone circuits

In recent years, the CIA has done some horrid things as any observer would recognize. These include the torture program in the 21st century, horribly called “enhanced interrogation” but still allowing “extraordinary rendition” to occur. Related to this are the “CIA manuals” for torture. Then there’s the CIA drone assassination program of course and the funding of supposed Syrian rebels.

But there is a story relating to the CIA that is worth noting that is ignored as I noted in a recent thread. That is the CIA’s involvement in the Benghazi attacks, attacks which the Republicans went totally out-of-their-minds over, and use as a partisan bludgeon. Still, there is something to be said on the CIA’s role. One report said that their only role was drafting talking points on the attacks for the House Intelligence Committee, generating “the initial drafts of the unclassified talking points and provided them to other officials within the Executive Branch for clearance,” and later a high-ranking CIA official editing, when working with State Department officials, “the talking points to their final form,” supposedly changed to protect a FBI investigation. Others told more about what the CIA’s role was in Libya and Benghazi.

These reports don’t say everything, but they say something. One report talked about CIA personnel were were killed on the day of the attack, mentioned that 20 minutes after the attack started on the main diplomatic facility, “CIA security personnel from a nearby CIA facility” which was informally called the “annex” raced to the facility, then exchanged “fire with the attackers and then…fought their way back to the annex.” Other parts of the report say that a individual “associated with” the CIA repeatedly asked for “assistance from existing “combat aircraft” but a “CIA superior “ignored” the demand because “he knew that no combat aircraft were available for such a mission” and that the response “of the CIA personnel at the annex has also been critiqued.” Other than this, the report says no more. Another heavily redacted report says that the chief of the CIA base in Benghazi was at the “annex” on the night of the attacks on September 11, 2012, that there was apparently no order by the CIA base chief to “stand down,” that the “annex” was “known by some in Benghazi as an American facility.” This report also says there were concerns to how “safe” it was for a U.S. “Temporary Mission Facility” (TMF) mission, CIA implementing “security upgrades” to protect the “annex” which had an unknown number of people, a six-man security team from the annex went to the mission after the attack, the CIA, along with the State Department, depended on the security to local militias who didn’t come through during the attack. An additional comment at the end said that the “CIA should be equally criticized for its own security at the Annex,” as equally as the State Department did not defend the TMF.

Finally there is the investigative report published in November of 2014 which is unclassified. This report, unlike the others, mentions the CIA quite a bit. It notes that there were “CIA facilities in Benghazi,” claims that there was no evidence the CIA was doing anything illegal in Libya (including arms smuggling), that there was a “Benghazi Base” with a CIA chief, and that there were 28 personnel at the TMF and annex combined. The report also says that the CIA team made arrangements with Libya’s new special forces team, that there was a CIA base in Tripoli, the CIA had a “low profile” in Benghazi, the CIA was collecting intelligence on those moving weapons from Libya but apparently not holding weapons, and the CIA Office of Public Affairs made changes to the talking points. There are some other points where the CIA is mentioned, but mostly these are just defending the CIA from accusations.

There are a number of aspects that these reports didn’t enter into. The conspiracy theory-leaning Washington’s Blog (see here and here), and some others, like this one, claimed that there were connections to the Syrian war. Journalist Seymour Hersh, linked Turkey, Benghazi, Syria and Sarin gas in an article. In the article, Hersh wrote that “the rat line, authorised in early 2012, was used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via southern Turkey and across the Syrian border to the opposition” and that a secret annex to the report, according to an unnamed “former senior Defense Department official,” described a

“secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan administrations…funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria…Washington abruptly ended the CIA’s role in the transfer of arms from Libya after the attack on the consulate, but the rat line kept going…The American decision to end CIA support of the weapons shipments into Syria left Erdoğan exposed politically and militarily.”

However, one could say this is just speculation, shaky as it is only based on what one unnamed official said. [6] After all this doesn’t go as far as those who said the TMF was a CIA front and/or a CIA operation (see here and here). An article on September 5, 2014 in the New York Times by David Kirkpatrick titled “New Book Says C.I.A. Official in Benghazi Held Up Rescue” claimed that CIA “commandaos” left their base “in defiance of the chief’s continuing order to “stand down”” which was questioned later by that same CIA chief named “Bob” (see here and here), and that the base chief “hoped to enlist local Libyan militiamen, and the commandos speculate that he hoped the Libyans could carry out the rescue alone to avoid exposing the C.I.A. base. No meaningful Libyan help ever materialized.” The article also quoted CIA “commandos” as joking with diplomatic security agents “What’s the difference between how Libyans look when they’re coming to help you versus when they’re coming to kill you? Not much.” Then there’s a “concerned” article from neocon Max Boot whose concern that “how the attackers knew about what was supposed to be a secret CIA facility is important” but forgets, as a report cited earlier in this section noted, that some in Benghazi knew it “as an American facility.” Additionally there’s an opinion piece by the former deputy director of the CIA, Michael Morell, in which he admits the CIA base, which some had weakly called an “annex” in the past, “remained a key outpost used by the United States to understand developments during the revolution and to influence key players in eastern Libya after Qadhafi. CIA had established a presence in Benghazi with the mission of collecting intelligence” and claims that the CIA “did not play any role in moving weapons from Libya to the opposition in Syria and neither did any other CIA officer or facility in Libya.” He even admits, while spitting out the normal imperial response that Gaddafi’s departure “from the scene in Libya in 2011 was a good thing in that it prevented the slaughter of thousands of his own citizens,” that what “followed was a failed state that provided room for extremist groups to flourish,” along with a slew of other claims.

A number of commentators argued in publications such as CounterPunch that the TMF and the installation as a whole [7] was more than a diplomatic mission. Norman Pollack argued that “Benghazi is but a pawn not only in US domestic politics, but also in spreading America’s  emphasis on paramilitary operations worldwide…Benghazi was primarily a CIA installation, its “annex” given the cloak of diplomatic immunity…these facilities are often fronts for a range of covert activities…[it was] a CIA outpost.” He added that “the locals know the score and deeply resent the armed fortresses spread globally, the claims of diplomatic immunity when personnel or the protectors…violate the laws of the country when committing crimes.” Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer and executive director of the Council for National Interest wrote in the slightly neocon American Conservative that “…Benghazi has been described as a U.S. consulate…The much larger CIA base was located in a separate building a mile away. It was protected by a not completely reliable local militia.” Giraladi argues that “on Benghazi, the CIA’s operating directive would have been focused on two objectives: monitoring the local al-Qaeda affiliate group, Ansar al-Sharia, and tracking down weapons liberated from Colonel Gaddafi’s arsenal.” Horace Campbell added to this. In an article in CounterPunch he raised a number of good points saying the attacks were the outcome of “Libyan society is in chaos” two years after NATO intervention, that Benghazi was “the largest CIA station in North Africa, where they ran militias into Syria,” said there were numerous unanswered questions like how the CIA station was used to train “Jihadists” and that “the debates in the USA can be viewed as another diversion to cover up the CIA operations in North Africa.” Melvin Goodman, a former CIA analyst and national security expert argued that “the U.S. presence in Benghazi was an intelligence platform and only nominally a consulate…[and] the was primarily diplomatic cover for an intelligence operation that was known to Libyan militia groups.” In an earlier article he expanded on this saying the why was obvious if you considered the role of the U.S. “consulate” in Benghazi:

“The consulate’s primary mission was to provide an intelligence platform that would allow the CIA to maintain an operational and analytical role in eastern Libya…[it] was the diplomatic cover for an intelligence platform and whatever diplomatic functions took place in Benghazi also served as cover for an important CIA base…Any CIA component in the Middle East or North Africa is a likely target of the wrath of militant and terrorist organizations because of the Agency’s key role in the global war on terror waged by the Bush administration and the increasingly widespread covert campaign of drone aircraft of the Obama administration…The CIA contributed to the problem with its reliance on Libyan militias and a new Libyan intelligence organization to maintain security for its personnel in Benghazi.”

These views are reinforced in a number of articles on the subject in popular, but still bourgeois, publications. An article on pro-Democrat and pro-Obama site, America Blog, complained that a GOPers outed a secret operation by saying that “Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz, and his House Republican colleagues on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, outed a classified CIA operation, on C-SPAN no less, endangering American national security” and that apparently they didn’t extra security “because it might have signaled that there was actually a CIA operation underway.” That propagandist approach was mirrored, as Reuters noted later, by the Center for American Progress, a think tank which easily allies with the Obama administration. Liberal columnist Dana Milbank whined about this as well, saying in an opinion piece for the Washington Post, that House Republicans “…accidentally blew the CIA’s cover…[they] left little doubt that one of the two compounds at which the Americans were killed, described by the administration as a “consulate” and a nearby “annex,” was a CIA base,” live on C-SPAN.” Milbank claimed that “”other government agency,” or “OGA,” is a common euphemism in Washington for the CIA” and that it was absurd to have “a televised probe of the matter,” again implying that the CIA should NOT be criticized in public. Ugh. Then there was an article in The Telegraph which cited a CNN article, arguing that “up to 35 CIA operatives were working in the city during the attack last September on the US consulate that resulted in the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans” and just summarizing the article in general. The CNN article itself cited a number of unnamed sources, making claims about CIA actions, saying that “the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remains a secret…an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agency’s Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out.” that 21 Americans “were working in the building known as the annex [CIA base], believed to be run by the agency,” and possible State Department involvement in the gun-running, if you read between the lines or a certain way.

Other articles make it clear that the CIA might be hiding something. A Reuters article on October 12, 2012 by Mark Hosenball titled “U.S. intelligence hurt when Libya base was abandoned” claims, according to unnamed government sources, “U.S. intelligence efforts in Libya have suffered a significant setback due to the abandonment and exposure of a facility in Benghazi, Libya” by Dana Milbank and Congressional Republicans. The article also calls the CIA Base an “intelligence post,” says that “publication of satellite photos showing the site’s location and layout have made it difficult, if not impossible, for intelligence agencies to reoccupy the site.” The article claims, according to unnamed sources that the CIA base had been “collecting information on the proliferation of weaponry looted from Libyan government arsenals, including surface-to-air missiles” and that “intelligence officials are not happy at being drawn into the political battle.” What makes the CIA’s role even more suspicious is an ABC News article on November 13, 2012 by Jonathan Karl titled “Petraeus Personally Investigated Benghazi Attack.” The article notes that “in late October [2012], [David] Petraeus [former CIA director] traveled to Libya to conduct his own review of the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens” and while in Tripoli “he personally questioned the CIA station chief and other CIA personnel who were in Benghazi on Sept. 11 when the attack occurred.” While the article claims this was supposed to be “a way to prepare for his upcoming testimony before Congress on Benghazi,” he said he wanted to avoid testifying because “acting CIA Director Morell is in possession of all the information Petraeus gathered in conducting his review and he has more current information gathered since Petraeus’ departure; and it would be a media circus.” To me, this just seems like a cop-out. Still, some publications like Wired magazine, which engage in snide attacks on Gaddafi, claim that Petraeus’s reputation was “an unexpected casualty of the September assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya…a bureaucratic effort to throw Petraeus under the bus is showing through in the press…The CIA, operating out of an “annex” near the 13-acre consular compound, dwarfed the regular diplomatic presence in Benghazi, with the mission of hunting down ex-dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s unsecured rockets and missiles…Petraeus kept the CIA’s Benghazi role in the shadows.” The article also claims that the “State Department relied on a previously obscure British firm, Blue Mountain, to guard the entire compound. Blue Mountain paid its Libyan guards $4 an hour.” [8]

The final article worth sharing on this is Adam Entous, Siohhan Gorman, and Margaret Coker’s November 1, 2012 article in the Wall Street Journal titled “CIA Takes Heat for Role in Libya.” The article notes that Petraeus stayed away from discussing the attacks “in an effort to conceal the agency’s role in collecting intelligence and providing security in Benghazi” and that, according to anonymous officials, “the U.S. effort in Benghazi was at its heart a CIA operation” with the operation “under diplomatic cover, which was a principal purpose of the consulate, these officials said.” The article claims that “the CIA’s secret role helps explain why security appeared inadequate at the U.S. diplomatic facility,” that it explains why “the consulate was abandoned to looters for weeks afterward while U.S. efforts focused on securing the more important CIA quarters,” and that in Libya “the consulate provided diplomatic cover for the classified CIA operations.” The article also said that “the spy agency was the first to set up shop” during the “Libyan revolution” starting in February 2011, focusing on “countering proliferation and terrorist threats…[and] the spread of weapons and militant influences throughout the region” and that “in mid-2011, the State Department established its consulate in Benghazi, to have a diplomatic presence in the birthplace of the Libyan revolution.” Almost confirming with that congressional report, this article claims that “outside of Tripoli and Benghazi, the nature of the security relationship between the consulate and the annex wasn’t widely known,” that there was a CIA team in Tripoli,” that local Libyan agents were sent to the annex “to destroy any sensitive documents and equipment there, even as the consulate compound remained unguarded and exposed to looters and curiosity seekers for weeks” and some documents, “including the ambassador’s journal, were taken from the consulate site.” The article then goes further by saying that “…many more people worked there [in the CIA base] and they were doing sensitive work, while the consulate, by design, had no classified documents” and that according to unnamed U.S and Libyan officials, “the CIA abandoned the annex after it had been scrubbed clean of any sensitive materials, according to U.S. and Libyan officials.” [9]

Before moving on, I think a few things are clear from the information: the CIA had multiple bases in Libya (Tripoli and Benghazi), with the one in Benghazi apparently not engaged in gun-running to the Syrian rebels (how we are supposed to trust what the CIA says on this?) and suspiciously arriving on the scene during the “Libyan revolution.” So clearly, the CIA did some suspicious stuff, but all of what did is not exactly clear. I’m not sure if Schwartz recognizes all this, but his article that is NOT “pro-reality,” as he claims. This shouldn’t be a surprise for someone who defended Sarah Palin, Ahmad Chalabi, is anti-communist, and claims that too little is being spent in the political process. Still, he seemed to call for the CIA’s abolishment:

There is a point to be made that even abolishing the CIA would not do much over all since the imperial foreign establishment of the United States would still be largely in place. Still, it would be a positive step. At one point,  I asked him if the corporate world shouldn’t be held to the same standard and he never responded. This leads us to Greenwald. In retrospect, I could have challenged him more, but now I know that he responds tepidly, so I can challenge him more effectively in the future.

Glenn Greenwald and corporate surveillance

The horrid libertarian and celebrity left personality, Glenn Greenwald, had a brash response to my comment challenging him. Let me step back. He tweeted, citing a Pew Research Center poll, saying that there was “strong evidence” that Apple’s move to deny FBI access to an iPhone to assist in an investigation was not PR. In response, I argued the following: “Lol strong evidence? Apple cares about its shareholders not the general populace. Come on.” His response was to call me dumb and acting like I was brainless, basically saying I didn’t know what I was talking about:

After I called this response brash and said I didn’t trust Apple’s response, he asked the same question again, basically acting like I didn’t know what I was talking about. I responded by saying that he was falsely assuming that all of those who said yes in to FBI access in the poll were Apple customers. He then responded by acting like I wasn’t making sense at all

In response to this, I fired back by saying that Apple was right to deny the request but that it is PR to cover their own surveillance, adding later that “I also don’t trust that they aren’t giving data to the NSA, FBI, or whatever govt. agency. I think it is indirectly given.” In further conversation I said that (1) Apple harvests all sorta of data, (2) it wants monetization, (3) isn’t taking a stand against corporate surveillance and only government surveillance, (4) provides false security, (5) gives data to a third party,  and so on (see here and here). I also found, in responses to Greenwald and yours truly comments that invalidated Greenwald’s concern (see here and here), BS in favor of Apple (see here), and the convincing argument that not much is really private anymore (see here) and so on (see here and here. I could mention and get into an article (titled “How Tim Cook, in iPhone Battle, Became a Bulwark for Digital Privacy”) in the New York Times that elevates Apple CEO Tim Cook’s supposedly noble privacy crusade, proving that no one should question Cook’s motive apparently.

I think it is worth mentioning, before going on, that Greenwald is NOT the only one advocating on behalf of Apple. The shifty CIA whistleblower John Kirakou, who will be mentioned more in detail in a future article, shilled for Apple, with a goofy cartoon in Truthdig to go along with it. Even Chelsea Manning, the Wikileaks whistleblower, fell in line in an opinion piece about privacy online, saying

“…I support Apple in its fight against the FBI…I disagree with Apple on many things – such as its exclusive use of proprietary software and arbitrary restrictions on users seeking to copy, share, edit and create software on their devices. However, I strongly feel that defending its users’ and customers’ right to strong encryption in court is incredibly important.”

If there couldn’t be anything more twisted, here it is. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which claims it cares about digital rights, and celebrated a legal victory against the NSA had protests outside Apple stores in San Francisco to PROMOTE Tim Cook’s position (see here, here, here) and broader support (see here and here). The EFF’s protests were part of a bigger event, in conjunction with “Fight for the Future” (see here and here) which was famous for pushing back against internet-restrictive/censorship bills, SOPA and PIPA, years ago, in an event that sounds eerily pro-Apple. This shouldn’t be a surprise considering Fight for the Future’s supporters connected to the Democratic Party and important foundations, among others.

Before going on, I think it is important to reprint the letter of Tim Cook that has got people such as Snowden (as implied and noted here, here, here, here, here, and here) and celebrity left personality Deray to back Apple. Cook is projecting obvious government-blaming and I don’t trust him.  In the “consumer letter” with the preface saying that Apple opposes a US government order to access to an iPhone and that “this moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.” The letter is as follows [subtitles removed and bolded sections with comments in brackets]:

Smartphones, led by iPhone, have become an essential part of our lives. People use them to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going. [Oh, I wonder who collects that info]

All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission. Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data [yeah that’s a lie, you monetize information all the time].

Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk. That is why encryption has become so important to all of us.

For many years, we have used encryption to protect our customers’ personal data because we believe it’s the only way to keep their information safe. We have even put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business [but information is monetized so it kinda is their business, but ok].

We were shocked and outraged by the deadly act of terrorism in San Bernardino last December. We mourn the loss of life and want justice for all those whose lives were affected. The FBI asked us for help in the days following the attack, and we have worked hard to support the government’s efforts to solve this horrible crime. We have no sympathy for terrorists.

When the FBI has requested data that’s in our possession, we have provided it. Apple complies with valid subpoenas and search warrants, as we have in the San Bernardino case. We have also made Apple engineers available to advise the FBI, and we’ve offered our best ideas on a number of investigative options at their disposal.

We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. [why the heck would you ever think that?] Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession. [ok, that’s true, but they’ll find a way in somehow. But what are the “right hands” in this case?]

The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.

Some would argue that building a backdoor for just one iPhone is a simple, clean-cut solution. But it ignores both the basics of digital security and the significance of what the government is demanding in this case.

In today’s digital world, the “key” to an encrypted system is a piece of information that unlocks the data, and it is only as secure as the protections around it. Once the information is known, or a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge. [they can already crack encryption anyhow and you you know that]

The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.

The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals. [see it is about serving their customers, I knew this was coming] The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.

We can find no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack. For years, cryptologists and national security experts have been warning against weakening encryption. Doing so would hurt only the well-meaning and law-abiding citizens who rely on companies like Apple to protect their data. [here we go again, defending your consumer base.] Criminals and bad actors will still encrypt, using tools that are readily available to them.

