Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The Russians are coming! Send money quickly!

Tomasz Pierscionek is a doctor specialising in psychiatry. He was previously on the board of the charity Medact, is editor of the London Progressive Journal and has appeared as a guest on RT’s Sputnik and Al-Mayadeen’s Kalima Horra.
The Russians are coming! Send money quickly!

What’s behind the latest round of Russia-related scaremongering in the West, relentlessly stirred up by politicians and the mainstream media?
We’ve all had our fill (and then some) of Russophobic fables warning about the grave danger the big, snowy and mysterious nation poses to each and every one of us; about how the civilized and free world (whatever that means) is threatened by undemocratic hordes from the east. Western media is quick to remind us that sinister Russian forces lurk behind every corner, ready to hack elections and install stooges, invade the Baltics, undermine democracy and even cut off our internet.
Of course, proof of the above isn’t necessary: it’s the thought that counts! Whatever dastardly deed our imaginations might dream up, you can bet your bottom dollar that President Putin is already hard at work making your nightmares a reality. Although it would be mildly amusing if these stories formed the basis of a Hollywood B movie or a mediocre spy novel, the joke rapidly wears off when it transpires that our leaders, alongside an acquiescent mainstream media, are suffering from a serious case of Russophrenia.
The latest episode in this horror fiction opened with comments made by the head of the British Army. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute last week, General Sir Nicholas Carter focused upon how Russia supposedly poses more of a threat to Britain than any other nation and presents “the most complex and capable security challenge we have faced since the Cold War.” The general warned that “Russia could initiate hostilities sooner than we expect, and a lot earlier than we would in similar circumstances,” advising that the UK maintain a forward base in Germany in the event that the nation’s forces need to rapidly deploy to the area.
Former UK Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, who resigned in the wake of sexual harassment allegations, has also been clamoring for an expansion of the war chest. In his first speech since resigning from the cabinet, Fallon called for the Ministry of Defence to receive an extra £1 billion (US$1.4 billion) in government funding this year, in addition to increasing the annual defense budget to 2.5 percent of the UK’s GDP (an extra £7.7 billion a year).
One could indeed sympathize with these gentlemen’s predicament if Russian bases were located in Norway and France and Russian troops were performing joint military exercises alongside their Irish counterparts just south of the UK border, or if Russian government officials were supporting an aggressively nationalist movement in Scotland whilst pro-Russian NGOs organized anti-government rallies and funded unpopular politicians within the UK. As Russia has been at the receiving end of such treatment from the West, it’s easy to see which of the two sides is the more hostile.
Britain’s next Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), where the nation’s military capabilities are reviewed and decisions are taken regarding defense spending for the next five years, is due to take place in 2020. Fear is a good motivator, especially when money is up for grabs. Now seems a good time to start thinking up reasons why the military ought to receive preferential treatment at a time of ubiquitous austerity.
The UK’s current defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, made his contribution to the cause a few days ago by claiming that Russia is ready to take actions “that any other nation would see as completely unacceptable.” Considering that NATO countries have in recent years alone destroyed several nations, leading to the death and displacement of millions, contributed to the rise of jihadist terrorism in Libya, Iraq and Syria, and set in motion a chain of events which has seen far-right and Nazi-inspired paramilitary groups march through a European capital, one has to wonder what the defence secretary considers unacceptable? Williamson assures us that Russia seeks to cause serious harm to the UK and "damage its economy, rip its infrastructure apart, actually cause thousands and thousands and thousands of deaths, but actually have an element of creating total chaos within the country."
I do wonder whether Williamson is actually referring to Theresa May’s Conservatives, who seem to be competently achieving the above without any external assistance. Or perhaps Williamson was just trying to draw attention away from his personal life.
I would believe Russia is up to no good if President Putin suddenly gave a large donation to the Conservative Party, perhaps in exchange for citizenship and a seat in the House of Lords. I also now understand why health professionals failed to get the Cameron and May governments to understand that the National Health Service needs more money, not less: we forgot to categorically state that Russia poses a threat to the health service. Or maybe UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is actually one of Putin’s agents undertaking a covert mission to dismantle the NHS and bring chaos, misery and death to thousands.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

