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.

“Private Eyes” Given A Whole New Meaning.

Recent revelations about National Security Agency (NSA) snooping on phone records, emails and Internet history have been used by some politicians to attack President Obama. Really? He not only inherited these programs from Dubya. By most accounts, he placed new restrictions on them.

Whatever the case, government spying on American citizens should be openly debated by all Americans and our representatives. Only the American people should decide how much privacy we’re willing to sacrifice in exchange for the prevention of terror attacks.

But while the media and Washington have been focused on each new revelation of the NSA program, several aspects have been relatively ignored.

One is that those collecting the information are not government agents or employees. They’re private companies. Edward Snowden was an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, which is a publicly traded, for-profit corporation that has sucked up billions in revenue from government agencies such as the Department of Defense, all branches of the U.S. military, U.S. Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of the Treasury, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Security Agency.

As a result of the political right’s fascination with privatization, companies like Booz are now handling many of the tasks the government used to. The belief, although not proven, is that awarding government contracts to such companies will save money.

Apparently, it also makes information related to these tasks less secure.

Not satisfied with revealing aspects of the secret program, Edward Snowden has told the South China Morning Post that the US has been “hacking Hong Kong and China since 2009.” Great! So after turning many American citizens against their own government, Snowden is now attempting to turn other nations against it, too.

Another surprising aspect of the Snowden leak is that Booz Allen Hamilton was paying him a salary of $200,000! This is a 29-year-old who dropped out of high school, dropped out of the Army, and possesses a GED. According to his social media sites, his real expertise is playing video games.

Finally, after revealing classified information about what he considered to be US government abuses, Snowden moved to China, saying that he admired Hong Kong for its commitment to free speech! (Perhaps he should talk to a few of my Tibetan friends about China’s commitment to free speech. He can find many of them in Chinese prisons.)

Not surprisingly, all of this has made Snowden a “hero” to the tinfoil-hatted Glenn Beck. Upon reading an account of Snowden’s revelations and his flight to Hong Kong, Beck tweeted “I think I have just read about the man for which I have waited. Earmarks of a real hero.”

On the other hand, Richard “The Dick” Cheney scurried out of his hidey hole and pronounced Snowden a “traitor.”

For me, this poses a real dilemma. If Beck praises someone as a hero, I can usually count on that person being a lunatic. And if the black-hearted Cheney calls someone a traitor, I can usually count on that person to be the opposite.

So now what am I to believe?

A Story To Remember On This Day Of Hatred.

Following the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and many others, I think it’s important to relate a story I was told a few years ago.

I went to a gathering of supporters for Tibetan freedom featuring several Tibetan Buddhist monks who had been captured and tortured following the Tibetan “uprising” of 1959.  One monk told of being captured and forced to act like a draft animal pulling a cart as part of a dam-building project.  He told of being whipped and living on a daily bowl of broth for months.  He and a few other monks escaped the prison camp and made their way to India.  All of the remaining monks in the camp were worked to death or killed.

The monk also told of an uncle who had fought as part of the resistance to the Chinese takeover of Tibet.  The Chinese, he said, came to his village and took note of all those missing.  Assuming the missing were freedom-fighters, the Chinese killed the families of the missing.He concluded by saying that his entire family had been killed along with all of the monks in his monastery.

When he finished his story, a member of the audience asked what I considered an absurd question.  “How does that make you feel about the Chinese?” he asked.  The monk responded, “I bear no hatred toward the Chinese.  They are doing what they believe is correct.  Our plight is the result of our karma,” he said.Upon hearing the monk’s response, I was embarrassed by the anger his story fueled in me.  Then I felt an inner peace as never before.

Please remember this story the next time you or someone you know is the victim of hate.  Nobody should be harmed for expressing his or her beliefs.

What are we fighting for?

I recently watched a documentary about the Civil War.  In discussing the events leading up to the war, the narrator stated, “For the Confederacy, it was dependent upon wealthy plantation owners convincing the poor to fight for them.” 

I could scarcely believe the openness and honesty of that statement! 

But isn’t that almost always the case?  True, many Union soldiers volunteered to join the battle as a fight against slavery.  And, in WWII, most U.S. soldiers joined the battle as retaliation for Pearl Harbor and to stop world domination by the Axis powers.  But most wars wouldn’t have happened if the rich hadn’t been able to manipulate the poor into fighting for them.

Many years ago, I found myself sitting next to the CBS bureau chief for Central and South America.  I told him I was confused about the situation in Nicaragua and El Salvador.  “Who are the good guys?” I asked.  He turned to me and laughed.  “There are no good guys.  Like most Americans, you’re under the false impression that U.S. foreign policy is about right and wrong.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  The U.S. simply supports whoever is friendliest to our corporations,” he said. 

Since that conversation, I’ve examined conflicts with his words in mind.  Almost always, I’ve realized that our soldiers are ordered to fight to preserve corporate interests.  For example, the Afghan War was not only the result of the Taliban providing sanctuary for Al Qaeda.  Bush, Cheney and their oil buddies had long wanted to build a pipeline across that country.  The Iraq War was sold as a pre-emptive strike against Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.  But it was likely more about the oil reserves Saddam controlled.  And, according to a professor at Northern Arizona University who studies the origins and results of conflicts, our war in Bosnia was more about demonstrating the continued need for NATO following the fall of the Soviet Union than it was about the so-called genocide. 

Indeed, if the U.S. entered wars only to protect our homeland or American citizens, we likely wouldn’t have participated in the Opium War with China, the Spanish-American War, WWI, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Lebanon, Kuwait, Bosnia and Iraq.  Moreover, we wouldn’t need to have our military stationed around the world in Germany, Japan, Okinawa, Bosnia, Turkey, Kuwait, Iraq, etc.

And if we entered wars solely for human rights abuses and the prevention of genocide, we likely would have sent troops to Tibet, Cambodia, Chile, East Timor, Sudan and dozens of other nations. 

So the next time you hear a politician start talking about the need to send our military halfway around the globe to protect “American interests,” ask yourself.  What interests does he or she really want to protect?  Those of our large, greedy corporations?  Or those of our citizenry?