Searching for a Soldier's Grave: The Ones Who Lost the Music

Written by Chris Floyd 17 July 2015 1690 Hits

(Another recent column for the print version of CounterPunch.) It was a run-down house in a bad neighborhood. In the front yard, a gray Chevette with a smashed grill. The porch sagged and creaked as I walked across it. The front door was unlocked. I went in. It was not dark yet, but late in the day. The wide front room was shadowy; no furniture except a folding card table, a couple of folding chairs and a clapped-out recliner. The table was heaped with a jumble of loose papers, unopened mail, empty beer cans, a dead computer. A slight whiff of spoiled food coming from the back of the house.

I found my brother on the floor, crawling slowly across the bare wood. Although I hadn’t seen him for a year, maybe two, he showed no surprise at my sudden appearance. “Do you see them?” he said, looking up briefly then returning to his intense scrutiny of the card-thin space between two floorboards. “The little red things. A line of them.”

I didn’t see anything. “Ants?”

“No, the little creatures, the things. They come out, then go down into the other place. I’ve got … I’ve got to … I can’t tell what they’re saying.”

“They must be gone,” I said.

He got up. “No, but forget it. How ya doin’, boy?” He padded over in his bare feet and gave me a hug. He was a shambling mess, in baggy, stained tracksuit bottoms, baggy t-shirt over his bloated belly, his thinning hair long and greasy, his beard unkempt. But in his eyes, I could see, for a moment, a gleam of his old self.

We sat down and talked. He was as lucid as you please, catching me up on the latest disasters of his life. Fired from his third job in a year. Banned from Wal-Mart after some kind of unspecified altercation. The car wreck. The tense encounters with our father, who was paying his rent and buying his groceries while hiding his true state from our mother. The guitars he had to sell. The meds.

The meds. Thirty years of them by now. It began in the service. His luck had already started turning sour in the aimless years after his ultra-hip, high-school hero days, but it took a sudden, deep plunge when his draft lottery number came up. He rushed to join the Air Force before he was drafted and fed into meat grinder in Nam. He never saw combat; somehow he ended up working in the psych ward of a military hospital in Biloxi, Mississippi, dealing with those driven out of their minds by the war.  Day after day of bad craziness, doling out pills — and scarfing them down himself, trying to stay just this side of sane amidst the howling pain of the maimed and mad.

Never got off the pills. Never made it all the way back. He lived a dazed and stunted half-life, burying himself in conventional tropes, strangling his bohemian spirit, letting the music in his mind wither away. His sporadic attempts to break out always ended in disaster and defeat. Then his son got killed by a drunk driver, and the brittle conventional facade fell to pieces. The unhappy marriage collapsed from dry rot. The sinecure at the post office was lost. Always the meds, legal and otherwise. He sought help at a VA hospital; they put jumper cables to his head and volted his brain. He came out more confused, flailing in a downward spiral.

Now here he was. Here we were. When he went to the kitchen for more beer, I looked at the open page of a spiral notebook on the table. Among cryptic scribbles — “She’s the daughter, not the wife She will be the wife Or both Closing song Allmans? New set?” — I saw this:

“Today is Thursday. It’s May 24. I live in Lebanon, Tennessee. Bill Clinton is the president.”

The whole set-up was depressing, but it was this that broke my heart — his struggle to hold on to reality, clinging by his fingernails to the rock, trying to keep from being swept away by the waves and lost in the thrashing depths of “the other place,” where little red creatures spoke in unknown tongues and a ghost tour filled with music and romantic intrigue rolled through an alternate universe. (A universe that I soon learned could be entered — when certain conditions coalesced — through a damp spot on the bedroom wall.)

Even this was not rock bottom. That came later, with him living stranded in a seedy motel room, with a broken TV and an air-conditioner that couldn’t be turned off, broken glasses, teeth falling out, shivering, crying, menaced by the dealers and gang-bangers who’d set up camp in the surrounding rooms.  Through tears, he said: “I’ve become them. Back then.” The ones he’d treated in the psych ward; the maimed and mad. The ones who lost the music.

Then came a rescue of sorts. My mortally ailing father and my aunt finally got him into decent housing back in our hometown. A new doctor — a Muslim who had somehow fetched up in the rural depths of Tennessee — flushed the mind-bending meds from his brain. He and the doctor had long talks, about Islam, Christianity, war, old movies. His drug-swollen body slimmed down. He was still fragile, still shell-shocked, but starting to wake up, bit by bit.

One day my father got a call from my aunt: she hadn’t heard from my brother for two days. My father dragged his frail frame to the nearby apartment block. He had a key; he opened the door. My brother’s body was on the couch; he had died, peacefully, in his sleep.

They buried him in a military grave.

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Bachmann Terror Overdrive: The Age of Rapture

Written by Chris Floyd 16 July 2015 1822 Hits

A clutch of headlines over a span of two days in April: US dispatches elite troops to Ukraine. US sends warships to Yemen to join naval blockade. BP taking more oil from Iraq in payments as government coffers dwindle. Saudi bombs boost al Qaeda. Sale of US arms fuels wars in Arab states. Michelle Bachmann says all signs point to the Rapture. For the first time in my life, I agree with Michelle Bachmann.

