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.
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.
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.
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."
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?
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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.
I found myself unexpectedly heartened by American election returns, at least in one respect. For they have shown, once again, that the American people feel an abiding, angry – if deeply inchoate – dissatisfaction with the nation’s unjust, corrupt and dysfunctional political system. They know that something is profoundly wrong with the system, and so they keep voting one faction out and putting the other faction in, hoping to see some kind of change.
History gives this proof: in almost every national election for the past two decades, we have seen a change in control of either one or both houses of Congress or the White House. This has happened in 1992, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008, and now again in 2010. The pattern is very clear. And it is not because Americans “prefer divided government,” as the dim chewers of Beltway cud like to tell us; it’s because they can’t get anyone in the system to address their concerns.
Yet with every turnover in factional control, we see a rush of earnest, serious analysis telling us how the results represent a vast sea change in America’s politics, culture, society, soul, etc. But somehow, two years later, these momentously meaningful tidal waves ripple into nothing on the empty shore. And again, that’s because they don’t actually signify anything beyond the by-now perennial unease and dissatisfaction.
What is less heartening, of course, is the fact that the American electorate never quite grasps the obvious, glaring, brutal fact that neither of these factions is ever going to change the system one iota if they can help it; they are the system, they are its servants, its enablers, its enactors. Then again, we are dealing with, to borrow Gore Vidal’s deathless phrase, the United States of Amnesia, where history doesn’t exist (except in the form of feverishly distorted self-righteous myths about America’s eternal super-duper specialness), and every election is a tabula rasa . The only flickering historical awareness that seems to exist in the American electorate is a vague sense that the gang they voted in two years ago hasn’t changed anything; better try the other gang again … forgetting this is the same gang they threw out the time four years ago, for the same reason.
So the cycle goes on and on, and the rot and dysfunction grows deeper, and ever more intractable. The people’s concerns are not only not addressed; they are not even articulated by anyone in the lucrative, sinister game of King of the Hill played by the two factions, both of which are pledged, body and soul, to elite rule, corporate rapine and militarist empire. And certainly, neither the corporate media nor the educational system will do anything to help inculcate a deeper sense of history (“History is bunk,” said that quintessential American, Henry Ford; you can’t make no money from it, so what’s the point?), or provide any wider, deeper context for articulating – and confronting – the causes of the electorate’s dissatisfaction. Instead, these institutions keep replicating and refreshing those same myths of specialness (in either “conservative” or “progressive” form), adding layer after layer of thought-obliterating noise to the Great American Echo Chamber that encloses, and imprisons, the entire society.
Mmm, maybe it’s not so heartening after all. Especially given the fact that both factions are – literally, legally, formally, undeniably – packs of war criminals, pledged to the continuation of a rapacious empire of military domination that is killing innocent people, fomenting hatred and extremism, and destabilizing the world. The myth of specialness prevents most people from seeing the truth of what their bipartisan political establishment is doing to the world – or even to themselves, how it has stripped them of their liberties, corroded their society, destroyed their communities and degraded their quality of life, while diminishing the lives and futures of their own children and grandchildren. Most Americans apparently cannot break out of the narrow cognitive structure that has been imposed on their understanding of reality: i.e., that America is inherently, ineradicably good, that whatever mistakes it might make here or there (usually when one’s own preferred faction is out of office, of course), this essential goodness remains inviolate, forever untainted by any genuine evil.
And so bipartisan perpetrators of enormous evils – mass murder, aggressive war, torture, brutality, ruination, atrocity and injustice on a gargantuan scale – are not only never held accountable, they are celebrated, honored, and rewarded with great wealth and privilege. It is no wonder that dissatisfaction reigns in the body politic. The people sense that something is badly wrong; but no one in the system will tell them that it is the system itself that is wrong. Instead, we get these circuses and shams, these diversions and delusions that pass for election campaigns, throwing up a blizzard of false issues and partisan posturing, sound and fury signifying nothing … then when it’s all over, it’s back to business as usual for our bipartisan courtiers, feasting on the bloody swill of empire.
