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The Downward Road is Crowded
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 23 November 2010 21:10

A few quick takes, as we dig out from the latest hack.

Money for Old Rope
This is what $70 billion a year in whiz-bang, top-shelf "intelligence" buys you: Taliban Leader in Secret Talks Was an Impostor.

The United States of Insouciance
Since his return from a self-imposed hiatus, Paul Craig Roberts has been a man on fire, penning a series of riveting, ravaging articles that speak hard truth to the imperial state -- and to a society seemingly content to countenance, if not cheer, that state's worst malefactions. Roberts has done it again with his latest piece: "Insouciant Americans." Get thee hence, and read.

Mission Accomplished
It's hard to understand why all our serious commentators are writing that Barack Obama's presidency is in trouble, and offering sage advice, from right, left, and center, on what he needs to do to "get back on track." The truth, of course, is that Barack Obama's presidency is a smashing success -- indeed, a record-breaking success -- and that he is accomplishing exactly what he was put into office to do, as the New York Times reports today: Corporate Profits Were the Highest on Record Last Quarter.

Chronicles of Corruption
My old Moscow Times comrade Matt Taibbi adds another chapter to his on-going -- and jaw-dropping -- series of stories on the deliberate evisceration of ordinary Americans by their monied and minatory betters. Taibbi has few equals when it comes to explaining the true depth and extent of American corruption -- and almost no equal when it comes to actually reporting on it from the front lines. He is creating a record of the reality of our times that future historians (yes, yes, if there are any) will find invaluable.

The Dissident Path
Chris Hedges is another incendiary voice, burning through the threadbare curtain of liberal piety and exceptionalist myth to expose the corroded heart of a nation sliding into barbarity. His latest piece at Truthdig is an excellent example, so we'll finish here with a few choice quotes:

There is no hope left for achieving significant reform or restoring our democracy through established mechanisms of power. The electoral process has been hijacked by corporations. The judiciary has been corrupted and bought. The press shuts out the most important voices in the country and feeds us the banal and the absurd. Universities prostitute themselves for corporate dollars. Labor unions are marginal and ineffectual forces. The economy is in the hands of corporate swindlers and speculators. And the public, enchanted by electronic hallucinations, remains passive and supine. We have no tools left within the power structure in our fight to halt unchecked corporate pillage.

The liberal class, which Barack Obama represents, was never endowed with much vision or courage, but it did occasionally respond when pressured by popular democratic movements. This was how we got the New Deal, civil rights legislation and the array of consumer legislation pushed through by Ralph Nader and his allies in the Democratic Party. The complete surrendering of power, however, to corporate interests means that those of us who seek nonviolent yet profound change have no one within the power elite we can trust for support. The corporate coup has ossified the structures of power. It has obliterated all checks on corporate malfeasance. It has left us stripped of the tools of mass organization that once nudged the system forward toward justice. ....

Our worst premonitions are becoming reality. Our intuition has proved correct. We are reaching the breaking point. An explosion, unless we halt the increased pressure, seems inevitable. And what is left for those of us who cannot embrace the contaminants of violence? If the system shuts us out how can we influence it through nonviolent mechanisms of popular protest? How can we restore a civil society? How can we battle back against those who will mobilize hatred to cement into place an American fascism?

I do not know if we can win this battle. I suspect we cannot. But I do know that if we stop resisting, if we stop rebelling, something fundamental will die within us. As the corporate vise tightens, as the vast corporate system begins to break down with fossil fuel decline, extreme climate change and the expansion of global poverty, even mundane and ordinary acts to assert our common humanity and justice will be condemned as subversive.

It is time to think of resistance in a new way, something that is no longer carried out to reform a system but as an end in itself. African-Americans understood this during the long night of slavery. German opposition leaders understood it under the Nazis. Dissidents in the former Soviet Union knew this during the nightmare of communism. Resistance in these closed systems was local and often solitary. It was done with the understanding that evil must always be defied. The tiny acts of rebellion—day after day, month after month, year after year and decade after decade—exposed to everyone who witnessed them the heartlessness, cruelty and inhumanity of the oppressor. They were acts of truth and beauty. We must take to the street. We must jam as many wrenches into the corporate system as we can. We must not make it easy for them. But we also must no longer live in self-delusion. This is a battle that will outlive us. And if we fight, even with this tragic vision, we will lead lives worth living and keep alive another way of being.

