china Eve Ottenberg Politics

A Dangerous Fishing Expedition: The Select Committee on China

Photograph Source: Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy – Public Domain

By Eve Ottenberg / CounterPunch

Riled up against China, GOP congressmembers have long felt that Washington’s new cold war needed a special venue. So as soon as the baton passed to Republicans in the House, they set up a select committee on China. This is majority leader Kevin “Trump’s the Man” McCarthy’s baby, and if it sounds to you like a forum for much grandstanding and frothing about the communist menace, the yellow peril and the need to beef up the FBI, CIA, DIA and NSA, so they can hunt down China’s spies from the halls of government to the groves of academe – “they’re everywhere” supposedly – you may be onto something. I’m not sure what that something is, but it’s a good bet it ends with U.S. navy aircraft carriers steaming toward Taiwan. In fact, a four-star general, Mike Minihan, said as much January 27. “My gut tells me we will fight in 2025,” he wrote in a memo to his subordinates. In which case it’s time to head for the hills – since every place else will be radioactive.

Proving the veracity of Minihan’s talkative gut, we learned February 8 that the U.S., U.K. and Australian militaries engaged in joint air drills over the Nevada desert, in preparation for…war with China. Specifically, reported Reuters February 8, “to simulate high-end combat operations, against Chinese fighter aircraft and defenses.” Also in early February, there bubbled up more murmurings in the press about Tokyo beefing up its military and boosting ties with the Philippines, the better to confront Beijing – at Washington’s behest, of course. So the storm clouds gather, as China, too, speeds up its production of nuclear missiles and muscles up its army, the better, Beijing hopes, to deter the U.S. from provoking the invasion of Taiwan that it would use as an excuse for war. Kinda like the Ukraine incitement redux, except this time the Washington sociopaths are ready to make the China war nuclear from the get-go.

And then there was the hubbub over the balloon. Who ever thought a little hot air could paralyze U.S. citizens with fear, as they cowered by backyard grills, staring at the heavens, waiting to be zapped and brainwashed by a Marxist dirigible, and that it could also derail the highest, most prestigious vehicle of American diplomacy – the U.S. state department? But it did. As Beijing’s weather balloon drifted over Montana, secretary of state Antony Blinken cancelled his trip to China February 4 to meet with its president, Xi Jinping. Innumerable American pundits, you see, proclaimed that this balloon was an espionage device and as such an intolerable infringement of American sovereignty. No matter that the U.S. first launched its own spy balloons back during the Eisenhower administration.


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For days in early February, debate raged in the official imperial press about Beijing’s malign intentions in lofting this zeppelin over cow country. Trump took to the internet to demand shooting down the balloon. The white house did not at first do so, leading to the conclusion that Biden was afraid of a balloon, or worse, in some idiot far-right quarters, that the Wall-Street-owned president is a radical Marxist Leninist commie dupe committed to permitting a Chinese spy operation. No wonder Blinken cancelled his trip! No wonder the pentagon finally shot down the balloon over the Atlantic, with, by the way, a very expensive missile. One less balloon to menace our imperial freedoms. Joe “Cool Hand” Biden told reporters he “would take care of” the balloon, and that balloon got what was coming to all wicked balloons and other such inflatable bad actors.

Not to be outdone spouting bilge, Mike “Sinophobic Rampage” Pompeo pontificated that the Biden regime’s hesitation to shoot down the balloon pronto showed weakness and “encouraged bad guys,” like, I guess, balloons from Russia or Iran. And events proved Pompeo right (kinda)! A second balloon appeared in Latin America, with a possible third one somewhere in the wings. No matter that the so-called bad guys can see everything they want via their hundreds of satellites. Those balloons are everywhere, drifting at high altitudes, infringing on NSA and CIA patents on snooping on Americans…

But Biden saw a chance to burnish his image with balloons. So, the weekend of February 10, he had the military shoot down a ufo over Alaska. It turned out this nefarious object was just a U.S. weather balloon, but no matter – Biden had made his point: no aliens would mess with him! Then, to underline it, he and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau had the military shoot down another mysterious object over Canada. And then there followed more stratospheric target practice! Several other harmless contrivances (the pentagon refuses to reveal what they were, likely to avoid the embarrassment of chasing such small potatoes) were shot out of the sky by the U.S. military. Clearly this has become a thing. If Biden can keep it up till November 2024, he may just shoot his way into reelection (though the cost of the missiles far, far exceeds the value of whatever they target).

Or not. The American public is fickle and seems already to have tired of balloons, though shooting small things wafting through clouds sure conveniently distracted the media from stellar investigative reporter Seymour Hersh’s bombshell scoop that the Biden regime blew up the Nordstream pipeline. Not one brave Republican called for investigation of this crime of terrorism against ally Germany, in which Navy divers were used and congress not notified. It was a criminal act of war, unconstitutional, illegal, maybe a war crime, a massive climate offense, and it would, I think, open some U.S. government individuals up to billions of dollars in damages – but congress critters weren’t interested. They were too busy gawking at balloons.

