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Journalist Kevin Gosztola runs down Biden’s transition team and possible Cabinet picks and it doesn’t look good for progressives, on theAnalysis.news podcast with Paul Jay.
Hi, I’m Paul Jay. Welcome to theAnalysis.news podcast. Please don’t forget the donate button at the top of our web page at theAnalysis.News: a very generous supporters offered $10,000 as a matching grant. So, if you donate or if you up your monthly donation, he’ll match that. And that’s how we survive. So, thanks for listening and I’ll be right back.
After Joe Biden won the Democratic Party primary, in order to win over supporters of Bernie Sanders, Biden joined with Bernie to create working groups on various issues to develop a joint platform. Interestingly enough, foreign policy was not on the table. I don’t know if that’s because the two sides were too far apart on the issue. But Biden’s appointments to his transition team now working on foreign policy and rumors of who he’s considering for secretary of state and other key posts are not suggesting any recognition of progressives’ concerns about his policy direction. Domestic appointments, so far, are not all that much more encouraging for Sanders supporters.
Now joining us to keep track of what we know so far about the direction of the incoming administration is Kevin Gosztola. He’s a managing editor of Shadowproof. He publishes The Dissenter newsletter at Substack and is co-host of the weekly Unauthorized Disclosure podcast.
Thanks for joining us, Kevin.
Yes, thank you.
So, start off with: what do we know? Kind of go through the list. Let’s start with foreign policy. Who are the key people on the transition team? What seems like the direction he might go for on important appointments?
So, we’ve got a list of people who we know in the last week have been providing national security briefings and then we also have these agency review teams. These are people who are going to plot the way forward for the first hundred days and after. So, we have people who are on State Department teams, a Defense Department team, and then there’s an intelligence community team. These people are going to be most consequential for the way forward on foreign policy and how he interacts with his national security apparatus, the officials and the intelligence agencies.
To me, people that stand out are individuals like General Stanley McChrystal, who we know as someone who commanded JSOC, the Joint Special Operations Command, under President Barack Obama’s administration, but was also brought on board while Bush was president. He was involved in running these operations in Iraq, oversaw Camp Nama, an acronym [NB: a “backronym” taking advantage of the pre-existing Arabic name for the camp from the Saddam Hussein government, which built the camp] that spells out “nasty-ass military area,” actually. And there was just horrific torture going on there. It’s heavily documented in Jeremy Scahill’s book Dirty Wars. He’s someone who is a pioneer of this “world as a battlefield” paradigm that we’ve been living under in a post-9/11 era.
He systematized mass killings and the capturing of suspected insurgents in Iraq. And at this camp Nama, we know from Jeremy’s book that a CIA general counsel visited and found that there were torture techniques being employed that were far worse than some of the techniques used by CIA interrogators. So, it was just shocking, some of the gruesome details that are laid out there. Stanley McChrystal covered up the tragic and horrific death of Pat Tilman, the former NFL player. He’s implicated in that.
Go down the list in the national security briefing. We also find William McRaven, another person who is emblematic of what Obama pioneered and revolutionized when it came to drone warfare. McRaven would join John Brennan at the “Terror Tuesday” meetings where they pass around the baseball cards, picking who would be killed next on the kill lists. And McRaven was, in fact, an individual who pushed for the strike that resulted in a massacre in al-Majala in Yemen, something that Jeremy Scahill reported on extensively and covered in detail. It has gotten widespread attention by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and other groups. The ACLU pushed for records on this massacre. There were 41 civilians, 22 of whom were children, killed in this massacre. And it turned out that there were no al-Qaida targets there. This was not an al-Qaida camp. This was where farmers and women and children were living. And so, that’s another example.
Samantha Power is in on these briefings and likely to be a top candidate for a position. She’s a regime-change warrior, someone who pushed for war in Libya, someone who has pushed for greater action in Syria. And, you know, the thing that I find interesting that sticks out about her is this idea that her book, A Problem from Hell, was “abused” by neoconservatives to justify the war in Iraq. And yet when you look at her doctrine, which is known as responsibility-to-protect [often styled “R2P”], what Max Blumenthal describes as “military humanism,” or, taking what is really imperialism and cloaking it in this patina of genocide-prevention in order to try to make it more marketable to people who don’t want additional entanglements throughout the world.
