Friends and Enemies? Does US Foreign Policy Know the Difference? Do Citizens Know the Difference?


b. traven

We hold Saudi Arabia and Turkey close to our breast while both play a double game in funding, and encouraging transit of arms and fighters for ISIS and other extremist groups in Iraq and Syria. The result?  Mayhem continues and Europe is overwhelmed with desperate refugees fleeing the chaos.

At the same time we continue to push Europe into confrontation with Russia as we actively throw gasoline on that fire with our intervention in Ukraine that has resulted in a situation like a small Syrian disaster.  We (the Obama administration) helped to install an extreme right-wing, corrupt government in Kiev to replace a Russian-friendly, corrupt government in order to further our aim to encircle Russia and try for ‘regime change’ there.

Not satisfied with the disaster we have we caused in Europe and the Middle East our enlightened neo-conservatives and neo-liberals (including our former Secretary of State) have decided that China is a “very big threat” and so Obama and Clinton “pivoted” our military forces to the Pacific to show China who is the big Kahuna. Our aim?  Aggressive Encirclement.

We have spent the last 20 years shipping to China virtually all of our manufacturing capability and machinery from ball bearings to soccer balls. Now we suddenly decide they are not as friendly as the Saudis. They don’t have oil. No “Bandar Bushes” in China.

I recently asked a couple of well-educated older women friends why they are supporting our former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, for President. Both replied with a simple one word response “Experience.”  When I reviewed the chaos, deaths, and destabilization resulting from her support and initiative for these actions above which her “experience” resulted in as both a Senator and Secretary of State, they looked at me blankly as though I had just maligned god.

48 thoughts on “Friends and Enemies? Does US Foreign Policy Know the Difference? Do Citizens Know the Difference?

  1. China doesn’t have oil, “traven”?!? China believes otherwise. Sonar probing, etc., suggests the ocean bottom of the “South China Sea” may harbor the largest as yet untapped reservoir of oil and natural gas on the whole planet. This is the primary reason (the “right” to fish species to extinction in the area may be a lesser consideration in this geographical zone) multiple nations, including the US, have become extremely interested in the area the past few years. The US is, of course, the most geographically remote from the area of interest of all the contending parties, but as the “exceptional” nation hasn’t hesitated to put naval forces in the area to “show the flag.” In a sane world, all parties would examine the global climate situation and agree to leave those abominable resources right where they are. Sadly, that is not the world in which we live, so the military preparations by the contending parties continue to escalate.

  2. U.S. foreign policy is not based on what is best for the nation, but what is best for powerful interest groups: oil industry, AIPAC (they are not registered as foreign agents because they skirt the law- all are acting as private citizens and Congress does not amend the law) and corporations wanting to increase profits by manufacturing overseas. In the end the American people have fewer good paying jobs, a foreign policy which is a disaster yet never reported as such because the mainstream media are in lock step to gain access to government and in the case of TV networks rely on legislation for their existence and profitability. All in all the American people are pawns for others. Our democracy is a shell of one because the political parties serve themselves and powerful interest first and the American people last- eliminating accountability to preserve their power and status. National decline is the result.

    • Mary.. Welcome to the contrarian club. Become a “follower” and get new articles sent directly. Don’t hesitate to comment or disagree. Discourse is the bedrock of democracy and we are short of that today in our country.

  3. Down the street from me is an underground pipe that’s slowly rotting. Last year, it caused a sinkhole and the town patched it. This morning, the town was at it again. I talked to the workers. They said they’re waiting on the state to replace the pipe, so for the moment all they can is patch (and hope). One worker said he expected the road would need another patch before the state would finally get around to the permanent fix of replacing the rotting pipe.

    Why this story, and here of all places? We spend billions overseas on Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries and their “security forces” and their infrastructure even as we neglect our own. We save a few pennies in Flint while letting poor people drink lead-contaminated water. Our roads collapse and our people get sick and die even as we send billions to our “ally” Israel, together with other “allies” like Egypt and Turkey.

    Our national priorities are all mixed up — another aspect of the national decline Henry mentions in his comment above. Corruption and stupidity.

    Keep fighting the good fight, traven.

