This Is Not a Coup

The Treachery of (Words and) Images

Wednesday’s events were horrible, dangerous, infuriating, and predictable.  People with weapons easily breached the Capitol, gallows were hung (perhaps performative, maybe not), and people were attacked and five are now dead.  The country was stunned, and both establishment and social media have been deeming this Trump’s “coup” or an “insurrection” from the first.  It’s hard to talk about this. Trump is horrid, detestable, and dangerous, and any time you try to reel the rhetoric back, you can be accused of being an apologist for a cruel, racist, inhuman bigot who happens to be president—which all makes sense. But doing awful things doesn’t mean we have fascism, and vandals and thugs breaking into a sacred public building doesn’t mean we’ve had a coup. There’s no saving grace to any of this, but it needs to be viewed in a clearheaded and coldblooded way.

Words matter and what happened was awful and surreal, and can be analyzed with a sense of history and politics, not in a media-induced frenzy.  Hysteria, panic and fear have been the Left’s approach to virtually everything Trump’s done, and he’s done a lot to freak people out, and what’s that gotten us?   Political awareness and action can certainly feed off fury—like much of 2020’s protest—but panic and utter fear aren’t good strategies. Now is the time to stay as calm as possible and plan for the future.

The imagery of January 6th was more intense and brazenly violent of any during the Trump era, because of the target—the Capitol, a genuinely terrifying sight.  Otherwise we’ve seen this before in  Charlottesville, the Michigan Capitol building, anti-mask rallies, or when groups like the Proud Boys attacked protestors in cities like Portland. We’ve witnessed immense numbers of Americans, Black Lives Matter and Antifa most often, but even 9 year old kids and Walls of Moms, beaten, gassed, shot with “less-than-lethal” weapons, rammed with cars, you name it.

And this, despite the anguished cries of talking heads, is nothing close to 9/11–and think about the way we talk about 9/11 now compared to 2001–the more distance one gets from events like this, the more realistic rather than frightening they become. Katrina was a humanitarian disaster. Read contemporary accounts of Nixon’s final days. Remember the stunning impact of the OKC bombings. We’re now seeing over 4000 people die, daily, more than 9/11, from COVID and these same bigoted thugs who ransacked D.C. have had countless riots over mask-wearing. 

For that matter, we’ve seen dozens of public massacres at malls, bases, and of course schools—with no meaningful response.  A classroom of second graders was slaughtered, and legislative crickets…. And of course the country was built upon the massive bloodshed of the indigenous, slaves, and immigrant workers. It would help to exhale.   If this is the worst day in American history, we’ll be blessed.

Seeing this as a normal event in America in 2021 is a better, and actually more radical, way to analyze and plan going forward than treating it like a coup d’etat, which has a far more unique and ideological quality to it. Violence, like H. Rap Brown said, is as American as cherry pie. 

The language of the Ruling Class:  The street protests of 2020 were called “riots” by much of the political class and media and “uprisings” or “rebellions” by people on the Left.  American history is full of conflict, with words creating interpretation.  “Mobs” and “Crowds” or “rabble” don’t imply class or political consciousness, and a riot is an angry passionate uprising which denies people agency.  Insurrection is not just a word but a legal term, used against the Left throughout the various Red Scares in American history.  You insist on calling the action of Trump’s thugs an insurrection, you can be damn sure they’ll say that that the next time you’re protesting the police killing an unarmed Black man or woman. A “coup” is in fact empowering, and gives an estimable status to people who deserve absolutely no respect.

If the ruling class called people who were righteously protesting, maybe 30 million of them, all over America, a “mob” that was starting “riots,” why turn around and call partisans of their side—more violent and without any social or political justification—an insurrection or a group staging a coup?  Why give them that stature, using the language of the ruling class.  People who defend the elite will never be charged with insurrection. People who reveal state secrets, like Julian Assange, or make antiwar speeches, like Gene Debs, will. At the same time, many people are exercised about “blowback” right now–the idea that any Lefty who calls for action against the mob is playing in to the hands of state by legitimating its repression.

I understand the concern but the State doesn’t have to look hard to find excuses for repression, and we on the Left should absolutely want to see the people involved in Wednesday’s actions be arrested (though of course not cooperate with authorities in any way to make that happen). I have no problem defending BLM and Antifa actions from this summer, while attacking Trump’s crazed mobs. To suggest that the Left should have sympathy for them is the same false equivalence we get from the corporate media. But in the end, the ruling class will do what the ruling class wants to do and it will find a reason to do it.

People who are willing to defend ruling class interests will always be called “patriots”; the Left will never own that word and needs to put it away.  Same with “traitors.”  There’s some utility in turning the tables on Trump and the rest of them and referring to these people as “thugs” and “looters” and “scum.”  People who foment a coup would have some brains and skills.  Why give them undeserved credit for the events of January 6th?  And if you want to be terrified, keep in mind that a real “coup” would make Wednesday look no different than Black Friday at Wal-Mart or, courtesy of a Facebook friend, a kegger when Dad was out of town.  When you use the language of the ruling class, you’re already in the hole.

The Coup That Couldn’t Shoot Straight:  By Wednesday, Trump’s inner circle, the people who continued to fight to overturn the election, consisted of him, an Adderall-addicted madman; his son, a coke-addicted madman; Giuliani, a pre-embalmed madman; Sidney Powell, a madwoman now facing a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit, and Mark Meadows. By that time, everyone else had jumped ship. It was as if only Neidermeyer and Marmalard were left and the float was barreling right at them. So Trump incited a big group of people (which was small, tiny,infinitesimal compared to the Black Lives Matter protests last year) who were raged out, and they marched on the Capitol and mayhem ensued, abetted by some police acting more like maîtres d’ than law-and-order types.

One does not make a blueprint for and carry out a takeover of government on Twitter for weeks ahead of time, in the open, with no actually planning; but he can certainly incite the mob that way, and Trump surely did, as always. That was not an organized Coup d’Etat.  It was not an insurrection. It was not unpredictable. It was violent and it was ugly, like Trump’s language.  Some scary shit went down, no doubt. But look beyond the spectacle of horrifying images and think about the larger political context.

The people who breached the Capitol for the most part walked around like gawking tourists from Peoria, many looking amazed like the dog that caught the car, taking selfies, live-streaming (and doxing themselves), walking into the chambers, going into Pelosi’s office, carrying Confederate flags and doing other odious things.  Some got violent and pipe bombs were found.  This wasn’t a group of peaceful protestors holding a vigil.  It was a mob. They vandalized the place.

Though a horrifying sight, they had no plan, no organization. They smeared feces on the walls. They had bloodlust fantasies, but no way of carrying them through.   No organization, no reinforcements on the way. They were as much capable of fomenting a coup as Giuliani and Powell were an “elite strike force” ready to take on the Supreme Court. When the National Guard finally arrived—called by Pence, the Vice-President of the guy who was stirring up the thugs—the crowd was gone quickly, snowflakes with no stomach for a real confrontation. That doesn’t mean they should be allowed to walk away. They’re seriously violent and incited by an unhinged cult leader. I’ve seen voiced on the Left express concern about the federal government going after them. Really? They need to be all arrested and dealt with harshly.

If you’ve ever read about a real coup, or a real crisis in government, it does not consist of a mob of people storming a building and taking selfies by which law enforcement can identify them. Seriously, I’m not downplaying it.  It was horrific and fury-inducing. But there was never any possibility above Zero that the election would be overturned, Biden’s victory would be canceled out, Trump would remain in office, or that some government force would march down to the Capitol to stage a coup, or that “American democracy was in the balance,” as the more hysterical media people and the experts they brought in screamed.  That was not happening and the media who kept ratcheting up the alarm and anxiety and fear got good ratings from it.

Trump’s Allies Were the Target: When the MAGA thugs broke into the Capitol they started shouting “Where’s Pence” and there were people calling for the Veep to hang on the gallows.  Inside the Trump Death Cult, Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell, and now Lindsey Graham had become the main enemies for rejecting Trump’s begging to change the Electoral College.  Indeed, as Trump became more unhinged and desperate in the last week, he shifted away from the Democrats and put a laser focus on RINOs, in his fetid mind, like Kemp and Raffensperger, then Thune and Romney of course, and finally Pence and McConnell.  After being in the crosshairs of the mob and seeing their names on hit lists, you can be assured they’ll start taking right-wing violence more seriously, after years of inciting it. The chickens truly have come home to roost.

At the same time, it’s been reported that pretty much everyone in the White House outside of 5 or 6 madpersons were trying to talk Trump down.  Again, if they didn’t expect this and were trying to extinguish it (for their own self-serving reasons) it’s not a coup.  It’s political violence, but more like a scene out of a dark political comedy than Guatemala City, Tehran, or Santiago or …..

The Ruling Class … Again—the Military: Along with Green and Red Podcast co-host Scott Parkin, I’ve been discussing the ruling class’s role in Trump’s demise ad nauseum for months now, in print and on the air.  We’ve written about it and done a podcast on it.  People, even the Left, focus on Trump’s words and the ball of string he’s using to bait us, that they don’t look beyond that to see who’s actually making decisions, who has power, who will decide Trump’s fate.  Ugly tweets have accomplished more than ever thought imaginable, but that’s because there were important people benefiting from the environment Trump created and were willing to tolerate him while McConnell, Barr and other polecats did the dirty work.

