A Thug is What I Want, A Thug is What I Need…


Beyoncé’s venerable lyric in the 50 Cent Thug Love classic may be about street toughs, but it applies well to our need for really good bad guys to focus our efforts in making the world safe for, er, American business.  Let’s let Peter Van Buren explain…  – Ed.

Peter Van Buren

There is a nasty pattern in American political speech, going back into the 1980s at least: when a senior U.S. official labels you a thug, often times wars follow. Thug is the safest word of American Exceptionalism.

So it is with some concern that lots of folks are pushing each other away from the mic to call Putin a thug (fun fact: Putin has been in effective charge of Russia for 15 years. As recently as the Hillary Clinton Secretary of State era, the U.S. sought a “reset” of relations with him.)

While the current throwing of the term thug at Putin is tied to the weak evidence presented publicly linking a Russian hacker under Putin’s employ to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee computers, there may be larger issues in the background. But first, a sample of the rhetoric.

Putin the Thug

Obama on Putin: “a thug who doesn’t understand his own best interests.”

Marco Rubio on Putin: “A gangster and a thug.”

Paul Ryan’s spokesperson on Putin: “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug.”

John McCain on Putin: “A bully and thug.”

And for fun, Sir Peter Westmacott, Britain’s ambassador to the U.S. in 2014, on Putin: “A thug and a liar.”

Thugs in American Military Adventurism

That word, thug, seems to be a sort of dog whistle that when blown signals Americans and their media to psyche up for a new fight. For example:

John Kerry on Bashar Assad: “A thug and murderer.”

John Kerry on Islamic State: “Daesh [ISIS] is in fact nothing more than a mixture of killers, of kidnappers, of criminals, of thugs, of adventurers, of smugglers and thieves.”

George W. Bush on al Qaeda: “If we let down our guard against this group of thugs, they will hurt us again.”

George W. Bush on Saddam Hussein: “He is a thug.”

Bernie Sanders on Gaddafi: “Look, everybody understands Gaddafi is a thug and murderer.”

Madeline Albright found Somali thugs and thugs in the Balkans for her era’s wars.

More Thugs

There are also North Korean thugs, Iranian thugs and Ukrainian thugs. And Sudanese thugs and Panamainian thugs.

But Why Putin, Now?

Perhaps what we’re seeing here is a realignment for the next iteration of America’s perpetual war. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the conclusion of the Cold War (“the end of history”, as one author called it), there was no global enemy. No big nasty to spur weapons procurement, or to justify a huge standing military with hundreds of bases around the world, or to pick fights with to allow a boring president to morph into a superhero war president.

A lot of people had a lot of power and money in play that demanded some bad guys. An attempt was made in the 1980s to make narco lords the new major bad guys, but they were too few in number and the popularity of drugs among Americans got in the way. Following 9/11, the bad guys were supposed to be “the terrorists.” The George W. Bush administration riffed off that theme, appointing Saddam a massive weapons of destruction threat and tagged on Iran and North Korea as part of an Axis of Evil, because, well, no one knows, things sound good in groups of threes.

Saddam turned out to be a bust, and the Iraq War ultimately very unpopular. Bin Laden never launched a second attack on the U.S., and the Taliban were hard to picture, coming and going as they do. The U.S. made a good faith effort trying to label all sorts of others, Gaddafi, Assad, ISIS, et al, as global enemies worthy of perpetual war but they either were defeated, or are just plain are kicking American butt. Meanwhile, the Middle East in general turned into a huge, complicated, sticky clusterf*ck quagmire.

A New Hope Emerges

Like Batman, Washington needs an Arch Enemy, preferably one poster-child kind of guy who can be shown on TV looking like a Bond villain. With actual nukes (Washington spent years trying to convince us the terrorists were a 24/7 nuclear threat [smoking gun = mushroom cloud] and the damn terrorists never complied.)

Enter Putin The Thug

Americans are already well-prepared by the old Cold War to see Russia as an evil empire, and Putin does look the part. A new Cold War with Russia will require lots of expensive military hardware, plus a large standing army and new areas of Europe to garrison. It might breathe new life into a NATO wondering why it still exists.

For politicians, shouting about Muslim threats has proven to have a downside, as it has inflamed many Muslims and pushed them toward radicalization. It turns out also there are Muslim voters, and people who like Muslims, in the U.S. Putin doesn’t vote, only a handful of hippies think he’s a good guy, and he can be slapped around in sound bites relatively without risk.

It is a political-military-industrial complex wet dream.

