Empire Files’ Best of 2017 Roundup

Nearing the end of Season II, The Empire Files team expresses our deepest gratitude to so many of you who have followed our reports, written feedback, and shared our work. 2017 was no-doubt a watershed chapter in the advancement of US Empire, and we are honored to have your support telling the stories that were marginalized and distorted by corporate press as weapons of propaganda for US militarism. We’re excited that our reports have been seen on a growing number of countries in Latin America on TeleSUR Spanish as well as across the United States on Free Speech TV. Don’t miss the launch of our new podcast archiving our full episode library.

Below is a summary of our work in 2017––we are looking forward to helping cut through the imperialist propaganda and featuring more untold histories and censored voices in the year to come. 

In a year when so much of the corporate media was hyper-focused on President Trump, Abby Martin and the Empire Files crew sought to cover underrepresented domestic and international issues that affects real people.

Inside the Empire, that meant the ongoing opioid epidemic in a discussion with leading attorney Mike Papantonioexamining why 91 Americans die each day due to opioids, and how Big Pharma’s desperate pursuit of profit is attempted murder upon all injured Americans.

It meant examining the new Administration’s assault on the freedom of assembly in the form of controversial J20 arrests, where more than 200 demonstrators faced decades in prison for conspiracy and other charges.

And it meant examining overarching issues in America, like racism, inequality, the dysfunction of capitalism and the US Empire’s need to prop up the system.

Always connecting struggles in here to the victims of US Empire, Empire Files revealed the censored history of how the US Empire destroyed and subjugated the Philippines, Colombia, Palestine, Venezuela and more.

While the mass media’s most-reported story in 2017 was fear-mongering and aggression towards Russia, Empire Files sought to explore what could happen if this trend continues how the US Empire looted Russia after it led the overthrow of the Soviet Union, and Russia’s own history of defeating the oligarchs a century ago.  

The Places

 In 2017, Abby Martin and the Empire Files crew traveled both domestically and abroad to cover the year’s most important stories: From Houston, Texas a month after Hurricane Harvey to cover the government’s inaction in communities that were affected the most, to Washington, D.C. to dive deep into the protests surrounding the inauguration of President Trump.

Alongside Trump’s major announcement to declare Jerusalem the official capital of Israel, Abby Martin’s interviews with Israelis in Jerusalem, who wished exile and worse upon Palestinians, gave an eye-opening counter-narrative to the corporate media’s depiction of the situation. Martin’s report was so controversial that she became the target of a smear campaign by Israeli organizations.

Amidst a relentless regime-change operation in Venezuela by the Pentagon and Venezuelan oligarchs, Empire Files went into the heat of the battle, producing the only widely-seen coverage countering US propaganda–everything from being tear gassed with opposition protesters, to using hidden cameras to investigate food shortages, to explaining the reality of the country’s economic crisis, to pro-government protests ignored by Western media. 

Most recently Empire Files travelled to Colombia, covering the historic peace deal that ended a 53-year civil war–and went deep into the jungles to investigate a breech of trust that left 8 farmers massacred by police. 

In each location, Abby Martin spoke with victims of violence and colonization funded and perpetrated by the US Empire – points of view never found in the mainstream.

The Voices

Those voices, those marginalized individuals deemed too inconvenient to the Empire’s agenda, were amplified through Empire Files in 2017.

Early in the year, Abby Martin spoke with Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa shortly before he left office after 10 years, as well as top officials in the Venezuelan government, and the rare voice of former Israeli infantryman Eran Efrati.

Profiling academics rarely seen on television, interviews with Dr. Gerald Horne, Rosa Clemente and Chris Hedges gave essential perspective on the resurgence of neo-Nazis and white supremacists under Trump. 

Brining grassroots voices to the forefront, Empire Files was especially honored to interview Filipina domestic workers fighting human trafficking, young radical organizers in the People’s Congress of Resistance, Sikh Americans responding to racism and Islamophobia, poor and working-class Venezuelans fighting US regime change, peasant farmers in Colombia in the wake of a state massacre, and unsung heroes who saved lives in the Hurricane Harvey. 

Without these voices, these stories simply could not have been told.

You can view the full library of Empire Files episodes here, and be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook to see what we have coming in 2018!

Syria Red Line Deja Vu, Trump’s Reversal & Youtube Censorship

Robbie Martin and Abby Martin break down the new mainstream media push to oust Assad with military force in Syria, Trump’s reversal on his Syria position and the general acquiescence towards war-drums beating for North Korea. They also talk about how Youtube and other private internet platforms known for alternative media and free speech are starting to censor and demonetize large swaths of independent content creators with no recourse whatsoever.

This podcast is the product of many long hours of hard work and love. If you want to encourage our voice, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Listen to all previous episodes of Media Roots Radio on soundcloud or subscribe on itunes.

@AbbyMartin | @FluorescentGrey

Trump’s Brutal Foreign Policy & Military Mindset

Abby and Robbie Martin talk about the significance of Trump’s military budget increase of $54 billion, his ramping up of drone strikes and special ops, putting boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria and the danger of new wars in North Korea and Iran on Media Roots Radio.

This podcast is the product of many long hours of hard work and love. If you want to encourage our voice, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Listen to all previous episodes of Media Roots Radio on soundcloud or subscribe on itunes.

@AbbyMartin | @FluorescentGrey

Empire Files Exposes Steve Bannon’s True Character

From his Wall Street roots and apocalyptic film career to his cultivation of alt-right bigots at Breitbart News, Abby Martin exposes Bannon’s true character in this explosive documentary.

 

Abby Martin Exposes Steve Bannon

A familiar name to some and a new one to others, Steve Bannon is a right wing ideologue who should not be ignored. With some calling him “the intellectual force behind” Trump’s agenda and others directly referring to him as President, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News has his hands in some of the most controversial executive orders and foreign policy decisions in this administration.

Bannon’s political development began during his time in the US Navy from 1976-1983. During this time he never served in war himself, but his time spent as an officer on ship created a lifelong thirst for military supremacy and war, still bubbling to the surface today.

