Written by Chris Floyd
Saturday, 26 June 2010 23:19
One of the most significant developments in the modern world -- history may find it to be a decisive one -- has been the deliberate cultivation of religious extremism by ruling elites trying to sustain and expand their power.
The rise of virulent extremism in almost every major religion -- Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism -- has many other causes, of course. Chief among these is the turbulent encounter between modernity and tradition, a confrontation that has played out -- and is playing out -- in so many different ways both within and across various cultures.
Modernity encompasses not only the technologies and techniques of capitalism that in its many guises (including state capitalism) has plowed up so much ancient ground and overturned so many ancient certainties, but also the historic development of ideas and ideals based, ultimately, on the notion of the inherent (even inalienable) autonomy and worth of the individual. These ideas too have found expression in myriad -- and often conflicting -- forms. And of course, there has never been and can never be any kind of clear dividing line between all of these swirling currents, the multifaceted dimensions of modernity and tradition; like a jar of colored sands, they mix and meld in innumerable, unstable combinations as they are sifted and shaken through the course of time.
So it would be wrong to say that the rise of sectarian zeal can be ascribed solely to its manipulation by elites. But it would be equally wrong -- and dangerously blind -- to deny the fact of these manipulations, or to minimize in any way the pernicious, atrocious effect they have had -- and are having -- on human existence. They have placed a deep -- and entirely unnecessary -- shadow over humanity for generations: a shadow that only gets darker, and more poisonous, as time goes on.
For the last 50 years, in country after country, ruling elites -- those factions which hold a disproportionate and thus illegitimate sway over society -- have fostered the growth of religious extremism for two main reasons: to distract the populace from the way their lives are unjustly diminished by the elitist agenda -- and to throttle and demonize any popular movement that might threaten the elite's hegemony.
This happened throughout the Middle East, for example, as tyrants of every stripe (often clients of the West) turned to hitherto marginal fundamentalist religious groups to dilute and drive back secular challenges to their rule. These challenges were often, although not always, led by movements that could be characterized as "leftist" to one degree or another. (Although it is also true that any challenge whatsoever to elite rule is almost always categorized as some kind of dangerous, revolutionary "leftism," even if it has little or no socialist content at all -- and even if it is entirely non-violent, or gradualist, or merely mildly reformist.) Usually with Western help, the tyrants cultivated religious extremists both as shock troops and cultural warriors to attack and divide any opposition. As the London Review of Books noted recently (in a piece highlighted this weekend by As'ad AbuKhalil):
The Islamisation of Egyptian society deepened after the 1967 war; it became explicit government policy under Sadat, the self-styled ‘believer president’ who supported radical Islamists in his battles with the left, and who made the sharia ‘the principal source’ of law in 1980 – a year before his assassination by an Islamist. Under Mubarak, praying has become as popular as shopping or football and now serves a roughly similar function as a distraction from the innumerable frustrations of Egyptian life. Indeed, Islam as observed by Egyptians is increasingly an Islam that caters to consumerist needs. The popular televangelist Amr Khaled mixes Quranic citations with boosterish advice of a more general kind. This variety of Islam is no threat to the regime, but it has made life far less easy-going. ‘My neighbour used to water his plants in his pyjamas on the balcony, where he’d be joined by his wife in her nightie,’ a friend tells me. ‘They’d drink beer in the open, and then he’d go downstairs for the sunset prayers in the local mosque. Today he’d be killed for this, but at the time he would have seen no contradiction.’
Over the past half century, this same dynamic has played out in various ways, and to various degrees, in countries all over the world. It has happened in Iran, India, Pakistan, Iraq, Yugoslavia (Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo), and many others. It is happening at an astonishingly accelerated rate today in Israel, which has become by far the most religiously and ethnically intolerant of any nation considered part of "the West." And it is most palpably happening on many levels in the United States, as Chris Hedges and many others have documented.
In most cases, this dynamic involves a strong fusion of religious extremism with a strident, exclusionary nationalism. Indeed, religious nationalism is one of the hallmarks of our age. At various times, and in various quarters, one element -- the religious or the nationalist -- might predominate over the other. We can see this in, say, the Tea Party movement, where exclusionary nationalism -- the self-defined "Real Americans" vs. the strange, traitorous Others -- is now in ascendance, occluding somewhat the sex-obsessed, church-based "Focus on the Family"-style religious nationalism that was somewhat more prevalent earlier in the decade. The whole career of Sarah Palin exemplifies this oscillation, as she has tracked back and forth between the most virulent, primitive, casting-out-devils Christian fundamentalism and the bellicose, militarist nationalism she shares with the Beltway neo-cons, a number of whom are, of course, Jews and/or atheists whom Palin, like George W. Bush, believes will burn in eternal hellfire.
Although these kinds of contradictions demonstrate the utter incoherence and moral vacuity of religious nationalism, they rarely lessen the power of these movements, which -- once unleashed, encouraged (and heavily funded) -- feed on the nuclear fuel of raw, unexamined emotions, fears and needs: a fuel that is constantly replenished by the relentless propagation of artfully filtered (and often fabricated) outrages and threats.
Here's an example from personal experience. I came of age in the mid-70s, in the Bible Belt, in a family rooted in that old-time Southern Baptist religion. This was the era when the TV preachers -- Jim Bakker, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, and others -- first began flooding the late-night airwaves. These televangelists, just beginning the fusion of religion and nationalism noted above, were widely, almost universally, regarded by the good, God-fearing, church-going grownups of my acquaintance as extremely marginal, even comical figures, of little note and little worth.
Yet in just a few years' time, many of these figures, and others like them, would be trooping to the White House to be courted and honored; they were commanding vast media networks, college campuses and commercial empires. One of them, Robertson, even ran for president. They had become an integral and important part of the nation's power structure, pushing "hot button" issues, almost always related to sex -- homosexuality, abortion -- and "traditional values" (e.g., submission to authority: biblical authority, corporate authority, military authority, male authority, etc.). They constructed a false history of a paradisiacal past that had been "stolen" from "real" Americans by liberals, feminists, unions, queers, darkies, commies, college professors, Mexicans, etc. etc. And all the while, the elite interests who helped bankroll and magnify these marginal movements into national juggernauts were in fact beggaring the believers themselves, destroying their communities -- indeed, their "traditional values," their family and social networks, and their quality of life -- by gutting their towns and cities, driving family farmers from their land, sending tens of millions of jobs to near-slave labor overseas, befouling the environment, degrading public amenities and vital infrastructure, relentlessly restricting legal recourse against corporate predation and depredation, and corrupting the democratic process to send a steady stream of spineless hacks and whores to Washington to perpetuate the bipartisan corporate-militarist agenda.
