Monday, February 27, 2017

Minding Canada's War Business

Can Canada Get Out of the War Business?

by David Swanson's Blog


February 27, 2017

Canada is becoming a major weapons dealer, a reliable accomplice in U.S. wars, and a true believer in “humanitarian” armed peacekeeping as a useful response to all the destruction fueled by the weapons dealing.

William Geimer’s Canada: The Case for Staying Out of Other People’s Wars is an excellent antiwar book, useful to anyone seeking to understand or abolish war anywhere on earth. But it happens to be written from a Canadian perspective of possibly particular value to Canadians and residents of other NATO countries, including being valuable right now as Trumpolini demands of them increased investment in the machinery of death.

By “other people’s wars” Geimer means to indicate Canada’s role as subservient to leading war-maker the United States, and historically Canada’s similar position toward Britain. But he also means that the wars Canada fights in do not involve actually defending Canada. So, it’s worth noting that they don’t involve actually defending the United States either, serving rather to endanger the nation leading them. Whose wars are they?

Geimer’s well-researched accounts of the Boer war, the world wars, Korea, and Afghanistan are as good a depiction of horror and absurdity, as good a debunking of glorification, as you’ll find.

It’s unfortunate then that Geimer holds out the possibility of a proper Canadian war, proposes that the Responsibility to Protect need merely be used properly to avoid “abuses” like Libya, recounts the usual pro-war tale about Rwanda, and depicts armed peacekeeping as something unlike war all together. “How,” Geimer asks, “did Canada in Afghanistan slip from actions consistent with one vision, to those of its opposite?” I’d suggest that one answer might be: by supposing that sending armed troops into a country to occupy it can be the opposite of sending armed troops into a country to occupy it.

But Geimer also proposes that no mission that will result in the killing of a single civilian be undertaken, a rule that would completely abolish war. In fact, spreading understanding of the history that Geimer’s book recounts would likely accomplish that same end.

World War I, which has now reached its centennial, is apparently a myth of origins in Canada in something of the way that World War II marks the birth of the United States in U.S. entertainment. Rejecting World War I can, therefore, be of particular value. Canada is also searching for world recognition for its contributions to militarism, according to Geimer’s analysis, in a way that the U.S. government could really never bring itself to give a damn what anyone else thinks. This suggests that recognizing Canada for pulling out of wars or for helping to ban landmines or for sheltering U.S. conscientious objectors (and refugees from U.S. bigotry), while shaming Canada for participating in U.S. crimes, may have an impact.

While Geimer recounts that propaganda surrounding both world wars claimed that Canadian participation would be defensive, he rightly rejects those claims as having been ludicrous. Geimer otherwise has very little to say about the propaganda of defensiveness, which I suspect is much stronger in the United States. While U.S. wars are now pitched as humanitarian, that selling point alone never garners majority U.S. public support. Every U.S. war, even attacks on unarmed nations halfway around the earth, is sold as defensive or not successfully sold at all. This difference suggests to me a couple of possibilities.

First, the U.S. thinks of itself as under threat because it has generated so much anti-U.S. sentiment around the world by means of all of its “defensive” wars. Canadians should contemplate what sort of an investment in bombings and occupations it would take for them to generate anti-Canadian terrorist groups and ideologies on the U.S. scale, and whether they would then double down in response, fueling a vicious cycle of investment in “defense” against what all the “defense” is generating.

Second, there is perhaps less risked and more to be gained in taking Canadian war history and its relationship with the U.S. military a bit further back in time. If Donald Trump’s face won’t do it, perhaps remembrance of U.S. wars gone by will help sway Canadians against their government’s role as U.S. poodle.

Six-years after the British landing at Jamestown, with the settlers struggling to survive and hardly managing to get their own local genocide underway, these new Virginians hired mercenaries to attack Acadia and (fail to) drive the French out of what they considered their continent. The colonies that would become the United States decided to take over Canada in 1690 (and failed, again). They got the British to help them in 1711 (and failed, yet again).

General Braddock and Colonel Washington tried again in 1755 (and still failed, except in the ethnic cleansing perpetrated and the driving out of the Acadians and the Native Americans).

The British and U.S. attacked in 1758 and took away a Canadian fort, renamed it Pittsburgh, and eventually built a giant stadium across the river dedicated to the glorification of ketchup.

George Washington sent troops led by Benedict Arnold to attack Canada yet again in 1775. An early draft of the U.S. Constitution provided for the inclusion of Canada, despite Canada’s lack of interest in being included. Benjamin Franklin asked the British to hand Canada over during negotiations for the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Just imagine what that might have done for Canadian healthcare and gun laws! Or don’t imagine it.

Britain did hand over Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana. In 1812 the U.S. proposed to march into Canada and be welcomed as liberators. The U.S. supported an Irish attack on Canada in 1866.

Remember this song?

Secession first he would put down
Wholly and forever,
And afterwards from Britain’s crown
He Canada would sever.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up,Yankee Doodle dandy.
Mind the music and the step
and with the girls be handy!

Canada, in Geimer’s account, has lacked ambition to dominate the globe through empire. This makes ending its militarism quite a different matter, I suspect, from doing the same in the United States. The problems of profit, corruption, and propaganda remain, but the ultimate defense of war that always emerges in the United States when those other motives are defeated may not be there in Canada. In fact, by going to war on a U.S. leash, Canada makes itself servile.

Canada entered the world wars before the U.S. did, and was part of the provocation of Japan that brought the U.S. into the second one. But since then, Canada has been aiding the United States openly and secretly, providing first and foremost “coalition” support from the “international community.” Officially, Canada stayed out of wars between Korea and Afghanistan, since which point it has been joining in eagerly. But to maintain that claim requires ignoring all sorts of war-participation under the banner of the United Nations or NATO, including in Vietnam, Yugoslavia, and Iraq.

Canadians must be proud that when their prime minister mildly criticized the war on Vietnam, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson reportedly grabbed him by the lapel, lifted him off the ground, and shouted “You pissed on my rug!” The Canadian prime minister, on the model of the guy Dick Cheney would later shoot in the face, apologized to Johnson for the incident.

Now the U.S. government is building up hostility toward Russia, and it was in Canada in 2014 that Prince Charles compared Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. What course will Canada take? The possibility exists of Canada offering the United States a moral and legal and practical Icelandic, Costa Rican example of a wiser way just north of the border. If the peer pressure provided by Canada’s healthcare system is any guide, a Canada that had moved beyond war would not by itself end U.S. militarism, but it would create a debate over doing so. That would be a continental step ahead of where we are now.

Hard Right Choices: War and Nothing Else According to Trump Budget

The Choice Trump’s Budget Creates

by David Swanson - World Beyond War


February 27, 2017

Trump proposes to increase U.S. military spending by $54 billion, and to take that $54 billion out of the other portions of the above budget, including in particular, he says, foreign aid.

To take $54 billion out of foreign aid, you would have to cut foreign aid by approximately 200 percent.

Alternative math!


But let’s not focus on the $54 billion. The blue section above (in the 2015 budget) is already 54% of discretionary spending (that is, 54% of all the money that the U.S. government chooses what to do with every year). It’s already 60% if you add in Veterans’ Benefits. (We should take care of everyone, of course, but we wouldn’t have to take care of amputations and brain injuries from wars if we stopped having the wars.) Trump wants to shift another 5% to the military, boosting that total to 65%.

Now I’d like to show you a ski slope that Denmark is opening on the roof of a clean power plant — a clean power plant that cost 0.06% of Trump’s military budget.

Trump’s pretense that he’s going to just screw the no-good foreigners by taking $54 billion out of foreign aid is misleading on many levels. First, that kind of money just isn’t there. Second, foreign aid actually makes the United States safer, unlike all the “defense” spending that endangers us. Third, the $700 billion that Trump wants to borrow and blow on militarism every year would not only get us close in 8 years to wasting directly (without considering missed opportunities, interest payments, etc.) the same $6 trillion that Trump laments blowing on recent failed wars (unlike his imaginary successful wars), but that same $700 billion is more than enough to transform domestic and foreign spending alike.