And so I predict in the coming Hillary regime a tamping down of terrorism stuff and a ramping up of a new Cold War. After all, isn’t that what her mentor Henry Kissinger would do?

This post originally appeared on Peter’s We Meant Well blog under the title, “Trouble Follows When the U.S. Labels You a ‘Thug.’

17 thoughts on “A Thug is What I Want, A Thug is What I Need…

  1. Who loves the thugs? The American arms industry of course. They thrive on “thug love”. It certainly stimulates sales of lethal weaponry. It has aphrodisiac qualities to the industry.

  2. I certainly see no dimming of the luster accorded “Radical Islam” as Public Enemy Number One for US politicians. Trump’s trigger finger is itching to show the world that only he has the solution to the “ISIS problem”–which is what, exactly? I must’ve blinked and missed his big speech about his plans, other than “rebuilding” the military he claims (as would any other GOP candidate) Obama and Mrs. Clinton have “gutted.” Oh, and of course employing forms of torture that will make the action in Abu Ghraib look like child’s play. And that other major party candidate? Totally committed to continuing this idiotic perpetual war she would inherit from Obama (with her own fingerprints thereon, per her days as Secretary of State), who inherited it from Cheney & Co.

    The demonization of Mr. Putin is still just a sideshow; we’re merely seeing Coming Attractions at this point. The “Cold War” broke out in “hot” “little” wars in several spots on the globe, with indescribably horrible consequences for the folks who actually lived there. The recently revived “Cold War” surely has the potential to follow the same course. Some “Gold Bug/Conspiracy Theory” types are spouting that Hillary’s accession to the presidency will ensure a shooting war with Russia. I won’t go that far, as I can’t afford to be a “Bug” and have never been a “Conspiracy Theorist.” I actually think we’re being prepared for a military clash with Chinese forces in the South China Sea more immediately than anti-Russian action. In a world thoroughly addicted to fossil fuels, the prize said to lie beneath the waves in that region is just too damned tempting.

    • Since I’m one of only a handful of hippies who thinks the guy is alright, my perspective borne of ample evidence is probably suspect. I pick the one sporting an insidious smile.

  3. Gregory.. Amongst the beheading Saudi and Gulf States medieval “kingdoms” and the fascistic Ukrainians now in Kiev that we hold dear, Putin does seem like a fairly reasonable aspiring dictator with whom we could have a constructive relationship with, particularly in Syria.

    But then again we forget that he foolishly won’t let us encircle his country and slowly restore chaos after regime change,… oops I meant democracy like we have brought to Iraq, Syria, Ukainia, Libya, Egypt., ad nauseum. .

  4. For someone who is, by his own implication, fit for the job, the president (of the U.S., I mean) seems comfortable at labelling his contemporaries.

  5. Regarding Peter Van Buren’s closing quote: “And so I predict in the coming Hillary regime a tamping down of terrorism stuff and a ramping up of a new Cold War. After all, isn’t that what her mentor Henry Kissinger would do?”

    I recall a time four decades ago when geopolitical “big thinkers” Tricky Dick Nixon and his Teutonic Svengali Henry Kissinger considered themselves oh-so brilliant for “driving a wedge between Communist China and the USSR.” So, what has Henry’s go-to-girl, You-Know-Her, managed to accomplish over her twenty-five-year “career” in U.S. national politics? Well, how about — with the full connivance of the hapless tool Barack Obama — driving China and Russia right back into each others arms again. And not just China and Russia, but Iran, Syria, and Iraq (and even, possibly, Turkey) as well. Contemplating U.S. foreign policy under You-Know-Her’s impending regime reminds me of a comment I heard on Russia Today’s “Crosstalk” program recently. One of the contributors mentioned how Napoleon Bonaparte had said that he invaded Russia to unify Europe, only to unify Europe and Russia against Napoleonic France. Do I have to go any further into the significance of this analogy for the United States and its lunatic “leaders” attempting to “isolate” Russia and China?

    From an article in the Asia Times:

    “Putting all [of today’s] rapid flow of events together, the picture that emerges is most certainly one of a Russian-Iranian-Turkish convergence aimed at creating new facts on the ground in Syria.”

    “China seems to be entering the equation laterally, too.”

    “Curiously, all these four protagonists – Turkey, Iran, Russia and China – have one thing in common in geopolitical terms – a shared interest or even need to push back at the US, each for its own reasons, though.

