Bernie, Those Damn Emails, and Secrets of the State

In one of the Democratic debates last fall, Bernie Sanders turned to Hillary Clinton and made his now infamous remark: “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.” The audience erupted in wild applause. Hillary smiled and even chuckled. I cheered.

At the time, it seemed like a principled and noble gesture on Bernie’s part. After all, he wanted to keep the presidential campaign focused on the “real issues” and he was constantly reprimanding the corporate media for failing to do so.

But as more and more information about the “damn emails” surfaced, I began to doubt the wisdom of his stance. Eventually I came to see it as both a moral and strategic blunder. Rather than being a distraction from the “real issues,” the email controversy was part and parcel of a YUGE issue, perhaps the most critical one of all.

The issue was not just about Hillary flaunting government procedures and policies, putting national secrets and national security at risk, or lying to government officials and the public, as Republicans were inclined to portray it. I came to see that it had more to do with larger questions of who controls and has access to information, what kind of information is relayed to the public and in what form, and how the government and power-brokers use a vast technological apparatus to secretly gather information from an unwary citizenry.

An informed and educated populace is the most essential prerequisite for an authentic, participatory democracy. It was Thomas Jefferson who said: “Free-flowing information is the currency of democracy.” Unfortunately, much of what passes for “information” today—such as the nightly TV news–is a wooden nickel sort of currency. It is not worth much.

“In a society where truth becomes treason, we’re in big trouble.”

                                                                           – Congressman Ron Paul

 

The government will always try to hide the important stuff, with the willing collusion of the corporate media. It seems that Hillary has made a career of hiding what she is doing–for good reason–and the gullible public does not object, for the most part. If Bernie had been reading more of the WikiLeaks disclosures and less of the mainstream media, perhaps he would have had the sense to call her on it and even consider including foreign policy issues in his presidential campaign.

This might be ancient history for many, but you may recall late 2010, when WikiLeaks released a treasure-trove of documents—250,000 leaked US embassy cables–as an early Christmas gift to the American public. Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State and she called the disclosures “an attack on the international community” that endangered innocent people. Julian Assange and WikiLeaks were vilified by Senator Joe Lieberman, Attorney General Eric Holder and much of the media. Members of Congress labeled Assange a “terrorist” and called for his assassination.

Amazon terminated its hosting of the WikiLeaks website and PayPal, MasterCard and Visa followed suit by withdrawing the ability to make donations to WikiLeaks. Of course, a few figures on the left, including Ralph Nader, Daniel Ellsberg and Tom Hayden, publicly defended WikiLeaks.

Libertarian Congressman Ron Paul asked his colleagues on the House floor which events caused more deaths, “Lying us into war, or the release of the WikiLeaks papers? In a free society,” he said, “we’re supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, we’re in big trouble.”

Paul Craig Roberts called the US “an incipient fascist state” and wrote: “Today the press is a propaganda ministry for the government. Any member who departs from his duty to lie and spin the news is expelled from the fraternity.” He continued: “Today no one believes that our country’s success depends on an informed public and a free press. America’s success depends on its financial and military hegemony over the world.” The ranting of a wild-eyed, drug-crazed lefty, you think? Not quite. He was the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal.

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City Hall in Philadelphia during the Democratic National Convention

This past March, WikiLeaks launched a new archive of over 30,000 emails and attachments sent to and from Hillary Clinton’s private email server while she was Secretary of State. Emails continue to be released by the State Department in response to a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request and a court case initiated by the conservative organization Judicial Watch.

The latest batch of emails has revealed two forms of flagrant political collusion that should have incited Bernie to continue his campaign outside the Democratic Party. First was the collusion between Hillary’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to rig the election against Sanders. The second, and probably most egregious, is the cozy partnership revealed between the Clintons, the Clinton Foundation and the State Department.

In what some have characterized as a “pay to play” racket, the emails have exposed how the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s State Department worked together to grant political and monetary favors to individuals and nations in return for contributions to the foundation.

An investigation by the International Business Times, as reported in Mother Jones, revealed how various nations and corporations that donated to the Clinton Foundation reaped an increase in arms deals while Hillary oversaw the State Department. During a two-year time span, the State Department approved $165 billion in commercial arms sales to 20 nations that had donated to the foundation, as well as $151 billion of Pentagon-brokered arms deals for 16 of those countries, a 143 percent increase over the same time frame under George Bush.

In State Department cables published by WikiLeaks, Hillary complained that countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates were supporting terrorists and their financiers and/or generally not doing enough to assist the US in its counter-terrorism efforts. All of these countries contributed to the Clinton Foundation and received increased weapons exports from the Clinton-run State Department.