When the military rebuked Trump last summer after the shameful and violent photo op, when Mattis and other retired generals and then Milley himself castigated Trump and apologized, when the Secretaries of Defense and the various services made statements on behalf of racial justice, when Trump kept insisting on keeping Confederate base names and recently vetoed a defense budget for that reason, it was obvious, with no doubt, that he had no force with which to remain in power.  Trump wasn’t trying to overthrow a government, he was trying to stay in the White House to lead a government that despised him. 

It was clear that the military was never going to help him do that.  And then just a few days before the Electoral College certification, the ten living defense secretaries, in an effort led by Dick Cheney (yeah, what were the odds in Vegas on that?) warned Trump not to try to overturn the election and called on the military to stay out of politics.  And just today, Pelosi told the media that she talked to Milley to “discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike.”

And the Bankers: Just a couple weeks after the election, in mid-November, various ruling class groups—Wall Street banks, the Chamber of Commerce, fatcat donors, and others—began to tell Trump to go away, even threatening to withhold donations to the GOP in the future if he kept inciting the mob with insane claims of a rigged election.  Trump did keep the flames going, and the failure of the oligarchs to step in at that point, along with Biden’s “just ignore him” strategy, were huge errors.  Trump was allowed to own the narrative for two months because he was just viewed as a souped-up version of a crazy uncle.  People should have been in the streets too.  There are a lot of lessons to be learned there.  The events of January 6th could have been prevented well ahead of time.

But this week, the dam broke.  Various business groups began to more vocally call for Trump to stand down, and GOP senators, hoping to avoid Trump’s twitter wrath up to that point, finally went public with their plan to certify Biden.  Koch-backed groups weighed in as well, telling Trump to give it up.  Then, most stunningly, on Wednesday, as the mobs ransacked the Capitol, the National Association of Manufacturers, as intensely anti-labor and anti-liberal as any group in Washington, the people who brought you Taft-Hartley, led by a longtime GOP operative, dropped the big one and put out a press release with the title “Manufacturers Call on Armed Thugs to Cease Violence at Capitol,” warning that “Anyone indulging conspiracy theories to raise campaign dollars is complicit,” and called on the Cabinet and Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment—as if Snoop quit weed, Shrodinger’s Cat died, and Satan had a Come-to-Jesus moment, all at the same time.

From there, the oligarchs piled on, culminating on January 7th with a call from the Wall Street Journal itself for Trump to resign. And on Wednesday, the 7th, as the Capitol was “under siege,” the Dow went up 437.80  and the next day,  211.73.  As I write this, Dow futures are +161.00. Just today, the Grey Lady reported that “the party faces a threat to its financial base, too. Several of the most powerful business federations in Washington denounced the chaos this week in stinging language” such as the “extraordinary” statement from NAM. The ruling class got even richer from Trump and then ditched him and is secure and feels like it has things under control now.

This “dissent” from the military and ruling class, and even some elements within the Republican Party, are important, and should not be dismissed.  When the ruling class shows fissures, you have to do whatever you can, no matter how seemingly small, to act on them. Capitalists aren’t going to overthrow themselves and hand power to you (they wouldn’t be much of a ruling class if they did….).  People need to organize, outside of the Democrats and The Squad, in the streets and beyond the venue of electoral politics, to get things done. 

Getting rid of Trump was important.  Time spent on social media or elsewhere complaining about Biden and his party will be wasted energy.  Our needs are great and time is short, and should not be used chasing the chimera of a Democratic epiphany or some kind of bipartisanship or reconciliation (two more words that should be retired).  Last summer, when corporations waved BLM banners and set up scholarship funds and such, or when the NBA and WNBA went into their bubbles and conducted virtual seminars on Black history, that wasn’t revolutionary, but it did expose many people, surely millions, to ideas they would not have known otherwise, and they can act on those. It’s our job to follow up on that, to exploit in any way, even if it seems trivial at the moment, those spaces, those openings to introduce new ideas and actions and make them legitimate and eventually accepted.

It’s Not Over:  In the coming months we’ll see countless post-mortems on this, with breathtaking headlines about how close we came to losing America and such.  This needs to be analyzed absolutely, and with more reason than passion.  But we already know what caused it—years of austerity and Democratic failure to help the working class and its commitment to Wall Street, Clinton’s “triangulation,” and Obama’s political fecklessness—leaving the field open to someone like Trump, who used it to incite angry people who felt dispossessed by elites and racial minorities. As the great Gil Scott-Heron told us, “America leads the world in shocks.  Unfortunately, America does not lead the world in deciphering the cause of shock.”

Groups like the Proud Boys and QAnon offered a response and they aren’t going away, and in fact are now in Congress and other legitimate political spaces, while Trump’s flunky Ronna McDaniel will stay on as RNC Chair. Trumpism is here and we have to meet it with strength, in the streets if need be, but not count on Pelosi, Garland, The Squad or other politicos to do it for us.

I think it’s more than a quibble to reconsider what we call things like this.  A “coup” gives too much credit and political oxygen to a group of violent miscreants and thugs.  Talk of insurrection and sedition can boomerang back against the Left. Insisting on calling everyone a “terrorist,” be it a crazed guy with a van in Nashville or QAnon devotees in a Viking costume in the halls of congress, makes it easier to use that word against protestors in Portland and Seattle and New York and everywhere else.  For what it’s worth, the public response to Black Lives Matter, Antifa, Defunding th Police and other “snappy” ideas is now better than it’s ever been, so this summer’s actions did matter.

ABC News kept referring to the vile mob on Wednesday as “anarchists,” and that’s a greater cause for anger, and action, than a word like coup or insurrection.  The people, the groups, and the language that led to the world today won’t fix the current crisis.  That’s up to us–doing mutual aid, forming affinity groups, organizing unions a ton of associations, and getting into the streets.  They’re a mob causing a riot, we are leading a rebellion. 

Other relevant articles:

Posted in Constitutional Crisis, Elections, History, Liberals, Military, Politics, Protests, Trump, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Swipe Left on the Democrats and Electoral Politics

They’re Just Not That Into You


There are currently two feuds dominating the Left—Jimmy Dore vs. AOC  in “The Brawl Over Medicare-for-All” and various segments of the Left vs. The Squad on its vote to re-elect Pelosi as Speaker of the House. 

If you want/need better evidence of the futility of the Left, it would be hard to find.  There’s a huge ongoing dispute over whether “The Squad,” a group of about 6 elected officials (hell, throw Sanders and Markey in there and make it 8) out of 535, should force Congress to have a vote on socialized medicine to put everyone on the record, and another argument over whether to vote against the incumbent (and politically inept) speaker of the house.  Social media is still in in an uproar over these issues with “support AOC” and “The Squad is dead to me” opinions seeming to alternate in frequency and intensity.

The Left continues to be hung up on electoral politics, despite not just its shortcomings but clear inability to make any kind of effective change.  One would think that two Sanders campaigns, the latter blowing through $180 million, the Clinton and Obama maneuvering to kill him off politically, the attacks on AOC and her cohorts by the Democratic leadership, AOC’s big defeat for a seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, constant scapegoating of The Squad, “Defunding the Police,” and “Socialism” by establishment Democrats since November 4th, and so on would convince the Left about the futility of its efforts.  There’s not an issue with voting, per se, but once you’ve cast the ballot, it’s time to move on and begin movements, organize, go into the streets.

But, like Charlie Brown kicking the football that Lucy’s holding, they go back for more.  Sure, we all know how hapless Liberals are, but sadly it looks like self-described radicals and even people who claim to be Socialists are in the same camp—bitching about the Democrats and obsessing over electoralism.

No one will convince people not to vote or get involved in electoral politics, much as it might be a useful experiment.  But people on the Left need to realize that voting is a tactic—and that means a vote for Biden against Trump was a tactic too, which was okay—and it’s not sacrosanct.  And we’re at a juncture now where it’s clear, or ought to be, that voting and electoral politics—like forcing a floor vote on M4A—is so far from the kind of effective action that we need, especially amid a pandemic and an economic crash, that it’s a big drain of valuable time and resources and no way to attain or increase any political credibility. 

So, yeah, let’s just step aside from the Democrats, from The Squad, from electoral politics all together.  There’s a little more space on the margins to organize and do direct action and create community political groups with Trump out, but it has to start now.  The needs are great, the time is short.

It Doesn’t Matter

At an elementary level—like most lefty hysterics about the actions of elected officials—these disputes just don’t matter, they’re a big “so what!”  So many  Liberals and the Left think the politics of symbolism will make or break them.  They live in a world in which they believe that public actions by small groups will help or harm their causes. 

Antifa?  A gift to the Right….  

Impeachment?  That’s going to only help Trump ……

Punching Nazis?  Makes us all look bad; we should be nonviolent…..

“Defund the Police”?  Toxic, snappy words that will just turn people off…..

Tagging Pelosi’s and McConnell’s houses?  Childish behavior that will create negative public perceptions of us…..

