Full Version: POTUS TRUMP
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Pages: 1 2
Matt Taibbi

BEN NORTON: President Donald Trump has removed the mask on U.S. foreign policy and dispelled any illusions that it is based on human rights, rather than economic interests.

Trump held a historic meeting in the White House with Saudi Arabia's crown prince on Tuesday, March 20. Immediately at the beginning of their Oval Office press briefing, Trump boasted of his arms sales to the Saudi regime, praising the repressive absolute monarchy as a "very great friend" and a "big purchaser of equipment."

DONALD TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody. It's a great honor to have the crown prince with us.

Saudi Arabia has been a very great friend and a big purchaser of equipment and lots of other things. And one of the biggest investments in the United States is their, I guess it's your big investment, is buying stock in companies and various other things in the United States and creating jobs.

We've become very good friends over a fairly short period of time. I was in Saudi Arabia in May. And we are bringing back hundreds of billions of dollars into the United States.

BEN NORTON: Trump didn't beat around the bush; he instantly made it clear that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was there to finalize arms sales he had made during his trip to Riyadh in May. Just 40 seconds into their meeting, Trump pulled out a cardboard chart listing the billions of dollars in arms sales the United States is doing with the Saudi regime.

DONALD TRUMP: Some of the things that ? have been approved and are currently under construction and will be delivered to Saudi Arabia very soon, and that's for their protection. But if you look, in terms of dollars, $3 billion, $533 million, $525 million.

BEN NORTON: Within 90 seconds of their meeting, Trump then pulled out another cardboard chart, this one showing the U.S. states that are manufacturing these weapons. The map makes it clear that Trump is using these massive arms sales to gain support in what the chart describes as "key states" ? those that will be important in the 2020 election, including the Rust Belt states and swing states like Florida.

DONALD TRUMP: And that have been ordered and will shortly be started in construction and delivered: the THAAD system ? $13 billion; the C-130 airplanes, the Hercules, great plane ? $3.8 billion.

BEN NORTON: What Trump did not acknowledge is that these billions of dollars of U.S. weapons are being used to massacre Yemeni civilians. In fact his meeting with the Saudi crown prince came in the same week marking the third anniversary of the Saudi war on Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has used this U.S. military equipment to relentlessly bomb civilian areas in Yemen, including hospitals, schools, residential houses, refugee camps, and even funerals. The U.S.-backed Saudi coalition has killed many thousands of Yemeni civilians, pushed millions to the brink of famine, unleashed an unprecedented cholera outbreak, and created what the United Nations says is the largest humanitarian catastrophe on Earth.

Trump expressed no concern whatsoever over the millions of lives being crushed in Yemen. Nor did he even mention the egregious human rights abuses committed by Saudi Arabia and its de facto leader Mohammed bin Salman, who has been purging his political rivals, imprisoning human rights activists, and crushing all dissent.

Instead, Trump made it clear that his political strategy is to sell weapons and rely on $400 billion of Saudi investment in key states that can help him win re-election.

DONALD TRUMP: And the other thing that I really am very happy about is that we talked about 400 billion dollars' worth of investment, of which we've already invested and seen invested $200 billion to our companies, to various other places, and people that make things.

So a lot of places throughout the United States are benefitting by this massive investment made by Saudi Arabia to buy product from the United States. And again, we make the best military product in the world, whether it's missiles or planes or anything else. There's nobody that even comes close.

So I just want to thank you and I want to congratulate you on everything. Thank you very much.



The first episode of "Unfit to Rule" examines the quagmire of corruption and political chaos affecting many governments around the world - most prominent the Mueller investigation of Trump; with Gerald Horne and  Paul Jay

PAUL JAY: Welcome to the Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. So we're going to be doing a regular series of interviews with our guest, Dr. Gerald Horne. I was joking beforehand that maybe we'll call these interviews Not Fit to Rule, because we're going to be talking about elite politics from Washington, D.C. and further afield. If you look from country to country, the number of leaders of countries that are deep in the quagmire of corruption scandals, the list goes on and on, of course, here in the United States, Trump and his cohorts. You can go to South Africa, you can go to Brazil, you can go to the Philippines, and of course Netanyahu in Israel, and I'm sure there's more one could add to that list.
And I think this is a symptom of a systemic issue. Global capitalism, the global elites. There's a real crisis. They don't know what to do, and I shouldn't say, not only do they not know what to do, they don't want to do what's even in their own interests. They can't do the kind of reforms that would make capitalism healthy, from climate change to financial regulation, go on and on. The need for immediate maximum profits seems to be trumping, no pun intended, Even the kind of policy that even just a few years ago would have seemed normal. At any rate, we're going to start the first of these interviews, and we're going to talk about the Trump drama in D.C. and the Mueller investigation, and we're going to follow some of these political events. But try to give it somewhat more of a systemic historical context.

And so without further ado, I'll introduce my guest, Dr. Gerald Horne. Thanks for joining us, Dr. Horne.

GERALD HORNE: Thank you for inviting me.

PAUL JAY: So, Dr. Horne holds the John Jay and Rebecca Morris Chair of History and African-American Studies at the University of Houston. He's the author of many books, most recently "Storming the Heavens: African-Americans and the Early Fight for the Right to Fly," and "The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in 17th Century North America and the Caribbean."