Rather than asking for legislative action through Congress, the FBI is proposing an unprecedented use of the All Writs Act of 1789 to justify an expansion of its authority.

The government would have us remove security features and add new capabilities to the operating system, allowing a passcode to be input electronically. This would make it easier to unlock an iPhone by “brute force,” trying thousands or millions of combinations with the speed of a modern computer.

The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. [can’t they already do that to an extent?] The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge. [um they can get a lot of that stuff from monetization already]

Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government. [Ok, not a surprise there]

We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. [this is total bull you corporate tax dodgers and wealthy capitalists.] We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.

While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. [why would you think the FBI’s intentions are good. That is just ridiculous] And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.

So it is clear from this that Apple is doing this because of their consumer base and to maintain their current customer and theoretically get new ones as well. Lest us not forget Apple’s role in terms of monetization. As one article noted in 2013, as also noted here, “…iOS app downloads will help Apple stay ahead of its competitors in terms of revenues from app monetization” an though many of their apps “are free, they feature advertisements, which generate revenue for both Apple and its developers,” money which rakes in the billions. Then there’s other services such as Apple Pay, and opportunities, as a Goldman Sachs analyst thought, “to increase its monetization potential given its 500 million iPhone user base.” But there’s more when it comes to data.

In a recent set of tweets I noted Apple’s role when it comes to collecting information. I noted Apple’s response to the PRISM program and saying they didn’t have DIRECT access to Apple servers, implying that there was indirect access, possibly through something like Plantir, likely so, while the publicly denied it. Even Micah Lee in The Intercept argued in an article back in 2014 in response to a similar letter the following:

“[Apple] seriously oversold…[its]…commitment to privacy…despite these nods to privacy-conscious consumers, Apple still strongly encourages all its users to sign up for and use iCloud, the internet syncing and storage service where Apple has the capability to unlock key data like backups, documents, contacts, and calendar information in response to a government demand…While Apple’s harder line on privacy is a welcome change, it’s important to put it in context…Since the iPhone 3GS, all iOS devices have supported encrypting personal data such as text messages, photos, emails, contacts, and call history. If you set a passcode it would be used to encrypt some, but not all, of the data on your device. Apple was still able to decrypt some of the data without knowing your passcode. The improved encryption in iOS 8 is a great move towards protecting consumer privacy and security. But users should be aware that in most cases it doesn’t protect your iOS device from government snoops…This isn’t the first time that Apple has oversold the security of its products.”

They’ve now conveniently changed their “legal process guidelines” to a page about “government requests.” Some may argue that this is from 2014 and much has changed since then. Other articles said that the surveillance scandal is a great way to market products, that Apple and Google aren’t on your side as much as you think, that Apple is among one of the corporate collaborators with the NSA, and numerous crimes of Apple across the world, just in 2013. Then there’s the reality that Apple is, like Google, essentally a corporate intelligence operation which profits by “monetizing user data…gleefully sell[ing] your data to the highest bidder on one hand while simultaneously working to dilute privacy laws with the other.” While Cook denied this (and here), despite it being partially true with an “internet master” like Apple, among others, collecting safari searches, private location information (also see here), and so on (also see here). One article put it best: “Apple gathers up about as much personal information on users as any other big tech company. The main difference is, it says it doesn’t connect the dots. It may know everything about you, but it doesn’t know you’re you.” Cook claims that “Our commitment to protecting your privacy comes from a deep respect for our customers,” but their responses to what data they give is a bit problematic:

“We carefully review any request to ensure that there’s a valid legal basis for it. And we limit our response to only the data law enforcement is legally entitled to for the specific investigation…We encourage any customer who suspects their device is stolen to contact their respective law enforcement agency.”- government information request page

“[For Apple Pay] We may receive anonymous transaction information such as the approximate time and location of the transaction, which helps us improve Apple Pay and other Apple products and services…Apple Pay retains anonymous transaction information such as approximate purchase amount…If we use third-party vendors to store your information, we encrypt it and never give them the keys…We use only the necessary data to help create the best experience for you, whether you’re using Maps to locate a restaurant or Apple Music to discover a new artist. And we never sell your data…The longer you use Siri and Dictation, the better they understand you and the better they work. To help them recognize your pronunciation and provide better responses, certain information such as your name, contacts, and songs in your music library is sent to Apple servers using encrypted protocols…Album names are only sent to Siri to help provide you with better results. If you have Location Services turned on, the location of your device at the time you make a request will also be sent to Apple to help Siri improve the accuracy of its response to your requests. You may choose to turn off Location Services…For example, event addresses and a user’s location are sent to Apple so that we can provide accurate Time to Leave predictions that take into consideration traffic and local transit schedules. Information like a user’s location may be sent to Apple to provide localized suggestions as well as relevant news and search results. When we do send information to a server, we protect your privacy…In order for features like Radio, For You, and Connect to reflect your musical tastes, we collect some information about your activity in the app…The more you read, the more personalized the News app becomes. We don’t link your reading activity to other Apple services. Information we collect about articles you read is used to improve News…You don’t have to sign in to use Maps, and it only knows you by a random identifier that resets itself frequently as you use the app…Searching with Spotlight goes beyond your device to give you suggestions from sources like Wikipedia, the iTunes Store, and local News and Maps results. Before it answers, Spotlight considers things like context and location…You can also opt out of having Spotlight use Location Services anytime you want. If you opt out, Spotlight will still use your IP address to determine a general location to make your searches more relevant…Apps can share data for the purpose of improving your health or health research, but only with your permission…By default, developers don’t have access to your Apple ID, just a unique identifier. If you give your permission, developers can use your email to let others find you in their app… Only essential information that enhances the CarPlay experience will be used from your car. For example, iPhone can combine its own GPS data with your car’s to make Maps as accurate as possible…And through Apple’s Volume Purchase Program (VPP), schools can purchase apps and deliver them to a student’s iPad without having to use an iTunes login”- Approach to privacy page

“It’s important to note that Frequent Locations remain on your device and are not sent to Apple, or even backed up in iTunes or iCloud. The one exception is if you opt in to improve Maps for yourself and other users, in which case we will occasionally collect your Frequent Locations but only retain this data in a purely anonymous form. Frequent Locations are encrypted with keys protected by your passcode on your device, and you always have the option to turn this feature off. And you’ll notice that your iOS device asks for your permission before giving any app, even built-in Apple apps, access to your location information…On iOS, advertising does support some apps, so to help protect your privacy we have developed the nonpersistent Advertising Identifier. Apple’s advertising service, iAd, uses this identifier to deliver ads to you via things like third-party apps and iTunes Radio…You can choose to send Apple anonymous technical data that we can use to make our products and services better. If you would like to help improve our products and services, you can opt in to our Diagnostic & Usage program and send nonidentifiable information about your device and applications”- Manage your privacy page

“If you opt in to diagnostic and usage collection, you agree that Apple and its subsidiaries and agents may collect, maintain, process and use diagnostic, technical, usage and related information, including but not limited to information about your iOS Device, computer, system and application software, and peripherals, that is gathered periodically to facilitate the provision of software updates, product support and other services to you (if any) related to the iOS Software, and to verify compliance with the terms of this License. Apple may use this information, as long as it is collected in a form that does not personally identify you, to provide and improve Apple’s products and services. ..Apple may also provide any such partner or third party developer with a subset of diagnostic information that is relevant to that partner’s or developer’s software, hardware and/or services, as long as the diagnostic information is in a form that does not personally identify you… By using any location-based services on your iOS Device, you agree and consent to Apple’s and its partners’ and licensees’ transmission, collection, maintenance, processing and use of your location data and queries to provide and improve location-based and road traffic-based products and services. You may withdraw this consent at any time… By using Siri or Dictation, you agree and consent to Apple’s and its subsidiaries’ and agents’ transmission, collection, maintenance, processing, and use of this information, including your voice input and User Data, to provide and improve Siri, Dictation, and other Apple products and services…By using the iOS Software, you agree that Apple may transmit, collect, maintain, process and use these identifiers for the purpose of providing and improving the FaceTime feature…By using the iOS Software, you agree that Apple may transmit, collect, maintain, process and use these identifiers for the purpose of providing and improving the iMessage service. The iMessage service requires a Wi-Fi or cellular data connection…By using the Photo Stream feature of iCloud, you agree that Apple may store photos taken on your iOS Device or uploaded from your computer for a limited period of time and automatically send the photos to your other Apple iOS Devices or computers that are Photo Stream-enabled…Apple may provide mobile, interest-based advertising to you. If you do not want to receive relevant ads on your iOS Device, you can opt out…This opt-out applies only to Apple advertising services and does not affect interest-based advertising from other advertising networks…You agree that the Services contain proprietary content, information and material that is owned by Apple and/or its licensors, and is protected by applicable intellectual property and other laws, including but not limited to copyright… Apple and its licensors reserve the right to change, suspend, remove, or disable access to any Services at any time without notice. In no event will Apple be liable for the removal of or disabling of access to any such Services. Apple may also impose limits on the use of or access to certain Services, in any case and without notice or liability.”- iOS SOFTWARE LICENSE AGREEMENT

So basically this is saying that Apple still collects a lot of data but doesn’t monetize as heavily as Google and others. Already, the security of its devices has come under scrutiny (also see here), and they collect all sorts of information (also see here and here) since they are part of Surveillance Valley.

Even the animated sitcom, that I like so much, The Simpsons, had a number of episodes criticizing Apple. These iPods uniting and “overthrowing the very humans they entertained,” basically turning them into slaves. But more pointedly is not this, this, thisthis,  or addiction to online games, but the use of “Mapple” as stand-in for Apple. These include addiction to the MyPad (basically the iPad) and “Steve Mobbs” instead of Steve Jobs. In one clip, Steve Mobbs declares to Homer “now press the submit icon an agree to buy all our future products. And we’re going to be making a lot of stuff.” When Homer grimaces at this, Mobbs declares incessantly “submit,” with a closer focus on his face, to which Homer says “I don’t know. I don’t want to” and Mobbs threatens “or you could buy something from Hewlett-Packard.” In response, of course, Homer presses “I submit” and Mobs declares in an evil voice “YES! YES!” making him look like a villain. Other clips show Lisa mad about her “MyBill” which charges her over $1,000 for songs she bought, the goofiness of Siri, and so on. The best clip is one in which Bart acts like Steve Mobbs is speaking at a Mapple store, after the Mapple supporters call him a “genius” and a “god who knows what we want” being laughable but making a point about Apple (Bolding is when Bart comes in):

“Greetings, it is I, your great leader, Steve Mobbs. I’m speaking to you from Mapple headquarters, deep below the sea, with an announcement that will completely change the way you look at everything. [expressions of awe]. And that announcement is [Bart comes in with a plugged in microphone] You’re all losers. You think you’re cool because you buy a $500 phone with a picture of fruit on it? Well, guess what, they cost $8 bucks to make and I pee on every one. I have made a fortune off you chumps and I’ve invested it all in Microsoft. Now, my boyfriend, Bill Gates and I kiss each other on a pile of your money.”

While Bart is a bit over the top, he makes a point about how Mapple (Apple) is exploiting people. The later part of the clip shows that Mobbs is self-absorbed and isn’t willing to renegotiate a ridiculous bill, saying their real slogan is “no refunds” while their posters say “think differently.” Hence, these clips are saying Apple is powerful, with Jobs/Mobbs like a god, and by extension shouldn’t be trusted. Moving back to the practices of Apple, they engage in a good amount of information gathering. Still, despite this, they are somehow qualified, in the minds of some, to lead the charge against government surveillance with previous efforts like this. Lest us not forget the criminal acts Apple has done in the past, like “…failing to inform parents that, by entering a password, they were permitting a charge for virtual goods or currency to be used by their child in playing a children’s app” for example, possibly conspiring to raise prices of e-books (also see here), and much more likely listed in the Federal Register.

A conclusion

While this article jumped from the CIA to corporate surveillance both topics are interconnected (after all the CIA has been trying to poke through Apple’s security for years). This is because there is corporate espionage as well, and there is too much blaming of government entities without recognizing how the government and corporate sector work together. To put it more plainly, the government is protecting the interests of the capitalists, who are in this case the heads of the big tech giants. Hence, to oppose government surveillance without recognizing how it interlinks with corporate surveillance is not only naive but it is counterproductive. The best approach is to recognize how both forces connect.


Notes

[1] See a Komer memo of February 12th [document 18 in this collection]: “A number of signs suggest the Soviets may be trying a counter-coup in Iraq…some in the CIA share my suspicions, though we all feel that Moscow would probably fail, and in the process blot its copybook still further. [written in pen:] Nothing we can usefully do yet anyway…You don’t see most of the cables but State and I are trying every trick.” Also see this document sent on February 7, 1963 by the US Department of State: “We concur situation in Iraq disturbing but as yet by no means clear Iraq actually becoming Soviet base…Through our posture, US has sought maintenance American presence in Iraq, and, concomitantly, avoidance of open controversy with Qasim regime; readiness to respond to any Iraqi desire improve official relations; and continuance official and unofficial American contacts with view not only of influencing Iraqi attitudes but also of acquiring valuable intelligence…US statements cannot be disseminated without distortion within Iraq, and shortwave broadcasts would not have impact on wide group. Qasim would have freedom within Iraq to twist US representations to provide basis for increasing tempo of anti-US campaign and intensifying harassment of Embassy and Consulate Basra…our position and prestige in other Arab countries determined by factors other than our relations with Iraq or Iraqi propaganda.” Also see this document which says: “a coup d’etat reportedly led by Colonel Abdul Karim Mustafa was mounted in Baghdad in the early morning of February 8, 1963. Former Prime Minister Qasim is reported dead. Affirmations of support for the new regime have come from military and civil leaders in all parts of Iraq…the United States would welcome public affirmation that the new Iraqi regime intends to carry out Iraq’s international obligations. He will also ask for assurance that the new regime will safeguard American citizens and interests in Iraq…Following our recognition of the new Iraqi regime, assignment of a new Ambassador will be required.” This document kinda confirms the coup as well: “Sometime after midnight, local time, elements of the armed forces staged a coup in Iraq. Information presently available has not confirmed that Qasim is actually dead…It is believed by members of CIA that the coup was triggered by Qasim’s recent arrest of a large number of Bath Party members…The consensus of members of State and CIA is that if the coup is successful, relations between the U.S. and Iraq will be considerably improved and the internal situation in Iraq should gradually improve.” Oh and the memo from Komer to Kennedy [also see here] which says “[the] Iraqi revolution seems to have succeeded. It is almost certainly a net gain for our side…We will make informal friendly noises as soon as we can find out whom to talk with, and ought to recognize as soon as we’re sure these guys are firmly in the saddle” is yet another indication this was a CIA action.” Many more documents and such are noted in this article, which include this, this, thisthis, this, and this. For more official documents, see here.

[2] For more on Midnight Climax see here, here, here, here, here, and here.

[3] Also see what the Pike Committee said about the CIA

[4] For more information on this, see official documents here and here. Also see articles in popular publications such as New York Review of BooksIn These Times, The Daily Beast, Chicago Tribune, The Age, and the LA Times.

[5] As notes on pages 38-40 of Rogue State: Kim Koo (1949), Zhou Enlai (1950s), Sukarno (1950s, 1963), Kim Il Sung (1951), Claro M. Recto (1950s), Jawaharlal Nehru (1955), Gamal Abdul Nasser (1957), Norodom Sihanouk (1959), Abdul Karim Kassem (1960), Jose Figueres (1950s-70s), Francois Duvailer (1961), Patrica Lumumba (1961), Rafael Trujilo (1961), Ngo Dinh Diem (1963) which is noted in this document, Fidel Castro (1960s), Raul Castro (1960s), Francisco Caamano (1965), Charles de Gaulle (1965-6), Che Guevara (1967), Salvador Allende (1970), Rene Schneider (1970), Omar Torrijos (1970s, 1981), Manuel Noreiga (1972), Mobutu Sese Seko (1975), Michael Manley (1976), Moammar Qaddafi (1980-6), Ayatollah Khomeini (1982), Ahmed Dlimi (1983), Miguel d’Escoto (1983), Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah (1985), Saddam Hussein (1991), Osama Bin Laden (1998), and Slobodan Milosevic (1999).

[6] An article by Gadi Adelman, a right-winger for sure, quotes a former CIA operative of 20 years, Clare Lopez, who claims that the CIA was helping facilitate weapons transfers: the short answer is yes. They were working with the very same Al-Qaeda linked relationships in Libya to gather up and buy back and collect weapons from Gaddafi’s stock pile that were missing from the revolution in Libya last year and what it looks like is that they were shipping them onwards to Syria…[the weapons have] gone to the Sinai and they’ve also gone to Mali and to other places in western Africa and they’ve also gone to Syria. That was the operation, that’s what they were doing.” Yet again, this really isn’t concrete evidence of anything such as gun-running.

[7] In a US State Department briefing a senior State Department Official  said the following about the “consulate”:

 “The compound is roughly 300 yards long – that’s three football fields long – and a hundred yards wide. We need that much room to provide the best possible setback against car bombs…The compound has four buildings on it, and you guys are going to have to get used to this, because I refer them to – as Building C, Building B, Tactical Operations Center, and a barracks. So Building C is a building that is essentially a large residence. It has numerous bedrooms and it is – it has a safe haven installed in it, and I’ll talk more about that in a minute. Building C ultimately is the building that the Ambassador was in, so keep that in your heads. Building B is another residence on the compound. It has bedrooms and it has a cantina. That’s where the folks dine. The Tactical Operations Center, which is just across the way from Building B, has offices and a bedroom. That’s where the security officers had their main setup, that’s where the security cameras are, a lot of the phones – it’s basically their operations center…A safe haven is a fortified area within a building. This particular safe haven has a very heavy metal grill on it with several locks on it. It essentially divides the one – the single floor of that building in half, and half the floor is the safe haven, the bedroom half. Also in the safe haven is a central sort of closet area where people can take refuge where there are no windows around…I have my timeline wrong…At that point, a decision is made at the annex that they are going to have to evacuate the whole enterprise.”

[8] A number of articles in official media expand on this including James Risen’s October 12, 2012 article titled “After Benghazi Attack, Private Security Hovers An Issue” in the New York Times, an October 17th article in Reuters titled “For Benghazi diplomatic security, U.S. relied on small British firm,” articles in Wired (see here and here), The Guardian, Salon, and others.

[9] This statement of classified documents is interesting because during a State Department briefing a senior state department official claimed that “this was a post and…[it] held no classified documents. They had computer communications with Washington, but the material would arrive on the screen and you would read it on the screen, and then that was it. There was no classified paper, so there was no paper to burn. So maybe there are some documents or files out there at least. We’ll see.

