• All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.

  • I.F. Stone

donderdag 19 oktober 2017

AFRICOM’s Chickens Come Home to Roost

18 Oct 2017
U.S. Troop Deaths in Niger: AFRICOM’s Chickens Come Home to Roost
U.S. Troop Deaths in Niger: AFRICOM’s Chickens Come Home to Roost
“The Trump administration is talking about a potential imminent U.S. military action to hit back.”
From the outset, the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has incorrectly presumed the stupidity of Africans and others who are concerned about the continent. To answer accusations that the U.S. uses its military to ensure continuing imperialist domination of Africa, AFRICOM has stubbornly insisted that its sole objectives are to advise and support the armies of African government “partners” and to provide humanitarian assistance. But we know the truth to be otherwise.
U.S. Army General Donald Bolduc shamelessly told NBC News: “America is not at war in Africa. But its partner forces are.” But even a soldier can recognize the farce. Former Green Beret Derek Gannon said: “[U.S. military involvement in Africa] is called Low Intensity Irregular Warfare, yet technically it’s not considered war by the Pentagon. But warfare is warfare to me.”
The U.S. maintains two facilities in Africa that qualify as military bases. However, according to NBC the U.S. increased the number of embassy-based military missions called “Offices of Security Cooperation” from nine in 2008 to 36 in 2016. Researchers say the U.S. military now has a presence in at least 49 African countries, presumably to fight terrorism. Even if anti-terrorism were the actual ultimate objective, military.com has pointed out: “The U.S. has found some of its efforts to fight extremists hobbled by some African governments, whose own security forces are ill-equipped to launch an American-style hunt for the militants yet are reluctant to accept U.S. help because of fears the Americans will overstay their welcome and trample their sovereignty.”
“Researchers say the U.S. military now has a presence in at least 49 African countries, presumably to fight terrorism.”
In the face of Africa’s suspicion, the U.S. still sees strategic benefits to extending AFRICOM’s tentacles into every corner of the continent. In one case the Obama Administration sent 100 troops to Niger in 2013 to set up a drone base in a location where the U.S. was already providing aerial refueling assistance to the French. By June of this year, the number of U.S. military personnel in Niger had grown to at least 645, and by now there may be as many as 800 U.S. troops in that country. While the military establishment may believe that ever-deepening engagement of this kind is helpful to U.S. interests, there is a cost. Earlier this month four U.S. soldiers in Niger were killed in a firefight with alleged terrorist forces. According to at least one account:
“On October 5, about 30 Nigerien troops were patrolling in unarmored trucks alongside a dozen U.S. Army soldiers, among them Green Beret special forces. The patrol was coming from a meeting with tribal leaders and came within striking distance of the border between Niger and its war-torn neighbor Mali. The militants rode in on motorcycles and attacked the patrol with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, killing eight: four Nigeriens, three Green Berets, and another U.S. soldier whose body wasn’t discovered until two days after the attack.”
Implicit in AFRICOM messaging is that U.S. troops help African soldiers protect helpless Africans from an unwanted “terrorist” presence. However, a CNN report about the ambush in Niger states: “Some of the soldiers who attended the meeting with local leaders said that they suspected that the villagers were delaying their departure, stalling and keeping them waiting, actions that caused some of them to suspect that the villagers may have been complicit in the ambush...”
“By June of this year, the number of U.S. military personnel in Niger had grown to at least 645, and by now there may be as many as 800 U.S. troops in that country.”
Military commanders who intervene in other countries should know that when non-combatant villagers have taken up the cause of any group -- regardless of the group’s objectives -- a military victory for the interveners is practically hopeless. Nevertheless, “[m]ultiple officials told CNN that the Trump administration is talking to the Nigerien government about a potential imminent U.S. military action to hit back at the militant group that killed the American soldiers.”
Under U.S. law, Congress has the opportunity to arrest any continuing reckless military engagement by Trump. The War Powers Resolution provides that under certain circumstances a President can deploy troops into combat situations, but there are periodic reporting requirements for a President as well as time limits on how long troops can remain engaged in conflicts without a formal declaration of war or specific Congressional authorization. Nevertheless, the Congress has a history of failing to curb U.S. military intervention in other countries, and we should not expect them to do it now. Notwithstanding the deaths in Niger, Africa is not regarded in the minds of Congress or the broader public as a place where the U.S. is at war.
AFRICOM has been confident of its ability to expand the U.S. military presence in Africa while flying below the radar because of its supposed advisory role. Its plan has been to use proxy African soldiers to engage in actual combat without worries of U.S. casualties and the attendant controversies and backlash. But the deaths in Niger represent an unexpected snafu.
“Congress has a history of failing to curb U.S. military intervention in other countries.”
While it may be true that on this occasion, the deaths in Niger faded quickly from media focus, and consequently from the attention of the U.S. public, there is good reason to believe there are more deaths to come. Africans are not stupid, but U.S. military officials are if they ignore the possibility that even the most humble African villagers passionately resent an ever-widening presence of U.S. military personnel in their communities. These humble people may lack the wherewithal to effectively demonstrate their hostility, but the recent killings in Niger with the suspected assistance of villagers evidence the possibility that there are forces eager to exploit African anger and confusion about the presence of U.S. troops.
If the death toll of U.S. troops continues to climb and AFRICOM loses its low profile, there should be no surprise in the Pentagon about its chickens coming home to roost.
Mark P. Fancher is an attorney who writes periodically for Black Agenda Report. He can be contacted at mfancher(at)Comcast.net.

Israel turns bus into torture chamber

19 Oct 2017
Israel turns bus into torture chamber
Jerusalem’s al-Asqa mosque – one of Islam’s holiest sites – received much attention during the summer when Israel blocked Palestinian worshippers from entering it.
Some incidents of Israeli brutality around that period nonetheless went unreported by international media.
Through my work as a lawyer with the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel , I gathered testimony from victims of one such incident.
On 27 July, Israeli police raided the al-Aqsa compound at around 10pm. That was shortly after Israeli authorities had removed the metal detectors and cameras they had placed at the entrance to the compound.
The raid, not the first at al-Aqsa that day , was perceived as police exacting revenge on Palestinians who had successfully resisted the restrictions on access to the mosque with two weeks of civil disobedience.
Moments after calling on everyone to evacuate the mosque, police officers fired rubber bullets at the unarmed worshippers, injuring several. About 120 Palestinians were rounded up, none of whom resisted arrest.
A Palestinian medical team had been providing aid to a worshipper in the mosque before the raid occurred. Members of the team found themselves helping the raid’s victims, including a man who was injured by a sponge-tipped bullet.
One of the medical team testified that a senior Israeli police officer known as Shlomi “walked towards us and told his troops: ‘They’re not paramedics, they are all liars, take their vests and fuck them up.’”
The police stripped the medical staff of their uniforms, clumped them together with the worshippers and forced them into a corner with their hands raised in the air.
The police then forced all the detainees to the ground. Many were beaten by police wearing padded gloves and wielding batons.


The detainees had their hands tied behind their backs with plastic cables. Shackled and helpless, the detainees were forced to sit on their knees, with some being ordered to bow their heads between their legs.
“They pointed at me, I walked over towards them, a police woman grabbed me by my hands, while another police officer kicked me from behind, and I fell to the ground,” one detainee said.
“They held my hands behind my back and one of them jumped above me, stepped on my hip, pulled my hands further back, and handcuffed me. I told him, ‘It’s very tight, I’m only a human.’ The officer said, ‘Is this tight?’ and tightened the plastic cuffs until I bled.”
The detainees were split into two groups and forced to walk barefoot out of the mosque to the Moroccan Gate – an entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City.
Some were forced to walk with their heads facing down; others were forced to bow at a 90 degree angle while walking. At the gate, some were forced onto their knees again while others were given a full body search.
All this took place as Israeli onlookers mocked, filmed and photographed the detainees.
The first group of detainees was transferred onto police vehicles. The second group, about 100 detainees, was forced onto a low floor bus run by the Israeli public transport firm Egged .
Once they were loaded onto the bus, the detainees were forced to sit with their hands behind their backs. One young man said that there was an initial sense of relief “that I was finally seated on a chair, because my feet were killing me from the beating, being stepped on by police officers, and walking barefoot during the arrest. I wasn’t able to move, my feet were swollen.”
The young man quickly added that he was “wrong to feel at ease.” He was promptly told to bow his head between his knees.