Still, the nagging spark of dissatisfaction can often be the beginning of wisdom, eventually forcing us to look beyond the confines of our cognitive overlays and unchallenged understandings. The merry-go-round of factional turnovers, in election after election, shows that this fertile element of dissatisfaction is rampant, and chronic, in the American people. They have not yet, not quite, accepted the system of murderous empire and elite domination as the natural order, the settled status quo. They want something to change, they want things to be different somehow – but, like people everywhere, they don’t want to turn the mirror on themselves, and see the reality of the noxious system they are perpetuating with their yo-yoing between two utterly corrupt and depraved factions of money-grubbers and power-seekers.
But as long as the dissatisfaction remains, there is still some hope that it will drive more and more people to see beyond the cloud of myth, to hear truths outside the echo chamber, and to begin the long, arduous, quite possibly impossible but morally imperative work of breaking the stranglehold of these murderous fools and forging a genuine alternative to the system.
UPDATE: For further elucidation of the points above -- and many more besides -- let me direct you to two remarkable pieces that appeared today. They come from two different ends of the traditional political spectrum, but they converge to offer much grim truth and some genuine wisdom. Check them out, in full, as soon as you can:
Porter delves into the latest Wikileaks trove to find new and detailed evidence of how the vicious sectarian civil war in Iraq in 2004-2008 -- which killed thousands of people, subjected thousands to brutal and macabre tortures, drove hundreds of thousands of people from their homes -- was deliberately seeded and constantly fueled by the leaders of the American occupation.
More specifically, Porter shows that the instigation and exacerbation of civil war and sectarian "cleansing" was the brainchild of the supposed master of "counterinsurgency," the bemedalled darling of the bipartisan political and media establishments, General David Petraeus -- the same man whom the progressive Peace Laureate now in the White House has put in charge of Afghanistan. Petraeus, we are told -- always in gushing, adulatory prose (with Obama himself as Gusher-in-Chief) -- is now striving mightily to produce in Afghanistan the "same results" he got in Iraq.
We've been noting here for years how American leaders deliberately fomented the unimaginable hell that the unprovoked, illegal invasion and rapacious occupation inflicted on the people of Iraq, how with death squads and torture -- both directly and by proxy -- they deliberately, knowingly, willingly deepened the sectarian divides in Iraqi society, how they armed, funded and empowered some of the most retograde extremist factions to do the dirty work for the imperial masters, and how this strategy led to the rise of violent extremism to counter the American-led assault. Porter, working with the invaluable Wikileaks documents and also doing valuable research in media archives, brings us fresh and damning confirmation of this genuinely evil strategy.
Again, time prevents me from giving this article its due, but please head there as soon as you can and read the whole thing. And as you read, remember that the president and party that you are being urged to "save" at the polls today have, of their own free will, taken the same promulgators of this evil strategy and placed them in charge of yet another brutal and aggressive occupation of foreign lands, with, indeed, the "same results": thousands and thousands of innocent dead, vast ruin, vast ruin, the ever-increasing exacerbation of violent sectarianism, tribal conflict and intolerant religious extremism. This is precisely what you are voting for, if you vote Democrat -- or Republican, for that matter -- today.
The last, wan hope for real change in the American system was not lost through the imperial dithering of Barack Obama's "Bush-Clinton Terror War Continuity" administration during the past two years. No; those last wan hopes went down the drain in 2006 -- the year that the Democratic Party regained control of Congress ... and promptly made a screeching U-turn on virtually every anti-war, anti-imperialist, pro-liberty, pro-people position it had taken against George W. Bush.
