Archive for the ‘TALIBAN NOT TERRORISTS’ Tag


John Chuckman



[Note to readers: this is a collection of thoughts loosely related to the title above rather than a finished essay]


In all American mainline publications, you will find Russo-phobia. It comes in many forms and variations, just as is always the case with propaganda and disinformation.

That sense of its being vaguely “everywhere” should serve as a warning for what is a universal characteristic of a certain kind of propaganda. Call it synthetic gossip.

Such propaganda follows the logic of big advertisers who want you to be as continuously aware of their products as it is possible to make you. That is why the Internet now is plagued by advertising, a longstanding reality of print and broadcast journalism and we see “product placement” in the films we pay to see.

That warning largely goes unheeded, just as for most people advertising saturating everything is just taken for granted as part of the atmosphere, part of the air they breathe.

And being “part of the air everyone breathes” has its real effects. In the early days of television, when advertising began to appear in everyone’s living room, often by the deceptively open and honest face of the star or host of a show, it quickly became apparent how powerful its effects were. Companies noted immediate jumps in sales of advertised products.

It had been so for radio, too, with its intimacy of a friendly, attractive voice listened to closely by families from the comfort of their living-room couches and armchairs, especially at certain evening hours.

But television was even more so with a friendly or sympathetic famous face seen glowing in a dimly-lighted room, almost a form of enchantment. A great deal of early television advertising was of the form of a program’s host or star taking a minute from the work of the program to talk to you directly about something he or she especially liked. Neighborly. Chatty. Cozy.

The approach is no longer “cozy” – Arthur Godfrey or Rod Serling or Bob Cummings taking a moment from his show to focus on you with a friendly word of recommendation – because American society in large part has moved on from “cozy.”

Part of the impact of post-early television technology has been to atomize and de-centralize society, each member of a family, for example, focusing on his or her own interests through various “media’ and devices.

A trace of the early form of personal advertising has survived in the endorsements now so widely used in every written or image format from labels to boxes. Companies pay such people great sums of money for lending their influence with fans or followers to the company’s interest of selling its product.

Advertising works as a form of suggestion in the human mind, and as with suggestion, not everyone is equally susceptible, but virtually everyone is to some degree. That’s why advertising works and why companies spend countless billions of dollars every year to place their “suggestions” “out there,” ideally in forms and in places where the most susceptible population will be exposed.

Propaganda and disinformation work exactly the same way. It is naïve to believe, as I am sure most Americans very much believed during the height of the Cold War, that only in authoritarian states is propaganda used on the people of a country. That belief was itself a suggestion constantly reinforced in television shows, movies, and in magazines and newspapers. It was inescapable.

Over the decades, advertising and propaganda have grown not just in volume but in sophistication and complexity. There is still some room for the simplistic stuff of an earlier time, but the dark arts have largely moved on.

The ideal is to plant a “targeted” suggestion in your mind, one targeted to appeal to your tastes and preferences because such suggestions are the most powerful. And ideally, that is accomplished in a manner so that you are really not aware of what is even taking place.

That is part of why we have in our daily-living environment something almost resembling a cosmic storm among the stars, a storm of cosmic rays and particles of every description bombarding everything entering a region.

That’s a pretty good description of Russo-phobia in the United States. It isn’t just in political speeches, it isn’t just in government and political publications, nor is it only in newspaper articles and television programs, it is virtually everywhere in one form or another, including just the word choices writers and speakers make and the attitudes they strike.

It is the contemporary sophisticated descendent of such rather clumsy propaganda as a television series, “I Led Three Lives” in the 1950s, or “The FBI” of the late 1960s, each episode of which had a brief personal anti-communist message at the end from J. Edgar Hoover himself.

Such shows were only one of countless ways that the “Soviet menace” was made almost tangible inside America. Politicians speeches, newspaper and broadcast story selection and emphasis and editorials kept fueling the fires.

I vividly remember, near the real start of Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam War, a local newspaper in Chicago, and certainly not the most conservative one, having an editorial with a big bold headline, “The Reds are at the Gates!” That was likely 1964.

Even the assassination of John Kennedy was employed in the cause. Books and articles suggesting Russia was directly or indirectly involved, or that Russian-supported Cuba was, appeared for many years after his death, another measure of the size and intensity of historical anti-Russian activities.

Those suggestions were interesting because the assassination was almost certainly about the opposite of those claims and suggestions. It was about ending Kennedy’s efforts to form new communications with, and policies towards, the Soviet Union and Cuba.

In the case of Cuba, during the early 1960s, an entire industry had become established in the United States to promote hostility and war.

The CIA and FBI had massive investments in everything from radio and newspaper propaganda to gun-running operations, the training of private armies, the writing of manuals, the regular mounting of a range of terrorist operations against Cuba, plus many other activities right down to relationships with mafia interests who were offended by events in Cuba and keen to display their patriotism through cooperation with agencies like CIA and FBI.