  4. Donald Trump is the villain of the day but he is really just an ‘entertainer’ like Ronald Reagan was. Amongst Republican voters there apparently is a ‘celebrity worshiping’ vector that rears its unthinking head when a celebrity wants to become a real politician.
    Somehow I have been under the illusion that better educated Democrats are not influenced in their selection of qualified political candidates by ‘celebrity’ status. So the end of the piece above is asking the question of our readers why are educated, liberal minded, older women, ready to turn their backs on the fact that Hillary Clinton’s “experience” is littered with the bodys of Libyan,Ukrainian, Iraqi, Afghani, and Syrian men, women and children? Please help me understand!

    • It’s predictable that older women would identify with Hillary Clinton — one of their own. It’s not as simple as identity politics, of course, but the idea that “It’s her turn” (and our turn as women) certainly makes sense. Hillary is a “known” quantity who has positioned herself as “experienced” and “determined,” a “fighter” who has endured a philandering husband and an enormous amount of invective directed against her by the Republican Establishment. I can see older women having great sympathy for her on a personal level. Her story resonates with them.

      With respect to the Afghans, Libyans, etc., my sense is that most Americans couldn’t care less.

      • William.

        “Couldn’t care less.” The inevitable consequence of a 99% disconnect. Fonda (Jane) and cohorts, what do you now think of your success?

      • Walt: I’ve written about this before: People are being kept distracted, divided, and downtrodden, and that’s just here in the USA. With respect to “foreigners,” especially Muslims in places like Libya and Syria, the basic media narrative is that they’re terrorists (or potential terrorists) and NOT LIKE US. Remember the furor about whether the US could accept Syrian refugees, mainly women and children. NO!! Too dangerous, cried the toughest nation in the history of the world.

        Common humanity? Compassion? Who has time for such sentiment, such “weakness”? Report for your two minutes of hate against THE ENEMY.

      • Earth calling Walter! You choose to beat up on Jane Fonda as a cause for complacency in the American citizenry about what happens overseas?!? To say that this is “a stretch” would be a colossal understatement. If I may be so bold as to speak for Ms. Fonda, we passionately opposed a monstrous and, yes, criminal war against the peoples of Southeast Asia that was being waged in our names, devouring tax dollars and destroying the bodies of young American men and women in uniform at the time. What this country needs today is an equally passionate opposition to current US foreign policy!!

    • Were the ladies in question at all aware of how Clinton’s decisions affected outcomes? Were they unconvinced by your exposition, or did they think her malfeasance O.K.? It’s difficult to get a handle on how some people ascertain reality, and more so, it truly escapes me to try and fathom the ethical (in)considerations of people who do not share my gut reactions.

      • Greg.. I was very explicit in pinning the tail on the donkey.
        This was just a small personal sample of a phenomena noted in polling figures that young women tend more towards Sanders while Clinton has a choke hold on older women. What was puzzling was the unanimity in their using the word “experience” to justify their support when Clinton’s ‘experience’ shows clearly her lack of judgement.

      • Thanks traven…enjoyed Taibbi’s article. Young people are thinking indeed. Too bad the Clintons confuse the art of compromise with acts of capitulation. Too bad they confuse incremental progress with the destruction of everything the old-fashioned Left used to stand for.

      • Well, I’d have to say the “love affair” between organized labor (once upon a time a harbinger of hope for the “Old Left”) and the Democrats ended with the death of FDR. (And it was only because of the desperate state of the nation during the Great Depression that things had gotten that chummy.) Henry Wallace, the last presidential candidate who had some chance of winning as a genuinely progressive independent, was shown the Exit door. Hello, Harry S. Truman. Hello, Red Scare. Goodbye, last of the real militants in the AFL/CIO. Hello, creeps like Jackie Presser, who made the Teamsters Nixon’s lap dog. Hello, “hard hats.” This is all a labored way to point out that the only thing left-leaning about the Clintons is (or so the story went during L’affaire Lewinsky) “Big Dog'”s pecker. We can’t accuse the Clintons of betraying “the left,” since they never had the least loyalty thereto.

        [Apologies to “b. traven,” whose original theme about older Democrat women huddling around Hillary got a bit sidetracked in the Comments section!]

      • Now that’s funny greglaxer! And you are poignant as well.