US Treasury’s blacklist could provide a huge boost for Russia’s budget

US Treasury’s blacklist could provide a huge boost for Russia’s budget
Russian billionaires could soon be forced to bring their capital home. While the US Treasury’s ‘Kremlin List’ does not imply sanctions yet, it may be a signal that wealthy Russians could lose their money abroad.
“The return of capital to the country began a few years ago when Russian citizens began to lose assets abroad, and foreign governments did not always follow the law. This has already led to the consolidation of rich people around the country’s leadership,”Gleb Zadoya, head of analytics at Analitika Online, told RT.
Sanctions and pressure in the West do not necessarily mean that capital will return to Russia, as there are other markets like India and China, and this is why the Russian government offers its tycoons capital amnesty, low taxes, and other benefits. And if the sanctions continue for at least one year more, “Russia will have the opportunity to use ‘external’ investments,” if the necessary infrastructure is created by both business and government, Zadoya said.
“Most likely, citizens who are on the Kremlin List will at least think about returning capital to Russia or other jurisdictions in order to protect themselves if the Americans begin to impose real restrictions. Moreover, Russia has special tools that would allow the oligarchs to bring their money back into the country. These are confidential bonds, designed for the return of money back into the country,” Forex Optimum analyst Ivan Kapustiansky said.
If wealthy Russians decide to keep their assets and capital abroad, they risk losing them forever, according to Sergey Kostenko, an investment analyst at Global FX. It’s one thing when you go somewhere else to spend money; it’s quite another thing when you try to become part of the local elite, he added.
“Assessing the potentially gloomy prospects, we can say that a significant part of the capital will return to their homeland with a high degree of probability. There will be bargaining with the authorities on the terms, but in the end it will be done, not because it is desirable to do so, but because there will be no choice, Kostenko said.
There is also a point of view that the ‘Kremlin List’ will hardly change anything, as it doesn’t come out of the clear blue sky.
“Most likely, some measures have already been taken, because the first sanctions were introduced almost four years ago. It was obvious that the sanctions are here to stay, given the positions of Russia and the US on Crimea; it is possible they are forever. The ‘Kremlin List’ was announced six months ago; why wait for it? It is better to take care of everything in advance. Some rules will change, but, most likely, we should not expect any massive return of capital to Russia,” Teletrade financial consultant Mikhail Grachev said.
Mikhail Mashchenko, an analyst at a social network for investors in Russia and the CIS – eToro – says the new list does not imply sanctions yet.
“There are no specifics on this list, and it is likely that those wishing to continue their life abroad can find loopholes. It is unlikely that such a broad list will be subject to stringent restrictions and it is possible that in the future it may be reduced,”he said.

UAE accused of aiding overthrow of Yemen government in Aden

Commander of Aden's presidential forces says Emirati jets and armour helped separatist militia rout his men

