Trump: Front man for Wall St., Pentagon

Trump is opening a full-scale assault against the workers and oppressed. The anti-Russia campaign is the last thing the movement should be pursuing in its struggle against him.

By Fred Goldstein posted on May 31, 2017

Donald Trump came back from his overseas trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Europe resuming his plans to launch full-scale attacks on the workers and the oppressed through his budget, his health care bill and tax cuts for the rich.

That being said, he has also managed to make two major foreign policy moves that push U.S. imperialist policy further to the right.

In Saudi Arabia, he formalized and weaponized an anti-Iranian alliance with the House of Saud and the royal oil puppets in the Gulf States. The U.S. has had an alliance with the Saudis for 70 years. The reactionary monarchy has been a pillar of U.S. imperialism, the Pentagon and Big Oil, with four huge U.S. military bases in the country. This new outsourcing to the Saudis of U.S. military intervention is a further turn toward U.S. proxy war and aggression in the region.

In addition, Trump managed to do severe damage to the Washington-Berlin­-Paris alliance as expressed in NATO. He went to Brussels and chewed out the European imperialist rivals for being deadbeats — i.e., not paying their NATO bills. This is great-power chauvinism run wild.

The U.S. ruling class and the Pentagon will have to ponder this. Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, made a speech after Trump’s trip saying that Europe would have to rely on itself.

U.S. imperialism has relied on NATO for decades. NATO has troops in Afghanistan. It was key to the destruction of Yugoslavia. NATO was used to stop the Portuguese revolution in 1974 and the French workers’ uprising in 1968. French and British imperialism hold down the struggle in Africa using NATO.

The Pentagon needs NATO and they know it. Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have both pledged loyalty to the alliance.

From the point of view of the workers and the oppressed, anything that weakens imperialism is a positive development. We should not moan over Trump’s boorishness and undiplomatic insensitivity. That is a problem for the ruling class.

A further problem for big sections of the corporate ruling class is Trump’s refusal to say that he will stay with the Paris climate accords. Many of the Fortune 500 corporations, such as GM, Microsoft, DuPont, Amazon, etc., are moving toward low carbon and renewable energy as a matter of policy. Almost half of the Fortune 500 companies have adopted at least one climate or clean-energy goal, with 23 of them pledging eventually to run their businesses on 100 percent renewable energy, including Walmart, Bank of America and Google.

Whether or not these pledges are fulfilled, it represents a recognition by the bosses that climate change is a real threat to them and their profits. Even companies in Appalachian coal country are not using coal any more. (New York Times, May 26) Key sections of the ruling class are finally taking seriously the climate danger, just when Trump wants to wreck any progress in environmental protection.

These developments may intensify the contradictions in the ruling class here and feed ruling class opposition to Trump. They fear that getting rid of him could create further instability in the political system. Again, that is their problem. The job of the workers and oppressed is to take advantage of the situation and expose the capitalist system for what it is.

Fronting for military-industrial complex and big business

Back from his overseas trip, Trump faced the relentless anti-Russia campaign that anti-Trump forces in the ruling class are using to push him back or bring him down.

This is a deepening of the great “Russia” diversion in the struggle against Trump. At a time when Trump is opening a full-scale assault against the workers and oppressed, the anti-Russia campaign is the last thing that the movement should be pursuing in their struggle against Trump. The Democratic Party leadership is in the vanguard of this diversionary anti-Russia campaign.

He is planning to cut $800 million from Medicaid, which would destroy rural hospitals and nursing homes. He wants to cut back drug clinics, cancer research, environmental protection, job safety and student loan forgiveness, among many other things. His budget would wipe out Meals on Wheels, cut SNAP (food stamps) by billions of dollars and attack women’s health care around the world. And this after returning from a foreign trip where he served as a front man for big business and the Pentagon war makers.

At the very moment that his administration was planning massive tax cuts for the rich and major cutbacks for the poor, Trump was in Saudi Arabia heaping praise upon one of the most reactionary monarchies in the world. He was wined and dined and stroked by the royal princes of the feudal-capitalist patriarchal Saudi clan.

Women are the virtual property of men in Saudi Arabia. Trump made not even a mention of the status of Saudi women.

The princes rolled out the red carpet, gave him a sword to dance with, projected a 175-foot picture of him on the side of a building, drank toasts to him and had photo ops of him sitting surrounded by royalty and luxury in the palace in Riyadh.

Pentagon $110 billion sale

In return, the monarchy got $110 billion worth of weapons to wage a war of aggression against the people of Yemen and raise the military threat to Iran.

The military-industrial complex, the Pentagon death machine, was able to sell Abrams tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, radar, and communications and cyber security technology, among other things. The Saudis are also getting a billion-dollar THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system like the one the Pentagon just rushed into south Korea, as well as $500 million worth of precision-guided bombs.

Much of this military package was already approved by the Obama administration last fall. Obama offered the Saudis $115 billion in military aid (Reuters, Sept. 16, 2016), but held up on sending precision-guided bombs and other weapons. Trump just went to Saudi Arabia to bask in the deal. Trump’s Pentagon-guided White House and cabinet, with three ranking generals, included the precision bombs even as the Saudis are escalating the massive killing of civilians in Yemen. The generals also added in the THAAD system.

Big business and banking alongside Trump

In addition to the military contracts, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund also signed contracts with U.S. corporations worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Dozens of the biggest names in U.S. business went in Trump’s entourage. Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Michael Corbat of Citigroup, James Gorman of Morgan Stanley, Andrew Liveris of Dow Chemical and Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone were among the U.S. chief executives attending a business forum, along with General Electric vice chair John Rice. The heads of military contractors Lockheed, Boeing and Raytheon also went along.

