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Biden on “60 Minutes”: American capitalism is at war with the world, at war with reality
Joseph Scalice, WSWS, Sep 20 2022

On Sunday evening, CBS aired an episode of “60 Minutes,” featuring an extended interview by Scott Pelley with US President Joe Biden. In the space of 25 minutes, Biden made a series of extraordinary statements. He declared that the COVID-19 pandemic was “over,” announced his “ironclad commitment” to backing war against Russia while acknowledging this contained the possibility of nuclear war, and pledged US forces to a possible war with China. It has been over 200 days since Biden last sat down for an interview with a television journalist. Much has changed. The US and NATO provoked war with Russia in Ukraine and have escalated the conflict with massive tranches of military aid and direct involvement, overseeing and planning the movement of troops and the targeting of missiles. The eastern and southern portions of Ukraine invaded by Russia have become the concentrated site of an expanding third world war. Mass inflation has gripped the globe. The prices of basic necessities have soared beyond the reach of the working class. Workers in Europe face the prospect of a freezing winter, unable to afford heat; workers in the US struggle to pay rent. The stock market is turbulent, and its future looks grim. Most significantly, the struggles of the working class against capitalism are coming into the open, are growing rapidly and are taking an increasingly political form. American capitalism is at war with reality, and nowhere is this more openly embodied than in its President Joe Biden. He acknowledged the gravity of the situation, declaring:

This is a really difficult time. We’re at an inflection point in the history of this country.

At the same time, and without any justification, Biden announced:

I’m more optimistic than I’ve been in a long time.

The American ruling class’s delusions and its grotesque indifference to the lives of workers was summed up in Biden’s statement on the pandemic. One million Americans had died. Biden pulled a long face at this but declared:

The pandemic is over. The pandemic is over. If you notice, no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape.

The 1m COVID-19 deaths in the US were in their overwhelming majority preventable. Biden, like his predecessor Trump, would take none of the necessary public health measures to isolate the virus and prevent its spread. Such measures threatened the profits of American businesses. America led the ruling classes of the world in embracing the pandemic and accepting mass death. Now, as 3k Americans die of COVID-19 every week, Biden declares the pandemic is over. He celebrates the fact, the direct result of his own criminal policies, that people are not wearing masks. The death and infection rate data can no longer be considered reliable. The dead and infected, those suffering the terrible consequences of Long COVID, are being shoved into the ranks of the countless uncounted, and the pandemic declared to be at an end. Biden’s statement, “Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape,” erases the experience of millions of people with Long COVID. According to a recent report from the Brookings Institution, roughly 4 million people suffering from Long COVID have left the workforce. The extraordinary statement that “the pandemic is over,” which can be compared to Bush 43’s infamous “mission accomplished” speech in the initial phases of the Iraq war, also ignores the ongoing and persistent danger of viral evolution. Recent studies indicate that new, highly mutated variants of COVID-19 appear almost every week, with increasing immune-escape potential.

The American ruling class is inured to mass death. They have learned with alarming speed that widespread preventable death is something with which they are prepared to live. This sharpens the teeth of their militarist threats and brinkmanship. Biden’s paramount concern in the interview was to make clear his unwavering determination to wage war. He announced Washington’s “ironclad commitment” to take the war against Russia “as far as it takes.” The goal, which he termed “winning in Ukraine,” was “to get Russia out of Ukraine completely.” This formulation implies a commitment by the US to arming the Ukrainians and orchestrating the conduct of the conflict until Russian forces are removed not only from eastern and southern Ukraine, but also from Crimea. The Crimean Peninsula is claimed by both Kiev and Moscow and is a critical military position for Russia, securing as it does access to the Black Sea. Pelley pointed out that Putin was being “pushed into a corner” and asked Biden what the American president would say if Putin considered “using chemical or tactical nuclear weapons.” Biden responded:

Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. You will change the face of war unlike anything since WW2.

