Trump’s Foreign Policy ‘Missteps’ Are Destructive to Diplomacy. Good!

I’m not ready to stop gloating about the loss of Hillary Clinton yet. When Trump is inaugurated I’ll turn the knives on his administration — for now, it’s still the Obama-Clinton administration and I’m still focusing on these cretins.

Liberals don’t even know there’s a forest, forget seeing it for the trees. This week in Facebook includes people horrified that Trump would even acknowledge the government of Taiwan, let alone congratulate its new president! This will enrage China, our largest trading partner! They even brought out the specter of WWIII, which they laughed at when it was said it would be Clinton who would start it. Thing is Clinton was going to start it by following through on a promise to bomb Russian troops in Syria. All Trump did was talk to the leader of a country that the United States arms and is sworn to protect — from China. And hey, China knows this. If these morons think China is just concerned with being “dishonored” *gong sound, deep bow* they’re not just racist, they’re also so stupid as to be dangerous. Give felons back their vote and disenfranchise these criminals of common sense.

These same “pragmatic” types will nonetheless spend their time shitting on the legacy of Fidel Castro who despite lifting millions out of extreme poverty, did terrible things to innocent people that objectively pale in comparison to anything the US has done to its own minorities, but forget that. It’s about the morality — but just in that case.

That’s not all Trump “fucked up” on the foreign policy front. In less than a week he praised the “dictator” of Kazakhstan, said he’d — horrors!! — like to visit Pakistan, “a terrific country,” and treated the British Prime Minister as if she were the leader of any other of the world’s countries. That last “disaster” involved him calling Theresa May only after calling NINE probably non-white leaders.

Anything that makes US diplomats “aghast” is fabulous by me. These slimebags deserve much worse for what they’ve done to the world’s people. They’re the ones who keep every country softened up for the plunder and just in case any objections arise, war. As I said in 2014

“Diplomacy” is what Washington calls its imperial scheming and the left falls for it. Diplomacy is cold war, and it often enough leads to hot war. It is not a peace-making endeavor. It is not a good thing to encourage. It is good to disrupt it, as Chelsea Manning — whose birthday is today! — did. Thanks to her, we know so much about the nasty, petty, vindictive, stupid, lying, thieving, murderous shit our hallowed diplomats do every day in subjugated nations around the globe. These are rich, powerful, high-born criminals that have served time in the upper echelons of our own evil government and its largest parastate corporations. They’re scum, and their work is the devil’s. The only real question is, why do these countries allow it?

I’m not interested in whether or not Trump knows that what he’s doing is destructive to the diplomatic system. It’s irrelevant. I know that the outcome must be good if these enemies of all good people are upset by it. That tells me all I need to know. Diplomacy as a tool of empire predates the birth of Donald Trump and unfortunately will outlive him. If he can put a few dents, intentionally or not, in these fuckers’ Mercedes well I’ll fucking take it.

UPDATE

Trump tweeted that the new Air Force One planes being built by Boeing were too expensive and should be canceled. When the markets opened this morning the Boeing stock took a dive! Can you think of a more deserving corporation to take such a hit? I’m loving the Trump presidency and it hasn’t even started.

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The True Terror of a Trump Presidency

We are literally negative dozens of days into the Trump administration and people are blaming everything from arrests to pipelines on him. Yes, he’s appointing all sorts of — in the liberal parlance currently in fashion — “dumpster fires” to his cabinet, probably, and for some of us life will get marginally worse and for others of us marginally better. That’s usually how a change in president and party at the same time goes. As it goes for citizens of the empire, so it goes for the rest of the non-US-aligned world but usually to far more horrific results.

In my last post I had a lot of fun saying I hoped Vladimir Putin literally changed the votes in the recent election so that the putrid Hillary Clinton would lose. Of course, he didn’t. He probably didn’t truly even exert much more influence than RT America, the Russian state-owned news channel targeted to the US audience, ever did. It’s likely negligible.

In recent days Facebook has been alight in outrage over “fake news.” To an extent, I agreed, because I thought they meant bullshit like “meme” propagators who over-distill complex issues into typically very stupid, factually incorrect gotchas. Think “Being Conservative” or “Occupy Democrats” Facebook groups. But while this was the original thrust in some quarters, I was wrong. There are segments of the commentariat calling for broad sections of the web to be censured as literal Russian propaganda.

So, in their hands they hold a list of this Lying Press, and on it is basically every good Left site, some libertarian sites, and a smattering of Nazi sites. Now they’re not explicitly saying it’s all the same but… well, they’ll leave the same reader/voter they consider to have been easily duped by Russian agents to decide that. The same people who would hit “Share” on a probably pretty good MTV clip about why “reverse-racism” isn’t a thing are now equating Black Agenda Report with Daily Stormer. I’m not exaggerating. And amusingly, they seem to be real mad about a website called HangTheBankers. Huh. Wonder why.

