Saturday, August 26, 2017

Zinn Presente!

"Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it. It is a corrective to the sluggishness of 'the proper channels,' a way of breaking through passages blocked by tradition and prejudice. It is disruptive and troublesome, but it is a necessary disruption, a healthy troublesome."
 - Howard Zinn

Friday, August 25, 2017

Colin Kaepernick: Kneeling to Win

Colin Kaepernick and the NFL: Man vs Machine

by John Wight - CounterPunch

August 25, 2017

In his classic movie, The Great Dictator, produced in 1949 when Hitler’s fascist juggernaut was sweeping all before it in Europe, Charlie Chaplin delivered the greatest speech in movie history – a call to arms that has resonated ever since:

“Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts!
You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate – the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!”

At a time when mainstream America is engaged in a campaign to reassert the values of tolerance, equality, and human rights with which it has long sought to associate itself, one man’s travails are stark evidence of the gulf that lies between the myth and the reality.

In failing to conform to the received truths that continue to feed the mythology of a nation drowning in cant and hypocrisy, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has found himself on the receiving end of its wrath. His decision to refuse to stand for the national anthem before an NFL pre-season game last season, in protest at racial injustice, has seen him shut out of the sport this season, with no club willing to sign him.

Specifically, the 29-year old quarterback’s stand was undertaken in solidarity with the growing number of black and minority victims of police brutality in America, and in protest at the lack of prosecutions with regard to the officer’s involved. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color”, he told the press afterwards. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick received a tsunami of criticism over his decision to sit for the anthem, demonized as unpatriotic and a disgrace to the NFL and his country, proving that if there is one thing America hates it is having its mask of democracy and liberty removed to expose a country in which to be black, brown, and/or poor is to be deemed unworthy.

Throughout the nation’s history, a number of black entertainers and athletes – the likes of Paul Robeson, Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos – have used their fame and celebrity to highlight America’s racial iniquities. Each paid a heavy price for doing so, yet, regardless, their names live on as a reminder that only live fish can swim against the tide, and that it is upon those with the courage to say no to injustice, who refuse to go along to get along, that justice depends.

As for those who insist that all Americans should respect the national anthem and the flag it reveres, here again we see the disjuncture between the myth of America and its ugly truth. The US national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner, was written by a man, Francis Scott Key, who had tasted defeat in the American War of Independence at the hands of former slaves fighting on the side of the British against the future of slavery and oppression that awaited in the event that the American Revolution prevailed, which of course it subsequently did.

Art by Evan McCarthy | CC BY 2.0

Key’s disdain for black soldiers who dared take up arms to fight for their freedom from slavery and racial oppression is laid out in a verse of the Star Spangled Banner that nowadays is never sung — or at least certainly not in public. To wit:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

When Malcolm X said, “I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don’t see any American dream, I see an American nightmare,” he was closer to the truth of the United States than the mythology represented in the stirring words of the Star Spangled Banner. It is why he was loathed by mainstream America up until his death, and it is why Colin Kaepernick is loathed today. In refusing to stand for the national anthem he took a stand against national hypocrisy, doing so on the side of those for whom injustice and America are two sides of the same coin. The fact that he now finds himself being punished for it only confirms that he was right.

However unwittingly, he has become a beacon of decency in the world of professional sports, a world of such unfettered greed and excess it provides a glimpse of the capitalist dystopia that lies in our future unless we are able to summon the will to break the machine before it breaks us.

John Wight is the author of a politically incorrect and irreverent Hollywood memoir – Dreams That Die – published by Zero Books. He’s also written five novels, which are available as Kindle eBooks. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnWight1
More articles by:John Wight

Why Was the Civil War Fought?

How We Know the So-Called “Civil War” Was Not Over Slavery

by Paul Craig Roberts - Dissident Voice

August 25th, 2017 

When I read Professor Thomas DiLorenzo’s article the question that leapt to mind was, “How come the South is said to have fought for slavery when the North wasn’t fighting against slavery?”

Two days before Lincoln’s inauguration as the 16th President, Congress, consisting only of the Northern states, passed overwhelmingly on March 2, 1861, the Corwin Amendment that gave constitutional protection to slavery. Lincoln endorsed the amendment in his inaugural address, saying “I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.”

Quite clearly, the North was not prepared to go to war in order to end slavery when on the very eve of war the US Congress and incoming president were in the process of making it unconstitutional to abolish slavery.

Here we have absolute total proof that the North wanted the South kept in the Union far more than the North wanted to abolish slavery.

If the South’s real concern was maintaining slavery, the South would not have turned down the constitutional protection of slavery offered them on a silver platter by Congress and the President. Clearly, for the South also the issue was not slavery.

The real issue between North and South could not be reconciled on the basis of accommodating slavery. The real issue was economic as DiLorenzo, Charles Beard and other historians have documented. The North offered to preserve slavery irrevocably, but the North did not offer to give up the high tariffs and economic policies that the South saw as inimical to its interests.

Blaming the war on slavery was the way the northern court historians used morality to cover up Lincoln’s naked aggression and the war crimes of his generals. Demonizing the enemy with moral language works for the victor. And it is still ongoing. We see in the destruction of statues the determination to shove remaining symbols of the Confederacy down the Memory Hole.

Today the ignorant morons, thoroughly brainwashed by Identity Politics, are demanding removal of memorials to Robert E. Lee, an alleged racist toward whom they express violent hatred. This presents a massive paradox. Robert E. Lee was the first person offered command of the Union armies. How can it be that a “Southern racist” was offered command of the Union Army if the Union was going to war to free black slaves?

Virginia did not secede until April 17, 1861, two days after Lincoln called up troops for the invasion of the South.

Surely there must be some hook somewhere that the dishonest court historians can use on which to hang an explanation that the war was about slavery. It is not an easy task. Only a small minority of southerners owned slaves. Slaves were brought to the New World by Europeans as a labor force long prior to the existence of the US and the Southern states in order that the abundant land could be exploited. For the South slavery was an inherited institution that pre-dated the South. Diaries and letters of soldiers fighting for the Confederacy and those fighting for the Union provide no evidence that the soldiers were fighting for or against slavery. Princeton historian, Pulitzer Prize winner, Lincoln Prize winner, president of the American Historical Association, and member of the editorial board of Encyclopedia Britannica, James M. McPherson, in his book based on the correspondence of one thousand soldiers from both sides, What They Fought For, 1861-1865, reports that they fought for two different understandings of the Constitution.

As for the Emancipation Proclamation, on the Union side, military officers were concerned that the Union troops would desert if the Emancipation Proclamation gave them the impression that they were being killed and maimed for the sake of blacks. That is why Lincoln stressed that the proclamation was a “war measure” to provoke an internal slave rebellion that would draw Southern troops off the front lines.

If we look carefully we can find a phony hook in the South Carolina Declaration of Causes of Secession (December 20, 1860) as long as we ignore the reasoning of the document. Lincoln’s election caused South Carolina to secede. During his campaign for president Lincoln used rhetoric aimed at the abolitionist vote. (Abolitionists did want slavery abolished for moral reasons, though it is sometimes hard to see their morality through their hate, but they never controlled the government.)

South Carolina saw in Lincoln’s election rhetoric intent to violate the US Constitution, which was a voluntary agreement, and which recognized each state as a free and independent state. After providing a history that supported South Carolina’s position, the document says that to remove all doubt about the sovereignty of states “an amendment was added, which declared that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people.”

