About eddiegirdner

Retired professor, Political Science. Author, traveler, Leica Photographer.

India Trip Blog Four: Amazing Commerce in Old Delhi

India Trip: Blog 4: January 8, 2020. Amazing Commerce in Old Delhi

6:00 Evening. It gets dark fast. We are not on daylight savings time here.

It was a pretty good day, except that the roll of film in the Minolta camera slipped. But no big loss. I took it out and shot a roll of Kodak 200 color film in there.

I even found a guy in old Delhi selling Kodak Film but mostly Samsun Cameras. I asked him about 35 mm film, and he had it. So those who say that film is not available in India are wrong. It was quite okay today. I shot two rolls of film, one roll of color in the Minolta and one black and white in the Leica. It was a good day for pushing black and white film to ISO 1600.

I am not very picky about rickshaw prices since I am not going to be here very long. I didn’t find any place to change money today. But can do it tomorrow at the airport.

I left the hotel in late morning. I first went to that Madras Coffee House and had coffee. A guy was there taking down the Christmas and New Year decorations. I have about 4500 Rupees left now, a little more than sixty dollars. I avoid the touts that hang around the hotel. It is easy to get a sticky person that wants to follow one around and keep bugging you to take you somewhere that you have no desire to go to. I understand their desire to make some money, but I really am not responsible for their income. Whether increasing it or decreasing it. I know what I want to do. Almost everyone asks what hotel you are staying in. Why? They may come around or send a friend to hang around. So I never tell them what hotel I am staying in. One better not.

I know that I pay them more than normal to take me somewhere all across old Delhi. What is five or six dollars to me? I don’t really care at all. So I just let them make a little extra money. That’s okay with me.

So I just went out on the street and got a rickshaw. The guy said rupees five hundred. I knew that it was too much. I said four hundred. That is also too much, but I don’t care. The traffic is horrendous and it was raining lightly too. Earlier it had been raining quite heavily. I ended up giving the rickshaw wallah five hundred anyway.

I wanted him to leave me at the old Delhi Station, but where he left me, I could not get across that big road with all the traffic. There was an underpass, but I gave it up. It was an area that I had not seen before so I just shot some black and white film there.

I went into a quite small lane. There were rows and rows of electronic shops. An amazing area with amazing commerce there. When I finished that black and white film, I needed to sit down. I found a place that had tea under a roof. Next to it, the guy had chhola batora and puris. So I sat down there.

I took out my Minolta. I started taking pictures with that, I thought, but actually, the film had slipped off the take up spool. I finally wound it back, but the end of the roll went into the film spool. I need to recover it in the dark to reload it.

I switched back to the Leica. Then I came to a place where they were selling all these bright colored lights. I thought that I can’t miss this, but needed color film. So I got my old Minolta and loaded a roll of Kodak 200 color film in it. I finished that roll, but not right there.

I did talk to a few guys along the way and had tea with them. They took my picture with them with a cell phone. Everybody has a camera in their phone now, which is good. I also took their picture, but unfortunately, the film was not advancing.

Well, people pretty much know what is going on, if one spells it out for them and cut through the bullshit. Most of them think that America is great, but I tell them that most people are getting poorer. It is a good thing that a lot of people here know English.

By that time, it was starting to get darker. It was pretty dark all day, but there were lights in the market. I walked up through part of Chandni Chowk and got a rickshaw.

Before this, one of the two guys who talked to me kept bugging me to take me to the spice market or to a masjid (mosque). I told him that I was not interested.

The other side of the street that goes up toward the Jama Masjid was so crowded. I knew that I had to walk up through there to get a rickshaw. But this bug stuck to me and kept bugging me. Man! They can really be sticky. I was taking a picture now and then on the street. Finally I just had to tell him: “Please, I am not interested.” Man! I finished that roll of color film and walked up the street looking for a rickshaw.

I found one, but this one has two facing seats. I didn’t know it at the time, but this kind cannot go into Connaught Circus. So I had to shift to a different kind of auto rickshaw. The traffic was horrible and surely dangerous. By this time it was dark. I took a video on the way with my cell phone. For some reason, the guy did not want me to do it. Probably because he was not supposed to be going that close to Connaught Circus. He stopped the rickshaw and asked me to stop taking the video. It didn’t matter, as I had taken all I wanted to.