The result has been poisonous rancor, social division, economic ruin, vast anxiety, endless war and the relentless, systematic degradation of the quality of life for working people, the poor, the sick, the vulnerable -- indeed, for everyone outside the small circle of the elite, and their sycophants and servants in the media-political class.
And at every step of the way, this ever-growing dynamic of religious nationalism -- which has found its highest, most complete expression in the war-profiteering militarist empire of the Terror War and its attendant atrocities, foreign and domestic -- has been aided and abetted and strengthened and expanded by the so-called "liberals" and "progressives" of the Democratic Party (and their own innumerable outriders, servitors and sycophants) who have been and remain among the fiercest proponents of ... the war-profiteering militarist empire. ("Progressives," of course want to "reform" the empire -- that is, make its deadly operations more efficient and codify its most heinous atrocities into law -- but none of them, not one, call for it to be dismantled.)
Just as in Mubarak's Egypt or the Shah's Iran, any secular opposition to the thuggish (indeed criminal) American elites has been effectively neutralized. The resultant anger and confusion of a people who are indeed being robbed and screwed over is thus diverted from its true perpetrators, and instead is channeled into one of few avenues of "protest" against the "system" allowed to operate freely and fully on a mass scale: religious nationalism in its various forms. Of course, this kind of "protest" only strengthens the genuine systems of rapacious power, and thus, ultimately, serves both sides of the partisan divide. (Or rather the factional divide between two groups of squabbling courtiers jockeying for the top perks of the imperial state they both avidly serve.) And, as we have seen in Iran and will likely see in Egypt, these movements, once unleashed and empowered, cannot be completely controlled by their elite patrons (as some Republican incumbents and insiders have already learned to their sorrow).
On every side, in country after country, and at varying levels, life is being made "far less easy-going" by the unholy alliance of rapacious corporate-militarist elites and the Zealotocracy of religious nationalists they have helped propel to heights of power and influence. And as long as the imperial system keeps churning its way around the globe, this murderous, retrograde, life-strangling dynamic will continue to accelerate.
Written by Chris Floyd
Wednesday, 23 June 2010 12:20
Some people seem to think that the question of which uniformed goober is in charge of the imperial bloodbath in Afghanistan is a vitally important issue, worthy of endless exegesis. It is not. It is a meaningless sideshow. What does matter, vitally, deeply, urgently, is the imperial bloodbath itself, and the fact that it will go on, and on, no matter what Barack Obama does or doesn't do about Stanley McChrystal. [*Now we know what Barry did about Stanley. See update below.]
What really matters is this:
Ten civilians, including at least five women and children, were killed in NATO airstrikes in Khost Province, the provincial police chief said Saturday.
“We have received five bodies of civilians in our provincial public hospital,” Khost provincial health director Amirbadshah Rahmatzai Mangal told AFP. “The dead include two female children of seven and eight years of age..."
McChrystal is in trouble for making disparaging remarks about fellow officers and civilian officials -- a military tradition that surely goes back to the armies of Hammurabi (and long before). Yet he faced no reprimand or remonstrance whatsoever for his admission, just a few months ago, that brazen war crimes were being carried out under his command:
“We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat,” said Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who became the senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan last year. His comments came during a recent videoconference to answer questions from troops in the field about civilian casualties.
As I noted at the time:
Now, what would the authorities say if you or I shot "an amazing number of people who have never proven to be a threat?" Why, they would call us murderers -- even mass murderers. Yet this is precisely what "the senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan" has just declared, on videotape. ...
Again, just think of it, let it sink in, attend to the word of the commander: “We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat." Again: “We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat." Again: “We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat."
Again: what do you call it when innocent, unarmed, defenseless people who "have never proven to be a threat" are gunned down in cold blood? What do you call such an act?
But such acts are not to be punished -- because they are an accepted part of the process of the military domination of foreign lands. Wanton murder of the innocent? No problem, no scandal, a one-day story. "Insubordination" toward a few imperial satraps whose hands are steeped in blood? Shock, horror, wall-to-wall coverage.
But again: McChrystal's fate does not matter. As Justin Raimondo notes (see the original for informative links):
Our empire of bases and global military presence has engendered a whole new subspecies of American, a class or caste that derives its income, its tradition, and in many cases its family history from the long record of US military intervention overseas. They are the knights of the American imperium, not only military but also civilians whose social, economic, and political interests are inextricably tied to the growth of the empire. This includes but is not limited to the military contractors, the administrators, the Washington policy wonks who come up with endless rationales for war – and, really, the entire political class in Washington, and their vassals among the coastal elites.
Indeed. If McChrystal goes, another bureaucrat of death will take his place. Until the militarist empire itself is rolled back and broken up, we will continue to see, month after month, year after year, "an amazing number of people who have never proven to be a threat" killed in cold blood -- such as the two little girls who were slaughtered last weekend in Khost.
There they are, their bodies torn, their slender limbs twisted and broken, their lifeless eyes staring into eternal nothingness ... and we're supposed to care about the professional fortunes and political fates of the depraved, power-drunk thugs who run this brutal war machine?
UPDATE: Keep the Change
"Another bureaucrat of death" indeed. Since the above post was written, Obama has appointed the top imperial proconsul of the age, bipartisan fave David Petraeus, to take direct control of the wars -- overt and covert -- in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Petraeus, as head of "Central Command" -- the core provinces of the eternal War of Terror -- is already in overall charge of the Af-Pak morass, having previously been in charge of the Iraq bloodbath.
This is No-Change with a vengeance -- as Obama himself made clear. The Washington Post reports:
[Obama] said [the move] should not be read by anyone as a change in the direction of the country's war effort.
"This is a change in personnel," Obama said, "but it is not a change in policy."
So the bitter harvest of dead children will go on. And on. And on. But the most important thing, of course, is that Obama looked "strong" in the savage squabbling for chunks of power amongst the jackals of the imperial court.
UPDATE II: As you might expect, Arthur Silber has some wise words to say about the deeper implications of these unseemly rumblings in the bowels of the War Machine -- including the rather pertinent (and universally ignored) fact that every single official involved in the McChrystal imbroglio is, literally and legally, a war criminal.