The sell-out -- or rather, the pay-off to the corporatist-militarist power factions who actually control the Democrats -- was immediate, brazen and deeply destructive. It helped entrench the vast abuses of power of the Bush Regime (and its bipartisan predecessors), it guaranteed the deaths of thousands of innocent people in the continuation and expansion of the Terror Wars, and it laid the groundwork for Obama's "Third Bush Administration" of presidential death squads, pointless "surges" in bloody quagmires, remote control slaughter by drone, bristling defenses and relentless expansions of authoritarian power, and cringing, servile capitulation to Big Money on every possible front.
As Bruce Dixon points out in a timely and important piece at Black Agenda Report, the instant the Democrats regained Congressional power in 2006, they immediately jettisoned all talk of impeachment, all investigations of war crimes and the handling of Hurricane Katrina, all impetus for real health care reform, all their previously vociferous opposition to Bush's tax cuts for the rich, and a host of other "dissenting" positions that they had cynically trumpeted in order to manipulate the public's genuine anger and thirst for change. (Ironically, the Democrats are now being hoisted on their own petard, as the corporate-run "Tea Party" Republicans are about to oust them from Congress with their own cynical manipulations of genuine anger and thirst for change.)
Dixon nails it well:
Four years ago it was the eve of the November 2006 election, Bush's last midterm ... After 12 years of spectacularly corrupt and aggressively pro-corporate Republican domination, the House and likely the Senate too, would be ruled by Democrats. Expectations were high.
Four years ago a hundred members of the House of Representatives had signed on as co-sponsors of one or more bills to impeach Dick Cheney and George Bush. One of them was Detroit's John Conyers, dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, who would chair the House Judiciary Committee beginning in January 2007, and thus have the unquestioned legal power to begin hearings on the question of impeachment. Authoritative polls repeatedly showed that a a narrow majority of the American people, and an overwhelming majority of Democratic voters favored impeachment and criminal investigation of the Bush-Cheney regime on a broad front, from waging illegal wars to torture, lying to Congress, international kidnapping, secret imprisonment without trial and tapping the phone and email of millions of Americans. Rep. Conyers was also a perennial sponsor of reparations, antiwar and single payer health care measures, causes which could surely be advanced by his long awaited ascension to power.
Democrats had always massively opposed the Iraq war, and millions were perfectly aware that a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives could bring this unjust war to a halt over any presidential objection by simply refusing to fund it.
The fall of 2006 was only a year after Katrina. The Republican congress had refused to investigate the federal role in the deaths of uncounted thousands, while the White House and military authorities barred journalists from photographing or observing the recovery of bodies. Federal, state and local authorities were making return of hundreds of thousands of residents, mostly black, impossible. A Democratic congress, some imagined, might turn this around too.
Under Democratic rule Rep. Bennie Thompson (D MS) of the Congressional Black Caucus would chair the new House Committee on Homeland Security. With his committee's subpoena power Thompson could, if he chose, investigate the role of Blackwater and other US mercenary companies in New Orleans and around the world and make people tell the truth under penalty of prison. Harlem's Charlie Rangel, another senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus would chair the House Ways and Means Committee, a position from which he could begin rolling back the regressive Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.
Of course, none of this happened. It's no exaggeration to say that every single progressive expectation of the Democratic majority in the House over the last four years has been disappointed or betrayed.
It is indeed no exaggeration. The post-2006 turnaround was also a virtual replay of what happened in 1992, when Bill Clinton won the presidency -- then promptly shut down all investigation of the rampant criminality of the Reagan-Bush administrations. But then, as both Georgie Herbert and Ole Bill shared the same top donor, it was never very likely that Clinton would dish the dirt on his partner in patronship. And of course today, the elder Bush and Clinton are so close that the former calls the latter his "honorary son." Ain't life grand at the top of the heap?
