Written by Chris Floyd
Friday, 21 June 2013 22:06
Excerpt from a stream of consciousness....
… Let us be resolved, right here, right now, that this reconciliation will not come to pass. That the evil impulse that infects us all -- implanted by God only knows what profound and projected pain, inflicted and passed down through thousands of generations, from the very beginning, from the first standing-up on the savannah, to now, to us, to the present firing of the electrics of our brain -- that this evil impulse, these perverted lessons taught by millennia of ignorance and error, will not, in our lifetimes and for untold generations to come, be reconciled with and overcome by the tiny sparks of goodness that have appeared, like miracles, like spandrels, in these same tormented electrics we all share. We will not see justice, we will not see peace, we will not see loving-kindness spread to cover the earth and become the norm, the law of nature, the governing principle of Being. Let us be resolved that we will not see this.
But who would be so base, who would be so dead, that they would not, with all that is left of their corroded, damaged soul, wish to see this reconciliation, and pray for its consummation, sometime in the distant eons of the future? We shall not have it, but oh, that those who come after will know it -- is that not hope enough to live upon?
We live in degradation -- look around you, look within you, and try to deny it; if you are honest, you cannot. But if even a spark of something better has appeared among us (and, in fact, these sparks are legion, and have been, down through all the ages), then we cannot, we must not give up on ourselves, on each other, on the world.
Written by Chris Floyd
Monday, 17 June 2013 22:24
As the G8 gathers here in my adopted homeland of Blighty to settle the world's hash with the great wisdom and gravitas of such world-historical figures as Barry Obama, Davy Cameron and Val Putin, George Monbiot reports on the sinister diversions of that perennial gate-crasher of the great and good at Davos, Bilderberg and wherever the masters of the universe gather behind their bristling security gates: none other than that globe-trotting friend to all humankind -- Bono.
It was bad enough in 2005. Then, at the G8 summit in Scotland, Bono and Bob Geldof heaped praise on Tony Blair and George Bush, who were still mired in the butchery they had initiated in Iraq. At one point Geldof appeared, literally and figuratively, to be sitting in Tony Blair's lap. African activists accused them of drowning out a campaign for global justice with a campaign for charity.
But this is worse. As the UK chairs the G8 summit again, a campaign that Bono founded, with which Geldof works closely, appears to be whitewashing the G8's policies in Africa.
Last week I drew attention to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, launched in the US when it chaired the G8 meeting last year. The alliance is pushing African countries into agreements that allow foreign companies to grab their land, patent their seeds and monopolise their food markets. Ignoring the voices of their own people, six African governments have struck deals with companies such as Monsanto, Cargill, Dupont, Syngenta, Nestlé and Unilever, in return for promises of aid by the UK and other G8 nations.
A wide range of activists, both African and European, is furious about the New Alliance. But the ONE campaign, co-founded by Bono, stepped up to defend it.
… I discovered is that Bono has also praised the New Alliance, in a speech just before last year's G8 summit in the US. The second thing I discovered is that much of the ONE campaign's primary funding was provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, two of whose executives sit on its board. The foundation has been working with the biotech company Monsanto and the grain trading giant Cargill, and has a large Monsanto shareholding. Bill Gates has responded to claims made about land grabbing in Africa, asserting, in the face of devastating evidence and massive resistance from African farmers, that "many of those land deals are beneficial, and it would be too bad if some were held back because of western groups' ways of looking at things". (Africans, you will note, keep getting written out of this story.)
The third thing I discovered is that there's a long history here. In his brilliant and blistering book The Frontman: Bono (in the Name of Power), just released in the UK, the Irish scholar Harry Browne maintains that "for nearly three decades as a public figure, Bono has been … amplifying elite discourses, advocating ineffective solutions, patronising the poor and kissing the arses of the rich and powerful". His approach to Africa is "a slick mix of traditional missionary and commercial colonialism, in which the poor world exists as a task for the rich world to complete".