Written by Chris Floyd
Tuesday, 22 June 2010 10:40
High comedy from the Gray Lady:
American taxpayers have inadvertently created a network of warlords across Afghanistan who are making millions of dollars escorting NATO convoys and operating outside the control of either the Afghan government or the American and NATO militaries, according to the results of a Congressional investigation released Monday.
"Inadvertently!" Really, what yocks!
Coincidentally, I am currently reading a new edition of Norman Stone's 1964 book, The Honoured Society, dealing with the great "surge" of Mafia power in Sicily in the post-WWII years. Stone, who was in Sicily at the time, tells an interesting story of how the American military government "inadvertently" restored the Mafia to feudal lordship over Sicily by "inadvertently" placing Mafia leaders and their associates in charge of towns and villages all over Sicily, "inadvertently" giving them carte blanche to create a vast black market, "inadvertently" allowing them to crush any movement toward land reform or unionized labor, and "inadvertently" putting the political process in their stranglehold, laying the foundation for generations of violence, terror, corruption, suffering and deprivation for ordinary people.
As Stone notes:
Don Caló received the loyalist cooperation in these [black market] manoeuvres from his friends in AMGOT [Allied Military Government for Occupied Territories], who supplied the passes necessary for his caravan of trucks to travel without impediment up and down the roads of Sicily. At about that time, AMGOT in Sicily had fallen under the sway of its unofficial adviser, Vito Genovese, an American gangster -- later named as head of the Mafia offshoot, Cosa Nostra -- who had disappeared after his indictment on a charge of murder and turned up in Italy. Don Caló found Genovese most accommodating. From AMGOT came all the petrol he required, and sometimes, when he was short of transport for an exceptionally large shipment, his friends helped out with a military vehicle or two.
In 1944 I happened to be in the town of Benevento through which Don Caló's black market caravans were obliged to pass on their way northward, and although at times there were more trucks loaded with Don Caló's [olive] oil on the roads of southern Italy than there were military vehicles, there was nothing to be done to put a stop to this situation. All papers were always in order.
And here we are again. From the NY Times' chuckle fest:
The 79-page report, entitled “Warlord Inc.,” paints an anarchic picture of contemporary Afghanistan, with the country’s major highways being controlled by groups of freelance gunmen who answer to no one — and who are being paid [billions of dollars] by the United States.
Afghanistan, the investigation found, plays host to hundreds of unregistered private security companies employing as many as 70,000 largely unsupervised gunmen. “The principal private security subcontractors,” the report said, “are warlords, strongmen, commanders and militia leaders who compete with the Afghan central government for power and authority."
...“Long after the United States leaves Afghanistan, and the convoy security business shuts down, these warlords will likely continue to play a major role as autonomous centers of political, economic and military power,” the report said.
Just like the "good war" way back when! Which is only fitting, for as we all know, the nine-year morass of loot and domination in Afghanistan is the "good war" of our latest Greatest Generation, now led by a wise and noble prince of progress and peace.
But here's something strange from the Times' story of the "inadvertent" program of warlord creation:
These subcontracts, the investigation found, are handed out without any oversight from the Department of Defense, despite clear instructions from Congress that the department provide such oversight.
Hmm; the Pentagon is deliberately ignoring clear instructions from Congress ... yet the result of this deliberate, knowing, wilful course of action is somehow "inadvertent." Yes, let's drag out the old courtroom trope once again, for, once again, it is all too apt: "Your honor, it's true that I picked up the gun, loaded the gun, pointed the gun, pulled the gun's trigger, and fired five shots into the head of the victim -- but the death itself was entirely inadvertent."
The Pentagon's creation of "a network of warlords" to do its donkey work -- and its dirty work -- in Afghanistan is no more "inadvertent" than the empowerment and entrenchment of the Mafia in Sicily in 1944, or the creation of a international network of armed Islamic extremists under the Carter and Reagan administrations, etc., etc., etc. Our imperial militarists are happy to empower ruthless thugs of every description to keep the Great Game of loot and domination going, without giving the slightest thought to the worthless rabble who will suffer the consequences -- sometimes for generations.
Gee, maybe it's not so funny after all.
UPDATE: If you want to know just why our masters and commanders are waging their profitable wars abroad and their relentless class wars at home, then check out Arthur Silber's latest. You'll find the answer there.
Written by Chris Floyd
Sunday, 20 June 2010 22:45
As I've said here many times before, no one that I know writing today is making the kinds of profound connections that Arthur Silber makes, year after year: drawing out the deeper implications of the operations of power on every level of our lives, from the global scope of high politics to the still, dark night of the individual psyche.
His latest post is a masterpiece of his insightful art. He uncovers the (literally) deadly dynamic by which the ruling elites not only enforce their ravenous and ravaging will -- but also how they make their victims "become collaborators in their own destruction."
Go there now, or as soon as you can, and read the piece in its entirety. Don't cheat yourself of a rare draught of wisdom when it's offered.
Written by Chris Floyd
Thursday, 17 June 2010 11:45
James Bovard at Antiwar.com points out one of the more egregiously sick-making of the many atrocious "arguments" employed by Barack Obama in his successful effort to block the efforts of Maher Arar to seek justice for his unjust rendition and proxy torture in the Great War of Global Terror.
Obama bade his legal henchmen -- his own personal John Yoos, as it were -- to tell the Supreme Court that it should kill the Canadian citizen's case seeking compensation for his unlawful arrest by U.S. officials, who then rendered him not unto Caesar but to the untender mercies of Syria's torture cells. The Robed Ones agreed, dismissing, without comment, Arar's appeal of a lower court ruling that quashed his case -- a decision that Scott Horton rightly likened last year to the Dred Scott case, which upheld the legality of slavery, even in states which prohibited it.
The Arar ruling upholds the "legality" of a new, universal form of slavery, i.e., the United States government can deprive anyone in the world of their freedom, and dispose of their bodies as it sees fit: torture, "indefinite detention," or even "targeted assassination." The fact that it is a man of partly African descent who is now outstripping the Southern slavers in this extension of servitude to the entire world is one of those poisonously bitter ironies with which history abounds.
But grim and depraved as Obama's position is, it is not without its comic elements. As Bovard notes, one of the "arguments" offered by the Obama/Yoo administration was that the case should be dismissed because it might call into question “the motives and sincerity of the United States officials who concluded that petitioner could be removed to Syria.” We kid, as they say, you not.
