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Something New and Something Old: a Story Still Being Told

The patently cynical declaration of a national state of emergency by *45 offers a teachable moment on history, politics and empire. The lies and fear-mongering of those in power, the propaganda to legitimize violating the sovereignty of other nations, the use of fake manufactured crises and old war criminals to promote new atrocities – these are all time-tested tactics of the politics of the USA. The naked psychological shortcomings of the current head of state leading to undisciplined statements which reveal truth is new, offering a unique opportunity for people to ask the right questions and learn the right lessons.

New too is Congress invoking the 1973 War Powers Resolution as a check against executive overreach. Yet this was driven by the loose tongue of *45 putting a dollar value on life following the Saudi murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The rot of empire begins from within. Concern for human rights in Yemen didn’t animate Congress, but rather the truth of money-mad policy undermining US soft-power. *45’s ‘leadership’ encouraged the US National Security Advisor John Bolton to reveal that Venezuela policy is driven by US oil company opportunism (The recycling of this unrepentant criminal to policy point man is a lesson in itself on the myth of accountability and rule of law). US intervention in Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Chile and so on were likewise driven by corporatism, but prior administrations were better at sticking to the script of promoting democracy. Listen closely to the current US government talk about Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Mexico.

So, there are indeed silver linings to *45 – giving us the opportunity to learn and to shake-up and transform business as usual. Always ask: Why so many lies? In whose interest? Follow the money. Be curious – listen, read and learn. Listen to Jeremy Scahill. Read Chalmers Johnson (The Sorrows of Empire), Sheldon Wolin (Democracy Incorporated), John Stockwell (In Search of Enemies), and Jenny Pearce (Under The Eagle). The Federalist Society has used *45 and Republican legislators to pack the federal courts. The rule of law is near dead. The rule of the people must catalyze an uprising against plutocracy, war profiteering, and the savage wars of empire. The mass President’s Day protests today, like the grassroots mobilization for a green new deal, are cause for optimism. Our story is not finished.

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William A. Cohn, professor of jurisprudence at New York University and lecturer on law, ethics and critical thinking at the University of New York in Prague, is the author of Led Astray: Legal and Moral Blowback from the Global War on Terror (Routledge, 2017).

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