Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Hot Damn! War Time!


Illustration: Red state voters: "He's gonna use some them nukes on Co-rea! Dayum! Well, wee doggie, we done whip the Yankees"

The following is remarkably accurate and we distribute it here in, for at least the time being, our penultimate edition. 
Tension between the U.S. and North Korea escalated sharply Tuesday after President Trump suggested he was prepared to start a nuclear war, threatening to unleash "fire and fury" against North Korea. Hours later, North Korea threatened to strike the U.S. territory of Guam in the western Pacific. Guam is home to 163,000 people as well as major U.S. military bases. For more, we speak with longtime investigative journalist Allan Nairn.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We begin today's show looking at North Korea. Tension between the U.S. and North Korea escalated sharply Tuesday, after President Trump suggested he's preparing to start a nuclear war, threatening to unleash "fire and fury" against North Korea.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening, beyond a normal statement. And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: President Trump was speaking from his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he's on vacation for 17 days.
Hours after he spoke, North Korea threatened to strike the U.S. territory of Guam in the western Pacific. Guam is home to 163,000 people as well as several major U.S. military bases.
Tension has been rising over North Korea in recent weeks. The U.N. Security Council recently imposed a new round of sanctions against North Korea over its test launches of two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month. The sanctions ban North Korean exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood, which could slash up to one-third of the country's export revenue. Then, on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported U.S. intelligence officials have concluded in a confidential assessment that North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles.
In response to the rising tension, China has called on all sides to de-escalate their rhetoric. Concern is growing that the North Korea crisis might result in a new arms race in Asia. Some conservative politicians in South Korea are now calling for the U.S. to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in the country. In Japan, some senior officials are pushing for the country to acquire long-range cruise missiles and air-to-ground missiles.
We're joined now by longtime, award-winning investigative journalist Allan Nairn, who spends a good deal of time in Asia.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Allan.
ALLAN NAIRN: Thanks. Good to be with you.
AMY GOODMAN: Your response to "fire and fury," the words of President Trump at his Bedminster golf resort, against North Korea?
ALLAN NAIRN: Well, the U.S. nuclear system was already dangerous, irresponsible, insane, because it's on, most—many of the U.S. weapons are on hair-trigger alert. The missiles in the silos, the missiles on the submarines, they can be fired within minutes, which could easily lead to a mistaken firing. And now there's a president who's on hair trigger.
For years, there was a consensus, a complete consensus, within the U.S. establishment and military, that military action against North Korea was unthinkable, because, just with conventional artillery, North Korea could immediately devastate Seoul, killing more than 100,000, perhaps. But recently, the political culture and discussion around military action against North Korea has shifted. Colonel Guy Roberts, who's a longtime Pentagon and NATO official, last year wrote an article calling for the U.S. to adopt a first-strike nuclear policy, to be willing to use nuclear weapons against a country—and he specifically mentioned North Korea as one—in the event they use conventional weapons. He wrote that last year. This year, Trump nominated him to be the assistant secretary of defense for nuclear policy. John Bolton recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal that the U.S. should consider a ground invasion of North Korea. Lindsey Graham recently quoted Trump as saying that the U.S. should be ready to destroy—
AMY GOODMAN: Let me go to that quote.
ALLAN NAIRN: —North Korea itself.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me go to that quote of Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, being questioned last week on the Today show by Matt Lauer.
MATT LAUER: Every military expert says there is no good military option.
SENLINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, they're wrong. There is a military option.
MATT LAUER: What's a good one?
SENLINDSEY GRAHAM: To destroy North Korea's program and North Korea itself. He is not going to allow—President Trump—the ability of this madman to have a missile to hit America. If there's going to be a war to stop him, it will be over there. If thousands die, they're going to die over there. They're not going to die here. And he's told me that to my face.
AMY GOODMAN: "He's told me that to my face," he said. President Trump told him, Lindsey Graham. Allan Nairn?
