There are a variety of reasons Trump supporters voted the way they did in November, but one clear message many found attractive was the idea his administration would be driven by an "America First" doctrine.

America first meant a lot of things to a lot of different people, running the gamut from economic populism and immigration, to an avoidance of barbaric and costly overseas wars. The economic populism part was the biggest ruse from day one, a betrayal which (as we had seen under Obama) became undeniable as soon as he started appointing lifelong swamp-dwelling billionaires and Goldman Sachs partners to run his administration.

Irrespective of who you elect, Wall Street runs the empire, as Trump proved once again.

The coming massive pivot when it comes to destructive wars abroad will take a little longer, but the writing's been on the wall for months. I've published several posts on the topic, with the most popular one titled, Prepare for Impact - This is the Beginning of the End for U.S. Empire. Here's an excerpt:
This is not the sort of thing you see in a confident, brave, and civilized nation, it's the sort of stuff you'd expect to see toward the end. It's the stuff of craven war-mongers, of dishonest cowards, of a totally deranged and very dangerous media. The signs are everywhere; imperial decline is set to accelerate rapidly in the coming years...

Expect more of all the above as the U.S. empire enters its most devastating phase of collapse. Think about what it might mean for you and your family and prepare accordingly.
When I compare who Trump currently has advising him and who he's getting closer to, the future looks increasingly ominous. This is especially true when it comes to the Iran nuclear deal. Irrespective of what you think of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis, these two look like a couple of the most sane humans on earth compared to some of the others Trump's cozying up to. I alluded to this earlier today on Twitter.

The key event I believe will set the groundwork for a coming disastrous confrontation with Iran, is Trump's highly anticipated announcement that the Iran nuclear agreement is against U.S. interests. This wouldn't immediately end the deal or lead to new U.S. sanctions, but it would represent the first step in heading in that direction. A direction I believe will ultimately lead to US aggression against Iran in a similar fashion as Iraq, except this miscalculation will have even more disastrous consequences for the American empire.

Before we go any further, it's important to understand what's going on with regard to Iran and who now has Trump's ear on foreign policy. Let's start with some color from a recent New York Times article:
President Trump is expected to overrule his top national security advisers and decline to certify the Iran nuclear agreement, according to people who have been briefed on the matter, a decision that would reopen a volatile political debate on Iran but is likely to leave in place the landmark deal negotiated by the Obama administration.

By declining to certify Iran's compliance, Mr. Trump would essentially kick it to Congress to decide whether to reimpose punitive economic sanctions. Even among Republicans, there appears to be little appetite to do that, at least for now.
If Trump isn't listening to Tillerson or Mattis, who is he listening to?
Congress will have to decide whether to reimpose sanctions, which could sink the deal, or use the prospect of that to force Iran - and the other parties to the deal - back to the negotiating table to make changes in the agreement.

That is the approach favored by Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, who has emerged as a leading hard-liner on Iran and is working closely with the White House to devise its strategy. On Thursday, Mr. Cotton met with Mr. Trump to discuss Iran and other issues.

"Congress and the president, working together, should lay out how the deal must change and, if it doesn't, the consequences Iran will face," Mr. Cotton said in a speech on Tuesday at the Council on Foreign Relations. Reimposing sanctions, he said, would be a "backward-looking step."

The deal is also contentious inside the administration. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have both urged Mr. Trump not to back out of it, in part because that would free Iran to begin producing uranium and reprocessing plutonium immediately, not after 13 years, as is stipulated in the agreement.

But Mr. Trump, after twice certifying the deal, has warned his aides that he would not do so again. As a result, the administration is looking for ways to claim Iran is in violation of the "spirit" of the accord, even if it has complied with inspection criteria. The International Atomic Energy Agency has said that Iran was in compliance; when it has found minor violations, they have been quickly fixed.
Tom Cotton is as dangerous a war hawk as exists in America today. In fact, the guy's such a total lunatic, I've been warning followers on Twitter about him for years. Since most of you probably aren't caught up on him, definitely take a moment to read the following article published by Alternet in 2015, 10 Horrifying Facts About GOP Senator Tom Cotton.

We should probably go ahead and update this list as it didn't even mention how Cotton claims the U.S. has an "under-incarceration" problem even though it has only 5% of the world's population, yet 25% of its prisoners. Seems like a swell guy.

