Culture History John Kiriakou

John Kiriakou: Hold the Fireworks

From the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade to the persecution of whistleblowers, this July 4th exploded with reasons not to celebrate.
July 4, 2019, parade in Washington, D.C. (Joe Lauria)

By John Kiriakou / Consortium News

A friend of mine is one of the producers of the annual July 4 celebration in Washington, D.C. Every year he gives me VIP tickets to watch the performances on the west lawn of the Capitol.  I get to see A-list music stars and then the city begins its legendary fireworks display, featuring pyrotechnics from the biggest employer in my hometown of New Castle, Pennsylvania, Pyrotechnico, formerly Zambelli Fireworks.  No Chinese fireworks for us! 

Most Washingtonians end the evening feeling energized and patriotic.  I left this year feeling disgusted and angry.  News flashes about shootings during the 4th — a deadly one in a Chicago suburb that reportedly killed six people and wounded many others, followed by the wounding of two police officers in Philadelphia — confirmed my sense of so much going wrong.  I know I’m going to take some heat for my “un-American” thoughts after this Independence Day.  But I can’t help it.  

I can’t celebrate a country this year where the highest court in the land sets society back a century with rulings so out of the mainstream of society that they harken back to the Dred Scott decision

Newspapers on the morning of July 4 told the story of a 10-year-old pregnant rape victim who, thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, was denied an abortion and told that she would have to carry her rapist’s baby to term.  Her parents had the wherewithal to take her to neighboring Indiana for an abortion.  It’s not that Indiana is in any way a progressive state.  It’s just that the legislature there hasn’t banned abortion yet.  That’s supposed to come in the next couple of weeks.

I can’t celebrate a country this year where police try to pull over a driver for a traffic offense, he leads them on a chase and then they shoot him 60 times.  Not six times.  That would be bad enough.  They shot him 60 times.  They fired 90 shots.  Have we learned nothing as a nation from George Floyd, Breona Taylor, Stephon Clark, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner or any of the other African-American victims of police violence?  Will this never stop?

I can’t celebrate a country this year where whistleblowers who tell the public about the crimes that the government is committing in their name find themselves in prison suffering under conditions one would expect in a banana republic, a tin horn dictatorship or a Soviet gulag.

Vigil for George Floyd at Chicago Avenue & 38th Street, Minneapolis, May 30, 2020. (Fibonacci Blue, Flickr)

Drone whistleblower Daniel Hale should be celebrated. 

His heroism should be taught in schools.  Instead, he’s in a maximum-security penitentiary that also holds some of the most dangerous and notorious criminals in the world.  Joshua Schulte is in a prison unit in New York that does not even meet the most basic level of human decency.  And Julian Assange can expect no better if and when he is extradited to the United States.

I can’t celebrate a country this year that sends unaccountable billions of dollars to a government in Ukraine known widely for its corruption, while the United States has underfunded schools, an embarrassment of a healthcare system and a national infrastructure in shambles. 

I want my children and my children’s children to have the best of everything, including education and healthcare.  We can certainly afford it as a country.  So why throw away our money on unnecessary (and illegal) wars, aid to Israel that is used to prop up an apartheid regime and a bigger overall military budget than the world’s next nine largest countries combined?

The Pentagon. (Joe Lauria)

I can’t celebrate a country this year where nearly half the population supports a man with an obvious mental illness to be our once-and-future president, a man who has divided our country like no other president in generations, a man who has taken his responsibility to the country so lightly that he recently told an associate, “Why can’t people realize what you guys realize about me, that I’m playacting and full of it at least 50 percent of the time?”  Hanging the vice president of the United States, encouraging insurrection and supporting a coup are all just hilarious, aren’t they?

I can’t celebrate a country this year where the corrupt political duopoly is so entrenched that they work together to force third-party candidates off the ballot.  A friend of mine, Matthew Ho, is the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate in North Carolina

He received a text message last week saying, “Hi Matthew.  My name’s Drew and we’re texting you because your name was listed on a petition submitted to help place the Green Party and its candidates on the North Carolina ballot in 2022 and 2024.  We just wanted to confirm whether you signed this petition.” 

When he confirmed that he had, indeed, signed the petition, “Drew” texted again. 

“Thank you for confirming.  If the Green Party is on the ballot it will give Republicans a huge advantage that will help them win in North Carolina in 2022 and 2024.  In past elections, we’ve seen that the Green Party takes votes away from Democrats, which helps Republicans win.  With abortion rights in the balance, we can’t afford to give Republicans more of an advantage.  Are you interested in asking the elections board to have your name removed from this petition?” 

Matthew said no, he did not want his name removed from his own election petition.  But “Drew” was persistent. 

“I understand this seems like a lot of effort, but we want to make sure the Democratic candidates have the best chance to win this November and this could make a big difference.  Would you be willing to have your name removed?”  Matthew asked, “What organization is this?”  “Drew’s” answer was “the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.”  In the end, the Democrats were successful in throwing Matthew off the ballot.  That’s not democracy.  And the Republicans do exactly the same thing to the Libertarian Party.