        As to the good man Henry Wallace…I think he was literally moments from renomination for V.P. at the ’44 convention when some shenanigans flipped it to Truman. History so close to being something else?

  5. Gregg,

    Thanks for your reply to Walter. You beat me to it. That mean young Jane Fonda! She sure whipped old General William Westmoreland’s lame, tired ass, didn’t she? What awesome powers of persuasion she brought to bear on America’s vainglorious Military Idolatry! How powerless the entire U.S. political/military juggernaut against her! If only the United States had one or two more patriots like her, then perhaps America wouldn’t keep waging pointless, ruinous war against third-world peasant societies only to lose time and time again. But then, since the U.S. military exists only to waste America’s human and economic resources for the benefit of the global 1%, perhaps our vaunted Visigoths really have “won” something, only they can’t come out and publicly identify just what and for whom. So they just go on lying and demanding more, more, more, always more.

    Good on you, Jane Fonda. This Vietnam veteran says, “You go, girl!”

    • Ah, Hanoi Jane! I well remember those “traitorous American bitch” bumper stickers from the 1970s. Then Jane went on to amassing millions by selling workout videos. And married Ted Turner. I’ve read about Jane’s trip to Hanoi with the infamous photo of her posing with an AA gun. Why the resentment against her is so venomous is a fascinating question. Was it simply that photo? Of course not.

      For the Vietnam generation, Jane Fonda became a magnet for so many resentments — much more than her actions deserved. Which is not to say I’m a fan of Jane’s. Her activism always seemed opportunistic, and her acting? “On Golden Pond” is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.

      • Opposition to power is always difficult for the opposer and never “opportunistic”. It takes guts to oppose state power and the price can be high.

      • Was she truly opposing “power”? Or was she grandstanding? The position she took, when she took it, was not exceptional but rather typical for the crowd in which she traveled. And she was naive (at least) to allow herself to be used for propaganda in her visit to North Vietnam.

      • Bill Astore–Believe it or not, not “everyone” in Hollywood is a flaming liberal. Thus Ms. Fonda risked making enemies (and surely did) in the town that generated her paychecks. Do you really think posing with that anti-aircraft unit was “playing to” the American populace? Good Heavens, man, only those of us on the most militant end of the anti-war spectrum applauded that. I am very certain that many folks who considered themselves strongly opposed to the war were horrified by that photo. And I’m equally certain Ms. Fonda literally put her very life at risk. Imagine what might have happened if a platoon of Nixon’s revolting “hard hats” had stormed a public appearance by the actress, or tracked her down in her private life, and gotten their hands on her! (The contemporary analog of the “hard hats” are the Trump supporters who like to sucker-punch protesters.) No, the opportunism came later, when Jane publicly apologized for her actions in “north” Viet Nam in an effort to keep herself a marketable commodity. Personally, I will never apologize for my own actions in opposition to that, or any, unjustified war waged by “my” government.

      • I never claimed everyone in Hollywood is a flaming liberal. John Wayne? Ronald Reagan? Clint Eastwood?

        I never claimed Jane Fonda was playing to an American audience when she posed with that AA gun.

        I don’t blame Fonda for being against the war and specifically Nixon’s bombing campaigns in 1972. But there were many people who bravely protested against the war long before Fonda came on the scene. And she apparently allowed herself — unwittingly or unthinkingly — to be used as propaganda when she posed for that photo. Surely an actress should know the power of imagery?

        Fonda has paid a price for her protest. But I don’t think we should feel too sorry for an actress who has a net worth of $120 million. She’s not doing THAT badly …

  6. My Rant: On my Street supposedly Private, but never getting re- paved due to whatever.! I pay the same Taxes as do the Citizens on the Tourist Streets in Town, but they’re getting re- paved. We’re constantly getting the “Pot-hole Patrol” only…My words of wisdom: the showy attractions that generate dollars for the town matter more quite simply…Read into that what You will!. On Jane Fonda I’ve always been ambivalent on her Acting, but in “On Golden Pond” I believe she was overacting, and intimidated by her distant & estranged Dad at the time, but mended their Relationship in that Movie, or so I believe I heard anyway…Accepting His Oscar (he was too Ill to attend) at that years Ceremony, and being denied herself for Supporting Actress…Lastly as to Hillary I’m all for our First Female President– just not Her!.