“My back was cracking”

While in that position, police officers threw another detainee on his back and those of the three detainees placed beside him. Another three detainees were then piled on top of them, forming a kind of human pyramid.
“They threw a heavy person on the four of us,” the man said. “I felt my back was cracking.”
Other detainees were made to open their legs so that two detainees could be placed on each leg. In some cases, a further detainee was placed lying the floor between fellow detainees’ legs and facing their genitals.
The remainder of the detainees was forced to sit on the floor of the bus’ corridor.
The level of police aggression was such that detainees feared for their lives.
“I saw death in their [the police’s] eyes,” said one young man.
“I don’t get scared easily,” said another man, aged 22. “But that night, I was sure they came to kill us, all of us. I was so afraid that I almost urinated in my pants.”
Testimonies of these young men and some others formed the basis of a complaint made by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel on behalf of 10 Palestinians placed on that bus. The complaint was filed with Israel’s police investigation unit in late August.
The bus carrying the detainees was brought to the Russian Compound , an interrogation center synonymous with torture .


Some detainees alleged further police violence against them at the center. A teenage boy, who was visibly in pain, was among those assaulted there.
Most of the detainees were released from the Russian Compound after an hour or so. Others, though, were not released until the following day.
Each member of the group held until the next day was shackled to another man throughout his detention. They had to accompany each other even when using the toilets.
The men who were shackled together had to sleep on the floor.
One of the detainees was struck in the head by police during the raid. Even though he was visibly bleeding, he was not provided with any medical attention until after his detention – when he was brought away in an ambulance.
The detainees with whom I spoke all reported of swelling in the wrists and of bleeding as a result of the tight restraints placed on them.
This incident was not the first time that Israel has commandeered public transport vehicles for military or policing operations.
In 1992, Israel used Egged buses to deport more than 400 Palestinians – blindfolded – from the occupied West Bank and Gaza to southern Lebanon.
The misuse of buses by Israel’s forces of occupation is symptomatic of a bigger issue. Since its establishment, Israel has deliberately seized public or civilian property and transformed it into closed military zones. Designating large tracts of the West Bank in that way has allowed Israel to expand its settlements.
Israel refuses to separate military and civilian life. The Israeli army runs bases and offices in universities ; soldiers carry weapons on public transport.
By penetrating into almost every aspect of Palestinian life, Israel has been able to raid places of worship with impunity. Buses have been turned into prison cells.
This item was originally published by our friends at the Electronic Intifada on October 10, 2017.
Sharazad Odeh is a Palestinian human rights lawyer and a researcher on law and gender. She works as a staff attorney with Kayan Feminist Organization and holds various research roles at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The opinions expressed in this article are her own.

Shootings Across the United States

Danny Haiphong, BAR contributor
18 Oct 2017
Malcolm’s Chickens Have Roosted in Shootings Across the United States
Malcolm’s Chickens Have Roosted in Shootings Across the United States
“The U.S. is flooded with anxiety and guns.”
Mass casualty, civilian-led shootings are a uniquely US phenomenon. The most recent headline shooting in Las Vegas took over fifty lives and injured many more. Since the War on Terror was declared in 2001, mass shootings have served as a barometer of the profound confusion and fear that exists in the US. Corporate media outlets and their allies in the US military state have shown little interest in finding actual policy solutions to the problem beyond more state repression. That’s because any real investigation of the causes of these events would expose how Malcolm’s chickens have roosted across the blood-soaked nation.
Mainstream discourse has once again failed to ask the right questions. Sympathetic accounts of white assailants have also served to place attention on individual suspects rather than systemic causes. Sympathetic accounts have been absent for Arab, Muslim, and other oppressed peoples who are instead deemed “terrorists” whenever they commit acts of mass violence on US soil, which isn’t often. Then there is the superficial discussion about mental health and mass shootings, leading to few conclusions other than the stigmatization of the mentally ill. And of course, gun control lobbyists and weapons manufacturers have rehashed their superficial conflict to forward their particular political agendas.
“Pentagon weapons flow to local police departments in the billions to lynch Black Americans at a near daily rate and prepare for counterinsurgency war operations against the entire population.”
The ruling circle has every interest in dampening the ability of the masses to formulate an independent lens to understand “mass shootings.” The shootings reveal the fault lines of a deeply unstable domestic situation in the heartland of empire. They are a modern-day example of Malcolm X’s “chickens coming home to roost.” When Malcolm made the controversial statement after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, he was claiming that the violence white supremacy and empire had imposed on Black America and the people of Vietnam would eventually come back to afflict those in power. From this lens, what does the long list of mass shootings reveal about the United States?
For one, it reveals that the deeply militarized character of US society in 2017 has only intensified the empire’s historic antagonisms. Chinese revolutionary Mao Tse-Tung once said that political power grows from the barrel of a gun. For over two centuries, the US has maintained political power by enforcing racism and capitalism at the barrel of a variety of deadly, mass-murdering guns. Millions of Africans and Natives were killed to make way for the nation’s founding, and millions more have been murdered at home and abroad to ensure that the US maintains its dominant economic and military status. A trillion-dollar military budget, much of which goes to contracts with weapons manufacturers , continues to submit millions in Yemen, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere to violent, pre-mature deaths. Pentagon weapons flow to local police departments in the billions to lynch Black Americans at a near daily rate and prepare for counterinsurgency war operations against the entire population.
“For over two centuries, the US has maintained political power by enforcing racism and capitalism at the barrel of a variety of deadly, mass-murdering guns.”
A nation so steeped in violence cannot help but spread the fervor to the entire population. Popular corporate media celebrates violence, especially when it depicts US warfare. The Pentagon heavily invests in the corporate media to guarantee that its endless war on the world goes unchallenged. The police and military are celebrated at nearly every corporate sports venue and the US has several holidays dedicated to mass murderers and colonialists. Colin Kaepernick has been blacklisted from the NFL for not standing for a US flag that has imposed violence and premature death on the Black community since the nation’s inception.
Couple the US empire’s violent antagonisms with the supreme crisis of the capitalist economic system and the toxicity level of US society only heightens. The US is flooded with anxiety and guns. Mental health has worsened as a result of a general decline in living standards. Depression is highest where poverty is highest and about half of the US population is poor . It makes sense then that half of the US population experiences mental health symptoms at some point in their lives. Mental health symptoms are treated with pharmaceuticals that often carry side effects such as suicidal thoughts, irritability, and the like.
“Swimming in a toxic soup.”
The US, in other words, is a profoundly sick and violent society. To paraphrase Don Debar, the masses living in the belly of US imperialism are swimming in a "toxic soup.” That soup is increasingly going sour for both the rulers and the ruled. An intense level of stress has been foisted upon the laps of poor and working people, especially Black Americans in US imperialism's race to the bottom. A permanent unemployed class has arisen from the bowels of a stagnant capitalist economy. The rulers themselves are unhappy that US economic and military hegemony is waning in the global sphere and its public relations image has been tainted by the record rates of incarceration and police murder that exist within US borders.
Mass shootings are but another example of how the conditions imposed by imperialism domestically and globally eventually come back to haunt the system. Imperialism is digging its own grave. US covert support for jihadist terrorists abroad has left the US and West vulnerable to attacks on their own shores. US intelligence has also devised "counter terror" operations meant to legitimize the big lie that is the "War on Terror," literally creating scenarios by which to prove the legitimacy of the policy. State activity and surveillance has only further deepened the alienation present in a population so indoctrinated by the anti-social character of the empire. As Glen Ford stated in BAR , in a society "that has historically denied the humanity of people of color, killing and enslaving them, and which has waged modern wars of annihilation against non-whites around the world, solidarity with other human beings does not come naturally." This condition is only compounded by the fact that US intelligence services are designed to divide the population and, in collaboration with the corporate media, turn external anxieties inward.
“State repression, once only leveled on rebellious working people and racialized groups, has been extended to the entire population.”
US imperialism is a warfare state. Political chaos, social alienation, and economic misery define the internal life of US imperialism's declining empire. A trillion dollar military budget, over 800 military bases and thousands of nuclear weapons cannot protect the system from its own demise. Malcolm's chickens have come home to roost in a variety of forms. Mass shootings are but one manifestation of their domestic presence.
The oppressor class always makes internal strife a reason to instill fear into the masses. Mass fear is then utilized to further the profit-driven agenda of the imperialist order. State repression, once only leveled on rebellious working people and racialized groups, has been extended to the entire population. Everyone is a potential terrorist that can be bombed or killed out of existence by the state. In the case of many mass shootings, the perpetrators are white and have to be treated humanely so not to reveal that white supremacy is at the root of all violence in the US. These events have only validated the fear that has been wielded by the ruling class to turn the attention of the masses away from changing the deplorable conditions they live in.
Danny Haiphong is a Vietnamese-American activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at wakeupriseup1990@gmail.com