 

 
Storm Warning
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Monday, 22 November 2010 23:32

We are under hack attack again. Just wanted to remind you that if you ever find this site in some difficulty, you can always check the original site, Empire Burlesque 1.0, where any new posts will be published, until the storm blows over.

 
Heavy Metal: Obama Brings the 'Hard Edge' of Empire Down on Afghanistan
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Sunday, 21 November 2010 01:13

I had intended to write a piece about the Washington Post story on the American deployment of battle tanks to Afghanistan for the first time, and how this development is part of the "harder edge" that David Petraeus and Barack Obama are now applying to the people of Afghanistan -- increasing air strikes and night raids on villages, razing houses, and "blowing up stuff and killing people who need to be killed." Together, Obama and Petraeus are driving a savage "uptick" in violence, death and destruction in the occupied land -- a bloodthirsty process which has been almost universally ignored in the mainstream media, until the Post story by Rajiv Chandrasekaran.

But now I see that Arthur Silber  is already on the case, with an extraordinary post that hits much harder, deeper and wider than the one I had planned to write. So nothing remains for me to do except to point you toward Silber's remarkable essay. I'm not even going to excerpt it, because that would slow you down; just get over there now and read it without delay.

 
Grand Delusions: The Regressive Results of Progressive Markets
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Thursday, 18 November 2010 23:29

There are a number of basic facts that are largely ignored in today's world, at a great cost to a great many people. Here's one: Military forces are designed to carry out military operations. You cannot use them for nation-building or constructing a civic society; if you do, you will fail. This fact is so evident, so banal, that one is almost embarrassed to point it out. Yet apparently it remains a wonderment, an unfathomable conception, to the makers of state policy -- even those reportedly intelligent enough to play 11-dimensional chess.

Now here is another blatantly obvious, common-as-dirt fact: The market is designed to make money. If you rely on the market to achieve social goals -- such as the allieviation of poverty, or the provision of public services necessary for the common good -- then you will fail. And these failures, as with the military, will generally be catastrophic, exacerbating the problems they are intended (or purporting) to address.
 
A recent story in the New York Times about the crisis in the Indian microfinance industry is a case in point. Microcredit -- giving small loans to those in dire poverty to help them establish businesses, build homes, sustain farms, etc. -- has been much touted in recent years as a win-win situation: the poor get much-needed cash, while investors in micofinance reap socially acceptable profits. As the Times puts it:
 

In recent years, foundations, venture capitalists and the World Bank have used India as a petri dish for similar for-profit “social enterprises” that seek to make money while filling a social need. Like-minded industries have sprung up in Africa, Latin America and other parts of Asia.

 
But the flaw in this noble scheme is readily apparent: seeking to "make money while filling a social need." These are two entirely separate endeavors, with two entirely separate goals. Once a market is created, with whatever benign intentions, it is inevitable that it will be used, and eventually dominated, by those seeking to maximize their profits, regardless of social needs. There is no great scandal in this fact; that's what markets are for. And this inevitable heedless maximization is now happening in India, as the Times reports:
 

But microfinance in pursuit of profits has led some microcredit companies around the world to extend loans to poor villagers at exorbitant interest rates and without enough regard for their ability to repay. Some companies have more than doubled their revenues annually.
 
“These institutions are using quite coercive methods to collect,” said V. Vasant Kumar, the state’s minister for rural development. “They aren’t looking at sustainability or ensuring the money is going to income-generating activities. They are just making money.”
 
Reddy Subrahmanyam, a senior official who helped write the Andhra Pradesh legislation, accuses microfinance companies of making “hyperprofits off the poor,” and said the industry had become no better than the widely despised village loan sharks it was intended to replace.
 
“The money lender lives in the community,” he said. “At least you can burn down his house. With these companies, it is loot and scoot.”
 
...Vijay Mahajan, the chairman of Basix, an organization that provides loans and other services to the poor, acknowledged that many lenders grew too fast and lent too aggressively. Investments by private equity firms and the prospect of a stock market listing drove firms to increase lending as fast as they could, he said.
 
“In their quest to grow,” he said, “they kept piling on more loans in the same geographies.” He added, “That led to more indebtedness, and in some cases it led to suicides.”