So now cases of monstrous and criminal actions by agents of the United States government cannot be heard in court, because this might impugn the "sincerity" of the officials involved. And after all, as we all know, it is the inner feelings of government officials that are all important in determining the legality -- and morality -- of their actions. That is why the murder of more than a million Iraqis in an act of naked military aggression is not a war crime; it is, at the very worst, just a "tragic blunder," a misdirected excess of good intentions gone awry. Because we meant well, didn't we? We always mean well.
Even those Southern slavers were "sincere" in their belief that keeping people of African descent in servitude was the "right" thing to do. It's too bad that Barack Obama was not around in those days to stick up for them and ensure that their "motives and sincerity" could not be questioned. Heaven forefend that the delicate sensibilities of slavers, renditioners, torturers and assassins should ever be exposed to public scrutiny!
So Arar's American case is now dead. (The Canadians long ago 'fessed up -- and paid up -- for their role in his torment.) But its implications live on. As I noted in my first article on the Arar case, back in December 2003:
... Arar's case is not extraordinary. In the past two years, the Bushist organs have "rendered" thousands of detainees, without charges, hearings or the need to produce any evidence whatsoever, into the hands of regimes which the U.S. government itself denounces for the widespread use of torture. Apparatchiks of the organs make no secret of the practice -- or of their knowledge that the "rendered" will indeed be beaten, burned, drugged, raped, even killed. "I do it with my eyes open," one renderer told the Washington Post. Detainees -- including lifelong American residents -- have been snatched from the homes, businesses, schools, from streets and airports, and sent to torture pits like Syria, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan -- even the stateless chaos of Somalia, where Ashcroft simply dumped more than 30 Somali-Americans last year, without charges, without evidence, without counsel, and with no visible means of support, as the London Times reports.
But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.
Of course, the American organs needn't rely exclusively on foreigners for torture anymore. Under the enlightened leadership of Ashcroft, Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and other upstanding Christian statesmen, America has now established its own centers for what the organs call "operational flexibility." These include bases in Bagram, Afghanistan and Diego Garcia, the Indian Ocean island that was forcibly depopulated in the 1960s to make way for a U.S. military installation. Here, the CIA runs secret interrogation units that are even more restricted than the American concentration camp on Guantanamo Bay. Detainees -- again, held without charges or evidentiary requirements -- are "softened up" by beatings at the hands of military police and Special Forces troops before being subjected to "stress and duress" techniques: sleep deprivation (officially condemned as a torture method by the U.S. government), physical and psychological disorientation, withholding of medical treatment, etc. When beatings and "duress" don't work, detainees are then "packaged" -- hooded, gagged, bound to stretchers with duct tape -- and "rendered" into less dainty hands elsewhere.
But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.
Not content with capture and torture, the organs have been given presidential authority to carry out raids and kill "suspected terrorists" (including Americans) on their own volition -- without oversight, without charges, without evidence -- anywhere in the world, including on American soil. In addition to this general license to kill, Bush has claimed the power to designate anyone he pleases "an enemy combatant" and have them "rendered" into the hands of the organs or simply killed at his express order -- without charges, without evidence, with no judicial or legislative oversight whatsoever. The life of every American citizen -- indeed, every person on earth -- is now at the disposal of his arbitrary whim. Never in history has an individual claimed such universal power -- and had the force to back it up.
But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.
All of the above facts -- each of them manifest violations of international law and/or the U.S. Constitution -- have been cheerfully attested to, for years now, by the organs' own apparatchiks, in the Post, the NY Times, Newsweek, the Guardian, the Economist and other high-profile, mainstream publications. The stories appear -- then they disappear. There is no reaction. No outcry in Congress or the courts -- the supposed guardians of the people's rights -- beyond a few wan calls for more formality in the concentration camp processing or judicial "warrants" for torture. And among the great mass of "the people" itself, there is -- nothing. Silence. Inattention. Acquiescence. State terrorism -- lawless seizure, filthy torture, official murder -- is simply accepted, a part of "normal life," as in Nazi Germany or Stalin's empire, where "decent people" with "nothing to hide" approved and applauded the work of the "organs" in "defending national security."
This is the scandal, this is the nation's festering shame. This acquiescence to state terror will breed -- and attract -- a thousand evils for every one it supposedly prevents.
And please note: none of this has changed. None of it. These crimeful, brutal abuses of power are becoming more thoroughly entrenched under the rule of the progressive Peace laureate now in the White House. What Bush did with winks and nods, Obama is openly championing, expanding and codifying into law. And these deeply sincere evils will keep reverberating, in ways that we can not even imagine, far into the lives of our children and grandchildren, and for generations beyond.
UPDATE: Scott Horton has much more on the latest ruling in the Arar case.
Written by Chris Floyd
Monday, 14 June 2010 11:24
The New York Times reports on the discovery by American geologists that Afghanistan contains "vast riches" in untapped mineral deposits: at least $1 trillion worth -- including huge troves of lithium, "a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys," as the paper breathlessly relates.
Unfortunately, given the realities of our world, one's first reaction to such news is not a cheery "How nice for the Afghan people!" but rather a heart-sinking, dread-clammy "Uh oh." For what this discovery almost certainly portends are many more decades of war, warlordism and foreign intervention, as the forces of greed and power fight like hyenas to tear off the juiciest chunks of this windfall.
It also guarantees many more years of American military occupation (in one guise or another); there is absolutely no chance that our Beltway banditti (and their corporate cronies) are simply going to walk away from a stash like this, not when they've already got "boots on the ground" -- and billions of dollars in war pork invested in the place. It's payback time, baby! (Or rather, double-dip time, as most these "investments" are just pass-throughs of public money to private profiteers). And hey, finder's keepers and all that, right?
The Times story is the usual splattered mess of regurgitated Pentagon PR and imperial spin, with a few small bits of pertinent information here and there.
The story first displays its "savvy" cred by noting the possible downsides of the find. ("Hey, we're not just cheerleaders, you know!") It could make the Taliban fight even harder. It could exacerbate the corruption of the American-installed Afghan government. It could set off conflicts between Afghan tribes and warlord factions to control the mining. It could wreak environmental ruin. And it seems it could tempt grasping greedy foreigners to prey upon the war-ravaged Afghans and steal their wealth:
At the same time, American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said.
Oh yes, the great danger is that China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan's mineral wealth! They've already got one copper mine and they want more, the greedy bastards!