(Note: This was my column in the May edition of CounterPunch magazine.)

You remember Bachmann, don't you? She was once considered a serious candidate for the presidency. On the campaign trail, she would describe the road-to-Damascus moment that led her to become a Republican: reading Gore Vidal's "snotty novel," Burr. "If that's what Democrats believe," she said of Vidal's mordant look at the corruption and conniving of our Founding Dads, "then I must be a Republican." (Thank god she didn't read Myra Breckinridge, eh? Who knows what she would have become?)

Anyway, during those busy April days, Bachmann was interviewed on a Christian radio station and declared that the disastrous results of America’s foreign policy were clear harbingers of the coming Rapture: that blessed time when the Lord, like a celestial Mr. Scott, will beam up the saved to the heavenly Enterprise — then destroy the earth and kill billions of people with ravaging fire and photon torpedoes.

(You can see why Bachmann and her literalist ilk don’t worry too much about climate change; why bother to save a planet that’s going up in smoke any day now? And why bother to tend the sick and feed the hungry and all that other jazzmo Jesus talked about, when most of them are going to have their flesh fried and their souls shipped to hell? But oddly enough, the prospect of imminent departure doesn’t seem to stop these pious paragons from padding their portfolios with long-term investments. Well, faith is a mystery, as they say.)

Of course, the apocalyptic foreign policy Bachmann talked about was not Obama’s insane dance along the nuclear tripwire in Ukraine. Nor his brutality in helping impose a naval blockade of Yemen — a nation that imports 90 percent of its food, mostly by sea. The fact that Yemenis were starving and dying and running for their lives under the bludgeoning of American bombs dropped by Saudi aggressors did not trouble Bachmann at all.

Nor was it the fact that the Saudi assault has been a tremendous boon to al Qaeda, who had been stymied by their enemies, the Houthis, but were now free to capture airports and take chunks of territory with the help of their frequent allies, the Americans. (See Syria, Libya, etc.) Nor did she care about Obama’s record-breaking arms sales to some of the most repressive regimes on earth. Her only quibble with any of this would be that it did not go far enough — that there weren’t more troops in Ukraine bellying up to the Russkis, that there weren’t more bombs and starvation in Yemen, doing God’s work in killing heathen Muslims, that there weren’t more arms going to the Islamic extremists in Saudi Arabia so they too could kill more heathen Muslims.

This is not what set Bachmann off. On all these things there is remarkable comity and unity across the breadth and depth of the American political establishment, from the far right wing that Bachmann represents to the, er, not-quite-as-far-right wing that Obama and Hillary Clinton and other system-supporting “progressives” represent. The only “debate” in our militaristic empire is how fast we kill, how many we kill, and with whom we kill at any given time.

No, the great sign of the impending end of the world that Bachmann saw was … a prospective agreement to keep Iran from making nuclear weapons. (Which they have not done, are not doing, and have repeatedly declared they will never do — even though Israel has a vast arsenal of illegal, uninspected nuclear weapons aimed at them.) The slightest chance of a temporary pause in Iran’s eternal punishment for its demonic lèse-majesté — kicking America’s imperial stooge out of their country 36 years ago — is, for Bachmann (and for many others in the political establishment) an abomination unto the Lord, for which He will soon implement the mother of all final solutions.

Now here we come to a splitting of theological hairs. I do agree with Bachmann that there is decidedly something mephitic and end-timesy in the air these days, a blind, reckless — even willful — rush toward catastrophes beyond imagining. And I agree that American policies — foreign and domestic — are, like the Gadarene swine, the main receptacles of the deathly spirit driving us toward the cliff. However, I don’t think the proposed agreement with Iran is a divine blazon of the end. Nor do I think that God’s little sunbeams like Michelle will be plucked away to escape the consequences of our maniacal folly.

But in her own ignorant, horse’s-ass way, I think Bachmann has, as through a glass darkly, touched on the pulse of our times.  For this is indeed the Age of Rapture — a word taken from the Latin, meaning “seizure, rape, a snatching away.” The sense of what is best in us — most human, most real and connected — is being brutally violated and snatched away. But there will be no transporter to save us; we are all, right now, in hell.

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XPOTUSES in Paradise: Bill and George Gab About Old Times

Written by Chris Floyd 10 July 2015 1760 Hits

“Come on now, George, admit it: I killed more Iraqi civilians than you ever did, with my sanctions. Don’t you remember my Madeline Albright admitting that 500,000 children had died from those sanctions? And that’s not even counting the old and the sick and the weak and the poor. We’ve got to be talking a million, maybe even 1.5 mill in total. And all of ‘em civilians. What did you bag? About a million, wasn’t it? But hell, at least some of those were soldiers – and it was a war, for god’s sake. We got our crop of corpses in peacetime, quietly, not making a big show about it. And now look: I’m one of the most popular men in the whole world, while you’re just a punch-line on late-night TV. I’ve even got more money than you now!”

“Dagnab it! Got me again, Bill!”

