Chomsky and Prashad: Cuba is not a state sponsor of terrorism / BY Noam Chomsky, Vijay Prashad

José Rodríguez Fuster (Cuba), Granma, 2013. Source: “A Bit of Hope That Doesn’t Come from Miami: The Sixteenth Newsletter (2021),” The Tricontinental, April 22, 2021.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Cuba, a country of 11 million people, has been under an illegal embargo by the United States government for over six decades.

Despite this embargo, Cuba’s people have been able to transcend the indignities of hunger, ill health, and illiteracy, all three being social plagues that continue to trouble much of the world.

Due to its innovations in health care delivery, for instance, Cuba has been able to send its medical workers to other countries, including during the pandemic, to provide vital assistance. Cuba exports its medical workers, not terrorism.

In the last days of the Trump administration, the U.S. government returned Cuba to its state sponsors of terrorism list.

This was a vindictive act. Trump said it was because Cuba played host to guerrilla groups from Colombia, which was actually part of Cuba’s role as host of the peace talks.

Cuba played a key role in bringing peace in Colombia, a country that has been wracked by a terrible civil war since 1948 that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. For two years, the Biden administration has maintained Trump’s vindictive policy, one that punishes Cuba not for terrorism but for the promotion of peace.

Biden can remove Cuba from this list with a stroke of his pen. It’s as simple as that. When he was running for the presidency, Biden said he would even reverse the harsher of Trump’s sanctions. But he has not done so. He must do so now.

Noam Chomsky is a linguist, philosopher, and political activist. He is the laureate professor of linguistics at the University of Arizona. His most recent books are Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal: The Political Economy of Saving the Planet and The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

MR Online, February 14, 2023,

Police violence reached an all-time high last year—are we ready to shrink police budgets? / By Sonali Kolhatkar

Photo by Glenn Halog/Flickr

Originally published in Canadian Dimension on January 19, 2023

In spite of the huge public attention on police violence since 2020, every year cops kill more and more people

The year 2022 was the deadliest year on record in the United States for fatalities at the hands of law enforcement. According to the Washington Post’s police shootings database, law enforcement officers shot and killed 1,096 people last year. In comparison, there were 1,048 shooting fatalities at the hands of police the year before, 1,019 the year before that, 997 the year before that, and so on.

These numbers are most likely underestimated. According to Abdul Nasser Rad, managing director of research and data at Mapping Police Violence, the Post “only captures incidents where a police officer discharges their firearm and the victim is killed.” This means that it doesn’t count events like the 2014 killing of Eric Garner in New York and the 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, as both deaths resulted from asphyxiation.

In contrast, Mapping Police Violence includes any action that a law enforcement officer takes that results in a fatal encounter. For example, Rad’s project concluded that police killed 1,158 people in 2021 compared to the Post’s figure of 1,048 (final results for 2022 are not yet available).

There are other databases of police violence like Fatal Encounters, run by the University of Southern California, that have their own criteria for counting police-related killings. Such projects track police violence because the federal government refuses to, in spite of a 1994 law requiring the Justice Department to keep records. Moreover, there is evidence that biased reporting by medical examiners and coroners in individual cases is helping significantly to cover up the extent of police violence.

The upshot is that in spite of the huge public attention on police violence since 2020, every year cops kill more and more people. We can expect 2023 to be even deadlier if the years-long trend continues.

Another clear conclusion is that police violence is dramatically focused on communities of colour. According to the Washington Post, Black Americans “are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans,” while Mapping Police Violence finds that “Black people are 2.9x more likely to be killed by police than white people in the US.” Police killings of Latinos and Indigenous people are similarly disproportionate.

Recall that in the aftermath of Floyd’s murder in 2020 at the hands of officer Derek Chauvin, activists demanded a defunding of the police. The well-documented assumption underlying that demand was that generously funded police departments were using their resources to kill people, especially poor people of colour whose needs in turn were not being funded.

Rad explains that the disproportionate police killings of people of colour are “due to historical disinvestment and how the US state has used punitive and carceral responses to social problems, specifically to Black and Brown communities.” Therefore, the only just conclusion is to divert tax revenues from fueling death to fueling life.

Instead of city governments embracing the life-affirming idea of diverting money away from murderous police, media pundits and politicians led a reactionary backlash. President Joe Biden, in a clear clapback at the defund movement, promised to fund the police, and even begged local governments to use federal stimulus funds to bolster their police departments in 2022.

In Minneapolis, which became the focus of international attention in the wake of Floyd’s murder, lawyers Doug Seaton and James Dickey opined in a piece titled “Minneapolis Needs a Fully-Funded Police Department,” that “the city’s most vulnerable… have suffered from” the demand to defund police. One might conclude that Minneapolis’ police are struggling for funding, but in fact more than a third of the city’s entire general fund is poured into police coffers. Mother Jones’ Eamon Whalen rightly concluded that “The Police Are Defunding Minneapolis.”

According to Rad, “In 2022, funding actually continued to increase across US cities into law enforcement agencies.” He adds, “what might be the media narrative actually doesn’t match up to what is actually going on.”

Does giving police more money result in greater public safety, as Seaton and Dickey claim, and as Biden assumes? One recent study analyzing funding of hundreds of police departments over nearly three decades concluded that “new police budget growth is likely to do one thing: increase misdemeanor arrests.”

One of the study’s authors, Brenden Beck, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado Denver, writing in Slate about his team’s results, said, “The trend was clear: When cities decreased the size of their police departments, they saw fewer misdemeanor arrests and when they increased them, they saw more.”

According to Beck, “misdemeanor enforcement is concentrated in poor neighborhoods and in communities of colour.” He is confident that, “One thing… [increased police funding] is likely to do, even if paired with community policing, is generate more misdemeanor arrests. Arrests that will disproportionately hurt poor and Black people.”

It is during such arrests that police tend to kill Black and Brown people. Those cities that specifically took steps to reduce arrests for petty crimes saw a decrease in police killings, according to data scientist and cofounder of Campaign Zero Samuel Sinyangwe. He also concluded that crime rates in those cities did not increase.

There is so much data bolstering the fact that more police funding means more violence and death at the hands of police. And yet, police departments remain flush with cash.

How can we simply accept that police will continue to kill more and more people each year?

Not everyone accepts this deadly status quo. In spite of the backlash, police abolitionists are continuing to organize. They have created a powerful internet tool,, to help communities put police spending into perspective and reimagine their city budgets. The site includes a detailed video tutorial on how to use tools like a “people’s budget calculator.”

In Los Angeles, whose police budget receives massive infusions of private foundation cash on top of generous public funding, activists have been using the idea of a “people’s budget” to “reimagine public safety.” Vocal critics of police funding like Eunisses Hernandez and Kenneth Mejia have won elections to powerful local offices.

It’s not enough to call out police when they kill people. It’s not enough to march in the streets or write op-eds. Police will continue to murder more people every year with impunity, their violence nurtured by powerful allies. If we want to see a significant reversal to the ruthless march of police savagery, we’re going to need to put our money where our mouths are: toward people’s needs, not police’s deadly deeds.

Sonali Kolhatkar is an award-winning multimedia journalist and the host and producer of Uprising, a popular, daily, drive-time program on KPFK, Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles. She is also co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a US-based non-profit organization that works with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA).

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

The United States of America as a Sacrifice Zone / by Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis

“Fight Poverty Not the Poor.” (Photo: Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Despite the encouraging policy-making that hit the headlines this summer, America remains a significant sacrifice zone with economic policies that justify their painful impact on the poor and marginalized as necessary for the greater good.

In the American ethos, sacrifice is often hailed as the chief ingredient for overcoming hardship and seizing opportunity. To be successful, we’re assured, college students must make personal sacrifices by going deep into debt for a future degree and the earnings that may come with it. Small business owners must sacrifice their paychecks so that their companies will continue to grow, while politicians must similarly sacrifice key policy promises to get something (almost anything!) done.

We have become all too used to the notion that success only comes with sacrifice, even if this is anything but the truth for the wealthiest and most powerful Americans. After all, whether you focus on the gains of Wall Street or of this country’s best-known billionaires, the ever-rising Pentagon budget, or the endless subsidies to fossil-fuel companies, sacrifice is not exactly a theme for those atop this society. As it happens, sacrifice in the name of progress is too often relegated to the lives of the poor and those with little or no power. But what if, instead of believing that most of us must eternally “rob Peter to pay Paul,” we imagine a world in which everyone was in and no one out?

In that context, consider recent policy debates on Capitol Hill as the crucial midterm elections approach. To start with, the passage of the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) promises real, historic advances when it comes to climate change, health care, and fair tax policy. It’s comprehensive in nature and far-reaching not just for climate resilience but for environmental justice, too. Still, the legislation is distinctly less than what climate experts tell us we need to keep this planet truly livable.

In addition, President Biden’s cancellation of up to $20,000 per person in student loans could wipe out the debt of nearly half of all borrowers. This unprecedented debt relief demonstrates that a policy agenda lifting from the bottom is both compassionate and will stimulate the broader economy. Still, it, too, doesn’t go far enough when it comes to those suffocating under a burden of debt that has long served as a dead weight on the aspirations of millions.

In fact, a dual response to those developments and others over the past months seems in order. As a start, a striking departure from the neoliberal dead zone in which our politics have been trapped for decades should certainly be celebrated. Rather than sit back with a sense of satisfaction, however, those advances should only be built upon.