Saudi Arabia, a country with a disturbing human rights record and deeply implicated in the 9/11 attacks, was cleared by the State Department for an enormous arms deal in 2011. A group of US defense corporations, led by Boeing, would sell $29 billion worth of fighter jets to the kingdom. Prior to Hillary taking over the reins at the State Department, Saudi Arabia had contributed $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. Two months before the jet deal was finalized, Boeing coughed up $900,000 for the foundation.

Sanders was not shy when it came to advocating for “breaking up the banks,” which were responsible for making life miserable for the bottom 99 percent of US citizens. What was disheartening was his reticence to call for breaking up the military-industrial complex, which has been a disaster for the entire planet.

According to William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, the US accounted for more than half the value of all global arms transfer agreements in 2014, the most recent year for which full records are available. Russia, the world’s second largest arms dealer, lagged far behind with a paltry 14 percent. During his first six years in office, Barrack Obama, our “peace president,” contracted to sell more than $190 billion in weapons worldwide, more than any US administration since World War II.

Julian Assange has commented that this year’s presidential race is a choice between cholera and gonorrhea. Pick your poison. But it’s important to look beyond November 8th. Bernie was right that the system is rigged. He was right that we need a revolution. He was right that it will take much more than one person to transform our country.

Trump is a Chump-24

Demonstration during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia

But access to information and knowledge is power. It is essential if we are to create authentic democracy and halt the slide toward an authoritarian state. As sickening and tiresome as they may be, we need to see all the “damn emails,” at least in a metaphoric sense.

Especially today, when our “free press” is sold to the highest bidder, we need more modern revolutionaries: the hackers and leakers and whistle-blowers. Some may not be as eloquent as Tom Paine, but they match him in fervor and courage.

The guy in the White House, the one who makes the pretty speeches, promised us “transparency” in government. Instead, he has done everything in his power to plug the flood of leaks, to keep the secrets safely hidden in the temple. In other words, to prevent us citizens from discovering the truth about our government.

Before Obama took office, his website promised he would “protect whistleblowers;” it praised their “acts of courage and patriotism,” and said they “should be encouraged rather than stifled.” But instead, he has prosecuted more whistle-blowers than all other presidents combined. Let’s look at some of these courageous patriots:

  • Thomas Drake: the first American charged with espionage in nearly 40 years, he is a decorated Air Force and Navy veteran and former senior executive of the National Security Agency (NSA). The Obama administration indicted him after he spoke out on secret mass surveillance programs, multibillion-dollar fraud, and intelligence failures from 9/11. He faced 35 years in prison until the government dropped its charges.
  • John Kiriakou: a former CIA analyst and counter-terrorism officer, he was the first CIA official to publicly discuss and criticize the agency’s various forms of torture, including waterboarding. He served two years in prison.
  • Jeffrey Sterling: an attorney and covert officer for the CIA, he was arrested, charged and convicted of violating the Espionage Act for supposedly revealing details about Operation Merlin to reporter James Risen. He has completed a little over a year of a 3.5-year prison sentence but his health is in serious jeopardy and prison officials refuse to provide adequate treatment.
  • James Risen: the New York Times journalist who has fought both the George W. Bush and Obama justice departments that have tried to compel him to reveal his source for his 2006 book on the Merlin project. Risen won a Pulitzer Prize for this book as well as for his reporting about warrantless spying on Americans by the NSA.

(Operation Merlin was a CIA plan to sabotage Iran’s budding nuclear program by having a Russian spy give Iranians flawed nuclear blueprints. The botched program may have aided Iran in its plans to develop a nuclear weapon.)

  • Jeremy Hammond: a Chicago activist who hacked into a Texas-based private security firm’s system and turned the data over to WikiLeaks and Rolling Stone. The security firm did work for Homeland Security, the Marines, the Defense Intelligence Agency and defense contractors. The three million emails released by Hammond and five others exposed the security firm’s infiltration, monitoring and surveillance of protesters and dissidents, particularly those in the Occupy movement. Reporter Chris Hedges said the information “provided chilling evidence that anti-terrorism laws are routinely used by the federal government to criminalize non-violent, democratic dissent and falsely link dissidents to international terrorist organizations.” Hammond is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence in Kentucky.

Of course, let’s not forget Edward Snowden, who would be in prison if our government could catch him, and Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, who is in prison and recently attempted suicide.

“Now the secret of every totalitarian system is secrecy itself.”  

                                                                                    – Lewis Mumford

 

I’d like to close by quoting at length from Chris Hedges, a veteran war correspondent and former divinity student who, according to the jacket blurb on one of his books, “survived ambushes in Central America, imprisonment in Sudan, and a beating by Saudi military police. He has seen children murdered for sport in Gaza and petty thugs elevated into war heroes in the Balkans.”

