Listen now to a further point: no mortal thing
Has a beginning, nor does it end in death and obliteration;
There is only a mixing and then a separating of what was mixed,
But by mortal men these processes are named 'beginnings.'
"Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion. Life is a train of moods like a string of beads, and as we pass through them they prove to be many-coloured lenses which paint the world their own hue, and each shows only what lies in its focus."
-- R.W. Emerson
*** A conversation during Civil War. (From Bright, Terrible Spirit):
"But in days past, I was a lawyer. Yes, a lawyer, can you believe it? It seems….ridiculous now, doesn't it? An orderly system meant to govern human society, to establish justice, to advance the progress and enlightenment of the human race. Yet that system, that civil cosmos – to which I was so passionately committed – embraced and protected the most wretched evils, entrenched the powerful in their unjust privilege, oppressed the poor and weak most relentlessly and wickedly, yet at every step – at every step – sang hosannas to itself as some kind of divinity. The "Law" – oh, what a hush of reverence surrounded that word, how deeply that reverence and respect penetrated the heart. Well, my heart, anyway. But in these last few years we have seen – in intense, concentrated, microscopic view – the truth about the law, a truth which too often escaped us in the slow unrolling of peacetime. The truth that there is no law, no Platonic Form out there to which we give paltry representation. There is only power: power in conflict with power, power seeking to drive out power, to establish its dominance, maintain its privilege. Power…acquiesces to law – sometimes – but it never, never bows to it. Power goes along with the law when it is convenient to do so, when it is not too restrictive, when it demands little more than the occasional sacrifice – for the powerful are certainly not above throwing one of their own to the mob when circumstances require. But when it comes to the crisis, power shreds the law like a filthy rag and has its own way. And then you see that the law is nothing but a rag, to be torn and patched and fitted to power's aims. The worst atrocities I have seen or heard of in this war have been committed wholly and completely under the law. This thing I held in such reverence was, is, nothing but a scrap soaked with blood and shit.
"I know there are philosophical arguments to be made against this viewpoint. I have made them in the past, and could even now conjure them up like spirits and make them dance before us. It would be a solace to me, to believe once again. But it would only last a moment. For I know what I know. I know what life has taught me, what it has shown me, I see the evidence laid clearly before me and the jury of my mind returns the inescapable, indisputable verdict. I can tell by your expression that you know what I'm talking about."
"I have some inkling, yes," Jim said, warily. He was reluctant to give away anything of his own troubled thoughts. He was also not entirely sure that Malcolm Stuart was sane. Where was this bleak outpouring headed? Toward some mad act of despair? Or was it simply the overflow of a long-pent mind, giving vent to some of its pressures?
The dead sun drew
a smile of blood across my face,
spoke to me through
the shadow of my voice:
Man, it said, this might be next to nothing
and drawn through a bitter tap,
but it's all you'll ever have.
Don't spill a drop.
-- John Glenday, from Grain
And here's Emerson again, on organ, with a backing band:
Well, that wasn't exactly the headline – but it was the truth behind the reports about the vote in the House of Representatives to tighten the ligature of sanctions around the neck of Iran, as Antiwar.com reports. In accordance with the "diplomacy" of the Peace Laureate in the Oval Office, the House wants to "cripple" the Iranian economy by starving the human beings who live there of gasoline and other vital goods necessary to maintain a modicum of ordinary life.
In other words, the popularly elected leaders of the world's greatest democracy – champions of liberty, justice and human rights – want to stop ambulances from transporting sick and dying children to the hospital. They want whole families to burn to death, whole city blocks to go up in flames while fuelless fire trucks stand idle. They want deliveries of food and medicine to grind to a halt, setting off spirals of starvation, disease, chaos and vast suffering. They want to see tens of millions of innocent human beings driven into a low and brutal level of subsistence, to languish, diminish – and die – in deprivation and misery. This is what they want to see happen. This is the clear intent of their "diplomatic" strategy.