First of all, if this was a Clinton presidency, and if she had won, I am sure that if the FBI established a special investigator to look into the Clinton Foundation and follow all the potential corruption threads that might reveal themselves, we would have quite a crisis of the American state, as well. But this Russiagate thing that was supposed to, the collaboration of the Trump with the Russians which actually triggered this, they don't seem to have actually found much in the public domain. There's next to nothing that actually links the Russian state with, with what may have gone on in terms of trying to manipulate the elections. Even the WikiLeaks thing is still not, other than we have to take the American intelligence agencies on faith that the Russians did it. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't. But the Mueller investigation is really reaching into corruption, which I'm sure there is tons of. But that could be said, as I said about if the Clintons had won, and perhaps many other administrations.

So why is, what does Mueller represent? It's not just like partisan Democratic Party interests. There's something more going on here, that this section of the state wants to wound and even bring down this administration.

GERALD HORNE: I think there's a battle royale taking place within the highest levels of the U.S. ruling elite. A simple way to put it is that one faction says confront Russia first, with regard to maintaining U.S. imperialism's hegemony. The other faction says confront China first. Now, Mr. Trump, bluster and buffoonery aside, was a representative of this notion that there should be conciliation with Moscow so as to better confront China. And it's unclear if that particular faction is going to prevail, not least because of the investigations you just reference. Then there is a faction that feels that China should be conciliated, not least since there's so much U.S. investment in China, and that Russia should be confronted. Russia should be confronted because it's much more of a competitor with the United States with regard to arms sales. Look at the India market, in particular. And Russia, perhaps because of the historic legacy of 1917-1991, oftentimes is more prone and apt to confront the United States in the international arena in various hotspots, as Syria tends to suggest. Then there are those who also feel that China cannot be confronted adequately unless a Yeltsin-type figure is in power in Moscow, referencing Boris Yeltsin, the sellout leader of Russia following the ouster of Gorbachev.

So it seems to me that that's really what's driving this battle royale within the U..S ruling elite, leading a former CIA Director John Brennan to refer to Mr. Trump in very insulting terms, mimicked by Clapper, another top intelligence official. Mirrored by Michael Hayden, another top intelligence official. Not to mention the insults daily heaped upon this president by the Washington Post, The New York Times, MSNBC.

PAUL JAY: Of course, Comey most recently.

GERALD HORNE: And James Comey most recently, which involved really very insulting terms directed at Mr. Trump. Even the New York Times had a front page piece just a day or two ago about how Mr. Comey may be harming his so-called straight arrow image by these rather insulting, demeaning comments about Mr. Trump's alleged bald spot that this elaborate hairdo is meant to conceal, the fact that he may have bags under his eyes which reveals that uses goggles for a tanning bed. I mean, I'm not sure why the former FBI director has to go there when there is so much other negativity that can be heaped upon Mr. Trump. But what I think it signifies is these very deep fissures, these very deep political fissures within the highest ranks of the U.S. ruling elite.

PAUL JAY: Much of the state apparatus, the, especially the FBI, but even to some extent the intelligence agencies, certainly the corporate media, they've always understood that part of their role is to keep the office of the president reverential. You gotta really go pretty far for them to break down the idea that as, as many weaknesses as a president might have, it's still kind of the king. And you be careful about discrediting the office itself. George Bush was starting to get this ridicule. But after 9/11 he all of a sudden he became an icon of American resistance to terrorism, and so on.

It kind of goes to what I was saying in the beginning. Even in their own interests, these fractures and fissures they have, the short-term goals they have seem to be overriding even systemic things that would help them. Like, so discrediting the office of the President undermines everyone's, I don't know what faith people still had, in the system. But there ain't a heck of a lot going to be left after all this. But they don't care, because whatever these differences are between these different sections are more important to them than even maintaining the mythology of the president.

GERALD HORNE: Well, it's akin to the question of political corruption which you pointed out correctly is just not a phenomenon in the United States, it's a phenomenon in South Africa, it's a phenomenon in Israel, it's been reflected in Brazil. And likewise with regard to this lack of reverence for the highest office in the land, you may have seen the reports about the latest interview with President Macron in France, where the journalists interviewing him made it a point not to refer to him by the term Mr. President, or President Macron. They just treated him like any other ordinary Joe, which is contrary to the office of , how the presidency has been treated in France. And of course we know that in London, historically, prime ministers have had scorn heaped upon them. But what's been heaped upon Theresa May, the current prime minister, seems to go above and beyond that.

I think the underlying issue, once again, is that the North Atlantic countries in particular are at a loss as of today as to how to confront China. It's helping to engender a lot of confusion, a lot of discontent. China, apparently, is in the passing lane. This is one of the reasons why President Macron and Chancellor Merkel are headed to Washington within the next week or so to discuss, put simply, a new North Atlantic plan which amounts to entente or understanding with Moscow, gang up on China.

Now, that is consistent to a certain extent with what Mr. Trump has been suggesting. But on the other hand, Mr. Trump is under so much pressure from the elite media from the Democratic Party because of his real and imagined dealings with Moscow, it's going to be very difficult for him to accede to this Merkel-Macron plan. And in any case, even if he does accede to it, it's not clear if it's going to change what seems to be the rolling tides of history, which seems to be impelling China forward. And I think that that is the elephant in the room, if you like, that it's helping to undergird and explain so much of the surface ripples that we're now paying attention to.

PAUL JAY: The strength and power of finance and the financial sector, and the amount of wealth that is in so few hands, what is it. There was something like eight or nine of the top 1 percent individuals have as much wealth as 50 percent of the people of the world. There's a number I came across the other day, the global GDP is something like $80 trillion. But the amount of money that's available for investment, which means surplus accumulation, you could say, is something close to $350 trillion. Like, many times more than, than the entire production of the globe in a year. There's just so much money in so few hands, and the amount of this orgy of wealth, these people, first of all, are financing the politicians. I mean, Trump himself, Robert Mercer the billionaire more or less helped buy Trump the presidency and manipulate it. Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway worked for Mercer. But at every level the billionaires are pulling strings.

