Hillary Clinton and the Big (Neoliberal) Lie

August 5, 2016 at 8:59 PM

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This election season has brought to the surface an issue that, until recently, seemed to have become a neoliberal sacred cow, the holy writ of the lords of capital: free trade. And while this cornerstone of US economic hegemony has come under fire from a deeply reactionary, and to varying degrees racist and xenophobic, perspective, as expressed by Donald Trump, it has nevertheless sparked a much needed conversation about free trade and its destructive impact on both the American working class, and the Global South as well.

But free trade having become a campaign issue has also spotlighted for the umpteenth time the breathtaking hypocrisy of Hillary Clinton who I have previously referred to as the high priestess of the Church of Free Trade and Neoliberalism. For it is, in fact, Hillary Clinton who has for more than two decades been one of the loudest and most resolute voices championing neoliberalism and free trade. And still, despite her record, Clinton today presents herself as a friend of the working class. The same working class that has been all but eviscerated by the policies she herself has supported.

This is, of course, not to say that Trump is somehow the great defender of workers and the poor – his long track record as a predatory, racist real estate developer illustrates his complete lack of concern for oppressed communities and workers. Still, like a sadistic dentist, Trump has deliberately struck a nerve in the body politic of the US. For Trump has managed to eschew the typical right wing cultural wedge issues of gay marriage, abortion, and the like in favor of the core economic concerns of the working class.

Whatever one’s opinion of Trump, one can say with certainty that his reintroduction of the free trade into the national conversation has forced Hillary Clinton onto the back foot.

Hillary Clinton, NAFTA, and the Attack on American Workers

“I think that everybody is in favor of free and fair trade, and I think that NAFTA is proving its worth.” Or so Hillary Clinton said in 1996, more than two years after the North American Free Trade Agreement was enacted under her husband’s administration. At the time one could still labor under the illusion – or perhaps it was delusion? – that NAFTA was going to benefit workers in the US, Canada, and Mexico by allowing for the free flow of goods (and capital) leading to decreased prices for many consumer goods. Indeed, that was precisely the mythology that was peddled at the time.

While it’s true that many experts and workers alike, especially those on the Left, were deeply suspicious about the inflated claims of the glorious benefits of the NAFTA utopia of the future, the concept was made into policy, and the policy translated into a grim reality for US workers. As the Economic Policy Institute noted in 2013:

By establishing the principle that U.S. corporations could relocate production elsewhere and sell back into the United States, NAFTA undercut the bargaining power of American workers, which had driven the expansion of the middle class since the end of World War II. The result has been 20 years of stagnant wages and the upward redistribution of income, wealth and political power.

Without question, NAFTA was a direct assault on the US working class. Its repercussions are still being felt today. As the Economic Policy Institute further explained, NAFTA had four major negative impacts:

  1. The loss of at least 700,000 jobs due to production moving to Mexico. Some of the heaviest losses were felt in California, Texas, Michigan and other manufacturing-dependent states, particularly those in the Rust Belt.
  2. Allowed employers to drive down wages, slash benefits, and undermine and destroy unions. Because capital could always threaten to simply close up shop and move to Mexico, workers had little recourse but to accept the assault on their standards of living.
  3. It devastated the Mexican agricultural and small business sectors which led to the dislocation of millions of Mexican workers and small farmers, many of whom were forced to migrate to the US in search of work, thereby creating the immigration “problem” that Trump and his reactionary base have seized upon.
  4. It was the model free trade agreement, the blueprint upon which others were based. It laid the foundation for the neoliberal trade model wherein capital reaps the benefits while labor shoulders the costs.

Obviously, one could point out myriad other negative effects of NAFTA. But perhaps even better than that, one could simply take a drive down Interstates 80 and 90 – crossing through New Jersey, upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, etc. – and get off almost anywhere and see the impacts for one’s self. Countless shuttered factories, depressed and often nearly abandoned towns and cities, and populations blighted by unemployment and the social breakdown that goes with it. The bleakness of the post-NAFTA industrial landscape is difficult to articulate, and is often completely hidden from view, especially for many working people in the population centers on the East and West coasts.

And this depression, both economic and psychological, is what Donald Trump has rather cynically exploited. The scapegoating of Mexican immigrants as economic parasites feasting on the blood of the American worker is a fairly predictable, though highly effective, means of marshaling support from the working class, in particular the white working class.