South Carolina saw slavery as the issue being used by the North to violate the sovereignty of states and to further centralize power in Washington. The secession document makes the case that the North, which controlled the US government, had broken the compact on which the Union rested and, therefore, had made the Union null and void. For example, South Carolina pointed to Article 4 of the US Constitution, which reads: “No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.” Northern states had passed laws that nullified federal laws that upheld this article of the compact. Thus, the northern states had deliberately broken the compact on which the union was formed.

The obvious implication was that every aspect of states’ rights protected by the 10th Amendment could now be violated. And as time passed they were, so South Carolina’s reading of the situation was correct.

The secession document reads as a defense of the powers of states and not as a defense of slavery. Here is the document.

Read it and see what you decide.

A court historian, who is determined to focus attention away from the North’s destruction of the US Constitution and the war crimes that accompanied the Constitution’s destruction, will seize on South Carolina’s use of slavery as the example of the issue the North used to subvert the Constitution. The court historian’s reasoning is that as South Carolina makes a to-do about slavery, slavery must have been the cause of the war.

As South Carolina was the first to secede, its secession document probably was the model for other states. If so, this is the avenue by which court historians, that is, those who replace real history with fake history, turn the war into a war over slavery.

Once people become brainwashed, especially if it is by propaganda that serves power, they are more or less lost forever. It is extremely difficult to bring them to truth. Just look at the pain and suffering inflicted on historian David Irving for documenting the truth about the war crimes committed by the allies against the Germans. There is no doubt that he is correct, but the truth is unacceptable.

The same is the case with the War of Northern Aggression. Lies masquerading as history have been institutionalized for 150 years. An institutionalized lie is highly resistant to truth.

Education has so deteriorated in the US that many people can no longer tell the difference between an explanation and an excuse or justification. In the US denunciation of an orchestrated hate object is a safer path for a writer than explanation. Truth is the casualty.

That truth is so rare everywhere in the Western World is why the West is doomed. The United States, for example, has an entire population that is completely ignorant of its own history.

As George Orwell said, the best way to destroy a people is to destroy their history.

Apparently Even Asians Can Be White Supremacists If They Are Named Robert Lee

ESPN has pulled an Asian-American named Robert Lee (Lee is a common name among Asians, for example, Bruce Lee) from announcing the University of Virginia/William & Mary football game in Charlottesville this Saturday because of his name.

Paul Craig Roberts is an American economist, author, columnist, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, and former editor and columnist for corporate media publications. He is the author of The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism.
Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.

Google This! Evil Doings and Internet Censorship

An open letter to Google: Stop the censorship of the Internet! Stop the political blacklisting of the World Socialist Web Site!


25 August 2017

Sundar Pichai
Chief Executive Officer
Google, Inc.

Lawrence Page
Chief Executive Officer/Director
Alphabet, Inc.

Sergey Brin
Alphabet, Inc.

Eric Schmidt
Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors
Alphabet, Inc.
Gentlemen: Google’s mission statement from the outset was “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Its official code of conduct was proclaimed in Google’s famous motto: “Don’t be evil.”

In recent years, you have seriously lost your way. You are now engaged in hiding the world’s information, and, in the process, are doing a great deal of evil.

When Google officially discontinued its China-based search engine, due to censorship by the Chinese government of search engine results for political criticism, Mr. Brin publicly stated that for Google,

“It has always been a discussion about how we can best fight for openness on the Internet. We believe that this is the best thing that we can do for preserving the principles of the openness and freedom of information on the Internet.”

In 2013, when Mr. Schmidt visited Burma, he spoke in favor of free and open Internet use in the country. In light of Google’s recent actions, the statements of Mr. Brin and Mr. Schmidt appear utterly hypocritical.

Google, and by implication, its parent company Alphabet, Inc., are now engaged in political censorship of the Internet. You are doing what you have previously publicly denounced.

Google is manipulating its Internet searches to restrict public awareness of and access to socialist, anti-war and left-wing websites. The World Socialist Web Site ( has been massively targeted and is the most affected by your censorship protocols. Referrals to the WSWS from Google have fallen by nearly 70 percent since April of this year.

Censorship on this scale is political blacklisting. The obvious intent of Google’s censorship algorithm is to block news that your company does not want reported and to suppress opinions with which you do not agree. Political blacklisting is not a legitimate exercise of whatever may be Google’s prerogatives as a commercial enterprise. It is a gross abuse of monopolistic power. What you are doing is an attack on freedom of speech.

We therefore call upon you and Google to stop blacklisting the WSWS and renounce the censorship of all the left-wing, socialist, anti-war and progressive websites that have been affected adversely by your new discriminatory search policies.

The WSWS is the online newspaper of the international Trotskyist movement. It is the most widely read socialist publication on the Internet. Since its launch in the year 1998, the WSWS has published more than 60,000 articles on politics, history, science and culture in more than a dozen languages. It is a significant and unique intellectual resource.

WSWS articles are reposted on innumerable websites and are published in printed newspapers all over the world. Material posted by the WSWS is frequently cited in university research papers and included in college syllabi. Leading American scholars, such as historians James McPherson and Allen Guelzo, and Shakespeare expert James Shapiro have granted interviews to the WSWS. The film and theater reviews posted on the site have attracted a large international following. World-renowned filmmakers—Wim Wenders, Mike Leigh, Richard Linklater, Bertrand Tavernier, and Abbas Kiarostami, to name only a few—have discussed their work with the World Socialist Web Site. Essays and lectures posted on the WSWS have been included in anthologies produced by publishers with no connection to the World Socialist Web Site.

The World Socialist Web Site also provides coverage of labor struggles and social issues that are either inadequately covered or completely ignored by the corporate-controlled media.

As a result of our principled opposition to war, our focus on social inequality, and our high standards of political and journalistic integrity, the WSWS is indisputably an authoritative publication on world political events, the global economy, international socialism, the history of the twentieth century, the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, and contemporary Marxism. It is a leading international voice in the fight against the resurgence of racism, xenophobia and fascism.

By the beginning of this year, the WSWS had achieved a global Alexa ranking of 36,525, and a ranking of 16,679 in the United States. In the spring, the number of monthly visitors to the WSWS exceeded 900,000. In April 2017, according to our data, 422,460 visits to the WSWS originated from Google searches.

Beginning in April of this year, Google began manipulating search results to channel users away from socialist, left-wing, and anti-war publications, and directing them instead towards mainstream publications that directly express the views of the government and the corporate and media establishment (i.e., the New York Times, Washington Post, etc.), and a small number of mildly left “trusted” websites whose critiques are deemed innocuous (i.e., Jacobin Magazine and the website of the Democratic Socialists of America, which functions as a faction of the Democratic Party).

As a pretext for these actions, Google announced that it was making changes to its search algorithm “to surface more authoritative content,” a term that brings to mind efforts by authoritarian regimes to censor the Internet and, specifically, political views deemed outside the consensus as defined by the establishment media.

Ben Gomes, Google’s vice president for search engineering, attempted to justify the imposition of political censorship with a blog post on April 25, claiming that the changes to the algorithm were a response to “the phenomenon of ‘fake news,’ where content on the web has contributed to the spread of blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information.”

Google, according to Gomes, has recruited some 10,000 “evaluators” to judge the “quality” of websites. These evaluators are trained to “flag” websites that are deemed to “include misleading information” and “unsupported conspiracy theories.” Gomes explained that the blacklists created by these evaluators will be used, in combination with the latest developments in technology, to develop an algorithm that will impose censorship automatically, in real time, across future search results.

