I recently had the privilege of conducting a â€œcyber interviewâ€ with one of the preeminent domestic critics of the American Empire. Despite his relatively recent start, Stephen Lendman has rapidly become one of the most ubiquitous and well-respected chroniclers of truth in the alternative media community. Asserting unflinching support for social democracy, Hugo Chavez, and the countless victims of US foreign and domestic policy, Lendman has penned a growing stack of essays assailing the brutality of American Capitalism and the genocidal crimes of unbridled United States militarism.
Recently receiving a well-deserved page on Third World Traveler (1), Stephen Lendman is taking his place amongst the likes of Petras and Chomsky, men he cites as his inspirations.
Here is a glimpse of Stephen and his worldview:
What is your educational background and what type of work did you do in your â€œformer lifeâ€?
During my formal working life I read moderately as able and followed with horror and revulsion many world and national events but never wrote or spoke out about them. That began changing when I retired at the end of 1999 at age 65. I began reading heavily and now have an extensive library that includes many of the renowned giants I revere like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Ed Herman, James Petras, Edward Said, Gore Vidal, Michel Chossudovsky, John Pilger and dozens of others including many not as well known to the greater public like June Jordan, now passed much too young and terribly missed. Her very name inspires me for who she was and what she stood for and did in her life. A truly remarkable and courageous woman.
I tell people I never wrote anything other than business reports, memos and such since finishing my master's thesis in 1959 till, by accident, late last year I wrote a long letter to Norman Finkelstein praising one of his books. He asked permission to post it on his web site and requested I submit it to other sites which I did, got a few postings, and it all took off from there but slowly at first.
Please, tell me as much about your family as you feel comfortable disclosing.
I grew up in Boston in a low middle-income family, never had any luxuries, but did have loving parents, never felt or was deprived, and by sheer luck and chance got into Harvard in 1952 when a full year's tuition was $600. It was $1000 when I graduated in 1956 with a BA. I then got an MBA at the Wharton School in 1960 with two years in the peacetime Army (thankfully) in between. I began my formal working life as a marketing research analyst for about seven years right out of grad school and spent the next 33 as part of a small family business until retiring at end of 1999. Overall, from back in school till I retired, I led a pretty plain vanilla life as just another face in a faceless crowd. Then it began to change.
Through your writings you have expressed your vehement support for Hugo Chavez. How do you respond to critics who characterize him as another Latin American dictator in the mold of Fidel Castro?
I'm proud to support Hugo Chavez and hold him up as a genuine model of a democratic leader the likes of which we never had in this country from inception. It's because going back to the beginning of the republic, all the hyperbole about democracy and such never mentioned all those in the country left out of it like blacks who were slaves, native Indians who were exterminated and only white male property owners allowed to vote until that requirement was dropped in 1850 but not for woman who didn't get the franchise till 1920. I doubt there were long lines at polling stations back in those days.
Hugo Chavez is demonized in the US and by the former ruling oligarchs in Venezuela, including those owning the dominant corporate media there and here, because he's a real democrat representing the greatest of all threats to the ruling class in both countries - a good example that won over the hearts and minds of the great majority of all Venezuelans once he fulfilled his campaign promises and gave them a real participatory democracy and essential social services they never had before. He changed their lives dramatically for the better, so why wouldn't they support him passionately.
Most important to Washington, his good example is slowly spreading throughout Latin America as more long-oppressed and denied people there want what Venezuelans now have. Look at what's happening now in Mexico. I've written it about several times and characterized it as possibly the early stages of a true transformational revolution that one day will free the people from the repressive ruling class and replace it with a Chavez-like government.
Chavez is different from Castro because Venezuela is a democracy and Cuba is not - with a big but. Most Cubans love Castro because he ended the brutal, corrupted, and hated old order under Fulgencio Batista who turned the country into a brothel and haven for the interests of US capital and the Mafia at the expense of the people. Castro gave his people the same kinds of social services Venezuelans now have under a socialist government with no other kind allowed. I never call him a dictator. Who ever heard of one loved by his people? When he finally passes, it will be a time of overwhelming and sincere grief that will be palpable. He'll be hard to impossible to replace, and Cubans will always revere him as a great hero. I strongly believe they'll never tolerate a return to the old order, and if any attempt is made to impose it on them they'll fight to prevent it. Try getting that reported over the US corporate media airwaves or the front page of the New York Times that only portrays Castro as a ruling tyrant over an oppressed and desperate people. Pure baloney, US-style.