Here’s the thing….. It doesn’t matter. Antifa was crucial in the summer rebellions and even got decent media play. Impeachment had no bearing on Trump’s future or the election.  Punching Nazis inspired some young anarchists, pissed off some older Lefties, and in the end it meant little if anything.  The movement to defund the police angered a lot of people for whom optics or “toxic words” is their only politics, but you could have called it the “Free Ice Cream and Whiskey If Cops Kill Fewer Black People” program and it still would have been trashed.  Left scolding has no particular virtue and when people are in the streets, literally risking their lives, they deserve support, not reprobation.

The likes of Spanberger, Lamb, Ruy Teixeira and the CAP clan, and Democratic talking heads have always, and will always, deride the Left for its language and action.  The Democrats have spent about a half-century now waging an aggressive internal campaign against anything to the Left of corporate shills like Biden, Dick Gephardt, Gary Hart, Mike Dukakis, Pelosi and so many others. 

So what are the politics of this Dore v. AOC uproar?  What’s the political calculus?  If you force a vote, you can put people on record, that’s it?  But the Democratic Party’s already made it clear that it’s against M4A, amid a global pandemic that’s exposed the utter failure of the U.S. healthcare system.  Biden said he’d veto it if it came to his desk (which is even more telling because he could have punted on the questions since there was always zero chance of that happening).  So it doesn’t matter. (Continue to page 2).

Posted in Constitutional Crisis, Elections, History, Liberals, Politics, Protests, Repression, Trump, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

December 7th, a date of infamy for East Timor…….

On December 7th, 1975, Indonesia invaded East Timor, the first step in what would become a brutal 24-year occupation in which it would kill over 210,000 East Timorese, over 30 percent of the population, with significant U.S. support throughout the entire period.

Up to April 1974, “Portuguese Timor” was a colonial outpost of the central government in Lisbon, but then the left-wing “Carnation Revolution” occurred and Portugal withdrew its administrators and troops from East Timor (and Mozambique and Angola). West Timor was under Indonesian control.


With Portugal gone, East Timor saw a surge of political activity, with the conservative Timorese Democratic Union (UDT) and the Leftist Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor, or Fretilin established first, with Fretilin more popular among the Timorese, much to the dismay of neighboring Indonesia and Australia, as well as the United States.  The two parties did enter a coalition in early 1975, but the UDT accused Fretilin of turning East Timor into a communist front and the agreement fell apart in August.  At that point, the UDT began to forcibly take over radio stations, internal communications, transportation hubs, and the police, and it began a civil war against Fretilin, which appealed to East Timorese military forces that had been trained by Portugal.  With those reinforcements Fretilin forced UDT troops into West Timor and seemed to be in control of East Timor…..but that would soon change.

East Timor lay at the southern tip of the archipelago of Indonesia and Fretilin was clearly a target of the brutal Suharto regime in Jakarta.  Indonesian government and military officials saw  East Timor as a threat now, despite being small and significantly weaker militarily.

Fretilin, they feared, might inspire secessionist movements within other Indonesian provinces—the “threat of a good example”—and Timor could become a base for other Communist states which could potentially threaten the sea lanes used by the west in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and the South China Sea.  In addition to what Jakarta saw as the negative example of an independent East Timor, Indonesian government and commercial leaders also believed that there might be abundant reserves of oil and natural gas under the Timor Sea (there weren’t), and Suharto hoped to become a closer military ally to Washington in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.


Jakarta’s message about the “threat” of Fretilin met responsive ears in Australia and the United States, which was looking to maintain a presence in the region after its defeats in Indochina. American President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger supported the plans to crush Timorese independence and offered aid.  In September 1975, Indonesian special forces thus began incursions into East Timor, with conventional military assaults, and even the executions of five Australian journalists, within a month.  With that as prologue, Indonesian forces attacked and invaded East Timor on December 7th, 1975. Indonesian naval forces bombarded the capital of Dili as paratroopers landed and engaged East Timorese military forces, and by noon had taken control of the capital.Timor_-_Indonesian_Invasion

Days later a second wave of Indonesian forces captured Baucau, the second biggest city, and by Christmas another 15,000 troops were in East Timor.  By April 1976, that number had risen to over 35,000, with another 10,000 in Indonesian West Timor ready for reinforcement.  Inside East Timor, Indonesian troops began wholescale slaughter (not unlike they had done after the 1965 coup that deposed Sukarno), with reports of rape and assassinations of women and children and ethnic Chinese as specific targets.  The Bishop of Dili described “soldiers who landed started killing everyone they could find. There were many dead bodies in the streets – all we could see were the soldiers killing, killing, killing.”

Though the Indonesian forces were causing massive bloodshed, East Timorese forces had moved into the mountainous interior and conducted a guerrilla campaign that lasted throughout 1976 and early 1977.  At that point, the Indonesian navy had purchased armed patrol boats and submarines from the U.S., Australia, the Netherlands, South Korea, Taiwan and West German, and 13 Bronco aircraft from Rockwell International with military credits from the administration of Jimmy Carter. Jakarta send another 10,000 troops in to conduct what Indonesian officials called the “final solution.”

Indonesia’s final solution involved encircling and annihilating villages and mountainous hideouts, while defoliating the ground cover and causing widespread famine.  When villagers fled and moved out of those areas, Indonesian forces just massacred them.  In some cases, entire villages were killed, with allegations of chemical weapon use common.  By 1978, the resistance was finally quashed, at a massive cost in human life among the East Timorese.  Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser was the first head of state to formally recognize Jakarta’s annexation of East Timor, though both Canberra and Washington had been on board from the start of the invasion.


While the invasion was ongoing, reports of the atrocities and a famine reached the outside world, and even became the subject of congressional hearings in the United States.  While critics alleged that the U.S. “looked away” as Jakarta killed tens of thousands in East Timor, the reality was more stark.  In fact, the Carter administration provided heavy support—military, financial, diplomatic—to Jakarta.  Indonesian troops in East Timor “were armed roughly 90 per cent with our equipment,” the Department of State acknowledged.  As they ran out of military materiel with their escalating operations, Carter authorized additional arms sales of $112 million for 1978, and Vice-President Walter Mondale visited Jakarta to announce new arms sales.  Throughout, the Carter administration denied that the situation in East Timor was dangerous.

Congress, led by Representative Donald Fraser of Minnesota, conducted hearings on the Indonesian invasion and famine and Carter officials denied that the situation was even serious.  In March 1977, American officials Robert Oakley and the renowned Richard Holbrooke told congress that the White House had accepted Indonesia’s  annexation by Indonesia and that “allegations” of atrocities were “greatly exaggerated.”  When a former Australian Consul to East Timor, John Dunn, testified about the “brutal operations” that had already killed perhaps 100,000 Timorese along with rape and torture, a state department official, David Kenney claimed that the Indonesian forces were “maintaining a defensive posture,” that “there was no ‘search and destroy operation,’” and that the Timorese “can move about” the country at will.


While Indonesia, Australia, the United States and most of the world whitewashed Jakarta’s crimes in Timor, there were outsiders who brought the crisis to the attention of the world, as a small guerrilla resistance continued to fight against Indonesia throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

While the United Nations passed resolutions in 1975 and 1976 calling for Indonesian withdrawal and recognizing East Timor’s right to self-determination, Jakarta, and virtually every other western state,  just ignored them.  By the late 1970s, largely due to the efforts of the journalist Arnold Kohen and activist Noam Chomsky, as well as Fraser’s efforts in congress, some Timorese refugees were brought to the U.S. to meet politicians, journalists, and human rights groups.  More attention, and support, was given to East Timor throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s but it still existed mostly on the margins of the Left. By the end of the Reagan administration, East Timor was becoming a bigger issue, and 182 house members and a group of senators sent letters to the White House demanding an inquiry into human rights abuses by Indonesia.  Reagan increased arms sales to Jakarta.

The Santa Cruz Massacre (or Dili Massacre) of 1991 marked a major turning point in the public campaign for East Timor. Indonesian forces found resistance leaders in a church and killed Sebastião Gomes, a pro-independence activist.  During a memorial service for Gomes on November 12th, over 200 Indonesian soldiers opened fire at the graveyard and killed over 250 East Timorese in a massacre that was witnessed by western journalists and camera crews.

Jakarta called it a “misunderstanding,” but the international outcry over East Timor grew exponentially. In early 1998, beset by political scandals and an economic crisis, Suharto resigned and that helped give  East Timor more political space. In 1999, almost 80 percent of East Timorese voted for independence in a national referendum and ended 24 years of brutal Indonesian occupation—supported and paid for in part by Australia and the United States—and centuries of colonial rule by Portugal.

Huge crowds of East Timorese defied threats of violence to flock to polling stations, dressed in their Sunday best, clutching their identification papers.

Read more at the National Security Archive:

University of New South Wales, Canberra, Australia, “Companion to East Timor,”

And at Swarthmore’s NVDA Database:

This is a Green and Red history moment. To get more G&R, check out

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Jimmy Carter is a Liberal Saint Now, Was a War Criminal Then…..

Jimmy Carter as ex-President has built homes for the poor, brokered peace agreements, overseen elections, and engaged in humanitarian acts without fail.  He never cashed in like most ex-Presidents do with huge media deals or constant P.R. appearances.  And that’s good on him.