It would cost about $30 billion per year to end starvation and hunger around the world. It would cost about $11 billion per year to provide the world with clean water. These are massive projects, but these costs as projected by the United Nations are tiny fractions of U.S. military spending. This is why the top way in which military spending kills is not with any weapon, but purely through the diversion of resources.

For similar fractions of military spending, the United States could radically improve U.S. lives in each of those other areas in that pie chart. What would you say to free, top-quality education for anyone who wants it from preschool through college, plus free job-training as needed in career changes? Would you object to free clean energy? Free fast trains to everywhere? Beautiful parks? These are not wild dreams. These are the sorts of things you can have for this kind of money, money that radically dwarfs the money hoarded by billionaires.

If those sorts of things were provided equally to all, without any bureaucracy needed to distinguish the worthy from the unworthy, popular opposition to them would be minimal. And so might be opposition to foreign aid.

U.S. foreign aid right now is about $25 billion a year. Taking it up to $100 billion would have a number of interesting impacts, including the saving of a great many lives and the prevention of a tremendous amount of suffering. It would also, if one other factor were added, make the nation that did it the most beloved nation on earth. A December 2014 Gallup poll of 65 nations found that the United States was far and away the most feared country, the country considered the largest threat to peace in the world. Were the United States responsible for providing schools and medicine and solar panels, the idea of anti-American terrorist groups would be as laughable as anti-Switzerland or anti-Canada terrorist groups, especially if one other factor were added: if the $100 billion came from the military budget. People don’t appreciate the schools you give them as much if you’re bombing them.

Instead of investing in all good things, foreign and domestic, Trump is proposing to cut them in order to invest in war. New Haven, Connecticut, just passed a resolution urging Congress to reduce the military budget, cut spending on wars and move funds to human needs. Every town, county, and city should be passing a similar resolution.

If people stopped dying in war, we would all still die of war spending.

War is not needed in order to maintain our lifestyle, as the saying goes. And wouldn’t that be reprehensible if it were true? We imagine that for 4 percent of humanity to go on using 30 percent of the world’s resources we need war or the threat of war. But the earth has no shortage of sunlight or wind. Our lifestyles can be improved with less destruction and less consumption. Our energy needs must be met in sustainable ways, or we will destroy ourselves, with or without war. That’s what’s meant by unsustainable.

So, why continue an institution of mass killing in order to prolong the use of exploitative behaviors that will ruin the earth if war doesn’t do it first? Why risk the proliferation of nuclear and other catastrophic weapons in order to continue catastrophic impacts on the earth’s climate and ecosystems?

Isn’t it time we made a choice: war or everything else?

What's Feeding Freeland's Russia Animus?

A Nazi Skeleton in the Family Closet

by Arina Tsukanova  - Consortium News


February 27, 2017

On Jan. 10, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau replaced Foreign Minister Stephane Dion with Chrystia Freeland, a former journalist proud of her Ukrainian roots and well-known for her hostility toward Russia. At the time, a big question in Ottawa was why. Some analysts believed that Trudeau’s decision may have started when it still seemed likely that Hillary Clinton would become the new U.S. president and a tough line against Moscow was expected in Washington.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland

However, by the time the switch was made, Donald Trump was on his way into the White House and Trudeau’s choice meant that Canada was allying itself more with the mounting hostility toward Russia inside the European Union than with President Trump’s hopes for a more cooperative relationship with the Kremlin. With Freeland running Canada’s Foreign Ministry, the chance for a shared view between Ottawa and Washington suddenly seemed remote.

People who have followed Freeland’s career were aware that her idée fixe for decades has been that Ukraine must be ripped out of the Russian sphere of influence. Her views fit with the intense Ukrainian nationalism of her maternal grandparents who immigrated to Canada after World War II and whom she has portrayed as victims of Josef Stalin and the Red Army.

So, Freeland celebrated the Soviet collapse in 1991, which enabled Ukraine to gain its independence. Freeland, then in her early 20s, was working in Kiev as a stringer for The Financial Times and The Washington Post, shining with delight over the emergence of a “New Ukraine.”

By the next decade, working as the U.S. managing editor of The Financial Times, she proudly interviewed then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who had won control as a result of the 2004 “Orange Revolution.” In her approach to journalism, Freeland made clear her commitment to foment Ukrainian-Russian tensions in any possible way. Indeed, during her journalistic career, which ended in 2013 when she won a seat in Canada’s parliament, Freeland remained fiercely anti-Russian.

In 2014, Yushchenko’s rival Viktor Yanukovych was Ukraine’s elected president while Canadian MP Freeland urged on the “Euro-Maidan” protests against Yanukovych and his desire to maintain friendly relations with Moscow. On Jan. 27, 2014, as the protests grew more violent with ultra-nationalist street fighters moving to the forefront and firebombing police, Freeland visited Kiev and published an op-ed in The Globe and Mail blaming the violence on Yanukovych.

“Democratic values are rarely challenged as directly as they are being today in Ukraine,” Freeland wrote, arguing that the protesters, not the elected president, represented democracy and the rule of law. “Their victory will be a victory for us all; their defeat will weaken democracy far from the Euromaidan. We are all Ukrainians now. Let’s do what we can — which is a lot — to support them.”

Ukraine’s ‘Regime Change’


Freeland’s op-ed appeared at about the same time as her ideological ally, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, was caught on an insecure phone line discussing with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt who the new leaders of Ukraine should be. “Yats is the guy,” Nuland said about Arseniy Yatsenyuk while dismissing the E.U.’s less aggressive approach to the crisis with the pithy remark, “Fuck the E.U.” Nuland and Pyatt then pondered how to “glue this thing” and “midwife this thing.”

Several weeks later, on Feb. 20, a mysterious sniper shot both police and protesters, touching off a day of bloody mayhem. On Feb. 22, armed rioters seized government buildings and forced Yanukovych to flee for his life. He was then impeached without the constitutional rules being followed. Yatsenyuk became prime minister, and Western governments quickly pronounced the new regime “legitimate.”

The new xenophobic regime in Kiev – bristling with hostility toward ethnic Russian Ukrainians – did not embarrass Freeland. As Canada’s newly appointed minister of international trade, Freeland met frequently with Ukrainian officials, more so than with many of Canada’s leading trade partners.

But the more troubling question is whether Freeland’s devotion to Ukrainian nationalism is rooted not in her commitment to the “rule of law” or “democratic values” or even the well-being of the Ukrainian people whose living standards have declined sharply since the Feb. 22, 2014 putsch (amid continued government corruption), but in her devotion to her Ukrainian grandparents whom she still views as victims of Stalin and the Red Army.

Last Aug. 24, reflecting on so-called Black Ribbon Day, which lumps together the crimes of Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler (with Stalin getting top billing), she wrote on Twitter,

“Thinking of my grandparents Mykhailo & Aleksandra Chomiak on Black Ribbon Day. They were forever grateful to Canada for giving them refuge and they worked hard to return freedom and democracy to Ukraine. I am proud to honour their memory today.”

In her autobiography, Freeland presents her grandparents in the following way:

“My maternal grandparents fled western Ukraine after Hitler and Stalin signed their non-aggression pact in 1939. They never dared to go back, but they stayed in close touch with their brothers and sisters and their families, who remained behind.”

According to Freeland, her grandfather Mykhailo Chomiak was “a lawyer and journalist before the Second World War, but they [her grandparents] knew the Soviets would invade western Ukraine (and) fled.” After the war, her mother was born in a refugee camp in Germany before the family immigrated to western Canada, Freeland wrote.

Freeland’s grandfather was allegedly able to get a visa only thanks to his sister who had crossed the ocean before the war. The family story told by Freeland portrays her grandparents as World War II victims, but that is not the real or full story.