Let’s begin by looking under the hood of the IRA. After all, that bill is being heralded as the most significant climate legislation in our history and its champions claim that, by 2030, it will have helped reduce this country’s carbon emissions by roughly 40% from their 2005 levels. Since a reduction of any kind seemed out of reach not so long ago, it represents a significant step forward.

Among other things, it ensures investments of more than $60 billion in clean energy manufacturing; an estimated $30 billion in production tax credits geared toward increasing the manufacture of solar panels, wind turbines, and more; about $30 billion for grant and loan programs to speed up the transition to clean electricity; and $27 billion for a greenhouse gas reduction fund that will allow states to provide financial assistance to low-income communities so that they, too, can benefit from rooftop solar installations and other clean energy developments.

The IRA also seeks to lower energy costs and reduce utility bills for individual Americans through tax credits that will encourage purchases of energy-efficient homes, vehicles, and appliances. Among other non-climate-change advances, it caps out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs, reduces health insurance premiums for 13 million Americans, and provides free vaccinations for seniors.

As the nation’s biggest investment in the climate so far, it demonstrates the willingness of the Biden administration to address the climate crisis. It also highlights just how stalled this country has been on that issue for so long and how much more work there is to do. Of course, given our ever hotter planet and the role this country has played in it as the historically greatest greenhouse gas emitter of all time, anything less than legislation that will lead to net-zero carbon emissions is a far cry from what’s necessary, as this country burnsfloods, and overheats in a striking fashion.

Pipelines and Sacrifice Zones

Earlier iterations of what became the IRA recognized a historic opportunity to enact policies connecting the defense of the planet to the defense of human life and needs. Because of the resistance of Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, as well as every Senate Republican, the final version of the reconciliation bill includes worrying sacrifices. It does not, for instance, have an extension or expansion of the Child Tax Credit, a lifeline for poor and low-income families, nor does it raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, even though that was a promise made in the 2020 election. Gone as well are plans for free pre-kindergarten and community college, in addition to the nation’s first paid family-leave program that would have provided up to $4,000 a month to cover births, deaths, and other pivotal moments in everyday life.

And don’t forget to add to what’s missing any real pain for fossil-fuel companies. After all, coal baron Manchin seems to have succeeded in cutting a side deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for a massive natural gas pipeline through his home state of West Virginia and that’s just to begin a list of concessions. Indeed, the sacrificial negotiations with Manchin to get the bill passed ensured significantly more domestic fossil-fuel production, including agreement that the Interior Department would auction off permits to drill for yet more oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and possibly elsewhere, all of which will offset some of the emissions reductions from climate-change-related provisions in the bill.

It’s important to note as well that, although progress was made on reducing fossil-fuel emissions, expanding health care, and creating a fairer tax system, for the poor in this country, “sacrifice zones” are hardly a thing of the past. As journalist Andrew Kaufman suggests, “One thing that does seem assured, however, is that the arrival—at last—of a federal climate law has not heralded an end to the suffering [of] communities living near heavy fossil-fuel polluters.” And as Rafael Mojica, program director for the Michigan environmental justice group Soulardarity, put it, the IRA “is riddled with concessions to the big carbon-based industries that at present prey on our communities at the expense of their health, both physically and economically.”

Keep in mind that Michigan is already anything but a stranger to sacrifice zones. Case in point: the water crisis in the city of Flint as well as in Detroit. The Flint Democracy Defense League and the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization have battled lead-poisoning and water shut-offs for years in the face of deindustrialization and the lack of a right to clean water in this country. Such grassroots efforts helped sound the alarm during the Flint water crisis that began in 2014 and have since linked community groups nationwide dealing with high levels of toxins in their water supply so that they could learn from that city’s grassroots organizing experience. Meanwhile, so many years later, Michiganders are still protesting potential polluters like Enbridge’s aging Line 5 oil pipeline.

And there are many other examples of frontline community groups protesting the ways in which their homes are being sacrificed on the altar of the fossil-fuel industry. Take, for example, the communities in the stretch of Louisiana between New Orleans and Baton Rouge that contain hundreds of petrochemical facilities and has, eerily enough, come to be known as Cancer Alley. There, among a mostly poor and Black population, you can find some of the highest cancer rates in the country. In St. James Parish alone, there are 12 petrochemical plants and nearly every household has felt the impact of cancer. For years, Rise St. James and other local groups have been working to prevent the construction of a new plastics facility near local schools on land that once was a slave burial ground.

Then, of course, there are many other sacrifice zones where the issue isn’t fossil fuels.  Take the city of Aberdeen in Grays Harbor County, Washington, once home to a thriving timber and lumber economy. After its natural landscape was stripped and the local economy declined, that largely white, rural community fell into endemic poverty, homelessness, and drug abuse. Chaplains on the Harbor, one of the few community organizations with a presence in homeless encampments across the county, has now started a sustainable farm run by formerly homeless and incarcerated young people in Aberdeen as part of an attempt to create models for the building of green communities in places rejected by so many.

Or take Oak Flat, Arizona, the holiest site for the San Carlos Apache tribe. There, a group called the Apache Stronghold is leading a struggle to protect that tribe’s sacred lands against harm from Resolution Copper, a multinational mining company permitted to extract minerals on those lands thanks to a midnight rider put into the National Defense Authorization Act in 2015. Along with a growing number of First Nations people and their supporters, it has been fighting to protect that land from becoming another sacrifice zone on the altar of corporate greed.

On the east coast, consider Union Hill, Virginia, where residents of a historic Black community fought for years to block the construction of three massive compressor stations for fracked gas flowing from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Those facilities would have potentially subjected residents to staggering amounts of air pollution, but early in 2020 community organizers won the fight to stop construction.

Consider as well the work of Put People First PA!, which, in Pennsylvania communities like Grant Township and Erie, is on the tip of the spear in the fight against an invasive and devastating fracking industry that’s ripping up land and exposing Pennsylvanians to the sort of pollutants that leaders in Union Hill fought to prevent. Note as well that, in many similar places, hospitals are being privatized or shuttered, leaving residents without significant access to health care, even as the risk of respiratory illnesses and other industrially caused diseases grows.

Such disparate communities reflect a long-term history of suffering—from the violence inflicted on indigenous people, to the slave plantations of the South, to the expansion (and then steep decline) of industrial production in the North and West, to pipelines still snaking across the countryside. And now historic pain inflicted on low-income and poor Americans will increase thanks to a growing climate crisis, as the people of flooded and drinking-water-barren Jackson, Mississippi, discovered recently.

In a world of megadroughts, superstorms, wildfires, and horrific flooding guaranteed to wreak ever more havoc on lives and livelihoods, poor and low-income people are beginning to demand action commensurate with the crisis at hand.

Dark Clouds Blowing in from the “Equality State”

While reports on the passage of the IRA and student debt relief dominated the news cycle, another major policy announcement at the close of the summer and far from Capitol Hill slipped far more quietly into the news. It highlights yet again the “sacrifices” that poor Americans are implicitly expected to make to strengthen the economy. Just outside of Jackson, Wyoming, one of the wealthiest and most unequal towns in this country, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell committed his organization to take “forceful and rapid steps to moderate demand so that it comes into better alignment with supply and to keep inflation expectations anchored.”

Couched in typically wonkish language, his comments—made in the “equality state”—may sound benign, but he was suggesting capping wages, an act whose effects will, in the end, fall most heavily on poor and low-income people. Indeed, he warned, mildly enough, that this would mean “some pain for households and businesses”—even as he was ensuring that the livelihoods of poor and low-income people would once again be sacrificed for what passes as the greater good.

What does it mean, for instance, to “moderate demand” for food when more than 12 million families with children are already hungry each month? It should strike us as wrong to call for “some pain” for so many households facing crises like possible evictions or foreclosures, crushing debt, and a lack of access to decent health care. It should be considered inhumane to advocate for a “softer labor market” when one in three workers is already earning less than $15 an hour.

It is disingenuous to say that the economy is “overheating,” as if what’s being experienced is some strange, abstract anomaly rather than the result of decades of disinvestment in infrastructure and social programs that could have provided the basic necessities of life for everyone. Nonetheless, Powell continues to push a false narrative of scarcity and the threat of inflation to smother the powerful resurgence of courageous and creative labor organizing that we’ve seen, miraculously enough, in these pandemic years.

At this point, as a pastor and theologian, I can’t resist quoting Jesus’s choice words in the Gospel of Matthew about how poor people so often pay the price for the further enrichment of the already wealthy. In Matthew 9, Jesus asserts: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” The Greek word “mercy” is defined as loving kindness, taking care of the down and out. In Jesus’s parlance, mercy meant acts of mutual solidarity and societal policies that prioritized the needs of the poor, which would today translate into cancelling debts, raising wages, and investing in social programs.

Despite the encouraging policy-making that hit the headlines this summer, America remains a significant sacrifice zone with economic policies that justify their painful impact on the poor and marginalized as necessary for the greater good. It’s time for us to fight for a comprehensive, intersectional, bottom-up approach to the injustices that continually unfold around us.

© 2021

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis is co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. She is the author of “Always with Us?: What Jesus Really Said about the Poor” (2017).