Hedges has lately written extensively about the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and other devices the Obama administration has employed to restrict the ability of the press to do its job and to curtail the constitutional rights of citizens. In 2012, Hedges and others brought suit against Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta over the NDAA, which Hedges says “can be used by the military to seize and detain citizens and deny legal recourse to anyone who defies the corporate state.”

Says Hedges: “The 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act, the employment of the Espionage Act by the Obama White House against six suspected whistle-blowers and leakers, and the Homeland Battlefield Bill [NDAA] have crippled the work of investigative reporters in every major newsroom in the country. Government sources that once provided information to counter official narratives and lies have largely severed contact with the press. They are acutely aware that there is no longer any legal protection for those who dissent or who expose the crimes of state. The NDAA threw in a new and dangerous component that permits the government not only to silence journalists but imprison them and deny them due process because they “substantially supported” terrorist groups or ‘associated forces.’ ”

In 2014, Hedges posted a fictitious speech covering all the things Obama would have told the American people if he had told the truth. I’ll quote a few paragraphs from this document:

In the 1960s, the US Government spied on civil rights leaders, the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement and critics of the Vietnam War, just as today we are spying on Occupy activists, environmentalists, whistle-blowers and other dissidents. Partly in response to these revelations decades ago, especially regarding the FBI’s covert dirty tricks program known as COINTELPRO, laws were established in the 1970s to ensure that our intelligence capabilities could not be misused against our citizens. In the long, twilight struggle against communism, and now in the fight against terrorism, I am happy to report that we have eradicated all these reforms and laws. The crimes for which Richard Nixon resigned and the abuses of power that prompted the formation of the Church Commission are now legal … The FBI can now freely issue “national security letters” to your bank, doctor, employer or public library or any of your associates without a judicial warrant. And you will never be notified of an investigation. We can collect and store in perpetuity all metadata of your email correspondence and phone records and track your geographical movements. We can assassinate you if I decide you are a terrorist. We can order the military under Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act to arrest you, strip you of due process and hold you indefinitely in military detention centers. We can continue to throw into prison those who expose the illegality of what we are doing … And we can torture.

The horror of September 11th was masterfully manipulated by the security state and our for-profit-military-industrial complex. These forces used the attacks as an excuse to increase the massive pilfering of taxpayer dollars, especially by the Department of Homeland Security, which has a public budget of $98.8 billion. The truth, however, is the system of internal security is so vast and so secret no one in the public has any idea how large our programs are or how much we spend. It is true that our 16 intelligence agencies missed the numerous signs and evidence leading up to the 9/11 attacks. In short, they screwed up, just as they did when they failed to anticipate the fall of the Shah of Iran or the collapse of the Soviet Union, or when they told us Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. But we have a rule in Washington: never reform failed bureaucracies or hold government officials accountable; rather, give them more money. Keep failure secret.

New capabilities and new laws have turned us into the most efficient killers on the planet. Relationships with foreign intelligence services have expanded, creating one immense, global corporate system of surveillance and security that obliterates the rights of people at home and abroad … This will ensure endless war, which ensures endless profits for those who make war–which is the point.

According to a 2010 article in The Atlantic, the federal government classifies about 16 million documents each year as top secret. That’s a lot of secrets! One can hardly blame Hillary if she gets confused now and then about which she should delete and which she should keep on her private server.

I’ll wrap this up with a few pertinent lines from Lewis Mumford, the great historian and social philosopher. Writing in the 1960s in his book, The Myth of the Machine: The Pentagon of Power, he talked about the scientists working on the Manhattan Project, inventing the atom bomb.  “While their liberties as men and citizens were curtailed by the need for maintaining military secrecy, their scope and authority as specialists were immensely increased,” he wrote. “Thus sovereign power of pharaonic dimensions was secretly re-established at the heart of a constitutional government of limited powers supposedly under constant public surveillance and control.

“At the same time, never before had scientists been compelled to work under conditions so unfavorable to free intellectual intercourse: they were not merely prevented from communicating with the outside world, but even from speaking freely about their several tasks among themselves. Though these precautions had the wartime justification of military secrecy, secrecy itself became valued as a badge of authority and a method of enforcing control.

“Now the secret of every totalitarian system is secrecy itself. The key to exercising arbitrary power is to restrict the communications of individuals and groups by subdividing  information, so that only a small portion of the whole truth will be known to any single person.”

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All photos by Tom Boswell©2016. All rights reserved.
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The DNC in Philly: Revolution postponed indefinitely? …

Or just a bump in the road?

There is nothing more common than to confound the terms of American Revolution with those of the late American War. The American war is over, but this is far from being the case with the American revolution. On the contrary, nothing but the first act of the great drama is closed.”

