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The white-Left Part 1: The two meanings of white

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Withdrawal Psychosis: The War has Ended but the Danger has only Begun

“War is Hell!” This is the lesson General William Tecumseh Sherman learned from his experience in America's deadliest war for its people. He meant it to apply to all wars at all stages. He elaborated, “You might as well appeal against a thunderstorm as against these terrible hardships of war. War is cruelty, there is no use trying to reform it......it is all hell.” Those who expected a more peaceful, well organized, and gentler evacuation of US forces from Afghanistan have apparently forgotten this fact. The truth is that there has never been a better evacuation of a defeated occupying army than the one just carried out by the Biden administration in Afghanistan.

Failed military occupations never end well. It's always a debacle. Joe Biden managed this one better than most. The following brief survey of the withdrawal of the United States from Vietnam in 1975, Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the French withdrawal from Algeria, will bear this out. It will also show that they share some features in common, including the occupation government collapsing much faster than anyone expected, unnecessary refugee deaths in the crush to leave, and valuable arms caches falling into the hands of the victorious enemy.

One other feature of these bitter post-war periods is that the extreme right-wing attempts to use the emotions and forces unleashed by what I call “withdrawal psychosis,” to make gains in the direction of fascism, or even to topple governments. The rise of Adolph Hitler on the backs German grievances resulting from its defeat in WWI is the classic example, but there are many others. As we shall see, the far-right Le Pen dynasty in France was the sour grapes of the collapse of French colonial rule in Algeria. It is also more than historical coincidence that the “Reagan Revolution” occurred after the US withdrawal from Vietnam, or that the Soviet Union fell after its withdrawal from Afghanistan. In both cases the right was able leverage the widespread shame of defeat to force a shift in the direction of fascism at the center. Now we see the Trump Republicans trying to leverage the popular perception that Biden ended the war in Afghanistan in a withdrawal debacle to advance their agenda for defeating Biden's progressive program and establishing an unconstitutional fascist government over the United States. 

The withdrawal from a failed colonial project always creates a perfect storm for the extreme right-wing in the imperialist country. Due to the Shermanist nature of war, such evacuations never go well. NEVER! Even in situations where the population of the colonizing country has opposed the war for years, and been demanding an exit, their national pride is hurt as some images from the evacuation must inevitably prove embarrassing. There are also many constituencies among both the colonizing and colonized nations that strongly oppose the disengagement.

Martha Raddatz on assignment in Afghanistan
First among these are those who make a business of war. The military still has many soldiers not ready to give up the fight, and commanders that have built their careers on the war. There are always a lot of respected military figures that never supported withdrawal—and they get to have their say. There are always a lot of arms merchants, military contractors, reporters, aid workers, NGOs, etc. that have made their living off the war, sometimes for decades, and they are upset too.

The national pride is hurt, and the nation is embarrassed by the finally revealed truths of the war and the final outcome of the expenditure of so much blood and treasure. At the same time, the military that before represented the harshest reality of occupation, now get to shine like heroes. The baby killers suddenly become baby savers. The media figures and journalists, who have been the biggest boosters of the war, get to shape the narrative. The whole imperialist system is responsible for the war, and its outcome, but blame can't be allowed to fall where it squarely belongs—a national scapegoat is required.   

Under these conditions. the fascist elements try to rally those forces around them to further their agenda. These dynamics helped to create the Le Pen dynasty in France out of the fall of Algeria, and the Reagan years in the US after the fall of Vietnam. Now the Trump fascists are trying it again around the fall of Afghanistan—they are using it to build their insurrection—and they are making progress.

I. The fall of Saigon was worst 

Perhaps no people are more familiar with the hell of war than the Vietnamese. They started fighting for their national independence in 1945, first against the Japanese occupiers, then against the returning French colonialists, and finally against their American backers. They fought the United States the longest. Starting with US ground and air support for the French effort during, and preceding, its final defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, they fought the Americans for more than twenty years, and it was the Americans that extracted the highest price by killing more than three million Vietnamese, two-thirds of them civilians. And that hell didn't stop, neither for the Vietnamese nor the Americans, as the North Vietnamese, and their National Liberation Front allies made their triumph march to victory, while the Americans beat a hasty retreat, 30 years later in 1975. That finally ended what the Vietnamese called “The American War.” BTW, this is the same name the Afghans have given to their 20-year occupation by US forces—another “American War.”

As the North Vietnamese pushed south in the Spring of 1975, panic grew throughout South Vietnam and the roads became flooded by refugees fleeing the war. When Da Nang, South Vietnam's second largest city, was surrounded in March, all commercial flights out of the airport stopped. On 29 March, Saigon sent a plane to evacuate refugees thought to be hiding at the airport. It turned into a complete fiasco. When the plane landed, the tarmac was immediately swarmed by thousands of Vietnamese that had been hiding in hangers. South Vietnamese soldiers used their force of arms to push aside the women and children, and put themselves at the head of the line. When the over-packed plane finally took off, it did so by rolling over people clogging the runway—killing them, while other soldiers, angry at being left behind, opened fire on the ascending plane. Seven Vietnamese that had been clinging to the landing gear and cargo ramp fell to their deaths. One woman waved good-bye from 3,000 ft., as she fell. 

It was but a preview of the horrors to come. Hundreds more died as the thousands of refugees and soldiers that flocked to the Da Nang docks tried to use anything that floated to get to what they thought was safety in Saigon. Many more were trampled on the roads as soldiers, their officers having already fled, fought with refugees to be at the head of the lines.

A week after the fall of Da Nang, a South Vietnamese pilot defected and bombed the presidential palace in Saigon. Even as the communists were closing in on the capital, US Ambassador Graham Martin refused to consider an evacuation, fearing it would lead to widespread panic in the city. As many Americans, and Vietnamese with money, started leaving the city on commercial flights, the panic came anyway.

South Vietnamese government officials, and many others who had worked for the American war effort came to the US Embassy begging for a way out, but the US had no plans to evacuate their Vietnamese allies. The only US program to evacuate Vietnamese civilians was a plan to fly out 3,000 Vietnamese orphans code-named "Operation BabyLift." The first flight crashed, killing 138, including 78 children.  Finally, Washington ordered Ambassador Martin to begin the evacuation of US citizens. All over Saigon, quickie marriages were being performed for American men hoping to get their Vietnamese girlfriends out.

A week before the fall of Saigon, South Vietnamese President Thieu fled the country. Ambassador Martin had ordered him to step down, hoping the communists might negotiate. So as not to create more of a panic, evacuation flights were leaving in the dead of night from the Saigon airport, with Americans and a few closely connect Vietnamese, until the communists bombed it on April 28th. From then on, helicopters were the only way out. The next day, a secret code, the song “White Christmas” was played on the radio, signaling the start of the final withdrawal.

As word got out about the US evacuation, panicked Vietnamese surrounded the embassy, with people in the back squishing those in the front up against the gate. Eight hundred Americans, and thousands of their Vietnamese staff and their families were to be bused to the airport in convoys, but South Vietnamese soldiers, angry at being abandoned, surrounded the airport and refused to let it pass. The convoy had to turn around. Hundreds of Vietnamese that had been told to gather at various evacuation points around the city were simply abandoned.

April 29th, there were still two thousand Americans and Vietnamese at the US embassy, and the only way out was via helicopter. All that day, thousands of Vietnamese surrounded the embassy, crowding, panicked, trying to get in; looking up at the Chinooks coming and going. Some would scale the fence only to be beaten back by the Marines inside. As night fell, the pace increased, with helicopters landing and taking off every 10 minutes. They were ferrying the evacuates to ships of the 7th fleet in the South China Sea. South Vietnamese Air Force pilots were also escaping by helicopters, and as the decks filled up, with no place to land, many were pushed overboard, or simply ditched in the sea.

There now was complete chaos in Saigon. With the police and army gone, looting was taking place all over the city. There was little food in the besieged city, and people were hungry. Washington wanted to end the evacuation as soon as possible. With only 19 more helicopter flights planned, Ambassador Martin was told to take only Americans and leave the Vietnamese behind. At 4:30 am the next morning the embassy send out its last message and destroyed its communications equipment. The White House ordered the ambassador to leave on the next helicopter. Only the Marines were left. 

The US Marines scrambled up the stairs to the roof of the embassy, from which they were to be evacuated. They were chased by panicked Vietnamese. As the Marines climbed the stairs, they locked the doors behind them. The Vietnamese broke through the doors. The Marines threw canisters of CS gas down on them. All over Saigon, Vietnamese were burning or destroying anything that connected them to the Americans, pictures, documents, even high-heel shoes and mini-skirts.

The last two US soldiers killed in Vietnam, Charles McMahon and Darwin Judge, were left behind in a Saigon hospital. 

At 7:46 am, April 30th 1975, the last American helicopter left the roof of the embassy. Three hours later, North Vietnamese tanks rolled into the heart of the city. That's how it was done the first time the United States was forced to abandon a failed occupation.

II. On to Afghanistan

We now know that US involvement in Afghanistan begin about four years after it left Vietnam, even before the Soviet Union invaded. On July 3, 1979 President Jimmy Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the Mujaheddin fighting the pro-Soviet government in Kabul. The idea came from Carter's National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. He thought that if the Mujaheddin could be built up to be a more formidable fighting force, the USSR would be forced to invade, which is exactly what happened. The idea, Brzezinski said, was to give the Soviet Union its own Vietnam war. The cautionary proverb, “When you begin a journey of revenge, start by digging two graves” comes to mind because Brzezinki's scheme also laid the basis for America's second Vietnam more than 40 years later.

The Brits were the first to invade Afghanistan in the modern era. They first sent troops into Kabul in 1839, only to be forced to retreat three years later. Further British attempts to conquer Afghanistan in 1879 and 1919 also ended in defeat. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 met with a similar fate, and they were forced to withdraw 10 years later. After the Afghanistan People’s Democratic Party was defeated in 1992, there was much squabbling among the various Mujaheddin factions. The Taliban was founded by some of those Mujaheddin in Kandahar in 1994 with Mohammed Omar as its leader. They desired an Afghanistan ruled by a very extreme version of Islamic law, and they came out on top

Role of Opium

One can't really understand the ebb and tide of various forces in Afghanistan without realizing that opium has long been the main cash crop in this dirt-poor country. Both the CIA and Taliban have been willing to use this drug trade to its political advantage. As the CIA was ramping up its support for the Mujaheddin fighting the Soviet-backed Afghan government, it looked the other way as opium production grew from roughly 110 tons annually in the 1970s to 2,200 tons in 1991. 