ALLAN NAIRN: Yeah, well, given Trump's comments yesterday, it sounds like Graham was quoting Trump accurately. You know, recently, even Mother Jones ran a column asking, "Well, why shouldn't the U.S. do multiple nuclear strikes on North Korea?" During the campaign, Trump talked about nuclear weapons for South Korea and Japan and said, "Well, if there's a North Korea-Japan war, go for it. Have at it."
And also, this is not something that Trump just stumbled upon. There are really only three substantive issues that Trump has been engaged with throughout his career. One is trade. One is racism. He's for it. He campaigned for the execution of the Central Park Five, who were innocent. But also nuclear weapons. During the Reagan administration, Trump tried to get appointed as a U.S. special envoy to negotiate a nuclear weapons deal with the Soviet Union. He's been thinking about this for decades.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to recent comments by the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift. He recently spoke at a security conference in Australia and took questions from the audience.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: If, when you return to your command next week, you were to receive an order from the commander-in-chief, the president of the United States, to make a nuclear attack on China. Would you do it?
ADMSCOTT SWIFT: These—so far, these are yes-or-no answers. The answer would be yes. So, every member of the U.S. military has sworn an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to obey the officers and the president of the United States, as the commander-in-chief appointed over us.
AMY GOODMAN: Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift. The significance of what he's saying, Allan?
ALLAN NAIRN: You know, I had read that quote, but I hadn't seen the tape before. The laughter is interesting, because the establishment is a—it's an organism. It has this clubby ethos. And they discuss nuclear Armageddon very easily, very casually.
What he's talking about is just following the normal authoritarian chain of command that exists within the U.S. executive branch. And he and other officers do indeed swear an oath to carry out orders like that from the top.
In more rational times, what Trump said yesterday would be an article of impeachment. There's been a lot of talk of impeachment from some people up to now, for things like Trump's crimes, like racism, injustice, stupidity, regarding the threat of climate change, all sorts of things. But, in a sense, all of those things fit within the normal parameters of the U.S. presidency. Lots of U.S. presidents, at one time or another, have engaged in talk and activities like that, although none so intensively as Trump. But with what he's doing now, provoking North Korea, risking actual destruction of part of the U.S., he is violating the system's rules on its own terms. He's committing an actual threat against U.S. national security. And you would think that in just pragmatic political terms in Washington, that is the kind of thing that could be grounds for impeachment. But as long as he sits in that chair, it's true, the commanders are obligated to obey his order.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence. He was speaking at the Aspen Security Forum about the North Korean president, Kim Jong-un.
DAN COATS: Well, he's a very unusual type of person. He's not crazy. And there is some rationale backing his actions, which are survival—survival for his regime, survival for his country. And he has watched, I think, what has happened around the world relative to nations that possess nuclear capabilities and the leverage they have, and seen that having the nuclear card in your pocket results in a lot of deterrence capability. The lessons that we learned out of Libya giving up its nukes and Ukraine giving up its nukes is, unfortunately, if you have nukes, never give them up.
AMY GOODMAN: That's Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence.
ALLAN NAIRN: Yeah, he's got a point. In many ways, Kim Jong-un is—comports himself like a crazy person, as does Trump, but there is an underlying rational incentive for the North Korean regime to get nuclear weapons, as Coats just acknowledged. You know, they always say there are no good options regarding North Korea. Well, there are no good military options. But as part of their goal of regime survival, one thing that the North Korean regime has always said is that they have two principal goals. One is to stop the U.S.-South Korean military exercises, which are provocative. And, two, end the Korean War. There's an armistice now, but the Korean War is not formally over. That's the kind of thing that, if the U.S. were serious, it could sit down on the table and—at the table and negotiate.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, I just was listening to Rex Tillerson, who made a surprise trip today. He went from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, a place you have been a good deal, to Guam, where you've also spent time. Both of us returning to and from East Timor covering the Indonesian occupation there, we would go through Guam, a site of several major military installations. And on the plane, he said this was a very good week for the U.S. and the international community. He said this today.
