Days of Fear, Years of Obstruction

What the crisis called for, then, were policies to boost spending, to offset the effects of the housing bust. But the normal response, cutting interest rates, wasn’t available, because rates were already near zero. What we needed, instead, was fiscal stimulus: increased government outlays and tax cuts for lower- and middle-income families, who would be likely to spend them.

And we did indeed get substantial stimulus. But it wasn’t big enough, and even more important, it faded out much too fast. By 2013, with unemployment still above 7 percent, government at all levels was providing barely more economic support than it had in 2007, when the housing boom was still running strong.

.. But the most important reason the great slump went on so long was scorched-earth Republican opposition to anything and everything that might have helped offset the fallout from the housing bust.

When I say “scorched earth,” I’m not being hyperbolic. Let’s not forget that in the summer of 2011 Republicans in Congress threatened to provoke a new financial crisis by refusing to raise the debt limit. Their goal was to blackmail President Barack Obama into cutting spending at a time when unemployment was still 9 percent and U.S. real borrowing costs were close to zero.

.. The very same politicians who piously declared that America couldn’t afford to spend money supporting jobs in the face of a deep, prolonged slump just rammed through a huge, deficit-explodingtax cut for corporations and the wealthy even though the economy is currently near full employment. No, they haven’t abandoned their commitment to fiscal responsibility; they never cared about deficits in the first place.

.. So if you want to understand why the great slump that began in 2008 went on so long, blighting so many American lives, the answer is politics. Specifically, policy failed because cynical, bad-faith Republicans were willing to sacrifice millions of jobs rather than let anything good happen to the economy while a Democrat sat in the White House.

Salvadoran Civil War

Murder of Archbishop Romero

In February 1980 Archbishop Óscar Romero published an open letter to US President Jimmy Carter in which he pleaded with him to suspend the United States’ ongoing program of military aid to the Salvadoran regime. He advised Carter that “Political power is in the hands of the armed forces. They know only how to repress the people and defend the interests of the Salvadoran oligarchy.” Romero warned that US support would only “sharpen the injustice and repression against the organizations of the people which repeatedly have been struggling to gain respect for their fundamental human rights.”[66] On 24 March 1980, the Archbishop was assassinated while celebrating mass, the day after he called upon Salvadoran soldiers and security force members to not follow their orders to kill Salvadoran civilians. President Jimmy Carter stated this was a “shocking and unconscionable act”.[67] At his funeral a week later, government-sponsored snipers in the National Palace and on the periphery of the Gerardo Barrios Plaza were responsible for the shooting of 42 mourners.[68]

.. Murder and rape of US nuns

.. On December 2, 1980, members of the Salvadoran National Guard were suspected to have raped and murdered four American nuns and a laywomanMaryknoll missionary nuns Maura ClarkeIta Ford, and Ursuline nun Dorothy Kazel, and laywoman Jean Donovan were on a Catholic relief mission providing food, shelter, transport, medical care, and burial to death squad victims. U.S. military aid was briefly cut off in response to the murders but would be renewed within six weeks. The outgoing Carter administration increased military aid to the Salvadoran armed forces to $10 million which included $5 million in rifles, ammunition, grenades and helicopters.[72]

 

“Draining the Sea”

.. In its effort to defeat the insurgency, the Salvadoran Armed Forces carried out a “scorched earth” strategy, adopting tactics similar to those being employed by the counterinsurgency in neighboring Guatemala. These tactics were primarily derived and adapted from U.S. strategy during the Vietnam War and taught by American military advisors.[76]

.. An integral part of the Salvadoran Army’s counterinsurgency strategy entailed “draining the sea” or “drying up the ocean,” that is, eliminating the insurgency by eradicating its support base in the countryside. The primary target was the civilian population – displacing or killing them in order to remove any possible base of support for the rebels. The concept of “draining the sea” had its basis in a doctrine by Mao Zedong which emphasized that “The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea.”[77]

 

.. “This may be an effective strategy for winning the war. It is, however, a strategy that involves the use of terror tactics—bombings, strafings, shellings and, occasionally, massacres of civilians.”[78]

.. On 18 March, three days after the sweep in Cabañas began, 4-8,000 survivors of the sweep (mostly women and children) attempted to cross the Rio Lempa into Honduras to flee violence. There, they were caught between Salvadoran and Honduran troops. The Salvadoran Air Force, subsequently bombed and strafed the fleeing civilians with machine gun fire, killing hundreds

.. Atlacatl was a rapid response counter-insurgency battalion organized at the US Army School of the Americas in Panama in 1980.