Update

Recent tweets have showed that more are jumping on the “side with Apple” train like BORDC (Bill of Rights Defense Committee) people. BORDC recently merged with another foundation (Defending Dissent foundation) and honors who it considers “patriots,” is connected to the usual folks which include celebrity left personalities like Daniel Ellsburg. However, beyond this, the Apple solidarity rally was overwhelmed by mad and confrontational #ResignRahm protesters as this thread (starting here) shows. The Chicago Tribune article notes the following:

“The Apple Store on North Michigan Avenue was among nearly 50 locations worldwide where Fight for the Future, an organization that advocates for privacy for Internet users and opposes Web censorship, planned rallies Tuesday. A small group assembled for that rally late Tuesday afternoon proved unequal to a more vocal group of protesters, who had marched from the Thompson Center in the Loop to North Michigan Avenue. That group saw the media assembled to cover the Apple rally and quickly commandeered the spotlight. The protesters started chants against Emanuel and Alvarez, then several in the crowd got into a shoving match with police officers. Some of the demonstrators were knocked into the planter boxes that line Michigan Avenue. A small cluster of protesters huddled at Michigan Avenue and Huron Street, where they burned a small American flag and shouted profanities before continuing to march north. After the skirmish, only two or three Fight for Future protesters remained, including Jon Monroe, who said he drove downtown from Libertyville to participate in the rally. He said the others were “scared off.”…Organizers had encouraged protesters to turn their phones and tablets into protest signs and carry 10-foot iPhone-shaped banners reading “Don’t Break Our Phones” to show opposition against the court order compelling Apple to help the FBI hack into Syed Rizwan Farook’s work-issued iPhone.”

To be honest, this story kinda cracks me up. That’s all I have to add.

Is the Star Wars series fascist?

Originally published on Leftist Critic on Feb 13, 2016.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. At that time, some changes were made.

I recently encountered a post, promoted by “Crypto Cuddlefish,” and I decided to look into if this post, published three years ago, which has a number of movies as referents, has any basis. As a moderate Star Wars fan, it only makes sense to look at this post, which a transcript of a video by improv and standup comedian Dave Gutteridge. This article will respond to specific elements of the transcript with my own commentary. While this may not seem politically important, it is because of the effect that the Star Wars franchise has on the bourgeois public sphere and the minds of the populace, especially in the United States, and elsewhere across the world. Anyway, here it goes.

Addressing Dave Gutteridge’s argument

“I’m actually not a Star Wars fan anymore. But I want you to appreciate just how far I’ve come when I say I’m not a fan. When I first saw the very first Star Wars movie , I was so young and naive that I didn’t know that in movies the hero always wins. When Luke Skywalker was flying down that trench, and he was being chased by Darth Vader, and he had to hit that target just right… I honestly didn’t know if he was going to pull it off. I was genuinely scared the universe could be doomed. It made a deep impression on me, and to this day, when I see that scene, I can’t help but feel tense. I loved Star Wars. I had all those action figures they made, even the Boba Fett you had to write away for . I had Star Wars wallpaper in my bedroom. On Halloween I dressed as a Jawa. I watched, and enjoyed, that shitty holiday special they made. So you’d think I’d be the kind of guy going to conventions dressed like an Ewok and having furry sex or whatever.”

I must admit that one time I was as sorta that type of fan, when I was younger. I even saw two of the movies in the 2000s (Episode 2 and 3) in a local movie theater which had a huge screen, one of the last of its kind. That always made an impression on me when I watched the movies from time to time. As of now, I’m just a moderate fan but I wouldn’t buy any merchandise, toys or such from the Star Wars franchise. There’s no need.

“Sadly, those days are gone. As more movies were made, it got harder and harder to ignore the ugly truth.”

Well, this should be interesting.

I started to have doubts even before the new series of movies was made. Everyone had a “whoah, what the…?” moment when they first saw Jar Jar Binks . And for good reason. Jar Jar Binks apparently comes from a whole race of ready made Amos and Andy style sidekicks . They have built in Jamaican dreadlock-things and the whole “Me so happy massa” Uncle Tom attitude. What’s the racial message here Lucas? And what about the aliens that the Jar Jarians were fighting, these creatures that had flat faces and yellow, slanted eyes, and were all secretive… There hasn’t been this much sublimated racial stereotyping in a science fiction series since the wildly anti-Semitic Ferengi in Star Trek.

I haven’t seen Star Trek but I can say something about Jar Jar Binks. I think that Lucas did stick him in his movies as a sort of comic relief. However, I do think there is a racial stereotype in place, almost like his a modern version of Stepin Fetchit. Even if one countered this this stereotype, Binks is a horrid character in general who acts like a goof and is extremely mindless. But perhaps that is the point. I’m not sure what the racial message is there, or with the greedy Neimodians of the Trade Federation who could represent an Asian stereotype. As one writer points out, “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace clearly invokes imagery and audio from racist ethnic stereotypes. The fact that the recipient of these stereotypical characteristics are non-human aliens does not change this fact.” As a personal admission I’d need to know a bit more about racial stereotypes to see if this is the reality. Still, I think this a valid concern.

“But the clumsy racial metaphors aren’t what bugged me.”

This bothers me. The six Star Wars movies are white and male-dominated with female characters mostly pushed to secondary roles (except for Princess Leia and Padme Amidala) and male characters are put in the primary role. Literally there are only two black characters I can think of: Mace Windu, who gets pushed out a window in Episode 3, and Lando Calrissian, a black capitalist/racketeer who betrays the Rebels to the Empire in Episode 5 then turns around and “good” in Episode 6. Not a good track record. Yes, the most recent Star Wars movie does have a black main character, Finn, and a female lead character, Rey, but this doesn’t change the nature of the previous six movies in terms of racial and gender diversity.

“If anyone here has seen the movie Clerks , you might remember the scene where they are talking about Return of The Jedi . In it, one of the characters describes The Rebellion as a bunch of leftists. That got me thinking. A bunch of “leftists”.”

I don’t think I’d think of them as leftists necessarily, just a rebellious force, the details of which I’ll explain later.

“In the first movie, it was all about saving Princess Leia. Then in the new movies, there’s Queen Amalamadabadoo , whatever her name is. If you’re a princess, you’re in a royal family… and monarchies are not democratic . Now, the far left is not always democratic either, but since the left is usually socialist in some way, I don’t know a lot of far left extremists who are pro-monarchy.”

Hmm, that’s a good point. However, Leia is only part of the rebellion, she isn’t necessarily leading it. As for Amidala, she is controlling a planet, Naboo, that likely embodies what some have called “capitalist peace” since it was, according to Wookiepedia, “considered a world of classical beauty due to the aesthetics of its population centers” and was “peaceful.” As a result, I don’t know if I’d consider the Galactic Republic, of which Amidala was part of, to be leftist in the radical sense. After all, as it is described, it sounds kinda elitist but a little like the Amerikan federal system, which could be endorsed by today’s liberals and conservatives:

“The Galactic Republic, commonly referred to simply as the Republic, and later also known as the Old Republic, was the democratic union that governed the galaxy for a thousand years prior to the rise of the Galactic Empire. The Republic was aided by the efforts of the Jedi Order, who stood as the guardians of peace and justice, enabling the Republic to be free of full-scale conflict for over a thousand years.”

Then you come to the Empire:

“Now take a look at the “Empire”. They come across as hard core right wing authoritarians. But if you look at how they operate, they have a republic, a senate… it’s not too clear if they have universal suffrage . Maybe only the wealthy planet owners can vote. But still… even if it’s a primitive Grecian style democracy, it’s still a democracy.”

I’m not completely sure about this. The reason about this, is that in Episode 3, that evil Palpatine/Sidious who killed most of the elitist force, the Jedi in what was basically a “surprise” extermination campaign, took power and created the Galactic Empire, a day referred to as “Empire Day” in other series. Palpatine in that movie declares that “In order to ensure the security and continuing stability, the Republic will be reorganized into the first Galactic Empire, for a safe and secure society.” That doesn’t sound very democratic to me. After all, Wookiepedia notes that this Empire replaced the republic, with authority going to the Emperor:

“The Galactic Empire…was the government that rose to power in the aftermath of the Clone Wars, replacing the Galactic Republic. Central authority was given to Darth Sidious, publicly known as Emperor Palpatine, who was also the Dark Lord of the Sith. For nearly two decades, the legislative body was the Imperial Senate, but it was dissolved by the Emperor shortly before the Battle of Yavin. During the reign of the Empire, countless star systems were conquered and dissident actions ruthlessly stamped out by the rapidly expanding Imperial Army and Navy. The Empire also oversaw the near extermination of the Jedi, with the destruction of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant and its renovation into the newly named Imperial Palace.”

I know one could say this is a Star Wars wikia and it will biased. However, what this says makes it obvious that the Empire was a dictatorial regime. Also in Episode 4, the Imperial Senate was DISSOLVED. The legislative body was a joke, as noted in the following passage from this article:

“…By its fourteenth year of existence, the new Senate had started growing weaker as the Emperor’s planetary governors assumed more responsibility over their territories. However, the Emperor preserved the Senate in order to make the Empire’s member worlds believe that they still had a part to play in government. Secretly, he planned to disband the Senate from the start but he needed it to preserve order until the Death Star was completed.”

So, I just don’t buy the idea that Empire was a democracy. That goes against the events in the Star Wars animated series and the movies (4, 5, 6) in general. The same goes for the First Order in the new movie which is described as a military junta that was inspired by the Galactic Empire, led by a Supreme Leader and his right-hand man, Kylo Ren who “would oversee the colonization of the Unknown Regions and destruction of the last Jedi” but lacked an official capital.

So back to Gutteridge. He writes that “we’re cheering a bunch of monarchists fighting a democracy? How’d that happen?” then tweets comparisons between the Rebel Alliance, which was a “military resistance government” just like the Resistance. So, in that way the Rebel Alliance are right-wing one could argue. However, one could say they are a resistance force to the empire, almost a guerrilla movement, and don’t really constitute a state like the Empire or the First Order which has, as Max Weber notes about all states, “monopoly on the use of force.” But I’ll address this later on.

“The hints were there from the start”

Ok. Let’s see what you have to say.

“Who exactly are these “rebels”? When you look at it, they don’t seem like an uprising of working class people. When we very first see Luke Skywalker on the farm on Tattooine , his Uncle owns the farmland. It’s droids who do all the blue collar work. It seems the rebellion is led by landed gentry and dispossessed monarchists who’ve had their traditional power structure threatened by an emerging republic.”

Hmm. You could say that and perhaps the rebellion is made up of middle-class folks. By this description Luke would be part of the petty bourgeoisie since he could be arguably part of a strata that “rely entirely on the sale of their labor-power for survival…and thus can buy the labor-power of the proletariat [the droids in this case] and lumpenproletariat to work the means of production.” At the same time the Rebellion could arguably include lumpenproletariat people like gangster Han Solo and his companion Chewbacca. But I agree its not a rebellion of the proletariat in a Marxian or radical sense. That can even be said about the group of rebels in the new animated series Star Wars Rebels in one sense or another.

Now onto the other claims. According to Wookiepedia, the Rebel Alliance had their origins in a group of Senators who “were vocal opponents of Palpatine’s reformations” and was “found itself increasingly at odds with the Chancellor’s increasing executive powers, and often had trouble gaining an audience with him.” Two of the individuals were key in what became the Rebel Alliance. Jumping ahead, another page notes that this rebellion had a mission to restore “liberty” to the galaxy, at least initially and eventual establishment of a Republic like the Galactic Republic in Episodes 1, 2, and 3. Another part of the same page notes that the Rebel Alliance constituted of a government and a military command led by the Chief of State who was led an “elected dictatorship, [since] the Chief of State had virtually unlimited power over the Alliance” and was taken out of power after the Emperor died. Other parts of the Rebel government included an Advisory Council comprises of representatives from “seven Alliance governments who had given the most lives in battle to defeating the Empire” and it was “responsible for approving or disapproving the proposals of the Chief of State.” There was also an alliance cabinet which allowed the Chief of State to “maintain and run the Alliance,” Alliance Allied Commands, or the “the individual governments of worlds, organizations, and groups that were members of the Alliance” and then the military which was led by the Chief of State. In this way, the Rebel Alliance can be considered a state but also a guerrilla movement at the same time. Undoubtedly it can be considered right-wing but so can the Empire.

“There was one time I was talking about this, a guy said to me, “actually Queen Abadalamadingdong was “elected” to her seat in the senate.” I looked it up on the interwebs, and that’s technically true. She was elected. When she was 14, though. Now, I know this was probably written this way because,George Lucas wanted to line things up so that Princess Allibabababoo [actually Amidala] wouldn’t be too much older, years later when she got it on with young boy-band-era Vader. I don’t know why that was a problem, because there ain’t nothing wrong with a little cougar action, but that seems to be what happened at the script writing level.”

Yes, this is true and Anakin was a creeper. Naboo definitely had what one could call an elected monarchy.

“Whatever, though. Lucas might have been more focused on character time lines than the politics, but it doesn’t excuse anything. We’ve still got the story we’ve got.”

I guess you could say that.

“No functioning democracy elects a 14 year old girl to anything higher than hall monitor, so she has to have been ushered into power by a ruling elite.”

That’s a good point, except not everything in the world that is considered a “democracy” is not necessarily a democracy. So in this way, yes, Naboo isn’t a democracy.

“If the rebellion were just the landed gentry, that might be a excusable. Hell, George Washington was the wealthiest land owner in the colonies , but there was still some merit in his rebellion. But the situation gets worse. Because at the heart of the rebellion are the Jedi.”

Ok, I don’t know how that would be excusable. Well, the Jedi are sort of at the heart of it, but they also aren’t.

“At first glance, the Jedi seem all Zen and spiritual and peaceful. You first see Obi Wan out wandering in the desert, fighting injustices, like Caine in Kung Fu . So, you know, you think they’re all a bunch of counter culture revolutionary warrior monks. But then in the movie The Phantom Menace , which historically is further back in time, you see the Jedi in the penthouse suite of some deluxe high rise on the capital planet of the galaxy. They have this Star Chamber with bay windows overlooking the metropolis. They’re casually chatting over Earl Gray tea about how to influence politics and alter the fates of all the citizens of the galaxy.”

That is kinda true if you think about it. I can remember some scene in a Clone Wars episode when a clone calls the Jedi slavemasters literally:

“As they present Slick before the Jedi, Slick snaps that his brothers are enslaved by the Jedi, that he was striking a blow for all clones and that he loves his brothers, but Cody and Rex retort that he has now exposed them all to certain doom. Cody orders the other clones to take the traitor to lockup.”

Not only that but I can remember people in the animated series saying there’s a hypocrisy for “defenders of the peace” (Jedi) to be warriors. This part from the Episode 3 screenplay is also relevant here:

MACE WINDU: I sense a plot to destroy the Jedi. The dark side of the Force surrounds the Chancellor.

Kl-ADI-MUNDI: If he does not give up his emergency powers after the destruction of Grievous, then he should be removed from office.

MACE WiNDU: That could be a dangerous move … the Jedi Council would have to take control of the Senate in order to secure a peaceful transition . . .

Kl-ADI-MUNDI: . . . and replace the Congress with Senators who are not filled with greed and corruption.

YODA: To a dark place this line of thought will carry us. Hmmmmm. . . . great care we must take.

Seriously they want a coup in a republic, arguably a bourgeois democracy. Yikes! This really would make them theocrats and actually kinda philosopher kings too in a sense. However, without this they are neither of these labels.

“Nobody elected these guys. Nobody voted for Yoda. What the hell happened to the separation of church and state? They’re like the evangelical movement in the US Republican party, pushing their agenda behind the scenes.”

Ok. However, they were basically treated as elite warriors who would defend the Republic. But in some sense you could say they are religious leaders. They aren’t really like the evangelical movement in the US. Here’s a relevant passage from the Episode 4 screenplay which sounds almost like the Force is a religion in a sense:

HAN: Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

LUKE: You don’t believe in the Force, do you?

HAN: Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other. I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe there’s one all-powerful force controlling everything. There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny.

Ben smiles quietly.

HAN:  It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.

BEN:  I suggest you try it again, Luke.

Then the post notes that:

“Not only are we cheering for anti-democratic monarchists, they’re also fundamentalist theocrats. These guys aren’t just out to stop gays from becoming stormtroopers. These guys start whole ground wars that get who knows how many people killed.”

I wouldn’t say the Jedi started the war. I think Darth Sidious wanted the invasion of Naboo. Even if the Jedi “ambassadors” hadn’t been there, showing their high status, then the invasion and blockade of Naboo would have included. But, yes in a sense we are cheering for right-wingers/rightests. However, there is a bourgeois democracy in the form of the Galactic Republic which sorta seems like the U$ in some way or another. This “democracy” as it will, which Marx and Engels called “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie,” mirrors the dictatorship that ruled Mexico with an iron fist from the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920 until the 1990s which constituted a corporatist political structure led by the PRI and had the legislature as merely a rubber-stamp.

“For example, in Phantom Menace they go down to planet Jamaica where the Jar Jarians live, and convince them to fight a robot army and get mowed down like Aztecs being slaughtered by conquistadors. What do the Jedi offer in return? They send in two human white guys to rescue a human white girl.”

I guess you could say this. However, the Jedi do offer something in return. They help clear the hangar with the help of the Queen and her forces so that Naboo starfighters can destroy the Trade Federation ship of which Anakin succeeds in but by accident. Anyway, it is true they rescue a human white girl (the Queen). At the same time, the Gungans fight a robot army but are quickly surrounded and have to surrender, so I don’t think it accurate to say that they are slaughtered by Aztecs as that almost implies that the movie condemns imperialism which it obviously does not.

“Why do the Jar Jarians agree? ‘Cause the leader of the Jar Jarians is a fucking king… another monarchist. He’s got a divine right to rule to protect, so of course he’s on board.”

I guess you could say that but I think the Gungans are willing to side with the humans (“the Naboo”) because they see their planet under attack by a foreign force (a robot army led by the Trade Federation).

Now, you’re probably thinking “Yeah, but just look at the Empire, they’ve got lots of black, dark atmospheric mood lighting, and lots of heavy breathing. They’ve got to be evil, right? And the Jedi have all soft earth tones, lots of brown, long hair, and eating granola, they’ve got to be good, right? What makes them so good, all deep down?

No I wasn’t wondering that at all. Not sure who would be wondering that.

“Here’s where it gets really fucked up. In the new series of movies, George Lucas revealed to us what it is that makes a Jedi a Jedi. In order to be a part of “the force”, you have to have this stuff in your blood called “Midi-chlorians”. So… you have to be born with the right blood… Not just antidemocratic monarchist fundamentalist theocrats… they’re also racial supremacists! Holy fuck!”

I don’t think that is necessarily racial supremacy. I guess it could be considered genetic supremacy but not racial supremacy necessarily. This is because Jedi do NOT have to be humans to be Jedi. But I will agree it is strange. In fact, as they note in the movies, EVERYONE has medi-chlorians to some extent. As Qui-Gon said in Episode 1 to a young Anakin, who was literally a slave, but freed:

“Midi-chlorians are a microcopic lifeform that reside within all living cells and communicates with the Force. [they are] In your cells. We are symbionts with the midi-chlorians [or] Life forms living together for mutual advantage. Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to you, telling you the will of the Force. When you learn to quiet your mind, you will hear them speaking to you.”

So, I don’t think this constitutes racial supremacy akin to the Nazis. In fact, this kinda just says “the Force” comes from within you, but doesn’t have to do with if you have “the right blood.” One could argue this means it constitutes eugenics, but I don’t agree.

Now it makes sense why the Jedi wear the brown shirts! We’re supposed to cheer for these fascists?