Jokes aside, Tom Cotton might actually be the most dangerous person in the entire U.S. Senate (which is saying a lot), so the fact he's become so cozy with Trump on foreign policy is extremely dangerous. Indeed, he's become so influential, Politico recently conducted an in-depth interview with him where he made his positions quite clear. Here are a few highlights:
This is a moment of truth for President Trump's national security team. He is set to overrule both his secretaries of State and Defense on the Iran nuclear deal this week, declaring it no longer in the U.S. "national interest" in explicit contradiction to their public position. And if they don't like it, Senator Tom Cotton says, then they should get out.

Cotton, who has personally advised Trump in recent days about the new Iran strategy he is set to release this week, stopped short of saying either embattled Secretary of State Rex Tillerson or Defense Secretary Jim Mattis should in fact resign. But his comments were nonetheless a striking acknowledgement of the giant rift that has opened up in the midst of the Trump team over foreign policy.

The interview with Cotton took place before this latest explosive twist, but even then it was clear a new rift of significance was opening up inside the Republican foreign policy world. I spoke with Cotton Thursday, the day after Tillerson's unusual press conference to deny press reports he was considering quitting, and just a couple hours after Cotton was summoned to the White House for a private Oval Office meeting with Trump to discuss the Iran strategy. In the interview, Cotton did not really try to paper over the rift or offer the usual assurances that it would all be papered over. Instead, when I asked him directly whether there would be resignations, Cotton did not say there wouldn't be, only that he did not believe they were "imminent."

Because Cotton today is one of the few Senate Republicans who pay close attention to foreign policy who is still out there making Corker's initial case for engagement with Trump, and he insists it's paying off with substantive shifts in Trump's thinking on subjects as varied as how to deal with Russia and the continuation of the war in Afghanistan.

Until now, Trump has shied away from outright confrontation with the experienced hands he's hired to oversee his national security policy. But the Iran deal now seems to have finally forced a public rupture.

Cotton, who has repeatedly consulted with Trump and other top White House officials in recent days, appears to be on the winning side, pushing Trump to adopt the formula his administration has now settled on of refusing to re-certify the Iran deal to Congress but holding off - for now - asking Congress to blow it up by imposing new sanctions. Iran "is on the president's mind right now, probably more than anything," Cotton says, and he says he believes Trump will take the step of not certifying as a way to send "a very important signal to Congress and to our E.U. plus three partners and to Iran that this president is not going to abide by a disastrous nuclear deal."

Cotton gave a lengthy address at the Council on Foreign Relations the same day as Mattis' testimony taking the opposite view - and a link to it was soon tweeted out approvingly by an Iran deal hardliner inside the administration, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.
I'm glad Nikki Haley came up, as she's a certified grade-A maniac and bloodthirsty neocon. While she's dangerous enough at the U.N., there's talk that she could ultimately replace Tillerson as Secretary of State. Any combination of Cotton and Haley moving into increased prominence within the Trump circle of influence effectively guarantees more disastrous war in the Middle East.

The writing's on the wall and you can feel free to ignore it at your own risk. Beyond what I outlined in this piece, a key question is how will Trump sell the coming conflicts to his base, and what will the ultimate implications of the coming wars be? I plan to address both those things in tomorrow's post.

Part II
WAR is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

- Major General Smedley Butler, War is a Racket (1935)
Yesterday's post, Empire Destroying Wars Are Coming to America Under Trump - Part 1, outlined my view that President Donald Trump, despite campaign slogans to focus on "America First," is likely to entangle the nation in major new wars which will precipitate a chaotic and dangerous collapse of U.S. empire.

I base this view on his actions since coming into office, as well as the bloodthirsty war hawks he's increasingly turning to for advice, with Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton being the most concerning of all. Today's post will dig into how Trump will attempt to sell his wars, and will also address the role corporate media is likely to play in the legitimization of any future destructive conflagration.

To understand how Trump will attempt to rally his base to support another idiotic overseas conflict, all we have to do is look at his recent obsession with promoting fake patriotism via the NFL national anthem controversy. As I noted in the recent post, Thoughts on Trump, Fake Patriotism and 'Taking a Knee':
When I look at Trump's commentary and tweets in aggregate one thing becomes crystal clear. Trump is trying to redefine America and what it means to be a patriot in superficial and jingoistic terms. He's essentially grooming his supporters into thinking that worshipping a piece of fabric is what separates those who love this country from those who hate it and want to destroy it. By making this about a symbol as opposed to the ideas that this symbol represents, he allows his supporters to feel they are a part of "taking America back" while not even remotely comprehending what the country is actually all about. It's like losing weight while eating whatever you want, all you have to do is vomit afterwards. Trump is essentially conditioning his supporters to follow him as he regurgitates all over the Constitution, because as long as they stay true to a piece of fabric or song, they honor the country. Patriotism made easy.