 

George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Dallas, Texas, July 8, 2015.

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False Flag Op: Heritage and Hokum in Rebel Banner Row

Written by Chris Floyd 02 July 2015 2456 Hits

And now, an important message from the Hon. Ambrose Calhoun Merriweather, former governor of South Carolina: “My fellow Americans, as we gather to celebrate the birth of our nation, I am saddened to see how some people are trying to sow dissension and division among us, stirring up needless controversy over the Confederate battle flag that flies at the capital of our great state of South Carolina, and at some of our sister states across the South. How it pains me to see that flag cast down in the dirt as an emblem of dishonor.

This is wrong, my friends. For that flag represents heritage, not hatred. It has flown proudly at our capital since, uh, 1961, when it was first raised during the great Negro tribulation that was stirred up by that King fellow and his outside agitators. It was raised at state capitols by our brethren in Alabama in 1963 and in Georgia in 1965, in response to that same tribulation.

But in truth, the flying of our noble flag is more ancient than that. I remember as a boy in the 1940s, you could hardly see that beautiful banner anywhere. People didn’t even think about it. Why, it was almost as if the Civil War had ended generations before, and that the South had contributed many, many of its sons to fight in two World Wars on behalf of the nation their grandfathers had fought against. It was as if the same Federal government once led by Abraham Lincoln had spent decades building up the South, with roads, bridges, dams, levees, military bases and a never-ending stream of government contracts and other pork flowing to the states and districts of powerful Southern congressmen. Back then, you’d see a thousand American flags before you’d run across a Confederate flag anywhere.

But then came that first Tribulation, in the late Forties, when our Negroes were stirred up by Harry Truman and his so-called “anti-discrimination” laws. He even wanted to outlaw lynching. That’s when this little Southern boy began to see Confederate flags springing up everywhere — raised as a banner of defiance in defense of our non-hateful heritage of segregation, and our steadfast religious belief in the eternal wisdom of God in separating the races, and giving one of them the burden of leadership and dominion over all the others. This was the heritage the Federal government was trying to overthrow, and it was at this time that the battle flag used by the Army of Tennessee in the last 16 months of the war, and then by the Confederate navy, somehow became the emblem of all Southern heritage, although it never represented the Confederate nation nor was given any official recognition, nor did it ever fly at any Southern capital during the Civil War.

But after the Federal assault on segregation — and its godless attempt to destroy the benevolent white stewardship of the less fortunate races — this flag began to spread like kudzu, after rarely being seen for the best part of a century.

My friends, that was nearly 70 years ago. That's how ancient the heritage of this flag is. What it stands for is the valiant and violent attempt to defend the divinely appointed principles of segregation and supremacy. That’s what this flag represents.

It does not and cannot represent the entirety of Southern heritage, unless that heritage is reduced to nothing but four years of a war for slavery. It cannot and does not represent the Southerners who fought in the Revolutionary War. It cannot and does not represent the 400,000 white Southerners who fought for the Union in the Civil War. It cannot and does not represent all the Southerners who died fighting for the United States in WWI and WWII. And it most assuredly cannot and does not represent the millions upon millions of black Southerners who helped build this nation and have contributed beyond measure to the development of our economy, our culture and our values.

No sir, it doesn’t represent any of that. It was not raised across the South in the past few decades in order to honor the bravery and sacrifice of the Confederate dead. Most Confederate soldiers didn’t even fight under that particular flag. No, it was raised to honor the bravery and sacrifice of politicians and power-brokers in the 20th century who fought to deny their fellow citizens equal rights under the law. It was raised to honor those in the 20th century who fought to preserve the notion of white superiority.  It was raised in the 20th century to say to meddling Yankees — and to the myriad of white Southern ‘race traitors’ who worked for equality — that nobody can tell our Southern elites what to do with our Negroes.

This is the heritage being supported by all those who today defend the flying of a flag used by the Army of Tennessee for 16 months some 150 years ago. This is what they are saying: remember those who fought for segregation and supremacy in the middle decades of the 20th century. That is what we are honoring when we fly that flag today. Long may it wave!”

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Athens Agonistes: Troika Extremists Write New Greek Tragedy

Written by Chris Floyd 29 June 2015 2054 Hits

The people of Greece are being driven to their knees by a gang of brutal religious extremists, willing to destroy whole nations for the sake of something that doesn't even exist. Yet the 'civilized' world cheers these barbarians on as they despoil the cradle of Western democracy.

Greece is facing total collapse unless it knuckles under to the draconian demands of the bizarre cultists known as the Troika, a sinister union of three extremist groups (the I.M.F., the European Central Bank and the European Commission) who seek to impose their harsh and rigid way of life across the world. They insist that control of a nation's wealth be given over to a few powerful emirs and the Troika's favored moneylenders in its richer satrapies.

All measures designed to aid the common good and build a decent life for ordinary citizens are ruthlessly suppressed by the Troikaists. Public resources are forcibly sold off -- at knock-down prices -- to foreign interests or local lordlings. The fact that millions of people are left destitute, living diminished lives in crumbling infrastructure, growing sicker, weaker, more hopeless, even dying from want and neglect -- none of this matters to the ruthless fanatics. All that matters is obedience to their will, and adherence to the Troika's bleak and joyless system for the regulation of life, which its learned theologians call austerity.

