Is Protecting the Murderous Crown Prince in the Natl. Interest? – Phyllis Bennis and Larry Wilkerson

In whose “national interest” is an alliance a with a criminal state that sponsors terrorism, viciously suppresses domestic dissent, acts against democratic movements, and promotes war in the region? Phyllis Bennis and Larry Wilkerson join Paul Jay on with Paul Jay.

Paul Jay

Hi, I’m Paul Jay. Welcome to Please don’t forget there’s a donate button at the top of the webpage. On February 26, The New York Times reported that, quote, “President Biden has decided the price of directly penalizing Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is too high, according to senior administration officials, despite a detailed American intelligence finding that he directly approved the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident and Washington Post columnist who was drugged and dismembered in October 2013…

The New York Times continued the decision by Mr. Biden, who during the 2012 campaign called Saudi Arabia a pariah state with no redeeming social value, came after weeks of debate in which his newly formed national security team advised him there was no way to formally bar the heir to the Saudi crown from entering the United States or to weigh criminal charges against him without breaching the relationship with one of America’s key Arab allies. Officials said a consensus developed inside the White House that the price of that breach and Saudi cooperation on counterterrorism and in confronting Iran was simply too high, end quote. That was The New York Times.

So in the national interest, this grotesque murder of an American-based journalist by the Crown Prince goes unpunished. Just what is the national interest that so constrains Biden from living up to even a modicum to the human rights rhetoric that this administration espouses? Well, first, obviously, energy. The Saudis work with the U.S. in terms of oil prices and strategic control and return. The U.S. protects the monarchy against foreign enemies and supports its suppression of domestic dissent.

Second, as the defenders of Mecca, the Saudi influence in the Islamic world helps justify U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and helps suppress popular Arab nationalism and socialism. Saudi airspace is important to projecting U.S. global military power. It’s been the largest market for military and other goods between Morocco and India. The Saudis have helped the U.S. government finance covert operations off the books, as in Nicaragua and Afghanistan, and the Saudis share intelligence on terrorist groups that might attack the U.S. and fund terrorist groups that work in the U.S. military strategic interest.

This is how the foreign policy establishments of both parties have defined the national interest in the Saudi relationship and are the reasons the Biden administration believes they cannot alienate the future king. The saying is being used to justify all this is in geopolitics. You have to deal with bad people.

Of course, what’s left out of that truism is that it’s usually the U.S. that leads the pack of the bad people. Now, joining us to discuss just what is the U.S. national interest in the relationship with Saudi Arabia, Phyllis Bennis is the director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. Among her latest books are Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror: A Primer, as well as the updated edition of Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. Thanks for joining us, Phyllis.

Phyllis Bennis

Great to be with you, Paul.

Paul Jay

Also joining us is Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired United States Army colonel and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Thank you, Larry.

Lawrence Wilkerson

Good to be with you, Paul.

Paul Jay

So, Phyllis, start us off. Is protecting Mohammed bin Salman in the U.S. national interest?

Phyllis Bennis

Well, of course, it depends on how you define the national interest. If the national interest is on making it easier for the Pentagon to come up with reasons to remain in the so-called forever wars, the counterterrorism wars, the global war on terror, it has many names, but if you want permanent U.S. military presence throughout the region and particularly in the Gulf, relations with the crown prince are important. If you have any interest in legitimacy in the world in terms of not allowing a murderer in the opinion of all of your intelligence agencies to go unpunished. If you think it’s fine that the leader of Saudi Arabia, because the crown prince is the de facto leader and has been for several years now, that it’s fine that he has launched and maintains a war in Yemen that has created what the United Nations calls the worst, the worst, the very worst humanitarian crisis going on in the world today and at a moment when there are so many competitors for that title.

