Written by Chris Floyd
Wednesday, 09 June 2010 10:29
Welcome to Wal-Mart!
Just a reminder: this is what our ease and comfort are based on -- someone doing work like this:
From the Guardian: A worker prepares a cotton gin in Mumbai. India is the second largest exporter of the ﬁbre after China, the recipient of around 60% of India’s cotton exports.
A Worker Writes
Roy Mayall spotlights the ever-growing inequalities in our best of all possible worlds -- disparities that will only grow vastly greater as the world's elites stoke bogus deficit panics to "justify" their shredding of the last remaining tiny mitigations against their brute power. From the London Review of Books:
Adam Crozier, the retiring chief executive [of Royal Mail], received more than £2.4m in the year 2009-10. With bonuses and pensions that figure rises to £3.5 million. ... I earn £8.98 an hour. I work a 20-hour week. I’d like to work more but there are no full-time jobs available. My basic pay is £177.28 a week, before deductions. That’s about £9200 a year. That means that I would have to work for nearly 380 years to earn as much as Adam Crozier earned last year.
Fair enough. Adam Crozier obviously has 380 times my needs. He must have a house that is 380 times the size of mine. He is 380 times taller. Maybe he has 380 stomachs to fill. Perhaps his dick is 380 times bigger than mine and he needs 380 partners to service it. He must have 380 times the intellectual capacity as his brain is clearly 380 times more developed than mine. His value to the world is 380 times greater.
Of course, the truth of the matter is that our elites really do think like this. They really believe their value to the world is immeasurably greater than any memeber of the common rabble -- or indeed, the common rabble as a whole. (And this case only deals with an executive in the UK; the disparities in the United States are much greater.) That's why they find it so very easy to kill vast numbers of people and grind others into the dirt. The rabble is just a herd, whose individual lives have no value, except as they can be exploited by those who really matter.
An Attack of Giantism
Not that anyone cares, but more evidence has been found to refute the Obama Administration's farcical claim that it was uninvolved in a cruise missile attack that killed 52 people in Yemen last year, more than half of them women and children. The Independent reports:
A US cruise missile armed with cluster ammunition was used in an attack in Yemen in December which resulted in the deaths of 52 people, more than half of them women and children, according to a human rights watchdog.
The Yemeni government insisted their forces alone carried out the strike on an al-Qa'ida training camp in the Abyan region. US authorities backed the claim that insurgents had been attacked but officially denied direct involvement in the attack.
However, Amnesty International has now released photographs of missile parts from the attack which appear to show that it was a BGM-109D Tomahawk cruise missile designed to be launched from a warship or submarine. Further images reveal BLU 97 A/B cluster munitions which spray steel fragments for 150 meters along with burning zirconium for igniting buildings. The Yemeni government does not possess cruise missiles, which are part of the arsenal of US Navy vessels patrolling off the Horn of Africa and in the Arabian Sea.
...A Yemeni parliamentary committee investigating the raid at al-Ma'jalah concluded that 41 of the dead were civilians, 21 of them children and 14 women. Survivors denied any links with insurgents.
Again, what does it matter? The real people, the 380-foot giants, kicked over an anthill, and a few ants died. Boo hoo. Big whoop. Is our giant Peace Laureate supposed to concern himself with trivia like that? Of course, such actions only stir up a few ants here and there to try to nip at the giants' heels -- but so what? The worst they might do is kill a few of our ants now and then; meanwhile, the giants can hype the threat to fill their pockets with more war loot and expand their power and privilege.
As you might imagine, Arthur Silber has one of the most cogent observations on the "Helen Thomas affair." I won't excerpt it here, because that would dilute the unfolding of his sharp, satirical take; however, I will offer just one, more general comment from his conclusion, for it sums up quite well the essence of the above items, and much else about our modern world:
For me, one of the more gut-wrenching aspects of today's monstrous culture, a culture that kills each and every manifestation of empathy, understanding and compassion with relentlessly systematic determination, is the combination of unending destruction, cruelty, violence and murder with the most abysmally wretched depths of stupidity.