.. Atlacatl soldiers were equipped and directed by U.S. military advisers operating in El Salvador[82][83] and were described as “the pride of the United States military team in San Salvador. Trained in antiguerrilla operations, the battalion was intended to turn a losing war around.”[84]

.. The November 1981 operation was commanded by Lt. Col. Sigifredo Ochoa, a former Treasury Police chief with a reputation for brutality. Ochoa was close associate of Major Roberto D’Aubuisson and was alleged to have been involved in the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

.. Col. Ochoa claimed that hundreds of guerrillas had been killed but was able to show journalists only fifteen captured weapons, half of them virtual antiques, suggesting that most of those killed in the sweep were unarmed.[87]

.. he field commander said they were under orders to kill everyone, including the children, who he asserted would just grow up to become guerrillas if they let them live. “We were going to make an example of these people,” he said.[90

.. El Mozote Massacre

.. The US steadfastly denied the existence of the El Mozote massacre, dismissing reports of it as leftist “propaganda,” until secret US cables were declassified in the 1990s.[91

.. The army and death squads forced many of them to flee to the United States, but most were denied asylum.[95]

.. A US congressional delegation that on January 17–18, 1981, visited the refugee camps in El Salvador on a fact finding mission submitted a report to Congress which found that: “the Salvadoran method of ‘drying up the ocean’ is to eliminate entire villages from the map, to isolate the guerrillas, and deny them any rural base off which they can feed.”[96]

.. El Salvador’s National Federation of Lawyers, which represented all of the country’s bar associations, refused to participate in drafting the 1982 electoral law. The lawyers said that the elections couldn’t possibly be free and fair during a state of siege that suspended all basic rights and freedoms.

.. Fearful of a d’Aubuisson presidency for public relations purposes, the CIA financed Duarte’s campaign with some two million dollars.[113]

.. Nearly two weeks earlier, US Vice President Dan Quayle on a visit to San Salvador told army leaders that human rights abuses committed by the military had to stop. Sources associated with the military said afterword that Quayle’s warning was dismissed as propaganda for American consumption aimed at the US Congress and the U.S. public.[131] At the same time, U.S. advisers were sending a different message to the Salvadoran military – “do what you need to do to stop the commies, just don’t get caught“.[132] A former U.S. intelligence officer suggested the death squads needed to leave less visual evidence, that they should stop dumping bodies on the side of the road because “they have an ocean and they ought to use it“.[133]

.. After 10 years of war, more than one million people had been displaced out of a population of 5,389,000. 40% of the homes of newly displaced people were completely destroyed and another 25% were in need of major repairs

.. At war’s end, the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador registered more than 22,000 complaints of political violence in El Salvador, between January 1980 and July 1991, 60 percent about summary killing, 25 percent about kidnapping, and 20 percent about torture. These complaints attributed almost 85 percent of the violence to the Salvadoran Army and security forces alone.

  • The Salvadoran Armed Forces, which were massively supported by the United States (4.6 billion euros), were accused in 60 percent of the complaints,
  • the security forces (i.e. the National Guard, Treasury Police and the National Police) in 25 percent,
  • military escorts and civil defense units in 20 percent of complaints,
  • the death squads in approximately 10 percent, and
  • the FMLN in 5 percent.[157]

.. The report concluded that more than 70,000 people were killed, many in the course of gross violation of their human rights. More than 25 per cent of the populace was displaced as refugees before the U.N. peace treaty in 1992

.. The State’s terrorism was affected by the security forces, the Army, the National Guard, and the Treasury Police;[1]:308[167] yet it was the paramilitary death squads who gave the Government plausible deniability of, and accountability for, the political killings. Typically, a death squad dressed in civilian clothes and traveled in anonymous vehicles (dark windows, blank license plates). Their terrorism consisted of publishing future-victim death lists, delivering coffins to said future victims, and sending the target-person an invitation to his/her own funeral.[168][169

.. the objective of death-squad-terror seemed not only to eliminate opponents, but also, through torture and the gruesome disfigurement of bodies, to terrorize the population.[170

.. the FMLN continuously violated the human rights of many Salvadorans and other individuals identified as right-wing supporters,

  • military targets,
  • pro-government politicians,
  • intellectuals,
  • public officials, and
  • judges.