The supremely comfortable, self-satisfied burghers and bankers who control the Troika's factions, along with their dutiful servants in government, are watching, impassively, as the Greeks twist and turn in the poisonous shirt of Nessus that the cult has forced upon them. Already brought low by years of austerity adopted by their leaders in a vain attempt to placate the Troikaist hordes at the border, this week the Greek people face the final reckoning: complete submission, which guarantees more ruin, or a terrifying leap into the unknown, refusing the demands and suffering whatever acts of revenge the Troika will wreak upon such heretics.

It's a remarkable situation. Millions of human beings are suffering, and for what? To repay a few powerful financial institutions for the loans they gave to the Greek government -- loans which, by odd coincidence, were actually spent almost entirely on servicing previous debt to those same financial institutions. Very little of it went into the Greek economy, as the NY Times notes. It was a case of taking on new debt to pay off old debt (a situation not unknown to many of us, I'm sure), as the country slipped further into decay.

Yet it was not enough for the cultists to loan money for Greece to give right back to them; they also required that Greece restructure its society, government and economy to fit the Troika's neoliberal straitjacket. Taxes had to be raised. (For ordinary folk, of course; rich Greeks -- like the rich everywhere -- can still use complex tax-dodging schemes to stash their cash offshore.) Government spending -- especially on such useless trash as pensions, welfare, education, healthcare -- had to be ruthlessly slashed. The labor market had to become more "flexible" -- that is, stripped of job protections and workers rights, making it easier to fire people or pay them less. Deregulation and privatization were also commanded.

But why? The ostensible reason was that these austerity measures would make the Greek economy roar like a lion in his prime. But even an economist is smart enough to see that making a bankrupt country even poorer and more desperate while preventing it from injecting bailout funds into its economy is a recipe for ruination, not a blueprint for growth. And the past four years have proved that Troika’s austerity sharia has not and cannot produce “growth” in a broken economy with 25 percent unemployment. (The same percentage as in the US during the depths of the Great Depression.)

And why this time limit on the repayment? Even on the relatively small downpayment (around $1.5 billion) being demanded immediately -- a payment that the bankrupt nation simply can't pay at the moment. Why not stretch the payments out -- way, way out, if necessary? After all, Britain only paid off its post-World War II rebuilding loan from the United States in 2006 -- exactly 50 years after it was given. Why couldn't Greece be given the time to work out its economic problems -- in its own way, without mutilating its society -- and pay back its debts over the long haul?

But of course it’s not about the money.  As many have already pointed out, the Troika knows that Greece is bankrupt and can’t pay back the money. (Unless, as with the UK, they are given generations to do so, on easy terms that don’t require them to bleed their people dry and gut their own society.) No, the current squeeze on Greece is about the system, the imposition of austerity sharia that is the lodestar of the Troika’s blinkered religious beliefs. If Greece will not accept the system, then it must be punished, it must be made an example. In short, it’s an act of terroristic PR, like the ISIS beheading videos: a warning that this is the fate of all those who refuse to submit.

What, in the end, is at stake? Literally nothing. Numbers on a computer screen. It’s not as if Greece has a hoard of German gold hidden in the Acropolis and won’t give it back. It’s not even as if the Greeks have warehouses full of banknotes that they can send back to the Troika. All of it — the debts, the loans — are abstract notions. The debt could be written off with the press of a delete key, or reduced by the subtraction of a zero or two on a digital spreadsheet. So could the losses of the lenders. (Although why shouldn’t the lenders lose their money? You put up your money, you take a risk, and if the venture fails, you lose. Isn’t that the ‘free market’ way? But of course there is no free market; there are only systems of exchange that powerful entities seek to control and manipulate to their advantage. There is no free market in any system where some enterprises are ‘too big to fail’ and must be bailed out by the sustenance of ordinary citizens.)

Money is a myth, sustained by the faith of those who accept whatever is the arbitrary measurement of value in any given time or society. (Beads, shells, axes, coins, ingots, strips of paper, liquid crystals dancing on a screen.) Yet throughout history, these myths have led to the deaths and despoliation of millions of innocent people. It is a myth that perpetuates inequality, servitude, suffering, and the dominion of a powerful few. The latest instalment of this ancient tragedy is being played out right now in Greece, where tragedy was born. And the extremism being displayed by the Troika is just as mindless, destructive and merciless as that of the violent Islamists that the ‘defenders of Western civilization’ have done so much to foment in their global power games.

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Fresh Horses: Roadside Stop on the Imperial Highway

Written by Chris Floyd 21 June 2015 1690 Hits

Very sorry for the dearth of posts in recent weeks. This is due to personal reasons, which I'll not bore you with. I hope to be writing more here in the near future. I do manage to twit a tweet every now and then, which you can check out at @empireburlesque. More later, I hope. In the meantime, many thanks to those who still read and support the blog. I hope to be worthy of that support again soon.

