Trump Goes Nuclear: Or, How I Learned to Mobilize and Stop the War Machine

Dr. Strangetrump

A pivotal scene in Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War satire, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb finds George C. Scott’s jingoistic General Buck Turgidson laying out the dire options for U.S. President Merkin Muffley, as the nation hurtles toward nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

“Mr. President, we are rapidly approaching the moment of truth,” General Turgidson says, “both for ourselves as human beings and for the life of our nation.

TURGIDSON: Now truth is not always a pleasant thing. But it is necessary now to make a choice, to choose between two admittedly regrettable, but nevertheless distinguishable, post-war environments: One where you got 20 million people killed, and the other where you got 150 million people killed.

MUFFLEY: You’re talking about mass murder, General—not war.

TURGIDSON: Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed, but I do say no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops! Uh, depending on the breaks.

It turns out Kubrick’s dark comedy was more prescient than he realized. In the narcissistic, hyper-masculine, Donald Trump, we have a real-life Dr. Strangelove sitting in the White House. And this past week, he blatantly threatened nuclear rival, North Korea with destruction not once, but twice.

Trump cautioned North Korea to cease its nuclear weapons testing or it would “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

The Predator in Chief ratcheted up his warmongering threats a day later, claiming the United States is “locked and loaded”—his most overt warning of pending military action against the North Korean regime, to date. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un responded to Trump’s initial warning by threatening to fire a missile at the U.S. colony—err, I mean “territory”—of Guam.

Trump’s words and tweets are not just incredibly reckless. (This is a president keep in mind, whose articulate solution to defeating ISIS is to “bomb the shit out of ‘em.”)

As U.S. Army colonel-turned-left-wing-professor-and-author, Andrew Bacevich observed on a recent episode on Democracy Now!, Trump seems to lack the ability to “use the English language with any sort of precision or finesse.”

“Many people have commented … on the narcissism which seems to be such a prominent characteristic of Trump’s personality,” said Bacevich.

And … when you watch the video of him making that “fire and fury” comment, it’s difficult to avoid thinking that the motivation of the moment is to make himself feel good, to somehow demonstrate that he’s a tough guy, that he’s standing up to what he perceives as a threat, and to, somehow or other, derive some sense of personal satisfaction … from issuing that threat—utterly oblivious as to the larger implications… And that’s … got to be very troubling.

In other words, we basically have a petulant 14-year-old sitting in the Oval Office. A petulant 14-year-old with the country’s nuclear codes.

Indeed, a Carnegie Mellon University analysis of the “readability” of the 2016 presidential candidates’ speeches compared to previous presidents, found the grammar and vocabulary Trump employs are just below a sixth-grade reading-level.

(Hence the president’s use of words like, “bigly” and “covfefe,” and his over-reliance on clichéd adjectives like “beautiful,” and “huge.”)

Let’s be clear: North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is—like Iran’s–a deterrent. It is in direct response to the United States’ decades of crippling economic sanctions, and its prior assault on North Korea during the Korean War—which never really ended. And recent U.S. efforts at regime change in Iraq and Libya have likely only put Kim Jong Un on further heightened alert.

None of this should be read as an apology for Kim’s repressive, authoritarian regime. North Korea, like China, is “communist” in name only. It is in no way a country the left should strive to emulate. Nor should we ignore its egregious human rights abuses.

Nonetheless, we must understand North Korea’s nuclear weapons testing is less the product of its “madman” leader, and more a legitimate form of self-defense. If Israel–whose nuclear weapons arsenal far surpasses North Korea’s–has a “right to defend itself,” then so does North Korea.

But rather than this childish—and utterly foolish—game of nuclear chicken, the West must attempt to engage the North Korean regime in peaceful negotiations. As Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin points out in a recent op-ed, “Sixty percent of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, support direct negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.”

The left must stand in solidarity with oppressed people not just in our country, but throughout the world. This means opposing U.S. war and imperialism in all its depraved forms. We must understand that there is no such thing as a “humanitarian” war.

