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Circle Jerks: Delaware Distraction Obscures Oval Office Atrocities
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Friday, 17 September 2010 12:59

 

I.
The political-media-blogospherical establishment is currently working itself into a lather over the elevation of a "nutty" Tea Party woman to the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in Delaware. The selection of Christine O'Donnell by a tiny sliver of voters in a closed primary in a tiny state whose main claim to fame is its decades of whorish service as a protective front for rapacious corporations is, we are told, an event of world-shaking proportions fit for endless analysis and scary headlines all over the world.

It's true that O'Donnell has taken the politically risky step of denouncing America's national pastime -- masturbation -- and has, over the years, supported any number of positions that put her on the far side of common sense. But one struggles in vain to find that she has advanced anything remotely as radical -- or lunatic -- as the idea that the President of the United States is some kind of intergalactic emperor who holds the power of life and death over every living being on earth in his autocratic hands. Yet this is precisely the position proclaimed -- openly, before Congress, God and everybody -- by the highly educated, intellectually sophisticated, super-savvy Laureate of Peace currently residing in the White House.

This same president has also fought tooth and nail -- often in open court -- to shield torturers, escalate pointless wars of aggression, relentlessly expand a liberty-stripping Stasi-style security apparatus, give trillions of tax dollars to rapacious financiers, health-care corporations, insurance companies and bloodstained war profiteers, while launching cowardly drone missile attacks on the sovereign territory of close ally, killing hundreds of civilians in the process - and has just signed off on the biggest arms deal in history with one of the most viciously repressive tyrannies on earth.

So I'm sorry, but I just don't see how a putzy, klutzy, wilfully ignorant Tea Partier from perhaps the most corrupt state in the Union is somehow more dangerous than the people we have in power now -- including a Vice-President who for decades was the senator (and corporate bagman) from this very same most corrupt state in the Union, and used his power to advance a "Bankruptcy Bill" that was one of the most savage class-war attacks on working people -- and the poor, and the sick, and the vulnerable -- that we have seen in many a year. Then again, as far as I know, Joe "Bankruptcy Bill" Biden has never publicly condemned the practice of masturbation.

Do I want to see Christine O'Donnell in the Senate? No, of course not. Not only because in her freely chosen ignorance she has embraced the most primitive, bleakly reductive understandings of religion, politics, power, sexuality and human reality in general, but also -- and mainly -- because she will support all of the policies delineated above: the imperial wars for loot and domination, the presidential power to kill and incarcerate at will, the slavish support for Big Money in all of its destructive manifestations, the perversion of every single public program into an engine of private profit for the elite, and so on down the line. But as her Democratic opponent will do the same thing if he is elected, I don't see why we should be all het up about O'Donnell's corporate-funded victory in the teeny-tiny Republican primary in little bitty Delaware.

But hey, it's all good fun, right? The tribal partisans get to jerk their knees in orgiastic spasms, drawing oceans of newsprint and TV airtime, while the real business of empire -- slaughtering, torturing and repressing human beings -- goes on unnoticed and unabated.

II.
But a hardy few out there are still trying to draw attention to the actual crimes and moral atrocities being committed by the actual holders of actual power. One of these is Andy Worthington, who is beginning an eight-part series on the remaining prisoners still being held in the still-unclosed American concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay. As Worthington says, the series will

help explain how few of the remaining prisoners have any connection to terrorism, how some are civilians, and how others were foot soldiers for the Taliban, in an inter-Muslim civil war in Afghanistan that had nothing to do with 9/11, and very little to do with al-Qaeda. I also hope that it may contribute to the almost non-existent debate regarding the Authorization for Use of Military Force, and the administration's misplaced use of it to hold foot soldiers in Guantanamo, as well as highlighting other aspects of the habeas litigation, the military commissions, the moratorium on releasing Yemenis, and the decision to hold 48 of the prisoners indefinitely without charge or trial.


Hey, but you know what's more important than that, Andy? The fact that someone who won the votes of a sliver of the electorate in a tiny state doesn't think people should masturbate! Let's get our priorities straight here.

Another campaign now underway is a major effort to free Bradley Manning, the young soldier who committed the cardinal sin of trying to unearth a few nuggets of truth about the murderous reality of the American Terror War, now being prosecuted and expanded so assiduously by the Continuer-in-Chief. On Thursday, filmmaker Michael Moore and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg launched "The Campaign to Free Manning" in Oakland. The Guardian reports:

Demonstrations are planned in the US, Canada and Australia over the next three days in support of Manning, an army intelligence analyst who is being held at a military prison in Virginia ...Manning, 23, is also accused of involvement in WikiLeaks' exposure of a video of a US helicopter attack on apparently unarmed Iraqis in a Baghdad street. Two Reuters employees were among those killed.

Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon papers to the New York Times that laid bare the extent of US government duplicity in its claims to be winning the Vietnam War, said Manning was defending the constitution in revealing the truth about the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Soldiers' sworn oath is to defend and support the constitution. Bradley Manning has been defending and supporting our constitution," he said.

Moore ... said the US military was being hypocritical in its attempts to discredit Manning and accuse WikiLeaks by asserting that making the secret documents public endangered the lives of Afghans collaborating with coalition forces.

"To suggest that lives were put in danger by the release of the WikiLeaks documents is the most cynical of statements," Moore said. "Lives were put in danger the night we invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq, an act that had nothing to do with what the Bradley Mannings of this country signed up for: to defend our people from attack. It was a war based on a complete lie and lives were not only put in danger, hundreds of thousands of them were exterminated. For those who organised this massacre to point a finger at Bradley Manning is the ultimate example of Orwellian hypocrisy."


Below is a quick roundup of a few other recent stories that aren't nearly as important as the selection by a minority party of a candidate who doesn't approve of masturbation.

1. Seven Civilians Killed in US-Iraqi Raid
That was the original headline for the New York Times story about the raid in Fallujah; within a few hours, however, the Pentagon PR units had rolled into action, and the seven civilians killed at the site of perhaps the most savage American campaign of the war had suddenly morphed into figures of vague menace. The story did note that of the dead, four were brothers "between the ages of 10 and 18." So America's non-combat soldiers killed a 10-year-old boy in a non-combat raid in the brave new era of non-combat service that has opened for the 50,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq.

But what is the life of that boy compared to the sliver of voters in a tiny state who voted in a closed, partisan primary for some gushing goober who doesn't like masturbation?

2. US Drone Strikes Kill 15 in N. Waziristan
Juan Cole reports:

The Associated Press does an important story about an intensive drone strike campaign by the US military since September 2 in southern Afghanistan and in Pakistan’s North Waziristan that has left 60 persons dead, among them innocent civilians.

On Tuesday alone, US drone attacks targeted suspected militants killed some 15 persons in the village of Dargah Mandi village on the outskirts of Miranshah, N. Waziristan’s main city.