Dixon goes on to describe how Nancy Pelosi -- yes, poor old Nancy, whom all good progessives are now being urged to rally around, in order to save her marvelous leadership of the House -- put the kibosh on any action that might upset the imperialist apple-cart ... even before the Democrats re-took power:
In the final year of Republican House rule, Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi ordered the Congressional Black Caucus NOT to hold its own hearings on Katrina, and refused to call them herself, for fear that voters might see Democrats as the party of those undeserving colored people. Only Georgia's Rep. Cynthia McKinney defied Pelosi and House Democratic leaders to hold her own hearings, which were boycotted by all but one of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Pelosi was not alone. As soon as juicy Chairmanships and other perks of partisan dominance were assured, other top Dem "dissidents" began changing their spots pronto:
Between the November 2006 election and the beginning of the new Democratic party controlled Congress in January 2007, John Conyers walked back from his pro-impeachment stand, even having demonstrators and former staffers arrested outside his office when they tried to meet with him. Among the pitiful excuses Conyers offered for not convening impeachment hearings was that “Fox News would have a field day,” the votes to convict them in the Senate weren't there, (How Conyers knew that in advance of evidence or even hearings remains a mystery!) and that Bush-Cheney would be history in two more years anyhow.
But as David Swanson has pointed out, even if impeachment could not be won, calling the hearings would have set an invaluable precedent limiting presidential power. It would have drawn a historic line in the sand against further illegalities by that and future presidents. When John Conyers repaid the trust of forty years worth of re-elections by excusing the Bush-Cheney crimes without even an investigation, he empowered all of Bush-Cheney's successors to build upon that loathsome foundation. President Obama has done just that, introducing measures to “legalize” the flagrant atrocities of Bush-Cheney. Now torture, international kidnapping and secret imprisonment without recourse to a lawyer or a day in court are “legal.” The Democratic congress of 2006 enabled this, and the Democratic congress of 2008 ratified it.
Dixon also nails another important point often lost in the blithering blather of this deeply degraded campaign season:
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the body responsible for recruiting Democrats candidates, collecting corporate donations and distributing these to its favorites, was headed by Chicago's Rahm Emanuel. The DCCC threw millions of dollars behind dozens of pro-war Democrats opposing antiwar Democrats in 2006 primary elections. The continued existence of the so-called “blue dog Democrats,” hypocritically accused by House Democratic leaders like South Carolina's Jim Clyburn of “gumming up the works,” hamstringing the president and “real Democrats” is largely the work of Congressional Democratic leader Rahm Emanuel, who went on to become chief of staff in a Democratic White House.
Exactly. Our Fightin' Progressives are continually exhorting us to help kick out them mean old Blue Dawgs who have done so much to hamper the super-progressive agenda of Barack Obama -- when it was Obama's chief minister and fixer, Rahm Emanuel, who financed and empowered these hardshell throwbacks in the first place. They were put in place by Rahm and Obama to do exactly what they have done: block any attempt at genuine reform of the system.
There is much, much more in Dixon's piece. Do yourself a favor and read it in full, as soon as you can.
On a personal note, I was pleased to see a commenter on Dixon's essay singling out some pieces that I had written, and some by Arthur Silber as well, about Obama's very public rejection of his longtime friend, mentor and pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. This episode was one of the most gutless and shameful things I've seen in national politics in a long time (even though it was praised to high heaven by our Fightin' Progressives as some kind of high-water mark in the history of human morality). It showed very clearly the true measure of the man fronting those same sell-out Democrats: they would throw anybody and anything aside -- friends, allies, supporters, the public good, the peace of the world -- in their frantic scramble up the greasy pole of power.
First we were told that the recently intercepted package bombs sent, we are told, from Yemen, were targeted at synagogues in Chicago. Now we are being told that they were intended to blow up the cargo planes themselves. We are also told that the bombs' design shows the mark of a "highly sophisticated" operation by extremist Islamists, most likely al Qaeda.
All of which prompts one question. If you were indeed a "highly sophisticated" Islamist extremist operation wishing to blow up cargo planes bound for the United States with package bombs, would you really a) mail those bombs from Yemen, a country currently under intense counterterrorism scrunity by the United States, and b) address these packages, from Yemen, to Jewish institutions -- in Barack Obama's home city?