…Bono claims to be "representing the poorest and most vulnerable people". But talking to a wide range of activists from both the poor and rich worlds since ONE published its article last week, I have heard the same complaint again and again: that Bono and others like him have seized the political space which might otherwise have been occupied by the Africans about whom they are talking. Because Bono is seen by world leaders as the representative of the poor, the poor are not invited to speak. This works very well for everyone – except them.
The ONE campaign looks to me like the sort of organisation that John le Carré or Robert Harris might have invented. It claims to work on behalf of the extremely poor. But its board is largely composed of multimillionaires, corporate aristocrats and US enforcers. Here you will find Condoleezza Rice, George W Bush's national security adviser and secretary of state, who aggressively promoted the Iraq war, instructed the CIA that it was authorised to use torture techniques and browbeat lesser nations into supporting a wide range of US aims.
Here too is Larry Summers, who was chief economist at the World Bank during the darkest days of structural adjustment and who, as US Treasury secretary, helped to deregulate Wall Street, with such happy consequences for the rest of us. Here's Howard Buffett, who has served on the boards of the global grain giant Archer Daniels Midland as well as Coca-Cola and the food corporations ConAgra and Agro Tech. Though the main focus of ONE is Africa, there are only two African members. One is a mobile phone baron, the other is the finance minister of Nigeria, who was formerly managing director of the World Bank. What better representatives of the extremely poor could there be?
This is actually the same vein that Obama himself has been mainlining for years: I'm cool, I'm hip, I'm down with the poor and downtrodden -- even as he rides shotgun for some of the most rapacious corporations and policies on the planet. One can only agree with Monbiot here:
I found the sight of Bono last week calling for "more progress on transparency" equally revolting. As Harry Browne reminds us, U2's complex web of companies, the financial arrangements of Bono's Product RED campaign and his investments through the private equity company he co-founded are all famously opaque ….
There is a well-known if dubious story that claims that at a concert in Glasgow Bono began a slow hand-clap. He is supposed to have announced: "Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies." Whereupon someone in the audience shouted: "Well fucking stop doing it then." It's good advice, and I wish he'd take it.
Written by Chris Floyd
Tuesday, 18 June 2013 23:53
No one, anywhere, has been writing about the deeper and wider implications of the Snowden revelations than Arthur Silber. (I hope you're not surprised by this.) In a series of powerful, insightful essays, Silber has, among other things, laid bare the dangers of the oddly circumscribed 'gatekeeper' approach of the journalistic guardians (at, ironically, the Guardian) of Snowden's secrets, particularly their slow drip-feed of carefully self-censored tidbits from the famous Powerpoint presentation that Snowden secreted from the bowels of the United Stasi of the American intelligent apparat. Eschewing the Wikileaks approach, the guardians at the Guardian have not let us judge the material for ourselves, opting instead to adopt, unwittingly, the same approach of the apparat: "we are the keepers of knowledge, we will decide what you need to know."
As Silber notes, this doesn't vitiate the worth of the revelations, but it does dilute their impact, leaving gaps that the apparat -- and its truly repulsive apologists all through the 'liberal media' -- can exploit to keep muddying the waters. He explores these ramifications, and others, in "In Praise of Mess, Chaos and Panic" and "Fed Up With All the Bullshit."
In his latest piece, "'Intelligence, Corporatism and the Dance of Death," he cuts to the corroded heart of the matter, the deep, dark not-so-secret secret that our secret-keepers are trying to obscure behind their blizzards of bullshit: it's all about the Benjamins.
After noting the gargantuan outsourcing of "intelligence" to private contractors like Booz Allen -- the very firm that employed Snowden -- Silber gives a quick precis of the essence of state-corporate capitalism (see the originals for links):
The biggest open secret all these creepy jerks are hiding is the secret of corporatism (or what Gabriel Kolko calls "political capitalism"):
There is nothing in the world that can't be turned into a huge moneymaker for the State and its favored friends in "private" business, at the same time it is used to amass still greater power. This is true in multiple forms for the fraud that is the "intelligence" industry.
