Again, apologies for the dearth of blogging. A lot of reasons for this, but I hope to get back to more activity in these precincts soon. (Meanwhile, you can check out quick shots on my Twitter feed.) But today I just want to note that Arthur Silber continues to struggle with catastrophic health problems and financial straits. If you have anything to spare, head over to his place and give him some help. [Link: http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/damn.html.]Add a comment
RIP, LaVoy Finicum, hero of the Oregon Bund. You died so that one day -- and may it be soon, almighty God! -- all wealthy armed extremists whose sweetheart contracts with the federal government undercut poorer ranchers by skewing the free market for grazing fees will be able run cattle on every wildlife refuge across the width and breadth of this great land, and desecrate Indian relics wherever they find them.
Never forget that this is the glorious cause for which a noble martyr widowed his wife and orphaned his children, and for which he had expressed his fierce willingness to take the life of anyone who tried to stop him. Those who already have money and land must be able to leverage the gains from their cozy federal deals to acquire even more money and land at public expense. Otherwise, your children and my children, and their children's children, will never be truly free. For who among us can know liberty when the slightest fetters are placed on the godly greed of our cattle barons?
Now, sweet prince, take your ease in the wide and fenceless pastures of Heaven. Be assured that we shall not -- we cannot -- we dare not rest until all the land stolen by murder and plunder from the Native Americans is safely in the hands of monied white men packing heat and sporting camo. We shall overcome!
Note: And just for the record, no, I don’t approve of police killing or heavy-handed tactics by the federal government (even regarding land use). But it seems foolish to pretend that this Bundyist op in Oregon is anything other than a Barons’ Rebellion, for their own aggrandizement – although of course it has also attracted the support of many others for whom the term “federal government” is a trigger word with a single, fearful meaning: DATOM! (Darkies Are Taking Our Money!)Add a comment
"Switzerland joins Denmark in seizing assets from refugees to cover costs." (Guardian). This is such a great idea. Confiscate anything that might help refugees support themselves (then demonize them for being "a drain on taxpayers," of course). But why stop at "seizing assets" to make them "pay for their upkeep"? Why not, say take their gold teeth? Their hair? You know, for stuffing pillows or something. How about using them as forced labor? So many possibilities -- and plenty of examples from history on what can be done! Of course, a cheaper alternative to the refugee crisis might be to quit waging wars and supporting wars, extremism, tyranny and corruption in their homelands. But that would make our own poobahs feel less important (and less flush with profiteering cash). And we certainly can't have that.
*Sorry; the link function doesn't seem to be working today. Here is the story: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/15/switzerland-joins-denmark-in-seizing-assets-from-refugees-to-cover-costs?CMP=share_btn_tw
"And so I said, 'We came, we saw, he died!' And now they've got death and chaos up the wazoo! Have I not done well, Master?"
"Finished your training you have. Well you have done. But far yet must you go your teacher to match. My words you recall when Cambodia we destroyed with fire from the sky? 'It's an order, it's to be done. Anything that flies on everything that moves. You got that?' Happy conduit I was for the death of so many. But surpass me you might, when power is yours. Befall it may you your promise to keep to 'obliterate Iran.' So many more millions your harvest awaits.
"May it be so, Master, may it be so."Add a comment
(Sorry for the dearth in posting. Hope to do more soon, if anyone is still out there. Meanwhile, here's my column from last month's CounterPunch print magazine.) *** Just hours after the UK Parliament’s vote to bomb Syria on December 2, four British jets were scrambling from their base in Cyprus, on their way to strike oilfields held by ISIS. The launch point, Akrotiri, one of two UK bases on the island, was apt: Cyprus was one of the last colonies acquired by Britain — formally annexed in 1925, as the tidal wave of the Empire’s “late Victorian holocausts” was slowly beginning to ebb away. Now it serves the Empire’s withered rump as Britain joins France’s continuing attacks on its own former “protectorate,” Syria.
The Cyprus-based operation is an extension of Britain’s ongoing bombing campaign in its former colony — sorry, “mandate” — of Iraq: three former Ottoman provinces jammed together by London after its betrayal of the Arab forces it used as cannon fodder during the First World War, promising them liberation then dividing up their lands with the French. It took a savage bombing campaign against what Winston Churchill liked to call the “recalcitrant tribes” of the region before it was “pacified” into acquiescence — and laid open for exploitation of its oil. This was 95 years ago; and except for the technology — and the now-longer reach of the recalcitrant tribes — not much has changed.