And why are they doing this? Because – ostensibly because – the government of Iran is pursuing the development of a nuclear energy program in accordance with international treaties and under international supervision. And if the above condign punishment of millions of innocent people does not force the government of Iran to give up this legal, carefully inspected program, then the champions of liberty, justice and human rights have proclaimed their intent to unilaterally attack Iran with all the "options" at their command, up to and including the "option" of immolating multitudes of innocent human beings with nuclear weapons.
Now, the government of Iran is an odious regime. Not nearly as odious as, say, the regime of America's staunch ally in the region, Saudi Arabia, of course, but odious enough. But as restrictive as it has been to its own citizens, it has not – in the last decade alone – launched and maintained massive wars of aggression and domination that have killed, by direct and collateral hand, more than a million innocent people. The bipartisan champions of liberty, justice and human rights in Washington have done that, and are doing that.
They seek to break Iran not because it is an odious regime, but because it defies the imperial will, and balks the bipartisan imperial agenda to impose domination on the oil lands. If Iran agreed to become an American client state tomorrow, it would not matter in the least how odious its regime might be -- as we saw in the long, atrocious decades when America's pet tyrant, Reza Pahlavi, ruled there. But because Iran has not agreed to this, it is now a target for decimation: by sanctions and the ongoing campaign of American-backed terrorism and covert operation (all of which are themselves acts of war, including most emphatically the sanctions, as noted here recently), or else by direct military action by American war machine or its proxy in Israel.
And that is why we hear the constant regurgitation of ludicrous charges from our national leaders on the "great threat" that Iran poses to the entire planet. Indeed, Harry Reid, the leading Democrat in the United States Senate -- lauding the House vote and licking his chops to advance this escalation bill to final approval in his bailiwick -- declared that Iran was "a festering sore in the world": crude, dehumanizing language familiar to anyone with even the slightest knowledge of Nazi propaganda. Reid went on:
"As [the House] get [the bill] out, I will move everything within my power to move it to the floor [of the Senate] The Middle East is unstable. This will help stabilize it."
Just think of the towering stupidity of that remark. Whatever else you might say about tightening sanctions on Iran -- even if you believed it was the right thing to do -- the one thing you could not say is that such a move will "help stabilize" the Middle East. Indeed, Iran hawks of every stripe -- from the sanctionist strangulators to the bomb-em-now brigade -- openly, even proudly aver that their ultimate aim is to overthrow the current Iranian regime: that is, to greatly, vastly, decisively de-stabilize the Middle East by bringing down one of its most powerful governments. And of course, the sanctions themselves -- like all the other war measures launched by the United States against Iran, and like all the aggressive, constant threats to attack, punish, even obliterate Iran -- are clearly and deliberately aimed at provoking retaliation by the Tehran government: blowback which will, by design, make the Middle East more unstable ... thus 'justifying' whatever measures the United States takes to further its dominationist agenda.
Reid knows this, of course. He does not believe -- not for a single nano-second -- that tightening the noose around Iran's neck will "help stabilize" the Middle East. But he -- like our entire bipartisan foreign policy establishment -- thinks that you are stupid enough to believe it.
Reid's warmongering lies were echoed by another top Democrat, Rep. Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who, as AFP reports, forthrightly declared that "the world faces no security threat greater than the prospect of a nuclear Iran."
O lucky world! The greatest thing we have to fear -- in all the world -- is the prospect that Iran -- whose leaders consistently denounce even the idea of nuclear weapons as the gravest sin, and whose nuclear energy program (we repeat for the nth time) is under the closest international supervision ever imposed on a nation -- might, somehow, someday, produce a nuclear weapon. If the mere prospect of this remote possibility is the greatest thing we have to fear in the modern world, then by Godfrey we are in a lot better shape than I thought.
But again, none of this is true. And Berman -- even though he is one of many Congressfolk who seem to believe that they actually represent a district located somewhere between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea -- knows it is not true. He knows, as any sentient being knows, that even if Iran did produce a nuclear weapon, it would not and could not pose an "existential threat" to Israel -- or to the United States for that matter. Any nuclear attack by Iran on Israel would result in a massive retaliation from Israel's nuclear arsenal (obtained and maintained illegally, outside any international treaty or supervision). And even if Israel had no nukes, a nuclear attack by Tehran in the close quarters of the Middle East would rain deadly fallout back on Iran itself. Not to mention the distinct possibility of retaliation by the United States -- or indeed Russia or any number of nuclear states who would feel threatened by this wanton, self-destructive act of nuclear aggression.