Whatever the technical changes Google has made to the search algorithm, the anti-left bias of the results is undeniable. The most striking outcome of Google’s censorship procedures is that users whose search queries indicate an interest in socialism, Marxism or Trotskyism are no longer directed to the World Socialist Web Site. Google is “disappearing” the WSWS from the results of search requests. For example, Google searches for “Leon Trotsky” yielded 5,893 impressions (appearances of the WSWS in search results) in May of this year. In July, the same search yielded exactly zero impressions for the WSWS, which is the Internet publication of the international movement founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938.

Other frequently used words and phrases that no longer include the WSWS in Google search results include: socialism, class struggle, class conflict, socialist movement, social inequality in the world, poverty and social inequality, antiwar literature, and the Russian revolution. A search for socialism vs. capitalism, which, as recently as April, would have listed the World Socialist Web Site as the eighth result on the first page of search results, now no longer returns any results at all for the WSWS. Of the top 150 search queries that returned results for the WSWS in April, 145 now no longer do so.

All the search terms listed above are employed frequently by users seeking a left-wing, socialist or Marxist take on events. Far from protecting readers from “unexpected” responses to their search requests, Google is manipulating its algorithm to make sure that the left-wing and progressive segment of their users, who would be most interested in the World Socialist Web Site, will not find it. Moreover, the extent and precision of the exclusion of the WSWS from search results strongly suggests that the anti-socialist bias of the new algorithm is being supplemented by the actual physical intervention of Google personnel, enforcing authoritarian-style direct and deliberate blacklisting.

As stated above, since April, other left-wing publications that present themselves as progressive, socialist or anti-war also have suffered significant reductions in their Google search results:

* fell by 63 percent
* fell by 62 percent
* fell by 47 percent
* fell by 42 percent
* fell by 37 percent
* fell by 36 percent
* fell by 36 percent
* fell by 30 percent
* fell by 25 percent
* fell by 21 percent
* fell by 19 percent

Google justifies the imposition of political censorship by using a loaded term like “fake news.” This term, properly used, signifies the manufacturing of news based on an artificially constructed event that either never occurred or has been grossly exaggerated. The present-day furor over “fake news” is itself an example of an invented event and artificially constructed narrative. It is a “fake” term that is used to discredit factual information and well-grounded analyses that challenge and discredit government policies and corporate interests. Any invocation of the phrase “fake news,” as it pertains to the WSWS, is devoid of any substance or credibility. In fact, our efforts to combat historical falsification have been recognized, including by the scholarly journal American Historical Review.

The facts prove that Google is rigging search results to blacklist and censor the WSWS and other left-wing publications. This raises a very serious question, with far-reaching constitutional implications. Is Google coordinating its censorship program with the American government, or sections of its military and intelligence apparatus?

Google probably will dismiss the question as an example of conspiracy theorizing. However, it is legitimate given the ample evidence that Google maintains close ties with the state. In 2016, Barack Obama’s defense secretary, Ashton Carter, appointed you, Mr. Schmidt, to chair the Department of Defense Innovation Advisory Board. Earlier this month, Defense Secretary James Mattis visited Google headquarters to discuss the ongoing and close collaboration between the company and the Pentagon. More generally, according to a report in The Intercept, Google representatives attended White House meetings on average at least once a week from January 2009 through October 2015.

Google claims to be a private corporation, but it is deeply involved in the formulation and implementation of government policy. The distinction between commercial interests and state objectives is increasingly difficult to detect. By obstructing the free access to and exchange of information, Google’s censorship program is aimed at enforcing a twenty-first century version of Orwellian “Right-Think.” It is undermining the development of progressive and constitutionally protected political opposition. It is benefiting the proponents of war, inequality, injustice and reaction.

The censorship of left-wing websites, and the WSWS in particular, reflects the fear that a genuine socialist perspective, if allowed a fair hearing, will find a mass audience in the US and internationally. There is widespread popular opposition to your efforts to suppress freedom of speech and thought. That is why Google feels compelled to cloak its anti-democratic policies with misleading arguments and outright lies. An online petition circulated by the WSWS demanding a halt to Google’s censorship efforts has already attracted several thousand signatures from readers in 70 different countries on five continents. We are determined to resist Google’s efforts to censor our publication, and to continue to raise awareness internationally about Google censorship. As long as this policy continues, Google will pay a heavy price in lost public credibility.

The International Editorial Board of the World Socialist Web Sites demands that the anti-democratic changes to the Google search result rankings and its search algorithm since April be reversed, and that Google cease its effort to curtail search accessibility to the WSWS and other left-wing, socialist, anti-war and progressive web publications.


David North
Chairperson, International Editorial Board
of the World Socialist Web Site

Texas Braces for Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey: What We Know About the Major Storm About to Hit the Gulf Coast

by Vox

August 25, 2017

A major Category 3 or higher hurricane is expected to make landfall on the Texas coast Friday evening through early Saturday, bringing damaging high winds, coastal flooding, and truly torrential rains. Some areas could see 30 inches or more of rain — that’s near the amount of rainfall these coastal Gulf cities normally get in one year. And it’s coming over the next few days.

“Rainfall of this magnitude will cause catastrophic and life-threatening flooding,” the National Hurricane Center warns.

Hurricane Harvey is currently churning with winds at 120 miles per hour (making it a Category 3 storm). “This is a life-threatening situation,” the hurricane center reports in no uncertain terms.

“Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.” 

Counties and cities along the Gulf Coast have issued mandatory or voluntary evacuation notices. (The San Antonio Express-News is keeping track of all the locations in Texas under evacuation orders. Check out its list here.)

Though these are serious warnings based on the government’s best scientific predictions, the forecast for Harvey will likely change (perhaps for the better, perhaps for the worse). But know: This is a major, dangerous weather event.

The specific amounts of rainfall, wind, and coastal flooding may change — but they’re all likely to occur in dangerous levels. So focus on preparing for the worst if the storm tracks anywhere near where you live.

Haste is warranted. The latest forecast is dire.

Hot August Nights: Nazis, IS, Antifa, the YPG, Democratic Landlords, the Spanish Civil War and Fake News

Nazis, IS, Antifa, the YPG, Democratic Landlords, the Spanish Civil War and Fake News

by David Rovics - CounterPunch

August 25, 2017

There’s been a lot happening this month. I don’t have any great plans of action as to the way forward, but I have some knowledge of the background, in terms of how we got here, that seem worth sharing. Basically I just need to process, and thought I’d do that out loud. So here are a few reflections on the events of August, 2017, that may be intimately related to one another.

Note: any links that appear below will take you to songs on the subject, mostly written in the past few weeks… 

* * *

The Spanish Civil War has been discussed in the media more in the past few weeks than I can remember in my lifetime. The media has said more nice things about anarchists in the past few weeks than ever in my lifetime as well, and I’m pretty sure they have covered protests more lately than at any time since 1970 or so.

At the beginning of the month I wrote a song, “Rojava,” after getting encrypted messages from the front lines of the war against Islamic State in Syria, sent by an anarchist from the US who is there fighting with the YPG. Which is the male version of the YPJ, which together makes up the biggest chunk of the military wing of the struggle for the freedom of the people of the region known as Rojava.