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Our Lives in the Larder: Celebrating Another Defeat for Freedom

Written by Chris Floyd 02 June 2015 1820 Hits

I was going to write about the bizarre and rather sad celebrations across the progressosphere about the great paradigm-shifting “victory” in the passage of the “U.S.A. Freedom Act” — but I find that Tarzie has got there the fustest with the mostest with a fine piece that nails this momentous event as the tremulous sham that it is. He was notes that Rand Paul — new hero of freedom-lovers everywhere — is now calling for 1,000 more FBI agents to monitor the thoughts, beliefs and actions of Americans to make sure they don’t get up to none of them terroristic-like activities … just as AP reveals that the FBI is conducting a vast, secret airborne surveillance across the country. So what’s the takeaway of this historic event? Just this: “We should privatize a few of the NSA’s Stasi operations, while letting the myriad other ‘security’ agencies run wild.” Smell the liberty!

Tarzie has long pointed out a fact ignored by nearly everyone else: the intense focus on some activities of the NSA occasioned by the Edward Snowden saga (coming soon to a multiplex near you) has totally obscured the dozens of other agencies and programs that feast on the corpse of privacy and keep our lives locked in their larders, ready to be devoured at their pleasure. In the end, the main outcome of the Snowden revelations has been to enshrine all-pervasive surveillance as the “new normal”: witness the fervent championing of the NSA by the bipartisan American elite, celebrating and legalizing intrusions beyond the wildest dreams of the KGB and the Gestapo. Meanwhile, with so-called Freedom Acts, FBI airplanes, drones, satellites, fusion centers, vast barns full of private data and so on, the constriction and strangulation of human existence goes on apace.

Some excerpts from Tarzie:

Today [AP] reported that:

The FBI is operating a small air force with scores of low-flying planes across the country carrying video and, at times, cellphone surveillance technology — all hidden behind fictitious companies that are fronts for the government…

Did you see that bit there kids, about cellphone surveillance? But you can continue to ridiculously whoop it up since a spokesperson for the FBI assured AP’s reporters that:

the FBI’s planes “are not equipped, designed or used for bulk collection activities or mass surveillance.”

Of course the planes don’t do bulk collection. There are phone companies for that, and they’re still obliged to give up records to law enforcement agencies, including the NSA, whether they want to or not.  Since our instructions are to be all about the phones right now, let’s try not to think about this bit at all:

the planes can capture video of unrelated criminal activity on the ground that could be handed over for prosecutions.
Bulk video collection. Cool. …

The Freedom Act, the NSA “reform” bill [now passed, will give] the NSA … six months to transition to the proposed new system, which requires a FISA rubber stamp for cell phone data collecting. So all this chest-beating is really about a few days alleged respite from one small element of one agency‘s spying activities.

I’ve said before that among the worst things about the Snowden Show is how, by focusing almost entirely on a single agency, it minimizes a massive surveillance and control apparatus that includes sixteen other Federal agencies, scores of private companies, and state and local police.  Even if you arbitrarily restrict your inquiry to signals intelligence — the only thing the NSA does –unless you are investigating the signals intelligence capabilities of the CIA, the FBI, the DEA, local police and the companies they work with, you’re barely scratching the surface.  Stories like today’s AP revelations about surveillance planes come and go constantly. But the motto of the infosec cabal’s big players seems to be, “NSA docs or it didn’t happen.”

This narrow focus is worse than foolish. It’s a lie.

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Progressive Apocalypse: Obama Opens Door to Nuclear Nightmare

Written by Chris Floyd 31 May 2015 2500 Hits

As all the world knows, the United States government is fervently dedicated to advancing the cause of peace throughout the world. Tirelessly, selflessly — and thanklessly — America pursues this noble mission in every corner of the globe: standing shoulder to shoulder with Saudi extremists in slaughtering civilians in Yemen, with al Qaeda and ISIS beheading their way across Syria, with fascist militias in Ukraine. But recently, America’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning president went far beyond these localized acts of lovingkindness and made a beneficent decision that potentially could effect every single person drawing breath on our blue planet.

Late last month, the Peace Prize Prez (PPPOTUS) “blocked a global document aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons,” the Washington Post reports. Obama’s peace-loving action means that “the entire blueprint for global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation” has been killed dead in its tracks. It will now be five years until the next UN review of the landmark Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

You might think this is odd behaviour from a president who has spent years tightening a stranglehold on Iran with an endless series of aggressive, bellicose acts just short of outright war, in order (ostensibly) to prevent that ‘rogue nation’ from developing nuclear weapons. Very late in the day, he has recently decided to try to craft a non-proliferation deal with Iran that is very similar to the deal that Iran offered the United States more than 12 years ago — the kind of deal that has been on the table from Iran for his entire presidency.  It’s likely that the main spur to his belated attempt at deal-making stems from his realization that he desperately needs Iran’s help to quell the ungodly maelstrom of murder, ruin and extremism he and his predecessor (and their Saudi allies) have unleashed in the Middle East.