The Bush administration recently waived a ban on federal funding for right wing military training in several Latin American nations, ostensibly to counter the â€œthreatâ€ of the rising Leftist movement. In your opinion how much do those of us amongst the poor and working class in the United States have to fear from the likes of Chavez, Morales, and Correa?
I know about the Bush administration's attempts to fund, train and ally with the military in Latin America that, of course, means using them, if able, to counter or oust populist left wing governments if we can't co-opt them another way. I don't think they have the Pinochet model in mind as times have changed and the Chilean dictator is now held in such disgrace (even in the grave) by people throughout Latin America. He ended the most viable democracy in the region and replaced it with 17 years of ruthless dictatorship only benefiting those at the top and the well-off middle class getting enough to be satisfied and quiescent. Today the method of choice is the fig leaf of democratically elected leaders in suits and ties even if getting into office through electoral fraud in what Edward Herman calls "demonstration elections" orchestrated by the lord and master of the universe headquartered in Washington. It finds these kinds of shenanigans so effective they're now using them here routinely, the result being eight years (if he lasts) of George Bush and enough of his "elected" cronies along with him to give us 'the best democracy money can buy" and that electronic voting machines (run by giant corporations) can steal.
All ordinary working people everywhere should pray for the health and survival of leaders like Chavez, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Raphael Correa in Ecuador, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, and the courageous leaders of the peoples' movements in Mexico like the APPO leadership in Oaxaca, the masses on the streets of Mexico City supporting Lopez Obrador denied the presidency he won by massive fraud, and the "Other Campaign" of Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatistas (EZLN) who's a modern-day Emiliano Zapata organizing a national movement to end Mexico's entrenched unjust system of predatory capitalism with an iron fist enforcing it and replace it with real social, economic and political justice for all the people.
These leaders say they stand for us, ordinary working people whose rights have long been denied. Hopefully they'll remain true to their public declarations and won't be pressured enough to weaken in resolve by the forces of capital, especially out of Washington always looming and threatening. The only heads of state working people should fear are the oligarch types like the Bush neocons who serve the rich and powerful and have contempt for the public welfare. In the halls of power around the world, most leaders support the privileged, do far too little or nothing for the majority, and that's the burden that must be overcome.
How much chance do you give the Bolivarian Revolution of succeeding? [For the purpose of this question, success would mean that virtually all nations of South and Central America had converted to a form of social democracy along the lines of Venezuela, rejectedâ€œfree tradeâ€, renegotiated their debt with the World Bank or IMF (or simply defaulted on it), severely limited or abolished transnational corporate exploitation of their people and resources, provided education and health care to their poor, and created more egalitarian societies].
The Bolivarian Revolution or Project achieved wonders in eight years following on generations of corrupted oligarch rule by the small slice of the Venezuelan rich and another 10 - 20% of the population (called sifrinos) at the top getting enough crumbs or healthy enough servings to want to preserve the old order while not giving a damn about the poor that at one time was as much as 80% of the population, many in a desperate state. The US entered the picture around the early 1920s after oil was discovered there that even then was too attractive a lure for US interests to ignore.
Chavez changed everything for the great majority after he took office. He lowered the poverty rate from about 62% after the crippling 2002 - 03 oil strike and aborted April, 2002 two-day coup to around one-third of the population plus all the great social benefits including first class health and dental care and free education to the highest level - written into the Constitution to mandate them by law. This is something unimaginable in the US. If the public here knew what Venezuelans get and they're denied, it has to be wondered how great a level of outrage they'd be demanding the same things. Most people here donâ€™t know it because the dominant media make sure they're kept dumbed-down, distracted and uninformed about the most essential things they need to know to improve their lives.