Washington’s entire geopolitical strategy is one of unrelenting recklessness. Biden told Putin before the entire world that he was committing the US to the defeat of Russian forces in Ukraine, recognizing that this pushed him into a corner. The use of nuclear weapons is being openly discussed as a real possibility, and yet Washington refuses to take a single step backwards. Not content to wage world war in a single theater, Biden turned his attention to China, and here too his statements were of unmitigated recklessness. he declared:

They will make their own judgments about their independence. That’s their decision.

This statement directly calls into question what has been a mainstay of global stability for nearly a half-century: the One China policy. By declaring Taiwanese sovereign independence to be a matter for Taiwan itself to decide, Biden threw out the principle that Taiwan is part of China. The statement is an open and deliberate encouragement of pro-independence forces in Taiwan. Beijing has been clear for decades that the One China policy, more than almost anything else, is a red line that cannot be crossed without severe consequences. Attempts to secure Taiwanese independence would be met, it has declared, with forcible reunification. The warmongering continued. In what may be the most rash statement of the entire interview, Biden declared that US forces would defend Taiwan against an attack by China. Pelley followed up with the question:

US forces, men and women, would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion?

Biden coldly replied, “Yes.” Gone is any claim to strategic ambiguity, the idea that by not declaring if US forces would defend Taiwan they left both pro-independence elements in Taiwan and pro-reunification forces in Beijing uncertain of what Washington would do in the event of conflict. Biden pledged that the US will go to war with China. Afterwards, the White House issued a statement that US policy had not changed and that the US still holds a position of strategic ambiguity. This is a pattern of the Biden administration, using the president’s tendency to “gaffe” as an excuse to deliberately state and then claim to retract the most provocative possible statements. The only thing that Biden presented as an unacceptable calamity was when he spoke not about perpetual mass infection or the possibility of nuclear annihilation, but when he addressed the possibility of a railway strike, which he claimed to have narrowly averted. He stated:

If in fact they’d gone on strike, the supply chains in this country would have come to a screeching halt, and we would’ve seen a real economic crisis.

This crisis for the ruling class, the growing upsurge of working class militancy, has not been averted. Despite the aid of the unions, who jumped to assist the president in shutting down the strike, holding extended negotiations in the White House to broker a sellout deal, Biden has not reached a settlement that will in any way address the demands of the railway workers. Workers are furious and are determined to fight. When it came to the soaring cost of goods, a driving factor in the class struggle, Biden brushed it off. “We’re going to get control of inflation,” he pledged, without explaining that the main way the ruling class is seeking to “control” inflation is by instigating a recession and driving up unemployment in order to undercut workers’ demands for higher wages. Biden articulates the crisis-driven desperation of the American ruling class: at war with Russia, at war with China, at war with the working class, at war with reality. It does not speak well for either the president or American capitalism that the question, posed in the interview, of his mental fitness has now become obligatory. Washington will not prevent mass death, nor will it step back from nuclear war; US capitalism is driven to these ends by crises from which it cannot escape. The policies and strategies of Washington are insane, in the most real meaning of the word, but it is an intelligible madness, an insanity with objective causes. Capitalism has nothing to offer humanity but war and poverty and death. It has no solution to the pandemic but to deny its existence, no solution to war but escalation.

Turkish-Greek tensions escalate amid NATO-Russia war
Ozan Özgür, WSWS, Sep 20 2022

After Greek coast guard boats fired warning shots at the Comoros-flagged merchant ship Anatolian on September 10 in international waters of the Aegean Sea, tensions between Athens and Ankara continue to escalate. Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou visited the Aegean islands, including Kastellorizo, Rhodes and Carpathos, 2 km from Turkey last week. she said at an event marking the 79th anniversary of Kastellorizo’s liberation during WW2:

Greece seeks constructive relations with its neighbors according to international law. However, if necessary, it will effectively defend its integrity and its sovereign rights.