This jingo scum must know that the United States government and its many MANY intelligence agencies run all manner of news and “information” outlets, both openly and secretly and the gray areas between. But you don’t have to go far or analyze too deeply to realize, as Arthur Silber did today, that, well — what in the fuck is Voice of America if not propaganda aimed at the enemies of Washington?

Here’s the danger, the real in-your-face in-practice Actually Existing Fascism. Not some swastikas drawn by people who…. well, sure seem to have been paid to inflate hate-crime statistics. But US liberals, those nasty little fucks who think they’re the very end of philosophical history despite adhering to no discernibly coherent set of moral rules, all the while claiming to oppose fascism simultaneously propagate anti-Russian (you absolutely can read “Soviet” in there) allegations in the form of the silencing of critics. See, where these snakes will slither their scaly way out of any Serious talk of fascism is that they’re not calling on the government to ban these websites. Why, they’d never! That would violate their Voltairian notions of absolute free-speech rights. No, they simply want a market-based, voluntary rejection/ nullification/ dealgorithmization/ disappearance — in the active sense, as in, when they made people disappear in US-backed South American dirty wars — of every news site that ever criticized Hillary Clinton. Yup.

This includes Wikileaks, naturally, even though Silber noted in his recent piece

I assume it must be distant history since it appears that everyone, and most particularly those who mercilessly attacked Wikileaks several years ago, has failed to grasp that the views of Wikileaks have been reversed in this latest episode. We can therefore conclude with full confidence that neither the liberals nor the conservatives hold their positions vis-a-vis Wikileaks on the basis of any kind of principle. How old-fashioned and quaint such a concern would be. Can a principle fix your broken leg? No. Will a principle buy you dinner? Of course not. Will a principle help the candidate you prefer get elected? No siree.

The List also more disturbingly for me includes Antiwar.com, where I worked for ten years and still consider my former coworkers dear friends. Before there even was a Trump on the horizon, before there was even a fucking Dubya in the running, there was Antiwar.com opposing the war in the Balkans. Yes, that venerable website has been spitting at all the wars and other murderous thieving intrigues perpetrated by this Death State since, potentially, some of the interns who cobbled together The List were even fucking born. But it was itself born to oppose the Clintons, and for that it is verboten.

On a lighter note, please enjoy this spoof of The List by roasty, who makes his own list of Fed-paid actual fake-news sites to “watch out” for. He plucks from the original perhaps the most telling line: “Support them by subscribing, if you can!”

I always thought the goofy 80s movie about a Soviet invasion of the US, Red Dawn, appealed more to Republican types but it looks these days like it may be saved more on the liberal’s Netflix queue. That, and wide-open McCarthyism. The most threatening part of a Trump presidency may not be the man himself, but the newly, nakedly revealed fascism of his opposition. If they can’t be the Left, then nobody can.

UPDATE:

tldr version

If Putin Did Rig the US Election: Good

6ddc93b8-ebda-49f4-a1e9-5b8d878f9ae9-1394-000002d18293cd32_tmpFirst, liberals laughed at the idea that the election could be rigged. And since this is a woke blog yes of course every election is a sham meant to allow the plebs to let off steam while the real decisions are made far above the pay grade of mere mortals. But some embraced the idea that certain, eh, corrections were necessary to achieve the correct result. One commentator on my Facebook, during the dying embers of the Bernie battle after Clinton was anointed, said yes, this is what Our Party does — they assure results that will give us the most electable nominee. Of course, her personal, professional, lettered, Brooklyned self naturally thought Julia Caesar more electable than someone who was obviously warm and passionate and approachable and likeable as a human being in exactly the same way people said about George W. Bush — despite the fact that she was contradicted by actual fucking polls! (I remind the reader that George W. Bush was elected our 43rd president.) Then during the final phases of the debate cycle, I literally saw a comment from a professional-type asshole using ten-dollar words celebrating this ruling-class rigging, in praise of the Electoral College, and its role in protecting us from barbarians like Donald Trump — and thank goodness for that!

Now, well, it turned out that absolutely none of that was true and we now have Donald Trump, whom the Atlantic-readers told us could not win because thankfully the election is rigged in the proper way, as our president-elect. And after scrolling through Facebook these last couple days, I must admit that I couldn’t be happier.

Sure, some of the less sophisticated liberals are just howling at the moon, crying for the end of this barbarism called the Electoral College, because a vote of 50%+1 is actually so much more democratic and just. But some of the more erudite sore loser-ass bitches are actually calling for the EC to “do its job” and vote for Clinton as president. This is not what the Founders intended! bemoaned one writer friend. You’re right, they intended to protect their vast landholdings and literal ownership of this country and its ruling institutions and a good percentage of its inhabitants. They literally couldn’t imagine a future in which a homosexual travel writer would call on their ghosts to install a woman who actually turned the shores of Tripoli into a haven for headchopping pirates as president. I mean she’s VERY rich and like Thomas Jefferson also devastated Haiti through predatory economic policies but otherwise I think they’d probably disapprove and maybe go for the schmuck in the gold tower.