ADEN, Yemen - The United Arab Emirates has been accused of actively supporting southern Yemeni separatists with air cover and heavy armour as they seized Aden from forces loyal to the Saudi-backed government of President Abd Rabbuh Hadi.
The accusations, if true, would throw into question motivations inside the Saudi-led coalition backing Hadi, which includes the UAE, and its ability - or desire - to support him as his country's legitimate leader.
A third day of fighting on Tuesday ended with the "Security Belt" - the UAE-backed armed wing of the breakaway Southern Transitional Council (STC) - controlling all public institutions in Aden, and the capitulation of the Fourth Brigade of the Presidential Guard, the last remaining Hadi force in the city.
The remnants of the Hadi government, including the prime minister, Ahmed Obaid Bin Daghar, found themselves surrounded and besieged in the city's hilltop presidential palace.
Emirati forces took part in the overthrow of the Fourth Brigade
- Mahran Qubati, Fourth Brigade commander
The accusations of UAE support came from the commander of the Fourth Brigade, Mahran Qubati, who escaped an assault on his base on Wednesday.
He told the Belqees television network: "Emirati armour and forces took part in the overthrow of the Fourth Brigade. Saudi officials promised to return the camp to its leadership in the next hours."
The comments were in addition to those on Tuesday, where he said Security Belt forces had used Emirati armoured vehicles to storm Aden's public institutions, "while the Emirati warplanes were hovering over our military camps".
Southern Yemeni separatists stand by a tank in the port city of Aden (Reuters)
An unnamed source in the Hadi government in Aden told Middle East Eye that the Security Belt forces were under direct supervision of the UAE as they stormed the Fourth Brigade's base.
The source said the Security Belt had surrounded the presidential palace, which was under the protection of Saudi Arabian forces.
"The separatists burnt the house of Qubati but he was not there and is in a safe place in Aden.
"The battle has not finished yet and the prime minister, and other ministers, are in the palace in Aden under the protection of Saudi forces."
He vowed Hadi loyalists would retake what they had lost. 
"Military reinforcements will arrive from the coast and other areas to support the government and will recapture the public institutions and military camps from separatists."
Read more ►
But the bitter nature of the fighting and its apparent swift resolution have yet again shed light on the ever-shifting loyalties of those involved in the war in Yemen.
Both the Security Belt and the Presidential Guard are enemies of the Houthi movement, which itself seized the capital Sanaa after kicking out Hadi loyalists and besieging many of his officials in 2015. 
Hadi has since led his government in exile in Saudi Arabia.
But the anti-Houthi alliance has never been stable; separatists agitating for an independent South Yemen have never been anything more than convenient allies for a government committed to a unified state.
The Southern Transitional Council was created in May after its current leader, Aidarous al-Zabidi, was sacked by Hadi from his position as a governor of Aden.
It appears the separatists are now in the ascendancy. Their supporters celebrated with firework displays on Tuesday evening, believing Hadi's government was finished and independence was close.
Osaid al-Yafei, a field commander of the Security Belt in Aden, told MEE: "We control the whole city of Aden, including the public institutions and ports and in the next few hours we will liberate the presidential palace from the rest of the soldiers," Yafei told MEE.
Yafie confirmed that the STC is not against Hadi but against the government, which is corrupt and did not help southern people but rather aggravated their suffering.
"The corruption of the government forced us on to the streets," he said.
The Security Belt can storm the palace in a matter of hours but they avoid fighting the Saudi forces 
- Nashwan al-Dhobiani, journalist
"We ended the regime of Bin Daghar and will begin to build our own government.
"The southern forces saved the public institutions, including the Central Bank, but we did not storm it as we are not thieves. We are guardians of the public institutions."
Nashwan al-Dhobiani, a journalist in Aden, told MEE: "Military reinforcements of the Southern Transitional Council have arrived in Aden.
"Presidential forces have no reinforcements - the council controls the city."
He said the Security Belt had control of the main gate of Aden's presidential palace but were holding back from entering due to the presence of Saudi forces inside.
"The Security Belt can storm the palace in a matter of hours but they avoid fighting the Saudi forces," he said.
"The southern forces are waiting for a political solution to the standoff."

