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To read more about Episode 209, visit the main episode page.
Michael Moore [00:00:40] Hello everyone, this is Rumble with Michael Moore, and I’m Michael Moore, and I’m very happy to have you with me here today. My guest is going to be the great writer, thinker, philosopher all around, important voice that many have tried to stifle over the years, but have been unsuccessful. The great Chris Hedges will be joining us, Pulitzer Prize winner, 15 years as a foreign correspondent with The New York Times until he finally had to come out and say what he had to say at the beginning of the Iraq War, which was, this was an immoral and an illegal war, and for that, the Times had to show him the door because The Times was so involved in taking us to war, it could not help one of their own talking against it.
Michael Moore [00:01:29] So he will be my guest here. I want to tell you before we get going that we have a special event coming up here on our new Substack operation. You may have heard about it yesterday. If you are a Substack subscriber. If you are not a subscriber yet to my Substack, that’s my weekly column and I put my podcast on it. But if you’re just a podcast listener, sign up for my Substack free. Just put your email address in there. And one of the things to sort of help kick off our our Substack launch is we’re going to have a free worldwide screening next Friday, Friday, September 10th, and it will be a screening of my 2004 Palme d’Or winning film Fahrenheit 9/11. We are going to do this on the eve of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and it’ll be an online event. But all you have to do is if you’re not just sign-up and become a free subscriber. Just sign up at michaelmoore.com. Just go there, go to michaelmoore.com, put your email in there and you will have your ticket free for this online event.
Michael Moore [00:02:42] And we’re going to have some special guests that night, Friday, September 10th. It’s going to be 9:00 p.m. ET, 6:00 p.m. PT. And if you’re in Europe, if you’re in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America, Antarctica, wherever you’re at, you can join in and watch with me, this film that myself and my friends and our crew put together in the 12 months after winning the Oscar for Bowling for Columbine. And we left the Oscars determined the 5th night of the war, the Iraq War, determined to try and bring this war to an end and bring Bush and his policies to an end. And so a year later, we came out with Fahrenheit 9/11, which became the largest grossing documentary of all time, won a whole bunch of awards and I like to think, helped move the American people away from war. A year or so, year and a half after the film came out, the majority of the American public was turning against the war, turning against Bush and just the very next election, the midterms of 2006, the American people took the House and the Senate away from the Republicans and gave it to the Democrats.
Michael Moore [00:04:01] And so for the last 2 years of Bush’s administration, he was essentially handcuffed and unable to conduct more war, do the things he wanted to do. Of course, things went on for some time after that. But we did in ’08, like Barack Obama, and a bunch of things got better. But nonetheless, this film played a very important role in all this. And I thought, really, what better time for us all to come together and watch it one more time? Because unfortunately, what the film shows is we’re still in that same mindset 20 years later. We don’t think we’ve learned our lessons. So I encourage you to join us on Friday night, September 10th, 9:00 p.m. ET. Just sign-up by going to michaelmoore.com. It’s all free and we’ll have a great discussion afterwards. Will be a live Q&A. You can ask me anything and I encourage you to to do that. I’m looking forward to it. It’s the first of what we’re going to call Mike’s Movie Night. We’re going to do this every month or so. I’m going to show you a movie. You can join me. And after this, this a free one here, but the other ones after that will be just for the members who are, you know, paid their paid membership or whatever. So if you want to do that later, you can. But for this one, for Fahrenheit 9/11, it’s all free. And we’ll have a, I think, a very provocative discussion afterwards. And we’ll take your questions. So sign up. It’s Friday, September 10th, 9:00 p.m. ET. [It’s] michaelmoore.com.
Michael Moore [00:05:35] So today we have with us the great Chris Hedges, he’s one of our most important journalists, thinkers, war reporters and most importantly, truth tellers. He is the recipient of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize, where he and his team were reporting on global terrorism in the wake of 9/11. Hedges was also a foreign correspondent for 15 years for The New York Times, serving as the paper’s Middle East Bureau chief and the Balkan Bureau chief back during the war in the former Yugoslavia. Chris Hedges has also received a theology degree, it’s called a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard, and that led him eventually somewhere along the line here to becoming a Presbyterian minister. So you have somebody here who travels both in the political world, in the world of looking at life through a spiritual lens – this is a very unique combination, one we don’t often see, but one I think that has led to him having a very profound and powerful voice.
Michael Moore [00:07:12] In 2003, Chris was asked to give the commencement speech at Rockford College in Rockford, Illinois. And in the middle of the speech, sort of all hell broke loose. This is a moment that’s really just a year and a half or so, almost two years after 9/11. And as we remember, the tenor of those times, saying what he said in his commencement speech, well it rocked the boat and eventually led to him losing his job at The New York Times because he denounced the war in Iraq. If we remember at the time, The Times had Judith Miller reporting story after story of stuff that wasn’t true on the front page of the Times about Saddam having these weapons of mass destruction or the ability to build them. And of course, she eventually lost her job for that. Once The Times had to come clean and announce their mea culpa for helping to drag us into the Iraq war with these front page lies and their editorial support of the invasion of Iraq. They, like many liberals at that time, just before the Iraq war, were very enthusiastic about a military response to a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.