You cannot fruitfully address social problems with a mechanism designed to create private profit -- just as you cannot build a peaceful, stable society with an organization designed to kill people and blow things up. Yet multitudes are suffering and dying all over the world from these delusions. And because they augment the wealth and dominance of the powerful, these corrosive myths will continue to be propagated with evangelical fervor by those same elites and their sycophants -- to the detriment of social needs, of national security, of the common good and the daily lives of countless individuals.

 
The Obscure Ruination of a Single Human Life
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 16 November 2010 22:19

Decades before you were born, an invading army occupied your native land. The army of occupation has blighted and repressed your people for generations. You have heard your parents and your grandparents talk of all that they have lost, all that was taken from them, the friends and relatives they have seen killed, how the brutal, stifling occupation has bred extremism (often funded and promoted by the occupiers) that has riven your society, and how all hope of an ordinary peaceful life has been taken from your family, and from you.

You are 13 years old. One day, you see some soldiers of the occupation army. They are bristling with weapons and body armor, they are protected by watchtowers, helicopters, they are equipped with radios that can call down a missile or an airplane to destroy your home in a matter of minutes. Their very presence is a harsh, mocking, inescapable emblem of your family's pain and degredation. And so, on this day, you pick up a stone -- a stone -- and throw it, in a weak and futile gesture, at these impregnable figures.

And for throwing this stone -- a stone, a small, hand-sized fragment of stone -- this is what happens to you. From Israel's ynetnews:

Karem, a 13-year-old boy from Hebron, was arrested in late September on suspicion of hurling stones at Israel Defense Forces soldiers. After spending six days in the Ofer Prison, he was placed under house arrest for five months in his uncle's home and can't even go to school.

The boy's relatives say he is in a serious emotional state and is finding it difficult to recover from his days in prison. All he told his family members was that he was handcuffed and chained, and was sometimes left alone in a room or in solitary ....

The boy himself refuses to talk. Asked what he went through during the interrogation and in jail, he responds, "I don't know, I don't know."

Karem's grandmother says his mental state has influenced his health. "You can tell that he is afraid and frightened from his days in jail. He has fungus on his body and his skin has peeled from all the pressure, fear, and nerves. He barely talks. Today we looked for him and found him hiding in the chicken coop because he didn't want to talk to anyone."


It's just a small story; what does it matter? It's just a tiny incident, far from the worst, in a vast, world-roiling conflict; what does it matter? It's just the scarcely noticed ruination of one obscure child's life; what does it matter? Only losers and lamesters, only those on the margins, only those who aren't serious, who aren't savvy -- only those who are struggling to keep hold of their humanity in the face of implacable systems of power, systems which seek at every turn to degrade and destroy what Arthur Silber calls "the sacred value of a single human life" -- would care about such discarded wretches. But it doesn't matter at all to anyone who "matters" in the small, gilded circles of domination and sycophancy that oversway our lives and our discourse. And so these little stories will keep on playing out, everywhere, all the time, in the monstrous waste we make of our common humanity -- and its brief, beautiful, absolutely unique individual expressions. 

 
Blind Man's Bluff: Hitchens Pays Obeisance to His One True God
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Monday, 15 November 2010 00:49

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One hates to kick a man when he’s down – and Christopher Hitchens, facing an almost certain doom from cancer, is certainly down. But as he has lived his life pulling no punches against those whom he felt (by whatever standards he held at the time) to be spewing murderous bullshit, let us honor this cherished principle of his by applying it to his own words.



Hitchens was given a lavish and almost entirely adulatory spread in The Observer this weekend, holding forth in his usual “young trendy leftist turned aged imperial apologist” manner. There is not much of interest in the interview, and I would have passed over it in silence if not for one extraordinary passage, in which Hitchens demonstrates to perfection the wilful self-blindness of all those who end up worshipping at the altar of the militarist Moloch.



In defending his advocacy for the unprovoked, illegal invasion of Iraq – and reiterating his still-staunch support and glowing approval of this ongoing war crime, Hitchens makes this statement:



I'm glad we're not having an inquest now, as we would be [if there had been no invasion], into why we allowed a Rwanda or a Congo to develop on the Gulf, an imploding Iraq right in front of our eyes, a vortex of violence and meltdown, a whole society beggared and fractured and traumatised, waiting to fall to pieces.




