GOP & Dems just puppets of wealthiest US families - Justice party leader
The US faces lots of issues right now, from being sucked into a war in Syria to stagnating salaries and a shrinking middle class – and ahead of the upcoming presidential elections, people are looking for a candidate who can actually bring change to the way the country's been going on in domestic and foreign policies. But what games are the candidates playing? Is the choice of candidates wide enough, or too limited? We ask the former mayor of Salt Lake City and founder of the U.S. Justice party. Rocky Anderson is on Sophie&Co today.
SS: Rocky Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake city, founder of the U.S. Justice party - welcome to the show, it's great to have you with us. So, mr. Anderson, you've said before that U.S. should be working with Russia to bring about a peaceful resolution to what's happening in Syria; seems like, with the latest conference in Vienna, that's finally starting to happen. Why has the White House U-turned on this? And will it last?
RA: I think the President, and he's fearful of Congress seeming to tear up with Russia, because of their own domestic political purposes. I think it's absolutely foolish: we ought to be joining with Russia, we have common cause in defeating ISIS, and we need to start working together where we have these common interests, and I think if we do that, we can repair relations in many other respects, but this whole notion that we have to stay apart from those who too many people identity as our adversaries - is very self-destructive and self-defeating when it comes to our efforts against ISIS.
SS: So, what I gather from your answer is that America is trying to look tough at home regarding Syria - does it mean that that's more important than actually ending the conflict?
RA: Well, I think that's right. These people are more concerned about their own political futures and interests then they are about doing the right thing; and we all know, that if we were able to align with Russia and coordinate our efforts against ISIS, we stand a whole lot better chance - in fact, I think that would be a virtual certainty that we can defeat ISIS in Syria and, in the long-run, perhaps, find common cause and finding a solution in terms of what's happening between the President of Syria and the other opposition that the U.S. has been supporting.
SS: The U.S. has tried to leave Iraq, but it couldn't; it tried to leave Afghanistan, and it's still there, and now there's Syria which could also see the U.S. ground deployment - is more involvement what's needed here?
RA: I think, working with others with whom we have common cause is the only way we're going to solve these problems. The U.S. went into Iraq on a pack of lies from the Bush administration. It was incredibly destructive to everybody concerned; we need to recognize that and stop alienating the Muslim world: we need to stop creating more hatred and hostility with the drone attacks that not only are killing so many civilians with these indiscriminate attacks, but we're also seeing the destruction in instance of the Doctors Without Borders' hospital in Afghanistan. That can't help, but create more hatred and hostility for generations to come, so it's a very unwise policy for the U.S. to continue going alone. We need to join with those who could be our allies - like Iran was our ally in their early days in Afghanistan, after 9/11, and then what happened? President Bush gave his speech, identifying Iran as within the axis of evil and he destroyed this great relationship that we'd been building up with Iran and the very positive effects of working with them in our early efforts in Afghanistan. We've got to stop defining so many as those that we cannot deal with - and I was going to say "enemies", but I think that might be, unfortunately, the word that comes to too many people's minds, but we should never look at those that we can work with as our enemies. We need to build alliances wherever we can.
SS:You've also said that U.S. has a long history of trying to dominate the Middle East, yet will all the wars and coups and money spent, it doesn't look like it has achieved this goal: so let me ask you this straight-up: will America ever give up on this?
RA: Well, you know, it doesn't take that much to go back in time and remember the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Iran, in 1953; and then, of course, we moved into Guatemala and overthrew their democratically elected government. We've got to be honest about these things: we've got, I think, more education, more civic education and engagement by U.S. citizens would make a huge difference - but, the history of most of civilization has been those with the most power and wealth have dominated those and stole the resources from those that didn't have the power, and it's absolutely so clear that in the long-run that's very self-defeating in this world, and we need to be focusing more on building a peaceful relationships - and, again, aligning with those with whom we can find common interests.
SS: But the whole idea of American exceptionalism along with U.S. being the world's strongest military power - what does it mean for the world security today?
RA: Obviously it has created a much more dangerous world. The people in the U.S. are less secure, we're less safe than we were before, for instance, the Iraq war, and I think the Iraq war was the product of neocons, those people who signed off on a plan for a new American century, where the entire plan was premised on the idea that the U.S. needs to dominate, militarily and economically, throughout the world - and, of course, the Middle East was the first place which was in the neocons' target, and they persuaded President Bush to go into Iraq when there was absolutely no cause for concern, and even in the words of then Secretary of State Colin Powell and the National Security Advisor at the time, Condoleezza Rice, before 9/11, they said that Saddam Hussein had not build up these weapons of mass destruction, and he didn't even pose a danger, with conventional weapons, to his neighbors. And then look what happened: all of this has created a much more dangerous situation, and it needs to be turned around with more effort focused on peaceful relationships rather than ripping off people's resources.
SS: You were quoted as... you've also said that "America is often driven, their invasions are driven by the interests of military complex" - so are you trying to say that outcome of the invasions doesn't really matter most of the time? What about the human cost? Does that matter as well?