In any case, he has long insisted that the proliferation of nuclear weapons must be opposed and thwarted at all costs. Why then has he stepped in to stop the global framework for, er, thwarting nuclear proliferation? To protect a ‘rogue’ nuclear state which has illegally developed a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons — and which adamantly refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. (Unlike Iran, which has for years accepted an international inspection regimen far more rigorous than the Treaty calls for.)

The nuclear renegade is, of course, Israel. And the treaty review that Obama just killed would have called for a conference in 2016 on eliminating all nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Of course, only one nation in the Middle East actually has nuclear weapons. But Israel is concerned that such a conference would force it to acknowledge the existence of the large nuclear arsenal that everyone in the world already knows it has.

So the United States — with the slavish support of its London lapdog and Ottawa underling — moved to kill the negotiations for the conference. The decision “has alarmed countries without nuclear weapons, who are increasingly frustrated by what they see as the slow pace of nuclear-armed countries to disarm,” the Post reports. “Amid a growing movement that stresses the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, Austria announced that 107 states have now signed a pledge calling for legal measures to ban and eliminate them.”

Of course, Obama’s action was not merely a benevolent service for Israel. For not only does the United States want to keep Israel as its nuclear-armed crusader fortress in the Middle East — it also has no intention whatsoever of eliminating its own nuclear arsenal.  This will never happen, no matter which faction of militarist courtiers happens to wrap their candidate in the imperial purple for a time in 2016 or 2020 or 2024, etc.  So any undermining of genuine efforts toward nuclear disarmament also serves America’s bipartisan agenda of unipolar domination of world affairs.

This is far more important than ridding the world of nuclear weapons — or even trying to control their proliferation. Now there are five years of open field ahead for more nations to jump into the nuclear club — including America’s Saudi buddies, who say they might get some nukes for their own selves if Obama cuts a deal with Iran … which, as every Western intelligence agency has avowed, is not actually trying to build a nuclear weapon.

To speak plainly and with no addition: America’s bipartisan elite would rather put the entire world into more nuclear peril than surrender a single iota for their lust for loot and power.

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Helping a Voice of Truth Through a Season in Hell

Written by Chris Floyd 27 May 2015 1645 Hits

Arthur Silber has resurfaced after yet another long season in hell — but only to say that the hell goes on, although he hopes to be writing again soon. This, as always, is a consummation devoutly to be wished. As he depends on contributions given for his writing, and as he has not been able to write for several months, he is doubtless in need of support. If you can give, please consider heading over to his site and putting something in the jar. .... I’ve not been writing much myself of late, for various reasons, including some health-related issues — although nothing remotely like what Arthur is going through. But I too hope to be writing more in the coming days and weeks. So watch, as they say, this space. 

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Remembering a Veteran Lost in the Madness of War

Written by Chris Floyd 25 May 2015 1697 Hits

Lost in Biloxi....

He lost his way in Biloxi
He lost his way down on that shore
That was still choked with the debris
Of a storm from long before
He lost his way in the madhouse
Where he tended to the men
Whose young souls had been shattered
By a war that will have no end

He was a boy from the country
Full of bluster, full of beans
He grew up sheltered in that valley
From the world's ungodly scenes
Then they threw him in the maelstrom
They threw him in the flood
They taught him death and anguish
They taught him grief and blood

He came back home and he started searching
For the life he'd left behind
For the boy so full of promise
And the music in his mind
But he got lost back in Biloxi
Got hooked on pills to ease the pain
He never could cut through that static
And hear those clear, pure notes again

Well, they named him for an angel
But he fell into the fire
Now let all his imperfections
Be burned away into something higher

I knew his heart, I knew his ego
I knew the chains that kept him bound
I knew the reach of his ambitions
And the fears in which they drowned
Well, I'm not here  to make excuses
Say what you like, the dead don't care
I'm just thinking about Biloxi…
And a boy who got lost down there

R.I.P. Jesse Michael Floyd

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Murder’s Loophole: US Cluster Bombs Rain Mass Death on Yemen

Written by Chris Floyd 03 May 2015 2632 Hits

On Sunday, Human Rights Watch reported that Saudi Arabia is dropping cluster bombs supplied by the United States in the relentless onslaught on Yemen. These horrific weapons — which not only unleash mass death on first use but leave unexploded bombs that can kill for months or years afterward — have been banned by 116 nations. The United States has not signed the convention against cluster bombs, but has greatly restricted their use. However, a loophole left in US law allows the Pentagon’s favorite war profiteers to sell cluster bombs abroad.

The Saudis are dropping the cluster bombs near villages, HRW reports. But the Saudis — and their ally, the United States, which is supplying weapons, logistics and intelligence support to the act of aggression — have already shown they are unconcerned about civilian casualties in the conflict. More than 1,000 people have died in 2,300 airstrikes launched by the Saudis and their allies. According to best estimates, hundreds of civilians have been killed. Millions of civilians are now at dire risk, due to a brutal blockade imposed by the Saudis and the Americans. Yemen imports 90 percent of its food. It is now running out of food, medical supplies and fuel. People are dying from the deprivation.