You look at her and there’s no responsibility there. I mean, Libya has been utterly destroyed as a result of her advocacy. And yet she does not feel like that’s something that could have been foreseen when she was working for Obama. She had a special position: she was a Special Assistant to the President, which seems like a position created just so she could advocate for greater military action in the Obama White House. [NB: The SAP position itself was not invented for Power — they are common in both government, going back to FDR, and the corporate world.]
So, those are three individuals that stand out. I’ll close by just saying that there are stand-ins on the Biden-Harris transition team who suggest Susan Rice will be picked as the secretary of state, [or at least] that Biden wants her to serve in his administration. Susan Rice is another hawkish figure who pushed for war in Libya, who has this belief that Russian influence is behind almost every single crisis that befalls the United States, it would seem. She even suggested that the George Floyd protests might have been a result of Russian interference earlier in the summer this year. She is also notorious because when she was part of President Bill Clinton’s administration, documents show that she advocated for removing UN peacekeepers from Rwanda. We know now that that ended up fueling the genocide that took place in Rwanda. So, she’s had this on her conscience, and in a way, it’s actually made her more hawkish and more irresponsible in her advocacy for greater interference or interventions in countries.
So, I find myself in a weird position these days because there’s been so much critique from many of our colleagues in independent journalism and so on about Biden and his history, which is mostly correct. I do think there’s a few things that do need to be pointed out about Biden, where it may suggest that he’s got a little bit less of an aggressive instinct and that maybe he did learn something from the Iraq war vote. But anyway, let me go through them, because many of the people he’s talking about and nominating are kind of not people that had this less aggressive instinct, which is kind of weird.
Let’s start with the most important one. Biden fought for the Iran nuclear deal, apparently against a lot of pressure from Chuck Schumer and within the Democratic Party. Biden fought for that deal. And I think when Obama got elected — you know, I had been very critical of Obama during the election campaign. I never drank the Obama Kool-Aid. I actually read his speeches, because if you read them, you saw he was a typical normal center/center-right Democratic Party figure. If you listened to him deliver the speeches with that wonderful smile, you would be charmed by him. I said there’s one only one thing I hope from Obama: that he’ll be rational on Iran. And I think he was — given the alternatives. I mean, it’s not like they didn’t have sanctions and do some nasty things, but the deal was at least something you would never have gotten out of most other certainly Republicans and maybe even Democrats. And Biden fought for that deal and has said he will return to it. We’ll see if he does but he says it.
He says he will withdraw any support for the Saudis in Yemen. That’s an important pledge. And we’ll see. It also tends to go along with [support for] the Iran deal because it’s kind of a strategic positioning to not allow the Saudis to simply run the Americans around the Middle East. Except — and this is actually quoting Joe Biden from one of the vice-presidential debates [in either 2008 or 2012] — he said that you must now accept Iran as a regional power because, you know, if you didn’t want Iran as a regional power, you shouldn’t have invaded Iraq because that was the buffer. So that was a rational position on Iran, and hopefully he might pursue that.
On Libya: it’s been reported that he was against the American intervention in Libya; Obama went with Clinton and Samantha Power instead. I don’t know if it’s true. You can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s been reported in more than one place that Biden argued against it.
And then the other big one, which I would say gives at least a glimmer of hope about Biden’s foreign policy is in Kaplan’s book on American nuclear war strategy [Fred Kaplan, The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War, 2020.] Apparently, when Obama wanted the New START treaty, the Republicans were pushing back. They said that without a massive new investment in nuclear weapons, they would not support any new treaty. And it’s been reported by Kaplan that Biden argued against that investment, saying that, one, they’re never going to agree to the treaty anyway, and, two, you shouldn’t be making this massive new investment in nuclear weapons.