ALLAN NAIRN: Yeah. Well, maybe he's referring to what used to be called the nuclear doctrine, the madman theory, which was something—an idea promoted by Kissinger and Nixon, which was that you had to persuade the potential adversary that you're actually crazy enough to launch the nuclear weapons. And during the—his presidential campaign, Trump said he was ready to use nuclear weapons. And reportedly, in briefings, he would ask, "Well, what's the point of having nukes if you don't use them?" So, maybe by some theory, it's good for Trump's agenda, but it's obviously very, very dangerous for the world.
And this idea that the generals around Trump—Generals Kelly, Mattis and McMaster—will somehow stop him, it doesn't make sense, because that is not their responsibility. Their responsibility is to carry out his orders.
And politically, I think that Trump is just one quick war away from curing most of his political ills. The establishment press has been very critical of Trump. They've given him a lot of heat. But I think part of this is because they want to worship the U.S. presidency. They always do. They want to stand up and salute. But they're very frustrated that Trump doesn't let them because of his comportment, because he acts in a way that undermines the mystique of the U.S. presidency and also the mystique of U.S. power.
AMY GOODMAN: And he attacks them. He attacks the press.
ALLAN NAIRN: Oh, and he attacks the press, as well. And their main critique of Trump has been not the substance and the Republican agenda, but rather the claim that he has failed to efficiently implement it. And they praise General Kelly now, because, they say, "Oh, maybe he'll make it efficient." Well, I certainly hope not.
AMY GOODMAN: As the new chief of staff.
ALLAN NAIRN: Yeah. I certainly hope not, because this is a rightist revolution that is underway. They have—most governments, most new administrations that come in, follow the judicial principle of stare decisis. You accept precedent. You accept what's already—most of what's already in place. Not this group, not Trump and the Republicans, who now control all branches of U.S. government. They are a rollback administration. Their agenda is to roll back essentially all popular achievements that happened not just during the Obama years, but also back to Franklin Roosevelt and even Teddy Roosevelt. And on the racial justice and civil rights front, what they're looking at is a rollback dating back to pre-Reconstruction, because, in principle—and you look at the statements of someone like Sessions over the years, someone like Bannon—they are looking to eliminate anything in law or regulations that specifically acknowledges rights for African Americans. So they're out to do a massive project of dismantling. It's a revolutionary movement. It hasn't gotten nearly as far as it could, because of Trump's incompetence. But if Kelly succeeds in making it efficient, God help us all.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you just mentioned history, and before we go to those other issues you raised, I wanted to go back to the words of President Harry Truman. Today marks the 72nd anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of the Japanese city of Nagasaki that killed 74,000 people. That came just three days after the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, killing over 140 [sic] people. This is President Harry Truman—140,000 people. This is President Harry Truman speaking on August 6, 1945, hours after he bombed Hiroshima.
PRESIDENT HARRY TRUMAN: If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this Earth.
AMY GOODMAN: And you compare that to "fire and fury," the words of President Trump, Allan Nairn.
ALLAN NAIRN: Yeah. Well, for one thing, Truman was speaking—even though it was an act of mass murder that he did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he was in the midst of a brutal, vicious war against the mass-killing Japanese and Nazi regimes, so it was a different context from now.
But in a sense, it goes back to the point that this is a rollback administration we have. Since Truman spoke, in the years since then, due to pressure from peace and human rights activists, some U.S. standards in foreign policy have changed a little bit. There have some—been some constraints placed on the military, the CIA. Trump is seeking to eliminate those. Since he's been in, civilian casualties as a result of U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq have multiplied fourfold. He's basically told the commanders, "Do what you will." He's rolling back—trying to roll back U.S. foreign policy to—regarding violence, to where it stood many decades before, even back to the years of Teddy Roosevelt. When Teddy Roosevelt used to speak about the glory of war, the glory of violence and killing, and how that was essential to both the national character and personal character, that's the kind of thing Trump is evoking today.