Still in Venezuela, despite all the great advances benefiting those most in need of them, the problems facing the Chavez government are daunting. Massive corruption is endemic and the bureaucracy is stifling and entrenched - because it was that way for generations before Chavez was elected, and it will take a great many more years of determined effort and committed leadership to overcome most of it. Add to that the long shadow from Washington where the Bush administration has already tried and failed three times to oust Chavez with another attempt sure to come sometime ahead by whatever new devious scheme they'll cook up. Chavez at times must feel like a man almost alone in hostile territory, surrounded by a legion of high-level opponents, many unidentified, including some in key positions in his government. He understands the problems and must think he's infiltrated by a host of Brutuses ready to pounce on him if given a chance.
As for the Revolution spreading across Latin America, there have been baby steps only. Chavez and Castro are unique in their attention to addressing the social needs of their people, but while Castro rejects capitalism, Chavez, so far, coexists with it wanting it on the basis of fairness including the rules for foreign investors requiring them to pay an equitable amount of taxes and to be minority partners when in joint ventures with the government. Only Evo Morales is close to Chavez in commitment in South America, but James Petras points out he's disappointed his people by relenting to the entrenched interests on some things going back on his word.
Rafael Correa is still an unknown entity as he only takes office in mid-January, and it will be a while to see if his policy backs his rhetoric. The pressure on him will be intense to prevent it as is now being applied to Daniel Ortega ahead of his tenure also beginning in January. It's the same thing that happened to Lula in Brazil, Nestor Kirtchner in Argentina, and Michelle Bachelet in Chile to keep them a part of the Washington Consensus in large measure in spite all the past horrific fallout from it on their people still without redress.
Even knowing that, those leaders haven't embraced anything like Venezuela has under Chavez, but they have advanced beyond the bad old days when governments in the region only served the wealthy and powerful, ignoring the needs of their people. There have also been more enlightened policies on trade in the region with FTAA effectively dead thanks to efforts from people like Chavez promoting his "fair trade" policy of ALBA, or the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, as well as ALBA initiatives among the Mercosur Southern Common Market countries of Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. But Washington policy makers are never idle and have been able to sign countries on to mini-FTAA agreements through bilateral deals showing the struggle to be free from Global North dominance has a long way to go even in areas where advances have been made.
Chavez is gaining allies by using his nation's oil wealth to offer favorable loans to some of his neighbors freeing or reducing their burden from effective enslavement by the Washington-controlled IMF, World Bank and other international lending agencies. In sum, there are miles to go for the Latin American nations to emerge out of the dark ages of Global North dominance and exploitation led by the US and no guarantee they'll get there even in Venezuela that will always be threatened with the possibility of losing what they've already gained - as long as the US remains the imperial power in the region and corporate interests prevail.
Do you consider yourself to be a socialist, or perhaps a social democrat?
I consider myself a social democrat bordering on believing in a modified socialist philosophy. I was a "capitalist" for 33 years with a very small "c." I believe in that kind of capitalism because it's not predatory, and itâ€™s the kind Adam Smith espoused. He hated the savage kind of his day like the monopolistic practices of the British East India Company and believed in many small, local businesses competing fairly with each other. If he were alive today he'd be railing against the neoliberal Washington Consensus model including the destructive policies under "globalization" that exploit the vulnerable multitudes as just another commodity for the interests of "big" capital.
Briefly, what are some of your thoughts on Fidel Castro and what do you think of the years of US sponsored state terrorism against Castro?
I covered Castro briefly above. Overall, I support him for what he's done. If there were no oppressive US embargo, Cuba would be a wonderful country to live in even under one-party rule as long as you support that kind of governance, which I do. I hope Fidel recovers fully and lives 100 years or longer. The great majority of Cubans do too.
US policy against Cuba for nearly a half century has been brutal, unrelenting and, of course, illegal. It's a wonder Castro was able to survive the hundreds of US attempts to kill him including a nearly successful one when the assassin had a hidden gun in a camera, got to within a few feet of him in a clear line of unobstructed sight, and then chickened out at the last moment. That was in the 1970s if I recall. There have also been hundreds of US state terror attacks against Cuba of all sorts causing destruction, great hardship and disruption. Castro overcame all of them and achieved nothing short of a miracle. He'll be a hero to millions of Cubans for generations to come, and he should be.