No cargo carrier likes to return with an empty load. In a pattern that they would repeat while supporting the anti-communists in Laos during the Vietnam war, and the contra fighting the Nicaraguan revolutionaries in the 1980s, the same transports that took weapons and supplies to the CIA-backed fighters, would bring drugs out on the return trip. Much of the drug traffic that has plagued American cities in past decades was enhanced by this activity. Air America, the CIA airline responsible for much of this trade in Southeast Asia, also played a role in the 1975 evacuation of Saigon. By 1984, 60% of the heroin in the US market, and a whopping 80% of the European heroin market, found its origins in the poppy field of Afghanistan, and a string of labs that had popped up along its border with Pakistan. 

After the Taliban banned opium production in 2000 the harvest was reduced by 94%. Together with a devastating drought, this caused much economic suffering and hunger in Afghanistan. It's one of the reasons the Taliban fell so quickly after the US invaded in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Northern Alliance forces the US backed to overthrow the Taliban had already been fighting it to restore the opium business.  To a large extent, the struggle between the Taliban and the US-backed warlords was a turf war over who would reap the benefits of this profit. Even with the Taliban defeated, and the US-backed forces in power, the drug trade rolled on. In January 2013, Kam Air, the private Afghan airline from which Glenn Beck leased six planes for his Christian evacuation from Mazar-i-Sharif, was by investigated the US for opium smuggling. 

US beats Taliban back to the villages

Following 9/11, the United States issued an ultimatum to the Taliban—turn over Bin Laden and his crew or face the consequences. The Taliban said they would turn him over to the International Criminal Court, but not the aggrieved party. That wasn't good enough for the US, which then got NATO to invoke Article 5, the collective defense mandate, and the UN Security Council to pass Resolution 1368, which legitimized the invasion as an act of self-defense.

After the US, and it allies, Germany, Britain, Canada and others, began their attack on Oct. 7 with ballistic missiles, warplanes, and long-range bombers, the Taliban regime lost quickly with Kabul falling without a fight on Nov. 13, and Kandahar, birthplace of the Taliban, falling on Dec. 7. In just 2 months, the US and allies had already won. What followed was a 20-year foreign occupation, and fight against a resurgent Taliban.

As the Taliban started its 20-year struggle to return to power, it changed its attitude towards this drug trade. Instead of attempt to ban it, it encouraged and taxed it.  By 2007, the Afghan opium crop reached a record 8,038 tons, and provided 93% of the world's illegal heroin. In 2008, the Taliban collected an estimated $425 million in “taxes” on this trade. It was their main source of income in their long bid to return to power. By 2017 the annual Afghan opium harvest reached a staggering 9,920 tons.

In the early years of the US occupation, Colin Powell, George W. Bush's Secretary of State, suggested a strong anti-narcotics program to eradicate the opium crop with aerial defoliates, but US ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, and then finance minister Ashraf Ghani, who as president fled Kabul this August before the Taliban had fired a shot to take the city, opposed the program, claiming it would lead to “widespread impoverishment,” unless billions more was forthcoming in foreign aid.

Afghan civilians have paid the highest price in this war, both from Taliban terror and the US war on terror. One early example happened on July 1, 2002 when a US AC-130 gunship and B-52 bomber blew away a house full of wedding guests in Oruzgan, killing 30, and injuring 117. The US claimed it was self-defense because members of the wedding party fired into the air in celebration with their Kalashnikovs. Washington refused to issue an apology.

While the Aug. 29 Kabul drone strike that was supposed to be targeting an ISIS car bomber, but apparently killed ten including an aid worker and seven children, was been well reported on because it is seen as a component of Biden's fiasco, the US media rarely reported on the regularity of civilian deaths that accompanied the way the US waged this war, particularly as the number of drone strikes have been dramatically increased over the years. Without knowing the civilian carnage the US has caused, particularly in the countryside where 75% of the people live, one can never understand why so many Afghans would prefer Taliban rule to US occupation. 

By the end of his presidency, George W. Bush had 36,000 US troops fighting alongside 32,000 NATO forces. For George W. Bush Afghanistan was just a stopover on the way to Iraq. That was his real target. He was an oil man and Afghanistan didn't have any.

Obama passes on the Afghan War

Barack Obama came into office pledging to end the US military role in Afghanistan, and promising to unwind “a decade of war.” Instead, he wound up increasing US troop levels to the highest level of any US president, to more than 100,000 in 2011. That was about the same time he had withdrawn the final US combat forces from Iraq. Then ISIS made itself felt, and Obama sent 5,000 troops back into Iraq, while withdrawal plans for Afghanistan pretty much stalled. There were still about 8,400 US soldiers in Afghanistan when he left office in January 2017.

Trump's campaign promise

According to AP News “President Donald Trump made the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan a promise before the 2016 presidential election,” but he also told CNN, “at this point, you probably have to (stay) because that thing will collapse about two seconds after they leave." As his 2020 re-election bid approached, Trump saw the need to throw a bone to his campaign promise to bring US soldiers home from “endless wars.” With polling indicating 75% of US adults favored bring troops home from Afghanistan, Trump realigned his position to support the that popular opinion. 

Trump's pursuit of peace with the Taliban was never driven by what's best for Afghanistan, or even what's best for US foreign policy. It was driven by what Trump thought would help him get re-elected. Andrew Watkins, a senior analyst for Afghanistan at the International Crisis Group, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “There is very little faith that this American administration is following and implementing the February deal for any reasons other than domestic political concerns," 

After 9 Doha meetings in 18 months, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had negotiated a deal with the Taliban on February 29. Trump later said of these negotiations “We’re dealing very well with the Taliban.” He wasted no time using it to promote his campaign, telling a March 2 rally “Two days ago, the United States signed a deal with the Taliban so that after 19 years of conflict and very close to 20, we can finally begin to bring our amazing troops back home.” The Washington Post summed it up: "The United States was to get out of Afghanistan in 14 months and, in exchange, the Taliban agreed not to let Afghanistan become a haven for terrorists and to stop attacking U.S. service members." That set the check-out date for May 1, 2021, comfortably after the election.

In an effort to push the Taliban to make a deal, the US conducted a record number of air strikes on Taliban targets in 2019, as many as 900 per month. As the bombing increased, the allegations of civilian casualties reviewed by the Pentagon more than doubled to 563. The UN found that 546 civilians had been killed by US air strikes in 2019. The Trump Administration's response to the increasing number of complaints was to slash the number of people reviewing the complaints. The Pentagon has been less open about civilian causalities in Afghanistan, than they have in Iran and Syria. US media generally has been complicit in the cover-up. One of the things that so turned the Afghan people against the occupation was the way the Americans seem to be able to kill Afghan civilians with impunity. 

Trump didn't negotiate a general ceasefire. The Afghan government wasn't even at the table. It had no say in this agreement that left its forces fighting and dying while its US allies retired to the safety of a protected status. In the first 45 days after of agreement there were over 4,500 Taliban attacks on Afghan forces, resulting in over 900 causalities.

The agreement didn't include a denunciation of Al Qaeda, and there was no way to enforce it if the Taliban reneged. It did include Trump ordering the release of 5,000 captured Taliban fighters in 2020, and got the Pakistanis to release a top Taliban leader in its custody. Trump didn't waste any time in beginning the US drawdown either. Forward Operating Base Lightning, a US military base in southeast Afghanistan, was vacated less than a month after the agreement was signed. With the end of joint patrols, air support, and drone strikes, the Taliban went on the offensive against the Afghan army before the ink on the agreement was dry. After Trump's May 1 deadline expired, they moved rapidly to seize most of the country.

H.R. McMaster, one of Trump's national security advisors called it “a surrender agreement.” For Trump, it was entirely transactional. He gave the Taliban whatever it wanted so long as they gave him a peace deal he could announce before the election, and a lack of US casualties. By early October, Trump was promising that the US would be out of Afghanistan by Christmas. 

In spite of these campaign promises, his administration was doing little to insure an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan. The US agreed to withdraw from five major military bases 135 days after the agreement was signed, and long before Biden's inauguration. As Secretary of State Tony Blinken told Congress “We inherited a deadline; we didn't inherit a plan.” For example, under the leadership of Stephen Miller, they were slow-walking the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program so that very few Afghan allies got the visas they were promised. The Trump Administration issued only 523 Afghan Special Immigrant Visas its last 10 months in office.

This was the situation Trump left Biden. He bragged President Biden “couldn't stop the process” of withdrawing from Afghanistan on whatever extension of the Trump timeline he could negotiate with the Taliban. Given what the world now knows about the relative strengths of the Taliban versus the Afghan army, the only other alternative would have been to massively increase US troop strength, probably back up to Obama era limits, and to go back to war with the Taliban.

Biden ends the war

Joe Biden did the one thing that his three predecessors in the White House failed to do. He really did remove US troops from Afghanistan. The heat he has taken for doing so gives you a clue why both Obama and Trump reneged on their promises to withdraw sooner. Wars are much easier to get into than get out of. This should be remembered by all future presidents.

Of course, Biden isn't being criticized so much for withdrawing from Afghanistan, as he is for the way he withdrew. Everybody agrees with withdrawing, even those who think he should have kept Bagram Airbase and 2,500 US troops there to maintain the status quo. The problem is the way the withdrawal played out. Like Vietnam, refugees fell from aircraft, but this time the cameras caught them. Thirteen US soldiers and several hundred Afghans were killed in a terrorist attack, and hundreds of US citizens and green-card holders, and thousands of Afghan SIV applicants, were left behind.