Russiagate Brings Black Caucus to a New Low

Margaret Kimberley, BAR editor and senior columnist
18 Oct 2017
Freedom Rider: Russiagate Brings Black Caucus to a New Low
Freedom Rider: Russiagate Brings Black Caucus to a New Low
“The worst fascism in decades is underway under the auspices of Democrats.”

The so-called Russiagate scandal is a fiction. The hapless Democrats see it as a means of doing what they failed to do on election day in 2016, defeat Donald Trump. The fear mongering also makes the case for waging war by other means against Russia and supporting American imperialism. But this worst of all fake news stories fell apart. The only way to continue the dubious cause was to ratchet it up with more lies. Enter the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).
The members of the CBC were once known as the conscience of the Congress. But they have been beaten down by corporate interests which threaten them with political defeat should they step out of line. Fear and cynical self-interest turned them into useless party hacks. They are only committed to keeping themselves in office and maintaining their position as arbiters of who does and doesn’t get the crumbs dispensed to the Black Misleadership Class.
Now the CBC have moved from being pathetic users and losers to actively working against the interests of all black people. The bizarre claims about Russian election interference are now more dangerous than ever. The Democratic Party is enacting censorship at a level never before seen in this country and the CBC are in full accord.
“Facebook is reportedly looking to hire staff with national security clearances to ferret out spying that doesn’t exist.”
It has been a long time since black politicians accommodated the methods of state repression used against their people. Now the CBC pressures social media platforms Facebook and Twitter into embarking upon censorship of the left. Facebook is reportedly looking to hire staff with national security clearances to ferret out spying that doesn’t exist. If the CBC were even a shadow of its former self its members would be front and center in protest. Instead they lead the charge for state surveillance of everyone in the country.
While the CBC should spend time fighting against the latest iteration of COINTELPRO, the Black Identity Extremistdesignation, they instead demand more jobs for their friends. That is what having black board members at Twitter and Facebook will amount to. There will be more black misleaders to lead us all down the path to political suicide.
All talk of resistance is phony, a ruse made to fool the rest of us into thinking we are fighting Trumpian fascism. But the worst fascism in decades is underway and under the auspices of Democrats who are targeting Trump but not for any reason that will help black people.
“The Democratic Party is enacting censorship at a level never before seen in this country and the CBC are in full accord.”
The Black Identity Extremist canard should be front and center in any political discussion about espionage and intelligence agencies. Instead it has been disappeared by people who have the power to bring it to public debate and protest. It is black protest after all, righteous protest against police murder, which created the Black Identity Extremist lie. But just as the CBC did nothing useful about fighting police murder they now assist the same people who would deprive their constituents of their lives and their rights.
Black politics has reached a terrible low point. The trap of the duopoly becomes more and more obvious as the Democratic Party failed to ever fight against the real election hacking which stole black votes in election after election. Having done nothing to help themselves or their most devoted members, they now blame a faraway country for American racism. The left is weak, black politics has been officially killed off and the CBC is aiding and abetting the attack on activists.
Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg met with caucus members as they demanded that something be done to stop a non-existent crime. The click bait ads which are meant to sell products have now become the means of cutting the left off from the only means they have to communicate and advocate. The big lies reminiscent of the McCarthy era are back and they are bigger than ever.
“Having done nothing to help themselves or their most devoted members, they now blame a faraway country for American racism.”
On November 1, 2017 Congress will hear testimony from representatives of Facebook, Twitter and Google. These ordinarily all powerful corporations have capitulated and will no doubt grovel and pledge to spy on everyone with internet access. Already the National Security Agency keeps records of all email, all cell phone calls, and all social media posts. Thanks to the eager Democratic Party the security state will expand and decide who can post online and what they can say.
The crime is a perfect one and black so-called leaders are marching in lock step. Congressional Black Caucus members are well aware that black people suffer more than anyone else from the dangers of government surveillance. The CBC have moved from being merely ineffectual to being a great danger to the people they supposedly represent. If Russian operatives were trying to harm America they could not have come up with a better plot.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.

House Negroes Rally Against Russia

Glen Ford, BAR executive editor
19 Oct 2017
House (of Representatives) Negroes Rally Against Russia
House (of Representatives) Negroes Rally Against Russia
“For the Black elite, ‘resistance’ means defense of the Democratic Party against all challengers – including independent political challenges from grassroots Black America.”
The Congressional Black Caucus is "the heart and soul of the resistance movement in Congress,” said California Rep. Barbara Lee , speaking at a “State of Black America” panel at Laney College, in Oakland, last week. Lee’s right. She and her Black corporate Democratic colleagues are in the forefront of a kind of “resistance” -- but not resistance to the routine murder of Blacks by police, or the economic race to the bottom led by the Caucus’s patrons on Wall Street, or to gentrification, hyper-militarization and war. Instead, the Black Caucus has been waging a desperate resistance to the incipient grassroots movement that emerged in Ferguson, Missouri, three years ago.
This perversion of “resistance” now speaks in anti-Russia tirades, but that’s only the CBC’s latest diversionary tactic, as it scrambles to reclaim its squandered legitimacy.
Like the rest of the Black Misleadership Class, the Caucus feared that a revival of movement politics might unleash forces that could not easily be contained. The Black elite’s job is to keep the lid on Black protest -- the realresistance -- so that the dispersal, disempowerment and demoralization of Black communities can be accomplished with as little disruption as possible. The rebellions in Ferguson and Baltimore threatened the carefully constructed arrangement between corporate power and the Black political class -- a deal forged and mediated largely through the structures of the Democratic Party. The Black political class lives and feeds within the institutional confines of the Democratic Party, which has colonized most of the Black community’s civic groups and churches. For the Black elite, “resistance” means defense of the Democratic Party against all challengers -- including independent political challenges from grassroots Black America, which is decidedly to the left of the Democratic Party.
“The Black elite’s job is to keep the lid on Black protest.”
Ferguson thus created a crisis, not just for the ruling order in general, but also for the corporate-dependent Black Misleadership Class, rooted in the Democratic Party. The first casualties were the Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, as well as lesser lights of their ilk, whose legitimacy as Black leaders was rejected by a new cadre of activists. The Democratic National Committee’s attempt to absorb #BlackLivesMatter was also rebuffed – for the time being, at least – in the late summer of 2015, when #BLM leaders declared:
“The Democratic Party, like the Republican and all political parties, have historically attempted to control or contain Black people’s efforts to liberate ourselves. True change requires real struggle, and that struggle will be in the streets and led by the people, not by a political party.”
Just two months before a Ferguson cop gunned down Michael Brown, the Congressional Black Caucus showed its true allegiances when 80 percent of its members voted against a bill that would have halted Pentagon transfers of weapons, gear and training to local police departments. (See BAR, “The Treasonous 32: Four-Fifths of Black Caucus Helps Cops Murder Their Constituents.”)
“Ferguson created a crisis for the corporate-dependent Black Misleadership Class, rooted in the Democratic Party.”
Two years later, when all of Black America was in mourning or engaged in outraged action over the police murders of Alton Sterling, in Baton Rouge, and Philando Castile, in Minnesota, the Congressional Black Caucus tried to change the subject, staging a diversionary sit-down on the floor of the U.S. House demanding gun control – as if that had anything to do with mass police killings of Black people.
With the defeat of corporatist Democrat Hillary Clinton by the overt racist Donald Trump, the Black Caucus exited from reality-based politics altogether. Atlanta Congressman John Lewis forgot all about Republican voter suppression, which had stolen at least two presidential elections in this century and surely played a decisive role in Trump’s 2016 victory. Instead, the first thing out of Lewis’ mouth after the Electoral College verdict was “...Russians!” And that’s all the Black Caucus has talked about, ever since.
Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters, who were among the eight Black Caucus members that voted to halt the Pentagon’s wholesale militarization of local police in 2014, have now made common cause with the rest of the Caucus in demanding that Facebook, Google and other social media gatekeepers censor their pages to prohibit “promotion of division and racial animosity and racial hatred.” Google was eager to interpret this as a mandate to censor the Left. The corporation openly brags that it has altered its algorithms to suppress “controversial” subject matter, resulting in dramatic declines in visitation to a whole range of left-wing web sites, especially those singled out by the Washington Post, right after the election, as giving aid and comfort to Russia. (Black Agenda Report is the only Black site targeted by the Post.)
“The CBC motto: My master’s enemy is my enemy.”
The Black Caucus has found its comfort zone, in the heat of battle against ... Russia (and China, Venezuela, Cuba, Syria and everybody else on the imperial hit list). The CBC motto: My master’s enemy is my enemy. They have taken the meaning of “House Negro” to a new level. Having nothing to offer their constituents, the Black Caucus has become the War Party’s rhythm section, beating the drums of the New McCarthyism.
On November 4 and 5, the Black Is Back Coalition will hold its annual conference and march on the White House, under the theme, “The Ballot AND the Bullet : War and Peace in the Era of Donald Trump.” There is a consensus among the Coalition that the ballot can be useful in conjunction with struggles for social and economic justice, Black self-determination, and peace. But, the Black Misleadership Class, which includes the vast bulk of Black Democratic office holders, is loyal to nothing but its own class fortunes and personal careers.
When the crunch comes, they change the subject, and then opt for war.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com .