Of course what Hitchens is doing here -- as even his sycophantic interviewer realizes -- is describing exactly what has happened in Iraq because of the invasion. It is in fact an excellent description of the conquered nation's fate at the hands of the monstrous assault that he has championed. 



And yet he has somehow convinced himself that the rape of Iraq has prevented what he has seen happen right in front of his eyes, year after year after year. Obviously, somewhere in his mind, he dimly knows the truth; that is, his brain has registered the undeniable fact that that Iraq has indeed become a “vortex of violence and meltdown, a whole society beggared and fractured and traumatised.” But this present reality – which has come about precisely because and only because of the invasion and occupation which he still defends – has been transposed into what he now believes were his fears of what could happen if Iraq had not been invaded.



One could charitably attribute this befuddled backward projection to the wretched side effects of chemotherapy -- were it not for the fact that Hitchens has been demonstrating this same moral blindness for years, indeed since the days when he was openly exulting in the 9/11 attacks, seeing in those mass murders the glorious promise of a worldwide conflagration -- yea, verily, a Biblical Armageddon, "a war to the finish between everything I love and everything I hate." The thought of such a tsunami of blood and destruction, which would -- and is -- consuming the lives of thousands upon thousands of innocent people left him "exhilarated," Hitchens declared.



But it was ever thus with religious extremists. Hitchens may have shifted from from Marx to Moloch in his zealotry, but his blind and -- not to put too fine a point on it -- dimwitted adherence to the doctrine of sacred violence (whether it be Trotsky's "permanent revolution" or the American imperium's Terror War) has remained steadfast. And even as he stares into the last abyss, he is dosing himself with pure delusion to avoid the realization of his complicity with evil. 

 
Crawl of Duty: American Black Ops Uber Alles
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Thursday, 11 November 2010 22:05

 

Today, as pious public honors are paid in the US and UK to those killed on behalf of whatever the ruling elites of their day decided was the "national interest," we can do no greater service than point you to Arthur Silber's latest, and urge you to go there and read the whole thing (including the wealth of links).

Below is a brief excerpt, dealing with the fundamental evil at the basis of the administration of the most progressively progressive Peace Laureate to ever hold public office: Barack Obama's jaw-dropping assertion, in open court, of his (and his minions') right to murder any any person in the world, including American citizens, without any charge, any evidence, any due process at all -- and without even having to give a reason for the murder (a nicety that not even Stalin's purgers felt they could dispense with).

In the course of his examination, Silber makes a very important point that I have not seen elsewhere, one which cuts to the essence of the matter: Not a single person has resigned from the Administration -- or the Democratic Party -- in protest at this claim of murderous, universal tyranny. Of course, the Democrats never denounced the identical claims made by George W. Bush either; indeed, they nationally televised acknowledgment of the American murder program, as I've noted many times -- such as in this piece published in the Moscow Times back in 2005:

It's hard to believe that any genuine democracy would accept a claim by its leader that he could have anyone killed simply by labeling them an "enemy." It's hard to believe that any adult with even the slightest knowledge of history or human nature could countenance such unlimited power, knowing the evil it is bound to produce. Yet this is what the great and good in America have done. Like the boyars of old, they not only countenance but celebrate their enslavement to the ruler.

This was vividly demonstrated in one of the most revolting scenes in recent U.S. history: Bush's State of the Union address in January 2003, delivered to Congress and televised nationwide during the final frenzy of war-drum beating before the assault on Iraq. Trumpeting his successes in the war on terror, Bush claimed that "more than 3,000 suspected terrorists" had been arrested worldwide -- "and many others have met a different fate." His face then took on the characteristic leer, the strange, sickly half-smile it acquires whenever he speaks of killing people: "Let's put it this way: They are no longer a problem."

In other words, the suspects -- and even Bush acknowledged they were only suspects -- had been murdered. Lynched. Killed by agents operating unsupervised in that shadow world where intelligence, terrorism, politics, finance and organized crime meld together in one amorphous mass. Killed on the word of a dubious informer, perhaps: a tortured captive willing to say anything, a business rival, a personal foe, a bureaucrat looking to impress his superiors, a paid snitch in need of cash, a zealous crank pursuing ethnic, tribal or religious hatreds -- or any other purveyor of the garbage data that is coin of the realm in the shadow world.