  7. Jane Fonda was at least on the right side of history. Better part of a late protest movement than never to take a stand. Very few had the wisdom and courage of MLK who was against war in Vietnam from the outset.
    She appears to me to be well-spoken with attractive qualities. I’d go Barefoot in the Park with her.

  8. Traven: It’s deeply ironic that the Democratic Party said “No more McGoverns.” As if McGovern was some loony liberal peacenik. I (very briefly) met George McGovern at the AF Academy in 1990. McGovern was a skilled pilot who served honorably and bravely in WWII. From one site:

    “He flew 35 combat missions over North Africa and Italy, and won the Distinguished Flying Cross for piloting his damaged bomber across Yugoslavia to a remote island runway that was far shorter than the minimum length to safely land. McGovern had his crew throw all their non-essential equipment overboard, then both pilots stood on the brake as the plane touched down.”

    Now, contrast McGovern’s record in combat with that of Nixon. Or compare this principled man with Bill Clinton, or his wife Hillary and her “combat record” of dodging imaginary bullets in the Balkans.

    We need more McGoverns — and no more Clintons!

    • I sense an ominous resemblance between the atmosphere in 1972 and today. Racial tensions had been ratcheted up and the land was awash in AWMs (Angry White Males). Nixon, though teetering toward self-destruction with his various violations of the law–soon to surface publicly–clobbered McGovern by painting him as weak on war-making (i.e. “defense,” ha-ha). Despite Hillary’s every effort to paint herself as being no less hawkish and ballsy (oops) as the next megalomaniacal politician, you can bet your last dollar before payday that The Donald will paint her as being…limp-wristed, shall we say? Only Trump the Terrible can make all other nations on Earth cower and grovel on their knees before the Mighty US Military Machine! You read it here first, folks.

  9. Bottom line on the realities of war: Had soldier Traven or soldier Walt run up on that AA gun, we would have done the best we could to destroy it and kill everyone on or around it. War is hell, as the saying goes.

    • Yes, General Walt, and the defenders of that installation would have had every right to cut you down with their AK-47s. Only one of the parties in the conflict, after all, had traveled halfway around the globe to wage a war of aggression under the guise of “stopping the spread of communism.”

    • traven.

      No problem. In the 46-years since I returned from Vietnam, I’ve heard far worse – murderer and baby killer, for example. Comes with the territory, and the right to free expression you and I offered our lives for.

      • Thanks Walter..
        First let me say that anyone drafted for military service in either WW II or Vietnam did not “offer” their life. It was demanded by the government. No choice except CO (conscious objector) in WW II, or Sweden, Canada, or college for Vietnam.

        I had a friend during the Vietnam war who was a top advertising executive in Chicago and had a Swedish background who chose to move to Sweden to keep his two draft age kids out of that war. I made sure my oldest son went to college.
        In my opinion war is more than a way of waging ‘diplomacy’ it can destroy the country that initiates it. We are living that tragedy now.

        I am proud of my service during the WW II but I am appalled at how a bunch of politicians who have never even served in the military have used our victory in WW II to basterdize it into an argument for our “exceptionalism” allowing us to pursue a perpetual war that is now entering its 16th year and has allowed them to destroy our economy and ignore the rule of law under the Constitution. We can do better.


      • Amen, traven. War should be a last resort, and perpetual war will end in the death of democracy.

        For the cost of all our wars, we could have universal health care, better education, and free college tuition. How stupid we are!

  10. traven.

    Certainly you offered your life. You did that the day you registered for the draft, as young men still do, and, in one way or another you answered the call. The rights of citizenship carry obligations to the state – paying taxes, for example. Has there ever been a time or country when this is not so?

    As for your Swedish friend, how is that country now doing? From what I read, Sweden is on the road to Sharia. I bet that ethnic Swedes won’t like it when the Mullahs run the place – “convert or die,” as the mandate goes.

    When I joined the National Guard (1973), it was filled with those who chose to serve their country in a force unlikely to be deployed to Vietnam. A good friend from that time greatly regrets his decision for comfort.

    War destroys us only because the representatives we elect ignore the Constitution. We get the government we deserve!