The deals included agreements between Saudi Aramco, the state energy giant, and U.S. companies. They involve oil services groups Schlumberger, Halliburton and Weatherford International, drilling contractors Nabors Industries and Rowan Companies, and engineering and construction companies KBR, Jacobs Engineering Group and McDermott International. (New York Times, May 17)

The Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum was held on the same day that Trump met King Salman of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi chief executives attending included Amin Nasser of Saudi Aramco and Yousef Al-Benyan of Sabic, a chemicals, plastics and fertilizer group that plans to build the world’s largest ethylene plant in Texas, jointly with Secretary of State Tillerson’s former firm, ExxonMobil.

Trump cutbacks destroy jobs

Trump and Tillerson tried to justify these deals as creating jobs. Trump made a grinning triumphant remark about his deals creating “jobs, jobs, jobs.” Actually, the Trump health care plan and his budget are job destroyers. Cutbacks in Federal employment endanger tens of thousands of government workers, from the Environmental Protection Agency and National Institutes of Health to Forest Protection Service, the Labor Department, the National Endowment for the Arts and other targeted government departments. Trump wants to cut $54 billion in federal spending in order to make up for the increase of $54 billion to the Pentagon.

His health care cutbacks will not only throw 23 million people off the health care rolls but will also throw millions out of work. Health care created more jobs than any other sector in 2016, helping to drive total annual job growth to 2.2 million, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A report released by the Commonwealth Fund and the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University found that repealing key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including the insurance premium tax credits and Medicaid expansion, could lead to 2.6 million people losing their jobs by 2019. By 2021, nearly 3 million jobs in health care and other sectors could be lost. (Modernhealthcare, Jan. 6)

Trump rages against China and Mexico for destroying jobs at home. He is scapegoating these countries in order to whip up workers and pander to his racist base. Trump says protectionism is the answer. Actually, the real job destroyer is technology. Far more jobs have been destroyed by automation than by offshoring. One authoritative study says that 13 percent of job losses in the U.S. come from trade while 87 percent have been lost to automation. (New York Times, Dec. 21, 2016)

Furthermore, capitalist overproduction is destroying jobs at this very moment. The auto industry has recently peaked and production is beginning to contract. Overproduction of malls and retail stores, together with online buying, have led to tens of thousands of layoffs and tens of thousands more to come.

Trump has no answer to other bubbling crises. For example, student loans have reached $1.3 trillion. In the first quarter of 2017, consumer debt rose to $12.73 trillion, exceeding its peak in the third quarter of 2008. (New York Times, May 17)

Booming auto sales have more to do with low rates and easy financing than they do with the urge to buy a new vehicle. In the last few years, car buyers have borrowed nearly $1 trillion to finance new and used autos. Much of that money was lent to borrowers who have bad credit ratings and might not be able to repay the debt. There has been a recent surge in delinquencies among subprime borrowers whose loans were packaged into bonds and sold to investors. ­(Counterpunch, March 18)

Expanding the debt of the masses is how capitalism is staying afloat. The expansion of debt is calculated to compensate for overproduction in the economy. It helps keep people buying things and thus keeps the circulation of capital going. It keeps profits rolling in, but sooner or later these various debt bubbles will burst.

How can students who have tens of thousands of dollars in debt buy much, let alone start a household? How can workers who owe the auto loan sharks money buy enough to create jobs for other workers? How can people who are up to their eyeballs in credit card debt keep the system afloat by further purchasing? There is no public tally for debt due to health care costs, but a leading cause of household debt is often the astronomical cost of medical care.

Trump has no answer for all this. It is doubtful he is even aware of it, let alone trying to deal with it. His preoccupation is with making money now and getting re-elected in 2020.

Trump, the gangster president

The ruling class is responsible for keeping Trump in office and for every racist, reactionary thing he does. Trump is their representative as a class and the masses must hold the capitalists accountable for every crime Trump commits against the people.

In accordance with their role in capitalist society, most high government officials, elected or appointed, have gangster-like qualities. These officials spend much of their time conspiring with the wealthy on schemes for fleecing or otherwise attacking the masses of people. Unlike the mob, they must carry out their schemes within the framework of capitalist politics.

The mob is differentiated from the capitalist establishment in that they are not constrained to carry out their crimes under cover of legality. On the contrary, mob activities function outside the boundaries of bourgeois legality with the silent consent of the ruling class and its law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, mob crimes are on a vastly smaller scale than the crimes of the Pentagon, the CIA and the FBI.

That being said, among bourgeois politicians with gangster qualities, Donald Trump stands above the crowd. He is a pampered real estate billionaire who has functioned by ordering subordinates around, cheating contractors and stiffing workers. When he gets caught in a mistake, he mobilizes his army of lawyers to clean things up.

He won the presidency by using his television career as a springboard and taking advantage of the complete bankruptcy of the Democratic Party leadership. His campaign strategists also took advantage of the undemocratic institution of the Electoral College to eke out an electoral victory while losing the popular vote. (Hillary Clinton, of course, was also a corrupt, militaristic, Wall Street-owned enemy of the people.)

Presidency as the road to (more) riches

Trump has not only refused to divest from his billions in assets but also sought to earn even more from his status in the White House. He continues to urge foreign leaders and associates to stay at his Washington hotel. He has raised the fee for membership at the Mar-a-Lago golf club from $100,000 to $200,000. He has refused to release his tax returns in order to cover up his investments. He has deals in Turkey, Azerbaijan and other places around the globe. He has drawn up a tax plan from which he and his fellow real estate moguls will reap hundreds of millions of dollars.

His daughter, Ivanka Trump, has spread her brand all over the world and continues to do so. His son-in-law and chief adviser, Jared Kushner, keeps a real estate empire of his own. “Although Mr. Kushner resigned in January from his chief executive role at Kushner Companies,” reports the New York Times of April 26, “he remains the beneficiary of trusts that own the sprawling real estate business. The firm has taken part in roughly $7 billion in acquisitions over the last decade, many of them backed by foreign partners whose identities he will not reveal.”