The drone strikes have targeted fighters of the Haqqani network, one of five or so major insurgent groups fighting against the US & NATO presence in Afghanistan and against the Karzai government. Jalaluddin Haqqani is one of Ronald Reagan’s “Freedom Fighters,” who battled the Soviet occupiers of Afghanistan in the 1980s with American aid. He could not accept the US invasion and occupation of his country, either, and organized an insurgency now mainly led by his son Siraj. The Haqqani group is not Taliban but rather Mujahidin and has only a vague tactical alliance with Mulla Omar’s Taliban and similar groups.


Cole also notes that protests against these continuing deadly incursions into Pakistan have been muted -- because the Pakistanis are still dying in floodwaters, and in the water's pestiferous wake. Millions are living in deadly deprivation. But look over there -- somebody's masturbating, or not masturbating, or something! Who cares about the drowned and drone-bombed dead?

3. Obama's Thatcherite Gift to the Banks
OK, the Terror War goes on -- but at least Obama's finally waking up to the need for more FDR-like stimulus for the economy -- and more FDR-style war on the fat cats who are strangling us, right? What about that big $50 billion infrastructure plan he announced on Labor Day?

Well, as Michael Hudson explains, the plan is yet another giveaway of billions of tax dollars to rapacious financial interests:

The Obama transport plan is like a Fannie Mae for bankers, based on the President’s guiding mantra: “Let’s help Wall Street put Americans back to work.” The theory is that giving public guarantees and bailouts will enable financial managers to use some of the money to fund some projects that employ people – with newly created, non-unionized companies, presumably.

Here’s the problem. Transportation projects will make real estate speculators, the construction industry and their bankers very rich unless the government recovers its public spending through windfall site-value gains on property along the right-of-way ...  But Obama’s infrastructure plan is for Wall Street investors to get the windfall – as property owners or as mortgage lenders making much larger loans against the enhanced site value.

The plan would not add to the government deficit,  Obama promised. Unfortunately, in place of government taking more revenue, it will be the finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector that does the taking. The banking system will now do what government was supposed to do back in the Progressive Era: finance infrastructure. The difference today is that instead of funding transportation out of tax proceeds (levied progressively on the wealthy) or by the central bank monetizing public debt, the Obama plan calls for borrowing $50 billion at interest from banks.

The problem is that this will build in high interest charges, high private management charges, underwriting fees – and government guarantees. User fees will need to cover these financial and other privatization costs “freed” from the government budget. This will build about $2 billion a year into the cost of providing the transport services.

This threatens to be the kind of tollbooth program that the World Bank and IMF have been foisting on hapless Third World populations for the past half-century. ... It looks like President Obama sat down with Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and his other Rubinomics holdovers from the Clinton/Goldman-Sachs Administration and asked what policies can be funded without taxing the wealthy, but by borrowing via a separate entity – with a government guarantee like the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac gravy train for Wall Street.


Well, yeah, but at least you don't hear him talking trash about masturbation, do you? That's why we must support him. If we don't, a bunch of kooks who just want serve corporate interests will get into power! Then what will happen?

4. State Secrecy and Official Criminality
Scott Horton at Harper's tells us how Barack Obama -- whom we have every reason to believe is a modern, rational man who has no problem with masturbation -- is diligently, doggedly working to protect not only the torturers of the Bush Administration (and his own) from the legal process, but also any and every kind of state criminality.

Obama has just won a great court victory for state torturers, state murderers, state terrorists -- and good old-fashioned grafters pigging out in the public trough -- when an appeals court voted narrowly to uphold Obama's contention that the government can shield any criminality from justice by crying "state secrets."

Horton quotes the LA Times' description of just what Obama wanted to cover up by killing a civil suit filed by an innocent victim of America's gulag. The victim was suing the CIA agent who had "rendered" him over to America's terror war allies, knowing he would be tortured:

The decision to short-circuit the trial process is more than a misreading of the law; it’s an egregious miscarriage of justice. That’s obvious from a perusal of the plaintiffs’ complaint. One said that while he was imprisoned in Egypt, electrodes were attached to his earlobes, nipples and genitals. A second, held in Morocco, said he was beaten, denied food and threatened with sexual torture and castration. A third claimed that his Moroccan captors broke his bones and cut him with a scalpel all over his body, and poured hot, stinging liquid into his open wounds.


There were no "state secrets," real or otherwise, involved in the case. The details were already known, around the world, from legal proceeding in the UK and elsewhere. But for Obama -- imperial militarist to the core -- there was a matter of principle at stake; i.e., the principle that the imperial court can shield the minions who carry out its ordered atrocities behind the unpassable gates of "state secrets."

Truth? No. Justice? Out. Compassion? Nix. Peace? Never. But masturbation -- sure, why not? We're not kooks like that Christine O'Donnell!

Now that's "progressivism."

 
"Dizzy With Success": The Accelerating Degeneration of Life in America's Afghanistan
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 14 September 2010 13:51

"Dizzy With Success." That was the phrase used by Stalin to describe the "few excesses" that had taken place in the "historic drive to collectivization," i.e., the Bolshevik war on the rural poor that had led to massive famine and the deaths and uprooting of millions of people. The campaign had left such a swathe of ruin that some of those who saw its effects went mad, or turned dissident, or subsided into horrified, soul-drained silence.

"Dizzy With Success" would be also be an apt description for the epochal ruin that has been visited on the people of Afghanistan in nine years of military occupation by the United States and its European allies. Or as Nick Turse puts it in a searing new article at TomDispatch, "How Much 'Success' Can Afghanistan Stand?"

With the arrival of General David Petraeus as Afghan War commander, there has been ever more talk about the meaning of “success” in Afghanistan.  At the end of July, USA Today ran an article titled, “In Afghanistan, Success Measured a Step at a Time.” ... A mid-August editorial in the Washington Post was titled: “Making the Case for Success in Afghanistan.”  And earlier this month, an Associated Press article appeared under the headline, “Petraeus Talks Up Success in Afghan War.”


As Turse astutely notes, all this talk of "success" centers on what the term might or might not mean for the bipartisan Potomac poobahs who take turns running America's militarist empire. But the "meaning" of the American occupation for ordinary Afghans is a topic of little note among the talking heads who steer the national "discourse" ... except of course for the occasional propaganda excursion pointing out the inestimable benefits the empire has bestowed upon the poor benighted denizens of Bactria -- and how infinitely worse it will be for them should Washington shirk its paternal obligations.

But the reality, of course, is that the lives of ordinary Afghans has, by almost every measure, been sent hurtling backwards and spiraling downwards at the hands of the Americans and the client state they have installed.