After leaving the Navy, Bannon found himself at Goldman Sachs for 6 years before founding his own investment firm, Bannon & Company. Two short years later, he sold his firm to a media giant, funding his next endeavor – making apocalyptic films laden with right-wing propaganda, stoking the fears and insecurities of a growing and increasingly agitated audience. His films range in subject from demonizing the Occupy movement to praising Sarah Palin in a potential attempt to ride her coattails to fame, to dangerous propaganda about the perceived dangers of immigration.

Many of Bannon’s business dealings and relationships have been laden with controversy. In 2004 he began working with Internet Gaming Entertainment, exploiting online games such as World Of Warcraft. Utilizing his experience and connections, “Bannon managed to convince Goldman Sachs to plow $60 million into a company that sold imaginary goods in an imaginary world.” All three heads of IGE were sued for sexual abuse of underage boys, including the founder and CEO, Pierce Brock, and investor Marc Collins-Rector, a fugitive on the run for child rape and human trafficking.

In addition to controversy in his business life, Bannon’s personal relationships have been tumultuous. In 1995 Bannon embarked on his second of three marriages, only three days before his new wife, Mary Louise Piccard, gave birth to their twins, stating that he would not marry Piccard until he had proof that the babies were “normal.” After multiple bouts of physical and verbal abuse, Piccard filed a restraining order and divorced Bannon. Unsurprisingly Bannon was never convicted after Piccard was a no show in court, later claiming to have been threatened by Bannon. He retained visitation rights but was later caught hitting one of the twins when they were only 17 months old.

In the early 2000s, Bannon forged a relationship with Andrew Breitbart with Breitbart affectionately referring to Bannon as theLeni Riefenshtahl of the Tea Party movement.” At the time, Breitbart was a protege of Matt Drudge, creator of The Drudge Report. The Drudge Report successfully brought the power of right wing talk radio to the internet. Breitbart expanded on The Drudge Report’s model by manipulating headlines to demonize progressives, women, immigrants, and more. Soon Alex Jones and his following were brought into the fold. As Breitbart News began to go under, Bannon was hard at work sourcing funds from right-wing investors in an attempt to reanimate it, when Andrew Breitbart unexpectedly dropped dead. Bannon quickly stepped in as CEO.

Soon Bannon created the Government Accountability Institute, an official sounding ring-wing think tank, bankrolled by an investment from Robert Mercer. Mercer had recently financed anti-Muslim adds in opposition to the “Ground Zero Mosque” resulting in an increase in xenophobic panic. Other notable GAI investors included the power hungry billionaires, the Koch Brothers. GAI also served as a money laundering scheme for Breitbart in which wealthy donors could donate to the non-profit with their donations quickly forwarded on to Breitbart’s reporters.

With the rise of Trump came a rise in Breitbart News reader loyalty, including an instant increase in monthly readers – from 8 million to 18 million. Trump and Bannon both found something attractive and desired in the other – Trump being a powerful and accessible mouthpiece and Bannon being a household name with a large, loyal, and extremely passionate following.

Bannon preys on society’s problems and falsely directs the blame where he wants it – on immigrants, globalism, progressives, millennials, and more. Bannon’s misdirected desires to halt Muslim immigration, his strategy to rally the white working class against their poor neighbors and his seemingly unquenchable thirst for war are bleeding their way through Trump and into the world.

“The real Resistance will come from what Bannon seems to fear most—a United, multicultural progressive movement in the streets.”

***

Abby Martin: If there’s one person other than Trump who has gained a surprisingly huge amount of political power over the past year, it’s Steve Bannon. The right-wing ideologue is most notorious for his role as former Executive Chairman at Breitbart News, a website that he dubbed, “The Platform of the Alt-Right,” and hosts stories like these. Bannon’s candid about his lust for power — quoted as saying, “Darth Vader, Dick Cheney, Satan, that’s power.” As Trump’s ineptitude, and lack of political ideology becomes increasingly obvious, many have noticed that there are other forces steering the ship.While the Christian right is one sector of the right-wing establishment guiding his policies, the alt-right has their own influence in the White House, namely through Steve Bannon. He’s been called the intellectual force behind Trump’s agenda.And in just mere months, he’s propelled himself from right-wing media outlier, to top propagandist of the U.S. Empire, as Trump’s chief strategist. That means Bannon is the number one person who Trump relies on, to guide his every move. Just like Karl Rove served as the brain for George W. Bush.David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard, said of Bannon, “You have an individual who’s basically creating the ideological aspects of where we’re going. And ideology ultimately is the most important aspect of any government. “Bannon’s power grab hasn’t gone unnoticed. As Trump spends the majority of his time tweeting, watching news about himself, and golfing at the lavish Mar-a-Lago Resort, there’s a big void for Bannon to fill.So, who is this mysterious man behind the curtain? Well, Bannon’s story really starts with a youthful lust for war.Bannon credits his formative political development to his time in the U.S. Navy. He served from 1976 to 1983, mostly on a ship as a pampered officer. It was on this ship that Bannon’s thirst for military supremacy, and war was fully formed. While he never served in war himself, he lamented his missed opportunity as a political turning point.While Bannon was at sea, the empire was hard at work trying to strangle the Iranian revolution. Which had deposed U.S.-backed dictator, the Shah, famous for chilling torture, and executions of political opponents.The Pentagon was planning a military assault on Tehran, which ended in embarrassment, and ultimately was pulled back by Carter. Bannon bitterly sailed on in the lonely seas. Becoming more reactionary over the incident, he developed a fawning loyalty to Reagan, and even attended his victory party in uniform. He ended up working in the Pentagon under Reagan.Although he left the military, his love for war never ceased. Bannon’s long-time writing partner and former close friend, Julia Jones said, “Steve is a strong militarist. He’s in love with war. It’s almost poetry to him.”But apparently Navy life was below Bannon. Even with his preferred Commander-in-Chief. In 1984 he moved on to more lucrative adventures as an investment banker, at financial behemoth Goldman Sachs. He got the job like most who exist in this world of privilege, meeting the son of a Goldman Sachs executive. He stayed at Goldman for six years, before he recruited his banker pals to found his own investment firm — Bannon and Company, which bankrolled media corporations.The industry cashed in big with Clinton’s 1996 Telecommunications Act, which allowed media companies to be gobbled up in massive monopolies. Two years later, Bannon sold his firm to a bigger media giant.This gave him the lavish wealth to focus on his true passion, making apocalyptic right-wing propaganda films.