In any other setting we’d call this a tantrum, and a pretty incoherent one at that. Wahh, the EC was meant to prevent elections of bad men we don’t like, now let’s get rid of it and/or appeal to it to not do the job we just got finished saying is critical to the survival of democracy in a polity of crazies. Sure all of this comes from different actual people in my feed but it truly, honestly! to me illustrates the utter intellectual bankruptcy of liberalism as a political identity, the complete fraudulence of its claim on logical superiority.

Earlier today people were passing around a link to Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein’s attempt to collect millions of dollars to “ensure the integrity of elections” — basically, it’s a recount. And as if people weren’t already tapped dry despite this fabulous Obama recovery, they’re being asked to fund it themselves — and five million dollars has been collected! Maybe this is to appease those cosmopolitan Clintonites who might want to grab her pussy in new and terrifying ways. But it certainly does seem like even the great green hope is not only actually lesser-eviling us, she’s buying into the Cold War Russophobia. Coming back in from that Moscow cold. And fuck that.

President Putin himself has smarmily ridiculed, in most satisfying fashion, the very idea that Russia could sway a United States election.

“Does anyone seriously think that Russia can influence the choice of the American people? Is America some kind of banana republic? America is a great power. If I’m wrong, correct me.”

Now I do want to remind you that the alleged rig was done via hacking, liberation and dissemination of actual, true information about the clownishly disingenuous, war criminal Hillary Clinton. Nobody serious is actually talking about the direct hacking by Russia of the actual voting machines, just of unjust influence via enlightenment upon the lowly scum we allow into a small, usually meaningless part of our political process.

But I just want to say this loud and clear right now. If Vladimir Putin and Russia had anything at all to do with the successful rigging — the actual hacking of the vote tallies — of the elections of this rotten, disgusting country, nothing short of tripping over a big currency war-devalued sack of rubles would make me happier. Nothing. If for once someone hit back at the United States successfully, I as an anti-imperialist must only cheer, and that’s even if it were just in a vindictive, destructive fashion. But if Putin were worried, as many were, that Clinton would go to war with Russia starting in Syria, then Russians AND AMERICANS owe a huge debt of gratitude to this great leader of men. He has not only kicked the empire in the nuts, he has potentially saved his people, and us, from a disastrous conflict. Not to mention the crossfire that would certainly be primarily borne by the tortured citizens of the Middle East.

Vladimir Putin, my hero. Thank you for being better than the Electoral College ever could. Instead of disenfranchising yokels, you did it to the banks, the arms manufacturers, the tech and media conglomerates, the real-estate speculators. I don’t know what a Trump presidency will truly bring, but in this moment, right here in the afterglow of this amazing display of lulz such as to make Anonymous jealous, I thank and appreciate you.

Comrade.

Iraq Was Better Under Saddam

It’s amazing that 13 years after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath and that political party’s complete evisceration swiftly followed by the entire country itself, it is still taboo to consider the idea that maybe shit was just better before. Not for the first time, I’m in trouble for suggesting Iraq under “Saddam Insane” (90s kids!?) was not just a charnel house for his political enemies but simultaneously, and for many more people, it was the best thing that ever happened to them.

This is the third time I am using this title on a blog. The first, in 2005, was on an ancap website I ran that was the bane of the libertarian movement. It was an argument against crypto-Republicans who were very upset about another post I wrote, the subject of which is clear from the title: “A Grim Milestone: 159,000 Troops Remain Alive in Iraq.” (Would I take a different tack in my old age, probably.) In the comment section one of these Koch-funded think-tank brats attempted to quantify how many lives the US invasion “saved.”

“The Ba’athist regime averaged 60,000 Iraqi murders a year. During the past 3 years, 60,000 Iraqi civilians have died. Even if the majority of those civilians were killed by American troops (and I dare you to claim they are, really, I do), by my grim math that’s 40,000 civilians/year x 3 years = 120,000 civilians we’ve directly saved due to our invasion of Iraq.”

This utterly ludicrous comment prodded me into performing an uncharacteristic task: math.

(Stats — search for Iraq)

Human Rights Watch estimates that 290,000 Iraqis were killed by Saddam’s regime — EVER. That’s 24 years from 1979 to 2003. That’s 12,083 a year. The US Govt says 300,000. That’s 12,500 a year. Keep in mind that this includes 1991, right after the US told the Shi’ites and the Kurds “Go ahead and rebel, we’ll back you up.” They rebelled, they didn’t get backed up, and they were crushed. 60,000 Shi’ites were killed. That’ll teach them to trust the US. We also have no idea how many Ba’athist apparatchiks this includes — dictators routinely purge their ranks.