Written by Chris Floyd
Friday, 04 June 2010 13:06
Most sentient beings have long recognized that murdering civilians in foreign countries -- especially through the cowardly methods of "secret war" -- is entirely counterproductive ... if your actual aim is to enhance America's national security by reducing violent extremism and hatred for the United States, that is. However, if your aim is to perpetuate and expand a militarist empire and the bloated, brutal, corrupt, war-profiteering system that supports it, why then, secret war and civilian slaughter are perfectly logical and remarkably effective methods.
And that is why our highly intelligent and cool, pragmatic president is now vastly expanding the use of secret war, subversion, sabotage and murder into even more countries around the world, and giving America's secret, unaccountable death squads and covert operators even more power to carry out their lawless operations. As one Pentagon mandarin gushed, Obama is allowing "things that the previous administration did not."
That quote comes from a remarkably candid story in the Washington Post on Obama's "surge" in America's secret war on the world, which now encompasses no fewer than 75 countries.
(By the way, the Post is often a very good source of information about the operations and machinations of the militarist empire -- not because its editors are seeking to expose the empire's crimes and atrocities, but because they approve of them. And thus they will often write about them, in detail, in the most straightforward manner: "Hey, look at the cool stuff our boys are doing now!")
As the story notes:
The Obama administration has significantly expanded a largely secret U.S. war against al-Qaeda and other radical groups, according to senior military and administration officials.
Special Operations forces have grown both in number and budget, and are deployed in 75 countries, compared with about 60 at the beginning of last year. ... Plans exist for pre-emptive or retaliatory strikes in numerous places around the world ...
What's more, Obama has brought the covert operators and death squad leaders into the inner circle at the White House:
Special Operations commanders have also become a far more regular presence at the White House than they were under George W. Bush's administration, when most briefings on potential future operations were run through the Pentagon chain of command and were conducted by the defense secretary or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"We have a lot more access," a second military official said. "They are talking publicly much less but they are acting more. They are willing to get aggressive much more quickly."
The White House, he said, is "asking for ideas and plans . . . calling us in and saying, 'Tell me what you can do. Tell me how you do these things.' "
... Obama has made such forces a far more integrated part of his global security strategy [than Bush]. He has asked for a 5.7 percent increase in the Special Operations budget for fiscal 2011, for a total of $6.3 billion, plus an additional $3.5 billion in 2010 contingency funding.
The story notes that the bureaucratic turf wars between the Pentagon and State Department that had hindered some covert operations under the cantankerous Donald Rumsfeld have now disappeared with the smooth comity between Obama's team of Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates, the long-time Bush Family factotum who now mentors the eager young Democratic president in the ancient ways of oligarchy and militarist empire. And of course, Obama hand-picked Stanley McChrystal -- master of America's darkest arts in the war of aggression in Iraq -- to lead his "surge" in Afghanistan.
Indeed, Obama has been so lavish and relaxed in his use of death squads and secret war that the only complaint voiced these days by our Special Oppers -- who, the Post notes, "consider themselves a breed apart" -- is that they have to spend too much time in current war zones, and not enough plying their wares in new territory:
Although pleased with their expanded numbers and funding, Special Operations commanders would like to devote more of their force to global missions outside war zones. Of about 13,000 Special Operations forces deployed overseas, about 9,000 are evenly divided between Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yes, it's a lot more fun to skulk around in unsuspecting foreign nations, "taking out" a suspect here, "renditioning" another to some secret hellhole there, arming and funding local terrorist groups to kill, maim and destroy, or paying off sleazy local informants who happily sell their business rivals or personal enemies into captivity. It is indeed a noble calling, requiring "a breed apart" from the common herd.
