June 15, 2018

Crisis: The Koreas, Constitutional Crisis, American Greed, The Singapore Summit, Costs of War


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from June 15, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Friday, June 15, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from June 15, 2018:
1. Bipartisan War Party Panics as Kim Meets Trump
2. America's Constitutional Crisis Is Here, Now
3. How American Greed Led to a World in Decline
4. Why Americans (and Koreans) Can Sleep Better After the Summit
5. The Military Industrial Drain
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Bipartisan War Party Panics as Kim Meets Trump

This article is by Jeremy Scahill on The Intercept. It starts with the following introduction:

U.S. warmongers are in panic mode. The end of the longest continuous war on the planet, the Korean War, may be in sight. This week on Intercepted: As TV pundits gasped at the sight of the North Korean and U.S. flags side by side and Trump treating Kim Jong-un as an “equal,” a solid majority of Koreans supported the summit. UC Santa Cruz professor Christine Hong talks about the significance of this moment, how the U.S. has sabotaged peace in the past, and what an end to the war might look like. Tom Engelhardt, editor of TomDispatch, shares an essay on American militarism from his new book, “A Nation Unmade by War.” Journalist Elisabeth Rosenthal explains why the U.S. health care system is so bad and how Trump and the Republicans are trying to make it even worse. Musical artist Yasmine Hamdan shares her thoughts on war, the Middle East, and Trump, and we hear her groundbreaking music. Plus, Trump stops by Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

And in fact this is far too much to properly review in Nederlog. Therefore I am taking only a few bits of Jeremy Scahill about Korea and Trump to review, and leave all the rest to your interests.

Here is the first bit:

JS: The bi-partisan war party is in panic mode. The longest continuous war on the planet, the Korean War, may — may — be on the path to ending. Donald Trump is certainly one of the most unreliable, untrustworthy and just plain awful people to be in the command chair for this, but — to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld — you hope for peace with the president you have, not the one you want. I punished myself during the Trump/Kim summit by watching U.S. cable news. I bounced from CNN to Fox to MSNBC, and on and on and on. Fox, of course, was on its own planet, cheering on Trump, because Fox is a privatized version of state media.

Yes indeed, although I did not watch ¨U.S. cable news¨. Anyway, here is more on Scahill´s point of view:

JS: The North Koreans want to be treated as equals. Gasp! The American flag next to North Korea’s. The horror! And the conventional wisdom repeated by many many pundits was that Trump was giving away the war farm. The message Trump sent by ripping up the Iran deal and then immediately meeting with the North Korean leader sent a message to the world that achieving nuclear weapons status protects you and prevents you from going the way of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

Now, I don’t deny that that is part of the message. At the same time, what about the context of all of this? Why did North Korea pursue nuclear weapons in the first place? Was it to be a global menace? Was it to change the regime in the United States? Or was it because of the threats from the U.S. and its allies?

The U.S. committed systematic war crimes against North Korea in the 1950s; nearly 3 million people were killed in that war, the overwhelming majority of them Koreans. The U.S. conducted scorched earth bombing, wiped out entire cities, used Napalm and other chemical weapons. The U.S. refused to recognize a North Korean government. It has regularly — for decades — threatened to invade North Korea, overthrow its government, obliterate the country, wipe it off the map. The U.S. stages nuclear war games, has 30,000 troops positioned on North Korea’s border. And, that war, the Korean War, is still not officially over. And the reason it is not over is largely because of the posture and actions of the United States.

Yes, I think this is probably all true. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article (that has a great lot more):

JS: Let’s stop with all the pearl clutching over Trump meeting with a dictator. U.S. presidents do that all the time. Look at the disgusting love fest we were subjected to recently when Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, visited Washington. Heinous, anti-democratic, human rights-abusing monarchy. Or the Egyptian dictator, General el-Sisi. The U.S. meets with dictators all the time — and, worse: it gives them weapons, intelligence, aid. It normalizes them in from of the world. Let’s not act like any of these objections are really based improving human rights for the hundreds of thousands of North Koreans in labor camps or dungeons. Or the hundreds of thousands of others who have no basic human rights.