“Wars throughout history,” observed the great socialist leader, Eugene Debs, “have been waged for conquest and plunder.”

This is true even of the Second World War (the “good war”) and the ruinous carnage that was the Vietnam War (a war in which we “meant well”).

The U.S. has been locked in a nebulous “war on terror” for nearly 20 years now. This is an Orwellian war which, by design, can never be won–and thus, can never end. George W. Bush used the fear and horror of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to invade both Afghanistan and Iraq–occupations that continue to this day. (The war in Afghanistan is now the longest in U.S. history.)

And contrary to popular belief, Barack Obama did not scale-down the “war on terror”–he expanded it.

Though Obama dropped the use of the asinine phrase, “war on terror,” as well as Bush’s jingoistic, cowboy swagger, he nonetheless continued the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and launched drone-strikes in Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton oversaw the overthrow and extrajudicial killing of Col. Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

Indeed, perhaps Obama’s greatest contribution to the “war on terror” was his ability to simultaneously enlarge its scope, while shifting it to the background, making it almost an afterthought in Americans’ minds. His reliance on unmanned predator drones, targeted assassinations, extrajudicial killings, and increased use of the elite Joint Special Operations Command in place of traditional “boots-on-the-ground,” effectively rendered the United States’ various military campaigns little more than white-noise.

The lack of critical media foreign policy coverage, combined with liberals’ reluctance to challenge the president when he is “their guy,” left the anti-war movement paralyzed.

Trump is now posing himself as the necessary course correction to Obama’s alleged “weakness” on fighting terrorism. His petit-bourgeois supporters relish his “tough guy” rhetoric and alpha-male braggadocio, which they believe will “put America first.”

As the remaining segments of the dwindling middle-class, Trump’s supporters view themselves as the beleaguered, “forgotten” members of the working class, even though most of them likely have more in common–economically and politically–with the upper-middle class and the rich. Forget the misleading media narrative linking Trump’s presidency to a “Rustbelt Revolution.” Trump’s base consists mostly of small-business owners who resent government, regulations, and immigrants and who dream of joining the ranks of the wealthy.

Now is the time to reconstitute the anti-war movement. The left must reconnect itself to its long history of anti-imperialist activism. Many of Bernie Sanders’ supporters, for instance, shrugged off his hawkish foreign policy positions as “secondary issues.”

This attitude is a grave mistake.

The left must rediscover the centrality of opposing war and imperialism, as well as its interconnectedness to domestic issues like racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and economic insecurity. (Fifty-four percent of our federal tax dollars go to the military “defense” budget.)

The subversive, Dr. Strangelove brilliantly illustrates the utter madness of nuclear war. Perhaps worst of all, it lays bare the complete ineptitude of the president, the military generals, foreign leaders, and the rest of the ruling class “experts” to halt the course of mass civilizational destruction, once it is initiated.

Let’s mobilize now to ensure Kubrick’s film remains a dark satire–and not an ominous premonition.

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.

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Impeach Trump — and the System That Spawned Him

trump-impeach

One of the biggest challenges of activism in the Trump era is just keeping up with the constantly shifting developments of the daily news cycle. Indeed, every day seems to bring a new White House scandal.

Only four months into his presidency, Donald Trump’s first (and perhaps, last) term has devolved into its own warped reality TV show, replete with escalating plot-twists, Nixonian cover-ups, and plenty of drama. Binge-watch this real-life House of Cards at your own risk.

In the last week alone, Trump abruptly fired the FBI director, James Comey; nonchalantly disclosed classified intelligence to Russian government officials; and we learned he may have personally attempted to pressure Comey to drop his investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go—to letting Flynn go,” Trump told Comey, according to the then-FBI director’s own internal memos. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

I have raised serious doubts concerning the validity of the dubious “Russia-stole-the-presidential-election” narrative, and these recent developments do little to alter that overall skepticism. Not only is there still no concrete evidence that Russia covertly influenced the 2016 election in order to ensure Trump’s victory, but the accusation is quite hypocritical given the United States’ own decades-long role in intervening—subtly or with open military force—with the democratic elections of nations throughout the world when their citizens voted the “wrong way.”

