Remarks on Free Press Webinar on December 11, 2021

The glory of Pearl Harbor Day still lingered yesterday on Human Rights Day with a Democracy Summit wrapping up and Nobel So-Called Peace Prize laureates talking about U.S. government-approved and -funded journalism. U.S. media is dominated by Donald Trump and how he’s out of power at the moment. All is just going swimmingly in the steady march of freedom and goodness. If you pay no attention to the little man behind the curtain. Or maybe it’s a small army of little men behind a thousand curtains. We can discuss the many causes and motivations of deception and self-deception. Suffice it to say that once you look, listen, or smell for an instant at the actual state of the world, you can’t turn away, and you can’t stomach the pretty picture.

The U.S. government is trying to imprison or kill Julian Assange for the crime of journalism, arm Saudi Arabia for the crime of genocide, and overthrow the government of Venezuela for the crime of representing Venezuelans. Residents of Pearl Harbor have jet fuel in their drinking water, which is downright healthy in comparison with the myths spread around about Pearl Harbor’s history. Climate-collapse weather is ripping through U.S. towns and sweatshops on the mainland. And various powerful U.S. figures are being let off the hook as their supplier of underage sex is prosecuted.

The exclusion of certain countries from the “democracy summit” was not a side issue. It was the very purpose of the summit. And excluded countries were not excluded for failing to meet the standards of behavior of those that were invited or the one doing the inviting. Invitees didn’t even have to be countries, as even a U.S. backed failed coup leader from Venezuela was invited. So were representatives of Israel, Iraq, Pakistan, DRC, Zambia, Angola, Malaysia, Kenya, and — critically — pawns in the game: Taiwan and Ukraine.

What game? The weapons sales game. Look at the U.S. State Department website on the Democracy Summit. Right at the top: “‘Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it.’ –President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.”

Not only do you have to “defend” and “fight,” but you have to do so against certain threats, and get a big gang in on the fighting to “tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today through collective action.” The representatives of democracy at this amazing summit are such experts at democracy that they can “defend democracy and human rights at home and abroad.” It’s the abroad part that may make you scratch your head if you’re thinking of democracy as having anything to do with, you know, democracy. How do you do it for someone else’s country? But keep reading, and the Russiagate themes become clear:

“[A]uthoritarian leaders are reaching across borders to undermine democracies — from targeting journalists and human rights defenders to meddling in elections.”

You see, the problem is not that the United States has long been, in reality, an oligarchy. The problem is not the U.S. status as top holdout on basic human rights treaties, top opponent of international law, top abuser of the veto at the United Nations, top incarcerator, top environmental destroyer, top weapons dealer, top funder of dictatorships, top war launcher, and top coup sponsor. The problem is not that, rather than democratizing the United Nations, the U.S. government is attempting to create a new forum in which it is, uniquely and even more than before, more equal than everybody else. The problem is certainly not the rigged primary election that Russiagate was concocted to distract from. And in no way whatsoever is the problem the 85 foreign elections, counting just those we know of and can list, that the U.S. government has interfered in. The problem is Russia. And nothing sells weapons like Russia — though China is catching up.

The oddest thing about the democracy summit is that there was not a democracy in sight. I mean not even in pretense or formality. The U.S. public votes on nothing, not even on whether to hold democracy summits. Back in the 1930s the Ludlow Amendment almost gave us the right to vote on whether any war could be started, but the State Department shut that effort down decisively, and it’s never returned.

The U.S. government is not just a system of elected representation rather than a democracy, and a highly corrupted one that fundamentally fails to represent, but it’s also driven by an anti-democratic culture in which politicians routinely brag to the public about ignoring public opinion polls and are applauded for it. When sheriffs or judges misbehave, the main criticism is usually that they were elected. A more popular reform than clean money or fair media is the anti-democratic imposition of term limits. Politics is such a dirty word in the United States that I received an email last week from an activist group accusing one of the two U.S. political parties of “politicizing elections.” (It turned out that they had in mind various voter-suppression behavior, all too common in the world’s beacon of democracy, where the winner of every election is “none of the above” and the most popular party is “neither.”)

Not only was there no national democracy in sight. There was also nothing democratic happening at the summit. The handpicked gang of officials did not vote or achieve consensus on anything. The participation in governance that you could find even at an Occupy Movement event was nowhere to be seen. And neither were there any corporate journalists shrieking at them: “WHAT IS YOUR ONE SINGLE DEMAND? WHAT IS YOUR ONE SINGLE DEMAND?” They had several completely vague and hypocritical goals on the website — produced, of course, without a shred of democracy being employed or a single tyrant being harmed in the process.

Better than a democracy summit would have been establishing the right to vote, publicly funding election campaigns, ending gerrymandering, ending the filibuster, ending the Senate, publicly counting paper ballots at polling places, creating the means for citizen initiatives to set public policy, criminalizing bribery, forbidding the profiting by public officials from their public actions, ending the sale or gift of weapons to foreign governments, shutting foreign military bases, quintupling actual foreign aid and prioritizing support for law-abiding governments, ceasing to be the leading holdout on human rights and disarmament treaties, joining the International Criminal Court, abolishing the veto at the UN Security Council, abolishing the UN Security Council in favor of the General Assembly, complying with the treaty on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, joining the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, ending lawless immoral and deadly sanctions on a few dozen countries, investing in a program of conversion to peaceful and green energies, prohibiting the consumption of fossil fuel, prohibiting deforestation, prohibiting the keeping of or slaughter of livestock, prohibiting the killing of human prisoners, prohibiting mass incarceration, and — well — one could go on all night, when the simple answer is that anything, even a warm bucket of spit, would have been better than a democracy summit.

Let’s hope it’s the last, and let’s dare to hope that this past Pearl Harbor Day is the last as well. The U.S. government planned, prepared for, and provoked a war with Japan for years, and was in many ways at war already, waiting for Japan to fire the first shot, when Japan attacked the Philippines and Pearl Harbor. What gets lost in the questions of exactly who knew what when in the days before those attacks, and what combination of incompetence and cynicism allowed them to happen, is the fact that major steps had indisputably been taken toward war but none had been taken toward peace.

The Asia pivot of the Obama-Trump-Biden era had a precedent in the years leading up to WWII, as the United States and Japan built up their military presence in the Pacific. The United States was aiding China in the war against Japan and blockading Japan to deprive it of critical resources prior to Japan’s attack on U.S. troops and imperial territories. The militarism of the United States does not free Japan of responsibility for its own militarism, or vice versa, but the myth of the innocent bystander shockingly assaulted out of the blue is no more real than the myth of the war to save the Jews. The U.S. war plans and warnings of the Japanese attack were published in U.S. and Hawaiian newspapers prior to the attack.

As of December 6, 1941, no poll had found majority U.S. public support for entering the war. But Roosevelt had already instituted the draft, activated the National Guard, created a huge Navy in two oceans, traded old destroyers to England in exchange for the lease of its bases in the Caribbean and Bermuda, supplied planes and trainers and pilots to China, imposed harsh sanctions on Japan, advised the U.S. military that a war with Japan was beginning, and secretly ordered the creation of a list of every Japanese and Japanese-American person in the United States.

It matter that people make the leap from “all wars but one in history have been horrible evil catastrophes” to “all wars in history have been horrible evil catastrophes,” and rejecting outrageous Pearl Harbor propaganda is needed for that to happen.