Now this right-wing, authoritarian, blustering buffoon, who knows nothing of bourgeois statecraft and has no inclination to learn or to seek advice, is formally in charge of U.S. imperialism.

When Trump gets U.S. capitalism in trouble with U.S. imperialist allies in NATO, or threatens corporate interests by ranting about trade wars with the People’s Republic of China (population 1.3 billion), Canada and Mexico (U.S. big business’ two largest trade markets), or cannot get the Republican Congress to throw 24 million people off health care, or passes an anti-Muslim travel ban that provokes a world countermovement, or threatens to provoke a mass rebellion by saying he will deport 11 million undocumented workers, etc., etc., all his subordinates, flunkies and lawyers cannot help him out of the jam.

The ruling class is ambivalent about Trump — for good reason. On the one hand, they are salivating over his tax cut hand-out to billionaires and big corporations. They are ecstatic about his deregulation campaign allowing, among other things, the coal companies to poison the water table, the destruction of auto emissions standards to help the auto barons and the elimination of environmental regulations to aid big industry. And, of course, they love his tax breaks for the health insurance companies.

On the other hand, they are frustrated because they were hoping to get big tax breaks from the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and they wanted to get their hands on $880 billion in cuts from Medicaid so the money could be used to fund tax breaks for the rich.

However, as much as the ruling class looks forward to profiting from Trump’s tax cuts and regulatory roll-backs, they do not want him to wreck their system. Thus, they have taken measures against him. In the first place, they have surrounded him with generals and Wall Street bankers in the White House and the Cabinet.

Trump is stonewalled on budget, overruled on NAFTA

But most recently they have given him a beating in the budget negotiations. In the latest $1.2 trillion budget, Trump came away empty handed, despite all his bullying and bluster. In the negotiations Trump was overruled by the trusted congressional representatives of the ruling class on key issues:

• Domestic spending rose, instead of $18 billion in cuts demanded by Trump.

• Trump wanted the National ­Institutes of Health budget slashed by $1.2 billion. Instead it was increased by $2 billion.

• Trump asked for the Environmental Protection Agency budget to be slashed by 33 percent. Instead it was cut by 1 percent.

• Planned Parenthood will continue to be funded at current levels in states that do not vote to defund it.

• Trump asked for $30 billion in increased military spending. He got $12.5 billion and another $2.5 billion when he comes up with a plan to defeat the Islamic State group.

• No money for his beloved Border Wall; border security funds for new technology and repairs only; in fact, funds for “border security” were slashed and there was no money for a deportation force.

• Health care subsidies for the poor will remain (the money goes to the insurance companies).

”The Trump administration said it was no longer considering pulling out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, following a day of intense lobbying from business leaders and lawmakers who rallied to quash internal White House discussion of the prospect,” wrote the Wall Street Journal on April 27. Trump was forced to call the presidents of Mexico and Canada to tell them he had dropped the repeal. He then issued a tweet saying they had called him, instead of admitting that big business and agribusiness had forced him to back down.

Trump, China and the DPRK

Washington is in the midst of a crisis in Korea. It needs the cooperation of the south Korean regime to pursue its belligerent agenda, but instead, Trump picked this moment to tell the south Korean government that he wants to tear up the trade agreement with their country. It is a “bad agreement” negotiated by President Obama, according to Trump. Actually, it was negotiated under George W. Bush.

To make matters worse, Trump told the south Korean government that it would have to pay $1 billion for the Pentagon’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system, despite an existing agreement by the U.S. to pay the cost of its deployment. National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster had to get on the phone with south Korean officials and reassure them the U.S. would pay. (WSJ, April 30)

Trump has an excessive view of his personal powers, to say the least. He claims to have a good relationship with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China. He claims that because of his phone calls with Xi, China is going to help the U.S. government out of its fix with the defiant Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Trump has tried to sweet-talk China and tough-talk the DPRK. But the truth is that the PRC leadership, especially its military, the People’s Liberation Army, cannot ignore the overriding facts of the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

In a phone call on April 23, President Xi asked Trump to refrain from escalating tensions in the region, even if the DPRK announces testing of missiles or nuclear weapons. Xi made an appeal to Trump not to go tit-for-tat and to move in the direction of negotiations.

We certainly do not agree with Xi that the DPRK should be pressured to give up its struggle to build a nuclear deterrent. But, nevertheless, the head of the PRC asked Trump to de-escalate.

One day later, on April 24, in the dead of night, the U.S. deployed the THAAD anti-missile system in south Korea, which is equipped with high-powered radar that reaches beyond the DPRK into China and can be used to spy on the Chinese military. The PRC has already said this deployment would destabilize the strategic balance in the region in favor of U.S. imperialism.

The Chinese leadership and the PLA are fully aware of the threat. It cannot be a coincidence that on the same day as the deployment, China test-launched its first domestically made aircraft carrier. The ship is due to be completed in 2020.

“China has launched its first aircraft carrier built entirely on its own, in a demonstration of the growing technical sophistication of its defense industries and determination to safeguard its maritime territorial claims and crucial trade routes. The 50,000-ton carrier was towed from its dockyard just after 9 a.m. Wednesday.” (Washington Post, April 26)

But the unspoken message is that China has its own naval power, including a fully armed and functional Soviet-built carrier which it obtained from Ukraine and refurbished. China restrained its response to Trump and the Pentagon by not deploying its armed aircraft carrier and deploying the unfinished one instead. But the message was sent.

What is also clear from these events is that U.S. imperialism and the Pentagon are the enemies of both the DPRK and the PRC. The Pentagon has been out for revenge against the DPRK because this heroic socialist country has fearlessly stood up to Washington, as firmly now as it did during the 1950-53 Korean War, when it rebuffed the mighty U.S. war machine.