Common Dreams, September 15, 2022,

Student Loan Debt Is an American Malignancy Born of Ronald Reagan / by Thom Hartmann

Former President Ronald Reagan addressing the audience at the White House News Photographers Association dinner on May 18, 1983. (Photo: Bettmann/Contributor/via Getty images)

Originally published in Common Dreams,

Forgiving student debt is not a slap at anybody; it’s righting a moral wrong inflicted on millions by Reagan and his morbidly rich Republican buddies.

President Joe Biden just made good on his campaign promise to forgive billions in student debt. Republicans, predictably, have gone nuts.

When you search on the phrase “student debt forgiveness” one of the top hits that comes up is a Fox “News” article by a woman who paid off her loans in full. 

“There are millions of Americans like me,” the author writes, “for whom debt forgiveness is an infuriating slap in the face after years of hard work and sacrifice. Those used to be qualities we encouraged as an American culture, and if Biden gets his way, we’ll be sending a very different message to the next generation.”

This is, to be charitable, bullsh*t. Forgiving student debt is not a slap at anybody; it’s righting a moral wrong inflicted on millions of Americans by Ronald Reagan and his morbidly rich Republican buddies.

When you invest in your young people, you’re investing in your nation.

Student debt is evil. It’s a crime against our nation, hobbling opportunity and weakening our intellectual infrastructure. Any nation’s single biggest asset is a well-educated populace, and student debt diminishes that. It hurts America.

Student debt at the scale we have in America doesn’t exist anywhere else in the rest of the developed world.

American students, in fact, are going to college for free right now in Germany, Iceland, France, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic, because pretty much anybody can go to college for free in those countries—and dozens of others.

Student debt? The rest of the developed world doesn’t know what you’re talking about.

Student debt largely didn’t exist here in America before the Reagan Revolution. It was created here in the 1980s, intentionally, and we can intentionally end it here and join the rest of the world in again celebrating higher education.

Forty years on from the Reagan Revolution, student debt has crippled three generations of young Americans: over 44 million people carry the burden, totaling a $1.8 trillion drag on our economy that benefits nobody except the banks earning interest on the debt and the politicians they pay off.

But that doesn’t begin to describe the damage student debt has done to America since Reagan, in his first year as governor of California, ended free tuition at the University of California and cut state aid to that college system by 20 percent across-the-board. 

After having destroyed low-income Californians’ ability to get an education in the 1970s, he then took his anti-education program national as president in 1981. 

When asked why he’d taken a meat-axe to higher education and was pricing college out of the reach of most Americans, he said—much like Ron DeSantis might today—that college students were “too liberal” and America “should not subsidize intellectual curiosity.” {empahsis added}

Four days before the Kent State Massacre of May 5, 1970, Governor Reagan called students protesting the Vietnam war across America “brats,” “freaks,” and “cowardly fascists.” As The New York Times noted at the time, he then added: {emphasis added}

“If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with. No more appeasement!”

Before Reagan became president, states paid 65 percent of the costs of colleges, and federal aid covered another 15 or so percent, leaving students to cover the remaining 20 percent with their tuition payments.

That’s how it works—at a minimum—in many developed nations; in many northern European countries college is not only free, but the government pays students a stipend to cover books and rent.

Here in America, though, the numbers are pretty much reversed from pre-1980, with students now covering about 80 percent of the costs. Thus the need for student loans here in the USA. 

As soon as he became president, Reagan went after federal aid to students with fervor. Devin Fergus documented for The Washington Post how, as a result, student debt first became a widespread thing across the United States during the early ‘80s:

“No federal program suffered deeper cuts than student aid. Spending on higher education was slashed by some 25 percent between 1980 and 1985. … Students eligible for grant assistance freshmen year had to take out student loans to cover their second year.”

It became a mantra for conservatives, particularly in Reagan’s cabinet. Let the kids pay for their own damn “liberal” education. 

Reagan’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget, David Stockman, told a reporter in 1981:

“I don’t accept the notion that the federal government has an obligation to fund generous grants to anybody that wants to go to college.  It seems to me that if people want to go to college bad enough then there is opportunity and responsibility on their part to finance their way through the best way they can. … I would suggest that we could probably cut it a lot more.”

After all, cutting taxes for the morbidly rich was Reagan’s first and main priority, a position the GOP holds to this day. Cutting education could “reduce the cost of government” and thus justify more tax cuts.

Reagan’s first Education Secretary, Terrel Bell, wrote in his memoir:

“Stockman and all the true believers identified all the drag and drain on the economy with the ‘tax-eaters’: people on welfare, those drawing unemployment insurance, students on loans and grants, the elderly bleeding the public purse with Medicare, the poor exploiting Medicaid.”

Reagan’s next Education Secretary, William Bennett, was even more blunt about how America should deal with the “problem” of uneducated people who can’t afford college, particularly if they were African American:

“I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime,” Bennett said, “you could—if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.”

These various perspectives became an article of faith across the GOP. Reagan’s OMB Director David Stockman told Congress that students were “tax eaters … [and] a drain and drag on the American economy.” Student aid, he said, “isn’t a proper obligation of the taxpayer.”

This was where, when, and how today’s student debt crisis was kicked off in 1981. 

Before Reagan, though, America had a different perspective. 

Both my father and my wife Louise’s father served in the military during World War II and both went to college on the GI Bill. My dad dropped out after two years and went to work in a steel plant because mom got pregnant with me; Louise’s dad, who’d grown up dirt poor, went all the way for his law degree and ended up as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Michigan.

They were two among almost 8 million young men and women who not only got free tuition from the 1944 GI Bill but also received a stipend to pay for room, board, and books. And the result—the return on our government’s investment in those 8 million educations—was substantial. 

The best book on that time and subject is Edward Humes’ Over Here: How the GI Bill Transformed the American Dreamsummarized by Mary Paulsell for the Columbia Daily Tribune:

[That] groundbreaking legislation gave our nation 14 Nobel Prize winners, three Supreme Court justices, three presidents, 12 senators, 24 Pulitzer Prize winners, 238,000 teachers, 91,000 scientists, 67,000 doctors, 450,000 engineers, 240,000 accountants, 17,000 journalists, 22,000 dentists and millions of lawyers, nurses, artists, actors, writers, pilots and entrepreneurs.

When people have an education, they not only raise the competence and vitality of a nation; they also earn more money, which stimulates the economy.  Because they earn more, they pay more in taxes, which helps pay back the government for the cost of that education. 

Republican policies of starving education and cranking up student debt have made U.S. banks a lot of money, but they’ve cut America’s scientific leadership in the world and stopped three generations of young people from starting businesses, having families, and buying homes.  

In 1952 dollars, the GI Bill’s educational benefit cost the nation $7 billion. The increased economic output over the next 40 years that could be traced directly to that educational cost was $35.6 billion, and the extra taxes received from those higher-wage-earners was $12.8 billion.

In other words, the U.S. government invested $7 billion and got a $48.4 billion return on that investment, about a $7 return for every $1 invested. 

In addition, that educated workforce made it possible for America to lead the world in innovation, R&D, and new business development for three generations.  We invented the transistor, the integrated circuit, the internet, new generations of miracle drugs, sent men to the moon, and reshaped science.

Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln knew this simple concept that was so hard for Reagan and generations of Republicans since to understand: when you invest in your young people, you’re investing in your nation.

Jefferson founded the University of Virginia as a 100% tuition-free school; it was one of his three proudest achievements, ranking higher on the epitaph he wrote for his own tombstone than his having been both president and vice president.

Lincoln was equally proud of the free and low-tuition colleges he started. As the state of North Dakota notes:

Lincoln signed the Morrill Act on July 2, 1862, giving each state a minimum of 90,000 acres of land to sell, to establish colleges of engineering, agriculture, and military science. … Proceeds from the sale of these lands were to be invested in a perpetual endowment fund which would provide support for colleges of agriculture and mechanical arts in each of the states.

Fully 76 free or very-low-tuition state colleges were started because of Lincoln’s effort and since have educated millions of Americans including my mom, who graduated from land-grant Michigan State University in the 1940s, having easily paid her minimal tuition working as a summer lifeguard in Charlevoix. 

Every other developed country in the world knows this, too: student debt is a rare or even nonexistent thing in most western democracies. Not only is college free or close to free around much of the world; many countries even offer a stipend for monthly expenses like our GI Bill did back in the day.  

Thousands of American students are currently studying in Germany at the moment, for example, for free. Hundreds of thousands of American students are also getting free college educations right now in Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic, among others. 

Republican policies of starving education and cranking up student debt have made U.S. banks a lot of money, but they’ve cut America’s scientific leadership in the world and stopped three generations of young people from starting businesses, having families, and buying homes.  

The damage to the working class and poor Americans, both in economic and human terms, is devastating. It’s a double challenge for minorities.

And now President Biden has eliminated $10,000 of student debt for low-income people and up to $20,000 for those who qualified for Pell Grants.

The official Republican response came instantly, as USA Today reporter Joey Garrison noted on Twitter:

“The @RNC on Biden’s student loan debt cancellation: ‘This is Biden’s bailout for the wealthy. As hardworking Americans struggle with soaring costs and a recession, Biden is giving a handout to the rich.’”

Which is particularly bizarre. “Wealthy” and “rich” people—by definition—don’t need student loan forgiveness because they don’t have student loans. How gullible do Republicans think their voters are?

Just like for-profit health insurance, student loans are a malignancy attached to our republic by Republicans

Marjorie Taylor Greene wrote on Twitter that student loan forgiveness was “completely unfair.” That’s the same Republican congresswoman who just had $183,504 in PPP loans forgiven, and happily banked the money without a complaint.