I don’t think they are fascists. Sure, you could argue convincingly they are theocrats, though I don’t agree with that viewpoint, but since the part of the movie about midi-chlorians was wrongly interpreted, this undermines that they are fascists. However, I see the Jedi and the Sith, who are basically conflicting sects of “The Force” religion, as religious warriors, not necessarily as totally theocrats since they don’t completely rule or govern “as a representative of God or a deity, or is a member of the ruling group in a theocracy, as a divine king or a high priest.” Remember there’s still the Senate and the Chancellor. True, these warriors are rogue, but I’m not sure if they can be considered totally part of a “ruling group.” 

“We’re supposed to be happy, singing “yub yub”, along with the Ewoks, when these authoritarian assholes win at the end of Return of the Jedi?”

Well, the Rebels are rightists but aren’t necessarily “authoritarian assholes.” Also by this time most of the Jedi in the galaxy are killed so they aren’t leading the Rebellion.

“A victory which is ludicrous when you think about it. I don’t know what it takes to build a death star, but apparently a death star is something an empire the size of a galaxy can only build one at a time. I think it’s safe to assume that they’d devote their best troops to protecting this thing. The best troops in an entire galaxy.”

Well it could be considered ludicrous except I think the Empire was over-confident and the Ewoks helped the Rebels turn the tide of victory.  So its sorta unbelievable but this is fiction. What do you expect? You could say the same about the destruction of the Starkiller Base in the newest Star Wars movie. Additionally, it is possible for the best troops to be beat by troops that aren’t the best. Its happened in world history before in military battles. It is possible.

“We’re seriously meant to believe that they couldn’t defend a shed in the woods from a pack of plush toys with pre-bronze age technology? It’s so incredulous, it defies all reason… Unless… you think about what the far far away galaxy is like after the final battle that defeats the Empire.”

Well, they couldn’t defend it because of the Ewoks who were able to destroy much of the Empire’s technology in their guerrilla tactics. Also, they only sent a legion of troopers down to Endor, and the Rebels had fought the Empire for years, so I’d imagine there were seasoned enough troops who knew how the fight the empire. Also, what’s so bad with a “primitive” force defeating a “modern,” technologically-advanced force? It happened in Avatar, a movie which had issues considering the white male savior of indigenous people, so it can happen here most definitely.

“There’s probably some tough questions being asked during Luke Skywalker’s thousand year Reich. Questions like, “We fought all these battles, all these people died, We got rid of the evil overlord Darth Vader, and now… his son is in charge? Another Skywalker and his crypto-incestuous sister are running the show now? What kind of revolution was this?””

No, no one is asking those questions. Luke and his sister were NEVER in charge, they were just part of a broader rebellion. Sure, Leia was arguably more part of the ruling class, but she wasn’t directly in charge of the Rebels and Luke most definitely was not, but basically was just like a high-ranking officer in the military. Also, Vader (whose full name could mean “dark father” but it is contested) was never in charge, that was the Emperor. I do think this part of episode 4 is relevant here:

HAN:  It is for me, sister! Look, I ain’t in this for your revolution, and I’m not in it for you, Princess. I expect to be well paid. I’m in it for the money!

LEIA: You needn’t worry about your reward. If money is all that you love, then that’s what you’ll receive!

Later Han becomes a loyal footsoldier of the Rebellion, but this still relevant here.

“Not only has all the power in the galaxy been passing around within one family, but with the death of exiled Pope Yoda, Luke has moved into the position of head of the official state religion. Church and state have been unified, and Ayatollah Skywalker reigns supreme over his dystopian theocratic dictatorship.”

I just don’t think that interpretation is correct. Yoda was never the head of the “official state religion.” The Force can be argued as a religious force or feeling but was NOT the official religion of either the Empire, the Rebellion, First Order, or Resistance. Hence, there was no “theocratic dictatorship.” However, there is a convincing argument that two rightist forces were fighting each other.

“And that’s when it hit me. I saw it, man, I saw what was going on. Maybe George Lucas is the most brilliant film maker of all time.”

What in the world. This is almost half sarcastic.

“You see, think of it like this. History is written by the victors. So maybe what George Lucas is doing is writing this whole series from a meta-contextual point of view, showing us history as it would be depicted if the forces of evil had won.”

Um, ok history is written by victors. As for the next part of this quote, I just don’t think so.

“The story is shown from the point of view after Dear Leader Skywalker went all Stalin on the historical records. The photos have been airbrushed , the scrolls have been burned , the statues knocked down … we’re seeing the revisionist history the House of Skywalker wants us to believe.”

Luke Skywalker never did that. He never was really in a leading position of power. It is true he was a valued footsoldier of the Rebellion, but he was NOT the leader of the Alliance. I don’t even know what to say about the comparison to Stalin here.

“If that’s what George Lucas is doing, it’s fucking brilliant. The hints are there, but you have to peel back the layers of propaganda to look for the real story. What’s really going on?”

Oh boy here we go with the “layers of propaganda.”

“Before the story depicted in the movies begins, democracy was emerging in the galaxy in the form of a republic, with a democratically elected senate. The monarchists and elite were seeing their tyrannical rule coming to an end. They tried to maintain power by filling the sentate with their own kind, like they did with Queen Amadamadingdong. That failed, and they were marginalized.”

I don’t think its that simple. I think there was the pretense of democracy but it was, as even Sheldon Wolin puts it, a managed democracy, in the Galactic Republic. But more accurately it was a bourgeois democracy. Yet, Gutteridge doesn’t say this.

“[Referring to an above picture.] In this telling scene, Anakin Skywalker argues against the extra-judicial summary execution of a political leader by a Jedi zealot, and calls instead for a trial by jury. For this, he is depicted as a villain.”

The “political leader” who speak of was actually also a theocrat in a sense and led his own branch of “The Force” religion. Hence, Palpatine was more like a religious leader who masqueraded as a political leader than the latter. He is almost more a theocrat than the Jedi since he holds a leading position in government while the Jedi don’t technically hold such a position but just kinda do their own thing, which has some consequences (good and bad). Also, Palpatine was trying to kill the Jedi warrior. Yes, Anakin was trying to call for a trial, but Windu’s point that he is “too dangerous to stay alive” if I remember the words right, is valid. In my thinking Palpatine knew something like this would happen, so he made it so the Jedi would say he should die and then Anakin would come to Palpatine’s aid. Also, Anakin is a bit selfish and out for himself, so he can’t be painted as the “good” guy here. Anyway, here’s the relevant passage showing that Anakin is painted an agent of evil for good reason, even though he advocated a right for trial of Palpatine even as the courts are corrupt (bolding is my emphasis):

ANAKIN lands his speeder, jumps out, and runs down a long corridor toward the Chancellor’s office.

In the heat of battle, MACE cuts the window behind the Chancellor’s desk, and it crashes away. MACE is forced out onto the ledge, which is twenty stories up. They fight over the precipice. ANAKIN arrives to see PALPATINE and MACE fighting.

They stop as MACE forces PALPATINE to drop his sword. PALPATINE and MACE start yelling at each other.

MACE WINDU: You are under arrest, My Lord.

PALPATINE: Anakin! I told you it would come to this. I was right. The Jedi are taking over.

MACE WlNDU: You old fool. The oppression of the Sith will never return. Your plot to regain control of the Republic is over . . . you have lost . . .

PALPATINE: No! No! You will die!

PALPATINE raises his hands, and lightning bolts shoot out. They are blocked by MACE’s lightsaber. PALPATINE is pushed back against the window sill.

PALPATINE: He is a traitor, Anakin.

MACE WlNDU: He’s the traitor. Stop him!

PALPATINE: Come to your senses, boy. The Jedi are in revolt. They will betray you, just as they betrayed me.

MACE WlNDU: Aarrrrggghhhhh . . .

PALPATINE: You are not one of them, Anakin. Don’t let him kill me.

MACE WlNDU: Aarrrrggghhhhh . . .

PALPATINE: I am your pathway to power. I have the power to save the one you love. You must choose. You must stop him.

MACE WlNDU: Don’t listen to him, Anakin.

PALPATINE: Help me! Don’t let him kill me. I can’t hold on any longer. Ahhhhhhh . . . ahhhhhhh . . . ahhhhhhh . . .

MACE pushes PALPATINE out to the edge of the ledge. As the Jedi moves closer, the bolts from Palpatine’s hands begin to arch back on him. The Chancellor’s face begins to twist and distort. His eyes become yellow as he struggles to intensify his powers.

PALPATINE: I can’t … I give up. Help me. I am weak … I am too weak. Don’t kill me. I give up. I’m dying. I can’t hold on any longer.

MACE WlNDU: You Sith disease. I am going to end this once and for all.

ANAKIN: You can’t kill him, Master. He must stand trial.

MACE WlNDU: He has too much control of the Senate and the Courts. He is too dangerous to be kept alive.

PALPATINE: I’m too weak. Don’t kill me. Please.

ANAKIN: It is not the Jedi way . . .

MACE raises his sword to kill the CHANCELLOR.

ANAKIN: (continuing) He must live . . .

PALPATINE: Please don’t, please don’t . . .

ANAKIN: I need him . . .

PALPATINE: Please don’t . . .

ANAKIN: NO!!!

Just as MACE is about to slash PALPATINE, ANAKIN steps in and cuts off the Jedi’s hand holding the lightsaber.

As MACE stares at ANAKIN in shock, PALPATINE springs to life.
The full force of Palpatine’s powerful Bolts blasts MACE. He attempts to deflect them with his one good hand, but the force is too great. As blue rays engulf his body, he is flung out the window and falls twenty stories to his death. No more screams. No more moans. PALPATINE lowers his arm.

PALPATINE: Power! Unlimited power!

His face has changed into a horrible mask of evil. ANAKIN looks on in horror. PALPATINE cackles.

ANAKIN: What have I done?

Hence, its not as simple as just “defending” the right to a trial. There’s a bit more there.

“Even worse for the Jedi, Anakin Skywalker, Luke’s father and their chosen messiah, is won over by democratic values. Anakin becomes so keen to distance himself from the cult that has tried to brainwash him since childhood that he dons a Subcomandante Marcos mask and renames himself Darth Vader.”

Well, he doesn’t completely distance himself. He still accepts The Force but just in a different form. In this way he is a religious warrior who will serve an authoritarian Empire and/or the Emperor. So, NO he is not “won over by democratic values.” Don’t you remember when he KILLS all those Jedi in the Jedi Temple literally. Isn’t that basically a religious massacre or what is called a pogrom? Come on now.

“He then aggressively, and for a time successfully, tries to purge the Jedi from the halls of power, making him a champion of the separation of church and state. Which, in my books, is a good thing.”

There never really was a state religion, hence there can’t be a separation of church and state. No one was EVER forced to believed in The Force. It was almost like the Jedi were like high-level thinkers or philosopher kings to some extent, except that they didn’t really have political power but had political prestige.

“By the time we get to Luke Skywalker, democracy is everywhere and things might have gone well, except no one could have anticipated just how ruthless Luke Skywalker would be. Luke was probably moisture farmer on Tatooine as much as George Bush was a Texan rancher. No, Luke was a demagogue laying in wait.”

I really don’t think that was accurate at all. There definitely isn’t democracy everywhere. The Republic at least had a Senate of some value. However, the Empire has a useless and mock-powerful Senate which is abolished in Episode 4. Of not is an episode of the new Star Wars animated series, Star Wars Rebels where Vader orders the burning of a city (Tarkintown) on one of the character’s home planets, Lothal in order to spread fear. Then there was the massacre, which has a My Lai quality, of the town’s inhabitants and the destruction of the town in the newest Star Wars movie as noted in this screenplay:

“Lor San Tekka moves sadly through the village as STORMTROOPERS wielding FLAME THROWERS destroy structures. Surrendering Villagers are ROUNDED UP. Penned ANIMALS panic…The Troopers and villagers in battle — as one Trooper is HIT and goes down. Another — OUR TROOPER — KNEELS to help. The hit trooper raises a torn, bloody glove — his HUMAN HAND visible — and MARKS OUR STORMTROOPER’S MASK WITH BLOOD just before he dies. Our Trooper, stands — overwhelmed by the battle.”

Then this goes on.

“The Skywalker name gives Luke the backing of the Jedi, but they need the money and resources of the monarchists and land owners to fund the Jedi’s jihad against the secular government. To convince the monarchists to come along, Luke and his cohorts concocted this whole story about how he discovered a weapon of mass destruction that only he could destroy. How convenient.”

No, they didn’t concoct the story. Come on. If the Empire is secular, it is a murderous secular state. Who would want to support that?

“Was there really a death star? Everyone who supposedly witnessed a planet being destroyed by a “death star” are all dead now, except, by no coincidence, for Luke’s sister.”

Um, all the rebel pilots saw the death star. Anyway, at the end of Episode 3 the Death Star was under construction and the Geonosians were apparently constructing it or at least had the plans for its construction in Episode 2.

“It was Luke and the Jedi cabal who blew up Alderaan! It was a galactic Reichstag Fire , Gulf of Tonkin , Manchurian railway in space. Great disturbance in the force my ass. It was a great disturbance by the force!”

This isn’t what actually happened and the writer of the original post knows this. It WAS the Empire that blew up the planet. Its almost sarcasm at this point.

“The monarchists were convinced, and supplied Luke with all the resources he need to launch his bloody coup d’état . Luke then makes a huge display of blowing up a star base that could have been a medicine factory for all we know, and the monarchists adorn him with medals for his “Mission Accomplished” moment, which, like similar moments , was only the beginning of the bloodshed.”

Um, it wasn’t a medicine factory. Also, they once again were NOT monarchists. And yes, the end of Episode 4 could said the reminiscent of Nazi rallies, but this was convincingly more the case in the newest Star Wars movie with a rally of the First Order. Seriously, those First Order folks were fascists.

“The final twist of the propaganda knife is claiming that his father renounced democracy just before dying. Again, anyone on the second death star who might have witnessed Vader sacrificing the emperor in an act of atonement to his son – they’re all dead now too.”

This is ridiculous. How is a system that is led by an EMPEROR a democracy? What movies did you watch? Jeez this is so far off that all I can do is laugh.

“That’s how Luke rolls. He kills all witnesses.”

Um no he doesn’t. He blows up the first Death Star, sure, but NOT the second one which is blown up by the Rebel starfleet. Also, the second Death Star killed people on the two ships it destroyed with its blasts to show off its power.

“The whole Star Wars series is Ayatollah Skywalker’s whitewashed history of his brutal ascent to power. It’s his Triumph of the Will !”

Gosh this is getting ridiculous. Skywalker, once again did NOT hold a leading position in the Alliance but was just one of the best fighters. Come on now.

“It even explains the terrible storytelling set against incredible scenery. I mean, it’s a state sponsored propaganda film. It has all the brilliant special effects of a Chinese Olympic opening ceremony , but the stilted story telling of a North Korean news report . Even in the very production of the films the historical revisionism is hinted at. I mean, we all know that the free market neocon mercenary Han Solo shot Greedo first, but even that detail got suppressed to support the official state narrative.”

What? It isn’t a state propaganda film. It is also is not like Chinese or DPRK news reports or ceremonies. Sure, Han Solo could be considered a “free market neocon mercenary.” However, from what I remember the movie NEVER says that Greedo shot first or is this detail expressed. Come on. Jabba the Hut, the head of the underground criminal network, is mad Greedo is killed but that’s about it.

“If it’s the case that the whole Star Wars series is a post modern metacontextual propaganda for the Skywalker regime, then maybe George Lucas is a brilliant writer working on so many more levels than we’ve even discovered yet!”

You got to be kidding me. There was NO “Skywalker regime.” There was just two rightist forces fighting each other. Additionally, the Rebellion was almost a tent for those of different viewpoints. However, it is evident that neither of the forces fighting each other can be seen as truly part of the Left.

“And then I saw Indiana Jones part four , and was reminded that, Lucas is just a hack.”

I’ll agree that movie was horrible. I’m not sure if calling Lucas a hack is fair though even though I think he was broadly a conservative and wanted to reinforce “traditional” values coming from the 1950s from what I’ve read.

“Still, we’ve got the story we’ve got, the most deceptive and seductive pro-fascist narrative ever written. The Jedi mind trick has been played on all of us. “This is not the hero’s journey you were looking for.””

I just don’t agree with this at all. Considering the faulty interpretations elsewhere, this is just totally wrong. Yes, the six major movies have a conservative element and reinforces traditionalism along with arguably patriarchalism. The same could be said about the new movie, but there is some level of a corrective with a female lead character (Rey) and a black stormtrooper who refuses to commit a war crime, an equivalent of the My Lai massacre, named Finn. The same could be said about the new Star Wars Rebels series which has a number of female characters even know the cast is still male-dominated, and the second animated clone wars series, not necessarily the first one.

“So… I’m not a Star Wars fan anymore. If it ever happens again that I see that scene where Luke is going down the trench, I’ll still get tense… but I’ll be cheering for Vader.”

Good for you. Cheer for an empire, which is kinda fascist just from the name of its footsoldiers: stormtroopers. How about cheering for NEITHER side since both sides are kinda rightist? Just an idea.

While I think that comedian Dave Gutteridge makes some valid points about the Star Wars, but his makes a number of conclusions which are not based on evidence from the series itself (ex: that the Empire is a democracy or that Jedi are theocrats). I’m willing to be convinced otherwise, but I just think there are a number of fundamental issues that he gets totally wrong as I note above. Perhaps I interpreted this all wrong and he is trying to be really really sarcastic but I sincerely doubt it.

Some additional thoughts

There are a number of historical analogies one could make in relation to the Star Wars series. Tom Engelhardt, argued in one written piece that George Lucas challenged the view that Americans shouldn’t be reminded about the Vietnam war, “decontaminating war of its recent history through a series of inspired cinematic decisions that rescued crucial material from the wreckage of Vietnam.” Engelhart continues by rightly pointing out that Lucas started the Star Wars series in its “own self-enclosed universe in deepest space and in an amorphous movie past…an era of civil war, an evil empire, rebels, an ultimate weapon, a struggle for freedom” and that “he uncoupled the audience from a legacy of massacre and atrocity” with Skywalker’s family suffering “its own My Lai,” He writes that this allows the audience and Luke to “set off on an anti-imperial venture as the victimized, not as victimizers” and that later on, “Lucas’s white teenage rebels would glide effortlessly among the natives. They would learn from value-superior Third World mystics…and be protected by ecological fuzzballs like the Ewoks.” Engelhart writes that after the 1970s, “Star Wars-like themes also began to penetrate the world of adult entertainment” and this allowed G.I. Joe to be reintroduced along with other “action figures” to released as Star Wars knock offs.