 

There is also some questioning of the 290K number — the Red Cross wouldn’t even back it up. From John Laughland: “Their report speaks of an estimated 290,000 missing, ‘many of whom are believed to have been killed.’ In other words, their deaths have not been established…”

 

Even current Iraqi politicians, who have an incentive to lie and exaggerate, say that Saddam killed a million people. That’s still 41,666 per year.

 

HRW even says “by the time of the March 2003 invasion, Saddam Hussein’s killing had ebbed.” By the time of the invasion, Saddam likely wasn’t killing much of anyone but major rivals and outspoken opponents, like Muqtada al-Sadr’s father. Certainly nothing like crushing rebellions. So in reality, the US has greatly accelerated the killing.

 

Pretty much all you had to do in Saddam’s Iraq was shut the hell up and mind your own business. Before sanctions, the economy was one of the best in the Arab world, women’s rights were light years ahead. That was before the US and UK bombed and sanctioned Iraq for 12 years, decimating the economy and causing at least a million to die due to malnutrition and limited access to basic drugs for easily-curable diseases. The US killed a million Iraqis before they ever stepped foot on that patch of dirt.

 

Add all this to the fact that the war is crushing the Iraqi economy, and that the insurgents are attacking precisely because the US is there, and you have a veritable holocaust — triggered by the United States of America. Furthermore, the insurgency is widely backed by the general population (or else it couldn’t exist). Journalists report civilians helping out, too. For example, a man who has lost a son to a trigger-happy hick will, after a long day of tending his date palms, plant a roadside bomb for US troops, and then head home to the rest of his devastated family.

 

The reason this is so important is because there are all kinds of people spouting off many different numbers, plenty of which seem to have come right out of their asses in an attempt to further demonize Saddam and make the US look like angels simply because they have killed less people. There are other factors to take into account, like the fact that the people who were killed by Saddam knew how to avoid it. They knew it was coming at some point (and just to preempt some of the simpleminded out there who think I’m praising Saddam — no, this did not make it okay). Saddam was the hurricane to the US earthquake.

 

The people killed by US troops and the insurgents attacking because of the former’s presence have absolutely no idea how or when or where they will be killed. The news is filled with stories about Baghdadis who never leave their house, and go out once a month on a militarily-planned run for food. I mean, this is great for concrete barrier and razor wire manufacturers, but I think most people familiar with the most basic economics know this puts the Iraqi economy squarely in the gutter — along with Iraqi life. Life under Saddam’s regime was immeasurably more enjoyable and normal than the complete disaster Iraqis are forced to suffer post-Saddam. Couples went on dates, women could wear what they wanted, bookstores had poetry readings at 2am, fine restaurants served gourmet cuisine, kids ran around the streets eating ice cream in the hot summers, and went home to their fully-electrified, air-conditioned home. It wasn’t London or Paris or New York by any stretch of the imagination, but it was infinitely more so than staunch US ally Riyadh. And that was WITH 12 years of sanctions that crushed Iraq’s poorest underfoot but which left Saddam unscathed.

I expanded a bit on this theme in 2011, mostly to gloat that I was right and to point out mainstream-media bias against the plain fact that Iraqis missed Ba’ath rule. I bring it up again because of an interaction I had with one of those cute young British soi-disant MENA experts who tweet a lot about places they’ve scarcely or never been.

saddam1

Despite this being quantifiably true, it’s extremely rude to say. Hafidh’s tweets really aren’t so bad, but it seems his parents are Iraqi so he’s not having any “revisionism.”

saddam2

There are a few other branches of the conversation, which you may explore, but they’re not important. I was taken right back to 2003 when to be against the overthrow of the Iraq government was to be the new Nazis.

An interesting discovery was, while looking a few things up for this post, I came across an article on the same subject which actually interviewed Hafidh on the arguments — from actual native Iraqis in Iraq — about whether or not Iraq was better off without Saddam.

“I wouldn’t refute for a minute the good that he did, in terms of infrastructure. Generally, in terms of gender equality, not bad,” said Hasan Hafidh…

Huh.

Absolutely nothing I say about Saddam Hussein is meant to forgive his administration’s horrors. But once again — through the prism of imperialism — one might understand why governments Westerners would consider “oppressive” do what they do. A case in point is this documentary from 1989. Iraq had already invaded Kuwait — that innocent gas-thieving, caste-based oiligarchy — and George Bush I was ready to launch the Gulf War.

It’s remarkable because the American filmmaker was so nakedly hostile to the idea that Iraq was a decent place to live. His subjects clearly considered his leading questions dumb. “Do you love Saddam Hussein?” he’d ask. They’d look confused and reply something to the effect of “Uh, what? We love his principles, this is an important distinction. He is just a man.” And yes, there was a noted hesitation so as to not say the incorrect thing on record, and Ba’ath Party minders were always following the film crew, but with an enemy like the United States and war on the horizon, it’s no wonder they were concerned about messaging.

