Empire Burlesque
Sign Language: Dazzled by Atrocity’s Distant Mirror
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 03 June 2014 15:42

Here's my latest column for CounterPunch magazine. I usually wait until it's been out for awhile to post it here, but as the story in question is already fading from public consciousness (as all blazingly important stories tend to do in a matter of days -- or hours, or minutes -- in what Gore Vidal aptly termed the United States of Amnesia), I thought I'd put it up a little earlier this time.

***

Can you see me? Can you see me? I’m holding up a sign. It’s a sign expressing my outrage at an atrocious event in a country far away. It’s a sign showing my solidarity with the victims of violent extremism.

I took a picture of myself with this sign. I posted the picture on social media, so everyone can see it, so everyone can know how outraged I am at this thing that has happened that I heard about on the news. I want everyone to know that I am taking responsibility — no, I am taking ownership of this situation. It is happening to me just as certainly as it is happening to the victims. In fact, the victims actually belong to me. They are “ours” — that’s what my sign says.

“Bring back our girls!” The girls who were kidnapped from that place somewhere in Africa by that group I’d never heard of before the story about this thing was on the news and started trending on Twitter. They took “our girls,” the girls who belong to us — our girls, the girls we have cared about for so long, living there in that country in Africa where nothing has ever happened until this thing happened and got tweeted about the other night. And when I saw other people were taking pictures of themselves holding up a sign about “our girls” — including Michelle Obama; how cool was that! — I downloaded a sign from this website and printed it out and I made a picture of myself with it and put it on the internet to make that group give me back the girls who belong to me and the other people who made signs about this thing.

Then I saw somebody on Facebook said there was this rally for the girls who belong to us because we have always cared about people like them so deeply for so long — anyway, there was this rally down at the park to show that group that sounds like that Sixties band but of course is actually much worse than them that their evil will not stand. And they said that Anne Hathaway — from Les Mis! — was going to be at the rally with a megaphone and one of the signs like the one I’d made a picture of myself holding and put on the internet, where I hope you’ve seen it and retweeted it to all your friends.

And so I went down to the park and sure enough there was Anne, with a megaphone and this great Mexican-looking scarf and some really killer designer shades and she was standing next to her husband, who was holding a sign telling the Bokos to bring back our girls — because they are our girls just as much as they are the girls of that country where this thing happened — and Anne is shouting into the megaphone, asking all of us: “Do we agree with these cowards?”

And do you know what? There was not a single person in the whole crowd who agreed with raiding a school and kidnapping girls and holding them captive. Not even one person agreed. And so we shouted back to Anne: “No, Anne, we don’t agree!” And while we shouted we waved our signs about bringing back our girls, and took pictures of each other waving our signs and then posted those pictures on the internet. And that showed those Harum Scarum people that they cannot keep what belongs to us — those girls from that place — because we care so much and we do not accept violent extremism in any form.

But hey, L.A. was a great place to stand up for human rights that week. The night before the thing with Anne Hathaway and our girls, President Obama himself was in town, at the Hyatt in Century City. Some kind of Holocaust foundation thing was giving him an award as an “Ambassador for Humanity” for all his efforts to protect human rights. I wasn’t invited of course and anyway I was printing out my sign that night and taking my picture, but I saw on the internet that all kinds of important people were there, like Steven Spielberg and Liam Neeson (the German guy who saved all the Jews) and Kim Kardashian and also even Bruce Springsteen. And Obama gave a speech and got all choked up talking about our girls in Africa and in Syria, I think; or maybe it was Iraq, but I don’t think he mentioned Iraq. I did see way down in the Twitter feed about the story — people had been tweeting the jokes Conan O’Brien made at the award thing — somebody started talking about Yemen, I think it was, and droning on about drones and death squads or something but then they got blocked because the feed was meant to be honoring the president for protecting human rights, not ragging on the guy about every little thing.

I think it would have been cool if the President had held up a sign that night about our girls like Michelle did, but of course it was a solemn occasion — except for Conan’s funny bits! — about respecting the sacredness of all human life. But I know he was holding a sign in his heart and like Anne Hathaway was not agreeing with those cowards killing people and terrorizing innocent lives.