Republican members of Congress, in fact, seem to be among those in the front of the debt-forgiveness line with their hands out, even as billionaires bankroll their campaigns and backstop their lifestyles.

As the Center for American Progress noted on Twitter in response to a GOP tweet whining that “If you take out a loan, you pay it back”:

Member —— Amount in PPP Loans Forgiven
Matt Gaetz (R-FL) – $476,000
Greg Pence (R-IN) – $79,441
Vern Buchanan (R-FL) – $2,800,000
Kevin Hern (R-OK) $1,070,000
Roger Williams (R-TX) $1,430,000
Brett Guthrie (R-KY) $4,300,000
Ralph Norman (R-SC) $306,250
Ralph Abraham (R-AL) $38,000
Mike Kelly (R-PA) $974,100
Vicki Hartzler (R-MO) $451,200
Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) $988,700
Carol Miller (R-WV) $3,100,000

So, yeah, Republicans are complete hypocrites about forgiving loan debt, in addition to pushing policies that actually hurt our nation (not to mention the generation coming up).

Ten thousand dollars in debt forgiveness is a start, but if we really want America to soar, we need to go away beyond that.

Just like for-profit health insurance, student loans are a malignancy attached to our republic by Republicans trying to increase profits for their donors while extracting more and more cash from working-class families.

Congress should not only zero-out existing student debt across our nation but revive the post-war government support for education—from Jefferson and Lincoln to the GI Bill and college subsidies—that the Reagan, Bush, Bush II, and the Trump administrations have destroyed. 

Then, and only then, can the true “making America great again” begin.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of “The Hidden History of Monopolies: How Big Business Destroyed the American Dream” (2020); “The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America” (2019); and more than 25 other books in print.

Opinion: To Win a Political Revolution, We Need a New Mass Organization / by Jeremy Gong and Nick French

Since Bernie Sanders’s defeat in 2020 and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the US left has been largely disorganized. The time is ripe for Bernie and the Squad to create a new mass organization to confront today’s crises.

It’s hard for leftists in the United States to find much to celebrate these days. After the excitement of Bernie Sanders’s victories in the early 2020 Democratic primaries, our hopes were dashed when the center consolidated around Joe Biden and handed him the nomination. The wave of inspiring uprisings against police brutality later that summer was followed by disappointment too, as demands for serious reforms to attack racial and economic injustice were co-opted or sidelined. The Left, as some have put it, finds itself in purgatory.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden’s administration has turned out to be what his most astute critics predicted: a presidency that, despite some early bright spots, has failed to meaningfully tackle economic inequality, the climate crisis, or much of anything else. Biden’s approval ratings are now at record lows as inflation batters the economy. (It’s unclear whether a last-minute compromise deal with West Virginia senator Joe Manchin on climate, health care, and taxes will salvage the administration’s popularity.) On top of that, the Supreme Court is rolling back abortion rights and threatening our democracy, and Biden and Democratic Party leaders are dragging their feet on any sort of response. The increasingly reactionary GOP now seems set for victory in the midterms.

There are some positive signs: Left-wing ideas are more mainstream than they have been in decades, in part thanks to Sanders’s presidential campaigns. Along with other insurgent politicians like “Squad” members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, Sanders has put policies like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and free public college into the mainstream. Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has nearly one hundred thousand dues-paying members, four members in Congress, and dozens of elected officials at the state and local levels. The labor movement is stirring again, with this year’s successful Amazon warehouse unionization effort in Staten Island, the ongoing wave of Starbucks organizing, and the election of a strike-ready leadership to the 1.3-million-strong International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Still, the Left hasn’t been able to coordinate effective political interventions at the federal level, let alone exercise power. With leftists still a tiny minority in Congress, progressive priorities like Medicare for All and a Green New Deal are off the agenda, and even less ambitious reforms are consistently stymied by conservative Democrats like Joe Manchin. And despite growing their legislative presence, socialists and their allies have failed to expand beyond deep-blue districts.

Sanders’s presidential campaigns brought in tens of thousands of volunteers, millions of voters, and a huge number of small-dollar campaign contributions (many from working-class donors). But it wasn’t enough to win, and the underlying theory of the campaigns — that class-struggle rhetoric and a popular platform of wealth redistribution could turn out masses of working-class nonvoters to carry Sanders to the nomination — didn’t pan out. Despite the popularity of Sanders-style politics and mass discontent with the status quo, socialism remains largely the preserve of young, college-educated professionals in solidly Democratic districts — isolated from the broader working-class constituency it purports to represent.

In a phrase, Sanders’s “political revolution” simply never came.

There are many theories as to why Sanders didn’t win. Part of the explanation, though, must involve the lack of working-class organization (including unions) and left institutions. The defeat and disorganization of the Left and labor since the 1970s has deprived the working class of the struggles and organizations that undergird them — what Friedrich Engels called “schools of class war.” Having never felt the power of collective struggle, many voters were understandably skeptical that Sanders’s campaign would deliver. And with most Democratic voters taking their cues from the corporate media and party elites, Sanders simply didn’t have a strong enough media counterweight.

Today, the absence of mass working-class organization continues to haunt the US left. With the Right putting fundamental liberties like reproductive freedom on the chopping block and the Democrats asleep at the wheel, the time is ripe to build a mass organization that can make desperately needed political interventions. And we think that Sanders and the Squad need to take the lead in building such an organization.

Movements Need Organizations

The Left’s recent defeats — compounded by COVID-19, which has made in-person organizing much more difficult — have fostered demoralization and demobilization. But much of the post-2020 malaise can also be attributed to the inability of activists — let alone millions of ordinary people — to keep participating in a movement that has the power to change the world, especially at the national level, where the stakes are highest. While activists have supported impressive campaigns and righteous protests, millions of former Bernie supporters understandably feel helpless amid political and ecological crises.

Still, there are inspiring examples for the Left to build on. In Richmond, California, the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) has beaten landlords and Chevron to win city council majorities on and off for over a decade. The Vermont Progressive Party continues to be a significant force in state politics, even holding the office of lieutenant governor from 2017 to 2021. In New York City and Chicago, DSA-backed elected officials have formed socialist caucuses.

These efforts are exciting because they elevate the political process above individual candidates and fleeting election campaigns, fuse legislative fights with permanent membership organizations, and create clear and oppositional political identities distinct from the Democratic Party. As labor activist and RPA leader Mike Parker wrote earlier this year, building broader political organization is the “main task when it comes to political action,” not a “side issue.” Organization is how we make Bernie’s “Not me, us” more than a slogan.

Without organization, it’s hard to build, let alone sustain, the type of mobilization needed for Bernie’s political revolution. Massive protests wane without clear demands, let alone a compelling strategy of how to win them. Thousands of progressives either don’t know how to start building campaigns or lack the resources to do so. Movements around important issues get co-opted by corporate Democrats’ reelection campaigns, grant-seeking nonprofits, and prominent social media personalities who aren’t democratically accountable to any base. Ongoing organization is also essential to train onetime protesters into skilled, politically sophisticated, and lifelong movement cadre.

In electoral politics, progressive candidates face enormous pressure to avoid criticizing establishment Democrats. Once elected, lone progressives have few resources to push against the business-friendly common sense at every level of government: corporate candidates can rely on well-funded lobbyists to help write legislation, educate the public, and even mobilize supporters; anti-corporate candidates must do this all on their own. Without a broader organization at their back, it’s no wonder that the progressive politicians we support are not able to be constantly fighting on all fronts at once.

Only mass organization can bring together the resources and the people of the Sanders movement on a permanent basis. The idea of such a party-like organization has been popular on the Left since the end of Sanders’s 2016 campaign, popularized in a 2016 Jacobin article by Seth Ackerman and expanded on recently by many others.

If the Left had a mass party–like organization in 2020, the end of Sanders’s second presidential race wouldn’t have meant losing the feeling that, together, we could change the world. While supporters of Sanders and the Squad can donate to individual election campaigns when asked, there is no way to permanently join and help build the movement these elected officials appear to lead. Many of us called for Sanders to convert his 2020 campaign infrastructure into a permanent organization after the campaign, to no avail.

Such a party-like organization could have helped progressives in Congress and their many supporters win more of the progressive items in negotiations over Build Back Better since 2021. As Ben Beckett argued in Jacobin last fall, Sanders and the Squad could have built a powerful movement to pressure Manchin and Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema by mobilizing with activists, including DSA members, battle-hardened teacher unionists — who led historic mass strikes in West Virginia and Arizona in 2018 — and other progressives. Such a movement might also have pushed the Biden administration to use its bully pulpit or the power of executive action to enact sweeping change (like canceling student debt). The movement to defend abortion rights desperately needs this kind of mobilization today.

In a similar vein, Neal Meyer writes that “mass mobilizations require mass organization. We have to put the days of lone-wolf politicians acting on their own . . . behind us.” A Sanders-led party-like organization with permanent local chapters across the country could have coordinated this movement with progressive electoral challenges in West Virginia and Arizona and pressure campaigns against Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi in California and Chuck Schumer in New York. A mass organization could in turn bolster Sanders and the Squad to fight for a better deal in Congress, as well as support local and state-level candidates nationwide — including in purple or red districts where the Left does not yet have a foothold.