Resisting Tyranny: Struggling For Seed Sovereignty In Latin America

The Latin America Seeds Collective has just released a 40-minute film (‘Seeds: Common or Corporate Property?) which documents the resistance of peasant farmers to the corporate takeover of their agriculture.
The film describes how seed has been central to agriculture for 10,000 years. Farmers have been saving, exchanging and developing seeds for millennia. Seeds have been handed down from generation to generation. Peasant farmers have been the custodians of seeds, knowledge and land.
This is how it was until the 20th century when corporations took these seeds, hybridised them, genetically modified them, patented them and fashioned them to serve the needs of industrial agriculture with its monocultures and chemical inputs.
To serve the interests of these corporations by marginalising indigenous agriculture, a number of treaties and agreement over breeders’ rights and intellectual property have been enacted to prevent peasant farmers from freely improving, sharing or replanting their traditional seeds. Since this began, thousands of seed varieties have been lost and corporate seeds have increasingly dominated agriculture.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that globally just 20 cultivated plant species account for 90 percent of all the plant-based food consumed by humans. This narrow genetic base of the global food system has put food security at serious risk.
To move farmers away from using native seeds and to get them to plant corporate seeds, the film describes how seed ‘certification’ rules and laws are brought into being by national governments on behalf of commercial seed giants like Monsanto. In Costa Rica, the battle to overturn restrictions on seeds was lost with the signing of a free trade agreement with the US, although this flouted the country’s seed biodiversity laws.
Seed laws in Brazil created a corporate property regime for seeds which effectively marginalised all indigenous seeds that were locally adapted over generations. This regime attempted to stop farmers from using or breeding their own seeds.
It was an attempt to privatise seed. The privatisation of something that is a common heritage. The privatisation and appropriation of inter-generational knowledge embodied by seeds whose germplasm is ‘tweaked’ (or stolen) by corporations who then claim ownership.
In the film, an interviewee claims that if corporate seeds end up in a peasants’ field, the corporation can take the entire crop. It is a way of getting rid of the small farmer as agribusiness corporations strive to take control of the entire global food chain.
However, the film is as much about resistance as it is about corporate imperialism. No matter how well organised small farmers become, they might not be able to win the battle on their own. The struggle has to be taken to cities to raise awareness among consumers about how food is being appropriated by transnational corporations without their consent or knowledge. Without involving consumers, they become an ignorant link which merely serves to perpetuate the chain of corporate control.
The film moves from country to country in South America to highlight how farmers and social movements are fighting back to regain or retain control. Corporate control over seeds is also an attack on the survival of communities and their traditions. Seeds are integral to identity because in rural communities, people are acutely aware that they are ‘all children of the seed’. Their lives have been tied to planting, harvesting, seeds, soil and the seasons for thousands of years.
Corporate control is also an attack on biodiversity and – as we see the world over – on the integrity of soil, water, food, diets and health as well as on the integrity of international institutions, governments and officials which have too often been corrupted by powerful transnational corporations.
The film highlights the fight back against the ‘Monsanto law’ (GM corn) in Guatemala. It shows how movements are resisting regulations and seed certification laws designed to eradicate traditional seeds by allowing only ‘stable’, ‘uniform’ and ‘novel’ seeds on the market (read corporate seeds). These are the only ‘regulated’ seeds allowed: registered and certified. It is a cynical way of eradicating indigenous farming practices at the behest of corporations.
As part of the resistance, farmers are organising seed exchanges, seed fairs, public markets and seed banks. They want to ensure that seeds for different altitudes, different soils and different nutritional needs remain available.
In Brazil, the film describes how previous governments supported peasant agriculture and agroecology by developing supply chains with public sector schools and hospitals (Food Acquisition Programme). This secured good prices and brought farmers together. It came about by social movements applying pressure on the government to act.
The federal government also brought native seeds and distributed them to farmers across the country, which was important for combatting the advance of the corporations as many farmers had lost access to native seeds.
Governments are under immense pressure via lop-sided trade deals, strings-attached loans and corporate-backed seed regimes to comply with the demands of agribusiness conglomerates and to fit in with their supply chains. However, when farmers organise into effective social movements, administrators are compelled to take on board the needs of local cultivators.
It indicates what can be achieved when policy makers support traditional cultivators. And it is essential that they do because, unlike industrial agriculture, peasant farmers throughout the world have been genuine custodians of seed, the environment and the land.
Colin Todhunter is an independent writer

How We Got Donald Trump

(And How We Might Have Avoided Him)