U.S. imperialism is also opposed to the People’s Republic of China because — despite the growth of capitalist millionaires and billionaires inside the socialist country — the Communist Party of China and the People’s Liberation Army still stand as guardians of state-owned enterprises and economic planning, which are hallmarks of socialism.

Washington realizes that while U.S. imperialism is mired in economic stagnation and military and political crises around the globe, China is steadily growing stronger, both economically and militarily. It is building influence in Asia, Africa and Latin America through infrastructure projects that help the former colonies overcome imperialist-imposed underdevelopment.

At a moment when U.S. imperialism is off balance at home and abroad, the capitalist ruling class needs to keep their gangster-real estate president in check, so he does not add to Washington’s instability.

Despite all the attempts by the established ruling class to distance themselves from Trump, the capitalist government is the executive committee of the ruling class. Karl Marx said it long ago, and it still holds true today.

There are many ways that the bosses could get rid of him, given all the illegality of his family-enriching regime. Instead, the ruling class is responsible for keeping Trump in office and for every racist, reactionary thing he does. Trump is their representative as a class, and the masses must hold the capitalists accountable for every crime he commits against the people.

Trump & the Wall Street-Pentagon Coalition

By Fred Goldstein, posted April 18, 2017.

There has been much buzz in the capitalist media recently about Donald Trump’s “flip-flopping.” He has changed his positions 180 degrees on a whole variety of issues within a few weeks’ time.

Among the issues on which he has switched are:

  • He has bombed Syria after having opposed intervention.
  • He says China is not a currency manipulator after calling China “the world champion” of currency manipulators.
  • He has floated the idea of negotiations with north Korea after saying that he would never negotiate with that government.
  • He says that NATO “was once obsolete; it is no longer obsolete.”
  • He says he likes Janet Yellen, the head of the Federal Reserve Board, and her low interest rates, after claiming she and “other global special interests” had ruined life for middle America.
  • He says it turns out that “lots of small companies are really helped” by the Export-Import Bank, after having opposed it.

These are just a few of his reversals. They have all brought him more in line with the fundamental needs of U.S. imperialism.

Numerous explanations for Trump’s reversals have been put forward by the big-business media. For example, it is said that Trump adopts the position of the last person he has talked to. Or, Trump has no ideology and he can shift positions easily. Or, he listens to his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner. And so on.

All of these things may be true. But they mask the deeper reason for the so-called flip-flops.

Trump has been leaned on by the Pentagon and Wall Street to shift from demagogy to policy based on the reality of the core needs of U.S. imperialism.

Trump is surrounded by four generals, three former bankers from Goldman Sachs and other financiers, not to mention Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, the largest private oil company in the capitalist world. This is a veritable coalition of Wall Street, the Pentagon and big business. And, for the moment, they have reined in Trump and subordinated him to their needs. Whether he will stay in harness remains to be seen.

Trump removed ultra-rightist Steve Bannon from the Principals Committee of the National Security Council, thus bowing to the pressure of the Wall Street-Pentagon coalition, led in this instance by Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser. In doing so, he denied that Bannon had been his strategist. “I’m my own strategist,” declared Trump.

The problem with that statement is that Trump does not have a strategic cell in his brain. He can’t think politically beyond what he said yesterday.

Trump’s previous positions have been the result of blustering election demagogy. He has uttered positions that no serious imperialist politician could possibly follow through on. The applause lines that gratified his ego and won over gullible voters during the election campaign have now clashed with the hard realities of the problems of U.S. imperialism at home and abroad. However, Trump is so dense and so vain that he clung to these positions for dear life. Finally, he had to be put straight by the capitalist establishment.

Tweeting baloney

Take Trump’s belligerent, war-like posture toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Trump tweeted recently about the DPRK and its drive to obtain an intercontinental ballistic missile that can be armed with an atomic warhead.

“That’s not going to happen,” tweeted Trump. In another tweet Trump said the DPRK is “looking for trouble” and he warned that “if China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them.” (New York Times, April 17)

These were clear threats to use force against the DPRK. To underscore the threat, the Pentagon sent an aircraft carrier squadron, accompanied by Aegis missile ships, off the coast of the Korean peninsula. Washington made vague but menacing threats to “take action” if the DPRK carried out a nuclear test.

Trump — and Obama before him — has adamantly refused any negotiations with the DPRK unless it shows signs that it will give up its nuclear weapons program.

Brass rethinking negotiations

But listen to National Security Adviser McMaster speaking on a recent Sunday talk show: “It’s really the consensus with the president, our key allies in the regions … that this problem is coming to a head,” said the general. “And so it’s time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully.” (ABC News This Week, April 16)

Take the position put forward by Vice President Mike Pence while visiting the demilitarized zone in south Korea on April 17. According to the New York Times, Pence blustered that north Korea should not test “the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region.” Yet he also noted that Washington was seeking security “through peaceable means, through negotiations.”

Whether or not the peaceful language of McMaster and Pence was meant as a gesture to China without expressing real White House policy remains to be seen.

But the socialist government of the DPRK did precisely what Pence warned against. The government of Kim Jong Un defied all the blustering war-mongering of the Trump White House and the Pentagon, proudly staging a massive military parade on the 105th birthday of the founder of the DPRK, Kim Il Sung, complete with an array of  intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Pyongyang stands up to Trump and Pentagon

The DPRK stood up to military threats and the presence of a U.S. naval armada in its waters. The leadership has taken into consideration the lessons of Iraq and Libya. The U.S. imperialists used the pretext of looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to plan a massive attack, which ended in the murder of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The DPRK is also well aware of the lesson of Libya, whose leader Moammar al-Gadhafi gave up his nuclear program; Libya was later invaded and he was brutally murdered by pro-U.S. forces.