While Englehart makes valid points, I think it important to recognize the different interpretations of Star Wars before putting forward my own analysis. Steven Belletto and Daniel Grausam argue that the film quickly undermines the reading that it is critical of the United States, saying that Episode IV’s premise “associates the Rebels with Western settlers and heroes” and then populates the Empire “with soldiers and henchmen outfited for a Stanlist regime.” [1] They further argue, on the same page, that the movie also puts forward the idea that the West is represented by “technologically inferior Rebels” rather than an invading war machine, which revives the narrative that “the South Vietnamese Army comprised the freedom fighters” and that the North Vietnamese were “agents of a monolithic, evil, Communist empire set on world domination.” In writing about Episode 5, Belletto and Grausam argue that the movie is just “dumbed down Emerson” and claiming that Yoda has a resemblance to Reagan. [2] They argue that for Episode 6, Luke is an “optimistic Reaganite” who continues to underestimate the power of the Dark Side, that the Rebels aren’t for freedom from the Empire’s grasp but they want to supplant it as the governing force of the galaxy. [3] They later write that there is the triumph of the Rebels in episode 6 means that class distinctions are dissolved, with nobility, who they describe as Luke and Leia, along with Ewok and Wookies participating, meaning that, in their interpretation, “the Eastern establishment and European aristocracy acknowledge their appreciation for the lone ranger, just as he acknowledges his commitment to their benevolent monarchy.” [4] Belletto and Grausum also write that three patriarchs, redeemed Vader, Yoda and Obi-Wan, in their interpretation, return in Episode 6 at the end “to celebrate this marriage of Western adventurism [symbolized by Han Solo] and Eastern monarchy that confirm the union’s implicit hierarchy as part of the natural order.” [5]

Then, there’s Stephen McVeigh who looks at what the engine that drives the Star Wars narrative. He argues that the original trilogy (episodes 4-6) constitutes ” a post-Vietnam critique of military superiority whereby a technological superpower is defeated by smaller, more humanized forces” and that the films present “a dual reading of U.S. military might” as either a “morally bankrupt oppressor” or that U.S. interests and actions are just. [6] He also argues that while some critics tend to argue that the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany is represented by the Empire, that “the dark truth at the core of Lucas’s evil Empire is that it presents a version of America itself” and that the Star Wars movies are more than about posturing of Cold War superpowers, and by recognizing “that the rebels and Empire are one and the same side” only does Lucas’s mission come to the surface. [7]  He goes on beyond this, but this alone is worth mentioning.

It is worth mentioning, last but not least that there is a group of writers that assert that Star Wars is related to Vietnam, as Englehart alluded to. McVeigh writes that Star Wars Episode 4 has to be seen in light of the Vietnam War and that instead of detailing the horrors of Vietnam, he “decided to offer a balm…ramp [of] the mythic landscape that had been so badly traumatized by  American involvement in the war in Southeast Asia.” [8] His mission, as the writers argue, is to repair “the damage done by the Vietnam War on the American people.” [9] McVeigh also writes than later also argue that Episode 1 fit into fears of U.S. culture (conspiracy and paranoia) and that the relevance of Star Wars to “stories that connect to become an account of passage of American self-concept through the aftermath of Vietnam” assures the series a “unique place within American popular culture.” [10] Other than McVeigh, Dan Rubey argues that Episode 4 uses “an image ourselves from the past,” referring to dogfights during WWII which Lucas used as a basis for fights in the Star Wars movies, and that it has direct relation to Vietnam. [11] He also writes that the film feeds on the feelings of the audience of frustration along with numerous desires (escape, mobility, and power) and satisfies them with a good/evil dichotomy, numerous metaphors and endorse “traditional structures of racism, sexism and social hierarchy that have helped to create and maintain those frustrations.” [12] The same write also argues that Lucas has a “conservative ideological bias,” that Star Wars is a “chivalric romance plot” that is about power of the Force which is gendered as male, that the Rebels are restorers of the old order, and that “Lucas dooms Star Wars to repeat all the ideological cliches of our society” [13] 

These assessments are validated in numerous ways by the franchise itself. In one Lucasfilm book titled Star Wars and History, Vietnam is mentioned 19 times. More directly are sections from J. W. Rinzle’s The Making of Star Wars (Enhanced Edition). In the book, it says that George Lucas originally wanted to make Apocalypse Now, which is as any viewers know, a very antiwar and anti-Vietnam War film. As Rinzle writes in a section titled “Vietnam Wars in Space,” “the Vietnam War was just too controversial” meaning that Lucas, who was apparently poor and in debt, turned to an unnamed science fiction project which became Star Wars. In the book, Rinzle quotes Lucas as saying he had “very strong feelings” about Apocalypse Now, implying that Star Wars was about the Vietnam War with political ideas he was going to put in that movie going into Star Wars. [14] The most telling quote from Lucas which basically confirms that Star Wars is about reclaiming the Vietnam War (with “selective” concepts) is as follows:

“A lot of my interest in Apocalypse Now was carried over into Star Wars. I figured that I couldn’t make that film because it was about the Vietnam War, so I would essential deal with some of the same interesting concepts that I was going to use and convert them into space fantasy, so you’d have essentially a large technological empire going after a small group of freedom fighters or human beings.”

I could go on and mention numerous other books that mention how Star Wars is a reflection on the Vietnam War. However, I think it best to give my other thoughts at this present time. The argument that the Rebels and the Empire are just two sides of the same coin, representing different elements of the United States, is relatively convincing. [15] I was thinking about this today and if the Empire represented the Soviet Union, the process of events doesn’t make much sense. I say that because there was no major military defeat of the Soviet Union by the United States before the 1970s, which would be represented by the Death Star’s explosion, and America was not defeated by the Soviet Union as they were by the Empire at the beginning of Episode 5. This would get even more confusing because the Empire was originally a Galactic Republic, which Russia was NOT before the Russian revolution of 1917. I also thought that maybe Episode 1 referred to WWI and that the Clone Wars referred to WWII but in terms of the events that happened in Star Wars, this doesn’t make much sense either. Neither does the destruction of the Death Star refer to the Korean War or the battle of Hoth in episode 5 refer to the Bay of Pigs invasion (and disaster), as one could think.

Still, there are a number of important observations to make and I don’t need to read the Star Wars and Philosophy book in order to assert them. Both forces, “good” and “evil,” are arguably right-wing. The Galactic Republic in episodes 1-3 is basically a bourgeois democracy, the Trade Federation in episodes 1-3 which was “an interstellar shipping and trade conglomerate,” while the CIS in episodes 2-3 is a confederacy led by a Sith lord. It is also possible that Lucas is condemning certain ideas since, as noted in this Wookiepedia entry, the trade groups that supported the CIS’s cause were nationalized by the Galactic Empire. As for the Rebels in episodes 4-6, they were, as noted earlier, an authoritarian government that aimed to bring back the bourgeois democracy of the Galactic Republic (of which they succeeded in Episode 6). Then, the Empire is obviously a fascist force which is authoritarian in nature as well. The same dynamic is the case in the newest Star Wars movie with the First Order as obviously fascist and after the New Republic, which representing the bourgeois democracy, is destroyed, the Resistance is just like the Rebels.

After reading through these different books on the subject, I am more critical than ever of the series. Still, I guess unlike Gutteridge and others,  I guess I still have some hope in the Star Wars series and think that it has at least some value due to its deeply problematic aspects. But, this hope could obviously be shattered into many pieces, and that is why I look forward to your comments on this issue. In the end, I plan to write another article on this topic but I hope that this is the beginning of a more critical approach to the Star Wars series which is lauded too often, especially after the recent movie.


Notes:

[1] Belletto, Steven and Grausam, Daniel. American Literature and Culture in an Age of Cold War: A Critical Reassessment. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2012. 197.

[2] Ibid, 198-9.

[3] Ibid, 200, 203.

[4] Ibid, 205.

[5] Ibid, 206-7.

[6] Sweet, Derek R. Star Wars in the Public Square: The Clone Wars as Political DialogueJefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015. 8.

[7] McVeigh, Stephen. The Galactic Way of Warfare. Finding the Force of the Star Wars Franchise: Fans, Merchandise, & Critics (ed. Matthew Kapell and  John Shelton Lawrence). New York: Peter Lang, 2006. 38.

[8] Ibid.

[8] Ibid, 39.

[9] Ibid, 46, 54.

[11] Rubey, Dan. No So Long Ago nor Far Away: New Variations on Old Themes and Questioning Star Wars‘ Revival of Heroic Archetypes. Myth, Media, and Culture in Star Wars: An Anthology (ed Douglas Brode and Leah Deyneka). Lanham: The Scarecrow Press Inc., 2012. 51.

[12] Ibid, 52

[13] Ibid, 53, 57-8, 63.

[14] The book also notes that Vietnam, along with conflicts and government affected his thinking about the series. Also, in one part of the book it reprints a telling quote from a legal pad he used when writing ideas for the original movie which shows he is not necessarily against American empire: “Theme: Aquilae is a small independent country like North Vietnam threatened by a neighbor or provincial rebellion, instigated by gangsters aided by empire. Fight to get rightful planet back. Half of the system has been lost to gangsters…The empire is like America ten years from now, after gangsters assassinated the Emperor and were elevated to power in a rigged election…We are at a turning point: fascism or revolution.” Elsewhere the book quotes Lucas as saying that the movie is a reflection on the Vietnam War: “to not make a decision is a decision…what usually happens is a small minority stands up against it, and the major portion are a lot of indifferent people who aren’t doing anything one way or the other. And by not accepting the responsibility, those people eventually have to confront the issue in a more painful way, which is essentially what happened in the United States with the Vietnam War.”

[15] Also, since there is the division of the galaxywide religion of the Force which is divided into “light” and “dark”, Jedi and Sith, it is clear once again that we are talking about two sides of the same coin.

Reflecting on the “human rights watcher” guy

Originally posted on the Leftist Critic blog on Feb 19, 2016.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. I removed a lot of content here, keeping only what was important.

There is one troll and/or deluded person on the twitterverse called the “human rights watcher.” This post aimed to point out his delusions, his connections to broader forces of the Celebrity Left, and give more of an overview. To read the original thrust of the post in its horribleness, please go here.

As we all know, this doxing/doxxing business, at least in recent memory, started with Crabapple outing EQ for purely political reasons, saying that she worked for a UN agency and was supposedly doing something heinous when she really was not. A good question to ask, as I did on twitter is who Garry, the “human rights watcher and his snievly friends, in concert with Crabapple and co., will dox next.” Its hard to know. But what is clear is that the pro-Crabapple forces, which may even be a limited characterization, are engaging in actions that reinforce the imperial status quo. Whether Garry and his friend Oz like it or not, they are reinforcing the aims of the murderous US empire. Likely they don’t care much that this is the case or are naive enough to think they are not reinforcing these objectives by giving fodder to the propaganda machine. Never once have these forces tried to dox bigots or racists, instead they dox those who criticize them and reside on the radical left. That is totally unacceptable. It is an open question in my mind if any form of doxxing is acceptable such as against racists and bigots, and if not, then there should be a strong stance against doxxing across the board no matter who it is. As those critical of the Celebrity Left which includes Glenn Greenwald, Deray, Molly Crabapple, and numerous others, there should be no backing down from criticism but instead there should be movement forward. Efforts by the Celebrity Left to reinforce the status quo with faux criticism should be opposed at all costs but this should not include using the same tactics used against comrades such as myself. That would be hypocrisy of the highest degree and would just give more ammunition to the forces in favor of the Celebrity Left. In the end, those on the critical and/or sensible left as some have called it, should oppose doxing, revealing it to show their true tactics, and to serve as a place of criticism and radical thought not available elsewhere. I look forward to your comments.

Criticizing Ta Nehisi Coates

Originally published on Leftist Critic on Jan 28, 2016.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. At that time, some changes were made.

Of our day, Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the most pre-eminent intellectuals, writing for the often horrid Atlantic magazine owned by Atlantic Media’s Howard Kurtz, a neocon guy who was “dead certain about the rightness” of the 2003 Iraq invasion. I’ve been in classes where professors have praised him as the best thing since sliced bread. Admittedly, I even skipped a class session because I didn’t want to read Coates’s “Case for Reparations” again without critically analyzing it. As Mariame Kaba, who uses the handle @prisonculture, declared on twitter recently about an article Coates wrote about Sanders “…when people bother to offer principled critique, it means there’s something they think is worth engaging. So smart supporters would take that seriously & interrogate the claims being made without becoming defensive.” This article does not criticize Kaba with her own words, which is for another day, but fulfills my promise and aims to start the criticism of Coates, which is currently lacking in public discourse .

Beginning the conversation

It is good to begin with a revealing short piece by Coates in the style magazine New York. The piece starts with a praise of the Washington City Paper for its reporting, saying it “was very confrontational and aggressive, and there’d be this mix of history and cultural criticism and first person and journalism.” He then goes on to claim he was mature, cared about his writing and his awareness of race, but also his professionalism:

“…I went in, and I tried to dress as best as I could. And that was not very dressy, but it was okay. I think I had a pair of nice pants, and I remember I had a leather jacket on — I didn’t have like a normal blazer, so I had a leather jacket on — and my little tie. There were no black people in the office. Like none. This is immediately the whitest place I had ever been in my life. Right away. So I get in and culturally, you know, it’s like a different world. I’m looking at these folks, and they’re not even professional, or corporate, like what you see in the movies or on TV. You know, these are like alternative white people, and I had no exposure to alternative white people, like none”

While this seems to show his class blindness, but shows “racial awareness,” the next part is even clearer. He writes that he didn’t think he could write a story about a part of Washington D.C., Ward 8, which he claimed had “a reputation as a really poor area of the city, but nestled within there was this neighborhood of Hillcrest that was very middle class, very working class, very nice” which couldn’t “get services.” What was his reason? “I didn’t think I was that type of person.” Yikes! This leads to a bunch of questions: What type of person was he then? A “bougie” person? Is he the same now but with a different mask on? He then goes on to imply that he is the person who “asks questions”:

“Someone else might be more curious than you, but the functionality of them being more curious than you is that they just asked more questions. That was a deep sort of lesson — that the winner is the person who keeps asking questions. That’s the winner.”

This attitude is not surprising for someone who was likely praised in a one page splash (which you can’t read from the picture) in the Japanese-owned British business publication, the Financial Times. This connects to a recent article about Coates in CounterPunch by Paul Street which a biting and appropriate criticism. The piece argues first and foremost that Coates focuses on race but ignores class. A number of selected quotes are important to mention here:

“I take Coates at his word when he claims not to crave elite class identity and to be more concerned with things, not status. At the same time, I think there’s something else worse to be than “bougie”: bourgeois. And what makes one bourgeois is one’s material and social class position and one’s mental and ideological framework, things that go beyond one’s fondness (or lack thereof) for fine goods and service and one’s quest (or lack thereof) for station. Among other things, a bourgeois world view denies the central importance of class oppression and the need for working class unity and struggle across racial and other lines. Seen this way, I sense that the word bourgeois applies fairly well to Ta-Nehisi Coates. The economic aspect is obvious. He’s moved his family to Paris, with help from a recent $625,000 no-strings-attached “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation. His book royalties are no doubt impressive. No, he’s not remotely as rich as world’s 80 wealthiest people…Still, the man is well off…More importantly and far more significantly for the purposes of this essay, why does Coates devalue the “the question [of] whether Lincoln truly meant government of the people?”…The problem here is Coates’ remarkably class-blind, overly identity-politicized bourgeois thinking and his related ignorance of the history of class relations and their centrality to the crucial problem that quite understandably concerns him: racial oppression…What’s all this “class stuff” got to do with the vital topic on which the award-winning writings of Ta-Nehisi Coates focus – racial oppression and racist violence in America? Quite a bit, to say the least…All through American history, moreover…the nation’s capitalist elites have played the Machiavellian game of racial divide and rule to keep the nation’s working class majority down…Coates demonstrates no concern for an essential point: the white working class majority has paid a terrible price for American racism. The wages of whiteness have been very low indeed. And that makes his reflections on contemporary U.S. racial oppression racism and what might be done about it miserably partial and inadequate. He does not see or, perhaps, care that reparations of a kind are due to most of the populace and will have to be pursed through democratic-socialist transformation…I am not sure how well Coates understands contemporary racism even on his own cynical and/or impoverished class-blind terms. Coates’ emphasis on the racial positive…of the disastrous…neoliberal Obama experience at the end of the day is related to his bourgeois position and bubble…not to mention the corporate media, including a regular literary pulpit at the conservative and neoliberal Atlantic. His bourgeois experience and mindset can’t help but bias him towards a positive judgement on the racial meaning of the Obama years.”

Not only does Street’s analysis spot-on but it is telling about Coates. It seems from his description that Coates is a privileged, “bougie” individual who ultimately has a bourgeois position in seclusion in France and defends the Obama administration. Yet, but not analyzing class he is perpetrating bourgeois nationalism.

Coates misses the boat on Sanders

Coates recently wrote an article which supposedly criticizes social-democrat-imperialist Bernie Sanders for rejecting reparations but actually accepts the idea Sanders is radical, which makes no sense. He declares that Sanders, who calls for investment in rebuilding cities and making colleges and universities have free tuition, among other ideas, is ridiculous, saying this spectacle, as he calls it, “is only rivaled by the implausibility of Sanders posing as a pragmatist.” He then dismisses Sanders’s ideas as ridiculous ones that would never pass Congress, falling into the idea that there can ONLY be the “politics of the possible.” From here, Coates then says Sanders is “the candidate of partisanship and radicalism” not the “candidate of moderation and unification.” Additionally, he claims that “radicals expand the political imagination and, hopefully, prevent incrementalism from becoming a virtue” despite the fact that neither Sanders nor himself is NOT radical in the slightest. He goes on to claim that “Sanders’s radicalism has failed in the ancient fight against white supremacy” and almost if not, implies that Killary Clinton has better approach, which is ridiculous. Coates then declares that what he calls the “class first” approach is wrong, “originating in the myth that racism and socialism are necessarily incompatible” and implying that raising the minimum wage and making college free are “socialist” proposals when they are NOT at all. In fact, even Obama at one point sorta proposed making community college free. Such ideas are NOT radical but are actually mainstream. Coates is basically saying that socialists don’t understand race which is just ridiculous and unfounded. Coates then goes on to complain that housing discrimination and affirmative action are not addressed in the ““racial justice” section of Sanders platform.” I’m not sure what Coates expects of a moderate imperialist who comes from one of the whitest states in Amerika, which could be an example of what some have called a whitopia. So, no wonder he is horrible when it comes to policies supposedly for improving the state of the black community.

Coates then claims that Sanders is a “candidate who is not merely against reparations, but one who doesn’t actually understand the argument.” Oh and Hillary Clinton does? Come on. He goes on to say that “from 1619 until at least the late 1960s, American institutions, businesses, associations, and government…repeatedly plundered black communities,” which is accurate. However, class is STILL not mentioned. If this isn’t enough, Coates says that “Sanders should be directly confronted and asked why his political imagination is so active against plutocracy, but so limited against white supremacy” despite the fact they he was already confronted with by two black female protesters months ago who interrupted a rally in Seattle. Coates then goes on to claim that if “not even an avowed socialist can be bothered to grapple with reparations…if this is the candidate of the radical left—then expect white supremacy in America to endure well beyond our lifetimes and lifetimes of our children.” He is not only wrong that Sanders is part of the radical left but he is not recognizing that underground/”hidden” racism exists in Western societies, like the United States, and that as long as there are active white supremacists, like the militia members in Oregon, then such white supremacy will continue as a part of society. He then claims that reparations is the only way to fight white supremacy:

“It is the indispensable tool against white supremacy. One cannot propose to plunder a people, incur a moral and monetary debt, propose to never pay it back, and then claim to be seriously engaging in the fight against white supremacy.”

While one could say that is rational, in the last lines of this article he inflates his ego to ridiculous proportions as any sensible person would realize:

“My hope was to talk to Sanders directly, before writing this article. I reached out repeatedly to his campaign over the past three days. The Sanders campaign did not respond.”

Not only is Coates acting like the Sanders campaign doesn’t care and is callous but he is showcasing his supposed self-importance, which doesn’t actually exist.