The present arrives out of a past that we are too quick to forget, misremember, or enshroud in myth. Yet like it or not, the present is the product of past choices. Different decisions back then might have yielded very different outcomes in the here-and-now. Donald Trump ascended to the presidency as a consequence of myriad choices that Americans made (or had made for them) over the course of decades. Although few of those were made with Trump in mind, he is the result.
Where exactly did Trump come from? How are we to account for his noxious presence as commander-in-chief and putative Leader of the Free World? The explanations currently on offer are legion. Some blame the nefarious Steve Bannon, others Hillary Clinton and her lackluster campaign. Or perhaps the fault lies with the Bernie Sanders insurgency, which robbed Clinton of the momentum she needed to win, or with Little Marco, Lyin’ Ted, and Low Energy Jeb, and the other pathetic Republicans whom Trump trampled underfoot en route to claiming the nomination. Or perhaps the real villains are all those “deplorables” — the angry and ignorant white males whose disdain for immigrants, feminists, gays, and people of color Trump stoked and manipulated to great effect.
All such explanations, however, suggest that the relevant story began somewhere around June 2015 when Donald Trump astonished the political world by announcing his intention to seek the presidency. My aim here is to suggest that the origins of the real story are to be found much earlier. The conditions that enabled Trump to capture the presidency stemmed from acts of commission and omission that occurred well before he rode down that escalator at Trump Tower to offer his services to the nation.
Here’s the sad part: at each step along the way, other alternatives were available. Had those alternatives been exercised, a Trump presidency would have remained an absurd fantasy rather than becoming an absurd and dangerous reality. Like the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Vietnam War or 9/11, Trump qualifies as a completely avoidable catastrophe with roots deep in the past.
So who’s at fault? Ultimately, we — the American people — must accept a considerable share of the responsibility. This is one buck that can’t be passed.
Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
So what follows is a review of roads taken (and not) ultimately leading to the demoralizing presidency of Donald Trump, along with a little speculation on how different choices might have resulted in a decidedly different present.
1989: The Fall of the Berlin Wall. As the Cold War wound down, members of Washington’s smart set, Republicans and Democrats alike, declared that the opportunities now presenting themselves went beyond the merely stupendous. Indeed, history itself had ended. With the United States as the planet’s sole superpower, liberal democratic capitalism was destined to prevail everywhere. There would be no way except the American Way. In fact, however, the passing of the Cold War should have occasioned a moment of reflection regarding the sundry mistakes and moral compromises that marred U.S. policy from the 1940s through the 1980s. Unfortunately, policy elites had no interest in second thoughts — and certainly not in remorse or contrition. In the 1990s, rampant victory disease fueled extraordinary hubris and a pattern of reckless behavior informed by an assumption that the world would ultimately conform to the wishes of the “indispensable nation.” In the years to come, an endless sequence of costly mishaps would ensue from Mogadishu to Mosul. When, in due time, Donald Trump announced his intention to dismantle the establishment that had presided over those failures, many Americans liked what he had to say, even if he spoke from a position of total ignorance.
1992: President H. Ross Perot. In the first post-Cold War presidential election, H. Ross Perot, a wealthy entrepreneur and political novice, mounted an independent challenge to the Republican and Democratic nominees. Both parties, Perot charged, were in bed with lobbyists, insiders, and special interests. Both were enthusiastically presiding over the deindustrialization of a once dominant American economy. The rich were getting richer, the national debt was growing, and ordinary citizens were getting screwed, he contended. His charges were not without merit. Yet when Perot lost, Washington was back to business as usual. We cannot know what a Perot presidency would have produced. Yet such a victory — the American electorate, in effect, repudiating the two established parties — might have created powerful incentives for both Republicans and Democrats to clean up their acts and find ways of governing more effectively. Had they done so, Trump’s later vow to “drain the swamp” of corruption and self-dealing would have been beside the point.
1993: Gays in the Military. Bill Clinton ran for the presidency as a centrist. Even so, once elected, he immediately announced his intention to remove restrictions on gays serving in the armed forces. This was, to put it mildly, anything but the act of a centrist. Outraged senior military officers made clear their intention to defythe new commander-in-chief. Although Clinton quickly backpedalled, the episode infuriated both cultural traditionalists and progressives. Within 20 years, a different generation of senior officers decided that gays serving in the military was no big deal. The issue instantly vanished. Yet the controversy left behind a residue of bitterness, especially on the right, that worked in Trump’s favor. Had the generals of 1993 suppressed their insubordinate inclinations, they might have ever so slightly turned down the heat on the culture wars. When the heat is high, it’s the tub-thumpers and noisy haranguers who benefit.
1998: The Lewinsky Scandal. When President Clinton’s sexual encounters with a young White House intern became known, Hillary Clinton stood by her man. The first lady’s steadfast loyalty helped her husband avoid being thrown out of office, providing cover for other feminists to continue supporting the president. Imagine if she had done otherwise, declaring his conduct unacceptable. The pressure on him to resign coming from those who had been among his strongest supporters would have been intense. This much is certain: had evidence of infidelity, compounded by prior allegations of abuse toward women, forced President Clinton from office, Donald Trump would never have had a chance of being elected president. In all likelihood he would never even have considered running.