What are your thoughts on the disturbing trend in the United States' socioeconomic structure toward extreme economic polarization? And what do you think of the Paul Krugman article, The Great Wealth Transfer(2), which recently appeared in Rolling Stone?
I'm appalled about the socio-economic disparities in the US that have become so extreme economist Paul Krugman calls them "unprecedented." I've written before about them in much detail and am doing it again in a year end article called A Look Back and Ahead in an Age of Neocon Rule. The state of the country is appalling and disturbing. Abroad we're fighting two wars already lost with the possibility of a third one or more. We're bankrupting the country paying for them along with the tax revenue lost from the outlandish tax cuts for the rich and corporate giants. We've also lost our civil liberties in the oppressive age of George Bush and a servile Congress and judiciary rubber-stamping his hellish agenda and now live under Sparta-like militarism including brutish "Homeland Security" enforcers empowered above the law to "keep the rabble in line", including employing illegal surveillance on everyone.
Noted author, academic, and by his own characterization former "spear-carrier for the empire" Chalmers Johnson refers to the leader of this Neocon administration, George Bush, as "the boy emperor." He also says the neocons allied with him are fascists - using sanitized language to hide the truth.
We've been slashing essential social benefits since the Reagan years, and it's all contributing to the greatest wealth and income disparity at least since the 19th Gilded Age of the first generation Robber Barons. We're destroying the nation's industrial base and exporting millions of jobs abroad, including many high-paying ones, as this country hurtles toward "banana republic third world status and not giving a damn how many have to suffer for the greed and lust for power of the few at the top.
Do you think that the United States will eventually reach the point that the levels of plutocratic domination, corruption, and tyranny rival those of so-called â€œThird Worldâ€ nations? Or do you think we are already there?
I mentioned Paul Krugman above and quoted from his Great Wealth Transfer article in my year end one to be finished right after Christmas. He's outraged and so am I, even more than he is. I think we're getting very close to the level of "plutocratic domination" in third world countries and exceed any of them in the level of federal government and corporate corruption (mostly below the radar) and a state of tyranny following the same path as Nazi Germany did in the 1930s. Most people haven't a clue that the parallels to that era are frightening as hell, and I've written several times that the US today is a national security fascist police state that so far is just short of sending the jackboots and tanks to the streets, stripping off the mask of respectability so even the dumbed-down public finally knows the score.
You have written well-researched articles exposing how fraudulent and farcical federal elections have become in the United States. Do you vote? Why or why not?
I've abstained from voting since I learned how corrupted the process was, and that was even before the 2000 election and the dominance of privatized and rigged electronic voting machines that now count over 80% of the votes. The most fundamental of all bedrock rights in a democracy is to have free, fair and open elections denying no citizen for any reason their constitutional right to vote. We never had that, but today no semblance of democracy exists and any pretense it does is just an illusion that sadly still too many in the country believe in. But many, like me, refuse to go along any more and choose instead to boycott federal elections. The only hope for real change ahead has to come from the bottom up. History shows it's always been that way, and it's why we once had a revolution in this country. I'm sure one day we will again and equally sure we'll never get the kind of society and culture we deserve from the kinds of elected officials we now have from either party, equally corrupted.
Many loyalists of American Capitalism and the Empire often challenge domestic critics of the United States with questions such as: â€œIf you hate the United States so much, why donâ€™t you just leave?â€ As a powerful voice of dissent against many aspects and dynamics of the United States, how do you respond to this question?
I've been asked at times why I don't leave and move to Venezuela, Cuba or anywhere I think I can get relief from what I rail against here justifiably. I've asked myself that too and would never rule it out. Still, I've lived here all my life, am 72, have roots, and it would be a tough adjustment living in a new society, having to learn a new language if moved to a non-English speaking country, and needing to make new friends and connections from scratch.