Between 2001 and 2009, according to the Afghan government, the country has received $36 billion in grants and loans from donor nations, with the United States disbursing some $23 billion of it.  U.S. taxpayers have anted up another $338 billion to fund the war and occupation.  Yet from poverty indexes to risk-of-rape assessments, from childhood mortality figures to drug-use stats, just about every available measure of Afghan wellbeing paints a grim picture of a country in a persistent state of humanitarian crisis, often involving reconstruction and military failures on an epic scale.  Pick a measurement affecting ordinary Afghans and the record since November 2001 when Kabul fell to Allied forces is likely to show stagnation or setbacks and, almost invariably, suffering....

In October 2001, the BBC reported that more than seven million people were "at risk of malnutrition or food shortages across Afghanistan.”  In an email, McDonough updated that estimate:  “The most recent data on food insecurity comes from the last National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment (NRVA), which was conducted in 2007/2008 and released in late October 2009.  It found that about 7.4 million people are food-insecure, roughly 31 percent of the estimated population.  ... Food insecurity indicators, McDonough pointed out, are heading in the wrong direction.  “The NRVA of 2007/08 showed that the food security had deteriorated in 25 out of the 34 provinces compared to the 2005 NRVA.


In other words, after a near-decade of American occupation -- and hundreds of billions of dollars ostensibly poured into the country in the form of "aid" that mysteriously ends up almost entirely back in American pockets -- there are more hungry people in Afghanistan than before the invasion, with the situation worsening all the time.

But of course the Terror War is "all about the children," isn't it? Liberating them, protecting them, building them a brighter future.

In 2000, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), mortality for children under five years of age stood at 257 per 1,000.  In 2008, the last year for which data was available, that number had not budged.  It had, in fact, only slightly improved since 1990, when after almost a decade of Soviet occupation and brutal warfare, the numbers stood at 260 per 1,000.  The figures were similar for infant mortality -- 168 per 1,000 in 1990, 165 per 1,000 in 2008.

In 2002, according to the U.N., about 50% of Afghan children were chronically malnourished.  The most recent comprehensive national survey, done two years into the U.S. occupation, found (according to the World Food Program’s McDonough) about 60% of children under five chronically malnourished ...


OK, so the kids aren't doing so good -- but how about the women, eh? We know that the "good war" in Afghanistan has freed millions of women from the yoke of repression, right? Turse:

Life for women in Afghanistan has not been the bed of roses promised by Bush nor typified by the basic rights proffered by Obama, as Jones noted:

“Consider the creeping Talibanization of Afghan life under the Karzai government. Restrictions on women's freedom of movement, access to work and rights within the family have steadily tightened as the result of a confluence of factors, including the neglect of legal and judicial reform and the obligations of international human rights conventions; legislation typified by the infamous Shia Personal Status Law (SPSL), gazetted in 2009 by President Karzai himself despite women's protests and international furor; intimidation; and violence."

Her observations are echoed in a recent report by Medica Mondiale, a German non-governmental organization that advocates for the rights of women and girls in war and crisis zones around the world.  As its blunt briefing began, “Nine years after 11 September and the start of the operation ‘Enduring Freedom,’ which justified its commitment not only with the hunt for terrorists, but also with the fight for women’s rights, the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan still is catastrophic.”  Medica Mondiale reported that 80% of all Afghan marriages are still “concluded under compulsion.” ...

A June report by Sudabah Afzali of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting noted that, according to officials in Herat Province, “cases of suicide amongst women… have increased by 50 per cent over the last year.”  Sayed Naim Alemi, the director of the regional hospital in Herat, noted that 85 cases of attempted suicide recorded in the previous six months had involved women setting themselves on fire or ingesting poison.  In 57 of the cases, the women had died.

A study conducted by former Afghan Deputy Health Minister Faizullah Kakar and released in August gave a sense of the breadth of the problem.  Using Afghan Health Ministry records and hospital reports, Kakar found that an estimated 2,300 women or girls were attempting suicide each year.  Domestic violence, bitter hardships, and mental illness were the leading factors in their decisions. “This is a several-fold increase on three decades ago,” said Kakar.  In addition, he found that about 1.8 million Afghan women and girls between the ages of 15 and 40 are suffering from “severe depression.”

Most of these statistics on the deteriorating situation of Afghan relate to the darkest periods of Taliban rule; that is, the life of women in Afghanistan is steadily become worse than it was even under the obscurantist clerics of the Taliban. We noted this here last month, when highlighting an important article by Bretigne Shaffer:

But yes, there is violence against women in Afghanistan -- great violence. But this has only increased, not decreased, as the American military presence drags on, as Shaffer notes (see original for links):

Says Ann Jones, journalist and author of Kabul in Winter, "For most Afghan women, life has stayed the same. And for a great number, life has gotten much worse."

Sonali Kolhatkar, co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, says "the attacks against women both external and within the family have gone up. Domestic violence has increased. (The current) judiciary is imprisoning more women than ever before in Afghanistan. And they are imprisoning them for running away from their homes, for refusing to marry the man that their family picked for them, for even being a victim of rape."

Anand Gopal, Afghanistan correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, says "The situation for women in the Pashtun area is actually worse than it was during the Taliban time. ...(U)nder the Taliban, women were kept in burqas and in their homes, away from education. Today, the same situation persists. They’re kept in burqas, in homes, away from education, but on top of that they are also living in a war zone."


Note again Kolhatkar's remark: the Afghan government installed and maintained in power by the United States is now "imprisoning more women than ever before in Afghanistan." This is a stunning fact, a glaring example of the relentless degradation that the American war has brought to Afghanistan. Yet this fact is universally ignored by the American media, the American power structure -- and the American people, the latter of whom seem incurably, and disastrously, wed to the myth of the nation's inherent, ineradicable goodness, which imbues its every action and policy abroad.

Oh sure, sometimes "mistakes" are made, sometimes there are "a few excesses," and yes, sometimes, we "fight the wrong war at the wrong time" and can be a bit ham-handed, even "incompetent" in our military operations, but gosh darn it, our intentions are always good (because we are good and cannot be otherwise), and however much we might "blunder" from time to time, we do make things better for those we are trying -- selflessly, altruistically -- to help. It is hard, perhaps impossible to overestimate how deeply ingrained this belief is in the overwhelming majority of Americans. They simply will not give it up, no matter how much evidence of atrocity, ruin and degeneration caused by American policy is laid before them. So there is little hope of any kind of massive public pressure to change America's destructive imperialism ever being brought to bear on the elites who reap so much power and profit from the never-ending carnage.

And power and profit is definitely the name of this not-so-great game. As we noted here a few weeks ago:

[Frida] Berrigan notes the naked profit motive underlying Obama's grand strategy of "Afghanistanization" -- i.e., building up the military and security forces of the American-implanted Afghan government. As in Iraq, the aim is not so much "nation building" as "market building": setting up yet another conduit to pass American taxpayer money directly to weapons dealers:

"What’s Hot?" is the title of Vice Adm. Jeffrey Wieranga’s blog entry for Jan. 4, 2010. Wieranga is the director of the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which is charged with overseeing weapons exports, and such pillow talk is evidently more than acceptable – at least when it’s about weapons sales. In fact, Wieranga could barely restrain himself that day, adding: "Afghanistan is really HOT!" Admittedly, on that day the temperature in Kabul was just above freezing, but not at the Pentagon, where arms sales to Afghanistan evidently create a lot of heat.