However, the political opportunism notwithstanding, it was not Donald Trump, but rather Hillary Clinton, who consistently was the unyielding supporter of NAFTA. As White House documents from the Clinton administration revealed, Hillary was one of the principal salespeople for NAFTA, going so far as to speak at a confidential White House briefing on NAFTA in November 1993, just a few days before it was approved by Congress. The documents also prove the fact that Hillary was, as John Nichols wrote in The Nation in 2008, “the featured speaker at a closed-door session where 120 women opinion leaders were hectored to pressure their congressional representatives to approve NAFTA.”

Clinton lobbied for NAFTA all throughout the halls of power in Washington, but also before the American people on television and in the major media. In short, NAFTA can be seen as one of Hillary’s crowning achievements; heavy is the head that wears such a crown.

Hillary the Hypocrite

Today Hillary Clinton shamelessly presents herself as a friend of working people. She trots out the elites of organized labor, concerned primarily with their own positions atop demoralized and fragmented unions, and trumpets their endorsements of her. And even these working class backstabbers have to grit their teeth and smile as they kneel before the high priestess herself in hopes of eight more years of privileged relations and fine dining.

But behind closed doors, everyone in America who even casually follows politics knows the truth: Hillary Clinton is a crusader for free trade and neoliberalism.

And that’s precisely why Hillary’s anti-free trade posture at election time is so deeply cynical, to say nothing of the insult to working people. In 2007-2008, in the midst of a hotly contested primary campaign against then Senator Barack Obama, Clinton repeatedly claimed that she was anti-free trade, and critical of NAFTA. In a debate in late 2007, Clinton admitted that NAFTA had been a mistake “to the extent that it did not deliver on what we had hoped it would.”

Of course, these were just the populist sentiments that Clinton knew she needed to utilize in order to deceive organized labor, and the working class in general, that she was an ally, rather than a devout worshiper at the altar of the god of neoliberalism.

After Obama became president and appointed Clinton Secretary of State she immediately reverted to being the great champion of free trade. Indeed, in her position as America’s top diplomat Clinton traveled the world preaching the gospel of free trade. And by this point she had a new holy scripture to tout: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Clinton unabashedly lied during Democratic national debates on the issue of the TPP, saying that she now opposes it, despite having been in favor of it as late as 2012 when she said the TPP “sets the gold standard in trade agreements.” While she now masquerades as a protectionist opposing a deal that would be bad for working people, she has demonstrated her unflagging support for this type of so called free trade in the past.

To get a sense of just how insidious the TPP is for American workers, and in fact citizens of every country involved in the deal, consider the words of the Grand Poobah of the American Left, Noam Chomsky, who correctly explained that the TPP is “designed to carry forward the neoliberal project to maximize profit and domination, and to set the working people in the world in competition with one another so as to lower wages to increase insecurity.” In his characteristically soft-spoken manner, Chomsky manages to encapsulate the overarching danger that the TPP represents. And in so doing, he further implies that Hillary Clinton represents a serious threat to American workers.

Similarly, as Secretary of State, Clinton vocally backed the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), hailing it as an “economic NATO”. Leaving aside the terrifyingly ironic turn of phrase, Hillary’s support of TTIP represents support for yet another massive free trade deal that would have serious negative effects on workers, and indeed the majority of citizens, in the US and Europe. As Politico noted, “TTIP covers around a third of global trade. It would create an open market of 829 million consumers and expand a trade relationship that’s already worth €2 billion every day.”

And, just as with the TPP, TTIP is as much a political and geopolitical weapon as it is an economic arrangement. While TPP is aimed at economically isolating China (despite the raving lunacy of Donald Trump who argues just the opposite, that TPP will unfairly benefit China), TTIP is directed against Russia in hopes of depriving Moscow the chance at deepening economic ties with Europe.

And this is precisely why Clinton is the darling of both Wall Street and the neoconservative establishment. From the right wing financier Koch Brothers’ admission of support for Hillary, to the obvious backing of George Soros, Warren Buffett, and countless other liberal (and some conservative) Wall Street ghouls, Clinton has the near unanimous endorsements of the One Percent. It should be added that she is also being supported by arch-neocons such as Max Boot, who described Clinton as “vastly preferable,” Robert Kagan who sees Hillary as “saving the country,” and Eliot Cohen who described Clinton as “the lesser evil by a large margin.”

The reason for the near unanimous support is simple: Clinton will deliver all the economic policies, including TPP and free trade, that the Masters of Wall Street demand. And she’ll do it all while coldly smiling at every worker she meets on the campaign trail. She will also pursue just the sort of aggressive and belligerent foreign policy that makes neocons salivate at the prospect of more and bigger wars.