And Wall Street, there's no regulation that's meaningful. They get away with any number of shenanigans. They should, most of them, in theory, should be in jail, the leaders of Wall Street. Of course, none of them go to jail. The culture of corruption that emanates from a system that's become so parasitic with most of its wealth, it starts getting reflected in the politics. Why shouldn't I cash in on, everybody's cashing in. And why, just because I'm a politician I should be worth more than I used to be.

GERALD HORNE: Well, part of the problem also is the previous epoch, which was the Cold War, where the U.S. ruling elite in particular made the epochal decision that there had to be an undermining of working class organizations, particularly unions, because it was felt and it was thought, or at least it was said, that that put them in objective league and objective alliance with the foe in Moscow, which had proclaimed that it was a socialist project. That led to the weakening of the AFL-CIO, the U.S. trade union movement. It has also led to a weakening of the living standards of the U.S. working class. The U.S. working class is drowning in debt, the student population is drowning in debt. Consumer debt is at an all-time high. And at the same time the U.S. Supreme Court within the next weeks is expected to make a decision in the so-called Janus case, J-A-N-U-S, that will ultimately weaken public sector unions, which has been the major growth sector in terms of the trade union movement. I'm speaking of the American Federation of State County Municipal Employees, Service Employees International Union. They're going to make it much more difficult for them to collect dues, which is going to weaken their treasuries, which means that they won't have as much money to distribute to the Democrats.

But it also means ultimately weakening the living standards of the working class, of the masses of the population, helping to exacerbate this income inequality that you just just made reference to, and thereby helping to deepen the crisis that the system now faces. And as you suggested, in a certain sense it's self-defeating, what's going on. But on the other hand this short-termism, this idea that you grab as much as you can in as short a term of space as you can, is helping to drive politics and helping to lead all of us, at least most of us, to ruin.

PAUL JAY: And one of the splits, and there seems to be many, is that this, that Trump does represent a kind of very particular section of the far right. It has somewhat of, even a metaphysical agenda. There's this crazy picture of the Saudi king, Trump, and I forget who the third is. Their hands are on this globe, this orb. You know, like they're, it's like they're trying to bring, you know, the devil, and bring him up. And Bannon's talk of the defense of Western Christian civilization, which the target is Islamic militarism and China, according to Bannon. But clearly it's not against Islamic militarism, because if it was your big ally couldn't be Saudi Arabia.

It's really about Iran and developing, reasserting U.S. hegemony in the region. Not liking even regional players that give you somewhat of a competition. Anyway, the whole thing, and then throw climate change in, the fact that the media, sections of the state are so preoccupied with Russigate and such, and there's such critical problems facing us. I go back to the beginning, these people are n 't fit to rule. Unfortunately, the other side ain't either. In terms, historically you would think there'd be more of a mass movement in this country in response to this.

GERALD HORNE: Well, I think part of the problem is what I just made reference to, the weakening of the trade union movement. If you do a deeper analysis of the anti-Jim Crow movement, the civil rights movement, one of the things you will find is that that movement was kept afloat in no small measure by donations and contributions from the trade union movement. The United Auto Workers headquartered in Michigan, the Hospital Workers Union, Dr. King's favorite union, headquartered in New York City, et cetera. And so when you weakened that movement you weakened all peoples' movements.

With regard to Iran, we should pay very careful and close attention to what's going on. It's clear that Mr. Trump wants a breakout of the nuclear accord negotiated with Teheran with not only United States, but the EU 3, France, London, and Germany, plus the United Nations Security Council. There is tremendous pressure being placed upon the Europeans to go along with Mr. Trump in this regard. It has the added benefit, from Mr. Trump's point of view, of helping to push European politics to the right further.

Which brings us to another very frightening issue, which is the fact that so many within the U.S. Ruling elite are warning about the dangers of fascism nowadays. Madeleine Albright, the former Clinton Secretary of State has a book out, "Fascism: A Warning," where she talks about this. Michael Kinsley, who is one of the elite media spokespersons, and also happens to be a part of the 1 percent because of his ties to the Microsoft fortune, was one of the earliest individuals to sound the alarm about the rise of fascism in the United States. The rise of authoritarianism, to put it euphemistically, in Hungary and Poland and Eastern Europe, generally, is also very frightening. But I think that if you look at Brazil you get a microcosmic view of why this right-wing tendency is rising. That is to say, former President Lula is being put behind bars. He was expected to win the presidential election in a few months in Brazil. So they weakened him, and that creates an opening for ultra-right candidates to claim the highest office in the land in Brazil. And if you look at Brazil and then sort of transpose that globally, that is say, the weakening of the Left creating an opening for the right, you begin to get an understanding of what's going on in the world in general.

PAUL JAY: OK. Well, this is just the beginning of our conversation about these things, so hopefully every week we'll carry on this chat. Please join us again on the Real News Network.

Dr. Gerald Horne with host Paul Jay discuss the dysfunction in the American state and the divisions over the Trump presidency

PAUL JAY: Baltimore. And we're continuing our series of conversations about Trump, the Trump administration, politics in the United States, and the overall dysfunctionality of politics globally. But now, a little update or blow-by-blow on the latest soap opera in Washington, D.C. And joining us again is Dr. Gerald Horne. Dr. Horne holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African-American studies at the University of Houston. Some recent books, "Storming the Heavens: African-Americans and the Early Fight for the Right to Fly," and "The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in 17th Century North America and the Caribbean." Thanks for joining us.