Either a) or b) alone would be enough to set alarm bells clanging all through the thick mesh of security systems that now overlay modern life. Put them together, and what you have is either a) the mark of a very unsophisticated, cack-handed, two-bit operation whose sporadic and isolated threats hardly justify a world-wide, never-ending, mass-killing, liberty-gutting, multi-trilliondollar war, or b) the mark of a highly sophisticated organization that wished to ensure maximum publicity for this attempted terrorist attack -- and even more publicity for its heroic thwarting ... especially on the eve of a national election, and after weeks of leaks and bad press about atrocities and corruption that call the whole Terror War ethos into question.
Points perhaps worth pondering in the coming weeks as we watch the ever-more profitable security mesh seize on this incident to call for ever-greater funding, and ever-greater measures of control over our lives.
This one goes out to Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, Daniel Ellsberg, Sibel Edmonds, and "all those who speak the hard truth to the state."
The Good Corporal
Good corporal, good corporal, now what have you done?
You've laid out the dead in the light of the sun.
You've opened the door where the dark deeds go on,
Where the fine words of freedom are broken like bones.
Good corporal, good corporal, you tell us of crime
Done in the name of your country and mine.
Of torture and murder, corruption and lies,
In a land where no echo will carry the cries.
Good corporal, good corporal, now who do we blame
For the horrors you bring us, for this undying shame?
Should we lay all the guilt on the grunts with no name,
Or the high and the mighty who rigged up this game?
Good corporal, good corporal, don't you know the fate
Of all those who speak the hard truth to the State
And all who trouble the people's sweet dreams?
They're mocked into scorn and torn apart at the seams.
Ben Ehrenreich at the London Review of Books has written one of the best articles on the current situation in Mexico that I have seen. Thousands of people are dying there, caught up in a sinister nexus where all the main players -- drug cartels, their officials backers (and servants), the various Drug Warriors on both sides of the border, the corporations profiteering from the Drug War, the august and respectable financial institutions who move the money for both the cartels and their official antagonists, and the American and Mexican politicians who happily game the murderous system for their own cynical advantage -- are reaping huge rewards, while a whole society is being destroyed.
As Ehrenreich points out in the succinct but detailed historical background he provides, the current Drug War-fueled destruction is just part and parcel of a larger assault on the underpinning of Mexican society -- a wider campaign that includes brutal economic war, and the relentless militarization of society on both sides of the border. On the U.S. side, it is again a thoroughly bipartisan affair, ranging from Richard Nixon to Clinton's NAFTA and beyond.
Unfortunately, the article is not one of those that LRB makes available to non-subscribers every month. Fortunately, your correspondent happens to be a subscriber, so below are some extensive excerpts from Ehreneich's superb piece.
There have been more than 2000 killings in Juárez so far this year. ... The violence is dizzying, all the more so because so little light has been shed on it by the press, either in Mexico or abroad. Most accounts stick to the official narrative: the bloodshed is simply the result of heightened competition between drug cartels for control of profitable smuggling routes, and of the military battling it out with the bad guys. The dead are generally identified only as ‘pistoleros’ or ‘sicarios’; their killers as ‘armed commandos’. The most basic facts are left unspecified: body counts, names, places, dates. ... The government, the opposition, the cartels and the various factions within all of them spread disinformation as a matter of policy, which means that political gossip tends to revolve around who stands to profit from which distortion. To make things more complicated, there is a great deal at stake for Mexico’s powerful neighbour to the north. The two most pernicious strands of contemporary American politics – nativism and the all-encompassing discourse of ‘security’ – feed into the notion that Mexico is slipping into anarchy.