Bush proudly held up this hideous system as an example of what he called "the meaning of American justice." And the assembled legislators applauded. Oh, how they applauded! They roared with glee at the leering little man's bloodthirsty, B-movie machismo ... Not a single voice among them was raised in protest against this tyrannical machtpolitik: not that night, not the next day, not ever.


We live in astonishing times, whose vast, pervasive evil pollutes the very air we breathe -- and yet still, as Silber notes so witheringly, the people refuse to see the truth ... and just open their mouths wider to drink in the filth.

From Silber [see original for all the links]:

You know about this case, and you know the Obama Administration's arguments. Most of you refuse to understand the meaning of what you know. Allow me to offer some assistance.

The highest levels of the United States Government have told you -- repeatedly, at great length, always emphasizing the critical significance of their conviction on this point -- that the lives of Americans are worth less than shit. Your life, the lives of all those you love and all those you know, the lives of everyone in your city and state, the lives of all Americans are worth absolutely nothing.

Some idiotic, vicious, drooling, evil piece of shit human being can declare you and any other American at all to be an "enemy of the state," a threat to "national security," a "terrorist," and he can order you to be murdered.

And then you will be murdered.

The United States Government also claims that it never needs to explain to anyone how it decides who to murder and what its reasons are, or whether it has any reasons.

There is no power greater than that of life and death. This is absolute power. This is the power claimed by every slaughtering monster in history. You know this. You refuse to understand what it means.

I wrote the following about the Obama Administration's claim of absolute power some months ago, in "Murder with Malice Aforethought":

Obama and his administration claim the "right" to murder anyone in the world, wherever he or she may be, for whatever reason they choose -- or for no reason at all. Obama and his administration recognize no upper limit to the number of people they can murder in this manner: they can murder as many people as they wish. And they claim there is nothing at all that may impede their exercise of this "right."

This is the game entire. Understand this: once Obama and his administration have claimed this, there is nothing left to argue about. They can murder you -- and they can murder anyone else at all. What in the name of anything you hold holy remains to be "debated" once a vile, damnable "right" of this kind has been claimed?

This is a war crime [under the Nuremberg Principles]: "murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory..."

It is also a crime against humanity: "Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population..."

Under Principle VII, all those who are complicit in these crimes are also guilty.

Most people refuse to understand this. So you continue your arguments about the best course for the United States Government to follow in creating jobs, or preserving Social Security, or providing health care. You continue to act as if the United States Government is essentially civilized.

The United States Government can murder you if it chooses to, today, tomorrow, next week, next year. The United States Government can murder you because someone in government feels like it. He enjoys murdering people. He gets off on it.

And you're going to chat with him about job creation or Social Security? And you're the "realistic" one? You make me puke.

You should also note that not a single person has resigned in protest from the Obama Administration as the result of the administration's claim of absolute power. Not one single person. At a minimum, this means that all those in the Obama Administration view this assertion of absolute power as of minor importance, certainly nothing to resign over, for heaven's sake. That should tell you a great deal about the depth and breadth of corruption in our national government. Yet you will not understand what it means.

So what are we supposed to be thanking all those who serve in today's military for, exactly? That they defend the United States, so that its government can murder all those it wishes, whenever it wishes, for any reason or for no reason at all?


As the man says, this is the game entire. If you accept the power of the president to murder you -- and your children, your neighbor, your fellow human beings -- with impunity, then what won't you accept? And if you associate yourself with such evil, if you support it, encourage it, campaign to keep it in power -- then what, in reality, are you standing for? Nothing but slavery. Nothing but murder. Nothing but the death and degradation of the human spirit.

P.S. And what is the most popular product in America on this great day of national honor -- a commercial phenomenon whose opening day sales of $360 million has been hailed as "the biggest entertainment launch in history"? That's right: Call of Duty: Black Ops, a "first-person shooter" game celebrating the U.S. government's secret assassins.

 
Brought to Book: Texas Twerp Tweaked in Times
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 10 November 2010 14:54

I had the lead letter in The Times today, concerning their recent interview with the book-hawking George W. Bush. The circumspect editors cut my text down to the gist -- although it was pretty circumspect already by my standards -- but at least the message got out to a wider audience.