As Wieranga went on to write, the Obama administration’s new 2010/2011 budget allocates $6 billion in weaponry for Afghan Security Forces. The Afghans will actually get those weapons for free, but U.S. weapons makers will make real money delivering them at taxpayers’ expense and, as the vice admiral pointed out, that "means there is a staggering amount of acquisition work to do."

You ain't just whistlin' Dixie, Vice Admiral. There will be "acquisition work" out the wazoo as the war goes on -- and for decades afterward. But of course, these "free" arms sales are just like the samplings that pushers pass around outside the high school gates. Because once the mark is hooked, once the native military and security forces are thoroughly entrenched, they will need constant replenishment with more weapons, new technologies, and more lucrative "training" from American sources, both public and private. This in turn will leave the client state saddled with crippling public debt -- necessitating the usual "shock therapy" of "economic reform," i.e., shredding "inefficient" social programs -- like, education, sanitation, health care, etc. -- and turning the material wealth and natural resources of the country over to a few select private investors, foreign and domestic.


Meanwhile, the ruin of human lives goes on and on, as Turse details:

Rampant depression, among both men and women, has led to self-medication.  While opium-poppy cultivation on an almost unimaginable scale in the planet’s leading narco-state has garnered headlines since 2001, little attention has been paid to drug use by ordinary Afghans, even though it has been on a steep upward trajectory. ...

"Three decades of war-related trauma, unlimited availability of cheap narcotics, and limited access to treatment have created a major, and growing, addiction problem in Afghanistan," says Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director of UNDOC.  Since 2005, the number of Afghan opium users nationwide has jumped by 53%, while heroin users have skyrocketed by 140%.  According to UNODC’s survey, Drug Use in Afghanistan, approximately one million Afghans between the ages of 15 and 64 are addicted to drugs.  That adds up to about 8% of the population and twice the global average.


There is much more in Turse's grim catalogue, so you should read the whole thing, if you can stomach it. But I want to point out one more startling fact he has unearthed: After nine years of America's benign and benevolent care, Afghanistan is now, officially, the worst place on earth to live.

In the near-decade since Kabul fell in November 2001, a sizeable majority of Afghans have continued to live in poverty and privation.  Measuring such misery may be impossible, but the United Nations has tried to find a comprehensive way to do so nonetheless.  Using a Human Poverty Index which “focuses on the proportion of people below certain threshold[s] in regard to a long and healthy life, having access to education, and a decent standard of living,” the U.N. found that, comparatively speaking, it doesn’t get worse than life in Afghanistan.  The nation ranks dead last in its listing, number 135 out of 135 countries. This is what “success” means today in Afghanistan.


The two major military escalations launched by the Peace Laureate have only worsened the security situation, which has lead, inexorably, inevitably, to more and more degradation of life in Afghanistan. But in this, the Great Continuer is only following in the footsteps of his predecessors. Not just his shout-out buddy George W. Bush -- whose Terror War policies he has faithfully replicated and expanded -- but a whole string of temporary imperial managers, going back to Jimmy Carter: the pious, peace-loving Democrat who actually launched the rise of an armed, extremist international "jihad" movement in order to hamstring the Soviets. American presidents poured tens of billions of dollars into arming and funding fringe groups of rabid extremists, training them in terrorist tactics and diligently expanding their organizations.

As we noted here a few weeks ago, quoting an article in Foreign Policy by Mohammad Qayoumi, Afghanistan was not always a land mired in tribalism and obscurantism. Half a century ago, much of the country was striving toward its own form of modernity, where men and women freely mixed, pursued their educations, practiced their professions, even went to the movies, danced to rock-and-roll. It was not a perfect state by any remote stretch of the imagination -- yet compared to the utter hell-hole that we have made out of it over the past few decades, the Afghanistan that Qayoumi once knew was a paradise lost.

 

 

 
The Template Emerges and Tears Through the Flesh
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Saturday, 11 September 2010 10:43

 Our guest blogger today is Dr. Robert Dylan (Princeton, St Andrews) who in a passage written a few years ago, about another historical epoch (viz., the antebellum and Civil War eras), expresses what we believe are some pertinent, prescient observations about the contemporary scene:

After awhile, you become aware of nothing but a culture of feeling, of black days, of schism, evil for evil, the common destiny of the human being getting thrown off course."

 
Provocative Behavior: Pertinent Concerns Over the Burning of Korans
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Thursday, 09 September 2010 10:49

 

American policy, at the highest levels of state, is specifically and deliberately designed to kill, despoil, dispossess, insult and outrage Muslims, in operations all over the world. That's what the Terror War is all about. We have spent more than $3 trillion burning Korans -- and their readers -- in the last decade. This policy has been pushed, championed and cheered by virtually the entire bipartisan political and media establishments -- and by much of the religious establishment as well.

Yet this week we have been treated to the bleakly comic sight of the avatars of these very establishments expressing their deeply humanitarian concerns -- and their nostril-flaring moral outrage -- over the plans of a Florida religious crank to publicly burn a few Korans on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. These societal leaders -- such as Gen. David Petraeus and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- sternly warn us that such an act will inevitably produce violent blowback, stoke Islamic extremism and exacerbate anti-American feeling in the Muslim world.

Gen. Petraeus was admirably forthright about the effects such actions produce:

“We’re concerned that the images from the burning of a Quran would be used in the same way that extremists used images from Abu Ghraib — that they would in a sense be indelible,” Petraeus told NBC’s Brian Williams. “They would be used by those who wish us ill, to incite violence and to enflame public opinion against us and against our mission here in Afghanistan, as well as our missions undoubtedly around the world.”


These concerns are, of course, pertinent, and it is good to see them aired so prominently. However, one wonders about the ultimate effectiveness of such messages, coming as they do from these particular messengers.

For example, how many Korans have been burned in the countless civilian houses and institutions destroyed in attacks under Petraeus' command in both Iraq and Afghanistan? Hundreds of Korans? Thousands of Korans? Tens of thousands of Korans? (Along with their eviscerated owners, of course.)

How many Korans have been burned in the destruction of civilian houses by missiles fired in the Obama Administration's ruthless, ever-expanding -- and entirely illegal -- drone war in Pakistan?

Take this story, reported just yesterday by Jason Ditz at Antiwar.com: Children Among 24 Killed as US Drone Strikes Rock Pakistan.