Americans need to take off the exceptionalism goggles. We need to understand that the people who have the most to gain or lose from all of this are ordinary Koreans. And they overwhelmingly want this war to end. That is what matters here. With Moon Jae-in in power in South Korea, that peninsula has its best chance in decades to end a war that the United States played a central role in starting and continuing. Yes, Trump is a clown. He made an ass of himself on multiple occasions at this summit.

Yes, I think this is also probably all true. And as I said, there is a lot more in Schahill´s article,
which is strongly recommended. And for some more, see item 4 below.

2. America's Constitutional Crisis Is Here, Now

This article is by Robert Reich on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

I keep hearing that if Trump fires Mueller we’ll face a constitutional crisis.

Or if Mueller subpoenas Trump to testify and Trump defies the subpoena, it’s a constitutional crisis.

Or if Mueller comes up with substantial evidence that Trump is guilty of colluding with Russia or of obstructing justice but the House doesn’t move to impeach him, we’ll have a constitutional crisis.

I have news for you. We’re already in a constitutional crisis. For a year and a half the president of the United States has been carrying out a systemic attack on the institutions of our democracy.

Yes indeed. I agree with Reich. Here is more on America´s constitutional crisis:

A constitutional crisis does not occur suddenly like a coup that causes a government to collapse. It occurs gradually, as a system of government is slowly weakened.

The current crisis has been unfolding since the waning days of the 2016 campaign when Trump refused to say whether he’d be bound by the election results if Hillary won.

It continued through March 4, 2017 when Trump claimed, without evidence, that Obama had wiretapped his phones in the Trump Tower during the campaign.

It deepened in May 2017 when, by his own admission, Trump was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he decided to fire FBI Director James Comey, who had been leading the bureau’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, andthen admitted to Russian officials that firing Comey had relieved “great pressure” on him “because of Russia,” according to a document summarizing the meeting.

A constitutional crisis becomes especially dangerous when a president of the United States tells the public it cannot trust the government of the United States.

Over the last few weeks, Trump has done just this.

Yes indeed. Here is the ending of this article:

The crux of America’s current constitutional crisis is this: Our system of government was designed to constrain power, but Trump doesn’t want to be constrained.

Our system was conceived as a means of promoting the public interest, but Trump wants to promote only his own interest.

Our system was organized to bind presidents to the Constitution, but Trump doesn’t want to be bound by anything.

The crisis will therefore worsen as long as Trump can get away with it. An unconstrained megalomaniac becomes only more maniacal. He will fill whatever political void exists with his unbridled ego.
Friends, we are no longer trying to avert a constitutional crisis. We are living one. The question is how to stop it from destroying what’s left of our democracy.

I agree, and indeed one of my own worries as a psychologist is that Trump is a megalomaniac, who also seems to grow more megalomaniacal as he grows older. And yes, Reich is right and this is a strongly recommended article.

3. How American Greed Led to a World in Decline

This article is by Tom Engelhardt on AlterNet and originally on TomDispatch. It starts as follows:
The U.S. has, of course, embarked on a trillion-dollar-plus upgrade of its already massive nuclear arsenal (and that’s before the cost overruns even begin). Its Congress and president have for years proven eager to sink at least a trillion dollars annually into the budget of the national security state (a figure that’s still rising and outpaces by far that of any other power on the planet), while its own infrastructure sags and crumbles. And yet it finds the impoverished North Koreans puzzling when they, too, follow such an extreme path.

Clueless is not a word Americans ordinarily apply to themselves as a country, a people, or a government. Yet how applicable it is.

In fact, I think ¨clueless¨ is not the word for the American investments in war and in atomic weapons, for I don´t think this is clueless: it gives a lot of profit to the American war industries, and this seems to be one of the reasons (in a neofascistic country dominated by profits as its supreme value).

I agree it is blind and very dangerous, but I don´t think it is ¨clueless¨: it is profit-oriented.

Here is more on the era between 1917, or at least between 1945 and 1991, that is, when there was a Soviet Union:

It still seemed obvious then that American power could not be total. There were things it could not do, places it could not control, dreams its leaders simply couldn’t have. Though no one ever thought of it that way, from 1945 to 1991, the United States, like the Soviet Union, was, after a fashion, “contained.”

In those years, the Russians were, in essence, saving Washington from itself. Soviet power was a tangible reminder to American political and military leaders that certain areas of the planet remained no-go zones (except in what, in those years, were called “the shadows”).