But in the interests of historical accuracy, and to understand why today’s political system has (d)evolved for the past four decades or so, looking at his time as president really tells us a lot about how we got to where we are today.

I’ve been tweaking some lectures in the past few days on the latter stages of the Cold War and was reminded of the turmoil and disorder Carter brought to the global scene.

Carter might be a secular saint to many in the 21st Century, but when it came to engaging with the world during his one-term presidency, he was a war criminal.  In Africa, in Asia, in Latin America, Carter created violent programs, aided terrorists, and contributed to death and destruction at a high level. His stewardship over the empire also is instructive in the ways of Liberal militarism and imperialism. 

>He put the belligerent, Kissinger wannabee Zbigniew Brzezinski in charge of foreign policy and consistently made the Secretary of State, the more moderate Cyrus Vance, less important.

>Indonesia/East Timor: Contrary to the widespread belief that the U.S. “looked away” as Indonesia slaughtered tens of thousands in East Timor, an ex-Portugese colony it sought to annex, the Carter administration provided heavy support—military, financial, diplomatic—to Jakarta.  Indonesian troops in East Timor “were armed roughly 90 per cent with our equipment,” the Department of State acknowledged.  As they ran out of military materiel with their escalating operations, Carter authorized additional arms sales of $112 million for 1978, and Vice-President Walter Mondale visited Jakarta to announce new arms sales.  Throughout, the Carter administration denied that the situation in East Timor was dangerous.

>Angola: In South Africa, Carter continued support to the apartheid regime there and, even more, made a deal with the China to send it 800 tons of military equipment which it would transfer to the notorious Jonas Savimbi-led UNITA  to fight against the Marxist government in Angola, the MPLA, in battles that included air attacks, raids on refugee camps and a massacre at Kassinga in 1978 in which forces backed by the U.S. killed 800 people.

>Vietnam: Carter, who said that the U.S. had no obligation to help Vietnam after the war because “the destruction was mutual” in one of his first press conferences in 1977, then continued to assault the new socialist government in Hanoi.  After Vietnam intervened in Kampuchea to oust the murderous Pol Pot/Khmer Rouge government, Carter began cooperating with China, again, to do something about it.  In a January 29, 1979 conversation with Deng Xiaoping, Carter expressed his desire to punish Vietnam by encouraging other nations to reduce aid to Hanoi “as long at the Vietnamese are the invaders,” increasing military aid to Thailand, reaching out to Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members to unite against the SRV, and warning the Soviet Union that continued support of Vietnam would harm relations with America.

Deng e­xpressed his concerns over Vietnam as well and told Carter that “some punishment over a short period of time will put a restraint on Vietnamese ambitions” and that “we need your moral support in the international field.” The American president understood clearly what China intended but cautioned that “invasion of Vietnam would be very serious destabilizing action.” Deng reassured him that “we have noted what you said to us, that you want us to be restrained. It is not that we did not consider this.  . . .We intend a limited action. Our troops will quickly withdraw. We’ll deal with it like a border incident.”

And so, on February 17, 1979 hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops struck along the Vietnamese border. The incursion did not last long, about a month, but it was costly to both countries as the Chinese had about 25,000 or more killed and over 40,000 wounded and the Vietnamese had about 10,000 killed. Financially, however, the toll was greater.  The burden of fighting against China right after intervening in Kampuchea, and then the immense occupation costs of keeping Phnom Penh under control would plague the SRV economy for years.

>Nicaragua and the Contras: Though the Contra War and U.S. destruction in Nicaragua was mostly a Ronald Reagan product, Carter set the stage for later intervention in the summer of 1979, when the Sandinista Revolution made its final push to take over Managua and then deposed Somoza in July. Earlier, when the Sandinistas were in a larger popular front group, Carter insisted it take a more moderate position, which prompted the FSLN to leave the bloc.  Then, in June, he directed Cyrus Vance, the Secretary of State, to urge Somoza to leave but be replaced by a broad-based government and an OAS peacekeeping force, conditions that would deny a Sandinista victory.  Once the FSLN took over on July 19th and began receiving aid from other socialist states Carter authorized the CIA to support resistance forces in Nicaragua, the genesis of the Contras.

>Iraq: Though there has been no official documentary confirmation, various Middle Eastern politicians and diplomats have maintained that Carter had state department officials reach out to Saddam Hussein, who’d had long-standing grievances and skirmishes with the new Islamic Republic of Iran, to encourage him to ratchet up Iraqi pressure and aggression against Tehran in the aftermath of the Iranian hostage crisis, the failure of an armed rescue mission by the U.S., and increasing hostility from the Khomenei government. While proof of the “greenlight” to Baghdad to start the Iraq-Iran War is still speculative, it’s clear that the Reagan program to support Baghdad against Khomenei did not emerge out of nowhere.

>Afghanistan and the Mujahadeen: In Carter’s most militarist, hawkish, and ultimately consequential, move, he intervened heavily in Afghanistan after Soviet intervention there at Christmas 1979.  He took a hard line on Soviet involvement in Afghanistan, which removed the bloody Hafizullah Amin government in favor of the more reformist Babrak Karmal faction, in spite of the likes of George Kennan  and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal urging caution, comparing Moscow’s relation with Kabul to the American role in Guatemala. 

In short order he then decided to boycott the 1980 Olympics scheduled for Moscow and dramatically increased military spending for 1980-81, providing a prologue and rationale for Reagan’s even more-immense buildups.  And, as Islamic fundamentalists from throughout the region poured into Pakistan to fight against the Soviet-backed government in Kabul, he began funding these mujahadeen groups and famously sent Brzezinski to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border where he told the fighters there that “God is on your side” and that they would defeat the Karmal government.  This of course led to the most stark example of “Blowback” in the era—the ultimate creation of al Queda and the Taliban.

So Carter has been unique since he left office in his dedication to peace and justice, especially in supporting Palestinian rights (see his book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid), helping broker a nuclear agreement with the North Koreans, and including the idea of human rights into foreign policy considerations in places like Argentina during the Dirty War. 

Especially compared to many other recipients (Kissinger, Begin, Obama) his Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 was well-deserved. You won’t find two ex- (or soon to be ex-) presidents more unlike Carter and Trump in terms of their personal ethics and morality. Yet, as caretakers of the American empire and the military-industrial complex, they acted more similarly than not.

So Carter, who did present a different approach to foreign relations to some degree, also also operated within, maintained, and strengthened American hegemony and imperialism, and global instability, during his time in office.  It’s a great study in the structural imperatives of the American government, and Liberalism, and how even people with a good heart are war criminals when conducting affairs of the state.

Posted in Colonialism, Foreign Policy, Liberals, Middle East, Military, Muslims, Repression, Russia, Vietnam, War | Leave a comment

Hysteria about Fascism and Coups Hurts the Left

Since 1/20/2017 huge numbers of people, liberals and on the Left alike, have been adamant, and often apoplectic, that Trump was guiding the U.S. toward fascism, that he was the new American Hitler, and that his followers were Nazis.  More recently, we’ve been inundated with increasingly-panicked warnings that a coup was imminent because he was unlikely to win the election fairly or he’d refuse to leave office if he lost.

And we’re not just being told that Trump is a fascist. Some people on the Left have gone further and insisted that nobody should even question that perspective, that fact–as they see it. The most extreme, unhinged example of attacking coup skeptics was probably Counterpoint’s feature write Paul Street, who shrieked that “any asshole ‘radical left’ douchebag who goes around posting and publishing denialist bullshit based on the absence of full on parallels with the Third Reich disgraces themselves and pollutes the discourse with ahistorical drivel.” I guess then I’ll cop to being a disgraceful polluter.

To the people to whom I talk regularly and listeners of the Green and Red Podcast, the error of these views has been clear for some time.  As I recently wrote in a piece on this blog, Trump never displayed the basic traits of fascism—control of the state, a solid relationship with financial and industrial oligarchs to plan out the economy, mass repression of dissent, and so on. While far too many people ignored the historical and political nature of what fascism was, it was perhaps more disturbing that those who often vociferously argued that Trump was a fascist or Nazi urged people to…, in 2018 and 2020, as the response to this growing threat. 

If you really believed in early 2017 that Trump was a fascist, why not act immediately and decisively, in the streets (which in fact many people were doing, spontaneously, as in the rush to jam airports after the Muslim ban or bum-rushing congress members’ meetings on health care before the mid-terms)?  But waiting until the 2018 elections and a presidential election almost 4 years in the future?  That’s a pretty empty and in fact dangerous response to fascism.

Trump is a cruel, ignorant, racist, detestable human…..who’s enacted some really awful programs and policies that have harmed people, and surely incited and encouraged some really horrible people who carried Swastika flags and believed QAnon theories.  But that doesn’t make him a fascist.  It makes him a cruel, ignorant, racist, detestable human…..who’s enacted some really awful programs and policies that have harmed people, and surely incited and encouraged some really horrible people who carried Swastika flags and believed QAnon theories.  Despite the fantasies of the Lincoln Project about the GOP before 2016, Trump emerged from political sewers that already had rewarded the traits he was demonstrating–from Nixon (Goldwater, really) onward–and, yes, including Clinton and Obama.  