Harvey Weinstein and the politics of Hollywood

Harvey Weinstein and the politics of Hollywood

There is something truly exasperating about digesting the steady flow of horror stories relating to Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. In part, of course, it is because the reports that Weinstein allegedly raped and sexually assaulted women over decades are deeply disturbing. In part, it is because one can be certain that there are still young aspiring actresses desperate for a big break who are being exploited by the Hollywood system – both in “casting” sessions and in the movies they must make to get noticed.
But most of all, these stories are exasperating because the women who are speaking out – and one senses they are still just the tip of the iceberg – and the journalists who are feeding off their revelations are drawing precisely no political conclusions from these incidents.
In fact, the Weinstein story perfectly illustrates how politicallydisempowering identity politics can be. Certainly, there can be no doubt that Weinstein, who has admitted that he abused his position with many women, while denying many of the actual reports of sexual misconduct, exploited his power. It should hardly surprise us that a rich man who had the ability to give desperate young women a shot at stardom preyed on them. The Hollywood employment system is capitalism in microcosm, at its rawest and most naked.
The Weinstein revelations tell us much less about relations between men and women than they do about the nature of power and the ability of the strong to exploit the weak.
Under capitalism, the weak – the working class – eventually gained the consciousness and discovered the tools to assert their own form of power. As individuals they were vulnerable and exploitable. As a collective, they gained the power to bargain. That led to the trade union movements, and the gradual improvement in wages and conditions.
The capitalist class has been trying to reverse those gains ever since. The new turbo-charged form we call neoliberalism has been atomising western societies since the 1970s to return us to new forms of economic dependency, culminating in zero-hours contracts and an Uber culture.
What does this have to do with Weinstein? This week Reese Witherspoon spoke out about her own sexual assault by a movie director when she was 16. She has joined a list of famous actors like Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence and Gwyneth Paltrow who have cited their own experiences. One suspects that most of Hollywood’s A-list could tell similar horror stories from their early years in search of stardom.
So what is the lesson that none of them is drawing? Precisely the one that workers learnt more than a century ago. You must get organised.
One can understand why teenage actresses, as Witherspoon was at the time, are fearful of speaking out in a system dominated by predatory men who can destroy their careers. One can also understand that, at the very bottom of the Hollywood food chain, they are in no position to organise against the Hollywood mogul class. But none of that is true for the now fabulously rich and well-connected Witherspoon, Jolie, Paltrow, Lawrence, and all the others who have yet to speak out – or for the A-list men who would surely want to be seen publicly supporting them.
Why are they not organising? There are many things they can do. Here is one simple idea. They could set up a union, a sort of women’s Equity, that would allow actresses, in private, to register incidents of exploitation and sexual abuse with the union, naming those who committed the abuse and their modus operandi. By creating such a database, the union and its lawyers would be able to identify serial abusers and discover patterns of behaviour. The victims could then be encouraged to come forward in a group action, knowing that they would not be facing the Hollwood elite on their own. The union would redress, at least in part, the power of these male producers and directors. They, in turn, would grow more fearful of exposure.
That would be a political act of organised resistance to the power of Hollywood moguls. It would have much more impact than the trickle of stories from immensely successful actresses bewailing their past abuse. Creating such a union would be loose change for Jolie, Witherspoon, Lawrence, Paltrow and the other A-listers.
And yet in the degraded political culture we live in, they prefer to remain disempowered individuals rather than become part of a much stronger collectivity. They prefer their confessionals in the corporate media that exploited and abused them to independent, organised action to curb the corporate system’s excesses.
As long as these household names nurse their individual pain rather than seek to bring about change through organised action, the next generation of young actresses will face the same exploitation and the same abuse they had to endure in their younger days.


I expected the “mansplaining” stuff. That’s part of the degraded political culture I referred to in the article. But I was not quite ready for the small but significant proportion of readers (men and women) who asserted variations of the following comment I received on Facebook:
Women are not responsible in managing this garbage, nor are we responsible in fixing the problem. I appreciate your idea, Jonathan, but we don’t need to be mansplained on how to fix it. This is not another “dreadful women’s issue”. This is in fact a men’s issue, since the beginning of time and all over the world. Own it and fix it! All of you!
That may sound empowering, but it’s about as meaningless as the idea of “girl power”. In fact, I would politely suggest it is the adult equivalent of such hollow ideas, long promoted by a male-dominated corporate media.
Feel free to pin your hopes on men volunteering to fix their behaviour, individually or collectively, but also be ready to accept you might have a long wait. History suggests human behaviour tends not to work that way.
To bring us back to my original article, here’s a little thought experiment. Imagine we had blogs and social media in Victorian times. Like some well-off revolutionary Marxist, I posted about the oppression of the working class, about children being sent up chimneys, factory workers forced to work 16-hour days for pennies, women in effective slavery in wealthy homes. And I argued that the working-class could only change their circumstances through solidarity and collective action, and offered one idea about how it might be achieved.
Now, I might be ready for the accusation of “richsplaining” for my presumption but what would we make of exploited workers who responded by saying it wasn’t their fault, and that it was for the bosses and the rich to “fix their garbage”? Well, I for one might conclude that the chances of bringing about change through organised, collective action were still some way off.
Also, please note: I am not against identity politics per se, any more than I am against Reece Witherspoon telling of her sexual assault as a teenager. Her confessional at the very least makes it a little easier for young women to speak out, and opens the eyes of some men to the extent of the problem. What I argued was that it is not anywhere near enough.
What I am against is identity politics used like a bludgeon, as it too often is. It just reinforces a tribal politics that neoliberalism can richly exploit as the modern equivalent of divide and rule. Men versus women, blacks against whites, rural areas against the cities, and so on. It is the very opposite of solidarity. Which is why, unlike class analysis, it has been promoted for the past two decades in the media and in our universities.
That was the reason my call for organised action against the Weinsteins was directed not at women, as some readers have suggested, but at the most privileged actors (men and women) in Hollywood. Those who, because of their stardom, no longer risk being groped or worse by Hollywood producers could show solidarity with the younger versions of themselves who are still in danger. As I said in the original piece, that would be an act of organised resistance that might bring about real change.

