Hidden History: How Bush Sr and Clinton Sabotaged the Reagan-Gorbachev Nuclear Disarmament Treaty

Gorbachev and the Opportunity for Peace Wasted

DW (2018)

Film Review

This is a fascinating documentary featuring a rare appearance by former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev. It begins by examining a mutual disarmament treaty Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan negotiated in 1987. Reagan was clearly acting in opposition to the reigning military-industrial-complex, just as Trump is in his negotiations with North Korean president Kim Jong-un. This seems to be why Reagan waited to launch disarmament talks until he safely won re-election in 1984.

The arms reduction treaty had scarcely come into effect when Gorbachev’s Glasnost (openness) and Perestroika (restructuring),, in concert with CIA meddling, triggered the rapid break-up of the Soviet block. By 1990, thanks to Gorbachev’s commitment to non-intervention in Soviet allies’ internal affairs, the Berlin wall had fallen and Communist governments had been overthrown in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Romania.

An August 1991 coup, led by (CIA-backed) hard line Communists, failed but significantly weakened the Soviet Union by strengthening the hand of CIA-backed (see US Agents Helped Yeltsin Break Coup) Russian president Boris Yeltsin.

Within months, Yeltsin conspired with the presidents of Kazakstan, Belarus and Ukraine to declare independence simultaneously with the Russian Federation. The move would lead to Gorbachev’s resignation in December 1991.

The EU, concerned about preserving the Reagan-Gorbachev arms reduction treaty, proposed a number of countermeasures to improve Russian economic stability. Among them were a proposal to integrate Russia into western Europe by admitting them to the G7 and the NATO missile defense strategy and granting them $30 billion in aid. All were vetoed by the Bush senior and his successor Bill Clinton in favor of NATO expansion.


*In his book Manifest Destiny, F William Engdahl talks about the Enterprise, a private intelligence/security network created by George H W Bush and run by Oliver North and Richard Secord. In addition to organizing illegal weapons sales to Iran (see Iran-Contra Affair), the Enterprise recruited corrupt KGB generals to help  bring down Gorbachev’s government. According to Engdahl, these generals and their young proteges would become Russia’s corrupt billionaire oligarchs. The Enterprise financed the KGB generals’ coup against Korbachev in 1991 and installed Boris Yeltsin as president. The latter allowed the oligarchs, with the help of George Soros, Jeffrey Sachs and other Harvard economists to loot Russia exactly as they had looted Poland. See Russia’s Criminal Oligarchy: The Role of Bush Senior and the CIA).

 

Poisoning the World: The Companies that Profit Big from Exporting Banned Chemicals

Circle of Poison

Al Jazeera (2016)

Film Review

This documentary is about the US export of toxic pesticides that are banned in the US. This is ironic. Despite these domestic bans, heavy dependence on food imports means that most Americans end up ingesting these toxins in imported produce. In fact the only way Americans can avoid pesticide-laden food is to buy certified organic food from local farmers.

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed an executive order banning the export of toxic pesticides. The order was revoked by Reagan a few months after his inauguration.

The US controls 75% of the global pesticide market via five notorious companies: Bayer-Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, Dow and BSAF. Although Bayer, Syngenta and BSAF are European companies, they produce their toxic pesticides in the US, where export regulations are more lax (ie non-existent). The pesticide industry has one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington. Thanks to the courage of Democratic Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the Senate has passed several bills banning pesticide exports. However because members face re-election every two years, they have no hope whatsoever of winning in House.

Most of the film concerns the epidemic of cancer and horrendous birth defects in India, Mexico, Argentina and other countries that continue to use US-produced pesticides that are banned in the global North.

Surprisingly it ends on an optimistic note with news about the growing organic food movement in Argentina, Kerala India and Bhutan. Rather than pressuring their governments to ban toxic pesticides, activists are learning chemical-free organic soil building techniques. In doing so, they also significantly increase their yields. In replacing monoculture techniques with crop diversity, organic farming methods are far more productive per unit land than traditional agriculture.

The full video can be viewed for free at the Al Jazeera website: Circle of Poison

Corporate Welfare: How Billionaires Enrich Themselves at Our Expense

 

Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill)

By David Cay Johnston

Penguin Group (2007)

Book Review

This book is an encyclopedia of the complex system of taxpayer-funded subsidies government grants the business elite to curry their political support. This support occurs in three main ways: as campaign contributions, as jobs (at the end of a civil servant’s government career) and outright bribes. According to Johnston, corporate welfare is as old as capitalism itself. Adam Smith (who Johnston quotes frequently) refers to corporate subsidies as “bounties.” He warns against them in his 1776 Wealth of Nations.

The author, who views corporate welfare as a major cause of America’s growing inequality, details a number of examples in which federal and state subsidies transformed ordinary entrepreneurs into billionaires.

