Empire Burlesque
Realm of Lies: Echoes From History Haunting the Present
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 09 November 2010 00:05

(UPDATED BELOW)

Today's guest blogger is our old friend Boris Pasternak, he who once caught the "echoes from the future," and is today writing from the past -- September 20, 1924, in fact -- with insights about the present.

"There are times when you begin to feel you are breathing lies, universal and all-pervading, soaking through absolutely everything around you, beginning with the bricks and ending with people's conversations … Here, the voices of the marketplace, ignorance, narrow-mindedness, racial hatred and the like, are freely and dazzlingly blended with their opposites. This is what allows these dark undertones to acquire a binding legitimacy which they have never possessed before, even in the gloomiest periods of our history."

From Boris Pasternak: Family Correspondence, 1921-1960, translated by Nicholas Pasternak Slater

***

A Version of Pasternak's "Hamlet"

The hour is at hand: it calls the actor.
The crowd grows still as I step through the arch.
There's the cue: an echo from the future.
I must come forth and give the fated speech.

A thousand eyes, in darkness, throng about me;
Like Roman swords, they'll pierce me till I bleed.
O if it be Thy will, Abba, Father,
Then take the proffered cup away from me.

For I adore your rigorous conception,
And am content to play my given role.
But these new lines will scorch the throat that speaks them;
This once, I pray, remove me from the bill.

No: I see the acts have all been plotted;
The journey's end already has been willed.
I'm alone, while the world drowns in falsehood.
Cross this stage, and you cross a killing field.


Translated by Chris Floyd


***
UPDATE: On the subject of our inundation by lies, Arthur Silber and Paul Craig Roberts lay out some hard truths here. And I might add my own little gloss, originally published during the run-up to the first Gulf War: "I think we are living in a world of lies -- lies that don't even know they are lies, because they are children and grandchildren of lies."

 
Obama's Peace Dividend: War Profiteering in the land of Gandhi
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Sunday, 07 November 2010 23:14

The Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama, who in his prize-claiming speech boldly claimed the mantle of Mahatma Gandhi, is now visiting India. And why has he made this pilgrimage to the homeland of his spiritual mentor? Has he come to drink more deeply of the wellsprings of satyagraha, to steep himself more thoroughly in the Gandhian principles of courageous, active, non-violent resistance to evil, to the Mahatma's ceaseless dedication to the poor and the outcast?

No: he has come to seal the deal on the sixth largest sale of war weapons in the history of the United States: $5 billion for the bristling, burgeoning Indian military, currently waging war on millions of its own people in Kashmir and the poverty-devastated state of central India, where the despair is so deep that suicide among the poor is epidemic.

Five billion dollars could have transformed the lives and futures of millions; instead it will go into the pockets of a few American war profiteers -- who will of course spread the wealth around to their favorite politicians ... such as Barack Obama, the leading recipient of war industry money in the 2008 campaign, outdoing even that old soldier and ardent militarist, John McCain.

And of course the Indian arms deal comes hot on the heels of the largest transaction of death-machinery in American history: Obama's $60 billion war-profiteering bonanza with Saudi Arabia, one of the most suffocatingly repressive and inhumane regimes on the face of the earth. But the Peace Laureate doesn't care about that. He knows what is truly important -- and it isn't the blighted lives of the Saudi people, or all those affected by the corruption and extremism that the Saudi royals have spread around the world (with the connivance, cooperation -- or at the command of -- the bipartisan American power structure). What matters most to the progressive paragon of peace is the sixty billion dollars stuffed into the coffers of his militarist backers.

If Obama wins re-election in 2012, it will not be because he "made a mid-course correction" or "learned the lessons" of the 2010 vote or "moved to the center" or any such witless expectoration of conventional wisdom. It will be because his militarist backers have judged his arms deals and Terror War operations sufficiently profitable to justify his retention. As is always the case with the War Machine that rules us, follow the money -- and the blood.

II.
While Obama peddles the tools of death and destruction in India, others are taking a different approach. At the London Review of Books, Tariq Ali recently provided the context for a short, powerful piece by Arundhati Roy on speaking truth to - and about -- power.

First Ali:

Arundhati Roy is both loathed and feared by the Indian elite. Loathed because she speaks her mind. Feared because her voice reaches the world outside India and damages the myths perpetrated by New Delhi regardless of which party holds power. She often annoys the official Indian Left because she writes and speaks of events for which they are either responsible or of which they dare not speak. Roy will not allow her life to be subjugated by lies. She never affects a courage or contempt she does not feel. Her campaigns against injustice are undertaken with no view to either fame or profit. Hence the respect awarded her by the poor, ordinary citizens, who know the truth but are not allowed a voice in the public sphere. The authorities can’t buy her silence. One of the few voices in India who has spoken loudly against the continuing Indian atrocities in Kashmir, she is now being threatened. If she doesn’t shut up they’ll charge her with sedition, aping their colonial masters of yesteryear. Her response to those who would charge and imprison her is a model of clarity, conviction and refusal to compromise.