The New York Times noted: “North Korea could hardly drop these [nuclear] programs without understandably fearing an attack. Disarmament, in this view, would invite annihilation.” (New York Times, April 17)

This also speaks to the fraudulent slogan of a “denuclearized Korean peninsula,” which Washington and its allies are always promoting. The only nuclear weapons actually on the Korean peninsula belong to the DPRK. The U.S. does not need nuclear weapons in south Korea. The Pentagon has surrounded the DPRK with a “ring of fire,” including nuclear-armed submarines, nuclear-armed planes on aircraft carriers and nuclear-capable bombers at bases from Japan to Guam to Hawaii, as well as island bases throughout the region. A “denuclearized peninsula” means a disarmed DPRK.

So Trump’s flip-flop on the DPRK, as espoused by McMaster and Pence, is rooted in hard military reality. Trump tweeted that the U.S. would “deal with” the DPRK. But the military explained to him that there is no good option for U.S. imperialism in north Korea so long as Pyongyang remains steadfast in the face of nuclear blackmail.

Trump and China

Trump has publicly declared that the Chinese government is going to “help on north Korea,” so he pulled back from naming China as a currency manipulator. Such a declaration was part of his anti-China campaign. He also promised to slap tariffs on Chinese goods sold in this country. This was when he was preaching to his followers about how China was “stealing jobs” and “cheating on trade.”

The truth is that he has been forced to reject his own and Bannon’s anti-China line by financiers like Gary Cohn, head of Trump’s National Economic Council and president and CEO of Goldman Sachs for 10 years. Cohn and his Goldman Sachs cohorts, Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, have also explained to him that Janet Yellen, head of the Federal Reserve Board, is a favorite of Wall Street. She has funnelled billions of dollars to the banks, allegedly to “save the economy.”

Said Reuters on April 16: “Apparently paying more heed to Cohn and other moderates on his team, Trump last week said he was open to reappointing Janet Yellen as Federal Reserve chairman when her term is up and he also held back from naming China a currency manipulator.

“Both stances marked a reversal from his campaign when Trump criticized Yellen and vowed to label China a currency manipulator on ‘day one’ of his administration, a move that could lead to punitive duties on Chinese goods.

“Chinese authorities, faced with an insult from a foreign leader as the ruling Communist Party prepares for elections of top positions later this year, eventually would have slapped steep retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exporters that send more than $100 billion a year of goods to the Asian country. U.S. manufacturers’ profits and stock prices would take a big hit.”

The designation of Cohn from Goldman Sachs as a “moderate” paints him with a kindly brush. Finance capital in general, and Goldman Sachs in particular, is just as aggressive and ruthless in pursuit of profit as the Pentagon is in pursuit of conquest. They are two adventurist arms of the same ruling class.

Cohn, meaning Goldman Sachs, told Trump it would not be a good idea to start a trade war or a currency war with the second-largest economy on earth. The Chinese economy is growing at an annual rate of 6.9 percent, while U.S. capitalism can barely eke out 2 percent growth.

China and Korea

As for China helping the U.S. on “taming” the DPRK, it is worthwhile noting that for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, it is impossible to ignore the contrast between south and north Korea.

The north is not threatening China militarily one bit. But the south Korean puppets of U.S. imperialism are enthusiastically and hastily rushing to deploy the Pentagon’s THAAD anti-missile system. THAAD has powerful radar that can reach into China and spy on Chinese missile installations. The Chinese government has vigorously warned against this deployment and has said it would upset the “strategic balance” in the region. Seoul and Washington have ignored China’s concerns.

In Beijing the military and the political high command must be truly worrying about the possibility of having a pro-imperialist regime on their border. In the long run, China cannot afford to undermine the DPRK. It will be compelled to resist U.S. aggression against the government of Kim Jong Un.

The crisis in Korea, like the economic and geopolitical crises for U.S. imperialism around the globe, cannot be tweeted away nor can they be overcome by military means. U.S. imperialism is a colossus with feet of clay. Trump is finding that out the hard way.

Goldstein is author of Low-Wage Capitalism: Colossus with Feet of Clay and Capitalism at a Dead End, available from all major booksellers.

 

Behind the attack on Syria; Trump and the generals

“You furnish the pictures. I’ll furnish the war.” Publisher William Randolph Hearst in 1898, preparing the groundwork for the U.S. war with Spain and seizure of Cuba.

By Fred Goldstein, posted April 11, 2017.  

The Trump administration’s attack on the Syrian air force was first directed at Russia as well as the government of Bashar al-Assad. China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were secondarily targeted.

The chemical weapons attack in Syria, assuming that it was not totally staged by enemies of the Damascus government, was aimed at forcing President Donald Trump to shift his political orientation away from rapprochement with Russia — and to keep military pressure focused on the long-term goal of overthrowing the Assad government. Washington not only wants to overthrow Assad, but it also aims to place a compliant government in Damascus that will oust the Russians from Syria and the Mediterranean altogether.

The U.S. imperialist military strike came five days after Trump’s U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said, “The United States’ diplomatic policy on Syria for now is no longer focused on making the war-torn country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, leave power.”  (Reuters, March 30) The publicity surrounding the alleged chemical weapons attack was designed to reverse this Trump policy.

Charges with no evidence

The accusations against the Assad government have been unanimous and thunderous in the capitalist media, Congress and the military. All this has gone on despite there being not one moment of investigation or one element of cogent proof that Damascus had any role in the alleged attack. The Syrian government has categorically denied the charges, but its denials have received no publicity in the capitalist media.

In all, this one thing is certain: The Syrian government had no reason to carry out such an attack. It has been winning the war without using chemical weapons and has the least motive of all parties involved to carry out such an attack. The attacks hurt the Syrian government and helped the imperialists and their reactionary client groupings inside Syria.