Michael Moore [00:08:35] Chris is also a very prolific author. His latest book is titled “Our Class Trauma and Transformation in an American Prison,” which essentially he details his experience teaching New Jersey state prisoners over the last number of years. Chris Hedges’ other books include “War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.” “Empire of illusion: The End of Literacy and The Triumph Of Spectacle.” Those are the books from the first decade, among others, of the 2000s and worth taking a look at now. Still relevant. In 2019, he wrote “America The Farewell Tour.” I didn’t have tickets for that. So we’ll talk a little bit about that. Chris also received the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism in 2002. In all these books and in his writings online, which he now writes for ScheerPost, if you’re not familiar with it, sign up. Great analysis and writing. ScheerPost is spelled S-C-H-E-E-R P-O-S-T, which you can usually find him on Mondays on ScheerPost. I highly recommend reading his column on Bob Scheer’s amazing online, I’ll call it a newsletter, magazine actually.
Michael Moore [00:10:00] So in these books and in his writings online, Chris Hedges teaches us how we can see the decaying symptoms of empire in our own country with unemployment, opioid overdoses, mass shootings and the like. I wanted to have Chris on today to discuss Afghanistan, and empire, and the upcoming 9/11 anniversary. And we’ll get into that. But first, the awful news out of Texas here in the last 24 plus hours where the Trump-dominated Supreme Court in D.C., the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block Texas from banning abortion, effectively killing Roe v. Wade. They will hear an actual case in this next session where it is predicted that they will in some form, if not in all forms, overturn Roe v. Wade. This has happened, though, now effectively in Texas. Chris knows an awful lot about this subject. In 2008, he wrote a book called “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.” It’s a scary book where he spends hundreds of hours interviewing Christian right-wingers, and being a Presbyterian minister himself and with his divinity degree from Harvard, they are fascinating conversations about Christianity…and then Christianity. He also attended, he writes in the American book, a lot of rallies by the Patriot pastors and other creationist in their seminars and all this. It’s really, it’s an amazing book. And I thought we will start off by talking about Texas and then get into the issues at hand here regarding the end of the war in Afghanistan. Chris Hedges, welcome to Rumble.
Chris Hedges [00:11:55] Thank you. Thanks, Michael.
Michael Moore [00:11:57] So, ok, you’ve been warning about this fascist threat long before Trump was president, back when Trump was just an NBC TV star. And also, as I remember, because the very first year I came to New York after my first movie, would be like in 1990, I got invited to go to a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood and at the fundraiser and I think as one of the hosts of it was a man by the name of Donald J. Trump. I’m just curious – so you were onto this, not just Trump, but that which gave us Trump long before other people who ended up writing about this later. What were you witnessing in this country at that time that led you to believe that we were in deep, deep trouble?
Chris Hedges [00:12:47] Well, I had covered disintegrating societies, including, of course, Yugoslavia. So I’m very attuned to the signals of a society devolving as ours has into a dysfunctional mess, the rupturing of what the military calls the social bonds that drive people into self-destructive behaviors and lead them to embrace magical thinking. That was 1. Number 2, I come out of the church. My father was a minister. So I grew up in the church. I graduated from divinity school. So I’m biblically literate. And I saw in the theology of the Christian right heretical belief system, I mean, we can just start with the most basic idea of Jesus coming to make us rich is heretical. The blessing of the white race and especially the white race in America above other races to create the Christian nation, the sanctification of the wars against Muslims in the Middle East, the blessing of capitalism, and that’s why all Purdue and all these large entities fund the Christian right. And so I was onto the Christian right early, I think, because of my background.
Chris Hedges [00:14:12] And I didn’t use the word fascist lightly. They have all the hallmarks of the so-called German Christian church, which fused the iconography and language of Nazism of the state with the Christian religion, which is, of course, what the Christian right has done. These mega pastors prey on the despair of their congregants in the same way Trump preyed on the despair of the people signing up for a sham university, or at the in his casinos. There was questions, you know, how could at the beginning of the Trump presidency, how could the Christian right make an alliance with a figure like as repugnant as Trump? And in fact, of course, he shares all the hallmarks of most of these mega pastors who make millions off of this despair and exhibit the same kind of narcissism and often the same kind of sexual predatory behavior. I guess I would argue that the difference between him and most Christian right mega pastors is that the proclivities, sexual proclivities of the mega pastors appear to be a little kinkier. But he tapped into this movement that had essentially severed people from a reality based universe. And that’s what all totalitarian movements are about. As Hannah Arendt writes in “The Origins of Totalitarianism.” It’s all about magical thinking.
Chris Hedges [00:15:49] And I remember having a conversation with Jeremy Scahill right before his book “Blackwater” came out and I said, well, what doesn’t make the Christian right an authentically fascist movement is they don’t have a military armed element. And he said, oh, yes, they do. Of course, because Betsy DeVos’s brother, who founded Blackwater comes out of the Christian right. And when you look closely at the US military, about 90, 98 percent of combat units are white. And this is something that has been documented by all sorts of people investigating the military. There’s a strong strain of that Christian right element within those combat units. So I think it was the combination of being in disintegrating societies overseas and then having a theological background that tipped me off to how dangerous these people were. It was very controversial 10 years ago to charge that they are fascist. But then, of course, we end up on January 6th and we see these groups and the connecting tissue between these groups is this kind of Christian fascism.