GERALD HORNE: Thank you for inviting me.

PAUL JAY: So talk a bit about the latest blow-by-blow and Washington, and then we'll talk a bit about what we make of it.

GERALD HORNE: Well, I'm sure you know about the fact that the attorney for Mr. Trump, Mr. Cohen, Michael Cohen, that the authorities barged into his office, into his home, into a hotel room that he was temporarily staying in, and claimed and confiscated everything. Everything worthy of investigating Mr. Trump, and also investigating Mr. Cohen himself for various kinds of misdeeds. Another lawyer for Mr. Trump has just suggested in the Wall Street Journal that Mr. Trump should be wary of talking to Mr. Cohen, because he might be wearing a wire and might be enticed to flip against Mr. Trump. Obviously the noose around the neck of Mr. Trump is tightening. The authorities are closing in.

I should also mention that the New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is doing a parallel investigation of Mr. Trump, along with the federal attorney in the Southern District of New York, as well. In fact, the Cohen investigation is being carried out under the auspices of the federal attorney's office in the Southern District of New York. New York State may be changing or seeking to change its laws to make sure that if there is a presidential pardon of Mr. Trump's comrades for a certain set of facts that double jeopardy provisions, that is to say, not trying someone on the same set of facts, will not prevail and that those parties can then be tried in New York State. Supposedly Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, is sending copies of whatever he's digging up to Eric Schneiderman so that if Mr. Trump manages to fire Mr. Mueller, which has been hinted for some days and weeks now, that that investigation can then go on under the auspices of Eric Schneiderman, who by the way was able to get a $25 million judgment against Mr. Trump's fallacious fraudulent Trump University.

PAUL JAY: Which makes it easier for him to get people to flip, if they don't think there's a pardon waiting for them.

GERALD HORNE: Absolutely. And of course the Trump pardon of Scooter Libby, the former aide to Dick Cheney, the U.S. vice president, was interpreted as sending a signal to Paul Manafort, the former campaign chair to Michael Cohen, and others that if you just hang on, a pardon is on the way. But what New York State is doing may basically thwart that.

Now, this also has larger ramifications. Keep in mind that the mainstream press, the elite press, unlike April 7, 2017 when there was the missile attack in Syria, when they were all gung ho, they seem to be much more skeptical with regard to this April 2018 attack. For example, they oftentimes referred to the 'alleged' chemical attack. The term 'alleged' was not necessarily used to the same degree in April 2017. I even heard one person on mainstream media refer to this escapade in Syria as 'Operation Desert Stormy,' a reference to an attempt by Mr. Trump to divert attention from this other brewing scandal with the adult adult film star Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, to divert attention from that by shooting missiles at Iran. Excuse me, at Syria. Freudian slip, I'm afraid. So this is the state of play as we speak.

PAUL JAY: It's all-out war. This is, I think Mueller and the others, the State's Attorney in New York, they're going after Trump with more vigor than they seem to go after the Mafia. And the media, which I think clearly most of it other than Fox is in this kind of liberal camp, as they get accused. Liberal meaning corporate Democrats, not real liberals. The way it used to be thought of who liberals were. And I think the point on Syria is very interesting, that during the first attack, missile attack that Trump waged, all of a sudden Democrats were saying he's now for the first time being presidential. Well, there's none of that now, even though it's very by bipartisan amongst the corporate Dems to go after Assad and go after Iran. They're not even giving him that. Clearly they want to wound him in a way that's unprecedented. And there's lots there, lots of fodder for the wounding.

But, but this dysfunctionality of the American state as a result of all this. Congress can't pass anything. Paul Ryan doesn't even want to run again. The White House can barely get anything passed. Their mental bandwidth is on anywhere from ex-Playboy bunnies to other people Trump has slept with, to so on and so on. On one level shouldn't we welcome all this? I mean, isn't this dysfunctionality in some way for the people better than a functional Trump-Pence White House?

GERALD HORNE: Well, to a degree I understand where you're coming from. I mean, certainly one of the alternatives might be more rapaciousness, more looting, more taking money from our wallets. And with the stalemate that's going on, that does not seem to be in the cards, even though of course if you look at that December 2017 tax bill, which was another grab by the 1 percent, you might take a different point of view to what I just said.

But in any case I do think there is a kind of stalemate in the U.S. ruling elite. That is to say that even looking at the most optimistic predictions and projections, even if the Democrats reclaim the House, which is an open question as we sit here today, it's unclear whether they will be able to retake the Senate. And with regard to impeachment, that is to say not only indicting the president, which takes place in the House, but removing him from office, which takes place in the Senate, you may be able to get an impeachment resolution passed in the House if the Democrats reclaim the House, and even that's iffy. But if they don't reclaim the Senate it's difficult to see how they can remove him from office. And if they do reclaim the Senate you have candidates like John Tester, the incumbent senator from Montana, and Claire McCaskill, the incumbent senator from Missouri, Democrats both, who are being challenged very strongly by Republican opposition. And even if they prevail they may be not encouraged or enticed to vote in favor of removing Mr. Trump from office because of a fear of a backlash from Trump voters and their particular states.

PAUL JAY: And I would think it's in their interest not to actually impeach Trump. One, ,to have that whole soap opera but two, you don't want to face a President Pence in 2020. Seems to me you'd want as dysfunctional as possible Trump in 2020.