The pattern is the same in every industry, from farming, to manufacturing, to every aspect of transportation, to the health insurance scam, to anything else you can name. In one common version, already vested interests go to the State demanding regulation and protection from "destabilizing" forces which, they claim, threaten the nation's well-being (by which, they mean competitors who threaten their profits). The State enthusiastically complies, the cooperative lawmakers enjoying rewards of many kinds and varieties. Then they'll have to enforce all those nifty regulations and controls. The State will do some of it but, heck, it's complicated and time-consuming, ya know? Besides, some of the State's good friends in "private" business can make a killing doing some of the enforcing. Give it to them! Etc. and so on.
Silber then goes on:
... But that's chump change. The real money is elsewhere -- in, for instance, foreign policy itself. You probably thought foreign policy was about dealing with threats to "national security," spreading democracy, ensuring peace, and whatever other lying slogans they throw around like a moldy, decaying, putrid corpse. The State's foreign policy efforts are unquestionably devoted to maintaining the U.S.'s advantages -- but the advantages they are most concerned about are access to markets and, that's right, making huge amounts of money. Despite the unending propaganda to the contrary, they aren't terribly concerned with dire threats to our national well-being, for the simple reason that there aren't any: "No nation would dare mount a serious attack on the U.S. precisely because they know how powerful the U.S. is -- because it is not secret."
How does the public-"private" intelligence industry make foreign policy? The NYT story offers an instructive example in its opening paragraphs:
When the United Arab Emirates wanted to create its own version of the National Security Agency, it turned to Booz Allen Hamilton to replicate the world’s largest and most powerful spy agency in the sands of Abu Dhabi.
It was a natural choice: The chief architect of Booz Allen’s cyberstrategy is Mike McConnell, who once led the N.S.A. and pushed the United States into a new era of big data espionage. It was Mr. McConnell who won the blessing of the American intelligence agencies to bolster the Persian Gulf sheikdom, which helps track the Iranians.
“They are teaching everything,” one Arab official familiar with the effort said. “Data mining, Web surveillance, all sorts of digital intelligence collection."
See how perfect this is? All the special people are making tons of money -- and, when the day arrives that the U.S. wants to ramp up its confrontational stance with Iran, well, there's the UAE helping to "track the Iranians" with all the tools that the U.S. has given them and taught them to use. And how easy would it be to get the UAE to provide the U.S. with just the right kind of new and disturbing "intelligence" that would get lots of people screaming about the "grave Iranian threat"? You know the answer to that: easy peasy. A wink and a nod -- and off the U.S. goes, with bombing runs or whatever it decides to do. But whatever it does will be determined in greatest part not by a genuine threat to U.S. national security (there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Iran's leaders are all suicidal), but by what will make the most money for the State and its good friends.
Silber then underscores once more the highly instructive principle laid out by Robert Higgs:
I remind you once again of what I call The Higgs Principle. As I have emphasized, you can apply this principle to every significant policy in every area, including every aspect of foreign policy. Here is Robert Higgs explaining it:
As a general rule for understanding public policies, I insist that there are no persistent "failed" policies. Policies that do not achieve their desired outcomes for the actual powers-that-be are quickly changed. If you want to know why the U.S. policies have been what they have been for the past sixty years, you need only comply with that invaluable rule of inquiry in politics: follow the money.
When you do so, I believe you will find U.S. policies in the Middle East to have been wildly successful, so successful that the gains they have produced for the movers and shakers in the petrochemical, financial, and weapons industries (which is approximately to say, for those who have the greatest influence in determining U.S. foreign policies) must surely be counted in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
So U.S. soldiers get killed, so Palestinians get insulted, robbed, and confined to a set of squalid concentration areas, so the "peace process" never gets far from square one, etc., etc. – none of this makes the policies failures; these things are all surface froth, costs not borne by the policy makers themselves but by the cannon-fodder masses, the bovine taxpayers at large, and foreigners who count for nothing.