In any case, all of this speculation -- every bit of it -- is itself the purest fantasy. It is not going to happen -- and our champions of liberty, justice and human rights who sit ensconced in the midst of thousands of nuclear weapons while directing wars of aggression -- know it is not going to happen. The "Iranian threat," as promulgated by the leaders of both parties in the United States, is the basest of falsehoods -- as the promulgators themselves well know.
I realize it is deeply insulting to the intelligence of anyone with a modicum of intelligence to point out these glaringly, tediously obvious facts -- but when you are dealing with the vast amount of crude, Nazi-like propaganda that daily inundates the American people on the subject of Iran, this kind of waste treatment is necessary.
Clinton declared that “we do not have the right to resort to violence — or the threat of violence — when we don’t get our way. “
Unless you’re the government.
The four million Americans arrested for marijuana violations during Clinton’s reign were victims of government violence and government threats of violence. The “fact” that Clinton never inhaled did not prevent the drug war from ravaging far more lives during his time in office. The number of people arrested for drug offenses rose by 73% between 1992 and 1997. The Clinton administration bankrolled the militarization of local police, sowing the seeds for a scourge of no-knock raids at wrong addresses and a massive increase in efforts to intimidate average citizens in big cities around the country....
Clinton’s Iraq policy relied on systemic violence. The U.S. was the lead country in enforcing and perpetuating the blockade on Iraq that resulted in hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dying. U.S. planes carried out hundreds of bombing runs on Iraq, and volleys of American cruise missiles slammed his country during his reign.
Bill Clinton has often acted like his 78-day bombing assault on Serbia in 1999 was his finest hour... Clinton’s bombing campaign killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Serb civilians. From intentionally bombing a television station, Belgrade neighborhoods, power stations, bridges (regardless of the number of people on them at the time), to “accidentally” bombing a bus (killing 47 people), a passenger train, marketplaces, hospitals, apartment buildings, and the Chinese embassy, the rules of engagement for U.S. bombers guaranteed that many innocent people would be killed. ...
All of this is true enough. Even so, I think the New York Times is to be praised for giving the Big Ole Dawg this platform on the anniversary of the bombing. After all, if you want to know about the use of extremist violence in politics, why not ask an expert?
Arthur Silber is back, with piercing insights that rip the veil which even self-proclaimed dissenters still draw across the blood-soaked reality of what Silber aptly calls the "Death State" that has long "wrapped the world in flames" (to quote the preferred method of resolving diplomatic conflicts famously voiced by Abe Lincoln's secretary of state) from its mephitic base on the Potomac.
As always with Silber, you must read the whole piece (and follow the links) to get the full force of the argument, which is nuanced, multifarious and deeply considered, but here is just the briefest excerpt to send you on your way:
I repeat a few words I first wrote at the beginning of 2009...:
For more than a hundred years, the foreign policy of the United States government has been directed to the establishment and maintenance of global dominance. To this end, violence, overthrow, conquest and murder have been utilized as required ... More and more, oppression and brutalization have become the bywords of domestic policy as well. Today, the United States as a political entity is a corporatist-authoritarian-militarist monstrosity: its major products are suffering, torture, barbarism and death on a huge scale.
I repeat the fundamental point to make certain there is no misunderstanding as to where I stand on this question: as a political entity, the United States is an endlessly destructive monstrosity. The overwhelming majority of people -- including, I regret to say, even many of those who are severely critical of the United States government -- fail to understand this point in anything close to the thorough and consistent manner required. This failure is the result of an earlier one: an inability to grasp fully what it means to revere the sacred value of a single human life.