I recognized the road and the old monument, a red stone gate, that I had photographed last year coming from the Red Fort. At the road stops, there are beggars and sellers. He seemed to be telling me to hold onto my bag tight. I had it right in front of me with both my cameras in it. It could be dangerous, I know. I didn’t see any other tourists around there. I guess they would not be likely to be where I was, anyway.

Finally, we got to a place on the street where other rickshaws were parked. He had to put me in a different rickshaw. I got it quickly why. He could not take me all the way in that rickshaw. So I had to pay again. A young Sikh guy took me. But he had to ask several times about P-Block. They do not know the names of the blocks of Connaught Circus. I always tell them, next to Regal Building. Most of them know Regal building.

Finally I recognized the Regal Building. It still says “Regal Building.” I saw it today, but the rickshaw wallah did not know it. So I had him leave me at the corner and paid him. He was happy. That’s all.

I ate something twice, when I needed to change my film. That’s about the only way. Otherwise, there is no place to sit down. The first time was rupees 40 and the second time again rupees 40. About 60 cents. It was so cheap and actually seemingly good. The second time, it was two potato pakoras and they were actually very good. I hope that they agree with my digestion.

Anyway, I was glad to be back to the Madras Coffee House. Again, I had a coffee and then to the hotel.

It takes quite a lot to write all that up, but anyway, a good day.

Why is the US going into this war with Iran? It is truly madness. Just madness. What a mad, mad, country. People here know that it is mad!

What can one do? Two days are gone already of this trip. But I have shot two and a half rolls of film. I don’t know what I will get tomorrow. Maybe it is going to rain again, but there is no wind like in Istanbul. I will be off to Lucknow.

India Trip: Blog 3. Some News From Delhi


India Trip: Blog 3 (January 7, 2020) Some News From Delhi

9:20 Evening. I am catching up on some news. I read some of the Times of India. It is pretty clear that this attack on students and professors at JNU was carried out against secular and leftist students on Sunday evening (January 5, 2020). It reminds me of the events in Ayodhya in 1992. There, the police just stood by and let the demolition of the mosque happen. The same thing seems to have happened here for at least three hours while the masked goons were attacking students and professors on the JNU campus.

I was there at JNU in 1983 and again in 1989. I stayed in one of the hostels in 1983. I do not quite remember how I made that arrangement. I know that there was a water problem and the students only got water for a bath part of the day. It was in the hottest part of the summer.

Now there is a lot of news about what is happening there. A whole new generation is there now. It is sort of like the rise of the Nazi movement in Germany and like what is happening in the USA these days.

Of course the ABVP (right-wing student’s group) is attacking and accusing the left. This is also a classic maneuver, like the Reichstag fire in the 1930s in Germany.

Now there is going to be elections in Delhi next month. The Delhi population is over 20 million now. It is more than the population of 140 countries. It is one of the two biggest populaition agglomarations in the world. These are Tokyo and Delhi. Istanbul is also very big.

I can see that the BJP-RSS-ABVP students got a lot of footage on Indian TV. Why not? They are really in power in the country.

The ABVP is opposed to the NSUI and other organizations. (National Students Union of India?)

Now in Delhi, the Aam Adam Party, the common man’s party, has been in rule since about 2012, I believe. Of course, the BJP wants to rule the city. It is quite like Istanbul. Almost exactly, with the Ak Party (Justice and Development Party in Turkey) trying to get control of Istanbul. And also the old Congress Party is there, but they seem quite weak in Delhi. This Chief Minister in Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, took over from the old politician, a woman, Sheila Dikshit. He is head of the Aam Adam Party. In 2015, he won 67 out of the 70 assembly seats in Delhi. Sounds a lot like Istanbul. Delhi has three Rajya Sabha seats (upper house of the Indian Parliament) and seven Lok Sabha (lower house of the Indian Parliament) seats. The party expanded to Punjab. But the votes in Delhi declined recently. Kejriwal tried to improve education and health with bigger budgets, increasing from Rupees 6600 crores to 15,600 crores and Rupees 3500 crores to Rupees 7500 crores. (A crore is ten million.) There are free water and electricity schemes and 1.4 lakh CCTV cameras in Delhi. (A lakh is 100,000.) They piped water to 93 percent of the houses. They increased infrastructure development in unauthorized colonies. (Similar to gecekondus in Turkey) They say there are more than two million persons living in such places in Delhi. And the BJP is campaigning in the election without naming a chief minister candidate. They are riding on Narendra Modi’s, (the Prime Minister of India) popularity. This also sounds a lot like Turkey.

Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same, it seems. It does not take too long to catch up on the politics of a country even though one has been away from it for quite a long time.

I had the wet suitcase problem. A few of my papers got wet in my suitcase from the rain in Istanbul. I should have kept them in my back pack.

January 8. Wednesday. 10:20 Morning. I woke up around 8:45 local time. So I had a good sleep. But it was almost two in the morning before I slept. After taking that nap in the afternoon, it was hard to get back to normal. I didn’t wake up till morning.

The room feels quite cold, but I was alright in the night. I freshened up without a shower and went down for breakfast. It is the same thing. Sort of crude puris and potato curry, but they do have toast and jam and the waiters will make one an omelet if one wants. I did not bother with that this morning.

It was raining heavily outside. I think some of the storm has come here from Turkey. The news was on in Hindi, of course. Then the signal was lost in the heavy rain. The tea is okay and the juice too, but it is made up, not real juice. They also have some fruit, papaya and pineapple and another fruit that I did not recognize. I would like bananas.

I will go out when the weather gets a little better. My room does not have windows, in Hotel Alka, so I cannot check the weather from the room. I saw some of the news. It appears that the state is going to hang four guys in for rape on January 22, according to the Times of India. They are in a jail in Delhi. It may be postponed.

The hotel culture seems the same as I remember from years ago, and it still strikes me. How the waiters, two of them, stand around watching the TV and not taking care of the tables. There was just me there for breakfast and a sadougie (Sikh) sitting close to me. So there was really nothing for them to be doing. I got two cups of tea and the guy just brought my toast from the toaster. That’s all.

I’ll take it a little easy this morning. Maybe the weather will get better. I’ll get out and take some pictures. It could be nice, even if there is no sun. Maybe better in the afternoon. But maybe I need a fast lens, and not the zoom lens on the Minolta.

Here is one thing about the Nirbhaya Rape case that is in the papers. Four men are sentenced to hang on the 22nd of January. (They still had not been executed on 2 February, 2002) Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta, Akshay Thakur. They had been sentenced to death six years before by another court. It is a rape and murder case. It is in Delhi’s Patiala House Courts. The judge was Satish Kumar Arora. The mother of Nirbhaya had filed the case through her advocate Jatindra Kumar Jha and Seema Kushwaha.

Asha Devi is the mother. The report says that the court ignored the pleas of the rapists. Well, I wonder if they are all guilty. I don’t know. In December 2018, the parents had brought another case to have them executed.

The women are crying to have them hanged speedily. The National Commission for Women (NCW) chief Swati Maliwal says that the case took seven years. She wants it to be done in six months. “Justice will be done,” she says.

Is it really justice?

Ranjana Kumari, the director of the Centre for Social Research says “Fast Track Justice is still to become real.” She says that the crimes can be prevented by ensuring “fast track” justice. I doubt that. They will be launching campaigns in districts with state commissions.

The National Federation for Indian Women, general secretary, Annie Raja, talked about the need for reforms in the law. And the need to focus on “witness protection.” They need more forensic laboratories, police and judicial reforms, and a review of implementation of existing legislation.

Enanshi Ganguly Haq, at the Centre for Child Rights, said there was a need to focus on “preventing violence.” They are counseling survivors of sexual violence, rape and so on.

The Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal also said that the hanging needs to be done in six months. But “this has given people some relief.” I am sorry, but seeing them hanged does not really give me any relief. “Then, only, a deterrence will be created.” I wonder why six months? Where did that number come from? “We have to make Delhi a safe city where no such incidents take place,” he said.

But it is a tautology. At a town hall: “If police are more alert, together with the citizens, we can make a safer society.” It just says that if society is safe, then it is safe. Exactly.