So, if all of that is true — and much of it has been reported and is fairly fact-based — it does suggest perhaps even a less aggressive policy than Obama. On the other hand, he’s appointing all these old Obama people who are, essentially, as you said, for this humanitarian interventionism. I mean, we think he’s appointing them. We’ll see.
These are people who are speaking to him and providing their most up-to-date knowledge about the way the world is outlined. And I think, on one hand, everything you say it’s OK to accept it’s true. I mean, some of it I’m not sure that I know, exactly. I’m not entirely sure what Biden’s position is on Libya. It simply didn’t come up a lot during the 2020 campaign. It wasn’t an issue. But we do know, as you said, and I think it’s an important thing, that he was willing to take a stand against the continued bombing of Yemen by Saudi Arabia. So, we’ll see how that works out. I will say, though, that I don’t see any individuals currently working on that, focusing on ending that conflict. As I go down the list of people, I haven’t come across anyone who has been specializing in what’s happening in Yemen — and in fact, you could make the case that you find individuals who have made it worse because they’re linked to the drone warfare that has been intensifying divisions within the country. So, that’s a problem.
Well, for what it’s for what it’s worth, in Biden’s article in Foreign Affairs early this year, one, he talks about ending the endless wars, whatever that really means, and, two, he made this very specific pledge of stopping support for the Saudis in Yemen. Now, whether he keeps that or not, who knows?
Yeah. You mentioned that there was some discussion between both camps — Bernie Sanders’ supporters and Biden’s supporters who came together to work out some agreements. And I do think that [Yemen is] one area on foreign policy where there is agreement on both sides. But we’ve also seen that in the Senate. They have been working on trying to end US military support in the Senate. Of course, Donald Trump was able to veto a resolution that was supported in both the House and the Senate.
Iran is very crucial. Unfortunately, I became aware of an individual named Bob Work who has been involved in defense work. And on November 17th, he participated in an event for the Center for New American Security, which is a think tank funded by weapons manufacturers; they also receive some funds from fossil fuel companies. He spoke about how he thinks Iran is marching toward a nuclear weapon. And that really was jarring to me because I don’t see how that’s founded in any reality on the ground in Iran.
I don’t know what incentive they have to pursue a nuclear weapon unless it’s your belief that the entire last four years under Donald Trump have backfired so miserably that we’re back to where they believe they were ten or fifteen years ago: considering having a nuclear weapon as a deterrent to protect them from US imperialism, essentially.
Let me just reinforce something you just said, because it doesn’t get said enough. Even if they were moving towards a nuclear weapon, which there’s no evidence for – none — but let’s say [for the sake of argument]. It could only be for defensive purposes, so you don’t get invaded or bombed. There’s no way it’s for aggressive positioning. And that really needs to be said more often.
Yeah, well, and I’ve always thought that or at least I’ve come to understand that that’s probably why North Korea has a nuclear weapon as well. I mean, the idea that you can assert as a deterrent that you’re not going to be pushed around by the United States, that you have some leverage to work your way into the world. Iran wants respect in the same way that North Korea wants respect from the United States.
When I look at I look at both of those countries, I am concerned that when you see the roster of people being invited on board there, there are people who favor economic warfare. They call it economic “statecraft,” but they believe in sanctions, harsh sanctions being meted out. We really need to know and understand the impact of the sanctions are right now on the people of Iran. Trump backed away from the sanctions regime [for North Korea] because he’s been pretty cozy with, or he’s been fond of, Kim Jong-un to a degree, and that’s been the subject of a lot of liberal jibes, so to speak. But when you look at the sanctions that have been issued to Venezuela have had a devastating impact.
So, Iran is right now currently in the worst Covid-19 outbreak in the Middle East. How are they going to deal with that when they can’t get supplies and medicine into the country? How are they going to address that when unemployment has risen? The currency has been so devalued and crushed by the United States that you see the costs of certain goods have skyrocketed because of the problems that are being created by these harsh sanctions.