Ultimately, we need something like the organization described here to help convince millions of working people who are disconnected from politics that a better world is possible through collective action, and to sustain mass activity once it’s in motion. That’s how we can build the base that will elect Sanders-style progressives and democratic socialists by the hundreds across the country and grow a movement that can exert bottom-up pressure through mass disruption.

Build Back Bernie

It is premature to write a precise blueprint for what this party-like organization should look like. But there are a few principles that should guide us.

First, socialists and progressives should call on Bernie and the Squad to participate in building and leading this new organization. For better or worse, only these national political figures have the resources and legitimacy to bring together millions of supporters and many disparate threads of progressive activism into a single organization. Their leadership would make the project much more likely to succeed, and sooner.

Second, such an organization should be democratic and membership-based. Local and national leaders should be elected by the members, and members should be able to influence the policy platforms of elected officials like Sanders through conventions and internal debates. As Mike Parker and Martha Gruelle write in a different context, democracy is power: only democratic organizations can give their members a sense of ownership over strategies and campaigns, grow the sophistication and size of their activist base, refine their approach based on real-world experience, and deal with competing ideas without alienating the minority of activists who don’t get their way.

Third, the group should support progressive election campaigns, but also year-round organizing outside the halls of official politics. The history of progressive movements shows that mass disruption, outside of the normal political process, is critical to securing legislative wins. No anti-corporate political project will be successful if the Left isn’t also helping build fighting unions and social movements.

Fourth, a progressive party-like organization should be working-class-funded, primarily through membership dues. That means rejecting all corporate and billionaire donations, large unreported donations from anonymous sources, and donations from PACs, foundations, or other groups that launder capitalist cash. Campaign-finance statutes complicate efforts to coordinate election spending, but David Duhalde and Seth Ackerman have both explained how such a nonparty political organization could navigate the law.

Finally, this organization should be effectively nonpartisan, meaning it will support candidates running as Democrats and as independents, depending on what makes sense in a given local context. Sanders himself has run as an independent for Congress, but caucuses with the Democrats, and made his biggest impact by running in the Democratic presidential primaries. This flexibility will be needed both to build an independent political brand that resonates with voters sick of both corporate parties and to keep together leftists and progressives who might currently disagree about the long-term future of the Democratic Party. In the near term, though, the organization can appeal to voters who are still loyal to the Democrats or who are worried about the “spoiler effect” in districts where that is a concern.

Along with mobilizing to defend abortion and other rights, activists and groups that believe in this organizational vision should plan local and national convenings to discuss how to make it a reality. We’re members of DSA and believe DSA has an important role to play in backing this effort. But we also believe that a Sanders-led party-like organization must have a broader ideological base than DSA, since today’s fights are for near-term reforms, not for overthrowing capitalism. As with our election campaigns, unions, and protests, our mass political organizations should be open to the millions of people who want to defend democracy and support Sanders’s agenda but aren’t ready to join an explicitly anti-capitalist organization.

Other membership organizations and nonprofits like the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats, local or state-level political formations like the RPA and the Vermont Progressive Party, grassroots groups fighting for economic and social justice, and progressive unions like National Nurses United, which hosted the People’s Summit after Sanders’s first run in 2016, should also sign on to this project.

A New Political Moment

Sanders has attempted to start a mass membership organization before: Our Revolution, which sprung up in the wake of his 2016 presidential run. For all its accomplishments, though, Our Revolution isn’t suited to play the role of a mass party–like organization right now.

First, though at least some chapters had democratic mechanisms, members were not empowered to democratically determine the national organization’s strategy. Second, Sanders himself was not involved in the organization, which likely hindered the group’s appeal and political effectiveness. Third, as Duhalde noted in 2020, most of Our Revolution’s staff left the organization to work for Sanders’s 2020 campaign, and some of its key early leaders are no longer involved.

That points to another problem with Our Revolution: it was formed at a particular moment (post-2016), with many activists no doubt expecting another Sanders presidential run, and with a particular strategy of attempting to reform the Democratic Party from within. But that political moment is over: Sanders lost the 2020 primary, progressives have largely found themselves marginalized by the Democratic establishment, and we need everyone who was activated by the Bernie campaign and more — including Sanders himself and the Squad — to come together to devise a new strategy. We should reconsider Our Revolution’s strategy of running for internal Democratic Party positions, for instance, and think about establishing a political identity more independent of the Democrats.

The new left has much to be proud of since 2016, but the organizations and tactics that got us this far aren’t enough going forward. If we want to fight for democracy and justice, and build the power to make more ambitious changes in the future, we need to get serious about our strategy. Isolated protests, strikes, and election campaigns have brought many of us into politics. But we need these to add up to more than the sum of their parts so we can wage the struggle that establishment Democrats can’t or won’t.

We know the creation of the kind of group we’re calling for is a long shot. But we’ve seen the ability of Sanders and the Squad to inspire millions, and we believe they have the power to start building the effective, broad left organization that this moment demands.

Jeremy Gong is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America in California’s East Bay.

Nick French is an assistant editor at Jacobin.

Jacobin, August 6, 2022,

Xi warns Biden against interference in Taiwan / by Morning Star

U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington, Nov. 6, 2021, and China’s President Xi Jinping in Brasília, Brazil, Nov. 13, 2019.

CHINESE President Xi Jinping has warned his US counterpart Joe Biden against meddling in Beijing’s dealings with Taiwan, amid rising tensions over a potential visit to the breakaway island by House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

There was no indication of any progress towards agreement on contentious issues such as trade and technology exports in a phone conversation between the two leaders on Thursday night, despite it lasting three hours.

Mr Xi also warned Mr Biden against splitting the world’s two biggest economies, according to a Chinese government summary of the call.

Economists warn that such a change, brought on by trade tensions and US restrictions on technology exports, might harm the global economy by slowing innovation and increasing costs.

The Chinese government gave no indication that Mr Xi and Mr Biden had discussed Ms Pelosi’s possible plans to visit Taiwan, which the ruling Communist Party says has no right to conduct foreign relations.

But the Chinese president rejected “interference by external forces” that might encourage Taiwan to try to formalise its decades-old separation from the mainland.

“Resolutely safeguarding China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity is the firm will of the more than 1.4 billion Chinese people,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian insisted today. “Those who play with fire will perish by it.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said ahead of Thursday’s call that Washington “must not arrange for Pelosi to visit Taiwan.”

He warned that the People’s Liberation Army would take “strong measures to thwart any external interference.”

Mr Xi called on the US to “honour the one-China principle,” according to Mr Zhao, referring to Beijing’s position that the mainland and Taiwan form a single country.

By contrast, Washington’s “one-China policy” takes no position on the question but wants to see it resolved peacefully.

Tensions between the US and China were underlined again yesterday when the Chinese embassy in the Philippines blasted visiting US Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro for criticising Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea.

Mr Del Toro accused China of encroaching on the sovereign waters of its Asian neighbours in violation of international law, to which the Chinese embassy replied that it was “navigation bullying” by US warships in the disputed waters that could spark confrontations.

Morning Star (UK), July 29, 2022,

Opinion: The Time Is Now for a People-Powered Backlash / by Bill McKibben

Hundreds of young climate activists rally in Lafayette Square on the north side of the White House to demand that U.S. President Joe Biden work to make the Green New Deal into law on June 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court’s decisions are insanely unpopular; we have to make that matter.

A reasonable reaction to the week’s Supreme Court rulings, which culminated in Thursday’s gutting of the Clean Air Act, would be: we are so screwed.

But there’s another way to look at it: we can turn the right-wing’s wet dream into a nightmare for them if we fight back. If we seize it, we have the best opportunity in many years for reconfiguring American politics.

The key thing to understand about these Supreme Court decisions is that they’re fantastically unpopular. On guns, on choice, and on climate the Court has taken us places Americans badly do not want to go. By majorities of two-thirds or more Americans detest these opinions; those are majorities large enough to win elections and to shape policy, even in our corroded democracy. The right, after decades of slow and careful and patient nibbling away at rights and norms is suddenly rushing full-tilt. That’s dangerous for us, but also for them. The force of that charge can, jiu jitsu-like, be turned against them.

To understand the possibilities, consider the Clean Air Act itself. It was signed into law in 1970 by Richard Nixon—a few months after the first Earth Day brought 20 million Americans into the streets, energy that carried over into the midterm elections. The Earth Day organizers targeted a ‘dirty dozen’ congressmen—and beat seven of them. Their political clout established, they were able to force Richard Nixon to sign all the most important environmental legislation in American history, even though Nixon cared not at all about the natural world. (Environmentalists were people “who wanted to go live like a bunch of damned animals,” he explained to the chairman of the Ford Motor company in an Oval Office meeting that he helpfully taped).

That first Earth Day was an organizable moment because the Cuyahoga River was on fire. Now the whole world is on fire. But, as David Wallace-Wells recently pointed out, we’ve been a little lulled and confused by the endless greenwashing and promises of our various corporate and government masters—the Larry Finks of the world.

The Court has done us a supreme favor by ripping away the veil. It is entirely clear that if we want to defend the planet (or a woman’s right to choose, or the right to a world where everyone isn’t packing a pistol), we’re going to have to fight. Their naked grab for power is succeeding—but it could still backfire if we set our minds to it.