The father of one if the convicted. Vinay Sharma. İs Hari Ram. The father said “He has not done anything.” Champa is his mother.

Now, I will check on the weather.

India Trip Blog 2, January 7, 2020. Settling into Connaught Circus

Blog 2: Settling into Connaught Circus (January 7, 2020)

The next thing was how these guys tried to trick me. Man! Something like that always happens. Dodgy Delhi again!

I saw these guys come up to me just outside the airport door. They showed me the prepaid taxi booth. It was no longer inside the airport. So I went there and paid my Rupees 400. Between five and six dollars. But they took me to a place a little farther. These are the police prepaid taxis. There were small yellow and black taxis lined up there. But they took me back and started calling on their phone for a car to come. Then I knew their game.

I told them that they were trying to fuck me over. I asked what all these small vehicles were there, because I took one of those last year.

This taxi mafia in Delhi is hard to crack. Finally, a guy agreed to take me in one of those. That’s the way it is supposed to work. They thought I would not know this.

When we got to Connaught Circus, the driver could not find Alka Hotel, even though I had the exact address and phone number. All these places look the same to me around Connaught Circus. But then, I recognized that old Madras Coffee House and then we found the Hotel, which is just a little farther.

I am a little cold in the room right now. It is 11:20, morning.

3:20 Afternoon. I went out with my Leica and finished the black and white roll that was in the camera. I first went to that old Madras Coffee House. I made a couple of photos in front and then went inside. These people around the hotel are bugging me a lot. And the rickshaw wallas bug one to say what hotel you are staying in. Some of them already know.

Anyway, I went into that coffee house and had a coffee. All the food that they serve there is South Indian. Dosa, idli and things like that. They asked me what I wanted. I ordered a coffee. They wanted me to order some food. I said that it is all South Indian, “but I am Punjabi” making a joke. I ordered something, but I guess they did not understand, because it did not come.

I had the coffee, real coffee, and a very different flavor that I have not tasted before. It was Rupees 80, but I just gave them a one-hundred note.

I asked, but they did not want me to make pictures inside. But I made a couple when they were not looking.

They still had their Christmas decorations up, with a tree and colored lights.

I went out and tried to take some pictures around the hotel. The auto rickshaw guys bug you and some beggar kids also hang around.

6:50. Took a nap. Three hours or so. I had made a few pictures out in front but those kids and rickshaw wallas kept bugging me. So I walked over to the Pind Baluchi restaurant near Regal Building acrosss the street. I ordered a chicken dish and a beer. What they call light Kingfisher is 4.7 percent. So even that is strong enough.

The room here is quite cold continuously, so I may be getting a sore throat.

I had some of the spicy sauce with a nan. That was delicious, but I did not care for the chicken. And anyway, it was three times more than I could possibly eat. I left most of it and drank the beer. I guess that it helped me to sleep. I did need to sleep. That’s for sure.

After that, I went around the corner where the old Kwality Restaurant is and finished that roll of film. Pushed to ISO 1600 in the Leica.

I woke up a little after 6:00 in the evening. It was a cloudy day. Some light rain.

There has been fighting between the ABVP and other students at Jawaharlal Nehru University and it is still going on. That is the Akhil Bharati Vidyarthi Parashad or all India Students Organization. This is a Hindu fascist outfit, linked to the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party). It is like a communal riot, except between groups of Hindus, mainly the BJP fascists, and those who are not Modi supporters.

Man! I am a bank teller machine. Everybody seems to want some money from you. I understand it. There are a lot of poor people. Very mixed. Right here in central Delhi, most people walking on the street look like they are making it fairly well. That’s what I see. But there was one place this morning, where people were just sleeping on the pavement. I think that it is hard to survive like that.

The traffic is really terrible on the streets in the morning.

I will try to change some more money tomorrow. Maybe go to Paharganj for that. I don’t know.

I turned on the TV. Lots of channels are there, but only a few operate. Only one was in English, and one was from the Northeast, Assam.

I was just thinking about how the political scientists got it so wrong about Indian politics. They thought the country would become more and more secular, but now has been taken over by the Hindu Nationalist BJP. Now they claim that that is normalisation of Indian politics and the NED (National Endowment for Democracy) in the USA is supporting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to control politics. One has to approach these opinions very skeptically.