....It's all about wealth and power. Here and there, in episodes notable only for their rarity, "the intelligence world" might actually provide a small piece of information actually related to "national security." Again, I turn to Gabriel Kolko:
It is all too rare that states overcome illusions, and the United States is no more an exception than Germany, Italy, England, or France before it. The function of intelligence anywhere is far less to encourage rational behavior--although sometimes that occurs--than to justify a nation's illusions, and it is the false expectations that conventional wisdom encourages that make wars more likely, a pattern that has only increased since the early twentieth century. By and large, US, Soviet, and British strategic intelligence since 1945 has been inaccurate and often misleading, and although it accumulated pieces of information that were useful, the leaders of these nations failed to grasp the inherent dangers of their overall policies. When accurate, such intelligence has been ignored most of the time if there were overriding preconceptions or bureaucratic reasons for doing so.
...The intelligence-security industry isn't about protecting the United States or you, except for extraordinarily rare, virtually accidental occurrences. It's about wealth and power. Yet every politician and every government functionary speaks reverently of the sacred mission and crucial importance of "intelligence" in the manner of a syphilitic preacher who clutches a tatty, moth-eaten doll of the Madonna, which he digitally manipulates by sticking his fingers in its orifices. Most people would find his behavior shockingly obscene, if they noticed it. But they don't notice it, so mesmerized are they by the preacher with his phonily awestruck words about the holy of holies and the ungraspably noble purpose of his mission. Even as the suppurating sores on the preacher's face ooze blood and pus, his audience can only gasp, "We must pay attention to what he says! He wants only the best for us! He's trying to save us!"
What the preacher says -- what every politician and national security official says on this subject -- is a goddamned lie. The ruling class has figured out yet another way to make a killing, both figuratively and literally. They want wealth and power, and always more wealth and power. That's what "intelligence" and "national security" is about, and nothing else at all. When you hear Keith Alexander, or James Clapper, or Barack Obama talk about "intelligence" and surveillance, how your lives depend on them, and why you must trust them to protect you if you wish to continue existing at all, think of the preacher. Think of his open sores, of the blood and pus slowly dribbling down his face.
All of them are murdering crooks running a racket. They are intent on amassing wealth and power, and they've stumbled on a sure-fire way to win the acquiescence, and often the approval, of most people. They are driven by the worst of motives, including their maddened knowledge that there will always remain a few people and events that they will be unable to control absolutely. For the rest of us, their noxious games are a sickening display of power at its worst. For us, on a faster or slower schedule, in ways that are more or less extreme, their lies and machinations are only a Dance of Death.
There is much more in Silber's essays; go read them all now, if you haven't done already.
Written by Chris Floyd
Monday, 17 June 2013 02:44
Something very, very bad happened over the weekend.
President Obama made Digby sigh.
What did President Obama do that made Digby sigh? Well, that thing about increasing American military involvement in Syria. Digby quotes, and agrees with, a piece by Mark Lynch which she calls "a deeply skeptical and very depressing assessment of the decision to intervene in Syria."
Digby -- like most other sentient beings on the planet, and at least 85 percent of all Americans in the most recent polls -- believes that intervening in Syria is a bad decision and will in all likelihood make the situation, already a vast cauldron of human suffering, worse.
So who is to blame for this terrible decision, this stupid decision, this bad decision that will almost certainly extend, expand and prolong the suffering of multitudes of innocent human beings?
Now you and I might think that the person responsible for the decision to send American weapons to the Syrian rebels rests with the commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces and the Chief Executive of the U.S. government, positions subsumed within the office of the President of the United States -- a post currently held by Barack Obama.
But it turns out that President Barack Obama is not responsible for the decision of the commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces and the Chief Executive of the U.S. government to send American arms to the Syrian rebels.
So who is responsible, if Obama is not? You'll never guess.