Most of the people around there are Kurdish, as are most of the fighters, but there are many others involved, including dozens of anarchists from the US. One of them, Rob Grodt, died last month. Rob was the fourth anarchist from the US to die fighting in the ranks of the YPG. He and the friend of his who contacted me had sung a song of mine together at a gathering of YPG fighters and officers just before Rob was killed. His friend thought I should write a song, and I agreed I should.

The YPG/YPJ are fighting a war against oblivion. I probably avoided trying to wrap my head around this movement, because in some ways it’s very complicated. For example, the armed struggle there has received support from both the US and Russia — and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. But Rob’s friend summed it up so well, in one of his text messages. To paraphrase, the Yazidis were being slaughtered, and the people that came to their aid were the PKK, with air support provided by the US. When there’s a slaughter going on and someone steps in to stop it, you don’t argue about politics — you help stop the slaughter. At least, if you’re as dedicated to humanity as these folks are — or, in Rob’s case, were.

Robert Grodt’s memorial is in New York City on September 4th.

* * *

Another fighter for social justice, Heather Heyer, died this month in Charlottesville, when a white supremacist plowed his car into some of the folks who were marching against them (I wrote a song — “Today in Charlottesville“). Like Rob, Heather had been involved with the social movements of her day for justice and equality, which is what she was doing when she was killed, and others were maimed for life.

In the course of the protests and counter-protests in Charlottesville around the controversy over the statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee, Antifa has been mentioned in the news more than ever. Generally in glowing terms, in stark contrast to the way Antifa and similar groupings of people were discussed in the media just prior to Charlottesville, when they would more commonly be referred to as thugs — or “anarchists,” which used to mean the same thing to the corporate media (and will again soon enough, I promise).

Listening to Amy Goodman interview someone on the subject of Antifa recently, it occurred to me that maybe most other people in the US know as little about this group as Amy seemed to know. No one in the media seemed to have anything to say in response to Trump’s “on many sides” response to Heather Heyer’s untimely death, other than to condemn his statement as both insensitive and wrong.

Antifa is more a philosophical approach to the world than any kind of organized group. Local chapters can have meetings and agree to sets of principles and rules of conduct, goals, etc., but there are many differences between groups within nations and between nations. For example, in both Germany and France, people who identify as Antifa regularly disrupt events involving speakers or performers who they decide are anti-Semitic, including yours truly, on many occasions. In doing so they regularly employ violence, threats of violence, property destruction, and threats of property destruction.

But mostly Antifa is known in Europe for fighting Nazis and their ilk. This often means defending refugees from being attacked by Nazis who are laying siege to their apartment blocks while the police stand by in places like Rostock, Germany. But as many Antifa in many different European cities have told me proudly, when they see someone on the street who they know is a Nazi, they beat them up. Being a Nazi is considered to be sufficient provocation — the Nazi doesn’t have to be attacking refugees to be a fair target.

Whether or not you agree with beating up Nazis whenever and wherever you see one, that’s what many people who identify as Antifa do with their time — along with drinking a lot of beer, wearing black clothing, and listening to punk rock. Many of my favorite people in the world are Antifa fighters from across Europe and the US (active duty or retired) — but when Trump says violence was committed by both sides, he is stating a simple fact. He is also a racist, etc, but he is stating a fact when he says that, and any media that pretends this isn’t the case should look at how they were reporting on Antifa and similar groups for the century or so preceding Trump’s election.

I remember on NPR after 9/11 a commentator said, “last week they were protesting the World Trade Organization, and this week they’re bombing the World Trade Center.” That pretty much sums up how they used to report on us.

* * *

The media is participating in a United Front against Trump, Bannon and white supremacists. Black Lives Matter and Antifa are no longer highway-blocking hooligans, they’re resistance fighters. The Democrats are no longer your landlords (even though they are), they’re the #Resistance against those other landlords. The Democratic landlords of the #Resistance and the white supremacist landlords are all raising the rents, gentrifying the cities, and driving out people of color, artists and other marginal people, but they’re otherwise very different.

While the principle involved with forming a United Front is fairly obvious — that the more people who are united against a common enemy, the more likely the enemy can be defeated — it’s also fraught with problems. That is, reality doesn’t necessarily work that way.

Democrats (and Republicans) starting imperial wars, spending half of our tax money on the military, imprisoning millions, and consistently failing to provide for much of the population in the US is how we got to where we are today — a terribly divided country, whose people (of all genders and colors) are largely illiterate and impoverished (some more than others). And while the media is blanket-covering every gathering of a small handful of white supremacists and every anti-Trump protest involving more than six people (as well as those that are bigger), the gentrification and impoverishment of the country that the Clintons and the Bushes and the Obamas presided over continues apace.

On September 10th there’s a “free speech rally” being held by the far right here where I live in Portland, Oregon. If these people can manage to get a few hundred people to come to their rally, they’ll be doing very well. By European standards it’s really a pathetic little far right movement. When Europeans ask me why there doesn’t appear to be a relatively large, organized far right movement in the US the way there is in many European countries, I always say that if someone really wants to harass and torture and kill people of color and other undesirable elements on a daily basis, all they have to do is join their local police force. I’d still say the same thing in August, 2017.

Anyway, the “free speech” rally will be opposed by a much bigger crowd of counter-protesters. If the local, national and international media gives blanket coverage to the counter-protests like they just did in Boston last week, maybe we’ll have tens of thousands coming to the counter-protest here, too. If the organizers are as confused as the folks who organized the last two protests I attended in downtown Portland since events in Charlottesville, there will be no audible sound system for the rally.

In short, the protests recently looked just like other protests in recent years in the US — small and quiet. And that was the case even though they were announced in advance on the radio, which almost never used to happen. If you recall, it used to be the case that if you wanted to publicize a protest, you could always count on the corporate and “public” media doing nothing to help. And usually, if they weren’t actively ignoring you, they would run fear-mongering pieces encouraging everybody to stay away from the protests so they wouldn’t get hurt by crazed anarchists.

Why so small and quiet? Because, as far as I can tell, the #Resistance is more a creation of Facebook and the corporate media than real life. Why is that? Because most people can smell the fish. They know that their landlord is a Democrat, and that if Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer are claiming to be part of a #Resistance, then that must mean they’re not in it.

That’s how the United Front can backfire, in my view, and already has. If the #Resistance is ever to find its feet, it will do so after it manages to differentiate itself from the Democratic landlords.

* * *

In Spain there was a United Front against Fascism. Well, sort of. It was mostly a not-very-united front between anarchists, communists and others who would typically be identified as somewhere on the Left. The enemy was a big chunk of the Spanish military, which had launched a coup against the democratically-elected socialist government at the time, in 1936. These forces, led by General Franco, were supported by the fascist governments in power at the time in Germany and Italy. The UK, France, the US and other “western” powers were officially neutral, but in reality were providing aid to the fascists both by selling them much-needed oil, and by preventing Soviet tanks from arriving in Spain, in the name of neutrality, while German and Italian troops and tanks poured in.

Although there were many foreign soldiers involved with the fight in Spain, including many Germans, Italians and people from (Spanish-occupied) Morocco on the fascist side, there were also many volunteers fighting on the side of the Spanish Republic, including similar numbers of communists and others from across Europe, North America and elsewhere — particularly German and Italian communists. But mostly the war was fought by people from Spain. (Which is a short-hand term for saying people from what we know of as Spain, who might or might not themselves identify as “Spanish” as opposed to Catalonian, Basque, etc.)