India Trip Blog 1: Izmir, Turkey to Delhi, India


Blog 1: Izmir, Turkey to Delhi, India

Eddie James Girdner

6 January 2020. Istanbul.

6: 10 Evening. I just got to Istanbul not long ago, flying from Izmir. Coming to the new airport, it was actually slower that at the old airport. It was a very windy day and a windy, rough landing. It took a very long time to get from the runway to the gate. Seems like twenty minutes or so.

Somehow I chose the most stormy day in the winter to fly.

One thing I noticed about Turkish Airlines. Now the seats are much closer together than before. Unfortunately they have followed the other airlines doing that. Probably forced to by the economics. If one wants any kind of leg room, one must go first class these days.

I know that I chose my seat when I bought the ticket, but they stuck me in the back of the plane, only three or four seats from the back. I have to write it down after this. I was the last one out of the plane and I mentioned it to them that the seating is more cramped now.

The new airport is beautiful, but I am afraid that I will have to walk a long way to the gate. They posted that the gate number would be put up at 6:50, so I am waiting for that.

Also, this area does not have many seats. But I have an idea why. There are several cafes around. Anyway, I just want to enjoy it. I hope that I can.

I put a roll of Fuji color film in my old Minolta camera and shot a few pictures. Seems like no one cares. Why should they?

The security asked what was in my bag. Obviously, people are not carrying film cameras and film these days.

11:35 Evening. We got delayed in Istanbul because of the high winds. The plane was shaking quite wildly just sitting on the runway. Finally, we were off just before eleven. I was sitting using my cell phone with my seat belt off, when the plane suddenly lurched forward to take off. I had to quickly get the seat belt on and turn off the phone. Even though it was so windy, surprisingly, it did not feel very rough taking off. We are just past Kostamanu now at 11:38.

7 January 10:15 Morning, Delhi Time. Alka Classic Hotel, Delhi.

Well, I made it and I just got the clerk downstairs to make my bus reservations from Lucknow to Allahabad. I changed 300 dollars at the airport, but it probably was not enough, since I paid for two nights in the room in cash. That is 10,350 Rupees for the room. I also paid Rupees 2200 for the bus. So I have something like Rupees 6000 left now. The airport was paying Rupees 67 to a dollar in all places. The official rate is Rupees 71 and a half.

At the airport back in Istanbul, it took a long time to load the plane. It was almost full. Maybe just a seat or two empty, but not near me. I could not get that lucky. They waited and waited. More people kept drifting into the plane, coming late. I looked on the airport map. We were at gate 8 which is at the very end of one of the legs of the airport and completely opposite from where I came in on the domestic side. So I got a long tour.

They waited till much later, past 10:30, almost eleven, before the plane took off. They were waiting for the high winds to settle down. So I called Selma. All of a sudden, when I was talking, the plane suddenly accelerated to take off. I hardly had time to get my seat belt fastioned and turn off the phone. It was not very rough taking off. There were a few bumps later toward the east of Turkey, but that’s all.

I actually enjoy some turbulence in the plane. It reminds me of riding a ship, a tin can destroyer in the navy.

After some time, it was smoother and they served food. Not great. Chicken and rice if you wanted it, or vegetarian, otherwise. I had a white wine. It is only 127 cc. So not even a good wine glass full. I thought they would come around again, but that didn’t happen very soon.

So I walked up to the galley and asked for a glass of wine. Mostly it was red wine that was left. Another very small bottle. I had just sort of inhaled it when they did bring drinks around again. I hid the bottle, feeling guilty, and asked for another one. That way, I ended up getting three bottles. It just sort of put me down, because, I went to sleep right away.

I put the pillow and the blanket on the seat, as it was so hard, and sat on them. Even then, it was quite hard!

When I woke up, we were quite close to Delhi, somewhere over Punjab on the Indian side. We came down and landed. There was a long line for e-visas this time, but I came through quite good. Also my bag came. It was a little wet, as it had been raining in Istanbul. Probably it got wet there.

After I changed 300 dollars, I looked for the prepaid taxi booths. They had disappeared from inside the airport, it seems. Not where they were last year.