These violations included

kidnapping, bombings, rape, and killing.[158]

.. the constitution was amended to prohibit the military from playing an internal security role except under extraordinary circumstances

..  By 1993—nine months ahead of schedule—the military had cut personnel from a wartime high of 63,000 to the level of 32,000 required by the peace accords. By 1999, ESAF’s strength stood at less than 15,000

Human Rights Commission of El Salvador

.. On 26 October 1987, Herbert Ernesto Anaya, head of the CDHES, was assassinated

 

.. Many of the documents, from the CIA and the Defense Department, are not available

Trump might be going to war. But he has no plans for establishing peace.

Does the president really know what he’s getting into?

.. The United States could pursue a limited strategy focused on one-off strikes in response to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons. In that case, the strike on the air base from which this week’s chemical attack was launched will probably be enough. President Bashar al-Assad and his generals will get the message and stop using those types of weapons.
 .. The regime will continue to terrorize civilians through airstrikes, artillery and surface-to-surface missiles against densely populated areas. It will continue to employ tactics such as starvation sieges and population transfers to tear communities apart.
.. And Assad’s forces and their Russian allies may up the scale of attacks to humiliate Trump and demonstrate the fecklessness of American military force. Thus, the pressure may grow on the United States to respond, and it may be hard for Trump to resist
.. The United States could target a wide array of facilities to compel Assad, such as weapons factories, major military bases, even ministries in Damascus responsible for the war effort. Using the threat of missile strikes instead of flying in manned aircraft to drop bombs is much less dangerous. The United States would not have to first destroy all of Syria’s air defenses
.. the United States would then work with moderate armed groups in opposition areas to marginalize extremists and stabilize this territory.
.. If the U.S. military inadvertently kills a significant number of Russians, tensions between the world’s two largest nuclear weapons states could skyrocket.
.. The regime would probably respond with the same scorched-earth tactics it has used elsewhere
.. The most viable political goal is a Syria that remains whole as one nation, but with a governance model that would feature power devolved away from the central government to local actors who hold the territory in six different zones of control that now divide the country
.. Such an outcome would require a major diplomatic lift to mediate an arrangement between the Turks and Kurds in the north. The United States would have to come to a settlement with Russia and Iran on who retakes the territory currently held by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. And we would need to assure Israel and Saudi Arabia that Iranian influence in Syria will be contained.Unfortunately, it is this final and most important part of any plan for Syria — the political plan — which we are most concerned about when viewing the Trump administration’s approach.

.. most concerning of all — they have de-emphasized diplomacy, aid and reconstruction as tools of American foreign policy by calling for dramatic financial cuts for all these efforts and making clear to the international community that the United States is stepping back from coordinating these efforts.

.. If the United States is to turn the limited tactical strikes in Syria into a real strategic gain, the Trump team will have to change its approach, and focus not only on winning the war but also on winning the peace.

‘I Think He’s a Very Dangerous Man for the Next Three or Four Weeks’

In a conference call on Monday with Barrett, Blair, D’Antonio and O’Brien, the biographers were unanimous in their assessment of what we are seeing: They are not surprised. Trump is who they thought he was. This, they said, is not a show. It is not an act. This is the man they wrote about.

.. He is, the biographers said, “profoundly narcissistic,” “willing to go to lengths we’ve never seen before in order to satisfy his ego”—and “a very dangerous man for the next three or four weeks.” And after that? “This time, it’s going to be a straight‑out loss on the biggest stage he’s ever been on,” one biographer predicted. And yet: “As long as he’s remembered, maybe it won’t matter to him.”

.. I think he’s always been a skirt chaser. I guess, you know, in that context, it didn’t surprise me. I think he’s always boasted about the things that he’s the most insecure about, which is his wealth, his intellect and his sex appeal.