When did you first become aware that the United States was not exporting "freedom and liberty" through its economic policies and military interventions?
I've known for ages how oppressive US policies have been abroad and at home as well. But during my formal working life I never wrote or spoke out against them beyond occasional private conversations with friends or family that never went into depth or got heated. Only over time did things boil over for me once I spent more time focusing on them and then later saw them getting worse.
I was appalled to learn the "Cold War" was a fraud and the Russians were never coming, but we needed to convince people they were or might to justify all the harsh policies we followed in the name of national security. I was even more outraged when the "Cold War" ended but the need for enemies to scare the public didn't, we never got the promised "peace dividend," and we managed to find a way to stay in a permanent state of war. Later I was astonished to learn this country was at war with one or more adversaries every year since we became a nation in 1776. That's besides all the mischief we generated abroad through agencies like the CIA created in 1947.
In your view, what is the US actually â€œexportingâ€ through its foreign and economic policies?
The US emerged after WW II as the only dominant nation left standing. It was decided, maybe in the late 1930s, that policies would be pursued to make this country the world's preeminent political and economic power, and during the war the most powerful military one as well. It worked, and we've kept that status since. I believe our preeminence reached a peak sometime in the late 60s or early 70s and has been declining since because of the Vietnam disaster. It accelerated in the last six years under the disastrous Bush administration agenda worrying the hell out of the country's power structure because they know how badly these incompetents messed things up for them.
All US policies since WW II were intended to build and maintain American supremacy including the "world" institutions set up supposedly for other purposes like the UN, NATO, IMF, World Bank and others completely dominated by Washington under all administrations. Since that time, this country's goal has been to pursue policies serving the interests of wealth and power and give back as little as possible to the people, only enough "to keep the rabble in line." Even in The Great Depression, FDR got important social policies enacted only because he and some enlightened business leaders were scared into doing it. Economic conditions were so bad, they feared a Russian-style revolution unless they acted to prevent it. The New Deal was a plan to save capitalism, and the idea was better to give back enough than do too little and risk losing everything.
We know now other corporate interests weren't so enlightened, planned a coup against FDR to depose him and tried recruiting General Smedley Butler to lead it who exposed it. Butler later wrote a book on my shelf called War Is A Racket in which he denounced the kind of military adventurism he once led saying things like he once "helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American (banana) republics for the benefit of Wall Street....and purify Nicaragua (for the bankers)" and much more. Butler was awarded two Congressional Medals of Honor for his service. For his post-military nobility, he really ended up deserving them. Where are the leaders like him today in any part of the government or military? None I know of, and that goes to the heart of the problem.
Despite the 1930s New Deal age of enlightenment, things began changing after the war. It moved slowly at first with measures like the harsh anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 (passed over Harry Truman's veto) that began reversing the great labor benefits under the Wagner Act of the 30s (that to this day was the high water mark for organized labor rights). Today, worker rights have been crushed as the corporate threat to export jobs leaves many unions with little option but to surrender to management. The ones able to fight back and win at times are those representing the kinds of service jobs (mostly low-paying) that can't be offshored, like restaurant and hotel workers.
What are your thoughts on the mainstream media in the United States?
It's no surprise the state of the dominant media in the country is appalling. Moneyed interests own or run it, and they control how it's used. It represents state and corporate interests, and no one is allowed air time on it or space in it if they are not of a single mind (with very little wiggle room allowed). I'm writing a long article on it called The Spirit of Tom Paine. In it I say things like the corporate-controlled media (including the corrupted NPR, PBS and BBC) function as a national thought-control police, but look why. In Britain from inception, the BBC had a stated policy of serving as a voice for its government and through the years it fulfilled it using all the technological advances that came along to do it even better.