RA: Of course it matters, and that's what needs to be fundamental, and in the long run, we know that looking out for others, when we are looking out for interests of people in other nations, our world's going to be more safe and secure that if the thrust is...
SS: Yeah, that's ideally, but I am saying that...
RA: ...to benefit multinational corporations - it makes for a very-very dangerous world.
SS: So, imagine a military lobbyist approaching a Congressman, right, and offering to open up an ammo factory in his district, for example, in exchange for a vote - how do fight that? What do you counter that with?
RA: Well, you counter it by building a political movement in this country, like Bernie Sanders is doing, and getting people like Rand Paul - even though a have a lot of differences with him on a number of issues - at least, these people are talking about the American Empire and the need to knock it off: stop going around the world to rip off people's resources, costing a lot of not only American lives and allied lives, but the lives of innocent people in these countries that we don't seem to have any hesitation about attacking and driving off millions of people, creating this horrendous crisis with all the refugees that are seeking a safe place for them and their families to live.
SS: Career diplomats at the State Department are raising alarm about the increasing practice of appointing campaign donors instead of professionals - why is the White House trusting people who have nothing to do with diplomacy with the U.S. foreign policy?
RA: I think that there are too many political favors handed out: you've got a lot of people who have no real capacity or real experience in these areas. I must say, Hillary Clinton, having voted for the Iraq war, having not had really much experience - hands-on experience - in foreign affairs, I think making her Secretary of State is the ultimate in that kind of political handing out of favors by the President, and I think she did a terrible job as a Secretary of State, she certainly didn't make this a safer and a more secure world. John Kerry, the other Secretary of State, appointed by Barack Obama, also voted for the Iraq war, and I must point out that neither of them, before they voted for the war, bothered to go and read the National Intelligence Estimate which was held in a secured room in the Capitol - and if they had read that, they would've seen that the U.S. intelligence community was at significant odds in terms of the lies being perpetrated by the Bush administration. So, these are people who didn't even bother to do their homework and voted for this war and helped started this cycle of horrendous violence and increasing hatred and hostility in the Muslim world towards the U.S.
SS: So, mr. Anderson you've said that the Democrats are bought and paid for by the same interests that buy and pay for the Republican party. Who does the buying and the paying?
RA: Well, look at the contribution from Wall St. - Barack Obama received more from Wall St. interest than any other candidate before him. Hillary Clinton, two years ago, just last October, collected some $400,000 for two speeches - and she's not that great as speaker, by the way - four hundred thousand dollars from Goldman Sachs. This is a pre-bribe, and these are the same folks, it was the head of Goldman Sachs that was President Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary that got Bill Clinton to get behind legislation like the repeal of Glass–Steagall, like the repeal of regulations over derivatives trading, that helped lead to the 2007-2008 economic meltdown from which so many people in this country are still reeling; which caused so many people lose their homes, their pensions, and that has helped wipe out the middle class - and all of which helped Goldman Sachs and the rest of those on Wall St.
SS: Now, you've brought up Bernie Sanders in the first part of the show. He is running a campaign free of corporate cash, so would you agree that he's a great example of someone who is not a corporate puppet, but at the same time, part of the establishment?
RA: Now, Bernie Sanders is the real thing. He's been an independent, democratic-socialist, he stood on principle, he has been there, pounding away on behalf of the people of this country, the middle class, the people who're in need, year after year, after year. He's got that kind of solid record. While Hillary Clinton has been going out and collecting millions from Wall St. and the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry, Bernie Sanders has been fighting for the people. I mean, all you have to do is look back at his examination of Alan Greenspan, when Alan Greenspan was selling out the middle class, when he was at the Federal Reserve - and you can see that this man has a solid record of standing up for the people in this country. That's why he has gone from less than 5% in the polls, now to being a real contender - and the trajectory in terms of Hillary Clinton's loss of support from so many people and Bernie Sanders gains.
SS: But the problem is, "socialism" is still a dirty word for most of the Americans - so, I mean, what are his chances of really winning?
RA: It doesn't hinge on one word. He's a democratic socialist - this doesn't mean state control or ownership of property, it means government acting in the interest of the people: in means having a system in place where we don't have one of the highest rates of infant mortality - among 50 nations - the worst rate of maternal mortality, because we don't have good access to medical treatment in this country. Bernie Sanders has been fighting for this for decades, so I think that people know that he's standing up to their interests and that that word is finally getting out.
SS: But do you think he has a real chance of winning?
RA: Absolutely, and I know people wrote him off, it was very popular thing in the media, they always say "Oh, he's on the fringes because he's not part of the establishment" - look at the trajectory right now. Hillary Clinton's support is rapidly declining and Bernie Sanders is skyrocketing! He went from less than 5% in the polls to now over 30% and in some states, he's leading Hillary Clinton. In many areas, important areas of the demographics of this country he is leading Hillary Clinton. So, if the media would give him a fair chance to get his message out, which they have not done up to this point, and stop using these ridiculous labels to try to marginalize somebody, Bernie Sanders can win the Democratic nomination.