Chrystia Freeland’s dark family secret is that her grandfather, Mykhailo Chomiak, faithfully served Nazi Germany right up to its surrender, and Chomiak’s family only moved to Canada after the Third Reich was defeated by the Soviet Union’s Red Army and its allies – the U.S. and Great Britain.

Mykhailo Chomiak was not a victim of the war – he was on the side of the German aggressors who collaborated with Ukrainian nationalists in killing Russians, Jews, Poles and other minorities. Former journalist Freeland chose to whitewash her family history to leave out her grandfather’s service to Adolf Hitler. Of course, if she had told the truth, she might never have achieved a successful political career in Canada. Her fierce hostility toward Russia also might be viewed in a different light.




Michael Chomiak and wife Alexandra, with their children in Canada in 1952. Freeland’s mother Halyna is second from left.

Freeland’s Grandfather


According to Canadian sources, Chomiak graduated from Lviv University in western Ukraine with a Master’s Degree in Law and Political Science. He began a career with the Galician newspaper Dilo (Action), published in Lviv. After the start of World War II, the Nazi administration appointed Chomiak to be editor of the newspaper Krakivski Visti (News of Krakow).

So the truth appears to be that Chomiak moved from Ukraine to Nazi-occupied Poland in order to work for the Third Reich under the command of Governor-General Hans Frank, the man who organized the Holocaust in Poland. Chomiak’s work was directly supervised by Emil Gassner, the head of the press department in the Polish General Government.


Governor Hans Frank (left) and Emil Gassner open the German Press House in Krakow, March 1942

Mikhailo Chomiak comfortably settled his family into a former Jewish (or Aryanized) apartment in Krakow. The editorial offices for Krakivski Visti also were taken from a Jewish owner, Krakow’s Polish-language Jewish newspaper Nowy Dziennik.

Its editor at the time was forced to flee Krakow for Lviv, where he was captured following the occupation of Galicia and sent to the Belzec extermination camp, where he was murdered along with 600,000 other Jews.

So, it appears Freeland’s grandfather – rather than being a helpless victim – was given a prestigious job to spread Nazi propaganda, praising Hitler from a publishing house stolen from Jews and given to Ukrainians who shared the values of Nazism.

On April 24, 1940, Krakivski Visti published a full-page panegyric to Adolf Hitler dedicated to his 51st birthday (four days earlier). Chomiak also hailed Governor-General Hans Frank: “The Ukrainian population were overjoyed to see the establishment of fair German authority, the bearer of which is you, Sir Governor-General. The Ukrainian people expressed this joy not only through the flowers they threw to the German troops entering the region, but also through the sacrifices of blood required to fight Polish usurpers.” (Because of Frank’s role in the Holocaust, the Nuremberg Tribunal found him guilty of crimes against humanity and executed him.)

Beyond extolling Hitler and his henchmen, Chomiak rejoiced over Nazi military victories, including the terror bombings of Great Britain. While praising the Third Reich, Krakivski Visti was also under orders by the German authorities to stir up hatred against the Jewish population. Editorial selections from Chomiak’s newspaper can be found in Holocaust museums around the world, such as the one in Los Angeles, California.

The Nov. 6, 1941 issue of Krakivski Visti ecstatically describes how much better Kiev is without Jews. “There is not a single one left in Kiev today, while there were 350,000 under the Bolsheviks,” the newspaper wrote, gloating that the Jews “got their comeuppance.”

That “comeuppance” refers to the mass shooting of Kiev’s Jewish population at Babi Yar. In just two days, Sept. 29-30, 1941, a total of 33,771 people were murdered, a figure that does not include children younger than three years old. There were more shootings in October, and by early November, Krakivski Visti was enthusing over a city where the Jewish population had “disappeared” making Kiev “beautiful, glorious.” Chomiak’s editorials also described a Poland “iinfected by Jews.”


Jewish women lined up waiting to be shot at Babi Yar, September 1941

According to John-Paul Himka, a Canadian historian of Ukrainian origin, Krakivski Visti stirred up emotions against Jews, creating an atmosphere conducive to mass murder. In 2008, the Institute of Historical Research at Lviv National University published a paper co-authored by Himka entitled “What Was the Attitude of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists toward the Jews?

The paper states that, by order of the German authorities, Krakivski Visti published a series of articles between June and September 1943 under the title “Yids in Ukraine” that were written in an extremely anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi vein. The Canadian historian writes that Jews were portrayed as criminals, while Ukrainians were portrayed as victims.

Refuge in Canada


As the war turned against the Nazis and the Red Army advanced across Ukraine and Poland, Nazi propagandist Emil Gassner took Mykhailo Chomiak in 1944 to Vienna where Krakivski Visti continued to publish. As the Third Reich crumbled, Chomiak left with the retreating German Army and surrendered to the Americans in Bavaria, where he was placed with his family in a special U.S. military intelligence facility in Bad Wörishofen, a cluster of hotels situated 78 kilometers from Munich in the foothills of the Alps.

The Chomiak family was given accommodations, living expenses and health care. In her biography, Freeland refers to it only as “a refugee camp.” In September 1946, Mikhailo Chomiak’s daughter Halyna was born in that spa town. In May 1948, the facility was closed and Chomiak, the former Nazi editor, departed for Canada.

While it is true that the sins of a grandfather should not be visited on his descendants, Freeland should not have misled the public on history of such importance, especially when her deceptions also concealed how she partly developed her world view. The family’s deep hostility toward Russia appears to have been passed down from Mikhailo Chomiak’s generation to his granddaughter Chrystia Freeland.

Like many of today’s Ukrainian nationalists, including pockets of post-World War II immigrants in Canada and the United States, Freeland glosses over the violent abuses of the current regime in Kiev toward ethnic Russians, including the fatal firebombing of the Trade Union Building in Odessa and enlistment of neo-Nazi militias to prosecute the so-called “Anti-Terror Operation” against ethnic Russian rebels in the Donbass region. Overall, the conflict has killed some 10,000 people, including many ethnic Russian civilians.

But Freeland only sees “Russian aggression” and vows to maintain an unrelentingly hard line to punish Moscow. So, the pressing question about Freeland is whether her family history makes her incapable of an objective assessment of this dangerous New Cold War crisis. Is a person who describes her Nazi-collaborating grandfather as someone who “worked hard to return freedom and democracy to Ukraine” fit to represent Canada to the world?

Arina Tsukanova is a Russian Ukrainian journalist from Kiev currently living in Crimea. Before the Euromaidan she used to work for several Ukrainian newspapers, now closed.

Three Years After Maidan Massacre Official Story Fails Scrutiny

Ukraine's Flawed 2014 Maidan Massacre Investigation - Interview with Ivan Katchanovski

by Telepolis via New Cold War


February 20, 2017

Text published by Ivan Katchanovski on Academia.edu. A German-language version of this interview is published in Telepolis, Feb 20, 2017.

Telepolis: Are there new insights about the identity of the murderers?

 

Ivan Katchanovski: The Prosecutor General Office charged members and commanders of a special Berkut police company with killings of 48 out of 49 protesters and wounding 80 out of 157 on February 20, 2014. Their trial continues. But forensic medical and ballistic reports and testimonies of several wounded protesters during this trial corroborated my study finding that the protesters were shot by concealed shooters from the Maidan-controlled locations, such as the Hotel Ukraina and Bank Arkada.

Andriy Parubiy (circled) watches Maidan paramilitaries exit 
the Ukraina Hotel with sniper rifles concealed, February 2014

Some of wounded protesters testified and said that they saw “snipers” in black clothes and black balaclavas with weapons in different windows and on the roofs of the Hotel Ukraina and other Maidan-controlled buildings.