Rather, I think Paul Street’s theory that Comey was fired due to his lack of loyalty to the narcissistic Trump, is more plausible.

“Lack of outward devotion to the new commander in chief is what got Comey canned,” Street writes in a May 15 piece for Truthdig.com. “His sin was insufficient fealty to Herr Donald.

“… Comey was shown the door because he failed to obsequiously kiss the ring of the orange-haired beast, who shows great admiration for authoritarian strongmen like Vladimir Putin (Russia), Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines), Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (Egypt) and Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Turkey).”

Nonetheless, Trump’s firing of Comey has, as Street concedes, “poured fuel on the Russiagate fire.”

Thus, all the liberals and Democratic apparatchiks who already believe that Trump is a Manchurian Candidate-style Russian puppet are only going to view Comey’s dismissal as further confirmation of this silly conspiracy theory. Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, have gleefully embraced this neo-Cold War narrative as a convenient cover for their party’s (and, more specifically, Hillary Clinton’s) staggering ineptitude in defeating arguably the most vile, least qualified Republican presidential candidate in modern history.

(Comey, incidentally, deserves little sympathy from leftists. The now-former FBI director is no hero, and the agency he oversaw is certainly no friend of the left. Indeed, since its inception, the FBI has devoted more resources and manpower to undermining, surveilling, infiltrating, sabotaging, provoking, arresting, physically attacking, and otherwise destroying left-wing groups, activists, and sympathizers, than it has to investigating actual terrorist threats or serious crimes.)

While we may never know the truth about Trump’s Russia connection, there is little doubt the Predator-in-Chief is guilty of obstructing justice. Many Democrats are now even openly talking about impeachment.

Are we really witnessing the beginning of the end of Trump’s presidency?

It is difficult to say. As has become increasingly clear since he first emerged as the GOP’s presidential nominee last year, Trump has a frustrating habit of stubbornly defying expectations. (Indeed, it may well be the man’s only discernible talent.)

While I would like nothing more than to see this Cheetos-skinned ignoramus “fired,” to use his favorite phrase, I remain skeptical of the Democratic Party’s willingness to actually initiate impeachment hearings, should they take back the House in the 2018 midterm elections.

Recent history shows the Democrats have an almost allergic reaction to the very word “impeachment,” even when party leaders are faced with incontrovertible evidence of unconstitutional abuses of power.

House Democrats—most notably then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—refused to impeach George W. Bush or Dick Cheney after re-taking Congress in the 2006 midterm elections, claiming, at the time, that impeachment would be a “distraction.” Given that the Democrats proceeded to spend the next two years campaigning for the 2008 presidential election, it is difficult to understand what, precisely, holding the deeply unpopular Bush accountable for war crimes would have “distracted” from.

Thus, it would be a mistake for the left to pin its hopes of removing Trump from office on the “dismal dollar Dems,” as Street dubs the party. And even if Trump were impeached, that would leave us with … President Mike Pence—a Christian evangelical zealot, and white nationalist. Not exactly an improvement, if you ask me.

This brings us to the problem of approaching anti-Trump resistance through the narrow lens of impeachment or other legislative maneuvers. At the end of the day Trump, loathsome as he is, is not really the problem. Trump is merely a symptom of the larger disease—the disease of capitalism. Trading one capitalist president for another amounts to little more than a cosmetic reform. The whole system needs to be impeached.

As Danny Katch and Alan Maass write in a May 19 article for Socialist Worker:

“Masses of people are disgusted by Trump, but their eyes are being opened wider about the system that spawned him. Or at least they can be. There is a danger that those masses of people will remain spectators—looking on as the battle plays out within the narrow limits of mainstream politics.”

