*** This is my column from the latest print version of CounterPunch Magazine. *** According to latest report from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the United States currently deploys some 2,080 nuclear warheads, ready to launch at a moment’s notice. It has 500 tactical nuclear weapons — for combat use, not strategic strikes — primed in bases across Europe. There are also 2,680 American warheads in storage. They can be brought out at short notice and added to the active arsenal. Including retired but still intact weapons, the United States possesses 7,100 nuclear warheads, any one of which could destroy a metropolis and kill tens or hundreds of thousands of people in a single eye blink.
Another week, another war. And yet another American alliance with the forces of Islamic extremism. Washington is clearly the guiding force between the Saudi-led invasion of Yemen -- a move that will almost certainly lead to a protracted and ruinous conflict, spilling over many borders and, as usual, creating fertile ground for more extremism. In other words, America's war profiteers and military imperialists have given themselves another rich seam of loot and power. And in Yemen, as in Syria, the Yanks are fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with their old allies, al Qaeda, once again.
The defenders of Western values are always bold and brave: Israeli Soldiers Raid Homes, Question Kids as Young as 9 (NBC). Yes, it takes enormous courage for a gang of armed and body-armored men to barge into private homes in the middle of the night, haul children out of bed, point their weapons at them and batter them with threats and questions. We are indeed fortunate that such a bastion of our precious Western ideals exists in the Middle East, which is otherwise filled with brutal barbarians. And now that King Bibi has been re-anointed, the beat -- and the batterings -- will go on. To be fair, had his "liberal" opponents won, this would still be the case, as Yonatan Medel notes in the LRB. Here is a quote from an ad for the great progressive hope, Isaac Herzog:
I was going to write a careful, reasoned commentary on this article in the Washington Post -- “War With Iran is Probably Our Best Option" -- written by a highly respected fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, Joshua Muravchik. But in the end all I could find to say was this: I hope this slavering, shrivelled-up, dead-souled little coward finds himself on the front lines of the war he advocates.
In a recent London Review of Books article detailing the abysmal horrors of Egypt's prison system -- a multi-circled hell with visible and invisible layers, all of them wretched, some of them unspeakably so -- Tom Stevenson noted, in passing, this piece of historical context:
I don’t really want to go too far down the road on this when there are far more important things happening in the world, but really, take just a moment to look at the language in the Ken Silverstein piece on the world-historical tragedy of him finding out that it was less than ideal to work for a rapacious, dodgy billionaire:
As always, Bill Blum gives us meet food to feed upon in his latest Anti-Empire Report. I was going to quote some pertinent excerpts, but why not just read the whole thing. Of special interest is Blum’s look at the true history of today’s “Greek crisis”— and, given that history, the grim prospects ahead for Syriza; the jaw-dropping (but not surprising) ignorance of history evinced by the “experts” in our State Department; and the all-consuming ideology of the “non-ideological” American media. In the latter, he digs up one choice quote from Brian Williams’ former boss at NBC, Bob Wright, who defended the beleaguered anchorman thus: “He has been the strongest supporter of the military of any of the news players. He never comes back with negative stories.” That one quote speaks volumes, vast...
Robert Ford, once one of the most vociferous champions of an aggressive American policy toward Syria has now changed his mind, McClatchy reports. Ford, who famously resigned from his diplomatic post last year in protest at the Obama Administration's "weak" support of Syrian rebels, now says the United States should not give any weapons to the rebels at all; they are too "disjointed and untrustworthy because they collaborate with jihadists."
Ordinarily the death of an American hostage held by Islamic extremists is the occasion of bellicose, ballyhooed, bloody shirt-waving rage, stoked in tandem by government and media. It usually evokes widespread calls for retaliation, for taking the gloves off at last and exterminating the barbarians once and for all. Today, it almost always comes with its own hashtag, so that people can immediately identify themselves with the victim, who is seen invariably as a martyr for the goodness and specialness of America.
Millions of words have already been written about the Charlie Hebdo spectacle. No doubt readers have seen much of the small proportion of this verbiage that was pertinent, informative and insightful. There have been laudable attempts to provide political context, cultural nuance, historical background — and that rarest of unicorns, the voice of reason — amidst the Niagra-level roar of bullshit that engulfed the Hebdo case within minutes of the first tweets about the incident. And of course, it is good that we go on trying to make sense of a reality that is at all times besieged by a bewildering array of powerful forces trying to manipulate our perceptions to suit their agendas.