AMY GOODMAN: We're going to continue this discussion after break. We're speaking with George Polk Award-winning, award-winning, longtime investigative journalist Allan Nairn. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: "Wichita Lineman" by Glen Campbell. Glen Campbell passed away Tuesday at the age of 81. He suffered from Alzheimer's.
The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

As tensions escalate between the United States and North Korea, the U.S. government is particularly ill-equipped to carry out effective diplomacy, thanks to the Trump administration's efforts to dismantle the State Department. The U.S. currently has no ambassador to South Korea, no secretary of Asian Pacific affairs and no secretary of East Asian affairs. For more on the dismantling of the U.S. government, we speak to longtime journalist and activist Allan Nairn.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. Our guest for the hour is the longtime investigative journalist Allan Nairn. Allan, you were talking about a rightist revolution that is taking place right now. While President Trump speaks from his vacation home, his golf resort in Bedminster, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is flying to Guam, making a surprise trip there. He said this was a very good week for the U.S. and the international community. As the tension with North Korea escalates, there's actually no U.S. ambassador to South Korea, there's no secretary of Asian Pacific affairs, there's no secretary of East Asian affairs. Can you talk about the significance of this?
ALLAN NAIRN: Well, Trump says—and he's said it repeatedly—that the world is exploiting the U.S., rather than the other way around. And maybe he believes that. If he believes that, then it makes sense to dismantle the instruments, the institutions that connect the U.S. to the rest of the world, the instruments of U.S. power and U.S. exploitation, like the State Department. And he is dismantling the State Department to a significant extent. It's remarkable. He's looking to slash their budget by more than a third.
This comes from several places: one, that view of Trump; two, the fact that he is leading, in government, a coalition of various extreme-rightist factions—the Koch brothers types, the Chamber of Commerce types, the racists, the neofascists, all sorts of different groups. One of them is a group that's ideologically descended from the old John Birch Society, which has always viewed the U.N. and the State Department as inherently evil. And they have managed to, in a sense, get control of State Department policy.
And that push dovetails with the efforts of the right-wing deficit hawks who want to slash the U.S. budget overall. Now, they face—the Republicans face a deep problem in Congress, because, on the one hand, they want to slash spending, but, on the other hand, they want to massively expand the Pentagon budget. The solution, up to now—started during the Reagan years—has been to cut domestic discretionary spending and try to slash Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, but that's becoming much more difficult now because of the grassroots activism, which is—which is fighting that. So, the State Department becomes a natural target, and they're gutting it.
And this is one of the things that drives the establishment crazy, because the State Department is an instrument of U.S. power, and Trump is in the process of tearing it up. There's actually—there's a very relevant quote from Edward Gibbon, the historian, in his book The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and he's talking about the empire in the second century. And he says, "They endeavored to convince mankind that their motive was not the temptation of conquest but was actuated by the love of order and justice." You could say the exact same thing about the U.S. today, what the U.S. today says to the world. But Trump comes along and says, "Oh, yeah, it is about conquest. We want to take Iraq's oil. We want to take Afghanistan's minerals." And, you know, that really damages U.S. power, because it upsets people. They talk about the polls, which show a decline in world opinion of the U.S. That's actually world opinion getting more realistic vis-à-vis the U.S. The basic Trump doctrine in international affairs is more violence, less hypocrisy; less talk about democracy, human rights, more straight-up violence. And the world is seeing this. And it makes—it has the long-term effect of potentially making the U.S. less of a player.
AMY GOODMAN: Specifically, what does it mean not to have ambassadors in the world? And interestingly, the role of Rex Tillerson, who sometimes looks like he's the restraining force on President Trump, this former CEO of the largest private oil corporation in the world, ExxonMobil, though he, too—what are his intentions for the State Department?