Trump was not a departure from a pristine GOP past, but was a pure-bred “born in the USA” product of the past half-century of American politics. 

As as for the coup . . . now that we’re precisely two weeks away from the election, we’re seeing every lawsuit fail, Trump’s blustering being condemned by the media, large majorities of Americans rejecting his claims that he had the election stolen from him, and more and more of his own people—some GOP officials (most powerfully, the hard-core conservative Secretary of State of Georgia), some judges, some Republican members of state legislatures where there were “plots” to send their own slate of electors to vote for Trump–start to bail on his schemes.  Even if you believe in a Trump coup (and a new delightful term for such people is “BlueAnon”) it certainly died on the grounds of the Four Seasons…..Landscaping Company.

So what’s the big deal, why be so adamant and cranky about a couple words like “fascist” and “coup,” why not let it go?  Because the people who have pimped these views for the past four years have really harmed the Left in many ways.

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Posted in History, Liberals, Politics, Protests, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Is Your Outrage Pure?

Planned Election Protests Shouldn’t Have Been Postponed

First, there’s not going to be a “coup” or any other type of stolen election.  The hysterics surrounding this issue have frankly become embarrassing on the Left.  No reason to go into the particulars here (though I did in a lengthy piece a few weeks ago), but it’s not going to happen.  Trump won’t be president after January 20th, 2021.    

But coup-or-no-coup is a pretty weak line on gauging political success. The standard for Pass/Fail shouldn’t be the worst possible outcome—the actual theft of government power.  The way some people are sizing this up, anything short of tanks rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue flying Confederate flags with the Proud Boys and Q him- or her-self leading the attack with Kid Rock providing the marching music would be a victory.

Having said that, there are reasons to be angry.  The great Alexander Cockburn, one of the founders of the once-great Counterpunch, used to ask interns and activists “is your hate pure?”  Is it unadulterated—are you willing to hate putative or contrived friends as much as obvious enemies.

Today, the Left needs to decide if its outrage is pure.  Outrage against Trump is easy.  He’s the most outrageous human on earth.  Hating on Trump is like enjoying ice cream and whiskey—it’s innate and the easiest thing in the world to do.

But there are others who deserve outrage, a couple targets in particular.  Obviously, Biden and the Democrats lead the pack here.  There may have been some virtue in Biden’s initial approach to Trump’s blathering about a rigged election and his lawsuits and unhinged tweets that he won easily.  Letting him air his grievances for a while did no harm.  More GOP officials and others are now shoring up the plain fact that Biden won the election. 

In that sense—no harm, no foul.  In a different political universe, I’d even assume that Biden and his political allies have been having long-term contact with backchannels in the Pentagon, Justice Department, even the White House, as well as having constant chatter with Wall Street.  But these are the Democrats, who I long ago ordained the #WashingtonGeneralsofPolitcs.

So it’s time for Biden’s appeasement to end.  Polling on the legitimacy of Trump’s defeat has been erratic—I’ve seen one poll suggesting less than 10 percent believe he won the election but another that suggest well more than 50 percent of Republicans believe he did.  Those numbers have gotten bigger as this has dragged out.  Biden needs to stop the nonchalant “I won and I’m just going to go ahead with my transition whether Trump’s officials recognize it or not” and do whatever he can—maybe just rhetorically—to say this absurdity has to end.  Even if it’s just sounding tough, he needs to do it. 

Trump has ridden his “tough guy” act pretty far, especially for a spoiled privileged rotund rich boy who never worked a day in his life, never succeeded at anything other than running for president in 2016, and ran every business he touched into debt.  The GOP loves to act tough, and the Democrats are the party of “civility” and morality.  Civility and morality are great—surely in grave deficit today—but the Democratic Party’s constant, open, intentional weakness has been perhaps its greatest political liability. 

Does anyone take anything that Pelosi, Schumer, Clyburn, Hoyer, or other Dems say seriously?  When Pelosi said the Dems said they would use all the arrows in their quiver to stop the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, was there a single GOP official in American not laughing? Why do you think Pelosi hates “The Squad?”–Because it’s actually an oppositional, and assertive, group.

Liberals love the theatrics of the Speaker clapping at Trump or tearing up his speech, but real resistance?–Not so much.  So some kind of unequivocal and strong stand against Trump—“you lost, accept it, and get out” at least has some symbolic value.  As my mom said to my dad a million times, “Nick, the door swings both ways, so don’t let it hit you in the ass on the way out.”  Sure, we laughed, but we all got the point too.

Lefties have no problem dogging on Biden and the Dems, so that part is easy for them, and Liberals need to learn it too.  For the Left, we’ve gotten as much out of Biden as we were ever going to get–Trump’s defeat. An expanded public health program, let alone M4A, or significant laws to restrain police violence, or meaningful regulations on banks and corporations were never in the offing. Anyone a little left of the “center” that Biden inhabits has to realize that he’s just not into you.

But the second object of outrage is more internal—Lefty groups which had been organized to defend the election against any Trump chicanery or “coup” (it’s just absurd that that term has become the de facto description for an operation best exemplified by Rudy G’s speech at the Four Seasons Landscape Company next to a porn shop) all decided to stand down on the morning of November 4th because it was clear by then that Biden was going to win.

Several groups had been planning for months and had organized at least tens of thousands of people to pledge to go into the streets to protect a secure vote and a fair election—and they stood down.  To better understand the dynamics of that retreat see an excellent Twitter thread by the labor organizer Jane MacAlevey at .   

If you’ve had gut-wrenching anxiety for months about a “coup,” if you’ve been terrified by Trump being a “fascist” since January 2017, if you’re existentially certain that Trump will do something horrific and he’s an evil genius and he’s not going to leave the White House, why would you postpone your operations because Biden had a lead in a few key states less than 12 hours after the polls close?

Why, after all that fear and panic and drama, would you give the “all is well” sign and then call “at ease?” 

There’s virtue in intimidation, as the Right only knows far too well.  A couple dozen crazy people with AKs at the state capitol get immense media coverage and terrify liberals (and anyone who’s sane to be honest) yet the people opposing them—on the streets of Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, New York, and a hundred other places—always outnumbered them exponentially.  Public polling always supported the people standing up for Black Lives Matter or wearing masks by big numbers. 

Yet, the Right intimidated and terrified Liberals in every encounter.  It, as it’s done for decades, created its own reality and then sold it to the country in general. Conservatives are the ultimate Paper Tigers, as the Chairman would have said, but they owned the spectacle.

Imagine hundreds of thousands of protestors, defiant and even angry, in the streets at 6 A.M. on Wednesday morning after the election?  Trump is easily intimidated despite the tough guy bravado and he’d have been in the Bunker in an instant. That’s not speculative–that’s what happened just a few months ago. But the protest groups stood down. 

If they’d maintained their plans, this whole absurdity might be much further along, or over.  And Trump can still wreak havoc–pardons, executive orders, firing and hiring people–without a “coup” and has plenty of time to do it given the long interregnum before the inaugural (and to think it used to be March 4th), so street actions could be directed not just at the past (the election) but the future (Trump insanity and Biden’s sure-to-be-corporate administration).

Trump’s playing with house money—he can do all these bizarre things that aren’t going to work, but he buys time to get MAGA crazies more riled up, to help two thuggish Republicans in Georgia run their senate campaigns, to confront the real possibility of myriad legal problems when no longer sheltered in the White House, and to continue his life-long grift by getting people to donate to his “fair election” slush fund.

The sights of people who spontaneously went out to celebrate Trump’s defeat was joyous, and they deserve fanfare, and not criticism. Not only did they enjoy deposing Trump, but went hardscrabble against the much fewer number of MAGA people who went out to harass them.  But organized political groups who’d spend the past couple years freaking people out about fascism and a coup, only to go to brunch instead of the barricades on November 4th, need to be confronted with outrage, pure outrage. 

The GOP isn’t going to suddenly revert from the party of Trump to Mr. Rogers, and the resistance better be ready, like yesterday, to get into the streets, because while the president’s days are numbered, the struggle for a better life is already underway and the bad guys have a head start. Bowing out of street action because of something as simple as projections that showed Biden winning Pennsylvania and Georgia is a really bad sign…..

Posted in Constitutional Crisis, Elections, History, Politics, Protests | 1 Comment

Is Trump a Fascist? Will there be a Coup?

Does it matter what we call Trump? Does the Left need to to chill out?

Some years ago, Randy Newman sang “the end of an empire . . . is messy at best,” and American society is now in a mess that Winston Wolfe couldn’t clean up.  No one has to ignore the long sordid corporate liberal record of Joe Biden or the Wall Street/Prosecutor career of Kamala Harris to understand that Donald Trump has to be deposed by whatever means necessary and if the tactic of voting does that, there’s no reason to knock it. 

But it’s also a time for thinking rationally and coldly, not being hysterical and panicking, and there’s a lot of that on the Left these days. 

Trump’s scary and dangerous, absolutely.  Though he’s not as abnormal as a lot of Leftists and especially Liberals insist  (think of Nixon and Reagan and Bush, not to mention Clinton and Obama), he’s openly, crudely, vulgarly, maniacally, and virulently presenting a challenge at home of a greater magnitude than we’ve seen probably since the 1960s.  While logically building on the neo-liberal and inhumane programs of his predecessors, he’s topped them off with a dismissal of a public health crisis that’s killed over 200,000 and is openly inciting white supremacist violence from Portland to Michigan. 

