The Many Dilemmas That Will Face A Biden Administration.

Should former VP Joe Biden defeat Donald Trump, he will likely inherit a nation so damaged that its very future is at risk. The problems are extensive both in their breadth and depth. Let’s look at them individually:

The pandemic – Even if, as some claim, there will be an effective vaccine for Covid-19 before the inauguration, there are legitimate questions of its availability. Will it be available in sufficient quantities for all Americans? Will it be affordable? Will it reach all American communities, including undocumented immigrants? How effective will it be? Will it effectively block infections for a year? Or for longer?

The economy – The pandemic has caused unemployment to skyrocket. As of this writing, more than 50 million Americans are unemployed. How many of those lost jobs will not come back? Many industries had already been replacing workers with automation before the pandemic. Will they use the relief funds provided by Congress to accelerate automation?

Already, there are plans for self-driving trucks to haul cargo between Phoenix and Tucson beginning in 2021. How quickly will the use of self-driving vehicles expand? Before the pandemic there were approximately 10 million professional drivers in the US. Likely, all of those jobs will be at risk. And that’s only the beginning. Within the next few years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will replace legal aids and paralegals in law offices, film and video editors in Hollywood, medical workers, clerical workers, retail workers…virtually no industry will be unscathed.

Automation aside, the pandemic and worldwide disgust toward the Trump administration has devastated travel and tourism, as well as restaurants and other aspects of the hospitality industry. Will they quickly return to pre-pandemic levels? Or have those industries forever been changed?

The food chain – The pandemic exposed the weaknesses in the food industry as never before. Most of our food comes from a very few, large growers and suppliers, shipped by increasingly fewer transportation companies, and distributed by ever-fewer distribution companies. The Covid-19 outbreaks among those who pick our vegetables and process our meat also exposed the industry’s reliance on lowly paid immigrants and undocumented who are called “essential.” But are more accurately described as “expendable.”

Many of our restaurants and food services also rely on recent immigrants to prepare and serve our food. Given the Trump administration’s attack on all immigrants of color, what will be the future of the food industry once it begins to return to some form of normalcy. Will independently owned restaurants find enough workers? Will they be able to afford them?

The same questions apply to the many other industries – hospitality, senior care, etc. – that rely on recent immigrants.

Healthcare – Approximately 50 million American citizens do not have access to healthcare. And that number continues to increase as more Americans have lose their employer-provided insurance when they lose their jobs. Additionally, the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is in real jeopardy as the result of the Trump administration’s challenges to its constitutionality. What if the Supreme Court sides with the administration? With no replacement currently under consideration, what will happen to those with pre-existing conditions? How many more will find themselves without access?

Attacks on the ACA are not the only issues the industry faces. The pandemic exposed numerous flaws within the healthcare “system” such as the hospitals’ refusal to inventory necessary materials and equipment. When faced with the pandemic, few hospitals had access to enough Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to meet demand. There were not enough ventilators, enough ICU beds, enough ICU personnel, etc. Moreover, the pandemic has taken a physical and mental toll on Emergency Room and ICU personnel. Many have died. Many more intend to retire when the pandemic ends. What then?

US Postal Service – Libertarians and right-wingers have long wanted to privatize the Post Office. To that end, Republicans in Congress have starved it of funds and created obstacles for its operation. The pandemic has only made matters worse by reducing the number of advertising flyers the USPS needs for revenue. But the real damage to the institution is the result of politics. Trump installed a Postmaster General who is clearly unqualified for the position. And he has given his lackey orders to slow down the mail in preparation for the election in which many more people plan to vote by mail. The idea is to create enough chaos to throw the election results into question. So, if he loses, Trump can claim the election was “rigged.”

The environment – No administration has been more hostile to the environment than Trump’s. From reducing the size of national monuments to auctioning oil and mineral leases to streamlining permits for offshore drilling to repealing the Obama administration’s clear water regulations, the Trump administration has placed us all in danger. Indeed, it has place many of the world’s species in danger.

Climate change – In the very first days of his administration, Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Climate Accords. And everything he has done since has only exacerbated the problem. Scientists tell us that we now have less than a decade to act in order to avoid a worst-case scenario.

National debt – The Trump administration has added trillions to the national debt. And, if there is any hope of avoiding an economic depression worse than that of the 1930s, it will have to commit to trillions more in economic relief for businesses and individuals. The resulting debt will take many years to pay down. Of course, Republicans will want to do that at the expense of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP and other safety net programs, which will only make our economy worse.