2000: Cheney Picks a Veep. When George W. Bush wrapped up the Republican nomination in 2000, he tagged Dick Cheney, his father’s defense secretary, with the task of identifying a suitable running mate. After surveying the field, Cheney decidedthat he himself was the man for the job. As vice president, Cheney wasted no time in stacking the upper ranks of the administration with likeminded allies keen to wield American military muscle to smite “evil-doers” and expand America’s empire. Bush had promised, if elected, to pursue a “humble” foreign policy and forego nation-building. Had he not surrounded himself with Cheney and bellicose companions like Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, he might possibly have stuck to that course, even after 9/11. Instead, urged on by the uber-hawks in his own administration, he embarked upon a misguided “Global War on Terrorism.” No single action played a greater role in paving the way for Donald Trump to become president.
2000: The Supremes Pick a President. If, in choosing a president on our behalf, the Supreme Court had given the nod to Al Gore instead of George Bush, might they have averted that never-ending, never-contracting war on terrorism? No doubt the 9/11 attacks would still have occurred and some U.S. military action would have ensued. But Gore did not share the obsession with Saddam Hussein that infected members of the Bush-Cheney axis. Arguably, a President Gore would have been less likely than President Bush to insist on invading a country that had played no part in the al-Qaeda conspiracy. Had the U.S. not embarked upon a preventive war against Iraq — had this Original Sin of the post-9/11 era not occurred — a Trump presidency would have been far less likely.
2003: Congress Rolls Over. To its perpetual disgrace, Congress assented to Bush’s demands to invade Iraq. It did so less because its members, including presidential aspirants like Senators Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, were persuaded that Iraq posed a threat to national security (it did not) than because they sought to insulate themselves from the political consequences of opposing a president hell-bent on war. For decades, Congress had allowed presidents to encroach upon its constitutional responsibility to declare war, but this would be the last straw. Supine legislators became complicit in a disaster that to this day continues to unfold. A Congress with gumption might have averted that disaster, recovered its cojones, and left us with a legislative branch willing and able to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities.
2003: GM Kills the EV1 Electric Automobile. In the 1990s, General Motors produced the first viable electric car. Drivers loved it, but GM doubted its potential profitability. Shareholders were more likely to make money if the company focused on manufacturing vehicles powered by gasoline engines. So in 2003, GM executives killed the EV1. The effect was to postpone by at least a decade the development of a mass-produced electric car. Had GM persisted, it’s just possible that the EV1 might have jump-started the transition to a post-fossil fuel economy and offered humanity a leg up on climate change. Instead, politicians spent years bickering about whether climate change was even real. More than a few Republicans made political hay by denouncing those waging a “war on coal” or inhibiting crucially needed oil exploration — bogus charges that Trump adroitly exploited for his own purposes. Perhaps if the EV1 had fulfilled its potential, anyone mounting a presidential campaign while denouncing global warming as a hoax would have been laughed out of town instead of capturing the White House.
2009: Obama Bails Out Wall Street. President Obama entered the Oval Office with the U.S. economy in free-fall. His administration took prompt action to prevent systemic collapse — that is, it bailed out Wall Street. Meanwhile the little guy got clobbered, with millions of Americans losing their jobs and homes. A billionaire complainingabout the system being “rigged” might otherwise have tested the outer limits of irony, but for Donald Trump the government’s handling of the Great Recession was a gift from the gods.
2010: Presidential Twitter Accounts. Huge numbers of Americans have willingly surrendered their lives to social media. I’m guessing that there are more vegans and curling aficionados in the United States today than there are non-subscribers to Facebook. So it was perhaps inevitable that politicians would hoist themselves onto the social media bandwagon, keen to use direct, unmediated electronic communications as a way of mobilizing their followers. Yet the resulting impact on American politics has been entirely negative. The space available for reasoned exchanges has shrunk. Political discourse has become increasingly corrosive, its apparent purpose less to inform than to obfuscate, trivialize, and create division. This development was probably inevitable and will no doubt prove irreversible. Even so, it was not inevitable that the presidency itself should succumb to this phenomenon. In 2010, when Barack Obama “made history” by sending the first presidential tweet, it was as if the Pope had begun spending his idle hours hanging out at some corner saloon. Even if only in barely measurable increments, the dignity and decorum associated with the presidency began to fade and with it the assumption that crude or boorish behavior would automatically disqualify someone for high office. Donald Trump, a first-class boor and maestro of Twitter, was quick to take notice.
2010: Mitch McConnell Chooses Party Over Country. With the nation still in the midst of a devastating economic crisis, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell declaredon behalf of his party that the denial of a second term to President Obama was “the single most important thing we want to achieve.” To hell with the country, the GOP wanted Obama gone. McConnell’s troops fell obediently into line and the last vestiges of bipartisanship disappeared from Washington. Of course, the president won reelection in 2012 anyway, but in effect McConnell refused to recognize the result. So when Obama exercised a president’s prerogative to nominate someone to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, McConnell ensured that the nominee would not even receive the courtesy of a hearing. An environment rife with hyper-partisanship presented the perfect situation for a political outsider skilled in the “art of the deal” to offer himself as the antidote to persistent gridlock. Congratulations, Mitch! You won after all!
And So…?
It’s time to look in the mirror, folks. Blaming Trump for being Trump simply won’t do. Like Lenin or Franco or Perón or dozens of other demagogues, Trump merely seized the opportunity that presented itself. Our president is a product and beneficiary of several decades worth of vainglory, cynicism, epic folly, political cowardice, missed opportunities, and a public not given to paying attention. In present-day Washington, no one can deny that the chickens have come home to roost. The biggest fowl of them all has taken up residence in the White House and, in a very real sense, we all put him there.
Andrew Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular, is the author, most recently, of America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History.
(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)