Can you see me? Should I post it again?

 
It's All Good, Again: 'Uptick' in the American-Made Tides of Violence in Iraq
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Thursday, 25 June 2009 09:36
From the very beginning of the abomination that is the American war in Iraq, imperial courtiers have pushed the same line: every act of mass slaughter in the occupied land was actually an encouraging development -- a sign that the insurgents were "getting desperate," that "dead-enders" were launching last-gasp efforts, unable to derail the bounty of liberty and peace that America's paternal goodness had bestowed upon the Iraqi people.

This has held true from the first suicide attacks following George W. Bush's declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in the spring of 2003 and all through the mounting violence that has claimed more than a million innocent lives. The only exception was during the height of the genocidal fury of 2006, when the forces unleashed and empowered and assisted by the American occupiers carried out a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against fierce resistance. The American elite suffered a slight wobble at that point, putting together a conclave of worthies in the "Iraq Study Group" to suggest ways to tamp down the raging PR disaster. (And that's all there was to the ISG plan; they were never going to pull out of Iraq.) The whole episose could be seen as yet another sorry chapter in the saga of the ghoulish, goonish family that somehow came to hold sway in American affairs for almost three decades, with Daddy Bush's factotums guiding the ISG, while Junior Bush brushed them off and consulted his own little circle of militarist agitators to find a way to continue the war but get it off the front pages.

This was, of course, the famous "surge," which saw a fresh influx of not-so-fresh American troops, blanketing the country and helping consolidate the gains of the ethnic cleansing campaign for the occupier's favored factions. The ultimate result was the violent demographic shift -- including the forced migration of 4 million people -- and mass murder that is the foundation of the American-propped Maliki regime. Its sole purpose was to ensure that the war continued, and that the American military presence could be more deeply embedded in the client state.

The levels of violence did drop from the horrific heights of 2006 and 2007 -- again, partly because the American-assisted ethnic cleansing had been so successful. (In much the same way, there was a significant drop in Nazi violence against Jews in, say, Poland -- after the Nazis had killed most of the Jews in Poland.) But the violence in Iraq never went away; the conquered land remained one of the most dangerous places on earth, and very few of the 4 million refugees felt safe enough to return home. (And in many cases, their "ethnically cleansed" homes were no longer available to them.) And of course, the million dead are still dead -- and the millions more maimed, broken, ruined, grieved and traumatized are still suffering.

And now that the Americans and their Iraqi clients have reneged on their payoff deal with the Sunni insurgents they bribed to keep quiet during the surge, we are seeing the inevitable "uptick" in violence (to borrow Joe Biden's atrociously dismissive term for the coming slaughter in Obama's Afghanistan "surge"). More than 150 people have been killed in just two bombings of Shi'ite sites in the past five days.

And right on cue, the Obama Administration trots out the same old platitudes: "Nothing to worry about, nothing to see here, things are just hunky-dorry, don't sweat the small stuff, it's all good." Or as Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell put it:

"Despite the fact that you've seen sporadic high-profile attacks still taking place in Iraq, the overall security climate is a good one and we remain at all-time lows."

"All-time lows" means that, on average, "only" a few dozen or more are murdered in war-spawned violence each and every month of the year. The Obama mouthpiece then tried to blame the "sporadic" mass slaughters on the "Status of Forces Agreement," which calls for American troops to withdraw from Iraqi cities by the end of June. This is all part of an overall "withdrawal" plan concocted by the Bush Regime and their client Maliki, and adopted, with only the slightest modifications, by Barack Obama as his own. Naturally, both the "withdrawal from cities" this month and the promised "withdrawal of all combat troops" from the country in August 2010 are riddled with "exceptions." For example, Americans will remain thoroughly ensconced in strategic points inside the city of Baghdad (not least in the massive Crusader fortress they are building in the Green Zone), while continuing to "assist" Iraqi military operations in all Iraqi cities. And of course, the long-range "withdrawal" plan will leave tens of thousands of American troops on the ground in Iraq -- again, "assisting" and "training" Iraqi forces.