But oddly enough, some of the Pentagon's compadres in covert war are discovering that the practice is not achieving its publicly stated objectives. As Gareth Porter at Antiwar.com reports, even the push-button killers of the CIA are waking up to the fact that their remote-control slaughter of Pakistanis with drone-fired missiles is creating more hatred and more enemies for the United States:
Some CIA officers involved in the agency’s drone strikes program in Pakistan and elsewhere are privately expressing their opposition to the program within the agency, because it is helping al-Qaeda and its allies recruit, according to a retired military officer in contact with them.
"Some of the CIA operators are concerned that, because of its blowback effect, it is doing more harm than good," said Jeffrey Addicott, former legal adviser to U.S. Special Forces and director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, in an interview with IPS.
Addicott said the CIA operatives he knows have told him the drone strikes are being used effectively by al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders to recruit more militants. ...
Because the drone strikes kill innocent civilians and bystanders along with leaders from far away, they "infuriate the Muslim male," said Addicott, thus making them more willing to join the movement. The men in Pakistan’s tribal region "view Americans as cowards and weasels," he added.
Weasels? Well, that is a "breed apart," I guess, so perhaps the covert warriors should be proud of the sobriquet. (And of course it is not just the Muslim male who is infuriated by the civilian slaughter and turning to violent reaction, as evidenced by the growing number of female suicide bombers.)
But these inklings of CIA sentiency -- and perhaps the first stirrings of awareness that the stated objectives are not the real aim of the program -- have not prevented our stalwarts from continuing to push their murderous buttons (or is it click their murderous mouses?):
CIA officers "are very upset" with the drone strike policy, Addicott said. "They’ll do what the boss says, but they view it as a harmful exercise." ... Addicott said the drone program has been driven by President Barack Obama, rather than by the CIA. "Obama’s trying to show people that we’re winning," he added.
Addicott then makes this telling observation:
They have informed high-level CIA officials about their concerns that the program is backfiring, Addicott told IPS.
"The people at the top are not believers," said Addicott, referring to the CIA. "They know that the objective is not going to be achieved."
And there you have it. The "people at the top" are indeed well aware that the stated objectives of the ever-expanding drone program -- and the ever-expanding Terror War -- are not going to be achieved. They are not meant to be achieved. They are meant only to give the illusion "that we're winning," to keep the great game going, to keep the money and the power rolling in.
Written by Chris Floyd
Monday, 07 June 2010 14:51
This is the language of power – unfiltered, unadorned, dispassionate, professional – discussing how best to inflict tortures on helpless captives without causing "long-term" damage that might be visible later:
But as we understand the experience involving the combination of various techniques, the OMS medical and psychological personnel have not observed any such increase in susceptibility. Other than the waterboard, the specific techniques under consideration in this memorandum— including sleep deprivation—have been applied to more than 25 detainees.… No apparent increase in susceptibility to severe pain has been observed either when techniques are used sequentially or when they are used simultaneously—for example, when an insult slap is simultaneously combined with water dousing or a kneeling stress position, or when wall standing is simultaneously combined with an abdominal slap and water dousing. Nor does experience show that, even apart from changes in susceptibility to pain, combinations of these techniques cause the techniques to operate differently so as to cause severe pain. OMS doctors and psychologists, moreover, confirm that they expect that the techniques, when combined… would not operate in a different manner from the way they do individually, so as to cause severe pain.
This is taken from a memo written in 2005 by Justice Department lawyer Steven Bradbury to a legal officer at the CIA. It comes from a new report from Physicians for Human Rights, outlining the mass of evidence that the Bush Administration used its Terror War captives for medical experiments. Mother Jones has the story:
The watchdog group claims that in an attempt to establish that brutal interrogation tactics did not constitute torture, the administration ended up effectively experimenting on terrorism detainees. This research, PHR alleges, violated an array of regulations and treaties, including international guidelines on human testing put in place after the Holocaust.