In any criminal investigation the first things to look for are motive, means and opportunity to carry out the crime. The parties with the overriding motives, means and opportunity to do such a thing are the U.S. government and the reactionaries in Syria who are losing the war. Those in the latter group have been unsuccessfully trying to overthrow Assad and seek to draw the U.S. government into the military struggle.

Times neocon propagandists on the Syria case

The New York Times led the charge in instantaneously accusing the Assad government. The Times assigned their two most committed anti-Syrian-government propagandists to cover the story — Michael Gordon and Anne Barnard.

Gordon was co-author with Judith Miller of Times articles promoting the idea that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in the build-up to the 2003 U.S.-British invasion. Miller eventually lost her job for lying about claims of the existence of these weapons in Iraq. George W. Bush used these claims to bolster the pretext for invasion. Barnard writes like a publicist for the reactionary Syrian groups.

Progressive writer and founder of consortiumnews.com Robert Parry explained on April 5: “Gordon has been at the front lines of the neocon ‘regime change’ strategies for years. He co-authored the Times’ infamous aluminum tube story of Sept. 8, 2002, which relied on U.S. government sources and Iraqi defectors to frighten Americans with images of ‘mushroom clouds’ if they didn’t support President George W. Bush’s upcoming invasion of Iraq.”

It turned out that the aluminum tubes were meant for conventional weapons.

Seymour Hersh, an investigative reporter who exposed the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam, reported in 2015, “In spring 2013 U.S. intelligence learned that the Turkish government, through elements of the MIT, its national intelligence agency, and the Gendarmerie, a militarised law-enforcement organisation, was working directly with al-Nusra and its allies to develop a chemical warfare capability.”

Hersh continued: “Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency] and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey, that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.” (reported by Robert Parry, consortiumnews.com, Sept. 16, 2015)

Following the chemical gas attack in 2013, the Times reported that experts followed the path of missiles carrying the gas, and it led back to Damascus. It later turned out that the missiles had a range that could not have carried them from Damascus. The actual range was the distance from rebel-held territory. (consortiumnews.com, Dec. 29, 2013; linked to Times article)

Ruling-class goal: Force Trump to oppose Russia, Assad

Even during the U.S. election campaign and since Trump won, the Pentagon and the ruling class in general have aimed to undermine the Trump administration’s attempt to shift U.S. foreign policy toward more cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The horrendous pictures of the alleged chemical attack in Syria were calculated to box Trump in and leave him no alternative but to attack the Syrian government.

The drumbeats for attack on Syria came relentlessly from almost all ruling-class quarters — from Democratic Party moderates to Republican reactionaries. Trump, who has been the butt of attacks, ridicule and jokes in the corporate media, was momentarily catapulted from the status of bungling buffoon to the position of decisive leader. This praise, however, is only temporary. The military and its mouthpieces in Congress, such as Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are prodding Trump to go further and explain what’s next.

Militarization of National Security Council

In all the celebration about Trump’s sudden show of leadership, what is being omitted is that he has militarized the government at the top. He received much praise when he pushed Stephen Bannon off the government’s most powerful committee, the Principals Committee of the National Security Council.

Bannon is an ultra-right extremist with an apocalyptic vision of war in Asia and is viciously against Islamic civilization. But the cheers for Bannon’s removal have drowned out any response to the shift in the Principals Committee. Now there are four generals on the council — who are nothing but extremists with weapons.

Under Trump the top foreign policy body of the capitalist government has gone from having the facade of civilian rule to open military control of foreign policy. The attack on Syria must be seen in that light.

Trump’s secretary of defense is James “Mad Dog” Mattis, a former Marine general. Mattis oversaw Middle East operations as chief of Central Command until his retirement in 2013. Mattis’ many colorful quotes include, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”

Mattis opposed President Barack Obama’s Iran deal. He led the attack on Fallujah in 2004, which destroyed this Iraqi city of 300,000 people. The campaign used poisonous and radioactive depleted uranium munitions and caused massive civilian casualties. His troops massacred 24 civilians in Haditha city in 2005. (democracynow.org, Jan. 26, 2012) Mattis refused to apologize. He has been a true military extremist.

The head of the Department of Homeland Security is retired Marine Maj. Gen. John Kelly, a border security hawk who was in charge of Caribbean and South American operations as head of the U.S. Southern Command. He opposed Obama’s plans to close Guantanamo Bay prison and has stoked fears by raising the specter of terrorists entering the country through the U.S.-Mexican border.

Trump’s national security adviser is Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who is still on active duty and is a former tank commander in Iraq and Afghanistan. McMaster replaced Marine Gen. Michael Flynn after Flynn was ousted. McMaster played a key role in expelling Bannon from the NSC Principals Committee. The military unseated Bannon, the ultra-right ideologue, to prevent him from interfering with or listening in on their plans.

Also on the committee is Marine Lt. Gen. Joseph Dunford, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was a commander during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and a commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2013. He told the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2015 that Russia is the “greatest threat to U.S. interests.” (Washington Post, July 9, 2015)

The U.S. military plans to have a wide focus that includes Russia, China, the DPRK, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. They especially strive to maintain hostility to Russia now because Washington covets Ukraine and is outraged that the Russians moved quickly to frustrate a total imperialist takeover of that country. The Pentagon is a firm backer of the fascist regime in Kiev and plans to feed it more powerful weapons. This is all linked to its anti-Russian campaign.

Washington to Putin: We’re the boss

Last year and at the beginning of this year, a joint Russian, Turkish and Iranian task force discussed political settlement issues for the Syria conflict at talks in Astana, Kazakhstan.  (Reuters, Feb. 16) The U.S. had no part in the talks.

Washington and the U.S. military reject the political involvement of the Russian government in settling the Syrian question. U.S. air strikes on the Syrian airbase were meant to show Putin who is boss in the region.

