Empire Burlesque
Obama's Finest Hour: Killing Innocent People For "Made-Up Crap"
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Monday, 18 October 2010 17:03

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If ever I am tempted by the siren songs of my tribal past as a deep-fried, yellow-dawg Democrat, and begin to feel any faint, atavistic stirrings of sympathy for the old gang, I simply think of things like the scenario below, sketched last week by Johann Hari, and those wispy ghosts of partisanship past go howling back to the depths:

Imagine if, an hour from now, a robot-plane swooped over your house and blasted it to pieces. The plane has no pilot. It is controlled with a joystick from 7,000 miles away, sent by the Pakistani military to kill you. It blows up all the houses in your street, and so barbecues your family and your neighbours until there is nothing left to bury but a few charred slops. Why? They refuse to comment. They don't even admit the robot-planes belong to them. But they tell the Pakistani newspapers back home it is because one of you was planning to attack Pakistan. How do they know? Somebody told them. Who? You don't know, and there are no appeals against the robot.

Now imagine it doesn't end there: these attacks are happening every week somewhere in your country. They blow up funerals and family dinners and children. The number of robot-planes in the sky is increasing every week. You discover they are named "Predators", or "Reapers" – after the Grim Reaper. No matter how much you plead, no matter how much you make it clear you are a peaceful civilian getting on with your life, it won't stop. What do you do? If there was a group arguing that Pakistan was an evil nation that deserved to be violently attacked, would you now start to listen?

...[This] is in fact an accurate description of life in much of Pakistan today, with the sides flipped. The Predators and Reapers are being sent by Barack Obama's CIA, with the support of other Western governments, and they killed more than 700 civilians in 2009 alone – 14 times the number killed in the 7/7 attacks in London. The floods were seen as an opportunity to increase the attacks, and last month saw the largest number of robot-plane bombings ever: 22. Over the next decade, spending on drones is set to increase by 700 per cent.


Friends, it's very simple: if you support Barack Obama and the Democrats -- even if reluctantly, even if you're just being all sophisticatedly super-savvy and blogospherically strategic about it, playing the "long game" or eleven-dimensional chess or what have you -- you are supporting the outright murder of innocent people who have never done anything against you or yours. You have walked into a house, battered down the bedroom door, put the barrel of a gun against the temple of a sleeping child, and pulled the trigger. That is what you are supporting, that is what you are complicit in, that is what you yourself are doing.

But hey, let's be all super-savvy and eleventh-dimensional ourselves here for a moment. Let's be pragmatic, and technocratic, let's be grown-ups, let's not get sidetracked by a bunch of jejune, dorm-room, hippy-dippy moralizing. No, let's concentrate on practicalities, let's get down to brass tacks, let's be serious and focus on "what works" to protect our national security. OK, so here's the practical result of the illegal campaign of mass murder that Obama is waging on the sovereign territory of one of America's allies:

... Drone technology was developed by the Israelis, who routinely use it to bomb the Gaza Strip. I've been in Gaza during some of these attacks. The people there were terrified – and radicalised. A young woman I know who had been averse to political violence and an advocate of peaceful protest saw a drone blow up a car full of people – and she started supporting Islamic Jihad and crying for the worst possible revenge against Israel. Robot-drones have successfully bombed much of Gaza, from secular Fatah to Islamist Hamas, to the brink of jihad.

Is the same thing happening in Pakistan? David Kilcullen is a counter-insurgency expert who worked for General Petraeus in Iraq and now advises the State Department. He has shown that two per cent of the people killed by the robot-planes in Pakistan are jihadis. The remaining 98 per cent are as innocent as the victims of 9/11. He says: "It's not moral." And it gets worse: "Every one of these dead non-combatants represents an alienated family, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially as drone strikes have increased. ... It could be poised to get even worse: Bob Woodward's Obama's Wars says the US has an immediate plan to bomb 150 targets in Pakistan if there is a jihadi attack inside America.


Why, it's almost as if the drone campaign was designed to create more and more enemies -- and more and more contracts for war profiteers to build more and more drones, which can then be used to create more and more enemies, which means more and more contracts for .... say, it is a practical plan, after all! A practical plan to create terrorism, not quell it.