Then there was an article in the right-leaning The Week promoted by Rania Khalek as a “corrective” to Coates by Ryan Cooper, a correspondent who falsely claimed that Sanders was “pretty far to Clinton’s left,” promotes The Intercept (also see here), and was, and I quote, “a die-hard Obama partisan for a solid year [after the 2008 election]…[I] would have done whatever he asked[.]” That comment by Cooper doesn’t sound very democratic. But that’s me.

Anyway, its important to talk about Cooper’s article. He writes that Coates, who he claimed is “perhaps the most famous and respected black writer in America” took Sanders to task for “failing to support reparations for slavery” but also claimed that it was a chance for Sanders to “clarify the deep reach of his brand of redistributive policy” and a chance “for Coates to reconsider his rather hasty dismissal of socialism itself.” These ideas presume once again that Sanders is radical when he is not and that Coates is receptive to socialism when he is clearly NOT. Cooper pointed out, as those such as Bruce Dixon of Black Agenda Report have noted, that Coates doesn’t actually define “what reparations would look like” and in his “case for reparations” article two years ago he “barely even gestured at how an actual reparations policy would be constructed,” with no clarifications since. Cooper then goes into different figures for reparations and claims that slavery is “a crime so vast that it would be impossible to provide restitution of similar magnitude without dismantling the entire country,” implying it is impossible and that others who were oppressed would get reparations. This seems a bit far-fetched considering that Japanese-Amerikans already received reparations for the racist crime of internment during World War II. Beyond this, Cooper says that it is a problem for Coates to use “Sanders as a stand-in for the radical left” since Sanders’s “favored policies are right in line with the Democratic Party’s progressive wing.” He also says that a “true program of democratic socialism…could unquestionably serve as a part of an ongoing positive force against racism” and would “ensure that black Americans are getting an equal cut of its current fruits,” which sounds like something that Sanders would say on the campaign trail. Cooper ends his article by saying that Sanders shouldn’t have “lightly brushed off reparations as a topic” but that his proposal was “far better than Coates gives it credit for” and that “race-neutral redistribution and welfare are by necessity anti-racist. Full democratic socialism would be even more promising.” While this sounds great, the fact is that Cooper doesn’t seem like much of a radical himself even if he self-identifies as such, like Sanders himself.

A much better article criticizing Coates is by Bruce Dixon in Black Agenda Report. He not only sarcastically says that Coates “lives in France, and earns his keep dispensing timely wisdom upon us all from across the water” but says that since his 2014 piece, “Coates is presumably qualified to speak on the subject.” But that’s not all. Dixon criticizes Coates for not mentioning Clinton’s anti-reparations views, “that the Green Party’s presidential candidate Jill Stein does endorse reparations,” and says Coates’s piece is hallow. He goes on to say that by Coates repeating “nonsense claims that socialists can’t see white supremacy” will discourage blacks from interest in socialism. Dixon then helpfully says that Coates’s “weekly dose of disinformation” comes in three parts: “[1.] stay away from Bernie cause he ain’t for reparations…[2.] look out for those socialists too, cause they make a point of ignoring and denying the role of white supremacy…[3.] Bernie Sanders didn’t return my call to explain himself” which he says is “pretty lazy stuff” even for “conventional neoliberal wisdom.” Then Dixon has perhaps the best words of his piece, saying that not only is Sanders not a socialist but that Coates is totally wrong:

“In the real world, not the fantasies of Mr. Coates, Bernie Sanders is no kind of socialist. Socialists stand for the working class, the poor, the common man and woman regardless of nation and color. Bernie’s socialism stops at the water’s edge, as he endorses apartheid in Israel, the Pentagon budget and the global empire of hundreds US bases and vast military industries that eat half the nation’s wealth annually. This makes Bernie no friend of the poor anyplace outside the US and not so much the friend of the poor inside it either, really no kind of socialist at all. Bernie know this, and has rarely if ever called himself one in recent years. But he allows, even encourages us to call him that this year because socialism is popular, even though Ta Nehesi Coates thinks it should not be. As long as they keep paying Mr. Coates, we’ll be treated to more of his very conventional wisdom. Get read for it.”

Coates’s sad defense of himself and racial castes

In a recent article, Coates basically attacked those who criticized him on his article about reparations, but didn’t mention Black Agenda Report of course. He claims that he “did offer some details on the proposals which have been put forth by scholars over the years” and supported “John Conyers’s H.R. 40 bill, which proposed to study slavery and its legacy, and to determine whether reparations were feasible.” From here, Coates claimed that “this did not stop people from demanding specifics,” especially from those who don’t believe in it, that his case for reparations was centered on “actual living African Americans who’d been wronged, well within living memory,” and that a vast majority of white Amerika “opposed reparations in all forms” in a 2014 poll. Coates then flouts his self-importance again, saying his article, “The Case For Reparations” meant to “counter” such ideas and that “curious” readers are willing to agree with him, apparently.

This isn’t all Coates writes. He criticizes Kevin Drum, a writer for Mother Jones, and declares that unlike Drum, who says that “problem with the bringing pirates to justice is the distribution system,” he believes that “the problem is piracy itself, and grand piracy always extends beyond the act of theft. It requires the construction of an elaborate architecture to either justify the theft, or to justify non-compensation for the theft.” Before going on, this indicates that Coates cares about the effects of racism, but not institutionalized racism which is a vital part of the global capitalist system. Coates then says that considering reparations has a “potential to expand the American political imagination” and claims that he wants people to imagine more, implying that socialism is just a bizarre conception:

“And in this sense the conversation ends right where it began: Liberals and radicals see no problem imagining a socialist presidency. They do not demand specific details of how single-payer health care, free public-college tuition, and the break-up of big banks would make it through a Republican Congress. They are not wrong. God bless them and their radical imagination. I mean it. I just want them to imagine more.”

Let me add here that I will not take a position for or against reparations. I need more information before deciding either way. However, it is important to point out Coates’s arguments in order to engender further discussion.

At this point, it is key to introduce a term proposed by social historian Peter Levy in his wonderful book about civil rights activities in Cambridge, Maryland during the 1960s and beyond, called Civil War on Race Street. This term is racial caste. Levy writes on page 11, in the first chapter, the following:

“[During the pre-Civil War period,] Cambridge developed into a racially caste-based society, with whites acquiring a sense of caste superiority over both enslaved and free blacks. I use the term caste rather than simply race because caste better captures the way in which individuals are born with a specific status in society, a status they inherit and cannot alter no matter their individual merits…[in the post-Civil War period]…caste did not disappear…[but] class distinctions became just as important in the life of the community. The term class is best understood as depicting socioeconomic relationships between distinct groups of people. Theoretically, one’s class, unlike one’s caste, can change, and the line between working class and middle class remained family permeable…[in the post-WWII period]…an assortment of forces…destabilized the community and paved a way for a challenging of traditional caste and class relations”

I mention this because the term racial caste could be used in the modern Amerikan context and can serve as a corrective to Coates’s purportedly “racially aware” but class-blind analysis of current racial relations. It is also important to challenge Coates’s idea and that perpetrated by too many: the black-white paradigm which presupposes that blacks and whites are the ONLY major races in Amerika. In fact, the US Census declares that there are at least five races: (1) White; (2) Black; (3) Amerikan Indian and Alaska Native (overarching category); (4) Asian (overarching category); (5) Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (overarching category), with it being better for #4 and #5 to mention a  specific nation or say “indigenous.” Then there’s Hispanic and Latino, ethnic group labels produced to benefit certain constituencies but hurt radical efforts of unification during the 1960s and 1970s, with millions under that category. At minimum, this could be expanded to include three other groups which are arguably races: Mexican (also called Chicano, bronze race, or Mexican-American), Puerto Rican, and Cuban.

Coates praises Obama as a wonderous icon

There are a number of pieces in which Coates praised Obama, despite what some crusty defender, a supposed radical, claimed. I noted these in a number of tweets where I screencaped pieces of this nature (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). These pieces are not surprising when you consider that Coates is high level enough to be read by Obama, who seems to recognize his importance to the bourgeoisie.

The first article worth mentioning is a 2007 piece titled “Is Obama Black Enough?” In the piece, Coates almost seemed disappointed that Obama would not call for reparations but he also declared that “Obama is biracial, and has a direct connection with Africa. He is articulate, young and handsome,” implying his support. Beyond this, Coates said that Obama’s biracialness “opened a gap for others to question his authenticity as a black man” but that his “foreign ancestry could not prevent his wallet from morphing into a gun in the eyes of the police.” Coates then declared that “African-Americans meet other intelligent, articulate African-Americans all the time” who run for elections, and then declared strangely that “Obamania is rooted in the belief that 50 Cent, not Barack Obama, represents the real black America.” This also denies that the black community has a rich history and implies it is dominated by commercialism and/or is hallow. If that wasn’t enough, Coates implicitly defended Obama’s work as a “community organizer” in Chicago and that claimed that Obama was not only given”the escape valve of biraciality” but unnerves “many small-minded racists,” who he claims can be white or black. Before going further, this means he is saying, whether he wants to, that “reverse racism” is real and that racism isn’t a system of oppression. Anyway, the last line of the article is most telling: “Barack Obama’s real problem isn’t that he’s too white — it’s that he’s too black.” This observation is a bit odd but also goes along with the rest of the article by whitewashing Obama’s neoliberalism and/or the PR aspect of the Obama campaign itself.

Then, there’s a 2014 article titled “The Champion Barack Obama.” The article praises Obama as one of the best icons based off a profile in The New Yorker by David Remnick. What he wrote is revealing:

“I have tried to get my head around what he represents. Two years ago, I would have said that whatever America’s roots in white supremacy, the election of a black president is a real thing, worthy of celebration, a sign of actual progress. I would have pointed out that you should not expect a black head of state in any other Western country any time soon, and that this stands as singular accolade in the long American democratic tradition. Today, I’m less certain about national accolades. I’m not really sure that a writer—whose whole task is the attempt to see clearly—can afford such attachments.”

The fact that Coates is admitting he would have been more of an Obamabot only two years before, in 2012, is disturbing. Even considering my own experience, I was critical of Obama in a number of ways by then. I think it is important to make an admission here. I canvassed for Obama in Philadelphia with my liberal/progressive parents during the 2008 election and was optimistic about him despite my support of John Edwards about the “two Americas” (poor and rich). Let me say before someone jumps on me that, I was highly naive (and politically ignorant) about the particularities of politics and the capitalist system. Not anymore! As the years went by, my support of Obama slipped away as I became disillusioned. My criticism started early on, with critical articles even in 2010, it increased in 2011 with my anger at him for supporting an imperialist war in Libya after which I dedicated myself to opposing future imperial interventions, and in 2012 the criticism hardened, even voting for a socialist for president that year. Then, while I’ve been in college, from 2012 to the present my radicalism and anger at Obama has increased to the point that I detest him. I refuse to be pulled into such a deception like the 2008 Obama campaign and want to serve as a person who counters anyone who tries to peddle such bullshit again. While I transformed from a naive liberal to a critical progressive and then an independent radical, Coates DID NOT do this at all.

Anyway, back to Coates’s piece. He claims that if you say that blacks are Amerikan then “America is, itself, a black country in a way that the other European countries are not,” however, this is a strange idea because Amerika has NEVER been a black country but has actually been a multiracial one, a white-dominated one since its inception. Coates goes on to tell about some history here and there which he clearly cherry-picked for his own purposes. If this isn’t enough, Coates claims that Obama and his family are an icon of goodness with his presidency was possible because of “the tradition of black politics”:

“In a literal sense, Barack Obama’s presidency was made possible by the tradition of black politics—he could not have won in 2008 without the proportional allocation that came out of Jesse Jackson’s campaign 20 years before…Barack Obama was not prophecy. Whatever had been laid before him, it takes gifted hands to operate, repeatedly, on a country scarred by white supremacy. The significance of the moment comes across, not simply in policy, by in the power of symbolism. I don’t expect, in my lifetime, to again see a black family with the sheer beauty of Obama’s on such a prominent stage….I don’t expect to see a black woman [Michelle Obama] exuding the kind of humanity you see here on such a prominent stage ever again….I don’t ever expect to see a black man of such agile intelligence as the current president put before the American public ever again.”

While many radical critics and sensible people were aware of Obama’s deceptions at this time, or even his imperialistic and neoliberal policy, Coates still claims that this symbolism is important, not understanding how it can be destructive. Coates then claims that Obama as a result of such symbolism “becomes a champion of black imagination, of black dreams and black possibilities” which is deeply scary if you believe. I even think that Cornel West would concur with my assessment. Coates then asks a number of goofy questions, one of which is “how does a black writer approach The Man when The Man is not just us, but the Champion of our ambitions?” and NEVER asserts that the color of someone’s skin, and perception of them due to their skin color, shouldn’t determine how much one criticizes them.

Coates continues on by acting like he is criticizing Obama for “addressing “personal responsibility” and then gives three examples to “prove” that W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, and Malcolm X are “wrong.” For Malcolm X, he claims “he knew the game was rigged. He did not know how much.” This is just absurd and ridiculous. While one could criticize Malcolm X for his masculinism as scholars like Steve Estes have done, Coates doesn’t even attempt any real criticism other than a snide remark. Then, Coates claims that “no black people boo when the president talks about personal responsibility. On the contrary, it’s often the highlight of his speeches on race” which IGNORES the criticisms on Black Agenda Report on this very issue! From here, Coates gives a personal story and defends Obama talking about personal responsibility:

“When Barack Obama steps into a room and attacks people for presumably using poverty or bigotry as an excuse to not parent, he is channeling a feeling deep in the heart of all black people, a frustration, a rage at ourselves for letting this happen, for allowing our community to descend into the basement of America, and dwell there seemingly forever.”

This contrasts starkly with what Glen Ford pointed out in a 2013 article on Black Agenda Report in words that still ring true today:

“To put it bluntly, the First Black President gave a very good standup impression of a racist white man…According to Obama, Black folks lost their way when “legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse-making for criminal behavior.”…But, like any cheapwhite politician, Obama spews a mouthful of bile and then moves on to the next rant. Obama bemoans that, at some unspecified point in the Black struggle the “transformative message of unity and brotherhood was drowned out by the language of recrimination.”…he must have been talking about Black militants of some sort. But he won’t say, preferring to leave his meaning to the audience’s imagination. Then Obama moved in for the big slap-down: “What had once been a call for equality of opportunity,” said Obama, “the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead, was too often framed as a mere desire for government support, as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself.” In that one, long sentence, Obama resurrects Ronald Reagan’s phantom armies of “Welfare Queens”; he appears to be taking a cheap swipe at calls for Black reparations…Obama puts the onus squarely on Blacks for destroying the promise of racial harmony…: “All of that history is how progress stalled. That’s how hope was diverted. It’s how our country remained divided.” That’s right: Obama blames Black people for messing up his America”

Coates goes back to praising Obama by saying that “there are many kinds of personal responsibility,” claiming that Obama should be responsible for giving Medcaid expansions to certain states under Obamacare (which was basically removed by the Supreme Court), “for the end of this era of mass incarceration” and destroying white supremacy despite the fact that the last two have NOT  happened. Coates then declares that Obama, the person who declared that Amerikan can kill and bomb who it wants in the world from time to time, is someone to be revered and is “rational”:

“And I struggle to get my head around all of this. There are moments when I hear the president speak and I am awed. No other resident of the White House, could have better explained to America what the George Zimmerman verdict meant. And I think history will remember that, and remember him for it. But I think history will also remember his unquestioning embrace of “twice as good” in a country that has always given black people, even under his watch, half as much.”

If any of his article is disgusting it would be this part. It just makes my stomach churn.

Ending on a good note

I could focus on two other articles by Coates, one on Bernie Sanders and another on Hillary Clinton. However I think I’ve written enough here worthy of analysis. I will say that some told me on the twitterverse that Obama reading Coates isn’t a surprise, that he has “echoed some awful anticom [anti-communist] agriprop,” and glad that someone was criticizing Coates. There are a number of points still worth noting. One of these is Coates’s relation with Daniel P. Moynihan. In a tweet from last fall referring to this articlehe declared that “Moynihan needs no rehab from me. Moynihan’s view won. It was Clinton’s view. it’s Obama’s view.” This relates with what RedKahina argued around the same time: “Coates is perfectly Zizekian, indeed a rearticulation of Moynihan, with “Obviously I’m not racist, but…” appended.”

In order to show how problematic this is, it is important to explain a little about Moynihan, then Assistant Secretary of Labor for Policy Planning and Research, and his 1965 report as noted in Estes’s book, I Am a Man!. In the book, Estes writes that President LBJ first included Moynihan’s arguments in a speech which was praised by civil rights leaders but later led to media controversy (pp. 107). In the report, Moynihan said the government had “a responsibility to provide equal result in jobs, housing, and education” which sounds good except that he emphasized a “crumbling” black family structure among the poor, focused on “systematic weakening of the position of the Negro male” in US society, and believed that black family breakdown was “the principal cause” of delinquency and urban violence in poor black communities, often called ghettoes (pp. 107-8). Additionally, the report had recommendations such as a welfare allowance for families with both parents present, full employment for black men if even some females have to be displaced, more opportunities for black males to serve in the armed forces, and “wider public dissemination of birth control materials” (pp. 108). While some of these proposals may seem attractive to readers, it is important to recognize that the report was a way to counter “obstacles to black manhood” in Amerika, counter supposed “welfare dependency,” and accepted black male patriarchal domination of the family (pp. 108). Estes’s later comments make Moynihan’s report seem even worse. He points out that the report claimed that black men suffered more from racism “than black women,” and that strains on black families created “a tangle of pathology” with examples such as a matriarchal family structure (i.e. black women controlling the household) which he claimed was “so out of line with the rest of American society [that it] seriously retards the progress of the group as a whole” and imposes “crushing” burdens on black men and women (pp. 111-2). Moynihan also argued that a solution to black unemployment was more military recruitment, basically meaning he wanted more blacks, and other minorities, to die in service of the imperialist war machine (pp. 113, 124). As anyone of sense knows, the military should not be a job service for the poor and unfortunate. Still, even some, like Martin Luther King, Jr., endorsed the report, at least initially, saying almost laughably that black males existed in a patriarchal society but were “subordinate in a matriarchy” (pp. 119). I could go on and mention how people interpreted the report as a response to the Watts uprising when it wasn’t really intended that way and debates over other solutions to the condition of the black community. However, it is important to note that Moynihan believed that the answer to improving such a condition lay in “providing black men the economic foundation to exercise patriarchal power in their families and political power in society,” leading this to become part of an  “antipoverty policy” by the Johnson administration at the time (pp. 125, 128). All of these ideas matter because “Moynihan’s thesis about the importance of the family” gained a new life in “conservative circles” and was pushed by Republican leaders such as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, allowing them to attack and stereotype black people (pp. 129).