International relations – A recent international study found that, instead of admiring the US as “that shining city on a hill” that Ronald Reagan once described, the residents of other countries now view us with disgust, and maybe even worse, pity. Trump has endangered our relationships with allies and adversaries alike. It may be generations before they trust us again.

Racial justice – The killings of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Aubrey, and far too many other black Americans to mention has finally led us to a point where we absolutely must address systemic racism. Though the Trump administration has tried to deny the problems by provoking violence between the peaceful demonstrators and federal agents, there is no turning back. Unfortunately, there are those who refuse to understand the problems or refuse to give up their white privilege, especially the white nationalist groups who believe they will benefit from an all-out race war.

Domestic division – Thanks to Trump and his legions of Trumpanzees, our nation is more divided than at any time since the Civil War. Through propaganda, Trump has created a cult that excuses and forgives his many faults. They are almost universally racist, many are armed, and they seem willing to defend him no matter how unconstitutional, illogical, and cruel his actions become. And because they are uniquely resistant to logic and real news, we must consider what they may do if Trump loses both the popular and electoral vote. Will they refuse to acknowledge the new president? Will they resort to violence?

All of these problems and questions will be waiting for President Biden when he is sworn in. And there are certain to be more. Thankfully, having helped President Obama pull us out of an economic canyon following the mortgage crisis of 2008, no one is better able to deal with them. Certainly not the con man from Queens who is responsible for creating them.

Dear Trump Supporters: What Will It Take?

I understand that you chose to support The Donald because you wanted change. You were angry. You felt the economy was rigged. That you would be left behind. He promised to shake up the government and end business as usual.

He most certainly has done the that.

You’ve continued to support him despite abundant evidence that he colluded with Russian agents to rig the election and obstructed justice. You’ve supported him despite an avalanche of thousands of lies as documented by independent fact-checkers. You ignored his lies about an extramarital affair with a porn star. You’ve given him credit for his predecessor’s work in rescuing and expanding the economy. You’ve continued to support him as he alienated our longstanding allies and weakened NATO. You supported him as he took Putin’s word over that of our own intelligence agencies headed by Trump appointees.

You cried “fake news” at reports of his filling the “swamp” with an astounding menagerie of swamp monsters. You ignored the evidence showing that Trump, his family, and many of his cabinet appointees used their positions to line their bank vaults with taxpayer money. You seem not to care that he dismantled ethics offices and fired inspectors general whose job it is to investigate and expose the corruption. You seemed to take satisfaction in watching him take revenge on whistleblowers. You applauded his stonewalling of congressional oversight and his demands that administration officials ignore subpoenas. You’ve seen him dismiss investigative reporters whose job it is to expose government corruption by calling them “enemies of the people.”

You turned your backs on reports that the administration ordered children to be ripped from the arms of their refugee parents. You claimed not to see videos of those children confined in cages with only a foil blanket. You ignored the obvious racism of his calling Mexicans rapists and murders, of describing Latin and African nations as “shithole countries,” of referring to neo-Nazis and white supremacists as “good people.”

You continued to support him despite all of that. (Maybe because of it?)

You stood by your con man as dozens of former administration and government officials spoke up about his incompetence and his unfitness for office. You ignored the outrage of Republican leaders and strategists who have been repulsed by his actions. You watched as he corrupted the judicial system. You seemed not to care that he continues to hide his income taxes despite legitimate claims of money-laundering and tax evasion.

You cheered when the Senate refused to remove him from office as a result of his impeachment despite overwhelming evidence that he had broken the law by demanding the Ukraine to interfere in the upcoming election in exchange for congressionally-approved financial and military aid.

And what did you do when his incompetence led to the now 140,000 American deaths from the coronavirus? You blamed it on China and claimed his failed response was due to distractions caused by the impeachment. Following his example, you have contributed to the spread of the coronavirus by ignoring the pleas of scientists to practice social distancing and to wear masks. Not even Trump’s attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the pandemic has shaken your support. Nor has the addition of roughly $4 trillion to the national debt. And when his failures led to an economic collapse, you gave him a pass, blaming it on the CDC, the WHO, Dr. Fauci, and the media, instead.

Even when it became clear that Trump ignored reports that Russia offered payments to the Taliban for killing US military personnel, you have seemingly refused to blame him or even his buddy Putin.