And what is the "evidence" used by the Administration militarists as they draw up their target lists for the defenseless villages in Pakistan? What is the "intelligence" produced by the $75 billion lavished on our 200,000 security apparatchiks every year? On what basis is Barack Obama killing people in Pakistan? Hari reports:

..[The] press releases uncritically repeated by the press after a bombing always brag about "senior al-Qa'ida commanders" killed – but some people within the CIA admit how arbitrary their choice of targets is. One of their senior figures told The New Yorker: "Sometimes you're dealing with tribal chiefs. Often they say an enemy of theirs is al-Qa'ida because they want to get rid of somebody, or they made crap up because they wanted to prove they were valuable so they could make money."


That's right: Barack Obama is killing hundreds of innocent civilians in Pakistan on the basis of crap made up for money. Made-up crap. For money. That's why a child who is just as precious as your child is to a parent who is just as real a person as you are was killed this week, by Barack Obama and the Democratic Party and the entire bipartisan foreign policy establishment of the United States of America: crap made up for money.

And of course, it's not just tribal chiefs making up crap for blood money: the entire aforementioned bipartisan foreign policy establishment is now and has for years been making up crap "so they could make money" -- for themselves, for their corporate patrons, for their government agencies, for their defense and "security" stockholdings, for the perpetuation of their bloated, belligerent, pig-ignorant domination of world affairs and American society -- by killing innocent people all over the world.

"But oh my gosh, oh my lord, we have to support Obama! What if those Tea Party Republicans get into power? What would happen then?" What would happen? The same goddamned thing that's happening right now, that's what. More and more war, more and more murder, more and more domination by a militarist kleptocracy. As Glenn Greenwald notes this week, Obama and the Tea Partiers (and the neocons, and the liberal hawks, and the Bush Regime war criminals) are in lockstep (even goosestep) on keeping the War Machine stoked and rolling.

That's why the opposition to the Tea Party Republicans has been so anemic, focused almost entirely on personality flaws or asinine comments or resume padding or stupid things they did in college. The Democrats can't possibly attack them on substance -- i.e., the fact that the Tea Partiers are rabid warmongers who delight in murder, torture and repression and believe that the poor, the sick, the old, the weak, the unlucky, and the vulnerable should just eat shit and die already -- because these are the same positions the Democrats hold! Who "reformed" health care into a gargantuan, guaranteed boondoggle for rapacious conglomerates? Who bailed out the bankers and left millions in the hands of savage "robo-signers?" Who set up the "Catfood Commission" and stocked it from top to bottom with long-time, deep-dyed haters of the poor and the weak? It wasn't Dick Cheney, bub.

I don't want to see the Tea Partiers in power. But I'm not going to support one faction of murderers and plunderers just to keep out another faction of murderers and plunderers. Hari makes this good analogy about the drone program:

Yet many people defend the drones by saying: "We have to do something." If your friend suffered terrible third-degree burns, would you urge her to set fire to her hair because "you have to do something"? Would you give a poisoning victim another, worse poison, on the grounds that any action is better than none?


Similarly, I say: would you support one murderer -- who likes to break into children's bedrooms and blow their brains out -- in order to stop another murderer, who would do the same thing, from taking over a vicious gang of murderers? What would be the basis, the reason for your support? That the first murderer wears nicer suits? Digs cooler music? Throws better street parties? Leaves a pretty little flower next to the blown-out brains?

For a system sunk so deeply in evil, there is no "lesser" evil to choose. The militarist kleptocracy itself is evil, and every political faction that does not denounce it and seek to dismantle it is complicit in this evil. The choice is to stand outside such factions; the choice is non-cooperation with evil, as advocated by Thoreau, Tolstoy, Gandhi, King. I'm not going to spend my brief time here on earth standing with blood-soaked killers, no matter what factional name they give themselves, or what loyalties they might claim on our myth-clouded memories of the past. I'm not going to teach my children that all we can do is to grovel before one child-murdering maniac or another, to keep quiet, to never speak the truth, to sell their votes, their dignity and their souls to murderers who would pervert every good instinct -- and every bad instinct -- every worthy hope and every nasty fear, to keep themselves in power.

Dead children. Made-up crap. For money. That's what our leading "dissidents" want us to support. There is much that could be said about the utterly puerile arguments being offered for this murder-abetting stance; but in the interests of brevity, and civility -- and my own sanity -- I will forbear, and simply say: no thanks.