Well... what there was, was a - sort of - balance of power, which in both cases (the USA and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies) was based on nuclear arms.

Here is some on the first Gulf War, that took place during the last years of the Soviet Union, and that also was the first U.S. war that was fought with a professional army rather than an army based on the draft, and also the first war that was in fact largely secret to journalists:

Consider it the good fortune of the geopolitical dreamers soon to take the reins in Washington that the first Gulf War of 1990-1991, which ended less than a year before the Soviet Union collapsed, prepared the way for quite a different style of thinking. That instant victory led to a new kind of militarized dreaming in which a highly tech-savvy military, like the one that had driven Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait in such short order, would be capable of doing anything on a planet without serious opposition.

I do not know, and it also seems that the Americans flipped their thinking in 2001 rather than in 1991. In fact, it seems as if Engelhardt agrees:

There had never been a moment like it: a moment of one. A single great power left alone, triumphant, on planet Earth. Just one superpower -- wealthy beyond compare, its increasingly high-tech military unmatched, its only true rival in a state of collapse -- had now been challenged by a small jihadist group.

To President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the rest of their crew, it seemed like nothing short of a heaven-sent opportunity. As they came out of the shock of 9/11, of that “Pearl Harbor of the twenty-first century,” it was as if they had found a magic formula in the ruins of those iconic buildings for the ultimate control of the planet. As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld would instruct an aide at the Pentagon that day, “Go massive. Sweep it up. Things related and not.”

Well... what seems true is that the USA did not have to fear the USSR anymore, because the USSR had been killed in 1991, while Russia was mostly in a state of deep economical trouble around 2000.

Here is some more on what happened around 2001:

Think of what those officials did in the post-9/11 moment as the ultimate act of greed. They tried to swallow a whole planet. They were determined to make it a planet of one in a way that had never before been seriously imagined.

It was, to say the least, a vision of madness. Even in a moment when it truly did seem -- to them at least -- that all constraints had been taken off, an administration of genuine conservatives might have hesitated. Its top officials might, at least, have approached the post-Soviet situation with a modicum of caution and modesty. But not George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and pals.
Well... it seems that the really greedy were not so much the American military, but the American civilians whom the American military enthroned, notably Paul Bremer and his team. But Engelhardt seems quite right when he says this was not wat ¨genuine conservatives¨ would have done.

Here is the ending of Engelhardt´s article:

The history of greed in our time has yet to be written, but what a story it will someday make. In it, the greed of those geopolitical dreamers will intersect with the greed of an ever wealthier, ever more gilded 1%, of the billionaires who were preparing to swallow whole the political system of that last superpower and grab so much of the wealth of the planet, leaving so little for others.

Whether you’re talking about the urge to control the planet militarily or financially, what took place in these years could, in the end, result in ruin of a historic kind. To use a favored phrase from the Bush years, one of these days we may be facing little short of “regime change” on a planetary scale. And what a piece of shock and awe that’s likely to prove to be.

All of us, of course, now live on the planet Bush’s boys tried to swallow whole. They left us in a world of infinite war, infinite harm, and in Donald Trump’s America where cluelessness has been raised to a new power.

I think Engelhardt is mostly correct about greed (and I speak of neofascism and stress profits), and especially about the fact that it is the - apparently infinite - greed of the already superwealthy. And while I don´t agree with Engelhardt on everything this is a recommended article.

4. Why Americans (and Koreans) Can Sleep Better After the Summit

This article is by Jonathan Marshall on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
Scads of analysts and pundits have weighed in on the Trump-Kim summit talks in Singapore, parsing the brief agreement and presidential tweets for signs of just how strongly it actually commits North Korea to total, verifiable “denuclearization.”

Most of them are missing the point. The real threat to U.S., Korean, and Japanese security of late has come not from North Korean nukes, but from threats by President Donald Trump and his closest advisers to launch a regional war to preempt any further North Korean progress on warhead and missile technology. Some experts were giving even odds of a U.S.-initiated war as recently as a few months ago.

So even if the spectacle in Singapore was more theater than substance, even if the president’s effusive praise for a totalitarian leader was hard to swallow, we should applaud Trump for belatedly making good on his 2016 campaign promise to sit down with Kim Jong-un over a hamburger in search of peace.
Yes, that seems correct. Indeed, from my own point of view - that gave the same probability as ¨some experts¨ did on ¨a  U.S.-initiated war¨, namely 50/50 - it already is quite something that the USA did not start a nuclear war.