.. They talk about this as if this is locker room bragging, and really, I was in a lot of locker rooms and I never heard anything like this. Men don’t brag about forcing themselves on women. They want to paint themselves as desirable, and, you know, he doesn’t look like a stud here. He looks like a predator.

.. This is boasting of something that shows your own weakness. It shows, you know, that a woman doesn’t want you; whereas, most boasts in these kind of scenarios are about women who do want you.

.. I did interview women who confirmed some pretty aggressive, if not violent—actually, I considered it violent sexual behavior—but no one will go on the record with this.

.. But it’s a very parallel circumstance with the tape because Melania is pregnant at the time of this tape, and Trump is talking about this kind of activity. And Marla Maples was pregnant when this incident, the first incident happened between Ms. Harth and Donald. And so it’s regardless of what his own home circumstances are, regardless of what’s going on in his personal life. In both instances, his wife‑to‑be in one case and actual wife in the other, was pregnant with his child, and he’s walking around either talking this way or actually behaving this way.

.. Erin Burnett went on CNN and told a very similar story, at least about the kissing part of it and the Tic Tacs, about a friend of hers.

.. But the problem with reporting all of these things is that the women involved often are afraid to go on the record. I know that his ex‑wives, when I was reporting, were very wary of being interviewed and running afoul of him by doing so, at least when they spoke with me.

.. Kruse: Do you all think he is driven more by lust or by fame?

Barrett: I think this is almost nothing to do with lust. This is subjugation.

O’Brien: Right. It’s acquisition.

Barrett: This has almost nothing to do with sex. This is a total power move if you’re talking about “I can plunge my tongue down any mouth I see. I just make my move quickly.”

.. he is popping Tic Tacs all the time, but it’s just the analog behavior to how he is with men in any room—looking to dominate, being competitive, looking for a way to be in charge. And for women, I think for him, there’s really only one way to be in charge, and that is to dominate, and if possible, you know, some physical aggression isn’t off the table.

O’Brien: I think he is just going to wage a scorch‑the‑earth campaign for the next three weeks. And if he loses, which I think he’s going to—I think he’s going to lose badly—he’s then going to come up with a scenario in which it was stolen from him, that the election was rigged, because he’s survived by creating alternate realities. And he’ll never say to himself he lost because he had a skeletal campaign operation, which he did; that he lost because he’s unappealing to a large swath of the voters; that he lost because he’s willfully ignorant about public policy; that he lost because he’s a nasty and unappealing bigot. He’ll never, ever acknowledge any of that. He’ll just come up with an alternate reality that said, “It was rigged against me.”

.. who would proceed knowing that he has all of these problems in his background, knowing how much audio and video exists, having been on “Howard Stern” and said horrible things? He just doesn’t seem to recognize his own issues and problems and how he’s perceived.

.. for the next three weeks, he’s going to be trying out, you know, Breitbart TV and proving to the masses that follow him that he’s as red in tooth and claw as he seems to be.

.. I was always kind of uncertain that he would really go for it, running for president, because he would have to do financial disclosures. What I didn’t realize was that he wouldn’t do the financial disclosures and would barrel ahead, and at least up until very recently, that he would seem to be getting away with it. So that all those tapes that are out there, he knew that, but he would just barrel over them—I think that has been his M.O. that we’ve seen in every other realm, so why wouldn’t it work in this one?

.. I think he didn’t enter into guaranteeing $900 million in personal loans in order to engineer a write‑off six or seven years later. I think he ended up getting a boost from the tax code, but that $916 million write‑off is an emblem of how abysmal his judgment is and what a bad deal‑maker he is.

.. And from the moment he got out there, he played the role of a victim. He now considers himself a victim of the national media, primarily, and a bit of the Republican establishment that abandoned him overnight

.. So I think that what is really dangerous is, over the course of the next few weeks, he’s going to push every button he can, and the primary button that he can push is racism.

.. he said he’s be quite happy to use the Department of Justice to settle scores with Hillary Clinton and, you know, by inference, anyone else who he would regard as a political opponent, and that gets back to an old kind of way of politicking

.. D’Antonio: Well, don’t you think this is a kind of thuggery, that this is a guy who is playing to a mob when he talks about how he can say these things, because he goes before crowds and they’re out for blood, and their anger and rage is the justification he has for saying these thuggish things? And now he’s going to plunge the whole country into an authoritarian dynamic because the mob is telling him to do so?