Speaking at a symposium in Rhodes, Sakellaropoulou denounced Ankara’s claims, saying:

As Turkish provocations intensify in Rhodes and the Dodecanese Islands, making false and unsupported claims and questioning our country’s sovereign rights, scientific debate becomes even more important on the 40th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The islands of Rhodes, Carpathos and Kastellorizo are supposed to be demilitarized according to the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty. However, there are armored and infantry units, land and air bases on these islands, in addition to the law enforcement forces stipulated by the treaty. Turkish Speaker of Parliament Mustafa Şentop said:

Greece’s rhetoric and provocative actions that have escalated tensions in the Sea of Islands and the Eastern Mediterranean have turned into a security threat for our country.

In June, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu threatened to invade the islands, saying that “the sovereignty of these islands will be discussed” if Greece does not stop arming them. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also recently declared:

Your occupation of the islands does not bind us. We will do what is necessary when the time comes. As we say, we could come all of a sudden one night.

The historical conflicts between the Turkish and Greek bourgeoisies, inherited from the 20th century, have intensified in recent months amid NATO’s war with Russia in Ukraine. Fearing the potential consequences for the Turkish bourgeoisie of NATO’s war aims in Ukraine (regime change in Moscow, the dismemberment of Russia and its subordination to the imperialist powers), Ankara is not participating in the sanctions against Russia. It has tried to mediate an end to the war. On the other hand, Ankara sees as a threat Greece’s role as an important military base for NATO against Russia, having developed strategic military ties with the US and France. NATO views Turkey’s growing commercial, energy and military ties with Russia as unacceptable for NATO. Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system has led Washington to impose sanctions on Turkey. Moreover, in response to a possible US refusal to sell Turkey F-16 fighters, President Erdoğan recently said:

It is not only America that sells fighter jets in the world. England, France and Russia sell them. So it is possible to get them from everywhere.

The possibility that Russia may be using Turkey to evade Western sanctions is increasingly alarming US and European powers. The Financial Times wrote on Thursday:

The US and EU are stepping up pressure on Turkey to crack down on Russian sanctions evasion amid concerns that the country’s banking sector is a potential backdoor for illicit finance.

On the other hand, Greece received its first two F-16 military jets from the US last week as part of a $1.5b program to modernize its fighter fleet. The AP wrote:

The two F-16s presented at the Tanagra airbase northwest of Athens are the first of 83 to be refitted with advanced electronics, radar and weapons capabilities by late 2027.We respond to challenges with readiness, and to those who threaten us, and who say that they will descend upon our islands suddenly one night, we say that we are waiting for them in the light of day, where it will be visible who has International Law on their side.

Emphasizing France’s full support for Greece, Macron said:

I would like to reiterate this despite the repeated provocations and the questioning of Greece’s sovereignty: Our support and determination here is full.

Tensions have risen further since Mitsotakis’ speech to the US Congress last May. There, Mitsotakis said:

Greece extends the hand of friendship to its neighbors. But we will not tolerate violations of our sovereignty, violations of our sovereign rights and flights over Greek islands, which must stop immediately. I ask you, members of Congress, to take into account the danger of a new instability on NATO’s southeastern flank when making decisions on arms sales in the region. I ask you, members of Congress, not to forget a wound that Hellenism has suffered for 48 years and which is still not healed. I refer to the aggression in Cyprus and the violent division of the island. No one will ever accept two separate states in Cyprus.” Mitsotakis received a standing ovation at the US Congress.

Replying to Mitsotakis’ speech in Washington, Erdoğan said:

For me, there is no such person as Mitsotakis anymore. We go with politicians with personality and honor. Let Mitsotakis think from now on. The US will probably not make a decision based on his mouth.

However, the US State Dept announced the lifting of the arms embargo on Cyprus for the fiscal year 2023 on Friday. US military bases in Greece have grown in line with NATO’s military deployment against Russia, even as Ankara faced US sanctions over its military ties with Moscow. The Turkish Foreign Ministry denounced the US sanctions decision, stating:

We strongly condemn the expansion of the scope of the decision taken by the US in September 2020 to lift the arms embargo towards the Greek Cypriot Administration. We fully support the reaction of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) authorities regarding the said decision. This decision, which is in contradiction to the principle of equality of the two sides on the Island, and which will further strengthen the Greek Cypriot side’s intransigence, will negatively affect the efforts to resettle the Cyprus issue; and it will lead to an arms race on the Island, harming peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean. We call on the US to reconsider this decision and to pursue a balanced policy towards the two sides on the Island.

