One of our leading wise men, William Blum, bears no frankincense or myrrh this holiday, but instead brings his usual penetrating insights, informed by decades of observation -- and courageous resistance -- to the depredations of the American Empire. Check out his archive of reports -- and much more -- at his website, www.killinghope.org. Here's an excerpt from his latest. But don't cheat yourself; go read the whole thing.
To ring in the new year, a reprise of this meditation on a few enduring forces and their eternal ambiguities. с новым годом, y'all!
The sham trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Russia is rightly being protested by those who have a right to do so: Russians in Russia, where more than a thousand people braved the batons of Kremlin storm-troopers to decry the travesty of justice in his recent conviction on more trumped-up charges. You do not have to warm to Khodorkovsky himself, a former oil oligarch who fell out with the power structure that enriched him, in order to denounce the thuggish authoritarianism that his persecution represents. I have courageous friends among those standing up in public against this injustice, putting their own bodies and livelihoods on the line, and I salute them, and all those standing with them.There are, however, those denouncing the injustice of the Khodorkovsky trial who have absolutely no...
One of the most important books published in 2010 -- or indeed, in this century -- was Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions. As I noted here a few months ago, Professor Joy Gordon's "detailed, richly sourced and morally horrifying account of the sanctions era must be read to be believed. However bad you thought it was, the reality was much worse." The latter statement is one of the key elements of the book's importance. Even if you are one of the very few who have made yourself aware of the reality of this vast crime against humanity -- digging out whatever nuggets of truth you could glean from the mountainous slagheap of lies and myth and amnesia that bury it -- you will be staggered by the picture of cold-blooded inhumanity that Gordon brings to light. (I have also...
Tonight, in the tenth year of the 21st century, the government of the United States is torturing a young man -- one of its own soldiers -- whom it has incarcerated but not indicted. He has been held in solitary confinement for months on end, subjected to techniques of sleep deprivation taken from the Soviet gulag, denied almost all human contact except from interrogators, constantly harassed by guards to whom he must answer every few minutes -- all in an attempt to break his mind, destroy his will, degrade his humanity and force him to "confess" to a broader "conspiracy" against state power.
More than a century ago, an aging man, staring his own death in the face, spoke the truth of our times:
History never repeats itself, of course. But human nature being what it is -- and the tropes of power and dominance being what they are -- there is a great deal of assonance in history: near-rhymes, recurring echoes in the present which do not chime exactly with the past but fall closely enough to resonate with meaning. Reading Timothy Synder's account of the genocidal famine in Soviet Ukraine in the early 1930s (in his new book, Bloodlands), I ran across the following passage. In it, Snyder describes how Stalin sought to explain away the manifest, catastrophic failure of his policy of forced collectivization, which had led to millions of deaths by starvation:
The career of the late imperial courtier par excellence Richard Holbrooke is summed up well here by Diane Johnstone. As she notes:
At 3:25 p.m. on Tuesday, a UK judge reverses an earlier court decision and granted bail to Julian Assange, who is being held in a British prison on a warrant for "sexual misconduct" charges in Sweden. The bail is attached with heavy conditions, including the demand for a large wad of cash upfront, a daily curfew (which will keep Assange off the prime-time news), and the requirement of wearing an electric tag. The ruling does not free Assange, however; he is sent back to jail pending the gathering of the cash, and pending a decision by Swedish authorities to appeal the bail ruling. At 4:18 p.m., outside the courtroom, film director Ken Loach, one of the many people putting up money for Assange's case, makes this comment:
It has always seemed the strangest thing to me, the way that people will lacerate others -- with cruelty, with lies, with dirty dealing, with petty spite, with cold neglect, with violence, violence on the body and the soul -- just to gain, for just a moment, some bestial sense of dominance, on one level or another, from the highest to the lowest, turning the inexpressible miracle of existence, this paradise of consciousness and sensation we've been given, into a stinking, churned-up living hell. I look at all this, and I think: These people don't know they're going to die. They don't believe the blow will come. They think they've got all the time in the world to churn in the filth and make themselves "important" -- an importance that will be ripped out of them like a disemboweled gut ...
(A version of this article originally appeared at CounterPunch.)