The same scenario was played out in 2016 when then-Secretary of State John Kerry was engaged with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in working on military coordination and peace talks about Syria. After a marathon negotiating session on Sept. 8, Kerry called the deal “a potential turning point” in the conflict, if implemented. (CNBC, Sept. 9, 2016)

However, barely a week after Kerry’s announcement, the New York Times reported on Sept. 17: “The United States acknowledged on Saturday [Sept. 17] that its warplanes had carried out an airstrike in Syria that resulted in the deaths of Syrian government troops. American military officials said the pilots in the attack, in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, believed they were targeting the Islamic State.”

The article stated, “Russia’s defense ministry said the United States attack had killed 62 Syrian troops, wounded 100 more.” This attack broke up the talks and all possibility of working out a peace plan.

DPRK and China also subject of Syrian strike

The military rushed the U.S. attack on Syria in order to deliver a major diplomatic slap at the People’s Republic of China at the very moment when Chinese President Xi Jinping was meeting with Trump at his Florida White House. Trump did not tell him about the attack until the meeting was over.

The strike was also meant to threaten the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. To follow up the strike on Syria, the Pentagon is now sending an aircraft carrier strike force toward Korean waters. The carrier Carl Vinson, accompanied by missile ships and frigates, is steaming there from Singapore to arrive in time for the 105th birthday of historic Korean communist leader Kim Il Sung. April 15 is celebrated in the DPRK as “the day of the sun.”

Trump has given the military a long leash. He is fostering their revenge plans against the DPRK, which defeated the U.S. invasionary force in the Korean War. The U.S. military has never gotten over it.

Trump has let the Pentagon send more troops to Syria, bomb large numbers of civilians in Mosul and increase drone strikes in Yemen and Somalia — all without the White House signing off on these operations. There has been a major escalation of U.S. military killing of civilians under these new rules.

By militarizing the government, Trump has given more priority to the Pentagon and U.S. imperialism’s losing battle to overcome Washington’s diminished position in the world. Trump’s foreign policy slogan is really: “Make the U.S. military empire great again.” But this authoritarian, racist, misogynist, bigoted buffoon has no other talent than to bluster about giving orders. He cannot see that this dangerous course can only end in disaster for U.S. imperialism.

Goldstein is the author of Low-Wage Capitalism and Capitalism at a Dead End. Books can be purchased at several websites.

Diversions about Russia, lies about Korea

By Fred Goldstein posted on March 22, 2017.

March 20 — Two issues today have been brought to the forefront by the capitalist establishment. Each one aims to push the people in the U.S. along dangerous political paths.

The first is whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the U.S. election.

The second is the big lie that the U.S. is under threat from north Korea.

Anti-government demonstration in Seoul.

As this is being written, all eyes of the big business media are focused on congressional testimony by the heads of the two top spy agencies, FBI Director James Comey and Director of National Intelligence Mike Rogers. The two have now testified that Trump lied about being wiretapped by Obama and also affirmed that there is an ongoing investigation into whether there were connections between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. They are looking to see if criminal charges are warranted.

The common line of the Democratic Party leadership and much of the capitalist establishment is that the Russian government interfered with “our democracy” by influencing the election in favor of Trump. The united front between the FBI and the DNI during the congressional hearing might very well be the beginning of an attempt to severely undermine Trump. This would sharply accelerate the political crisis in U.S. capitalist society. Only time will tell.

‘Russian interference’ a diversion

Despite the unfolding gravity of the struggle against Trump within the ruling class, the basis for the workers and oppressed to oppose Trump should not rest on connections with Russia. That is a problem for the ruling class and its foreign policy.

The problem for the working class is that he is promoting Islamophobia as well as racism against Mexicans and immigrants, while fostering police terror, sexism, anti-Semitism and a belligerent and militaristic foreign policy, especially in the Middle East and Asia.

The campaign to prove that Russia interfered in the election, despite its potential major political consequences, is both a diversion and a political trap. Focusing on Russia takes attention away from the issues vital to the workers and the ­oppressed.

Phony promises of jobs and health care

For months and months Trump spouted bombastic demagogy aimed at getting the working-class and small-business vote. He declared he was going to bring back jobs, preserve Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, and guarantee “great health care,” among other promises.

On the jobs question, he has got his friends in big business — such as General Motors, General Electric, Ford and Intel, among others — to talk about investment plans, which had been long in the making, as if they were part of Trump’s “bring back jobs” campaign. But everyone should know that no corporation decides to make a billion-dollar investment after one meeting with Trump. Such investments are planned months and years ahead of time and are strictly based on profit projections.

The bosses are stroking him because he has promised them tax cuts and deregulation. But when they get back to the boardroom and meet with their investment bankers, their decisions will depend on cold calculation of the bottom line, Trump notwithstanding.

On the question of “great health care,” Trump has already exposed himself by getting behind a health care bill that is basically a transfer of wealth from the workers and the poor to the ultra-rich. The bill would give them tax cuts of $600 billion. At the same time it would cut $880 billion from Medicaid. It would leave at least 24 million people without health insurance by 2026 and raise insurance premiums for millions, especially for the elderly. (Congressional Budget Office report, March 13)

As for the broad masses, Trump’s budget says it all. He will hand over an additional $54 billion to the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex. At the same time, the budget will cut social services, environmental protection, science and art across the board.

Community programs such as aid to coal miners in Appalachia, community development programs in cities and towns across the country, help for the hungry such as Meals on Wheels, funds for opioid clinics, early education and child care, and a myriad of other projects will be either eliminated or cut to the bone. While many of Trump’s supporters are rich or well-off, there are poorer ones who believe his demagogy. Now they will be hurt badly by these cuts.

Democratic Party trap

Liberals and the Democratic Party leadership, who are tied hand and foot to big capital, are hoping to bring down Trump and at the same time push people into the Democratic Party camp, even those who were opposed to Clinton. Russia is an easy target. The last thing these politicians want is a genuine mass struggle of resistance against Trump.