And here is that response, in full, from the Times of India:

"I write this from Srinagar, Kashmir. This morning's papers say that I may be arrested on charges of sedition for what I have said at recent public meetings on Kashmir. I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice. I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state.

Yesterday I traveled to Shopian, the apple-town in South Kashmir which had remained closed for 47 days last year in protest against the brutal rape and murder of Asiya and Nilofer, the young women whose bodies were found in a shallow stream near their homes and whose murderers have still not been brought to justice. I met Shakeel, who is Nilofer's husband and Asiya's brother. We sat in a circle of people crazed with grief and anger who had lost hope that they would ever get 'insaf'—justice—from India, and now believed that Azadi—freedom— was their only hope. I met young stone pelters who had been shot through their eyes. I traveled with a young man who told me how three of his friends, teenagers in Anantnag district, had been taken into custody and had their finger-nails pulled out as punishment for throwing stones. In the papers some have accused me of giving 'hate-speeches', of wanting India to break up. On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their finger-nails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians. It comes from wanting to live in a society that is striving to be a just one. Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free."

Arundhati Roy
October 26 2010 

 
Dissatisfied Mind: Flickers of Hope in a Deadly Political Cycle
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 03 November 2010 11:19

(UPDATED BELOW)

I found myself unexpectedly heartened by American election returns, at least in one respect. For they have shown, once again, that the American people feel an abiding, angry – if deeply inchoate – dissatisfaction with the nation’s unjust, corrupt and dysfunctional political system. They know that something is profoundly wrong with the system, and so they keep voting one faction out and putting the other faction in, hoping to see some kind of change.

History gives this proof: in almost every national election for the past two decades, we have seen a change in control of either one or both houses of Congress or the White House. This has happened in 1992, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008, and now again in 2010. The pattern is very clear. And it is not because Americans “prefer divided government,” as the dim chewers of Beltway cud like to tell us; it’s because they can’t get anyone in the system to address their concerns.

Yet with every turnover in factional control, we see a rush of earnest, serious analysis telling us how the results represent a vast sea change in America’s politics, culture, society, soul, etc. But somehow, two years later, these momentously meaningful tidal waves ripple into nothing on the empty shore. And again, that’s because they don’t actually signify anything beyond the by-now perennial unease and dissatisfaction.

What is less heartening, of course, is the fact that the American electorate never quite grasps the obvious, glaring, brutal fact that neither of these factions is ever going to change the system one iota if they can help it; they are the system, they are its servants, its enablers, its enactors. Then again, we are dealing with, to borrow Gore Vidal’s deathless phrase, the United States of Amnesia, where history doesn’t exist (except in the form of feverishly distorted self-righteous myths about America’s eternal super-duper specialness), and every election is a tabula rasa . The only flickering historical awareness that seems to exist in the American electorate is a vague sense that the gang they voted in two years ago hasn’t changed anything; better try the other gang again … forgetting this is the same gang they threw out the time four years ago, for the same reason.

So the cycle goes on and on, and the rot and dysfunction grows deeper, and ever more intractable. The people’s concerns are not only not addressed; they are not even articulated by anyone in the lucrative, sinister game of King of the Hill played by the two factions, both of which are pledged, body and soul, to elite rule, corporate rapine and militarist empire. And certainly, neither the corporate media nor the educational system will do anything to help inculcate a deeper sense of history (“History is bunk,” said that quintessential American, Henry Ford; you can’t make no money from it, so what’s the point?), or provide any wider, deeper context for articulating – and confronting – the causes of the electorate’s dissatisfaction. Instead, these institutions keep replicating and refreshing those same myths of specialness (in either “conservative” or “progressive” form), adding layer after layer of thought-obliterating noise to the Great American Echo Chamber that encloses, and imprisons, the entire society.

Mmm, maybe it’s not so heartening after all. Especially given the fact that both factions are – literally, legally, formally, undeniably – packs of war criminals, pledged to the continuation of a rapacious empire of military domination that is killing innocent people, fomenting hatred and extremism, and destabilizing the world. The myth of specialness prevents most people from seeing the truth of what their bipartisan political establishment is  doing  to the world – or even to themselves, how it has stripped them of their liberties, corroded their society, destroyed their communities and degraded their quality of life, while diminishing the lives and futures of their own children and grandchildren. Most Americans apparently cannot break out of the narrow cognitive structure that has been imposed on their understanding of reality: i.e., that America is inherently, ineradicably good, that whatever mistakes it might make here or there (usually when one’s own preferred faction is out of office, of course), this essential goodness remains inviolate, forever untainted by any genuine evil.