So, I ask: What will it take for you to finally admit that you made a mistake by voting for a con man who has placed us all in danger? A president who operates more like a mob boss than a principled public servant? A man who is intellectually, ethically, and morally unfit to hold office? A man who has done more to serve Russia than the United States?

Long-Term Consequences Of Trump’s Failed Coronavirus Response.

When China first reported the outbreak of a novel coronavirus, the Trump administration had an opportunity to prevent, or at least to minimize, its impact on the US as previous administrations had done several times before. Instead, Trump dismissed the threat, telling us that China had everything under control. Then, when it did arrive on our shores, Trump called it a “Democratic hoax.” Apparently, he did not want to anger Xi Jinping. In fact, as we recently learned, instead of worrying about the coronavirus, he was trying to enlist China’s help for his re-election campaign.

When Covid-19 evolved into a full pandemic, Trump told us that it was only because of failed Democratic governors. Instead of leadership, he offered us false promises. And, instead of utilizing his emergency powers to provide Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), he created a bidding war between states and the federal government, prioritizing the needs of Republican-controlled states.

When the stock markets crashed and the economy stalled, he delayed emergency funds for the unemployed in order to have his name printed on the checks. Further, though he signed a second congressional bill to provide loans and more emergency funds, his administration refused to reveal the recipients, which has led Congress to suspect that Trump’s family businesses have benefited. And, instead of worrying about public health, he was laser-focused on pushing states to reopen their economies in order to improve his chances of re-election.

The short-term consequences have been devastating with now more than 2.6 million cases despite limited testing and nearly 129,000 deaths. Still, he refuses to show any real leadership by ordering the manufacture of more PPE and by ordering all Americans to wear masks to limit the spread of Covid-19. In fact, contrary to scientific advice, he held two rallies that will likely further spread the virus.

The long-term consequences could be even more devastating.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has written that the administration’s response and GOP policies are all but certain to lead to a “lost generation” of workers. He points to the 14 percent of the US population that is on food stamps and the projected 30 percent unemployment rate. “The numbers turning to food banks are just enormous and beyond the capacity of them to supply. It is like a third world country. The public social safety net is not working,” says Stiglitz.

He goes on to state, “If you leave it to Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, we will have a Great Depression. If we had the right policy structure in place we could avoid it easily.”

The economy and staggering unemployment rate are only part of the problem. The trillions of dollars in additional debt will reduce our ability to fund other needs, such as infrastructure, safety nets, and national defense.

Trump’s failure to stem the pandemic has already led to a loss of US standing in the world, leaving those in other nations flabbergasted at our incompetence. That will have long-term impacts on tourism, trade, and alliances. The failure will also impact our already stressed and inadequate healthcare system. The pandemic has ended most elective surgeries and other procedures causing some clinics and hospitals to close. That will lead to even less access to healthcare, especially for the poor. And Trump’s defunding of the World Health Organization will only leave us more vulnerable to future viruses, some of which have already been identified in other parts of the world.

The Trump-ordered ban on work visas will create a brain drain for our research institutions and technology companies that can’t be fully replaced by our own residents. Americans are unlikely to quickly embrace sports, concerts and other large gatherings resulting in billions of losses annually. And since the Trump administration prioritized rescue funds for large corporations, we’re likely to see a further consolidation of brands and services.

The pandemic has already affected human rights in this country by leaving some of the poorest populations vulnerable as “essential workers” in nursing homes, groceries, and meat-packing plants. Worse, it has exposed those seeking refuge in this country who are being held in detention facilities. And it has caused others to be deported back to their countries of origin to be raped or murdered. Moreover, the GOP’s response to the pandemic will lead to further voter suppression which will most impact the poor and people of color, forcing them to risk infection in order to exercise their constitutional right.

Last, but certainly not least, the financial consequences of the pandemic, while temporarily stemming carbon emissions, will make it more difficult for the US to invest in renewable fuels to address the climate crisis.

The only conceivable answer to all of these crises can be summarized in one word: Biden. Or, if you prefer, two: Bye Don.

Trump’s Conflict With China.

With the help of William Barr, Trump was able to dismiss the Mueller investigation’s findings that he conspired with Russia to win election and committed obstruction of justice to avoid the consequences. And, with the help of a compliant GOP-controlled Senate, Trump was able to avoid removal from office through impeachment over his unconstitutional actions with Ukraine.

Now desperate to distract from his failed response to the coronavirus that has killed nearly 100,000 Americans and left nearly 37 million unemployed, Trump is calling on his administration and his allies to place blame on China.