Here is more on the tendencies towards a nuclear war:
Trump’s close foreign policy adviser (and golfing partner), Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, strongly advised the president to launch a preemptive war sooner rather than later, before North Korea could put the U.S. homeland at risk. He also insisted that Trump wasn’t bluffing about preparing an all-out first strike. “He has told me that. I believe him,” Graham said. “If thousands die, they’re going to die over there. They’re not going to die here. And he has told me that to my face.”

Graham predicted that if North Korea conducted another nuclear bomb test, the odds that “we use the military option” would rise to “70 percent.” Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, put the odds as high as 50/50. Trump’s selection of John Bolton, an outspoken advocate of regime change in North Korea, as his national security adviser further stacked the odds in favor of war.
I agree that Graham, Haass and Bolton wanted war, and indeed a nuclear one (which very probably would involve China, which risks blowing up the whole world).

Here is some more on the risks:
Trump’s path toward war—with almost no push-back from Congress—promised unimaginable destruction. “There easily could be a million deaths on the first day,” said Stanford University international security expert Scott Sagan. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry advised that a war with North Korea would be “catastrophic, possibly destroying the societies of both Koreas as well as causing large casualties in the U.S. military.”

It would certainly kill a substantial fraction of North Korea’s 25 million people. Before then, however, Pyongyang’s hair-trigger military would likely annihilate millions in Seoul, Tokyo, and other major cities with massed artillery, chemical weapons, and atomic bombs many times the size of those that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

And that’s not even counting what might happen if China or Russia entered the fray—or if North Korea smuggled an atomic bomb into one of our major port cities aboard a freighter.

This threat of war originated almost entirely from the U.S. side.
Quite so. And this is about what has been achieved so far:
Much of what the critics say is true. The 397-word Singapore agreement is mostly platitudes, not the “very, very comprehensive document” Trump claimed. It doesn’t specify when or how North Korea will get rid of its nuclear weapons. It doesn’t specify a timetable for easing economic sanctions. It doesn’t address human rights in North Korea. Raised expectations could lead to disappointments, recriminations, and renewed political conflict.

But by addressing the cycle of provocations (including missile tests and military exercises) that were accelerating our countries to the brink of war, and setting the stage for a peace treaty ending the Korean War, the summit talks have at least temporarily made every American, and every resident of North Asia, a good bit more secure.   
Yes, I completely agree. And this is a strongly recommended article.

5. The Military Industrial Drain

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

As Trump stokes tensions around the world, he’s adding fuel to the fire by demanding even more Pentagon spending. It’s a dangerous military buildup intended to underwrite endless wars and enrich defense contractors, while draining money from investment in the American people.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower once noted, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed." 

Eisenhower was a Republican and a former general who helped win World War II for the allies, yet he understood America’s true priorities. But Washington–and especially Trump–have lost sight of these basic tradeoffs.

Since 2001, the Pentagon budget has soared from $456 billion–in today’s dollars–to $700 billion, including the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other national security expenses. All told, when you include spending on the military and war, veterans’ benefits, and homeland security, military-related spending now eats up 67 percent of all federal  discretionary spending.

I say, for I did not know that. Also, I agree with Reich that one important motive for spending incredible amounts of war (rather than the American infra-structure, that is falling apart) is that it hugely enriches friends of government. And apart from that, I´d say that the American spending on war, and especially on nuclear arms, will not help anyone, and very well may destroy the whole earth if there is a nuclear war.

Here is some more on the enormous spendings on war (that the Americans themselves tend to call ¨defense¨) the USA engages in:

Out-of-control defense contractors also drive up spending. In the coming years, cost overruns alone are projected to reach an estimated $484 billion. Meanwhile, the CEOs of the top 5 defense firms took home $97.4 million in compensation last year.

Despite all this, some still argue that military spending is necessary to support good-paying jobs and economic growth. Baloney. America would be much better served by a jobs program that invested in things we really need – like modern roads and highways, better school facilities, public parks, water and sewer systems, and clean energy – not weapons systems.

I completely agree and this is a recommended article.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).
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