And so bipartisan perpetrators of enormous evils – mass murder, aggressive war, torture, brutality, ruination, atrocity and injustice on a gargantuan scale – are not only never held accountable, they are celebrated, honored, and rewarded with great wealth and privilege. It is no wonder that dissatisfaction reigns in the body politic. The people sense that something is badly wrong; but no one in the system will tell them that it is the system itself that is wrong. Instead, we get these circuses and shams, these diversions and delusions that pass for election campaigns, throwing up a blizzard of false issues and partisan posturing, sound and fury signifying nothing … then when it’s all over, it’s back to business as usual for our bipartisan courtiers, feasting on the bloody swill of empire.

Still, the nagging spark of dissatisfaction can often be the beginning of wisdom, eventually forcing us to look beyond the confines of our cognitive overlays and unchallenged understandings. The merry-go-round of factional turnovers, in election after election, shows that this fertile element of dissatisfaction is rampant, and chronic, in the American people. They have not yet, not quite, accepted the system of murderous empire and elite domination as the natural order, the settled status quo. They want something to change, they want things to be different somehow – but, like people everywhere, they don’t want to turn the mirror on themselves, and see the reality of the noxious system they are perpetuating with their yo-yoing between two utterly corrupt and depraved factions of money-grubbers and power-seekers.

But as long as the dissatisfaction remains, there is still some hope that it will drive more and more people to see beyond the cloud of myth, to hear truths outside the echo chamber, and to begin the long, arduous, quite possibly impossible but morally imperative work of breaking the stranglehold of these murderous fools and forging a genuine alternative to the system.

UPDATE:
For further elucidation of the points above -- and many more besides -- let me direct you to two remarkable pieces that appeared today. They come from two different ends of the traditional political spectrum, but they converge to offer much grim truth and some genuine wisdom. Check them out, in full, as soon as you can:

Paul Craig Roberts: The Impotence of Elections

Scott Tucker: Apocalypse Again: The Boom-and-Bush Cycle of Bipartisan Politics

 
Show Time: Kangaroo Courts and the Crimes of Continuity
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Saturday, 06 November 2010 17:43

"Somewhere in hell, Joseph Stalin is smiling."

So says Tony Keller, quite aptly, in his report on one of the great travesties of justice in our time (and that is a long, long list): the outrageous show trial of Omar Khadr, a young Canadian who recently pleaded guilty to various spurious "terrorism" charges after spending eight years in the maw of the American gulag, since his capture in Afghanistan at the age of 15.

While America's attention was diverted by the witless (and war-avoiding) blather of the recent election campaign, the Pentagon prosecutors of the Peace Laureate in the White House were finishing their persecution of the child soldier. Having wrung a false confession to a non-existent charge from him in the early days of his captivity, when he was seriously wounded, they finally hammered a guilty plea out of him in a kangaroo court in which even an acquittal could have seen him incarcerated for the rest of his life. Such is the justice of the Laureate.

As Keller reports:

On the main charge, "murder in violation of the laws of war" (a crime that doesn't appear to even exist in international law, given that combatants who kill other soldiers in combat are not violating the laws of war), the chief evidence against the then-15-year-old child soldier was his own confession. And that confession, made years ago and long since recanted, was obtained under conditions that any normal human being would describe as torture.

Omar Khadr was captured in 2002 in Afghanistan. He was the only survivor after a firefight and an air strike on an al-Qaeda position. He had been wounded in his shoulder and in both eyes, shot twice in the back and was near death. It was alleged that, just before he was shot, he had thrown a grenade at attacking American troops, killing one of them. As already noted, he was 15 years old.

He then spent several months in the hellhole that was Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, where he claims -- credibly, given all that we know about what went on at Bagram -- that he was subjected to sleep deprivation, the chaining of his hands above his head for hours, that he was hooded and threatened by dogs, and sometimes forced to urinate on himself because he was not unshackled to go to the bathroom. His chief interrogator at Bagram admitted to telling the teenage boy that unless he co-operated, he would be sent to a U.S. prison, where a group of black men would gang rape him to death …


And who this interrogator? A thug so egregious that even the Gulag Gang was forced to punish him -- albeit lightly -- for his involvement in beating a prisoner to death at around the same time he was "strenuously interrogating" Khadr:

He was interviewed about 25 times by this interrogator, Joshua Claus. Claus was also the interrogator for an Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar who was chained to the ceiling and beaten to death in Bagram in 2002; Claus pled guilty to his involvement in the affair and received a five month sentence. In a lovely Orwellian touch, the U.S. government insisted that reporters covering Khadr's trial not name Claus, but instead refer to him as "Interrogator 1."