The former head of the Security Service of Ukraine under Yanukovych stated in Russian court that his SBU [Ukraine security police] officers identified several Maidan snipers by name, including some Georgians and a former SBU Alfa officer who then worked in one of Maidan parties security. He also named Volodymyr Parasiuk–who then headed a special Maidan company established in the Music Conservatory with the help of the Right Sector–and his father as Maidan snipers. The ex-SBU chief stated that during the Maidan massacre on February 20, 2014, the SBU located ten snipers in the Music Conservatory, obtained their photos and then tracked five of them entering the Hotel Ukraina but lost track of the other five snipers. The former head of the Yanukovych administration testified in the same Russian court that one of the Maidan leaders hired snipers from Georgia and the Baltic States. He named one of the alleged Georgian snipers identified in a protocol of his interrogation by senior Right Sector activists. But these former senior officials did not provide any documentary evidence in support of their statements.

A Ukrainian online publication, based on its own investigation, and a reported BBC correspondent statement suggested that in addition to a sniper or snipers filmed by BBC shooting from a Hotel Ukraina room of one of Svoboda deputies, there was a sniper in a different Hotel Ukraina suite, in which another Svoboda deputy lived at that time.

Ivan Bubenchyk stated in his Lviv TV interview in 2014 and then in other Ukrainian media interviews in 2016 that he shot from the Music Conservatory building. He said that he killed two policemen from his AK assault rifle. He said that the Right Sector promised him more ammunition during the Maidan massacre of protesters after he spent his ammunition shooting into the police from the Conservatory building. He became the commander of Zakhid-2 battalion, which was formed by a part of Right Sector activists and the Right-Sector organized Voluntary Ukrainian Corps.

My study found that the far right and oligarchic organizations, such as the Right Sector, Svoboda, the special Maidan company and a faction of the Fatherland party which split away from this party after the Maidan, were involved directly or indirectly in the Maidan massacre of the protesters and the police. But my research was not concerned with identifying specific snipers who massacred the protesters because it was a political science study and not a criminal investigation and analyzed only publicly available evidence. Both the GPU investigation and my study did not find any reliable evidence that government snipers from Omega, SBU Alpha, and Bulat or any “third force” snipers, such as Russian, massacred Maidan protesters.

Did the investigators or any Ukrainian public institution meanwhile think about other perpetrators than Berkut?


Ivan Katchanovski: Recent Kyiv court decisions which I found in the official online database reveal that the Prosecutor General Office of Ukraine is investigating leaders or members of such far right organizations as the Right Sector, Sokil (youth affiliate of Svoboda party), Bratstvo, and ‘Warriors of Narnia’ for their suspected involvement in killing and wounding of the police during the Maidan massacre. Theirs’ and other above-mentioned Maidan snipers’ purported involvement in the massacre of the protesters is not being investigated in spite of various evidence suggesting that both protesters and the police were killed and wounded by the same “snipers”. A law adopted by the Parliament gave a blanket amnesty from prosecution and conviction for killings of the police during the ‘Euromaidan’.

Are there new insights about the course of the shooting?


Ivan Katchanovski: Forensic medical reports made public during the Maidan massacre trial indicated that 27 out of 28 killed protesters and the absolute majority of wounded protesters were shot at significant vertical angles, while the Berkut police were located at nearly even-level with the protesters. This suggests snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings because the investigation and my Maidan massacre study did not find evidence that any protester was killed by government snipers from the government-controlled buildings. Forensic medical reports about locations of wounds of the absolute majority of these protesters combined with videos of their positions at the moments of their shooting or shortly before and after also indicate that they were killed from directions of the Hotel Ukraina and other Maidan-controlled areas.

Similarly, his position in a video seconds before and after his shooting indicates that the sole protester killed with entry and exit wounds at nearly horizontal level was also shot from a Maidan direction. In some cases, the forensic medical reports presented during the trial are not sufficient to make conclusions about directions from which protesters were killed because exact wound locations are not specified or because positions of the protesters in the moments or shortly before or after their killings were not captured in videos.

The forensic ballistic examinations found that at least four protesters were shot with pellets used for hunting, a minimum of one protester was killed from a ‘Vepr’ hunting carbine and at least two protesters were killed by expanding hunting bullets whose caliber did not match calibers of weapons used by the Berkut special police company. The killing of one of these protesters was captured by a French photographer in a video, which was widely publicized in France, Ukraine and other countries as evidence that he was shot by the government forces. His position and locations and steep vertical angle of his wounds in the neck and left shoulder indicate that Viktor Chmilenko was shot by a 30-06 ‘Springfield’ bullet from the Maidan-controlled Hotel Ukraina. A little known version of this video includes both the killing of this protester and a brief segment in which the French photographer zooms to the roof of the Bank Arkada building at the same time as a protester says that there is a sniper there.

The GPU admitted that testimonies of 77 of the wounded protesters about their positions and directions of gunshots, along with videos, photos, forensic reports and conclusions of expert reports, showed that they were shot from other sectors than the Berkut sector. The prosecution charges omitted the wounding of these protesters, or almost half of the 157 protesters wounded on February 20, 2014. These sectors imply Maidan-controlled locations, such as the Hotel Ukraina, since the GPU investigation did not find evidence that SBU Alfa snipers or snipers from other government units massacred protesters.

Many protesters among the 80 protesters with whose wounding the Berkut company was charged, , including a Maidan medic whose shooting was filmed by CNN, publicly stated in investigation documents made public during the Maidan massacre trial, in their media interviews or on social media that they or their groups were shot by “snipers” from such Maidan-controlled locations as the Hotel Ukraina, the Bank Arkada,and Zhovtnevyi Palace. Other cases of the wounded protesters either have not been yet examined at the trial or there is lack of reliable evidence concerning locations of their shooters.

Have there appeared any new evidence in the past year?


Ivan Katchanovski: A lot of evidence, which I summarized before, was revealed for the first time at the Maidan massacre trial. A newly released Maidan massacre video, which was filmed by an unidentified person or persons from the Hotel Ukraina and made public by a Maidan victim’s lawyer during the Maidan massacre trial on February 14, 2017, provides more evidence that protesters were massacred from the Maidan-controlled locations and not by the Berkut special police company. The one hour and ten minute video shows positions of more killed and wounded protesters at the moments of their shootings and their locations relative to Berkut barricade positions. A visible bullet impact in a Berkut barricade truck (6:11) also corroborates my study findings that Maidan “snipers” simultaneously shot at the Berkut police.

The GPU prosecution admitted during the trial that they have video recordings of the Berkut police barricade during the entire massacre. But these videos made from a much closer distance from a National Bank camera are not presented as evidence as a proof of shooting of specific protesters by Berkut during the trial, with one exception. The fact that these crucial videos, which are time-stamped and easily synchronized with the times of shooting of specific protesters and show positions and moments of shooting by Berkut policemen, are omitted by the prosecution as such proof is dog-that-did-not-bark evidence that the Maidan massacre was a false flag operation.

New testimonies by witnesses at the Maidan trial and media and social media reports brought the number of witnesses who pointed out snipers in the Maidan-controlled locations to over 100.

What did the questioning of the former president Viktor Yanukovych bring for the investigations?


Ivan Katchanovski: The questioning of Yanukovych as a witness in the Maidan trial confirmed that he is not officially charged with ordering the massacre. Prosecutors questions to Yanukovych indicated that the investigation does not have any specific information corroborating such an orders. He again denied issuing such an order and stated that he received reports about snipers shooting from the top floors of buildings whose entrances were guarded by the Maidan forces. But Yanukovych did not disclose other specific information that he received during the Maidan massacre. He asked the court to introduce as evidence my Maidan massacre study along with other unnamed documents consisting of three volumes. I was not involved in this trial and in the Yanukovych testimony.

From your point of view: Is there more, the Generalnaja Prokuratura Ukraine should do, to clarify the case?


Ivan Katchanovski: The GPU has both highly qualified investigators and resources to identify organizers of the Maidan massacre and “snipers” who massacred the protesters and the police. The GPU prosecutors stated that they used my study of the Maidan massacre in their investigation. The Maidan massacre is one of the most documented if not the most documented cases of mass killing in history. But it is unlikely that the GPU would do any real investigation of this mass killing under Maidan governments because it is controlled by the Maidan governments which would blocks any such investigations.