  • Sports stadiums – between 1995-2006 sports team owners persuaded state and local authorities to build more than 50 new major league stadiums and countless minor league stadiums. In many cases, the state or city seize private land via eminent domain on which to build the stadium. Johnston maintains that running a sports team is always a money-losing proposition – in nearly every case any profit is almost identical to the size of the subsidy. Former president George W Bush made his first millions by buying the Texas Rangers and using his father’s influence to pressure the city of Arlington to seize 200 acres of private land via eminent domain for a sports stadium.
  • Walmart – founder Sam Walton built his retail empire by hiring lobbyists (Johnston calls them “bounty hunters”) to grant him free land via eminent domain, to “gift” him the sales tax he collects from customers and allowing him to raise capital via low cost government-sponsored industrial bonds. In total, Walmart has been granted more the $1 billion of government subsidies in 1/3 of their stores and distribution centers. In addition, as of 2007 they had (legally) avoided $4 billion in property and state income taxes.
  • Health Maintenance Organization (HMOs) – Nixon launched the first non-profit HMOs in the early seventies. His goal was to reduce health care costs by enrolling patients in repaid care in where doctors worked on salary. In 1981, Reagan phased out the federal loans and loan guarantees Nixon enacted to help subsidize HMOs and allowed them to become for profit businesses.All over the country, CEOs sold and traded shares in HMOs built at taxpayer expense.The CEOs of non-profit hospitals and Blue Cross plans quickly followed suit. Johnston calls it the greatest legalized theft of public assets in US history.

Russia’s Criminal Oligarchy: The Role of Bush Senior and the CIA

 

This Guns and Butter interview is full of astonishing information (that you will never find in the corporate media) about the role of Bush senior and CIA-funded foundations in the creation of Russia’s criminal oligarchy and the systematic dismantling of communist Poland and the Soviet Union. Bonnie Faulkner and F William Engdahl are discussing his new book Manifest Destiny: Democracy as Cognitive Dissonance.

In the first 15 minutes of the interview, Engdahl describes Reagan’s creation of the CIA-funded National Endowment for Democracy and its sister groups National Democratic Institute (NDI), International Republican Institute (IRI) Freedom House, and Solidarity Center. The formation of the so-called independent foundations enabled the CIA to fund a full range of illegal covert activities without being subject to congressional scrutiny. All worked closely with various foundations funded by George Soros to deliberately destabilize the Warsaw Pact.

15.30 Engdahl discusses the CIA conspiracy to bring down Poland’s communist government, starting with the secret pact Reagan and Pope John Paul II (the first Polish pope) formed in 1982. In this clandestine campaign, NED invested tens of millions of dollar in fax, copy machines, etc, which they smuggled into Poland with the help of Polish priests. This equipment, in turn, was used to facilitate mass protests supposedly organized by Solidarnosc, the dockworkers union led by Lech Walesa.

20.19 Engdahl talks about the 300 CIA agents left over from George Herbert Walker Bush’s tenure as CIA director – and how Bush senior regrouped them into private entities to engage in covert activities in Poland and the USSR.

21.00 Engdahl covers the mass protests leading to the collapse of the communist government in 1989 and the election of Lech Walesa as president. Walesa, in turn, opened the door for George Soros and Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs to strip the Polish economy of all its assets and impose harsh austerity measures.

32.00 Engdahl discusses Executive Order 12333 (signed by Reagan), which put Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush in charge of all US foreign and national security policy after 1981 – and Executive Order 13233 signed by George W Bush, which severely limited public access to the records of prior presidents.

36.00 Engdahl talks about the Enterprise, a private intelligence/security network created by George Herbert Walker Bush that included teams run by Oliver North and Richard Secord. In addition to organizing illegal weapons sales to Iran (Iran Contra), The Enterprise recruited corrupt KGB generals to help  bring down Gorbachev’s government. According to Engdahl, these generals were the real origin (not the Russian mafia) of Russia’s corrupt billionaire oligarchs. The oligarchs were young proteges of these generals.

39.00 Engdahl explains Operation Hammer which financed the KGB generals’ coup against Korbachev in 1991 and installed Boris Yeltsin as president. The latter allowed the oligarchs, with the help of George Soros, Jeffrey Sachs and other Harvard economists to loot Russia exactly as they had looted Poland.

49.54 Engdahl describes how the Open Russia Foundation bribed corrupt legislators in the Duma to privatize all Russia’s natural resources and richest industries (minerals, oil, gas, the largest aluminum smelter in the world) and how Sachs, Soros and their cronies assisted the oligarchs in selling off all these industries for pennies on the dollar. When the giant Russian oil company Yukos was privatized, international banker Jacob Rothschild, George Soros and Henry Kissinger were appointed as Yukos board members.