But of course, the use of cluster bombs against Yemen is nothing new. As the New York Times reports, American ships fired cruise missiles loaded with cluster bombs in an attack that killed “dozens of civilians.” This was in 2009, the year the man who launched those attacks was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Saudis also dropped American-made cluster bombs on Yemen that year, in yet another attack on the Houthis.  HRW reports:

Credible evidence indicates that the Saudi-led coalition used banned cluster munitions supplied by the United States in airstrikes against Houthi forces in Yemen, Human Rights Watch said today. Cluster munitions pose long-term dangers to civilians and are prohibited by a 2008 treaty adopted by 116 countries, though not Saudi Arabia, Yemen, or the United States.

“Saudi-led cluster munition airstrikes have been hitting areas near villages, putting local people in danger,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch. “These weapons should never be used under any circumstances. Saudi Arabia and other coalition members – and the supplier, the US – are flouting the global standard that rejects cluster munitions because of their long-term threat to civilians.”

Cluster munitions contain dozens or hundreds of submunitions. The submunitions are designed to explode after spreading out over a wide area, often the size of a football field, putting anyone in the area at the time of the attack at risk of death or injury. In addition, many submunitions often do not explode, becoming de facto landmines.

While the CBU-105 is banned under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, its use is permitted under existing US policy and its export is permitted under existing US export restrictions on cluster munitions.

In August 2013, the US Department of Defense concluded a contract for the manufacture of 1,300 CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons for Saudi Arabia by Textron. … Additionally, [Saudi ally] UAE received an unknown number of CBU-105 from Textron Defense Systems in June 2010. … In addition to the recent transfer of CBU-105, the US provided Saudi Arabia with significant exports of cluster bombs between 1970 and 1999. Saudi Arabia possesses attack aircraft of US and Western/NATO origin capable of dropping US-made cluster bombs.

Most of our political reality now is almost beyond commentary. Its evident evil stands as stark as a naked body unearthed from a mass grave. Yet millions of people will be heatedly engaged in the coming months by the “struggle” over who will temporarily preside over the stinking slaughterhouse of our militarist empire. The mass hallucination — of a rational political system, of our national goodness, of the chance of “reform” if only the right murderer gets into power — will go on.

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Sham and Shame: Saudi-US Slaughter in Yemen Shows Truth of Terror War

Written by Chris Floyd 29 April 2015 3119 Hits

Last week, the United States sent an armada to Yemen, to help enforce a blockade of the poverty-ridden country as it groans under the mass slaughter of Saudi Arabia’s American-backed war of aggression. Now the Saudis, employing the bombs they procured from U.S. war profiteers, have shut down aid shipments by air with a bombing raid on the capital, Sana’a. The result will be more hunger, suffering and death in one of the world’s poorest countries. — But hey, wasn’t Obama so funny at that media dinner thing!

While aiding the Islamic extremists of Saudi Arabia to help al Qaeda in Yemen — who have made great gains while their mortal enemies, the Houthis, are being pounded by the Saudis — Obama and the American military machine has also been busy joining hands with al Qaeda in Syria, helping them make huge advances and capture key cities. It now looks increasingly likely that the Syrian government will not be able to withstand the onslaught of Islamic extremists (oh, and the “moderate” rebels, which also include al Qaeda elements). The fall of the secular Syrian state will open up an abyss of chaos which will be filled by the extremists armed and bankrolled by the United States and Saudi Arabia — just as the American destruction of the secular government in Iraq has led to murderous nightmare for millions of people.

What’s more, Israel has also joined the fight with al Qaeda, launching airstrikes on positions in Syria to clear the way for Islamic extremists to keep up their offensive. Robert Parry is on the case:

The Saudi-Israeli alliance, in league with other hard-line Sunni countries, is helping Al-Qaeda affiliates advance toward gaining either victory or at least safe havens in Syria and Yemen, highlighting unresolved contradictions in President Barack Obama’s policies in the Middle East. Fueled by a surge of support from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – and with Israel striking at Syrian government allies – Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and Al-Qaeda’s hyper-brutal spinoff, the Islamic State, are making major advances in Syria with some analysts now predicting the likely collapse of the relatively secular government of President Bashar al-Assad.

… As this relationship firmed up, Israel even began voicing a preference for Al-Qaeda’s militants over the relatively secular Assad government, which was viewed as the protectors of Alawites, Shiites, Christians and other Syrian minorities terrified of the Saudi-backed Sunni extremists. In September 2013, in one of the most explicit expressions of Israel’s views, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, then a close adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in an interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with Al-Qaeda. Oren expanded on his position in June 2014 at an Aspen Institute conference. Then, speaking as a former ambassador, Oren said Israel would even prefer a victory by the Islamic State, which was massacring captured Iraqi soldiers and beheading Westerners, than the continuation of the Iranian-backed Assad in Syria.“From Israel’s perspective, if there’s got to be an evil that’s got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail,” Oren said.