Also notable: a few years before gay issues would get positive mainstream attention in the West after being drowned by the AIDS crisis, Saddam’s Iraq had a flamboyant homosexual nightclub owner and fashion designer partying it up in a downtown chain hotel without a care in the world. If “Israel” is “moral” in 2016 for its trivial gay-rights gestures, certainly 80s Baghdad should get some credit.

What struck me most was the interviewer’s obsession with free speech, and the Iraqis attempting to explain in poor English to this apparent moron that verbal expression isn’t all there is. To explain why a society under constant imperial attack may have to curtail certain freedoms that could undermine development under that juggernaut is a herculean task.

I wonder how many of those people survived the truly abject horrors of the next twenty-five years, brought to them by Enlightened Western Civilization.

Thanks to @galterwlass for the video link and Phil Greaves for help finding a link about development stats.

The Intercept Becomes Its Own Punchline in Weak War-Profiteer Exposés

Low-key Intercept hire Ken Silverstein has been writing a series of articles billed as exposés of war profiteering. Connecting these dots is always useful and interesting. But while I would love to read the dirty details of what beltway assholes got rich off Iraqi evisceration and Afghan obliteration, the series is kneecapped by a goofy lack of analytical awareness that pervades all of The Intercept’s coverage. And most of the pieces have little to do with war, aside from the fact that most of what Washington does is funded by the lucre siphoned off US foreign policy. Silverstein relies more on mild invective than establishing a real case and peppers his revelations with positively Greenwaldian smears, though he lacks his founding editor’s infamous piquancy.

An oceanfront Palm Beach penthouse is a sexy backdrop for former FBI chief Louis Freeh’s sliminess and greed. Freeh runs a consultancy that helps represent the naughty rich and connected, and Silverstein hinges his entire case against Freeh on the fact that his client Saudi Prince Bandar’s country was “home to fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers” and on that government’s “export of Wahhabism.” Everyone involved is scum. But Saudi Arabia is a US ally, acting in the interests of the very US foreign policy from which Freeh benefits. No aberration from the imperial playbook is noted. If all he’s got to pick on Bandar is that his country raised some bad people and has nasty policies, the national character of the US must be absolutely unmentionable. And lo, it somehow always is.

In another smack at Freeh, we’re meant to be outraged at his involvement in defending an Israeli billionaire — the first time we’ve seen the word used with an implied negative connotation at The Intercept? — on bribery charges. The entire article is about the accused, capped only by a schmucky assurance that “Freeh could be just the right guy to exonerate” his client.

When former head of the CIA George Tenet comes up, with his four million-dollar book deal and $200,000 salary, we’re treated to his list of “failures” that are apparently supposed to make us shake our heads in disbelief.

As head of the CIA, he missed multiple signs of a major Al Qaeda attack directed against the United States,

The CIA is supposed to protect us!

called the case against Saddam building Weapons of Mass Destruction a “slam dunk,”

Um, is this not an article on how war has made certain people very very rich?

and approved the Bush administration’s torturing of terror suspects.

Torture is no good for information-gathering that would have, say, helped the CIA protect us from those dirty Saudis. But it’s actually great for sowing terror among your enemies and subjects, a thing the government spends a hell of a lot of money to do.

And yet, Silverstein thinks that “in any fair world Tenet would be tried for criminal incompetence.”

The idea that Tenet has somehow not done precisely what was expected of him echoes back through the evidence against Freeh. He “botched” cases against America’s enemies! Can you believe he’s so rich! Ken Silverstein can’t. What would the Founding Fathers say about letting Wen Ho Lee get away with betraying Washington’s nuclear dominance? The guy was “asleep at the wheel” of the FBI, that other heroic defender of American liberty.

Silverstein’s latest piece summarizes how House staffer cum lobbyist Stephen Rademaker and his wife, AEI apparatchik Danielle Pletka, double-team the foreign-policy establishment for the big bucks that pay for their 6,000+ square-foot suburban DC spread. It’s gross, but this is classic revolving-door shit. You can tune into Rachel Maddow for more of that. In noting Rademaker drafted the legislation that created the Dept. of Homeland Security, Silverstein says the agency is “now widely regarded as the most dysfunctional part of the federal government.” I thought this was supposed to be a series on how war profiteering makes connected people wealthy. In what way is DHS “dysfunctional” in this equation?

Freeh’s penthouse, by the way, isn’t connected to the War on Terror, but to his involvement in the Penn State child molestation scandal. In fact, Silverstein’s story is really just about how connected officials move on to well-remunerated gigs in their post-official lives, which is true of them all, not just ones who ran war-connected bureaucracies.

More pieces, like this one full of details on the rise of political consultant Jim Messina and another on the very unethical ethics professor Robert Deitz, fit the Intercept pattern of pointing out the alleged hypocrisy of a system that promotes the scum of the earth to lofty positions.