This passage gives us a vivid display of the quintessential NYT stew of PR, spin and tiny fragments of reality. First comes the head fake toward the Yellow Peril, then we get a bit of truth: the Washington believes the United States should dominate the development of Afghanistan's mineral wealth, "given its heavy investment in the region." China can't have it, because we've got it. We've spent a lot of money and we've killed a lot of people to get it (including wads of our own cannon fodder) -- and by God, we're going to keep it!
Of course, the Times accepts this as the natural state of affairs. The possibility that the mineral find might exacerbate the rampant American corruption in the Afghan war is not mentioned, or even hinted at. The idea that it will make the Pentagon fight harder -- and nastier -- to secure control over the stash is not even considered.
Instead, we get another bashing of the Afghan government for its corruption -- as if this is occurring in some kind of vacuum, as if the billions of dollars being siphoned off, socked away or spread around to cronies by the American-appointed, American-backed, American-supplied Afghan officials were not being doled out to them by .... the Americans, who are happily kicking back billions more to their own cronies, contractors and profiteers.
We also get -- yet again -- the myth that the American empire acts solely out of altruism. American officials, we are told, are gearing up to help the Afghans exploit the find with technical expertise, business plans and industry contacts. But strangely enough, this kindness is not being provided by, say, the State Department or some aid agency; it is being carried out by ... the Pentagon. It is the Pentagon that is "helping Afghan officials arrange to start seeking bids on mineral rights by next fall" and facilitating the development of the trillion-dollar cache.
In other words, the warlords of a foreign power will develop the mining operations in order to keep them out of the hands of, er, foreign powers and warlords.
Another nugget of truth buried deep in the story is the fact that the "discovery" of the huge trove of mineral deposits was actually made a few years ago. It is being trotted out now because the Obama Administration needs some good news about its ever-expanding quagmire in Central Asia -- and perhaps also to send a signal to its corporate backers and foreign allies (such as Britain, now making noises about possibly winding down its Afghan involvement) that the game is most definitely worth the candle.
And worth the lives of thousands and thousands of more Afghans -- and Pakistanis, Americans, Britons and others -- in a mad, murderous mineral scramble. The Pentagon businessmen say that Afghanistan could become "the Saudi Arabia of lithium" -- but it is far more likely to become "the Congo of Central Asia": a zone of decades-long, hydra-headed, multi-sided, society-gutting, atrocity-producing, money-grubbing war over "vast riches" of mineral deposits.
But hey: as long as the BlackBerries and laptops keep rolling in, who cares, right? Those things are just so darn cool.
Written by Chris Floyd
Wednesday, 09 June 2010 10:29
Welcome to Wal-Mart!
Just a reminder: this is what our ease and comfort are based on -- someone doing work like this:
From the Guardian: A worker prepares a cotton gin in Mumbai. India is the second largest exporter of the ﬁbre after China, the recipient of around 60% of India’s cotton exports.
A Worker Writes
Roy Mayall spotlights the ever-growing inequalities in our best of all possible worlds -- disparities that will only grow vastly greater as the world's elites stoke bogus deficit panics to "justify" their shredding of the last remaining tiny mitigations against their brute power. From the London Review of Books:
Adam Crozier, the retiring chief executive [of Royal Mail], received more than £2.4m in the year 2009-10. With bonuses and pensions that figure rises to £3.5 million. ... I earn £8.98 an hour. I work a 20-hour week. I’d like to work more but there are no full-time jobs available. My basic pay is £177.28 a week, before deductions. That’s about £9200 a year. That means that I would have to work for nearly 380 years to earn as much as Adam Crozier earned last year.
Fair enough. Adam Crozier obviously has 380 times my needs. He must have a house that is 380 times the size of mine. He is 380 times taller. Maybe he has 380 stomachs to fill. Perhaps his dick is 380 times bigger than mine and he needs 380 partners to service it. He must have 380 times the intellectual capacity as his brain is clearly 380 times more developed than mine. His value to the world is 380 times greater.
Of course, the truth of the matter is that our elites really do think like this. They really believe their value to the world is immeasurably greater than any memeber of the common rabble -- or indeed, the common rabble as a whole. (And this case only deals with an executive in the UK; the disparities in the United States are much greater.) That's why they find it so very easy to kill vast numbers of people and grind others into the dirt. The rabble is just a herd, whose individual lives have no value, except as they can be exploited by those who really matter.
An Attack of Giantism
Not that anyone cares, but more evidence has been found to refute the Obama Administration's farcical claim that it was uninvolved in a cruise missile attack that killed 52 people in Yemen last year, more than half of them women and children. The Independent reports:
A US cruise missile armed with cluster ammunition was used in an attack in Yemen in December which resulted in the deaths of 52 people, more than half of them women and children, according to a human rights watchdog.
The Yemeni government insisted their forces alone carried out the strike on an al-Qa'ida training camp in the Abyan region. US authorities backed the claim that insurgents had been attacked but officially denied direct involvement in the attack.
However, Amnesty International has now released photographs of missile parts from the attack which appear to show that it was a BGM-109D Tomahawk cruise missile designed to be launched from a warship or submarine. Further images reveal BLU 97 A/B cluster munitions which spray steel fragments for 150 meters along with burning zirconium for igniting buildings. The Yemeni government does not possess cruise missiles, which are part of the arsenal of US Navy vessels patrolling off the Horn of Africa and in the Arabian Sea.
...A Yemeni parliamentary committee investigating the raid at al-Ma'jalah concluded that 41 of the dead were civilians, 21 of them children and 14 women. Survivors denied any links with insurgents.
Again, what does it matter? The real people, the 380-foot giants, kicked over an anthill, and a few ants died. Boo hoo. Big whoop. Is our giant Peace Laureate supposed to concern himself with trivia like that? Of course, such actions only stir up a few ants here and there to try to nip at the giants' heels -- but so what? The worst they might do is kill a few of our ants now and then; meanwhile, the giants can hype the threat to fill their pockets with more war loot and expand their power and privilege.
As you might imagine, Arthur Silber has one of the most cogent observations on the "Helen Thomas affair." I won't excerpt it here, because that would dilute the unfolding of his sharp, satirical take; however, I will offer just one, more general comment from his conclusion, for it sums up quite well the essence of the above items, and much else about our modern world:
For me, one of the more gut-wrenching aspects of today's monstrous culture, a culture that kills each and every manifestation of empathy, understanding and compassion with relentlessly systematic determination, is the combination of unending destruction, cruelty, violence and murder with the most abysmally wretched depths of stupidity.