woensdag 18 oktober 2017

How the Nazis Used Jim Crow Laws

How the Nazis Used Jim Crow Laws as the Model for Their Race Laws

Wednesday, October 18, 2017 By Bill MoyersMoyers & Company | Interview 
Belgian Jewish star.Belgian Jewish star. (Photo: DRG-fan, Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0)
To get to the core of race in America today, read this new book by James Whitman. Whitman is the Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law at Yale Law School. Prepare to be as startled as this respected legal scholar was when he came upon a meticulous record of a meeting of top lawyers in Nazi Germany after Hitler's rise to power. Not only did those lawyers reveal a deep interest in American race policies, the most radical of them were eager advocates of using American law as a model. Scholars and historians have argued for years about whether American's own regime of racial oppression in any way inspired the Nazis. Not only does Whitman throw a bright light on the debate, to this reader he settles it once and for all. Carefully written and tightly reasoned, backed up every step of the way with considered evidence and logic, Whitman reminds us that today is yesterday's child, and that certain strains of DNA persist from one generation to another. 
Bill Moyers: You begin the book with a meeting of Nazi Germany's leading lawyers on June 5, 1934, which happens, coincidentally, to be the day I was born.
James Whitman: Oh boy, you were born under a dark star.
To be sure. Adolf Hitler had been chancellor of the Reich for a year and a half. Nazis were rapidly consolidating their hold over Germany. And this was no gathering of everyday, garden-variety lawyers.
No, it wasn't. It was chaired by Hitler's minister of justice and attended by the leading figures among Nazi lawyers.
Why had they gathered? What was their mission?
They were there to begin crafting what would eventually become the notorious Nuremberg Laws, which were promulgated a little bit more than a year later, in September of 1935. Those laws would be the culmination of the first phase of the Nazi program of persecution directed against German Jewry. And they were there to respond to the demands of radical Nazis for the creation of a new kind of race state in Germany.
And the Nuremberg Laws would embody the full-scale creation of a racist state. 
You bet. They did. And that's how we remember them today.
A stenographer was present to record a verbatim transcript of that meeting. Reading that transcript you discovered a startling fact.
Yes -- the fact is that they began by discussing American law. The minister of justice presented a memorandum on American race law that included a great deal of detailed discussion of the laws of American states. American law continued to be a principle topic throughout that meeting and beyond. It's also a startling fact that the most radical lawyers in that meeting -- the most vicious among the lawyers present -- were the most enthusiastic for the American example.
And the laws they were creating --
There were three Nuremberg Laws eventually promulgated in 1935. The two that most concern us are usually called the citizenship law and the blood law. The citizenship law reduced Jews to second-class citizenship status in Germany. The blood law banned, and in fact criminalized, interracial marriage and sex. But there was a third as well, which was called the flag law for the Reich, the purpose of which was to install the swastika as the exclusive flag of Germany.
What were they interested in learning about American law?
American law, hard though it might be for us to accept it now, was a model for everybody in the early 20th century who was interested in creating a race-based order or race state. America was the leader in a whole variety of realms in racist law in the first part of that century. Some of this involved American immigration law, which was designed to exclude so-called "undesirable races" from immigration. In 1924 American immigration law in particular was praised by Hitler himself, in his book Mein Kampf.  
But it wasn't just about American immigration law. There was also American law creating forms of second-class citizenship -- for African-Americans, of course, but also for other populations including Asians, Native Americans, Filipinos and Puerto Ricans. Not least, there were statutes in 30 American states forbidding and sometimes criminalizing interracial marriage. Those were of special interest to the Nazis.
And these lawyers saw America's "Negro problem" as similar to their "Jewish problem?"
You bet they did.
American law did not specifically target Jews, but -- 
But it certainly had a highly developed body of law targeting other groups. And the Nazis, although it is true they were unhappy with the lack of American interest in targeting Jews and deplored some aspects of American society, were quite interested in learning from what Americans did in targeting these other populations.
The Nazis believed American blacks were multiplying so significantly they would eventually overwhelm the US. There are photographs in your book from a Nazi magazine with images of American blacks at the time, and the caption reads: "The Negros are multiplying significantly more strongly than the white population of the United States. Their constantly growing numbers are a source of great concern to American statesmen."
It's certainly the case that there were American statesmen, if you want to call them that, especially in the South, who were concerned about the birthrate in the black population. And it's certainly the case that the Nazis, when they encountered American uneasiness of that kind with regard to the black population, were seeing concerns akin to their own.
And that same Nazi magazine showed pictures of the world champion American boxer Jack Johnson, who was not permitted to return to the US because he had married a white woman in Paris. The caption reads, "Mixed marriage between white and black are forbidden in most states of the union." This ban appealed to the Nazis, didn't it?
It sure did. It was one of the great demands of the Nazis -- and again, especially of the radical Nazis -- that interracial marriage should be not only prohibited, but criminalized. When they looked for models around the world for the criminalization of interracial marriage, though, they only found one example -- well, really 30, because there were 30 American states with anti-miscegenation statutes. And it was to these statues that the Nazi lawyers turned.
I was taken with the revelation that to these German lawyers, American blacks "were not a desperately oppressed and impoverished people, but a menacing alien race of invaders that threatened to get the upper hand and therefore had to be thwarted." There were Americans who believed the same thing in that regard as those German lawyers believed -- that blacks were a threat to white rule. Still are.
They sure did. Of course, this is the idea and the background of the notorious film Birth of a Nation, screened, as we all know, by President Wilson in the White House. What an awful thought! There were believers in this bizarre interpretation of the American race situation all over the country. Not just in the South, but in places like Columbia University. It was commonplace [for people to think] that America was threatened by this kind of takeover.
You quote the German writer Wahrhold Drascher, whose book was titled Supremacy of the White Race: "Americans took care to guarantee that the decisive positions in the leadership of the state would be kept in the hands of Anglo-Saxons alone."
Yeah, that's what he said. And the Nazis, in their interpretation of the American theme, thought that they were seeing concerns parallel to their own in Germany. What they were worried about in the early stages was precisely that Jews might take over Germany, so the Jews had to be kept out of government, out of the legal profession, and out of any other situation in which they might exercise what the Nazis always called influence. The Nazis used exactly the same language in discussing the situation of American blacks.
You quote one prominent Nazi lawyer who admired the Democratic Party of the South for using "racist election law" to build a one-party system.
Yes. And the Nazis weren't the only ones to notice this. Other observers too, including much more palatable ones, looked at the South and saw what they thought was the creation of a one-party system very similar to what was emerging in fascist Europe.
So what did those German lawyers meeting in 1934 see when they looked at America in the early 1930s?
It has to be said that there was a kinship when it came to the writing of racist laws. There was especially, but not exclusively in the South, a tremendous interest among American legislators and American judges in guaranteeing what was sometimes called the Anglo-Saxon or white character of the country at the time. And American lawyers were quite ingenious, as American lawyers often are, in devising law that was intended to serve that end. The first thing that the Nazi lawyers saw to admire was precisely that ingeniousness, that innovativeness of American law, that willingness to look beyond the traditions of equality that we find in the law for new solutions to guarantee what they regarded as the proper racial purity of the United States.
There were many other currents, some very admirable currents that are still with us in the United States, that the Nazis saw and deplored. They were sort of mystified at how a country so clearly dedicated to white supremacy could also [have] something like the 14thAmendment to the Constitution, which guarantees equal rights to American citizens -- among whom, [after] the Civil War, were to be counted the freed black people of the South.
And how did the Nazi lawyers square that with their admiration 50 years later of American racist laws?
Well, many of them said exactly what American observers still say today, what political scientists will say today -- that there were two competing currents in American law: on the one hand, a commitment to universal equality, but on the other hand, a deeply racist tradition, which the Nazis often called the realistic racism of the United States. They liked to think of themselves as realists and they admired the realist racism of the United States too.
The racism that existed and was practiced irrespective of law.
That's it exactly. Realism from their point of view meant grappling not only with the world, with the real problems of the world as they presented themselves, rather than formalistic legal abstractions, but also giving effect to the deeply rooted, intuitive racism of the American population in general.