The recent "uptick" (and yes, Morrell used that very word in his spin session) is just part of the endless ebb and flow of death that the bipartisan American war on Iraq has set in motion. These bloodsoaked tides will continue to "surge" across the conquered land as the years of America's military implantation drag on and on -- and no doubt for long afterward.

"But you know what they say, man: It's all good." -- Bob Dylan
 
Hebrew Lessons: America's Secret Lexicon and the 'Synagogue of Satan'
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 24 June 2009 23:17
I.
Jonathan Schwarz points out how that bastion of the "secular-humanist liberal media," CBS, edited the new release of Nixon tapes in order to protect the reputation of the national saint of Bible-believing conservatives, Billy Graham.

The latest release of White House conversations secretly taped by Richard Nixon shows the elite's favorite evangelist spewing venomous invective about Jews. Responding to Nixon's ostensible worry that America might be gripped by Nazi or Franco-style anti-semitism if Jews "don't start behaving," Graham replies with the time-honored wisdom that made him the confidant and confessor of presidents for generations:

Well, you know I told you one time that the bible talks about two kinds of Jews. One is called the Synagogue of Satan. They're the ones putting out the pornographic literature. They're the ones putting out these obscene films.

This is the bit that CBS snipped out of the conversation, leaving only an innocuous statement by Graham about Jews' "usefulness" to God. Schwarz also notes that Nixon's warning about Jewish behavior had nothing to do with Israeli militarism, as the CBS story claims; it was in fact a response to "Graham being angry about a rabbi criticizing a new attempt at widespread evangelism." Schwarz concludes:

The whole thing is well worth listening to if you're a connoisseur of the psychosis of the people who run this planet. My favorite part is the repeated tongue baths Graham bestows on Nixon, assuring him the country loves him and he may well be the greatest president in history.

II.
There is of course nothing really new in the latest tapes. Nixon and Graham's fascinating dialogues about Jews have already entered the public record. I first wrote about this issue more than seven years ago, in The Moscow Times, showing also how Graham also helped sow the seeds of anti-semitism in yet another of his elite charges: George W. Bush.

Picture this: the skulking ruler of a corrupt and vicious regime, hunkered down in his palace, besieged by the forces of good as he plots to unleash weapons of mass destruction on his "satanic" foes across the sea. Accused of war crimes and military aggression, he cynically turns to religion, often calling in the leader of the country's largest fundamentalist sect to lend "moral" support to the criminal regime. Together, the ruler and the holy man engage in frenzied diatribes against the enemies of the state, especially that sinister conspiratorial power lurking behind every eruption of evil in the world – the Jews.

A portrait of Saddam Hussein, raging desperately as he braces for the final reckoning at the hands of history's avenging angel, George W. Bush? No, it's just our ole pal Tricky Dick – Nixon, that is, not Cheney – back from the dead in White House tapes released this week: yet another star turn from the Founding Father of modern U.S. politics.

In the tapes, recorded in early 1972, we find Nixon hankering to hurl his nuclear thunderbolts at Vietnam – standard Cold War ranting for the apostate Quaker, who first suggested nuking 'Nam back in 1954. More relevant to the current scene is the Jew-bashing duet Nixon shares with the American elite's favorite fire-breathing evangelical, the Reverend (sic) Billy Graham.

Graham has – not to put too fine a point on it – sucked from the teat of American power for more than 50 years, lending his "moral authority" to various presidents (usually when they're in political hot water) then leveraging the resultant publicity into boffo box office for his stadium harangues around the world. He is perhaps best known in recent years for a miracle that changed the course of human history – saving the soul of the aforementioned angel, G.W. Bush.

Bush credits Graham with "planting the seeds" of fundamentalist faith in his pre-presidential person during a family gathering in 1985. Graham was visiting the Bush clan's luxurious compound in Maine, mooching free meals and sucking up to the sitting vice president, Daddy Bush. (Well, what else should a disciple of Christ be doing? Breaking bread with the poor or something? Get real.)