Anyway, to be fair, this is mostly Trump’s doing. This is mostly because of the unraveling of the nuclear deal, but is also a policy of sanctions endorsed by people who worked for the Obama administration. My concern is how we get back to the nuclear deal. It is not going to be a smooth return. There’s going to be a coercive carrot-and-stick effort to punish and force Iran to the table. These people believe that that’s the right way of doing things. So, there’s going to be more harshness and harm to people in Iran before they finally get to have this agreement with the United States involved again.
Which is the way it should have been. Trump shouldn’t have left the nuclear deal. Iran did nothing wrong. And yet, somehow, they’re going to be punished because this is how the Biden administration will politically get back to being part of the Iran nuclear deal.
OK, well, we’ll see about that. Should we talk about some domestic issues in terms of appointments and such? How’s it looking? Does it look any better on the domestic front? Because from what I’ve been saying, in spite of all creating these teams or working groups with Sanders, we’re not seeing very many appointments to these transition groups that seem to be coming from the progressive wing of the party.
So, what I want to say is there is actually an individual who used to work for Harry Reid’s office who is in one of the agency review teams. His name is Josh Orton, and he worked with Bernie Sanders. He’s involved in one of the domestic policy groups. Look up and down and you see some people who come from unions and also academia, and they’re not terrible, abhorrent individuals. So, I don’t want you to think, listening to this conversation, that every single person talking to Joe Biden should be marched to The Hague or should never be able to work again because they’re aligned with some awful multinational corporation.
But, by and large, you look at the people who you think are going to have the greatest amount of influence and you have to be concerned. One of the individuals that I highlight domestically is Seth Harris, and he’s a front runner for the Labor Department secretary position. He wrote a policy paper for the neoliberal Hamilton Project, which is somewhat responsible for the rise of Barack Obama, grooming him for the successful campaign that he ran in 2008. Seth Harris wrote this policy paper that was very useful to Uber, Lyft, and Door Dash in developing a model for how they could avoid having to pay their gig workers, their contractors, a minimum wage or where they would have to deal with the possibility that there would be unionizing. We saw in Proposition 22 out in California that there was a lot of propaganda, and millions upon millions of dollars spent, that resulted in this proposition passing that has now consigned this group of people in the workforce to never being paid a minimum wage. It’s a model that I think will be replicated nationally, and Seth Harris was involved in pushing this. He’s someone who is involved in these teams of people who are talking to Joe Biden about what to do economically and domestically.
One of the better appointments, I think, is Gary Gensler, who was the head of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission in Chicago, where you are. From what I understand, he did fight for some reforms. He fought against companies or individuals having too much ownership of a particular commodity. Some of the regulations they passed after furious lobbying by finance against them were later struck down in federal court. But Gensler, I think, actually did fight for a certain amount of regulation over commodity investors. So, we put that in the positive column.
I will add that something I haven’t noted in any of the interviews I’ve done yet is that someone named Ur Jaddou, who is involved with America’s voice, is actually the leader of the Homeland Security team. And this group looks like a non-profit operation that has done work around immigration rights or immigrant rights. The fact that someone like that is involved in coming up with the policy for homeland security — you also see someone from the American Civil Liberties Union who was asked to be part of this homeland security team — I do you think that’s a positive. It shows you just how viscerally the abusive policy of Trump has been felt within the Democratic Party establishment and how convinced they are that you just can’t go back to the way it was under Obama when we had the massive crisis of people fleeing Central America and there was child separation. People were ending up in cages. This was horrible and eventually it just got even worse under Donald Trump. I think they know that they can’t go back to that status quo.
So, there’s a lot that we can say about Biden’s transition team and the status quo that they’d like to return us to. But I do think that there’s a huge potential to move into a more positive direction when it comes to how we treat immigrants.