Vast interests in oil and natural gas — both existing and potential — are in play behind the strutting moralizers striking poses in Parliament, the White House and the Elysee. (And in the Kremlin too, of course.) Competing pipelines — one favoring the West, undercutting Russia, the other bolstering Moscow and Tehran — are in the mix. (No points for guessing which one Assad decided to back, just before he stopped being a Hillary-praised “reformer” and became the new Saddam.) Now, as then, the imposition of Western dominance over the region — regardless of its form and nomenclature: colony, protectorate, ally, partner — also remains a paramount concern.
The fierce recalcitrants of ISIS take a back seat to these higher strategic goals. Although Britain’s rather pipsqueaky addition to the vast tonnage of ordnance that the US and France are raining down on Syria is, we’re told, a vital part of the allied effort to “defeat ISIS militarily,” it’s plain that this defeat is in no way a priority of our modern Churchills. If “defeating ISIS” really was their top strategic priority, then of course they would make common cause with all the forces now fighting the group — the Syrian army, Iran, Hizbollah, the Kurds — while cutting off ISIS’s supply-and-oil lifelines through Turkey and stopping the powerful financial institutions who are profitably washing ISIS’s money through their well-appointed boardrooms.
This is not happening because defeating ISIS — or quelling terrorism, for that matter — is not their main goal in Syria. Imposing regime change, for power and profit, is. ISIS plays an ambiguous role in this, as both hindrance and help. Although they are the most powerful force trying to unseat Assad, their very public brutality — continually amplified by the West’s own fearmongering media/political class — means they can’t be used as the chief “liberators” of Damascus. On the other hand, ISIS keeps Assad tied down and weakened, which neatly serves our leaders' purposes.
What's more, ISIS has already been instrumental in yet another regime change sought by Washington: the ouster of Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki. (Yes, the man who took charge after the previous regime change imposed by Washington.) Barack Obama — to his credit, I guess — was very open about this. As he told an ever-fawning Thomas Friedman in August 2014: the reason “we did not just start taking a bunch of airstrikes all across Iraq as soon as [ISIS] came in was because that would have taken the pressure off of al-Maliki.”
Washington didn’t find him useful anymore — he was “corrupt” (although of course he was a piker compared to the multi-trillion-dollar corruption of Washington’s Terror War complex), he was too close to Iran, he was too “sectarian” (i.e., he was the inevitable product of the American occupation’s hideous policy of hardening Iraq’s sectarian differences in a replay of the British Empire’s tried-and-true ‘divide and conquer’ strategy) — so he had to go. ISIS was thus allowed to grow — conquer cities, seize oilfields, murder civilians — in order to force Iraq to change its government.
Now, having failed to dislodge Assad from power early on and impose a more compliant regime in Damascus, our leaders have decided that the dismemberment of Syria is now their next best option. Multi-sided, hydra-headed, interminable, intractable conflict — plus continued radicalization and intermittent terrorist attacks — will be the only result of the outside military interventions in Syria, just as it was in Iraq and Libya. (And Somalia and Yemen.)
But if we've learned anything in the course of this wretched 21st century of ours, it's that history no longer exists. Or rather, it exists, but like a ghost few can see, exerting no pressure on our contextless present, informing no decisions, providing no nuance to public understanding. What happened in the last decade, last year, last week -- much less a hundred years ago -- melts into air, into thin air, leaving a baseless fabric that our politicians and their paymasters shape with their lies and manipulations.Add a comment
Tamir Rice, 12, carrying a toy gun, was shot two seconds after the officer arrived. It's overwhemingly obvious that the officer went on the call intending to kill the "suspect" immediately. No warning, no talk, just an instantaneous draw-and-fire. But he faces no charges at all for what was obviously an intent to kill, regardless of the circumstances. Contrast the treatment of Dylann Roof -- an adult mass murderer on the run, subject to an "armed and dangerous alert" (which means that officers should expect to face an immediate and deadly threat).