The bourgeois press in both Greece and Turkey use nationalist rhetoric to promote the reactionary geopolitical interests of their own governments and to divide the working class. The possibility of this chauvinist demagogy escalating into a military confrontation between these two NATO member states is very real. NATO’s war on Russia in Ukraine and the surge of military tensions throughout the Balkans and Central Asia is pouring fuel on the fire. The only way to stop a devastating war is through the revolutionary mobilization of the international working class on the basis of a socialist program unifying working people across national borders. This requires the building of Socialist Equality Parties in Greece, Turkey and throughout the region.

Tajik-Kyrgyz border conflict erupts in violence
Andrea Peters, WSWS, Sep 20 2022

A military helicopter flies over the Kyrgyz-Tajik border near Batken, southwestern Kyrgyzstan, Saturday, Sep 17 2022.

After several days of fighting, an uneasy truce appears to be holding along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border. Nearly 100 people died and hundreds more suffered injuries when a long-standing conflict between the two Central Asian countries erupted in violence late last week. The governments in Bishkek and Dushanbe each accuse the other of provoking this latest episode. Kyrgyzstan insists that Tajikistan sent troops and paramilitary forces into villages in its Bakten region. Its soldiers, allegedly confronting an “invasion” with tanks and APCs, engaged enemy border guards in a firefight when they refused to leave. The Tajik military maintains, however, that its towns were first shelled from across the border and then repeatedly hit by heavy weaponry over the course of several days. Videos on social media appear to show a civilian bloodbath on both sides, with children and medics among the fatalities. Kyrgyz officials evacuated 136k residents from the area over the weekend, and one regional airport was reportedly packed with people trying to leave on Saturday. Some are now returning home.

The immediate cessation of hostilities does not indicate any lasting end to the violence. While indicating on Sunday that his government is ready for negotiations and a “peaceful” resolution, in a statement just released on YouTube, Kyrgyzstan President Sadyr Zhaparov emphasized his country’s readiness for military conflict, insisting that it is fully capable of “defending its borders.” Authorities in Bishkek continue to accuse Dushanbe of engaging in a “disinformation” campaign regarding who is responsible for last weekend’s deadly events. Since 2014 alone, there have been 11 major conflicts along a portion of their 600-mile-long shared border. In May of last year at least 54 people died in fighting. Both mountainous countries with large tracts of arid land and not enough agricultural resources to support their populations, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan each lay claim to the fertile Fergana Valley. According to the UN, Tajikistan’s population is expected to more than double by the end of this century, putting immense pressure on the already food-insecure country. Of the 7% of its land that is arable, the WFP says 97% is vulnerable to soil degradation, which is expected to worsen as the effects of climate change intensify. According to the Ecological Threat Register, out of 157 countries studied, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are among the top most 19 endangered. They face the imminent threat of desertification.

During the Soviet period, the two states were joined together in the Soviet Union, and questions related to access to water, grazing grounds, and farm land were resolved administratively. The region’s extremely diverse and intermixed population moved back and forth across what are now government borders patrolled by armed forces. When the Stalinist bureaucracy dissolved the USSR in 1991, the newly-emerging ruling class in the two Central Asian countries each laid claim to different maps—one drawn in the 1920s and the other in the 1950s, demarcating Tajik and Kyrgyz territory. The death and suffering in the area are a direct consequence of the Communist Party’s final betrayal of the struggle, initiated by the 1917 Russian Revolution, to unite the long-oppressed peoples of the former Tsarist Empire on egalitarian foundations. Current tensions are being exacerbated by the combined effects of the war in Ukraine, the US’ efforts to destabilize and break up Russia, the rapidly escalating conflict with China, and the fight for Central Asia’s resources. Skyrocketing global grain prices are making it evermore difficult for poor and already food insecure countries to feed their populations. The COVID-19 pandemic and Western sanctions against Russia have seen masses of migrant workers from Central Asia, whose families rely on their remittances to survive, lose jobs. In addition to making the scramble for the Fergana Valley more important, these factors drive the corrupt and super-rich who rule Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to seek an outlet for mass social discontent in nationalist, military hoopla.