Which is why what Trump did here is the most dangerous thing he's done since becoming President. He's using an issue that existed and was already divisive as a way to redefine what patriotism means in America. It's no longer about free speech, the right to privacy and the rest of it, but rather patriotism now revolves around a song and a flag. A societal embrace of this sort of fake patriotism is how horrible things happen, and I hope most Trump voters are wise enough to see this.
In case you haven't noticed, Trump isn't dropping the NFL thing, which makes me even more convinced I'm on to something. If he can convince his diehard supporters and other segments of the U.S. population that patriotism is as simple as flag worship versus adherence to our founding principles, he can surely convince them to support anther stupid war because it'd be unpatriotic not to.

This is precisely why I focused on the NFL issue a couple of weeks ago. I don't think it's a distraction at all, rather, I think it's part of a much larger campaign to get his supporters to accept President Trump as the arbiter of what's considered patriotic and what isn't. Today it's standing for the national anthem, tomorrow it'll be whether or not you support a new crazy military adventure. He's preemptively conditioning his groupies to follow him into cataclysm and cheer their own destruction along the way. Mike Pence was a willing participant in this manufacturing of fake patriotism over the weekend via his cheap stunt at the Colts game.



This will be Trump's play. Given his clownish and undeniable betrayal when it comes to economic populism, he will increasingly focus on the culture war, and then ultimately, real war.

In order to successfully sell war, Trump's will probably need one other thing in addition to a passive, slobbering base of fake patriots. He'll also need the corporate media. I know, I know, the media hates Trump, right? There's no way they'll support a major war launched by Trump you say. On this, I unfortunately will have to disagree.

On the question of war, the corporate media has proven itself to be craven bloodthirsty sycophants to the foreign policy establishment irrespective of who resides in the Oval Office. I suspect the same will be true when it comes to Trump, especially if Iran becomes the key target of mindless imperial aggression.

In order to understand how shamelessly and dishonestly the corporate media gets behind war based on total fabrications, let's take a look at some comments from Chris Hedges in a recent must read interview.
I was on the investigative team at the New York Times during the lead-up to the Iraq War. I was based in Paris and covered Al Qaeda in Europe and the Middle East. Lewis Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney, Richard Perle and maybe somebody in an intelligence agency, would confirm whatever story the administration was attempting to pitch. Journalistic rules at the Times say you can't go with a one-source story. But if you have three or four supposedly independent sources confirming the same narrative, then you can go with it, which is how they did it. The paper did not break any rules taught at Columbia journalism school, but everything they wrote was a lie.

The whole exercise was farcical. The White House would leak some bogus story to Judy Miller or Michael Gordon, and then go on the talk shows to say, 'as the Times reported....' It gave these lies the veneer of independence and reputable journalism. This was a massive institutional failing, and one the paper has never faced.
Have we seen any evidence that The New York Times or Washington Post have changed their ways? I say no, and I wouldn't at all be surprised to see them ultimately war-monger behind Trump on Iran. At the end of the day, they don't dislike Trump's policies so much as they dislike his personal style and demeanor. They prefer a slick marketer for the status quo like Barack Obama in the White House - a charismatic executioner, a man who calls Wall Street executives fat cats one day, then endorses trillions in no strings attached bailouts the next. The foreign policy establishment has been salivating about taking out Iran for decades, and if Trump goes there, I suspect corporate media will enthusiastically cheerlead him into battle.

Today's post discussed how I think Trump will sell his wars, and explored the possibility that corporate media ultimately will get behind them. Tomorrow's post will dig into why I think any major new wars under Trump will lead to an acceleration in U.S. imperial collapse. A decline we need to accept as both highly probable and dangerous, but also one that could provide once in a generation opportunities for meaningful positive change.

Part III

The first two parts of this series focused on how Trump-specific factors could lead the American empire into another series of foolish and highly destructive wars. Part 1 discussed my concerns regarding Iran deal certification, as well as Trump's increased coziness with Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who appears to get turned on by the use of violent force. Part 2 considered how Trump might sell his wars by promoting an environment of slobbering, superficial patriotism, and also speculated that corporate media might rally behind Trump if the target of his aggression happens to be Iran.