I had to get a taxi and be off to the hotel. (End of Blog 1)

American Sahib

American Sahib by Eddie James Girdner (2016) 416 pp.

Available from Amazon.com.

This novel is largely autobiographical but contains a good deal of fiction. It is mostly about life in a Punjabi village in the late 1960s.

I wrote this book in 2015 and then put it aside for several years after publishing it. It was based upon my two years in Punjab, India (1968-1970).

I had forgotten somewhat how the narrative unfolds. So I read it again this summer to see what I would think of it.

If someone is looking for a patriotic book that only praises America, the Peace Corps, the US Government, then this is not the book. It pokes a lot of fun and criticism at the USA. And it does not spare India either. So one should read it with an open mind. If one does not have something to say, then why bother to write the book?

The book has not been sanitized by a corporatist publishing company to make it safe for a neoliberal global agenda.

The book has some love affairs. Not unusual. This often happens in life itself, so it should not be surprising to discover it between the pages of a novel. One might be surprised at how many people object to such things. So many Americans seem to have a puritanical bent of mind. Often hypocritically, however. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Reading the book after three years, I was rather surprised. I hoped that I could look at it somewhat more objectively. Quite frankly, I was surprised at how good it was. I just don’t know of very many books that describe life in Punjab as well as this one does. Prakash Tandon, of course, Punjabi Century and Beyond Punjab are great books. But a somewhat different genre.

I found the book to be such a revealing description of life in a remote village in Punjab and in the towns in those days. Now that was fifty years ago. Half a century of water under the bridge. The book is quite funny in many places. The book is not only literature, but a political and economic analysis of a developing country without all the academic jargon. British colonialism, Indian politics, and the USA in the global system. America as an imperialist hegemon. A good deal of political economy spills out of the pages. And what the locals think of America and Indian politics might be interesting.

The love scenes spice up the book somewhat, breaking the monotony of village life. The dichotomy between the city and the countryside is stark. Escape is necessary to keep one’s relative sanity.

The perspective of the left in India, the relevant communist analysis of society emerges. Comrades are in the street, some actual members of the Communist Party of India. The author finds their analysis honest and convincing. They are often hauled off to jail. Actually, I think the members of the US State Department could benefit by reading this book. They could certainly learn something. This would surely be their ruination, as a part of that outfit. Unfortunately.

The author cannot resist mentioning the stupid things one hears on VOA, the Voice of America. Actually, the voice of Dick Nixon in the late 1960s. One picked it up on shortwave radio, the twenty-five meter band in India. Dick, the US President, hates the Peace Corps and sets out to kill it. Or as much of it as he can. He almost did. The US Presidick, for the author.

It always amused me how US congressmen in Washington were afraid to send young Americans abroad, especially to developing countries. What were they so afraid of? Why, simply that they might learn something and bring their ideas back to America. The old mushroom syndrome once again. Keep the people in the dark and pile horse shit on them. That’s the way one grows mushrooms. Americans are mushrooms. No shit. But why insult mushrooms? They are useful.

I will not even mention Tiny Hands Trump. Things can always get worse.

There is a good deal of satire in the book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it again.

It came to my mind that it would be incredibly instructive for students in a South Asian studies program in an American university to read. It is very informative in a simply way. But I don’t think that most American professors would have the courage to use it in their classes. The book steps on too many toes and is too unorthodox. Political correctness has ruined so much freedom in academia, it seems. The very place that it should not be ruined.

I am not saying that this is a great novel, as a novel. I do not claim to have any expertise to evaluate the book as a novel. But it is an interesting story. I think that it is a fun book. It is full of ideas. I just had some things that I wanted to say, and so I said them in the form of a novel. I would like to think that I have learned something living outside the USA for a third of a century. And all in so-called developing countries.

I guess that young Indians, especially Punjabis, might enjoy reading it. That is, if they knew about it. So many know English. The book is written in very simple language. It is also good just for entertainment. That is, if one has a critical and intellectual bent of mind.

It is not a bad book to have on one’s book shelf.