52.00 Engdahl traces the downfall of Yeltsin starting in 1998 when the Duma refused to approve Chernomyrdin as prime minister. Yeltsin then appointed Yevgeny Primakov, who immediately filed criminal charges against oligarch Boris Berezovksy, who fled to London. When Clinton began bombing Serbia in March 1999, Primakov was en route to Washington DC and order his pilot to turn around and return to Moscow. When he demanded Yeltsin support the Serbs, Yeltsin sacked him.

54.00 After Yeltsin lost control of the Russian military, which dispatched troops to seize the airport in Kosovo, he appointed Putin as Prime Minister. Engdahl attributes this decision to KGB  deception operation that convinced Yeltsin and his oligarch buddies that Putin would play along. Instead Putin threatened Yeltsin with corruption charges unless he resigned. Putin would serve as acting president until he was elected in his own right in March 2000.

 

 

The Ugly History of the White Rights Movement

The People Against America

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

This documentary traces the rise of the “white rights” movement that elected Donald Trump. This movement, of mainly white blue collar males, promotes the distorted image of white people as a disenfranchised minority. According to the filmmakers, it has its roots in Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. By heavily emphasizing “states rights,” Goldwater successfully exploited the anxieties of Southerners over forced integration by the federal government. It would be the first time Southern states had voted Republican since the Civil War.

Nixon’s Southern Strategy

In 1968, the Nixon campaign built on Goldwater’s success by implementing a formal “southern strategy.” By reaching out to the “silent majority,” and emphasizing law and order in the face of race riots and anti-war protests, his campaign sought to win the votes of northern blue collar voters. In subsequent elections, Democratic Party strategists would seek to win back blue collar voters by recruiting two conservative governors to run for president (Carter and Clinton).

As the Watergate scandal undermined all Americans’ confidence in government, corporate oligarchs would build on growing anti-government sentiment by massively funding right wing think tanks, lobbying and conservative talk radio. This, in turn would lay the groundwork for Reagan’s 1980 massive deregulation and tax and public service cuts.

Corporate Giveaways By Clinton and Obama

When Clinton was elected in 1992, he quickly surpassed Reagan’s record of corporate giveaways, with his total deregulation of Wall Street, his Three Strikes and Omnibus Crime Bill (leading to mass incarceration of minorities) and his creation of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). These free trade treaties resulted in the wholesale export of rust belt industries to Mexico and China, effectively ending any incentive for working class males to vote Democratic.

Obama, elected on the back of the 2008 financial collapse, would prove even more pro-corporate than Clinton or Bush. Instead of prosecuting the banks who caused the 2008 economic crash, he granted them massive bailouts, while ignoring the plight of millions of homeowners who lost their homes when these banks foreclosed on them. He also significantly increasing mass surveillance and aggressively prosecuting whistleblowers. He also effectively repealed posse comitatus* and habeus corpus.**

The Rise of Occupy and the Tea Party

Obama’s pro-corporate policies led to the rise of both left wing (Occupy Wall Street) and right wing (Tea Party) popular movements. The latter received major corporate backing (largely from the Koch brothers), enabling Tea Party Republicans to shift the blame for the loss of good paying industrial jobs from Wall Street to minorities, immigrants and women.

Is the US Moving to the Right?

For me, the highlight of the documentary is  commentary by former Black Panther Party president Elaine Brown, the only activist featured. Brown, who is highly critical of the left’s failure to acknowledge the problems of poor white people, is the only commentator to dispute that the US is “moving to the right.” She points out that prior Republican campaigns used coded language (such as “state rights,” “law and order”) to target racist fears of blue collar whites. Trump, in contrast, openly caters to these sentiments. Brown reports that some blacks welcome the end of political hypocrisy and greater openness about the pervasiveness of white racism.

She believes this new openness offers a good opportunity to build a genuine multiracial working class movement. She gives the example of successful collaboration in Chicago between black activists and the Young Patriots (a white separatist group) against corrupt landlords.


*The Posse Comitatus Act, enacted in 1878, prohibited the use of federal troops to enforce domestic policies within the US.

**The right of Habeus Corpus, guaranteed under Article I of the Constitution and the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, prevents government from illegal detaining US citizens without charging them.

 

Who Stole the American Dream?

The Heist: Who Stole the American Dream and How We Can Get It Back

Directed by Frances Causey and Donald Goldmacher (2012)

Film Review

The Heist traces the banking regulations Roosevelt enacted during the Great Depression – with the goal of preventing future economic cataclysms – and the systematic dismantling of this regulation that commenced in 1971. The documentary credits this deliberate attack on the financial regulatory system for the 2008 meltdown, the decimation of American unions, the total control of federal government by Wall Street corporations, and the most unequal economic system in the world.