Still, he managed to extend the peace with the Taliban four months past the May 1st exit date negotiated by Trump, and by getting the cooperation of the Taliban in securing Kabul after the Afghan government collapsed and avoiding complete chaos in the city, they were able to get over a hundred thousand Americans and Afghan refugees through the inevitable mobs of people absolutely desperate to leave, into Kabul Airport, and onto planes out of Afghanistan. From that point-of-view, it was a remarkable success.

There was the one suicide bomber that got through, with the resulting tragic loss of life. Everyone knew the desperate crowds outside the airport gates represented a juicy “soft target” for a terrorist, and in Afghanistan there are many. Every day the evacuation was extended gave them more chances to try. The ISKP bomber saw the Taliban as enemy, maybe even more than the US. It would have been perfect if this evacuation had gone off without loss of life. It would have been another thing entirely had the peace not held with the Taliban, and the withdrawal had to be conducted under hostile enemy fire, as was the case with Vietnam. 

Biden's biggest problem was that he over-promised—he buckled under pressure. When George Stephanopoulos pressed him, he shouldn't have taken the expedient way out and promised to leave no Americans behind. That was his biggest blunder in this whole episode. They didn't even have an accurate count of US citizens in Afghanistan. How could they? He might as well promise that no lives would be lost in the next hurricane.

Lies Agreed Upon

There are a number of representations of the way Biden is supposed to have botched the withdrawal that are widely agreed upon, not only by the Fox News-type perpetual Biden critics, but also more mainstream media, and Democratic politicians, that are just flat out wrong:

1) Equating images of helicopters evacuating people from the US Embassy in Saigon in 1975 with those of helicopters evacuating people from the US Embassy in Kabul.

Fact Check: Helicopters were regularly used for transport from the embassy to the airport in Kabul, Ground transport was considered too dangerous or inconvenient. Those Afghanistan helo images could have come from long before the evacuation. On the other hand, after the national liberation fighters shelled the Saigon airport, helicopters became the only way out, and those helicopters weren't going to airports, they were going to US Navy ships off-shore. Similar images; used to mislead.

2) Biden should have held Bagram airbase because it's more secure, has two runways, and could handle more air traffic.

Fact Check: Of course it's more secure; it's in the middle of nowhere. The vast majority of those needing evacuation were in Kabul. Bagram is connected to Kabul by a couple of two-lane black-tops more than 40 miles long. Good luck getting a hundred thousand people to Bagram if ISKP setup terrorist ambushes along that road, which they would.

Those saying Biden should have kept Bagram are those opposing withdrawal in the first place. The only value in keeping Bagram is as a base for continuing the war. The Taliban would know that too, and probably see any attempt to hang on to Bagram as signaling an intention to continue the war. Any withdrawal, via Kabul or Bagram, would be a whole other kettle of fish sans Taliban cooperation. 

3) Thirteen US soldiers and 169 Afghans were killed by a terrorist attack,

Fact Check: True. One suicide bomber got through. Occasionally that happens.  Blame Biden? You might as well blame Biden for all the people killed in hurricanes on his watch, but also remember all the US soldiers and Afghan civilians that won't die in America's war in Afghanistan going forward.

4) Biden bears responsibility for 10 Afghan civilians, including an aid worker and 7 children being killed in a drone strike.

Fact Check: True. What isn't said is that this sort of thing happened all the time during the 20-year US war, but generally isn't investigated and reported by the media. More than 1444 Afghan civilians were killed in air strikes under Trump according to the Costs of War Project at Brown University. He relied much more on drones than Obama had.

3) and 4) are bookends of the same dilemma. In the former, a terrorist was allowed to get too close. In the later, they were too incautious in keeping away what they thought was a terrorist. 

III. Lessons from how fascists used the French withdrawal from Algeria

France occupied its North African colony Algeria for more than a hundred years from 1830 until its withdrawal in 1962 after a brutal French war in Algeria that lasted more than seven years. It started as a pacification operation, but by 1956, there were more than 400,000 French troops in Algeria, including 170,000 Muslim Algerians. The French were brutal in their counter-insurgency operations. The French paratroopers because famous for their torture techniques.

In that hundred-plus years of occupation, deep ties were developed between France and Algeria. The colony was operated for the benefit of France, and a French-Algerian settler community that saw Algeria as its home. Many had been born in Algeria, and may have never been to France, but they lived in privileged white communities, and compared to the Arabs they exploited, they lived well. They weren't going to give that up without a fight, and they had strong supporters back home.

Fascism in France

Even before World War Two, France had a strong fascist movement, and during the war, the pro-Nazi Vichy government enjoyed a lot more popular support than was admitted after the war. While badly hurt by the worldwide defeat of fascism, and especially the fall of Nazi Germany and Vicky France, the extreme right in France was never entirely defeated, and was always looking for a way back. With national pride already hurt by the French defeat in Vietnam at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, and now with what they saw as “another precipitate pullout and sacrifice [of] French honor,” in Algeria, these right-wing forces heard opportunity knocking.

In 1958, a military coup d'état was started by an army junta in Algiers. It forced the fall of the Fourth Republic and brought Charles De Gaulle to power as a president with extraordinary powers to prevent the “abandonment of Algeria.” French paratroopers from Algeria took the French island of Corsica in a bloodless action, and had a plan, Operation Resurrection, to take Paris and remove the French government if parliament refused De Gaulle. Based on this shift from civilian to military power, and the threat to use that power. De Gaulle was able to re-write the constitution and declare the Fifth Republic.

With opposition to the war growing and military victory proving elusive, De Gaulle changed course after he was elected president of the new Fifth Republic in February 1959, and announced plans to end the war. It was to take another 3 years of fighting and talking, but in July 1962 Algeria became independent. Although the referendum on this Algerian independence agreement won more than 91% approval among French voters and more that 99% among Algerians, it didn't go over well with the French colonialists and fascists. 

With independence came a flood of 900,000 European-Algerians (Pieds-noirs) back to France in a period of only a few months, 1.5 million before the flow slowed. Many fled in panic, fearing FLN revenge. France was not prepared to receive this large number for refugees and it caused a lot of turmoil. There was no attempt to evacuate any of the Algerian Muslims that had worked for France. They were disarmed, and left behind. While no action was taken by the FLN against most, one group, the Harkis, were considered traitors because of their service with the French Army. Many were murdered by the FLN, or lynch mobs. About 90,000 managed to escape to France, often with the help of French Army officers acting against orders.

In Algiers, some European volunteers and students, convinced that De Gaulle was betraying them, staged an insurrection. They threw up barricades in the streets and seized government buildings. It became known as “the week of barricades,” but in the end De Gaulle was able to rally most of the army to his side, and prevail. This didn't put an end to it.

There were several assassination attempts on de Gaulle, as well as attempted military coups. Most of these were carried out by an underground group, mainly French military people that opposed Algerian independence, including many that had been imprisoned and paroled for participation in the earlier rebellion, named the Organisation armée secrète (OAS). A number of right-wing groups were founded in this environment of national embarrassment, most notably the National Front for French Algeria (FNAF) which was founded in Paris in June 1960 with Jean-Marie Le Pen, a former Vichy supporter, as one of the principals.  Now led by his daughter Marine Le Pen, the National Front, renamed National Rally in 2018, remains the most dangerous fascist party in France today.

In Summary

Joe Biden's agenda has turned out to be more progressive than many expected. He campaigned as an anti-racist that took the Trump led resurgence of white supremacy head on. As president, he has championed the $15/hr. minimum wage, improved union protections for workers, increased voter protections, increased taxes on the rich and rich corporations, etc. In many ways, he is government like he expects to be a one-term president, and wants to set a few things straight while he still can. 

The 2020 US election showed that a majority of US voters rejected Trump, and the Republican party remade in his image. Even large segments of the bourgeoisie that benefited from his economic policies were ready to abandon him as the pandemic exposed the true costs of his inept administration. They were happy to see a competent politician like Biden replace Trump, but perhaps they got a little more than they bargained for. He is now campaigning for the biggest increase in social spending since the New Deal. Needless to say, this is strongly opposed by the capitalist class, and their mouthpieces. This is the context for trashing Biden on Afghanistan.

The January 6 insurrection marked the Trump fascist's turn from normal constitutional methods of obtaining political power to undemocratic methods designed to enforce minority rule. We've also seen that this movement is far from dead, and is continuing to contend for power. 

Actually, getting out of Afghanistan was another part of Biden's progressive agenda, but it was one that would inevitably create an opening that the extreme right would try to exploit to advance their assault on his broader progressive agenda, and build their forces in support of an undemocratic coup.

This is what is going on now. 

Although by any historical measure, the evacuation of over a hundred thousand people from a war with so little loss of life, should be considered a success, the sad reality is that there was some loss of life, and some people were left behind. No matter how unlikely that there would be no loss of life, and no one left behind, those looking to take down the Biden government have tried to use the negative images streaming from the evacuation, and the sense of national shame accompanying the withdrawal, to advance their cause.

In this case, Trump Republicans and those who oppose ending the war and withdrawing from Afghanistan, no matter how well executed, have been successful in getting much broader forces in media and politics to join in their chorus of condemnation, which they are now trying to parlay into a broadside against Biden's entire agenda.

Behind the scenes, I also suspect they are using their private, ex-special forces led, “hostage” rescue efforts, like those promoted by Glenn Beck, to build their para-military organizations.

As we have seen from the historical examples, what is happening in his post withdrawal period is not unusual. But it is happening while fascist forces circling around Trump are attempting a resurgence of white supremacist power by undemocratic means, and that makes it particularly dangerous.

Ending the US war in Afghanistan was long overdue. We must fight against the attempts by the insurrectionists to use the look of it to advance their cause. 

Clay Claiborne


Sunday, September 19, 2021

Why does Martha Raddatz hide civilian casualties of US drone strikes in Afghanistan?

Anyone familiar with the way the United States has waged war in Afghanistan knows that air strikes, increasingly carried out by drones, have been a big part of the package. Much more under Trump than even Obama. They also know that innocent civilians are too often killed by these air strikes, although those deaths receive little attention by major US media outlets.

The August 29 drone strike that killed 10 civilians, including 7 children was different. Most drone strikes happen out in the country where most Afghans live. This was different because it happened in Kabul, and because the media was there in force to cover the withdrawal story, and because it could be framed as another Biden Afghan withdrawal f*ck up. So, finally the story of a drone strike killing Afghan civilians is getting the much needed coverage it deserves.