Written by Chris Floyd
Monday, 07 June 2010 14:51
This is the language of power – unfiltered, unadorned, dispassionate, professional – discussing how best to inflict tortures on helpless captives without causing "long-term" damage that might be visible later:
But as we understand the experience involving the combination of various techniques, the OMS medical and psychological personnel have not observed any such increase in susceptibility. Other than the waterboard, the specific techniques under consideration in this memorandum— including sleep deprivation—have been applied to more than 25 detainees.… No apparent increase in susceptibility to severe pain has been observed either when techniques are used sequentially or when they are used simultaneously—for example, when an insult slap is simultaneously combined with water dousing or a kneeling stress position, or when wall standing is simultaneously combined with an abdominal slap and water dousing. Nor does experience show that, even apart from changes in susceptibility to pain, combinations of these techniques cause the techniques to operate differently so as to cause severe pain. OMS doctors and psychologists, moreover, confirm that they expect that the techniques, when combined… would not operate in a different manner from the way they do individually, so as to cause severe pain.
This is taken from a memo written in 2005 by Justice Department lawyer Steven Bradbury to a legal officer at the CIA. It comes from a new report from Physicians for Human Rights, outlining the mass of evidence that the Bush Administration used its Terror War captives for medical experiments. Mother Jones has the story:
The watchdog group claims that in an attempt to establish that brutal interrogation tactics did not constitute torture, the administration ended up effectively experimenting on terrorism detainees. This research, PHR alleges, violated an array of regulations and treaties, including international guidelines on human testing put in place after the Holocaust.
According to the report, which draws on numerous declassified government documents, "medical professionals working for and on behalf of the CIA" frequently monitored detainee interrogations, gathering data on the effectiveness of various interrogation techniques and the pain threshholds of detainees. This information was then used to "enhance" future interrogations, PHR contends.
...Physicians for Human Rights makes the case that since human subject research is defined as the "systematic collection of data and/or identifiable personal information for the purpose of drawing generalizable inferences," what the Bush administration was doing amounted to human experimentation:
...Ironically, one goal of the "experimentation" seems to have been to immunize Bush administration officials and CIA interrogators from potential prosecution for torture. ... In a memo drafted on March 14, 2003, John Yoo, a primary author of the torture memos, defined that boundary [that could trigger prosecution] as treatment leading to "long-term" mental harm or pain and suffering equal to or greater than that caused by organ failure or death. So one purpose of the medical monitoring project was to insure that the techniques interrogators were using did not breach that bright line.
One document cited in the PHR report highlights this practice especially well. On May 10, 2005, then-OLC head Steven Bradbury wrote to then-CIA acting general counsel John Rizzo about the legality of using multiple interrogation techniques simultaneously, as opposed to one by one. Referring directly to data gathered by the CIA's Office of Medical Services, Bradbury decided that both methods were okay.
Sure, why not? So if you tie someone up in a "stress position," force them to their knees and slap them around while dousing them with cold water, it's not torture. Especially if you have some modern Mengeles there with you, monitoring and measuring the degree of despair so they can use the data to "enhance" future interrogations.
And as always, the perpetrators of this system were well aware they were breaking the United States' clear and ironclad laws prohibiting torture. That's why they went to Congress to get some additional cover – with an extraordinary legal provision that essentially authorizes medical experiments on captives:
There is some evidence to suggest that someone in the Bush administration may have realized they could be vulnerable to charges of illegal experimentation. The Military Commissions Act, passed by Congress in 2006, amended the 1996 War Crimes Act, a law that imposes criminal penalties for "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions. Specifically, the language on illegal "biological experiments" was weakened. The new law no longer requires that an experiment be carried out in the interest of the subject in order to be legal. (Research on how to make torture more effective is clearly not in the interest of the person who is going to be tortured.) In addition, it allows experiments that do not "endanger" the subject—rather than simply prohibiting all experiments that "are not justified by the medical, dental, or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest," as the previous version did.
The infamous Military Commissions Act was one of the more heinous legislative actions in last 25 years or more. When it passed, with the help of a dozen Democrats, one senator rose to make an impassioned protest against the measure. He railed against the draconian nature of the bill, which he said eliminated the ancient right of habeas corpus. He denounced the bill for "allowing this President - or any President - to decide what does and does not constitute torture." He lamented "the innocent people we may have accidentally rounded up and mistaken for terrorists - people who may stay in prison for the rest of their lives." He pointed to "a report authored by sixteen of our own government's intelligence agencies, a previous draft of which described, and I quote, "...actions by the United States government that were determined to have stoked the jihad movement, like the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay..." He summed up with a damning appraisal: "This is NOT how a serious Administration would approach the problem of terrorism."
Yes, as you've already guessed, that passionate dissenter was Senator Barack Obama. Yet you will notice that the Military Commissions Act is still in force; it received a few cosmetic changes in 2009, but it remains essentially intact, including the authoritarian powers of the president decried by the senator. Multitudes of captives remain locked up in the ever-swelling American gulag, which, although it has shifted its focus to Afghanistan, continues to include the still-unclosed, jihadi-stoking prison at Guantanamo Bay. The indefinite detention of prisoners has been eagerly championed by the senator turned president, who is seeking to entrench the practice deeply into American law. And once the young denouncer of the Bush approach to terrorism took power for himself, he quickly embraced that same approach almost in its entirety, defending its most egregious depredations – indefinite detention, illegal wiretapping, etc. – against all legal challenges, and even making personal assurances that no one from the previous administration would ever be prosecuted for instituting a vast apparatus of torture.
Indeed, aside from waterboarding – which had already been abandoned by the Bush Administration – it is unclear if any of the Bush torture techniques have been discontinued. As Andy Worthington notes, for example:
For eight and a half years, the US prison at Bagram airbase has been the site of a disturbing number of experiments in detention and interrogation, where murders have taken place, the Geneva Conventions have been shredded and the encroachment of the US courts — unlike at Guantánamo — has been thoroughly resisted.
In the last few months, there have been a few improvements — hearings, releases, even the promise of imminent trials — but behind this veneer of respectability, the US government’s unilateral reworking of the Geneva Conventions continues unabated, and evidence has recently surfaced of a secret prison within Bagram, where a torture program that could have been lifted straight from the Bush administration’s rule book is still underway.