In other words, it is not enough to just be anti-Trump. The left must put forward its own vision of organizing society—one rooted in Marxism and social and economic justice. We must offer working-class people a path to a world free of sexism, racism, xenophobia and other forms of oppression, and free of capitalist competition that pits workers against one another.

I believe such a world is within our grasp. A majority of young Americans are more open to socialism now than at any other time in the last 30 years. But that world won’t be achieved merely by impeaching Trump. Nor, for that matter, will it be won by signing on to the tepid, narrow reforms the Democrats are offering.

In the meantime, there is a very real possibility Trump could attempt to distract from his deepening scandal by launching another military strike on Syria or even starting a full-scale war with North Korea. Such an action would almost certainly change the national discourse virtually overnight. And we all saw how obsequiously the “liberal,” “opposition party” media proudly cheered the president on during last month’s surprise missile strike on Syria.

As Street observes, though the United States prides itself as the “world’s greatest democracy,” few of our nation’s institutions can accurately be called “democratic.” The U.S. is essentially an oligarchy.

“Impeaching or otherwise removing [Trump] won’t alter that basic reality,” he writes. “The United States doesn’t need a new and 46th president as much as it needs a democracy, a new constitution, a new organizing of institutions—including its frankly absurd and plutocratic election and party systems.”

 

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Ignore the GOP’s Lies: The Pentagon is Not Broke

Fighter Jet

During a recent interview on NBC’s Meet the Press,  Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins reiterated one of the biggest lies about Barack Obama’s presidency.

When host, Chuck Todd asked Collins if there is “any part of [President Donald Trump’s] budget you support?” she responded:

“Yes. I do think that we need an increase [in spending] for our veterans and an increase in military spending because readiness has really suffered.”

For context, the majority of Collins’ six-and-a-half minute interview was devoted to the president’s proposed health care bill which, as of this writing, is DOA. These remarks were her sole reference to military-spending.

Yet, the statement, minor though it may be, is extremely significant.

The notion that military readiness has “really suffered” due to Obama’s budgetary policies has been widely repeated by congressional Republicans, Trump, and the corporate media. The GOP maintain Obama “depleted” military funding, leaving the U.S. woefully under-prepared—if not, in fact, completely unprepared—to adequately respond to a foreign attack.

Trump alluded to this notion of a “weakened” military during his March 1 address to Congress.

“I am sending Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the defense sequester and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history,” Trump said of his proposed $54 billion military-spending budget.

This oft-repeated talking point that the military suffers from a lack of “readiness,” corresponds with the equally false narrative that Obama was “weak” on matters of foreign policy—too eager to engage in “wimpy diplomacy,” and “negotiations,” rather than military force.

But this baseless narrative ignores the fact that both military spending and the use of military force increased under Obama. Indeed, Obama—who received the Nobel Peace Prize less than a year into his presidency—proved to be more of a warmonger than George “I’m a War president!” Bush.

Under Obama, the U.S. escalated the war in Afghanistan, down-scaled—but did not end, entirely—the U.S. military occupation of Iraq, and engaged in covert drone bombing campaigns in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and Syria. Perhaps most unnerving was the Obama administration’s penchant for relying on unmanned predator drones which can be controlled from thousands of miles away, and its codification into law of extrajudicial targeted assassinations.

The latter tactic claimed the lives of at least two U.S. citizens: Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son, Abulrahman al-Awlaki.

Obama even maintained a not-so-secret “kill list” of suspected terrorists targeted for death, for Christ’s sake! Perhaps Republicans are just jealous a black man got to engage in all the really deranged, ultra-violent stuff, while Cheney and Rumsfeld had to settle for merely waterboarding people.

The fact is Obama was hardly the peacenik Republicans—along with their subservient echo-chamber in the corporate media–constantly portray him as. Likewise, the claim that Obama “depleted” the military of funding, leaving it in a “weakened” state, is downright laughable.

Contrary to the GOP’s rhetoric, the United States still maintains the largest, strongest, most expensive military force in the world.