What do you think, why isn’t there more public pressure from Western countries on Ukraine to clarify the case?


Ivan Katchanovski: The silence of the Western governments concerning the investigation of the Maidan massacre, which was one of the worst cases of human right violations in contemporary Europe and one of the most politically consequential cases of mass killing, is puzzling. The Western governments might not put any pressure on the Ukrainian government in this case because they very likely know or suspect that this was a false flag operation and because they are more interested in propping up the Maidan-led Ukrainian government in the conflict with Russia than in democracy, the rule of law, and human rights in Ukraine.

Today I found this video from Spiegel TV about the investigations of Maidan Massacre. Maybe you know it already. It is from March 2016. The film claims that the murders are enlightened and the perpetrators are identified. It tells about sawed-off Kalashnikov rifles that were found in a lake. They ought to belong to Berkut and to be the proof of their perpetrating. There is no information about shooters in Maidan controlled buildings. Only in the end the speaker tells that also one Maidan-fighter (probably Ivan Bubenchyik) has confessed to shooting at policemen.


Ivan Katchanovski: The Berkut Kalashnikov rifles mysteriously found in a Kyiv park were used by the Ukrainian government as a publicity stunt. Bullet samples from these and other Berkut weapons were all along stored in the police bullet database and available to investigators. Therefore, it made no rational sense to the Berkut to hide them, moreover, in a manner and in Kyiv park area near water which made them easy to recover. The GPU last summer revealed that the leader of one of Maidan organizations organized hiding these weapons.

A forensic ballistic examination, which linked bullets from a part of killed and wounded protesters to specific weapons of the Berkut special company, was publicized in the Ukrainian media and in this Spiegel report as a proof that the Berkut massacred protesters. This examination was done in December 2015 within a few weeks of the end of the investigation. But findings of this examination do not meet standard research criteria of reliability and face validity.

The results of this examination, which was conducted manually, contradicted findings of more than 40 previous forensic ballistic reports conducted both manually by some of the same experts and by using a computer based system. Its results also contradicted findings of forensic medical reports and positions of protesters in videos showing that they were shot from the Maidan-controlled buildings and that it was physically impossible to kill and wound them from the Berkut positions on the ground.

Specifically, they contradicted findings of a forensic ballistic report, which was conducted in January 2015 by a specialized computer-based system IBIS and which determined that not a single bullet extracted from killed protesters matched bullet samples from Berkut Kalashnikovs. This forensic ballistic report, which was conducted for the GPU investigation and made public at the Maidan massacre trial, was suppressed by the government and not reported by the media.

Evidence presented in my study and recent revelations from the Maidan massacre trial show that the Spiegel TV report misrepresented the killing of Volodymyr Chaplynsky as an example of the massacre of the Maidan protesters by the special Berkut company. Both my study and the investigative, on-site experiment concluded that Chaplynsky was shot dead from the Hotel Ukraina when he was filmed running away in a widely publicized video of the massacre.

This GPU investigative experiment was conducted in July 2014 but only made public during the Maidan massacre trial on December 8, 2016. Its conclusion is consistent with his position at the moment when he felt to the ground and with a forensic medical report finding that the entry wound was on the left side of the neck and the exit wound was much lower and on the back of his right shoulder blade from the top to bottom, left to right, and front to back direction (1:23:00).

But the GPU reversed its own earlier conclusion that this protester was not shot from the Berkut barricade and stated that he was killed from the Berkut barricade by an earlier gunshot. However, the video clearly shows that his position at the moment of the first gunshot–the left side of his body facing the Bank Arkada along with the steep wound angle and the locations of the entry and exit wounds point to the Bank Arkada. Chaplynsky had his back towards the Berkut barricade at the moments of both gunshots and could not have been killed by the Berkut from this barricade, as the prosecution charges. One does not need to be a ballistic expert to see this. (31:09)

However, Spiegel and other mainstream Western media did not report these and other revelations from the Maidan massacre trial and various evidence analyzed in my Maidan massacre study.

Ivan Katchanovski, Ph.D. is a researcher and lecturer at the School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa. His Facebook page is here, he can be reached at ikatchan@uottawa.ca.

Related readings:

Ex-Ukrainian President Yanukovich calls upon EU, U.S. to investigate Maidan crimes, RT.com, Feb 22, 2017.

And related comment by Ivan Katchanovski on his Facebook page, Feb 22, 2016:
Yanukovych still has not revealed evidence to prove his statements about involvement of specific top Ukrainian government officials in the Maidan massacre.

He mentioned such evidence in his interviews, his Ukrainian court testimony, and now in his letter to Donald Trump. In his letter to Merkel, Yanukovych mentioned several of the Maidan-controlled sniper locations which I identified in my study. But he did not reveal specific sources of this information or specific evidence of snipers in these locations (Hotel Ukraina, Horodetsky Street buildings, Bank Arkada, and Zhovtnevyi Palace).

Trump Builds a Wall Between White House and the Press

Media Ban! Making Sense of the War Between Trump and the Press

by Anthony DiMaggio - CounterPunch


February 27, 2017

On Friday, February 24th, the Trump administration issued a “gaggle” against reporters from the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CNN, and Politico, prohibiting them from gaining access to the White House press briefing. The ban was quickly followed by a boycott of the press meeting by Time magazine and the Associated Press.

To their credit, these two outlets did what White House reporters should have already done – stop attending press conferences dominated by obvious fabrications, distortions, and propaganda. If MSNBC’s Morning Joe can divorce itself from the lies of Kellyanne Conway, certainly the New York Times can too, right? 
Photo by existentist | CC BY 2.0

But losing access is the ultimate kiss of death in corporate journalism. The core of this system is based on maintaining access to high-level officials, so being blacklisted from press briefings is a devastating blow to establishment reporters.

The loss of access could be interpreted as the best thing to ever happen to papers like the New York Times. Instead of amplifying every absurd utterance out of the mouth of a carnivalesque tabloid president, they could be focusing instead on hard-hitting investigative journalism that would benefit the public. But in a media system where official sources are king, it’s unlikely the editors of major news outfits will see things this way. Predictably, they have expressed anger at being cut out of the loop of the Washington political power structure.

The full-on meltdown of the relationship between the Trump administration and the press had been steadily building late in the campaign cycle and into the first month of this presidency. The relationship between Trump and the press has grown increasingly conflicted with the issuance of the press ban. Trump himself rhetorically declared he was “at war” with the press upon taking office. His press secretary, Sean Spicer, took advantage of his first press conference to actively berate the press, refusing to take questions, and lambasting reporters for supposedly underestimating the size of the crowd attending Trump’s inauguration on the National Mall. Non-partisan fact checkers dismissed Spicer’s claims as false because of photographic evidence that Trump’s attendance was smaller than Obama’s 2009 inauguration crowd. The manufactured inauguration controversy has come to symbolize a Trump presidency that routinely provides false information to the press and the public. The administration quickly lost much of its credibility with the press establishment after White House counselor Kellyanne Conway asserted on NBC’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd that “alternative facts” were just as good as real ones. Conway is far too obvious in expressing her contempt for the truth. It’s one thing to engage in subtle propaganda and manipulation; it’s quite another to rub reporters’ faces in it.

Watching the relationship between the press and Trump administration play out in real time has been interesting and at times highly entertaining. Never in my life have I seen reporters regularly accuse the president in story after story, day in and day out, of distorting information and lying. The New York Times has run many stories suggesting the Trump administration is pushing lies, and offering “inaccurate,” “wrong,” or “false” claims, and outlets such as CNN, the Washington Post and others have followed suit. The Washington Post concluded that, in his first month in office, Trump “averaged four falsehoods or misleading statements a day…There hasn’t been a single day of Trump’s presidency in which he has said nothing false or misleading.”