Ultimately, Clinton represents the very worst of the American political class – a cynical manipulator whose thirst for blood and war is matched only by her thirst for power. Lies flow from her mouth into the US political scene like water into a vast ocean. And, like water, she erodes the once sturdy rock of the working class in the United States.

Leaked DNC Emails Confirm Anti-Sanders Conspiracy

July 29, 2016 at 8:38 PM

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The release by Wikileaks of a trove of emails from high-ranking Democratic Party officials has confirmed what many Americans – both progressive and conservative – have suspected throughout this election cycle: that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) actively conspired against Bernie Sanders in an attempt to ensure the nomination for Hillary Clinton.

But it wasn’t simply party apparatchiks like the disgraced Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the recently resigned Chair of the DNC and close ally of Clinton, but also their trusted cronies in the corporate media who actively collaborated with DNC officials to ensure that nothing too critical of Hillary would make it into the Mighty Wurlitzer of contemptibly ‘respectable’ journalism.  Indeed, what the Wikileaks revelations expose to the world is the fact that there’s nothing democratic about the Democratic Party, or America’s alleged democracy in general.

More specifically however, the question that really must be asked is: why Hillary Clinton?  What is it about this woman that unites nearly the entirety of the political, financial, socio-cultural, and military establishment?  Is it really just hatred of Donald Trump?  Or is there something more insidious, something that makes Hillary the irresistible flame of belligerence and exceptionalism to which the corporate-imperialist moths are slavishly attracted?

From Conspiracy Theory to Conspiracy Fact

For months the sentinels of the liberal media fortress derided all allegations of a DNC conspiracy against Bernie Sanders and the millions of Americans who #FeelTheBern, caricaturing these accusations as no different from the Illuminati-Freemason-Rothschild-Lizard People.  Articles like Bernie Sanders Fans’ DNC ‘Collusion’ Conspiracy Theory is Embarrassing Garbage and Can we please stop with the Bernie Sanders conspiracy theories? were staples of the campaign once it became clear that the Berners were a real political force, and that the Sanders campaign could actually pose a threat to the establishment’s preferred proxy, Hillary Clinton.

And with each new article the level of condescension and derision seemed to increase to the point where Sanders’ supporters had been transformed into the embarrassingly clichéd tinfoil-hat wearers of Alex Jones land.  But here we are, just a few months later, and Hillary Clinton has knelt for her coronation as Queen of the imperial castle.  And in the midst of the insufferable Hollywood endorsements, the amnesiac revisionism, and the identitarian phantasmagoria, something amazing happened on the internet: the conspiracy theories were proven true.

Indeed, the Wikileaks emails show direct interventions against Bernie by the DNC.  For instance, in late May, just three weeks before the all-important California primary, a DNC staffer emailed DNC Communications Director, Luis Miranda, pitching him a story about Bernie’s campaign being “a mess.”  Specifically, the staffer wrote, “Wondering if there’s a good Bernie narrative for a story, which is that Bernie never ever had his act together, that his campaign was a mess…It’s not a DNC conspiracy, it’s because they never had their act together.”

What is particularly damning about the email is not that Bernie’s campaign was disorganized (entirely plausible), but rather that DNC staffers and communications director were attempting to manufacture and propagate news stories with that narrative, rather than acting as the impartial party functionaries that they shrilly proclaim themselves to be.  In fact, corporate media outlets did indeed pick up parts of that narrative in the days and weeks leading up to the California primary, specifically the fact that Bernie’s campaign was poorly organized in terms of delegate education and other issues.

Even more egregious is the email from Communications Director Luis Miranda to a number of high-ranking DNC officials, including Wasserman-Schultz, in which he notes that the DNC was able to suppress key information from this New York Times article.  Miranda was pleased that he was “able to keep him from including more on the JVF [Joint Victory Fund], it has a mention in there, but between us and a conversation he had with Marc Elias he finally backed off from focusing too much on that.”

This information is quite damning as it’s clear that Miranda, the spokesman for the DNC, deliberately attempted to shield Clinton from media criticism over the highly dubious “joint fundraising venture” the Joint Victory Fund, which is essentially a Hillary-DNC fundraising machine.  While the JVF gets a passing mention in the article, there is no substantive examination of it, nor is there any context or comparison to the Bernie Sanders campaign whose fundraising was almost entirely based on small, individual contributions.  In contrast, JVF included on its list of donors the Pritzker Group, Saban Capital Group, and other major players in finance capital and industry.  Perhaps this information might have been valuable to the American public trying to decide whether to support Bernie or Hillary.