Horrific though it is, the violence is neither inexplicable nor entirely senseless. It is the result of a struggle over drug distribution in which a remarkable number of players have come to have a deep investment: not only the narcos, but their ostensible opponents on both sides of the international border and of the hazier divide separating legality from criminality. Drugs are an old business in Mexico. Farmers in the remote high sierra of the western state of Sinaloa have been growing opium poppies since the late 19th century – and marijuana long before that – but smuggling did not become a viable enterprise until the US created an illicit market by regulating the use of opiates in 1914. Then, as now, drugs flowed one way: north. The American appetite for forbidden intoxicants grew quickly in the second half of the last century. As the US market expanded, so did the smuggling industry that serviced it. Until the early 1970s the smugglers were subordinate to the local politicians and military and police commanders under whose protection they were permitted to operate, and who in turn took their place in a chain of command that rose all the way to the presidency.
This arrangement ran smoothly until marijuana’s newfound popularity led Richard Nixon to declare a ‘war on drugs’ and to begin putting pressure on the Mexican government to staunch the flow. Even then, other motives were concealed beneath the American government’s apparent concern for the health of its citizens: Nixon’s chief of staff recorded in his diary that in the course of a briefing on drug enforcement in 1969, the president had ‘emphasised … that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognises this while not appearing to.’ That year, Nixon ordered a massive policing effort on the Mexican border called Operation Intercept. Relatively little contraband was found and Mexico was furious about the crackdown, but the US administration considered it a success. Gordon Liddy, then the co-chair of Nixon’s narcotics task force, would later write: ‘It was an exercise in international extortion, pure, simple and effective, designed to bend Mexico to our will.’ It worked: the next anti-drug effort was called Operation Co-operation. Seven years later, with logistical help from the US, Mexico launched its first major military operation against the drug trade. Operation Condor, led by a general who had taken part in the massacre of students at Tlatelolco in 1968 and the anti-guerrilla campaigns of the 1970s Dirty War, dislodged hundreds of peasants from the western sierras. Complaints of torture by federal troops abounded.
n the 1980s a massive expansion of the cocaine market in the States coincided with the growth of leftist guerrilla movements in Central and South America. Under the cover of the drug war, Reagan took on both at once. In 1986, he signed a directive that linked narco-trafficking to ‘insurgent groups’ and ‘terrorist cells’ abroad, and declared the narcotics trade a threat to national security. The effect was to militarise the war on drugs, converting what had once been a matter for domestic law enforcement into an instrument of foreign policy.
At the same time, and not coincidentally, Mexico was undergoing a shift to neoliberalism under the presidencies of Miguel de la Madrid and Carlos Salinas, both of whom were educated, or partially educated, in the US. The smuggling business, too, was about to take a neoliberal turn. It had consolidated in the 1980s under one man, Miguel Angel Félix Gallardo. Known as El Padrino, or the Godfather, Félix Gallardo emerged from the old system: he was a former policeman and chief bodyguard to the governor of Sinaloa. When a US Drug Enforcement Agency officer working undercover in Mexico was kidnapped and killed, the first Bush administration pushed hard for Félix Gallardo’s arrest. Negotiations for the trade pact that would later be known as the North American Free Trade Agreement were underway and Salinas wanted to keep the Americans happy, so in 1989, Félix Gallardo was arrested. But Félix Gallardo had seen what was coming and by then he had divided up his empire, distributing the most valued smuggling routes, or plazas, to trusted lieutenants. Just as Salinas was breaking up and privatising hundreds of state-owned industries, so Félix Gallardo was breaking up his domain, effectively creating what are now the Tijuana and Sinaloa cartels.
...In 1993 and 1994, US immigration officials began pouring resources into securing the border at two major urban crossing sites – between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, and between San Diego and Tijuana. Perversely, this helped the cartels seal their monopolies on the trade. ‘Borders breed smuggling,’ the sociologist Fernando Escalante explains: ‘A closed border breeds organised smuggling. It favours cartels, it favours organised crime.’