Chris Hedges [00:17:07] And now we are watching them destroy women’s reproductive rights, which we should speak about, because I sat through a right to life weekend for the book in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. So I was there for 3 days and it was only then after hours that I understood that the whole right to life movement has nothing to do with abortion. It is about fighting the culture of death. I mean, they brought these women there, probably about 400 women there. And they at the beginning, they asked all the poster boards of sisters to stand and almost everyone in the room stood. And when I went around and did interviews with them, it became clear that not only had they had abortions, most of them had multiple abortions. And they prey on this sense of guilt and sense of shame.
Chris Hedges [00:18:09] And there were a group called Priests for Life that were their right-wing Catholic group, and they were taking these women off for retreats for the weekend. And they would give them dolls and they would tell them that these were the babies they had murdered and they had to name the doll and dress the doll and bathe the doll. And then at the end of the weekend begged for forgiveness as they held up their murdered child in the form of a doll and make a vow to fight the culture of death, which is us. And so it’s far more insidious than the right to life. It is about preying on the guilt and the shame to fight what is defined as a culture of death, secular humanism. At the same time, the elites who look at the Christian right as useful idiots are acutely aware that the birth rate in the United States is falling and that because giving birth is so expensive, even if you have insurance, there is in essence a kind of birth strike by women who don’t want to pay those exorbitant medical bills, were denied access to parental leave, child care, job protection. It’s just financially so punitive to have children in the United States. So since 1971, births in the United States have not been at replacement levels, which is considered to be 2,100 births per 1,000 women over their lifetimes. That’s what you need for a generation to replace itself.
Michael Moore [00:19:50] So when you say that they consider us the culture of death – you mean we’re the enemy to this so-called right to life movement…
Chris Hedges [00:20:00] They use the right to life movement to condemn secular humanists as satanic forces that are perpetuating a culture of death that’s at its core. This is about within the Christian right.
Michael Moore [00:20:14] If they really believe that, then it’s not that long of a leap to go from believing that secular humanists, which I would think is at least half the country, if not more than that, the leap to eliminating us. And I don’t mean just at the ballot box, but to use violence doesn’t seem like, I’m sure, a long leap in their heads.
Chris Hedges [00:20:39] It’s not only not a long leap, but it’s now what we’re flirting with at this moment.
Michael Moore [00:20:45] You wrote in one of your essays here that abortion, I’m quoting you, abortion is never going to go away. And if again it becomes illegal, as it seems that this new Trump-dominated court is going to do in the coming year, they seem to have 5 votes. 3 of them are Trump’s appointees, the other 2 being Clarence Thomas and Alito. And they don’t know quite how Roberts will come down on. This could be a 6 vote majority. You write that if it again becomes illegal, the rich, as in the past, will find ways to provide abortions for their wives, mistresses and girlfriends. And the poor will die in unhygienic back rooms.
Chris Hedges [00:21:31] Yeah, that’s right. Abortion is always with us. I covered Romania, covered the fall of Ceausescu, where between ’65 and 89 when Ceausescu fell, you couldn’t get abortions. You couldn’t even get contraception because he was trying to boost the population. And that’s exactly what happened. So all of the people around Ceausescu, their wives and girlfriends and mistresses, sisters and daughters, didn’t have any problem getting safe abortions. It was all the people who didn’t have access to that kind of privilege and that kind of wealth and that that’s what happens. I mean, the poor die.
Michael Moore [00:22:09] So what happened here in Texas this week? What’s our takeaway from this? What do we need to do? It was like, I mean, for me, it was like being banged on the side of my head with a frying pan and it’s like, holy shit, everything else that’s going on right now. And I know there are people already quite busy on this, but, we meaning all of us, not just the activists in groups that are trying to protect choice, but all of us, all of us – what do we do to not let this happen in the coming year with a Supreme Court? And if the answer is nothing, because none of us can, none of us are going to be on a Supreme Court – what’s the plan? Is there a plan?
Chris Hedges [00:22:51] Well, the only response, this was after 2 years of reporting for this book, I came to the conclusion that the only way to break the back of this movement was to reintegrate these people into the economy, reknit the social bonds that had been ruptured. And work is really key. And I’m no fan of Pope John Paul II on many levels, but he wrote a very fine encyclical on the nature of work, which is worth reading. And he writes that it’s not just about the exchanging of labor for a wage, it’s about a place in society. It even brings in the whole importance of meaningful work with a sustainable income for the maintenance of family. He’s right and given deindustrialization and the largest transference of wealth upwards in U.S. history and the ongoing assault, I mean, we’re now on the cusp of watching unemployment benefits run out. Yes, they keep extending briefly the evictions on moratoriums and foreclosures, but the numbers vary.
Chris Hedges [00:24:05] I think the last I heard was 11 million families are in danger of being evicted, that if we don’t address those fundamental economic issues that have pushed huge sections of the society into the hands of these demagogues and many of them are tied. Remember, the DeVos family was accused of funding these militia groups in Michigan that tried to kidnap the governor. That’s the only solution. So in a sense, the only solution was proposed by Bernie. My one problem with Bernie is he wouldn’t take on the military industrial complex, which is especially, if we see after Afghanistan just disemboweling the country. And that whole 20 up to 25 percent of the GDP is weapons manufacturing. I mean, this is just nuts, this kind of military Keynesianism. So it is, these people have to be integrated into the society. And of course, the opposite is happening with the assault, the economic assault caused by the fallout from the pandemic and the inability, I mean, one time check of 2,000 dollars, I mean, and which was vacuumed up by landlords and credit card companies. So that is the only hope I see. We’re not going to argue these people out of their belief system, which isn’t rational to begin with, you can’t have rational arguments with people who think that Adam and Eve were real people, who rode put a saddle on a T. rex in the Garden of Eden because dinosaurs – which is an actual diorama at the creationist museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. So…
Michael Moore [00:25:54] And it was 6,000 years ago when Adam and Eve did that.