Or how about the Politico reporter who agreed to allow the DNC to review his article about Clinton’s fundraising before it was published?  Does this strike you as real journalism?  In an April 30, 2016 email, National Press Secretary and Deputy Communications Director Mark Paustenbach wrote to his boss Luis Miranda noting that Politico reporter Kenneth Vogel “gave me his story ahead of time/before it goes to his editors…Let me know if you see anything that’s missing and I’ll push back.”

In a sadly predictable, and grossly unethical, move, the DNC seems to have worked out deals with major media outlets that allowed them to censor corporate media stories about the Clinton campaign, or at the very least to slant them so as to make Clinton look like something less than the Voldemort of Wall Street and capital.

But it goes much further, and indeed gets even more unethical, than just collusion between corporate media and the DNC.  The emails also reveal attempts to smear Sanders with quite literally any information that might damage him in key primary states.  For instance, this email exchange between top DNC officials shows that they intended to “get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. [sic] He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.”  Clearly, in Kentucky and West Virginia, the DNC wanted to use Sanders’s religious beliefs, or lack thereof, against him.  Such tactics are, to put it bluntly, reprehensible.

And of course we could go on and on with dozens of other emails demonstrating the level of collusion within the DNC, and with its media partners, to effectively undermine the Sanders campaign while propping up Clinton.  I guess those arrogant pundits who derisively referred to the “embarrassing conspiracy theories” have some ‘splaining to do.

Why, Exactly, Is Everyone #WithHer?

For veterans of US politics, it should be relatively obvious why Hillary Clinton has been the clear darling of the establishment from the beginning of the race.  And, considering the Democratic Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street and the financial elites in the US, it almost goes without saying why the DNC would carry water for the Clinton campaign.  Her record really speaks for itself.

Hillary Clinton is an unabashed warmonger, a woman who has demonstrated time and again her willingness to bomb, invade, and destroy nations all over the globe.  From championing her husband’s criminal bombing of Serbia, to supporting George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, to being the principal cheerleader for bombing and destroying Libya and Syria, Hillary’s devotion to the military-industrial complex and the mentality of the Cold War is beyond dispute.

While running for Senate in 2000, Clinton explicated her foreign policy outlook when, according the New York Times, “She cited American involvement in Bosnia and Kosovo as examples of foreign engagements she favored on moral and strategic grounds.” And, according to Hillary biographer Gail Sheehy, Clinton proudly proclaimed “I urged [Bill Clinton] to bomb [Serbia].”  One could be forgiven for thinking these are the smug, egomaniacal claims of a sociopath; they are, but they’re also the words of America’s likely next president.

But aside from simply delighting in the death and destruction she can rain down upon weaker nations, Hillary is also the standard-bearer for finance capital and Wall Street.  Her connections to Goldman Sachs and nearly every major bank make her statements about reining in Wall Street both laughable and deeply infuriating; there’s only so much cynicism a country can take.  So, wealthy benefactors like George Soros, the Pritzker family, Haim Saban, and many others fall over themselves to line up behind the First Woman PresidentTM just as they did behind The First Black PresidentTM.

And this point must not be understated.  Identity politics is one of the principal levers by which the Democratic Party keeps liberal America in line.  Never mind that The First Black PresidentTM expanded AFRICOM, killed the single most important African leader, continued the oppression and exploitation of millions of Africans all over the continent, presided over the rapid expansion of drone assassinations, and so much worse; forget all that, I mean, he’s black.  Similarly, Hillary is able to translate her gender into political currency, one that allows the Democratic Party to continue the charade that it is a party for everyone.

And of course, who could forget economic policy?  Clinton represents the best of what Wall Street has to offer.  She is a devout neoliberal, the high priestess of the Church of Free Trade.  She and her husband presided over the passage of NAFTA which has devastated millions of Mexican families while gutting the American industrial base, all the while making superprofits for Big Agribusiness, Big Retail, and big banks.

In effect, Clinton is quite similar to Obama in that both have an insatiable appetite for war and the economic orthodoxy of neoliberalism.  As such, both are the quintessential Democrats: political snake-charmers whose smiles and warm embraces hide the coldness of their hearts, whose devotion to the multicultural rainbow belies their deep hatred of the working class and poor.

And of course, it is imperialism abroad and neoliberalism at home that makes an establishment leader.  It is a reckless disregard for the rights of ordinary Americans, as well as those around the world, that makes one “Presidential.”  It is a deep sociopathy that truly demonstrates that a politician is ready for the office.  So, given that, it would seem that America is indeed #ReadyForHillary.

Anthony Monteiro on CounterPunch Radio!