Certainly, China is not blameless for the pandemic. Its government downplayed the seriousness and the extent of the outbreak in Wuhan, even punishing the doctor who called attention to the threat and who later died from COVID-19. But China eventually did cooperate with the World Health Organization (WHO) and provided information on the virus before it was found in the US.

And the Trump administration is no less at fault. It has been reported that the administration ignored the pandemic playbook left by the Obama administration. In 2018, it disbanded the Pandemic Response Team. Even before that, GOP members of Congress refused to provide funds to refill the Strategic National Stockpile. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) refused to use a readily available test preferring to make its own failed version. And, during the early days of the pandemic, Trump dismissed concerns of the coronavirus as a Democratic hoax.

To be fair, there were some things beyond the administration’s control. Over a period of many years, US manufacturers of medical equipment, like many other industries, outsourced much of their production to China. And, facing economic stress, hospitals had embraced the “Just In Time” mentality of other industries to reduce inventory and cut expenses.

Obviously, with regard to the pandemic, there is plenty of blame to go around. But, instead of trying to affix blame, we should be trying to make necessary changes so that it never happens again. The last thing we need is to defund the WHO, the organization best suited to prevent pandemics. And we certainly do not need to escalate the ill-conceived trade war with China into a cold war or worse. But it seems the Trump administration is determined to do just that.

After Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiated by the Obama administration and began alienating governments around the globe, China has stepped in to fill the void left by the US. It has invested heavily in emerging countries. And it has worked to expand trade with Europe. That has made China more powerful, more confident, and less dependent on the US. In addition, US tariffs on Chinese goods have hurt US consumers, US farmers, and US companies. They have also strained relations between the two nations.

Now, after long ignoring China’s ethnic cleansing of the Uighurs, the brutal occupation of Tibet, and the crackdown in Hong Kong, the Trump administration seems to have decided that it is now in Trump’s interest to demand information about the location and well-being of Tibet’s Panchen Lama. And it has decided to place sanctions on Chinese companies involved with surveillance of Hong Kong protestors. Not surprisingly, China has threatened to respond in kind. Alarmingly, some congressional Democrats have gone along with Trump’s escalation of the conflict.

This cannot end well.

After the Trump administration’s treatment of Latin American refugees, the US no longer has the high moral ground on human rights. So, China is unlikely to respond to demands from the US. And we may not get much support from the international community. Further, to a great extent, the Chinese and US economies rely on each other. Escalating the conflict will be damaging to both economies, and the US economy is already more vulnerable than at any time since the Great Depression.

Finally, since WWII, the US has focused on projecting its military might around the globe. That is extremely difficult and expensive, requiring many military bases, aircraft and naval carrier groups. But China has focused on building its military to defend the eastern hemisphere – a task far less daunting. So, any military conflict with China will be difficult for the US to win. Both are nuclear powers. And, unless China attacks the US, the US will be forced to fight against superior numbers on China’s home turf.

In reality, neither side can win a military conflict. Therefore, the only solution is diplomacy – a task the Trump administration is particularly unsuited for.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Five – Defense and Foreign Relations)

The Trump White House is fond of sending out emails and Tweets stating “Promises Made. Promises Kept.” And certainly Trump has kept a few of his campaign promises. But the promises broken far outnumber those kept. Following are but a few examples:

North Korea: Trump promised to bring an end to North Korea’s nuclear program. In fact, after emboldening Kim Jong-Un with two meetings, North Korea has not only accelerated its program. It has developed long range missiles capable of reaching North America.

Afghanistan and Iraq: Trump promised he would bring our troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead, after his ill-conceived assassination of Iran’s General Soleimani, we now have 14,000 more troops in the Middle East than before he took office.

ISIS: Trump promised he’d defeat ISIS. But it was the Kurds, Iran and Russia who did the most to defeat ISIS. And after they helped defeat ISIS, Trump abandoned the Kurds to be slaughtered by Turkey. He then provoked Iran by assassinating its leading general.

Palestine: Candidate Trump said that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be easy. Apparently, what he really meant was that it would be easy to pander to Israel while completely ignoring Palestinian issues. His actions have been completely one-sided: Recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capitol, legitimizing the Israeli development of the West Bank, legitimizing Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, and “negotiating” an Israeli-Palestinian “peace plan” without Palestinian participation.

China: Trump promised that he’d declare China a currency manipulator on day one. But, since the election, his administration announced that China is not a currency manipulator.