ALLAN NAIRN: Well, it's kind of remarkable, because he has embraced the White House project of dismantling his own agency, the State Department. Now, there are others, like Pruitt at EPA, who 14 times had filed suit against the EPA and has always been saying publicly he wants to kill it. That's his mission in life. And now Trump gave him the opportunity to go inside and kill it. Tillerson doesn't come from that kind of background. Tillerson, in a sense, had his own private government, when he was running ExxonMobil. But now he's embraced the idea of undermining his own agency. But at the same time, he seems to recognize the aspects of Trump's rhetoric that make it harder for the U.S. to hold its power internationally.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, is there anything that says—there's a good deal of discussion saying, you know, what many people thought were laws were actually just norms that Trump is violating. That there should be embassies, is there anything to say, in every country? I mean, maybe the next step would be you don't have ambassadors in different places. You know, you just have U.S. corporations acting as U.S. ambassadors in different places. They set their own rules.
The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.
The White House is considering an unprecedented plan to privatize the war in Afghanistan at the urging of Erik Prince, founder of the now-defunct private mercenary firm Blackwater. Prince told USA Today the plan would include sending 5,500 private mercenaries to Afghanistan to advise the Afghan army. It would also include deploying a private air force—with at least 90 aircraft—to carry out the bombing campaign against Taliban insurgents. The plan's consideration comes as a federal appeals court has overturned the prison sentences of former Blackwater contractors who were involved in a 2007 massacre in Nisoor Square in central Baghdad, killing 17 civilians when they opened fire with machine guns and threw grenades into the crowded public space. For more, we speak with longtime investigative journalist and activist Allan Nairn.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
ALLAN NAIRN: Well, as you mentioned, Prince, Erik Prince, is proposing for Afghanistan that the U.S., under a viceroy, send him in as a private contractor with a private air force and the ability, using iPads, to call in airstrikes all over Afghanistan. I—
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Erik Prince, so people can hear this, a very interesting discussion earlier this week that the former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince had with CNN's Erin Burnett, talking about his plans, the proposal that he put forward to President Trump for Afghanistan.
ERIK PRINCE: You have to put someone in charge. There has to be a lead federal official, or, in this case, almost a bankruptcy trustee, that rationalizes the U.S. presence, that is in charge of all policy. Second, they have to stay there for a while, so you have that continuity of decision-making.
ERIN BURNETT: OK, so the word you used for that person was "viceroy," was an American viceroy.
ERIK PRINCE: And I mean viceroy. That's a colonial term. The last thing we—
ERIN BURNETT: It is a colonial term.
ERIK PRINCE: Sure. But that colonial term came from—in the British Empire, they had very little communications, and you had to put someone in charge that can make the decisions, absent a ship going back and forth. But in this case, it really means someone that can rationalize the basic mess that has U.S. policy been. Whether it's in Afghanistan or Pakistan, we have gone backwards.
ERIN BURNETT: So, when we use the word, though, obviously—you point out it is a colonial word, right? The definition is a ruler exercising authority in a colony on behalf of a sovereign. In that case, Trump would perhaps be the sovereign, Afghanistan an American colony. I mean—
ERIK PRINCE: Again, I'm—
ERIN BURNETT: —it's a loaded word. I mean, have the Afghans—
ERIK PRINCE: I say that—
ERIN BURNETT: Are they talking to you about this? Are they open to it?
ERIK PRINCE: I've talked to plenty of Afghans about this. When they understand that we're not there to colonize, but merely the—that viceroy, that lead federal official term, is someone that will rationalize, so we don't go through a commander every year, like we have been, or a different ambassador every two years or who—so, there's been a complete fragmentation of unity of command. That has to change.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that's the former Blackwater founder, Erik Prince, speaking with Erin Burnett on CNN, talking about an American viceroy, that he's pushing for, that apparently Bannon supports, and McMaster, the national security adviser, and James Mattis—both generals—are opposed to. So there's a real battle going on, and there's a real defamation campaign going on by extremely conservative forces against H.R. McMaster to push this through. But an American viceroy and an even further privatization of the military, this coming the same week that the sentences for three of four Blackwater guards who opened fire, September 2007, on Iraqi civilians in Nisoor Square happened—the overturning of those sentences, and the fourth one, his murder conviction, overturned.