My friend Bob Steck was one of the folks from the US who joined the fight in Spain. After 16 months on the front lines and 16 months in a concentration camp, he was one of the half or so of the volunteers from the US who came home alive. He spent the rest of his life involved with the same sorts of social justice struggles that brought him to Spain in the first place. He also touched many lives in the course of a long career of teaching high school history in New York.

I had many conversations with Bob on many different subjects over many years, but one that stands out for me in recent months in the course of all the discussions about united fronts is something Bob said one day about the united front in Spain.

Bob was a life-long, self-described communist (though he quit the Communist Party for political reasons in the 1950’s — not because of the Red Scare). He said, though, that the anarchists in Spain had the right approach, and that if the rest of the Republican movement in Spain had adopted the anarchist approach, maybe they would have won.

His explanation for this argument went like this: most of the anarchists were from the cities, and most of Franco’s support came from the countryside. Then as now, one of the biggest contradictions within Spanish society (like US society then and today) had to do with the question of land — who owns it, who rents it, who has lots of it, who has none. When the anarchists liberated a town, they immediately distributed the land so that those who had lots of it suddenly had a lot less, and those who had none suddenly had some. (They also often burned down the local church, among other memorable activities.) These land distribution policies made the anarchists very popular wherever they went, Bob said — and dried up Franco’s base of support in towns where the land had been distributed.

The communists in Spain, and the socialists elected to power there, had a “after the revolution” policy of land distribution. That is, they’d settle the land question after they won the fight against fascism. This did not make them popular in the countryside, and allowed Franco to have a steady supply of troops.

* * *

Last week began with a white supremacist plowing into a crowd in Charlottesville and ended with an IS cell doing the same thing in Catalonia, with deadlier results. Islamic State — in Iraq, Syria, and Europe — is a direct outgrowth of US imperialism. The organization wouldn’t exist without the US invasion of Iraq, just as Al-Qaeda wouldn’t exist without the US funding the resistance to the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan in the 1980’s.

White supremacy and white supremacists, along with xenophobia and other things, are an intimate part of US history, from way before the founding of the country, right up to the present. We can beat up all the Nazis we want to and we can get run over by them, too, but they won’t go away until certain white people stop feeling disenfranchised. And when the landlords are both Democrats and Republicans, then a united front against Nazis that includes Democrat landlords is doomed to failure, since it consists of the same forces that created the need for it.

Of course, the same principles apply to IS and Al-Qaeda — fighting them will not defeat them. Ending imperialism (draining the swamp, so to speak) will. But if Yazidis are being massacred, someone (thankfully) is going to try to stop it from continuing. Just as some people will try to stop Nazis from marching through your local university with torches, chanting racist and anti-Semitic taunts.

If I’m not ending this rant with a tying together of the various strands, it’s because I believe the situation is too complicated for such an ending. But I hope these reflections might give you just a tiny bit more substance with which you might draw your own conclusions.  

David Rovics is a singer/songwriter based in Portland, Oregon.
More articles by:David Rovics

Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw Occupy Fish Farm: Will Stay Until Licence Cancelled

First Nations Occupy Salmon Farm Until British Columbia Government Cancels Licence of Occupation

by Sea Shepherd Society

August 25, 2017

Hereditary Chief Ernest Alexander Alfred, along with a group of First Nations people, have peacefully occupied the Marine Harvest salmon farm, Swanson Island.

They state they will remain on the farm until their Chiefs are satisfied that the Province of British Columbia has cancelled that farm’s Licence of Occupation and forcing it to leave their territory. The farm is located 17km east of Alert Bay.

On April 23, 2017, Ernest Alfred and other Hereditary Chiefs invited all political candidates to the Namgis Big House in Alert Bay to state their position on removing salmon farms to protect wild fish.

Both the Green Party and the NDP candidates stated they would work to remove salmon farms from the territories of First Nations who do not want salmon farms operating in their waters.

Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw Hereditary Chief
Ernest Alexander Alfred

“… we will remove fish farms, we are committed to that… and will make sure these territories are clear of fish farms.[i]” (Minister Claire Trevena in Namgis Gukwdzi (Big House)).

“I am a grandson of the Namgis, Lawit’sis and Mamalilikala Nations, this farm is in my house,” states Ernest Alfred.
“Over the past week, I boarded salmon farms and shot underwater footage in the pens. The sheer amount of disease and wild herring in the pens is out of control! We have no food fish again this year, our wild salmon runs are collapsing and the salmon farming industry is a herring fishery that no one knew about! Enough! To Marine Harvest: call in your transport vessels and get these Atlantic salmon out of my territory.”

The group aboard the farm are committed to peaceful action, there will be no damage done to the farm. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society research vessel, the Martin Sheen is on site to provide support.

The R/V Martin Sheen is currently in the area for its wild salmon defense campaign, Operation Virus Hunter II, assisting independent biologist Alexandra Morton in protecting the British Columbia coast from the devastating impact of salmon farms on wild fish. The non-profit organization has ships around the world dedicated to defending, conserving and protecting marine life. This is the second year the crew of the R/V Martin Sheen are in Canada’s west coast waters to protect wild salmon.

Chief Ernest Alexander Alfred states he stands in solidarity with his neighbours in Kingcome Inlet, whose territory covers the Broughton Archipelago. The Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw have said "NO!" to salmon farms for over 30 years, served the industry with multiple eviction notices and were sued by Marine Harvest for boarding a nearby farm last August. Marine Harvest dropped all charges against them when three hereditary leaders filed an affidavit contesting Marine Harvest’s right to be in their territory

“I am not moving until my chiefs are satisfied that this salmon farm Licence of Occupation has been cancelled,” says Alfred.
“I am fighting for my life”

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Shadow Land: Exploring America's Security State

Exploring the Shadows of America’s Security State - Or How I Learned Not to Love Big Brother

by Alfred W. McCoy - TomDispatch

August 24, 2017
[This piece has been adapted and expanded from the introduction to Alfred W. McCoy’s new book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power.] 

In the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, Washington pursued its elusive enemies across the landscapes of Asia and Africa, thanks in part to a massive expansion of its intelligence infrastructure, particularly of the emerging technologies for digital surveillance, agile drones, and biometric identification.

In 2010, almost a decade into this secret war with its voracious appetite for information, the Washington Post reported that the national security state had swelled into a “fourth branch” of the federal government -- with 854,000 vetted officials, 263 security organizations, and over 3,000 intelligence units, issuing 50,000 special reports every year.

Though stunning, these statistics only skimmed the visible surface of what had become history’s largest and most lethal clandestine apparatus.

According to classified documents that Edward Snowden leaked in 2013, the nation’s 16 intelligence agencies alone had 107,035 employees and a combined “black budget” of $52.6 billion, the equivalent of 10% percent of the vast defense budget.
Tomgram: Alfred McCoy, The CIA and Me

When historian Alfred McCoy began his long journey to expose some of the darkest secrets of the U.S. national security establishment, America was embroiled in wars in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Almost 50 years later, the United States is, in one way or another, involved in so many more conflicts from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen to Libya, Somalia, the Lake Chad region of Africa, and the Philippines.

To understand how the U.S. went from three interventions that actually ended to a proliferating collection of quasi-wars seemingly without end would require a detailed map to guide you through some of the thorniest wilds of American foreign policy. Luckily, McCoy is still on the case with his buzz-generating blockbuster-to-be: In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power.