If all of that is fine, then sure, maintaining relations with MBS, as he’s known, who, of course, became fast friends with Jared Kushner, developed strong ties with Trump during his administration. That’s all to the good. If you think that there is the possibility that U.S. pressure from this country that the current president, President Biden, now says is back. That diplomacy is back. America is back. If coming back means being willing to exert some kind of pressure on erstwhile allies who have committed heinous crimes. In the murder of Khashoggi it is really only the murder of one person, as horrific as it was.

We’re talking about being responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands in the war in Yemen. In that situation, then you have to talk about what’s it going to take to bring pressure to bear. We don’t know for sure that this crown prince is going to emerge as the king. There is still a king in Saudi Arabia, although he’s ailing and not always in control. The current crown prince is his son MBS, but before MBS, there was a different crown prince who was then removed by the king and replaced with MBS.

So the notion of a crown prince is a fluid one in Saudi Arabia. It’s not like in some monarchies where the crown prince is the first-born period full stop or the first-born male period, full stop. In Saudi Arabia the crown prince is whoever the king says is the crown prince. The crown prince could be different. The king could decide to change, and we have not seen any evidence that this administration is prepared to bring any pressure to bear on anyone in terms of pressuring the crown prince directly, saying you’re no longer welcome in the United States and any visa you hold is now null and void in terms of things like freezing assets in the United States or even calling the king and saying, Your Majesty, you’ve got to get rid of this guy and come up with another crown prince.

Paul Jay

None of that has happened. Or it’s happened and they said no. Larry, same question to you. Is this in the national interest, protecting MBS?

Lawrence Wilkerson

Everything that Phyllis said was this, which I think is a very important and very dangerous dimension. If you want to tie your foreign policy to the state of Israel, so much so that when Israel shakes, you wag is fine, because that’s what we’re doing, and protestations to the contrary as the Biden administration has made a few of are meaningless because Netanyahu makes U.S. policy in the Middle East for most purposes, and that’s not the way it should be. That’s dangerous.

In addition to all the things that Phyllis pointed out, which are dangerous, too. In my view, not national security affirming, but a national security threat.

Paul Jay

Well, the things I went through in the introduction, I guess it depends on really whether you think U.S. dominance in the Middle East is in the national interest, and then you get to the question of national interest for home, because maybe national interest with the military-industrial complex ain’t the same thing as national interest for the American people, but even from the kind of more narrow view of national interest, which is the more typical way of defining it, which is more or less what’s good for American commerce, Larry, is it still, even if it was necessary to have this kind of relationship with Saudi Arabia, given the change in oil dynamics?

Lawrence Wilkerson

I don’t think Jimmy Carter’s announcement in 1977 or 78 that it was a vital national security interest to the United States to maintain security in the Persian Gulf is even remotely operative anymore. In fact I would switch it over. I wouldn’t be quite that dramatic about it, but I would switch it over if I were looking for a regional body of water to, say the [inaudible] rather than the Persian Gulf, where far more commerce flows in addition and so forth, but your point about fossil fuels is one I made this morning in a webinar about the Arctic that talked about 30 years from now having the technology and the economic wherewithal going together to drill in the Arctic and I’m saying, OK, fine, wonderful. Let’s keep looking for those assets. You’re not going to be looking for fossil fuels in the Arctic in thirty years. Take my word for it and I’ll be dead. You won’t be able to check me up, but we’re not going to be doing that.

If we are, we might as well just click that one off. We’re gone. So I don’t think fossil fuels have nearly the relevance that they did when Jimmy Carter made that statement and after all, a long time ago, if you think about it and lots of things have changed since then, not least of which is what I just talked about. We need to get off fossil fuels and we don’t have that kind of necessity now in the interim period between when Carter said it and we stood up Central Command and made it the most powerful command of the military command system, we had to protect the access in the Persian Gulf or our allies, principally Japan, but others too as well. Now, that’s no longer the case.