… Benjamin Rush, 1787

 

When my mate and I first decided to take the train to Philadelphia for the Democratic convention, it was not quite clear to us why we were going. We were not delegates. We had no official standing. She had worked hard for Bernie, me a little less so. Were we hoping to witness another act in the American Revolution, the one where Bernie Sanders plays a starring role? Or were we expecting to see the party implode, secretly harboring a perverse desire to be present for the autopsy?

Neither of these events transpired, of course. It is difficult to say what did happen, and what import it will have in the coming months and years.

The “real” convention took place at the Wells Fargo Center, a huge arena on the south side of the city. We never actually saw it. An assortment of delegate caucuses and other activities occurred in the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Center City. We made a brief foray into this building with a contingent from Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) in order to approach delegates and ask them to wear buttons or stickers to express solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom. A surprising number of them consented.

Those of you who stayed home and watched the convention from your couch probably caught much more of it than I did.  I saw a few snatches of it, late at night, on the TV, but even then I found it too painful to watch for long. Most of what I observed, experienced and learned was in forums sponsored by JVP and other groups or out on the streets.

One thing I hoped to discover was why presumptive progressives (or even ordinary well-intentioned people) could seriously consider supporting and electing the neoliberal Hillary Clinton. I was sincerely mystified by this strange drama that was unfolding this summer. As I got off the train from Chicago in the City of Brotherly Love, I noticed a fellow traveler with a jumble of buttons pinned to his chest. I leaned towards him to read one of the smaller ones. She’s a bitch but she can get things done, it said.

I started to ask him what it was the bitch was going to get done but, realizing I was a Bernie backer, he became irate and we fortunately lost each other in the crowd.

Later, in the B&B on the far north end of the city where we stayed, I met a young woman, an attorney, who had worked as a staff person for a high-ranking state legislator in New Jersey. I’ll call her Lisa because that was her name. She had come to Philly for the convention and was supporting Hillary. We had a long conversation and she offered the usual platitudes for why Hillary was her preferred candidate. Bernie was a nice guy with good ideas but Hillary was practical and pragmatic. She would get things done.

That’s exactly what I’m afraid of, I said. That she will get things done.

A few days later, I happened upon a spirited rally in an outdoor plaza near the convention center and in the shadow of City Hall, the imposing structure in the Second Empire style that is the nation’s largest municipal building, even dwarfing the U.S. Capitol. William Penn is perched on top of it like a gold pigeon in a top hat.

A young black activist was speaking eloquently at the rally, quoting Martin Luther King and others, about why the revolution must go on, with or without Bernie. He expressed the same thought I had in my conversation with Lisa, only with different words: “Donald Trump has said a lot; Hillary has done a lot.”

 What’s Hillary done, and what’s she likely to do?

 So what sorts of things has Hillary Rodham Clinton done throughout her illustrious career, and why should we care? Let’s take a brief look at her resume, keeping in mind that others can no doubt compile a more comprehensive list of accomplishments.

First of all, and most important, Hillary is a hawk. And not just your everyday, run-of-the-mill hawk. When she is not taking selfies with her clueless fans, she is sharpening her talons and practicing her dive-bombing technique.

She has already made Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, look like Mahatma Gandhi. Yes, the same Obama who the clueless Democratic masses hoped would be our “Peace President” and put an end to all those nasty wars that George W. Bush started. Instead, Obama bombed seven countries (all more than 90 percent Muslim) during his first six years in office. In a speech in Cairo, Egypt, early on the Peace President declared he was seeking a fresh start “between the United States and Muslims around the world.” Instead, he made George Bush look like Mother Teresa.

But Hillary is worse. As Secretary of State, and even since, she has undermined Obama’s efforts to keep the lid on in Syria and has lobbied for more aggressive strategies and policies in that poor besieged country. She has already surrounded herself with a whole flock of hawks to help her carry out her belligerent policies once she assumes office.

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Brandon Do, Students for Justice in Palestine, speaking at a rally in Philadelphia

“It is true, as numerous speakers reported, Clinton is ‘most qualified and experienced,’ “ Ralph Nader wrote at the end of the convention, “but her record shows those qualities have led to belligerent, unlawful military actions that are now boomeranging against U.S. interests. The intervention she consistently called for in Libya, with Obama’s foolish consent, overrode the wiser counsel of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (and his generals), who warned of the chaos that would follow. He was proven right, with chaotic violence now all over Libya spilling into other African countries. This is but one example of what Bernie Sanders meant during the debates when he referenced her ‘poor judgment.’ ”

But Bill Clinton had a different take on it when he praised his wife’s change-making skills during his speech at the convention.  “Drop her [Hillary] in any trouble spot — pick one — come back in a month, and somehow, someway, she will have made it better. This is just who she is.”