.. imagine if this was an African-American leader who is saying these kinds of things. I think that the Republican Party would be screaming for the man or woman’s arrest, but he gets cheered for saying these things.

.. the kind of rage he’s stoking is regional rage. And I think we’re going to live with that well beyond this election. He’s really served to solidify the divisions regionally and ideologically in the country, and I think he’s blown up the GOP.

.. he thought of himself as a victim in the downfall of 1990 and playing the victim card and being as angry at others as he was in the ’90s in the way in which he dealt with the bankers. It was very strikingly similar to that period of time.

.. He managed to survive in almost an unbelievable way when his empire collapsed, but managed to survive with the aid of the bankers.

.. during the primaries, with so many different people on the stage, that same M.O. worked. But only one other person on the stage for 90 minutes, it’s a totally different thing.

.. But because of his myriad flaws—you know, he’s financially undisciplined, he’s emotionally and intellectually undisciplined, and he’s incapable of building teams and leading other people, profoundly incapable of those things

.. I feel like I’ve learned more about the country by virtue of this exposure to the Trump virus than I’ve learned about Trump himself.

.. he’s truly the offspring of Roy Cohn and Joe McCarthy. He’s more violent in his way of thinking than I understood him to be. He’s less attached to reality than I thought he was.

.. But the real thing that I’m taking away is that he’s actually been telling us the truth about himself all along, and that this is not a character he’s been playing. It’s the real Trump. And I think a lot of times, people have wasted lots of effort trying to figure out: Is he serious, does he really mean this, is this all just one big joke? And I don’t think it’s a big joke. I think that he really is this horrible creature, and he has no regard for anything but himself, and he’s willing to go to lengths we’ve never seen before in order to satisfy his ego.

.. we’ve learned about the country are that racism is still a deeply troubling and embedded feature of American life, and he’s exploited that. I think we’ve learned that American voters don’t really care if they have a leader who is wildly ignorant about foreign affairs and spins tales about foreign policy that don’t correlate with facts or reality. I think we’ve learned that sexism and chauvinism are alive and well

.. we’ve learned that the leadership of the GOP lacks courage

.. It’s not Stephen Colbert. This is not a persona that’s adopted for a performance. That’s really him. He thinks that’s still a winning possibility for him, that he is a success. I think he deeply believes that.

.. After the birther controversy, after he went after Mexico and Mexicans in his announcement speech and he didn’t get called on it, he only heard cheers—I think that was the, you know, that was the liftoff.

.. I don’t think he thinks. I don’t think that he is a guy who reflects on a long‑term goal. As Tim was saying, he doesn’t lead groups of people. He doesn’t know how to organize something complex.

.. If you look at some things that he says, a lot of them are the same things he said in the 1980s, and there’s this crazy language about race and “they’re laughing at us.” He’s used these terms since 1987,

.. He openly contradicted his own running mate about Putin. It’s the only issue on which he would do that, and it has everything to do with the WikiLeaks revelations, which is still, in my judgment, his hope for the remaining several weeks, that there is more power in that.

.. Alex Jones, Roger Stone’s sidekick. Roger had predicted that the WikiLeaks stuff would come out last Wednesday, and when it didn’t, Alex Jones went on his show and absolutely denounced WikiLeaks and Assange in the vilest terms. And then the next day, he went out—and you can see the video—and apologized profoundly to Assange and said Assange was a hero to all of the world.

.. I’ve been wondering who Trump’s brain is, whether it’s Roger Stone or Alex Jones, but it’s a pretty dark personality that’s driving all of this.

Barrett: It’s Roger.

.. when you saw him do the number with the four Clinton‑associated women last night, that is Roy Cohn orchestrated through Roger. Roger has been talking about this forever. What is so interesting about what happened in the debate last night with these women is that Roger is back running the show in the person of those four women, and this is exactly what Roger has wanted him to do.

.. I don’t think you can discount Ann Coulter’s role as an influence on his thinking in this either. You know, his language when he rolled down the escalator at Trump Tower, when he first announced, and his descriptions of the evils of immigration closely paralleled things Ann Coulter had written in the past. I think she had a big influence on themes and images that he used.