 
All Along the Watchtower
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Thursday, 14 October 2010 22:30

While circumstances prevent the completion of some longer pieces for the moment, here's a quick scan of the horizon:

Double Down, Triple Down, All the Way to Hell
Pentagon brass and their sycophants in mufti are now making the media rounds, laying the groundwork for the next great move by the world-historical military genius David Petraeus, the most-lauded general never to, er, actually win a war: moving ground troops into Pakistan. The Los Angeles Times has the story here.

First, of course, there will be the usual push to make the Pakistani military kill massive amounts of their own people. This will, as always, inflame the situation, exacerbate extremism and violent reaction, thus nicely setting the stage for American troops to step in -- oh, as a last resort, of course! -- and take control of the "deteriorating situation."

Obviously, given what happened to Stanley McChrystal when he let his aides wag their tongues a bit too much in Paris bistros, Pentagon staffers are not about to be caught "off message" these days. So the dispatch of anonymous briefers in this case can only be seen as a planned reconnaissance in force to "prepare the battlefield." Not the actual fields in Central Asia where Petraeus is now killing civilians (and throwing away American lives) at a rising clip, of course; no, we mean the battlegrounds of the Beltway, where the Pentagon bureaucrats like Winless Davy do their real fighting.

The move is being sold as a way to "show improvement" in the the war before Obama's re-election, but that's all a sham. Obama surely knows what is painfully obvious to any sentient being: an expansion of the ground war into Pakistan will result in a maelstrom of blood and hate that will extend and deepen the Central Asian quagmire for years, decades.

But of course, that is precisely what our war-profiteering, empire-addicted militarists want. As court stenographer Bob Woodward duly recorded, Petraeus himself told Obama: "You have to recognize also that I don't think you win this war. I think you keep fighting ... You have to stay after it. This is the kind of fight we're in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids' lives."

This the mindset that rules Washington now. From all the evidence, Obama fully shares this vision. Those who think otherwise must cling to the spin that Obama's aides propagated through the obliging stovepipe of Woodward: that the president is a limp rag who can easily be rolled by the boys in Hell's Bottom. (It is astounding that Obama's people, who have praised the book, think this is some kind of positive image of their boss.) But even in the highly unlikely case that Obama is some kind of "prisoner" of the Pentagon, with his peace-loving hands are tied by military meanies, it doesn't matter. Prisoner or willing participant, the result is the same: the militarists are in charge, and they will not stop, no matter how much death and ruin they wreak around the world -- and at home.

Across the Borderline
Want to cut down on crime? Then open your borders. That's the word from a new report that shows a deep drop in crime rates in California during an 18-year period that saw more than 3.6 million foreigners pouring into the state. Charles Davis has the stats:

If you listened to the professional demagogues on talk radio and, all too often, in public office, you might think the United States is beset by an immigration-induced crime wave, the country's border regions home to nothing but gun battles and sadness. But statistics, those damned things, suggest otherwise, with California actually experiencing a 55 percent drop in violent crime at the same time more than 3.6 million foreigners migrated to the state.

Serious property crime in California -- auto theft, burglary, arson -- also dropped 29 percent between 1991-2008, according to a new paper from the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice (via The Crime Report).

Crime also dropped in the state's border and major metropolitan regions, with San Diego's violent crime rate dropping 58 percent at the same time more than a quarter-million foreign-born persons moved to the county. Los Angeles County likewise experienced a 68 percent decline in violent crime and a 42 percent drop in property crime even as it added more than 1.3 million immigrants to its population.

"Non‐citizens are approximately 27 percent of California’s population," the paper reports, "however, data that tracks prison inmates who have immigration holds placed on them indicate that this group constitutes approximately 11 percent of the state prison population."


No doubt this is all a clever plan on the part of them damn Mescans to disguise themselves as law-abiding denizens for two decades to facilitate their long-term plan to take over the country and impose Latino Catholic sharia law on good white folk. Better have a pre-emptive deportation right now!

Dark as a Dungeon
While the media make endless hay with the rescue of the Chilean miners, Juan Cole plays Eeyore at the picnic by asking a few pertinent questions on how they came to be stuck down there in the first place. Astute observers of contemporary history will not be surprised to find that the ultimate culprits could well be that dynamic duo of yesteryear: Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.