The Times website is now notoriously behind a paywall, of course, so I can’t link to it -- but thanks to the miracle of cut-and-paste technology, here is the letter as they ran it:

Sir, If waterboarding is now a legitimate tool of a democratic state, why stop there? Perhaps cattle-prodding prisoners would have "saved" Madrid? Perhaps boiling oil or the rack would have "saved" Mumbai?
 
The indiscriminate, 'War on Terror' that George W. Bush launched has engendered far more hatred and extremism than fringe groups of violent Islamists could ever have produced. And his embrace of aggressive war and barbarous torture has done far more damage to Western civilization than 1,000 bin Ladens could ever do.

 And here is the original:

To the Editor:
"Waterboarding saved London," says George W. Bush, in London no less -- even as the inquest into the 7/7 bombing is going on, detailing the horrors of an attack that would not have taken place without Bush's own unprovoked invasion of Iraq, which has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people. But putting aside the baseless, self-serving mendacity of Bush's assertion for a moment, we are still left with the depraved logic behind it. If waterboarding -- which U.S. law has regarded as a war crime for more than 100 years -- is now a legitimate tool of a democratic state, why stop there? Perhaps cattle-prodding prisoners would have "saved" Madrid? Perhaps boiling oil or the rack would have "saved" Mumbai?
 
The indiscriminate, world-engulfing 'War on Terror' that Bush launched has engendered far more hatred and extremism than fringe groups of violent Islamists could ever have produced. And his open embrace of aggressive war and barbarous torture has done far more damage to Western civilization than a thousand bin Ladens could ever do. Yet here he is, swaggering around the world in pomp and privilege -- while we all must live with the consequences of his criminal folly.

 
Realm of Lies: Echoes From History Haunting the Present
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 09 November 2010 00:05

(UPDATED BELOW)

Today's guest blogger is our old friend Boris Pasternak, he who once caught the "echoes from the future," and is today writing from the past -- September 20, 1924, in fact -- with insights about the present.

"There are times when you begin to feel you are breathing lies, universal and all-pervading, soaking through absolutely everything around you, beginning with the bricks and ending with people's conversations … Here, the voices of the marketplace, ignorance, narrow-mindedness, racial hatred and the like, are freely and dazzlingly blended with their opposites. This is what allows these dark undertones to acquire a binding legitimacy which they have never possessed before, even in the gloomiest periods of our history."

From Boris Pasternak: Family Correspondence, 1921-1960, translated by Nicholas Pasternak Slater

***

A Version of Pasternak's "Hamlet"

The hour is at hand: it calls the actor.
The crowd grows still as I step through the arch.
There's the cue: an echo from the future.
I must come forth and give the fated speech.

A thousand eyes, in darkness, throng about me;
Like Roman swords, they'll pierce me till I bleed.
O if it be Thy will, Abba, Father,
Then take the proffered cup away from me.

For I adore your rigorous conception,
And am content to play my given role.
But these new lines will scorch the throat that speaks them;
This once, I pray, remove me from the bill.

No: I see the acts have all been plotted;
The journey's end already has been willed.
I'm alone, while the world drowns in falsehood.
Cross this stage, and you cross a killing field.


Translated by Chris Floyd


***
UPDATE: On the subject of our inundation by lies, Arthur Silber and Paul Craig Roberts lay out some hard truths here. And I might add my own little gloss, originally published during the run-up to the first Gulf War: "I think we are living in a world of lies -- lies that don't even know they are lies, because they are children and grandchildren of lies."

 
Obama's Peace Dividend: War Profiteering in the land of Gandhi
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Sunday, 07 November 2010 23:14

The Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama, who in his prize-claiming speech boldly claimed the mantle of Mahatma Gandhi, is now visiting India. And why has he made this pilgrimage to the homeland of his spiritual mentor? Has he come to drink more deeply of the wellsprings of satyagraha, to steep himself more thoroughly in the Gandhian principles of courageous, active, non-violent resistance to evil, to the Mahatma's ceaseless dedication to the poor and the outcast?

No: he has come to seal the deal on the sixth largest sale of war weapons in the history of the United States: $5 billion for the bristling, burgeoning Indian military, currently waging war on millions of its own people in Kashmir and the poverty-devastated state of central India, where the despair is so deep that suicide among the poor is epidemic.