Syria: Trump promised he wouldn’t bomb Syria before ordering the bombing of Syria.

Russia: Trump promised that “nobody would be tougher on Russia than me.” But his election was aided by Russia and he kowtowed to Vladimir Putin at a summit meeting in Finland. Then he delayed congressional-imposed sanctions intended as punishment for interfering in our elections and took the word of Vladimir Putin over our own intelligence agencies.

On top of his broken promises, Trump has undermined our relations with allies, weakened NATO, and withheld nearly $40 billion in military aid to help Ukraine in an attempt to collect dirt on a political rival.

The March Toward Autocracy.

Ever watch a kindergarten class out for a walk in the city? They are all hooked to a rope connected to two teachers so that no child can step out of line. Such is the case with our Republican Congress. Led by DonTheCon, they follow along through oncoming traffic toward the edge of a cliff where they’re expected to take a giant leap of faith. If they do step out of line, there’s Moscow Mitch to herd them back into place.

I believe there’s no better description of today’s GOP under Donald J. Trump.

Trump clearly conspired with a foreign rival to attain office. Once in power, he has set about destroying the United States of America as we know it. He has intentionally divided the nation as we have not seen since the Civil War. He has undermined our institutions – the press, the judicial system, the national security apparatus, the military. He has used the machinery of government and the power of his office to attack and investigate political opponents. He has obstructed justice and any form of congressional oversight.

He has changed our tax codes to further benefit the rich and the powerful. He has demeaned and estranged our closest allies. Though having broken nearly all of the Ten Commandments, he has pandered to evangelical “Christians” while banning the followers of Islam from entering our country. He has turned aside refugees – the victims of violence and economic collapse – and re-victimized them by locking them in cages to endure horrific conditions. He has pandered to white nationalists and embraced the world’s worst dictators as though they are members of the same club.

Indeed they are.

He has carved up our national monuments and auctioned off the mineral rights to the highest bidder. He has eliminated environmental regulations allowing oligarchs to despoil our air and water. He has cheated on his taxes, refusing to reveal the depths of his cheating by hiding them from the public. He has used the national treasure as his piggy bank to enrich himself and his family while ordering the Treasury Secretary to shield the numbers from accountability.

As he neared re-election, he chose to enlist the help of a foreign government yet again, using taxpayer funds to extort its help in damaging a political opponent. And, when he was caught, he gathered those Republican congressmen and senators – those obedient toddlers – around him for protection.

Though impeached, his followers refuse to remove him from office…even refusing to examine the evidence. So now it’s up to the voters to do what the Senate should have done.

That will be difficult. Though Trump’s support represents a minority of the electorate – mostly an angry mob of white supremacists, religious zealots, the uninformed, the misinformed and aggrieved losers – his party has spent years preparing for this moment. The GOP has aggressively Gerrymandered congressional districts. It has set about removing the names of millions of voters from the rolls, forcing them to re-register to vote – that’s assuming they’re even aware that their names have been excluded. The GOP has reduced the number of polling places and voting hours in Democratic-leaning districts. It has blocked voting rights for felons who have served their sentences. It has intimidated opposition voters. And, in many states, it has forced voters to leave work and drive many miles in order to purchase a voter ID, often making them choose between obtaining the ID or earning enough to feed their children.

Even without all of their voter suppression tactics, the GOP has a distinct advantage. It controls a large majority of the nation’s geography, if not its voters. Half of the nation’s population resides in 9 largely blue states. But the remaining 41 mostly red states hold a majority of the electoral votes. So it’s possible that Trump – the president with the lowest approval ratings in modern times – will, once again, lose the popular vote this November by overwhelming numbers and still win a majority of electoral votes.

The only sure way to stop him is for decent, caring Americans to turn out to vote as never before.

And, if Trump is defeated, the winning candidate should quickly set about nullifying the Trump presidency. Every presidential order should be immediately overturned. Every appointment, every administration decision should be scrutinized and rectified, as quickly as possible. And, if Democrats are fortunate enough to gain majorities in both houses of Congress, they should pass legislation designed to protect our elections, to restore voting rights, to eliminate the Electoral College and to protect our environment.

As important, Trump should be prosecuted for his many crimes – for his tax evasion, for violating the emoluments clause, for conspiring with enemies of state, for abuse of power, for obstruction. He and his family should be forced to repay the millions they have stolen from taxpayers. And Trump should be locked up as a warning to any like-minded individuals who would consider undermining our democracy ever again.