He first stumbled upon some of the secrets of the national security state when, in the early 1970s, he started down Southeast Asia’s “heroin trail” and into a shadow world of black ops, mercenaries, and drug lords. It’s a tale fit for a John le Carré novel or, better yet, a seedy bar where the air is hot and still, the customers are rough, and the drinks strong. If TomDispatch regular McCoy told you his story over a whiskey, you’d be obliged to buy the next round. It’s that kind of tale. Today, however, you’re in luck and he shares it with you for free. Nick Turse
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Alfred McCoy’s new Dispatch Book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, won’t officially be published until September, but it's already getting extraordinary attention. That would include Jeremy Scahill’s powerful podcast interview with McCoy at the Intercept, a set of striking prepublication notices (Kirkus Reviews: "Sobering reading for geopolitics mavens and Risk aficionados alike"), and an impressive range of blurbs (Andrew Bacevich: “This is history with profound relevance to events that are unfolding before our eyes”; Ann Jones: “eye-opening... America’s neglected citizens would do well to read this book”; Oliver Stone: “One of our best and most underappreciated historians takes a hard look at the truth of our empire, both its covert activities and the reasons for its impending decline”). Of him, Scahill has said, “Al McCoy has guts... He helped put me on the path to investigative journalism.” In today’s post, adapted by McCoy from the introduction to In the Shadows of the American Century, you’ll get a taste of just what Scahill means. So read it and then pre-order a copy of the latest book from the man who battled the CIA and won. Tom]

Exploring the Shadows of America’s Security State - Or How I Learned Not to Love Big Brother

by Alfred W. McCoy


By sweeping the skies and probing the worldwide web’s undersea cables, the National Security Agency (NSA) could surgically penetrate the confidential communications of just about any leader on the planet, while simultaneously sweeping up billions of ordinary messages. For its classified missions, the CIA had access to the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command, with 69,000 elite troops (Rangers, SEALs, Air Commandos) and their agile arsenal. In addition to this formidable paramilitary capacity, the CIA operated 30 Predator and Reaper drones responsible for more than 3,000 deaths in Pakistan and Yemen.

While Americans practiced a collective form of duck and cover as the Department of Homeland Security’s colored alerts pulsed nervously from yellow to red, few paused to ask the hard question: Was all this security really directed solely at enemies beyond our borders? After half a century of domestic security abuses -- from the “red scare” of the 1920s through the FBI’s illegal harassment of antiwar protesters in the 1960s and 1970s -- could we really be confident that there wasn’t a hidden cost to all these secret measures right here at home? Maybe, just maybe, all this security wasn’t really so benign when it came to us.

From my own personal experience over the past half-century, and my family’s history over three generations, I’ve found out in the most personal way possible that there’s a real cost to entrusting our civil liberties to the discretion of secret agencies. Let me share just a few of my own “war” stories to explain how I’ve been forced to keep learning and relearning this uncomfortable lesson the hard way. 

On the Heroin Trail

After finishing college in the late 1960s, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Japanese history and was pleasantly surprised when Yale Graduate School admitted me with a full fellowship. But the Ivy League in those days was no ivory tower. During my first year at Yale, the Justice Department indicted Black Panther leader Bobby Seale for a local murder and the May Day protests that filled the New Haven green also shut the campus for a week. Almost simultaneously, President Nixon ordered the invasion of Cambodia and student protests closed hundreds of campuses across America for the rest of the semester.

In the midst of all this tumult, the focus of my studies shifted from Japan to Southeast Asia, and from the past to the war in Vietnam. Yes, that war. So what did I do about the draft? During my first semester at Yale, on December 1, 1969, to be precise, the Selective Service cut up the calendar for a lottery. The first 100 birthdays picked were certain to be drafted, but any dates above 200 were likely exempt. My birthday, June 8th, was the very last date drawn, not number 365 but 366 (don’t forget leap year) -- the only lottery I have ever won, except for a Sunbeam electric frying pan in a high school raffle. Through a convoluted moral calculus typical of the 1960s, I decided that my draft exemption, although acquired by sheer luck, demanded that I devote myself, above all else, to thinking about, writing about, and working to end the Vietnam War.

During those campus protests over Cambodia in the spring of 1970, our small group of graduate students in Southeast Asian history at Yale realized that the U.S. strategic predicament in Indochina would soon require an invasion of Laos to cut the flow of enemy supplies into South Vietnam. So, while protests over Cambodia swept campuses nationwide, we were huddled inside the library, preparing for the next invasion by editing a book of essays on Laos for the publisher Harper & Row. A few months after that book appeared, one of the company’s junior editors, Elizabeth Jakab, intrigued by an account we had included about that country’s opium crop, telephoned from New York to ask if I could research and write a “quickie” paperback about the history behind the heroin epidemic then infecting the U.S. Army in Vietnam.

I promptly started the research at my student carrel in the Gothic tower that is Yale’s Sterling Library, tracking old colonial reports about the Southeast Asian opium trade that ended suddenly in the 1950s, just as the story got interesting. So, quite tentatively at first, I stepped outside the library to do a few interviews and soon found myself following an investigative trail that circled the globe. First, I traveled across America for meetings with retired CIA operatives. Then I crossed the Pacific to Hong Kong to study drug syndicates, courtesy of that colony’s police drug squad. Next, I went south to Saigon, then the capital of South Vietnam, to investigate the heroin traffic that was targeting the GIs, and on into the mountains of Laos to observe CIA alliances with opium warlords and the hill-tribe militias that grew the opium poppy. Finally, I flew from Singapore to Paris for interviews with retired French intelligence officers about their opium trafficking during the first Indochina War of the 1950s.

The drug traffic that supplied heroin for the U.S. troops fighting in South Vietnam was not, I discovered, exclusively the work of criminals. Once the opium left tribal poppy fields in Laos, the traffic required official complicity at every level. The helicopters of Air America, the airline the CIA then ran, carried raw opium out of the villages of its hill-tribe allies. The commander of the Royal Lao Army, a close American collaborator, operated the world’s largest heroin lab and was so oblivious to the implications of the traffic that he opened his opium ledgers for my inspection. Several of Saigon’s top generals were complicit in the drug’s distribution to U.S. soldiers. By 1971, this web of collusion ensured that heroin, according to a later White House survey of a thousand veterans, would be “commonly used” by 34% of American troops in South Vietnam.

None of this had been covered in my college history seminars. I had no models for researching an uncharted netherworld of crime and covert operations. After stepping off the plane in Saigon, body slammed by the tropical heat, I found myself in a sprawling foreign city of four million, lost in a swarm of snarling motorcycles and a maze of nameless streets, without contacts or a clue about how to probe these secrets. Every day on the heroin trail confronted me with new challenges -- where to look, what to look for, and, above all, how to ask hard questions.

Reading all that history had, however, taught me something I didn’t know I knew. Instead of confronting my sources with questions about sensitive current events, I started with the French colonial past when the opium trade was still legal, gradually uncovering the underlying, unchanging logistics of drug production. As I followed this historical trail into the present, when the traffic became illegal and dangerously controversial, I began to use pieces from this past to assemble the present puzzle, until the names of contemporary dealers fell into place. In short, I had crafted a historical method that would prove, over the next 40 years of my career, surprisingly useful in analyzing a diverse array of foreign policy controversies -- CIA alliances with drug lords, the agency’s propagation of psychological torture, and our spreading state surveillance.