When Roof was found by police, he was politely asked to surrender his weapon -- then taken for a hamburger by the officers before being carried to jail. An armed cold-blooded killer on the run, approached with reasonable but nonviolent caution, treated with respect and compassion (as all suspects should be). But a 12-year-old boy, in a park, with a toy, suspected of nothing other than being "suspicious" by some random fearful caller, is killed in two seconds -- in two seconds -- a 12-year-old killed in two seconds.
The reason for the different treatment is obvious -- and a searing indictment of a nation that arrogantly preaches to others about values and morals and rights and democracy. Preachments accompanied, of course, by missiles, bombs, hospital raids, regime change, weapons sales to tyrants and extremists and other instances of high morality and universal values. The killer of Tamir Rice bears his own individual guilt -- but in our sick society, the fish rots from the head.Add a comment
An open letter to Andrew Murray, chair of the Stop the War coalition: In your Guardian interview with John Harris, you joined David Cameron and the pro-war Blairites in completely mischaracterising my “Reaping the Whirlwind” blogpost. You said you objected to it because it did not “completely condemn the Paris massacres.” This is absolutely untrue — as you would know if you had actually read the article which your own organisation posted on its website (without asking me) then removed. I ask you now to read this passage from the blogpost: “I write in despair. Despair of course at the depravity displayed by the murderers of the innocents in Paris tonight.” Is that not “complete” enough for you?
Yet your statement to Harris is, in many ways, even more egregious than the twistings of the article made by the Tories and Blairites to attack your organisation. You say, falsely, that I did not “completely condemn” the attacks. So what does that mean? That I partially approved them? Is there a certain wording — a ritual incantation, a party line — that must be followed in order to qualify for “full” condemnation? Perhaps you could post it on your website, so we can all sing from the same hymn sheet.
Your statement is not only false and near-libellous, it is ludicrous on its face. The entire article is about the despair and anguish so many of us were feeling about evil of the Paris attacks — and our further despair that the policies of our own nations, particularly the US and UK, have been instrumental in creating a world where such self-evident evil can flourish. Jeremy Corbyn — and many other people associated with Stop the War — have made these very same points, both before and after the Paris attacks. In what way is it “extremely insensitive,” as you put it, to speak of this element of our despair over the Paris atrocity, along with the specific, complete condemnation of it as the “depravity [of] the murderers of the innocents in Paris”?
Let me point out, for the nth time, that it was your organisation that put “Paris” in the headline of the article, therefore skewing perceptions of its actual content and giving an opening to your enemies among the warmongers and the seething factionalists in the Labour Party. Yet instead of simply saying, “We did not want this post by someone outside the organization to represent the official position of Stop the War” — which would have been fair enough — you instead decided to join Cameron and the Blairites in twisting the post’s clear meaning, and painting me as someone who didn’t “fully condemn” the attacks; again, leaving behind the imputation that there was some element of this horrific crime that I did not condemn, or perhaps even approved.
It was no great shock to see how the Tory-Blairite pro-war coalition seized on my article to bash your organisation; but it is very surprising — and very disheartening — to see you do the same thing. I “completely condemn” the Paris attacks, Mr Murray. I completely condemned them in the article which your organisation posted without my permission. I don’t know why you wish to compound the problems that the article has caused you by continuing to misrepresent it just as Cameron and others have done.
Oh, by the way: do feel free to post this piece on your website.Add a comment
Just a quick thought: when did America become a nation of such gutless, frothing cowards? Induced panics -- political, 'moral,' financial, etc. -- are an endemic feature of American history, of course. But to see people positively revelling in their cowardice -- proud of it, boasting of it, building their lives around it -- as they are today seems like something new, in degree if nothing else. Certainly since the McCarthy days, at least.
For example, I lived through an era when a global superpower had a vast nuclear arsenal on hair-trigger alert aimed directly at the US -- yet there was nothing remotely like the level of quivering fear we see today over the extremely remote threat of some isolated terrorist incident here or there. (A threat more remote than, say, being killed by a right-wing extremist, a disturbed person with easy access to guns, a local policeman -- or even your next of kin.)