ALLAN NAIRN: Yeah. A few years ago, I met with President Ghani of Afghanistan, and I doubt that Ghani would be happy about Prince's plan and him personally being put in charge of a private army there, partly because of his own criminal past, Blackwater's criminal past in Iraq and elsewhere. But I think what Prince is talking about with a private corporate war could be the wave of the future, both in terms of Pentagon policy, subcontracting to corporations, but also, as the next stage, corporations having their own private armies. Many already have their own private police forces, dating back to the old Pinkertons and, as you saw at the Dakota Access pipeline, private police forces and paramilitaries. In the eastern Congo, in the mineral region, you have mining corporations making deals with local militias to, in effect, be their private armies. But you don't yet have corporations, like, say, an ExxonMobil, that has its own air force that drops bombs and its own troops that go around with machine guns. But I think that—growing out of the kind of thing that Prince is proposing, I think that could be the wave of the future.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go on with Prince. The Military Times reported that the Blackwater founder, Erik Prince, lobbied the Afghan government on a plan to assemble a private air force, including fixed-wing aircraft, helicopter gunships, drones, capable of close air support to ground forces. The plan would partly rely on an iPhone app called Safe Strike that soldiers could use to target airstrikes. Allan Nairn?
ALLAN NAIRN: Yeah, it's—you know, Trump has already said, "Don't ask the White House." This is regarding U.S. operations in Iraq and Syria and elsewhere. "Don't ask the White House. Use your own judgment in attacks." And now, what he's talking about is corporations using their own judgment in who to kill from the air, although, he says, under the guidance of a colonial viceroy.
AMY GOODMAN: We're going to break and then come back to this discussion. We're speaking with longtime investigative journalist and activist Allan Nairn. This is Democracy Now! We'll be back in a moment.
AMY GOODMAN: "Mother of Exiles" by Vermont musician Peter Gould. We'll post his whole song on our website at, about the poet Emma Lazarus, her poem "New Colossus," that appears on the base of the Statue of Liberty, that was challenged by President Trump's senior adviser Stephen Miller when he held a White House press briefing last week.
The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.
From Attorney General Jeff Sessions to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, many of Trump's key administration members are far-right-wing figures who are seeking to dismantle the very agencies that they have been picked to head. For more on this right-wing revolution, we speak with longtime activist and journalist Allan Nairn.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. Our guest for the hour is investigative journalist Allan Nairn. I wanted to play for you, Allan, just a few clips, excerpts of not Fox, but of MSNBC and CNN introducing their guests.
JOY-ANN REID: Joining me now, MSNBC contributor Malcolm Nance and former CIA analyst Fred Fleitz.
ERIN BURNETT: The former CIA counterterrorism official Phil Mudd.
ANA CABRERA: I'm joined by former CIA undercover operative Lindsay Moran.
HALLIE JACKSON: Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff at the CIA and Department of Defense and an MSNBC national security analyst.
AMY GOODMAN: So there you have just a couple people, some of the hosts, introducing their commentators on not Fox, but CNN and MSNBC—FBI, CIA, military, increasingly populating the pundit classes on the airwaves.
ALLAN NAIRN: Yeah, many liberals are relying on authoritarian institutions to save them from the authoritarian, authoritarian institutions like the CIAFBI, Pentagon. If you come from one of those places, you have a better chance of getting on, say, MSNBC than you do if you're an activist.
AMY GOODMAN: So what about what's happening today in the media? What about the coverage that we're seeing and what's happening? You talk about a rightist revolution taking place. The main thrust of CNN and MSNBC, a number of liberals—this is not Fox, which was talking a lot about how much President Trump has accomplished—in the six-month mark that we just passed, they were saying something like that he's tweeted 900-something times, passed no laws and only got one Supreme Court justice, that basically no laws—nothing has happened. He's a do-nothing, speak-everything president. You feel very differently about this.