Five billion dollars could have transformed the lives and futures of millions; instead it will go into the pockets of a few American war profiteers -- who will of course spread the wealth around to their favorite politicians ... such as Barack Obama, the leading recipient of war industry money in the 2008 campaign, outdoing even that old soldier and ardent militarist, John McCain.

And of course the Indian arms deal comes hot on the heels of the largest transaction of death-machinery in American history: Obama's $60 billion war-profiteering bonanza with Saudi Arabia, one of the most suffocatingly repressive and inhumane regimes on the face of the earth. But the Peace Laureate doesn't care about that. He knows what is truly important -- and it isn't the blighted lives of the Saudi people, or all those affected by the corruption and extremism that the Saudi royals have spread around the world (with the connivance, cooperation -- or at the command of -- the bipartisan American power structure). What matters most to the progressive paragon of peace is the sixty billion dollars stuffed into the coffers of his militarist backers.

If Obama wins re-election in 2012, it will not be because he "made a mid-course correction" or "learned the lessons" of the 2010 vote or "moved to the center" or any such witless expectoration of conventional wisdom. It will be because his militarist backers have judged his arms deals and Terror War operations sufficiently profitable to justify his retention. As is always the case with the War Machine that rules us, follow the money -- and the blood.

II.
While Obama peddles the tools of death and destruction in India, others are taking a different approach. At the London Review of Books, Tariq Ali recently provided the context for a short, powerful piece by Arundhati Roy on speaking truth to - and about -- power.

First Ali:

Arundhati Roy is both loathed and feared by the Indian elite. Loathed because she speaks her mind. Feared because her voice reaches the world outside India and damages the myths perpetrated by New Delhi regardless of which party holds power. She often annoys the official Indian Left because she writes and speaks of events for which they are either responsible or of which they dare not speak. Roy will not allow her life to be subjugated by lies. She never affects a courage or contempt she does not feel. Her campaigns against injustice are undertaken with no view to either fame or profit. Hence the respect awarded her by the poor, ordinary citizens, who know the truth but are not allowed a voice in the public sphere. The authorities can’t buy her silence. One of the few voices in India who has spoken loudly against the continuing Indian atrocities in Kashmir, she is now being threatened. If she doesn’t shut up they’ll charge her with sedition, aping their colonial masters of yesteryear. Her response to those who would charge and imprison her is a model of clarity, conviction and refusal to compromise.

And here is that response, in full, from the Times of India:

"I write this from Srinagar, Kashmir. This morning's papers say that I may be arrested on charges of sedition for what I have said at recent public meetings on Kashmir. I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice. I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state.

Yesterday I traveled to Shopian, the apple-town in South Kashmir which had remained closed for 47 days last year in protest against the brutal rape and murder of Asiya and Nilofer, the young women whose bodies were found in a shallow stream near their homes and whose murderers have still not been brought to justice. I met Shakeel, who is Nilofer's husband and Asiya's brother. We sat in a circle of people crazed with grief and anger who had lost hope that they would ever get 'insaf'—justice—from India, and now believed that Azadi—freedom— was their only hope. I met young stone pelters who had been shot through their eyes. I traveled with a young man who told me how three of his friends, teenagers in Anantnag district, had been taken into custody and had their finger-nails pulled out as punishment for throwing stones. In the papers some have accused me of giving 'hate-speeches', of wanting India to break up. On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their finger-nails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians. It comes from wanting to live in a society that is striving to be a just one. Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free."

Arundhati Roy
October 26 2010 

 
Show Time: Kangaroo Courts and the Crimes of Continuity
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Saturday, 06 November 2010 17:43

"Somewhere in hell, Joseph Stalin is smiling."

So says Tony Keller, quite aptly, in his report on one of the great travesties of justice in our time (and that is a long, long list): the outrageous show trial of Omar Khadr, a young Canadian who recently pleaded guilty to various spurious "terrorism" charges after spending eight years in the maw of the American gulag, since his capture in Afghanistan at the age of 15.

While America's attention was diverted by the witless (and war-avoiding) blather of the recent election campaign, the Pentagon prosecutors of the Peace Laureate in the White House were finishing their persecution of the child soldier. Having wrung a false confession to a non-existent charge from him in the early days of his captivity, when he was seriously wounded, they finally hammered a guilty plea out of him in a kangaroo court in which even an acquittal could have seen him incarcerated for the rest of his life. Such is the justice of the Laureate.