The attacks destroyed three homes in North Waziristan as well as a car. The children were in a home near one of the targeted homes which was also damaged in the blast. The US has launched a number of drone strikes over the past several days, but there has been no indication that any “high value” targets were killed and most of the dead appear to be local tribesmen who are nominally affiliated with militant factions.


Three homes in this single raid (one of dozens now striking homes in Pakistan every month): how many Korans were burned, do you think? At least three, and probably more. And then there are the dead children, of course. One wonders if the fact (not just the "images") of these dead children -- and the thousands of other innocent children whose bodies have been gutted, beheaded, gashed in or torn to shreds by American missiles, bombs and bullets fired at the order of General David Petraeus and Barack Obama and all their worthy predecessors whose noble work they are so assiduously continuing -- will be "used by those who wish us ill, to incite violence and to enflame public opinion against us and against our mission here in Afghanistan, as well as our missions undoubtedly around the world"?

One wonders if the actual burning and slaughtering of actual human beings in the Muslim world -- covertly and overtly, in country after country, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year -- by the highest, most honored, respected and powerful worthies of American society might, just possibly, incite more violence and ill will against us than the burning of a few books by a marginal, powerless goober down in Florida.

But let us not spoil the nice little moral bubble bath our bloodstained leaders are giving themselves. They do enjoy it so much.

 
The Music of the Void Takes Hold
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 08 September 2010 23:24

Below we present a short film by the up-and-coming transatlantic auteur Avalon Floyd, with musical accompaniment by a down-and-fading obscurity, singing one of those geometric doxologies just like they did in days of yore.

 

 
Got Love If You Want It
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 07 September 2010 23:48

UPDATE BELOW.

Days are grim, nights are hard, the road keeps spiraling down ... let's lighten our load for just a while.

Imagine leaving something like that off your album .... ! 

 UPDATE: Oh dear, it looks like our party got raided by the Web Sheriff! I suggest you click on the video anyway, then drop down to the little number in the line-up below by the unfortunately late and immensely great Doug Sahm, and let's carry on....

 
The Last Believer: From Omar’s Mistake to Obama’s Atrocities
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Monday, 06 September 2010 13:16

altMullah Omar of Afghanistan must have been one of the last people in the world with a deep, abiding faith in the lawfulness of the American government. Certainly, the American people had long been accustomed to – and largely approving of – their government bending, twisting and breaking the rule of law, especially in matters of foreign policy and “national security.” And of course, the millions of people around the world on the receiving end of invasions, subversions and coercions from the Potomac potentates were well aware of America’s infinitely elastic notions of law.

Yet in the days after 9/11, there was Mulllah Omar -- the half-blind leader of a group of rural zealots who had stepped into the power vacuum left behind by decades of ruinous Great Gaming by foreign powers and vicious civil war – clinging firmly to the belief that the United States would never attack his country. After all, the Taliban had no prior knowledge of the attacks in New York and Washington – attacks which the Taliban had condemned unequivocally  and publicly the next day, while calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. If the Americans suspected Osama bin Laden, the former CIA ally living in Afghanistan, then surely they would produce documentary evidence of his guilt. And if such incriminating evidence was forthcoming, then the Taliban, as publicly promised, would cooperate in finding ways to bring bin Laden to trial. Thus, America had no legal reason to attack Afghanistan; and so the country was safe.

This was the reasoning that Mullah Omar expressed to one of his top foreign affairs advisers, Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, as Jonathan Steele recounts in an excellent article in the latest London Review of Books.  Omar simply could not conceive that the United States would simply shred all notions of law and due process to launch a devastating attack on an entire country, in order – ostensibly – to get revenge on handful of men: men whom the Taliban were more than willing to give up – in accordance with the rule of law and due process. But the dossier of “hard proof” of bin Laden’s guilt promised by Colin Powell in the few remaining days of peace after 9/11 never materialized (and still has not materialized). And so, despite Mullah Omar’s touching faith in the American system, the war came. -- Omar escaped the American onslaught (as did bin Laden, of course); but Zaeef was captured. Steele recounts his story:

The only detailed insider account of the Taliban is a memoir by Abdul Salam Zaeef, the movement’s former ambassador to Pakistan. ... My Life with the Taliban usefully shows that its leaders saw themselves as nationalists, reformers and liberators rather than Islamist ideologues.... Arrested after the Taliban collapse in 2001, Zaeef was sent to Guantánamo. On the way he spent time in US custody in Kandahar and Bagram, where he was kept in solitary confinement with his hands and feet tied for 20 days. In Kandahar – shades of the abuse in Abu Ghraib – Zaeef says he was stripped naked and mocked by male and female US troops, one of whom took photos. After three years in Guantánamo, he was offered release on condition he signed a statement that he had been a member of al-Qaida and the Taliban and would cut all ties with them. ‘I was a Talib, I am a Talib and I will always be a Talib, but I have never been part of al-Qaida,’ he retorted. Eventually they allowed him to go after signing a declaration: ‘I am writing this out of obligation and stating that I am not going to participate in any kind of anti-American activities or military actions.’

Zaeef maintains that he was shocked by al-Qaida’s attack on 9/11, of which he had no foreknowledge. He says he wept when he watched TV pictures of the burning buildings and people throwing themselves out and falling to the ground like stones: ‘I stared at the pictures in disbelief.’ He immediately saw the likely repercussions. ‘I knew that Afghanistan and its poverty-stricken people would ultimately suffer for what had just taken place in America. The United States would seek revenge.’ He admits that some of the Taliban watching the scene were jubilant and thought the US was too far away to retaliate. ‘How could they be so superficial?’ he asks.

Mullah Omar rang to consult Zaeef about how to react. Next morning Zaeef called a press conference in Islamabad and read a statement condemning the attacks. ‘All those responsible must be brought to justice. We want them to be brought to justice and we want America to be patient and careful in their actions,’ it said. Zaeef returned to Kandahar, where he found Mullah Omar blindly sure that the US was unlikely to attack. He tried to warn the Taliban leader. He told him Pakistan was urging the US to launch air strikes on Afghanistan and had already started talks with the Northern Alliance in the expectation that they would be the leaders of a post-Taliban government. But Omar claimed America could not attack Afghanistan without valid reason. He had asked Washington to deliver proof incriminating bin Laden and said the Taliban would take no further action until it was given hard evidence. Zaeef’s account seems plausible given that the Taliban made no preparations for war, but it shows how out of touch Omar had become.


Out of touch indeed. Scarcely two years before, the United States had launched a devastating – and patently illegal – war on a European nation, deliberately targeting its civilian infrastructure (which was expressly against the laws of war), unleashing chaos and ruin that led to the deaths of thousands and the suffering of hundreds of thousands. If it would do this to Serbia, to white Christian Europeans, what wouldn’t it do to swarthy exotic Muslims in the back of beyond? And for ten years before 9/11, the United States had been inflicting a genocidal stranglehold of sanctions on Iraq, leading directly to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children and other innocents, while constantly bombing the country in flagrant violation of any law.