Today's piece will be slightly different. The prior posts focused on Trump-specific angles with regard to how America's forthcoming military mistake might play out, but I want to make one thing clear. While Trump carries his own unique risks when it comes to militarism overseas, this is all much bigger than Trump.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, I've become convinced that the U.S. empire will never reform on its own. There's simply too much money and power at stake, and we already know oligarchs are above the law under our two-tier justice system. The biggest financial criminals of a generation were not only spared prison for their actions, but were handsomely rewarded. Wall Street ran the Obama administration before, and it runs the Trump administration now. It's become clear to me that these lawless elite crooks and their enablers will continue with their insane and oppressive policies until the whole thing collapses. Whether Trump, Pence or Hillary Clinton run the charade doesn't change where this train is headed.

I say this because I don't want people to think I believe everything would work out fine if Trump wasn't in charge. Our society is extraordinarily corrupt, delusional and systemically abusive. The public no longer has confidence in any of our institutions and for very good reasons. Our institutions exist merely to serve as gatekeepers to protect predatory crooks from the consequences of their actions.

The reason I focus on war leading to a more dangerous phase of imperial collapse is because I think that's the most likely way this thing will go down. When I look around at those in positions of power or influence in the U.S., I don't see people who've learned lessons from Iraq, Libya and now Yemen. Rather, I see a continued consensus of interventionists who'll never stop looking for the next country to bomb. As such, it's likely they'll eventually pick the wrong fight, and everything will crumble pretty fast after that.

I think the most likely target for such aggression under Trump is Iran, but such a move will not go down the same way as the Iraq war. Back in 2003, U.S. leadership still had some standing in the world and amongst its own people. It was only two years after 9/11, and the American government was still seen as a positive force in the world by many. George W. Bush and his pals used this goodwill to destroy a country that never attacked us, killing hundreds of thousands of people in the process. Even worse, the entire thing was based on lies and media propaganda. A decade and a half later, the U.S. has been involved in plenty of other overseas calamities, but none as major as Iraq. Any new major conflict would happen in a world where the U.S. is far more despised than it was in 2003.

It's sad to say it, but over the course of the 21st century the U.S. government has exposed itself as a corrupt bully, not just to the outside world, but also to its own people. Moreover, those in positions of power and influence in America either don't recognize this reality or don't care. It's this sort of disconnected hubris combined with rampant internal corruption that is the true graveyard of empires. I think both allies and enemies abroad have had enough, and given the right opportunity, will let the U.S. sink.

As I explained in the post, Prepare for Impact - This is the Beginning of the End for U.S. Empire:
How is all this going to play out? Obviously nobody really knows, but I do think we've entered a new period in American history. I think it's basically a crossing of the Rubicon moment for the American empire. Personally, I don't expect a strong and visible military response from Russia in the near-term. I don't think Putin wants to give the U.S. media and newly minted neocon Donald Trump an excuse to do anything truly crazy, which they can blame on Russia in the court of public opinion. I think Putin is too smart for that. Rather, what I think he'll do is make all sorts of moves behind the scenes to weaken America's economic power, while at the same time engaging in minor provocations to tempt the imbeciles in charge of U.S. foreign policy to make further mistakes abroad, to which they'll emphatically oblige.

In other words, Russia will attempt to make the U.S. extend itself further in a region where no real success is possible, at the same time that the American economy deteriorates further. Recall that the current very weak economic "recovery" has been going on for nearly a decade. This cycle is very long in the tooth, and all Russia really needs to do is sit back, make some moves behind the scenes and allow the U.S. to collapse upon itself in its hubris and stupidity. This is precisely what I think is going to happen.
U.S. leadership is so delusional, and quite frankly stupid, that it thinks the answer to grave overseas threats is more aggression. The exact opposite is true. I'm of the view that both China and Russia are sitting back and just waiting for the U.S. to do something historically idiotic overseas.

Many Americans voted for Trump hoping that he would avoid such a scenario, but this optimism looks increasingly misplaced. As such, I expect a major military mistake in the years ahead which will set off a chain reaction that will ultimately deal a huge and very public blow to the U.S. empire. In other words, if you live another ten years you can expect to live through a period of rapid decay for the country as we know it.

While I believe such a collapse is extremely likely, it doesn't mean the answer is to cower in fear as events begin to unfold. Rather, the better you understand the risks, the better prepared you'll be to ride out the times ahead, thus providing a platform to turn a chaotic and dangerous situation into something positive.

So be a better person. Try to help people who need it. Spread ideas of decentralization and promote a worldwide movement away from centralized authoritarian structures wherever and whenever possible. The future is what we make of it, and the future can be very bright. To create a better world we'll need a more conscious population grounded in decent behavior, and there's no better place to start than with ourselves.