GERALD HORNE: Well, I'd take it from another angle. My mind reels back to 1974-1975 with the forcing out of office of Richard Nixon and the bringing into office of his then-vice president future President Gerald Ford. Gerald Ford was so weakened politically that he was basically handcuffed when the Cubans intervened in Angola in the fall of 1975. And in fact, the CIA was rebuked for aligning with the apartheid South African forces by December 1975. So if Mr. Pence does manage to make it to the Oval Office, I daresay that he'll be so politically weakened that, like 1975, it may open up new vistas for the progressive movement.

I should also say that this split the U.S. Ruling elite needs much more attention. We already know, for example, that historically those in the entertainment industry, not only celebrities but executives like Bob Iger of Disney, have historically been in the Democratic Party camp. In fact, there was just report on the Drudge Report, the right-wing website that Bob Iger was thinking about running for president in 2016, may run for president in 2020. This is representative the fact that these entertainment elites are more or less in the anti-Trump camp. Mr. Iger obviously was upset and said he was upset when Mr. Trump in the summer of June 2017 said he was going to pull out of the Paris climate accord. And that helped to trigger more thinking of Mr. Iger that he should run for the highest office in the land.

At the same time it's important to note that there are powerful agricultural and agribusiness interests that historically have been aligned with the Republican Party. But now they're upset with Mr. Trump for various reasons, not least this impending or actual trade war with China which will lead to China limiting exports of U.S. agricultural goods, which is going to hit agribusiness right in the pocketbook and may cause them to have less enthusiasm about the Republicans and Mr. Trump personally.

PAUL JAY: And there's another kind of shift taking place. I interviewed Rana [Foroohar] from the Financial Times. She was saying prior to the election a large amount of Wall Street preferred Clinton over Trump. They thought Trump was kind of crazy, and they knew Clinton could work with her the same way they had with Obama and Bill Clinton. But they're changing, many, she says, have really changed their minds and are starting to love Trump. They're getting every deregulation they ever wanted, they're getting rid of Dodd-Frank. They're getting the tax cuts they wanted. They're getting tax cuts and stimulus, which makes them even more money. They're getting volatility in the markets which makes them even more money. She was saying, and it's not just that they like what he's doing to their bottom line, which is going up and up, but that much of Wall Street actually likes his ideology on the immigration stuff, and the racist stuff, and the xenophobia. That many of these people that are at the very senior levels, they're with him on this stuff. Whether they believe it or not, I don't know. She seems to think many of them do. But they see how useful it is for them. So it is very weird. Some of some of the industries that might have been traditionally more Republican may not like the trade policies, but here's sections of finance that might have previously supported the Democrats are actually just loving the free for all Trump's giving them.

GERALD HORNE: Well, mentioning finance reminds me of this much-ballyhooed documentary film that has been exhibiting from New York to California. I'm speaking of the China Hustle. One of the producers was Alec Gibney, who is, along with Ken Burns, one of the leading U.S. documentary filmmakers. And the thesis of the film fundamentally is that there are Chinese shell corporations that are looting U.S. investors. And the heroes of this particular documentary, which, by the way, is very well done, are these investors ,on Wall Street and elsewhere in the financial sector in the United States who are shorting, that is to say, betting on the fact that the stock in these Chinese corporations will fall, and then profiting from it handsomely. Now, the only figure I could pluck out of the morass of details was that China's benefiting, or Chinese investors are benefiting, to the tune of about $15 billion. It's really chump change, if you think about it.

PAUL JAY: For these guys.

GERALD HORNE: But I found it quite striking that this, in terms of finance capital and looting of U.S. investors, that this was the documentary that was made. The China Hustle. Not the Wall Street Hustle, if you like. And I think that that basically bespeaks this impending, if not actual, finance and trade war that's erupting between China and the United States, with regard to United States most recently seeking to hamper the ability of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and ZTE to operate here in this country, although they're operating all over the world, and China retaliating against Qualcomm of San Diego, California, seeking to pursue it in China on antitrust grounds. This is causing China and Russia to come closer together.

And an aspect of this new alignment that we see slowly coming into view is the response to Mr. Trump's attempt to, as we are told, broker peace on the Korean peninsula. That is not necessarily going down well in Tokyo. Tokyo is already upset by the fact that when Mr. Trump backed down from imposing steel tariffs on U.S. allies he did not remove steel tariffs on Japanese corporations. One of the constants in Mr. Trump's rhetoric going back decades is Tokyo bashing Japan bashing, despite the fact that Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, was one of the first people to meet with him after he was elected in November 2016, and in past years has become a regular at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump's so-called Southern White House. So what this has led to, believe it or not, is one of the most potentially earthshaking, pathbreaking trends in international politics, which is an entente between Tokyo, which is shook up by Mr. Trump, and China.

PAUL JAY: And we're going to talk about that in another segment of our our series. Thanks for joining us, and thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.


Congress 'lacks courage' to assert its constitutional power to declare war. The Newly proposed Corker-Kaine Senate bill says it would regulate the president's ability to wage war, but actually gives him more war powers, says Col. Larry Wilkerson

GREG WILPERT: It's The Real News Network. I'm Greg Wilpert coming to you from Quito, Ecuador. Last week Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee and Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia introduced a bill to the U.S. Senate that would give President Trump a new authorization to use military force. Critics say that this new authorization would expand the president's power to wage war in an almost unlimited extent. The last time Congress passed and authorized the use of military force was in 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attack on the U.S. That authorization has been used to wage wars in several countries, such as in Afghanistan, Iraq, and several other countries, especially if you include the deployment of drone strikes.