Crowd: (chanting, drums)

Man: There shall be open borders, and it’s just nuts.

Man: What would have happened if a Senator was killed by Armando Garcia?

Abby Martin: His movies over the years cover an array of far-right dystopian fantasies that depict a society in collapse, invaded by criminal armies.

Man: The cartels control everything.

Abby Martin: Whoa… Dang…Bannon’s political films were never successful outside the dark circles of Tea Party types. So, in 2004, he took a more lucrative position at a peculiar company — Internet Gaming Entertainment. IGE was based on exploiting Internet games, like World of War Craft, paying thousands of people to drone away at mining virtual resources, so that they could be sold to other players.Brought in for his banker connections, IGE’s investment paid off well. As one industry expert pointed out, “Bannon managed to convince Goldman Sachs to plough $60 million into a company that sold imaginary goods, in an imaginary world.”In addition to the bizarre nature of their profits, Bannon was making money for highly problematic people. IGE was an investment project of Mark Collins-Rector, a fugitive on the run for child rape, and human trafficking. In fact, all three heads of the firm were sued for sexual abuse of under-aged boys, including the founder and CEO of IGE.A year after Bannon secured the investment, the company tanked, embroiled in shady dealings, a class-action lawsuit brought by gamers. As the company went down in flames, its remnants became Affinity Media. Bannon had the CEO ousted and replaced, with himself. He stayed in this position until leaving for Breitbart, in 2012.Considering Bannon’s lack of ethics in his professional life, it’s not surprising that his personal life is also marred with scandal.Like several members of the Trump Administration, Bannon has a disturbing history of alleged domestic abuse. Details from the second of his three marriages reveal what kind of man Bannon really is.In 1995 he married Mary Louise Picard, only three days before she gave birth to their twins. According to Picard, he wouldn’t marry her until the babies were proven to be, “normal”. In the divorce documents, Picard wrote, “Bannon made it clear that he would not marry me just because I was pregnant. I was scheduled for an amniocentesis, and was told by the respondent that if the babies were normal, we would get married.”Even though the babies were normal, Bannon didn’t seem to pay much attention to them, as he made them wear costumes to tell them apart, and repeatedly refused to pay them child support.Less than a year into their marriage, a violent incident happened that could be best explained through the police report itself. According to the report, Bannon got angry at his wife for making noise while feeding their newborn twins. When she asked him for money to buy groceries, a fight erupted, and carried out onto the driveway.The fight culminated with Bannon becoming violent, grabbing her wrists and neck, and, “pulled her down, as if he was trying to pull her into the car, over the door.” When she broke free to try to call 911, Bannon jumped over her and the twins, to grab the phone from her.”I took the phone to call the police, and he grabbed the phone away from me, throwing it across the room and breaking it, as he was screaming that I was a crazy F****** C***,” the document states.Police verified the abuse, writing, “I saw red marks on her left wrist, and the right side of her neck.” These were photographed.According to a study in the Journal of Emergency Medicine, women who have been strangled by their partner are seven times more likely to be killed, than other victims of domestic violence. The same study shows that 43% of women murdered in domestic assaults, had been strangled by their partner in the previous year. According to the officer on the scene, she broke down and admitted that their turbulent six-year relationship had been plagued with physical violence early on. Bannon was arrested for misdemeanor domestic violence, battery, and witness intimidation. Picard filed a restraining order, and divorced him. But Bannon was never convicted, because Picard didn’t show up for court.Later, she revealed that Bannon and his lawyers had threatened to ruin her life, if she pursued charges. Bannon retained visitation rights of their children. Yet, just months later when the babies were only 17 months old, he was caught hitting one of them. Picard then requested visitation in public spaces only, because she said he was verbally abusive in front of their kids, and she did not feel safe.He’s also been charged with crude verbal abuse against female employees. When one female worker challenged his leadership, he reportedly called her a bimbo, and threatened to, “kick her ass”.But his relationships, and Wall Street career, have always come second to his drive for political influence. Throughout his years as a propagandist, Bannon hitched his wagon to things he thought would elevate his views.When the Tea Party movement emerged, Bannon praised it as the vanguard of a new American revolution.When Sarah Palin came on the scene, Bannon was so enthused by her popularity; he created an entire film about her. Considering Palin herself isn’t even interviewed in the film, it’s unknown whether Bannon actually saw her as a visionary political leader.

Sarah Palin: The man can only ride ya, when your back is bent. So, strengthen it!