Two Different Sponsors Of Terror. Two Very Different US Responses.

The US annual terrorism report of 2017 named Iran as “the foremost state sponsor of terrorism.” But is it really? Even Trump, before the 2016 election, gave that title to Saudi Arabia, apparently basing his opinion on a leaked secret memo from then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that stated Saudi donors “constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

Indeed, there was good reason for Clinton and, by extension, Trump to feel that way. After all, Saudis comprised the majority of terrorists involved in 9/11 and they were funded by a Saudi citizen – Osama bin Laden. The Saudis also created the Taliban by teaching their extreme Wahabbist form of Islam to young Afghan refugee students during the Soviet-Afghan War. (Talib means student.) The Saudis continue to finance the Taliban. And, as if all that were not bad enough, the Saudi’s Wahabbism inspired ISIL or, as it is more commonly known as ISIS.

In addition, the Saudi royal family has long used its power and extreme religious beliefs to terrorize the citizens of Saudi Arabia. It tortures and incarcerates anyone who dares to defy its religious beliefs or openly criticizes the family. And it often publicly beheads the most outspoken dissidents, even crucifying their bodies following executions to threaten anyone else considering defiance. Commit a more serious crime and the Saudis will bury you up to your neck and stone you to death.

Yet the family’s brutality and excesses are largely ignored in the West because the Saudis have lots of money and oil. Of course, that fact did not go unnoticed by the Trumps and the Kushners who have relied on Saudi money to finance their developments. Indeed, one of Trump’s first official acts as president was to travel to Riyadh where he bowed to the royal family, placed his hand on a crystal globe and gushed about the Saudi’s purchase of weapons from the US. (It should be noted that Saudi Arabia has used those weapons to carry out a brutal war in Yemen, continuing to bomb and kill thousands of civilians as part of the near 1,400-year conflict between the Sunni and Shiite factions of Islam.)

Since Trump’s meeting in Riyadh, Trump’s ties with the Saudis have become as unshakeable as his ties with Putin. Even when the Saudi leader ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, an American resident and Washington Post contributor, Trump refused to hold him accountable or to even acknowledge his involvement. Not even the mass shooting of US military personnel by a Saudi at the Pensacola Air Station drew a rebuke from Trump.

As I’ve previously written, Iran, on the other hand, was a US ally until the Islamic Revolution in 1979 when it deposed the brutal monarchy of the Shah who had gained power after the 1953 coup of Iran’s democratically-elected Iranian prime minister orchestrated by the UK and US. The prime minister’s crime? He threatened to nationalize Iran’s oil reserves.

Our relationship with Iran has been exceedingly complicated ever since.

Following our interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which border Iran, Iran’s goal has been to force the US to remove our military from the region. With that goal in mind, it has supported terrorist groups as proxies against both the US and Israel. In retaliation, the US imposed economic sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy. Yet we have occasionally worked together for common goals. Iranian militias helped the US and its allies end the violence in Iraq. They also helped fight against ISIS.

But it’s Iran’s support of Hezbollah, Hamas and Iraqi militias that has led to its reputation as a sponsor of terrorism. Hezbollah is described by the US as the primary terrorist partner of Iran. Yet that claim is open for debate. To many, especially Palestinians and Lebanese, Hezbollah is a political party and a liberation movement that uses force to resist Israeli occupation.

Iran also supports Hamas, a group that has been labeled a terrorist organization since 1997. But some argue that Hamas is a resistance movement. Not a terrorist group. In addition, some claim Iran has links to the Taliban, al-Qaeda and ISIS. But those claims are murky at best. Indeed, Iran did as much to defeat ISIS as anyone, including the Kurds.

It must be emphasized that, unlike the Saudis, no Iranian has ever attacked Americans on American soil.

So which country is the greater sponsor of terror? Which nation commits the greater number of human rights violations against its own citizens? By those measures, it would be difficult to draw a clear line between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The obvious difference seems to be in how we treat them.

Trump’s Act Of War.

There is an old saying that one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. Never has that been more true than in describing Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani. Though Soleimani was reviled by Israel and the US for orchestrating terrorist attacks, he was celebrated in Iran for protecting his nation.

Indeed, Soleimani had a complex history. He first came to prominence during Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi invasion of Iran – a war that resulted in the deaths of a million Iranians – a war supported by the US under the theory that the enemy of our enemy is our friend. Soleimani is credited with creating and implementing the IED roadside bombs used against US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was also credited with creating and supporting regional militias feared by Israel and others. Yet Soleimani led his militias to help bring an end to the War in Iraq. In addition, he fought against Iran’s and America’s common enemy: ISIS.