There are many factors behind this, I suppose -- not least the frenzied and mendacious fearmongering of that nation-poisoning trash-merchant, Rupert Murdoch. But all of our corporate media have moved in that direction. Because fear serves more than just Fox's bottom line or the political fortunes of sinister clowns like Trump (and Cruz and Rubio and the Bush Boys and the whole sick crew). I think fear is being promoted across the board to "justify" an entire political-economic system that is now geared almost entirely to rampant militarism and rapacious financial elitism. No system of such vast and growing inequality -- coupled with an ever-expanding military-security-war profits complex that is bankrupting the national treasury, stripping away constitutional liberties, and fomenting extremism and violence around the world -- can long survive, unless it keeps people in a constant, chaotic whirl of fear and panic: fear which must be directed outward, toward one sort of alien OTHER or another (Mexicans, Muslims, Commies, Russkies, Chinese, radicals, etc.). Anything to divert attention from the crimes and corruption of our own power structures, which are wreaking more destruction on "the American way of life" than any terrorist organization could ever do.
It's not surprising that people would be influenced by such a relentless barrage of fearmongering lies, distortions and exaggerations pouring down on their heads every minute of the day from the "commanding heights" of our society. But is disheartening to see how eagerly and zealously so many Americans are rushing to embrace the degradation and servitude our "betters" are striving to impose.Add a comment
[NEW UPDATE. The Guardian has just published the letter below, so I've edited the intro here.] As the ersatz angst over Jeremy Corbyn’s links to Stop the War UK flares up once more in the endless plotting of Labour factionalists, my post-Paris blog post about “reaping the whirlwind” has raised its “disreputable” head again. With the latest mentions continuing the universal misrepresentation of the post, I wrote the letter below to the Guardian, in yet another wan attempt to set the record straight:
To the Editor:
As the author of the original "reaping the whirlwind" blog that was briefly reposted (without my knowledge and with a tweaked headline) by Stop The War UK, I can assure Tristram Hunt and all the other MPs who have used the piece as a political football that it did not say or imply that the people of France or "French policy" were to blame for the Paris attacks. Every public reference to the post has been a complete mischaracterisation of its content.
The post states clearly that we in the West, all of us, are paying for the consequences of many decades of collusion with and manipulation of religious extremism by our leaders in order to advance various geopolitical goals. Is this even a controversial — much less "disreputable" — statement? For example, does anyone, even the prime minister, dispute that the rise of ISIS stems directly from 2003 invasion of Iraq by the US and UK? The post also dealt with other historical follies, such as creating an international jihad army to draw the Soviets into Afghanistan (a ploy that Zbigniew Brzezinski has proudly admitted), and the decades-long support of religious extremists such as Saudi Arabia.
Even some supporters of bombing Syria say that our past crimes and follies in the region make us responsible for taking action now to rectify their horrific consequences. One can argue whether new military action is the best way to do this; I don't think it is. But the views in the blog post are not beyond the pale of human decency, to be shunned at all cost. On the contrary, they have been part of mainstream political debate for years.
I'm not a member of the Labour Party or STW or Momentum or any other political group. It has been disheartening — though highly instructive — to see how the opinions of a private citizen can be so twisted by a political system that puts the struggle for petty partisan advantage above all else.
Look, here’s how it is: a white man dressed in Klan robes and a Nazi armband could shoot up a kindergarten shouting, “I’m a racist fascist terrorist deliberately committing terrorist acts to terrorize society!!!”, and the New York Times would still characterize him as “troubled soul, struggling with personal issues, an imperfect but a good man.” That’s just how it is. There is literally nothing — nothing — that a white killer can do in America that will cause him to be labelled a “terrorist.” Even if, like Dylann Roof, he explicitly states that he is committing an overt act of terror in order to instigate a race war and overthrow American society as it is now constituted. Even then, he’s not a “terrorist;" he's troubled young man, a "lone wolf" who wandered down the wrong path. It is simply impossible in the current American political discourse — even in “sophisticated” up-market media outlets like the New York Times —for a white man to be a terrorist.