Abby Martin: Or, if she was just a convenient vehicle for his own vision. This strategy of riding a fringe character to power didn’t succeed with Palin. But it would with Trump. But nowhere would Bannon’s quest for political influence be realized more, than at Breitbart News. Bannon developed a friendship with Andrew Breitbart in the early 2000s, through a shared love of arch-reactionary media. Breitbart even had a cute nickname for Bannon, the Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party movement. Riefenstahl was a Nazi filmmaker known for creating some of Hitler’s most iconic propaganda. The comparison was meant as a compliment.When Bannon became a protégé of Andrew Breitbart, he entered into a fringe circle with enormous sway over the beliefs of millions of dispirit white men. Andrew Breitbart is credited for changing the way media is consumed, helping launch huge websites, like Huffington Post, with good friend at the time, Ariana Huffington; and of course, his own website, Breitbart News. Breitbart was a protégé of Matt Drudge, creator and head of the Drudge Report. He converted the power of right-wing talk radio, where ideologues had a platform for views unacceptable on TV, onto the Internet.Drudge Report is an aggregate that curates a particular narrative of white male victimization. Long-time Editor, Drudge, Andrew Breitbart, took this model of aggregation, but manipulated the headlines into stories that fostered a hysterical climate against progressives, women, immigrants, etc., As well as a comfortable hub for white nationalists. Along with Breitbart, the elusive Matt Drudge also handpicked Alex Jones, as the next right-wing icon. While Alex Jones is treated as just a loony Internet sideshow, he has a following of millions of people, who take his every word as gospel. Bannon was a fitting addition to this mix. Bannon’s initial role in Breitbart News was as a money bundler, again, using his Wall Street connections to raise capital for their project. But by 2012, the site was going under. It was blacklisted for a hoax against a black government official, where her speech was manipulated to appear as if she had advocated violence against white people.During this time, Bannon was hard at work raising cash from right-wing millionaires to resurrect it, and Andrew Breitbart dropped dead. Bannon promptly stepped in as CEO and relaunched the site under his leadership.In his scheme to inflate his new platform, he created the Government Accountability Institute, a right-wing think tank which issues reports like this one, that attempts to validate the conspiracy of paid protestors.GAI’s donor list shows who among the empire’s ruling elite are behind Bannon. It was bankrolled by a multi-million dollar investment from a man named, Robert Mercer; dubbed one of the most influential billionaires in the world. Mercer has financed anti-Muslim ads that use the so-called Ground Zero Mosque, to whip up xenophobic panic, as well as campaigns advocating the death penalty.But he’s also known for something else — having the largest collection of machine guns in America. What else would a far-right billionaire spend his money on, other than stockpiling an arsenal of weapons in his mansion bunker? Other top donors to Bannon’s GAI, are America’s premiere bloodthirsty, planet-destroying billionaires, the Koch brothers.But GAI had another purpose. It offered a way for these super rich donors to essentially launder money to Breitbart, without them having to deal with the fallout of doing so publically. Hey, they’re just making charitable donations to a non-profit.Their tax-deductible donations through GAI were sent directly to pay Breitbart reporters’ salaries, which is illegal. Though Breitbart News had always been a medium for extreme right-wing forces, Bannon took it even further down that path.While he remains more tight-lipped in public about the true nature of his beliefs, Bannon used this site as the vehicle to promote his most incendiary views. According to one former Breitbart writer, Bannon ran the site and controlled the content as a dictator. Making sure his guests and contributors all fell in line with his own ideological outlook.Among the voices Bannon often highlighted on Breitbart, are Pamela Geller, America’s most prominent anti-Muslim bigot. Michael Flynn, Trump’s short-lived National Security Advisor, who says Islam, is a cancer. And washed up hate peddler, Milo Yiannopoulis.Entire sections of Breitbart are dedicated to sensationalizing distorted facts about minority groups, to whip up and justify hatred of Muslims, and people of color. For example, one tab, labeled, “Black Crime,” aggregates stories of offences committed by black people, another compiles reports of honor killings, and child marriages, from around the globe.The site routinely portrays Muslim refugees as disease-carrying criminals. As it has sought to expand its presence in Europe, the website has frequently attacked Muslim communities, by propagating racist tropes, and justifying violence against immigrants. This site has taken advantage of recent anti-Muslim hysteria in Europe, to exploit their audience’s irrational fears of Muslim immigration.The presumable audience of angry white men that Bannon accumulated at Breitbart, reached far greater heights with the rise of the Trump phenomenon. While Breitbart News, under Bannon drew in about 8 million readers per month, it shot up to over 18 million, in the months after Trump announced his campaign.A new relationship was born. Trump had something Bannon always wanted — a bigger megaphone for his right-wing dreams of transforming American society. And Bannon had something Trump cherished too — a doting audience.Now that Bannon has this much power, a lot has been speculated about his actual political beliefs. And because he rarely gives media interviews to people, other than Breitbart employees, we don’t often see him challenged. Bannon is a well-known critic of mainstream conservatives, but not just for the sake of pushing them further to the right. He wants to build an insurgency — to destroy both traditional Republican institutions, and everything to the left of them.He’s called a populist, but he’s really only a populist for a specific sector of the working class. That’s nothing new. Throughout history rulers have rallied the white working class against other poor people, to avert blame for systemic crisis — in Germany and beyond, this tactic has served as the basis for fascism.His political philosophy is also rooted in a rejection of what the alt-right calls, globalism.

Man: The globalists and their minions just want to get rid of our sovereignty, and say we don’t have a right to have a country.

Man: It doesn’t matter what race, or country you’re from, you should be against the globalists. We need nationalist governments.

Man: But the world at large, however, is not united by a common culture. That’s why the globalists are waging a war against national identity.

Woman: Globalism means any law your government passes is subject to invalidation by unelected hall monitors, who would rather police the boundaries of free speech, than the borders of actual countries.

Abby Martin: It’s a vague concept that’s applied to everything from a shadowy international network of elites usurping American sovereignty, to the destruction of Western culture from foreign invaders –- a.k.a. immigrants. They rail against multiculturism, which really just means people of different religions, and nationalities, co-existing.Bannon vehemently denies the charge of white nationalism, but he proudly calls himself an economic nationalist.

Steve Bannon: The internal logic makes sense. Their corporatist, globalist media, that are adamantly opposed… adamantly opposed (applause) to an economic nationalist agenda, like Donald Trump has. If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken. Every day… every day, it is going to be a fight.

Abby Martin: But who is fighting whom? What is this nation Bannon says he stands for? And who does he consider part of it? Well, it’s clear who he doesn’t consider part of it.

Man: It’s pretty dark here in Europe right now, but there’s something actually much darker, and that is Islam.

Abby Martin: Bannon doesn’t even try to mask his anti-Muslim bigotry as a fear of terrorism, as others do. He’s clear in stating that Islam is a threat to white American Christian culture.

Man: To be brutally frank, I mean, Christianity is dying in Europe, and Islam is on the rise. Let’s talk about that.

Abby Martin: Bannon’s views on Islam, make Trump’s Muslim ban look like child’s play. If it were entirely up to Bannon, no Muslims would ever be able to enter the U.S.

Man: Why are you going through all this thing on vetting? Why even let them in? The opportunity cost to put in a structure to actually vet these people, the cost to do that… to what end? Can’t that money be used in the United States? I mean, I think the issue is, should we just take a pause and a hiatus for a number of years?

Abby Martin: Apart from Muslims, Bannon’s anti-immigrant views go as far as to depict his nation as literally, being at war. In his 2006 film, “Border War: The Battle over Illegal Immigration,” he uses a small majority white border town as a symbol of America — depicting it as being invaded by an evil immigrant army. But Bannon goes even further than most of his anti-immigrant counterparts. His nation doesn’t even include highly educated, totally legal immigrants. In this 2015 recording, we hear Bannon rebuking Donald Trump on the matter.