One Toke Over the Line
Glenn Greenwald has much to say on the sinister Drug War-Terror War symbiosis that has spawned so much death and corruption across the world for decades. This is a theme we've been banging on about for many years here as well. One of my first pieces on the hydra-headed Terror-Drug mutant was written for the Moscow Times back in November 2001 -- a little more than two months after the "Terror War" began. You can see that piece here. You can also see a harrowing illustration of the kind of Drug War-bred corruption that Greenwald describes, in this piece from 2006, which tells a sickening tale of complicity in state murder that went all the way to the top of the "shining city on the hill." A case now completely forgotten, needless to say.

The Hard Truth of Quantitative Easing

It was the work of Arthur Silber that first pointed me to two of the best guides through the economic morass that our betters have made for us: Mike Whitney and Michael Hudson. Writing separately, usually at Counterpunch, they provide a potent one-two punch that demolishes the conventional wisdom and willful ignorance that surrounds the relentless, bipartisan effort to drive the nation and the world into a state of neo-feudalism.

This week, both Whitney and Hudson addressed the scam of "quantitative easing." This stimulus programs are ostensibly designed to pump government money into the national economy during an economic crisis, priming the pump to keep businesses -- and their employees -- afloat in the choppy waters.

But somehow it doesn't work out that way. The low -- practically zero -- interest on the trillions pumped out by government "easing" is snapped up by a few big investors, who then immediately bank it and invest it overseas, where the interest rates are higher. They make huge profits, but the "stimulus" money doesn't stay in the local economy, and the economic problems don't get addressed. By putting no real restrictions on the use and flow of tax money given to banks, quantitative easers only enrich a small number of people immensely, while letting millions of people languish in economic doldrums.

But that's only the half of it. As Hudson points out, these programs are also a form of economic warfare on the rest of the world. Foreign nations are swamped by elite investors funneling American stimulus money into their economies, buying up "foreign resources, real estate, public and privatized instrastructure, bonds and corporate stock ownership." This influx forces up the price of the local currency, wreaking havoc on exchange rates, exports and employment. As Hudson notes:

Such inflows do not provide capital for tangible investment. They are predatory, and cause currency fluctuation that disrupts trade patterns while creating enormous trading profits for large financial institutions and their customers. Yet most discussions of exchange rate treat the balance of payments and exchange rates as if they were determined purely by commodity trade and “purchasing power parity,” not by the financial flows and military spending that actually dominate the balance of payments. The reality is that today’s financial interregnum – anarchic “free” markets prior to countries hurriedly putting up their own monetary defenses – provides the arbitrage opportunity of the century. This is what bank lobbyists have been pressing for. It has little to do with the welfare of workers.


Obama and the Fed are now gearing up to inject another $1 trillion into this profit funnel. And because they will refuse to take any responsibility for ensuring that the new stimulus is directed at addressing the nation's financial crisis, much if not most of that money will simply end up in the hand of a tiny sliver of elite investors, who will use it to enrich themselves, war economic war abroad -- and leave American workers and homeowners (and the long-forgotten poor) to sink further into the mire.

But then again, for the easers, as with the militarists, quagmire is a feature, not a bug.

**Photo © 2010 by Alexey Floyd

 
The Law is an Ass ... Armed with Rockets
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Monday, 11 October 2010 20:57

 

Here's what they are saying about America's Terror Warriors in the UK's arch-conservative Daily Telegraph:

Since the beginning of September alone, President Obama has authorised at least 25 targeted killings. The total since he came to office is more than 100. These have certainly killed some of the senior operatives of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. They have also killed dozens of people, including a large number of women and children, who were not involved in terrorism.
 
And yet there has been very little protest, certainly compared to the storm of international criticism that greeted the decision to hold suspected terrorists at Guantanamo – a policy that didn't kill anyone, let alone any innocent women and children. The silence from human rights groups over the drone attacks is deafening. What has persuaded them that it is acceptable to kill people, including people who are not terrorists, but that it is inhumane to deprive them of a good night's sleep?