According to the report, which draws on numerous declassified government documents, "medical professionals working for and on behalf of the CIA" frequently monitored detainee interrogations, gathering data on the effectiveness of various interrogation techniques and the pain threshholds of detainees. This information was then used to "enhance" future interrogations, PHR contends.
...Physicians for Human Rights makes the case that since human subject research is defined as the "systematic collection of data and/or identifiable personal information for the purpose of drawing generalizable inferences," what the Bush administration was doing amounted to human experimentation:
...Ironically, one goal of the "experimentation" seems to have been to immunize Bush administration officials and CIA interrogators from potential prosecution for torture. ... In a memo drafted on March 14, 2003, John Yoo, a primary author of the torture memos, defined that boundary [that could trigger prosecution] as treatment leading to "long-term" mental harm or pain and suffering equal to or greater than that caused by organ failure or death. So one purpose of the medical monitoring project was to insure that the techniques interrogators were using did not breach that bright line.
One document cited in the PHR report highlights this practice especially well. On May 10, 2005, then-OLC head Steven Bradbury wrote to then-CIA acting general counsel John Rizzo about the legality of using multiple interrogation techniques simultaneously, as opposed to one by one. Referring directly to data gathered by the CIA's Office of Medical Services, Bradbury decided that both methods were okay.
Sure, why not? So if you tie someone up in a "stress position," force them to their knees and slap them around while dousing them with cold water, it's not torture. Especially if you have some modern Mengeles there with you, monitoring and measuring the degree of despair so they can use the data to "enhance" future interrogations.
And as always, the perpetrators of this system were well aware they were breaking the United States' clear and ironclad laws prohibiting torture. That's why they went to Congress to get some additional cover – with an extraordinary legal provision that essentially authorizes medical experiments on captives:
There is some evidence to suggest that someone in the Bush administration may have realized they could be vulnerable to charges of illegal experimentation. The Military Commissions Act, passed by Congress in 2006, amended the 1996 War Crimes Act, a law that imposes criminal penalties for "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions. Specifically, the language on illegal "biological experiments" was weakened. The new law no longer requires that an experiment be carried out in the interest of the subject in order to be legal. (Research on how to make torture more effective is clearly not in the interest of the person who is going to be tortured.) In addition, it allows experiments that do not "endanger" the subject—rather than simply prohibiting all experiments that "are not justified by the medical, dental, or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest," as the previous version did.
The infamous Military Commissions Act was one of the more heinous legislative actions in last 25 years or more. When it passed, with the help of a dozen Democrats, one senator rose to make an impassioned protest against the measure. He railed against the draconian nature of the bill, which he said eliminated the ancient right of habeas corpus. He denounced the bill for "allowing this President - or any President - to decide what does and does not constitute torture." He lamented "the innocent people we may have accidentally rounded up and mistaken for terrorists - people who may stay in prison for the rest of their lives." He pointed to "a report authored by sixteen of our own government's intelligence agencies, a previous draft of which described, and I quote, "...actions by the United States government that were determined to have stoked the jihad movement, like the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay..." He summed up with a damning appraisal: "This is NOT how a serious Administration would approach the problem of terrorism."
Yes, as you've already guessed, that passionate dissenter was Senator Barack Obama. Yet you will notice that the Military Commissions Act is still in force; it received a few cosmetic changes in 2009, but it remains essentially intact, including the authoritarian powers of the president decried by the senator. Multitudes of captives remain locked up in the ever-swelling American gulag, which, although it has shifted its focus to Afghanistan, continues to include the still-unclosed, jihadi-stoking prison at Guantanamo Bay. The indefinite detention of prisoners has been eagerly championed by the senator turned president, who is seeking to entrench the practice deeply into American law. And once the young denouncer of the Bush approach to terrorism took power for himself, he quickly embraced that same approach almost in its entirety, defending its most egregious depredations – indefinite detention, illegal wiretapping, etc. – against all legal challenges, and even making personal assurances that no one from the previous administration would ever be prosecuted for instituting a vast apparatus of torture.