Coming right off this balloon nonsense, as if to showcase Washington’s double-standards, on February 20 neocon secretary of state Antony Blinken proclaimed that if China sells weapons to Russia, that’s a U.S. red line. The EU promptly chimed in. Meanwhile it’s okay for the U.S. to arm Taiwan. How’s that for the rules-based order? Are our rulers delusional or what? They think they can order a giant like China around, while doing exactly what they command it not to. And in Beijing’s own backyard no less!

Back in congress, before the balloon brouhaha, trouble continued to build with tit for tat exclusions of Democrats from key committees. But not the select committee on China. Oh no! McCarthy’s determined to show that that’s a thoroughly bipartisan affair. Indeed, the great virtue of the select committee, we are told, is that it’s bipartisan. That way we get to watch members of both wings of the war party make monkeys of themselves, yowling and howling about Marxists and Xi’s devious plots to take over American industry and steal our good jobs. Except, of course, this already happened years ago, and it was not the Chinese who stole our jobs, it was all-American corporations in connivance with U.S. presidents and congress that did that – corporations that fell all over themselves to relocate industry to Asia to snap up cheap Chinese labor and ditch the more expensive American variety. And there followed the miserable tale everyone knows so well of U.S. deindustrialization, hugely declining living standards and life on a credit card, or in debt, however you want to phrase it.

Meanwhile Russia dug down so deep in the Ukraine war it reached China and the two are now inseparable. Heckuva job presidents Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump and Biden! Your idiot NATO expansion created a prickly Eurasian colossus furious at the abuses of U.S. hegemony and determined to avoid use of the dollar in its mammoth trade, which, natch, unsettles the greenback as the world’s reserve currency with potentially catastrophic results for us luckless denizens of the Exceptional Empire. Our presidents have truly labored to award us this booby prize.

Even the Rand corporation weighed in against prolonging the Ukraine war, recently arguing that it only benefits Beijing – which Rand, of course, good pentagon outfit that it is, is eager to confront. I’m sure the select committee will have a few choice words about that, although it’s doubtful anyone in the congressional war party will cast any aspersions on Biden’s Great War on Moscow to Save Democracy (and a few assorted Nazis). That war’s going about as well as can be expected, which is to say terribly, but at least it hasn’t blown up the world yet.

Back to McCarthy: “The Chinese government is spying from above. Fentanyl from China is killing Americans…More Chinese nationals are crossing illegally at our southern border,” he intoned on twitter February 9. “That is why I created the select committee on China – to confront these problems head-on.” So let’s look at this storied select committee.

Its head, Wisconsin Republican Mike Gallagher, is a China hawk (what else is new?), who bristles at the thought of Beijing acquiring U.S. tech. That’s the big bogeyman in Washington these days, ever since Biden slapped sanctions on Chinese chips a couple of months ago, another move of unparalleled stupidity, up there with “Sanction Russian energy and let the price at the pump be damned!” Meanwhile, Gallagher’s website announces that as the anointed head of the congressional battering ram against Beijing, he will “Restore supply chains and end critical economic dependencies on China; Strengthen the military; End the CCP’s theft of American personal data and intellectual property; and contrast the CCP’s techno-totalitarian state with the values of the Free World.”

I’m sure once Beijing – America’s second biggest creditor after Japan – gets an eyeful of this inflammatory to-do list, it will hasten the project it embarked on last year, namely dumping U.S. treasuries. It already ditched well over $100 billion worth in the first half of 2022, maybe more, and if the geniuses on the select committee get their way, bashing, threatening and insulting China morning, noon and night, well, buckle up your seatbelt. Because if Beijing discards most of it $909 billion U.S. debt, other countries will follow suit and then we are, not to put too fine a point on it, flying toward a crash that will leave us high and dry in an economic wasteland, where the dollar no longer is king and the chief topographical features are a $32 trillion unpayable debt and worthless money.

If U.S. treasuries lose their international appeal, something which has been happening due to Washington’s imbecilic abuse of its privileged financial position, namely by sanctioning everybody and their grandmother and freezing, thus in effect looting monies belonging to the nations it sanctions, then we Americans are sunk. When Beltway bandits had England snatch Venezuela’s gold, that was bad enough. Then Washington purloined Afghanistan’s $7 billion, and that was worse. Then it went and grabbed $300 billion from Russia and guess what? Other countries noticed. And they concluded that Washington is not financially reliable.

Those nations started making deals amongst themselves in their own currencies, bypassing the dollar. And as long as Washington conducts its foreign policy with the moronic arrogance of a playground bully, one who threatens bombing, coups, riots, theft and regime change, if foreign leaders don’t do exactly as it commands, as long as this untenable situation prevails, the dollar will lose its luster in foreign climes, to the ultimate detriment of the American people.

And no, there is absolutely no indication that the bonehead neocons running foreign policy in Washington are aware of this or remotely susceptible to the reason which demands they alter their brainless behavior. We are ruled by sociopaths, who also happen to be dimwits. So yes, the outlook stinks for those of us without bomb shelters or just vainly hoping to remain solvent. It looks like we Americans may get that economic booby prize, after all; but in the long run, as a great economist once said, we are all dead. Though I’m not sure John Maynard Keynes imagined that we could thank our presidents and legislators for our going broke and expiring both roughly at the same time.


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Eve Ottenberg
Eve Ottenberg

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Hope Deferred. She can be reached at her website.

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