The dispute between journalists and Trump centers on numerous issues. To name a few, reporters have criticized Trump for making false claims about voter fraud in the 2016 election, for referring to numerous non-existent terror attacks in Atlanta, Georgia, Bowling Green, Kentucky, and Sweden, for erroneously claiming the media invented the rift between his administration and intelligence agencies over Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 election, for falsely stating the media do not report on violent terror attacks, and for inaccurately asserting that the violent crime rate in 2017 reached a record high for the last half-century. Extraordinarily, these controversies all occurred within the first month of Trump’s presidency.

Are we entering a new era of media-governmental relations? Trump supporters don’t seem to think so. They’ve long lambasted the press for a “liberal bias,” and are surely celebrating the Trump administration’s media ban. But the liberal media claims were always a red herring. The clear majority of scholarly studies fail to find any evidence of a consistent liberal bias in the news. Reporters are not one-dimensionally liberal in their attitudes. They hold liberal views on social issues, and conservative ones on economic policies. Furthermore, the segments of the media that are openly biased lean heavily to the right. Talk radio is more than 90 percent right-wing, and the most heavily watched cable outlet by a large margin is Fox News, not MSNBC.

Furthermore, most of the empirical work in the social sciences identifies an official source bias, rather than a liberal bias, as characterizing the news. In my own research, I’ve found that news reporting fluctuates depending on the structure of government over time. When Republicans control the White House and Congress, reporters predictably direct most of their attention to Republican officials. When Democrats control these two branches, coverage shifts toward the Democrats. And in periods of divided control of government, reporters devote regular attention to “both sides.” In short, while the “liberal media” line is red meat for Trump’s base, it has little relevance to reality.

Reporters’ conflict with Trump is real, but it has nothing to do with a fictitious liberal bias of journalists. So, what gives? Reporters are clearly treating the Trump administration much more skeptically than they did Obama. Does the conflict between the press and the president suggest a changing dynamic in the relationship between the media and government? I would argue yes, to some degree, but we should be careful not to oversell the extent to which media are independent of government. Journalists are not opposed to the neoliberal, bipartisan consensus in Washington. Rather, they are opposed to a specific individual who they believe represents a threat to the political-economic status quo.

Trump is widely seen by journalists as far outside the “mainstream” of American political culture. This characterization is true in some ways. I can think of no precedent to Trump’s media ban in my lifetime. He has demonstrated a contempt for the press since he began campaigning, when he promised to “open up libel laws” – aka the First Amendment – to allow the president to sue journalists for writing “horrible” stories – aka stories that are unflattering to Trump. Even during the years of media-press relations following September 11, President Bush was not as draconian as Trump in dealing with the press. He blacklisted UPI reporter Helen Thomas, refusing to answer her questions, in punishment for her many challenges to the administration’s credibility regarding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But Bush maintained a “carrot and stick” approach to managing the press. Journalists who fell in line behind administration propaganda were rewarded, allowed to ask questions in White House Press Briefings and invited to join U.S. military forces as “embeds” on the ground in “reporting” the 2003 Iraq invasion. Journalists like Thomas who questioned the party line were told to go to hell.

But Trump didn’t even offer the carrot upon taking office; rather, his administration offered only a metaphorical hatchet to the skull. His press secretary’s first conference was an all assault on reporters, and Trump’s own declaration of war made it clear there would be no effort to cultivate support from the press. Trump’s ban on multiple news outfits, while shamelessly inviting the reactionary Breitbart “news” into his inner circle, is a step beyond anything the Bush administration attempted. This ham-fisted news “management” technique will surely backfire, further pushing journalists to challenge administration misinformation.

Political spin, deception, and lies have always been integral to U.S. politics and governmental communication. But I can think of no other president who was ever so crude or clumsy in pushing obviously false claims as Trump. He’s painted reporters into a corner via his administration’s absurdist, straight-faced lies and “alternative facts.” Even Karl Rove knew to voice his contempt for the “reality-based community” off the record. To not challenge fictitious terror attacks, false statistics about crime rates, and bogus claims about voter fraud would be a serious risk to reporters’ credibility. To allow blatant falsehood after falsehood to go unchallenged would mean reporters have abandoned their already limited commitment to accuracy in reporting. Before readers attack me for suggesting that corporate reporters are committed to reporting the truth, consider the following: Trump’s lies operate on an entirely different level than previous official misinformation, which was at least more difficult to identify without serious investigation.

George W. Bush’s claims about Iraqi WMDs were harder for reporters to authoritatively debunk than Trump’s manufactured lies, the latter of which are haphazardly pulled from thin air. Numerous intelligence sources existed that raised questions about Bush’s pre-war claims, but there was no smoking gun (like after the invasion) to authoritatively demonstrate that the administration was lying prior to the invasion. Other official untruths were also hard to identify in real time. Obama’s promises that the Affordable Care Act would not interfere with preexisting insurance plans was difficult to challenge without documenting the failings associated with the implementation of the ACA. Republican denials that support for charter schools results in the decimation of community public schools are difficult to disprove without an extensive analysis of facts on the ground across American cities where charter schools are introduced. In contrast, most of Trump’s falsehoods are bush league. Citizens without any journalistic training can recognize them with simple google searches or visits to a non-partisan fact checking website. For reporters to uncritically disseminate these falsehoods would threaten what little trust is left between the media and public.

Sometimes, official misinformation becomes so extreme that reporters can no longer hold their noses and pretend not to notice the lies. The Pentagon Papers demonstrated that U.S. presidents had lied for years about the war in Vietnam. It was difficult to ignore the blatant contradictions between what presidents said privately and what they fed the public. The Bush administration’s claims about Iraqi WMDs were a fiction of epic proportions that could no longer be denied when search after search in Iraq came up empty-handed. The deaths of American troops and Iraqis in mass blatantly contradicted Bush’s ridiculous assertion that, contrary to the naysayers, everything in Iraq was going great. As the country disintegrated into civil war, it became impossible to deny the reality that was staring Americans in the face. Reporters could have pretended that a civil war wasn’t occurring, and that thousands of Americans weren’t being killed in Iraq, but to do so would risk losing any remaining credibility journalists had with the public. As with Bush’s eccentric lies, reporters are in a difficult position in covering Trump administration grifters. The public will only put up with so much bullshit for so long.

While the relationship between the president and much of the media has grown increasingly combative, journalists were not the only ones to attack Trump. Throughout the election, he was widely derided, or at least kept at arm’s length, by much of the Republican Party establishment, by many right-wing corporate donors, by the Democratic Party, and by much of the public. To single out journalists for criticizing Trump is to ignore a broader, bi-partisan political culture that has denigrated Trump for supposedly lying outside the bounds of respectable politics. The efforts to frame Trump as beyond the pale are silly in many ways. He is the heir of decades of class warfare, racism, sexism, and deception that have long defined American politics. Trump’s mistake is openly embracing bigotry and contempt for truth, whereas his compatriots in the Democratic and Republican parties know not to be so crass in their rhetoric. Still, it’s a serious exaggeration to claim that the media are posing an independent challenge to the political system by questioning Trump. Their attacks stem not from a liberal desire to undermine government, but rather from discomfort with parroting silly administration claims that are widely recognized as fraudulent by much of the public and the intellectual class.
 
Anthony DiMaggio is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Lehigh University. He holds a PhD in political communication, and is the author of the newly released: Selling War, Selling Hope: Presidential Rhetoric, the News Media, and U.S. Foreign Policy After 9/11 (Paperback: 2015). He can be reached at: anthonydimaggio612@gmail.com
More articles by:Anthony DiMaggio

A President Trump? Not Too Strange for Science Fiction

Donald Trump is President. How the hell did that happen? 

by Robert J. Sawyer - SFWriter


February 27th, 2017 

A year ago, science-fiction writer and futurist Robert J. Sawyer accurately predicted the rise of a far-right psychopath coming from out of nowhere to become the American president, propelled into office by large numbers of people manipulated to vote against their own best interests.

Sawyer’s predictions have often come true in the past, but none so quickly or with such far-reaching consequences.