... No one knows exactly how many innocents have died as a result of drone attacks, but the total almost certainly runs to three figures. It is not easy to square that with President Obama's insistence that his administration is 'living by our values' -- unless American values now include the endorsement of indiscriminate killing. The President has also stressed that America now complies with international law. Remarkably, he seems to be right: the consensus is that drone attacks are indeed legal. The UN produced a report on the topic at the end of May, which concluded that the best way forward is for an international conference of states to review the guidelines for setting targets 'after a careful review of best practice'.

...The fact that targeted killing has been deemed 'legal' seems to have had the effect of making many people, including the President, think that it is morally justified. But that conclusion doesn't follow. There are plenty of things that are legal, but which you would not be morally justified in doing -- just as there are times when you are morally justified in doing things that are illegal.

Perhaps using drones to kill terrorists is a legitimate way of prosecuting the war against al- Qaeda and the Taliban. It may be that the women and children who get killed as a result don't matter -- although I would like to hear someone from the US government, or a human rights organisation, explain exactly why. But we -- and the Americans -- are deceiving ourselves if we think that something is OK just because international lawyers say it is.


Arthur Silber has written repeatedly, and with furious eloquence on this theme for many years. (See here, here, and here, among many others. And follow the links.) We direct to just two of his painfully apt pronouncements:

The law is not some Platonic Form plucked from the skies by the Pure in Heart. Laws are written by men, men who have particular interests, particular constituencies, particular donors, and particular friends. ... Laws are the particular means by which the state implements and executes its vast powers. When an increasingly authoritarian state passes a certain critical point in its development, the law is no longer the protector of individual rights and individual liberty. The law becomes the weapon of the state itself -- to protect, not you, but the state from threats to its own powers. We passed that critical point some decades ago. The law is the means by which the state corrals its subjects, keeps them under control, and forbids them from acting in ways that the overlords might perceive as threatening. In brief, today, in these glorious United States, the law is not your friend.

**

The law is not the only method by which the state controls us, and strips our national discussion of all meaning. There is another, less formal but no less constricting means, which is commonly identified by the phrase, "the rules." We must all follow "the rules." You cannot ever break "the rules." Be very, very clear on this point: the only way you can speak the truth on any subject of importance in this country today is BY BREAKING THE RULES.

That is what Andrew Meyer did in Florida. He broke the goddamned rules [by asking Senator John Kerry a question about impeaching George W. Bush for war crimes and stopping another war. For more, see this powerful series by Silber.] He did not do so in any way that merited his being arrested -- but HE BROKE THE RULES. This cannot be permitted, not if our meaningless, pointless national discussion devoid of all substance is to continue in its meaningless, pointless way. Breaking the rules cannot be allowed if the lies are to continue. So he was arrested.

And he was charged with a third-degree felony for resisting arrest with violence and a second-degree misdemeanor for disturbing the peace -- for asking the most urgent question of our time, the question that almost no one will ask. He was charged with resisting an arrest that should never have occurred -- and with "disturbing the peace."

Friends, if this country -- and if you individually -- are to have any kind of human future at all, and by "human," I mean a life with any genuine meaning and joy, a life not fatally compromised by ongoing murder, torture, and brutality -- you had better fucking disturb the peace every second of every day.


You couldn't say it better, and I won't even try.

 
This Site Ain't Toxic, We've Just Been Hacked
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 12 October 2010 20:42

Although Google has slapped a warning on this site, we just wanted to let you know that Empire Burlesque isn't poisonous. We've just been hit, once again, by malicious and relentless hackers, who infected the site and eventually took it down. But webmaster extraordinaire Rich Kastelein is on the case. As you can see, he's got the site back up and running, and is working on getting us off Google's blacklist.

This is probably a good time to remind readers that should the site go down for several days due to hacking -- as it has done in the past; the site is constantly under attack -- you can check the original site, which is still maintained for emergency situations, at www.empireburlesquenow.blogspot.com, to see if there are any new posts. I hope that won't be necessary, but you might keep it in mind for a worst case scenario.

 

 
Timeless Conflicts
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Friday, 08 October 2010 15:35

Our guest blogger today is Mr. Herman Melville.

"... And, doubtless, going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this:

Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States.
WHALING VOYAGE BY ONE ISHMAEL.
BLOODY BATTLE IN AFFGHANISTAN.”


Moby Dick, 1851

 
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