Yes, apparently, once again our noble Nobelist has been torn away from his true intentions and, very reluctantly, with heavy heart -- indeed, with the kind of tragic grandeur that perhaps only President Daniel Day-Lewis might have known in the grimmest days of the Civil War -- been forced, forced against his will, against the very inclination of his soul, to send the American war machine into yet another country.
For who can forget his anguished reluctance to escalate the Afghan War with his Bush-like surge? Or the heart-tormented nights he spent before intervening illegally in Libya? Or the sweat-drops of blood he shed in fervent prayer before escalating the drone attacks on Pakistani villages? Or the spiritual torment he must go through each and every week before, sadly, reluctantly, he orders a new raft of "extrajudicial killings" by his globe-spanning death squads?
And now, once again, despite what we may be sure were weeks of fervent petition to the Lord to let this cup pass from him, the president has been forced to act against his will and make another bad, stupid, murderous decision. As Digby puts it:
Everything I read says that President Obama, unlike many in his cabinet (including his former Secretary of State) has been extremely reluctant to engage but finds himself hemmed in by the circumstances.
You see, he has been "hemmed in by circumstances." Despite his extreme reluctance to use the American military machine in dubious, sinister and counterproductive operations -- and despite his position as commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces, the most powerful military in the history of the world, and as Chief Executive of the U.S. government, likewise the most powerful state in human history, he has been "hemmed in by circumstances" and forced to make this bad decision.
Yes, he can order the assassination of anyone on earth. Yes, he can read the emails and web trails of anyone on earth. Yes, he can launch a nuclear war tomorrow and destroy the planet. But he cannot resist the "circumstances" that have compelled him to intervene in Syria. Poor man. Poor, powerless, tragic man.
And what are those circumstances? Well, that is not crystal clear in Digby's lament, but apparently the main circumstance is the fact that a "red line" which Barack Obama himself freely decided would be the trigger for intervention has, apparently, according to assertions by his "intelligence" chiefs -- including many of the same people (such as his hand-picked Director of National Intelligence, James "Saddam moved his non-existent WMD to Syria" Clapper) who provided the "slam-dunk" intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
These are the "circumstances" that have "hemmed in" Obama. These are the iron chains which this poor man, who has no power -- not even the power to change his own mind about red lines and triggers -- is now bound with.
But it's not just Obama. Sadly, all our presidents are poor, powerless men, hemmed in by similar circumstances. As Digby tells us:
He certainly isn't the first president to find himself in that situation. America's military empire has perhaps been the most "exceptional" thing about us in recent decades.
Why, I suppose even poor, powerless George W. Bush found himself in such a hemming situation, forced by his own rhetoric and bullshit "red lines" to invade Iraq. And poor old Big Dawg Bill Clinton found himself forced to press the sanctions on Iraq that killed more than half a million children. And .....
It is all, as Digby says, very depressing. Depressing that America keeps going around the world fomenting war, chaos, bloodshed, instability and ruin, bankrupting its own people in the process while stuffing the pockets of war profiteers. And depressing too that none of our presidents apparently have the power to stop this from happening. They are all "hemmed in by circumstances," by the American military empire ... that same military empire that each one of them fought tooth and nail to get control of.
I hope he resists the pressures that Lynch illustrates above [i.e., sliding into ever-deeper involvement]. But the first step is always the hardest. The next ones will probably be easier which argues for not taking the step in the first place.
I must confess that my first reaction to the news that Obama is intervening militarily in Syria -- I'm sorry, that circumstances are intervening militarily in Syria -- was not exactly a sigh. But hey, maybe Digby's right. For really, what else can we do, but sigh and shrug and frown a little frown? He's "our guy" after all, right? Not perfect, but the best "we" can do for now, right? "We" fought like hell to re-elect him, so when he does something stupid, destructive, repressive or murderous, what else can you do? Turn on him? Leave the progressive "tribe"? God forbid! No, "we" can do so much more from inside the tent, bringing progressive pressure to bear by judicious but respectful criticism (and maybe some on-line petitions or something), tempered with "our" general support. Right? Right?