Yet poor unlearned Omar actually thought the Americans would not attack his country “without a valid reason” – and of course no such a valid reason existed. – Nor does any valid reason exist today for the continuing – and expanding, and ever-more destructive – American operation in Afghanistan. The only thing the American presence is doing is delaying the start of what is sure to be a long and difficult process of national reconciliation. Yet almost every sector of Afghan society is calling for the beginning of such a process. As Steele reports:

Recent reports suggest that most Afghans, tired of the all-pervasive insecurity, want negotiations with the Taliban. A survey of 423 men in Helmand and Kandahar, carried out in May by the International Council on Security and Development, found that 74 per cent were in favour of negotiations. In Kabul in March, I interviewed several women professionals, the people who suffered most from the Taliban’s restrictions on girls’ education and women working outside the home. To varying degrees they all supported the idea of dialogue with the Taliban. They felt the top priority was to end what they saw as a civil war – not an insurgency, as Nato calls it. They saw the Taliban as authentic nationalists with legitimate grievances who needed to be brought back into the equation. Otherwise, Afghans would go on being used as proxies in a long battle between al-Qaida and the US. It was time to break free of both sets of foreigners, the global jihadis and the US empire. Shukria Barakzai, an MP and women’s rights campaigner, put it like this: ‘I changed my view three years ago when I realised Afghanistan is on its own. It’s not that the international community doesn’t support us. They just don’t understand us. The Taliban are part of our population. They have different ideas but as democrats we have to accept that.’


Yes, but there are other Democrats – and Republicans as well – who will not accept that. This is the bipartisan American foreign policy establishment, addicted to war and domination, and to their own pathetically inflated self-image as movers and shakers of the world. (Oh yes, and  the power and privilege and loot that accrues to the leaders and lickspittles of empire, of course.) All-party negotiations are the only way forward, Steele notes. Straining to end on a note of optimism, Steele holds out the wan hope that Barack Obama – whose embrace of militarism has been as ardent  and aggressive as any of his predecessors (and has outstripped many of them) – might recognize this reality and make the choice to “go into the 2012 campaign as a president who has started the endgame” of accommodation and negotiation.

Far more likely, however, is Steele’s alternative scenario: that Obama will instead “play the tough guy even though he must know any hope of defeating the Taliban militarily is doomed.”  And why not? As we’ve noted here for years, the Terror War is a win-win situation for America’s militarists, among whom Obama now stands foremost: whether they defeat the designated enemy of the day or not, the aforementioned accrual of power, privilege, loot and self-aggrandizement that attends the imperial project remains the same.

 
Mad Men: The Psychopaths of Power Play the Insanity Card
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Friday, 03 September 2010 16:58

For your consideration: two stories, from opposite sides of the world, concerning the attitude of Power toward those who would question its wisdom:

GI's mental health questioned in WikiLeaks case (AP)

China accused of holding woman in mental
hospital for challenging officials (Guardian)

The GI in question is, of course, Bradley Manning, the young soldier charged with leaking the video of American gunships killing civilians in Iraq, and suspected of in
volvement in passing thousands of war-related secret documents to Wikileaks.

Manning has been quoted by friends (and the false friend who betrayed him to the authorities) about his motives for his actions. He has said quite plainly that he wanted to show the American people the true nature of the hideous Terror War operations being carried out around the world by their government -- "incredible things, awful things." One of his genuine friends said: "He wanted to do the right thing." Concerning the video of the gunship atrocity, the friend, who had been in contact with Manning, said: "He didn’t want to do this just to cause a stir…. He wanted people held accountable and wanted to see this didn’t happen again."

These motives are entirely clear, understandable, and imminently sane. In fact, Manning's actions reflect a mind far more healthy and stable than the diseased brains in charge of the War Machine, who compulsively, continually distort reality to an extreme, pathological degree in order to justify -- to others and, presumably, to themselves -- their own murderous, brutal depravity.

Yet it is Bradley Manning who must be examined to see if he is mentally "unstable." Yes, of course, that's it: he must be crazy. Why else would anyone -- especially an American (and a real American, not one of those with, you know, funny names or dark skin), especially a soldier -- want to challenge the authority and embarrass the benevolent leaders who protect us and care for us? To those pathetic wretches afflicted with the pathologies of power, Manning's actions -- courageous, noble, humane -- literally make no sense. Therefore, he must be mentally diseased.

There are also some practical considerations at play here, of course. If Manning were to be declared criminally insane, he could be locked up indefinitely, right away -- no need for a messy trial that might cause more embarrassments for our imperial minders.

In any case, it's good for the prosecutors -- or shall we say, the persecutors -- of Bradley Manning to have the "nuthouse option" in hand among the vast array of "legal" weaponry they are bringing to bear against the young man. And even if the matter proceeds to trial, these stories about Manning's "shaky mental health" will help immunize any unseemly testimony he might give in the dock. Official shoulders will merely shrug at new revelations: "Well, what do you expect? He's crazy, isn't he? He'll say anything." And the corporate media will doubtless shrug along with them.


As the Guardian notes, the Chinese elite -- following the model of the old Soviet Union in its later years -- take the same approach to troublemakers:

They snatched Liao Meizhi on her birthday, dragging her off the street and into a dirty blue van as others held back her husband.

It was only two months later, when a stranger knocked on the door, that her family learned where she had been taken. The man said he had just been discharged from a nearby mental hospital – and that Liao was being held there against her will. Her husband insists she has no psychiatric problems ...

Researchers believe she is among a growing number of people wrongly detained in psychiatric institutions after clashing with local officials. One activist has compiled a database of more than 500 such cases.

Some victims have been held for a decade. Those freed describe being forcibly treated – with electro-convulsive therapy and powerful anti-psychotic drugs – for health problems they never had.

"In the last few years you have been seeing more and more cases involving petitioners and whistle blowers – 'the awkward squad' – [often when] the authorities have tried other punishments or sanctions to make them stop and nothing else has worked," said Robin Munro, author of China's Psychiatric Inquisition and a research associate at SOAS law school. "Finally they really try to scare them to hell by putting them in mental hospitals."


Well, it worked for Jose Padilla, the American citizen snatched, without charges, on American soil, and held, without charges, for years, while being subjected to mind-breaking tortures for his alleged terrorist activities. The charges against him began with dramatically broadcast claims of nuclear terrorism aimed at the US and ended with the broken man's conviction on lesser charges of aiding foreign groups involved in foreign conflicts, far from American shores.
Yet even here, the judge in the case declared that "there was no evidence linking [Padilla] to specific acts of terrorism anywhere or that their actions had resulted in death or injury to anyone" -- even as she handed the torture victim a 17-year prison sentence, as Winter Patriot reports.