I could go on, but I’m starting to really make myself angry.  I’m going to write some checks to the Green Party, the National Abortion Rights Action League and a small charity that puts Palestinian students through medical school.  I’m tired of the propaganda being force fed to the American people.  In the immortal words of Howard Beale, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

John Kiriakou
John Kiriakou

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.


  1. I am with you!! Thanks for the articulate posting. I am a long time supporter of justice for the Palestinian people. What is the name of the organization that puts Palestinians through medical school? Thanks for being honest in these days of lies and propaganda.

  2. Agreed…. we now find ourselves governed by a corrupted politic manipulated by an inhumane corporate capitalist amorality. But one important modification to this piece; the police are not the enemy. An individual who flees a traffic stop to lead a high speed chase has become a likely murderer on the public streets. The notion that any criteria such as : youth, racial injustice, intoxication, mental illness, or idiocy is understandable cause for flight from arrest over our roadways in a 2,000 ton vehicle turned probable killing machine is wrong. Evading highway arrest is an idiotic ratcheting of a highly tense situation for which the offender turns fully responsible.

    1. ” . . . police are not the enemy.” If you are white that is more likely to be true than if you are black or a person of color. If you are black, you would be wise to remember the target on your back, as you run when they stop you because your vehicle has a tail-light out. Not a good idea at all to run from the man in blue but it happens frequently because of their habit of shooting people that look like you and you take a foolish chance. On the other hand, I am white and my white brother was shot in the back by a cop in 1967, and he wasn’t running – we were just poor and that alone was enough reason to kill him.

  3. Thank you for saying it out loud in a country where most are
    afraid to say what they think.

  4. Yes, John, it’s even worse than you say with these damned:

    Vulture Crony Capitalists, Private Equity Pirates, and Hedge Fund Whores, ARE the deadly cancer of this damned Disguised Global Crony Capitalist Racist Propagandist Criminal Ecocidal and War-Starting EMPIRE — that is killing our country and our entire fragile little world — which is controlled by the ‘Ruling-Elite’, UHNWI, <0.003%ers, TCCers, arrogantly self-appointed "Masters of the Universe", and "Evil (not-so) Geniuses" [Kurt Andersen] — and which hides empire behind the camouflage of these dual-party, Vichy-facades of faux-democracy.

    While the many dozens of political-economic 'Issues' like; mass gun-deaths, women's rights, health care, insurance, drug costs, political deceit, insane wars, the 'dis-information industry', and the highest/worst GINI Coefficient of Wealth Inequality of any country in the world, and many other issues of "ailing social order" [Zygmunt Bauman] — the single, signal, and seminal cancerous 'Cause' of all these massive American problems is only one thing — a "Quiet American" EMPIRE.

    Our choice, as Mark Twain diagnosed in 1898 and attempted to solve with his founding of the American 'Anti-Imperialist' League, was essentially to choose between:


    Unfortunately, many — not only in the 'disinformation industry', but within the principled media, abstain from looking or wrting about our Empire.

  5. Let’s hope Sheared Off Post runs this, since Consortium News has pretty much stopped my posts, especially the last one exposing Jeffrey Sachs, by citing a book on him and a few quotes. RE:
    Ukraine Is the Latest Neocon Disaster, July 1, 2022, Jeffrey Sachs.

    Now, the naivete is amazing, of this CIA operative, Mr. Kiriakou :

    Here you go, a journalist in Donbass, Fergie Chambers,

    Seeing lots of posts like this around SCOTUS and R v W: “I’m so horrified with what this country has become! This has gone too far!”

    Really? When was it better?

    In the 10s, when we bombed 8 countries, annihilated Libya, armed fascist Ukraine and tried to do the same in Syria?

    In the 00s, when we killed 1 million Iraqis, let Wall Street off scott-free for robbing a generation of their livelihood, tried to destroy Venezuela, and suspended all due process for anyone a fed thought might be a “terrorist?”

    In the 90s, when we passed the laws that created the worst incarceration state in human history, locked Haitian refugees in concentration camps in Florida, initiated broken windows policing, bombed Belgrade into oblivion, and illegally dismantled the USSR/Eastern Bloc, leaving economic and social wreckage which remains to this day?

    Or maybe it was the 80s, when we shipped crack into the hood to create a drug war, armed right-wing death squads in Nicaragua, and ignored AIDS?

    The 70s, when we were still in Vietnam, armed and trained Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and the FBI eliminated all meaningful political dissent for good by assassination, imprisonment or deportation?

    Or did you mean the 60s, when we invaded Southeast Asia and waged war on man and nature for a decade, had a deeply co-opted Civil Rights movement which met violent resistance, before women’s rights were even on the table?