.. he never had a real relationship with him. And the people in the Kremlin are laughing at this guy because all of them are far more sophisticated and shrewd than he is, and they would love for him to become president, not because they have deep lending relationships with him and not because he’s got a deep relationship with Putin, but because they know that he could be their sock puppet because he’s ignorant and overconfident.

.. he hit millions of themes in that thing last night that appealed to the Breitbart coalition, and I think it’s a measure of what you’re going to see in months and years to come from him and that part of the Republican populous faction, that he’s channeling their anger and their imagery.

.. Well, don’t you kind of think that the media promoted this for ratings, especially—I mean, I’m talking almost exclusively about broadcasts and almost exclusively about CNN, that Jeff Zucker made a ton of money putting this guy on the air. And I actually think that people scared themselves, that at some point, they said, “Oh, wait a minute. We’re journalists. We better start reporting on this guy.”

.. I think broadcast media was, for the most part, an enabler for most of his run, and I think early on, both broadcast and print didn’t know how to handle him. I think they mistakenly took him for a zoo curiosity when the campaign began last year. I think by the time—it took almost him getting nominated for most of the media to take him seriously.

.. once big institutions like the Times and the Washington Post got their engines going, they really brought a lot of force to bear on him.

.. there were people like Brian Stelter and Jake Tapper and Chris Cuomo and Anderson Cooper who took strong shots and strong looks at him, even if CNN was an enabler, you know, and that went along with, I think, a really egregious mistake on CNN’s part to bring Corey Lewandowski in

.. I think his ability to harness attention through Twitter is a big piece.

And not just harness attention but demolish his opponents. He really used Twitter much more effectively during the primary season

.. he’s certainly used it during the primary season to label, diminish and then expel political opponents like Jeb Bush and then Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio with labeling and name‑calling.

.. I’m a big sports nut, and they basically have covered the campaign the same way they cover the NFL season, you know, promoting the game at all times to encourage ratings and advertisers.

.. Michael Kruse just wrote one about how Trump on 9/11, 15 years ago, started talking about how he now had the biggest building in downtown Manhattan, the very day that the bodies were still lying in the streets, and no one on television even mentioned the story. And so these great pieces of print journalism got no airtime and died

.. I think he’s going to start a media company, despite the fact that he said he won’t. I think he and Sean Hannity and the Breitbart crew and Roger Ailes will figure in that in some way, although Ailes has a non‑compete with Fox.

.. I think it’s going to be impossible for him to get advertising for it, except for maybe Viagra ads

.. But business people do not want to stay in a hotel and have someone call and hear the word “Trump” when they answer the phone. It’s really poisonous right now.

.. if he hadn’t run, he would have had a legacy of master promoter and a guy who pioneered publicity and converting publicity into cash. But now he may go down as the thing that he doesn’t want to be remembered for at all, and that is as a loser in a landslide election.

.. somebody who is likely to go down in history as having unleashed some very hateful forces in American life, and I think that’s what’s going to end up defining him.

.. I don’t think he realizes probably how badly it taints him and his family—I mean legacy. I think if he did realize it, he still wouldn’t feel ashamed of it because I think he’s incapable of feeling shame.

.. he’ll go on to have influence through his kids. You know, Don Jr. is an aggressive extremist, I think, who sees political aspirations of his own, and Ivanka is a budding entrepreneur and has her own businesses.

.. Jared Kushner. I think Kushner has launched on what is going to be a life worth tracking. News accounts from yesterday indicate that he helped put together the Clinton women thing last night, so he’s way out there.

.. He’s polished. He’s driven, and, you know, I think he’s a serious player.

.. Department of Justice action against the Trump organization in 1973 about not renting to African Americans, Roy Cohn filing the $100 million lawsuit the next day? I mean that aggressive counterpunch—all about racism.

.. he reaffirmed, as we all know, the guilt of the Central Park Five.

.. in the Apprentice tapes is that, supposedly, he uses the N-word. You know, that’s been hinted at in stories.

.. If Trump loses badly, it will be a repudiation by maybe even the majority of white Americans of that strategy. It could be a good day in America.