There’s an interesting quote from Larry Fink who’s the head of BlackRock today. BlackRock is the largest asset management company, [managing] something like seven trillion dollars. And I keep saying this, but I will keep saying it: BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street have under their control about fourteen or fifteen trillion dollars. That’s bigger than the GDP of China. They and other institutional financial-sector investors can vote shares that essentially control 90 percent of the S&P 500. So, it is a very powerful guy who said today that he wants to see a reduction in geopolitical tension. And I think maybe that’s true. He said the finance sector is not looking for more war right now. They want to get a little bit back to orderly markets where capital gets the flow and exploit everyone. [Laughs]
But maybe that may speak toward a little bit less aggressive rhetoric and policy towards China. I know BlackRock is invested in an index fund on the Chinese stock markets now and American and Western financial institutions really want in to China. So, as much as Biden himself has tried to match Trump’s very aggressive rhetoric on China, maybe, in fact, it will calm down a little bit here for a while.
Yeah, I think China is such an economic player. The kind of disruption that we saw from Trump’s trade war and trying to impose tariffs was something I do think Wall Street was vehemently opposed to. And you can even see that in the way that Goldman Sachs spoke about what they saw coming in the future: they are essentially hoping and pining for a future in which they wouldn’t have to worry about the kind of trade war rhetoric they had seen in a Trump administration.
However, I will say, since we haven’t gotten to it yet, that I am concerned about the people who are in Biden-Harris’s transition team. I’m concerned about how they view the way that we have built up troops and forces in order to combat Russian influence in Europe and in countries that used to be territories of Russia or the Soviet Union. They believe that there actually aren’t enough forces deployed. And I do think there’s going to be a ramping up of tensions. We need to be mindful of the fact that we are both nuclear powers, that the US and Russia both have nuclear weapons stockpiles.
You know, some of these people believe in arming Ukrainian groups. We’ve seen what has happened with those groups: weapons that have been sent to Ukraine have ended up in the hands of neo-Nazi groups that are fighting Russia. And so, I am concerned about where that might be heading.
In some ways, I’m more alarmed by what might lie in the future when it comes to Russia that I am with China because it has so defined the Democratic Party’s identity for the last four years to promote this conspiracy theory that we owe that that Vladimir Putin is the responsible party for why our country elected Donald Trump. When you have a party that has made this a part of their identity, then I think it naturally follows that the foreign policy is going to start to look like what the response should be to believing that you are constantly under some malign influence from Russia. So naturally, in order to appease their supporters in the same way that the Republicans have to appease people because on immigration — they have to keep them out of the country and you saw the absurd lengths that Donald Trump would go even talking about building a wall — I think we might see some very aggressive absurdities on the part of the Democratic Party and Biden administration and challenging Russia. And they simply believe that almost every crisis must have some kind of Russian involvement behind it.
Yeah, I think that’s a very important point. Before he got fired, when Secretary of Defense Esper went on the Hill to justify the seven-or-eight-hundred-billion-dollar military budget (really over a trillion), he said he is asked why the Pentagon needs so much money And he said, for three reasons: China, China, China. Now, the Democrats are going to have their own three reasons, because they represent tech and other sectors that don’t want to have such an inflammatory situation with China. Their answer will be, Russia, Russia, Russia. I agree with you. It’s the way the Democrats get to invoke the ghosts and demons of the Cold War on their side.
And they think somehow that plays well with the American people, which is nuts because Trump just got 72 million votes after the Democrats continue to play that card over and over again. I’ll just say again what I’ve said several times: the whole Russian interference in the election is such baloney. From my point of view, I have no idea how much they did or didn’t interfere in the election but it’s just bloody irrelevant, because if you want to talk about the undermining of American democracy, nobody undermines American democracy more than the American oligarchy. Anyone who actually cares about democratic processes would start there. Not on some minor social media crap that did or didn’t actually happen.
But, at any rate, yeah, there needs to be a narrative to justify this massive military budget. For Trump, it’s been China; for the Democrats, it’s going to be Russia.
Yeah. And to me, the disinformation machine is and has been, at least in my lifetime (not having lived as long as you have), I understand it as coming from the rightwing conservative echo chamber, the media echo chamber that they have so perfected going back to the 1990s and before that in the 1980s. You know, being able to push their message in such a way that everyone fervently believes it. I mean, I think we’re seeing it as numerous people believe that somehow Biden may have stolen votes and isn’t the actual president elect.
