Empire Burlesque
J'Accuse: Standing in the Ruins on the Trail of Tears
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Sunday, 28 July 2013 00:33

Here's one for all those who look on horrors and desperate needs, yet still stand paralyzed, distracted, bowing to the world; for all of us who've let someone else call the tune and tell the story -- and fight the fight.

To My Face by Chris Floyd

Everything I see condemns me for the years I've thrown away
Everything I see condemns me for the waste
Everything I see condemns me for the evil I've let stand
Everything I see condemns me to my face.....

 
Soft Machine: A Bright Ray of Hope for Bradley Manning
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Monday, 22 July 2013 10:23

Many people have worried about the fate of Bradley Manning, a lone soldier who informed the world of war crimes being committed by the War Machine that has devoured the American republic and turned its ravaging, profit-reaping fury on the world. As we all know, Manning is now in the iron grip of that Machine, facing the prospect of life in prison for his truth-telling, having already endured a long incarceration marked by episodes of relentless psychological torture. Many people quite reasonably dread what awaits Manning when the Military Court hands down its inevitable verdict against him.

But wait -- perhaps all is not lost after all. In the long dark night of our military imperium, a shaft of light, of hope, has suddenly appeared. And it comes from -- of all places -- the very pinnacle of the military justice system that is bearing down on Manning: the Court of Appeal of the Armed Forces of the United States.

For it turns out that if a military prisoner has faced the least mistreatment during incarceration, even a temporary abuse of due process, then all charges against him will be dropped and he can walk free. And since Manning has manifestly faced any number of abuses of due process and egregious mistreatment, then we can be supremely confident that the military Court of Appeal -- which enshrined this Solomonic principle in a recent case -- will act with perfect consistency and release Bradley Manning in good time, whatever the eventual outcome of his current trial.

After all, that's what the Court has done for poor Lawrence Hutchins III, the good Marine who has been persecuted for years merely for carrying out his duty during America's "extraordinary achievement" -- as Barack Obama so aptly termed it -- in ousting the dictator Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. (It seems there were some other reasons adduced for the invasion back in the day -- something sort of dubious? even spurious? -- but thankfully, these have long been forgotten as America has put aside the petty squabbles of the past and returned once more to implacable sense of righteousness that wraps the nation's every action in a golden, godly glow.)

All Sgt. Hutchins did was lead his team on a night raid against a private home in the Iraqi town of Hamdania. All he and his team did was break into the house, grab an innocent retired policeman named Hashim Ibrahim Awad, drag him down the road to the site of a IED attack, tie him up, shoot him dead in cold blood, then dump his body in the IED hole, remove the plastic restraints, and leave a stolen AK-47 rifle next to the corpse to pretend Awad was a terrorist who had been killed in a firefight. That's all Hutchins did. Oh yes, that, and have his men shoot Awad repeatedly in the face, in the hope of obliterating his identity. But family members recognized the body and demanded justice from their American military occupiers.

Then came the real crime, the misdeed that would later lead the Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces of the United States to carry out its humanitarian intervention and set Hutchins free. As AP reports, Hutchins was arrested by the military brass and held "in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer for seven days during his 2006 interrogation in Iraq."  Thus Hutchins -- who was facing a term of 11 whole years for kidnapping an innocent man, shooting him in the face then covering up the crime -- was released from custody last month by the Court of Appeals, which cited the six-day spell in solitary as the basis for overturning his conviction.

Who knew that the American military justice system was so fiercely adherent to due process that it would even let a killer go free on a "technicality", like a bunch of wimpy ACLU lawyers? Who knew they would act with such exemplary exactitude in applying letter of the law down to the last jot and tittle? Yet this is the principle they have firmly established with their ruling on Hutchins: the failure to safeguard a military prisoner's full panoply of legal rights in every respect must result in the overturning of any subsequent verdict against that prisoner, and his release from captivity.

I think we can all rest easier knowing that this principle will now be guiding the decisions of the U.S. military justice system from now on. For surely it will be applied universally, not only to Bradley Manning but also to, say, the captives in Guantanamo Bay, who are subject to the same military justice system. Surely, it cannot be that this strict adherence to the legal niceties will only be applied in cases where an American soldier has brutally murdered some worthless towelhead in some piece-of-shit foreign hellhole we had to invade for some reason or another a long time ago, so who cares anyway.