Yes, she sure has left her mark on a number of trouble spots, but unlike Mr. Clean has usually left blood behind. (I’m going to crib now, from an article by Paul Street on Counterpunch.) They dropped her into Honduras, where she aided and abetted a vicious right-wing coup in 2009, and Honduras now bears the dubious distinction of being the most violent country on the planet.  Remember those thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America streaming across the border a couple of years ago? Part of the aftermath of Hillary’s making things better. For many people there has been no escape, like Berta Cáceres, the Honduran environmental leader, who was assassinated by a group of gunmen this past March.

Then she dropped in on Libya and led the charge for the disastrous overthrow of Gaddafi, and also dropped in on the Ukraine, (now saddled with a neo-Nazi government, thanks to her rabid anti-Russian stance). She also dropped in to Haiti, where she helped her corporate buddies oppose an increase in the minimum wage from 24 to 61 cents an hour. And finally Syria, “where a disastrous civil war and the rise of the Islamic State bear the criminal fingerprints” of her “lust for fake-humanitarian regime change,” as Paul Street put it. Isn’t it time we take this woman’s parachute away?

We’re about done folks, at least with what passes as Hillary’s foreign policy. But there’s still Israel. And this is where the neoliberals wed with the neoconservatives into one big happy family. (Others have said it before. We don’t need a third party in this country, we need a second party.)

Democrats have historically sided with Israel against the Palestinians but the worst is yet to come. Journalists have commented on the fact that there seems to be a gag order on the mention of Israel’s nuclear arsenal by members of Congress. Now it appears that any mention of the occupation is also prohibited.

On the Monday morning of the convention, I attended a panel presentation organized by US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and the American Friends Service Committee. The speakers included James Zogby, head of the Arab American Institute and long-time Democratic Party activist, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL-MN) and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA). Both Zogby and Ellison were among Sander’s delegates to the Democratic Platform Committee.

“Bernie gave us a qualified boost forward,” said Zogby, “and we cannot let it go. We’re going to help America save itself, whether it wants to or not. I refuse to let Palestinians take a back seat again to any other issue.”

But Zogby and Cornel West, the black activist and intellectual who was also a Sanders’ appointee to the Platform Committee, failed in their attempt to convince the committee to call for “an end to the occupation and illegal settlements” in the platform. They also failed to strip out language condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Zogby served on the Platform Committee for Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign in 1988 and failed then to have even more moderate language inserted into the platform. But 28 years ago Jackson’s campaign allowed Zogby to introduce a minority plank on the convention floor. This time around, Sanders caved after he endorsed Clinton on July 11, despite earlier promises to take the fight all the way to the convention.

Despite Obama’s unprecedented record of bombing seven Muslim countries, Clinton has often criticized him for being insufficiently hawkish. She used her speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual convention earlier this year to pander to right-wing American Jews, promising to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House as one of her first official acts, and pledging to provide Israel with more sophisticated defense technology “to ensure Israel maintains its qualitative military edge.” She has also vowed to fight the BDS movement. Sanders, to his credit, skipped the AIPAC convention.

Policy analyst Sean McElwee has pointed out that “the Democratic platform is now officially to the right of George W. Bush on Palestine.”  Indeed, Bush called on Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian land and criticized the illegal settlements back in 2008. Meanwhile, loyal Democratic “progressives,” who like to think of themselves as “inclusive,” prefer to pretend that the pernicious occupation of Palestine does not exist.

On Thursday of convention week, my mate, with a few other curious JVPmembers, attended a DNC-sponsored event at the convention center billed as a Jewish Roundtable. She described what transpired there as “surreal.”  For starters, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) spent most of her time at the podium reiterating all the evils of Donald Trump, as if Democratic delegates might not have heard of him. While CODEPINK Cofounder Medea Benjamin staged her own personal protest and was escorted out of the room, my mate managed to approach both Boxer and former congressman Barney Frank and asked them why the Israeli occupation was not mentioned in the party’s platform. Boxer professed to have no knowledge of an occupation, while Frank replied that he wasn’t interested.

I should acknowledge that Hillary Clinton’s vote in favor of the disastrous second Iraq War has received a fair amount of attention, during the debates and elsewhere, but our corporate media seems to have overlooked a lot of “ancient history. “ (Ancient history in the United States is anything older than yesterday.)

In the 90’s, while Hillary was busy working with her ghost writer on her book, It Takes a Village, and crafting her credentials as the champion of America’s children, her hubby was presiding over most of the ten years of economic sanctions imposed on Iraq. One and a half million Iraqis died during this decade as a direct result of the sanctions; more than a half million of them were children. It takes more than a village to raise a child when the greatest power on earth is systematically and ruthlessly destroying your country.