Donald Trump: We’ve got to be able to keep great people in the country. We’ve got to create, you know, job creators. One man went to, I think it was Harvard, there was a story a month ago — went to Harvard. Did well, good student, wanted to stay in the country, wasn’t allowed to, went back to his home in India, started up a company.Now it’s a very, very successful company, with thousands of people. He wanted to do that here. We have to be careful of that, Steve, you know. We have to keep our talented people in this country.

Steve Bannon: Um.

Donald Trump: I think you agree with that. Do you agree with that?

Steve Bannon: Well, I… I’ve got a tough… you know, when two-thirds, or three-quarters of the CEOs, in Silicon Valley are from South Asia, or from Asia, I think, I… on a… my point is that a country is more like Sessions. A country is more than an economy. We’re a civic society.

Abby Martin: Apart from immigrants, Bannon’s ideology, as seen during his reign at Breitbart, heavily scapegoats African-Americans, with racist depictions as welfare scammers, and violent criminals.So, while Bannon says he’s just a nationalist, not a white nationalist, it seems that his nationalism doesn’t apply to anyone other than white people. At the same time, he claims that the alt-right’s appeal to racists is simply coincidental. Bannon’s fears of Islam and immigrants, are tied to what he sees as the demise of Judeo Christian values, which he believes were foundational to the so-called golden age of capitalism. Bannon’s ideology appeals to people, because he’s pointing out actual problems in society — like the absence of a rising middle class, and many other symptoms of neoliberalism. According to Bannon, America’s golden age was in the 1950s, where institutions, stability, and upward mobility for white families thrived. While African-Americans, and others, continued to be impoverished and brutalized. Bannon thinks the Civil Rights and Social movements of the 1960s, eroded these stable institutions. Without them functioning as they did before, Bannon thinks corporate greed was able to run wild. Big government and big business, schemed together against the interests of small businesses, favoring instead globalization and free trade agreements. The problem is that the globalists gutted the American working class, and created a middle class in Asia, Bannon says. Though Bannon’s story about the economy does contain some kernels of truth, he demonizes those hurt most by these policies. He even blames the 2008 financial crisis on the Civil Rights movement, and anti-racist movements. As his 2010 film, “Generation Zero” explains.

Man: So, white Americans have been in a position where they constantly have to prove that they are not racist. It is that phenomenon of white guilt, is what pressures people in the government to say things like, everybody has a right to a house.

Abby Martin: This hatred of progressive movements was accentuated in Bannon’s 2012 film, “Occupy Unmasked.” Which became the main propaganda piece smearing the movement. With Breitbart News, he often discredited organic mass protests as manufactured fronts, for either communists, Democrats, or George Soros. With the decline of the capitalism that made America great, Bannon curmudgeonly blames millennials, their secularism, and pop culture, as having, “sapped the West of its strength to defend its Judeo Christian ideals.” He even blames this for the rise of ISIS. Bannon’s economic agenda, and his racism, go hand-in-hand.His economic nationalism dissolves any semblance of minority rights, as they are all under a dominant zeitgeist of Judeo Christian values, and a distinctly American — really white, cultural identity.

Steve Bannon: I think we… the center core of what we believe, that we’re a nation with an economy. Not an economy just in some global marketplace, with open borders. But we are a nation with a culture, and a reason for being.

Abby Martin: Bannon’s message had so much reach in the recent election cycle, because it appealed to the same economic issues the Democratic Party establishment has been unwilling to address. All of this is couched in a virulently anti-establishment ethos. Democrats and mainstream Republicans are the ones that got us into this mess.His solution is as apocalyptic as his films. “I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishments. “Now, that he has the President’s ear, it’s not hard to see how, even within the first several weeks, his ideology and most outlandish fantasies have been put into action. Bannon is credited for penning the most extreme elements of the Muslim Ban, excluding those on tourist visas, and green card holders initially.Part of Trump’s anti-immigrant plan is a tactic straight from Breitbart News. Trump announced he would publish a weekly list of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. Trumps main attack strategy on the media, is also straight from Bannon’s mouth.In an interview with the New York Times, Bannon said, “The media here is the opposition party.”

Donald Trump: Yeah, I think the media is the opposition party.

Reporter: …state categorically–

Donald Trump: –You are fake news.

Abby Martin: Perhaps the biggest danger of Bannon’s power and influence in the White House, is leading a march to his first love — war.

Man: You have an expansionist Islam, and you have an expansionist China, right, they are motivated. They’re arrogant. They’re on the march, and they think the Judeo Christian West is on the retreat.

Abby Martin: Last March, Bannon boasted that there is no doubt the U.S. will be going to war in the South China Sea, in the next five to ten years.In January, a Chinese government official wrote, that a war within the President’s term, or war breaking out tonight, are not just slogans. They’re becoming a practical reality.The danger of a war with China is just one terrifying scenario we face under Bannon’s guidance. With a myriad of generals, and politicians, hoping to push Trump into new wars with Iran, North Korea, China, Iraq again, Syria, etc. — Bannon could be the deciding factor. For Trump, with so many loathsome establishment figures in his ear, Bannon is the trusted companion to tell him whether or not to listen.While Bannon may likely be just using Trump to advance his own agenda, there’s a whole extremist group of the empire’s elites who are using Bannon to advance theirs.While it’s imperative to fight every member of the Trump Administration, we need to understand the ideology behind their policies, in order to best defeat them. That demands we expose figures like Steve Bannon, and the entire system that subjects us to the will of such repugnant individuals.The fact that someone like Steve Bannon could attain such a high seat of power, shows how illegitimate the system really is; how quickly steps towards progress can be reversed.The Democrats, who are beholding to their own corporate interests, and advocate the same racist wars, cannot be trusted to lead any real opposition.The real resistance will come from what Bannon fears the most — a united, multi-cultural, progressive movement in the streets.

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Imperial Japan, the Bomb & the Pacific Powder Keg

JAPAN SWORD TB

Obama’s high-profile trip to Hiroshima was accompanied by a media storm that gave endless justifications for the U.S. use of the atomic bomb on Japanese civilians. The myths are widely accepted in society, and underpin the notion of American exceptionalism.