No, surely, that cannot be. For as our recent history clearly shows, the operators of our War Machine always adhere strictly and consistently to the highest and most noble principles, applying them to all equally, the great and the low, without fear or favor, or the slightest hypocrisy.

So Bradley Manning has nothing to worry about!

Right?

 
All Systems Go: The Core of the Acquittal
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 16 July 2013 00:35

The acquittal of George Zimmerman for his killing of Trayvon Martin has already sparked a torrent of fervid commentary -- millions of words -- and will no doubt produce many millions more in the days and weeks to come. But good sense and insight have been near-impossible to find in the roiling surges of this tsunami. One place where you can find these rare commodities is -- as you might expect -- Arthur Silber's blog. Silber has posted a powerful essay on the case and its implications, extending and deepening a likewise excellent piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic, which Silber builds upon to striking effect.

You should read the whole piece -- read the whole of both pieces -- but be prepared for some counter-intuitive conclusions, the chief of which is this: in the Trayvon Martin case, the system did not fail; the system worked, it did what it was supposed to do. The problem is that what it is supposed to do is to maintain and replicate the brutal, violent and, above all, dehumanizing injustice encoded in the core of the national culture.

Trayvon Martin's life was broken on the hard, metallic spikes of this core; an unspeakable personal loss. But the travesty was not the case itself -- an inevitably ambiguous affair (an unwitnessed encounter between two men, one of them left dead) hobbled with a daunting burden of legal proof required to produce a guilty verdict. No, the real travesty is the system that produced the volatile circumstances of that fateful night, and all of the seething, hateful, fearful, alienating currents that lay behind the encounter.

But read the eloquent insights of Silber and Coates for more.

 
Darkness at Noon: The Trap of 'Transparency'
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Sunday, 21 July 2013 00:49

Arthur Silber asks a very pertinent question: what is the worth of 'transparency'?

So many of our vaunted dissidents have made 'transparency' one of great goals of their unending agon with the imperial state. If only, they cry, we can let more daylight in on the crimes and atrocities of security apparat and the war machine, then …. well, it's not entirely clear what they believe will follow from this. Probably that 'the people,' now armed with the facts about the filth their rulers wallow in, will rise up and force our elites to sin no more.

But as Silber points out, the historical record belies this comforting little fantasy. Greater 'transparency' about government crime does not translate into mass opposition to these evils. Indeed, it almost always results in widespread indifference to state atrocities -- when it doesn't inspire enthusiastic embrace of them. Gitmo, aggressive war, Abu Ghraib, waterboarding, drone wars, Orwellian surveillance, White House death squads -- in none of these examples, drawn from just the past 10 years, has greater 'transparency' produced any kind of effective, widespread public opposition.

Quite the contrary. Torture, aggression, the rape of privacy and assassination are now widely accepted as ordinary tools of statecraft. The 'scandals' that sometimes surround the initial revelation of this or that course of imperial crime never do anything to alter the system itself. In fact, as Silber notes, once the our rulers sees that people don't really care about torture, surveillance or state-sanctioned murder, they are happy to be even more 'transparent' about their activities in these fields.

Silber cuts right to the heart of the matter. As he says, the point is not to be 'transparen't about these unspeakable evils, but to stop them:

The endless harrumphing about the critical importance of "transparency" is one of the more ridiculous fetishes on the part of many of the State's critics, and especially as voiced by many "dissidents." A monstrous criminal, who rapes, tortures and murders an endless number of people -- women, men and children -- tells us all about his crimes and how and why he commits them. He continually manages to elude the authorities, and he goes right on committing his heinous crimes. But we know every single detail about what he's doing and why. Explain to me why that represents some kind of moral improvement. …

Evil does not become less evil because people are "open" about it. It is not miraculously transformed into good through some mysterious process of alchemy. Evil becomes only worse, infinitely worse. ...

With regard to the State's Murder Program, its surveillance activities, and every other means by which the State seeks to subjugate and control all of us, I am not the least interested in oversight, accountability or transparency. I want all such programs and activities to stop. That's it. I want them to stop.