Now the Economic War experienced a great "surge" under those fightin' progressives, NAFTA-men Bill Clinton and Al Gore:
The broader effects of NAFTA and the reforms that accompanied it were more diffuse and far more destructive. A constitutional amendment passed as a precondition for the trade pact did away with the legislation that since the 1930s had forbidden the private sale of communally held farmland. Now cheap and highly subsidised American corn flooded the Mexican market. Local farmers were unable to compete: 1.1 million small farmers and 1.4 million others dependent on the agricultural sector lost their livelihoods. Campesinos left ancestral holdings, forced into the uncertainties of migrancy, both within Mexico and abroad. Villages were left almost abandoned. In a few short years, extraordinary wealth was concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority while the dream of an agrarian republic that had sustained the country for most of the 20th century collapsed. The anticipated shift to export-oriented manufacturing was a failure. Few of the promised jobs in the foreign-owned assembly plants known as maquiladoras materialised. The ones that did soon vanished as companies pursued still cheaper labour in China.
As a result of the "reforms" of the progressive duo, almost a third of the Mexican people have been forced into penurious, petty hustling and scrabbling to eke out an existence on the margins of modernity:
Nearly 30 per cent of the population now works in the informal economy – washing car windows on street corners, selling tacos, sodas, DVDs. Cuts to education have helped create a new class of young people: the 7.5 million so-called ninis who aren’t in school and don’t have jobs (‘ni estudian ni trabajan’). The minimum wage has lost two thirds of its buying power and nearly half the population lives in poverty. In his book on the epidemic of murders of young women in Ciudad Juárez, Huesos en el desierto (‘Bones in the Desert’, 2002), González Rodríguez wrote of the vast new class of the uprooted and excluded, poor migrants from the countryside who now find themselves wandering in a ‘vertiginous universe of technology and productivity, merchandise and calculation’.
In the 1990s, "neoliberals" -- i.e., ball-crushing boardroom Bolsheviks committed to the crony capitalism known laughingly as "free trade" -- took power in Mexico, with predictable 'shock doctrine' results:
Between 1989 and 1999, the National Action Party (the PAN), which represented the socially conservative transnational elite that had profited most from the PRI’s economic policies, won the governorships of eight states, including the border states in which the most important drug trafficking routes were situated. By 2000, when the PAN won the presidency with the election of the former Coca-Cola executive Vicente Fox, the old networks of political patronage that had contained and controlled the drug smuggling industry were in disarray. The cartel leaders broke free from the system that had kept them in check. The old arrangement was turned on its head. Traffickers had once worked for the police and the politicians: now the police and politicians were working for them.
The democratic renaissance prophesied by Fox’s allies delivered little. Corruption persisted. The transformation of the economy along neoliberal lines continued, but without even the tattered remnants of the PRI paternalism that had for almost a century redistributed some small portion of the nation’s wealth in exchange for votes and obedience. Now the market alone would rule, and the millions it left behind would have no option but to adjust to the new realities. ‘The campesinos,’ Fox’s finance secretary announced in 2003, ‘will have to transform themselves into industrial workers or true business people.’ Many have done precisely that – either in factories, fields and kitchens north of the border, or in the precarious employ of the drug cartels.
The current president, Felipe Calderon, took power in a disputed Bush-like election, with a similarly farcical "recount" process: "The electoral tribunal ordered a partial recount, declared Calderón the winner and promptly destroyed the ballots." Then, like Bush, he proceeded to seize upon a convenient "crisis" -- the post-NAFTA cartel conflicts -- to militarize the situation and shore up his own illegitimate power:
Less than a fortnight later, Calderón called on the military once again, this time ordering 6500 troops to his home state of Michoacán to stem the rising violence there. The drug war was for him what the war on terror had been for George W. Bush. Like Bush, he lacked legitimacy in the eyes of at least half the population: the drug war ‘allowed him the tools he needed in order to govern’. Over the next two years, he would send 45,000 troops – a quarter of Mexico’s armed forces – to the northern border, the south-western state of Guerrero, and the so-called Golden Triangle, the mountainous poppy-growing regions of Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua. For most of the last century, the Mexican military had been almost unique in Latin America in keeping a respectful distance from civil institutions and from the US. Calderón changed that. In 2008, the two countries launched the Merida Initiative: Mexico accepted $1.3 billion in counter-narcotics funding from the US and an unprecedented level of military co-operation was established.