    • Walter, I should just like to say that I think war destroys “us” when the destructiveness that it unleashes far outweighs any true motives of good outcome. And since, generally speaking, it’s been real hard of late to discern any true motives of good outcome, karma becomes a bitch.

      As to getting the government that “we” deserve….I think all people everywhere on Earth deserve government that works for the welfare of general populations. People should also get government that is committed to political, civil, and religious liberty for all and is averse to war-making.

      • Yes, Citizen’s United was a game-changer, as I wrote about in this article at Truthout, which traven helped to stimulate.–what-are-we

        Here’s the text: This week’s Supreme Court ruling that corporations are protected by “free speech” rights and can contribute enormous sums of money to influence elections is a de jure endorsement of the de facto dominance of corporations over our lives. Indeed, corporations are the new citizens of this country, and ordinary Americans, who used to be known as “citizens,” now fall into three categories: consumers, warriors and prisoners.

        Think about it. Perhaps you’ve noticed, as a friend of mine has, that the term “citizen” has largely disappeared from our public and political discourse. And what term has taken its place? Consumer. That’s our new role: not to exercise our rights as citizens (perish the thought, that’s for corporations to do!), but to exercise our credit cards as consumers. Here one might recall President George W. Bush’s inspiring words to Americans after 9-11 to “go shopping” and to visit Disney.

        Think again of our regulatory agencies like the FDA or SEC. They no longer take action to protect us as “citizens.” Rather, they act to safeguard the confidence of “consumers.” And apparently the only news that’s worthy of note is that which affects us as consumers.

        As one-dimensional “consumers,” we’ve been reduced to obedient eunuchs in thrall to the economy. Our sole purpose is to keep buying and spending. Corporations, meanwhile, are the citizen-activists in our politics, with the voting and speech rights to match their status.

        At the same time we’ve reduced citizens to consumers, we’ve reduced citizen-soldiers to “warriors” or “warfighters.” The citizen-soldier of World War II did his duty in the military, but his main goal was to come home, regain his civilian job, and enjoy the freedoms and rights of American citizenship. Today, our military encourages a “warrior” mentality: a narrow-minded professionalism that emphasizes warfighting skills over citizenship and civic duty.

        And if that’s not disturbing enough, think of our military’s ever-increasing reliance on private military contractors or mercenaries.

        The final category of American is all-too-obvious: prisoner. No country in the modern industrialized world incarcerates more of its citizens than the United States. More than 7.3 million Americans currently languish somewhere in our prison system. Our only hope, apparently, for a decline in prison population is the sheer expense to states of caring and feeding all these “offenders.”

        There you have it. Corporations are our new citizens. And you? If you’re lucky, you get to make a choice: consumer, warrior or prisoner. Which will it be?

    • I had been standing aside from this conversation for a while but Gen. Walt forces me to re-enter. Really, sir, you claim to be a reasonably educated fellow. And yet here you are spouting Limbaugh-level drivel about Sweden. Or were you being facetious on a level of sophistication beyond my comprehension? Neo-Nazi political parties and wannabe Brown Shirts are on the rise in Europe, including the Scandinavian nations, feeding on this same type of Islamophobia. THAT poses the real threat to what remains of a semblance of a “free society.”

  11. Walter..
    It usually is counter productive in discussions to argue over the meaning of words so as I .do this please have forbearance with me. I do question the use of “offered” in discussing registration for the draft..Registration for the draft was a LAW of he land and failure to register was a crime. As a law respecting citizen I complied with the law. I did not “offer” my life at that time but I sure as hell worried about it personally.

    As it happened I both ‘volunteered’ and was drafted. I had volunteered for the Army Air Corps previously for the Aviation Cadet program but received my draft notice to ‘report’ in three days to an Army ‘reception center on the same day that my acceptance letter came from the Air Corps. What to do? .That’s another story in itself.

    • Traven.

      Years ago i attend a War College lecture where a presenter reported US WWII casualty rates as highest among submariners, followed in order by heavy bomber crewmen and infantrymen. If you joined the Air Corps to avoid the infantry, you were out of the frying pan, into the fire.

      • In roughly 1939, my dad tried to join the Navy. It was still peacetime so the Navy was picky. The Navy had a height minimum of 5’4″, and my dad was just under that. He was rejected.