Now we’re fighting Putin, for example, and Angela Merkel with regard to the Nord Stream pipeline, because that would take Europe pretty much off of it altogether. And so we’re looking at different situations today, and those different situations don’t mandate a United States presence like we have now, which is just incredible on the ground in the Middle East, especially when that presence is also in and of itself detrimental to our security, because we’re…

Paul Jay

Phyllis, what continues to drive this policy? Like you say, well, why don’t they pick up the phone and call the king? The fact that they weren’t able to bring down MBS because one would think they must have wanted that I think a real sign of weakness that the U.S. doesn’t have that kind of leverage over Saudi Arabia.

Phyllis Bennis

I’m not sure that they have that leverage. I think that they may have wanted in some personal way to get MBS out of the picture because he’s an embarrassment. What happens when you’re supposed to shake hands with this guy knowing what he’s responsible for, but beyond that, there’s no clarity, as I said earlier, about who’s going to be the next king. The current king is ailing. He’s 85 years old. He’s not going to be in power much longer. So the chances are pretty good. It will be MBS. It doesn’t have to be. The king could change his mind. He could respond to U.S. pressure. He could change his mind on his own. Lots of things could happen, but the chances are greater that they won’t happen and that MBS will become the king and then the U.S. is kind of stuck because what it has created, despite everything that Larry said that’s so crucial about the changing role of oil and gas, that we no longer import significant amounts of oil from the region.

We no longer as a country are dependent on imported oil at all because of fracking and the horrors of that, but the bottom line is that people around the world are far more aware of the dangers of fossil fuels, and the work is slow and ponderous and not nearly fast enough, dangerously slow, but nonetheless is going forward in terms of weaning whole countries off of this fossil fuel dependency, including the United States. Slowly, slowly, slowly, whether it will be enough in time, it’s still an open question, but in the meantime, we have these military/strategic claims that are called interests, and as you say, it’s a big question in whose interests?

Certainly, it’s in the interests of Raytheon and Boeing and the other manufacturers of all the stuff that gets sold to the Saudis, to the UAE to be used, for example, in Yemen in this horrific war. The fact that the Biden administration came out and said, well, we’re no longer going to sell offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia, that’s a good step politically.

And it doesn’t mean anything until we hear what are they defining as offensive weapons. Who’s fighting against them that would make it defensive. So we don’t know that yet. So far, we’ve seen no indication that there’s going to be a massive full halt in arms sales because arms sales are very crucial in the currently arranged U.S. economy. So who’s going to take the risk of being accused of losing jobs? What we need again, this happens around fossil fuels, it happens around military construction and the creation of all the weapons that we sell around the world. We need a just transition for fossil fuel workers, for military workers in the same way that we need a transition for people who have been denied access to jobs because they’re people of color, because they don’t have access to the education that’s required for all kinds of reasons that come down to poverty, that come down to all of the ways that in this country issues of racism, militarism, climate, all come together to create this kind of poverty, this kind of democratic deficit, all of these things are at stake.

In terms of what Larry said about the role of Israel, that’s clearly a key question. I wouldn’t frame it exactly the same way. I don’t think that Netanyahu makes policy. I think he likes to think he does, but it is a political reality that people in power in Washington still believe that it’s political suicide to challenge the Israeli leadership. The reality is it no longer is political suicide because there has been a massive shift in the public discourse, the media discourse, and increasingly even in the policy discourse, but it’s not yet strong enough. The movements that have been working so hard on this for the last 20 years or more have had enormous success. You see it in the polls. It’s now become a partisan issue. Whether defense of Israel is supported or not depends on whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, which it never was that way before.

It is true now, but that relationship between Israel and Saudi Arabia is the key component of this anti-Iran coalition that Trump put together, but that the Biden administration shows little evidence so far of trying to dismantle is very central to U.S. strategy. The U.S. military needs an enemy. For years we had the Cold War. The Soviet Union was our enemy. China was kind of an enemy. Sometimes it was one against the other, but we had a clear enemy. For a while there was something called a peace dividend. You guys will remember that, right? It lasted about a minute before we came up with a new enemy to justify new military spending.