    No? Then the 50s? When we initiated a nuclear arms race, committed genocide in Korea, and built a culture of mass consumerism on a foundation of racism and patriarchy?

    Why is *this* the breaking point for so many? Why are we so deeply lost in petit bourgeois individualism that nothing means anything until it could affect us ourselves, or our prevailing causes celebres?

    The reaction of the white petite bourgeoisie (for those unfamiliar with the term, I’m basically talking about the liberal middle class) to Roe and to Covid, placed next to their total indifference to global and domestic rape and plunder for generations, tells us all we need to know about who is on the side of humanity on earth.

    America has always been a hyper-individualist death cult.

    Join a revolutionary organization today, or if you can, leave this shithole and build power elsewhere on earth.

    & My own work, here, at Dissident Voice:

  6. Thank you. I felt depressed yesterday (the 4th). I turned the local news on & wondered if one of the speakers at the ceremony in front of the Independence Hall and I lived on the same planet. This speaker was so positive & outrageously enthusiatic about the USA that I wondered if she had taken some “uppers” before her speech. Many of my friends said the same thing….that they could not feel like celebrating the 4th. And this was before the horrific massacre in Chicago and the shootings on the Phila Parkway.

    This morning I heard our Phila mayor frustrated as he said he would be glad when his term is over………and immediately, a “possible” Dem candidate for Mayor had to say that he would NEVER say that and how much he loves Phila. Thankfully another possible candidate for Philly mayor spoke up for our current mayor. He is a Republican and he said anyone would be frustrated by the amount of gun violence and that our current mayor was speaking out of frustration. A bit of honesty…although I am sure he, too, will be criticized for his honesty.

    Having protested peacefully against the Vietnam War and having the FBI come to my place of employment those many years ago for with holding a small amount of taxes in protest of the war…….I am dismayed that the peace movement is almost non existent today………..

    Again thank you……..for all your writings………..

  7. It’s so true, John.
    I can’t celebrate my country’s independence when it is limiting my independence and the independence of so many people around the world.
    I can’t celebrate the fact that my country is now the biggest terrorist organization in the world.
    I grew up in the 1950s, when the words “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance. We really believed that the United States was the best country in the world. I came of age in the 1960s, when we found out that our government had been lying to us all along, and we tried to build a different society that was based on other principles than profits over people. For that, we were vilified, marginalized, and demonized.
    We knew then that the 21st century was going to be a dystopia. Here we are.
    How can I celebrate my worst fears coming true?

  8. “USA: World’s Biggest Terrorist Organization.” My next poster for my weekly corner protest.


    “…takes votes away from Dems.” These arrogant Ivy Ds must assume they are owed votes from the same people they’ve betrayed for decades. To the point that the name “Democratic” is in stark contrast to reality.

    The younger two age cohorts have never seen a D party that represents them at all. Reinforced when D party powers couldn’t understand that these young people weren’t Democratic voters supporting Bernie. Rather that they were unaffiliated, willing to consider voting D only because of Bernie.

    In the words of the old Leslie Gore song: “you don’t own me.” The D elitists have forgotten that voters are persuaded, votes earned.

  10. I like John Kiriakou but I find myself unable to follow his angst about Trump and the “insurrection” on Jan 6th.

    Two things about Jan 6th: First of all as an independent I’m quite over the Democratic squalling about insurrection (which was a riot; do you really believe it persuasive to call it an insurrection when cops openly let the rioters into the building???) I have no interest in the self interested wails of a political party that, in deed if not in word, supports police unarmed black people in the streets on mere suspicion (by giving police ever more lavish funding), but where capitol police openly posed for selfies with the “insurrectionists”. It wasn’t so much an insurrection as an FBI orchestrated photo op.

    Second, if anything, the Congress ought to be terrified of the people; even more terrified based on their behavior recently. That the wrong people were the ones rioting takes away nothing from that. If anything Jan 6th is being deployed to justify and fund an ever more tyrannical police state (Capitol police funding increased as a result of their deliberate incompetence; look it up!) The mere riot nature of the event in particular and the subsequent insistence on calling it an insurrection ought to clue people in. The federal government unable to control a few hundred yahoos? Please.

    I have, as a person who despises everything Trump stands for, never been overawed by the liberal squealing about him — he is President because people the Democrats think of as the “right sort” empowered him every step of the way; and the only way he’s appreciably different is his tendency to say the quiet part out loud. Biden in many ways has been ever bit as pernicious as Trump ever was; sometimes even moreso; but he says the right soothing things to put that sort to sleep; and that’s the way they want it. I view Trump as a rabid dog. You don’t get mad about a rabid dog and I have never been mad about Trump. You just put the dog down (I mean politically of course).

    Kiriakou is rightly terrified by several other things but in these things he gets first causes wrong. Assange exposing the pied piper strategy of the Democrats is a big part of the reason he has been in prison for so long. That and exposing the murderous American empire.

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