Facing a debacle in Ukraine, Moscow’s ability to manage the conflict between its two, frequently unsteady, allies is increasingly in question. This weekend, President Putin appealed to both sides to “de-escalate” and find “peaceful, political and diplomatic means” to resolve their differences. Behind this muted response, however, the Kremlin is trying to hold onto its influence in these areas, which are of major geostrategic and economic importance. A few weeks prior to the present crisis, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin met with Chairman of Cabinet of Ministers of Kyrgyzstan Akylbek Japarov in an effort “to speed up the signing of a new economic cooperation program for 2022-2026, which will further expand ties, increase trade turnover, the volume of mutual investments.” The Russian statesmen described the Kremlin as “keen to enhance cooperation with Kyrgyzstan in all current directions,” adding, “It is necessary.” While short on arable land, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are both home to significant gold and iron ore deposits, as well as many other metals essential to industry. Because of their locations, they both offer potential transit routes for the shipment of oil and gas to areas otherwise highly dependent on sea lanes.

During a recent meeting of the SCO, Kyrgyzstan, China and Uzbekistan agreed to move forward with a long-stalled plan to create a rail link that will connect China to the Middle East, bypassing Russia in the process. Bishkek’s deepening relationship with Beijing is also a dependency, with the majority of its $5.1b in foreign debt owed to Chinese banks. Meanwhile, the imperialist powers, which have a long involvement in both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, are pressing forward with their own agendas. UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres just appointed former leader of Kyrgyzstan’s US-backed Tulip Revolution, Rosa Otunbayeva, as special envoy to Afghanistan. The crisis in that country, brought on by 20 years of the US bloody occupation and the recent return of the Taliban to power in Kabul, is destabilizing all of Central Asia. It poses a particularly significant threat to Russia, which has a large Muslim population. The Kremlin, fully aware of Washington’s long history of using Islamic fundamentalism to destabilize Russia, has well-grounded fears that the surging power and influence of this movement will be used to foment separatist movements in its south and southwest. Russia’s Supreme Court just labeled Tajikistan’s main opposition party a “terrorist” movement. On Monday, Kyrgyzstan declared that Islamist militants were among the troops sent into its territory by Tajikistan’s military this past weekend.

The 1619 Project and the NYT’s glorification of the monarchy
Tom Carter, WSWS, Sep 20 2022

The Queen on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with other Royal Family members, on the first of four days of celebrations to mark the Platinum Jubilee, Jun 2 2022.

In its coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the coronation of King Charles, the NYT has published article after article celebrating the pageantry of the British monarchy. In so doing, the newspaper responsible for publishing the 1619 Project has entangled itself in many layers of contradictions. In its 1619 Project, published in the fall of 2019 and announced with great fanfare, the NYT set out to fundamentally revise American history in the service of contemporary identity politics. In line with postmodern academic theories, the 1619 Project presented a new “narrative” of US history that erased the progressive significance of the first two American revolutions. It claimed that the American Revolution was a counter-revolution waged to defend slavery, and that in the Civil War the abolition of slavery was only an incidental outcome of a war waged over national unity.

In this way, the NYT and its 1619 Project furnished the animating spirit for the removal of statues of American revolutionaries and abolitionists throughout the country. In the summer of 2020, under the influence of conceptions advanced by the 1619 Project, the city of Portland, Oregon, removed a statue of Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, as well as a statue of George Washington, the revolutionary general who defeated the British in the war for independence. New York City removed a statue of Jefferson from City Hall. The city of San Francisco took down a statue of Ulysses S Grant, who led a decisive military campaign in the war to abolish slavery and, as president during Reconstruction, suppressed the Ku Klux Klan. The city of Boston removed a public monument to Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Many other cities took similar steps. Jefferson, Lincoln, Grant and Washington were all “canceled” because they could not pass the purity test imposed by the NYT, but over the past two weeks we learned that the same purity test evidently does not apply to the kings and queens of the UK.