Ehrenreich then makes a key point -- an insight that holds true not only for Mexico, but in virtually every case around the world where conflicts, disputes -- and political and corporate agendas -- have been militarized:
Everywhere the military has visited, the bloodshed has grown much worse.
Militarizing a situation guarantees there will be indiscriminate killing, enormous destruction, economic ruin, social collapse, degradation of infrastructure, the spread of disease, and massive, pervasive corruption. This is what you are knowingly perpetrating every time you militarize a situation. It invariably makes the situation worse -- unless, of course, bloodshed, ruin and corruption are, in fact, your goals.
Ehrenreich goes on:
Between December 2006 – when Calderón took office and sent out the first troops – and July 2010, more than 28,000 Mexicans were murdered. The president has insisted that 90 per cent of the victims were cartel members, although only 5 per cent of the murders have been investigated, much less solved. In the first four years of his term, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission received 4035 complaints alleging abuses by the armed forces – more than it had received in the previous 15 years – including allegations of murder, torture and rape. Because the military is charged with investigating itself, such abuses invariably go unpunished. And ‘because writing or saying what the military is up to could result in serious injury or death,’ the American journalist Charles Bowden notes in Murder City, his recent book about Juárez, few of the more serious abuses are ever reported.[*] At least 31 reporters have been killed or disappeared since 2006.
Ah, but of course now we have another progressive in the White House -- a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, no less, an heir to Martin Luther King and Aung San Suu Kyi. Surely now, things will change, we will take a new direction, away from the obviously failed policies of the past. Yes? No.
Calderón, unfazed, has promised to keep the troops on the streets until the end of his six-year term. His support from the north has been unflagging. Obama has proposed extending the Merida Initiative, and has requested an additional $310 million for 2011. His administration appears to situate Mexico within the discourse of failing states battling insurgencies and requiring American help. It’s a bad fit – the cartels are not revolutionary cells so much as organisations of global capital – but the rhetoric provides a domestic pretext for folding Mexico into US security protocols. Carlos Pascual, the new US ambassador to Mexico, last summer confidently proposed ‘a new role’ for the Mexican military in Juárez, one consistent with counter-insurgency tactics employed by the US across the globe: they would secure the perimeter of five-block-square ‘safe zones’, and push that perimeter outward block by block.
Ehrenreich's conclusion is bleak indeed -- worthy of Cormac McCarthy -- but, one fears, all too accurate:
Whatever shape it takes, the war on drugs continues to be even more profitable than the drug trade itself. All the killing keeps prices per gram high, so the cartels do fine, as do the legions of sicarios and the funeral directors they help to feed. The bankers who launder the money also win, as do the businessmen into whose enterprises the newly laundered funds are funnelled. The American weapons manufacturers stand to do nicely, as do the US security consultants and military contractors who will deposit almost all of the Merida funds into their own accounts, and who can expect to make billions more from the militarisation of the border on the American side: someone has to make the helicopters, the cameras, the night-vision goggles, the motion sensors, the unmanned drones, as well as build the private prisons that hold the migrants. Finally politicians too stand to gain, not only Calderón and the PRIistas who are likely to profit from his failure in 2012, but the Americans who have sponsored him: the agile ones who can leverage campaign contributions from the contractors, the populists who win votes by shouting about the barbarian hordes advancing through the Arizona desert, the moderates who get re-elected term after term by expounding in even tones about the need for something called ‘comprehensive border security’. The killing is therefore unlikely to stop.