As Keller reports:

On the main charge, "murder in violation of the laws of war" (a crime that doesn't appear to even exist in international law, given that combatants who kill other soldiers in combat are not violating the laws of war), the chief evidence against the then-15-year-old child soldier was his own confession. And that confession, made years ago and long since recanted, was obtained under conditions that any normal human being would describe as torture.

Omar Khadr was captured in 2002 in Afghanistan. He was the only survivor after a firefight and an air strike on an al-Qaeda position. He had been wounded in his shoulder and in both eyes, shot twice in the back and was near death. It was alleged that, just before he was shot, he had thrown a grenade at attacking American troops, killing one of them. As already noted, he was 15 years old.

He then spent several months in the hellhole that was Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, where he claims -- credibly, given all that we know about what went on at Bagram -- that he was subjected to sleep deprivation, the chaining of his hands above his head for hours, that he was hooded and threatened by dogs, and sometimes forced to urinate on himself because he was not unshackled to go to the bathroom. His chief interrogator at Bagram admitted to telling the teenage boy that unless he co-operated, he would be sent to a U.S. prison, where a group of black men would gang rape him to death …


And who this interrogator? A thug so egregious that even the Gulag Gang was forced to punish him -- albeit lightly -- for his involvement in beating a prisoner to death at around the same time he was "strenuously interrogating" Khadr:

He was interviewed about 25 times by this interrogator, Joshua Claus. Claus was also the interrogator for an Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar who was chained to the ceiling and beaten to death in Bagram in 2002; Claus pled guilty to his involvement in the affair and received a five month sentence. In a lovely Orwellian touch, the U.S. government insisted that reporters covering Khadr's trial not name Claus, but instead refer to him as "Interrogator 1."

In Bagram, Khadr confessed that he had thrown the grenade that killed an American soldier. No one saw him do this, so his confession is really the only evidence of the act. Last summer, U.S. military judge Colonel Patrick Parrish ruled that the confession, despite the obviously coercive circumstances under which it was made, had been freely given, and could be used against Khadr in court.


Once that decision was rendered, the fix was definitely in. Keller lays it out:

This week, Omar Khadr was offered the following choice: plead guilty, or face two different routes to life in prison. He could go to trial, and thanks to a confession that would be laughed out of any real court of law, he'd probably be convicted. But even if the court somehow found him not guilty, the U.S. reserved the right to detain him indefinitely as an enemy combatant. The only sure way to get out of jail early was to tell his interrogators what they wanted to hear.

On Monday, Khadr was even forced to cop to other crimes, including the killing of two Afghan soldiers, something he wasn't even charged with, and for which the prosecution appears to have had no evidence. And, in a nice touch that Stalin would have appreciated, Khadr appears to have also been forced to sign away his right to sue his jailors for the various forms of deprivation and abuse that he was subject to…. They could have told him to confess that he had simultaneously piloted all four hijacked planes on 9/11, and he would have done it.

…The original communist torture techniques, which for a time inspired the standard operating procedures at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantanamo and the secret black sites, were not designed to elicit truth. They were designed to produce false confessions: That was the whole point. They were designed to force people to say what interrogators wanted to hear -- yes, I am a capitalist stooge, yes I am a Trostkyite, yes I am a terrorist.

And now Guantanamo's very first military tribunal has its first guilty verdict, thanks to those methods of coercion first perfected for the Soviet Bloc show trial. My God, what have we done? Somewhere in hell, Joseph Stalin is smiling.


And here on earth, of course, that blood-bloated moral cretin, George W. Bush, is grinning like a pig in shit, raking in millions of dollars for an "autobiography" in which he brags -- swearing like the tough guy this little quaking frat boy has always wished he was -- that he personally ordered  waterboarding: a clear, flagrant violation of the laws of the United States -- and a high crime for which the United States has prosecuted many other people, including its own soldiers, for more than a century. But "damn right," Bush ordered this torture; and "damn right," his successor, the Continuer-in-Chief -- who is busy ginning up even more wars, killing more civilians, engendering more hatred and entrenching Bush's travesties of justice and tyrannical perversion -- will not do a damn thing about it.

 
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