The same game is being played in Yemen, of course, as Obama puts American military and logistic muscle behind a murderous air assault by the fountainhead of Sunni extremism, Saudi Arabia. Here, the Americans — that great defender of democracy everywhere — are helping the hidebound, head-chopping, tyrannical Saudi royal family in its ever-more frantic efforts to stay in power. As Wall Street Journal correspondent Joe Lauria notes, the savaging of Yemen has very little to do with a “proxy war” with Iran, and very much to do with the Saudi royal’s determination to keep anything resembling democracy far from its borders. Lauria was interviewed by Jessica Desvarieux of The Real News after his WSJ story detailing how the Saudi attack deliberately scotched a peace deal in Yemen. Here are some excerpts:

LAURIA: That's the main thrust of the story, that [Jamal Benomar, the UN's Special Representative in Yemen], was saying. They were close to a deal, and then the Saudi intervention, the bombing ended the negotiation and that's where we are today.

DESVARIEUX: So what essential interest would Saudi Arabia have in terms of increasing force? Why would they even do that?

LAURIA: Well, publicly they're saying they want to restore Hadi as the president, and that they are trying to curb Iranian influence in Yemen. Now, the Houthis are Zaydi sect of Shiism, but it's a different sect than the Iranian Shiites. The Houthi movement began in the early '90s, and they didn't receive any aid or any connection really with Iran until five years ago, 2010. And even the U.S. government does not believe that Iran has overwhelming influence in Yemen. And diplomats I spoke to are not--I can't name, also say that Houthis were not agents of the Iranians and that their influence is limited there.

So what is the real motive of the Saudis? Well, these diplomats told me that they believe they didn't, that they were afraid, the Saudis, of a successful negotiation that would bring about a progressive and democratic government in their backyard. This government--and the deal called for, for example, 30 percent of the cabinet posts, 30 percent of parliament going to women. Now, in Saudi Arabia women can't even drive. But--and they were of course, the Houthis, who are 30 percent of the country, or the Zaydi Shiites, 30 percent of the country, would necessarily get about 30 percent of power of the government. Not 50 percent, they were not going to rule. They did not expect to be the rulers of Yemen, they know they cannot control the entire country. They are not strong enough. So they were willing to take 30 percent, according to Benomar.

And by the way, he told all of this to the UN Security Council today to confirm everything that was in my story. And Saudi Arabia did not want a democracy--this is what these diplomats tell me. They don't want a democracy in their backyard. For centuries they've installed their own leaders in Yemen. They want to control the politics there and impose their terms on this country. The last thing they need is anywhere in the region a democracy, and you can see since the so-called Arab Spring of the last four or five years, what have the Saudis done? From Egypt to Bahrain they have undermined any kind of, form of democracy. …

DESVARIEUX: Let's talk about some of the consequences of this bombing. And specifically, the winners and losers. Because an unexpected winner in all of this is Al-Qaeda, is that right?

LAURIA: That's correct. Al-Qaeda is strong in Yemen. Al-Qaeda has supposedly some of these, the underwear bomber, some of these other things came out of Yemen, and the attack on the magazine in Paris was apparently launched by this branch of Al-Qaeda in Yemen. The United States as your viewers well know has been using drone strikes in Yemen to try to defeat Al-Qaeda. They haven't done that, they've killed a bunch of civilians, unfortunately.

So Al-Qaeda is there. And it's well-known that going back to the 1980s when this was formed in Afghanistan that Saudi Arabia, at least some private money from Saudi Arabia, was backing some of these guys who turned into Al-Qaeda. And others, some governments even say that Qatar and Saudi Arabia are supporting extremist groups in Syria, like al-Nusra Front by Qatar. And maybe some people who are now fighting with Islamic State.

So what do you have here now is the Saudis bombing the Houthi targets only in Yemen, weakening them. The Houthis who are one of the, who are the main fighting force against Al-Qaeda, and they're being bombed by Saudi Arabia. And Al-Qaeda is moving. They're taking over towns. They've taken over airports. They are gaining on the ground. Now, the Saudis have, probably need ground troops to defeat the Houthis. They've asked Pakistan. And Pakistanis did some mysterious procedure that the Saudis don't seem to understand, which is call a parliamentary vote. And the parliament of Pakistan said, no. we're not sending our troops to fight in Yemen.

Can we at last give up the pretense that the “War on Terror” has anything at all to do with “fighting terrorism?” It is solely about power and profit, and has been from the beginning. But now our power-players are not even pretending anymore. Oren’s remarks make it plain; Obama’s policies — side with Sunni extremists in Syria, fight Sunni extremists in Iraq, side with Sunni extremists in Yemen, side with Sunni extremists in Libya and then oppose Sunni extremists in Libya — make it even plainer

From its very first moments, stretching back to the Reagan years and to the nth degree since 9/11, the “War on Terror” has been a sham. Yes, there are genuine Islamic extremists — and the Terror War produces more of them every day — but from the US-Saudi creation of an international jihadi army to overthrow the secular government of Soviet-backed Afghanistan to today’s alliance with al Qaeda in Syria and Yemen, America’s imperial militarists have made numerous alliances of convenience with their ostensible enemies as they pursue their agenda of domination. Obama is a willing pawn in their game. Hillary, Jeb, Mario — they will all be the same. The nightmare goes on.

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