President Joe Biden visited the Middle East for the first time on Saturday. It only took him 544 days since becoming president to get around to it. He’d been sending a message by abstaining—or trying to—in regard to Saudi and Israeli domestic policy, which, on occasion, can lead to the equivalent of a human rights violation. But now, with gas prices as high as they are (among other commodities), he’s looking for anything he can to salvage his presidency come 2024. And there he was, fist bumping the murderous, tyrannical Saudi prince Mohammad bin Salman, and hunched over with current Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid, talking about what both their administrations are going to do about Iran’s nuclear buildup, while sitting maybe half an hour’s drive from one of Israel’s (not-so) secret nuclear storage sites in Tirosh. I didn’t see Iran anywhere, as part of that discussion. I looked, checked around the room. And I didn’t hear anyone talking about Iran’s legitimate beef with the former shredding of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, about how, after what the Trump administration did to cancel them, they’re on edge now, thinking, ‘Why should we bother with this again? There’s a strong chance any agreement we make now is just going to be used to wipe American bottoms if or when a new U.S. administration comes to power in 2025.’
And they’re right to think it.
U.S. intelligence reported on Saturday, too, in conjunction with Biden’s Mid East trip, that Iran is planning on sending weapons-capable drones to Russia, to help with the latter’s bully fight against the significantly diminutive former Soviet nation of Ukraine. But Iran and Russia’s relationship is not quite what Jake Sullivan, any presidential press secretary or some leftist pundit may want to convince you it is. Iran and Russia have a long history of unwelcomed occupation and financial back-stabbing; in other words, not really trusting one another. That stuff doesn’t just go away overnight. It lingers. It festers. Especially when that back-stabbing is happening right now, right as I’m writing this.
The world isn’t full of good guy and bad guy countries, remember. It’s full of the Haves trying to get more and more by oftentimes gaming the system, and the Have-Nots just trying to survive, gaming the system here and there, wherever they can. Just like people.
It’s macrocosmic, bruh!
Last month, inflation hit a decades-high level of 9.1% in America, according to the government’s favored metric, the CPI, or Consumer Price Index. It’s behind levels first reached in the late 1970s, and way behind what America hit just after World War II, when wartime price curbs were lifted. In 1979, when Paul Volcker implemented the Fed’s first of several virtually Himalayan rate hikes, the numbers were up around 14%, nationally, and a massive economic recession followed. But the hike fixed the problem, and by 1987 inflation was only around 3.4%. Experts today aren’t predicting another recession, necessarily—though not without ruling one out—but comparisons to the period are still being made, which is enough to make any mindful consumer or working-class American uneasy. More interesting to me than all that, though, is how the American economy got to this point in the first place.
Let’s recap. I’ll try and make it simple. (Disclaimer: This simplification was produced in a factory that also produces oversimplifications, so traces of oversimplification may be present.)
- COVID-19 pandemic hits.
- People stop going out, businesses close, 22 million people get laid off.
- Government doles out cash; Fed steps in, cuts interest rates.
- Vaccines appear, people stop climbing walls, freaking out, decide to start going out again.
- Suppliers can’t meet the demand of all that consumerism; costs go up.
- Companies jack up their prices, because they aren’t going to pay for it. You are.
And even more interesting than all that was how America had gotten there by 1979. There were two major factors, both of which never seem to be included in any serious discussion about the matter, nor used as a cautionary tale to force America to rethink its foreign policy and not repeat the mistakes of its past. They were the Viet Nam War and America’s uncritical and unwavering support for Israel in the Yom Kippur War, and then the Nixon administration’s subsequent dismantling of the Bretton Woods economic system, which had been established in 1947. But that was mainly because of the Viet Nam War.
I wanted to smack my head, going over that again. So, if America had remained neutral, never intervened in Viet Nam nor took sides in the war between Israel and much of the Arab world, then inflation in America and the nasty recession that followed, not to mention the destruction of many Latin American economies who couldn’t pay us back what they owed because of it, would never have happened? Ever? People in America would never have suffered such loss and hardship? If Washington had not been so interventionist, serving the goods of the elite business and political community, and not those of the average (reasonably) upper, middle and lower-class voter, everything would have been more or less peachy?
Okay, so then why did they intervene?
The United States had been providing funding, armaments, logistics and training to South Vietnam since the country split into a North and a South in 1954. It committed military advisors in ’61, and then soldiers, starting in ‘65. It was to stop the spread of “Communism” the Kennedy and Johnson administrations said, meaning social reform and a better way of living for many of the poor and middle class living there. There are historical exceptions to this, of course—bloody, autocratic Communist regimes—but they’re not the rule. And they’re often never as bad as the military dictatorships that America had a hand in erecting in those places, just before or after some “Commie” took hold of the place—the Somoza, Duvalier, Suharto, Mobutu and Pahlavi regimes, among others.
Communism, in the end, is bad for foreign investment. You can’t drive peasants into the urban work force, limit their human and bargaining rights and expect open arms, cash subsidies and boondoggle contracts from the puppet dictators of those countries when there’s a “Communist” in charge. Because Communist and socialist leaders know, like everyone living there knows, why the country is in that state in the first place. Because of “intervention.” And Israel? Israel is a little America in the Middle East, as far as America’s intents and purposes will ever go; a proxy, to put it simply. Geopolitically, it’s of crucial importance to the U.S. and its financial interests, particularly when it comes to oil, to maintain some kind of continuous jackboot print in the region.
Okay, moving on.
This week, just like every other since the end of February, Russia continued to blow up civilian targets and kill innocent people in Ukraine, while at the same time infiltrating the highest levels of the Ukrainian government and jailing any and all opposition leaders to Putin’s virtual one-man United Russia Party back home.
Ukraine, meanwhile, scored a notable bit of boom-boom on Sunday and Tuesday when it blew up several caches of Russian munitions using recently-acquired (via the U.S.) HIMARS long range missile systems. It was good news—they’re getting the hang of their new merchandise—but overshadowed, still, by Russia’s sustained gobbling up of more and more Ukrainian territory in the east.
Word is that more and more officials representing several G20 nations are considering moving on Janet Yellen’s proposal to form an oil-buyers’ cartel, effectively setting a price cap on Russian oil in the hopes of seriously putting the (further) squeeze on the Russian Federation and the blood-money revenue it derives from its crude.
And, finally, speaking of getting the squeeze put on you, Aung San Suu Kyi testified at Burmese kangaroo court on Friday, defending herself against those laughably trumped-up election fraud charges leveled against her. She’s the former leader of Myanmar, if you didn’t know, who was schlepped away to prison by a military junta not long after a declaration of martial law let them schlep away anybody they wanted to into prison—if not choose to murder them outright, sometimes in cold blood—because the political party they favored didn’t come out on top.
You think Donald Trump’s a big, fat baby who can’t take losing an election? Well, he is. But, honestly, he’s got nothing on these a–holes…