He has to go away, and immediately.

But recently, there’s been a surge of articles and opinion pieces in Left media verging on hysteria—with some crossing that line—that Trump is a fascist and/or a Nazi, that he’s going to steal the election or refuse to leave office, and, most troubling, that others on the Left who do not share such alarmist views are really no better than MAGA-wearing Trump fanatics. The most extreme example may be a recent social media observation from the lead writer of a well-known online publication which shrieked that “any asshole ‘radical left’ douchebag who goes around posting and publishing denialist bullshit based on the absence of full on parallels with the Third Reich disgraces themselves and pollutes the discourse with ahistorical drivel.”  The evidence?—border detentions, Charlottesville, El Paso, tweets to “liberate” various states, Kenosha, referring to Democrat politicians as Communists, ominous warnings about the election, and the like.

Long before that, since January 2017 really, there have been listicles of traits of fascists, 20 ways to spot a fascist, 5 reasons why Trump is the new Hitler, countless memes explaining what fascism is, and so forth.  It’s reminiscent of the 1950s “how to spot a Communist” propaganda, and I’m waiting for a lefty Jeff Foxworthy to strike it big with a “you might be a fascist if….” routine. 

Most of these focus on Trump’s bluster, vulgarity, threats, and overtly racist and sexist ideas, as well as some genuinely frightening programs and policies.  But being fascist involves so much more than being a horrendous, and dangerous, individual, even one with power.  (Continued on page 2)

Posted in Constitutional Crisis, Foreign Policy, History, Immigration, Liberals, Military, Muslims, Politics, Repression, Trump, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Green and Red–the Scrappy Podcast for Scrappy Lefties

Green and Red on YouTube

Green and Red Podcast

Green and Red Podcast isn’t hooked in to the hip Brooklyn political scene.

Green and Red Podcast doesn’t score cheap points by insulting Noam Chomsky and others who have been involved in the struggle longer than many self-described radicals have been alive.

Green and Red Podcast doesn’t have East Coast institutional or financial support to power its way to huge listening numbers and big donations.

Green and Red Podcast doesn’t get the publicity that trendy Left stars like the Young Turks, or Krystal Ball, Chapo, or the bros at the Jacobin Soviet do.

Green and Red just brings you hardcore activists, people in the streets, movement people, scrappy activists who are working with the poor, homeless, hungry, unions, environmental groups and other people who want to create a radical world.

Green and Red Podcast isn’t the biggest or best-known Left podcast, it just has the most important activists talking about the most crucial issues facing us today, both politically and historically.

Please check out the Green and Red Podcast, so the revolution can be televised.

We’re committed to talking with people who are doing the most vital work–activists in the streets in Portland, Seattle, New Orleans and other areas where the struggle is being waged; people doing mutual aid; environmental organizers ; union progressives; Left scholars who do great work but don’t get the attention they deserve. We feature radical politics and radical history. We’ve recently done shows on the rebellion in Portland, anarchism, the problem of cop unions, the Atomic Bomb, the New Left, the violent right-wing street militias, Trump and the election, and Indigenous Peoples Day nee Columbus Day, among others.

Please watch and listen and please SHARE, so the people we talk to can get the word out about all the great stuff going on in various Left communities.

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Green and Red Podcast…..for Scrappy Politics, Scrappy History, Scrappy People

Since beginning our podcast in February, Scott Parkin and I have produced and hosted 36 episodes, and we’re really proud of what we’ve done.  We’ve had on scholars and organizers/activists, people who’ve been involved in movements for peace and justice for a long time and are well-known, and younger people who are doing exciting work and creating new organizations and new means of activism.

Below is a list of our 36 episodes so far, both in podcast and, more recently, video form.

There are podcasts  on labor, on activism, on COVID-19, on military and military opposition to Trump, on the history of liberalism, on important events from the past, on Racism and Rebellion, and other topics.  We’ve interviewed people who are doing vital work today but aren’t in the limelight.  We’ve talked about many issues before they became issues in the larger media.  And we’ve had on many guests who’ve offered great advice to activists.

Green and Red is your one-stop shop for radical politics, activism, and history.

So please listen and tell us what you think.  Please share (and follow and like) on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.  Best of all, tell your friends and comrades about Green and Red.   If you’re new to G&R, listen to a couple; if you’re a regular, take the time to catch up; if you have any comments or suggestions, send them to us.

We don’t make any money off this podcast so if you want to help defray expenses you can donate at or become a regular at

Thanks for the support thus far!  We’ve gotten great audience numbers and feedback and we’ve had a lot of fun, and will be going forward with all of you.  We have a world to win!


G&R Episode36:Struggle in Israel, The Growing Anti-Netanyahu Protests w/ Atalya Ben-Abba and Amitai Ben-Abba

YouTube video at

G&R Episode 35: The New Left and the Next Left.  What We Can Learn from 1960s Radicals

YouTube video at

G&R Episode 34: From “Burn, Baby, Burn” to Black Lives Matter. LA’s Watt’s Uprising 55 Years Later

YouTube video at

G&R Episode 33: Portland in Revolt

G&R Episode 32: “Atomic Diplomacy” and Hiroshima, 75 Years Later

YouTube video at

G&R Episode 31: A Murder in Austin, with anti-Police Brutality Organizer Debbie Russell

G&R Episode 30: Racial Violence, the Camp Logan Mutiny, and Confederate Monuments w/ Professor Clayton Lust

G&R Episode 29:  Radical Seattle with Professor Cal Winslow

G&R Episode 28: One Big Union? Not So Fast. Police Unions and Other Labor Struggles with Joe Allen

G&R Episode 27:  The End of the Age of Plastic with Stiv Wilson!

G&R Episode 26:  More Pandemic and Politics with Professor Sarah Koster

G&R Episode 25: Viet-Black Solidarity in a Time of Crisis, with Thao Ha

G&R Episode 24: Why Immanuel Wallerstein Matters

G&R Episode 23: Demystifying Antifa w/ Author Shane Burley

G&R Episode 22: The Military vs. Donald J. Trump. Generals Tell Trump to “Stand Down!”

G&R Episode 21: “8 minutes, 46 seconds.” The murder of George Floyd and uprisings in the USA, featuring Jeff Ordower

G&R Episode 20: “War is A Racket:” Measuring the true cost of war with Graham Clumpner

G&R Episode 19: May 19th! The Legacies of Ho Chi Minh and Malcolm X (both born today)

G&R Episode 18: Michael Moore’s ‘Planet of the Humans’ and Its Discontents with Ananda Lee Tan

G&R Episode 17: Tin Soldiers and Nixon’s Coming . . . 50 Years After the Kent State Killings

G&R Episode 16: Shut It Down! Resistance in the Age of COVID-19 with Lisa Fithian!

G&R Episode 15: Mutual Aid in a Pandemic. NOLA Edition! With Jasmine Araujo from Southern Solidarity!

G&R Episode 14: Welcome Back Koster! Politics and the Pandemic with Prof. Sarah Koster!

G&R Episode 13: Martin Luther King vs. LBJ! King’s Radicalism and the Limits of the Liberal State

G&R Episode 12: Coronavirus in Italy and the Middle East, with Giuseppe Acconcia

G&R Episode 11: Rise and Fall of Liberalism and Poor Peoples Movements

G&R Episode 10: Mutual Aid and COVID19 with scott crow

G&R Episode 9: UC Strike!03/23/20

G&R Episode 8: Live From Italy! More Pandemic and Politics!

G&R Episode 7: Pandemic and Politics with Sarah Koster

G&R Episode 6: Populism and the New Deal, Do Those Words Mean What You Think They Mean?

G&R Episode 5: Climate Rebellion with Bea Ruiz

G&R Episode 4: Stupor Tuesday! Bob and Scott dish the dirt on the liberal establishment!

G&R Episode 3: The Story of SHAC with Jake Conroy

G&R Episode 2: A conversation with Staughton Lynd

G&R Episode 1: Kick off with Bob and Scott!


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Cracks in the Empire

The Military Says “Stand Down” to Trump


Gen. Smedley Butler

“I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”  (War is a Racket)



Gen. David Shoup

“I believe that if we had and would keep our dirty, bloody, dollar-crooked fingers out of the business of these nations so full of depressed, exploited people, they will arrive at a solution of their own.  That they design and want.  That they fight and work for.  [Not one] crammed down their throats by Americans.”




Two Marine Generals, Smedley Butler and David Shoup, uttered those words, in 1933 and 1966, to condemn U.S. military intervention and aggression in foreign countries.  They’re not typical.  Few people with their rank and status speak out.  But they weren’t as rare as one might think either. While Butler and Shoup offered powerful criticisms of national policy, it hasn’t been that unusual for military officers, and especially retired officers, to weigh in on national issues and dissent from national policy.

During the Vietnam era, a large number of retired brass criticized the war and, importantly, active-duty military officials offered a steady drumbeat of pessimistic and bleak views of Vietnam and warned against intervention and escalation–to little avail of course.  Among those who were outspoken against Vietnam were Matthew Ridgway, who had commanded U.N. forces in Korea, and James Gavin, an ex-NATO Commander.  Other retired officers joined their dissent and provided space for more opposition to the war.  It’s one of the less-known stories of Vietnam but nonetheless a vital part of the narrative.