While Moynihan is not necessarily responsible for this shift, the report itself is important to mention considering Coates’s interest in him. This “interest” includes some mild criticism, claiming that Moynihan wasn’t blaming black people, and mocking conservatives who like him. In none of his tweets, which are noted here, does Coates challenge the patriarchal assumptions of Moynihan’s report. This was even the case in a September 2015 article on this topic in which he declared that Moynihan was subjected to “unfair” criticism but admitted that “Moynihan’s central idea—that the problems of families are key to ending the problems of poverty—dominates the national discourse today.” In addition, Coates claims that “mass incarceration is built on a long history of viewing black people as unequal in general, and criminal in the specific,” which is true but IGNORES its connection to capitalism or as a form of social control. To his credit, Coates does criticize Moynihan for going along with Nixon’s racist assumptions about blacks and criminality but then he claims that “I almost had the sense that Moynihan was trying to trick Nixon into embracing liberal policy…Moynihan used the rhetoric of black criminalization, even in arguing for government aid.” Coates then jumps over the quote, as mentioned earlier, about displacing “some females” and offers no analysis despite the fact that this shows an ingrained patriarchal mindset. In the last paragraph of his piece Coates has a weird aura of respect for Moynihan which is deeply disturbing and words about mass incarceration which are weird to say the least:

“…[After researching for the past year] I came away with tremendous respect for his intelligence, his foresight and his broad, ranging curiosity…The story of mass incarceration, of American racism, is not simply a story of evil racists. It is also the story of people trying to help. And it is also the story of these same people not fully understanding the ugly traditions alive in their own country. Black criminalization is such a tradition and when Moynihan employed it he was playing with fire. Others got burned.”

I personally don’t know how people who helped put in place mass incarceration, whether they realized it or not, can be considered “people trying to help” the black community. That doesn’t even make sense.

Then, there is a 2010 article which disgraced celebrity left personality Shaun King, even criticized by another personality, a neoliberal egoist named Deray, referenced in deleted tweet, which I responded to at the time:

In this article, Coates argued against reparations but also went even further. What he said has some implications of denying transatlantic slavery’s connections to capitalism, noted in books like Eric Williams’s famed book, Capitalism and Slavery, and violating the Africa continent (which some have called “raping”) as a whole:

“…The most notable aspect of Gates original PBS piece…is a kind of crude black nationalism in reverse. The crude nationalist asserts that slavery was a white racist plot…Gates implicitly asserts that in trading slaves, Africans somehow violated a common, fraternal “African” spirit…The crude nationalist and Gates come out blaming different people, but both commit the fallacy of judging the sins of the past via the racial tribalism of today…The vocabulary of blame is key–instead of speciously blaming  white Americans for the crimes of their presumed ancestors, Gates speciously blames Africans…Presumably blame is key for Gates because he wants to discuss reparations. Why reparations is relevant right now, and why Obama should involve himself in a discussion on the subject, is never actually explained…To put it differently, I am not concerned about gender equality because I think I’m to blame thousands of years of sexism, I’m concerned about  gender equality because it matches my moral center. Blame is irrelevant…I don’t support reparations, I support all people grappling with all aspects of American history…One of the few things I know is this–Blame is useless to me. Blame is for the dead.”

Yikes! This is utterly vile by not only perpetrating stereotypes about Africa (“racial tribalism” for example) but also acting like one can only deal with issues in the present but NOT have a historical basis or blame people for them happening. It is horrible. There really isn’t much else I can say.

To close out, I’d like to say that Club de Cordeliers has a number of resources, which he shared with me (and are noted in this search), in which he criticizes Coates. There isn’t a whole lot there, but what is there is sizable and of importance. I can assure readers I will look at these articles that Cordeliers highlighted in a future piece. For now, I can say is that this article is beginning a needed critique of an intellectual who gets too much slack from people who should know better.

Imperialism besets Iran

Originally published on Leftist Critic on Jan 18, 2016.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. At that time, some changes were made. I likely will write more on this subject as this post doesn’t seriously look into the Iranian bourgeoisie.

You’ve probably heard of the capture of ten U$ sailors and their two navy boats by Iranian authorities. This post aims to tie this to the reality of the existing U$ imperialism. What is presented here is only part of the picture, challenging not only the bourgeois media  but Celebrity Left figures like Greenwald who claim they hold a higher Truth.™

What the bourgeois media and others have to say

The bourgeois media in the United States assuredly did not approve of the capture of U$ military personnel by the Iranians and likely scowled at it from their ivory towers of “wisdom.”[1] Jim Michaels of the crappy USA Today claimed, relying on military sources, that it there was a mechanical failure that caused the boat to drift into Iranian waters. The article also quoted CENTCOM (Central Command), a force founded on maintaining US imperialism in the Mideast, which admitted that the crew was not “physically harmed during their detainment” even as they wanted to ask the crew about the possibility of “interrogation by Iranian personnel.” Not surprisingly Iranians were portrayed as brutes first conveyed by showing ONE IMAGE of the captured Marines in a video and implying to the reader they were about to be executed even though this was not the case. The article also declared that “one of the crew is shown apologizing for straying into Iranian waters but it is not clear whether the statement was coerced or how the video was edited…The Americans were escorted “at gunpoint” to a port facility on Iran’s Farsi Island.” Later the article noted that despite “more than three hours after losing communication with the boats, the U.S. Navy cruiser USS Anzio heard from the Iranians that the American sailors were in Iranian custody and were “safe and healthy,”” noting a CENTCOM statement which claimed that “two SIM cards from handheld satellite phones” were removed. The article also quoted Obama’s address to the nation about this, saying that “we worked directly with the Iranian government and secured the release of our sailors in less than 24 hours,” with the exact time being 15 hours. Eyder Peralta of NPR basically repeated this narrative, as did Fox News and Reuters which claimed that foreign sailors had been captured in the past by Iranian authorities. One article in CBS News followed this same narrative as did CNNThe Atlantic and The New Republic acted like their pieces had “new” information that other news sources didn’t, but they towed the same line. A number of pieces in bourgeois media relied on a New York Times article which claimed that Iranian authorities had seized GPS equipment so that it would prove that U.S. ships were trespassing. The Times declared in the article title that the sailors were seized “amid claims of spying” despite the fact the article itself and no other sources show this to be the reality. These faulty conclusions were also shown in a Times editorial.

Other media weren’t much better. The dependably pro-military Navy Times declared that

“the sailors seem to have mistakenly entered Iranian waters aboard their top-of-the-line riverine assault boats…a refueling rendezvous gone awry is the likely explanation…Top officials say they’re still piecing together what led up to the confrontation at sea…Iranian officials searched for advanced technology and sensitive communications…some of the crew members were exhausted and anxious after their detention but none were harmed.”

The British publication, The Independent was not much better: it quoted numerous anonymous U$ officials, and was short with few details just like this article in an Arab publication. Some deluded individuals may think that people like Glenn Greenwald would come, riding on his white steed as Juice Rap News laughably portrayed him some time ago, but that is not the case. As I noted on twitter, his article reads like a Washington Post column, not even using the words empire or imperialist which is almost as bad as this article by Justin Raimondo on the libertarian-leaning publication, antiwar.com. The latter article declares that the U$ military is spewing bullshit in its story, asks “what in heck were those two boats doing in Iranian waters” and says that this “isn’t an accident…[but] was a military incursion” and claimed that “Iranians who are riven with factions and conflicting lines of authority: the American empire is overseen by a vast national security bureaucracy.” That may sound nice, but its this part that assumes that “we” implies everyone and is almost childish in tone, unnecessarily sexualizing the situation: “There’s no denying we were caught by the Iranians with our pants down. The only question is – how were we trying to f—k them over?”

Back to Greenwald, who claims he is revealing a hidden truth and/or challenging the U.S. media. His article quotes CBS News, Bloomberg News, Reuters, AP, New York Times, The Daily Beast, LA Times, along with Pierre’s pet publication, The Intercept.  He does claim that the US media is lying, saying that “there are multiple reasons to suspect otherwise” and notes the video taken by Iran, despite what I wrongly said on twitter, which shows a U$ sailor who said on state TV that they made a mistake, but only mentions it in passing, saying “one of the sailors in the video taken by Iran claimed they were “having engine issues”” and doesn’t elaborate. Greenwald then continues to advance his High and Mighty™ viewpoint of the U.S. media in an article which also quotes The Guardian, his own publication (even linking to @tinyrevolution, another Intercept writer), CNN, Middle East Eye, a UN maritime treaty, and Slate. He then claims that “no matter how many times the U.S. government issues patently false statements about its military actions, those statements are entitled to unquestioning, uncritical treatment as Truth the next time a similar incident occurs.” A good way for those who are critical of the Celebrity Left to challenge Greenwald would be to challenge him on this as he sticks with an “unquestioning, uncritical” approach which is enough analysis to make progressives salivate and want more, but is not a necessary and radical analysis.

Looking at Iran’s state media

Due to these shortcomings it is best to look at Iranian state media. To start with there is a short video (as shown here and here) which shows equipment from one of the ships, that the 10 marines captured eating a good meal, and seeming to be treated well. This video begins to disprove the idea that Iran is a “brute” that is “aggressive” toward the United States, when in reality the opposite is true as the U$ is the real imperial bully. Other articles noted statements from Iranian and U$ military authorities saying that the U$ crew of ten marines, 9 men and one woman, were released after there was proof their entry was unintentional (see herehere, here, and here). A number of other articles quoted a IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) Rear Admiral, Ali Fadavi, as saying that the U$ marines were dealt with respectfully, which the White House and the IRGC in general confirmed, saying the crew was healthy and well-situated. Beyond the confirmation by the Pentagon and IGRC that two U$ navy boats were taken into Iran’s custody (see here, here, here, and here), Lieutenant Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Brigadier General Hossein Salami was quoted as saying that

“The marines were crying when they were being captured, but they later felt better after the IRGC forces treated them with kindness. The Americans humbly admitted our might and power, and we freed the marines after being assured that they had entered the Iranian waters unintentionally and we even returned their weapons.”

That article also noted that

“each of the two US Navy boats that were 3 nautical miles deep into the Iranian waters when they were captured by the IRGC Navy’s second naval zone were equipped with three 50mm caliber machine guns and other light and semi-heavy weapons. IRGC officials said the coordinates recorded on the GPS devices taken from the 10 US marines confirmed their trespassing as well.”

While I could look at other articles in Iranian state media about a U@ apology, there’s one video, which the Navy Times predictably called a “propaganda video,” that is revealing. In the video, which is actually an interview with someone from PressTV and isn’t an interrogation or propaganda per say, an unnamed US captain apologizes for going into US waters saying “that was our mistake, admitting that they penetrated Iranian territorial waters, and saying that “it was a misunderstanding, we did not mean to go into Iranian territorial water.” In the interview the captain also says that they were captured by an Iranian patrol boat when they were “having engine issues” and tried to talk to them until “more boats came out and took us in.” Interestingly, the captain says that “the Iranian behavior was fantastic…we thank you very much for your hospitality and your assistance,” and that they had “no problems” when in Iran. In the interview, the captain also says that their departure was from Kuwait and destination was Bahrain. You won’t see a description like this in the bourgeois media because this same video was cut short by CNN as an “exclusive” despite the availability of the FULL VIDEO, which distorts what the captain said, making it harder to recognize what happened.

Before going on and putting this into a broader context, it is important to look at some other state media articles. I’m not talking about what the Pentagon has to say, Kerry thanking Iran for releasing the 10 marines (also noted here), and GOP being unhappy that the marines captured were released. The IRGC, which globalsecurity.org describes as security for the revolutionary regime and “considered the military vanguard of Iran” and the elite Council for Foreign Relations (CFR) describes as an institution founded after the 1979 revolution which was “charged with defending the Islamic Republic against internal and external threats,” predictably had a number of things to say about this incident. One commander, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Major General Hassan, said that the incident showed how vulnerable the U$ is in front of “powerful” Iranian forces, connecting to an earlier article saying that the Iranian navy has a good amount of strength and is capable enough to save lives on the high seas. Another commander, Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi declared that the foreign minister of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif, took a strong position on the incident by calling for “US officials to apologize for the issue” but also said that while there could be a harmless crossing of the Persian Gulf, “US presence has never been harmless.” Fadavi was also quoted as saying that while the crew, that was detained for a short time, didn’t resist much at all, but that “a US aircraft started doing provocative behavior for 40 minutes.” He said this was, the article summarized, an “indication of the US unfaithfulness to regional tranquility” and he predictably argued that the IRGC restored such tranquility. Other IRGC members conveyed the seriousness of the situation. Rear Admiral Fadavi said that they were ready to strike the USS Truman Aircraft carrier for any hostile movies, a craft as noted earlier, which, in his description, “showed unprofessional moves for 40 minutes after the detention of the trespassers.” The article continued by noting that eventually after communicating an announcement that

“they came to realize the IRGC Navy has the first and the last word in here. The US and France’s aircraft carriers were within our range and if they had continued their unprofessional moves, they would have been afflicted with such a catastrophe that they had never experienced all throughout the history. They could have been shot, and if they were, they would have been destroyed…In the end they and their diplomats acknowledged their wrong action and undertook not to repeat such mistakes.”

The article also quoted Fadavi as saying almost triumphantly:

“the US and its Navy rest assured that they won’t be the winner of any battle with Iran in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz as destruction and sinking of their warships will be the end result of any such war. But in those 40 minutes, the Americans were clearly under intense psychological pressure and they did not act like a professional and responsible force.”

Such statements are not a surprise considering imperialist bullying behavior of the U$ in the Middle East and beyond.

There were other statements from IRGC commanders that are worth noting. Another article, which was an earlier version of the article previously noted, quoted Fadavi as saying: “had the US continued its unprofessional deeds after the detention of its 10 marines by the IRGC, all its warships could have gone sinking.” Based on Islamic guidelines, as the article summarized, “the Iranian military should not mistreat the captives, he said the US marines who were detained earlier this week were even privileged to watch the European Cup football tournament.” Another commander, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Hassan Firoozabadi, even challenged Iran war halks in the U$ Congress:

“those US congressmen who plot a new problem for Iran each day are apparently fed with incorrect information and take their actions with closed eyes and away from the realities and, thus, harm the American nation. I hope that the incident in the North of the Persian Gulf that will likely be not the last by the US troops gives a lesson to those in the US congress that rock the boat.”

Another article quoted Fadavi as saying that

“the territorial waters of every country are those waters that the presence of foreign vessels should take place with the prior information and permission of that country…Mr. Zarif has adopted a strong and firm stance and told Kerry that they have been in Iran’s territorial water and they should apologize.”

The same article also quoted IRGC Spokesperson General Ramezan Sharif as saying that

“Iran never jokes with anyone about its national interests and won’t show any ignorance either…our behavior will be based on Islamic kindness. If investigations show that there hasn’t been any purposeful action, they will be treated differently, but if the information taken through interrogations reveal that their trespassing has been done for intelligence work and irrelevant jobs, officials will definitely take the necessary actions.”

Another article quoted Fadavi as going even further than Firoozabadi, saying that if anyone wanted war with Iran they would be committing suicide. Yeah, neocons, like those who want an armed intervention in the DPRK, and Hillary Killary Clinton, get this message which Fadavi said at a naval ceremony in the Iranian city of Bandar Abbas:

“Today, if any country thinks of military confrontation against the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is either looking for a way to commit suicide and being annihilated or it has become mad and drunken and has developed dementia.”

I could explain in more detail other statements by those associated with the IRGC (see here and here), but readers are open to read those on their own. It is worthy to note that the Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran Seyed Abbas Araqchi declared that

“this shows Iran’s internal power as we powerfully seized the military vessel of the world’s big military power and then freed its personnel powerfully after ensuring of their unintentional entry into our territorial waters. This is a sign of our might.”

Whether you agree with them or not, the Iranians are justified in feeling this way about their action. Then there’s the Secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, Mohsen Rezayee, who said that “the US pilot [of the boat] shouldn’t have made the move and Mr. Zarif [Iran’s foreign minister] needed to certainly lodge a complaint with the Americans since if they embark on such a provocative move again, it can lead to a confrontation.” On that I agree, they should file a complaint and call out the U$ military on this action, though I’m not sure it is enough. In another article, this same Secretary argued that “if the Americans really believed that Iran is a terrorist state, [they] would they lie down and rest so calmly and relaxed while they were in IRGC’s custody,” putting to rest US allegations about Iran’s behavior. Two other articles in Iranian state media. The first of these noted the following statement from Iranian national legislature, called the Islamic Consultative Assembly, Iranian Parliament or Iranian Majlis, praising the actions of the IRGC navy as showing enemies that Iran is serious about defending its “national security and interests”:

“Seizure of the US warships and capture of the US marines for illegal and unallowed voyage through the Islamic Republic of Iran’s territorial waters and then releasing them after their apology [was a valuable action]”

Another article quoted a senior MP (member of Parliament), the Chairperson of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, Alaeddin Boroujerdi. In the article, Boroujerdi said the following:

“The divine Islamic establishment and the great Iranian nation’s national honor and might were displayed again by the IRGC Navy’s wise and mighty measure. The measure by the IRGC Navy forces in the Persian Gulf showed that safeguarding security of this sensitive region is in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s hands and even the US cannot ignore the rules of this game.”

What actually happened in this incident?

Earlier in this article I mentioned an articles by Raimando and Greenwald which claimed to offer alternative approaches to what happened but actually based their articles mostly if not completely on bourgeois media accounts. There were also some on twitter who said the incident was either: a Gulf of Tolkin-like situation intended to provoke war, which the Japanese rejected prior to WWII; just plain weird; was a “big” incident which resulted in some U$ Navy members being mad at the U$ government for its response; and was a “delicate diplomatic situation,” a term which downplays what happened. But this doesn’t really help clarify the incident itself.

One line in a recent article in the Washington Post about the incident claimed, which Raimondo blindly quoted without further analysis or fact-checking, that the two vessels captured are “known as riverine command boats, are agile and often carry Special Operations forces into smaller bodies of water.” [2]  An article the Post linked to describes the vessels, Riverine command boats, also called RCBs, as “actually Swedish CB-90s and are a type of fast attack craft” which raises further questions. The article also notes the following which puts more of the incident into question:

RCB’s can carry contingents of infantry and special operation forces and are often crewed by sailors in Riverine squadrons, known by some as River Rats. The riverine force came of age in the Vietnam War in what was then known as the Brown Water Navy. In the 1960s and early 1970s boats such as Patrol Boat, River (from ‘Apocalypse Now’ fame) and Swift Boats were the River Rats vessels of choice.

The Wikipedia article on these RCBs notes the following, making them seem like they are attack boats used for military assault:

“[this boat] is a class of fast military assault craft originally developed for the Swedish Navy by Dockstavarvet…The CB90 is an exceptionally fast and agile boat that can execute extremely sharp turns at high speed, decelerate from top speed to a full stop in 2.5 boat lengths, and adjust both its pitch and roll angle while under way. Its light weight, shallow draught, and twin water jets allow it to operate at speeds of up to 40 knots (74 km/h) in shallow coastal waters…In July 2007 The United States Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) specified the CB90 for testing as its Riverine Command Boat. Safeboat International of Port Orchard, Washington, was given a US$2.8 million contract to produce one prototype.”

From there one is brought to a 2007 article in the  pro-military Navy Times which notes the following about these boats:

“…the CB90, a Swedish-designed shallow-water vessel that’s fast, lethal and flexible enough to be an ambulance or a fast-attack craft. The Navy has decided to buy two of the boats, now known in certain Navy circles as the Riverine Command Boat, for use by the newest incarnation of the brown-water navy, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command’s riverine group…The RCB is designed for maximum adaptability. It has an airy, aircraft-style cockpit with two operator seats and a middle jump seat that swings into and out of place. It has a head just below the cockpit divided by a passageway that leads to a bow ramp, so troops can be put ashore quickly. The bow and hull are heavily reinforced so operators can run the boat up on a rocky stretch of beach to disembark riders without worry, Wood said. “There are not many environments it can’t pull into and away from,” he said. “That’s one of the things the Navy found desirable, that it’s capable and proven.”…While the Navy declined to offer details on how or where the RCB will operate in the near future, a Navy official at the Pentagon said in a written statement that the boats are intended for use in the command role…The ship has cabin space that can be configured to carry more than 20 troops or serve as a floating command post with extra communication gear…The Navy replaced bolt-on Humvee armor with a lighter material, wired up electrical power supply at the gun mounts and improved the optics and communication equipment…The new RCB has stirred up a lot of interest in the Navy, Wood said — both from the new conventional riverine force, the naval special warfare community and surface warfare operators.”