July 21, 2019. Akarca, Seferihisar, Turkey

Images of Punjab in the 1960s

US Empire at War


The US Empire at War: Some Thoughts About the Consequences

Eddie J. Girdner (Retired Professor)

(Published in Third Concept Journal, July 2019)

From all indications, the United States is preparing for a new war against Iran, using almost exactly the same script that was used to drum up a war against Iraq in 2002 and 2003. Perhaps the officials believe that people will not remember how the neo-conservatives in the George W. Bush Government lied the United States into that war. A new war is apparently being drummed up by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor, John Bolton. Thousands of additional US troops are being sent to the Middle East in June 2019.

It is said that President Donald Trump does not want a new war in the Middle East. But with Congressmen in Washington, such as Representative Tom Cotton and others, things may spin out of his control. It seems that nothing is easier for the USA than going to war. The country certainly has a lot of experience at it.

The United States of America has been continuously at war now for almost thirty years. Since the US invasion of Iraq in 1991 under George H.W. Bush, the father of George W. Bush the country has been at war. That is twenty-eight years.

So a person younger than thirty years old in the USA has never known their own country to be at peace. Of course, the USA was at war continuously from 1961 to 1975 in Vietnam. (Fourteen years)

Go back sixty years. Over that time period (1959 till 2019), the USA has been at war for at least forty-two years out of sixty. This does not count all the proxy wars that the USA carried out in Central America, as in Nicaragua and Grenada. Also Afghanistan, and other countries. Indeed, in many places all across the globe where the US Central Intelligence Agency destabilized governments.

This means that a person in the US who is sixty years old has only known eighteen years of peace in his or her lifetime.

There is no other country in the world that I can think of that has engaged in so much war over the last sixty years. If the US mission is to preserve the peace in the world, that is a hell of a way to do it.

Fighting for peace is like having sex for virginity, as we used to say in the sixties about the Vietnam war. It is still largely true.

But the USA will keep on keeping on waging war all over the world. I am confident of that. The officials in Washington will keep on drumming up needless wars as John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are now doing with Iran and Venezuela. So far US efforts in Venezuela have failed, which is good.

It seemed, at one point, that US President Donald Trump might end some of the continuous wars and bring some troops home, like he promised to do. But if he was serious about that, he has been defeated by the deep state that insists on keeping the wars going. Trump said that he would get US troops out of Syria a few months ago in 2019, but that did not happen.

The military industrial corporate complex wants war profits. They don’t need them, but they do want them. The roads, bridges, and other infrastructure in the US are falling into a state of collapse. But the US Government prefers to print money for wars, rather than putting money into fixing the roads and airports.

There are many other things besides war that the USA could have done over the last sixty years.

It was trillions of US dollars down the drain in Vietnam. Like Marx said, war is like dumping a portion of the national wealth into the sea. The US lost the war there. After 1975, Vietnam unified, tried socialism for a few years, then began shifting to the successful East Asian Model of state-guided capitalism. This model was followed by Japan, Taiwan, and then China after Deng Xioping moved toward state-guided capitalism. The Vietnamese saw that this model was successful, far more than the American liberal model. Chalmers Johnson on Japan and all that. US economists claimed that the model did not work, but this was wrong as Johnson pointed out in his writings. The model successfully developed the countries of East Asia. China became the great work house of the world with massive exports to the USA.

So all of that destruction and chaos, the killing of three million Vietnamese and sixty thousand American soldiers in Vietnam, many more wounded, many more suicides of veterans and so on, was completely unnecessary. Except, that is, for the making of war profits.

The war did contribute to the development of South Korea, just as the war in Korea in the early 1950s contributed to the development of Japan.

When it comes to the war in Iraq, hardly anybody now claims that this war was a good idea. That is, except for a few people like Bolton, Pompeo, Dick Cheney (thr former US Vice President) and so on.

And then there is the war in Afghanistan. Don’t even mention it. The Taliban were still winning, the last time I checked. But the war goes on now, after about eighteen years. It keeps pumping out war profits for the ruling class in the USA. The US Generals know that they whole thing is a farce, but they have to wait till they retire to tell what is really going on. What a waste on an international scale.

So, I will put it bluntly. It would have been difficult to devise foreign policies more destructive than those followed by the USA over the last sixty years. Destructive of both life in the USA and around the world. That is, if one wanted to have a peaceful world. It takes real talent!

