to the United States in an election year, I am struck by the silence.
I have covered four presidential campaigns, starting with 1968; I was
with Robert Kennedy when he was shot and I saw his assassin,
preparing to kill him. It was a baptism in the American way, along
with the salivating violence of the Chicago police at the Democratic
Party’s rigged convention. The great counter revolution had begun.
first to be assassinated that year, Martin Luther King, had dared
link the suffering of African-Americans and the people of Vietnam.
When Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing
left to lose”, she spoke perhaps unconsciously for millions of
America’s victims in faraway places.
lost 58,000 young soldiers in Vietnam, and they died defending your
freedom. Now don’t you forget it.” So said a National Parks
Service guide as I filmed last week at the Lincoln Memorial in
Washington. He was addressing a school party of young teenagers in
bright orange T-shirts. As if by rote, he inverted the truth about
Vietnam into an unchallenged lie.
millions of Vietnamese who died and were maimed and poisoned and
dispossessed by the American invasion have no historical place in
young minds, not to mention the estimated 60,000 veterans who took
their own lives. A friend of mine, a marine who became a paraplegic
in Vietnam, was often asked, “Which side did you fight on?”
few years ago, I attended a popular exhibition called “The Price of
Freedom” at the venerable Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
The lines of ordinary people, mostly children shuffling through a
Santa’s grotto of revisionism, were dispensed a variety of lies:
the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved “a million
lives”; Iraq was “liberated [by] air strikes of unprecedented
precision”. The theme was unerringly heroic: only Americans pay the
price of freedom.
2016 election campaign is remarkable not only for the rise of Donald
Trump and Bernie Sanders but also for the resilience of an enduring
silence about a murderous self-bestowed divinity. A third of the
members of the United Nations have felt Washington’s boot,
overturning governments, subverting democracy, imposing blockades and
boycotts. Most of the presidents responsible have been liberal –
Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama.
breathtaking record of perfidy is so mutated in the public mind,
wrote the late Harold Pinter, that it “never happened …Nothing
ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It
didn’t matter. It was of no interest. It didn’t matter … “.
Pinter expressed a mock admiration for what he called “a quite
clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a
force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly
successful act of hypnosis.”
Obama. As he prepares to leave office, the fawning has begun all over
again. He is “cool”. One of the more violent presidents, Obama
gave full reign to the Pentagon war-making apparatus of his
discredited predecessor. He prosecuted more whistleblowers –
truth-tellers – than any president. He pronounced Chelsea Manning
guilty before she was tried. Today, Obama runs an unprecedented
worldwide campaign of terrorism and murder by drone.
2009, Obama promised to help “rid the world of nuclear weapons”
and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. No American president has
built more nuclear warheads than Obama. He is “modernising”
America’s doomsday arsenal, including a new “mini” nuclear
weapon, whose size and “smart” technology, says a leading
general, ensure its use is “no longer unthinkable”.
Bradley, the best-selling author of Flags of Our Fathers and son of
one of the US marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima, said, “[One]
great myth we’re seeing play out is that of Obama as some kind of
peaceful guy who’s trying to get rid of nuclear weapons. He’s the
biggest nuclear warrior there is. He’s committed us to a ruinous
course of spending a trillion dollars on more nuclear weapons.
Somehow, people live in this fantasy that because he gives vague news
conferences and speeches and feel-good photo-ops that somehow that’s
attached to actual policy. It isn’t.”
Obama’s watch, a second cold war is under way. The Russian
president is a pantomime villain; the Chinese are not yet back to
their sinister pig-tailed caricature – when all Chinese were banned
from the United States – but the media warriors are working on it.
Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders has mentioned any of this. There
is no risk and no danger for the United States and all of us. For
them, the greatest military build-up on the borders of Russia since
World War Two has not happened. On May 11, Romania went “live”
with a Nato “missile defence” base that aims its first-strike
American missiles at the heart of Russia, the world’s second
Asia, the Pentagon is sending ships, planes and special forces to the
Philippines to threaten China. The US already encircles China with
hundreds of military bases that curve in an arc up from Australia, to
Asia and across to Afghanistan. Obama calls this a “pivot”.
a direct consequence, China reportedly has changed its nuclear
weapons policy from no-first-use to high alert and put to sea
submarines with nuclear weapons. The escalator is quickening.
was Hillary Clinton who, as Secretary of State in 2010, elevated the
competing territorial claims for rocks and reef in the South China
Sea to an international issue; CNN and BBC hysteria followed; China
was building airstrips on the disputed islands. In its mammoth war
game in 2015, Operation Talisman Sabre, the US practiced “choking”
the Straits of Malacca through which pass most of China’s oil and
trade. This was not news.
declared that America had a “national interest” in these Asian
waters. The Philippines and Vietnam were encouraged and bribed to
pursue their claims and old enmities against China. In America,
people are being primed to see any Chinese defensive position as
offensive, and so the ground is laid for rapid escalation. A similar
strategy of provocation and propaganda is applied to Russia.
the “women’s candidate”, leaves a trail of bloody coups: in
Honduras, in Libya (plus the murder of the Libyan president) and
Ukraine. The latter is now a CIA theme park swarming with Nazis and
the frontline of a beckoning war with Russia. It was through Ukraine
– literally, borderland — that Hitler’s Nazis invaded the
Soviet Union, which lost 27 million people. This epic catastrophe
remains a presence in Russia. Clinton’s presidential campaign has
received money from all but one of the world’s ten biggest arms
companies. No other candidate comes close.
the hope of many young Americans, is not very different from Clinton
in his proprietorial view of the world beyond the United States. He
backed Bill Clinton’s illegal bombing of Serbia. He supports
Obama’s terrorism by drone, the provocation of Russia and the
return of special forces (death squads) to Iraq. He has nothing to
say on the drumbeat of threats to China and the accelerating risk of
nuclear war. He agrees that Edward Snowden should stand trial and he
calls Hugo Chavez – like him, a social democrat – “a dead
communist dictator”. He promises to support Clinton if she is
election of Trump or Clinton is the old illusion of choice that is no
choice: two sides of the same coin. In scapegoating minorities and
promising to “make America great again”, Trump is a far
right-wing domestic populist; yet the danger of Clinton may be more
lethal for the world.
Donald Trump has said anything meaningful and critical of US foreign
policy,” wrote Stephen Cohen, emeritus professor of Russian History
at Princeton and NYU, one of the few Russia experts in the United
States to speak out about the risk of war.
a radio broadcast, Cohen referred to critical questions Trump alone
had raised. Among them: why is the United States “everywhere on the
globe”? What is NATO’s true mission? Why does the US always
pursue regime change in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine? Why does
Washington treat Russia and Vladimir Putin as an enemy?
hysteria in the liberal media over Trump serves an illusion of “free
and open debate” and “democracy at work”. His views on
immigrants and Muslims are grotesque, yet the deporter-in-chief of
vulnerable people from America is not Trump but Obama, whose betrayal
of people of colour is his legacy: such as the warehousing of a
mostly black prison population, now more numerous than Stalin’s
presidential campaign may not be about populism but American
liberalism, an ideology that sees itself as modern and therefore
superior and the one true way. Those on its right wing bear a
likeness to 19th century Christian imperialists, with a God-given
duty to convert or co-opt or conquer.
Britain, this is Blairism. The Christian war criminal Tony Blair got
away with his secret preparation for the invasion of Iraq largely
because the liberal political class and media fell for his “cool
Britannia”. In the Guardian, the applause was deafening; he was
called “mystical”. A distraction known as identity politics,
imported from the United States, rested easily in his care.
was declared over, class was abolished and gender promoted as
feminism; lots of women became New Labour MPs. They voted on the
first day of Parliament to cut the benefits of single parents, mostly
women, as instructed. A majority voted for an invasion that produced
700,000 Iraqi widows.
equivalent in the US are the politically correct warmongers on the
New York Times, the Washington Post and network TV who dominate
political debate. I watched a furious debate on CNN about Trump’s
infidelities. It was clear, they said, a man like that could not be
trusted in the White House. No issues were raised. Nothing on the 80
per cent of Americans whose income has collapsed to 1970s levels.
Nothing on the drift to war. The received wisdom seems to be “hold
your nose” and vote for Clinton: anyone but Trump. That way, you
stop the monster and preserve a system gagging for another war.