Indeed, aside from waterboarding – which had already been abandoned by the Bush Administration – it is unclear if any of the Bush torture techniques have been discontinued. As Andy Worthington notes, for example:
For eight and a half years, the US prison at Bagram airbase has been the site of a disturbing number of experiments in detention and interrogation, where murders have taken place, the Geneva Conventions have been shredded and the encroachment of the US courts — unlike at Guantánamo — has been thoroughly resisted.
In the last few months, there have been a few improvements — hearings, releases, even the promise of imminent trials — but behind this veneer of respectability, the US government’s unilateral reworking of the Geneva Conventions continues unabated, and evidence has recently surfaced of a secret prison within Bagram, where a torture program that could have been lifted straight from the Bush administration’s rule book is still underway.
And as Jason Leopold notes – in an excellent story which gives extensive background and context for the PHR report – the use of captives as guinea pigs for "enhancing interrogation techniques" is still going on under Obama:
Meanwhile, Obama's presence in the White House has not resulted in an abandonment of the research side of the interrogation program. Last March, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, who recently resigned, disclosed that the Obama administration's High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), planned on conducting "scientific research" to determine "if there are better way to get information from people that are consistent with our values."
"It is going to do scientific research on that long-neglected area," Blair said during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. He did not provide additional details as to what the "scientific research" entailed.
This would be the same Dennis Blair who also announced Obama's embrace – and entrenchment – of the universal murder principle claimed by Bush, whereby the American president can kill any person on earth by the simple expedient of dubbing his victim a "terrorist" or even a "suspected terrorist." As Leopold notes, Blair has now been ash-canned – apparently for insufficient sycophancy, or perhaps he was simply ousted in one of the grim power struggles that forever rage among the factions at the imperial court.
His replacement is yet another dim apparatchik from the bowels of the military-security complex, ex-general, ex-spy-eye-in-the-sky guy James Clapper. This "intelligence expert's" chief claim to fame is his earnest insistence that Saddam Hussein had transferred his bristling arsenal of non-existent weapons of mass destruction to Syria right before the American war of aggression in 2003 – a fairy story long touted by the defenders of that mass slaughter, even after Bush's own investigators confirmed the truth of what the Anglo-American intelligence agencies had known for many years (because Saddam's own son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, head of the WMD programs, had told them back in 1995): that Iraq's WMD programs had been dismantled just after the Gulf War – 12 years before the 2003 attack. Still, Clapper persisted in his propagation of this myth, as the Washington Times reports.
Of course, the Times, being the Times – the creation of a maniacal Korean arms peddler who pretends to be divine -- also says that the Syria-WMD story still "remains a matter of dispute." Well, yes it does – to the same degree that the spheroidicity of the earth remains "a matter of dispute" for handful of cranks. In any case, a crank of this order will shortly be guiding the nation's intelligence apparatus, thanks to the abiding progressive wisdom of the president.
And so on and on it goes. The horrors of the past keep belching up from the sulfurous deeps, only to be subsumed in the noxious "continuity" that engulfs the present.
Written by Chris Floyd
Thursday, 03 June 2010 23:38
Israel's deadly attack on the relief boat bound for Gaza almost defies comment. Its wanton criminality is so blatant and its "justifications" so transparently false that condemnation seems almost superfluous; the evil of the action is self-evident. Likewise, the reactions of the American power structure – timorous appeasement from the White House, unhinged bloodthirstiness from Congress – have been so wildly inappropriate and utterly divorced from reality that they can scarcely bear any serious consideration; they are simply roars of meaningless noise, set loose in hopes of drowning out the truth.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the incident (beside the loss of innocent life) is its glaring confirmation of this long-established, deeply destructive fact: there is no outrage that Israel can commit that the United States government will not countenance.