That disinformation is far worse than the impact than we’ve seen from a small number of alleged Russian intelligence officials in our social-media-ecosystem conversations. The stuff they identified in their reports was laughable. Things like “Buff Bernie” that they said people saw. These Facebook groups that were suggesting that people go out and protest because they were trying to create conflict in cities in Florida between people who were anti-Muslim and the people who were pro-Muslim, things of that nature that just didn’t bring anything that much into fruition.
At the same time, there are a couple of individuals who are on the Biden agency review teams who are affiliated with something called the German Marshall Fund, which had as a project during Donald Trump’s administration called The Alliance for Securing Democracy. People who are on the board of directors for the Alliance for Securing Democracy are neoconservatives like Bill Kristol and Michael Chertoff. But also, you find Jake Sullivan, who is someone who is close to Joe Biden and was a foreign policy adviser for Hillary Clinton. These people put together something called “Hamilton 68” [named after that numbered Federalist Paper by Alexander Hamilton], a dashboard that they claimed was capable of tracking and finding Russian influence operations on Twitter or Facebook or other pockets on social media. They got themselves into trouble because they were constantly misidentifying. They would claim that Black Lives Matter hashtags were being pushed by Russians, and things of that nature. It was wholly discrediting to their operation. There were sites that they’d rope in — you’d look at their URLs and say, clearly, this isn’t originating from Russia. Antiwar.com is not Russia. It became a very convenient way for them to marginalize and go after leftwing antiwar voices and people who are anti-imperialist.
I think during Biden’s administration, we’re going to see more of that because it’s very convenient. They know that there are people who are opposed to their worldview when it comes to foreign policy. And the only answer that they have is not to debate us, but to suppress our worldview. Instead of engaging us constructively, they would rather erase us from social media. And unfortunately, they’ve convinced Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook and Jack Dorsey at Twitter that they should get involved. The result of all of the uproar around white supremacists and rightwing conservatives being hateful and spreading misogyny or racism on these platforms is not just to censor them and then let us be. It’s to kind of create a false equivalency and say that, well, now we need to turn around and get rid of people who support boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. We need to see them as antisemite. And so, we’ll remove them. They’re going to go a step further into erasing voices who are in adversarial governments like Iran, China, Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, to remove those voices and say that people here in the United States and around the world shouldn’t be exposed to them since they oppose the United States. They’ll get their accounts taken down by these platforms. I’m concerned because the people around Biden really do believe in this kind of suppression of discourse.
I think an important point that needs to be made more often as well is that the foreign policy thinking of the Democratic Party’s corporate leadership comes from Truman. Obama said this when he was asked, where does your foreign policy thinking come from? Truman.
And it’s not that Truman was some brilliant foreign policy thinker. It’s that Truman, a Democrat, realized after World War II that the way to grow the American economy during the post-war period was via increased militarization. Even though they cut back a little bit for a while, it started to grow again. And this is why you get this quote from Eisenhower, “beware of the military-industrial complex.” He doesn’t say, get rid of the military industrial complex. He said, beware of the consequences. But he takes it as a given. And it’s not because they really thought the Soviet Union was ever going to attack the United States. There’s lots of internal documentation. They never believed that was true. They never believed that the Soviet Union would invade Western Europe. It was all a framing for justifying this militarization of the economy. And everybody knows when they build an aircraft carrier or jets, every state gets a little piece of it. It’s an important part of the economy. It’s Keynesianism with arms, and it’s something that Republicans always push without admitting that this is government stimulus to a large extent.
But in the Democratic Party, this is the core of their thinking: if you were ever to give up on this militarism, what do you do with the economy? The fact is they could take that same money and just directly stimulate and create infrastructure. It doesn’t have to be spent on military, and in fact, military production is a lousy way to stimulate the economy if you look at the bang per buck in terms of jobs and such. But they’re so rooted.