But to make the story stick, it must be framed as a uniquely Biden screw-up, and not a general characteristic of how the US has conducted itself in Afghanistan over the past twenty years.

Martha Raddatz has covered the US war in Afghanistan from the beginning. She has also been one of the chief boosters of the war all these years. She has earned a role as a vital part of the US war machine. She knows very well that US drone strikes have killed civilians in the past, and while she is happy to put these ten civilian corpses at the feet of Joe Biden, she is keen to keep the secret that, really, this sort of thing has been happening all along in Afghanistan.

She gave another proof of that today, when she interviewed Admiral Mike Mullen about this most recent drone strike on ABC News This Week. You have to listen closely because the proof is in what Raddatz doesn't say:

Mullen: We've had drone strikes that were very effective over many years that didn't kill any civilians, and we've also had drone strikes which did ...

Raddatz: I want to turn to Chairman Milley. You've seen the stories...

A few minutes ago, Martha Raddatz was lamenting the deaths these ten civilians in this drone strike. Now she has a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff admitting there have been others, and she doesn't probe further? No follow up questions about those other civilian deaths in those other drone strikes?

What's up with that?

Clay Claiborne

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Did Oliver North call for the assassination of Joe Biden on Fox News Hannity?

Oliver North said on Hannity Monday:

Just one last thought, at one point he[Biden] said about the terrorists that had killed those thirteen Americans. He said he wouldn't forget. He was not going to forgive, and he would make them..he would bring them to justice. We ought to say that about Joe Biden right now.

What Biden actually said about how he would deal with those terrorists was,“We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,"  and in case anybody mistakenly thought that meant he planned to arrest them and bring them to trial, the next day he ordered a drone strike that killed two for openers.

Oliver North knew perfectly well that when he made that analogy, he was comparing Joe Biden to the terrorists,  and suggesting they both should we dealt with the same way. He also knew perfectly well that Biden was advocating execution by the most violent means with no recourse to due process of law, and no pivot to "justice" hides that. Sean Hannity damn well knew it too.

I'll say this much. These Fox News mouth pieces need to be called to account for the way they advocate violence to their viewers. No good can come from talk like this.

Clay Claiborne.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Peter Alexander's racist question

NBC News White House reporter Peter Alexander asked Press Secretary Jen Psaki this question at today's White House Press Conference [my summary, see video for exact wording]:

Don't all these US weapons falling into the hands of the Taliban endanger Americans and Americans around the world, and Western interest?

I can give him a pass for looking out for Americans First, seeing that he's from an American news outlet. But after Jen Psaki told him they didn't think they left the Taliban with the capability to hit the United States at home, even Apache helicopters can't fly that far,  Peter shifted the proposed danger to Americans around the globe, and Western ...interests.

By Western interests he means, first and foremost "western" lives, of course, because when it comes terrorists, its lives that are most at risk. Unless, his concern is coldly for western capital, that is.

Most of what the US left in Afghanistan, and won't destroy, in the way of weapons, are small arms, vehicles, and light artillery, the kind of stuff useful in a regional war, or in suppressing a population. I expect it will be the Afghan people that will suffer first and foremost for that, then the people in the region, and, yes, finally "interests" all over the globe, be they "western" or not.

And BTW, one of the things wars always do—they always flood the world with small arms. Always. That is one of the ways the Hell outlives the War. There are still 45 ACPs and 30 cal. carbines killing on American streets that were brought back from the second world war.

Why didn't Peter Alexander ask about the danger the weapons we are leaving pose to the Afghans? Why is he concerned solely with American and Western interests? I think the NBC News White House correspondent is letting his white chauvinist priorities show. Enough so that I wrote this blog post, and posted the videos below, to call him out on it.

Clay Claiborne

Short Version

Full Clip for Context


Google Maps shows us "Biden should've held Bagram" is very bad advice

In this video production I put together on Sunday, I use Google Maps to understand 

—  Clay Claiborne

Why Biden Abandoned Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan

Illustrated Transcript

I'm no kind of military expert. In fact, I haven't served a day in the military in my life, but in this video I'm going to show you how you can use Google Maps, and a little common sense to show that the received wisdom from the politicians and media pundits that pushed the Afghan war on us in the first place, that Biden should have held Bagram Airbase, or as Senator Ben Sasse put it on ABC's This Week today:

"Abandoning Bagram airbase will be read about in military textbooks for decades as one of the stupidest military blunders ever. "

This Google Map shows the road from Kabul to Bagram. As you can see, it's 58 kilometers from Kabul, and can be expected to take an hour and twenty minutes by car on a good day.

While it's true that Bagram has two runways, as compared to Kabul's one. It's almost 60 kilometers from Kabul, where most of the people are. Everybody being evacuated would have to be pushed up that road before they could get on a plane. 

Martha Raddatz knows the Afghan War well. She's been with the war from the very beginning, and she's seen it from all angles. She has a real overview. In an earlier segment in that same This Week, she pointed out that traveling by road in Afghanistan ain't no cake walk:

       Tony Blinken: There's other ways to leave Afghanistan, including by road..."

       Martha Raddatiz: "That's a very dangerous trip."

What a fun trip the Kabul-Bagram Airport Road  could turn out to be. Especially if ISIS or Al Qaeda, or anybody should try to interfere.

Actually, there are two roads from Kabul to Bagram, but the same problems apply. This second doesn't look recommended. It is longer, and it takes longer, and I have to imagine the transits times on both will start to stretch out once you start putting a lot of traffic on them, and especially if you have to start probing for IEDs and landmines. Not to mention the problems we might have if the Taliban was to get it into their heads that the only reason we were hanging on to Bagram is to continue the occupation.

Here we've switched to the terrain view, and we can see that Bagram is pretty much in the middle of nothing.

Here we zone in, and we can see there's really not much to evacuate in the immediate neighborhood.

Here's a real closeup. We can see the former Soviet base nearby. Foreign occupations don't end well in Afghanistan. When will they ever learn.

Anyway, let's look at some of nearby names on the map.

Here's Karam. They have a high school and a bus stop. At least that's a start. It's close to the Airport Road, so it should be easy to evacuate.

Here's Daw-lat-sah, on the other side of Bagram. Please forgive my pronunciation. When Martin Sheen narrated my Vietnam Doc, he made me get recording of native speakers pronouncing all the Vietnamese names so he could get them right, but I'm on a reduced schedule here. 

Here Daw-lat-sah close up. I still don't see much there, so it would appear that Bagram is pretty much in the middle of no-where, which is good for a military base, security-wise and all, but bad for an evacuation point.

Parwan University seems to be the most substantial thing in the area.

Photo by Hashmat Noon

Here's a picture of what appears to be the main building.

Photo by Yahia Rahimi

Here's another view, pretty as its set against the mountains. We can see two cars, a pickup truck, and bus parked off to the side. Probably more around back.

Photo by Yahia Rahimi

Here's a better view of the whole campus. We can see three buildings and maybe a dozen people.

Photo by Hashmat Noon


Here we can see a courtyard or maybe a garden?

Photo by Yahia Rahimi

And now we say good-bye to Parwan University

Photo by Abdul mosawer Ahmadi

Very pretty flowers, but as we can see, there just isn't much to be evacuated from around Bagram.

Almost every American and Afghan to be evacuated would have to make that road trip from Kabul to Bagram, and as Martha said:

Martha Raddatiz: "That's a very dangerous trip."

So, you can see that all those pundits and politicians that are complaining that Biden didn't hold on to Bagram are just blowing so much smoke. You know that because they keep talking Bagram's two runways, without addressing these other problems.

Well, I say: One runway in the city is worth two in the bush.

And all those demanding that Biden retake Bagram really want this Forever War to continue.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Did Trump play "enemy of my enemy" games with ISKP, the deadliest terror group in Afghanistan?

Yesterday on Fox News Outnumbered, Kash Patel, Trump's Chief of Staff for the Pentagon, and Director of Counter-terrorism, let slip this very important revelation on how the Trump Administration had been conducting counter-terrorism in Afghanistan:
ISIS-K and Al Qaeda are normally fighting each other, and we normally, under President Trump, let them kill each other because they're two foreign terrorist organizations that are enemies of the United States.
The revelation that the Trump Administration's policy towards fighting ISKP and Al Qaeda has been to "let them kill each other" is extremely troubling because they haven't been just killing each other, both of these terror organizations have mainly been killing innocent Afghans.

The Islamic State of Khorasan Province, also known by its initials ISKP, and renamed ISIS-K, by the western media, is the newer terrorist threat in the region. It is the group widely believed responsible for the two suicide attacks that killed over a hundred people, including 13 US soldiers, outside of Kabul Airport yesterday. It is the sworn enemy of both the Taliban and Al Qaeda, who they consider anathema. While Trump was in office, it emerged as the most dangerous of all the international Islamic terror organizations. Although it started in Khorasan Province, Afghanistan in 2015, in recent years it has expanded its reach throughout South Asia. In particular, it is a growing threat in India, and the Kashmir region. According to this comprehensive ORF report on ISKP, it is "arguably is the most visceral ISIS wilayat (an administrative division), with capabilities of orchestrating some of the most violent attacks in the country across the civilian and governmental spectrum." It has also been showing "increasing potency in parts of Africa." After ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi committed suicide, rather than be captured by US Delta forces in October 2019, ISKP began to eclipse even ISIS itself. According to the ORF report, "Since the 2014–2017 period, anecdotal evidence, especially online, points to IS-K as having a stronger play in South Asia than ISIS central." 

Because US media rarely bothers to cover terror attacks in which Americans aren't killed, yesterday's revelation of the brutality and lethality of ISKP may be news to us, but it is well known in Afghanistan and other parts of South Asia just what horrors this terror group, that the Trump Administration "let kill," according to his Director of Counter-terrorism, is capable of. Here is brief survey of its most deadly attacks in the past few years: 

On 9 September 2018 ISKP claimed 55 causalities in a suicide bombing in Kabul. The next day it killed an Indian intelligence official in Kashmir.