In this episode of The Empire Files, Abby Martin interviews Dr. Peter Kuznick, co-author with Director Oliver Stone of the bestselling book and HBO series “The Untold History of the United States,” about the real story behind the use of the atomic bombs—as well as the untold history of Imperial Japan, its role today for the U.S. Empire, and the danger for new war on the horizon.

 

Imperial Japan, the Bomb and the Pacific Powder Keg

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PETER KUZNICK: Well, the myth is not just that it was justified. That’s tied to the other even bigger myth, in some ways, that the atomic bombs actually ended the Pacific War which is being repeated. You might have seen that the National Park Service announced a Manhattan Project National Park. They’re going to be developing these national historical sites, and when the Secretary of the Interior, Jewell, announced it, she said that it may have been tragic in some ways, but at least it ended the war. That’s the basic myth, and if it ended the war, and it’s a good war, and we’re the good guys, and we were responding to the Japanese aggression, then ergo the bomb is actually justifiable and even moral, and the argument goes even further to say that it saved lives, and not that it costs a couple 100,000 lives, but it actually saved lives. Initially, it saved half a million American lives, but then we decided to become more humane and we said, “What about all the Japanese lives that is saved?” So it’s part of this broad myth that has got no basis whatsoever in fact. In Hiroshima 80,000 people were incinerated in the blast. In Nagasaki another 80,000 perished. Thousands more died in the days and weeks following from the fires that burned down the city or being forced to drink radioactive soot pouring from the ashen sky. Tens of thousands more died in the years following from radiation poisoning. Another mass atrocity even more obscured from the US history is that months prior the US had already firebombed multiple Japanese cities, pushing Japan to the brink of surrender. On March 10th, 1945, the US military dropped 2,000 tons of bombs on Tokyo, burning up twenty percent of the city and massacring 130,000 civilians in what’s known as the worst firebombing in history.

The United States had been firebombing Japanese cities for months already, and in fact the United States had firebombed more than 100 Japanese cities. In fact, the destruction reached 99.5 percent in the city of Toyama–almost 100%–the entire city wiped out. You saw what we did in Tokyo on the night of March 9th and 10th, so we were wiping out cities. What changes the equation now is the Soviet invasion, and that’s what the Japanese leaders had been dreading, and we know from mid-May, when the Supreme War Council issued their statements, they said that the Soviet invasion would put an end to the Japanese Empire. That’s what they’d been fearing. That’s what the Americans knew that they were fearing, and we said that in our intelligence reports. They say over and over again that the Soviet invasion of Japan will convince all Japanese that defeat is inevitable. We knew that. Truman knew that the Japanese were trying to end the war. He knew that they were appealing to the Soviets to try to help them get better surrender terms from the United States, but Truman went ahead and used the bomb, so the real controversial question is what motivated Truman. It was clearly not to expedite the end of the war.

NARRATION: In 1946, the US strategic bombing survey group, assigned by Truman himself to study the attacks, determined, based on a detailed investigation, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated. The question wasn’t whether or not Japanese leaders would surrender, but who they would surrender to. The American banking and corporate establishment, having clawed their way so close to the top for a 150 years, for the first time saw their path to the biggest profits they could fathom as the unwounded, unchallenged savior, unless of course the pieces in this new world gravitated towards capitalism’s mortal enemy. The prestige of the Soviet Union was high for its defeat of fascism, but the ideas of socialism spread far beyond Soviet borders and the message of revolution was a call that turned the dreams of US corporations into nightmares. For the US Empire to protect its rise, it would have to hobble its economic and ideological rival. Intending to bog down the Soviet Union in a costly and consuming arms race, and issue a threat to anyone who imagined a world without empires, it planted its flag with two thumps of its chest.

PK: The timing doesn’t make any sense. The logic doesn’t make any sense. We dropped the bomb because we were sending a message to the Soviet leaders, and that was exactly how they interpreted it: That if the Soviets don’t go along with US plans in Europe and the Pacific, this is the fate that awaited them, so the Soviets knew that Japanese were trying to surrender, that they were desperate to surrender, that the Americans knew they were desperate surrender, and then they saw the Americans wipe out those two cities. Therefore, the Soviets interpreted it just the way the scientists warned the American leaders that the Soviets would interpret it. And the danger, the scientists said, was that it was going to lead to this uncontrollable arms race, and a race for mutual annihilation, and that was the reality that Truman set up with the dropping of the atomic bombs. So the crime that Truman committed, and it was a crime, a war crime by every definition, was not simply killing a couple hundred thousand innocent civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was threatening the entire species with annihilation. As Oliver and I say in in Untold History, to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians is a war crime. To threaten all of mankind, and also life on our planet with extinction, goes far beyond that.

ABBY MARTIN: Yeah, I think it was one of the worst crimes ever perpetrated on humanity and going to the Hiroshima Museum with an in-utero survivor, thanks to you setting that up for me, was incredibly potent and devastating. Why do you think this myth holds so strongly today? Because I talk to people all the time about it, and it seems like it’s just this visceral reaction…

PK: But that’s the myth that Americans have promulgated for all this time because it’s so essential to this notion of American exceptionalism, American goodness, American beneficence during the entire Cold War, and then that gets into some of the other crucial myths because the entire Soviet role in winning the war in Europe and their contributions to the victory in the Pacific has been wiped out, but it’s all tied in with this fundamental mythology that just plagues Americans and prevents Americans from understanding the world. One of the key things that I try to stress is this idea that you mentioned that the Americans won the war in Europe. That is such nonsense. Throughout most of the war the United States and the British faced ten German divisions combined. The Soviets were facing 200 German divisions during that time. The United States lost about 310,000 in combat, a little more than 400,000 overall. The Soviet Union lost 27 million. Do you know what that 27 million figure represents? It is hard to even conceptualize. 27 million is the equivalent of one 9-11 a day every day for 24 years. That’s what the Soviets suffered in World War II. Imagine if Nazi Germany had developed the bomb first and used it. The world would look upon nuclear weapons with the appropriate horror. We would have said this is the kind of weapon that a fascist country would actually use.