Lawrence Wilkerson

It lasted until Bill Clinton,

Phyllis Bennis

Lasted about a minute, as I recall, but it led to our current situation where we are spending seven hundred and forty billion dollars this year on the military. That’s fifty-three cents of every available federal dollar. Fifty-three cents out of every dollar is going directly to the military. That’s built into how the structure of our economy works. We need massive transformation. We need to cut the military budget in half, starting with the 10 percent cut that is on the docket in Congress again, but in the meantime, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the biggest customers of those weapons. They’re key to this relationship with Israel that supposedly legitimately going up against Iran as if Iran was the military danger. Iran’s nuclear weapons system is nonexistent. Right. It doesn’t have a nuclear weapons system. The only nuclear weapons in the region is Israel’s nuclear arsenal. That the U.S. still respects the Israeli request that it not acknowledged, but the whole world knows it’s there.

It’s one of the bigger ones. It’s not the biggest. It’s there. It’s important. It’s strategically messy in the region because it threatens the possibility of a nuclear arms race across the region, which isn’t going to be sparked by Iran. It’s sparked by Israel. So there are huge problems around this, but it takes an awful lot of political hutzpah, if you will, to say we’re going to just rework all of this. We’re going to stop making this relationship between Israel and Saudi Arabia the centerpiece of how we look at the Middle East, and we’re going to start what a concept, looking at people, looking at what people need. People need jobs. In Yemen, people need food and water. They need the basics to survive. Maybe we can do something about that rather than saying this is how we’re going to justify continuing war.

Paul Jay

Right, Larry, it seems to me when the White House, whichever party is there, when the military looks at the Middle East, the assumption is the U.S. must be the dominant power in the Middle East, and then everything comes out of this equation once you start your analysis from that point. Probably the most important, not probably, the most important relationship for dominating the Middle East is the Saudis.

Even if energy is taken completely off the table as that diminishes its importance in the global economy, although that hasn’t happened yet, the Saudis are the ones that finance all the madrassas, that train the kids to grow up and join various terrorist groups. The Saudis financed terrorist groups. It’s through the Saudis that this kind of asymmetrical warfare is waged as part of a U.S. strategy in the Middle East.

And I also think maybe taken into the equation, how much money the Saudis have, not just for military purposes, but in terms of their control of various terrorist networks, they’ve overtly Prince Bandar threatened Tony Blair in the U.K. when the bribery scandal broke. An actual letter that Bandar had sent to Blair went public where he virtually threatens a terrorist attack on the United Kingdom. If it goes public, the bribe that Bandar took, I mean, how much is the terrorism- Saudi connection, both in terms of how it’s used by Americans, by the U.S. military, and perhaps even as a threat to the United States.

How much does that enter into the equation?

Lawrence Wilkerson

It’s a huge component of it, actually, but it’s got different manifestations. It was alluded to several. I had a conversation yesterday with a member of the Norwegian parliament who is looking at new bases, even as I speak, being built in Norway and new bases under conception and under construction, and he’s very worried about that. As I assume most of the Norwegian government is in for a penny, in for pound. Now, the United States is going to increase its 800 bases in the world by itself or more in Norway.

And as I talked with him, we got into the same thing that you’re talking about right now with regard to Saudi Arabia. To a large extent, the way you salvage Lockheed Martin’s dismal failure with the F-35 right now, a trillion-dollar failure. The way you keep their profits coming and keep their vice presidents and their CEO making these huge, humongous salaries is you get other people to buy the airplane. Norway’s buying some of them, and I was very candid with the guy.

I said, you’re buying a pig in a poke. It is not going to do what you want to do. If you bought F-16 or the equivalent from France or even Russia or somewhere else where they make airplanes roughly similar to the F-16 or you bought F-16, you’d be a lot better off.

Phyllis Bennis

Pentagon doesn’t even want to have F-35s.