What would that look like? In the short political term, a promise from every Democrat that they would overturn the filibuster and expand the Court if elected. We can’t get rid of every archaic part of our governmental structure, but the Constitution doesn’t get in the way of these changes. And they would liberate majorities to actually write policy and not see it struck down by the partisans that currently inhabit the bench,

As I suggested last week that it would be easiest if this fight was led by Joe Biden, perhaps on a train. Biden did, yesterday, say that he favored a “filibuster carve-out” to codify Roe into law, but saying it is not the same as campaigning for it. (Also, could he maybe figure out a less convoluted way of saying it). I confess: I suspect that Biden lacks the fire to lead this fight. He has done a creditable job of restoring some kind of normalcy to America after Ketchup Boy’s reign, but that’s a different task than really leading a crusade.

So we have to do it ourselves. The political commentator Josh Marshall has been using his website to try and get Senate candidates on the record about the filibuster; people should join that and similar efforts (July 4th recess is coming up, and with it town halls for politicians) and when candidates speak straightforwardly, we should rally behind them. The polling data shows a significant shift away from the GOP in the wake of the Roe ruling; our job is to make sure that continues, instead of fading away as we focus once more on inflation. Because the conventional wisdom a week ago was that the Democrats were going to get routed in the fall. If that doesn’t happen—and if the reason is that the GOP badly overreached—then there’s actually some chance of the Republicans recalibrating a tad and the Democrats finding a soul. Obviously it won’t be easy—all of the structural problems of our democracy are in the way. We have to fight for our lives while Wyoming and California each have two Senate seats and Citizens United is the law of the land. But it’s not impossible: our majorities on these issues are large enough to overwhelm even these archaic structures. Seventy percent is enough.

And if we somehow do get 52 seats in the Senate and hold the House? Then we need to make sure they actually do what we need them to. That time when Sunrise staged a sit-in at Nancy Pelosi’s office? That was a good idea; Democratic leaders seem constantly sleepy, in need of a loud buzzer going off at intervals to wake them from their stupor. As Naomi Klein wrote of the Democrats yesterday, “if they decide to run with it, everybody on this planet wins. If they refuse, they deserve every loss coming their way.”

But the backlash can’t just be aimed at Washington. It has to go at Wall Street too. It’s the billionaires and the Chamber of Commerce and the banks and the oil companies that have funded this endless right-wing tilt, coming together time after time to support the end of regulations. As I wrote in the New Yorker after the decision, gutting the EPA was the logical endpoint of the campaign that Lewis Powell launched with his famous memo in 1971, shortly after the agency was proposed. (That’s why we’re taking on banks.)

Fury—nonviolently exercised, but with the force of a firehose—can change the political dynamic that has been sending us in a slow drift towards some variety of right-wing theocratic fascism. But we may not get more chances. This right now is the opening.

If you’re under 30, join the Sunrise Movement. If you’re over 60 throw in with us at Third Act. If you’re in between, find some people to fight alongside. These right-wingers have gotten giddy with success and dropped their guard. Make them pay.

This article was originally published on Bill McKibben’s substack.

Bill McKibben is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and co-founder of and His most recent book is “Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?.” He also authored “The End of Nature,” “Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet,” and “Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future.”

Common Dreams, July 2, 2022,

The United States contests the Chinese Belt and Road with a private corporation / by Vijay Prashad

Joe Biden at the G7 Summit.

At the G7 Summit in Germany, on June 26, 2022, US President Joe Biden made a pledge to raise $200 billion within the United States for global infrastructure spending. It was made clear that this new G7 project—the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII)—was intended to counter the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Given Biden’s failure to pass the Build Back Better bill (with its scope being almost halved from $3.5 trillion to $2.2 trillion), it is unlikely that he will get the US Congress to go along with this new endeavor.

The PGII is not the first attempt by the US to match the Chinese infrastructure investment globally, which initially took place bilaterally, and then after 2013 happened through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In 2004, as the US war on Iraq unfolded, the United States government set up a body called the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which it called an “independent US foreign assistance agency.” Before that, most US government development lending was done through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which was set up in 1961 as part of then-President John F. Kennedy administration’s charm campaign against the Soviet Union and against the Bandung spirit of non-alignment in the newly assertive Third World.

Former US President George W. Bush said that USAID was too bureaucratic, and so the MCC would be a project that would include both the US government and the private sector. The word “corporation” in the title is deliberate. Each of the heads of the MCC, from Paul Applegarth to Alice P. Albright, has belonged to the private sector (the current head, Albright is the daughter of former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright).

The word “challenge” in MCC refers to the fact that the grants are only approved if the countries can show that they meet 20 “policy performance indicators,” ranging from civil liberties to inflation rates. These indicators ensure that the countries seeking the grants adhere to the conventional neoliberal framework. There are also great inconsistencies among these indicators: for instance, the countries must have a high immunization rate (monitored by the World Health Organization), but at the same time they must follow the International Monetary Fund’s requirements for a tight fiscal policy. This essentially means that the public health spending of a candidate country should be kept low, resulting in the required number of public health workers not being available for the immunization programs.

The US Congress provided $650 million to the MCC for its first year in 2004, as a US government official told me; in 2022, the amount sought was more than $900 million. In 2007, when Bush met with Nambaryn Enkhbayar, the former president of Mongolia, to sign an MCC grant, he said that the Millennium Challenge Account—which is administered by MCC—“is an important part of our foreign policy. It’s an opportunity for the United States and our taxpayers to help countries that fight corruption, that support market-based economies, and that invest in the health and education of their people.” Clearly, the MCC is an instrument of US foreign policy, but its aim seems to be not so much to tackle the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (on hunger, health and education), as Bush said, but to ensure extension of the reach of US influence and to inculcate the habits and structures of US-led globalization (“market-based economies”).

In 2009, then-US President Barack Obama developed a “pivot to Asia,” a new foreign policy orientation that had the US establishment focus more attention on East and South Asia. As part of this pivot, in 2011, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave an important speech in Chennai, India, where she spoke about the creation of a New Silk Road Initiative. Clinton argued that the United States government, under Obama’s “pivot to Asia,” policy was going to develop an economic agenda that ran from the Central Asian countries to the south of India, and would thereby help integrate the Central Asian republics into a US project and break the ties the region had formed with Russia and China. The impetus for the New Silk Road was to find a way to use this development as an instrument to undermine the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. This US project floundered due to lack of congressional funding and due to its sheer impossibility, since Afghanistan—which was the heart of this road project—could not be persuaded to submit to US interests.

Two years later, in 2013, the Chinese government inaugurated the Silk Road Economic Belt project, which is now known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Rather than go from North to South, the BRI went from East to West, linking China to Central Asia and then outward to South Asia, West Asia, Europe and Africa. The aim of this project was to bring together the Eurasian Economic Community (established in 2000) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (set up in 2001) to work on this new, and bigger project. Roughly $4 trillion has been invested since 2013 in a range of projects by the BRI and its associated funding mechanisms (including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund). The investments were paid for by grants from Chinese institutions and through debt incurred by the projects at rates that are competitive with those of Western infrastructure lending programs.

The US government’s “Indo-Pacific Strategy Report” (2019) notes that China uses “economic inducements and penalties” to “persuade other states to comply with its agenda.” The report provides no evidence, and indeed, scholars who have looked into these matters do not see any such evidence. US Admiral Philip S. Davidson, who previously commanded the US Indo-Pacific Command, told the US Congress that China is “leveraging its economic instrument of power” in Asia. The MCC, and other instruments, including a new International Development Finance Corporation, were hastily set up to give America an edge over China in a US-driven contest over the creation of infrastructure investment globally. There is no doubt that the MCC is part of the broad Indo-Pacific strategy of the United States to undermine Chinese influence in Asia.

Only a handful of countries have thus far received MCC grants— starting with Honduras and Madagascar. These are often not very large grants, although for a country the size of Malawi or Jordan, these can have a considerable impact. No large countries have been drawn into the MCC compact, which suggests that the United States wants to give these grants to mainly smaller countries, to strengthen their ties with the United States. Nepal’s accession to the MCC must be seen in this broader context. Although the discovery of uranium in Nepal’s Upper Mustang region in 2014 seems to play an important role in the pressure campaign on that country.

In May 2017, Nepal’s government signed a BRI framework agreement, which included an ambitious plan to build a railway link between China and Nepal through the Himalayas; this rail link would allow Nepal to lessen its reliance on Indian land routes for trade purposes. Various projects began to be discussed and feasibility studies were commissioned under the BRI plan. These projects, more details for which emerged in 2019, were the extension of an electricity transmission line and the creation of a technical university in Nepal, and of course, construction of a vast network of roads and rail, which included the trans-Himalayan railway from Keyrung to Kathmandu.

Read more: Nepal approves US’ Millennium Challenge Corporation grant amid protests. What’s next?

During this time, the United States entered the picture with a full-scale effort to disparage the BRI funding in Nepal and to promote the use of MCC money there instead. In September 2017, the government of Nepal signed an agreement with the United States called the Nepal Compact. This agreement—worth $500 million—is for an electricity transmission project and for a road maintenance project. At this point, Nepal had access to both BRI and MCC funds and neither of the parties seemed to mind that fact. This provided an opportunity for Nepal to use both these resources to develop much-needed infrastructure, or as former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal told me in 2020, his country could get new loans from the Asian Development Bank.