Chris Hedges [00:25:57] Yes. And, as I went, I took the tour. The guide said that many of us probably had questions about why the T. rex had such large teeth, and that’s because Adam and Eve used the T. rex to open the coconuts.
Michael Moore [00:26:10] Oh, I see, I didn’t think of that. Where can I pick myself up a T. rex?
Chris Hedges [00:26:16] It’s funny when you tell the story, but it’s not funny and then you sit there and 15 people believe it.
Michael Moore [00:26:22] Now, that’s very true. So, yeah, no, I’ve tried the rational argument. It doesn’t work. I’ve even tried to show them that nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus use the word abortion. Right?
Chris Hedges [00:26:33] It’s not there.
Michael Moore [00:26:34] It’s not there. It’s not what they say that it is. And just like there’s nowhere that he talks about homosexuality, all the stuff that they use Jesus for to back up their belief system just simply isn’t there. But it doesn’t matter that it isn’t there to them in their hatred of Muslims. It doesn’t matter if you open up the Quran and show them the book of Mary that Muslims actually have a book in their Bible that Jesus was a prophet. Jesus was a prophet and his mother got her own chapter in the Quran, you know, was fascinating.
Chris Hedges [00:27:08] I was always upfront about who I was and where I came from. And as soon as they realized that I came out of the church and I had a seminary degree, they never tried to talk Bible, talk with me because they don’t know the Bible. They only know those selected bits, very few of which, by the way, come from the gospel. They tend to come from revelations and all those selected bits that buttress their ideology. They don’t actually know the Bible at all.
Michael Moore [00:27:39] So, ok, so this is obviously to hold out our hand and to try and build a different economic system where they don’t suffer, where they have a decent job and get make decent money and get to have a decent life, we should all work for that for everyone. Obviously, this isn’t going to take care of the problem of making abortion illegal within the next year or so. You know, I have just been thinking about this today. I don’t, I don’t, you know, I mean, I think that definitely we need to connect with groups that are trying to make a plan. And I listened to them a little bit today talking about how, you know, if we get a better situation in Congress, we can get laws passed. We can. They’ll never be able to outlaw abortion in every state because it’s going to end up a states rights thing. So there’s going to be 20 states maybe where you can get an abortion. But, wow, we all need to put our boots on here. This is a fight we have to have.
Chris Hedges [00:28:41] Well, we need to take this creeping fascism seriously. And we need to understand that Trump didn’t create it right. Trump was a symptom. He’s not the disease. And until we address the disease, which is caused by these rapacious elites that don’t pay taxes, I mean the insane amounts of wealth, Musk, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, I mean, I don’t know what the latest figure is, but they’re each worth about 180 billion dollars. Now, when David Rockefeller died, he was worth about 3 billion. I mean, this is wealth amassing by individuals that we’ve never seen, I would argue certainly in modern history. I mean, even like Imelda Marcos, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, who pillaged the Philippines, I think we’re worth about 20 billion. You know, I don’t know Idi Amin, 10, not like this kind of money. And they own the political system. They own the press. They own, you know, the press is completely corporatist. I mean, the whole, you know, I know we’re going to talk about Afghanistan, but watching John Bolton, who’s insane, I mean, H.R. McMaster, Leon Panetta, all the architects of this futile, disastrous conflict are the ones now, you know, on all of the networks speaking about it.
Chris Hedges [00:30:11] So the system itself is in serious decay, seriously diseased. And Biden, I think, is a kind of cover for it. But, you know, what was interesting about the last election is that the Democratic Party elites like Lloyd Blankfein and the CEO of Goldman Sachs and others made it very public, very clear that if somehow Bernie got the nomination, which the Democratic Party hierarchy was never going to allow, they would all support Trump. Trump was an embarrassment to the Empire because of his vulgarity and ineptitude. But they could live with Trump. They were never going to live with Bernie. And they are the people that have created the morass that the country has fallen into and there they, you know, they place Biden because he’s been a loyal servant. They used to call him Senator Credit Card. He is a loyal servant to these interests. And he would give more decorum, perhaps, and gravitas to the office of the presidency, and whatnot in any way seriously disrupt their disemboweling of the country
Michael Moore [00:31:37] In the months leading up to the 2020 primary, so in 2019, when Bernie was consistently in first place in all the polls and it looked like he was going to win and did or tied in the early primaries and caucuses, Biden was going it was supposed to be their hope to beat Bernie and he was polling in 5th or 6th. And in those first primaries he came in 5th or 6th or might even have been 7th in one of them. You remember, they immediately went to Bloomberg. Yeah and convinced him to be the great white hope. They threw Biden under the bus and went to Bloomberg. And then Bloomberg essentially gets thrown under the bus by Elizabeth Warren in that first debate. And that was the end of that.
Michael Moore [00:32:23] But let’s yes, let’s talk about Afghanistan and Empire. And we’ve had another blow to Empire, our Empire in the last couple of weeks. We’ve lost our most recent war and a long string of losses, a couple of draws. But basically since World War II, you know, our wars are primarily fought against people of color, the the Balkan Wars or the wars that you covered there with Serbia and the former Yugoslavia and Bosnia and all that. I guess why people consider them white, but of course, most people don’t realize the large Muslim populations that exist in that part of Europe. And watching the pundits in the last couple of weeks, the H.R. McMaster’s and that Patraeus’s and all these architects of this disaster, they didn’t want it to end. They were criticizing Biden to keep it going. Keep it going. No, no, no August 31st. No.