In order to complete the picture it is important to look at Iranian state media once again. The first of these articles asked what would happen if there were Iranian boats in U$ waters. Here’s some selected quotes:

“As soon as the news was out, US media condemned Iran’s interception of the US naval boats that infringed its waters as an “aggression”…The Riverine Command Boat (RCB) is a watercraft designed to patrol rivers and other shallow water, fully equipped with GPS systems, radars, sensors and weaponry. Their speed and small size makes them useful for patrolling busy waterways such as the Persian Gulf and protecting larger navy ships…The US anti-Iranian fever was flowing through social media as soon as the news was out…The 10 sailors on the boats did not report the navigational error to their superiors before they were taken by the Iranians…The question in fact should not be about how Iran dealt with the situation. The question should rather be: if the scenario was exactly the reverse, and it was Iranian boats that had “mistakenly” drifted into US waters what would have happened?”

The other article raises questions about what happened during the incident itself. Sadly is broadly relies on Glenn Greenwald’s supposed “better analysis.” Still, here’s some quotes from that article:

“On Thursday, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that the sailors “obviously had misnavigated.” At the same time, mechanical failure was ruled out as a reason for the incident. This means that the boats were not in distress when they sailed near Farsi Island, which houses a naval base of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. This also means that Iran was within its right when it detained the soldiers, Sputnik reported…the US sailors….were most likely familiar with the route, since they often traveled between Bahrain and Kuwait. After all, the US Fifth Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain. Second, not a single sailor on the vessels reported the error to their superiors…Yet, many US media accounts of what transpired presented the incident as a hostile act committed by Iran…One could only imagine front page headlines if the US and Iran switched places and those were Iranian boats that had inadvertently drifted into US territorial waters.”

While it seems clear from Iranian state media sources that U$ warships engaged in provocations that could have escalated conflict if the IRGC hadn’t used their forces and messaging wisely, whatever actually happened in up to the reader. Hopefully the articles in this section help readers think more about what was the actual trajectory of events.

The broader picture of U$ imperialism

In order to fully understand the incident it is better to take a step back and look at US imperialism as a whole. According to the most recent Base Structure report, the U$ had 951 bases worldwide, outside the U$ itself, where there are many more bases. This calculation comes from 110 US bases in territories, plus those 576 overseas, those not in the U$, 42 Army National Guard sites and 223 bases in “other sites” outside the US which don’t meet other criteria for being bases. There may be even more than this since what is considered a “base” by the report must be a military site, which must be “must be larger than 10 acres AND have a Plant Replacement Value (PRV) greater than $10 million” if it is within the U$, and if the site is in a foreign country “it must be larger than 10 acres OR have a PRV greater than $10 million to be shown as a separate entry.” From this I came up with two different charts showing where the most U$ bases are located:

The last chart is most relevant here, as it shows that in Bahrain alone, the U$ has ten military bases. This is key because, if one uses the major naval base in Bahrain which claims on their website to cover 152 acres and is “home” to over 7,000 “military personnel and DOD Civilian employees,”  then Farsi Island, with land on the small island mostly restricted to a IRGC base, is only over 90 miles away as calculated using this site. A recent AP article noted that Farsi Island was “in the middle of the [Persian] Gulf and home to an Iranian military facility.” [6] Old Times articles from the 1980s say that the island is “where the Iranians have a base,” apparently serving as “a base for Iranian high-speed naval launches used to attack gulf shipping” as another article alleged. The L.A. Times at one point even noted without criticism that Western officials believed that “Farsi Island…was used as a base by Iran to carry out attacks on Gulf shipping and to lay mines in the area.” Another article claimed that some of the dolphins were used as U$ military weapons to scout for supposed Iranian frogmen who would, in their minds, sabotage barges used as floating bases, ” were taken near Bahrain and “near Iran’s Farsi Island” in order to apparently “protect them from sabotage.” If the U$ military couldn’t get any more out of their minds, you were wrong! Also of note here is the expansive reach of the U$ empire just in buildings alone, with the U$ Army controlling over 250,000 buildings!

Moving on, there are a number of maps showing U$ bases around Iran at this current time, which sorta update a map created by Al Jazeera years ago. They are as follows:

Civilian personnel in bases around Iran. The fact that these are based of a Black woman as one of the personnel is in a way an indication of existing “multi-racial” imperialism
Number of U$ troops surrounding Iran
Drone bases around Iran
U$ military bases around Iran

These maps alone, not even including their position in terms of black gold, make it clear why Iran would be in a defensive posture to U$ imperial and military aggression. The same could be said about a fear of being bombed, considering that Micah Zenko of the CFR in a blogpost admitted the following: “…last year, the United States dropped an estimated total of 23,144 bombs in six countries [Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia]. Of these, 22,110 were dropped in Iraq and Syria.” However, this seems to be more minimized now than in the past.

Still there is the looming power of US imperialism as Obama declared in his recent State of the Union, really State of the Empire, in which he claimed that China and Russia look to the U$, suspiciously promoted before it was spoken by the Vox folks. In his militaristic, nationalistic, and imperialist speech as some on twitter recognized (see here, here, here, and here), and which I chronicled in a set of tweets (see here, here, and here). However, in order to make it easier for the reader, sections of the speech are quoted below, and bolded for emphasis, so it is evident the imperialist bullcrap he is saying:

“…The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It’s not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined. Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world. No nation dares to attack us or our allies because they know that’s the path to ruin…when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead — they call us…the international system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with this new reality. It’s up to us to help remake that system. And that means we have to set priorities. Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks…We just need to call them [ISIS] what they are — killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed…We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis. That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately weakens us…Fortunately, there’s a smarter approach, a patient and disciplined strategy that uses every element of our national power. It says America will always act, alone if necessary, to protect our people and our allies; but on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight…American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world — except when we kill terrorists; or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling. Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right… that kind of leadership depends on the power of our example.”

Still, this isn’t the full picture.

A fuller picture of Iran’s situation

Iranian state media fills out a bit more of this picture. One article declares the U$ and EU ended economic warfare against Iran, noting that the Iran nuclear deal, officially called JCPOA, with the lifting of UN sanctions “related to Iran’s nuclear program.” This article also said that

“Iran never negotiated out of fear and never feared to negotiate…Iran has now joined the club of nuclear countries and the warmongers can do nothing about it…It is not necessary to wait for positive signals from media outlets to find out more about the world community’s position towards this latest development. The global economy is in turmoil and they need Iran’s lucrative market and trade…Despite the political theatre of “distrust,” Europe has equally come to terms with the fact that Iran has gone nuclear, which means the Congress’s anti-Iran rhetoric is superficial. Otherwise, Western companies and investors would have never come to Tehran to ink deals in business and trade…Iran has every right to master civilian nuclear technology and that many in the West are more than happy to distance themselves from the warmongers on the Capitol Hill and Israel…Iran knew the value of the cards in its hand and knew where it was going.”

This article connected to others which said that Iran is willing to work with the IAEA, that Iranian banks are reconnecting to SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), foreign assets will be unfrozen, and a conversation between Iran’s president and the Afghan’s president. Other articles touted Iran as a place for Italian companies to thrive in a post-sanctions world and that an ex-German Chancellor is leading a business delegation to Iran. As such, the Western bourgeoisie, especially those from Europe, are hungry to get into Iran’s “untapped” market.

Most interesting of all was the Deputy Trade Promotion Organization Chief for Commercial Aids Mohammad-Reza Modudi telling a business conference that Iran is not only was one of the largest closed economies which hasn’t joined the WTO but that:

“We were hosting a huge wave of foreign economic delegations visiting Iran in the hope to establish economic ties with Iran. Over the past two years, though, the Iranophobia campaign was diminished to the verge of extinction. In export field, we need to work to set brands which has somehow developed inside Iran, but yet to develop abroad. The advancements achieved in the world are indebted to sound competitions, not supportive policies of the governments.”

To me, this indicates that people such as Modudi are fine with Western companies coming in to build and improve Iran but that they do not want those companies to be a mode of regime change. Hence, they don’t want another Operation Ajax or Western regime change program, likely led by the CIA, in Iran. However, there is something else here. Modudi wants Iran to develop its own brands to compete with Western brands in a capitalist marketplace, to strengthen their domestic bourgeoisie.

This is because Modudi, is part of the pro-Western moderate sect of the Iranian bourgeoisie, like the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhini, who is about to visit Western Europe soon. These people are content that Iran is buying Airbus planes and opening itself more to Western investment. However, such pro-Western moderates clash with so-called “hardliners” such as leading religious clerics and the Iranian military enshrined in the IRGC. A recent Christian Science Monitor article said that Iran’s course ahead “depends on the results of an internal struggle raging within the Iranian elite over whether the supreme leader…Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, should continue to hold [his]…political powers and be respected as the instrument of God in secular matters.” The article, which clearly took the side of the pro-Western moderates, also argued that “this debate over clerical rule is also central to Iran’s economic recovery…The power of religion lies in its spiritual attraction to individuals, not its authority over the state.” Such so-called “hardliners” are opposed to increased Western influence and investment in Iran, wanting to continue the domestic effects of the Islamic/Iranian Revolution of 1979 but seem to have made some level of peace with the Iran nuclear deal. That is because such hardliners while they take an arguably anti-imperialist stand, they are part of a country that is neither communist, socialist, or truly radical. Iran after 1979 became anti-imperialist, especially toward the U$, which some would characterize as “anti-Western,” but also religiously conservative and not socially progressive like Cuba after 1959 or Venezuela after 1999.

The gap between the moderates and the so-called “hardliners,”  among the Iranian bourgeoisie, is likely to be exploited, with the U$ empire slapping on more sanctions  which were linked to Iran’s ballistic missile program according to multiple sources (see here and here). The British news source and bourgeois media outlet, the BBC, declared that

“…the new sanctions prevent 11 entities and individuals linked to the missile programme from using the US banking system…They  [the sanctions] were triggered by Iran conducting a precision-guided ballistic missile test capable of delivering a nuclear warhead last October, [supposedly] violating a United Nations ban…[Obama] said differences with Iran remained, and the US would “remain steadfast in opposing Iran’s destabilising behaviour elsewhere” – such as its missile tests.”

The article noted that Rouhani welcomed the nuclear deal along with “many governments, the UN and EU” but criticized by some U$ Republicans and the murderous Zionist state as allowing Iran to “spread terror.” The article noted the effects of these sanctions is huge:

“The economic sanctions being lifted now were imposed progressively by the US, EU and UN in response to Iran’s nuclear programme[.] The EU is lifting restrictions on trade, shipping and insurance in full[.] The US is suspending, not terminating, its nuclear-related sanctions…The UN is lifting sanctions related to defence and nuclear technology sales, as well as an asset freeze on key individuals and companies…Non-nuclear US economic sanctions remain in place…Nearly $100bn (£70bn) of Iranian assets are being unlocked…Share prices in Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest stock market, fell more than 6% following the lifting of sanctions…Iran has always maintained its nuclear programme is peaceful, but opponents of the deal say it does not do enough to ensure the country cannot develop a nuclear bomb.”

The supposedly independent paper, which largely takes a pro-U$ military bent since it operates within the military, Stars & Stripes, reprinted an AP article that claimed that “U.N. experts said in a report in December that the missile test in October violated sanctions banning Iran from launches capable of delivering nuclear weapons. A U.S. Treasury official [named Adam J. Szubin as noted in another article] says Iran’s ballistic missile program poses “a significant threat to regional and global security.”” Then there was an article in Telesur which noted the following:

“The United States imposed new sanctions against companies and individuals connected to Iran’s ballistic missile program just hours after four U.S. citizens had left Iran after being freed from jail in a prisoner swap deal between the two countries…According to the U.S. Treasury Department, 11 companies and individuals were blacklisted for supplying Iran with material and funds for its ballistic program. The United Arab Emirates-based Mabrooka Trading, and its owner Hossein Pournaghshband, were placed on the U.S. blacklist for helping Iran produce carbon fiber for the missile program…Iran unveiled a secret missile program in October when it conducted its first ballistic missile test…Iran says a United Nations Security Council resolution, approved in July, would only ban missiles specifically designed to carry nuclear warheads so it would not affect its military program as Tehran does not pursue nuclear weapons…The new sanctions also came a day after the nuclear deal between Tehran and six world leaders went into effect Saturday, effectively lifting decades-long economic sanctions against Iran in return for Tehran’s commitment to a civilian nuclear program…the U.S. State Department also announced it had agreed to release $400 million and $1.3 billion in interest for Iranian funds that had been frozen by Washington since 1979.”

Still, likely the best article on this did not come from a tweet saying that Obama stayed harsh on Iran but an Iranian state media source. This article quoted Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan, arguably as slamming the new sanctions slapped on Iran and saying that work would continue on “missile advancements”:

“Attempts to impose new sanctions under the pretext of irrelevant excuses show the United States’ continued hostile policies and hatred towards the Iranian nation and its useless attempts to weaken Iran’s defense power, which are not helpful to regional security, stability and tranquility. The Islamic Republic of Iran’s missile industries are fully home-made and reliant on knowledge, expertise and infrastructures of the defense industry, and imposing sanctions against people and companies don’t affect the trend of its development and strengthening”

The article also quoted a statement by the Iranian foreign ministry which declared that:

“As explicitly stated before, the Islamic Republic of Iran will respond to such propaganda and harassing measures with pursuing its legal missile program more seriously and enhancing its national defense and security capabilities. Iran’s missile program has not been designed for carrying nuclear weapons at all and therefore, it doesn’t violate any international rule”

These statements show that Iranian (so-called) hardliners and likely Iranian moderates [4], the two competing sections of the Iranian bourgeoisie, are not happy about these new sanctions and will have none of it. Still, the Iranians were willing to make a prisoner swap, which Obama praised, which resulted in 28 Iranians having charges dropped or being released under this swap deal. It is possible that two of the Amerikans released were CIA agents since their pictures were NOT shown on national television. [5] Not surprisingly, Borzou Daragahi, a “correspondent” of the anti-Russian and pro-U$ joke of a media outlet, which classifies as part of the bourgeois media, BuzzFeed had a field day over this. Basically, Daragahi acted like Iran’s government was the bad, evil oppressor and that the Westerners were “innocent victims.” Yeah right.

Despite the new U$ sanctions other countries are opening their doors while some like Saudi Arabia (see here and here) are closing them. Such countries include Japan which is ready to lift its sanctions, in lieu of Iran dismantling a “large section of its nuclear program” and take advantage of the “new” opportunity of an “untapped” market, strengthening the hold of their bourgeoisie on Iran itself:

“The government will swiftly lift Japan’s sanctions on Iran based on a new U.N. Security Council resolution, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said. The Japanese government “welcomes” Iran’s compliance with a final deal…Kishida said [that] “Japan will further strengthen the historically friendly relationship with Iran. Japan will actively cooperate for the steady implementation of the final agreement (on the nuclear issue).” To support the deal’s implementation, the government will send nuclear energy experts to Iran, officials said…Japanese sanctions on Iran include a halt in investment in the energy field. Japanese companies expect removing the punitive measures will boost economic relations with Iran, which is rich in oil, natural gas and other natural resources and has a market of 78 million people…After scrapping the sanctions, probably this week, the government will conclude a formal investment pact with Iran, to help Japanese firms expand into not only oil but other market segments expected to attract economic reconstruction demand, such as the auto, high-speed rail and aircraft sectors, sources said. The government was also to dispatch a team to Iran as early as Monday to explore business opportunities there, the sources said.”

Closing remarks

I could focus on  a number of things like Greenwald’s nasty reply to me by declaring “is publishing exposés on chemical giants & prison diaries from a victim of US Penal State a violation of Twitter-radicalism?” to which I criticized by saying The Intercept was not that adversarial, causing a back-and-forth conversation to ensue with some of his mindless supporters. [3] But there is something more important. I’m talking about the U$ empire, an empire that engaged in numerous bloody occupations over the years, and an empire that defines the modern meaning of imperialism in this day and age.

It seems that Iran has a choice: either it bows to increased Western pressure/influence, which assuredly would come in the form of Western imperialism, as pro-Western moderate sect of  the Iranian bourgeoisie wants or it can resist Western influence as the so-called hardliner sect of the Iranian bourgeoisie wants. Some may say that this is a false dichotomy, as one could support a non-Western backed people’s revolution in Iran to overthrow the existing state and replace it with one that serves the masses, a socialist state.. Whatever the outcome, it is clear that Iran will get integrated into the global capitalist system more now that it has in the past. What happens next depends on this clash between differing Iranian elites, Western pressure, pressure from non-Western states, the people in Iran itself, and beyond.


Notes

[1] Jim Michaels, “US Navy Boats veered into Iranian waters before mechanical breakdown,” USA Today, Jan 2016; Eyder Peralta, “Mechanical failure led boats to Iranian waters, US says in new account,” NPR, Jan 18, 2016; “Iran releases 10 US Navy sailors after boat drifted in Persian Gulf,” Fox News, Jan 13, 2016; Phil Stewart and Parisa Hafezi, “Iran holds 10 U.S. sailors; White House expects prompt return,” Reuters, Jan 12, 2016; “US military reveals missing items after sailors’ Iran detention,” CBS News, Jan 2016; “10 US  sailors in Iranian custody,”CNN, Jan 2016; Marina Koren, “What Led American Ships Into Iranian Waters?,” The Atlantic, Jan 18,2016; Gwyweth Kelly, “Iran has detained two U.S. Navy ships but will release 10 crew members “promptly.” (Updated),” The New Republic, Jan 2016; “Iran Seizes U.S. Sailors Amid Claims of Spying, New York Times, Jan 13, 2016.

[2] “Iran captures two US navy boats but will return crew soon,” Washington Post, Jan 12, 2016; “These are the US Navy riverine boats that Iran just took into custody,” Washington Post, Jan 12, 2016.

[3] , “US Navy sailors released unharmed by Iran in less than a day,” AP, Jan 13, 2016; “US says copters answering shots sank 3 Iran boats,” New York Times, Oct 9, 1987; “A Kuwaiti tanker under  US escort hits mine in gulf,” New York Times, July 25, 1987; Charles P. Wallace, “Gulf Tanker War Truce Shattered by Iraq Raids : Aircraft Hit Iranian Offshore Installations; Vessel Docked at Island Terminal Set Ablaze,” Los Angeles Times, Aug 30, 1987; “Dolphins On Patrol In Persian Gulf,” UPI, Oct 24, 1987.

[4] See the following tweets by Rouhini as proof of this:

[5] Maybe I’m reading into this too much, but I think this could be the case. Some also slammed Fox News for this, but I think that’s letting CNN and MSNBC off the hook (referring to this tweet)

[6] For these tweets, see conversation threads starting here and here.