After both deals had been signed, a political dispute broke out within Nepal, which resulted in the split of the Communist Party of Nepal and the fall of the left government. One major issue on the table was the MCC and its role in the overall Indo-Pacific strategy of the United States, which seems to be targeted against China.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of US Power.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Sunset of the AFL-CIO? / by Chris Townsend

AFL-CIO Headquarters, Washington, DC, 3014. Matt Popovich | Flickr

The 29th Constitutional Convention of the American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) opened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 12, 2022 delayed by one year owing to pandemic conditions. There was little fanfare, and little advance publicity apparently. Even ordinarily sympathetic observers of AFL-CIO Conventions have been struck by the low profile and energy of the proceedings. Held only every 4 years the Federation Convention is the one minimally public event where union leaders, members, activists, and supporters of the labor movement might be able to look for leadership on the dizzying array of issues facing working people. 

In recent decades as the labor movement has been assaulted from all sides less and less public and media attention is seemingly paid to this otherwise critical council of the leadership of such a primary section of the organized working class. By comparison, the twice-as-large Labor Notes conference convened in Chicago just a week after the AFL-CIO Convention, and it offered a dramatically different and far more energetic approach to solving labor’s crises and problems.

The AFL-CIO is comprised of 57 industrial and craft unions, claiming a combined total of 12.5 million U.S. members. When those only nominally associated with their unions are subtracted – primarily retirees and political campaign enrollees – actual Federation membership is significantly less. And in addition to this membership, more than 7 million workers belong to unions not affiliated with the AFL-CIO.  The stark facts today would be that the unionized section of the U.S. working class remains numerically small, embattled, isolated, and encircled by hostile employers and governments. Activity levels among union members at the workplaces has declined as a result. The total unionized slice of the workforce has also been steadily shrinking as a proportion of the entire workforce for the past 70 years, now well less than 10%. 

While positive anecdotes are always to be found in abundance where unions and workers fight back or try to advance, the overall condition of the labor movement given this imbalance of forces is precarious at best. For my entire working life as a union member – more than 40 years – the situation has been steadily deteriorating as both employers and governments systematically attack the remaining organized union garrisons in the industries. Our growth in new sections of the economy has been virtually stopped, as the employers have adopted an all-out union smashing strategy to prevent the unions from regenerating. The new industries have been nearly impossible to organize, so the unions continue to suffer major losses in established bases that they are unable to replace.

Convention Die Cast on Day One

Given the dire situation we now face as a labor movement one might have imagined a Federation Convention dedicated to intense study and debate regarding our situation. Or, we might have imagined a vigorous pre-Convention process where the disastrous situation we confront would have been dissected in a search for solutions by the leadership. Very little of this apparently happened, however. The Philadelphia Convention opened without the presence of the well-known and outsized figure of Richard Trumka, who died suddenly in August of 2021 after more than 25 years as first the Secretary-Treasurer, then the President of the Federation. Trumka had announced his intention to retire at the Philadelphia Convention, and his sudden death opened-up the possibility of an actual election contest for the leadership spot. 

Trumka’s hand-picked successor was AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, the preferred shoo-in of the conservative elements in the various affiliate unions. Progressive forces scattered in the unions had promoted a possible candidacy by airline Flight Attendants (AFA) union President Sara Nelson, but resistance from the old regime’s supporters and a front-loaded leadership election on day one of the Convention ended any such thought of a challenge. Shuler was elected without debate or discussion. The small progressive forces in the various union leaderships – and the even smaller left elements – were unable to crystallize the needed support for Nelson that might have forced an election challenge and a wide-ranging debate of the many crises faced. The hurried Shuler election on day one ended any hopes for discussion, debate, or any meaningful appraisal of the state of things facing the unions at the Philadelphia meeting.

More Decay and Drift Ahead

With no leadership challenge or debate having materialized, the Convention proceeded to move through its customary standard agenda on a predictable course. The multiple disasters facing the labor federation were at times mentioned, but little urgent action was proposed. Scripted speeches, stage-managed presentations, visiting VIP guests from the Democratic Party – notably President Joe Biden – spoke to the assemblage, and an array of video clips were shown to try to inject enthusiasm into the audience. A trade show theme permeated the Convention as job training, “wellness”, and other HR functions were offered as substitutes for traditional trade union responses. 

Some ongoing struggles and organizing successes were thankfully showcased, although the leaders of the three largest successful NLRB union election campaigns in the past 3 months – Amazon, Starbucks, and MIT – were all barely noted. Ironically, the three unions responsible for those wins – the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), Workers United (SEIU), and the United Electrical Workers Union (UE) – are not affiliates of the AFL-CIO. These unprecedented and successful uprisings of more than 15,000 unorganized workers in previously untouchable anti-union employer fortresses were little noted in the AFL-CIO proceedings.

During the week a variety of other public decisions were made; Fred Redmond from the Steelworkers Union was elected Secretary-Treasurer; the Executive Vice President slot was eliminated by being merged apparently with the Secretary-Treasurer position; a new Executive Council of affiliate union leaders was elected without any challenges or debate; and at the very end of the Convention it was announced that a new organizing initiative would be launched presumably to address the stagnant and sinking membership levels. No details or timelines were announced as to how or when this would be done. So ended the Convention of AFL-CIO, the all-too-rare meeting of the leaders and general staffs of the unions comprising the U.S. labor federation. My now departed and dear friend Harry Kelber – a tireless advocate for an improved democratic and deliberative process at AFL-CIO Conventions – would have been dumbstruck at the proceedings, what they covered, and what they did not cover. 

Crises Will Deepen and Worsen

A “steady as she goes” approach has been the preferred course by the labor leadership for decades. It has proven to be a reliable path to a “rule or ruin” legacy where the singular goal of maintaining complete control crowds out all other considerations. Such is sadly the state in many of the affiliate unions as well. Ignoring problems and crises, delaying real discussion of new and urgently needed solutions, praying child-like for a miracle to save the “the middle class”, hiring outside advertising firms to explore new “messaging” schemes, continued habituation to decline and decay, an unwillingness to question the political strait-jacket of the Federation, substituting non-profits and NGO’s for the development of real trade union capacity, and even overt submissive gestures to enemy political forces and corporations in the vain search for allies have all been standard responses over the decades. Given this historically failed and sterile process no other outcome other than continued decline is to be expected. The Philadelphia Convention has ended, the delegates have drawn their breath and drawn their pay, and that’s that.

Progressives and Militants Demobilized and Scattered

Defenders and apologists of the status-quo alike have always pointed out one fact that is not in question here, which is to correctly observe that “The AFL-CIO is only a sum of its parts.” Meaning, that the Federation itself is merely a reflection of the character of the unions and the union leadership that comprise the leadership of the affiliate unions. Today’s situation within the labor center reflects accurately an overall business union malaise deeply infecting the labor movement. The current untenable and dangerous situation will not correct itself, either. The highly paid leaders of the bulk of the affiliate unions – and their networks of appointees and paid staff completely beholden to them – are customarily insulated and protected from virtually all political challenges in their own unions. 

The progressive and left elements in the unions do exist, but they are precariously scattered and unable or unwilling to bring forward demands for such basic initiatives as the need for internal democratization of the unions, for aggressive bargaining campaigns before the current economic conditions deteriorate, for mass campaigns of new organization, or advocacy towards a new and improved political action program. Some of the more activist and progressive forces within the affiliate unions did emerge as part of the network which pushed for a candidacy by Sara Nelson from the Flight Attendants, but in the end the network was too small, too isolated, opposed by too many, undermined, and unable to pull together a campaign to confront the old guard as personified by Shuler.     

Need for Real Work in the Unions

Over the past 30 years there have been 3 distinct union leadership groupings that have collected around demands that the labor Federation deal more realistically with its problems, deal more decisively with them, organize the unorganized on a wider scale, and exert some degree of independence from the Democratic Party. The union coalition that barely unseated the reactionary Lane Kirkland regime in 1995; the dozen unions that coalesced around the Labor Party movement in the 1990’s, and the unions that came together and ultimately split from the AFL-CIO to form the now moribund rival Change to Win federation in the 2,000’s. Progressives and militants played leading roles in all three efforts, although all three were unable to permanently establish themselves as sustained left alternatives to the ossified status quo.  

In the wake of the failure of these three initiatives – so far as their goal of reinvigorating the overall labor federation – the left forces have dissipated and declined. The Bernie Sanders campaign rejuvenated some of these forces during his bid for the White House but have since scattered again in the wake of the Biden victory. With no pressure being brought to bear from the left, the entrenched conservatives in control of the Federation are unlikely to act on very much coming in the wake of the Convention, as history will attest. And on top of everything else, the apparent impending November election debacle facing the Democratic Party – and the likely return to power of an increasingly reactionary and anti-labor Republican Party – should be cause for alarm. With a Republican Party set to continue and expand its program of liquidating the trade unions one might have imagined the Federation willing to confront at least this singular issue as an emergency, but no such program seems in evidence. 

The situation in many of the affiliates is even more dire, as internal union polls regularly indicate that large swaths of union membership support Trumpism and its variants at the ballot box and in general. With the Federation unwilling to take on and lead the needed – and necessarily controversial political work of exposing the Right’s agenda – the affiliate unions are unlikely to go it alone and risk angering large sections of their memberships. Union after union refuses to engage their memberships in any meaningful trade union political education, instead abandoning this most urgent of tasks. 

