Written by Chris Floyd
Thursday, 25 November 2010 22:26
Michael Hudson has consistently been one of the best guides
through the labyrinth of lies that surround the monumental act of elite
thievery known as the “economic crisis.” Patiently and perceptively, he applies his economic expertise to the
realities behind the blather, laying out – in grim, heart-sinking detail – how
our great and good are using the crisis they created to move in remorselessly
for the final kill on any dreams of a decent life for the rabble – that is, the
99 percent of us who fall outside the golden circle of the rentier class.
So when Hudson speaks, we should pay serious heed. And his
latest piece in CounterPunch is heedful – and heart-sinking – indeed. We are,
he says, entering the end-game of a decades-long process of wealth transference
in which the entire burden of sustaining society – a degraded, hollowed-out,
inhumane society – and a bloated, belligerent militarist oligarchy falls
entirely on working people and the poor, while the elite reap all the profit.
Hudson sees yet another manufactured crisis hitting the
battered system next spring: the “debt” crisis, when Republican legislators and
Blue Dog Democrats refuse to raise the federal debt ceiling, “forcing” a most
willing (yea, eager) Barack Obama to effect an “historic compromise” to “save”
the government from closure and collapse: a flat tax.
You should read Hudson’s entire analysis, which is set up
carefully with very pertinent historical background, but here are some
The danger the United States faces today
is that the government debt crisis scheduled to hit Congress next spring (when
Republicans are threatening to vote against raising the federal debt limit as
the government deficit soars) will provide an opportunity for the wealthy to
give a coup de grace on what is left of
progressive taxation in this country. A flat tax on wage income and consumer
sales would “free” the rentiers from taxes on their property. …
The flat tax actually would tax wage
earners much more steeply than the wealthy, whose income it would largely
exempt! … The tax does not fall on “empty” pricing in excess of value – what
the classical economists termed “economic rent,” that element of price (and
income) that has no counterpart in actual cost of production (ultimately
reducible to labor) but is a pure free lunch: land rent, monopoly rent,
interest and other financial fees, and insurance premiums. This economic rent
is the major return to wealth. It is grounded in the finance, insurance and
real estate (FIRE) sector.
The effect of untaxing the FIRE sector
is twofold. First, it increases the power of wealth, privilege, monopoly rights
and property over living labor – including the power of hereditary wealth over
the living. Second, it helps “post-industrialize” the economy, creating a
“service” economy. A service economy is mainly a FIRE-sector economy.
And now for the end-game, the kabuki
theater in which the FIRE-breathing – or rather, FIRE-bought -- politicians of
both parties finally give the One Percenters what they’ve always wanted: everything.
The wealthy want just what bankers want:
the entire economic surplus (followed by a foreclosure on property). They want
all the disposable income over and above basic subsistence – and then, when
this shrinks the economy, they want the government to sell off the public
domain in “privatization” giveaways, and they want people to turn over their
houses and any other property they have to the creditors. “Your money or your
life” is not only what bank robbers demand. It is what banks themselves demand,
and the wealthy 10 per cent of the population that owns most of the bank stock.
And of course, the wealthy classes want to free themselves
from the share of taxes that they have not already shed. The flat-tax ploy is
Here’s how I think the plan is intended
to work. Given the fact that voters have already rejected the flat tax in
principle, it can only be introduced by fiatunder crisis conditions. Alan
Simpson, President Obama’s designated co-chairman of the “Deficit Reduction
Commission” (the euphemistic title given to what is in reality a “Shift Taxes
Off Wealth Onto Labor” commission) already has suggested that Republicans close
down the government by refusing to increase the federal debt limit this spring.
This would create a fiscal crisis and threat of government shutdown. It would
be a fiscal 9/11, for the Republicans to trot out their “rescue plan” for the
emergency breakdown of government.
The result would cap the tax shift off finance and wealth onto
wage earners. Supported by Blue Dog Democrats, President Obama would shed
crocodile tears and sign off on the most right-wing, oligarchic, anti-labor,
anti-black and anti-minority, anti-industrial tax that anyone has yet been able
to think up. The notorious Flat Tax would fall only on wage income (paid by
employees and employers alike) and on consumer goods (the value-added tax,
VAT), while exempting returns that accrue to the wealthy in the form of
interest and dividend income, rent and capital gains.
Barack Obama is already one of the most right-wing
presidents we’ve ever had, building upon and expanding virtually every
pernicious policy of his oligarchic predecessor. But as Hudson warns us, we ain’t
seen nothin’ yet.
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
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.
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
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:
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.
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. ....
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Written by Chris Floyd
Monday, 15 November 2010 00:49
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.
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.
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.
Written by Chris Floyd
Tuesday, 09 November 2010 00:05
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."