So, though Soleimani’s actions wounded and killed many US troops, one could reasonably argue that he also saved many. Moreover, he was a hero to many in Iran and arguably the second-ranking leader of the nation.

Was his assassination justified? Maybe. But it was most certainly foolhardy.

To put this into perspective, it should be noted that, not long ago, the US had begun the long process of normalizing relations with Iran. We had returned Iranian assets that were frozen in 1979 in exchange for an agreement that Iran would limit its nuclear program to peaceful uses. And, by all accounts, Iran was upholding its part of the bargain. That was hugely significant given the ugly history between our two nations.

In case you’re unaware, the ugliness began when, in 1953, the US helped Great Britain orchestrate a coup of the democratically-elected Prime Minister of Iran for daring to nationalize his nation’s oil industry. His overthrow led to a brutal dictatorship under the Shah who was considered a US ally. When the Shah escaped the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and was given safe haven by the US for medical treatment, the new Islamic Iranian government retaliated by invading our embassy and holding Americans captive.

Despite our history with Iran, there was an opportunity to negotiate a lasting peace. The government of Iran had moderated. Many of the people of Iran had demonstrated for more freedom. Many Iranians even looked to the US as friends.

Then Trump was installed as US president. Wanting to destroy his predecessor’s legacy, he quickly removed the US from the nuclear agreement. He increased economic sanctions on Iran. And though he relied on Iran and Soleimani to help defeat ISIS, when Soleimani no longer served a purpose to the US, and Trump was facing an impeachment trial in the Senate, Trump ordered Soleimani’s assassination.

The consequences may well be devastating. Soleimani was not a rogue actor like bin Laden or al-Baghdadi. Rather, he was a sovereign nation’s highest-ranking general and second in command. Killing him by drone was nothing less than an act of war.

Further, Trump has shown that he cannot be trusted. Soleimani’s assassination comes on the heels of Trump throwing our Kurdish allies to the curb to be killed or displaced by the Turks. By not consulting our allies and others in the region before the assassination, Trump has shown a lack of respect because they, too, may be targeted by an angry Iran. And we have started a conflict that is almost certain to last generations.

Moreover, instead of weakening Iran, Trump’s rash action has strengthened it. If the US accedes to Iraq’s demand that the US remove our troops from Iraq, we will have less influence in the region. We will be leaving a weak Iraqi government and army to fend off what is certain to be renewed efforts by ISIS. That may well lead the Shiite majority Iraq to request the help of the Shiite majority Iran. If successful, the two nations will comprise part of a Shiite crescent surrounding Sunni nations – many of them our Middle Eastern allies. A strengthened Iran may well pose a greater threat to Israel.

And though, unlike Saudi Arabia, Iran has never struck the US on US soil, it may well be motivated to do so. It knows it can’t win a war of confrontation with the US. So Iran’s only recourse is to fight an asymmetrical war through acts of terrorism and cyber attacks.

Worst of all, it appears that the Trump administration has no plan to deal with the consequences other than to threaten, bully and bluster, which is likely to escalate matters. So buckle up America. We’re in for a long, unnecessary fight.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Fourteen – GOP)

This is the last of my 14-part series. But last certainly does not mean least. Without the treachery and complicity of the Republican Party, most of the other factors that are destroying our nation either would not be possible. Or they would be far less damaging.

The damage done to our government by the GOP began in earnest prior to the Nixon administration and has accelerated ever since. In 1968, Nixon undermined the Vietnam peace talks in order to benefit his election prospects. Similarly, he ordered the Watergate break-in to sabotage Democratic candidates during the 1972 election. Following Nixon’s lead, Reagan undermined the Carter administration’s efforts to release hostages from the US embassy in Iran in order to damage Carter’s re-election chances. Reagan attacked labor unions and, based on the discredited “trickle down” theory of economics, he cut taxes for the rich. George H.W. Bush led us in to war in the Middle East over oil. And two of his sons conspired to steal the 2000 election from Al Gore. Then George W. Bush led us into a war with Iraq on false pretenses.