It would be easy to dismiss these officers as a novelty, a few cranks going against the grain, but in the context of Vietnam, they were important.  The main reason for the U.S. failure in that was in Vietnam itself–the protracted and often-brilliant resistance of the the forces of liberation there–the NLF, the VC, the PLAF, the PAVN.

vvaw statue of liberty

VVAW Occupation of Statue of Liberty, 1971

But outside of Vietnam the U.S. had to contend with a few forces that also made victory impossible–mainly the active resistance of soldiers on the ground in Vietnam, where antiwar activities that went as far as fragging of officers was common, and in vets groups like the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), which had huge protests and launched the career of John Kerry who, in the most noble act of his political life before becoming an establishment politician and avid interventionist, testified before Congress and condemned  “this barbarous war” and hoped that veterans would help Americans come to grips with the horrors of Vietnam “so when, in 30 years from now, our brothers go down the street without a leg, without an arm or a face, and small boys ask why, we will be able to say ‘Vietnam’ and not mean a desert, not a filthy obscene memory but mean instead the place where America finally turned and where soldiers like us helped it in the turning.”

So the civilian administrations waging the war in Vietnam had to contend with the fear of rebellion in the ranks and the significant opposition of military veterans.  It also had to confront the critical responses of ruling-class figures, like the generals who opposed the war publicly or offered somber analyses of it private, and Wall Street and corporate leaders who warned that Vietnam was destroying the national economy.  During the Iraq War that started in 2003, a similar dynamic was at play, as respected pillars of the military, notable names like Anthony Zinni and Wesley Clark, spoke out against U.S. intervention in the Middle East.

To be clear, these were not antiwar activists condemning the American role in the world or American power  (though Butler and Shoup did).  They were insiders who believed that U.S. aggression would undermine global stability and harm American interests and they were concerned about the credibility of their own institutions as well.  But since the ruling class isn’t democratic, doesn’t care a lot about what “the people” think or do, these military (and Wall Street) critics were important as the elites who run the country debated global military, and economic, strategies.


Fast forward to 2020, as the U.S. faces multiple systemic crises–a global pandemic with already over 100,000 dead mishandled in the most egregious manner, an economic crash with over 40,000,000 unemployed and banks and corporations getting bailed out while millions lose jobs and health insurance, and now national rebellions sparked by racist police killings stoked by an angry violent White Supremacist president but encompassing years of racism, neglect, economic precarity, and ruling-class indifference to the lives of working Americans.

And into that combustible mix the American president has poured gas on the fires unrelentingly, calling for the most repressive responses and repeatedly threatening to deploy not just police or National Guard, but U.S. military troops in the streets of America to “dominate” the immense number of Americans protesting a failed society.


And amid this, we are now seeing significant representatives of the military ruling class, not just retired brass but active-duty officials, say “Stand Down” to the commander-in-chief.   These men do not have the same political ideas or interests as people in the streets to be sure, but they have created a visible and significant obstacle to Trump’s plans to put active-duty military into action against the American people protesting in America’s streets.  That’s not an unimportant development.

The most powerful denunciation of Trump has come from James Mattis, a retired General who had commanded the U.S. Joint Forces Command, was commander of the U.S. Central Command, and served as Trump’s defense secretary until 2018, and has served on several corporate boards of directors (and, to be thorough, probably committed war crimes as a commander in Fallujah).  As much as anyone Mattis is an exemplar of the Military-Industrial Complex.  In a strident essay,  an “angry and appalled” Mattis assailed Trump for dividing Americans and inciting conflict. Putting himself on the side of the people in the streets and invoking the concept of “equal justice under law,” Mattis explained that “this is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding.”

Surprisingly, he did not denounce the protestors, and admonished that Americans “not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers.”  He excoriated Trump for not uniting Americans, in fact “he does not even pretend to try,” and then, most strikingly, compared Trump to the Nazis:  “Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that ‘The Nazi slogan for destroying us … was ‘Divide and Conquer.’ Our American answer is “In Union there is Strength.'”

Had Mattis admonished Trump, it would have been news by itself, but other generals offered similar public statements.  Indeed, even before Mattis, Admiral Mike Mullen, the JCS Chair from 2007-2011, wrote in The Atlantic that “it sickened me yesterday to see security personnel—including members of the National Guard—forcibly and violently clear a path through Lafayette Square to accommodate the president’s visit outside St. John’s Church.”

What was striking in both the Mattis and Mullen statements was not just that they publicly denounced a sitting president, but that they went beyond the constitutional aspects of Trump’s behavior, went beyond the way Trump was politicizing the deployment of troops, and actually discussed the underlying causes of the current rebellions.

Mullen frankly discussed the angry protests about racism, conceding that he couldn’t fully grasp the plight of American Blacks, “but as someone who has been around for a while, I know enough—and I’ve seen enough—to understand that those feelings are real and that they are all too painfully founded.”  He, like Mattis, strongly supported “the right—indeed, the solemn obligation—to peacefully assemble and to be heard. These are not mutually exclusive pursuits.”

John Allen, another retired Marine four-star and president of the Brookings Institution, added his disgust that Trump and Barr had peaceful protestors physically routed but that “this photo-op sought to legitimize that abuse with a layer of religion.”  He bluntly added that this current rising could lead to change, and in a cryptic shout-out to protestors, said “it will have to come from the bottom up. For at the White House, there is no one home.”

Others have joined in the chorus of condemnation as well.  Martin Dempsey, Army General and past JCS Chief, tweeted “America is not a battleground. Our fellow citizens are not the enemy,” and then in what seemed to be a barb at the First Lady added the hashtag #BeBetter.   Screenshot_2020-06-04 (1) GEN(R) Martin E Dempsey on Twitter America’s military, our sons and daughters, will place themsel[...]


Screenshot_2020-06-04 (1) Gen Michael Hayden on Twitter I was appalled to see him in his battle dress Milley (he’s a genera[...]Michael Hayden, former director of both the NSC and CIA, took a clear shot at General Mark Milley, the current JCS Chair, who accompanied Trump and Barr for the photo op at St. John’s Church in Washington, saying “I was appalled to see him in his battle dress. Milley (he’s a general?!?) should not have walked over to the church with Trump.”

General Tony Thomas, ex-head of Special Operations Command, took aim at Defense Screenshot_2020-06-04 (1) Tony Thomas on Twitter peterwsinger EsperDoD The “battle space” of America Not what America needs[...]Secretary Mark Esper’s description of the Washington D.C. using the language of war:   “The ‘battle space’ of America??? Not what America needs to hear…ever, unless we are invaded by an adversary or experience a constitutional failure…ie a Civil War…”

Though these officers are retired, they are no doubt in communication, most likely frequent, with active-duty officers and it’s logical to assume that they’re publicly saying what officials in the Pentagon are telling them.  More so, given that Trump has already had public spats with military officers, it’s not unlikely that they may have already pushed against his plans and called on their retired colleagues to make the public case for them. Collectively, as media described it, Trump was “facing an unprecedented revolt” from the military over his strongman tactics in the streets.


Even more problematic for Trump were the public statement of active-duty officers in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the 150 or so uprisings in American cities, and Trump’s escalating threats to unleash the military at home, including using the 1807 Insurrection Act to deploy troops against Americans in areas where the uprisings were taking place.

On June 1, the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright, published an extraordinary and powerful series of tweets on being Black in America:  “Who am I? I am a Black man who happens to be Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. I am George Floyd…I am Philando Castile, I am Michael Brown, I am Alton Sterling, I am Tamir Rice.”  Wright talked of his outrage at “watching another Black man die on television before our very eyes.”  Wright, the second African American to be the Air Force’s highest ranking enlisted officer, bluntly said that “what happens all too often in this country to Black men who are subjected to police brutality that ends in death…could happen to me. As shocking as that may sound to some of you…” as he announced an independent review his own service after reports showed a disproportionate number of young black airmen have been punished.

Before tweeting, Wright spoke with Air Force Chief of Staff General Dave Goldfein, who approved of his statement and then went on record in support of him, denouncing the death of George Floyd and acknowledging racism in the Air Force: “Sometimes it’s explicit, sometimes it’s subtle, but we are not immune to the spectrum of racial prejudice, systemic discrimination and unconscious bias.  We see this in the apparent inequity in our application of military justice. We will not shy away from this; as leaders and as airmen we will own our part and confront it head on.”  The commander of the new Space Force put out a similar memorandum, saying that George Floyd’s death “also serves as a stark reminder that racism and unequal treatment is a reality for many and a travesty for all. As members of the United States Space Force we are not immune. Many in our Service feel this pain a daily basis and we all are hurting as we have experienced the sickening events that have played out in our cities around the country.”

By that point, the floodgates had opened and Milley (who, according to inside sources in recent reports had been against the idea of deploying active-duty troops from the beginning) had no choice but to offer a statement in support of the constitution (a quite frightening development in its own right) and told the service chiefs to “please remind all our troops and leaders that we will uphold the values of our nation, and operate consistent with national laws and our own high standards of conduct at all times.”