The same is true here in the US where the dominant media is either corporate-owned (now by five goliaths plus cable giant Comcast serving my building with no other choice allowed--if it even mattered) or controlled including so-called public radio and TV (other than Pacifica Radio, the original and still credible public radio). They're heavily dependent on government and corporate funding to operate and thus are servile to the interests of both. It gets even worse with NPR and PBS that defraud the public, on the one hand, and regularly go to it asking for generous donations to help them keep us dumbed-down, in the dark, uninformed, well-distracted and believing the most outrageous government policies are only done in the public interest. No one should buy this baloney or ever support the NPR or PBS affiliates feeding it to us. Whenever they want your money, respond if you must with a strong show of contempt and rejection and a message to their management that one day weâ€™re coming to get you, and we intend reclaiming our public airwaves, there to serve our interests ill-served under their aegis.
Because they failed in their mandate to serve us, the result overall is the US public is the most uninformed and dumbed-down in the developed world and a good part of the rest of it as well. Voices opposing state policy or corporate interests are verboten beyond an occasional sound bite that slips through the cracks and never resonates. The same thing is true in the other dominant institutions that influence the public like academia, the clergy, and the think tank community, mostly right wing, with generous funding to spew their business-friendly agenda and government policies supporting it.
I can attest to the way it was in school when I was at Harvard in the 1950s. I recall only one outstanding professor on the left, and his field was biology. His name was George Wald, and he later won a Nobel Prize in his field. I took a required sophomore natural sciences course with him and to this day remember how he startled us in class one day when he said in 1953 "there is no such thing as a safe amount of radiation." He became a strong nuclear power opponent for any purpose as I've been for many years after learning this is a technology from hell that will end up sending us there if we don't end its use for military or commercial purposes.
I recall one other professor in the social sciences who went part way to the left but not nearly enough for me today. At the Wharton School, no explanation is needed about the philosophy espoused there. Only rarely were professors like Ed Herman allowed on the faculty, but even he felt he was only tolerated and decided finally to retire early because he'd had enough.
He fared much better than Scott Nearing, an extraordinary man most people never heard of but should make an effort to find out about. He lived an exemplary life of about 100 years until 1983 and taught at the Wharton School after graduating from it from 1906 till at the end of the 1915 June semester when he got a brief note from the Provost advising him his contract wouldn't be renewed. It was because he spoke out against the abuses of that time including child labor. Later in life in 1972, he wrote a magnificent political autobiography called The Making of a Radical, that I read, recommend and have on my shelves along with seven of his other important books. He wrote many and lectured constantly. You might call him a Noam Chomsky before the real one emerged. But unlike Chomsky's experience at MIT, Nearing's philosophy didn't go down well in the Wharton environs. And having lived in it for a time, it's easy to know why. He also ended up being unwelcome on any faculty, was a pacifist speaking out against war, and once said he felt like he was "living as an unwilling citizen in a warfare state." I share that view but chose to stay here just as Nearing did.
What do you think of the Bush administrationâ€™s consistent refusal to engage in direct negotiations with nations it has designated as â€œenemiesâ€ or â€œevilâ€?
The Bush administration, and others preceding it, usually refuse to negotiate with nations it vilifies using language like sponsors of state terrorism. It doesn't mean they are, just that we say they are with the corporate-controlled media picking up the line and echoing it. In the Reagan years we had "the evil empire" we only negotiated with reluctantly and even then never in good faith. Today we have an axis of evil that began with Iraq, Iran and North Korea and now is down to the latter two. Never reported is the fact that both these nations for at least the past 20 years or so tried and failed to normalize relations with the US, wanting to live in peace with us. It never happened because that state would run contrary to this country's agenda needing enemies to scare the public enough to go along with whatever outrageous schemes the administration in power wishes to pursue.
It's an old and dirty business that Nazi Hermann Goering explained in the Nuremberg dock (before he took his own life) when asked by a Tribunal psychologist how his regime convinced the German people to go along with all their abuses. He explained it's as easy in a democracy as in a dictatorship. He said "the people don't want war (but they) can always (be manipulated by telling) them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger." It always works and shows how easily the public can be duped to believe almost anything fed to them if it's done effectively and repeated often enough.