As Branko Marcetic writes in a March 6 piece for Jacobin titled, “The Lie of ‘Rebuilding’ the Military”:

The US military has a vastly larger airforce, navy, and number of aircraft carriers than any of its closest rivals. While it commands less manpower than China and India, its nuclear stockpile—a mind-boggling 6,970 warheads—is second only to Russia. The massive three hundred held by France in third place looks piddling by comparison. According to a 2015 Credit Suisse report, all of this and more means the United States far outmatches any other country in terms of military strength.

As Marcetic notes, maintaining an absurdly massive military of this size does not come cheap. The Pentagon ate up $622 billion of the federal budget in 2016, alone. Fifty-four percent of our federal tax dollars go to military spending. And much of this money is wasted on outdated, Cold War-era weapons and fighter jets the Pentagon has no need for—a fact that, curiously, goes unnoticed by “fiscally conservative” Republicans who constantly harp about the need for the government to “get its fiscal house in order.”

(And while we are on the topic, can we mention the hypocrisy of claiming to want to “shrink the size of government,” while lavishing the military–which, last time I checked, is part of the executive branch of the federal government–with billions of dollars?)

Contrary to what the talking heads on “liberal” NPR insist, the largest portion of the federal budget is devoted to the misleadingly-titled category, “Defense”—not so-called “entitlement” programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

But military-spending is so sacrosanct among both political parties it is almost never brought up in budgetary debates. Instead, we are told immigrants, refugees, public school teachers and their “cadillac-style” retirement benefits, and the earned-income programs won through hard-fought working-class struggle are to blame for our nation’s budgetary woes.

This is the perverse genius of the so-called “austerity” policies the global capitalist elites have pushed in Europe and the U.S. since the Great Recession: Socialize the costs and privatize the profits. And during Obama’s presidency those profits continued to soar for weapons manufacturers like Lockheed-Martin, Raytheon, and General Dynamics, which owns Bath Iron Works, one of the largest employers in Maine.

The Trump administration, meanwhile, is eyeing deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is now headed by climate change denier, Scott Pruitt. Also on the chopping block is funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the State Department, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and most federal regulatory industries.

Turns out Americans should have heeded President Dwight Eisenhower’s outgoing warning about the dangers of the “military-industrial complex,” after all.

“As millions of Americans struggle with inadequate health care, low wages, deteriorating public services and uncertainty about their futures as the wage gap between the wealthy elite and the working poor widens,” famed consumer advocate and ertswhile independent presidential candidate, Ralph Nader wrote back in 2013, “billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars are pouring into the coffers of the Department of Defense ever year.”

All of this makes clear the left’s urgent need to revive the beleaguered anti-war movement, which largely remained dormant during Obama’s presidency. As Maine anti-war activist, blogger, and professional organizer, Bruce Gagnon told me in a 2015 interview, “Liberal Democrats are reluctant to challenge the president when he’s ‘their guy.'”

“It’s a real hypocrisy,” Gagnon added. “And it’s a real problem for maintaining an active anti-war movement.”

Perhaps the fact that it is now a Republican carrying out these disastrous wars will reinvigorate the anti-war left. The mass opposition to Trump’s racist campaigns against Muslims and immigrants is certainly an encouraging sign. Socialists must tap into this growing movement, while also making the broader connections between the global refugee crisis and U.S. imperialism.

But our first task must be to offer a forceful rebuke to the bourgeois falsehood that the military needs “rebuilding.” Quite the reverse, we should be investing less money in killing people, and more on infrastructure, good-paying jobs, renewable energy programs, health care, and our public schools.

“Monopolies, oligarchy, the striving for domination and not for freedom, the exploitation of an increasing number of small or weak nations by a handful of the richest or most powerful nations,” Vladimir Lenin wrote in his 1917 essay, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, “… all these have given birth to those distinctive characteristics of imperialism which compel us to define it as parasitic or decaying capitalism.”

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.

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