Now, with the paperback release of his bestselling Quantum Night, after its successful run in hardcover, readers can follow along with Sawyer’s characters — an experimental psychologist and an expert on the physics of consciousness — as they come to understand how authoritarians manipulate the masses to follow them … right to the brink of oblivion.

Building on the cutting-edge research — including Prof. Robert D. Hare’s world-famous studies of psychopathy done at the University of British Columbia and Prof. Bob Altemeyer’s research into authoritarian leaders conducted at the University of Manitoba (and quoted extensively by Nixon White House counsel John Dean in his nonfiction book Conservatives without Conscience), Sawyer has drawn together the latest in real-world scientific thought to explain exactly how we got to the political situation we find ourselves in today.

Sawyer was right in his prediction of a Trump-like president. Will Sawyer also turn out to be right in his prediction of the that president’s next move: an invasion of Canada?

In its starred review of Quantum Night — denoting a book of exceptional merit — Publishers Weekly says Sawyer’s “story is uncomfortably close to present day fears.”

And Oxford University’s Kevin Dutton, one of the world’s leading expert on psychopathy says,

“Quantum Night is a fast-paced thinking-person’s thriller richly informed by modern science. Sawyer has certainly done his homework about psychopaths and he understands well that, far from being just the occasional headline-grabbing serial killer, they’re everywhere.”

Sawyer, a member of the Order of Canada, and bestselling author of FlashForward, which was adapted as an ABC TV series, is one of only eight people in history — and the only Canadian — to win all three of the world’s top awards for best science fiction novel of the year: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

As a futurist, he’s consulted with NASA, spoken at Google’s headquarters, and advised Canada’s federal Department of Justice. Quantum Night, his 23rd novel, is his most prescient, and timely, work of prediction to date.

Press Release: For Immediate Release

Out of the Blue: Charting Hurricane Donald

The Art of the Trumpaclysm: How the U.S. Invaded, Occupied, and Remade Itself

by Tom Engelhardt - TomDispatch


February 26, 2017

It’s been epic! A cast of thousands! (Hundreds? Tens?) A spectacular production that, five weeks after opening on every screen of any sort in America (and possibly the world), shows no sign of ending.

What a hit it's been!

It’s driving people back to newspapers (online, if not in print) and ensuring that our everyday companions, the 24/7 cable news shows, never lack for “breaking news” or audiences. It’s a smash in both the Hollywood and car accident sense of the term, a phenomenon the likes of which we’ve simply never experienced. Think of Nero fiddling while Rome burned and the cameras rolled. It’s proved, in every way, to be a giant leak. A faucet. A spigot. An absolute flood of non-news, quarter-news, half-news, crazed news, fake news, and over-the-top actual news.

And you know exactly what -- and whom -- I’m talking about. No need to explain. I mean, you tell me: What doesn’t it have? Its lead actor is the closest we’ve come in our nation's capital to an action figure. Think of him as the Mar-a-Lego version of Batman and the Joker rolled into one, a president who, as he told us at a news conference recently, is “the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life” and the “least racist person” as well. As report after report indicates, he attacks, lashes out, mocks, tweets, pummels, charges, and complains, showering calumny on others even as he praises his achievements without surcease. Think of him as the towering inferno of twenty-first-century American politics or a modern Godzilla eternally emerging from New York harbor.

As for his supporting cast? Islamophobes, Iranophobes, white nationalists; bevies of billionaires and multimillionaires; a resurgent stock market gone wild; the complete fossil fuel industry and every crackpot climate change “skeptic” in town; a press spokesman immortalized by Saturday Night Live whose afternoon briefings are already beating the soap opera General Hospital in the ratings; a White House counselor whose expertise is in “alternative facts”; a national security adviser who (with a tenure of 24 days) seemed to sum up the concept of “insecurity”; a White House chief of staff and liaison with the Republicans in Congress who’s already being sized up for extinction, as well as a couple of appointees who were “dismissed” or even frog-marched out of their offices and jobs for having criticized The Donald and not fessed up... honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up, or rather only Trump himself can do so. And by the way, just so you know, based on the last weeks of “news” I could keep this paragraph going more or less forever without even breaking into a sweat.

Tomgram: Engelhardt, A Trumpian Snapshot of America

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Reviews of our latest Dispatch book, John Feffer's superb dystopian novel, Splinterlands, are just beginning to come in and they're uniformly superb. The Washington City Paper, citing its "brilliance," writes, "If you’re having a hard time deciding whether to read 1984 or The Origins of Totalitarianism -- or if you’ve already read them both and want something in-between -- consider local author John Feffer’s Splinterlands." The Midwest Book Review adds, "Readers who enjoy dystopian stories that hold more than a light look at political structures and their downfall will more than appreciate the in-depth approach John Feffer takes in his novel." I urge you to support TomDispatch (and get a riveting late night read) by picking up a copy, or for a $100 donation ($125 if you live outside the U.S.), get your own signed, personalized copy from the author via our donation page (where numerous other books of our moment are also available) and give this site a real helping hand. Tom]

 

The Art of the Trumpaclysm: 

How the U.S. Invaded, Occupied, and Remade Itself

by Tom Engelhardt


Among so many subjects I haven’t even mentioned, including Melania and former wife Ivana -- is it even possible that she could become the U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic? -- there are, of course, the Trump kids and their businesses and the instantly broken promises on (such an old-fashioned phrase) their conflicts of interest and the conflicts about those conflicts and the presidential tweets, threats, and bluster that have gone with them, not to speak of the issue of for-pay access to the new president. And how about Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner (another walking conflict of you-know-what), who reputedly had a role in the appointment of the new ambassador to Israel, a New York bankruptcy lawyer known for raising millions of dollars to fund a West Bank Jewish settlement and for calling supporters of the liberal Jewish group J Street “far worse than kapos” (Jews who aided the Nazis in their concentration camps). Kushner has now been ordained America’s ultimate peacemaker in the Middle East. And don’t forget that sons Donald and Eric are already saving memorabilia for the future Trump presidential library, a concept that should take your breath away. (Just imagine a library with those giant golden letters over its entrance to honor a man who proudly doesn’t read books and, as with presidential executive orders and possibly even volumes he’s “written,” signs off on things he’s barely bothered to check out.)

And speaking of Rome (remember Nero fiddling?), have you noticed that these days all news roads lead back to... well, Donald Trump? Take my word for it: nothing happens in our world any longer that doesn’t relate to him and his people (or, by definition, it simply didn’t happen). Since he rode that Trump Tower escalator into the presidential race in June 2015, his greatest skill has, without any doubt, been his ability to suck up all the media air in any room, whether that “room” is the Oval Office, Washington, or the world at large. He speaks at a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and, amid angry outbursts on leaks from the intelligence community and attacks on “the dishonest media” for essentially firing his national security adviser, he suddenly turns his attention to the Israeli-Palestinian issue and says, “So, I'm looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I'm very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two but honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians -- if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I'm happy with the one they like the best.” And the world as we’ve known it in the Middle East is suddenly turned upside down and inside out.

Generalizing

In its way, even 20 months after it began, it’s all still so remarkable and new, and if it isn’t like being in the path of a tornado, you tell me what it's like. So no one should be surprised at just how difficult it is to step outside the storm of this never-ending moment, to find some -- any -- vantage point offering the slightest perspective on the Trumpaclysm that’s hit our world.

Still, odd as it may seem under the circumstances, Trump’s presidency came from somewhere, developed out of something. To think of it (as many of those resisting Trump now seem inclined to do) as uniquely new, the presidential version of a virgin birth, is to defy both history and reality.

Donald Trump, whatever else he may be, is most distinctly a creature of history. He’s unimaginable without it. This, in turn, means that the radical nature of his new presidency should serve as a reminder of just how radical the 15 years after 9/11 actually were in shaping American life, politics, and governance. In that sense, to generalize (if you’ll excuse the pun), his presidency already offers a strikingly vivid and accurate portrait of the America we’ve been living in for some years now, even if we’d prefer to pretend otherwise.