At that time, of course, young George was in wastrel mode, boozing it up and losing millions of dollars of other people's money in the oil companies Daddy's friends gave him to play with. But the meeting with Graham struck a chord in the lost soul, as Bush himself (or rather his ghostwriter) tells it, in properly hagiographic tones: "[Graham] sat by the fire and talked. And what he said sparked a change in my heart. I don't remember the exact words. It was more the power of his example. The Lord was so clearly reflected in his gentle and loving demeanor."

That divine emanation was somewhat occluded in the Nixon meeting, where Graham heatedly denounced "satanic Jews" and warned Nixon that the "Jewish stranglehold" on the national media "has got to be broken or the country's going down the drain." The Lord-reflecting preacher then gently and lovingly described how he turned the Jews' two-faced perfidy against them with wily Christian deception of his own.

"A lot of Jews are great friends of mine," Graham begins with gentle, loving sarcasm. "They swarm around me and are friendly to me, because they know I am friendly to Israel and so forth. But they don't know how I really feel about what they're doing to this country, and I have no power and no way to handle them."

Graham chortles heartily when Nixon's toady and enforcer, H.R. Haldeman (the Karl Rove of his day) tells him to "wear a Jewish beanie" at an upcoming meeting with Time Magazine editors. And he yearns for a Nixon re-election later in the year: "Then we might be able to do something" about those nefarious Hebrews, says Graham.

As with Bush, Graham's potent spiritual seed found fertile ground in Nixon. "It's good we got this point about the Jews across," the president says after the meeting. "The Jews are an irreligious, atheistic, immoral bunch of bastards."

This week Graham issued a most Nixonian reply to the taped revelations, saying he had "no memory" of the occasion, but even so, he "deeply regretted" comments he "apparently made" during the meeting. "Apparently?" Perhaps those "satanic Jews" doctored the tape, eh, Billy? As it says in the Gospels: "When the sins of thy past confront thee, always use a weasel-word to squirm thy way out."

These days, the elderly Graham is too frail to whack the Bible leather on the road anymore. His place has been taken by his son, Franklin, who runs the racket along the same old lines: hell-fire for the common folk, political cover for the high and mighty. Indeed, Franklin was called upon by the skulking ruler of yet another corrupt and vicious regime in January 2001, when he showered the Lord's blessing on the illicit inauguration of the unelected wastrel whom Daddy Graham put on the road to glory all those years ago.

Meanwhile, Bush is still faithful to his Imam's teaching. He believes Jews are damned to eternal torment unless they adopt his own pinched and primitive fundamentalist faith -- an opinion that once landed him in hot water with his less jihadic mother. Alarmed at her son's ignorant intolerance, she called – who else? – Graham to set Junior straight. Graham's response? "I happen to agree with what George says."

Well, he would, wouldn't he?

III.
Graham's janus-faced enmity -- supporting Israeli militarism while hiding what he "really feels" about Jews -- is still very much alive among the American elite. (And not just among the elite, of course.) The marriage of convenience -- or rather, the three-way orgy -- between Likudnik Jews and America's imperial militarists and Christian nationalists -- has obscured the fundamental hatred and distrust of Jews that underlies much of the nation's political discourse. For example, veteran cognoscenti have long known that "liberal media" is a code word for "the Jews" -- cast as wily, relentless corruptors of America's pure soul, with their promotion of immoral movies, jungle be-bop music, investigative journalism and what all. Indeed, in the subterranean American lexicon, the term "liberal" itself has long denoted a) Jews; b) uppity darkies duped by Jews, and c) white commies and race traitors in league with Jews to destroy America.

And if you think this template doesn't lie buried but percolating in the amygdala of America's cultural brain, then brother, you don't know these here United States at all. Of course, as with almost every anti-semitic elite down through the ages, there are also many "good Jews" around -- as Graham himself noted. In our day, these are the Jews who support America's imperial agenda and help keep down the "recalcitrant tribes" of the Middle East, in much the same manner as the American elite's illustrious forbears cleaned out those pesky redskins. In fact, with Israeli society now hurtling headlong into a quasi-fascist fortress state, there are probably more "good Jews" of this stripe than there have been in a long time -- perhaps ever.