ALLAN NAIRN: Yeah. First, they have a radical agenda to roll back, essentially, all social progress.
AMY GOODMAN: The Trump administration.
ALLAN NAIRN: Well, the Trump administration and also the very radical Republican Party, which now controls both houses of Congress and 34 governorships and state legislatures. And they've already done a lot. I mean, Trump has an executive order demanding that two regulations, on things like health, safety, labor rights, air pollution, water pollution—everything you can imagine—get revoked for every new one that's put in. They're allowing institutions like Sinclair Broadcasting, which had an actual financial deal, exchange, with the Trump campaign, a radical right-wing outfit, to expand their TV station holdings nationwide to twice the level that would usually be allowed under the regulatory regime.
There's many steps that are being taken that are not going to be rolled back, even if there is a change in administration. Even if you got, you know, a left-wing president, once Sinclair takes over ownership of those stations, they're not going to—there's no piece of paper they can sign to roll that back. Many of these actions they're taking have—are either very difficult to reverse or they are irreversible, like death. You know, the various estimates about the repeal of Obamacare perhaps causing 28,000 deaths, 43,000 deaths, that's not even to mention the amount of deaths that are occurring, the tens of thousands that are occurring, because of our failure, day by day, to implement a full coverage, as under single payer. You know, these consequences are irreversible. And they're not—they haven't achieved nearly as much as they could, because of Trump's craziness. But they are moving.
And they are seeking to take advantage of the fact that the U.S. system is much less democratic than many people realize. There are a series of levers that can be used to overcome democracy, ranging from the Electoral College to a Senate system where a minority of voters have a vast—a large majority of senators, to congressional and state legislative-level gerrymandering, to the possibility of voter suppression, to the House and Senate rules which allow you to block a bill even if it has big support from a majority of the senators or House members. The only way to overcome these structural obstacles is through a mass wave of democratic participation, a grassroots surge. And that's why they're so interested in voter suppression, because they want to block that. They want to shrink the pool of voters to be dominated by their supporters.
AMY GOODMAN: So, if the media were covering these issues—let's talk about what the media is covering. If you turn on MSNBC or you turn on CNN and you go away for an hour or two and you come back, you might think that you had put it on hold and that you just—they were just completing a sentence. And it's invariably about Russia. Talk about the coverage.
ALLAN NAIRN: Yeah, for many months, you've seen like an 80/20 ratio of coverage, Russia/other matters. And I think the fact that the press has done that and that many liberals have let these two commercial outfits, CNN and MSNBC, largely dominate, set their political agenda, that's one reason why Trump's approval rating is as high as it is, you know, in the mid to high thirties.
AMY GOODMAN: You're saying it's high because of their Russia coverage, their contention that—
ALLAN NAIRN: Yeah, I think if the ratio were reversed and you were giving 20 percent coverage to Russia, 80 percent to the actual substantive acts of Trump and the Republican Congress and the Republican governors, I think Trump's rating would be down in the twenties, because the fact—
AMY GOODMAN: Well, now it's only at 33 percent.
ALLAN NAIRN: Yeah, because the facts are so outrageous. But because of the structural levers that the right has—now has control over on every front, because of the structural advantages, I—my own personal guess is if the Trump-Clinton election were rerun today, if the congressional elections were held today, I think Trump would squeak out another win. I think the Republicans would lose seats but narrowly retain control of Congress.
AMY GOODMAN: A lot of people must be shocked when you say this.
AMY GOODMAN: On the hand, when you look at the special elections that have taken place—
ALLAN NAIRN: Look at the predictions before the general election, you know. And Trump, during the general election campaign, Trump's approval ratings were often lower than they are right now. But it shouldn't even be close. If the press were hammering away at the substance of what this rightist revolution is doing, they would be wiped out electorally.