Michael Moore [00:33:28] And it was amazing to see them do this. But I worry, Chris, and this is why I wanted you to come on today, because I want our friends, the average Americans, the great, you know, middle of this country to understand what’s happened here, what it means for us and what we need to do so that we never get ourselves in a situation like this again. And you, having spent those 15 years in mostly that part of the world and being the Middle East Bureau chief for a number of those years. You were there. You were on the ground. You saw it. And in your writings, as far as I’m concerned, you were trying to warn us about this. And we’ve paid an awful price. But I’m also worried about our soul because the decisions we make from this point on, there is no more room. There’s no more wiggle room here if we are going to be true and good and decent as a people.
Michael Moore [00:34:32] Yeah, I mean, the problem is the fact that the survivability at this point of the U.S. economy is based on the production of weapons, you know, employment. I think the, you know, the defense industry employs close to a million people. And then you have all the people employed in the military itself and then all of the people, all of the towns that survive because of whatever Defense Department plant is located near them or in their city. So the economy is so distorted. Seymour Melman wrote about this back in the ’80s in his great book, “The Permanent War Economy.” And so all of these people who you just mentioned, of course, sit on boards of these companies, like Raytheon and Halliburton. So they are profiting from the wars.
Chris Hedges [00:35:30] We know from the Afghanistan Papers that were published by The Washington Post that the political and military leadership understood that, you know, at best they would fight the Taliban to a stalemate, that the public pronouncements about the war in Afghanistan bore no relation to what was happening on the ground. But for the defense contractors, they made a killing. I mean, their stocks have quadrupled since 9/11. And that’s the problem. We have an out of control unaccountable, even the Pentagon doesn’t submit itself to being audited. It sucks half of all discretionary spending, and that of course, is the primary element in terms of the disintegration of all empires. That’s how the Roman Empire fell, trying to field a one million man army. And that’s why Lipnic, the great German socialist, called the German military the enemy from within.
Chris Hedges [00:36:41] And so what’s happened over the last 40 years in Afghanistan. I have to go back to ’79 when the Soviets invaded and the CIA under Brzezinski started along with Pakistan’s ISI, the intelligence agency, spent anywhere, we don’t know the real figure because a lot of it was done off the books and a lot of it was Saudi money, but anywhere from 9 billion. Some estimates are as high as 20 billion dollars, arming the most radical Islamic Mujahideen groups, fighting the Soviets, essentially destroying the secular democratic Afghan opposition. And that was to give the Soviet Union, in Brzezinski’s words, its Vietnam. And that campaign created well…and we created al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, who were in Afghanistan to assist the Mujahideen. But that created the Taliban because after the Soviets withdrew, these warlords that we had armed spent 2 years slaughtering each other for control of the country. And that saw the rise of the Taliban taking power in 1996. And so it’s all, Afghanistan was a kind of petri dish.
Chris Hedges [00:38:10] And just in that period of when the Soviets were occupying and we were funding the Mujahideen, a million Afghan civilians were killed, along with 94,000 Mujahideen fighters, eighteen thousand Afghan troops and 14,500 Soviet troops. But these deaths were kind of worth it in the great power game of the Cold War, at least in the eyes of Brzezinski and others. So, you know, there’s a real cynicism. I think those of us who’ve been on the outer reaches of Empire get it. Empire’s really the external face of white supremacy, because as you pointed out correctly, the Empire subjugates and occupies and obliterates people of color. And that’s why within Iraq, Afghanistan, all of these conflicts now, they’re spread to Syria, Libya, parts of Pakistan, Somalia. There is among soldiers and Marines on the ground, a very racist language towards the people that they are trying to control – the sand N and the ragheads, all this kind of stuff. And that’s what the core of Empire is.
Chris Hedges [00:39:32] It seeks to justify itself by speaking about its superior civilization and the benefits of its, quote unquote, superior civilization. But all Empires, whether it’s the British, the French or anywhere else, it’s about the exploitation of cheap labor, the pillaging of natural resources, draconian forms of control and state terrorism. That’s what Empire is and it has been. I mean, whether it’s the Bay of Pigs, whether it’s Vietnam, whether it’s Iraq, which is now controlled by Shiite factions allied with Iran, whether it’s Afghanistan, there’s just been one debacle after another. The problem is nobody is held accountable. In fact, all of the architects, as you again pointed out, are saying we shouldn’t have left or we should have done this. We should have done that, not being held responsible for what they did in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that has created a kind of unaccountable political and military elite that leaps from fiasco to fiasco and is just self-perpetuating.
Chris Hedges [00:40:51] And this gets into the expansion of NATO up to the Russian border. Very foolish move. Reagan had promised Gorbachev that NATO would not expand beyond Germany’s borders after the reunification of Germany. But of course, there were billions of dollars to be made which have been made by the arms industry, our arms industry, where the largest exporter of arms on the planet by refitting former Soviet pact countries, Czechoslovakia, Poland, with NATO compatible equipment. So I was in Warsaw a couple of years ago and I get off and there were all these billboards from Raytheon. So that’s the problem. And if we don’t, it’s what Eisenhower warned about the military industrial complex. And if we can’t tame the military industrial complex, I mean, now what Biden just gave, what, 60 million dollars to Ukraine. They’re fitting out Ukrainian ports to be compatible with NATO ships of the Crimea, which is the major Russian port that, of course, they would like to turn into a NATO port.