When you've done that, scoot on over to Truthdig, where you will find William Pfaff writing in a similar vein about the bloody deceptions of the Death State: past, present -- and future. Some excerpts:
It is a dismaying reflection that the facilitators of major violence thus far in the 21st century have been lies told by democratic governments. The lies are continuing to be told, about the supposed “existential” menace posed by Iran to Israel, America and (if you believe some European leaders) Western Europe ... Injustice and lies in the Middle East were responsible for unnecessary new wars in the new century, in which the United States took the lead. This time the lies were ideologically motivated and expedient lies—first, that Saddam Hussein bore responsibility for the September 2001 attacks on United States. He did not.
Next was the fiction that Hussein’s government, during the period of U.N. sanctions before 2003, was able to secretly construct nuclear weapons, despite the efforts of Western intelligence to detect them or deter him, and the presence of U.N. inspectors. There were no such weapons. ...
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reportedly sent a secret letter to President Barack Obama in January reviewing the military options available if diplomacy and the new American attempt to intensify international sanctions on Iran fail to produce the desired halt in Iran’s effort, if that is what it is, to build a nuclear deterrent. If Iran does pursue a nuclear capability, once again it is to deter attack. Precisely the same objection exists to theories of Iranian aggression as to those lies put forward in 2002-03 about Iraq posing a nuclear menace to the world. Once more, the threat is a polemical invention, intended to frighten American and Israeli (and European) voters and to prompt a preemptive attack on Iran ...
The release of Gates' memo was part of the usual factional cat-fighting among the militarist courtiers: some want to attack Iran now, some want to wait until later -- or as that great liberal-progressive hero Admiral Fallon once said of the human beings in Iran: "These guys are ants. When the time comes, you crush them." For now, most of the factionalists lean toward the Fallon scenario: crush the insects later, when we don't have so much on our plate, and it will be more profitable.
And thus the Nobel Peace Laureate who is temporarily managing the Death State is now pushing hard for even more sanctions on the Iranians for the crime of ... developing a nuclear energy program as allowed by international treaty and inspected to a fare-thee-well by international observers. The defenders of the Nobelist -- I suppose we must call him the Death Laureate -- point to his push for sanctions as proof of his "different" approach to the "threat" of Iran. But what is the reality of such sanctions? Again, Arthur Silber nailed it well, in a piece from 2009:
A sanctions regime is not an alternative to war: it is the prelude to attack or invasion. Moreover, sanctions murder a hideous number of innocent people as surely as more overt acts of war.
We estimate between 500,000 to 1 million Iraqis died in the 1990s, a very large proportion being children. To what end? Not, Lando maintains, to destroy Saddam Hussein's WMDs but to force him out. ... The CIA badly miscalculated that sanctions, coupled with Iraq's devastating defeat, would result in a military coup, toppling Saddam. Anything but. The sanctions and Saddam's heightened repression insured his survival--much to the frustration of Western leaders ... The sanctions worked only as partly intended: They imposed untold suffering on the population. Americans at the UN blocked a request to ship baby food because adults might use it. They vetoed sending a heart pill that contained a milligram of cyanide because tens of thousands of such pills could become a lethal weapon. The banned list included filters for water treatment plants, vaccines, cotton swabs and gauze, children's clothes, funeral shrouds. Somehow, even Vietnamese pingpong balls found their way to the proscribed list.
Sanctions devastated the country's medical system, once one of the best in the region. Sanctions insured that malnutrition would morph into virtual death sentences, as Lando notes. Babies died in incubators because of power failures; others were crippled with cerebral palsy because of insufficient oxygen supplies. ...
In late 1994 the New York Times reported on children in filthy hospitals, dying with diarrhea and pneumonia, people desperately seeking food, and Iraq's inability to sell its oil--the country faced "famine and economic collapse." Without doubt, the sanctions consolidated Saddam's power. UN Administrator Denis Halliday wrote that the people blamed the United States and the UN for their travails, not Saddam Hussein. Halliday resigned, refusing to administer a program that he called "genocide."
This is what "tough" sanctions by a progressive, humanitarian interventionist can do. And this is the kind of thing the Iranians have to look forward to -- while they wait to be consumed in a mushroom cloud, that is.
