The Sarah Kendzior Newsletter
November 5, 2023
By the time we reached New Orleans, the sun had set on the shortest day of the year. It was four days before Christmas and the only thing on my wish list was relief. 2021 began with an unpunished coup and was ending with a mutating plague. I wanted to take my children to a place where music still ruled the streets.
We drove south from St. Louis along the Mississippi River, the artery of the American slave trade, and arrived after dark. I had told the kids of wild crowds but I was operating on old impressions. It was quiet now in this city famed for nightlife, the kind of quiet that makes you ask where all the people went. You are not supposed to ask this question because the answers are buried in the earth.
We walked toward a long brick wall surrounding a cemetery. The tops of tombs poked out: the resting places of slaveowners and soldiers and politicians and priests. But nothing really rests in New Orleans. Shadow clouds freed the moon until it lit our path like a spotlight. As we approached the cemetery, a spraypainted message became visible. We stopped and read the writing on the wall.
“All colonies are burning,” it said in neat cursive script.
It was not a proclamation. It was a promise.
The day before we hit the road in December 2021, I finished writing my book, They Knew. They Knew covers a variety of actual conspiracies over which officials feign ignorance – child trafficking, climate change, covid, cults, coups – but above all, it is a book about elite criminal impunity.
“The 21st century’s most desirable currency is impunity,” I wrote. “Impunity, the sadist’s conception of freedom, mainstreamed and marketed as the new American Dream.”
Victims posing as oppressors, the powerful playacting as the powerless, lies told with the smirk of people who love to get caught because they know they will not be punished. The Trump administration was the culmination of America’s worst tendencies, a consequence of institutions so rotted they needed to be gutted and reborn.
People used to admit this when Trump was still in office. They have stopped now that Biden is president and the rot has only festered. The Biden administration has continued Trump policies while refusing to hold Trump and his backers accountable, to the point that Trump can run for president again like Mafia Grover Cleveland.
That Biden was a placeholder president – a stop gap to streamline an aspiring American autocracy into an entrenched one – was obvious by mid-2021. The first, rather large clue was the lack of urgency toward sedition.
Under Biden, the United States became the first country to face an attempted coup and not only fail to punish the coup plotters but allow them to hold office and make laws. There is no parallel in world history. Even Hitler had a prison interlude between his putsch and his presidency. The only thing approaching an equivalent lies in the American past: the refusal to punish confederates and instead let them regroup under new names, leading to the decimation of Reconstruction and the birth of Jim Crow.
But that effort took decades. The backtrack of the Biden administration – and its accomplices, the Vichy Democrats in Congress — took months. Policies that voters feared the Trump administration would enact were often enacted by Biden.
The Biden administration falsely proclaimed the pandemic over and blocked public health data from view as millions died or became disabled. They abandoned the tenets of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in favor of Cop City. They greeted the reversal of Roe as a fundraising opportunity, not even offering meaningful rhetorical opposition.
They continued the migrant abuse that took place under Trump and let the abusers remain at large. They sanctioned Russian oligarchs while letting their proxies fund campaigns in both parties. The most egregious offender is the DOJ. Under Merrick Garland, the best friend of Jared Kushner’s ethics lawyer Jamie Gorelick, the DOJ refused to prosecute Trump administration crimes even after the criminals confessed. They let the statute of limitations run out on the Mueller probe, ignored the repercussions of Trump’s network of mafiosos gaining classified intelligence, disregarded blatant criminality on the Supreme Court, and slow-walked a response to the theft of stolen documents containing nuclear secrets.
This is not a serious country, but a country in serious crisis. This is not a sovereign country, but a country under the tyranny of the minority regardless of who is in charge. We have elections, but we do not have choice.
Biden promised democracy on the campaign trail and embraced dictatorship in office. He fist-bumped MBS, bear-hugged Netanyahu, and announced the appointment of Iran-Contra war criminal Elliot Abrams. Biden was in the middle of waiving 26 federal regulations to build Trump’s Wall when he was interrupted by Israel’s genocide, to which he pledged material support. We don’t know how far the complicity goes, because in an unprecedented move, the Biden administration has decided to conduct arms deals with Israel in complete secrecy.
The most notable foreign policy difference between Trump and Biden has been Ukraine. Biden generated global goodwill for supporting a struggling country being invaded in sharp contrast to Kremlin lackey Trump. But that goodwill is vanishing and Ukraine – now gutted – may end up abandoned.
People will complain I am “making Biden look bad”. I am not “making” anything: these are bad actions, and I am noting that they happened. They were bad under Trump, and they continue to be bad under Biden, and it is necessary to point that out. What matters is who gets hurt, and the victim list is long. Like most Americans, I cannot make policy but only try to survive it. That powerlessness – the knowledge that the worst things stay the same no matter who is elected – is the consequence of elite criminal impunity.
In late September, Biden rolled out an ad bragging about his ability to work across the aisle. Across the aisle sit Republican seditionists, aspiring autocrats, and stooges propped up by dark money plutocrat networks. A person cannot rightly claim democracy is under attack and then brag that they are working with the people trying to destroy it.
Unless, of course, they are partners in destruction. Unless Biden’s proclaimed willingness to work with an authoritarian party is one of the honest things he said.
Which brings me to Israel, the state both parties defend in lockstep, regardless of what atrocities it commits.