So what those Nazi lawyers creating the Nuremberg Laws saw and admired was the United States going about the political construction of race. Americans were using politics to shape laws that would result in a political system organized around race, despite the absence of any meaningful scientific definition of race.
That's it exactly. And of course the problem that they faced involved precisely the difficulty in finding meaningful, reliable scientific definition according to which you could determine who belonged to which race. There were some moderate Nazis involved in the meeting on June 5 who claimed that you couldn't have criminal statutes targeting Jews because it was impossible to define who counted as a Jew. The response of the radicals is exactly the response you mention: "Ah, but there's a political imperative to construct some conception of race by which we can persecute Jews, even if it's not clearly scientifically justifiable."
And they saw America doing that in regard to people of color, particularly black people.
Boy, did they ever. In fact, they saw America doing it in a more radical fashion than any of the Nazis themselves ever advocated. I mentioned earlier the demands of the radicals during the early Nazi period in 1933, which were embodied in something called the Prussian Memorandum. Kind of a sinister name, but that's what it was. The Prussian Memorandum specifically invoked Jim Crow as a model for the new Nazi program, and here's the irony: The Prussian Memorandum also insisted that Jim Crow went further than the Nazis themselves would desire to go. They were planning to ban offensive socialization between the races if it took place in public but not in private. They went on to observe that the Americans went even further than that, banning interactions even in private. As Nazi debates continued, however, there was a great deal of disagreement over whether anything like Jim Crow segregation was appropriate for Nazi Germany. In fact, if you read the stenographic transcript of that meeting we're talking about, you'll come across a leading Nazi radical who denied that segregation would work in Germany. As he put it, "The Jews are just much too rich and powerful. Segregation of the Jim Crow kind could really only be effective against a population that was already oppressed and impoverished," like the African-American population in America. 
You point out that Germans defined sexual relations between a German and a member of a foreign race sexual intimacy as "race treason."
Yes, they did. They had a bunch of terms for it, but "race treason" was certainly one of them. Race treason was the betrayal of one's loyalty to the Aryan race as the Germans conceived it by engaging in sexual relations -- particularly ones that might produce a child -- with a non-Aryan, and especially with a Jew.
And Adolf Hitler writes in Mein Kampf: "The racially pure and still unmixed German has risen to become master of the American continent and he will remain the master as long as he does not fall victim to racial pollution."
That was Hitler, alright. And he was not the only one. Other authors and political leaders on the far right spoke in similar terms. One Nazi writer described the founding of the United States as "the fateful turning point in the Aryan struggle for world domination."
So to the Nazis, America had become the fountainhead for the worldwide rise of white supremacy.
America was the leader from their point of view. Now, many of the representatives of this far right wing thought that the US was doomed to decay on account of race mixing. Hitler himself, as it turns out, was relatively optimistic about the future of the United States, at least in the late 1920s and through the early 1930s. His views began to change later on, after clear hostilities with the United States took hold in the latter part of the 1930s. But in the late 1920s, he expressed some real optimism about the future of the US as a race state. Alternatively, sometimes he regarded the US as representing a major competitive threat to European countries that didn't follow America's lead in establishing the kind of racial purity that American law was designed to establish.
It's important to emphasize too that when Hitler spoke of the American conquest of an entire continent, he was setting a tone for something that Nazis would continue to say down into the 1940s -- this is something that ought to make us all really uncomfortable. It involves research that's not mine but the research of others. As the Nazis rolled east to conquer other lands -- in  Ukraine and elsewhere -- they often invoked the example of the American conquest of the West, even speaking of the Jews of Eastern Europe as Indians. As early as 1928 Hitler was speechifying in admiration of Americans who had "gunned down the millions of redskins to a few hundred thousand, and now keep the modest remnant under observation in a cage."
On reservations.
Yes. Now, we want to be very, very careful in interpreting Nazi invocations of the US. Many German historians have remarked on the fact that the Nazis often invoked the American example. It's hard to miss when you look at the sources. Still, we really must not make this a story of causation in which the Nazis would never have committed the crimes they committed unless they had been able to draw inspiration from the United States. There were too many other sources for the evil crimes of Nazism. One wants to soft-pedal this a little bit. And yet it's there. That's what Hitler did say in l928. You can't read this stuff without shuddering today.
So let's pause there for a moment. You acknowledge in your book that none of this is easy to talk about, that it's hard to digest the idea that American law might have exerted any sort of direct influence on the Nazi program of racial persecution and oppression. And no one, as you yourself say, wants to imagine that America provided any measure of inspiration for Hitler. So you conclude that it would be wrong to say that the Nazis directly borrowed from the Americans, that this is not a story of an exact transplant from one legal culture to another.
In fact, you tell this story very cautiously, with careful qualifications -- the American and Nazi regimes were not the same. But you nonetheless conclude that from Hitler's Mein Kampf on, the Nazis lionized American white supremacy and rummaged, as you put it, in American immigration and citizen laws. The National Socialist Handbook for Law and Legislation even described America as the country that had achieved a fundamental recognition of the historic racist mission that Nazi Germany was now called to fulfill. And we keep saying you can't escape this as we go through the history. We cannot escape it.
Yes, that's exactly right. I should say that I didn't expect to write the book. I didn't know I would find what I found. The universal view among American historians is that there had been no influence or no meaningful influence of American law on the Nazis. There patently was. I think that we hadn't understood it, not only because it's difficult for Americans to talk about it, but more importantly, in some way, it's difficult for Germans to talk about it. The one thing that you want to avoid, if you want to make an honorable, reputable career in the German academic world, is to say anything that might seem to represent an apologetic for the Nazis or to deny German responsibility for Nazi crimes. That makes it hard for Germans who are really the natural scholars to work through this material to do so. You have to read an awful lot of German material. You have to read a lot of technical law, and you have to have some training in order to do it. And there are a lot of reasons not to want to do it. But boy, when you do start digging, and you find the stuff there, it's exactly as you say -- it's painful. You mentioned The National Socialist Handbook for Law and Legislation -- well, it indeed described the US as the country that had arrived at the fundamental recognition of the need for creating a race state, and then went on to explain that it was now the turn of Nazi Germany to do a more rigorous and efficient job of what the Americans had begun. That's a characteristically German view of all of this.
Hitler himself, in Mein Kampf, described the US as the one state that had made at least some progress for creating the kind of race order he wanted to create in Germany. In fact, that's how I started the research. I pulled Mein Kampf off the shelf, saw that phrase, and thought, "Maybe there's something more here."
Had you started to write this book before then?
No, that was how I started.
Reading Mein Kampf?
Yes. It's obvious that American and the Jim Crow era had a race-based or racist regime that resembled what emerged in Germany, so the question of whether there was some influence was a natural one, or at least some resemblance. And I thought I'd just take a look to see what I found and once I began looking, I found a lot.
You quote the Nazi author of The Supremacy of the White Race, Drascher, who said that were it not for the contribution of the Americans, a conscious unity of the white race would never have emerged. Reading just that sentence, I can feel rumbles from American politics today, and it's chilling.
It sure is. I didn't expect to produce a book that would be timely in the way this one has turned out to be timely. But over the past year, the continuities in American history seem to have revealed themselves.
Let's go back to these German lawyers and jurists in that meeting on June 5, 1934. Some historians have suggested that at around that time, Germany and the American South had the look of a mirror image. They were both unapologetically racist. At that time, the Jews of Germany were hounded, beaten and sometimes murdered by mobs and by the state alike and in the same years the blacks of the American South were hounded, beaten and sometimes murdered as well. There are parallels so powerful in our mutual histories that you just have to shake your head.
Yes, you do. I don't know what to say. It's hard for us to digest in the US. There's a lot that we would prefer to forget. And I will say, not just that we would prefer to forget when it comes to our own history, but that we'd prefer to forget about American influence abroad because our example has not always been one for good in the rest of the world.
I watched the mayoral debate on Oct. 10 here in New York City. It was a noisy, raucous affair, and I remembered your writing that the Nazis didn't like New York City. They saw it as a place where "the representatives of the races" gathered to create "a mishmash of ideas and people," a place marked by a great influence of the Jews, which made institutions like Columbia University centers of radicalism, and they thought that the true America by contrast was Anglo-Saxon and Protestant.