Chris Hedges [00:42:01] That’s really what the core of the conflict is about. They’re now flirting with China in the South China Sea, issues over Taiwan, these people have to create chaos like the intelligence agencies. They have to create conflict because that justifies their existence. And in that way, they’re able to ratchet up both their budgets and the kind of violence that they carried. I mean, the whole CIA itself, which should be an intelligence gathering, I mean, that should be its primary job, now runs paramilitary units and operates dark sites and carries out targeted assassinations and was organizing CIA armed raids in Afghanistan. I mean, it’s just gotten completely and it’s all secret. We don’t see it. We don’t even know what the budget is for these intelligence agencies. That’s secret. So that is the fundamental problem destroying the country.
Michael Moore [00:43:07] So yesterday, right, I turn on the TV and there’s the president of Ukraine sitting there in the White House with Biden in there talking about this. You mentioned the 60 million dollars we’re going to give to them. And I’m like, wait a minute. We’re just one day out of Afghanistan and we’re talking about, let’s take on the Russians in Crimea. And even last week, there was some saber rattling regarding China. What is wrong with these people that they can’t even wait hours after one catastrophe to jump into the next? And it was just mind boggling to see this. And I want to read actually something that you posted here a couple of weeks ago while the collapse was starting and taking place and all the pundits were on the news and trying to keep the importance of the war machine, the American war machine going, whether it’s going to be in Afghanistan or the next place. We’re going to end up there.
Michael Moore [00:44:07] Just if I could quote you here, and you were referring to all these stories, all the poor Afghan people, all the women, the girls, all this is going to happen. This is a country that still can’t recommit to and pass and extend the Violence Against Women Act in our Congress. That still even though we’ve got the 38 states required. The Equal Rights Amendment still hasn’t been placed into the Constitution. Ok, so I get the crocodile tears for our great concern for women in our country and around the world, but this is what you wrote – you said the faux pity, quote, the faux pity for the Afghan people from these American pundits. Whatever this faux pity which has defined the coverage of the desperate collaborators with the U.S. and coalition occupying forces and the educated elites fleeing to the Kabul airport begins and ends with the plight of the evacuees. There were few tears shed for the families routinely terrorized by our US coalition forces, or the some 70,000 civilians who were obliterated by US airstrikes, drone attacks, missiles and artillery, or gunned down by occupying forces who saw every Afghan with some justification as the enemy during the war. And there will be few tears for the humanitarian catastrophe that Empire, our Empire is orchestrating and the 38 million Afghans who live in one of the poorest and most aid dependent countries in the world. I mean, were you going as crazy as I was over this last month listening to this utter bullshit being perpetrated on the American people?
Chris Hedges [00:46:01] Because it’s just self adulation. Our goodness, our virtues, is utterly disconnected from 20 years of horror and I would argue 40 years of horror that we’ve orchestrated on the Afghan people. And now the UN is already talking about mass starvation at this moment with the Taliban taking control, 1 in 3 Afghans, about 40 million Afghans don’t have enough to eat. Two million Afghan children are malnourished. Some half a million Afghans have been displaced from their homes. And this is on top of a drought that destroyed 40 percent of the nation’s crops last year, courtesy of climate change. Food prices are skyrocketing. And so what do we do? We impose sanctions, as we did on Iraq, which UNICEF estimates killed 500,000 children.
Chris Hedges [00:47:06] And and, um, you can look at the kind of statements of Madeleine Albright, then the UN U.S. ambassador to the United Nations famously tells Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes when she asks whether half a million Iraqi children are dying because of the sanctions, it was worth it. She says, yes, it was worth it. Or Clinton. Hillary Clinton joking about Khadafi being sodomized and brutally killed and saying, we came, we saw he died. Or Zell Miller of Georgia, who after the 9/11 attacks says, I say bomb the hell out of them. And if there’s collateral damage, so be it. And that the real face of Empire, which we don’t see. But, yes, the coverage has been utterly nauseating and so disingenuous and ignoring the suffering that we are responsible for, the massive suffering that we’ve [caused] because of our invasion of Afghanistan. The Taliban, by the way, they gave safe harbor to Osama bin Laden. That’s true. But they were willing to completely surrender. And the whole justification for going into Afghanistan was supposedly to get Osama bin Laden, although, of course, they hire Northern Alliance troops to go into Tora Bora and they were just the the al Qaeda operatives just bought them all off and fled to Pakistan. And then for some odd reason, we decided we needed to go to war with the Taliban and rebuild Afghanistan, or our own image, something the Soviets tried for 10 years and the British tried in the 19th century – and it didn’t work out for either the Soviets or the British any more than it worked out for us.
Michael Moore [00:49:02] So what happens now in Afghanistan?