All of it was supported by the vast resources of the State Department and other agencies and departments of government. I think few Americans today, younger ones anyway, are aware of the scale of the enterprise. Well, Kennedy very much got in its way, and it was unquestionably elements of that enterprise who killed him.

I do not mean to diverge into the 1960s or the assassination, a subject of great past interest to me.

I’m only touching on the massive legacy of anti-Russian feelings and notions fixed into the very fabric of the country. It still helps support any new anti-Russian initiatives. That always includes the Pentagon and CIA and FBI – it’s just their gut institutional instinct – but it also very much includes American political interests, and from both parties, each party’s emphasis varying over time.

In America it often takes a very long time for the public consensus to reach a conclusion about something you might think should have been apparent fairly early.

But when the establishment sets its mind to doing something, it is virtually impossible to stop it. And it has so many avenues for influencing people and keeping them confused – from corporate newspapers and broadcasters and hack writers and speakers at many institutions to virtually the entire national political establishment of both parties.

Since America is so much less a democracy than many recognize, it really isn’t necessary to fool all the people all the time. Far from it. And the flow of “information” from establishment sources is constant, virtually around the clock. It becomes part of the air you breathe.

Besides, Americans work very hard, and many have little time for becoming informed about such matters as, say, foreign affairs. If they have to trust someone with the idea of truth, it will tend to be the establishment voices easily accessed.

Most hardworking people at any level have little time or inclination to search for and assess different sources of information, as independent or foreign ones. And, truth be told, there are relatively few solid independent voices out there despite the apparent crush we can see on the Internet.

Apart from outfits on the Internet that now function virtually as agents for the establishment – outfits like Facebook, Wikipedia, or Google – the establishment has a good many inauthentic “independent” publications that it keeps going. The CIA always followed that practice with magazines and news sources during the Cold War, and it does still with sites many believe are independent voices.

Major Western European news sources today – as in Britain, France, or Germany – are in virtual lockstep with their American counterparts. If you think the Washington Post is biased – and it is, heavily – try The Guardian or BBC. They are often toe-scrunchingly insincere.

At the higher end of the employment scale in America, up-and-coming corporate and large professional office types work long hours, ten and twelve hours a day is not unusual, and often more than five days a week. It’s just expected of them. It keeps you looking like someone suitable for promotion. And the competition of others looking for promotions reinforces the discipline. When you do get home, there’s all those middle-class obligations, from the kids’ sports teams or music recitals or meetings at school to walking the dog or attending a service club meeting.

At the low end of the employment scale, millions of Americans must work more than one job just to make a go of things. Or, many jobs demand unusual hours and days. On public transit, for example, pretty good-paying working-class jobs, it is common to have “swing shifts,” where you are responsible for two periods each day. Yes, the hours between are free, but they are often effectively not very useful with not enough time to travel home and do anything substantial. These realities of everyday American economic life are I think not widely appreciated abroad.

For all its reputation for individualism, too, the United States in many matters exhibits very little of it. It is a remarkably lockstep society at a certain social level, the level that counts in influencing anything. I’ve never quite understood where that reputation for individualism, as touted in movies or novels, comes from.

The Vietnam War was a decade-long killing spree in defense of an artificially created rump state, South Vietnam, which for its entire existence was run by dictators. Although run by dictators, Americans were steadily given vague assurances that they were fighting for the values of American democracy.

The rump state served almost exclusively the economic and geopolitical interests of the United States. It served as a toehold in Southeast Asia, a kind of colony, a base for American corporations to market their wares. A pied-a-terre for the CIA. Those were the only American values ever really being served.

The big fighting got started not too long after the flimsiest of excuses, the so-called Gulf of Tonkin incident in the summer of 1964. It was a non-event, even as described in the news at the time, and later we learned it was truly a non-event with virtually nothing having happened.

But it’s the kind of thing we’ve seen in so many other places since, and notably in Syria where non-existent poison gas attacks, supposedly by the government, gave America the excuse to hurl fleets of cruise missiles at people it wanted to hurt anyway, the Syrian Army.

Of course, it was the presence of non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” that gave America the excuse to invade Iraq, destroying one of the most advanced societies in the Arab world and ultimately killing about a million people with all the violent aftermath included.

The destruction of Iraq’s basic facilities was so thorough that all these years later many in Iraq do not have dependable drinking water and electricity. The term “Shock and Awe” was coined by the public relations flacks at the Pentagon for the opening massive, overwhelming destruction, a term which gives some idea of the intensity and one, by the way, with clear bloodlines to Hitler’s concept of “Blitzkrieg” (lightning war).