That's what they said. I'm sure New York was a fun place to visit regardless. Even if you were a Nazi. But it's true, they regarded the city of New York as just a hotbed of what Hitler called "Jewish elements" and were very, very suspicious of that same brash New York culture you've just described in the debate.
Those particular quotes, which were typical, I should say, of the far-right wing in Germany -- far-right wingers have been saying things like that about New York for a long time -- were from a Nazi book written in praise of Franklin Roosevelt as someone whom the Nazis at first thought exemplified some of the same virtues of their Führer in the early 1930s. That's another uncomfortable piece of this story.
How so?
They often described him as a dictator. So did Mussolini, in fact. They thought that New Deal policies, intended of course to address the horrors, or the economic difficulties let's call them, of the Great Depression, resembled Nazi efforts to do the same thing, which in fact they did. I mean, these were in some ways similar programs, as historians have shown. Some of the Nazi literature at the time said Roosevelt obviously aspired to do the same sorts of things Hitler was doing but who lacked the sort of paramilitary organization, a party army, that was used in Germany to support Hitler's efforts. This was a pretty widespread impression. The Italian fascists thought similar things of the early New Deal.
So take the first programs of 1933 and 1934 -- in particular what was called the National Recovery Administration, eventually struck down by the Supreme Court -- when Mussolini was shown the plan for it, he said, "É un dittatore." "That's a dictator." The perception that Roosevelt really was moving in the same direction as Central European dictators was pretty widespread in those countries in the early 1930s. Later on it became clear that it wasn't the case. But, again -- we don't like to remember it, but especially in the early years of the New Deal, the Roosevelt administration depended very, very heavily on the support of the segregationist South. Roosevelt was very careful not to cross those Southern Democrats and that may also have contributed to the impression in Nazi Germany and elsewhere that there was something kindred in the New Deal regime to what they were doing.
There was traffic back and forth between Germans and Americans who promoted eugenics -- you know, the sterilization of the mentally defective and the exclusion of immigrants said to be genetically inferior. You quote a German author who declared in 1935, "The Americans have begun to think about the maintenance of race purity and thus to ask not only about eugenics, but also about membership in individual races. It can be seen in their immigration laws, which completely forbid the immigration of yellows" -- meaning Asians -- "and place immigration from European countries under sharp supervision. The American knows very well who made his land great. He sees that the Nordic blood is drying up and seeks to refresh that blood through his immigration legislation." 
Yes, the passage you quote is from a Nazi-sympathizing doctor in 1935, saying things that Nazis frequently said at the time. American immigration law had been admired on the European far right wing for a long time, including in particular in a book called The Handbook of the Jewish Question. This was a kind of a minor bible of the Nazi movement, going back to the late 19th century, because already by then the US was restricting immigration in ways that inspired radical Nazis.
And yes, you are absolutely right in saying that eugenics, American eugenic theories played a big role in all of this. Other historians have shown this. American eugenic theories were influential in many parts of the world, not just in Nazi Germany. Eugenic approaches at the time, as difficult as it is for us to imagine now, were respectable. Sweden, for example, was a center of eugenics legislation. So the eugenics business didn't just involve the Nazis and the US, but it is absolutely true that the Nazis were great admirers of American eugenic theories. There was a lot of back and forth as you say. American eugenicists went to Germany. German eugenicists came to the US. They conferred and discussed and compared notes.
So that in the early '30s, when these Nazi lawyers were engaged in creating a race law founded in part on anti-miscegenation law and race-based immigration, they came looking for foreign models and found some in the US.
Yes, and studied them very, very carefully. That's not only true of anti-miscegenation law. The passage that you just quoted earlier on about American immigration law was the product of a lot of very careful study of that law. They worked hard to learn what was going on in the US. And in particular, as you say, they worked very hard trying to understand or to master American anti-miscegenation law. Thirty American states had anti-miscegenation statutes. These were by no means limited to the American South. They were found all over the country. They didn't target only blacks. They were also particularly devoted to banning and sometimes criminalizing marriages and sex between Caucasians and Asians, Caucasians and Native Americans -- it goes on and on. Anti-miscegenation laws were a national phenomenon. At the meeting on June 5, 1934, the memorandum discussed by the minister of justice was accompanied by a list which detailed the anti-miscegenation provisions found in all 30 of the states that had them. And the law of those states was discussed in detail -- I would almost say excruciating detail. They were really looking to see what they could learn from the US.
You have a quote from that transcript of this meeting. One Nazi says to the state secretary, "I'm reminded of something an American said to us recently. He explained, 'We do the same thing you Germans are doing, but why do you have to say it so explicitly in your German laws?'" And the state secretary answered, "But the Americans put it in their own laws even more explicitly." Was he right?
He was. It's quite a memorable exchange, I have to say.
You write that the Nazis were obsessed with the state enforcement of racial and sexual purity. Mixed marriages and mixed sex could lead to imprisonment. They included in the Nuremberg Laws "a blood law," and you write, "It is with the blood law that we discover the most provocative evidence of direct Nazi engagement with American legal models and the most unsettling signs of direct influence." Would you elaborate on that?
Sure. So again there were two principle Nuremberg Laws apart from the flag law that we mentioned before. The first we usually call the citizenship law -- the creation of second-class citizenship for Jews was the object of that law. The second law -- what we call "the blood law" -- was precisely the law about interracial sex and marriage. When it came to the first, the citizenship law, there was plenty of inspiration the Nazis could find in a general way in the United States. But only in a general way, because although the US had no shortage of legal provisions effectively depriving American blacks of voting rights for example and other pertinences of citizenship, and although the US created a special kind of second-class citizen status for certain populations, notably the Filipinos, Puerto Ricans, Native Americans, those aspects of American law for the most part involved legal subterfuges. You couldn't actually come into court in the US and say blacks are not citizens because after the Civil War the citizenship of blacks was guaranteed in the US, so you had to find tricks. The Nazis were of course not going to use tricks. They were simply going to say openly that Jews are not citizens. They didn't have any difficulty saying that at all and for that reason when it came to their citizenship program they weren't going to borrow directly from the United States.
Matters were very different when it came to banning interracial marriage and sex because, as we just said, American anti-miscegenation statutes were completely unapologetic and open about race-based aims. They said "no sex or marriage" between Caucasians and Africans, as they often called them, or between Caucasians and Mongols -- that was a typical term for Asians -- and so on and so forth. The Nazis had something from which they did not hesitate to borrow and they studied these laws very, very carefully.
You write that the US Supreme Court entertained briefs from southern states whose arguments were indistinguishable from those of the Nazis.
They were. The sorts of things the Nazis said, often using terms like mongrelization and bastardization of the population were also often said by Southern racists. It was exactly the same vocabulary.
Let me read to you. Here's a quote from a Maryland statute in 1957 -- 1957! -- that you include in the book:
All marriages between a white person and a Negro, or between a white person and a person of Negro descent, to the third generation, inclusive, or between a white person and a member of the Malay race or between a Negro and a member of the Malay race, or between a person of Negro descent, to the third generation, inclusive, and a member of the Malay race, or between a person of Negro descent, to the third generation, inclusive, and a member of the Malay race or between a Negro and member of the Malay race, or between a person of Negro descent, to the third generation, inclusive, are forever prohibited and shall be void; and and any person violating the provisions of this section shall be deemed guilty of an infamous crime and be punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary for not less than eighteen months or more than 10 years.
That was Maryland law.
Yes, and it wasn't the only one. Laws of that kind weren't ruled unconstitutional until 1967 by the Supreme Court in the famous case of Loving v. Virginia. You could find them all over the United States and they were of great interest to the radical Nazis. The idea that racially mixed marriage was somehow objectionable was pretty widespread in the world in the early 20th century. Racism was something you found everywhere. But criminalization of the American kind was something that you just couldn't find elsewhere, particularly criminalization of such harshness as to threaten 10 years of imprisonment. That was was of tremendous interest to radical Nazis who wanted exactly the same thing for Germany.
Some of them talked about how America's long history of sexual relations between masters and slaves left the US "groaning under the weight of an enormous mass of mongrels." Which brings us to Sen. Theodore Bilbo from Mississippi, one of the most powerful of all Southern politicians.