Chris Hedges [00:49:05] Well, what happens now is, is that humanity, we’re going to make them pay. That’s how Empires work, especially wounded empires. And so you have the Afghan reserves and other financial accounts have all been frozen. So that cuts half the Taliban government out of an estimated 9.5 billion that belonged to the Afghan Central Bank, you can’t get shipments of cash to Afghanistan. The IMF said Afghanistan will no longer be able to access its resources. They’ll make them pay. And they will also have no doubt about it. Having spent 20 years overseas and watching how this pattern works, they are reaching out to those warlords they have worked with in the past and will funnel them arms and money and support to destabilize Afghanistan. You already have the former vice president Saleh, who’s he’s holed up in the Panjshir Valley. You had Afghan Masood Mohammed Atta Noor, Dostum, and all these people who have long carried the water for the CIA in the United States are all clamoring to be armed and supported to perpetuate the conflict. And that’s what’s going to happen.
Michael Moore [00:50:43] And what about us, Chris? What happens to us?
Chris Hedges [00:50:46] I mean, so we borrowed 2 trillion dollars for the war in Afghanistan, right? We should have just taken all that money out in a big field and burned it because it was borrowed. So now we’ve got to pay the interest on it. You have all of the veterans who have suffered physical and psychological wounds from that war, who have to be cared for. What happens is the country continues both the kind of physical decay because, of course, our resources are squandered in military adventurism. It’s called micro-militarism. It’s what historians call it. It’s how empires always die. So you had 50 years of Athenian democracy, Thucydides writes all about this in the Peloponnesian Wars. And then it’s overreach. So what do we have 800 bases around the world? And this is what we’re seeing in Afghanistan.
Chris Hedges [00:51:50] So Athens invades Sicily, its entire fleet is sunk, and most of its soldiers are killed. There become uprisings throughout the empire. You can look to 1956 Suez Crisis when Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, the British Empire attempts to go in along with Israel and the French to seize it, and they have to retreat in humiliation. That is the end of the British Empire, which did a better job of dismantling itself. So either the Empire is broken up and we begin to address the very deep ills within the United States, or then we face a kind of frightening reconfiguration, such as Rome did with. So you still have, we still have a Congress, but it doesn’t function in any real way. It’s completely, I mean, even though they don’t even write the legislation, the lobbyists write the legislation and pass it.
Chris Hedges [00:52:52] So you have the form, like the after Augustus…you still have the language and the institutions. But they are no longer functioning in any real way. And then the forms of social control, you cut people off in terms of being able to be integrate in a meaningful way in the society. Then the forms of control which we already we see and what Malcolm X will call our internal colonies becomes very draconian. You have police, militarized police units, and you know, Detroit, Ferguson and Camden and all these other places which carry out reigns of terror. And I don’t use that word lightly. That’s what they are. I teach in a prison, so I’m in close touch with my students and their families. It’s police and mass incarceration. It’s why we have 25 percent of the world’s prison population and we are less than 5 percent of the world’s population.
Chris Hedges [00:53:53] And Hannah Arendt writes about this, where she said that when people are stripped of their rights and she herself lost her German passport, was stateless in France, she said when people are stripped of their rights, then it creates both a legal and a physical mechanism to turn rights into privileges. And those privileges can be taken away. That’s where we’re headed. We’re headed to, you know, if we don’t get Trump, unless there is a real reckoning with what’s happening internally. And I don’t see that Biden, the Biden administration, in any way attempts to do that, then we may end up with a competent Trump. I think you’ve said this and you’re right, you know, and that’s very dangerous. Somebody like Mike Pompeo or Tom Cotton or maybe some name we don’t know, but a competent fascist who, when they attempt to carry out a coup, actually have organized it to make it work. And, you know, at the same time, we’re talking about the death of reproductive rights for women in Texas. We are also talking about the passage of draconian voter suppression laws, same time in Texas
Michael Moore [00:55:02] At the same time, literally on the same day,
Chris Hedges [00:55:05] Literally the same day.
Michael Moore [00:55:07] You know, people that listen to this podcast, I don’t want them to ever leave an episode of this with an utter sense of despair that there’s no hope, that we’re so far down the hole that we won’t be able to climb out of it because I believed for a very long time, since I first ran for office and was elected when I was 18 and I figured out very quickly that the more that you can instill despair in people, the more you can demoralize them, the more you have them believing that they really don’t have any power and they can’t change anything. That’s the sweet spot. That’s where you want the public.
Michael Moore [00:55:51] And I try to Chris, I try to fight against this nonstop, not just because I want to leave people, in fact, I’m against hope, you know, I call it hopium. The worst thing to do is to just, you know, feed people a big bowl of hope when, in fact, we’re in a very dark space here. And we’re going to have to be very smart and very committed. We’re going to have to love each other and be kind to each other and work together to fight this. Otherwise we won’t win. And that that means when I say win, I mean, whether that’s fighting the right wing, fighting fascism, whether it’s fighting the forces that have led us to the collapse of the planet. We need to rethink how we’re doing this and how we fight and how we work together to do that.
Michael Moore [00:56:41] You’re one of these people who I don’t know what we would do without you. There are many people in my lifetime. We were talking before we went on air here about the old magazine Ramparts back in the ’60s, in the early ’70s, and the writing that took place and the people, the Chris Hedges of that era, of which Bob Scheer was certainly one and others. But if I didn’t have them when I was a teenager to read, I don’t know. I don’t know where I would have gone or where I would have turned. And so we have you with us. We have Noam Chomsky. We have, you know, others. A Similar a person who has combined his divinity degree with a very good and correct political message, Cornel West. I mean, there are people, but there aren’t many of you. And it’s so important that your writings, your thinking, that you share that with us and help us try to figure out what to do. I’m sorry to put that on your shoulders, but you’re needed now more than ever. So take that for what it’s worth.