AM: But instead they give the Empire the moral arbitration to decide who else can have nuclear weapons, right? The only country that’s ever used one.

PK: The only country that’s ever used one, the country that’s repeatedly threatened to use them. Every American president since Truman has threatened repeatedly to use nuclear weapons. And in one of Obama’s better moments in Prague, in his famous Prague speech about nuclear weapons, he calls for nuclear abolition, but he effectively says the United States won’t be the first country get rid of its nuclear weapons. The United States will be the last country to do so.

NARRATION: It’s always been the Japanese people and Japan’s colonial subjects, who have suffered unspeakable pain under the rule of rich royalty. For most of the Empire of Japan’s history, an elite dynasty ruled over peasants in a feudal society, but as the feudal order transformed into an industrialized country, its need to expand and conquer set it outward. In 1894, close to a million Korean peasants participated in an armed uprising against their ruling aristocrats. Seeing an opportunity, Japan deployed thousands of soldiers, occupied the country and imposed a proxy dictator in Seoul. In the 1930s, in their most ambitious expansion, the Japanese Empire invaded and conquered large parts of China, all of Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and what is today Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Papua New Guinea, and five separate island nations, including Guam and the Marshall Islands. Rule under the Emperor was a horror of historic proportions. A policy of so-called comfort women bound over 200,000 as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers. Torture, human experiments, mass rape and mass executions cast a shadow on its imprisoned nations. Japanese officers gave the order to trudge a path into China by carpet bombing civilians and carrying out a reign of terror on the ground. In one campaign, Japanese soldiers conquered the town of Nanjing and proceeded to murder and rape everyone they could. Upwards of 300,000 people are estimated to have been killed and 20,000 raped in the massacre. One photo seemingly plucked from the devil’s mind says it all. A baby skewered on a Japanese bayonet. The Communist Party unions, former Japanese soldiers and others militantly carried out anti-war actions throughout Japan’s conquests. By the Emperor’s decree, organizers were rounded up en masse and imprisoned. Protests were violently suppressed. At the outbreak of WWII, Japan’s rulers naturally aligned with German and Italian fascism.

PK: What Japan did, not only in China, which was terrible, but also what Japan did in the rest of Asia during that period, is a series of atrocities which the Japanese government has been trying to cover up. Partly in response to that, the United States began to apply sanctions and embargoes on Japan and when the United States cut off Japan’s oil supply, Japan was very much dependent on the United States for a lot of raw materials that they were using to build up their war machine, as well as for their energy needs. The United States was at the same time defending our allies in the Pacific, the British, the French and the Dutch, and the others who were terribly exploiting their colonies. So Japan moves in there. Japan had colony envy in some ways during this time, and they wanted their own empire, and so they wanted to displace the French and the Europeans from Southeast Asia and other parts of Asia so Japan could move in there, but because Japan was economically boxed in and feeling desperate, they decided they were going to have to move. And the reason why they went against the US fleet at Pearl Harbor was they thought the US fleet could block Japan’s access to the resources that they wanted to get in Southeast Asia.

NARRATION: With the majority of the American public opposed to joining the war, Pearl Harbor gave Truman the pretext he needed to cash in on the remains, but once Japan surrendered to the US military, a new alliance started to form.

PK: The war crimes trials should have been more severe. We never raised the charges against Japan for their bombing of Chinese cities, and why did we not? We were afraid that people were going to raise charges against the United States for our bombing of Japanese cities, as well as the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We let them off.

NARRATION: Notorious reactionary General MacArthur became a de facto dictator of occupied Japan. Under US rule, elite war criminals were allowed to escape trial, some found guilty even returned to positions in the postwar government. The US occupation tied an arm behind Japan’s back by denying it a military while resurrecting its industry as an economic surrogate.

PK: They adopted Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. Article 9 is amazing. Under Article 9 and the Japanese Constitution they renounce the right of war as a sovereign nation and they renounce the right to have offensive military forces. This was the bedrock of the Japanese peace constitution from 1946 until this year. Finally, this year the Abe administration has revoked Article 9, effectively, under this resolution adopted by the cabinet and passed by both houses of the Japanese Parliament. So the United States initially imposed this on Japan, but what happened was the Japanese people loved it. The Japanese people embraced it, and when, during the Korean War, the United States tied to get Japan to revoke Article 9 so that the Japanese could help the Americans in the Korean War, the Japanese refused. And so there’s been this struggle ever since with the United States encouraging Japan to do away with Article 9 so that Japan could form the backbone of what the United States is doing in Asia, and the Japanese people have resisted until now.

NARRATION: Japan’s current prime minister Shinzo Abe is nostalgic for the days of empire and is implementing drastic reforms to crack down on civil liberties and reassert the country’s military might. Abe and his party’s historical revisionism have drummed up a racist nationalist movement. Korean immigrants, and segregated communities are faced with violence from anti-immigrant gangs.

PK: The Abe administration is a nightmare. The Abe administration is the realization of what has been the dream of the LDP and Japanese right wingers for decades. Abe, you remember, first got elected in 2007 and he tried to implement his nationalist program. The Japanese people resisted it, and he was forced out of office in a year. When he got re-elected this time he played it smarter, and he initially went with Abenomics and the economic policy which seemed to be working. We now know that Abenomics is a failure. The Japanese economy is doing very poorly, so whatever gains there were temporarily have now been eroded, but it was later that he began to introduce his militaristic agenda, and he did so. Abe, from the time he first got elected to parliament in 1993, has been the driving force behind Japanese historical re-education. He and his right-wing allies are very concerned about this tendency to look critically on Japan’s history, so he’s tried to whitewash, basically, the rape of Nanjing, the policy toward China, the mistreatment of the other Asians, and aggressive policies toward the other Asians, basically defend the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and issues like the Korean comfort women. The Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military, is one of these hot button issues that Abe has been… He didn’t come out and officially deny it, although over the years has tried to downplay this and say this is what all the armies do. So Abe has been key in the effort to revise Japanese history in the same way that Americans have done, but Abe also is completely dedicated to re-militarizing Japanese society, so Abe passed the secrecy laws last year despite the fact that they were opposed by 82% of the Japanese public. Abe forced that through. He’s allowed the Japanese arms dealers to sell arms overseas, and one of the big things he’s been doing is the fight over… trying to prevent the people of Okinawa from exercising their democratic rights to stop the relocation of the base.