Joining me to analyze the latest effort in Congress to address the war powers is Colonel Larry Wilkerson. Larry is a former chief of staff of Secretary of State Colin Powell, and now a distinguished professor at the College of William and Mary. Thanks for being here today, Larry.

LARRY WILKERSON: Good to be with you.

GREG WILPERT: So first of all, can you tell us what this Corker-Kaine bill says? On the surface it seems to reassert Congress's power to authorize war. But is that what it really does?

LARRY WILKERSON: I think just one correction, if I'm right, and I may not be, but I think we also have an AUMF, an Authorization for the Use of Military Force, immediately preceding the second Iraq war. So that was the last time Congress did any sort of specifying as to its responsibility with regard to the war power. But as you implied with both the first one immediately after 9/11 and in that second one they really opened the door for the president to, as we've seen now, 17 straight years of war.

This effort that we're talking about right now, the Corker-Kaine legislation, as I read it, as Kelly V lahos said in her article in The American Conservative, is not just giving the president a blank check. It's opening the bank to the president. And I read it the same way. I've read a lot of congressional legislation that I thought was OK, and then later found out that, little did I know, that it had more negative consequences than positive. I think this is a similar type of legislation that, while Corker and Kaine, and Kaine I know in particular, are trying to rein in the president's power to wage war and to reassert Congress's power, this is no way to do it. This is, as Kelly implied in her article, opening the bank to the president. It's just a recipe for the president to continue the so-called global war on terror, which his own secretary of defense has identified is not a priority. China, Russia, other great power competitors, they're the priority.

This war on terror we spent $2-3 trillion to kill some 300-400 thousand people in the world. That ought to be enough. We are wasting incredible treasure, incredible time, incredible resources on a threat that has the likelihood of a lightning strike to kill one of us, has proven that statistically over the past 30-40 years. And it's just, it's nonsense. And now for the Congress to essentially open up Pandora's box, open up the entire realm of possibilities for the president to pick anybody anywhere at any time, and to do it in secret. That's another aspect of the legislation. As I read it, they can do a lot of this in secret. They don't have to tell anybody, the Congress or the American people, that they're doing anything. They're doing that right now, of course. We're killing people across state borders with the state with whom we're not at war, a violation of international law. Clearly illegal. War crimes, possibly. But we're doing it. And this is just legislation to essentially open it up even further, and it would require a two-thirds plus vote of the Congress to override a presidential veto. So we're asking for the impossible in order to stop this legislation.

GREG WILPERT: Well, it sounds like basically it's allowing the president to declare a war, essentially, and then telling Congress only that it can stop a war. Isn't that kind of go against what the Constitution says the president's, sorry, the Congress's authority is supposed to be?

LARRY WILKERSON: Well, it certainly does. What it's doing is saying to the president, you can use the war power any time you want to. You can use the armed forces, by the way, nobody cares about the armed forces, really. It's only less than 1 percent of 330 million people. That's the people who are bleeding and dying. And they come from Alabama, and they come from Mississippi, and they come from the interior of Maine, and Oklahoma, and so who cares. Who cares? We'll go to the Atlanta airport and thank them for their service, but when they die or bleed or come home with post-traumatic stress it's little skin off our back because we have no skin in the game.

We're telling the president, use these armed forces and go bash anybody you want to any time you want to, and just tell us it has something to do with terrorism. That's what we're doing. And as I said, the only way to stop that once it gets started, once the president has done it, is to override his inevitable veto of whatever it is we say can't do. So this is crazy. This is truly crazy. It's not just the Constitution, either. It's now that part of the Constitution that seemed a little ethereal to some, not to me, but to some, we codified into law in the War Powers Resolution, in U.S. Code Title 50 Chapter 33 Section 50, 41-48. But the Congress has no guts. It has no moral rectitude. It has no courage, political or personal. It will not rein in the executive branch with regard to the war power. I think we've seen that. Even with people who think they're interested, who say they're interested, like Tim Kaine, my senator from Virginia, they are not willing to do it. Not really.

GREG WILPERT: I think that kind of begs the question, what's going on? I mean, why is there such a tremendous lack of courage to assert Congress's authority to declare war? What's going on? I mean, why, why, what are they so afraid of?

LARRY WILKERSON: Basically there are several things going on. One of them is political, and it is the fact that if the president uses the war power, if you kill somebody somewhere, if he goes to war with the country, even, the Congress can watch and see if it's successful, and then cheer him. If it's not successful, then they can jeer him, and they can accuse him of all kinds of perfidy.

So Congress has the best, best of all possible political worlds. They take no responsibility whatsoever until the facts are in. The second reason is money. Money, money, money. Why didn't we strike Syria recently? Was it because we were trying to reassert our prerogatives with regard to Russia and Iran? Was it because Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons? Was it because of some other reason? I will tell you, it might have been any of those, but its secondary reason, its ancillary reason, if you will, is because Raytheon's share price went up. Whenever you shoot these $1.2-1.6 million missiles in the density that we shot them, the amount that we shot them, you raise Raytheon's share price, and therefore you raise the money that's going to come into your political coffers from the defense industry. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, all those companies. They contribute majorly to people like Ed Royce, the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Committee on International Affairs they call it now in the House. They contribute to all these people's coffers, political action committees, and so forth.

So war is a very profitable thing, and as long as war is such a profitable thing you're going to have more of it. You're going to have Congress acquiescing in it.