Ultimately, it’s a briefer, less interesting rehash of the much more exhaustive work others have done showing the murky web of neocon operatives, their foreign elite co-conspirators, multinational corporations, and the US government and the death and destruction that feeds this machine. In that way it’s typical of all Intercept coverage: Greenwaldized reblogs of things already covered elsewhere, lots of dry facts recited in lengthy articles with unsubstantive conclusions and no important impact.

Neh.

But perhaps the punchline is when Silverstein described his investigatory visit to Messina’s corporate trust-owned house. He took with him on that trip The Intercept‘s new editor, Sharon Weinberger, whose shilling for the military-industrial complex puts some of these other guys to shame. Maybe she gets a pass from Silverstein since so far the only riches she seems to have been gifted is the helm of a publication whose main product is self-unaware mountebankery.

The Agency

Here’s a cool conspiracy theory: writers are purposely injecting popular left discourse with a perverted interpretation of the concept of “agency.” And I don’t mean in university settings but more democratic spaces like Twitter. It’s being used by ostensible lefts only in service to US foreign policy and never in opposition.

Agency is “the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices.” Typically, however, this is considered against the problem of Structure: “those factors of influence (such as social class, religion, gender, ethnicity, customs, etc.) that determine or limit an agent and his or her decisions.” Playing up agency while ignoring structure is associated with the political right. That’s why it’s been surprising to see this tendency among left-identifying figures.

An example of right-wing playing up of agency is when my Fox-watching dad complains, for instance, that black people “know better” and slavery and Jim Crow and the drug war “aren’t an excuse.” It’s The Liberals who are actually racist (by denying agency), not those who think “criminals” (stealing and dealing for sustenance, sabotage against class enemies, expressions of righteous anger are included) are “responsible for their own acts.” In this flavor — the kind most modestly educated people would recognize — this usage loses its humanist luster.

And like the usage the country’s conservative boobs favor, the kind wielded by those we like to call the Celebrity Left is being twisted to serve a system that systematically denies people their agency.

Now… I normally wouldn’t ascribe to mendacity what I could pin on naiveté — maybe I should start doing that — but the remarkable frequency of Vice contributor Molly Crabapple’s smug non sequiturs over the last year poking fun at the very idea of CIA involvement in her crew’s messaging at least forces me to mention it. Not ONE instance of “CIA” in her feed is serious. At least her homie, Danny Gold, is willing to entertain CIA involvement in, well, anything. Journalists, especially foreign correspondents (Crabapple went to Syria for a minute one time) are often suspected of being actual spies and more commonly, handlers and assets. It’s a rather pervasive phenomenon, as Carl Bernstein — not a crank — documented in 1977. It ain’t that implausible of a charge, especially if your messaging seems useful to power. For the record, the CIA is not simply rumored to have been involved in an unknowable number of plots around the world, that is its actual openly admitted purpose. The CIA, obviously, engages in psychological operations. Even David Graeber seems loose with his suspicions as long as the same isn’t done with him.

In fact, I noticed a lot of “agency” (lol) talk when Ukraine was being backhoed by the international democracy machine earlier this year. I had only a faint idea of who Crabapple even was at that point; in my mind she was a radical definitely opposed to empire. I realize now I probably only had this perception because it’s her very specific branding. This is why I was surprised to see her “fuck yeah“-ing the release of the criminal former prime minister of Ukraine and making fun of those honestly curious about Greenwald sugar daddy Pierre Omidyar’s role in helping finance the latest USAID color revolution.
c

When I told her she was glorifying US foreign policy objectives and her “dismissing discussion of billionaires co-funding US foreign policy objectives is profoundly, proudly reactionary” she began her “agency” spiel:

Bonus: Tarzie never loses an opportunity to be prescient:

It’s not like anyone against whom the concept is rhetorically weaponized has argued the poor/minorities/workers/foreigners are not capable of identifying their interests and acting to satisfy them. It’s that we have an international juggernaut with almost literally all the money in the world behind it and a propaganda machine that has most people under its direct control — and many in its indirect control — believing its actions are righteous. Workers can strike — against a ruling-class owned asset. The Third World can organize a defense — against the ruling class’s war machine and massively destructive deployment of capital. We’re defined by our position relative to capital and the war machine. We’re too deep in the hole to just think positive.

Know who also has agency? The people who run the empire. Which is also the structure. So.

To establish a bit of perspective, here’s a map of countries in which the US has intervened just since WWII, often disastrously, despite these nations being populated by literally billions of agency-having human beings!

interventions_map[1]

From William Blum’s Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, 2004

That’s a pretty bloody map. The US military and CIA are responsible for millions of casualties, the installation of dictatorships, and the gutting of totally agency-born democratic revolutionary processes throughout this period in one-third of the countries of the planet. That’s not a theory.