Chris Hedges [00:57:49] You know, it’s like Camus. I mean, there’s, Camus is a good writer to read. There’s, you know, the assertion of our dignity in the face of, you know, what Sheldon Wolin would call the system of inverted totalitarianism is a moral imperative. And it’s what keeps us whole. We can’t use the word hope, if we don’t resist. And I remember asking Daniel Berrigan how he defined faith and he said the belief that the good draws to it the good. Even if all the empirical evidence around you says otherwise, and I would say from my experience as a war correspondent, that is right, the good does draw to it the good, so that even when a shell would land in Sarajevo and these were huge shells and bodies were eviscerated and you could palpably sense the waves of death emanating from where these shells had landed and then families would rush and friends rush forward to try and help those who had been wounded, you could feel these concentric circles of love and death, life and death.
Chris Hedges [00:59:08] And I saw it in the revolutions in Eastern Europe, so when I covered the Velvet Revolution, I was in the Magic Lantern Theater every night with all the people who would eventually run the government. They would have big protests, half a million people, and I remember the night they brought out this great Czech singer, Marta Kubisova. Now, she had sung a prayer for Marta, which was the anthem of defiance in 1968 against the Soviet invasion to overthrow Dubcek. And when the Soviet puppet government took over and Dubcek was thrown out, she was banned from the airwaves, her recording stock was destroyed. She worked in the intervening years on an assembly line, a toy factory. And I was there that night when she walked out on that balcony and began to sing a prayer for Marta and every Czech in the crowd knew every word. That is the power of the good drawing to it the good.
Chris Hedges [01:00:13] You know, it may not even be seen in our lifetime, but I think that’s where faith becomes important and that we have to have faith, that resistance fighting, what I would call these forces of death, even if empirically everything around us says otherwise does have an effect and does give us hope, and I think my own experience in extreme situations validates that. And that’s what keeps us whole. I mean, there is a kind of, there are rapid highs and lows conditioned within us by the consumer society. But we all have to be endowed with what the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr called sublime madness in the soul. Vasily Grossman writes about this beautifully in his novel “Life and Fate.” And I think that, for me, it’s not accidental that our great prophets, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King came out of faith traditions. That it didn’t really matter. Hannah Arendt has a great quote, she said, I don’t trust those people who say you you ought to do this, I oughtn’t to do this, or I shouldn’t do this. Only trust those people who say I can’t.
Michael Moore [01:01:30] Good attracts good. I believe that. I absolutely believe that. Chris Hedges, I can’t thank you enough for coming on this podcast and talking to us. I hope you’ll come back again. We have much ahead of us here, a lot of work to do. And you mentioned that you were just finishing up your next book.
Chris Hedges [01:01:52] It’s out in October. It’s the one you mentioned on teaching in prisons.
Michael Moore [01:01:57] That’s very, very soon on such an important issue, too, in terms of the system of mass incarceration, the prison industrial complex, all of that. I look forward to that. Your humanizing it for us is very important. Come back on when the book’s out and we’ll talk about that. I’d like to do that.
Michael Moore [01:02:17] And thank you for all these years of your work. And thank you for, you know, a lot of us, you, myself, Barbara Lee, people that were lone voices at the beginning of these wars back in the early 2000s had to take an awful lot of grief. And I’m glad that they weren’t able to silence you and beat you down.
Chris Hedges [01:02:44] They tried that with you too.
Michael Moore [01:02:46] Yes, I know that. I know that in a very, very real way. When they arrested the guy that was building the fertilizer bomb for my house, I knew that in a very real way. But yet, you know, it’s important that people see that we can’t be broken in that way. If what we believe, what we’re doing and saying is speaking to our conscience and acting on that, that can only be a good thing. And I encourage everybody listening to us to do the same, to find the courage, if you can, to take the little steps in your daily life at work, at school, in your family, together. The more of us, the better. So I encourage that. And I thank you, Chris, for helping us lead the way. Thank you so much.
Chris Hedges [01:03:34] Thanks for doing it, Michael.
Michael Moore [01:03:36] Ok, be well, we’ll talk soon. And Chris Hedges here is our guest here on Rumble. And that’s it for Rumble with Michael Moore. Thank you very much, everybody, for tuning in, thinking about the topics and the things that we were discussing today. All very important.
Michael Moore [01:03:57] And I look forward to continuing this discussion with you here on my podcast next week and on our great movie night, a week from next week, Friday, September 10th, 9:00 p.m. Join us on that night. I’ll have some special guests on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the great tragedy of 9/11, we can talk among ourselves about what we still need to do to make sure that not only does something like that not happen again, but that we are seen in the world as people of peace. As people who want the rest of the world to live a good and decent life. That’s not just for the exclusive club of America and the First World. So I remain hopeful, I remain committed, and I welcome you to be my guest next Friday night, September 10th, 9:00 p.m. for a very special screening of Fahrenheit 9/11. It’s all free. If you’re not signed up on my mailing list, if you’re just a podcast listener, sign-up on the list. Don’t worry. I don’t send you a lot of stuff. You’re never going to get anything from a politician asking you or telling you have to contribute 15 dollars by midnight tonight. None of that. I don’t want any of your information. Just give us your email address and I’ll let you know when things are coming up. And I’ll also put you on the list so that you get my essay each week and this podcast will be right there. So do that right now as we sign off. Subscribe to michaelmoore,com. Thank you, everybody. And I’ll talk to you here very soon.