Once America got into heavy fighting in a protracted war, Vietnam became many other things, including a testing ground for new methods of mass killing, an important part of a supply chain into North America for hard drugs, a laboratory for mass CIA terror tactics attempting to influence a population, and a place of endless lies.

While not all the details were apparent to anyone at the start, enough was understood by a good many to question the United States ever seriously entering the war. John Kennedy, who was inclined not to get involved beyond the level of a significant body of military advisors, was replaced by perhaps the most corrupt and ruthless man ever to become President, Lyndon Johnson, who had his chance to be a “war president,” and he wasted very little time getting things moving.

Today, we have among other wars, the war in Afghanistan. The pointlessness of the war in Afghanistan – that 18 years of bombing peasants and strafing wedding parties – was apparent to a good many from the start. I wrote a number of essays on the subject.

At the time of the invasion, I felt it was just a brute need for some kind of vengeance over 9/11, even if they didn’t know who to take vengeance on. I could imagine certain Americans sitting at bars across the country doing a lot of elbow-pumping and hooting and yelling at the first broadcasts of bombs dropping in Afghanistan, something resembling a scene from a big football game.

But the Taliban were not terrorists, the Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11. They are not pleasant people, but that is common enough in poor places where people earn hardscrabble livings. And I think my original view remains valid.

Recent revelations by The Washington Post (which to a certainty reflect someone in high places leaking for political purposes, not the investigative thoroughness of a newspaper which always doggedly supports America’s wars with the same enthusiasm as the late John McCain) tell us that even inside the military, no one understood why the United States was fighting in Afghanistan.

Yet America still fights there.

And will be still after Trump makes his election-campaign withdrawal, whose size is said to amount to a fraction of the troops.

Posted December 29, 2019 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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John Chuckman



“Trump’s direct engagement with North Korea is the first big idea on the file in decades

“Much as only President Nixon could go to China, perhaps only Trump could go to North Korea”


Concerning any international issue, it, of course, never hurts to talk.

But what seems so obvious and fitting a concept as talking has never really taken hold in Washington. Never.

Does America talk to Venezuela? Does America talk to Iran? Does America talk to Syria? Does it talk to Cuba? Does America talk to Nicaragua? Does it even talk much with Russia? Or China?

No, America seems to prefer shouting at people, telling them what it wants to see them doing, and very frequently, it threatens them.

It does that not just with its unilaterally-declared opponents – countries regarded as opponents for no other reason than that they follow their own national interests rather than putting America’s first – it does it also with friends and allies, countries like Germany or Turkey or the EU or India.

Such countries receive somewhat less harsh treatment, but they are told what they may buy and from whom, and they are told to enforce the American domestic laws called sanctions as though they had some international legitimacy beyond the threat of military force and financial blackmail used to enforce them, and they are just generally told what is expected of them in a great many matters.

It is arrogant and patronizing behavior, as any impartial witness may plainly see in an instant, but America is used to being arrogant and patronizing on a rather colossal scale, treating whole regions that way, the Middle East being a prime example where not one country does not receive orders and expectations from Washington.

We’re seeing a whole new round of arrogant and patronizing behavior right now with Jared Kushner’s “Deal of the Century” flim-flam marketing operation. The fate of millions of people, held for decades against their will by Israel, enjoying no rights of any kind, not even the right to secure home and farm ownership, and subjected to life-long abuse and harassment with check-points, passes, line-ups, and raids – all offered with a keen eye to making them so miserable they’ll want to leave – is somehow to be settled without so much as consulting them.

It is an operation in which tens of billions of phantom dollars (there being no actual funds held by anyone) from America’s Gulf State tyrant friends are supposed to generate, over a period of many years, a new Palestinian prosperity, without changing any of the realities which now keep Palestinians down.

An operation led by an extremely arrogant man whose very position reflects his father-in-law’s nepotism and distrust of outsiders plus an intimate friendship with the Palestinians’ most vindictive enemy, the current Prime Minister of Israel. Kushner is a man, moreover, possessing absolutely no suitable expertise, education, or experience, and a man who, early on, pronounced from on high that the Palestinians were in fact not ready to govern themselves. Sounds very promising, does it not?

Of course, a great irony of Washington’s ordering other countries about is that so often Washington’s orders are badly misguided and its expectations unrealistic. They prove to be damaging long-term because Washington simply does not understand local realities, realities that will still be there decades later. It refuses to do so if they don’t fit into Washington’s idea of how things should be. It is a form of madness. And of course, repeated enough times, it confirms the old saying about, “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”

There are many examples. Perhaps the most glaring is Afghanistan and a nearly twenty-year war against the Taliban that has utterly failed. Countless lives and huge amounts of wealth have been squandered on pointless destruction. America never has understood what the Taliban are. They are not “terrorists,” they are not outsiders imposing themselves on others, a role pretty much reserved for America itself. No, they are simply one of the natural divisions in the society. Expecting them to go away is like expecting Baptists or Democrats in America to go away.