AMY GOODMAN: And what about the fact that they're saying a foreign power intervened in this election to Trump's advantage?
ALLAN NAIRN: Well, the basic allegation is that Russia used U.S.-style election meddling against the U.S. Because that's half of the mission of the CIA since the CIAwas created, to intervene in foreign elections and foreign governments. There was one academic study that cited 81 cases of such intervention just between the end of World War II and the year 2000. Personally, my guess is, yeah, Russia probably did do an intervention like that. But even if the charges are true, even if Russia was the source of the WikiLeaks material and they sent in all the false news through bots, that would have—you could say that that tipped the election, because in such a close Electoral College election, any one of a dozen factors can be said to tip the election. But it would be impossible to make a legitimate case that such Russia intervention had more impact than, say, voter suppression, where, if you look at the voter suppression impact in the swing states that swung it to Trump, those numbers vastly, like in Wisconsin, for example, vastly outweigh Trump's winning margin. So, if instead of that 80 percent of coverage being on Russia, had it been on, say, voter suppression, Kobach and the state—Republican state legislators, who have introduced a hundred voter suppression bills across the country, they wouldn't be able to get away with it. They'd be—they'd be back on their heels.
AMY GOODMAN: We just have two minutes, and I want to go way back in time. I want to ask you about Attorney General Jeff Sessions. During an October 2015 radio interview with Steve Bannon, when he was a radio talk show host, then-Senator Jeff Sessions praised the Immigration Act of 1924, whose chief author in the House once declared it was intended to end indiscriminate acceptance of all races.
SENJEFF SESSIONS: In seven years, we'll have the highest percentage of Americans non-native-born since the founding of the republic. And some people think, well, we've always had these numbers, but it's not so. This is very unusual. It's a radical change. And, in fact, when the numbers reached about this high in 1924, the president and Congress changed the policy, and it slowed down immigration significantly. And we then assimilated through the 1965 and created, really, the solid middle class of America, with assimilated immigrants. And it was good for America. And then we passed this law that went far beyond what anybody realized in 1965, and we're on a path now to surge far past what the situation was in 1924.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Senator Jeff Sessions speaking to Steve Bannon on his radio show in 2015, now attorney general really cracking down on voter rights and immigrants in this country.
ALLAN NAIRN: Right. The Trump immigration policy, as announced by Miller the other day, is inspired by the Immigration Act of 1924 and the white—the old White Australia policy. The 1924 act grew out the U.S. eugenics movement, which was pushed by the top academics at U.S. universities, and it claimed to be based on merit. They were using standardized test results to argue, at that time, in 1924, that Nordics and Aryans were intellectually superior, and the U.S.. had to exclude what they called the inferior races, who at that time they defined as Italians, Eastern Europeans, Africans, Asians and Jews. This led to the passage of the 1924 Immigration Act. And also the eugenics movement inspired things like forced sterilization laws. When the Nazis did their Nuremberg racial laws, they specifically cited these U.S. measures as a large part of their inspiration. I wrote—
AMY GOODMAN: The immigration law of 1924.
ALLAN NAIRN: And the eugenics—the broader eugenics movement. I did a chapter on this in the report I did years ago for Nader on the Educational Testing Service.
AMY GOODMAN: Called The Reign of ETS: The Corporation That...
ALLAN NAIRN: That Makes Up Minds, yeah. And that's what Sessions and Miller and Trump are proposing again. But the key is, as Miller was talking about the other day, he was saying, "Oh, this will be immigration based on merit." That's exactly what they were saying in 1924, because the basic claim is Aryan whites have more merit.
AMY GOODMAN: And Steve Miller—
ALLAN NAIRN: Bogus then, bogus now.
AMY GOODMAN: Now Steve Miller is being considered—Stephen Miller—to be the communications chief.
ALLAN NAIRN: Yeah, well, he does communicate their message, in a sense.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you very much, Allan Nairn, for spending this hour with us. Allan Nairn, award-winning investigative journalist and activist.
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