And as Jason Leopold notes – in an excellent story which gives extensive background and context for the PHR report – the use of captives as guinea pigs for "enhancing interrogation techniques" is still going on under Obama:
Meanwhile, Obama's presence in the White House has not resulted in an abandonment of the research side of the interrogation program. Last March, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, who recently resigned, disclosed that the Obama administration's High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), planned on conducting "scientific research" to determine "if there are better way to get information from people that are consistent with our values."
"It is going to do scientific research on that long-neglected area," Blair said during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. He did not provide additional details as to what the "scientific research" entailed.
This would be the same Dennis Blair who also announced Obama's embrace – and entrenchment – of the universal murder principle claimed by Bush, whereby the American president can kill any person on earth by the simple expedient of dubbing his victim a "terrorist" or even a "suspected terrorist." As Leopold notes, Blair has now been ash-canned – apparently for insufficient sycophancy, or perhaps he was simply ousted in one of the grim power struggles that forever rage among the factions at the imperial court.
His replacement is yet another dim apparatchik from the bowels of the military-security complex, ex-general, ex-spy-eye-in-the-sky guy James Clapper. This "intelligence expert's" chief claim to fame is his earnest insistence that Saddam Hussein had transferred his bristling arsenal of non-existent weapons of mass destruction to Syria right before the American war of aggression in 2003 – a fairy story long touted by the defenders of that mass slaughter, even after Bush's own investigators confirmed the truth of what the Anglo-American intelligence agencies had known for many years (because Saddam's own son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, head of the WMD programs, had told them back in 1995): that Iraq's WMD programs had been dismantled just after the Gulf War – 12 years before the 2003 attack. Still, Clapper persisted in his propagation of this myth, as the Washington Times reports.
Of course, the Times, being the Times – the creation of a maniacal Korean arms peddler who pretends to be divine -- also says that the Syria-WMD story still "remains a matter of dispute." Well, yes it does – to the same degree that the spheroidicity of the earth remains "a matter of dispute" for handful of cranks. In any case, a crank of this order will shortly be guiding the nation's intelligence apparatus, thanks to the abiding progressive wisdom of the president.
And so on and on it goes. The horrors of the past keep belching up from the sulfurous deeps, only to be subsumed in the noxious "continuity" that engulfs the present.
Written by Chris Floyd
Friday, 04 June 2010 13:06
Most sentient beings have long recognized that murdering civilians in foreign countries -- especially through the cowardly methods of "secret war" -- is entirely counterproductive ... if your actual aim is to enhance America's national security by reducing violent extremism and hatred for the United States, that is. However, if your aim is to perpetuate and expand a militarist empire and the bloated, brutal, corrupt, war-profiteering system that supports it, why then, secret war and civilian slaughter are perfectly logical and remarkably effective methods.
And that is why our highly intelligent and cool, pragmatic president is now vastly expanding the use of secret war, subversion, sabotage and murder into even more countries around the world, and giving America's secret, unaccountable death squads and covert operators even more power to carry out their lawless operations. As one Pentagon mandarin gushed, Obama is allowing "things that the previous administration did not."
That quote comes from a remarkably candid story in the Washington Post on Obama's "surge" in America's secret war on the world, which now encompasses no fewer than 75 countries.
(By the way, the Post is often a very good source of information about the operations and machinations of the militarist empire -- not because its editors are seeking to expose the empire's crimes and atrocities, but because they approve of them. And thus they will often write about them, in detail, in the most straightforward manner: "Hey, look at the cool stuff our boys are doing now!")
As the story notes:
The Obama administration has significantly expanded a largely secret U.S. war against al-Qaeda and other radical groups, according to senior military and administration officials.
Special Operations forces have grown both in number and budget, and are deployed in 75 countries, compared with about 60 at the beginning of last year. ... Plans exist for pre-emptive or retaliatory strikes in numerous places around the world ...
What's more, Obama has brought the covert operators and death squad leaders into the inner circle at the White House:
Special Operations commanders have also become a far more regular presence at the White House than they were under George W. Bush's administration, when most briefings on potential future operations were run through the Pentagon chain of command and were conducted by the defense secretary or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"We have a lot more access," a second military official said. "They are talking publicly much less but they are acting more. They are willing to get aggressive much more quickly."
The White House, he said, is "asking for ideas and plans . . . calling us in and saying, 'Tell me what you can do. Tell me how you do these things.' "
... Obama has made such forces a far more integrated part of his global security strategy [than Bush]. He has asked for a 5.7 percent increase in the Special Operations budget for fiscal 2011, for a total of $6.3 billion, plus an additional $3.5 billion in 2010 contingency funding.
The story notes that the bureaucratic turf wars between the Pentagon and State Department that had hindered some covert operations under the cantankerous Donald Rumsfeld have now disappeared with the smooth comity between Obama's team of Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates, the long-time Bush Family factotum who now mentors the eager young Democratic president in the ancient ways of oligarchy and militarist empire. And of course, Obama hand-picked Stanley McChrystal -- master of America's darkest arts in the war of aggression in Iraq -- to lead his "surge" in Afghanistan.
Indeed, Obama has been so lavish and relaxed in his use of death squads and secret war that the only complaint voiced these days by our Special Oppers -- who, the Post notes, "consider themselves a breed apart" -- is that they have to spend too much time in current war zones, and not enough plying their wares in new territory:
Although pleased with their expanded numbers and funding, Special Operations commanders would like to devote more of their force to global missions outside war zones. Of about 13,000 Special Operations forces deployed overseas, about 9,000 are evenly divided between Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yes, it's a lot more fun to skulk around in unsuspecting foreign nations, "taking out" a suspect here, "renditioning" another to some secret hellhole there, arming and funding local terrorist groups to kill, maim and destroy, or paying off sleazy local informants who happily sell their business rivals or personal enemies into captivity. It is indeed a noble calling, requiring "a breed apart" from the common herd.
But oddly enough, some of the Pentagon's compadres in covert war are discovering that the practice is not achieving its publicly stated objectives. As Gareth Porter at Antiwar.com reports, even the push-button killers of the CIA are waking up to the fact that their remote-control slaughter of Pakistanis with drone-fired missiles is creating more hatred and more enemies for the United States:
Some CIA officers involved in the agency’s drone strikes program in Pakistan and elsewhere are privately expressing their opposition to the program within the agency, because it is helping al-Qaeda and its allies recruit, according to a retired military officer in contact with them.