For as we all know, Laureate Obama and his Pentagon warlord recently made the threatened nuclear destruction of the millions of human beings in Iran a centerpiece of their new, "more restrained" nuclear weapons doctrine. As John Caruso notes (see original for links):
Obama is also on the record as stating that "I think we should keep all options on the table" with regard to Iran. That's the standard language in which US nuclear threats are couched, of course, and US politicians are careful to stick to that formulation in order to allow apologists to argue that they didn't mean what they clearly meant. But Obama's Secretary of Defense gave the game away in his remarks about the Nuclear Policy Review:
SEC. GATES: Well, I think that the -- I actually think that the NPR has a very strong message for both Iran and North Korea, because whether it's in declaratory policy or in other elements of the NPR, we essentially carve out states like Iran and North Korea that are not in compliance with NPT.
And basically, all options are on the table when it comes to countries in that category, along with non-state actors who might acquire nuclear weapons.
So if there is a message for Iran and North Korea here, it is that if you're going to play by the rules, if you're going to join the international community, then we will undertake certain obligations to you, and that's covered in the NPR. But if you're not going to play by the rules, if you're going to be a proliferator, then all options are on the table in terms of how we deal with you.
So let's put this together:
1. The Nuclear Posture Review (PDF) declares that "the United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations."
2. Gates says this language is specifically intended to "carve out states like Iran and North Korea." And for these states, as Gates stated repeatedly, ...
3. ..."all options are on the table." So Gates is explicitly threatening that the United States may use nuclear weapons to "deal with" Iran and North Korea.
4. Finally, Obama reiterated both his and Gates' threat that "all options are on the table" when he said his administration's purpose is to "sustain our nuclear deterrent" for Iran and North Korea, furthermore stating that this threat is intended as an "incentive" to those nations.
To summarize: the Obama administration has just made an explicit nuclear threat against Iran and North Korea, for the political goal of coercing them into complying with the US interpretation of their NPT obligations.
This is the Department of Defense's official definition of terrorism:
(DOD) The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.
So the "threat of unlawful violence...intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political" is terrorism. Or in other words, by the DoD's own definition, Barack Obama is a terrorist—and given that his threats involve the use of nuclear weapons, it follows straightforwardly that Obama is more specifically a nuclear terrorist. And not only is he a nuclear terrorist; as the one person who has access to a massive nuclear arsenal, the stated willingness to use it outside of the realm of direct self-defense, and the power to follow through on that threat, Barack Obama is currently the only nuclear terrorist on the entire planet.
Nuclear terrorism is of course the logical endpoint of a Death State. And as Caruso rightly notes, Barack Obama constantly, ceaselessly threatens Iran with nuclear destruction -- and has done so from the very start of his campaign for the presidency. The continual, open threat to murder millions of innocent, defenseless human beings is indeed "an evil monstrosity" -- one so gargantuan that very few people seem able to grasp its reality.
But Silber sees through, and sees true. We are once more in his debt for fixing our eyes on the sulfurous essence of Death State, behind all the sound and fury of the factional squabbles of our most monstrous elites.
The other day I was reading the New York Review of Books in a bookstore café. I saw a large ad in the bottom corner of a page; it began with this quote, in bold capitals:
"WHY IS IT A CRIME FOR ONE MAN TO MURDER ANOTHER, BUT NOT FOR A GOVERNMENT TO KILL MORE THAN A MILLION PEOPLE?"
My first reaction, before I read further, was a feeling of surprise that someone had articulated the case against the Iraq war so clearly – and had bought expensive space in the magazine to bring this unpunished, unrepented – indeed, unacknowledged – war crime to the national consciousness again.
A moment later, I saw that it was actually an ad for an exhibition in New York City about Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish exile and U.S. government advisor who first coined the term and developed the concept of "genocide." Under a picture of Lemkin's wartime government ID card, the ad goes on: "Before Raphael Lemkin, that kind of killing had no name. Today we know it as genocide." Then comes the title of the exhibition:
Letters of Conscience: Raphael Lemkin and the Quest to End Genocide.