But you mark my words: the State will make additional, continuing efforts to be more "transparent." Many of the State's alleged "critics" will herald this important change in how the State functions. The "critics" will trumpet their victory, and talk endlessly about how this proves the importance of "constructive engagement" with the State.

And while the State is being so blessedly transparent, it will not only continue all its present programs: it will expand them -- but now with a touch of transparency added. The programs will expand and get progressively worse, and any criticisms that are still to be heard will steadily grow softer and more infrequent.

The State is far better at this game than its critics. The State knows all about providing a sufficient illusion of oversight and transparency to satisfy those critics -- while the State proceeds to do precisely what it wanted to do all along.

There is much more in Silber's piece, of course. So do yourself a favour, and get on over there to read the whole thing.

 
A Conniption Amongst the Countenancers, or Popping the Tiny Bubble of Progressive Pwnage
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Sunday, 14 July 2013 23:41

Atrios, ever alert to any follies on the political landscape that might be worthy of one of his Instapunditish snippets, names Laura Rozen as his "Twit of the Day." (A lesser punishment, one supposes, than being labelled his "Wanker of the Day" or, dread fate, being placed in the fearsome stocks of his "Worst Person in the World" sobriquet). Rozen's crime, apparently, is voicing mild approval of the idea of appointing Joe Lieberman as the new head of the sinister bureaucratic boondoggle known as the Department of Homeland Security.

Rozen's comment came -- of course -- via Twitter. Our entire political discourse -- at least in the rarefied climes of media-world -- now seems to take place almost solely through this remarkable medium, where the instantaneous, scarcely masticated outpourings of third- and fourth-rate brains are offered up in dumbed-down tidbits, which appear as momentary blips in a long string of juvenile, even infantile formulations. As a prime example, see Rozen's own tweet, which, in making a case for Lieberman's nomination, says it would involve "easy confirmation, he's in charge when uhohs"

I actually went into the cacophony of baby talk and invective on Twitter to see if perhaps Rozen had inadvertently broken her tweet in half or mangled it somehow. But no, she really did mean to end with the idea of Lieberman being in charge "when uhohs." I assume the infantile rubric "uh ohs" is meant to represent domestic terror attacks -- death, destruction, maiming, disembowelment and all the other contingencies that the lard-dispensing, crony-fluffing DHS is ostensibly set up to deal with. All of this is reduced to "uhohs." And thus the Tellytubbyization of our political debate continues apace.

But Atrios -- and "Steve M." at No More Mister Nice Blog, whose blog post provides the substance of Atrios' brief snarkish link -- are not voicing objections to Rozen's goo-goo/ga-ga version of public communication. No, what really steams them, as "Steve M." makes clear, is the fact that a Lieberman nomination to this ludicrous, place-holding sinecure would -- wait for it -- alienate Obama's political base. No really, that's what bothers them. As "Steve M." notes:

And though it's a small step in the scale of things, it could also be the final straw, the act that finishes the job of alienating the liberal base that worked to elect Barack Obama twice. So we could just kick back and binge-watch SharkNado: The Series in 2014, secure in the knowledge that there's no need to pay attention to the midterms, because nobody's going to show up to vote Dem and Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell can start arranging their office swap now. Better to see that coming early, I suppose....

Man, is this bitter, savvy cynicism, or what? Watching 'SharkNado' instead of working the phones to bolster Barack? Get back, dude, that's some really heavy anarcho-bolshevik shit you got going on there.

But what is really being said here by our guardians of progressivism? They are saying that Obama's "liberal base" will swallow death squads, drone wars, Orwellian-level level illegal spying, prosecution for whistleblowers on torture but protection and promotion for the torturers themselves, etc. etc., etc. -- but they will finally balk at .... Joe Lieberman??? That's what will alienate them?

There are a multitude of responses one could make to this idea, but if we may riot in temperance, restraint and understatement, let us say simply that this feared "alienation" of Obama's "liberal base" is highly unlikely to happen -- even if Obama appoints Dick Cheney as head of the DHS. A "liberal base" that would countenance and champion a president who every week decides to kill people all over the world -- including their fellow citizens -- without trial, without charges, without judicial process, without defense -- as well as all the other manifest crimes being continued and expanded by this murderous militarist state, will not, in the end, be unduly put off by the appointment of this or that figure who once, long ago, fell outside the purview of respectable progressive opinion.

 
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