Of course, this has been true for decades, encompassing everything from the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, its illegal development of a nuclear arsenal, its decades of relentless espionage in the United States, its atrocities in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, its state-terror, collateral-damaging "targeted assassinations" around the world, its heinous apartheid wall, the open, often genocidal racism of many of its political and government leaders, its mass cluster-bombing at the end of its latest military aggression in Lebanon, its horrific civilian slaughter in its latest full-scale assault on Gaza, and the subsequent strangulation of Gaza, a war crime of collective punishment that resembles nothing so much as the Nazi ghettoization of Jews in Warsaw. And throughout all of this, the United States has given billions of dollars to Israel, year in, year out, decade after decade, to support its war machine and its structures of repression.
So in a very real sense, the current situation is nothing new at all. But it is also true that this atrocity-producing dynamic has become ever more frenzied since the launching of the bi-partisan, world-wide, multi-generational "War on Terror." There is no longer even any pretense of any red lines that Israel might cross that would lead to even the slightest diminution of American support. In any case, as Glenn Greenwald (among others) points out, the two nations now share fully and openly the same policies of torture, lawlessness, state terror (including assassination), military aggression, war profiteering and extremist, demonizing rhetoric aimed at keeping their populations roiled with fear, anger and confusion.
(In fact, the Americans kill far more innocent civilians in predominantly Muslim lands each year than the Israelis -- who, if only in this, might feel justifiably wronged in being singled out for international condemnation when their mentors and paymasters in Washington commit the same depredations on a much larger scale.)
It's true that part of the American elite's indulgence of Israel stems from the political clout of the "Jewish Lobby." And this influence, which traditionally weighed most heavily on the Democratic Party, has now been joined by the even more zealous -- not to say maniacal and mindless -- support for Israel from America's religious Right, which has almost entirely subsumed the Republican Party. Just as elite bipartisan consensus on military empire and unrestrained corporate oligarchy have eliminated institutional barriers to vast atrocities, crimes and follies in these areas, so too has the convergence of traditional Lobby clout and empowered religious extremism eliminated any real opposition in Washington to any Israeli policy or action.
But I believe there is an even deeper root to this "special relationship" -- and that's the process of "ethnic cleansing" and violent land-grabbing which is absolutely foundational to both nations. What the Americans did long ago -- drive the natives from the land by force, steal their territory and plant a new state there, reserved for the benefit of the "right" sort of people -- the Israelis are now trying to do in the Middle East. Even the same false tropes of justification are used: the natives were lazy and shiftless, they had not "improved" and exploited the land, and therefore had no legal or moral title to it. Then comes the fact-free claim that there weren't even many of these lower creatures to begin with: "a land without people for a people without land," the "virgin continent," just waiting to be populated. And finally, the land-grabbing and ethnic cleansing are hailed as part of a divine plan for God's chosen people, who by conquest, extermination and theft are to become "a light unto the nations," "the shining city on a hill."
This shared ethos is probably another reason why Israel continues its subjugation of the Palestinians with such relentless fervor -- because they know it can work. If you press the natives hard enough, for long enough, if you have the steel to "do whatever it takes" to crush their resistance -- as the Americans did with the Indians -- then you too might win out in the end. It can be done, because it has been done in history (and not just by the Americans, of course); it's a risky business, but for the Israeli elites, as for their American role models, the game is worth the candle.
At any rate, the latest incident will only embolden the Israelis to further atrocities, with the backing -- and often the weapons -- of the United States. Where this process will end is almost too harrowing to contemplate. I honestly believe that if the Israelis decided to "liquidate the ghetto" in Gaza, as was done in Warsaw, then you would see the American elite contorting themselves -- and the truth -- this way and that in order to justify the carnage.
And why not? An elite which has instigated the murder of more than a million people in Iraq -- in a ghastly operation hailed as "an extraordinary achievement" by the progressive peace laureate now in charge of the American war machine -- would certainly not blanch at a little liquidation by their protégés.
Hey man, it's all just payback for 9/11, right? And maybe for Custer as well.