And then the second thing is, and this is part of Eisenhower’s warning not only is the military industrial complex so politically powerful, but who owns the military industrial complex? It’s all the big banks. Like, you look at who owns the majority of shares of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin and Boeing and all these big ones: it’s all financial institutions going starting with BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street, each of which has, you know, at least five, six, seven percent of the shares. And then other financial, institutional investors.
So, you know, you start talking about changing foreign policy with serious cuts on military spending: you’re not just taking on those military manufacturers, you’re taking on the financial sector. So, you’ve got to be able to justify all this. And if it’s not China, it’s got to be Russia because you don’t need aircraft carriers to fight terrorism. What is it they’re building? I think it is a dozen Ford-class nuclear aircraft carriers. They’re going to cost something in the range of 13 or 14 billion dollars each. How do you justify that unless there’s some power out there that’s an existential threat? ICBM’s cost billions of dollars — a trillion dollars in upgrading America’s nuclear arsenal. Daniel Ellsberg and others who are experts in these issues say that ICBMs are totally useless because each country knows where the other’s ICBMs are and knows how to target them. The only real effective deterrent is via submarines. But they’re going to spend billions more on upgraded ICBMs. Why? Because it makes money.
There’s this quote from Ellsberg that I think is really important. Ellsberg says that he came to realize that the Cold War was essentially a subsidy for the aerospace industry after World War II. And that’s the essence of the corporate Democrats’ foreign policy.
Yeah. And the one thing I’ll point out to you along the lines of what you just said is that we see people who have positions that these think tanks. These are places like the Center for Strategic and International Studies. They boast that they’re the number-one think tank in the US. That’s how they feel about themselves. There’s the Center for New American Security. There’s the New America Foundation. And I’m struck by what you just outlined because you mentioned the big banks. You mentioned the defense contractors, the weapons manufacturers — and then there’s oil companies as well that are part of this. All together, they basically entrench this kind of war economy. CSIS, the Center for Strategic International and International Studies, is an influential place, a hub of pushing out thinking about U.S. foreign policy that receives funding by the Bank of America, Chevron, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, ExxonMobil, Lockheed Martin, Saudi Aramco, Bechtel, Citigroup, General Dynamics, Raytheon, BAE Systems, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips, and JPMorgan Chase.
So, I mean, you see right there why it’s going to be so difficult to reform and move the Biden administration. And I think we should say right here that when it comes to the threat of climate disruption, that the US military is the biggest emissions-polluter in the world. And yet you go down the list of threats and at no point do you see these people who are being brought on as voices specializing in or challenging the way in which the US is contributing to climate change. No one is leading on that, working on that as the number one threat to not just the US but the world. No one is making that their focus.
Why does it have to be great power competition? Well, that’s because it’s how the economy is organized, as you say. I mean, it takes more work to reorganize it in a way to save the planet. And so, we’re stuck in a status quo that benefits those who make the most money, and the elites aren’t going to shift. That’s why you find it so difficult to move the Democrats in a direction to support the Green New Deal or anything similar in a way that could stimulate the economy and provide jobs to people when they need it most, at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has put incredible stress on small businesses. People at stores and shops and all kinds of places across America are finding it harder to keep people on the payrolls. So, I don’t know. We’re going to need something FDR-like from Biden, but his administration is built with people who are as far from the FDR sensibility as you could possibly be.
Yeah, certainly it looks like it’s starting out that way. And the only hope here — it’s not a “good hope,” in a sense – is that as this pandemic and the economic consequences continue to get worse, does it get so dire that there just has to be FDR-ish kind of moment, whether these are the right people for it or not? Nothing will happen without ordinary people getting organized into some kind of mass movement.
OK, well, thanks very much for joining us.
And thank you for joining us on theAnalysis.news podcast.
We’re going to do another segment with Kevin or another reporter to deal specifically with what Biden is going to do on climate, because some of the appointments so far are…it’s kind of a mixed bag. But one of the key ones is not so encouraging this guy, Richmond. But we’ll talk about it more later.
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