Lawrence Wilkerson

It’s not going to do what it’s supposed to do, but it is a hundred million dollars a copy and it won’t even stay in the air. Won’t even fly without just enormous maintenance on the ground, and it won’t do half of what it was touted to do. So this is how you save Lockheed Martin, though. You spread these costs out among your allies, and that’s what Saudi Arabia is.

It’s a place where you can do 80 billion dollar weapons deals and make these companies tenable and survivable so that you can then buy the instruments you need for them to wage your wars. And people miss that sometimes, but that’s how we keep these people alive. Why did Bill Clinton expand NATO into the former Warsaw Pact countries? Because Lockheed Martin wanted to sell them airplanes and other things like medium and high altitude missile defense, which is exorbitantly expensive. And so we got that to happen.

We got other countries to buy our products that keep our production line warm. It keeps the price down for us and so forth. That’s a huge component of this. Whether you’re looking at NATO, you’re looking at the Korean alliance or Japanese lines or anything else we do in the world with regard to this far-flung military empire we have. That’s a large part of it. It’s why we are where we are is to make money for these merchants of death.

Paul Jay

So, Phyllis, what should the Biden administration approach to MBS in particular, but also more broadly, the whole Saudi relationship? If they asked you, what would you tell them to do?

Phyllis Bennis

I would say that in even the short term, let alone the medium and long term, the relationship with Saudi Arabia is toxic. It’s discrediting to any sensibility about anyone left in the United States and certainly anyone outside the United States in the world who wants to think that U.S. foreign policy is grounded in something resembling the way they like to talk about it, which is we are this shining city on the hill. We are the democracy. We are the model for the rest of the world.

If you want any of that to not be a laughable, ridiculous sounding thing, you have to stop. Cuddling up to the worst of the worst of these dictators, there is this notion that, yes, you have in foreign policy, you have to deal with some pretty bad guys. I think around the world, particularly in places like Europe, in Latin America, and across Africa, people are looking at the United States and saying, yeah, we have to deal with some pretty bad guys, but we have to deal with them because they’re powerful and they’re the United States, right?

We’re no different. We’re no different than that. We can make judgments about what governments we are prepared to deal with strategically. I’m not proposing we should cut relations with all countries that we don’t like and that sort of thing. I think we need diplomacy with every country in the world, period. Full stop. That’s a far cry from making the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, an acknowledged by our own intelligence agencies murderer, making him a strategic ally with whom we share our greatest military secrets, our greatest intelligence information, and make him our guy in the region alongside the prime minister of Israel.

That’s not going to do anything that helps the people of this country. It doesn’t keep us safe. It certainly doesn’t keep people in the region safe. It doesn’t alleviate the threat of tension erupting between the regional powerhouses of Saudi Arabia and Iran who have been contending for regional domination for a long time in the region, not militarily, particularly until the U.S. got involved with that situation. So there’s nothing about it that helps people in this country. It’s a way that we ensure we don’t have enough money for the Green New Deal.

We don’t have enough money for Medicare for all. We don’t have enough money for new green infrastructure, for free college education, for eliminating student debt. We don’t have enough money for anything like that as long as we’re spending fifty-three cents out of every federal dollar on the military. So what I would say is we need to treat Saudi Arabia like a normal country, not like our best friend in the region. It’s a country that should be vulnerable to things like the Leahy Law that prohibits selling arms to any military that has a pattern and practice of violating human rights.

It should be vulnerable to things like the Arms Export Control Act that says when we sell arms to a country, we get to control the final use of those arms. They can’t just buy them saying they’re for self-defense and then turn and use them for some other purpose. And if they do, that’s the last gun they ever get to buy from us. We treat them like a normal country. That’s all. We don’t have to cut ties. We just have to stop privileging and protecting and embracing these horrific governments, the government of Israel that is responsible for an apartheid system, the government of Saudi Arabia that is responsible for a devastating lethal war in Yemen, and some of the worst direct human rights violations around.

We don’t have to make them our best friends. That’s what we should be doing, is treat them like a normal country, nothing special.