    “If for Russia, it is the US-led western sanctions and NATO’s “mission creep” on its borders, for Turkey it is the dark suspicion that the July 15 coup attempt had some degree of US backing or acquiescence and that Washington’s dalliance with forces that Ankara regards as unfriendly – Fetullah Gulen and Syrian Kurds, principally – aim at hurting Turkey’s stability and integrity.”

    “Of course, China’s motivation to push back at the US (which is meddling in the South China Sea) doesn’t need an explanation.”

    This last bit of news about China entering the Syria conflict on the side of Syria, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Hezbolla (Lebanon) and possibly even Turkey (in a 180-degree about face in policy), ought to have “big thinker” Henry the K screaming bloody murder at You-Know-Her for stupidly announcing her intention of renewing America’s regime change operation in Syria once she assumes her presidency in January of next year. While You-Know-Her continues bad-mouthing Russian President Vladimir Putin as “another Adoph Hitler” (one of history’s most notorious thugs), It looks like the rest of the world has already started to prepare one nasty surprise for her in Syria. Donald Trump will probably count himself lucky that he didn’t win the presidency. Imploding empires tend to rather besmirch the names and reputations of erstwhile Napoleons who ride them to their ruin.

    • Mike Murry–“Russia Today” is certainly an antidote to the US media-propaganda machine. I watched some of their TV programming on my visit to Moscow in 2013, but still haven’t gotten around to checking their Internet programs. As for the recent “attempted coup” in Turkey, I think it’s pretty clear in retrospect that the chief figure behind that was none other than Mr. Erdogan. I don’t think even Pinochet’s coup in Chile produced pre-drawn-up lists of thousands upon thousands of civil servants to be purged from office within days (maybe hours?) of its completion. (Here I’m taking the liberty of deeming this “Erdogan’s coup,” though he was already in power. You know, one of those “palace revolutions.”) As far as I am aware, Turkey on Erdogan’s watch still desires to join the EU with full membership status. Thus, in terms of official stance, I don’t think Turkey can be lumped in an anti-US camp. As for having a porous border over which anti-US guerillas may easily slip…well, look at Pakistan! That wretched (in terms of its political-military-intelligence establishment) nation is still considered a staunch ally down there in the strange world of Washington, D.C. As for Nixon’s “opening of China,” painful though it be I think we have to recognize it was the only major achievement of his presidency. From the Capitali$t perspective, China was heaven on Earth. Else we would still have a domestic manufacturing sector here at home, yes?

      I won’t attempt to predict what the American Empire’s final undoing will result from. If POTUS, be it You-Know-Her or the Self-Imploding One, isn’t willing to put a significant number of boots on the ground, how can there be a Waterloo, a Dien Bien Phu, i.e. a definitive losing battle? Here at home, society will continue to decay, the wealth gap yawning ever greater, repression ramping up against any attempt by the working class to fight back. I’m afraid it’s going to be an agonizingly long process.

      • Greg, I haven’t come to any firm opinions about the orchestration of the “attempted coup” in Turkey. But I have come across some interesting material. The first link is to an article by (ex?) C.I.A. man Graham Fuller. The next two links In part discuss Fuller’s possible ties to the “attempt”.




      • As you know, Greg, Turkey cares most of all about smashing the Kurds and their dreams of an independent state on Turkey’s borders. This puts Turkey squarely at odds with the U.S. military which depends upon the Kurds for what little “access” it has on the ground in Iraq and Syria. Just the other day, Syrian jets bombed some of the CIA-sponsored jihadi terrorists who had gotten themselves a little too close to the Pentagon-sponsored Kurdish terrorist positions. This put U.S. special-ops ground forces in serious jeopardy. So the U.S. scrambled some of its own jets (from where, I don’t know) to “chase away” the Syrian Air Force from its own national airspace, issuing a stern warning to the Syrians to stay away from the jihadi-Kurdish terrorists that the U.S. supports. Here you have — in all but name — the so-called “No Fly Zone” or “Safe Zone” that You-Know-Her plans to assert in Syria once she becomes Commander-in-Brief. I do not believe that Turkey will long stand for this and if Russia sides with Turkey against the U.S.-sponsored Kurdish terrorists, then I would say “goodbye Kurdish terrorists” and “goodbye U.S. Special Ops ground forces.”

        And in case you didn’t catch this, Greg, Russia just fired some cruise missiles at U.S.-sponsored jihadi terrorists in Syria from ships in the Mediterranean Sea. Just a demonstration of capability to go along with the already demonstrated ability to hit any target in Syria from ships in the Caspian sea quite some distance away. So who needs planes to bomb jihadi terrorists in Syria? And what will You-Know-Her do about this development: declare a “No-Sail Zone” in two oceans?