At an election day rally in Nangarhar, 2 October 2018, ISKP claimed 90 causalities.

On 3 October 2018, the Taliban again accused the US forces of supporting ISKP through airstrikes. In August 2018,  they also accused US forces of "rescuing" ISKP in Nangarhar. In light of Kash Patel's admission, these Taliban claims deserves further investigation.

On 5 October 2018, ISKP bombed the USAID Building in Nangarhar.

On 21 March 2019, ISKP claimed 50 causalities among Shi'ites in 3 bombings near a shrine in Kabul.

On 8 April 2019 ISKP claimed to have killed 21 Afghan security and intelligence personnel in 4 attacks in Jalalabad in 5 days.

On 13 April 2019, ISKP claimed 70 casualties among Hazara Shi'ites and Pakistani soldiers in a suicude bombing in Quetta.

On 21 April 2019, ISKP claimed 30 casualties in a 4-man suicide raid at the Afghan communications ministry in Kabul. 

On 30 May 2019, ISKP killed 50 military trainees in suicide bombing outside of the Marshal Fahim National Defense University.

On 2 June 2019, ISKP claimed 33 causalities among Shi'ites, journalists, and security forces in 3 IED blasts in Kabul.

On 13 June 2019, Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders reiterated their charge that ISKP is an enemy "puppet."

On 19 June 2019, ISKP claimed 21 causalities on the Taliban in Kunar. Two days later, the Taliban charged the US with rescuing ISKP in Kunar. Four days later, ISKP made advances, and killed 20 Taliban fighters in Kunar.

On 29 June 2019, ISKP claimed more than 25 casualties among Taliban fighters in Nangarhar.

On 6 July 2019, ISKP claimed 40 casualties from a bombing inside a Shi'ite Mosque in Ghazni.

On 7 August 2019, ISKP ambushed Afghan forces in Kabul, killing or wounding 20

On 18 August 2019, ISKP claimed 400 casualties among Shi'ites and security forces in two bombings at a Kabul wedding hall.

On 9 September 2019, ISKP claimed 52 casualties in Kabul during a remembrance of Ahmad Shah Massous.

On 8 October 2019, ISKP claimed 30 casualties among Shi'ites in Ghazni blast, and 40 soldiers killed or wounded in a VBIED attack in Jalalabad.

On 13 November 2019, Taliban accused Afghan government of rescuing besieged ISKP fighters in Nangarhar. Four days later, the Taliban announced the defeat of ISKP in Kunar and Nangarhar.

On 27 February 2020, ISKP claimed 30 casualties among Shi'ites in a bike bombing in Kabul.

On 6 March 2020, ISKP claimed 150 casualties in a suicide attack at a ceremony in Kabul.

On 12 May 2020, ISKP claimed 100 casualties in a suicide attack at a funeral in Nangarhar.

In a prison raid in Jalalabad on 3 August 2020, ISKP claimed to have killed 100 security personnel and freed hundreds of inmates.

On 24 October 2020, ISKP claims killing 25 and wounding 50 in a Kabul suicide operation.

On Human Rights Day, 10 December 2020, Malalai Maiwand, 26, was murdered by ISKP. She became the third journalist killed by the group in less than a month.

On 28 December 2020, ISKP claimed 20 casualties among justice ministry staff in Kabul. 

On 13 January 2021, ISKP reported 20 Afghan security forces killed or wounded in house raid in Jalalabad.

On 3 March 2021, ISKP claimed credit for the shooting deaths of three female television station employees in Jalalabad.

On 28 May 2021, ISKP attempted to assassinate the Kunar governor with a bomb blast in Nangarhar.

On 1 June 2021, ISKP bombed a bus carrying Hazaras in Parwan. The next day they bombed buses carrying Shi'a Hazara in Kabul, and claimed a car bombing on Afghan special forces in Jalalabad. 

On 4 June 2021, ISKP claimed 24 casualties among Shi'a Hazara in two bombings in Kabul.

On 14 June 2021, ISKP claimed 23 casualties among Shi'a Hazara in two bombings in Kabul.

On 9 July 2021, ISKP claimed 13 casualties in bomb blast on a minibus transporting "polytheists" in Herat.

On 12 July 2021, ISKP claimed 18 casualties in blast on NDS and Kabul governor's office staff.

On 3 August 2021, ISKP claimed 14 casualties in MIED blast on a bus transporting Shi'a Hazaras in Herat.

On 26 August 2021, ISKP claimed over 100 deaths, including 13 US military personnel in suicide bombings outside of Hamid Karzai International Airport. The American people are shocked by this latest attack because US corporate media hasn't regarded these preceding attacks as newsworthy. Nor was this the first time ISKP has attacked the airport. HKIA has been the target of attacks on 26 December 2020, and 12 December 2020

This is just a sampling of the carnage the Trump administration was letting ISKP commit, according Kash Patel's admission, or even helping them commit, according to Taliban accusations. Did US President Donald J. Trump's response to this growing terror threat by saying "let them kill each other?" Were those the marching orders he gave to Kash Patel, his Pentagon Chief of Staff, and Director of Counter-terrorism? Did he allow ISKP to metastasize all over South Asia because he knew they opposed Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and was he following an "enemy of my enemy is my friend" strategy towards this new terrorist group? The appropriate congressional committees should call upon Kash Patel to testify, and ask these important questions.

Clay Claiborne

Thursday, May 6, 2021

When will Facebook's Oversight Board review Facebook's ban on this blog?

Recently, Facebook has been all in the news becauses its much trumpeted "Oversight Board" came down with a "ruling" that Facebook's ban of Donald Trump from its platforms, Facebook and Instagram, were justified, but that Facebook was wrong to make the term of the ban indefinite.

Well, this blog has been banned from Facebook for many months now, and it was done without notice, explanation, or recourse.

Sometime last year readers noticed that attempts to post links to any of the Linux Beach blog posts, specifically the URL https://claysbeach.blogspot.com, to Facebook, got this response:
Your message couldn't be sent because it includes content that other people on Facebook have reported as abusive.
They don't even tell me if the "other people on Facebook" that have found my posts "abusive" are Trump supporters, Putin supporters, or fans of Bashar al-Assad. I suppose you could add the US Green Party, Democracy Now, and assorted other members of  what I call the white Left to that list. Curious minds want to know. 

Attempts to contact Facebook and rectify the problem have been met with a stone wall.  I received no response after I posted this to their Problem Form:
Can't post url https://claysbeach.blogspot.com/ and don't know why. If there is an issue with content. I would like to know what it is and be given a chance to change it, or challenge that decision.
More recently, I can see they have upped their game. Now, when you try to post this blog to Facebook the popup claims that the URL is being denied because of "SPAM."
That first panel is now followed by a series of panels titled "How we make decisions", "Our Community Standards", and allows you to register an objection, but still no recourse, no way to ask why a whole blog is banned for life, and not a particular post. Not even a way to ask how it went from being banned for "abusive content" to being banned for "spam."
While I may suspect that their real objection to my blog has more to do with its pro-socialist and anti-racist politics than any so-called "abusive content" or "spam", it may have just inadvertently gotten caught up in whatever mindless automation they have setup to patrol their site. In any case, Facebook gives us no way to challenge, or even question, their decisions. This is far too much power for a billionaire to have over what has become, in spite of private ownership, an important public thoroughfare. 

I raise this problem because I suspect I'm not the only small voice being silenced by Facebook with such methods, and while much media fanfare is being made about the attention Facebook is giving to its decision to ban the former guy, it is carrying forward a program that largely silences progressive voices on its platforms.

Clay Claiborne

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The 2nd Amendment: An Even Closer Look

Seth Meyers, I loved your piece on the 2nd Amendment in the wake of two horrific mass shootings in less than a week:

But its even worst than you said. 

We have to look at where the 2nd Amendment came from to really understand it.

After they made the US Constitution in 1788 , a number of  deficiencies were noted and a call for amendments went out in 1789. Virginia submitted an amendment that it said was a deal-breaker, and would be edited into becoming the 2nd Amendment. It was eleventh on their list. It read like this:
11th. That each state respectively shall have the power to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining its own militia, whensoever Congress shall omit or neglect to provide the same. That the militia ...shall be subject only to such fines, penalties, and punishments as shall be directed or inflicted by the laws of its own state.
It was not to support an individual's right to bear arms. It was to assure that the slave owning states would have to right to maintain armed militia for the purposes of catching runaway slaves and putting down slave revolts. As Thom Hartmann pointed out in his piece on the 2nd Amendment:
In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the "slave patrols," and they were regulated by the states.
Patrick Henry saw why they needed that amendment to correct "deficiencies" in the new Constitution:
"If the country be invaded, a state may go to war, but cannot suppress [slave] insurrections [under this new Constitution]. If there should happen an insurrection of slaves, the country cannot be said to be invaded."
He told James Madison, who drafted the amendments,
"In this situation, I see a great deal of the property of the people of Virginia in jeopardy, and their peace and tranquility gone."
This is the context that explains the arcane language of:
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
When this amendment says "free State," read "slave State," because that's what Virginia was, so read the first part as follows:
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a slave State,"
The second part:
"the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Is the assurance the slave states were demanding, with Virginia in the lead, that a more liberal federal government would not take away their "right" to employ the armed violence necessary to maintain their slave-based system. 

How about mandatory gun owner's insurance?

I also liked your comparison between the requirements of car and gun ownership, pointing out drivers have to pass tests, get licenses, etc. But you left out one "feature" of car ownership that may point the way forward for those that prefer a purely capitalist road to gun control—in most states, car owners have to buy insurance.

So, suppose gun owners had to buy insurance on every gun they own? After all, they are using a machine capable of doing great damage, even if by accident.

With auto insurance, rates vary according to the number of miles you drive. With guns it might be the rounds of ammo purchased or expended. Auto insurance also varies according to the type of car. It costs more to insure a Vet than a Honda Civic. Also, other factors about the driver are taken into account.

So, the owner of one or two hand guns or shotguns for home defense that only occasionally expends rounds for practice might pay a very nominal rate, whereas the militia member who owns an arsenal of AR-15 like weapons, and regularly practices Capitol assaults in the woods with live ammo, might pay a significantly higher rate.