Paul Jay

So, Larry, when these discussions were going on in the White House, I would guess most or perhaps almost all foreign policy analysis starts from, well, how is this going to affect the issue of China? There are even some people on the right who have advocated getting out of the Middle East altogether and I suppose these days, one of the major counterarguments to that, because it’s not so much about oil as it used to be, is that if U.S. isn’t dominant, then it’s going to be all about China. I mean, how much is that a factor?

And then, two, so what if China takes that position? It’s just going to be a bloody headache for them.

Lawrence Wilkerson

My feelings exactly for Russia or China. In fact I vouchsafe those feelings from time to time to various admirals and generals when they’re saying the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming. I would say let them come. Let’s see how they like it. It’s not quite that simple, though, especially extracting ourselves.

I’ve said this before. General McKenzie commands more military assets now and has a strain on additional assets than any person in the world. How did we go from

Paul Jay

Tell us who McKenzie is.

Lawrence Wilkerson

He’s the Central Command commander, which has now extended his writ, which now includes, yes, Israel, which we forbade in my time in the military, years, decades ever being in anyone’s command because we knew how divisive it would be.

Now, the capitals in Jerusalem, we sing the praises. We talk about the end times on our knees in the capital if we’re secretary of state and we embrace Israel in the Central Command, we have made our choice. We are sitting down with the devil and we are stuck with him, and that’s a horrible decision to have made, in my view, and the military power, both civilian and military arrayed around that decision now is just astronomical.

I never thought I’d see this where we would have so much military power in a region where having that military power on the ground in that region is in and of itself a threat to the United States. Now, if China wants to come in and create a threat like that, that’s fine. If Russia wants to come in and create a threat to itself like that, that’s fine. The dilemma here, of course, is they wouldn’t. Neither country, Putin’s too smart, and Xi Jinping is interested in money and he’s interested in economic growth and finance and so forth, and that’s what Xi Jinping would do. That’s what China. That is what they are doing. Building high-speed rail to Iran, for example, building rail inside Iran, getting ready to do it in Syria if things calm down, and so forth. The Polar Silk Road, the Central Asia Silk Road, the Maritime Silk Road. That’s what Xi Jinping is about, and if he brings development in a way that raises some of these people like Phyllis is talking about, these poor people involved in this war in Yemen, up a stage or two, all credit to them. Let them do this. I don’t think their intentions in that regard are necessarily like ours, which are imperial.

Our intentions are imperial, period. That’s what we’re doing. China could turn into that sort of power. Russia doesn’t have the wherewithal to turn into that kind of power. It lost it when the Soviet Union collapsed, still got its nuclear weapons, and that’s an imperial writ of a sort, but that’s something that should be controlled also. We have to talk to them, but we’re the empire. We’re the ones who go out with our bombs, bullets, and bayonets, and aggrandize.

They aren’t. I mean, that’s the truth of the matter, and we try to obscure it and we try to make it look different, but that. Pompeo at the Arctic Council. The Arctic Council is not a Security Council. It’s for every other issue in the Arctic of which there are many and serious issues, not the least of which is climate change, which is twice as fast-moving in the Arctic, in the Antarctic as it is globally, elsewhere.

So he goes there and tries to make it a Security Council, tries to berate the Chinese in the council because they say, oh, polar Silk Road, too. We want to have an interest in the Arctic. Oh, great, fine, but let’s cooperate and let’s do it right. Let’s protect the environment, and all the other things we need to do as the sea ice melts more and more, including trying to get together and stop the melting, because if it goes too far, it’s over, it’s finished, it’s done. and we’re not talking about an extended future on this. My grandchildren will be my age when we see this happen. Think about that. My grandchildren, 19, 20, 21 right now will be my age when this begins to happen so seriously that it will be irreversible. That’s what all the models tell us, NASA, NOAA, all the models tell us that, Russia’s models, China’s models, so we need to cooperate.