NARRATION: The island of Okinawa was the entry point of the US invasion in 1945. After decimating 90% of the island’s infrastructure, the US military took it over and has occupied it ever since. Widespread opposition helped anti-base politician Yukio Hatoyama get elected as prime minister in 2009.

PK: When Hatoyama got elected in 2009: a great victory for the Japanese people. The Japan Democratic Party finally overthrew the rule of the LDP, the conservatives, the right wingers, and one of the things that Hatoyama pledged to do during that campaign was stop the base relocation in Okinawa, from Futenma, where the big base is now, to Henoko in northern Okinawa, this pristine beautiful area where they want to relocate the military base, and at least 80% or so of the Japanese people have come out against this repeatedly, and so Hatoyama tried to block the base relocation. Obama basically smashed him. Obama, you would think that Hatoyama, a progressive ally–Obama would embrace him. Just the opposite. Obama cut his feet out from under him, forced Hatoyama to back down on his effort to block the base relocation and basically eroded the popularity and the legitimacy of the Hatoyama government. The Hatoyama regime collapsed, replaced by Kan. They had three JDP prime ministers. They couldn’t function. They couldn’t rule after that, and the JDP was replaced by Abe and the LDP, and we’ve seen this nightmare of militarization going on.

AM: I wanted you to create the context for our audience about Okinawa because that is actually what radicalized me after reading Chalmers Johnson’s book Blowback, and his talking about Okinawa, and just the heavy militarization. People don’t understand that literally the island is almost a giant base. That’s how concentrated it is.

PK: Okinawa houses 74% of American military bases in Japan and approximately half of the 50,000 American troops who are in Japan are in Okinawa. So Okinawa is where the fiercest battle in the Pacific was fought in 1945, and the Okinawans were victimized by the Japanese troops, victimized by the American troops, then after the war the US occupied Okinawa, so the Marines ran the entirety of Okinawa, and they set up bases wherever they wanted, so it was used for training. It was also used as a launch point for the American Empire. So it was a launch point for the US invasion of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. They’ve often gone out from Okinawa to build the American Empire in the Pacific. When I met with Al Magleby , who was the US Consul General, the highest American official in Okinawa, Al said no other piece of real estate is so strategically important as Okinawa, and he said it was crucial to America’s vision and the Asia pivot and American Empire, American forces throughout the Pacific. So he said we’re going to fight. We’re going to hold this. The Japanese government is supporting the US base relocation. Okinawa reverted officially from American control to Japanese control in 1972, but it has never been able to exercise its democratic rights.

NARRATION: The ominous presence of 32 military bases has violated Okinawan culture and the environment. From spilling 13,000 tons of poison gas to the 25-year cover-up of poisoning waterways with toxic chemicals, this 60 plus years of military occupation has also created a legacy of sexual abuse, corruption and impunity, rife with sexual assaults committed by US military personnel. Between 1972 and 2015, police statistics cite US forces committing 26 murders and 129 rapes. Accountability is virtually non-existent with US immunity from any crimes or environmental destruction committed on Japanese soil. According to a FOIA request and a review of hundreds of cases, rapists were only fined, demoted or restricted to their bases. In 30 cases a letter of reprimand was the only punishment, but a fire has been awakened in the Okinawans, and the protests against US militarism continue to grow. In 2010, 100,000 people fought against the construction of a new base. Tensions reached a boiling point earlier this year when a US marine admitted to raping and killing a 20-year-old local woman. In response, over 65,000 Japanese rallied to demand the removal of all US military bases from the island, with signs reading “Our fury has gone beyond the limit.” The Japanese people aren’t just fighting the presence of the US military but the resurgence of the Japanese military. Mass protest against changing Article 9 shows the deep opposition to another path of war. Abe’s new Japan quickly deployed thousands of troops to oil-rich South Sudan and routinely launches provocations against China, a country where it committed massacres not long ago. There’s no telling where Japan’s imperial ambitions might lead, and it coincides with the so-called Asia pivot, a calculated US build-up against China, not because it poses a military threat but because it poses an economic threat to US business.

AM: Abe’s administration is super militaristic, far right wing. I wanted to talk about what confrontations you see playing out in terms of the US Asia pivot toward Japan when Japan is seemingly wanting to become another empire.

PK: The US Asia pivot… Remember who really announced the US Asia pivot. It was Hillary Clinton. She wrote the article in Foreign Policy magazine in November of 2011 titled America’s Pacific Century saying, basically, that the United States is going to pivot. We focused too long on the Middle East. It’s time that we focus more on Asia. We’re going to recalibrate. Our forces are going to be moved toward Asia, away from Europe and the Middle East, and this is where the 21st century is going to be. Unfortunately for the United States, reality got in the way, and so we’ve gotten bogged down. The reason why Obama really said that he wanted to wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was so that we could focus more on Asia with this Pacific pivot, and we’ve done some of that. The TPP and our new trade arrangements are partly an attempt to rebalance toward the Pacific. We’ve had war exercises, war games with the Asian nations. We’ve gotten a lot of them to increase their defense spending, effectively buying their military weapons and defense systems from American arms manufacturers, so the profiteers are drooling over all of this. What we’re looking to is Japan and other Asian allies to basically be proxies for us, to take the burden, take responsibility for controlling and containing China. The model is really what [George F.] Kennan talked about in terms of containment toward Russia during the Cold War. In the same way we’re trying to surround China. We’re trying to lock in China, to limit China. It is going to lead these other countries into a hardline stance against China, and build up the right wing in Japan and other countries. On the one hand we are forcing China into this tighter alliance with Russia. On the other hand we are building up this opposition to China. There is this crazy confrontation over the Senkaku/ Diaoyu islands between Japan and China. The US is sending its ships to challenge China in the South China Sea. The United States hasn’t taken an official position on Japan and China in the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. However, Obama has said if there is a military confrontation between Japan and China over the islands, the United States is going to come to Japan’s aid. We saw how that worked out in 1914 with all these entangling alliances, and how they led to World War I. Well, that same situation still exists. It’s a very dangerous situation and these are potential powder kegs.

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