All this “agency” talk leads very cynically into the quaint notion of “blowback.” The idea that “terrorism” exists solely because the US has predictably provoked it, that it has poked at masses of drooling animals and they have responded the only way they know how: extreme, senseless violence and oppression. This ignores that these “savages” nonetheless form focused militancies with specific goals. Yes, the US did “help” create the Islamic State but not in the “oops” way — it literally armed and financed either itself or through proxies organized groups of killers who have acted in ways probably not specifically predicted by the empire but whose actions will certainly benefit it in some way or another once it’s figured out how to profit from them. And it usually does. It’s happening now in Syria, and is ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the idea that these groups are deliberately promoted and often even created by Western and allied intelligence agencies is bizarrely dismissed as a denial of agency. Are we questioning that Muslims are capable of forming horrifying death-cults in hairtrigger response to previous “bad” interventions? Racist. Orientalist.

When this endless slaughter industry results in a handful of imperial citizen casualties this shouldn’t be looked at as “blowback,” a misnomer at best, or even a cost of doing business. A smattering of American deaths are so useful for the perpetuation of the machine. The ruling class is only strengthened. It is the structure.

Satire-forever-collapsing-into-itself Aaron Bady, on the question of whether we should destroy Libya, figured in 2011 that since our opinions don’t matter — and this is of course true — he’ll opine that hey Obama was probably right on this one, guys. Gadhafi was a real stinker, killing political opponents in his own country. In America, we brainwash our opponents and save the slaughter for people who don’t hold G8 passports. He spent 5,500 words gnawing on the reasons why the left might oppose intervention; the only one he doesn’t consider is that of principled anti-imperialism. It’s a tactic later taken up by David Graeber — who also supported attacking Libya — on “helping” the Kurdish revolutionaries in splintered Syria.

But all actions we might consider “imperial” are not equal, as Bady argued. When Gadhafi invests in infrastructure in Chad — even though it seems like a dick move to have it bear his name — it is still an anti-imperialist action. When Chávez funds political movements in Bolivia — even though they serve to reinforce his influence on the continent — this is still anti-imperialist action. This is because all of this is done in the face of the biggest imperial force: The West, The Empire. Washington and its closest, most murderous allies such as the UK and France are omnipresent, their roots snaking through the soils and breaking the pavements of almost literally every single country on the face of the earth. The kind of left that equates Russian state funding of RT America with Soros funding of “civil society” organizations in Georgia is not serious about even talking in opposition to the ideology that allows the West to remain astride the world’s peoples.

None of this implies anti-imperialist actions can’t be objectionable even to those who oppose the empire. I’m not a fan of revolutionary terror or liquidation of political opponents or even political imprisonment and I’d probably think that even if, as an anarchist, I weren’t among those who are usually first against the wall. But if the Cuban government puts away people who, even if they don’t intend to, are subverting anti-imperialist policies, it’s because they coincide with Washington’s goals. And if the United States has proven anything over the last 60+ years, it’s that its goals are to completely fucking destroy any Cuban system not within the firm grasp of the ruling classes. That is, it’s a reaction to empire. We all have agency, yeah, but outside forces — structure — shape our ability to fully express it.

The origins of this crap don’t matter, though apparently this twisting of the valid concept of agency made its way into pop leftism from philosopher Pascal Bruckner via Slavoj Zizek. What really interests me is a discussion of who gains when we look to our rulers for the solutions to the problems of being ruled. Which system is cemented? I think asking the question is answering it. Whether they mean to or not, the Celebrity Left is doing the empire’s propaganda work. That means they’re the structure. They’re denying agency.

I mean.

Thanks to @RedKahina for her nonstop unpacking of imperial garbage and Tarzie for his help with research and general encouragement. Big credit to @PhilGreaves for providing many more examples of how “agency” is used to undermine anti-imperialist and revolutionary narratives.

UPDATE

I highly recommend Tarzie’s comment offering more “agency” blather from the usual suspects, including The Intercept‘s Maz Hussain, Omidyar acolyte Jillian York, and even Tom Friedman. Yes that one!

UPDATE 2

Jillian York has pointed out below that she regrets her defense of Omidyar and has changed her thinking on “taking US money.”

UPDATE 3

An excellent and much more in-depth riff on “agency” from @aseriesofpoints

“I think it’s important to clarify that liberals don’t really believe in agency; what they mean by agency is the people affecting situations without necessarily changing structures.”

The ‘Courage’ of No Convictions

There’s a certain tactic I’ve noticed lately of writers making seemingly profound pronouncements but concluding with vague, difficult to categorize conclusions. This then allows them to easily slither away from being pinned down to a position when called out. It’s probably present in all political strains but I’m most concerned with its appearance among writers who position themselves as representative of the left.