Clay Claiborne

Saturday, March 20, 2021

From the Arab Spring to Black Lives Matter: My ten year journey

As so many 10-year Anniversaries of the Arab Spring go flying by—January 14, 2011, Ben Ali, president of Tunisia for 23 years flees the country; February 11, 2011, Hosni Mubarki, president of Egypt for 30 years resigns; 17 February 2011, the revolution in Libya officially kicks off; 15 March 2011, the days of rage in Syria begin; it seems like a good time to remember how those events led me to where I am today.

Ten years ago, I was busy working on the sequel to my very successful Vietnam War documentary, Vietnam: American Holocaust. It was being promoted by Veterans for Peace in the US, and the Vietnamese government in Vietnam. It had been shown to the International Tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and a theater in Hanoi. Even Russian Today was paying me well to air it internationally. So, I was doing what every filmmaker does once he's produced a successful film. I was working on a sequel, Vietnam: People's Victory.

And I was blogging at the Daily Kos, mainly on questions of Internet freedom and open source software. My most recent diary was Keith Olbermann, You Can't Give Those People an Inch! 9 January 2011, and I probably couldn't have pointed to Tunisia on a map with no lines.

Then I received a wake-up call about the Arab Spring. Not from the many Left, and anti-imperialist news sources I subscribed to, but from my friends in the open source software community. Checking my email as usual before I started editing film, I read an urgent message from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It reported that the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia was tracking anti-government Tunisia bloggers that were using websites with insecure login pages to track freedom fighters in cyberspace, and then showing up at their doors to arrest them in the real world. I instantly recognized that the Daily Kos was one of those insecure sites, changed my plans for the day, and posted EMERGENCY: DKos Must Act Now to Protect Tunisian Bloggers!, 14 January 2011. I still haven't gotten back to that sequel.

The next day Tunisian President Ben Ali was fleeing to Saudi Arabia, and this was only the beginning of the Arab Spring. I was already familiar with the hacker group Anonymous through my Linux community contacts. Because they had Tunisia hackers in their ranks, they were way ahead of the game with regards to what would come to be known as the Arab Spring uprisings. They had already publicly announced their OpTunisa on 2 January 2011. I hooked up with them, especially Bob Barrett, and soon became part of their public face as a member of the Anonymous Dkos group. Soon, the information was flowing. 17 January, I published this photo in the Daily Kos under the heading: Tunis: This Photo was Taken 66 Minutes Ago:

((( i ))) #Anonymous #Tunisia - #Libya #SidiBouzid Tunisia #jasminrevolt #optunisia #oplibya

When I looked around to see what my Left sources were saying about these events, I found almost nothing. If it was about the Middle East at all, it was about Palestine. I thought, the ground is shifting under your feet, and you don't even know it. Even after Ben Ali fell, a commentator at the Huffington Post was predicting. What happened in Tunisia most likely will stay in Tunisia.” Not!

My focus on the Arab Spring struggles at the Daily Kos gained notice, and soon I was recruited to the staff of WL Central, a new news website established in 2010 by Wikileaks supporters, with Canadian human rights activist Heather Marsh as its editor. 

Although WL Central enjoyed close ties to Wikileaks, was widely perceived as an official Wikileaks news site, and, as we were to find out only after “the take-over,” actually ran on Wikileaks servers, it was formally an independent organization. Most importantly, it was editorially independence. There was never any doubt about that until after the Occupy Wall St. movement had peaked and Julian Assange laid siege to WLC, but I'm getting ahead of my story.

WL Central at the time was a hub of activity and information in support to the Arab Spring. North Africa, including Egypt, was my beat. To this day, I think we played a critical role in thwarting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's attempts to install his security chief, Omar Suleiman, as his successor. Mubarak had never appointed a vice-president, but as the protests in Tahrir Square (Freedom Square in Arabic), and elsewhere spread, he appointed Suleiman as his Veep. At WL Central, we saw an opening. 

From published and unpublished Wikileaks files, we had quite a bit of information on Suleiman, particularly his collaboration with the US and Israel. We made his exposure our mission, and every day for weeks we published hit piece after hit piece on Suleiman. Coming from Wikileaks, what we wrote would get picked up by the western media, and being in the western media, meant that it would be reported by regional press. Soon Omar Suleiman was damaged goods. The only role he had left to play was to announce Mubarak's resignation before resigning himself.

So much information was flowing through WL Central in this period, I thought: This must have been what it was like to be on the staff of Iskra during the Russian Revolution. I once played a role in getting a critical message from activists in Alexander to Tahrir Square in Cairo, via my apartment in Venice, California. France 24 was asking my permission to reprint photos I had posted on the struggle in Algeria, photos I had received from activists on the ground. The Internet was reshaping the role international activists could play in supporting local struggles.

Libya erupts next

Muammar Qaddafi hailed Wikileaks for exposing US hypocrisy in December 2010, but after its 'Cablegate' exposures supported the overthrow of Ben Ali in neighboring Tunisia, he began singing a different tune. Anonymous established #OpLibya days after the first protests around housing developed in mid-January 2011 to support the growing struggle in Libya. Many expected the locus of the Arab Spring to shift to Libya after Tunisia, and before Egypt, but that's not what happened. Things only heated up in Libya after Mubarak was taken down on 11 February, but then they got going even before the planned 17 February protests. Qaddafi met the initially peaceful protests with live ammunition, so it took just a matter of days before it escalated to a full-on armed struggle against his regime.

The real truth of the uprising against Qaddafi is that the thuwar (Libyan revolutionaries) were mostly ordinary working class Libyans that, under the influence of what was happening in neighboring countries, had finally had it with living under a 42-year dictatorship that claimed to be “anti-imperialist,” and “socialist” and “green” all while selling people into slavery, women into prostitution, disappearing opposition into the night, and ruling with fear and torture, all while robbing the Libyan people of their natural oil wealth hand over fist. They were joined by a good section of the Libyan military that choose country over charismatic leader, and taught them how to fight.

I started wordsmithing in support of their struggle early on. In the next year I would post more than 50 pieces on the Libyan struggle. My work was read around the world, and especially in Libya where my Tweeter account was followed by both ShabaLibya [Libyan Youth Movement], and the Transitional National Council [TNC] Labor Ministry.

I've always felt that if the western leftists that came to oppose the Libyan revolution had been paying attention earlier, they would have taken a different attitude about the NATO no-fly zone. By the time French warplanes intervened to stop Qaddafi's armor from doing to Benghazi what they had already done to the much smaller Ajdabiya, the people's war against him had been going on more than a month with NATO's forbearance. He had killed thousands of Libyans, including more than 700 young unarmed protesters one evening in Green Square on 21 February, in what became known as Tripoli's Long Night.

Remote support

You think you can't play a direct role in supporting a people's armed struggle without being there? You couldn't during the Vietnam War of liberation. The Internet changed all that. For example, there was this high school kid from Georgia that produced a whole series of field manuals for the cadre fighting Qaddafi. Weapons manual, manuals on medical procedures, name it. He'd find the info on the Internet, write it up, get others to translate, get others involved. Anonymous, and other hackers enhanced or disrupted communications, as necessary. One war story I heard: A group of thuwars were trying to take out a battery of Qaddafi's rockets that had been ravaging their town. They were pinned down, but they did have a sat phone. They got on the phone to someone in London that knew the limitations of that particular rocket system, and the info provided allowed them to stop that battery from raining death down on their town.
Had western anti-imperialists been aware of the courage of the Libyan Youth Movement confronting the regime and defacing Qaddafi posters all over Tripoli; seen the resistance of the ordinary people of Benghazi as they stormed and took Qaddafi's armory, practically with their bare hands to get their first weapons; or known the soldiers he sent to suppress the rebellion who patriotically choose country over fearful leader, and joined the rebellion instead, they may have taken a different attitude towards NATO's decision to stop opposing the uprising, and instead protect it, and see it end quicker rather than later, so that the light-sweet Libyan crude so essential to certain European refineries would began flowing again. But they knew none of this because in their white-centric world, the Libyan struggle wasn't even on their radar until NATO intervened. Then they had no need to learn any of these things. They only needed to know that if NATO was for one side, they were on the other. So, they threw their support behind the Qaddafi dictatorship and called the brave Libyans who opposed him tools or fools. They adopted the same attitude towards the uprising in Syria soon after it kicked off in earnest on 15 March 2011.

These “anti-imperialists” were okay with the Arab Spring movements in Tunisia and Egypt that opposed dictatorships supported by the United States, but when it came to the Moscow-backed dictatorships in Libya and Syria, they swung to the side of the Putin-back dictators that made a show of supporting the Palestinian cause.

NATO countries never intervened on the ground. They provided air support for the revolution, and then they flew away. They had their own reasons for doing this, as I have written elsewhere. NATO's Operation Unified Protector was a European show, for which the US has received too much credit or blame. The US flew less than 17% of the strike missions, and dropped ordinance only 132 times from the start till the day that number came out in an AFRICOM statement on 29 June 2011. 

Where are the US Left voices that were so loud in their opposition to the NATO no-fly mission, now that it has been revealed that Eric Prince, apparently with Trump's approval, had been selling arms and sending mercenaries to fight alongside of Russian mercenaries, in a joint imperialist project to put a new strongman in charge of Libya?

Julian Assange never had any input into our editorial decisions at WL Central, but because my writing on Libya ran counter to white Left orthodoxy in the wake of the NATO attack, they were being used to attack Assange. Not only was he being “blamed” for things I wrote, he was being blamed for things I quoted other people as saying. This led to pressure on me to moderate my support for the struggle against Qaddafi, and pressure on others at WL Central to publish at “alternate” perspective on Libyan events. I didn't know it at the time but this was a harbinger of things that would lead to dramatic changes at WLC, and my parting of ways with it. 

As the struggle to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi was drawing to a close in the Summer of 2011, many of us who had been involved in supporting that fight began to talk about how to bring the struggle home. The occupy movement in the Fall of 2011 resulted, in part, from these discussions. 