Then, near the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency, there was the NATO-US military campaign against the former Yugoslavia, what the US nicknamed Operation Noble Anvil. It was the second major combat operation in NATO’s history, following the 1995 bombing campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was the first time NATO used military force without approval from the UN Security Council.

The campaign lasted eleven weeks and NATO forces dropped 14,000 bombs, including depleted uranium bombs and cluster munitions. “Collateral damage” in this “humanitarian” war included schools, libraries, hospitals, historical monuments and homes. Over 200,000 ethnic Serbs were forced to flee their homeland in Kosovo. Needless to say, children died, but they weren’t American children and by then the book tour was over.

More than a few people and nations considered this aggression against a sovereign country a violation of international law and Amnesty International accused the allied forces of committing war crimes. On the positive side, as far as the US and the Clintons’ were probably concerned, it opened the door for NATO to ignore the UN when it chose to, under the guise of “humanitarian intervention,” the “war on terror” or similar justifications.

OMG! I still haven’t mentioned the “domestic” side of HRC’s resume. But Bernie did a good job on that so I’ll keep it short. You all know the story.

She was a Goldwater girl in high school and attended the Republican convention in 1968. She graduated to become a friend of Henry Kissinger, various Bush-era neoconservatives, and scores of banksters and corporate executives. She served on the board of Wal-Mart. Goldman Sachs paid her $675,000 for three speeches in 2013 and has given her and Bill over $150 million in speaking fees since 2001. And, oh yes, she’s a private person, particularly when it comes to her email.

As president, her husband presided over the largest increase in federal and state prison inmates of any president in US history.  As Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, has pointed out, Bill Clinton did not start the War on Crime or War on Drugs, but escalated it far beyond what conservatives could have imagined. On the campaign trail, Alexander noted, he accused conservatives of using race to divide the nation, but when he took office he capitulated to the right-wing backlash against the civil rights movement. He embraced former president Reagan’s agenda on race, crime, welfare and taxes, ultimately doing more harm to black communities than Reagan had done.

When the Clintons’ left the White House, the US had the highest incarceration rate in the world and Human Rights Watch noted that in seven states African Americans constituted 80 to 90 percent of drug offenders sent to prison. Is it any wonder Hillary has garnered more than $133,000 in campaign contributions from the lobbying groups for two private prison corporations?

Sure, now she says she regrets her support of the Crime Bill and her comment on “super-predators,” as well as her vote on the Iraq War. But these were pretty significant “mistakes,” one reaping havoc on the entire Middle East, the other having a similar impact in the United States. Once elected, will she make other “mistakes” to apologize for later?

 Identity Politics: The penis that was and the one that wasn’t

Back to that rally that I wandered into near the Philadelphia City Hall. One of the sponsors was a group called Black Men for Bernie. I listened to a passionate and eloquent black man for Bernie harangue the crowd as rain began to fall on the city. “If they didn’t want Donald Trump, they could have chosen the candidate who had the best chance of beating him,” he said.

So why did all those liberals and presumptive progressives throw their support to neoliberal and baggage-laden Hillary when Bernie offered the best chance in many decades for a truly progressive US presidency? I don’t know. You tell me.

The Clinton campaign is still searching for its identity and its slogan. Bill says Hillary is a “change-maker” but anyone with any sense knows what sort of change he is talking about. Hillary’s argument appears to be two-fold: I’m a woman and you need to fear Trump. The Democrats have lambasted Trump, with good reason, for waging a campaign based on fear but their own campaign seems to focus almost exclusively on fear of Trump.

I did not read the mainstream newspapers much during Bill Clinton’s presidency, but others have told me that for months or years on end the papers were full of every imaginable prurient detail concerning the Monica affair, even down to particulars about the Commander-in-Chief’s wayward member. (I can just hear Bernie ranting “Enough about the damn p_ _ _ _!”) The point being that, above and beyond the impeachment proceedings, it nearly brought his presidency to a halt. At the least it was a major distraction and obstruction.

Babes for Bernie-18I think it is not unlikely that the same thing could occur with a Hillary presidency, between the email fiasco and the Clinton Foundation scandals. A lot of energy and time may be consumed by Hillary and her staff defending her in court and in the public arena, rather than steering the ship of state.

If Bernie had been the nominee, can you imagine the Republicans shouting Lock him up! at their convention? The irony is that Hillary shares a lot more political common ground with the Republicans than does Bernie.

So what does Hillary have going for her other than people’s fear of Donald Trump? The answer: she is a woman. She doesn’t have one of those things that got her husband in so much trouble. I suspect a lot of people support her for just that reason, despite her dubious track record and her neoliberal values.