July 28, 2016 at 11:21 AM

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Listen to CounterPunch Radio (Episode 50) with Dr. Anthony Monteiro

This week Eric welcomes to the show activist and scholar Dr. Anthony Monteiro to discuss his recent trip to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention, and what he learned about the Trump movement. The conversation touches on the class character of the Trumpen Proletariat, and whether or not this represents a transformation of the Republican Party, and potentially US politics as a whole. Eric and Tony examine the nature of fascism, how it has manifested in the US today, and what the future may hold. They go into everything from the ascendance of the far right in Europe, to the potential for substantive solutions and movement-building here in the US. All this and so so much more in this lively chat between two friends on the radical left.

Turkey’s Failed Coup: The Players, the History, and the Geopolitical Chessboard

July 28, 2016 at 11:16 AM

Eric Draitser of http://StopImperialism.org provides his analysis (July 24, 2016) of the failed coup in Turkey, and the implications both for Turkish society and on the international scene. Draitser explains the relaitonship between the CIA and Turkish military coups in the past, the connections between US-NATO intelligence and the Gulenist network, and the broader strategy for the region. He also places the latest developments in the context of a shifting political landscape where Turkey’s loyalties to the West and NATO are increasingly in question. All this and more in this in depth conversation.

Erdogan’s Checkmate: CIA-Backed Coup in Turkey Fails, Upsets Global Chessboard

July 22, 2016 at 9:41 PM

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The failed coup in Turkey last week was a political and geopolitical earthquake as it has the potential to fundamentally alter the Middle East, NATO, and potentially the balance of power globally.  But while the implications of the recent developments are clear, what actually took place on the night/morning of July 15 – July 16 is still somewhat shrouded in mystery.  But why is that? Why are the connections for the most part not being made by Western pundits and journalists alike?

Here again we run into the controlled corporate media apparatus, one which is dominated by the very same interests that dominate the governments of the US and EU, and its incredible power to misinform.  As the great Michael Parenti famously wrote, “[The media’s] job is not to inform but disinform, not to advance democratic discourse but to dilute and mute it. Their task is to give every appearance of being conscientiously concerned about events of the day, saying so much while meaning so little, offering so many calories with so few nutrients.”

Nowhere is Parenti’s contention more true than with the coup in Turkey. For while the media has certainly reported the allegations from President Erdogan and his government of the hidden hand of US-based billionaire Fetullah Gulen, almost none of the major media outlets have done the necessary investigation to uncover the real significance of Gulen and his movement.  Specifically, and almost as if by magic, there is virtually no mention of Gulen’s longstanding ties to the CIA, his penetration of the various institutions of the Turkish state, nor is there any serious investigation into the financial networks and connections leading from Gulen to nearly every corner of the Islamic (and non-Islamic) world.

And while Gulen, along with many neocons in the US, have been propagating the narrative that President Erdogan and his forces themselves staged the coup in order to justify the ongoing crackdown on political rivals, secularists, and other anti-Erdogan forces, the media by and large has not connected the events in Turkey to their larger geopolitical significance, one which should shed some light on what may have happened. And, in a further dereliction of duty, the media has also mostly ignored the absolutely critical likelihood of the involvement of US-NATO intelligence.

History as a Guide

From Iran in 1953 to Chile in 1973 and countless other countries, the CIA and its intelligence agency cousins in NATO have been involved in myriad coups similar to the one that took place in Turkey last week.  However, one would be remiss in not noting the striking similarities between the 2016 coup in Turkey and the one that took place on September 12, 1980.

Throughout the mid to late 1970s Turkey saw a major upsurge of terrorism and violence, much of which was attributed to fascist formations such as the Grey Wolves, along with other groups.  However, what is now known is that much of the violence took the form of provocations which many experts allege were orchestrated by CIA-affiliated individuals and networks.

Perhaps the most significant of these was Paul Henze, a man who spent decades as an intelligence coordinator in Ethiopia, Turkey, and elsewhere throughout the Cold War.  As Daniele Ganser noted in his book NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe, “A right wing extremist on trial later plausibly argued that the massacres and terrors of the 1970s had been a strategy to bring [coup leader General] Evren and the military right to power: ‘The massacres were a provocation by the [Turkish intelligence agency] MIT.  With the provocations by the MIT and the CIA the ground was prepared for the September 12 coup.’” (p. 239)

But of course, these actions did not take place in a vacuum; there were intelligence operators in place who facilitated the events that took place.  As renowned author and media critic Edward Herman and co-author Frank Brodhead wrote in their 1986 book The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection:

“Paul Henze began his long CIA career under Defense Department cover as a “foreign affairs adviser” in 1950. Two years later, he began a six-year hitch as a policy adviser to Radio Free Europe (RFE) in Munich, West Germany. By 1969, Henze was CIA chief of station in Ethiopia, and he served as station chief in Turkey from 1974 through 1977. When Zbigniew Brzezinski assembled his National Security Council team for President Jimmy Carter, Henze was hired as the CIA’s representative to the NSC office in the White House.”