But the guys in Washington are not about to let the world down! They can provide new wars. And, of course, every US president has to have his own war. If not, then they are seen as a failure. Remember Jimmy Carter. Poor guy. He never started a war anywhere. So he was sent back to grow peanuts on his farm in Plains, Georgia.

But he probably saved a lot of people from dying in useless wars.

There are many things that the USA could have done if the country had been a democracy that served the people instead of only the One Percent and US corporations.

The USA could have had a wonderful world-standard health care system that was available to the whole population, like most of the developed world has. Even Turkey has guaranteed health care for citizens at a very small cost.

The USA could have had a university system that was free and available to all, like Germany, Slovenia and many other countries. Now university graduates are saddled with debt and cannot find jobs. Some end up leaving the USA to teach in China. Salaries are much smaller in China, but they find themselves a lot better off than they would be in the USA.

The US could get rid of the crippling student debt of over one and a half trillion dollars in the USA. This would be a great help to young people trying to start their careers. Not a chance of it ever happening, however.

Surely, providing some benefits for the people was not out of reach for the USA. After all, dollars for the wars have been created out of thin air by the US Federal Reserve and just added to the US debt tab. The USA has not even pretended to pay for any of these multi-trillion dollar wars. The debt just generates more profits for the bankers.

Why not print a little money for social welfare? Not a chance of it ever happening, unfortunately.

The US didn’t have to pay for the wars because it had the world’s reserve country. It just shift the debt off onto other countries in inflated dollars.

So money was not the problem.

The USA could have built one of the best high-speed rail systems in the world, as France, Japan, China and some other countries have done. It would not be difficult. Much of the USA landmass is relatively flat. The technology exists for building tunnels through mountains. It is old technology. The Chinese or Japanese could have shown them how to do it. Even Turkey has high-speed trains.

Now much of the infrastructure in the USA is old and falling into a state of decay. But the US is not doing much to repair the systems, while spending massively on new wars.

People who do not fly in the USA are travelling on the old slow Amtrak trains. Actually, I love them. Personally, I love old, slow trains. But they do not get people anywhere fast. The US needs an alternative to airports and personal cars. People have to drive or fly everywhere to travel. Such travel is difficult for the elderly. High speed rail is the answer, but it would threaten the auto and airline industries.

The USA could have had a capitalist economic model that provided good jobs and benefits, like the European model of stakeholder capitalism that allows workers to share the profits. Not a chance of it happening, unfortunately. Wall Street corporate interests are too strong for that under stockholder capitalism.

The USA could have been a great place to live and a model for the whole world. Instead, the politicians in the USA just warn people to be careful or they might end up being just like Europe. Actually most people would love to be just like Europe, if they only had a clue about the benefits people enjoy in Europe!

In the event, the USA missed the boat over the last sixty years. That was the price of being the oligarchy that it is.

Today, the USA is losing the war. Not only in hearts and minds, but in real democracy and social welfare for its people. Just look at the many thousands of homeless young people living in tents in Los Angeles and other places in California. Official figures are way over one-hundred thousand just in California alone. Surely, the scenes of degradation one sees on the streets of Los Angeles is shameful for a country as rich as the USA.

It would be a shame for any country.

The lack of a national health care system in the United States is a national disgrace. One wonders how the officials believe that one can run a country without taking care of the health care needs of the people. It boggles the minds of those in most developed countries, such as Europe.

Again, politicians in the US warn Americans to be careful. They could end up being just like those in Europe. This would be funny if it was not so absurd.

Some Americans have started leaving the USA for a better life elsewhere and find that they are better off.

Some go to universities free in Europe, such as in Slovenia, Germany or France. Some young Americans find it easier to live well and pay off their student loans by teaching English and other subjects in China. So much for the so-called evils of communism!

Americans have started to retire abroad because their small social security checks give them a higher standard of living in Mexico and many other countries than they would have in the USA.

Wall Street and the corporate oligarchs in the USA, on the other hand, are mostly happy. Today, that is obviously the top priority.

The US Empire is not yet over, but on the down-side of history. Perhaps that is the bright spot on the horizon.

How many more imperialist wars will it take to finally bring down the American Global Empire? That is the historical question.

Eddie J. Girdner

June 18, 2019