This was a common theme during the primary campaign, when former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright famously stated it was a betrayal of feminist ideals to support Bernie against Hillary, alleging that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

Which brings me to the concept of identity politics. I don’t see it generally as being “progressive” and I think it can be very counter-productive.  One would think that Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice and Janet Reno would be enough evidence to disabuse even the most ardent feminist of the fantasy notion that women in power will necessarily transform our government into a more caring, compassionate and peaceful institution.

Let’s consider Albright. In her careers as US Ambassador to the UN and Secretary of State, she played a major role in the dismemberment of Yugoslavia and Clinton’s “humanitarian bombing” of that country. She was instrumental in enabling and engineering wars, massacres and genocide throughout the world, most notably in Iraq, Rwanda, Yugoslavia and East Timor.

When she was interviewed on the CBS 60 Minutes show in 1996, she was asked the question: “We have heard that half a million children have died [in Iraq]. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And you know, is the price worth it?” Albright’s infamous response was: “I think this is a very hard choice but the price, we think the price is worth it.”

Albright collaborated with Hillary’s good pal Kissinger in enabling the CIA-installed General Suharto to employ his Indonesian military to carry out one of the worst massacres relative to population since the Holocaust, slaughtering about one-third of the people of East Timor. (Prior to that, Suharto had carried out one of the worst mass murders of the 20th Century against his own people. The CIA reported that the massacres were comparable to those of Hitler, Stalin and Mao.) Later, the Clinton Administration welcomed him as “our kind of guy,” according to Noam Chomsky.

It is probably not an exaggeration to say that this woman, who claims there is a “special place in hell” for those who fail to support someone of their own sex, has as much blood on her hands as Hitler. If there is such a place as hell, there is surely a special suite reserved there for her.

Do I need to talk about Rice and Reno? Spare me. But these folks all broke, or at least splintered, the “glass ceiling.” And now there’s Hillary. The trouble is that just about anyone can rise to positions of power as long as they do the bidding of the real power-brokers.

Then there was Obama, who broke another ceiling, and then broke every promise he made to the American people. Liberals and progressives found every excuse they could for his betrayal of every progressive value. Would they have excused a white president for similar transgressions? I don’t think so. I call that racism.

Instead of being the “peace president,” he prolonged and escalated every military conflict that Bush began. His drone warfare is immoral, despicable, cowardly and heinous. Our first black president has done nothing to improve the lives of blacks or Hispanics during his eight years in the White House. Look at income, education, housing, health, segregation or other indicators and you’ll find there’s been no change, except that things have gotten much more miserable for those at the bottom. The only change is that we’ve moved from incarcerating our black citizens to a new strategy, shooting them on the streets. (Over 1,600 citizens have been killed by police so far this year.)

Obama’s administration has deported more Hispanic immigrants than any president before him, and recently rounded up thousands of immigrant children and sent them back to Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras, with Hillary’s support.

He came into office promising a new era of transparency and then proceeded to prosecute more whistleblowers and go after more journalists than all past presidents combined. (James Risen, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, has called him “the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation.”)

Chris Hedges, another journalist, has written extensively about the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), also known as the Homeland Battlefield Bill. The bill allows the military to operate on US soil as a civilian law enforcement agency, seize and detain citizens, and deny them legal recourse and other constitutional rights. Hedges and other journalists have brought suit against Obama and Leon Panetta over the law.

Writing back in February, Cornel West had this to say about the identity trap: “The battle now raging in Black America over the Clinton-Sanders election is principally a battle between a declining neoliberal black political and chattering class still on the decaying Clinton bandwagon (and gravy train!) and an emerging populism among black, poor, working and middle class people fed up with the Clinton establishment in the Democratic Party. It is easy to use one’s gender identity, as Clinton has, or racial identity, as the Congressional Black Caucus recently did in endorsing her, to hide one’s allegiance to the multi-cultural and multi-gendered Establishment. But a vote for Clinton forecloses the new day for all of us and keeps us captive to the trap of wealth inequality, greed, corporate media propaganda and militarism abroad–all of which are detrimental to black America.”

Yes, there may be a color ceiling and a gender ceiling but the most pernicious and resistant ceiling of all, and the one that matters most, is the ceiling that prevents a real progressive from getting elected to a powerful office in this country. An Obama or a Clinton can get elected as long as they remain subservient and beholden to the power structure. Anyone who dares challenge the system, like Sanders did, doesn’t stand much of a chance. As Bernie himself said many times, the system is rigged.

Linda Sarsour - 2-13

Linda Sarsour, Executive Director, Arab American Association of New York

So what now? If you’ve read this far, you probably realize I won’t be casting my vote for Hillary in November. Even if I believed in our “lesser of two evils” politics, I don’t consider her a lesser evil. I’ll cast my vote for Jill Stein or “waste my vote” and write in Bernie’s name.