GREG WILPERT: So ideally, if Congress were to actually have the courage to assert its powers, from what, from your perspective what would the process look like, let's say, in a situation such as Syria, or in this situation, you know, in let's say hypothetically if something happens in Iran. What would the procedure ideally look like?

LARRY WILKERSON: The first thing they should do is abrogate all present authorities. Just wipe them off the books. The president has no continuing authority to wage war other than that specified in the Constitution, which says, in essence, if the enemy's on the shore, if the missile is in flight, if it's imminent, then the president has the right to act swiftly and then consult the Congress. They should abrogate all other power to the president with regard to the war power entirely.

Then start over. Each singular incident, or multiple incident, in terms of crises, that comes up, the president has to go to the Congress, has to explain to the Congress, and through the Congress, the American people. That's the reason the Constitution was written the way it was. The Founders thought the people should be informed, the people should decide on this critical issue of war. But the closest thing to the people is the Congress. You can't ask 330 million people in any efficient or effective way, so you ask their representatives in the Congress. You go to the Congress and you say, this is what has happened. This is what I'm contemplating. I want you to approve it. I want you to fund it. Every single discrete incident has to be handled that way.

If there are multiple crises at the same time, China seeks an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea, Russia invades Ukraine, Venezuela invades Texas, whatever it might be, and then you go to the Congress for each one. You don't just give the president the power to use the military for anything he wants to use it for any time he wants to use it. This is called a monarchy. This is called tyranny. This is why we broke away from George III in the first place. We don't need to go back there.

GREG WILPERT: OK. Well, we'll leave it there for now. But I'm sure we're going to come back to it as this bill moves through Congress, and might even pass. I was speaking to Colonel Larry Wilkerson, professor at College of William and Mary. Thanks again for talking to us, Larry.

LARRY WILKERSON: Thanks for having me.
GREG WILPERT: And thank you for watching The Real News Network.


As James Madison once said "war powers is the surest way to tyranny" and tyranny will prevail if people remain apathetic says Col. Larry Wilkerson

SHARMINI PERIES: It's the Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. As everyone knows by now, late Friday night the U.S. military, with the support of the British and the French military, launched a series of missile attacks against what they said were Syrian research, chemical storage, and military targets. The strikes were apparently in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus which is said to have killed 40 - 70 civilians. Over the weekend Trump gloated in these attacks.

DONALD TRUMP: By the way, John Bolton is here, and we just had a big, successful hit. John? Are you giving him all the credit? Or you know, that means the end of his job. Did our generals do a great job? Did our military do a great job? With way over 100 missiles shot in, they didn't shoot one down. The equipment didn't work too well, their equipment, and they didn't shoot one, you know, you heard, oh, they shot 40 down, then they shot 15 down. Then I call, I said, did they? No, sir, every single one hit its target.

SHARMINI PERIES: Reaction from members of Congress was generally supportive of the strike, as were many human rights organizations and the mainstream media, although these strikes were unauthorized by Congress or the UN. Some senators, however, Bernie Sanders and Tim Kaine, as well as Congressman Ro Khanna, they rejected these strikes, saying that Trump should have gotten congressional authorization first, as is required by the Constitution. On Friday night, Bernie Sanders wrote: It is Congress, not the president, which has the Constitutional responsibility for making war. The international community must uphold the prohibition against the use of chemical weapons, but it is unclear how Trump's illegal and unauthorized strikes on Syria achieve that goal. And he added this on Meet the Press on Sunday.

BERNIE SANDERS: I disagree that the United States should have combat troops in that area. I feel very much that we will be in perpetual warfare in that region. I do not want to see that occur. But let me be very clear: I am very concerned about a lot of the war talk that I'm hearing from my Republican colleagues, who apparently have forgotten the cost of war and the errors made in Afghanistan and Iraq. And what I believe, Chuck, very much, is that the most powerful military on earth, the United States of America, that our government should do everything that we can to resolve international conflict in a way that does not require war.

SHARMINI PERIES: In the UK, the reaction from Jeremy Corbyn was much tougher against Theresa May's arbitrary decision to support the U.S, without consulting parliament.

JEREMY CORBYN: The Prime Minister is accountable to this Parliament, not to the whims of the U.S. president. Her predecessor came to this house to seek authority for military action in Libya and in Syria in 2015. The House had a vote over Iraq in 2003. There is no more serious issue than the life and death matters of military action. It is right that Parliament has the power to support or stop the government from taking planned military action. I believe, Mr. Speaker, the action was legally questionable.

SHARMINI PERIES: And in France, John Luc Melenchon of the hard left in France condemned the strikes, as did the center-right leader Laurent Wauquiez. Even the leader of the far-right Front, Marine Le Pen, said Macron had not published any evidence of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. Meanwhile, chemical weapons inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons arrived in Syria on Saturday. However, they have not been able to enter the affected areas because of the pending missile strikes. On the weekend and today we have the U.S. alleging that Russians may have tampered with the evidence in the meantime.

Joining me now to discuss the attacks on Syria is Colonel Larry Wilkerson. Larry is former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, and now a distinguished professor at the College of William and Mary. Thanks for joining us, Larry.

LARRY WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, Sharmini.

SHARMINI PERIES: Larry, at a time when more people in Washington, and in Congress in particular, and the U.S. media should be challenging the official narrative, they're actually endorsing it. And this is a war , or these strikes took place without congressional approval, without a U.N. resolution, and before the inspectors could even get on the ground to see what really happened. And UK joined them without parliamentary approval. France did as well without taking it to parliament. Now, without the obvious reasons, which is perhaps to distract the media and all of our eyeballs from what's really going on in Washington, these strikes took place. So give us the real reasons and the motivations behind these missile attacks on Syria.