Of course, anyone whose mind and psyche breaks down to such an extent that they open themselves to evil ideas and kill innocent people actually should be looked upon as a “troubled soul.” Something has gone wrong somewhere with them; something, or many things, have bent them and twisted them toward such a malevolent destiny. But in our media, in our public discourse, this kind of nuanced understanding is never, ever, in any circumstances, accorded to anyone but white male murderers. Therefore, we can only conclude that it is the white skin of the killers that evokes this careful, even compassionate understanding of what could and should be seen as part of our universal human tragedy: the brokenness that afflicts so many of us, that corrodes our humanity and drives us to horrific acts. And thus we can further conclude from the media treatment of these incidents that our society — even high on its most ‘enlightened’ commanding heights, like the NYT — believes that anyone who is not a white man is less than human. That's how it is. That's how we are, as a society and a civilization. To deny this fact is to live in delusion -- a delusion that, indeed, corrodes one's humanity and bends toward malevolent destinies.Add a comment
The debate over bombing ISIS in Syria rests on what one can only assume is a deliberate misapprehension. The imputation of this "debate" is that we "must do something" to quell and defeat ISIS; and the essential, imperative thing we must do to accomplish this vital goal is to bomb Syria. But of course the UK is already bombing ISIS. It bombs ISIS nearly every day -- in the group's heartland, Iraq. It has flown "thousands of missions" against ISIS, dropped tons of bombs, killed many people. Has this quelled or defeated ISIS, or curtailed its reach? Obviously not.
The origins, core strength and power centers of ISIS are all in Iraq. Syria, for all its inherent horrors, is a sideshow, a minor front for ISIS. As Patrick Cockburn notes, in Syria ISIS holds large tracts of desert territory but only one substantial city; in Iraq, it controls several major cities, rich oil fields, and strategic routes that make it a constant threat to the capital itself. The UK has been bombing ISIS in this core for some time: "thousands of missions," Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said this summer. Obviously, these continual bombings in the group's core have not affected its ability to wage war in the region or strike elsewhere in Europe. Why would bombing its hinterland in Syria have any effect?
The rush to bomb Syria is a cynical ploy to exploit the murderous tragedy in Paris for the benefit of the Washington-led agenda of regime change in Damascus. Bombing ISIS can help clear the way for the other militant Islamist rebels (including al Qaeda affiliates, now miraculously transformed into "moderates") whom the West and its Saudi allies favor. What is wanted is an acquiescent regime in Damascus, unaligned with Iran and Russia, and controlled by Sunnis. The West wants the former, the Saudis want the latter. It's part of their "long war" to finally vanquish Shiite Islam. This was the explicit statement of Prince Bandar, the long-time Saudi ambassador to the US (who grew so close to one of America's ruling family that he was affectionately known as "Bandar Bush") and later head of Saudi intelligence. Here is what he told Richard Dearlove, the then-head of the UK's intelligence agency, MI6:
"The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally 'God help the Shia'. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them."
This "chilling" conversation took place before 9/11, Dearlove notes.
The strident call to "bomb Syria" -- without any genuine strategic plan or aim behind it -- thus dovetails with geopolitical and theopolitical agendas that have absolutely nothing to do with the "safety and security of the British people" or "defeating terrorism" or "securing the freedom of the Syrian people to determine their own destiny" or "bringing peace and stability to the strife-torn Middle East." These are demonstrably NOT the overriding strategic concerns of Western leaders and their Middle Eastern allies. (Nor of the Russians, who are intervening in Syria to counter the West's geopolitical moves there and advance their own.)
Thus the "debate" over bombing Syria -- like all the other earnest public broils over government policy in the "War on Terror" -- is based on false premises. There are indeed an array of contentious factors in play, but these have to do with more mundane concerns: the struggle over control of the production and distribution of oil, gas and other natural and economic resources; attempts by various national governments and corporate interests to extend influence and exercise dominance over strategically important regions and markets; and the preservation and extension of power structures in various national governments. (The latter includes the vast and ever-expanding military-security-war profiteering complexes that now play such a commanding role in the politics and economies of major nations.) These are the enduring priorities of our power players, to be pursued by any means available.
Concerns about the safety, security and freedom of ordinary people play little or no role in the actual decisions of the policymakers involved -- unless those concerns can be usefully exploited to advance elite agendas. Abject fear -- or dulled, distracted indifference: these are the preferred states for public opinion. Any attempts at actual engagement, at genuine debate are swiftly marginalized, mocked and crippled, with the policing done by the establishment media and members of the dissenters' own party, eager to prove their loyalty to the greater power structure. This is what we are seeing in the UK right now, as Labour rips its own leader to shreds over his resistance to more war, fear, terror and exploitation.
So there is little point in earnest disquisitions over whether the bellicose policies being proposed will be effective in "confronting the scourge of terrorism." We know they won't. But that is not their intention.Add a comment