At that first forum I attended on Monday of convention week, I also heard Linda Sarsour, the executive director of the Arab-American Association of New York, speak about her experiences in the Sanders campaign. She noted that she was the first Palestinian to be involved in the forefront of a presidential campaign and that Bernie gave her free rein to say whatever she wanted.

“The same people who justify massacre and murder of Palestinians in Israel are the ones who don’t say anything about the murder of blacks by police in the United States,” she said. She added: “If you are not a progressive on the issue of Palestine, you are no damn progressive.”

 Superdelegates aren’t so super after all

 Even before I went to Philadelphia, one question that kept gnawing at me was why so many Democratic superdelegates had gone over to the dark side, and why they had done it so early and eagerly. I was mainly thinking of the superdelegates from Wisconsin, where Bernie beat Clinton handily in the primary. I know some of these people personally and I’m sure they see themselves as progressives. So did I.

The term superdelegate conjures up images of an almost mystical being able to do great things. You know – Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!

To my dismay, nine of the ten Wisconsin superdelegates sided with Clinton. You know who you are so I won’t bother to name you. But in the end, they did their job. It turns out that the mission was not nearly as heroic as saving the planet from the mad scientist or waging the never-ending battle for truth and justice. The role of the superdelegates was to ensure that a progressive–a Eugene McCarthy or George McGovern, or even a Jesse Jackson or Gary Hart–never became the Democratic candidate for president. So they circled the wagons and did their job well. Sanders gave them a scare, rocked the boat a little, but he wasn’t able to capsize it. Even people like Barbara Lee and Patrick Leahy (from Vermont!) felt obliged to toe the line.

I caught a few more minutes of the convention on TV late in the week. It almost made Law-and-Order Night at the Republican convention look progressive. It was truly repulsive. All those delegates and superdelegates kneeling down in idolatry before the military industrial machine that Eisenhower had warned the nation against when he retired. (Who would have even thought that Ike, the Word War II general, would someday look like a radical!)

And then there was Michelle’s thrilling speech, (I didn’t see it, thank God, only heard about it), continuing her husband’s mission of buttressing the mythology of American Exceptionalism. You don’t actually have to venture out into the world or read a book to understand that this notion is a dangerous and despicable lie. Just sit in front of your TV and watch a couple Michael Moore movies and you can create your own long list of all the ways we are exceptional: very low on the list of nations in terms of providing adequate and affordable health care, education or just about any type of social service for our citizens; at the top of the list of countries incarcerating its own citizens, bombing other nations, enduring and ignoring almost daily violent rampages, selling arms to other nations, and on and on. Yes, we are exceptional, and the Democratic Party deserves a lot of credit for this.

But I didn’t leave Philadelphia completely bummed. It turns out that Bernie had done more than just rock the boat. He had drilled a little hole in the dike and things would never be the same again. Bernie, the grumpy old good-hearted man, was actually a modern-day Dr. Frankenstein who had created a monster. A monster he can no longer control. It has a life of its own.

Bernie’s delegates booed Leon Panetta, the former CIA director who served in the Nixon, Clinton and Obama administrations. They refused to be intimidated or house-trained by the DNC operatives or their thugs. Many of them used their time at the convention, not paying homage to war criminals or corporate capitalism, but plotting the next steps in the revolution. More people under 30 voted for Bernie Sanders than voted for Clinton and Trump together and they are tired of playing by the old rules.

At that outdoor rally I attended in Philadelphia I watched a steady stream of Bernie delegates, young, passionate and angry, get up on the stage and talk honestly to the crowd about their feelings and how they had been shunned and shut out by the party establishment. Some of them said they were going back in to the convention to continue to fight. Others said they had had enough and were going to stay outside and start to organize a new party. All seemed committed to continue the people’s revolution that Bernie had begun.

People supported Bernie because they knew he was right and told the truth. Others supported Hillary because they thought Bernie was “impractical.” But what’s so practical about a Democratic Party that continues to slide relentlessly to the right? What’s so practical about a party that ignores its base and even scorns its progressive wing and the independents it so desperately needs to court?

How about you, ordinary citizen or superdelegate? Will you be voting for the continued militarization of our police and more shooting of unarmed civilians? Endless war in the Mideast? More and more support for Israel’s brutal occupation and apartheid state? More disenfranchisement of poor, black and brown people? Further erosion of our constitutional rights? Corruption and cronyism and corporate control of our government? Are you going to throw your lot in with the counter-revolution or will you help continue the real American revolution? Which side are you on?

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All photos by Tom Boswell©2015. All rights reserved.