The filmmakers date this orchestrated attack on US financial regulation to the Powell Memo,* which the Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable seized on to launch twelve right wing pro-business think tanks (including the CATO Institute, the American Enterprise Institutes and the Heritage Foundation). Funded by six families, these foundations were created with the deliberate aim of capturing business schools and the media with fundamentalist free market ideology. They proceeded to lobby all levels of government for tax cuts on the rich, as well as financing focus groups and psychologists to develop propaganda persuading blue collar workers to vote against their own interests.

In 1980, they succeeded in convincing large numbers of blue collar Democrats to vote for Reagan. In addition to implementing tax cuts for the rich that created the largest federal deficit in US history, Reagan also repealed the Fairness Doctrine,** opening the door to a radio talk show market 90% dominated by right wing talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh.

Guided by the Powell Memo, right wing Democrat Bill Clinton repealed the Glass Steagall Act,***, deregulated derivatives trading, gutted the Federal Communication Commission’s authority to regulate media monopolies, and sped up the outsourcing of US jobs through the enactment of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (which created the World Trade Organization).

Obama would prove even more pro-business than Clinton, with his refusal to prosecute the banskters he bailed out, his appointment of GE CEO Jeffrey Imelt (a notorious job outsourcer) to head the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, his promotion of the myth that Social Security is insolvent, his deregulation of private pensions, and his support for the Transpacific Partnership (TPP).

The film features great clips from Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Paul Craig Roberts and Ross Perot (speaking out against NAFTA during his 1992 presidential campaign).


* The Powell Memo was a memorandum Lewis Powell prepared at the request of the Chamber of Commerce. It remained secret until after his appointment to the Supreme Court. The Powell Memo

** The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, requiring the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was—in the Commission’s view—honest, equitable, and balanced.

***The GlassSteagall Act, passed by Congress in 1933, protected customers’ deposits by prohibiting commercial banks from engaging in investments. It was enacted as an emergency response to the failure of nearly 5,000 banks during the Great Depression.

 

 

Brexit,Trump, Syria and the Fabricated War on Terror

Adam Curtis Forced Hypernormalisation BBC

Directed by Adam Curtis

Film Review

Curtis, one of my favorite documentary makers, has a unique ability to conceptualize and describe the collective psychological conditioning the political elites subject us to – and the unintended consequences  of their use of public relations (as opposed to diplomacy and statecraft) to retain power. In this fascinating documentary, he explores the link between the rise of Putin and Donald Trump, the Brexit vote in Britain and the fabricated War on Terror. He also explains Syria’s critical role in this process, dating back to Hafeez al-Asaad (1970-2000) and his dream of unifying the Arab world against western exploiting.

The Concept of Forced Hypernormalisation

According to Curtis, “forced hypernormalisation,” is a term coined by the Soviets to describe a psychological control technique in which politicians retain power by projecting a vastly oversimplified view of world. Curtis maintains that Ronald Reagan was the first president to embrace this version of popular control, as he projected US foreign policy as a simple matter of good vs evil and encouraged Americans to withdraw from frustrating social and political concerns by focusing on their individual selves.

Curtis begins his capsule history of forced hypnormalisation with the invention of the strategy of suicide bombing by Hafeez al-Asaad and Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini (when he was losing the Iran-Iraq WAR). Al-Assad (using Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia) would force US troops to withdraw from Lebanon with a dramatic suicide bombing of Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983.

Through the 1980s, Syria would engage in several other dramatic anti-US suicide bombings. However because Reagan felt retaliation against Syria was too risky (due to the support al-Assad enjoyed from other Arab leaders), he would blame Gaddafi, who other Arab leaders viewed as a madman, and bomb Libya instead. Gaddafi, eager for the notoriety, was always happy to take the credit.

Incessant Shapeshifting in US and British Foreign Policy

Thus a pattern emerged where US and British foreign policy became an indistinguishable mixture of fabrication and reality. The public got their first clear view of this strategy with the fabricated reality (ie non-existent weapons of mass destruction and non-existent links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaida) used to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq. This film also includes an intriguing account (the first I have seen from mainstream media) of the 30+ year Air Force Intelligence campaign to promote popular belief in UFOs.

Putin and Non-Linear Warfare

Curtis contends Russian information specialist Vladislav Surkoff, one of the dozen or so technocrats who keep Putin in power, is also a master of this ceaseless shapeshifting geared towards undermining people’s perception of the world. It is nothing for Surkoff to simultaneously promote Russia’s antifascist movement, nationalist neo-Nazi groups, human rights groups and the Russian Orthodox Church. In foreign policy, the Russians refer to this approach as “non-linear warfare, and they have used it in the Ukraine and Syria. The end result is the west never really knows what their real intentions are.

Enter Donald Trump

Donald Trump is also a master at this type of shapeshifting, with his unique blend of extreme right wing racism and anti-corporatism.  He’s notorious for constantly reversing and contradicting himself, and his speeches are a complex mixtures of facts. The fact he’s so difficult to pin down makes it extremely difficult for the media to attack him.