The life and work of Raphael Lemkin is a worthy topic for an exhibition, of course, and I wish it all success. But still, I was struck by how aptly his words described our own situation. For by the same scientific measurement tools used by the U.S. and UK governments to determine the extent of mass slaughters in Rwanda, Darfur and other places around the world, the war of aggression launched by those two governments against Iraq in 2003 has by now resulted in the death of more than one million Iraqis.
This, from a war launched unilaterally by the Anglo-American alliance without UN sanction, against a nation that had not attacked them, had not threatened to attack them, was not capable of attacking them – and had no connection whatsoever to the 9/11 attacks, which even today are cited as the main reason for the invasion of Iraq. Just a few weeks ago, Tony Blair was passionately defending the unprovoked attack by saying that 9/11 "changed everything," and meant that the Anglo-American alliance could not "take the risk" that Iraq might, at some point, somehow, pose some kind of threat to the two rich, powerful, nuclear-armed nations thousands of miles away.
And of course, the invading soldiers themselves had been indoctrinated with the idea that the rape of Iraq was "payback for 9/11," as numerous news stories cited at the time (such as this one, which John Caruso reminded us of just the other day). This attitude was likewise shared by the great and good of American establishment, such as prominent, prize-winning liberal columnist Thomas Friedman, who famously said that 9/11 meant that the United States had to strike at some Muslim country – "we could have hit Saudi Arabia…could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could" – as revenge for the attacks. That is, the U.S. government had to attack and destroy an entire nation because of what the U.S. government itself said was a terrorist attack by 19 stateless, renegade extremists. And this, even if the target country had no connection with the attack. That is, hundreds of thousands of innocent people were required to die as "payback for 9/11"; it didn't matter who they were, or where they were, as long as they were Muslims. This was the mindset of the centrist, mainstream, honored, respected American elite, as expressed by one of its most honored and respected representatives.
Recall too that by the time the unprovoked invasion was launched in March 2003, the Anglo-American alliance had by its own admission already killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children (not counting adults) through the draconian sanctions the alliance ruthlessly enforced against the people of Iraq. This record of mass death was publicly defended by then Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who said that the cost of the sanctions – at that time, 500,000 Iraqi children – was "worth it." And this was in 1996; the murderous sanctions had seven more years to run.
This then is the background of the still on-going war and occupation: A minimum of a million dead – most of them children – before the first shot was even fired in the March 2003 invasion. A bare minimum of a million people – the overwhelming majority of them innocent, non-combatant civilians – killed by the war and the ravening chaos it unleashed across Iraqi society.
But not a single person has ever faced trial, or censure, or even the slightest personal inconvenience for the murder of more than 2 million Iraqis over the past two decades. The bipartisan perpetrators of these crimes – the leading lights of the Clinton and Bush Administrations – live ensconced in comfort and privilege. Many of them of Clinton’s associates – including his wife – are once more in power in the Obama Administration. Many of Bush’s associates – including his Pentagon chief, most of his top generals, and his intelligence apparatchiks – are still in office. Other accomplices of these two militarist factions are biding their time in profitable sinecures until the turning of the courtier’s wheel brings them back to the palace halls again. And of course, Barack Obama himself has hailed the perpetuation of the Iraqi war crime as an “extraordinary” accomplishment, even as he continues to protect, entrench and expand the blood-drenched policies of his predecessors.
And so even the work of Raphael Lemkin is being celebrated in New York City, the question he raised at the end of the Second World War still casts its condemning echoes across the bipartisan political elite of the United States today:
"WHY IS IT A CRIME FOR ONE MAN TO MURDER ANOTHER, BUT NOT FOR A GOVERNMENT TO KILL MORE THAN A MILLION PEOPLE?"
Raphael Lemkin dreamed that this question would be laid to rest by the machinery of international law and an evolutionary leap in humanity’s moral consciousness. But today we can see that the answer is – as another American visionary has put it – blowing in the wind: the howling wind of the depravity of power.