In the age of George Bush, Iran and North Korea are still villains (plus Syria) along with Hezbollah in South Lebanon and the democratically elected Hamas government in the Palestinian Occupied Territories (OPT). They all share one common denominator making them enemies of the US Empire. They maintain their independence as Saddam did refusing to give it up to bow to the wishes of the ruling authority in Washington. As a result, their leaders remain in our cross hairs and are used to scare the public to go along with all the outrageous policies the Bush administration followed since the 9/11 attack. The only way this country will ever agree to negotiate with any of them, or any other less developed country we canâ€™t intimidate, is if they'll renounce their national sovereignty and agree to go along with US policies and interests - in other words, surrender unconditionally and betray the interests of their people.
What do you think of Noam Chomskyâ€™s 1990 assertion: â€œIf the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.â€?
I've used Chomsky's assertion and fully support the notion that "If the Nuremberg laws were applied (that convicted Nazi war criminals), then every post-war American president would have been hanged." But I'd go even further and say most every one of them pre-WW II should be as well because their actions were hardly any different than the post-war leaders.
Chomsky posited the notion of applying the Nuremberg laws to US Presidents prior to Bush IIâ€™s rise to power. What (if any) war crimes do you believe Bush and members of his administration have committed?
No US administration has been more egregious in its foreign and domestic policy initiatives than the Neocon-led one under George Bush. The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands was established in 2002 to prosecute individuals for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide for those who committed these acts and aren't held to account for them in an existing national tribunal. George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and many others in the current administration, past and present, are guilty of all these offenses as are those in the Congress who went along with them by their complicity or silence. They should all be made to answer for their crimes, and if found guilty in fair trials with competent counsel, be made to pay for them. My own view is an unqualified opposition to the death penalty for any crime. If fairly convicted, I want them to spend the rest of their lives in prison on hard labor.
Shifting our perspective to the Bush Regimeâ€™s actions and policies on the domestic side, do you believe that they will utilize the power they have acquired under the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act to essentially abolish the Bill of Rights, eradicate habeas corpus, declare martial law, imprison and torture US citizens with impunity, and suspend the 2008 election to remain in power?
I've written a lot about Patriot (I and II), Military Commissions and (revised) Insurrection Acts along with the new National ID Act and other abuses against the public. I've also explained Bush declared himself a "unitary executive" claiming the right to go around the law on his own authority pursuing whatever policies he wishes in the name of national security with no corroborating evidence to show justification and no checks and balances allowed to challenge him. Is there any better definition of a dictator than that? He's using this authority to subvert the Constitution making no one in the country or around the world safe from the power he's given himself to inflict his harsh summary judgment on anyone without cause or restraint. So far, it's selectively aimed at so-called "Islamofascists," illegally-immigrating dark-skinned people (mainly NAFTA-impoverished Mexicans) and poor people of color in general always unable to defend themselves against state-inflicted abuses. The Constitution and Bill of Rights have effectively been suspended, and we're at the mercy of a rogue leader and his government that, at their discretion, can reach out and snatch any of us, secretly rendition us to an offshore torture-prison without anyone knowing where we are, try us in a military tribunal without competent counsel or right of appeal, convict us and dispense with us as they please.
If impeaching Bush and Cheney was a realistic possibility, what then?
I believe nothing will happen from the top down, and it's up to the public en masse to make things happen from the bottom up. That applies to impeaching Bush and Cheney as the new Democrat-led 110th Congress took that off the table including by new House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers who once advocated holding them to account and now backed off after getting the authority to do it. And he's one of the good ones in the Congress. It shows what the public is up against going into the new year. Expect nothing substantive from the new Democrat Congress that, on issues that matter most, will be little different than the Republican one preceding it. It's part of the culture of corruption infesting both dominant parties in collusion with the other institutions of power in the country equally corrupted.
If we lived in an ideal world, what consequences would you like to see Bush, Cheney and their numerous accomplices face?
In a perfect world, I want Bush, Cheney and all those complicit with them held fully to account and made to pay like the criminals they are. We should demand the book be thrown at them all showing them the same kind of mercy they inflicted on millions of others - none at all.
Do you believe the collapse of the American Empire is imminent, and if so, how do you envision it transpiring?