Manning will perhaps escape the extremities of torture doled out to Padilla; he has at least been formally charged and has access to legal counsel -- something denied to Padilla for years during this torment. But make no mistake: the depraved minds in charge of our morally insane empire seek to break him, one way or another -- as an example to us all.

 
Speech Defect: Emissions of Evil From the Oval Office
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 01 September 2010 10:47

On Tuesday night, Barack Obama gave a speech from the Oval Office on Iraq that was almost as full of hideous, murderous lies as the speech on Iraq his predecessor gave in the same location more than seven years ago.

After mendaciously declaring an "end to the combat mission in Iraq" -- where almost 50,000 regular troops and a similar number of mercenaries still remain, carrying out the same missions they have been doing for years -- Obama delivered what was perhaps the most egregious, bitterly painful lie of the night:

"Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility."


"We have met our responsibility!" No, Mister President, we have not. Not until many Americans of high degree stand in the dock for war crimes. Not until the United States pays hundreds of billions of dollars in unrestricted reparations to the people of Iraq for the rape of their country and the mass murder of their people. Not until the United States opens its borders to accept all those who have been and will be driven from Iraq by the savage ruin we have inflicted upon them, or in flight from the vicious thugs and sectarians we have loosed -- and empowered -- in the land. Not until you, Mister President, go down on your knees, in sackcloth and ashes, and proclaim a National of Day of Shame to be marked each year by lamentations, reparations and confessions of blood guilt for our crime against humanity in Iraq.

Then and only then, Mister President, can you say that America has begun -- in even the most limited, pathetic way -- to "meet its responsibility" for what it has done to Iraq. And unless you do this, Mister President -- and you never will -- you are just a lying, bloodsoaked apologist, accomplice and perpetrator of monstrous evil, like your predecessor and his minions -- many of whom, of course, are now your minions.

I really don't have anything else to say about this sickening spectacle -- which is being compounded in Britain, where I live, by the sight today of Tony Blair's murder-tainted mug plastered on the front of the main newspapers, as he makes the rounds pushing his new book, doling out "exclusive interviews" full of crocodile tears for the soldiers he had murdered in the war crime he committed and the "great suffering" of the Iraqi people which, goodness gracious, he never foresaw and feels, gosh, really bad about. All this laced with venomous comments about his former colleagues -- those who, like Gordon Brown, sold their souls to advance Blair's vision of aggressive war abroad and corporate rapine at home -- along with, of course, earnest protestations of his God-directed good intentions, and his unwavering belief that killing a million innocent human beings in Iraq was "the right thing to do." Pol Pot could not have been more blindly self-righteous than this wretched moral cretin.

I will say again what I have said here many, many times before: What quadrant of hell is hot enough for such men?

Words might fail me, but wise man William Blum has a few that put the "end of combat operations in Iraq" in their proper perspective. Let's give him the last word here [the ellipses are in the original text]:

No American should be allowed to forget that the nation of Iraq, the society of Iraq, have been destroyed, ruined, a failed state. The Americans, beginning 1991, bombed for 12 years, with one excuse or another; then invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, killed wantonly, tortured ... the people of that unhappy land have lost everything — their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women's rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives ... More than half the population either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile ... The air, soil, water, blood and genes drenched with depleted uranium ... the most awful birth defects ... unexploded cluster bombs lie in wait for children to pick them up ... an army of young Islamic men went to Iraq to fight the American invaders; they left the country more militant, hardened by war, to spread across the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia ... a river of blood runs alongside the Euphrates and Tigris ... through a country that may never be put back together again.


II. Same Question, Same Answer
The piece below was written in the first few weeks after the invasion. Its scene is the same Oval Office where Barack Obama spoke last night. And the choice offered to the leader in this piece is the same one that Obama has been offered -- and his decision has been the same one taken here, not only for Iraq, but for Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and many other places around the world.

The Karamazov Question
Variation on a theme by Dostoevsky

A man appeared in the doorway of the Oval Office. He wasn't noticed at first, in the bustle around the desk of the president, where George W. Bush was preparing to announce to the world that the "decapitation raid" he had launched on Baghdad a few hours before was in fact the beginning of his long-planned, much-anticipated invasion of Iraq.

A woman fussed with the president's hair, which had been freshly cut for the television appearance. A make-up artist dabbed delicate touches of rouge on the president's cheeks. Another attendant fluttered in briefly to adjust the president's tie, which, like the $6,000 suit the president was wearing, had arrived that morning from a Chicago couturier. As for the president's $900 designer shoes – which, as a recent news story had pointed out playfully, were not only made by the same Italian craftsman who supplied Saddam Hussein with footwear, but were also the same size and make as those ordered by the Iraqi dictator – they had been carefully polished earlier by yet another aide, even though they would of course be out of sight during the broadcast.

In addition to all of this activity, the president's political advisors and speechwriters were also making last-minute adjustments to the brief speech, while giving the president pointers about his delivery: "Keep your gaze and your voice steady. Project firmness of purpose. Confidence, calmness, character. And short phrases, lightly punched. Don't worry, the breaks and stresses will be marked on the teleprompter."

It's little wonder that no one saw the man as he advanced slowly to the center of the room. He stood there silently, until the sense of his presence crept up on the others. One by one, they turned to look at him, this unauthorized figure, this living breach of protocol. He was, in almost every sense, non-descript. He wore a plain suit of indeterminate color; his features and his skin betrayed no particular race. He had no badge, no papers; how had he come to be here, where nothing is allowed that is not licensed by power?

Then, more astonishing, they saw his companion: a two-year-old girl standing by his side. A mass of tousled hair framed her face; a plain red dress covered her thin body. She too was silent, but not as still as the man. Instead, she turned her head this way and that, her eyes wide with curiosity, drawn especially by the bright television lights that shone on the president.

A Marine guard reached for his holster, but the man raised his hand, gently, and the guard's movement was arrested. The aides and attendants stepped back then stood rooted, as if stupefied, their ranks forming a path from the man at the room's center to the president's desk. The president, brilliant in the light, alone retained the freedom to move and speak. "Who are you?" he asked, rising from his chair. "What do you want?"

The man put his hand tenderly on the back of the girl's head and came forward with her. "I have a question for you, and an opportunity," the man replied. "I've heard it said that you are righteous, and wish to do good for the world."

"I am," said the president. "I wish only to do God's will, as He in His wisdom reveals it to me. In His will is the whole good of the world. What is your question, what is your opportunity? Be quick; I have mighty business at hand."

The man nodded. "If tonight you could guarantee the good of the world – peace and freedom, democracy and prosperity, now and forever; if tonight, you could relieve the suffering of all those who labor under tyranny and persecution, all those who groan in poverty and disease; if tonight, you could redeem the anguish of creation, past and future, now and forever; if tonight, you could guarantee such a universal reconciliation, by the simple expedient of taking this" – here the man suddenly produced a black pistol and held it out to the president – "and putting a bullet through the brain of this little one here, just her, no one else: would you do it? That is my question, this is your opportunity."