After all, it’s clearly a government of, by, and evidently for the billionaires and the generals, which pretty much sums up where we’ve been heading for the last decade and a half anyway. Let’s start with those generals. In the 15 years before Trump entered the Oval Office, Washington became a permanent war capital; war, a permanent feature of our American world; and the military, the most admired institution of American life, the one in which we have the most confidence among an otherwise fading crew, including the presidency, the Supreme Court, public schools, banks, television news, newspapers, big business, and Congress (in that descending order).

Support for that military in the form of staggering sums of taxpayer dollars (which are about to soar yet again) is one of the few things congressional Democrats and Republicans can still agree on. The military-industrial complex rides ever higher (despite Trumpian tweets about the price of F-35s); police across the country have been armed like so many military forces, while the technology of war on America’s distant battlefields -- from Stingrays to MRAPs to military surveillance drones -- has come home big time, and we’ve been SWATified.

This country has, in other words, been militarized in all sorts of ways, both obvious and less so, in a fashion that Americans once might not have imagined possible. In the process, declaring and making war has increasingly become -- the Constitution be damned -- the sole preoccupation of the White House without significant reference to Congress. Meanwhile, thanks to the drone assassination program run directly out of the Oval Office, the president, in these years, has become an assassin-in-chief as well as commander-in-chief.

Under the circumstances, no one should have been surprised when Donald Trump turned to the very generals he criticized in the election campaign, men who fought 15 years of losing wars that they bitterly feel should have been won. In his government, they have, of course, now taken over -- a historic first -- what had largely been the civilian posts of secretary of defense, secretary of homeland security, national security adviser, and National Security Council chief of staff. Think of it as a junta light and little more than the next logical step in the further militarization of this country.

It’s striking, for instance, that when the president finally fired his national security adviser, 24 days into his presidency, all but one of the other figures that he reportedly considered for a post often occupied by a civilian were retired generals (and an admiral), or in the case of the person he actually tapped to be his second national security adviser, a still-active Army general. This reflects a distinct American reality of the twenty-first century that The Donald has simply absorbed like the human sponge he is. As a result, America’s permanent wars, all relative disasters of one sort or another, will now be overseen by men who were, for the last decade and a half, deeply implicated in them. It’s a formula for further disaster, of course, but no matter.

Other future Trumpian steps -- like the possible mobilization of the National Guard, more than half a century after guardsmen helped desegregate the University of Alabama, to carry out the mass deportation of illegal immigrants -- will undoubtedly be in the same mold (though the administration has denied that such a mobilization is under serious consideration yet). In short, we now live in an America of the generals and that would be the case even if Donald Trump had never been elected president.

Add in one more factor of our moment: we have the first signs that members of the military high command may no longer feel completely bound by the classic American prohibition from taking any part in politics. General Raymond "Tony" Thomas, head of the elite U.S. Special Operations Command, speaking recently at a conference, essentially warned the president that we are “at war” and that chaos in the White House is not good for the warriors. That’s as close as we’ve come in our time to direct public military criticism of the White House.

The Ascendancy of the Billionaires

As for those billionaires, let’s start this way: a billionaire is now president of the United States, something that, until this country was transformed into a 1% society with 1% politics, would have been inconceivable. (The closest we came in modern times was Nelson Rockefeller as vice president, and he was appointed by President Gerald Ford in 1974, not elected.) In addition, never have there been so many billionaires and multimillionaires in a cabinet -- and that, in turn, was only possible because there are now so staggeringly many billionaires and multimillionaires in this country to choose from. In 1987, there were 41 billionaires in the United States; in 2015, 536. What else do you need to know about the intervening years, which featured growing inequality and the worst economic meltdown since 1929 that only helped strengthen the new version of the American system?

In swift order in these years, we moved from billionaires funding the political system (after the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision opened the financial floodgates) to actually heading and running the government. As a result, count on a country even friendlier to the already fantastically wealthy -- thanks in part to whatever Trump-style “tax cuts” are put in place -- and so the possible establishment of a new “era of dynastic wealth.” From the crew of rich dismantlers and destroyers Donald Trump has appointed to his cabinet, expect, among other things, that the privatization of the U.S. government -- a process until now largely focused on melding warrior corporations with various parts of the national security state -- will proceed apace in the rest of the governing apparatus.

We were, in other words, already living in a different America before November 8, 2016. Donald Trump has merely shoved that reality directly in all our faces. And keep in mind that if it weren’t for the one-percentification of this country and the surge of automation (as well as globalization) that destroyed so many jobs and only helped inequality flourish, white working class Americans in particular would not have felt so left behind in the heartland of their own country or so ready to send such an explosive figure into the White House as a visible form of screw-you-style protest.

Finally, consider one other hallmark of the first month of the Trump presidency: the “feud” between the new president and the intelligence sector of the national security state. In these post-9/11 years, that state within a state -- sometimes referred to by its critics as the “deep state,” though given the secrecy that envelops it, “dark state” might be a more accurate term -- grew by leaps and bounds. In that period, for instance, the U.S. gained a second Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security with its own security-industrial complex, while the intelligence agencies, all 17 of them, expanded in just about every way imaginable. In those years, they gained a previously inconceivable kind of clout, as well as the ability to essentially listen in on and monitor the communications of just about anyone on the planet (including Americans). Fed copiously by taxpayer dollars, swollen by hundreds of thousands of private contractors from warrior corporations, largely free of the controlling hand of either Congress or the courts, and operating under the kind of blanket secrecy that left most Americans in the dark about its activities (except when whistle-blowers revealed its workings), the national security state gained an ascendancy in Washington as the de facto fourth branch of government.

Now, key people within its shadowy precincts find Donald Trump, the president who is in so many ways a product of the same processes that elevated them, not to their liking -- even less so once he compared their activities to those of the Nazi era -- and they seem to have gone to war with him and his administration via a remarkable stream of leaks of damaging information, especially about now-departed National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. As Amanda Taub and Max Fisher of the New York Times wrote, “For concerned government officials, leaks may have become one of the few remaining means by which to influence not just Mr. Flynn’s policy initiatives but the threat he seemed to pose to their place in democracy.”

This, of course, represented a version of whistle-blowing that, when directed at them in the pre-Trump era, they found appalling. Like General Thomas’s comments, that flood of leaks, while discomfiting Donald Trump, also represented a potential challenge to the American political system as it once was known. When the fiercest defenders of that system begin to be seen as being inside the intelligence community and the military you know that you’re in a different and far more perilous world.

So much of what’s now happening may seem startlingly new and overwhelming. In truth, however, it’s been in development for years, even if the specifics of a Trump presidency were not so long ago unimaginable. In March of 2015, for instance, two months before The Donald tossed his hair into the presidential ring, in a post at TomDispatch I asked if “a new political system” was emerging in America and summed the situation up this way:

“Still, don’t for a second think that the American political system isn’t being rewritten on the run by interested parties in Congress, our present crop of billionaires, corporate interests, lobbyists, the Pentagon, and the officials of the national security state. Out of the chaos of this prolonged moment and inside the shell of the old system, a new culture, a new kind of politics, a new kind of governance is being born right before our eyes. Call it what you want. But call it something. Stop pretending it’s not happening.”

We’re now living in Donald Trump’s America (which I certainly didn’t either predict or imagine in March 2015); we’re living, that is, in an ever more chaotic and aberrant land run (to the extent it’s run at all) by billionaires and retired generals, and overseen by a distinctly aberrant president at war with aberrant parts of the national security state. That, in a nutshell, is the America created in the post-9/11 years. Put another way, the U.S. may have failed dismally in its efforts to invade, occupy, and remake Iraq in its own image, but it seems to have invaded, occupied, and remade itself with remarkable success. And don’t blame this one on the Russians.

No one said it better than French King Louis XV: Après moi, le Trump.

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Feffer's dystopian novel Splinterlands, as well as Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 Tom Engelhardt