Considering the intimate connection between Henze and Brzezinski, it is not hard to see that Henze was essentially involved in the same global operation as Brzezinski, namely the weaponization of terrorism for strategic gain against the Soviet Union.  And while Brzezinski famously masterminded the creation of the mujahideen in Afghanistan, Henze already had achieved similar results in Turkey, organizing right wing forces for the purposes of destabilization. In his book, Gansler cites counter-terrorism scholar and expert on GLADIO operations Selhattin Celik, who wrote in 1999 that:

“[When US President Jimmy Carter] heard about [the 1980 coup in Turkey] he called Paul Henze, former Chief of the CIA station in Turkey who had left Ankara shortly before the coup to become a security adviser to President Carter in Washington on the Turkey desk of the CIA…Carter told Henze what the latter already knew: ‘Your people have just made a coup!’  The President was right.  Paul Henze, the day after the coup, had triumphantly declared to his CIA colleagues in Washington: ‘Our boys have done it!”

Celik bluntly referred to Henze as “the chief architect of the September 12, 1980 coup.”  It’s not hard to see why.  From having been on the ground in the early to mid-1970s, to then becoming a coordinator in Washington while being the point person on Turkey for the National Security Council under Brzezinski, Henze was clearly instrumental.  As Gansler notes, according to Celik, “Brzezinski supported the position of Henze.  During a discussion in the National Security Council of the situation in Iran where in 1979 Khomeiny [sic] had seized power Brzezinski expressed his view that ‘for Turkey as for Brazil a military government would be the best solution.’”

While none of this should come as a surprise to anyone remotely familiar with how US intelligence operated in the Cold War, perhaps the depth of the connections between US intelligence, its NATO cousins, and the Turkish military and deep state represent something of an epiphany.  As Turkish politician and social activist Ertugrul Kurkcu wrote in Covert Action Quarterly in 1997:

The close ties between the Turkish, US military, and intelligence circles, along with US concerns over Turkey’s military cooperation, have been major obstacles in Turkey’s path to broader democracy. [Turkish politician and journalist Fikri] Saglar charges that US interest in Turkish affairs is not confined to official NATO relations and trade ties. He points to the notorious message by the CIA’s then-Turkey Station Chief Paul Henze in Ankara to his colleagues in Washington the day after the 1980 coup “Our boys have done it!” Henze crowed. Saglar concludes that foreign intelligence organizations including the CIA, have coopted collaborators from among the extreme-right and exploited them for their particular interests.

In effect, what the 1980 coup demonstrates more than anything is that the Turkish military, as well as the far right fascist terror gangs such as the Grey Wolves, are in various ways assets of the US, and under the thumb of US intelligence.  To be sure, one could quibble about the degree to which they are entirely assets, proxies, or simply longtime collaborators, but this distinction is of minor importance.  What matters is that the historical record clearly indicates collusion between the Turkish military and deep state and the CIA.

But this is all ancient history, right? Surely these networks and connections have eroded over time, and what happened in 1980 is of only secondary significance to the internal politics of Turkey and the ongoing struggles for power.  Well, yes…but on second thought, maybe not.

Who’s Who on the Turkish Chessboard?

In trying to provide analysis of what just took place in Turkey, one must have some understanding of the political factions vying for power in Turkey.  They can roughly be broken down into three camps, though there is often overlap between the groups.

The first faction is that of President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP).  Erdogan and the AKP come from the “moderate Islamist” milieu of the Muslim Brotherhood, having spent years fighting against the militantly secular Turkish military and state order.  As Dr. Essam al-Erian, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, explained in 2007, “the Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamic group that has a close relationship with all moderate Islamists, the most prominent of which is the Justice and Development Party.”

This point is of critical importance because it connects Erdogan and his political machine to a much broader international network active throughout the Middle East and North Africa.  It further provides an explanation as to Erdogan’s seeming fanaticism over the war in Syria and the removal of President Bashar al-Assad whose father crushed the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in 1982, as well as his unwavering support for former Egyptian President Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader deposed by current President Sisi.

The second faction is that of the Kemalists, with its power generally residing in the military and elements of the deep state.  They see themselves as the custodians of the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey.  The Kemalists are deeply connected to major capitalist interests in the country, and have a long history of collaboration with the US and NATO.  As noted above, the Turkish military has long-standing ties to the CIA and NATO intelligence, and has long been understood as one of the most reliable US-NATO partners.