        After that, my dad swore he wouldn’t volunteer until he was drafted. The Army took him in 1942.

        If the Navy hadn’t been so picky in 1939, doubtless my dad would have found himself on a submarine or in an engine room — and I probably wouldn’t be here.

  12. Walter.. Well I did end up in ‘heavy bombers’ but not as crew. I was happy at that and let me tell you why.

    My father was a combat infantry officer in the Austro-Hungarian army in WW I. He was wounded in a battle in the Italian Alps. As a child, when I would sit on his lap, I would put my finger in a small depression in his forehead and ask how he got that. Shrapnel. He committed suicide when I was twelve in the middle of the Great Depression and my two younger brothers and I were sent to an orphan home.

    As a child I always loved airplanes. You could buy a model airplane kit for 10 cents and laboriously put it together and a rubber band would make it fly. Many Sundays in our small steel mill town during summer ‘barnstormers’ would fly into our local airport and put on a show, wing walking, inverted flying, etc. I would take a 5 cent streetcar ride to the end of the line and walk two miles to the airfield to watch the show.

    I graduated from high school in 1942 and left the orphan home to join my mother in Columbus. We were in the war and I read Dalton Trumbo’s book “Johnny Got His Gun” about an American WW I soldier who was wounded like my father and lost his sight, hearing, and all senses. Knowing I would shortly be going into the war I decided if I were to die I didn’t want to drown ( Navy) or end up like Johnny (infantry). The answer was the Air Corps. A quick death.

    An acute appendicitis attack at 18 ended in the Air Corps losing my records and thus me, for several months, which probably saved my life. We gained air superiority in Europe and the need for massive air crew replacements diminished and I was shifted into the high altitude radar bombing program and ended up training crews for the war In the Pacific.

    To a poor orphan from a small mill town the Army Air Corps was neither a frying pan nor a fire it was real life for a change.


    • traven.

      Thanks for sharing. (My use of “crew” was meant to encompass everyone on board – officers and enlisted.)

      I had two uncles flying in your war – one out in Burma in P-40s and 47s, and the other, an enlisted pilot, flying long range patrol bombers over the North Atlantic. Both survived in good health and became career military.

      Your life story is humbling. I remember my dad talking about a grandfather or great-uncle (can’t remember which) having a depression in his forehead made by a spent Confederate mini-ball. When dad was a boy he would often put his finger in it, as you did with your dad’s. Dad also said the skin over the depression deepened or shallowed with changes in atmospheric pressure. The old man was a walking barometer.

      We soldiers do have our stories. Thanks for a sampling of yours.

    • “traven”–The remarkable thing about Dalton Trumbo’s “Johnny Got His Gun” that folks not familiar with it need to know is that the protagonist concludes that the common people sent as cannon fodder to the trenches of World War I ought to “turn the guns around” on their own officer corps and thereby put an end to the hellish madness they were trapped in. The Bolsheviks preached this message to the Tsar’s troops with a good deal of success. When Hollywood put this novel on film (c. 1971 if memory serves), this message of the book completely vanished. How surprising! (Irony intentional.) Needless to say, the House Un-American Activities Committee had a field day with Mr. Trumbo, and he was blacklisted in Hollywood (he’d become quite a successful screenwriter) for many, many years. I read the novel during my own indentured servitude to the US Army.

      • .Greg… .All I can remember now is the how I felt as an eighteen year old reading that book and knowing I would be going into the war shortly. The idea of being conscious of life but unable to interact in any way was devastating. I, as most Americans at that time, was a pacifist. The lesson of the first world war was that it did not end all wars as propaganda had it. It was commonly called “the war to end all wars”. Little did we know that the seeds of the next horror were written into the supposed peace treatys. .We are still suffering today in the middle east from those agreements.

      • We can tie this in to the current US presidential campaign. Some folks, I think, are looking at The Donald as an “Isolationist” (as was Woodrow Wilson during early years of WW I) and making the huge, mistaken leap into believing he won’t be a warmonger. Americans aren’t real keen on history, eh? High tariffs on imported goods (the Smoot-Hawley Act prior to Great Depression), trade wars, bristling hostility toward other nations and their cultures…these elements have led to shooting wars in the past and doubtless will again.

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