I believe the US Empire is in decline and has been for over 30 years, but the Bush administration greatly accelerated the process. In the Middle East alone, I go along with expert Gilbert Achcar who believes the Bush administration was so incompetent and "stupid" it will go down as the "undertaker" of US interests in the region. The only area we'll end up being superior in at some point is the military one, and that won't last forever. My greatest fear is that as we head toward losing it and the empire, we may unleash it full force and end up destroying the planet in trying to save ourselves unless we first do it environmentally. This is how Chomsky feels, and I agree with him along with the other great loss he fears - our democracy. I think that's already lost.
I don't think the US Empire will implode any more than I feel the economy or weak US dollar will either. I believe these things will happen slowly over time including at some point reaching an economic calamity great enough to make The Great Depression seem like a garden party. We don't have space enough to discuss this here in detail, but this is a view shared by astute observers whom I agree with.
What are your views on 9/11?
I absolutely agree with people like David Ray Griffin that either the Bush administration knew in advance about the 9/11 attack and did nothing to prevent it or their operatives actually were behind it. Unlike Chomsky, who thinks it's near impossible the Bush administration was behind it because if it had been someone high up enough would have leaked the truth by now. I think that hasn't happened (yet) out of fear of retribution, including to the families of those involved, but one day maybe it will be.
Frankly, I don't know or care who was on those planes any more than I care who pulled the triggers killing JFK, RFK or MLK. I only care who ordered the "hits." Paid assassins are a dime a dozen. It's the paymasters and their motives that matter. In the case of 9/11, the Neocons tipped their hand well in advance in their Project for a New American Century think tank document called Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century that was and is an imperial grand strategy for US global dominance to extend well into the future to be enforced with unchallengeable military power. In the document they practically preordained the future saying to pull this scheme off they needed a "new Pearl Harbor," and they'd hardly settled into high administration positions before, low and behold, their fondest wish came true - happenstance or a little advance planning? I made my choice.
If you had the judicial authority, what you would you do with members of the Bush administration?
If I had judicial authority, I'd throw the book at these people. The evidence against them is so overwhelming and their crimes are so many I think prosecuting them on them all might take the rest of their natural lives to have enough time to get it done. It's time we got on with it.
A final comment from Stephen:
One more thought on a major issue you didn't ask me about. I'm a committed pacifist (except in self-defense--if attacked for real). I'm passionately anti-war and believe as Tom Paine did, quoting him in my new article and have done it before. He wrote as an anti-militarist that all nations should reduce their armaments by 90% to ensure world peace. No other way will do it. Wars are fought for wealth and power because those winning them get it. If the profit alone were taken out of wars most all of them would never be fought.
Cut down the size of the military to a small national defense force in all nations, and they all may end, or close to it. Doing it would also free up those resources to devote to people needs as well as end up making the world a much safer place for everyone. What could be more wonderful than a world at peace with governments of the people, by the people and working for all the people serving their needs? That's the kind of world I want to live in and pass on to the next generation and all the ones after that. I know you feel the same way Jason.
My final comments:
Steve, I appreciate the opportunity to pick your brain and share the enriching experience with readers. And yes, I share your feelings and views on many of the issues we explored in this interview. I stand with you shoulder to shoulder in your ardent support of social justice and human rights. If we reach the point that the United States abandons the pretenses of â€œdemocracyâ€, I hope to find myself in the same gulag as Mr. Stephen Lendman.
Selected writings of Stephen Lendman:
Chavez Landslide Tops All In US History:
Omissions in the Iraq Study Group Report:
The Spirit of Democracy in Venezuela:
The End of the Bush Dynasty:
New Facesâ€”Same Agenda:
James Petras' New Book - the Power of Israel in the U.S.
The Shame of the Nation: A Collective Perversion:
Afghanistan: The Other Lost War:
Cuba Under Castro
Democracy In America - It's Spelled C-O-R-R-U-P-T-I-O-N
It's Time to End the "Last Taboo" and Hold Israel Accountable for Its Actions
Dirty Secrets of the Temple
Stephen Lendman is a 72 year old, retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them. He maintains a Website at http://www.sjlendman.blogspot.com.