Alexa O'Brien, also on the WL Central staff, had established the US Days of Rage website back in February 2011, and made organizing what would come to be known as Occupy Wall St. her beat early in the game. The USDOR Twitter account was established on 10 March, and started growing rapidly with WL Central promoting the movement.

I was very much on the periphery of the organizing that would lead to the Occupy Wall St. movement, until it had already kicked off. Then I was thrust smack dab in the middle. I was exhausted by my activities and contributions to that point. My main work product being my writing, I had produced tens of thousands of words on the Arab Spring struggles, more than a hundred thousand on Libya alone. The celebration of Vietnam's victory over US imperialism that I began the year working on now seemed a distant memory. And I was spent, I needed a break, I needed to make some money. I wasn't looking for a new challenge just yet.

Occupy LA

But I did attend a couple of the very last public planning meetings before the occupation of City Hall Park surrounding the Los Angeles City Hall on 1 October 2011—and I did write about it. And because I wrote about it, I got a call from the office of LA Councilman Richard Alarcon. The councilman wanted to pitch his banking reform proposal to the occupy movement, and because I was in print on the Internet, my name came up.

This was on the Friday afternoon before the occupation was to begin, and the conversation went pretty much like this:

I'll look at the councilman's proposal later, but right now we need the councilman's help to avoid a more immediate crisis. Tomorrow morning—early— Occupy LA begins at City Hall. Now, the Park Police is saying that we can't camp in the park, and the LAPD is saying that we can't camp on the sidewalk, but tomorrow morning at least 300 activists will be showing up determined to camp somewhere. It's too late for anyone to do anything about that, and it would be good to avoid a confrontation.

The Councilman agreed. Then I thought, I'm talking to this guy, who isn't even my councilman. I should alert my own councilman. So, I called the late Bill Rosendahl's office, and he got with Richard Alarcon, and they brought Councilman Eric Garcetti, our current major, on board. After that, and for pretty much the duration of the occupation, they were our three strong pillars of support within the LA City Council. That evening, and late into the night, I'm told, they held meetings with LAPD brass, City Hall Park authorities, and other city officials, until they had garnered approval for a legal occupation of City Hall Park before the tents started going up with the Sun on Saturday morning. Twelve days later, the full city council passed a resolution supporting Occupy Los Angeles.

I almost never slept at Occupy LA. I was paying too much for an apartment in Venice to pitch a tent in the park, but I was there every day, pretty much from dawn to dusk. And I blogged about it for WL Central, and in the Daily Kos

Driving downtown and paying for parking got old quick, so I started riding the bus. 35¢ senior fare and the 33 or 733 express was practically door-to-door service. Pretty soon I developed a regular routine. During the 50-minute ride to City Hall, I'd catch up on email and start writing the parts of my next report that I already knew. After the last meeting in the evening, or before the last bus, which ever came first, I would begin my journey back home. During that trip, I would put the finishing touches on the piece, so that I could upload it to the publishers before I crashed for the night.

I became part of the early leadership caucus of the leaderless Occupy LA. I was on the city liaison committee that carried on regular negotiations with the LAPD to maintain our peaceful legal occupation of City Hall Park. As the occupation grew in popularity, it soon got the attention of every Left group in Los Angeles. Some, like the Party for Socialism and Liberation's LA ANSWER Coalition, had strongly opposed my Libyan support work, and they brought their sectarian garbage into Occupy LA. Some, like agents from PSL, and the 'black bloc' opposed a legal occupation sanctioned by city hall and worked to blow it up by instigating fights with the police.

As October passed into November, and the coming winter threatened to dampen occupations in many Northern cities. I hoped that Occupy LA, with its warm weather climate and legal status, could provide a hub and “winter retreat” for the whole occupy movement. Already plans were being made, invitations had gone out and been accepted. But this was not to be. 

I was arrested, along with 67 others, when we carried out an occupy action at Bank of America Plaza, the one with the Picasso, on 17 November. I got bailed out the next morning. It was just one of many actions.

I thought the focus should remain anti-Wall St., i.e., anti-capitalist, and not degenerate into a police riot because we disbanded the city liaison committee, stopped talking to police, and told them that if they had anything to say to us, they could come to general assembly meetings and wait in line like anyone else. Once the leftists packed the general assembly meeting to disband the city liaison committee and declare a policy of not talking to the police or city in the name of “autonomy” on 26 November, Occupy LA's fate was sealed.

The Los Angeles City Hall Park occupation ended abruptly on the night of 29 November when the LAPD forcibly cleared the park and put a chain-link fence around it, but that was only after internal decay had left it a rotting carcass of its former self. I also blogged about its fall

Various Occupy Wall St. groups and occupations continued. The group Occupy Venice was still be holding events many years later.

9 February 2012, I was interviewed on RT as an “expert" on Afghanistan. They had originally scheduled the interview because of my work on Egypt with WL Central, but by the time the slot rolled around, Afghanistan was in the news. So, they instantly named me an “expert” about an area of which I knew little. I had a prior relationship with Russia Today (RT) because they licensed my Vietnam: American Holocaust for international distribution on their network. It is very critical of the US role in Vietnam, and they really like that sort of stuff. I suspect they rather soured on me as my politics on Libya and Syria became better defined, as I did on them.

Changes at WL Central

Things started to change at WL Central as 2011 was coming to a close. Whereas the Wikileaks leader, Julian Assange, never had much involvement in our work, let alone dictate our editorial policy, now he was coming under increased legal pressure because of sexual misconduct charges pending in Sweden and threats of extradition from the UK back to Sweden, and maybe the US after that. Under these circumstances, he wanted to see WL Central focus much more on his defense and limit coverage in other areas to only those aspects that directly related to Wikileaks. He wanted to turn WL Central into a PR firm for Julian Assange. This is when we learned that our website was, indeed, running on Wikileaks's servers. Assange bullied editor Heather Marsh into signing over the domain name to him. He threatened to publicly disavow WL Central, and everything we'd done, unless we did what he wanted.

When the first accuser denounced Gov. Cuomo, I was inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. But as the sixth, and seventh (now eighth) came forward, I had to agree he was probably guilty. After what I perceived as Assange's misogynous way of dealing with our editor, those rape accusations against him went up a notch in credibility.

After Heather surrendered the domain to Assange, she resigned as editor. Most of the original staff resolved to leave if the new editorial policy was imposed, I agreed, saying in chat: 
I also won't be writing for a website that has become a marketing arm of WL. I will continue writing, of course, but someplace else if this is what WLC becomes. I remember when Heather came under pressure because of my writings on Libya because J was being blamed for my views, and even the views of Libyans I quoted. Some wanted me to abandon my strong stance in favor of the Libya revolution in favor of a muddle that showed both sides. That's why I published most of that stuff elsewhere
There was the serious threat that WL Central would be shut down altogether. All agreed that the site should be archived to preserve our work. I did this immediately with wget while we worked to get the necessary credentials for a proper Drupal database backup, but I realized that would not be enough. I wrote in chat:
Broken Links! Broken Links! It just hit me like a shot. You see I have linked to a lot of WLC articles from my diary at Daily Kos, in emails and a whole range of other places. I assume many other people have as well, and not [just] us. We know that WLC has been widely read and cited, that means that it has been widely linked too. Irregardless of archiving, even if we never publish another word as WLC. THOSE LINKS MUST NOT BE BROKEN. To do so would a GREAT disservice to the movement we all, including J, are trying to build. It would be a setback, an avoidable setback, for the progress of humanity. We appear weak for being so disorganized, we create a lot of work for many webmasters, but let's face it, most of those broken links will never be fixed. IMHO we definitely should not be the ones responsible for those broken links, if J makes it work out that way, that should be on his head!
The website was preserved, and the links remained unbroken, which is why I can still use them in this piece. But WL Central changed. My last post to WL Central on 27 February 2012 was on what we were calling the African Spring in Senegal. Most of the original writers also left, by June it was emailing me stuff like this:
Julian's b-day 41 (3 July) is rapidly approaching. Someone suggested starting a happy birthday campaign for him in the run-up - set up a special mailbox so people could send their birthday wishes that WLC would later publish.

That mailbox is now active. This letter is coming to you from that mailbox.

JA41 [at] wlcentral [dot] org

Once we'd set up the mailbox, we followed up by starting the Twitter tag #JA41 so people could tweet their birthday wishes as well.


We're namely soliciting WLC writers to write about 'What #JA41 means to me'. Central kicked this part of the campaign off earlier today.


We encourage you to do the same - to really let your hair down and tell the world what Julian has meant to you personally.

I declined that offer. Although I was later to collaborate with Wikileaks as part of its investigative groups for Cablegate, Statfor GIFiles and Syria Files, breaking news with them in Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad, but I would never write for WL Central again. I had better things to do with my time. 

For one thing: Now, I really, really needed to make some bread. 

Syria Calling

I knew there was a critical and desperate struggle going on in Syria, but I told myself that it wasn't my fight. At WL Central, North Africa had always been my beat. Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, yeah; and I was planning on transitioning south, to focus more of my coverage on sub-Saharan Africa, hence my pieces on Nigeria and Senegal.

Still, the baton of revolutionary struggle had been handed to the Syrians, and I knew that I could provide valuable assistance to them because words can be the most powerful weapons system in a war of liberation. I wrote my second piece on their struggle, Syria is bleeding on 12 April 2012. After that, I was all in. I figured I had little to lose compared to those on the front line. Over the next 5 years I was to write more than 560 pieces on the Syrian struggle against the 40-year-old Assad dictatorship. 

My diaries on the Syria remembered the early days when Assad's soldiers were shooting down unarmed protesters. They documented the many “Houla-style” massacres, and flow of defections from Assad's forces to the Free Syrian Army [FSA]. They recorded the suffering of ordinary Syrians, and their yearning for freedom. They exposed Assad's use of rape and torture as weapons, and his practice of disappearing people into his brutal detention system. They didn't just show Russian support for the Assad regime, they also uncovered hidden United Nations, as well as, United States support for the regime, and its undermining of the resistance.