With firmness of purpose, the president grasped the pistol and walked around the desk. With confidence, calmness, and steady hand, he pressed the barrel to the girl's head and pulled the trigger. Her eyes, which had grown even wider with her smile at the approach of the nicely dressed man and his rosy cheeks, went black with blood in the instant shattering of her skull. Her body spun round from the force of the shot – once, twice, three times in all – then fell, her mutilated head flailing wildly, in a heap on the floor of the Oval Office.

At that moment, the man faded, like a dream, into nothingness. The aides and attendants, unfrozen, stepped back into their tasks. The room was again a whirl of activity, like a hive. The president – the dematerialized gun no longer in his hand – strode confidently back to his chair. He winked at a nearby aide and pumped his fist: "Feel good!" he exulted.

The speech went off without a hitch. The hair was perfect, the voice steady, the phrases short and lightly punched. No one saw the blood and bits of brain that clung to the president's $900 designer shoes; they were, of course, out of sight during the broadcast.

First published in The Moscow Times on April 20, 2003.

 
Skeleton Crew: A Disembodied State of the Union
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 31 August 2010 12:07

 

 
Innocent Executioners: An Illustration of the Principles of Western Civilization in the Modern World
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Monday, 30 August 2010 17:18

(UPDATED BEtitleLOW)

We hear a lot about barbarism and backwardness and bloodthirstiness among the nations of the Middle East, where violent religious extremists are praised and supported -- and often hold state power. A lot of this is hype and misinformation, of course, but sometimes it's all too true. From the Guardian:

An Israeli army officer who fired the entire magazine of his automatic rifle into a 13-year-old Palestinian girl and then said he would have done the same even if she had been three years old was acquitted on all charges by a military court yesterday. ...

The soldier, who has only been identified as "Captain R", was charged with relatively minor offences for the killing of Iman al-Hams who was shot 17 times as she ventured near an Israeli army post near Rafah refugee camp in Gaza a year ago.

The manner of Iman's killing, and the revelation of a tape recording in which the captain is warned that she was just a child who was "scared to death", made the shooting one of the most controversial since the Palestinian intifada erupted five years ago even though hundreds of other children have also died.

... The military court cleared the soldier of illegal use of his weapon, conduct unbecoming an officer and perverting the course of justice by asking soldiers under his command to alter their accounts of the incident.  ...

The army's official account said that Iman was shot for crossing into a security zone carrying her schoolbag which soldiers feared might contain a bomb. It is still not known why the girl ventured into the area but witnesses described her as at least 100 yards from the military post which was in any case well protected.

A recording of radio exchanges between Capt R and his troops obtained by Israeli television revealed that from the beginning soldiers identified Iman as a child.
In the recording, a soldier in a watchtower radioed a colleague in the army post's operations room and describes Iman as "a little girl" who was "scared to death". After soldiers first opened fire, she dropped her schoolbag which was then hit by several bullets establishing that it did not contain explosive. At that point she was no longer carrying the bag and, the tape revealed, was heading away from the army post when she was shot. ....

Palestinian witnesses said they saw the captain shoot Iman twice in the head, walk away, turn back and fire a stream of bullets into her body.

On the tape, Capt R then "clarifies" to the soldiers under his command why he killed Iman: "This is commander. Anything that's mobile, that moves in the [security] zone, even if it's a three-year-old, needs to be killed."

At no point did the Israeli troops come under attack.

Well, at least they didn't stone her, did they? After all, Israel is a "bastion of Western civilization" in the midst of all those swarthy savages, isn't it? I mean, can there possibly be a clearer expression of civilization -- especially its ultra-modern Western version -- than Captain R's Aristotelian formulation? It bears repeating -- nay, memorizing, searing deeply into the brain and heart -- for it is clearly the guiding principle of all our glorious terror-fighting democracies today, not only plucky little Israel but also its patron and paymaster, the United States (and the lackey Limeys who trot along at Washington's heels):

Anything that's mobile, that moves in the zone, even if it's a three-year-old, needs to be killed.

Even if it's a three-year-old.

Even if it -- this thing, this object, this Other, this creature, this piece of shit -- is a three-year-old.

Kill it. It needs to be killed. Kill it. You need to kill it. A three-year-old? Kill it. It needs to be killed.


Now that, my friends, is civilization.

***

UPDATE: Here's another shining example of modern-day, Anglospherical Western Civilization in action, this time in the great victorious imposition of civilized values on the grubby little darkies in Iraq. From the Guardian:

The British government has ordered an urgent inquiry into the disappearance of an injured Iraqi child who has not been seen since being placed in the care of UK military medics in 2003.

In one of the most bewildering episodes of the Iraq occupation, Memmon Salam al-Maliki, an 11-year-old boy, disappeared within days of being taken to a British base after he was wounded while playing with unexploded munitions. Although his injuries appeared not to be life-threatening, his family have not seen him since.

The British authorities told Memmon's father that they had sent his son to an American military hospital in Kuwait for further treatment, but have been unable to tell him its location, or provide information about his whereabouts or condition. The US authorities, however, insist they know nothing and say that in the absence of documentation they cannot even be sure he was transferred into their care.

... Memmon's family, meanwhile, say they are deeply distraught, confused and angry. They say there was no reason to believe the boy's injuries were life-threatening, and point out that he was still alive more than a week after the explosion. Until they have proof of his death, they say they must hold out hope that he could be alive.

Memmon was injured in April 2003, shortly after the invasion, while playing with abandoned, unexploded munitions near his Basra home. He suffered a serious eye injury and lost his left hand and several fingers from his right. He was picked up by a passing British convoy and taken to a nearby base for first aid. From there he was transferred to a British military field hospital at Shaibah. What happened next remains unclear.

Subsequently, the Ministry of Defence began to regard the family's appeals as claims for compensation, rather than requests for information about the boy's whereabouts. In its last communication with the family the MoD expressed its sympathy but denied all liability.


Ah yes, sympathy without liability: that's the civilized way. In any case, what's the big deal? It was just an 11-year-old object, wasn't it? It shouldn't have been messing with the holy hand grenades left behind by the defenders of Western Civilization when they were launching an illegal war of aggression on false pretenses (exactly as another stout defender of Western Civilization did 71 years ago this week). So it "disappeared." So what? Maybe it wandered into the wrong "zone" somewhere. Maybe it needed to be killed. Or cast aside. Or just plunged through the labyrinthine bowels of the war machine, lost for seven years while its family lives day after day, year after year, in agony.

That's just the price of civilization, you see. That's what makes us good and great and godly and benign. Thirteen years old, eleven years old, three years old -- they are the food and fuel of empire. It their blood -- their extreme, hellish suffering -- that makes us so special.

 
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