But the GOP’s impact on our democracy has never been more damaging than it has over the past 11 years. During the Obama administration, it tried to undermine attempts to pull our economy out of a worldwide recession created by GOP policies. It blocked dozens of judicial appointments in the Senate culminating with its successful effort to steal a seat on the Supreme Court. And, having captured a number of state houses, it began instituting a wide variety of voter suppression laws in a blatant effort to prevent minorities and other Democrats from voting.

Since 2016, having colluded with a foreign rival to steal yet another election, it has allowed its Con-Man-in-Chief to sidle up to dictators, to bully allies, to promote white nationalism, to cut taxes for the ultra-wealthy, to take affordable health care from millions, to undermine public education, to roll back environmental protections, to block any attempts to address the climate crisis, to rip immigrant children away from their parents, and to pack our courts by giving lifetime appointments to young, and often unqualified, ideologues. The party has not only excused blatant abuses of power by Trump. It has openly participated in them as did William Barr in his handling of the Mueller report. Further, Republicans in Congress have tried to block any attempts of congressional oversight by the Democrat-controlled House. (Witness the behavior of House Republicans during the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s attempted shakedown of Ukraine.)

The GOP has run up trillion-dollar deficits in order to justify defunding all social safety nets, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps. At the same time, it has handed out subsidies to some of the world’s greediest corporations. Worst of all, the party has participated in the wholesale betrayal of our Constitution by accepting campaign money and other support from Russian oligarchs and excusing Russia’s interference in our elections.

It may have once been labeled the Grand Old Party as a result of Abraham Lincoln’s fight to end slavery and hold our nation together. But the only thing grand about it today is its level of hypocrisy and criminal behavior.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Thirteen – Putin)

Following the fall of the Soviet Union, most of the world was hopeful that Russians would enjoy the benefits of democracy. Instead, it has become a brutal dictatorship led by a former KGB operative, Vladimir Putin. Using techniques he learned in the KGB, he controls almost every aspect of Russian life. He not only controls the government and the military. He and his criminal associates control the nation’s industries, technologies and natural resources.

As Malcolm Nance states in his latest book, The Plot To Betray America, there are four classes of society in Russia: From the top down, they include the leadership , the oligarchs and Russian mafia, the street criminals, and, at the bottom, ordinary people. Putin and his ex-KGB friends use brutality and murder to maintain control and to funnel the nation’s riches off-shore to their private bank accounts.

Nance describes Putin as a wannabe Charlemagne writing “Putin, with the Russian Orthodox Church patriarchy, would put forward a template to unite a new, conservative Europe under a Christian banner. America could come along too. He set his spymasters to develop an intelligence operation to bring the Americans along by making common cause with ideological soul mates across the Atlantic.”

Obviously, those soul mates are Trump, the GOP and evangelical Christians.

To push his agenda, Putin has used his billions and the billions of other Russian oligarchs to support political campaigns, to publish pro-Russian lies in mass media, to promote division via social media, and to meddle in Western elections.

In the US, he directed his efforts against President Obama and Hillary Clinton. And to aid Donald Trump. From the Mueller investigation, we learned that Putin’s GRU (successor to the KGB) hacked the servers of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the chair of Clinton’s campaign. The information gleaned was directed to the campaigns of GOP candidates, including Trump’s.

In addition, Mueller documented more than 100 meetings between Putin’s officials and members of the Trump campaign. Putin’s operatives engaged the NRA and his Russian oligarch friends funneled campaign donations through the organization to GOP campaigns. Mueller also documented that GRU operatives, disguised as Americans, posted millions of divisive messages and fake news on social media.

Not coincidentally, once Trump won the nomination, his campaign rewrote the GOP platform to soften its approach toward Russia. Since then, the Trump administration and GOP congressional representatives have only reluctantly criticized Russia while putting forth debunked conspiracy theories originating in Russia. (It’s Putin who’s behind the crackpot idea that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election.) Additionally, Trump has requested that Russia be re-admitted to the G7 despite Russia’s ongoing war and occupation of Ukraine territory. He appeared subservient to Putin at their public meetings. And, we can only imagine what has been said in their private meetings since Trump has refused to allow anyone to attend except a translator (and he confiscated the translators notes). Moreover, the transcripts of Trump’s private phone calls with Putin have been hidden away in classified servers. Lastly, Trump has abdicated US leadership in the Middle East by betraying our Kurdish allies leaving Russia to fill the void. Indeed, many of the Trump administration’s decisions seem to benefit Russia more than the US.

Given all of the evidence, one can only conclude that our president and the GOP leadership have become little more than puppets with Putin pulling the strings.