Perhaps the strongest public statment came from Sergeant Major Michael Grinston, Chief of Staff James McConville, and Secretary Ryan McCarthy of the Army.  On June 3d, they released a statement through their Public Affairs Office acknowledging in detail the crisis of racism in America, saying that “we feel the frustration and anger. We felt it this week while traveling through the nation’s capital with the DC National Guard. We feel it, even though we can never fully understand the frustration and life experiences of people of color, in or out of uniform. But we do understand the importance of taking care of people, and of treating every person with dignity and respect.”  And they continued

Every Soldier and Department of the Army Civilian swears an oath to support and defend the Constitution. That includes the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. We will continue to support and defend those rights, and we will continue to protect Americans, whether from enemies of the United States overseas, from COVID-19 at home, or from violence in our communities that threatens to drown out the voices begging us to listen. To Army leaders of all ranks, listen to your people, but don’t wait for them to come to you. Go to them. Ask the uncomfortable questions. Lead with compassion and humility, and create an environment in which people feel comfortable expressing grievances. Let us be the first to set the example. We are listening. And we will continue to put people first as long as we are leading the Army. Because people are our greatest strength.

After that remarkable 48 hours of retired officers and active-duty chiefs repudiating Trump’s threats, Esper had little choice but to backtrack on any plans to deploy troops on American soil  and broke ranks with the president, saying that he now believed that soldiers should not be put into American cities.  Trump was predictably livid over the whole affair, furiously denouncing Mattis and others in tweets and apparently considering replacing Esper.

Yet the military condemnation has continued.  General Douglas Lute, who had been on the NSC under both Bush and Obama, warned that “there is a thin line between the military’s tolerance for questionable partisan moves over the past three years and the point where these become intolerable for an apolitical military. Relatively minor episodes have accumulated imperceptibly, but we are now at a point of where real damage is being done.”  But, for the time being, at least one element of an ongoing national crisis seemed to be tempered.


Generals are not allies of street protestors, but have provided important support for resistance in this crisis by forcing the White House to reverse its plans to turn American streets into a war zone, at least as I write this on June 5th.  Because their concern is the systemic breakdown of virtually every aspect of our national life in the past few years–the economy, politics, the healthcare system, race relations, global credibility–they have finally stepped in, for now, to put the brakes on Donald Trump’s reckless and unhinged behavior in every area of public life.  They understand that Capitalist prosperity, and global hegemony, require stability.

A country with systemic crises in healthcare, the economy, and racism, especially police violence against Blacks causing rebellions in 150+ cities, with an vast and rapidly growing chasm between a few people with immense wealth and vast majorities living on the edge cannot be stable.  In just a few months, the veneer has been ripped away and American exceptionalism and the U.S. role in the world have been exposed–a failed state and a paper tiger.

In surveys after the risings started, 64 percent of American supported the protests, while, more amazingly, 54 percent approved of torching a Minneapolis police precinct.  Major corporations which have been non-political forever have issued statements that supported the protests–Nordstrom’s, Bleacher Report, Planet Fitness, even Harley Davidson, hardly a list of socially progressive businesses. Even George W. Bush, Michael Jordan, and, shockingly, Pat Robertson have added to the public discourse against Trump.   Amid such a stark level of political chaos and uncertainty, these military leaders have stepped into the breach to stop the hemorrhaging, both to prevent further damage and to protect their own class interests because stability is a sine qua non of the economic system, more so than ever in late-stage Capitalism.

In this particular instance, since Trump represents such a grave threat to . . . everything, their interventions have seemed to offer a bit of breathing space to . . . everyone.  But in the longer term, a society with that type of military influence will confront a new set of issues.  Just as Americans have, forever, respected and honored police officers and basically ignored their everyday violence . . . until now, the military is still widely respected and little questioned.

To be clear, though, there’s also a big difference between soldiers and cops.


Non-White composition of armed forces

The military is probably the most diverse institution in America with regard to race, ethnicity, and gender.  Non-Whites now make up 40 percent of the Armed Forces so the idea of sending them into the streets of American cities to quell a rebellion and perhaps kill people based on race is simply not feasible.

These retired officers and commanders who have spoken out understood that if Trump had sent  armed soldiers into the current firestorm in the streets there might have been a serious fissure among troops, a significant number of whom have experienced situations similar to that of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, or Breonna Taylor.

And, unlike most cops, who make a career out of police work, many young men and women join the military because it provides them with some income, health insurance, and perhaps some training or education.  Most don’t make a career out of it.  They return to civilian life and a fair number develop progressive political attitudes or even become radical–on this, listen to a recent episode of Green & Red Podcast, “War is a Racket,” featuring antiwar Vet Graham Clumpner (@turncoatveteran).  Groups like VVAW and Vets for Peace are still active, and About Face offers community and support to antiwar, radical and anarchist vets, and would have surely been in the streets counseling soldiers to resist if Trump had deployed them.  While antiwar, antiracist, and antimperialist veterans are commonplace, there aren’t similar groups of cops who repudiate their violent pasts and join the fight for justice.

The military and Trump have had a difficult relationship from the start as well.  It’s an open secret than many (most?) officers don’t respect him–he’s a bombastic war-mongering draft dodger whose racism and sexism were never hidden and who mocked soldiers and officers as “losers” and worse.  They’ve had open spats with him over pardoning war criminals and then firing the Navy Secretary after he balked, and relieving Capt. Brett Crozier of command of an aircraft carrier after his plea for help amid a coronavirus outbreak on his ship became public.  Trump, who often boasts of masculinity and derides weakness, even as he hides in the White House bunker, sought out public confrontations with the military to prove his toughness, but it was a battle he could never win, as we’ve seen this week.

These Generals who’ve gone public, and probably the overwhelming majority of officers, want to see the Trump era end and also want to see this popular uprising in the streets over as well.  They would have no problem with a Biden presidency, just as they had no problems with Bush, Obama or Clinton.  They seek stability and probably reforms in order to return to some level of normalcy, so we may see a bump in the minimum wage, some kind of healthcare reform, some changes in the way police forces are put together and the way cops behave.

They are not rebels or anarchists or socialists, it goes without saying.  There is no doubt they want to take this growing movement and channel it into reformist, and thus more controllable, pathways.  Because of their credibility and “patriotism,” the media offers space to these Generals whenever they utter a word of dissent, but that is important to the resistance in the streets too.  The ruling class is not homogenous, and whenever fissures occur, like now, protestors need to be aware of them and ready to operate in the new spaces created.

The issue now is for the millions of people in the streets to build off the events of the past few days.  The work of fundamentally changing American society, an almost incomprehensibly immense task, begins with deposing the old  regime, in this case Donald Trump, however that happens.  After the events of this week, the likelihood of Trump trying to stop or steal the election is probably lessened.  The military would not accept that and, more importantly, millions more would pour into the streets.

Trump, and the cops, have radicalized people in ways that radicals have never been able to do.  These officers have worked in parallel ways by helping to discredit the use of force (at least on a federal level–local cops are still brutalizing protestors) and providing cover for some governors to recall or refuse to deploy National Guard units.  They’ve also made sure the issues of racism and police violence remained the focus of the uprisings.  Those are not small contributions.

Mattis et al are not modern-day versions of Smedley Butler or David Shoup or Hugh Thompson, the warrant officer who landed his helicopter at My Lai and forced the American Division to end its massacre of Vietnamese peasants. They’ve stopped a wannabee autocrat from causing mass bloodshed, but they have not questioned aggression abroad or the very nature of the American empire.  Still, many people have asked me in the past few days “was this a ‘fuck you’ to Trump from the military?”  Yes, it was.  And we can be okay with that.

Systemic crises unfold and are played out in phases.  No matter your ultimate goal, getting rid of the regime in power has to be the first step–Ho and Fidel knew they had to oust Bao Dai and Batista before moving forward.  A socialist revolution in America is far from even beginning, but the point is that there is now an opening to do something real, and big.  The very people that may have helped in ending Trumpism (and one can never underestimate what he’ll do when cornered even more and how these military officers will respond to him) will be a barrier to what the masses seek in the future.

I mentioned Ho Chi Minh above.  I don’t think an American protestor in 2020 is a lot like a Viet Minh guerrilla in 1945, but Ho was brilliant in many ways and always could see far ahead and develop strategy accordingly.  After World War II, as the French reentered Vietnam, many of his comrades in the Indochinese Communist Party wanted him to make a strong stand, to threaten France with war if they tried to thwart Vietnamese sovereignty.  But Ho signed an agreement for shared power and a gradual transfer of independence, much to the anger of some comrades.

Ho explained that he’d rather sniff French shit for another five years than eat Chinese shit for another thousand…….


Updated, 6 June: Since writing this a couple more developments of note to add, which are part of the military’s rebuke of Trump.

On June 5th, the pentagon disarmed the National Guard in Washington D.C. and sent active-duty forces home;  and on June 6th the Marine Corps put in a complete ban on the Confederate flag and any mugs, t-shirts, stickers, etc. with that image on it.



Posted in Civil Rights, Constitutional Crisis, History, Military, Politics, Repression, Trump, Uncategorized, Vietnam | 5 Comments