"Some of the CIA operators are concerned that, because of its blowback effect, it is doing more harm than good," said Jeffrey Addicott, former legal adviser to U.S. Special Forces and director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, in an interview with IPS.
Addicott said the CIA operatives he knows have told him the drone strikes are being used effectively by al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders to recruit more militants. ...
Because the drone strikes kill innocent civilians and bystanders along with leaders from far away, they "infuriate the Muslim male," said Addicott, thus making them more willing to join the movement. The men in Pakistan’s tribal region "view Americans as cowards and weasels," he added.
Weasels? Well, that is a "breed apart," I guess, so perhaps the covert warriors should be proud of the sobriquet. (And of course it is not just the Muslim male who is infuriated by the civilian slaughter and turning to violent reaction, as evidenced by the growing number of female suicide bombers.)
But these inklings of CIA sentiency -- and perhaps the first stirrings of awareness that the stated objectives are not the real aim of the program -- have not prevented our stalwarts from continuing to push their murderous buttons (or is it click their murderous mouses?):
CIA officers "are very upset" with the drone strike policy, Addicott said. "They’ll do what the boss says, but they view it as a harmful exercise." ... Addicott said the drone program has been driven by President Barack Obama, rather than by the CIA. "Obama’s trying to show people that we’re winning," he added.
Addicott then makes this telling observation:
They have informed high-level CIA officials about their concerns that the program is backfiring, Addicott told IPS.
"The people at the top are not believers," said Addicott, referring to the CIA. "They know that the objective is not going to be achieved."
And there you have it. The "people at the top" are indeed well aware that the stated objectives of the ever-expanding drone program -- and the ever-expanding Terror War -- are not going to be achieved. They are not meant to be achieved. They are meant only to give the illusion "that we're winning," to keep the great game going, to keep the money and the power rolling in.
Written by Chris Floyd
Thursday, 03 June 2010 23:38
Israel's deadly attack on the relief boat bound for Gaza almost defies comment. Its wanton criminality is so blatant and its "justifications" so transparently false that condemnation seems almost superfluous; the evil of the action is self-evident. Likewise, the reactions of the American power structure – timorous appeasement from the White House, unhinged bloodthirstiness from Congress – have been so wildly inappropriate and utterly divorced from reality that they can scarcely bear any serious consideration; they are simply roars of meaningless noise, set loose in hopes of drowning out the truth.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the incident (beside the loss of innocent life) is its glaring confirmation of this long-established, deeply destructive fact: there is no outrage that Israel can commit that the United States government will not countenance.
Of course, this has been true for decades, encompassing everything from the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, its illegal development of a nuclear arsenal, its decades of relentless espionage in the United States, its atrocities in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, its state-terror, collateral-damaging "targeted assassinations" around the world, its heinous apartheid wall, the open, often genocidal racism of many of its political and government leaders, its mass cluster-bombing at the end of its latest military aggression in Lebanon, its horrific civilian slaughter in its latest full-scale assault on Gaza, and the subsequent strangulation of Gaza, a war crime of collective punishment that resembles nothing so much as the Nazi ghettoization of Jews in Warsaw. And throughout all of this, the United States has given billions of dollars to Israel, year in, year out, decade after decade, to support its war machine and its structures of repression.
So in a very real sense, the current situation is nothing new at all. But it is also true that this atrocity-producing dynamic has become ever more frenzied since the launching of the bi-partisan, world-wide, multi-generational "War on Terror." There is no longer even any pretense of any red lines that Israel might cross that would lead to even the slightest diminution of American support. In any case, as Glenn Greenwald (among others) points out, the two nations now share fully and openly the same policies of torture, lawlessness, state terror (including assassination), military aggression, war profiteering and extremist, demonizing rhetoric aimed at keeping their populations roiled with fear, anger and confusion.
(In fact, the Americans kill far more innocent civilians in predominantly Muslim lands each year than the Israelis -- who, if only in this, might feel justifiably wronged in being singled out for international condemnation when their mentors and paymasters in Washington commit the same depredations on a much larger scale.)
It's true that part of the American elite's indulgence of Israel stems from the political clout of the "Jewish Lobby." And this influence, which traditionally weighed most heavily on the Democratic Party, has now been joined by the even more zealous -- not to say maniacal and mindless -- support for Israel from America's religious Right, which has almost entirely subsumed the Republican Party. Just as elite bipartisan consensus on military empire and unrestrained corporate oligarchy have eliminated institutional barriers to vast atrocities, crimes and follies in these areas, so too has the convergence of traditional Lobby clout and empowered religious extremism eliminated any real opposition in Washington to any Israeli policy or action.
But I believe there is an even deeper root to this "special relationship" -- and that's the process of "ethnic cleansing" and violent land-grabbing which is absolutely foundational to both nations. What the Americans did long ago -- drive the natives from the land by force, steal their territory and plant a new state there, reserved for the benefit of the "right" sort of people -- the Israelis are now trying to do in the Middle East. Even the same false tropes of justification are used: the natives were lazy and shiftless, they had not "improved" and exploited the land, and therefore had no legal or moral title to it. Then comes the fact-free claim that there weren't even many of these lower creatures to begin with: "a land without people for a people without land," the "virgin continent," just waiting to be populated. And finally, the land-grabbing and ethnic cleansing are hailed as part of a divine plan for God's chosen people, who by conquest, extermination and theft are to become "a light unto the nations," "the shining city on a hill."
This shared ethos is probably another reason why Israel continues its subjugation of the Palestinians with such relentless fervor -- because they know it can work. If you press the natives hard enough, for long enough, if you have the steel to "do whatever it takes" to crush their resistance -- as the Americans did with the Indians -- then you too might win out in the end. It can be done, because it has been done in history (and not just by the Americans, of course); it's a risky business, but for the Israeli elites, as for their American role models, the game is worth the candle.
At any rate, the latest incident will only embolden the Israelis to further atrocities, with the backing -- and often the weapons -- of the United States. Where this process will end is almost too harrowing to contemplate. I honestly believe that if the Israelis decided to "liquidate the ghetto" in Gaza, as was done in Warsaw, then you would see the American elite contorting themselves -- and the truth -- this way and that in order to justify the carnage.
And why not? An elite which has instigated the murder of more than a million people in Iraq -- in a ghastly operation hailed as "an extraordinary achievement" by the progressive peace laureate now in charge of the American war machine -- would certainly not blanch at a little liquidation by their protégés.
Hey man, it's all just payback for 9/11, right? And maybe for Custer as well.