SS: We had a lot of surprises in this election campaign, you know - the success of Donald Trump and Ben Carson actually shows that the American public is tired of established candidates, right? So, I am wondering, why aren't people turning to third parties instead of choosing between Republicans and Democrats like they always do?
RA: The vast majority of people want independent and 3rd party candidates, so that's why, I think, you're seeing this trajectory toward Bernie Sanders winning the Democratic nomination, but most people in this country say they want to see strong, 3-rd party and independent candidates. I ran in 2012 as the candidate from the Justice Party for President - but, of course, you're not provided any media coverage, regardless of your ideas, regardless of your experience on this issues, regardless of the alignment of what you're saying with what the vast majority of the American people say they are. I think the stars are aligning now with people's disgust with the duopoly, with Republican-Democratic parties, they want to see more people included in the Presidential debates, and there are a couple of lawsuits now to try to make sure that that happens - and, I think, you're seeing a real revolt among the American people, especially among young people, saying that Democrats and Republicans have sold this country out, we had it in way the wrong direction, in too many areas, especially kowtowing to the military-industrial complex, trying to build the U.S. Empire around the world, and kowtowing the Wall St.; The Republican and Democratic parties are almost indistinguishable, and people want a major change and if we could get better ballot access laws, allowing these independent 3rd party candidates on the ballots, I think that we would see a major push towards somebody outside the Republican and Democratic parties.
SS: But tell me something: how much does a Presidential candidate control his own campaign? Because Presidential candidates in the U.S. have second campaigns, run by independent individuals that a candidate is not even allowed to contact - what does that even mean?
RA: I think the real control is in the hands right now of 158 very wealthy families and the corporations they control. Among those families, they've put in a 176 million dollars so far to the Presidential Candidates, and by far, most of that money is going to Republican candidates. So, I think, if you're looking for somebody who is keeping control over the candidates, it's those with the money and those candidates are basically running like their own retainer with those who are financing their races. But the media also plays a huge role - the media can marginalise somebody like Bernie Sanders, and, notwithstanding that marginalisation, making great strides in terms of his campaign and a message that really resonates with enormous number in this country, and I think, it will be a majority of the people when they finally can understand that he is the one who's speaking out in the interests of the American people.
SS: Now, I don't know if Snowden's story has died out in light of the elections there, but here, we still speak about it time to time. An NSA spying came up during the Democratic debate and Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said whistleblower Snowden should not come back in the U.S. without facing the music. What do you think, can he be guaranteed a fair trial or will he face the same fate as Chelsea Manning who is serving 35 years in prison?
RA: I don't think that Edward Snowden will face a fair trial in the U.S. Edward Snowden should have statues built to him around this country, and be recognized as the hero he is, because he put that all on the line, just as Daniel Ellsberg put it all on the line, when he disclosed to the American people the Pentagon papers and the truth behind all the lies through several Administrations, regarding Vietnam. Edward Snowden has done exactly the same thing. He we, the American people see much of what our government is doing.
SS: Would American people agree with what you're saying right now?
RA: No, I think most of them won't, because they don't understand what it is that Edward Snowden has disclosed about our government acting completely illegally, completely outside the Constitution, and right here in Salt Lake city, there's evidence, and I filed a lawsuit, concerning this, that the FBI and the NSA came into Salt Lake city during the 2002 Winter Olympics, put a big cone over this geographic area, metaphorically speaking, and they captured the contents of every single email, every text message, and the metadata on every telephone call during the 2002 Winter Olympic games, of every person who lives there. That goes so far outside our Constitution and domestic laws passed by Congress; and I think, if the American people could see how subversive this is to our system of government, they'd recognize that Edward Snowden was standing up for the interests of the American people.
SS: The new Freedom Act curbed NSA's bulk phone data collection. Is the NSA really giving up on its spying powers?
RA: No, I don't think the NSA is giving up on anything. They acted illegally for years and years, they engaged in blanket surveillance - you know, it used to be that the American people would look at the KGB and say: "Oh, how awful that is, that KGB could record without the warrant conversations of individuals in the Soviet Union" - well, now we have a National Security Agency and the FBI who engage in blanket, illegal surveillance of the American people. The really dangerous thing is not only that the Executive branch is engaging in this excesses, which Executive branch is tended to do if they're not reined in by Congress or by the courts, but I think that the most frightening thing is the complacency of the American people, that they seem... if it's not bothering them day to day, they're not that concerned about this path being led towards the totalitarian state in this country, which these intelligence agencies completely violating our Constitution, and the kinds of fundamental freedoms and rights of privacy that are supposed to set the U.S. apart from more authoritarian nations.
SS: Thank you so much for this wonderful interview, mr. Anderson. It's been great talking to you. We were talking to Rocky Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake city, leader of the Justice Party and 2012 U.S. Presidential candidate, discussing the state of American electoral politics and its influence on its behaviour on the global stage. That's it for this edition of Sophie&Co and we will see you next time.