The anti-Russia howl from all quarters of the ruling class and the political establishment has to do with blocking any attempt by Trump and his ultra-rightist adviser Steve Bannon to shift foreign policy away from emphasizing conflict with Russia and direct it toward conflict in Asia and a “civilizational” conflict with Islam. This is the prevailing ideology in the clique around Trump.

The bourgeoisie may strongly suspect, and with much justification, that Trump could be hanging on to Russia out of business considerations. Even if Trump’s motives are based purely on greed, they dovetail with Bannon’s ideology.

In any event, the movement must not get swept into the trap of trying to oust Trump on an anti-Russia wave. The way to fight Trump is not to take sides with the Democratic Party’s top leadership, who for years have promoted war and neoliberalism.

Nor should anyone fall for the “interference in our democracy” argument. This is a democracy of the capitalist class, of the rich. When they talk about “our democracy,” they mean the “democratic right” of the various factions in the capitalist class to push the masses into electing one or another political grouping that will help the bosses exploit and plunder the workers and the oppressed, at home and abroad.

To avoid that trap, the workers have to have their own independent party that speaks in the name of all the oppressed and exploited and has a program of struggle to advance their class interests.

U.S. threat to north Korea

The other issue that the bosses are focusing on is the alleged threat to the U.S. from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Within days of his confirmation, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson threatened the DPRK by announcing in Seoul that “the era of strategic patience is over.” Tillerson said, “Nothing is off the table.” This was widely interpreted by the capitalist media to mean threatening military action.

Tillerson’s remarks, in conjunction with the Pentagon launching massive military maneuvers in Korea, amount to a dangerous threat by Washington against the DPRK.

Operation Foal Eagle

Right now the Pentagon has embarked on two months of massive military maneuvers involving both the U.S. and the Seoul regime on land, in the sky and in the waters off the Korean peninsula.

Operation Foal Eagle involves 7,500 U.S. troops and 300,000 south Korean puppet troops in a simulated invasion of the DPRK. The central organizing force is the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, decked with F-15 and F-16 fighter bombers. F-22s have also been flown into U.S. bases in south Korea. The Carl Vinson is accompanied by the guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer, among other warships. Armed drones have also been dispatched to the area by the Pentagon.

A London newspaper reported that the Navy SEAL unit which assassinated Osama bin Laden is participating in the massive U.S.-south Korean war maneuvers for the first time. It added that “Along with other elite U.S. units including the Army Rangers, Delta Force and the Green Berets, SEAL Team Six will take part in annual training exercises alongside south Korean forces, according to Yonhap News.

“‘A bigger number of and more diverse U.S. special operation forces will take part in this year’s Foal Eagle and Key Resolve exercises to practise missions to infiltrate into the North, remove the North’s war command and demolition of its key military facilities,’ a South Korean official told the news agency.

“‘SEAL Team Six would practice removing Kim Jong-un and destroying North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction, South Korea’s Defence Ministry told the Joong Ang Daily newspaper.’” (The Independent, March 15)

The message of regime change is loud and clear

To add to the U.S. imperialist threat, the Pentagon has begun deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system to south Korea. THAAD is aimed not only at the DPRK but also at the People’s Republic of China. Despite its name, it is a highly aggressive system aimed at blocking retaliation after the power that has it launches an attack. The goal of THAAD is to give the U.S.-south Korean forces first strike capability.

The Pentagon rushed to get THAAD deployed because south Korea’s former president, Park Geun-hye, has been ousted for corruption and political reaction after a year of mass demonstrations. It was urgent to Washington that THAAD be installed before new elections, as Moon Jae-in, a liberal who favors reestablishing relations with the north, is expected to be elected the next president.

To listen to Washington, you would think that the DPRK had stationed soldiers and nuclear missiles pointing at the U.S. in bases in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, across Canada and on submarines in the waters off the Atlantic and Pacific.

But the opposite is true. The DPRK is a small socialist country of 25 million people. It is surrounded by the most powerful military forces on earth. The Pentagon has tens of thousands of troops, ships and planes surrounding the DPRK. There is a ring of U.S. bases strung from south Korea to Japan, Hawaii, Guam, the Mariana Islands and elsewhere.

DPRK deserves solidarity

The DPRK began its nuclear weapons program in earnest after President George W. Bush, in his January 2002 State of the Union address, designated Iran, Iraq and the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea as the “Axis of Evil.” Shortly thereafter the Pentagon invaded Iraq with “shock and awe” and captured and killed President Saddam Hussein.

In 2003, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi surrendered his nuclear program for fear of a similar U.S. invasion. But in 2011 Washington, the French and the British invaded Libya and Qaddafi was captured and killed, just like Saddam Hussein.

The DPRK drew the only conclusion it could: the need for a deterrent that would stay the hand of imperialism.

In fact, the DPRK, contrary to Pentagon propaganda, is not trying to develop its missile system and its nuclear weapons in order to attack the U.S. It is trying to develop a credible deterrent to a U.S. or south Korean invasion.

Washington has threatened the DPRK with nuclear attack or attack on its nuclear installations numerous times. The DPRK agreed to suspend its nuclear program several times, during the Agreed Upon Framework in 1994 and during the six-party talks, which began in 1998. Both times the U.S. walked away from its commitments under the talks and instead imposed sanctions on the DPRK.

The bottom line is that the Pentagon had suffered its first military defeat during the Korean War of 1950-53, when it invaded the north twice and was driven back twice. The U.S. military wants to reverse that defeat and has been trying to do so for nearly 65 years.

Right now the DPRK is immersed in a valiant and desperate struggle to survive against overwhelming odds. It deserves the support of all progressive humanity and especially of the movement here, in the belly of the beast.