We need to do things we haven’t done in the past in order to get through this period if we’re going to get through it, and these kind of legacy relationships are anathema to that kind of future, absolute anathema, and no one stands out greater in that regard than the force laydown of the empire in the Middle East.

Phyllis Bennis

I think Larry’s absolutely right, that the question of climate change and how it stands as this existential threat on all of us is is fundamental and yet is kept as a separate issue. We hear the Navy leadership bragging about how the Navy is going to be 50 percent green, sustainable energy in whatever, five years, 10 year, but it’s still going to be sustainable energy to send the warships to kill people. That’s not going to change the situation.

Right. So I think one of the things that we need to be keeping more central to this discussion for exactly these reasons, is that the discussion that’s been underway. We heard it under Trump and we hear it differently, but the same discussion under the new administration under Biden about pulling out the troops. That’s important. We should be pulling out the troops. The troops are not doing anybody any good throughout the region, whether it’s the twenty five hundred troops that are now in Afghanistan, whether it’s the five thousand or so troops that are in Iraq, they should be withdrawn, but that’s not the problem of U.S. troops killing people right now. The U.S. killing people, particularly civilians, is happening through air wars, using drones and airstrikes in Afghanistan, in Syria, in Somalia, in Yemen, in all of these countries and in almost all of the debates, whether it’s in Congress, in the White House, in the Pentagon, when there are debates about pulling out troops, each time there’s a little asterisk that says nothing here goes to continuing our important war against terrorism.

That air war will continue. That air war is what is killing civilians, the twenty-five hundred ground troops that are now helping the Afghan military in Afghanistan. They’re not killing civilians right now. In the past, they have been, but right now, given what the balance of forces is, they’re not the ones responsible for killing civilians. U.S. troops are killing civilians, but it’s the pilots and the drone operators, not the ground troops. So any time we hear of this discussion of pulling out military forces, we have to be sure that it includes not only those ground troops, but also the drones, the airstrikes, the missile strikes that are still killing civilians.

Lawrence Wilkerson

And Paul, in that regard, Phyllis this is a significant point there, because we have just increased our base structure, particularly in Africa, along the Sahel region, and elsewhere to take care of places like Somalia. Incredible, and we have them everywhere, and if you have them, you use them. If they’re there, they’ll feel threatened. If you have soft attachments or other regular forces guarding them, they’ll feel threatened. So you are, in essence, generating your own threats wherever you have these things. It’s just nonsensical what we’re doing.

Paul Jay

Thank you both for joining us.

Phyllis Bennis

Thank you, Paul.

Paul Jay

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  1. Superb discussion, highlighting many aspects of the Empire that have not been discussed openly.

    I am not persuaded that an honest discussion of Israeli’s malign interest has yet unfolded to any degree. Any discussion is immediately shut down as anti-Semitic.

  2. Regarding: Is Protecting the Murderous Crown Prince in the National Interest? – Phyllis Bennis and Larry Wilkerson

    Larry’s phrase “pig and a poke” can be translated into German as “die Katze im Sack kaufen”. Larry’s excellent point on Norway’s potential purchase of the F-35 has played out historically and tragically in the 1970s in Germany when a similar Pentagon sale was pitched to the German people by Defense Minister Franz Josef Strauss to buy a large number of the flawed Lockheed Starfighter that cost the lives of many pilots who crashed not from pilot error, but from flying an imperfect aircraft. The F-35 for Norway may turn out tragically as the Lockheed Starfighter deal was for Germany. Eventually a very high profile American attorney looked into the pilots’ surviving wives’ claims against Lockheed and the attorney got from Lockheed a considerable settlement for the grieving wives who would much rather have not had lost their husbands to Lockheed’s harsh quest for profit. Parliamentary governments tend to have a resilient quality in politics that might be a greater headwind for Lockheed aircraft sales in Europe than folks at the Pentagon can imagine. Political parties in Europe lack the amnesia about the Starfighter scandal that Lockheed and the Pentagon are so reluctant to remember importantly.

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