Many people find the ally or enemy they need in Glenn Greenwald, almost regardless of what he says or does. I’ll leave analysis of the Snowden show to those more adept, but the schtick involved in that spectacle is being copied by satellite lefties perhaps inspired by Greenwald’s success in leveraging essentially toothless dissent. Occupy-emergent artist Molly Crabapple can call for a No-Fly Zone in Syria and then in the same breath deny she advocates bombing, or write an article describing – adeptly! – the horrors of American policing and end it with a literal joke of a “solution.”

The past week treated us to another Occupy celebrity, “Anarchy Dad” David Graeber, berating the “world” — by which he means the “international left” — for “ignoring the plight of the revolutionary Kurds” in Rojava, Syrian Kurdistan, in their fight against the Islamic State (IS). The solipsistic scolding (“I feel it’s incumbent on me, as someone who grew up in a family whose politics were in many ways defined by the Spanish revolution”) is framed within his own father’s commitment to the fight against Spanish fascists in the 30s. Since the piece was devoid of a prescription, the Twitter left scratched its collective head.

The real fun came when Graeber, taken to task on Twitter, doubled down on his vagueness. He accused critics who saw his open-ended article as a pro-US intervention argument of being motivated by a desire for “moral purity“. Graeber, a professor, blocks people for the slightest criticism and then continues to talk at them — often through intermediaries and tag-teaming — while shutting down the opportunity to respond. Even linking to the humorous petition to send the courageous prof to defend the Kurds in a tank himself was met with pre-blocking.

“Can someone explain to that guy that it’s not NATO that’s aiding defenders of Kobane?” Graeber begged one of his wingmen. Right, it’s something he called the “coalition,” coincidentally (or not) the whitewashy, “Allies”-invoking label the US gave its partners in the invasion of Iraq.

Other voices used the same “I’m not saying, I’m just saying” argument for the same ends. Kerem Nisancioglu, yet another Occupy kiddie, issued his own condemnation of the Western left. Through successive Twitter exchanges, he also refused to come out and say what precisely he’s advocating, accused the left of denying Kurdish agency, and like Graeber, said the Kurds know better than the Western left how to “deal with” imperialism. When I pointed out recent history has shown them to actually not be able to handle the empire, the conversation ended. Malcolm Harris, known for having been arrested during Occupy, parroted the same arguments but took it into the clouds when he unironically said he thinks communism will defeat the empire in Rojava. Welp.

The argument against “helping” the Kurds by advocating US action is based in the critique of imperialism. It’s not about “purity,” but perspective. Yes, it’s very nice that the PKK are now devotees of Murray Bookchin, I guess. This is no reason to support an imperial action nominally in their favor. The empire wants the Kurds defended at this point in time and is dead-set on an apparently independent Kurdistan. Neither of those things are bad, but if Washington’s media and diplomatic assets are pulling for bombing for Kobane and a free Kurdistan, you can bet they’re not going to just set all that up and walk away, allowing Kurds to then somehow dismantle the empire. Someone who calls himself an anarchist should be suspicious of further US involvement, especially on the military front. If you’re allied with the likes of Anne-Marie Slaughter and the foreign policy establishment, you may want to rethink your analysis. Or quit fronting.

Effective solutions have got to be outside of imperial action, and there may exist a potential rainbow of them outside the very narrow range of just dropping some fucking bombs. A left academia that can’t look outside the lines drawn by the ruling class is, well, even less important to a movement against war and capitalism than even I thought.

I think this tendency to so verbosely make no argument, offer no prescription, is a product of academia. Who else would spend so many words saying jack shit and think it would inspire the masses? I have to assume vagueness is hiding brand-inappropriate opinions like that the US should bomb Syria to save socialism. This is the kind of shit the left should sneer at, not debate. Three years after the destruction of Libya, you have to conclude Graeber, who supported that crime, actually agrees with US foreign policy.

The idea that Occupy didn’t have to have a specific list of demands was a good one; it was enough that people learned to protest again, that they could even simply vent their anger in a public way. But you can’t credibly make a “no demands” style of argument, even if you are a patron saint of Occupy. Especially if it serves an imperial narrative.

For the record, while the wider world may not have been aware of the Kurdish communes, plenty on the left were. In August, ROAR devoted 3300 words to the Rojava Kurds’ philosophical evolution and organizational structure. Two whole years ago, Danny Gold of Vice — read, if not loved, by many radicals — wrote all about the Kurdish popular militia known as the YPG and, interestingly, how they didn’t need anybody’s help. Graeber’s problem is, unlike the Spanish anarchists calling on his dad’s generation, many of us don’t think calling our Uncle Sam is a good solution.

The US did end up bombing more IS targets, ostensibly aiding the YPG in defense of the city of Kobane. We can’t know if the Kurds could have swung it themselves. Would their fierce sisters and brothers from Turkish and Iraqi territories have come to their aid? It seems probable, and the war ain’t won yet.

UPDATE

I came across this today, from March. Click the date to open the full thread.

Crabapple was the first I saw of this hanging every argument on some imperial victim’s “agency.” What’s the origin of this particular shitty tactic?