        The legitimate government of Syria did not invite the U.S. military to operate on its territory or in its airspace. Therefore, the U.S. has no legitimate right to tell anyone — least of all the Syrian government — what they can do or where they can do it in Syria. And with China now entering the equation with its own ships and army and money, I would advise those U.S. special operations ground forces to get their unwelcome asses out of harm’s way real soon now. If anything unfortunate should happen to them, they will have only their own sorry-ass U.S. government to blame.

        The game in Syria has changed. Syrian President Assad will not “go.” On the other hand, U.S. President Barack Obama will. The U.S. will lose. Turkey will side with the winners: Russia, China, and Iran. If You-Know-Her doesn’t realize this, she will soon receive the geopolitical equivalent of two black-eyes, a broken nose, two fat lips, and some missing teeth to show for her arrogant, belligerent ignorance. And if Henry Kissinger hasn’t told her all this in no uncertain terms, then who needs that senile old war criminal’s advice anyway? It certainly didn’t do Richard Nixon much good.

      • Of course, the US has no “right” whatsoever under any international standards of conduct to engage in ANY of the destabilizing activities it has since 9/11, using the latter events as its battle cry. It’s all about “American Exceptionalism,” translation: “You gonna do somethin’ about it, tough guys?!?” To the extent that Russia and China can provide a counterweight to US aggressiveness, I welcome the influence of those less than saintly regimes. Despite my previous observation that push is liable to come to shove with China sooner, due to the fossil fuel deposits believed to be beneath South China Sea, I have to say the demonization campaign against Mr. Putin is presently far ahead of the anti-Chinese propaganda of the US.

      • Another hard-boiled, unsentimental view of the whole Russia-Iran-Turkey-Syria free-for-all by a long-time analyst of Russian military and diplomatic affairs:

        Sputnik International interviews the Saker

        Bottom line for Russia: “On one hand, most Russian analysts see Erdogan as a smart man, but also as a treacherous megalomaniac who absolutely cannot be trusted.  But on the other hand, Turkey is a large and powerful country, strategically located, and a key neighbor of Russia.  Thus Russia simply has to try to establish the best relationship possible with whomever is in power in Turkey, even if that means dealing with a distasteful character like Erdogan.”

        As well: “Eventually, Turkey will have to chose between two mutually exclusive civilizational models: one in which the USA is the World Hegemon who gets to impose one single socio-economic model and one in which free sovereign countries work together towards a truly diverse and multi-polar world.  Alas, I don’t think that Erdogan is willing,or even capable, of making such a choice, at least not in the foreseeable future.”

        Regardless of the particular personality in charge of Turkey’s future, Turkey’s national interest will, in the long run, probably make the country more cooperative with Russia, Iran, and Iraq. This will, naturally, infuriate the puerile piss-ants pretending to run the United States government now and for the foreseeable future, but if these morons have any sense at all — which I seriously doubt — they will stop all this “thug” business and start addressing the leaders of important countries in a civilized and productive manner. You know, like the Russian and Chinese leaders do.

    • traven: Like most Americans, I have very few sources of good information about Russia, its people, and its current government. I do know, however, not to trust a single damn thing that I hear about Russia coming from the mono-think U.S. corporate media. And, of course, I learned long ago in Southeast Asia to suspect the U.S. military, especially the ticket-punching top brass, of lying just to keep in practice; just so they wouldn’t forget how. So, although I have my own library of books dealing with failed U.S. military and CIA interventions in many countries over more than half a century, I have to depend on what few persons I can find with some knowledge of Russia and its affairs. Emeritus Professor Richard Cohen (of The Nation magazine) seems pretty good, but, naturally, he cannot get much of a hearing in the sycophantic U.S. media. Also, I watch the RT program “Crosstalk,” I scan the website Russia Insider, and I read Asia Times Online and the Russian-American engineer Dmitry Orlov’s blog, Club Orlov. If interested, you can get a brief sample of his views at the following link:

      Chis Martenson’s Interview with Dmitry Orlov

      One of my favorite excerpts:

      “Telling Russians that Crimea isn’t Russian is sort of like telling Texans that the Alamo is Mexican. It’s exactly like that. So, where are you going to get with that? Go to Texas and try that and see how well that works.”

      A really good interview and introduction to current Russian affairs from someone who knows.

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