He figures in my book as he does in some other very important work by Ira Katznelson. Sen. Bilbo was a dyed-in-the-wool racist and a great pillar of the New Deal government in the early 1930s and thereafter. You're absolutely right -- the huge mass of "mongrels" was something the Nazis recognized in the United States. That's a German phrase, it's not a Nazi one, but it's a German phrase for describing the American situation. One of the shocking things about my research was to come to terms with the fact that American definitions of who counted as black or members of other races were much more far-reaching and draconian than anything the Nazis themselves came up with.
Bilbo said, "One drop of Negro blood placed in the veins of the purest Caucasian destroys the inventive genius of his mind and palsies his creative faculty." Is it true that the Nazis thought the one-drop rule too extreme?
They did indeed. They never proposed anything nearly as extreme as the one-drop rule. In fact the standard, the most far-reaching Nazi definitions of who counted as a Jew, matched the least far-reaching ones to be found in the American states. Virtually all American definitions of who counted as a black were far more draconian than anything found in any Nazi proposal. At the same time, the Nazi literature expressed real discomfort about the so-called one-drop rule, which,  I have to say, was not found in every American state, as there were a variety of approaches in the US. But it was understandably notorious. The Nazis, difficult as it is to imagine, described the one-drop rule as inhuman, as "involving human hardness that's going much, much too far, you couldn't do that kind of thing," they said. And their own definitions for who counted as a Jew, especially those that were ultimately attached to the Nuremberg Laws, were more restricted than anything to be found in American states at the time.
Talk about The Cable Act of 1922. I never heard of it until I read your book.
The Nazis were interested in it. The Cable Act was the American version of something found throughout the world at the time -- certainly in Europe and the United States. The Cable Act dealt with a standard problem in the law of the day. According to traditional legal definitions in the 19th century, a married woman acquired the citizenship of her husband and lost her native citizenship. That was part of the general submersion of a wife's legal personality into the personality of her husband. That rule was being abrogated everywhere in the early 20th century and it was abrogated in the United States, too, but the Cable Act included an exception. It said, "Although women retain their American citizenship ordinarily when they marry a non-American citizen, if they stoop so low as to marry a Japanese person or an Asian, they have to be deprived of citizenship in that case."
It's one of a few examples the Nazi lawyers talk about that I think may have played a role in the formation of the ultimate regulations implementing the Nuremberg Laws. In determining who counted as a Jew, the Nazis decided that anybody with two Jewish grandparents would only count as a Jew if that person practiced the Jewish religion or married another Jew. This idea of who counted as a member of a given race depending on their marital history was something for which we could find a bunch of examples in American law and the examples are discussed in the Nazi literature.
The Prussian Memorandum we discussed earlier declared that causing harm to the honor of the race could also be made criminally punishable. When I read your take on this, I thought of the current debate over athletes taking a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance or the national anthem. There are people on the right, including the president of the United States, who say they are dishonoring the flag, dishonoring the history of the country. How little they know of our history. We're still fighting over legacies from the past.
Yes. I handed in the corrected proofs of this book the day before Election Day, so although I knew that some of these undercurrents in America were erupting once again, I didn't understand how much that was the case. What you say is quite true. Things obviously have improved immeasurably. We're not back in the 1930s and I wouldn't want anyone to read my book as suggesting we are. We're certainly not. There are nevertheless obvious resemblances and obvious continuities. and it's interesting that you mention the controversy over the national anthem and the flag. It's worth emphasizing that the swastika flag played a big role in the Nuremberg Laws as well. The Nazis were very, very concerned with demanding obeisance to the symbols of the regime. They even discussed how people might be required to show respect for the heroes of the Nazi movement and of German history; that discussion played a role in that June 5, 1934 meeting. But these kinds of things mattered to them just as they matter now on the American right wing.
White supremacists have been emboldened by Trump. There were the storm troopers marching through Charlottesville searching for Jews. The far right gains support over issues such as immigration, identity, nationality, even greatness: "Make America Great Again." All reverberations from our past.
At that Charlottesville rally, people were chanting, "Blut und Boden," which is "Blood and soil" -- that's the Nazi slogan. Obviously consciously borrowing it from the Nazis and displaying flags that barely alter the swastika symbol. There's no question that they at least want to trumpet their sense of kinship with the Nazi movement. How much they really know about it, I don't know. But in researching for this book I learned that it's not just a matter of Americans borrowing from Nazis; the Nazis were borrowing from the Americans too. A lot of this unfortunately got started in our country.
So tell me about Heinrich Krieger. He's one of the most fascinating personalities to appear in your book.
Yes, he was a young Nazi lawyer who somehow in the year 1933–34 found himself an exchange student in Arkansas. He obviously loved international travel. He was particularly interested in indigenous legal traditions so he worked on American Indian law. Published a perfectly good article on American Indian law in an American law review, one that was certainly written from a Nazi point of view but that showed real mastery of the law and said some intelligent things about American Indian law. I hope I don't offend anybody in observing that there were smart and gifted people who were Nazi lawyers. He returned to Germany where somebody in the justice ministry heard about this kid off in Dusseldorf who knew something about American law. He then wrote a memorandum describing American law and displaying real mastery of American law and American race law. He followed that with a thick book called Race Law and the United States, which is a Nazi book but a Nazi book full of acute observations. You don't want to say anything good about any Nazi scholars but the truth is that Nazis were able to see things in America, precisely because they were looking at them from a Nazi point of view.
His heroes were Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. Explain that.
Isn't it hard to take? Well, so it's important here as background to explain the aims of the early Nazi program. When the Nazis first came to power, the Holocaust was not yet on the horizon. Hitler, as we've seen, had spoken of the Americans gunning down the millions of redskins. But despite that, the idea of mass murder wasn't really practical or much discussed. The early aim of the Nazi program was to force the Jews to emigrate. It was to expel the Jews as had been done in Europe in the Middle Ages or to make life so miserable for them in Germany that they would flee.
Here is the hard part in talking about American history: The reason that Heinrich Krieger admired Jefferson and Lincoln is that both Jefferson and Lincoln repeatedly said that the only real hope for the US lay in resettling the black population somewhere else. And he quoted both Jefferson and Lincoln to that effect. His view of American history was that if only Lincoln hadn't been assassinated Lincoln would have instituted something like the order the Nazis wanted -- that is, he would have found some way to resettle the black population, now freed, in the United States. In particular there was some contemplation of establishing a colony in Central America. He said, "If only Lincoln had survived, then America would be the kind of place that Nazi Germany aimed to be as well." I tell you, it's a shock to read these things but that is what he said.
He was fond of Jefferson's declaration in 1821 on the impossibility of racial coexistence: "It is certain that the two races equally free cannot live in the same government."
Yes, that's just one quote from Jefferson, he said similar things earlier on as well. So you know, they remain our heroes but their world and their mindset were sometimes difficult for us to approve of.
In your book you write: "Sometimes the American democratic political process produces admirable legislation but to have a common-law system like that of America is to have a system in which the traditions of the law do indeed have little power to ride herd on the demands of the politicians and when the politics is bad, the law can be very bad indeed." You go on: "The resulting dangers have not vanished and it would be wrong to close this book without pointing to at least one contemporary realm of American law in which those dangers are still making themselves felt. The realm is American criminal justice. American criminal justice is spectacularly and frighteningly harsh by international standards. It includes practices that are sometimes uncomfortably reminiscent of those introduced by the Nazis."
What is it that makes contemporary American justice so exceptionally harsh?
Oh boy! Certainly one critical answer is the sheer capacity of American politics and politicians to shape American criminal law and American criminal justice. Politicians in the US run on tough on crime platforms. It has to be added as well that both judges and prosecutors are elected officials in much of the US. That's something unheard of in the rest of the world. And frankly, more humane traditions of the law do very little to stand in the way of translating the demands of politicians into law. In that respect, the situation in the US is really quite different from what we find now in Europe, where professional lawyers, professional criminologists and the like still manage criminal justice. I simply have to say it: the accessibility of the legal system to political influence was exactly what the radical Nazis admired most about America in the 1930s and that's still doing tremendous damage to our criminal justice system today.
Thank you so much, James Whitman.
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