LARRY WILKERSON: The foremost reason for this strike, and I suspect the only reason Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis would give a positive recommendation regarding it, was to reassert U.S. power in the region after the very impolitic remarks by President Trump that we were withdrawing. In other words, we needed to convince the Russians, and the Iranians, but principally the Russians, that we were still in the game. And that when we come to the political settlement, which is the only way we're going to stop this brutal war, we still have some high ground. And that was the sole reason for the strike that made any strategic sense. Everything else is nonsense.

SHARMINI PERIES: Larry, off the top, in the intro, I indicated that only a few people in power actually objected to these attacks. Why is this happening?

LARRY WILKERSON: Absolutely no objection, except to the few people, Mike Lee, perhaps, and Bernie Sanders, maybe Tim Kaine from Virginia, who would object because they know what it means. It means that we are so eroding the Constitutional war power, the people's representatives war power, the Constitutional Title 50 U.S. Code Chapter 33 Section 15, 41-48 legal rationale, legal restriction and constraint on the war power. We're violating it every week, every month, every day that goes by. And the more we do that we're eroding the power of the Congress to act as a check on the president with regard to that power.

This is tyranny. James Madison said the surest way to carry is through the war power, and he was right. He was fundamentally right. This is the way kings gained almost universal power, through the divine right and through the war power. This is the way presidents gain, prime ministers gain ultimate power, through the war power. We keep surrendering this power to the executive branch and we will regret it dearly in the future if, indeed, we aren't already regretting it. Look at what we're doing around the world right now without any check, any balance. The American people don't even know what we're doing.

Niger recently was just an example of that. What are we doing in the Niger? Said the American people. Why are these people dying in Niger? Well, they really knew the truth about all the places we do have people, and all the places we are performing lethal actions and killing other people, I hope they'd be disgusted. But you know, Sharmini, increasingly I'm not thinking they would be. I'm thinking they'd probably be elated, or they'd be just as apathetic as they are at this present moment. They have surrendered the power to make war to the president of the United States with no check, no balance on that power.

SHARMINI PERIES: Larry, tell us about the relationship between U.S., UK, and France in this collaboration in attacking Syria. Apparently Macron was on record this weekend saying that he urged President Trump to remain in Syria, and he slightly withdrew that comment late night on Sunday. But nevertheless, what is the interest of U.S., UK, and France, and then of course remaining in Syria, what does that really mean?

LARRY WILKERSON: This is laughable and lamentable at the same time. The old colonial powers. France vis a vis Lebanon and Syria, Britain Iraq and Iran, and really vis a vis Iraq, and the United States. Here we are, the old colonial powers, the people that screwed the region up in the first place are now trying to, you know, essentially for commercial and other interests, oil and gas read loud, are trying to get it back in order again. It's almost laughable if it weren't so lamentable.

At the bottom of all of this, I think, is oil and gas, and what it means in terms of commercial interests with regard to those commodities in the region, whether it's the Eastern Med, where Lebanon and Israel are now arguing over Section 9, or Turkey and Cyprus and Greece are arguing over fields, or whether it's the pipelines that are going to be built or under construction already, like the one just approved for Afghanistan. This is why we're in the region. And to present all these other reason, other reasons, as rationales for being there are just lying to the American people.

But we've done that forever. We lied to the American people in Vietnam, we lied to them during the Iraq wars. We lied to them about Afghanistan. We just don't have the courage or the fortitude, or in some cases the wisdom, to tell the American people why we're doing things. And here we come back to what you asked before, the reason the executive can do anything he pleases with regard to the armed forces in the United States, any time he pleases, is because the American people are apathetic. Their representatives in the Congress are utterly pusillanimous. They're cowards. They will not do anything, with few exceptions, like Mike Lee, Bernie Sanders, and some of the others.

So we're in a position right now where the president of the United States can take the armed forces, all-volunteer armed forces, mercenary armed forces for all practical purposes, coming from the poorest regions of America, they can take them and go out there to kill people, and do it in the name of the United States of America, and put a mythical proportions to it, like this is for freedom. This is for democracy. This is to stop the use of chemical weapons. And all that's nonsense. It's all for what Smedley Butler said years ago it was for: commercial purposes, filthy lucre, name it what you will. That's what we're doing it for.

SHARMINI PERIES: Larry, speaking of commercial interests, Raytheon, who makes these missiles that were used in these strikes against Syria, nearly added $5 billion to their stock value. Tell us about the money interests here, and who's really benefiting from these attacks as far as profit is concerned.

LARRY WILKERSON: You get companies like Raytheon and others to make these missiles, the more sophisticated, the more expensive. I understand some of them were Standoff cruise missiles, they're very expensive. It gets them more and more money, and it also, most people don't realize this, it also cuts production costs and the volume costs for those missiles for the Department of Defense. So the more of these missiles you shoot, and I suspect Raytheon's and others' lines are hotly humming right now, the more of them you shoot, we're shooting them in Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen also, you may recall, the cost, ultimately, per unit for the United States. And since the Pentagon really is in a fiscal situation unparalleled, about to go bankrupt itself if it doesn't do something about its gross spending habits, can't even audit itself, then every unit that's cost comes down is a benefit to the Pentagon. So you could say were killing people in the world for Raytheon and the DoD.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right. As always there's so much more to discuss with you, Larry. But our time's up. So I'll talk to you next week. Thanks for joining us today.

LARRY WILKERSON: Take care. Good to be with you.
SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on the Real News Network.
Pages: 1 2