The third political faction of note is that of Turkish billionaire Fetullah Gulen whose global network of schools has made him into one of the single most powerful individuals in the region, though he runs his network from the comfort of his Pennsylvania estate.  Not only has the Gulen network made significant inroads penetrating nearly every state institution in Turkey, it is also hugely influential in the US, both in terms of long-standing ties to US intelligence, and perhaps equally important, its massive lobbying and influence-peddling apparatus.  Indeed, in 2010 six major Turkish-American federations with ties to the Gulen movement joined together to create the Assembly of Turkic American Federations (ATAF), a non-profit organization that has become one of the more prominent lobbying groups in Washington dealing with Turkish and Turkic peoples issues.

It is essential to remember that although it is known that last week’s coup was carried out by elements of the military, it is unclear exactly which faction they were representing, or if it was a combination of two.  But here it is useful to examine the recent history of the Gulen network (known as Hizmet) and its penetration of state institutions in order to assess what potential role it may have played in the coup.

Connecting the Dots: Fetullah Gulen and CIA Fingerprints on Turkey Coup?

While it is easy to point the finger at the CIA and US-NATO intelligence for anything that happens anywhere in the world – the Empire’s reach is truly global – one must be cautious not to simply assert US culpability without properly drawing out the tangible connections. And in this case, that is doubly true.  However, it is here that Gulen’s significance really comes into play, for it is his far-reaching network of contacts, surrogates, and proxies that have penetrated nearly every significant state institution.

Long before last week’s failed coup, analysts had been making the connection between Gulen, infiltration of the Turkish state, and the CIA.  As political analyst Osman Softic wrote in 2014:

“Given that the Hizmet sympathizers skilfully [sic] infiltrated some of the most sensitive structures of the state such as the police, intelligence, judiciary and public prosecution, it is quite plausible that this movement may have served as a convenient mechanism for destabilization and even overthrow of the Erdoğan government, by much more powerful and sinister international actors… Gülen himself may have become a convenient pawn in their attempt to destabilize Turkey.”

The allegation that Gulen agents have penetrated all throughout the Turkish state is nothing new.  In fact, such assertions have dogged Gulen and the Hizmet movement for at least the last two decades.  But it is the connection to US intelligence and the elite circles of US foreign policy that truly completes the picture.

Enter Graham Fuller, former Vice Chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council, whose links to Gulen’s movement run deep.  Fuller has gone so far as to defend Gulen on Huffington Post in recent days in an article entitled The Gulen Movement Is Not a Cult — It’s One of the Most Encouraging Faces of Islam Today in which he admits – he had no choice as it is well documented – that he wrote a letter in support of Gulen’s green card application to the US in 2006.  Although his rhetoric attempts to distort the nature of, and reason behind, his support for Gulen, Fuller does imply that Hizmet represents a social movement aligned with, and amenable to, US interests, one which could be used as a potent weapon in a critical NATO ally.

Fuller fails to note that he doesn’t simply have a passing connection with the Gulen movement, but that he has attended numerous Gulenist functions including large events, such as those organized by the Turquoise Council for Americans and Eurasians, a reputed Gulenist umbrella organization run by Kemal Oksuz (a.k.a. Kevin Oksuz), a prominent member of the Gulen network.

In addition to Fuller, infamous former CIA operative and US Ambassador to Turkey, Morton Abramowitz, also wrote a letter backing Gulen as he sought sanctuary in the US.  Interestingly, Abramowitz was also the co-author, along with fellow neocons Eric Edelman and Blaise Misztal, of a fiery January 2014 op-ed in the Washington Post that all but demanded that the US topple Erdogan’s government. Yes, chin-scratchingly interesting.

So, let’s see if we got it all down.  Gulen leads a multi-billion dollar business empire and charter/private school network with global reach.  He is directly connected to two of the most notorious CIA operatives in the recent history of US-Turkish relations.  He has a political lobbying network whose tentacles stretch from Washington to Central Asia.  Oh, and by the way, according to former Turkish intelligence chief Osman Nuri Gundes, Gulen’s network of schools in the Central Asian nations of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan provided the cover for at least 130 CIA agents in the mid to late 90s.

Now let’s add to that equation the fact that the RAND corporation, one of the most influential think tanks within US policy circles, suggested in a detailed 2004 report entitled Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and Strategies that US policy should:

“Support the modernists first, enhancing their vision of Islam over that of the traditionalists by providing them with a broad platform to articulate and disseminate their views. They, not the traditionalists, should be cultivated and publicly presented as the face of contemporary Islam…Support the secularists on a case-by-case basis.”