My diaries at the Daily Kos didn't just diverge from the “anti-imperialist” Left orthodoxy that Assad was some sort of good-guy because he feigned support for Palestine, and the FSA worked for the CIA, it exposed the Obama Administration for feigning support for the revolution while backing Assad with its hidden hand. For example, on the same day Obama made his famous “red-line” statement on chemical weapons use in Syria, 20 August 2012, I published my take under the title 'Obama "green lights" Assad's slaughter in Syria.' In that diary I pointed out that the main import of Obama's statement was to signal that the US would not intervene so long as Assad continued the slaughter with more conventional weapons. In “How Obama's 'No MANPADS for you' policy in Syria is backfiring,” I disclosed how the CIA was disarming, rather than arming, Assad's opposition. 

Such anti-Obama works didn't go over well with the powers that be at the Daily Kos, and after much struggle, I was banned. My last diary there was "Obama: Did the CIA betray Assad's opposition in Syria?"  10 February 2013.  After I established my blog at Linux Beach, I wrote about the experience:

One could easily think Obama was a sacred cow by the reaction of these Kossacks. When I published the 17,000 word Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad in collaboration with WikiLeaks, which traced Obama's relations with Assad beginning days after he was elected president and continuing even when non-violent protests started breaking out in Syria, they hit the roof. I believe a secret campaign by a half-dozen “non-interventionists” to get rid of me started in earnest then.

I continued by blogging in support of the Syrian struggle on the Google Blogspot platform where I am today.  The Linux Beach Blogspot published over three hundred pieces on Syria between the time I left the Daily Kos and the end of 2015. While I wrote the vast majority of them, they also included pieces by other writers, including Syrians, and a number were translated into other languages, especially Arabic. A particular target was left-wing or “anti-imperialist” support for the Bashar al-Assad, and his principal international backer, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

21 August 2013—exactly one year after Obama's “red-line” promise, forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad murdered more than 1400 Syrians, including more than 400 children with the nerve toxin sarin in the greater Damascus area. I posted two blogs about it that very day, after which, debunking conspiracy theories designed to let Assad off the hook for using chemical weapons became an important component of my research and writing. 

Assad also cultivated Islamic terrorists, first al Qaeda, and then the Islamic State as bogeymen to scare forces, both at home and abroad, into supporting his regime. I also did what I could to expose this collaboration.

Locally, in Los Angeles, I was able to join with local members of the Syrian American Council, and some other like-minded radicals to take on the Assad apologist Mother Agnes-Mariam when she made her Southland propaganda tour in the Fall of 2013. The next year I spoke at the SAC Los Angeles event commemorating the March 15th anniversary of the start of the revolution.

I knew Eliot Higgins, first as Brown Moses, from our common work, and membership to a Syria focused list, and had login privileges to Bellingcat when he first founded it in July 2014, but regrettably, I never made use of them or worked within its framework. It has done some great work since then.

Although not a veteran myself, I had been an associate member of Veterans for Peace for about ten years, so I paid special attention to the group's understanding of the Syrian crisis. There it was an up-hill battle as many old members remember the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and missed the changes.

As with the Libyan struggle, the Syrian struggle had an important component of the war that was waged on-line. That was the propaganda war between the supporters of the freedom struggle, and supporters of authoritarianism. As with the Libyan struggle, the supporters of the Syrian revolution had the upper-hand for the first few years. Slowly this changed as the Assad/Putin camp started employing bots, A.I., and legions of operatives adopting fake social media personas to enter the fray. This is a pattern of activity that has become all too familiar to us since the 2016 US election, but I think it started in Syria. I first noticed it in July 2013, and posted the blog   'What's up with these Tweets? "Former US Army Vet Who Fought Alongside Al-Qaeda in Syria"' . I wrote about a series of #Syria tweets I noticed the week before:

All of these tweets are worded very closely if not exactly the same, which would seem to indicate some unity between them but they are all from different accounts.

I think what I spotted there was the beginnings of a profound shift it the way the Internet would be mobilized against the forces of progress. It was next to emerge around Ukraine, and then it was to develop, big time, around the 2016 US election. 

Return to the proletariat

By the Summer of 2014, I was truly in desperate straits financially speaking. In spite of two successful GoFundMe appeals to my readers, and help from family and friends, I had accumulated over $20,000 in credit card debt, and was in danger of losing my rent-controlled Venice apartment. Drastic measures were called for, and I was forced to seek corporate employment for the first time since I left Honeywell in 1981. Fortunately, I had the necessary skill-set to land a position as a Linux Systems Administrator with Rackspace Hosting in San Antonio, TX.

I love working with the Free Software operating system Linux. I also very much liked rejoining the industrial proletariat, and this time in a young, high tech branch. The average employee was less than half my age. I was working in an Engine Room of the Internet. In the late 1970's it had been the slag pits of Bethlehem Steel.

Better still, it was a work-from-home position. I went out to San Antonio for three months to learn Rackspace ways, and then came back to Venice to do a forty-hour-a-week swing shifts from my apartment in Venice for the next five years.

Linux is the technology upon which The Cloud is built. It simply would not be possible without the Open Source Software what places no barriers to replication. And this job allowed me to work with Linux infrastructure at the biggest scale. 

Most of my teammates in 2nd shift Enterprise Linux worked out of a converted mall known as the Castle in San Antonio, TX. One might point out that castles don't have engine rooms in their lowest level, but, in any case, when I hired on there were more that 4,000 rackers working out of The Castle. They had less than 300 remote rackers when I joined that force. Over the next five years, they were to add hundreds more to the remote workforce. Before I left, my team had members from the UK, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The workforce at The Castle was a very diverse and progressive lot. It was like a left-wing island in the middle of, well, Texas. I had fun there, and enjoyed the work. 

Brendon Glenn
Although I was on the clock from noon till eleven, four days a week, working from home gave me a lot of latitude. Not being able to make most evening meetings may have been a blessing in disguise, and once I became acclimated to the 40-hour work week, I found I had plenty of time for research and writing. I wrote this piece about the murder back home in Venice of Brendon K. Glenn, an unarmed African American man, by the LAPD, while I was in Texas on a periodic visit to HQ.

Having time to write was a good thing too, because as the 2016 election year approached, I saw the very real danger of a Donald Trump presidency. I abruptly shifted my focus from Syria to this looming struggle closer to home. In October, I published 'Please join us by signing this statement "Hands Off Syria" Applies to Russia Too' in seven languages. First of February, I published my first piece about the 2016 election season, Donald Trump's #MakeAmericaWhiteAgain campaign faces 1st test in Iowa:

[T]his year Donald Trump is running the most racist presidential campaign of my life time.

In July 2016, I debunked candidate Trump's conspiracy theory that: 

Black Lives Matter leaders are conspiring with Attorney General Loretta Lynch to bring thousands of violent protesters to the Republican and Democratic national conventions and create a Summer Of Chaos. According to this theory's promoters, the ultimate aim of the #SummerOfChaos, is to give President Obama an excuse to declare martial law, cancel the elections, and continue his presidency.

It was pure projection. I didn't realize at the time how much it anticipated how the white supremacists would react to losing the White House. What I did realize was that the main thrust of the US Left, to defeat Hillary Clinton, could play a significant role in helping them to get into it in the first place, so I quickly turned my fire on the Green Party, and its Trump friendly “don't vote for the lesser of two evils” campaign, as well as Trump.

Meet Green Party's Jill Stein, Putin sock-puppet & Assad apologistDonald Trump can only win if Jill Stein stays in, and Did the Green Party's @DrJillStein help Trump win? were among the more than 30 posts I did on the 2016 election. He won anyway.

With the Trump cabal in the White House, there was much to write about, so I did. 

The white supremacists felt emboldened. Before they showed up in Charlottesville some of them showed up my neighborhood to harass the Santa Monica Committee for Racial Justice. For me, this struggle pretty much dominated the Summer of 2017.

It was in the context of my struggle against this resurgence of white supremacy that I was able to develop my understanding of what I came to call the white Left, as outlined in two pieces in June 2018, The white-Left Part 1: The two meanings of white, and The white-Left Part 2: Why that is the best name for it, and gained the following important insight into a problem that lies at the root of the whole white-black question when it comes to race:

When I joined Rackspace, and actually long before, I objected to some of the Internet technical terminology, like when I was asked to “blacklist,” or block certain IPs, and “whitelist,” or prioritize, other IPs. I always felt they were dragging race into it unnecessarily.

Then, like an epiphany, it hit me: The problem wasn't with that terminology. White = good, and black = bad, are entirely intuitive and natural associations. The problem is with certain people calling themselves “white” when that just ain't so, either literally, or in what it is meant to imply about their supremacy. 

I got Vietnam: American Holocaust on Amazon Prime Video in June 2018. Hard to believe, the DVD had been selling on their website for a decade by then. In November, Raed Fares, leader of Kafranbel was killed in Idlib. I meant him when he came to Los Angeles in 2013. He was one of the few Syrian activists I was able to break bread with.  

On New Year's Eve 2018, I lost my cat friend of 17 years. My team at Rackspace sent flowers and a card.

In 2019, in addition to continuing on my job and blogging against the white supremacist movement led by Donald Trump, I focused a lot of attention exposing Russian's war on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW].  Assad persisted in using chemical weapons in Syria with Putin's support, so their agents in the West were doing everything they could to discredit the chemical watch dog agency. Exposing the problems with their propaganda was tedious but necessary work.

2020 was the year of the pandemic. Conveniently, I was already working from home and meeting co-workers through Zoom. Inconveniently, I lost my job on May Day as work slowed down. In the Summer, the social justice movement became energized in a way I hadn't seen since the 1960s, and I was all in.

Black Lives Matter protest at First Baptist Church in Venice | Sunday, 7 June 2020

So, this is how the last decade was for me. It started out with the hopeful notes of the Arab Spring, and this Spring is looking up too. The white supremacists have been forced out of the White House, although their attempted resurgence is by no means spent. The pandemic may be coming to an end. I got my second shot on 3 March. The social justice and worker's rights movements continue to grow, and in Libya they have formed a new unity government, with elections planned for next winter.

Things are looking good for the next decade.

Clay Claiborne

Libyans celebrate the 10th anniversary of their February 17 revolution
Syrians celebrating the 10th anniversary of their March 15 revolution