The NYT’s lengthy obituary of Queen Elizabeth published Sep 8 praised her as “the nation’s anchor” and her defense of the royal family as “a rare bastion of permanence in a world of shifting values.” This obituary was accompanied by numerous fawning articles celebrating the “grace, humor and longevity” of the late monarch and countless “live updates” breathlessly describing all of the rituals around her funeral and the coronation of the inauspiciously named King Charles III, whose 17th century namesake Stuart predecessors were beheaded in the English Civil War (I) and driven off in the Glorious Revolution (II). The NYT even issued a lesson plan for students entitled, “The Life And Legacy of Queen Elizabeth.” In throwing itself on its knees in front of institutionalized hereditary privilege, the NYT recalls the words of Mark Twain:

Unquestionably the person that can get lowest down in cringing before royalty and nobility, and can get most satisfaction out of crawling on his belly before them, is an American. Not all Americans, but when an American does it he makes competition impossible.

Perhaps realizing they had overdone it, the NYT editors published a somewhat defensive article on Sep 14 under the title “Was Elizabeth the Queen of America?” This article appeared after WSWS managing editor Niles Niemuth wrote on Sep 9:

Was Elizabeth America’s Queen? I recall a distinct break with aristocracy some 250 years ago.

In this article, the NYT acknowledged that “Americans fought for freedom from the British crown,” but placed the blame on the American population for being “consumed with fascination by the royal family after the queen’s death on Thursday.” This excuse turns reality upside down. The NYT and the rest of the US media establishment have been force-feeding the population with monarchist propaganda ever since the news arrived of the queen’s death, but according to the NYT this is supposedly the fault of readers for reading it, not of the newspapers for cramming it down their throats. A guest essay published by the NYT by Harvard historian Maya Jasanoff is more sensitive to the knots into which the NYT has tied itself. Politely calling for the “scaling back” of the monarchy, Jasanoff writes:

We should not romanticize her era… Britain’s queen helped obscure a bloody history of decolonization [sic] whose proportions and legacies have yet to be adequately acknowledged.

3 Comments

  1. Rich
    Posted September 20, 2022 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    “The 1m COVID-19 deaths in the US were in their overwhelming majority preventable. Biden, like his predecessor Trump, would take…”

    1. 1 million COVID-19 Deaths means dying from one of 3 conditions according to the CCDC: A. Pneumonia deaths B. Influenza deaths and finally C. COVID-19 deaths

    2. Deaths from something other than the “enhanced” COVID-19 death-count (by January 2021) EXCEEEDED the enhanced COVID-19 death count by an order of magnitude. Biden, Walensky or Fauci et al could have added these unexplained excess deaths to the total without notice but declined to wratchet up the hysteria for some unknown reason.

    3. Tell me how these U.S. deaths were preventable when 81 has been reported as the average age of a COVID-19 death and respiratory illness necessitating ICU admisssion carries a dismal prognosis.

  2. niqnaq
    Posted September 20, 2022 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    I agree with all your points, Rich. But I considered either omitting or crossing through that entire paragraph, and decided against it. These people are head & shoulders above everybody else in their analyses of foreign affairs, and their absolute worthlessness in relation to domestic ones (Covid, Trump, Jan 6, the White Right, libertarians, etc) is unfortunately just a given that I am prepared to endure in pursuit of the greater good. My paradigm, notwithstanding this, is not left versus right, but both left and right versus totalitarian centre. 🙂

  3. Rich
    Posted September 20, 2022 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    “These people are head & shoulders above everybody else in their analyses of foreign affairs, and their absolute worthlessness in relation to domestic ones (Covid, Trump, Jan 6, the White Right, libertarians, etc) is unfortunately just a given that I am prepared to endure in pursuit of the greater good”

    I’m gonna reference on this exact point because you are right!

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