In Bagram, Khadr confessed that he had thrown the grenade that killed an American soldier. No one saw him do this, so his confession is really the only evidence of the act. Last summer, U.S. military judge Colonel Patrick Parrish ruled that the confession, despite the obviously coercive circumstances under which it was made, had been freely given, and could be used against Khadr in court.


Once that decision was rendered, the fix was definitely in. Keller lays it out:

This week, Omar Khadr was offered the following choice: plead guilty, or face two different routes to life in prison. He could go to trial, and thanks to a confession that would be laughed out of any real court of law, he'd probably be convicted. But even if the court somehow found him not guilty, the U.S. reserved the right to detain him indefinitely as an enemy combatant. The only sure way to get out of jail early was to tell his interrogators what they wanted to hear.

On Monday, Khadr was even forced to cop to other crimes, including the killing of two Afghan soldiers, something he wasn't even charged with, and for which the prosecution appears to have had no evidence. And, in a nice touch that Stalin would have appreciated, Khadr appears to have also been forced to sign away his right to sue his jailors for the various forms of deprivation and abuse that he was subject to…. They could have told him to confess that he had simultaneously piloted all four hijacked planes on 9/11, and he would have done it.

…The original communist torture techniques, which for a time inspired the standard operating procedures at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantanamo and the secret black sites, were not designed to elicit truth. They were designed to produce false confessions: That was the whole point. They were designed to force people to say what interrogators wanted to hear -- yes, I am a capitalist stooge, yes I am a Trostkyite, yes I am a terrorist.

And now Guantanamo's very first military tribunal has its first guilty verdict, thanks to those methods of coercion first perfected for the Soviet Bloc show trial. My God, what have we done? Somewhere in hell, Joseph Stalin is smiling.


And here on earth, of course, that blood-bloated moral cretin, George W. Bush, is grinning like a pig in shit, raking in millions of dollars for an "autobiography" in which he brags -- swearing like the tough guy this little quaking frat boy has always wished he was -- that he personally ordered  waterboarding: a clear, flagrant violation of the laws of the United States -- and a high crime for which the United States has prosecuted many other people, including its own soldiers, for more than a century. But "damn right," Bush ordered this torture; and "damn right," his successor, the Continuer-in-Chief -- who is busy ginning up even more wars, killing more civilians, engendering more hatred and entrenching Bush's travesties of justice and tyrannical perversion -- will not do a damn thing about it.

 
Deliberate Evil: The American Strategy of Seeding Civil War
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 02 November 2010 10:37

Pressing business elsewhere precludes me from giving proper attention to this, but I must take a moment to urge you to read -- immediately -- the new article by Gareth Porter at Antiwar.com: "Torture Orders Were Part of US Sectarian War Strategy."

Porter delves into the latest Wikileaks trove to find new and detailed evidence of how the vicious sectarian civil war in Iraq in 2004-2008 -- which killed thousands of people, subjected thousands to brutal and macabre tortures, drove hundreds of thousands of people from their homes -- was deliberately seeded and constantly fueled by the leaders of the American occupation.

More specifically, Porter shows that the instigation and exacerbation of civil war and sectarian "cleansing" was the brainchild of the supposed master of "counterinsurgency," the bemedalled darling of the bipartisan political and media establishments, General David Petraeus -- the same man whom the progressive Peace Laureate now in the White House has put in charge of Afghanistan. Petraeus, we are told -- always in gushing, adulatory prose (with Obama himself as Gusher-in-Chief) -- is now striving mightily to produce in Afghanistan the "same results" he got in Iraq.

We've been noting here for years how American leaders deliberately fomented the unimaginable hell that the unprovoked, illegal invasion and rapacious occupation inflicted on the people of Iraq, how with death squads and torture -- both directly and by proxy -- they deliberately, knowingly, willingly deepened the sectarian divides in Iraqi society, how they armed, funded and empowered some of the most retograde extremist factions to do the dirty work for the imperial masters, and how this strategy led to the rise of violent extremism to counter the American-led assault. Porter, working with the invaluable Wikileaks documents and also doing valuable research in media archives, brings us fresh and damning confirmation of this genuinely evil strategy.

Again, time prevents me from giving this article its due, but please head there as soon as you can and read the whole thing. And as you read, remember that the president and party that you are being urged to "save" at the polls today have, of their own free will, taken the same promulgators of this evil strategy and placed them in charge of yet another brutal and aggressive occupation of foreign lands, with, indeed, the "same results": thousands and thousands of innocent dead, vast ruin,  vast ruin, the ever-increasing exacerbation of violent sectarianism, tribal conflict and intolerant religious extremism. This is precisely what you are voting for, if you vote Democrat -- or Republican, for that matter -- today.

For more background, see also:
A Furnace Seal'd: The Wondrous Death Squads of the American Elite
Darkness Renewed: Terror as a Tool of Empire
Ulster on the Euphrates: The Anglo-American Dirty War in Iraq

 
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