The CIA Makes Its Entrance in My Life

Those months on the road, meeting gangsters and warlords in isolated places, offered only one bit of real danger. While hiking in the mountains of Laos, interviewing Hmong farmers about their opium shipments on CIA helicopters, I was descending a steep slope when a burst of bullets ripped the ground at my feet. I had walked into an ambush by agency mercenaries.

While the five Hmong militia escorts whom the local village headman had prudently provided laid down a covering fire, my Australian photographer John Everingham and I flattened ourselves in the elephant grass and crawled through the mud to safety. Without those armed escorts, my research would have been at an end and so would I. After that ambush failed, a CIA paramilitary officer summoned me to a mountaintop meeting where he threatened to murder my Lao interpreter unless I ended my research. After winning assurances from the U.S. embassy that my interpreter would not be harmed, I decided to ignore that warning and keep going.

Six months and 30,000 miles later, I returned to New Haven. My investigation of CIA alliances with drug lords had taught me more than I could have imagined about the covert aspects of U.S. global power. Settling into my attic apartment for an academic year of writing, I was confident that I knew more than enough for a book on this unconventional topic. But my education, it turned out, was just beginning.

Within weeks, a massive, middle-aged guy in a suit interrupted my scholarly isolation. He appeared at my front door and identified himself as Tom Tripodi, senior agent for the Bureau of Narcotics, which later became the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). His agency, he confessed during a second visit, was worried about my writing and he had been sent to investigate. He needed something to tell his superiors. Tom was a guy you could trust. So I showed him a few draft pages of my book. He disappeared into the living room for a while and came back saying, “Pretty good stuff. You got your ducks in a row.” But there were some things, he added, that weren’t quite right, some things he could help me fix.

Tom was my first reader. Later, I would hand him whole chapters and he would sit in a rocking chair, shirt sleeves rolled up, revolver in his shoulder holster, sipping coffee, scribbling corrections in the margins, and telling fabulous stories -- like the time Jersey Mafia boss “Bayonne Joe” Zicarelli tried to buy a thousand rifles from a local gun store to overthrow Fidel Castro. Or when some CIA covert warrior came home for a vacation and had to be escorted everywhere so he didn’t kill somebody in a supermarket aisle.

Best of all, there was the one about how the Bureau of Narcotics caught French intelligence protecting the Corsican syndicates smuggling heroin into New York City. Some of his stories, usually unacknowledged, would appear in my book, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia. These conversations with an undercover operative, who had trained Cuban exiles for the CIA in Florida and later investigated Mafia heroin syndicates for the DEA in Sicily, were akin to an advanced seminar, a master class in covert operations.

In the summer of 1972, with the book at press, I went to Washington to testify before Congress. As I was making the rounds of congressional offices on Capitol Hill, my editor rang unexpectedly and summoned me to New York for a meeting with the president and vice president of Harper & Row, my book’s publisher. Ushered into a plush suite of offices overlooking the spires of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I listened to those executives tell me that Cord Meyer, Jr., the CIA’s deputy director for covert operations, had called on their company’s president emeritus, Cass Canfield, Sr. The visit was no accident, for Canfield, according to an authoritative history, “enjoyed prolific links to the world of intelligence, both as a former psychological warfare officer and as a close personal friend of Allen Dulles,” the ex-head of the CIA. Meyer denounced my book as a threat to national security. He asked Canfield, also an old friend, to quietly suppress it.

I was in serious trouble. Not only was Meyer a senior CIA official but he also had impeccable social connections and covert assets in every corner of American intellectual life. After graduating from Yale in 1942, he served with the marines in the Pacific, writing eloquent war dispatches published in the Atlantic Monthly. He later worked with the U.S. delegation drafting the U.N. charter. Personally recruited by spymaster Allen Dulles, Meyer joined the CIA in 1951 and was soon running its International Organizations Division, which, in the words of that same history, “constituted the greatest single concentration of covert political and propaganda activities of the by now octopus-like CIA,” including “Operation Mockingbird” that planted disinformation in major U.S. newspapers meant to aid agency operations. Informed sources told me that the CIA still had assets inside every major New York publisher and it already had every page of my manuscript.

As the child of a wealthy New York family, Cord Meyer moved in elite social circles, meeting and marrying Mary Pinchot, the niece of Gifford Pinchot, founder of the U.S. Forestry Service and a former governor of Pennsylvania. Pinchot was a breathtaking beauty who later became President Kennedy’s mistress, making dozens of secret visits to the White House. When she was found shot dead along the banks of a canal in Washington in 1964, the head of CIA counterintelligence, James Jesus Angleton, another Yale alumnus, broke into her home in an unsuccessful attempt to secure her diary. Mary’s sister Toni and her husband, Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, later found the diary and gave it to Angleton for destruction by the agency. To this day, her unsolved murder remains a subject of mystery and controversy.

Cord Meyer was also in the Social Register of New York’s fine families along with my publisher, Cass Canfield, which added a dash of social cachet to the pressure to suppress my book. By the time he walked into Harper & Row’s office in that summer of 1972, two decades of CIA service had changed Meyer (according to that same authoritative history) from a liberal idealist into “a relentless, implacable advocate for his own ideas,” driven by “a paranoiac distrust of everyone who didn’t agree with him” and a manner that was “histrionic and even bellicose.” An unpublished 26-year-old graduate student versus the master of CIA media manipulation. It was hardly a fair fight. I began to fear my book would never appear.

To his credit, Canfield refused Meyer’s request to suppress the book. But he did allow the agency a chance to review the manuscript prior to publication. Instead of waiting quietly for the CIA’s critique, I contacted Seymour Hersh, then an investigative reporter for the New York Times. The same day the CIA courier arrived from Langley to collect my manuscript, Hersh swept through Harper & Row’s offices like a tropical storm, pelting hapless executives with incessant, unsettling questions. The next day, his exposé of the CIA’s attempt at censorship appeared on the paper’s front page. Other national media organizations followed his lead. Faced with a barrage of negative coverage, the CIA gave Harper & Row a critique full of unconvincing denials. The book was published unaltered.

My Life as an Open Book for the Agency

I had learned another important lesson: the Constitution’s protection of press freedom could check even the world’s most powerful espionage agency. Cord Meyer reportedly learned the same lesson. According to his obituary in the Washington Post, “It was assumed that Mr. Meyer would eventually advance” to head CIA covert operations, “but the public disclosure about the book deal... apparently dampened his prospects.” He was instead exiled to London and eased into early retirement.

Meyer and his colleagues were not, however, used to losing. Defeated in the public arena, the CIA retreated to the shadows and retaliated by tugging at every thread in the threadbare life of a graduate student. Over the next few months, federal officials from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare turned up at Yale to investigate my graduate fellowship. The Internal Revenue Service audited my poverty-level income. The FBI tapped my New Haven telephone (something I learned years later from a class-action lawsuit).

In August 1972, at the height of the controversy over the book, FBI agents told the bureau’s director that they had “conducted [an] investigation concerning McCoy,” searching the files they had compiled on me for the past two years and interviewing numerous “sources whose identities are concealed [who] have furnished reliable information in the past” -- thereby producing an 11-page report detailing my birth, education, and campus antiwar activities.

A college classmate I hadn’t seen in four years, who served in military intelligence, magically appeared at my side in the book section of the Yale Co-op, seemingly eager to resume our relationship. The same week that a laudatory review of my book appeared on the front page of the New York Times Book Review, an extraordinary achievement for any historian, Yale’s History Department placed me on academic probation. Unless I could somehow do a year’s worth of overdue work in a single semester, I faced dismissal.