But of course, most Jews are not imperial stooges or ethnic cleansers -- and these clearly belong to the "Synagogue of Satan" (with Noam Chomsky as High Priest, perhaps.) The American amygdala still pulses with a primitive fear response at the thought of these impure Others: Nixon's "irreligious, atheistic, immoral bunch of bastards," still potently evoked by the masking term "liberal."

NOTE: One should not be fooled by the manufactured "tussle" between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations over Israeli "settlements," by the way. The bipartisan foreign policy elite of the United States do not give a rat's damn about how many Palestinian Indians are forced from their land, or how many Warsaw Ghettos the Israelis construct for their captives. If they did, they would not have sat idly by and watched the "settlements" grow like topsy throughout the so-called "peace process." Such rote displays of displeasure are just part of the game. Israeli nationalists get to look tough for their domestic political audiences; the Americans get to appear "even-handed," which in turn provides some cover for the brutal dictatorships they support in the region. Israel can then make "concessions" (insincerely offered, never carried out), which makes the American president look effective -- and casts Israel in a better light for the American audience. ("See, they listen to reason, they want to work things out.") It's a game that everybody wins -- except ordinary Palestinians.

If the Americans were serious about influencing Israeli policy on the "settlements" -- or anything else -- then they would move to cut off the nearly $3 billion a year the United States provides to fund Israel's war machine -- and its settlements. In politics, as in so much else, you must follow the money. And in American-Israeli relations -- as in so much else -- the money is not where the mouth is.

P.S. If you want to hear what the "Synagogue of Satan" really sounds like in full flow, then attend the words of Sir Gerald Kaufman, standing up in Britain's House of Commons during Israel's brutal decimation of Gaza earlier this year. As the UK magazine Lobster notes, Kaufman "described the murder of his Polish grandmother by a German soldier and then said:

"My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza. The current Israeli Government ruthlessly and cynically exploits the continuing guilt among gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as their justification for their murder of Palestinians. The implication is that Jewish lives are precious, but the lives of Palestinians do not count."


Compare that to the overwhelming pro-massacre majority in the U.S. Congress, which voted its "vigorous and unwavering commitment" to Israel during the slaughter. Or indeed, compare it to the eloquent response then-President-Elect Barack Obama made to the attack, which Israel conveniently ended just before his inauguration:

 
Can’t Slay the Serpent: Marching Backward Into Darkness
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Sunday, 01 June 2014 23:45

You thought that battle was in the past
Thought you’d left that carcass lying in the grass
You thought that fever had grown stone cold
You thought that dragon was weak and old
But uh-uh, honey: he’s got eternal youth.
No, you can’t slay the serpent, and that’s the truth...

In days that have seen unabashed religious fascists take control of the world’s largest democracy (with copious support from certain “dissident”-supporting oligarchs; more on this later), far-right parties making breakthroughs all across Europe (including the first postwar victory for a neo-Nazi party in Germany, of all places), the continuing backward march of America’s militarized, brutalizing, uncaring techno-feudalism, and many similar developments across the world — one is reminded again of the sad truth: you can’t slay the serpent. The evils that beset us, within and without, require eternal vigilance, battles to be fought and re-fought time and again. Here’s a brief assay upon this theme.

 
Cracking the Walnut: American Amnesia and the Libyan Aftermath
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 28 May 2014 15:04

In the crinkled, crumpled little walnut that constitutes America's political discourse, the question of Libya has been reduced to the petty, bitter political wranglings over "Benghazi," where American officials were killed in a FUBAR of covert ops and clueless incompetence. (Then again, covert ops and clueless incompetence are the M.O. of American foreign policy in general, so it's hard to see what's particularly 'scandalous' about the Benghazi incident. This deadly combination kills innocent people all over the world on an almost daily basis.)