It would seem that, more than a decade ago, and at a time when Gulen and Erdogan were still friendly, their organizations still allied, that US policy was to push Gulen and the moderate Islamist elements that he and Erdogan represented.  It seems quite likely that the falling out between Erdogan and Gulen had less to do with personal issues and egos (though that undoubtedly played a part) than it did with policy and loyalty.

The Geopolitics and Strategy of the Failed Coup

Despite his commendable service to US imperialism in Syria, including hosting both terrorist and Syrian expatriate proxies of the US, Erdogan has clearly upset the apple cart with Washington.  Perhaps his most egregious crime came just recently when he issued an apology for the November 2015 downing of a Russian jet.  But, of course, it wasn’t the apology itself that set off official Washington, it was the reorientation of Turkish foreign policy away from the US, NATO, and Europe, and towards Russia, China, and the emerging non-western power bloc. This was his grave sin. And it wasn’t the first time, though undoubtedly Washington wanted to make sure it would be his last.

One must recall that Erdogan has a nasty habit of making deals with US adversaries, including the signing of the massive Turk Stream pipeline deal, the decision to purchase missile systems from China (which Erdogan later reneged on), the signing of a lucrative nuclear energy deal with Russia, and many others.  In short, for Washington, Erdogan proved to be an unreliable ally at best, and a dangerous political manipulator at worst.  So, as with so many leaders who came to be seen that way by the US political elites, he had to go.  And Gulen’s network would come in handy.

Perhaps one of the most striking aspects of the events of the failed coup was the use of the NATO base at Incirlik.  As the Los Angeles Times noted:

“Turkish officials said the organizers of the uprising were given crucial aid from officers at Incirlik Air Base, a facility that hosts most of the 2,500 U.S. military personnel stationed in Turkey and is a key base for the U.S.-led coalition’s ongoing air campaign to defeat the Islamic State militant group in neighboring Iraq and Syria… official media reported the arrest of the top Turkish military official at Incirlik, Gen. Bekir Ercan Van. Van was among 10 soldiers arrested at the base, part of an operation Turkish officials say provided air-to-air refueling for F-16 fighter jets…[which] were a crucial part of the coup attempt, used to intimidate government supporters in the streets.”

The implications of this information should not be understated.  While it is entirely possible that the story was concocted by Erdogan’s people in order to carry out a purge of top military officials perhaps seen as disloyal to Erdogan or much too loyal to secular Kemalists, it is also plausible that the Turkish government’s narrative is correct.

Were that to be the case, then the obvious implication would be that Incirlik was a base of operations for the coup, the locus of Turkish military power behind the coup, and US intelligence and military behind them.  Considering the centrality of Incirlik to NATO operations in the Middle East, it is not unreasonable to assume that aside from just military personnel, Incirlik is a node in the global CIA network.  In fact, considering that the base is home to both US drones conducting operations in the Syria-Iraq theater, as well as a hub of the US “extraordinary rendition” program, it almost goes without saying that Incirlik houses significant CIA assets.

Seen from this perspective then, Incirlik was obviously pivotal to the failed coup plot, and has since become essential to Erdogan’s purging of his rivals from the ranks of the military.  Moreover, it was long a bone of contention between Ankara and Washington, with Erdogan’s government wanting to assert more control over the base than Washington was prepared to allow.  In many ways, Incirlik became the nexus of a tectonic shift in Turkish politics, and in the geopolitics of the region.

Ultimately, the failed 2016 coup in Turkey will have lasting ramifications that will impact the years and decades ahead.  With Turkey now clearly breaking with the US-NATO-EU axis, it is rather predictable that it will seek to not only mend fences with both Russia and China, but to place itself into the non-western camp typified by BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, China’s One Belt One Road strategy, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, etc.

The failure of the coup is clearly a failure for the US and its allies who see in Erdogan an adversary, not a partner.  For his part, Erdogan has much criminal behavior to answer for.  From his illegal fomenting of war in Syria, to the purges and arbitrary detentions ongoing in Turkey today, to the attacks on secular institutions and human rights, Erdogan has a rap sheet a mile long.   But of course sharing a bed with criminal regimes has never been a problem for Washington.

No, the problem has been, and will continue to be, that Erdogan doesn’t play by the rules; rules set forth by the US.  And with this US-backed coup, he will only get stronger.  Surely, many sleepless nights lay ahead for the strategic planners in Washington.