And the Taliban had no role in 9/11. They gave refuge to a devout Muslim by the name of Osama bin Laden whose native country, Saudi Arabia, greatly disliked him. When the United States demanded his extradition after 9/11, the Taliban only asked for some evidence, providing credible evidence being a normal part of every proper international extradition request. The United States said no and shortly invaded the place. That is how much sense the war in Afghanistan made from the very start.

America bombed the crap out of the country while its local ally, the clans of the Northern Alliance, traditional opponents of the Taliban, did most of the fighting on the ground. America terrorized countless towns and villages with heavily-armed patrols breaking into homes and removing the men for brutal interrogation, it installed another government, one from members of the Northern Alliance, no more admirable to Western eyes than the Taliban, and it committed, or allowed others to commit, a great many atrocities.

Along the way, in toppling the Taliban government, America released massive new waves of hard drugs into the world, drugs the Taliban had suppressed with its ban on growing opium poppies. The damage of that is felt to this day with large supplies lowering street prices and increasing addictions while urban gang wars are waged over turf, often making news of a weekend’s shooting toll in major American cities resemble reports from a war. A toll of as many as sixty or so shot in one weekend in Chicago, as just one example, has become common.

But did the United States defeat the Taliban? No, they remain a major player with whom the United States only now finally holds serious secret negotiations. Did they even capture bin Laden? No, he was finally murdered years later in Pakistan but even then, only because of a betrayal, not American military or intelligence skill.

Did the United States, after all of that, ever even prove to us that bin Laden was “the mastermind” of 9/11? No, it has never provided genuine evidence of anything, including what actually happened on 9/11. To this day, we honestly do not know. Yet none of that prevented it starting a long and unproductive war, a war it still has not extricated itself from.

(On 9/11 and the lack of any coherent explanation for it, see: )

Do we have some sense of déjà vu here, as in going back to the ten-year long mass slaughter in Vietnam which proved only that a poor but determined people can defeat the United States so long as it refrains from using atomic weapons? It certainly threw everything else it had at the Vietnamese, killing an estimated three million of them and leaving their country a nightmare of Agent Orange, landmines, and bomb craters.

That kind of ugly stuff unfortunately characterizes much of the foreign affairs history of the United States since WWII. One colonial war after another, and none of them achieving much except a great deal of death and destruction. Hatreds and hostilities on a grand scale serving no purpose other than to enforce America’s claim to the world that it is free to do as it damn well pleases anywhere.

There are lots of other examples. All the years of severe hostilities and genuine acts of terror against Cuba, and, more than half a century later, these are being stoked up yet again, Washington not able to absorb the fact that what people in other places want to do with their lives and resources may well be at odds with what America demands.

The seventy years of horror in Israel/Palestine provide another example. The United States could have put an end to all of that at any time by declaring proper borders and enforcing them, but it didn’t, and it still doesn’t. It just allows a long and destructive set of hostilities continue unimpeded, every once in a while, dabbling in some kind of silly “peace process” theatrics. In this case, America is involved through the American colonial identity of Israel and what it attempts to do in the Middle East. And America makes sure there are mountains of armaments to do it with.

For some reason Trump has chosen to talk to North Korea, but I’m not sure it has a great deal of meaning. After all, this is Donald Trump we are talking about here.

The same man leaked secret British diplomatic papers have just revealed is viewed as “inept,” “incompetent” and “erratic.” His policies towards Iran are actually called “incoherent.” I think we knew those things before the leak of state papers, but it is still nice to have confirmation.

I do think that apart from talking, Trump has totally failed in North Korea with what he originally aimed for, denuclearization. The North might make some concessions in exchange for American concessions, but it is not going to give up its nukes, and I think America’s establishment may be starting to understand that.

North Korea will not give up on its nukes, especially now that America is seen so clearly as a country which does not honor legal contracts, as in the glaring examples of tearing-up the Iran nuclear agreement and tearing-up the INF Treaty with Russia. That last is a terribly important treaty for Europe to avoid becoming the immediate battleground in a nuclear conflict. What incentive is there for a country like North Korea?

With its well-equipped army on the southern border and its regular war games and with nuclear weapons stashed in Japan and Guam, America represents a serious, ongoing threat to the North, and the North would be foolish to give up all its weapons. The United States has made no concessions to reduce the ever-present threat it represents while making all kinds of extreme demands.

Indeed, I think it is largely the credible nature of the North’s deterrent that saved it from Trump’s initial huge wave of gunboat diplomacy with aircraft carriers and nuclear bombers everywhere, just exactly what we now see arrayed against non-nuclear, law-abiding Iran.

Posted July 9, 2019 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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