Indeed, the hyper-partisan focus on Benghazi actually reflects the thoroughly bipartisan nature of America's fubarish foreign policy. We should be having long, heated, intense hearings on the US-NATO military intervention itself -- an illegal and utterly foolish assault which has plunged the country into violent chaos, empowered violent religious extremism and destabilized large swaths of Africa. It sparked violent civil war in Mali, for example; and even the dreaded Boko Haram in Nigeria have acquired copious arms from the flood of weaponry released by Western intervention, as well as funds and training from the extremist groups empowered by (and sometimes directly supported by) the Western powers in the regime change operation.

But we hear nothing of all this. It's just "Benghazi" -- a convenient 'controversy' for all involved, as it save them from any examination of the dirty reality of the intervention and its dirty aftermath. Fortunately, Patrick Cockburn is on the case, with an excellent article in CounterPunch detailing the "slow-motion coup" now being attempted in Libya by an American-backed general, and the larger context around it. The article is worth reading in full, but here are some excerpts:

The image of the Libyan revolution in 2011 was something of a fabrication in which the decisive role of Nato air power was understated. The same may be true of the counter-revolution in Libya that is being ushered in by ex-general Kalifa Hifter’s slow-motion coup which gathered support last week but without making a decisive breakthrough. …

Polarisation is happening throughout the country, but it has some way to go. Hifter’s support is stronger than expected but ramshackle, even if it is in keeping with the mood of much of the country. Thousands joined demonstrations across Libya on Friday in the biggest mass rallies since 2011 in support of Hifter, against the Islamic militias and in favour of the suspension of the Islamist-led parliament. The problem here is that Hifter may be able to tap mass resentment against the militias and in favour of a reconstituted police and national army, but his own Libyan National Army is itself a militia.

A crisis is clearly coming, but the Hifter coup still feels like the first act of a drama which will have more episodes, many of them violent, but without any final winner necessarily emerging. The present situation feels more like Lebanon, with its many power centres and no strong central state, than Egypt or Syria with their tradition of an all-powerful central authority. And in Libya, as in Lebanon during the civil war, it is foreign intervention that is likely to break the stalemate and determine the speed and direction of events as it did in 2011.

Foreign intervention is as likely to precipitate a civil war as prevent one. In Syria it led the opposition to imagine that they could win a military conflict. It is worth keeping in mind that, bad though the situation is in Libya, so far there is nothing like the violence of Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan or Lebanon during the civil war. Arbitrary and authoritarian though Gaddafi’s rule was, it was never as violent as that of the Baathist dictatorships in Baghdad and Damascus. With no tradition of extreme violence, up to now Libya’s road to ruin has been relatively low on casualties, but this could change very swiftly if present stand-offs switch to military confrontations.

In Libya, as in the other so-called Arab Spring states, hopes of a better tomorrow have melted away over the past three years. In the outside world, those who fully believed foreign media reports of the Libyan people’s uprising of 2011 as being primarily secular and democratic will have been dismayed and mystified. In reality, the Libyan revolution was rather different from the way it presented itself. From the beginning, the so-called Arab Spring revolts were a peculiar mix of revolution, counter-revolution and foreign intervention. It is worth recalling the shock felt by those who had lauded the Libyan revolt as progressive to discover that one of the first acts of Libya’s National Transitional Council in October 2011 was to lift the law banning polygamy, on the grounds that it was in conflict with sharia.

This should not have been quite so surprising, given that among the main backers of the rebels in Libya were Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states who saw the revolts of 2011 as a battle for their own survival. It was always absurd and hypocritical for the West to pretend that these absolute monarchies with extreme Islamic ideologies were interested in spreading secular democracy.

These are of course the same monarchies supporting the rebels in Syria (along with copious overt and covert support from the West). Here too we have seen massive propaganda efforts in the Western media to portray the Syrian uprising as "as being primarily secular and democratic." As'ad AbuKhalil, the "Angry Arab," does a good job of skewering this propaganda on a regular basis, particularly the Western media's unconscionable contortions to mitigate, justify or simply cover up atrocities committed by the rebels.

 
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