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Democrats are worried about how Biden’s nonchalance over the slaughter of over 10,000 Palestinian civilians, roughly 4000 of them children, will affect the next election. This is possibly progress: in the beginning, he refused to believe the death toll was even real.
Now, faced with bombed schools and bombed hospitals and bombed refugee camps and Palestinian parents carrying the remains of their children in plastic bags while screaming in agony as the electricity is cut and the food supply ends and Israelis mock Palestinians deaths for a Tik-Tok challenge and Netanyahu uses Biblical references to convey his annihilatory intent – now, Biden must acknowledge it.
Too many people have seen the brutal truth. To the shock of officials, too many people cared. They wept, they protested, and they demanded a ceasefire, a term the Biden administration treats like a dirty word.
The Biden administration, on the whole, is unconcerned with the mass murder of Palestinians. There have been internal protests, some moral, but many based solely on polls. Slaughtering Arabs does indeed affect support among Arab-Americans.
But what about Trump’s Muslim ban? the Democrats bleat in unison to those who say they will no longer vote for president. One could reasonably reply that one would rather be banned than slaughtered but would obviously prefer neither. But options are an endangered species these days.
Make no mistake: if Trump were president, his policy toward Israel would be no better than Biden’s. It would possibly be worse, given the decades of ties between Netanyahu, Trump, Kushner, and the network of fanatics that surround them. But there are also decades of ties between Netanyahu and Biden, and fanatics surrounding Biden as well. Trump and Biden’s approaches to Israel are likely to be similar — much like unconditional aid to Israel has been the only policy both parties faithfully, fearfully support.
Is a choice between a genocide abettor who screams demagogic tirades and a genocide abettor who pays lip service to international law really a choice? Where is the anti-genocide choice? Where is the choice if you believe Palestinians are human beings deserving of rights and freedom? Why is that considered a radical proposition by US elected officials, but not by ordinary Americans?
There are many reasons for the US government’s unwavering support of Israel no matter how authoritarian it becomes. I explain some of them in this article, which examines Israel as an object of apocalyptic fanaticism, with many of our top officials believing they were personally selected by God to serve it.
But Israel is also a nexus for organized and white-collar crime, the money of which streams into US elections through lobbying groups and megadonors. That money is often far darker in origin than it seems. Ask any of the oligarchs and mafiosos who have long abused Israel’s right of return policy in order to escape criminal charges and launder their filthy gains. Ask Black Cube and Pegasus and the Americans who work for corrupt and mercenary outfits that stalk other Americans.
Ask Ghislaine Maxwell, since you can’t ask her father, Mossad agent and mafioso Robert Maxwell, or her partner, Jeffrey Epstein. Ask genocide abettor Antony Blinken. He might know since his stepfather, Samuel Pisar, was Robert Maxwell’s best friend and lawyer before offering his services to Epstein. It’s a small, dirty world.
It is a world of elite criminal impunity, and now we are seeing the cracks.
The 2024 election is not a horse race and pundits should stop covering it like one. It is a pale horse race, packed with apocalyptic responses to immense crises – genocide, climate catastrophe, pandemics – countenanced by both parties. It is a dead horse race, and the dead horse is America, beaten and bleeding, worn from trampling and being trampled. Whether it is the tacit approval of Democrats or the overt approval of Republicans is irrelevant: the combined force is what makes grave injustice palatable to an array of partisans.
There are abusers and there are enablers. There is an overt authoritarian death cult and a soft-focus death cult. The two parties are not the same — and that’s the point. They work in tandem to create this nightmare. How they do that should be a point of inquiry. Personality cults, polls, political feuds: these are irrelevant in the face of existential threats that transcend term limits or parties. When there is a genocide, the priority must be stopping it immediately, not ruminating on how it affects an election a year from now.
We all deserve so much better than this.
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My children were born a few years after Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans and shocked many Americans from their stupor. The disaster, and the disastrous response, is a history lesson on impunity. The way the officials who left New Orleans’ Black population to die were initially praised. The way almost no one who facilitated the deaths was punished. The scams and gentrification schemes in the wake. The displacement of long-time residents forced to flee. The pain and resilience of the remaining population, many of whom are the descendants of enslaved Africans living in what was once one of the biggest slave trading ports in the United States.
In New Orleans, you see the ravages of climate change, covid, and colonization all at once. It is a long, interconnected story, still unfolding. It is a story that Americans should understand, and recognize, when they see similar dynamics abroad.
The day after our nighttime arrival, we heard music on the streets again. Bands played on, defiant in their presence. They insisted that these are their streets, their culture, inimitable and irreplaceable. We sank into the song of that strange and beautiful city, which saw too much and remembers everything.
“All colonies are burning,” someone wrote in 2021. In 2023, you can feel the shift. The attempted genocide of Palestinians by an apartheid state has ignited a spark around an exhausted and embittered globe. Whether that ember burns the victims or the oppressors remains to be seen, and the unpredictability is frightening. Particularly since the ancestors of many of the oppressors were once, too, victims of genocide, and the tides of history turn so easily.
Our crisis is beyond elections. You cannot vote out the mafia. You cannot wait for a referendum on ongoing mass murder. But you can look evil in the eye and stand up for those targeted. You can hope that if you are targeted, someone will do the same for you. If no one does, you still did the right thing, and that still matters.
There is a reason those words were written on a cemetery wall. History is a ghost, the present is a ghost, and the future feels more like a ghost every day. Let it haunt you. Your conscience needs all the company it can get.