In those days, the ties between the CIA and Yale were wide and deep. The campus residential colleges screened students, including future CIA Director Porter Goss, for possible careers in espionage. Alumni like Cord Meyer and James Angleton held senior slots at the agency. Had I not had a faculty adviser visiting from Germany, the distinguished scholar Bernhard Dahm who was a stranger to this covert nexus, that probation would likely have become expulsion, ending my academic career and destroying my credibility.

During those difficult days, New York Congressman Ogden Reid, a ranking member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, telephoned to say that he was sending staff investigators to Laos to look into the opium situation. Amid this controversy, a CIA helicopter landed near the village where I had escaped that ambush and flew the Hmong headman who had helped my research to an agency airstrip. There, a CIA interrogator made it clear that he had better deny what he had said to me about the opium. Fearing, as he later told my photographer, that “they will send a helicopter to arrest me, or... soldiers to shoot me,” the Hmong headman did just that.

At a personal level, I was discovering just how deep the country’s intelligence agencies could reach, even in a democracy, leaving no part of my life untouched: my publisher, my university, my sources, my taxes, my phone, and even my friends.

Although I had won the first battle of this war with a media blitz, the CIA was winning the longer bureaucratic struggle. By silencing my sources and denying any culpability, its officials convinced Congress that it was innocent of any direct complicity in the Indochina drug trade. During Senate hearings into CIA assassinations by the famed Church Committee three years later, Congress accepted the agency’s assurance that none of its operatives had been directly involved in heroin trafficking (an allegation I had never actually made). The committee’s report did confirm the core of my critique, however, finding that “the CIA is particularly vulnerable to criticism” over indigenous assets in Laos “of considerable importance to the Agency,” including “people who either were known to be, or were suspected of being, involved in narcotics trafficking.” But the senators did not press the CIA for any resolution or reform of what its own inspector general had called the “particular dilemma” posed by those alliances with drug lords -- the key aspect, in my view, of its complicity in the traffic.

During the mid-1970s, as the flow of drugs into the United States slowed and the number of addicts declined, the heroin problem receded into the inner cities and the media moved on to new sensations. Unfortunately, Congress had forfeited an opportunity to check the CIA and correct its way of waging covert wars. In less than 10 years, the problem of the CIA’s tactical alliances with drug traffickers to support its far-flung covert wars was back with a vengeance.

During the 1980s, as the crack-cocaine epidemic swept America’s cities, the agency, as its own Inspector General later reported, allied itself with the largest drug smuggler in the Caribbean, using his port facilities to ship arms to the Contra guerrillas fighting in Nicaragua and protecting him from any prosecution for five years. Simultaneously on the other side of the planet in Afghanistan, mujahedeen guerrillas imposed an opium tax on farmers to fund their fight against the Soviet occupation and, with the CIA’s tacit consent, operated heroin labs along the Pakistani border to supply international markets. By the mid-1980s, Afghanistan’s opium harvest had grown 10-fold and was providing 60% of the heroin for America’s addicts and as much as 90% in New York City.

Almost by accident, I had launched my academic career by doing something a bit different. Embedded within that study of drug trafficking was an analytical approach that would take me, almost unwittingly, on a lifelong exploration of U.S. global hegemony in its many manifestations, including diplomatic alliances, CIA interventions, developing military technology, recourse to torture, and global surveillance. Step by step, topic by topic, decade after decade, I would slowly accumulate sufficient understanding of the parts to try to assemble the whole. In writing my new book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, I drew on this research to assess the overall character of U.S. global power and the forces that might contribute to its perpetuation or decline.

In the process, I slowly came to see a striking continuity and coherence in Washington’s century-long rise to global dominion. CIA torture techniques emerged at the start of the Cold War in the 1950s; much of its futuristic robotic aerospace technology had its first trial in the Vietnam War of the 1960s; and, above all, Washington’s reliance on surveillance first appeared in the colonial Philippines around 1900 and soon became an essential though essentially illegal tool for the FBI’s repression of domestic dissent that continued through the 1970s.

Surveillance Today

In the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, I dusted off that historical method, and used it to explore the origins and character of domestic surveillance inside the United States.

After occupying the Philippines in 1898, the U.S. Army, facing a difficult pacification campaign in a restive land, discovered the power of systematic surveillance to crush the resistance of the country’s political elite. Then, during World War I, the Army’s “father of military intelligence,” the dour General Ralph Van Deman, who had learned his trade in the Philippines, drew upon his years pacifying those islands to mobilize a legion of 1,700 soldiers and 350,000 citizen-vigilantes for an intense surveillance program against suspected enemy spies among German-Americans, including my own grandfather. In studying Military Intelligence files at the National Archives, I found “suspicious” letters purloined from my grandfather’s army locker. In fact, his mother had been writing him in her native German about such subversive subjects as knitting him socks for guard duty.

In the 1950s, Hoover’s FBI agents tapped thousands of phones without warrants and kept suspected subversives under close surveillance, including my mother’s cousin Gerard Piel, an anti-nuclear activist and the publisher of Scientific American magazine. During the Vietnam War, the bureau expanded its activities with an amazing array of spiteful, often illegal, intrigues in a bid to cripple the antiwar movement with pervasive surveillance of the sort seen in my own FBI file.

Memory of the FBI’s illegal surveillance programs was largely washed away after the Vietnam War thanks to Congressional reforms that required judicial warrants for all government wiretaps. The terror attacks of September 2001, however, gave the National Security Agency the leeway to launch renewed surveillance on a previously unimaginable scale. Writing for TomDispatch in 2009, I observed that coercive methods first tested in the Middle East were being repatriated and might lay the groundwork for “a domestic surveillance state.” Sophisticated biometric and cyber techniques forged in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq had made a “digital surveillance state a reality” and so were fundamentally changing the character of American democracy.

Four years later, Edward Snowden’s leak of secret NSA documents revealed that, after a century-long gestation period, a U.S. digital surveillance state had finally arrived. In the age of the Internet, the NSA could monitor tens of millions of private lives worldwide, including American ones, via a few hundred computerized probes into the global grid of fiber-optic cables.

And then, as if to remind me in the most personal way possible of our new reality, four years ago, I found myself the target yet again of an IRS audit, of TSA body searches at national airports, and -- as I discovered when the line went dead -- a tap on my office telephone at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Why? Maybe it was my current writing on sensitive topics like CIA torture and NSA surveillance, or maybe my name popped up from some old database of suspected subversives left over from the 1970s. Whatever the explanation, it was a reasonable reminder that, if my own family’s experience across three generations is in any way representative, state surveillance has been an integral part of American political life far longer than we might imagine.

At the cost of personal privacy, Washington’s worldwide web of surveillance has now become a weapon of exceptional power in a bid to extend U.S. global hegemony deeper into the twenty-first century. Yet it’s worth remembering that sooner or later what we do overseas always seems to come home to haunt us, just as the CIA and crew have haunted me this last half-century. When we learn to love Big Brother, the world becomes a more, not less, dangerous place.

Alfred W. McCoy, a TomDispatch regular, is the Harrington professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of the now-classic book The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, which probed the conjuncture of illicit narcotics and covert operations over 50 years, and the forthcoming In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power (Dispatch Books, September) from which this piece is adapted.

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Copyright 2017 Alfred W. McCoy