Labor Notes Conference Eclipses AFL Confab

One very bright sign on the horizon besides the youth-led organizing upsets at Amazon, Starbucks, and MIT is the biennial Labor Notes conference which convened in Chicago just days after the AFL-CIO Convention. Run on a shoestring, more than 4,000 unionists gathered at the Labor Notes conference, twice as many as the all-expenses-paid attendance at the AFL confab. The evolving Labor Notes movement took root more than 40 years ago on the left fringes of the labor movement and today has grown to eclipse even the Federation itself in terms of the loyalty shown it by the activist elements across all unions and sectors. 

The emerging younger, progressive, and more militant forces in some of the new organizing movements – as best illustrated by the Amazon, Starbucks, and MIT election wins – run counter to the AFL-CIO drift and decay. In some ways it offers parallels to the divide between new and old generations in the early years of the Committee for Industrial Organization, the predecessor of the eventual Congress of Industrial Organizations.

The recent Labor Notes conference featured addresses by Flight Attendants Union president Sara Nelson, Senator Bernie Sanders, and new Teamster President Sean O’Brien. In addition, union leaders and activists conducted workshops too numerous to count as virtually every aspect of labor’s crisis was debated and examined in the search for some way forward. The meeting stands out for its authentic energy and character, its decentralized structure, and its decidedly left political and militant union bent. Labor Notes has clearly carved-out and earned for itself the left pole of the labor movement and commands wide loyalty among the ranks. All signs point to a continued growth of this left flank. 

William Z. Foster

As far back as 1925 William Z. Foster warned that, “To bring the millions into the unions is necessary not only for the protection of the unorganized workers, and to further class ends in general, but also to safeguard the life of the existing organizations.” Foster implored the progressives, the militants, and left forces within the unions to push, and push harder towards a goal of forcing the established bureaucracies in the labor movement to respond to the crisis as he saw them 100 years ago.  That same counsel describes our collective dilemma today, with both the Federation and scores of union affiliates stumbling towards disaster and forfeiting the momentary improved conditions for aggressive trade union bargaining, strike action, and certainly for the initiation of mass campaigns to organize the many millions of unorganized workers. 

Foster in his era was faced with many of the same business union pathologies as we face today regarding the need to revitalize the labor movement, and all serious participants in the current labor movement are well advised to acquaint themselves with his legacy. Foster correctly observed that, within the labor movement leadership, “The left wing militantly leads, the progressives mildly support, and the right wing opposes…The left wing alone has a realization of the tremendous social significance of the organization of the unorganized…” It should be noted that just 10 years after Foster’s admonition in the trade union low ebb of the Roaring Twenties to organize the unorganized the CIO was born; and just 16 years after the loss of the Great Steel Strike the mass strike waves that established the CIO were spreading like wildfire. 

Things that look impossible today will be possible again, but not unless the left labor forces come together, build their numbers and reach, unify around a basic program of trade union revitalization, and work to compel the union leaderships to carry out the missions of the trade unions – and put an end to the disastrous AFL-CIO and affiliate union wandering in the wilderness. This work in the individual unions is urgent and critical if any progress is to be made at that level, and certainly no future progress will be possible at the Federation level absent these forces. 

For those seeking Foster’s interpretation of the AFL shortcomings in his time frame see, “American Trade Unionism”, a collection of Foster’s writing spanning his career as a labor organizer.  The book is published by International


Chris Townsend was the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) International Union Organizing and Field Mobilization Director. Previously he was an International Representative and Political Action Director for the United Electrical Workers Union (UE) He has been active in the labor movement for more than 40 years as a member, local organizer, local elected officer, and national and international staff member.

ML Today, June 24, 2022,

‘Not a Justification but a Provocation’: Chomsky on the Root Causes of the Russia Ukraine War / by Ramzy Baroud

Photograph Source: Cityswift – CC BY 2.0

One of the reasons that Russian media has been completely blocked in the West, along with the unprecedented control and censorship over the Ukraine war narrative, is the fact that western governments simply do not want their public to know that the world is vastly changing.

Ignorance might be bliss, arguably in some situations, but not in this case. Here, ignorance can be catastrophic as western audiences are denied access to information about a critical situation that is affecting them in profound ways and will most certainly impact the world’s geopolitics for generations to come.

The growing inflation, an imminent global recession, a festering refugee crisis, a deepening food shortage crisis and much more are the kinds of challenges that require open and transparent discussions regarding the situation in Ukraine, the NATO-Russia rivalry and the responsibility of the West in the ongoing war.

To discuss these issues, along with the missing context of the Russia-Ukraine war, we spoke with Professor Noam Chomsky, believed to be the greatest living intellectual of our time.

Chomsky told us that it “should be clear that the (Russian) invasion of Ukraine has no (moral) justification.” He compared it to the US invasion of Iraq, seeing it as an example of “supreme international crime.” With this moral question settled, Chomsky believes that the main ‘background’ of this war, a factor that is missing in mainstream media coverage, is “NATO expansion”.

“This is not just my opinion,” said Chomsky, “it is the opinion of every high-level US official in the diplomatic services who has any familiarity with Russia and Eastern Europe. This goes back to George Kennan and, in the 1990s, Reagan’s ambassador Jack Matlock, including the current director of the CIA; in fact, just everybody who knows anything has been warning Washington that it is reckless and provocative to ignore Russia’s very clear and explicit red lines. That goes way before (Vladimir) Putin, it has nothing to do with him; (Mikhail) Gorbachev, all said the same thing. Ukraine and Georgia cannot join NATO, this is the geostrategic heartland of Russia.”

Though various US administrations acknowledged and, to some extent, respected the Russian red lines, the Bill Clinton Administration did not. According to Chomsky, “George H. W. Bush … made an explicit promise to Gorbachev that NATO would not expand beyond East Germany, perfectly explicit. You can look up the documents. It’s very clear. Bush lived up to it. But when Clinton came along, he started violating it. And he gave reasons. He explained that he had to do it for domestic political reasons. He had to get the Polish vote, the ethnic vote. So, he would let the so-called Visegrad countries into NATO. Russia accepted it, didn’t like it but accepted it.”

“The second George Bush,” Chomsky argued, “just threw the door wide open. In fact, even invited Ukraine to join over, despite the objections of everyone in the top diplomatic service, apart from his own little clique, Cheney, Rumsfeld (among others). But France and Germany vetoed it.”

However, that was hardly the end of the discussion. Ukraine’s NATO membership remained on the agenda because of intense pressures from Washington.

“Starting in 2014, after the Maidan uprising, the United States began openly, not secretly, moving to integrate Ukraine into the NATO military command, sending heavy armaments and joining military exercises, military training and it was not a secret. They boasted about it,” Chomsky said.

What is interesting is that current Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “was elected on a peace platform, to implement what was called Minsk Two, some kind of autonomy for the eastern region. He tried to implement it. He was warned by right-wing militias that if he persisted, they’d kill him. Well, he didn’t get any support from the United States. If the United States had supported him, he could have continued, we might have avoided all of this. The United States was committed to the integration of Ukraine within NATO.”

The Joe Biden Administration carried on with the policy of NATO expansion. “Just before the invasion,” said Chomsky, “Biden … produced a joint statement … calling for expanding these efforts of integration. That’s part of what was called an ‘enhanced program’ leading to the mission of NATO. In November, it was moved forward to a charter, signed by the Secretary of State.”

Soon after the war, “the United States Department acknowledged that they had not taken Russian security concerns into consideration in any discussions with Russia. The question of NATO, they would not discuss. Well, all of that is provocation. Not a justification but a provocation and it’s quite interesting that in American discourse, it is almost obligatory to refer to the invasion as the ‘unprovoked invasion of Ukraine’. Look it up on Google, you will find hundreds of thousands of hits.”

Chomsky continued, “Of course, it was provoked. Otherwise, they wouldn’t refer to it all the time as an unprovoked invasion. By now, censorship in the United States has reached such a level beyond anything in my lifetime. Such a level that you are not permitted to read the Russian position. Literally. Americans are not allowed to know what the Russians are saying. Except, selected things. So, if Putin makes a speech to Russians with all kinds of outlandish claims about Peter the Great and so on, then, you see it on the front pages. If the Russians make an offer for a negotiation, you can’t find it. That’s suppressed. You’re not allowed to know what they are saying. I have never seen a level of censorship like this.”

Regarding his views of the possible future scenarios, Chomsky said that “the war will end, either through diplomacy or not. That’s just logic. Well, if diplomacy has a meaning, it means both sides can tolerate it. They don’t like it, but they can tolerate it. They don’t get anything they want, they get something. That’s diplomacy. If you reject diplomacy, you are saying: ‘Let the war go on with all of its horrors, with all the destruction of Ukraine, and let’s let it go on until we get what we want.’”

By ‘we’, Chomsky was referring to Washington, which simply wants to “harm Russia so severely that it will never be able to undertake actions like this again. Well, what does that mean? It’s impossible to achieve. So, it means, let’s continue the war until Ukraine is devastated. That’s US policy.”

Most of this is not obvious to western audiences simply because rational voices are “not allowed to talk” and because “rationality is not permitted. This is a level of hysteria that I have never seen, even during the Second World War, which I am old enough to remember very well.”

While an alternative understanding of the devastating war in Ukraine is disallowed, the West continues to offer no serious answers or achievable goals, leaving Ukraine devastated and the root causes of the problem in place. “That’s US policy”, indeed.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is

Counterpunch, June 28, 2022,