One Plank in This Platform: I’m For the Poor

Written by Chris Floyd 29 June 2011 8346 Hits

No dogma, no doctrine, no parties, no political poltroonery; just one plank in this platform: I'm for the poor.


Just One Plank by Chris Floyd

Just One Plank

There’s lots of politicians
Philosophers and more
They’ll tell you how to run the world
And what your life is for
I ain't no politician
But I’ve seen life from shore to shore
You want to know my program?
I’m for the poor

I’m for the poor, yeah, I’m for the poor
The sick and hungry who can’t take no more

A lot of folks are savvy
They’re serious and smart
They’ll tell you why the rich should rule
They’ve got it on a chart
But they worship at the altar
Of a hand they cannot see
And their greedy god has gobbled up
Their own humanity

But I'm for the poor, yeah, I’m for the poor
The sick and the hungry outside the door

I spent so many years out there
Trying to figure out the truth
In party plans and platforms
And that old voting booth
I sought a grand solution
I don't do that anymore
There's just one plank in my platform:
I’m for the poor

The bombed and abused who can't take no more
I’m for the poor, yeah, I’m for the poor

The sick and the hungry outside the door
The lost and abandoned, the wracked and the sore
I'm for the poor, yeah, I'm for the poor

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Occupational Therapy: The Psychosis of Exceptionalism

Written by Chris Floyd 27 June 2011 7704 Hits

I wanted to write about Barack Obama’s recent speech announcing the alleged partial withdrawal of some of the tens of thousands of troops he has added to the decade-long American occupation of Afghanistan during his three Bush-like “surges” of that conflict. Events – and a deep reluctance to “waste my beautiful mind” on such a self-evident assemblage of murderous mendacity – stayed my hand. But this was, as it turned out, all good, as the saying goes, for now I find that Arthur Silber has, to paraphrase the Bard, named my very deed of rage. You should read the whole piece – and the links which provide historical context to the president’s long-tortured relationship with truth – but here’s a snippet to wet your whistle:

I must note that in the speech this evening, Obama offered a brief passage containing nothing but fall-on-the-floor whoppers. Here you go:

We are a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire, but for self-determination.

I love "while adhering to the rule of law." And, "We stand not for empire..." Those three sentences in their entirety are gold-plated comedy material.

Couldn't you just die? You might.

Before Obama’s speech, I wanted to write about the extraordinary outburst of imperial spleen from Obama’s imperial satrap in Bactria, Karl Eikenberry. The satrap, you may recall, pitched a hissy fit when the Empire’s local hireling, Hamid Karzai, got above his raising, as he is wont to do, and voiced a few criticisms of the occupying force’s self-serving agenda of greed and domination, and its unfortunate propensity for killing Afghan civilians in large numbers.

But here too I find that in another post, Silber has got thar the fastest with the moistest (to quote, or possibly misquote, one of the many insurgent extremists hugely celebrated in our highly moral land).  His apt title, “The Fragile Vanity of the War Criminal,” sums up the matter well. Again, Silber marshals a range of facts and past insights to frame Eikenberry’s remarkable outburst. (Remarkable not for its monstrous sentiments, of course, which are de rigueur for our ruling class, but for their frankness, the lack of PR polish in which these ugly attitudes are usually cast.)

Eikenberry said Americans feel wounded by any aspersions cast on their pure hearts and noble motives by the grubby, ignorant natives. Such black ingratitude makes it impossible for him to “give a comforting reply” to the families of American soldiers when they ask him why  in the name of God Almighty their loved ones are being killed and maimed in this endless, pointless imperial adventure, says poor, pouting Karl. Silber limns the pathology behind this imperial poltroonery.

I referred above to "the symptoms of severe neurosis" which result from a dedicated reliance on the delusions supporting American exceptionalism. Eikenberry's comments show how that severe neurosis begins to veer ever closer to psychosis, if we use "psychosis" to indicate a condition representing an irreparable break with reality. I emphasize again that it is not simply that U.S. leaders ignore the murderous, bloody consequences of the U.S. government's actions. That would be more than sufficiently evil by itself, but U.S. leaders and functionaries like Eikenberry go much further. They transform evil into a positive good. And they go further still: they demand that others acknowledge their nobility and goodness -- and thank them for it.

Yes, this is indeed where the ankle-chain rubs rawest, isn't it? It's not enough to give way to brute force, bow your head, bare your back and take the lash: you have to sing hallelujah while Massa strikes, then kiss his foot when he's finished. As Silber notes astutely earlier in the post:

Our national delusions, and our national neurosis, compel us to invert every moral value and principle. This is a world in which evil becomes good, and death becomes life.

And sinister poltroons become presidents and satraps, with the arbitrary power of life and death over millions of innocent people. Hallelujah!

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Massaging the Monolith: Confusing Signals from the Persian Devils

Written by Chris Floyd 24 June 2011 7670 Hits

Oh my gosh! Apparently Iran is not a monolithic monster whose entire energies are united in destroy all that’s good and holy and can be sold at Wal-Mart.

It looks like there are serious and deepening divisions in the ruling elite there, with the Ayatollah Khamenei slowly tightening the noose around the neck of President Ahmadinejad. How confusing this all is! For one thing, whom are we supposed to demonize in the usual cartoonish rendering of reality favored by our own noble leaders and our leading organs of information, where there must be, always, everywhere, “good guys” and “bad guys” to help or hinder?

Ahmadinejad has been one of the more durable “new Hitlers” of our era, always good for a scary headline or a boost in military spending or a reason for continuing the war crime in Iraq. But now he is being attacked by the Ayatollah, the black-robed center of Islamic extremism and “state-sponsored terrorism” in the popular – and political – mind. (It’s likely that a great many people think Khamenei is the same Ayatollah who served as the all-powerful bin-Ladenish bogeyman of American nightmares after the Iranian hostage crisis.) How can we support an Islamic bogeyman against a secular leader? But if that leader is the new Hitler, then how can we … ???

It is a dilemma, but I’m sure our media massagers will work out the proper line soon enough. After all, look how adroitly they have handled the many metamorphoses of Moamar Gadafy’s official reputation down through years: long-time boogeyman turned newfound good buddy – and now a “new Hitler” once again! Gadafy himself didn’t change much over that time – just his relative usefulness, or degree of hindrance, to the agenda du jour of our great and good. If Khamenei cracks down harder, look for a “softening” or some sudden “nuance” in Ahmadinejad’s media portrayal. Why not? He can always be fitted with horns again soon enough, as the need arises. 

Mention of monolithic depictions of Islamic boogeyman calls to mind a couple of other pieces on the subject that I wrote some time ago. The first was a post based on a penetrating analysis by Pankaj Mishra ("The Culture of Fear") which set out the true situation of the “Muslim demographic” in Europe: miniscule and powerless. The intro to that piece is here:

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post dealing with one of Mark Steyn's hate tracts about the Muslim "takeover" of Europe. Steyn, like his ardent admirer Martin Amis, displays a remarkably transparent psychosexual panic at the thought of big Muslim bucks breeding holy warriors to cast the white man down. (As an American Southerner, I am all too familiar with this "Mandingo Syndrome.")

Oddly enough, of all the articles I've written over the years, the Steyn piece has produced the longest-lasting reaction. To this day, I still get hate mail and indignant comments from Steyn's little sycophants, denouncing my ignorance of Islam's relentless, monolithic devouring of European "civilization." (I would highly recommend Mark Mazower's magisterial work of history, "Hitler's Empire," for anyone interested in seeking how very civilized Europe has been within living memory.)

Given that I live in one of the nations that the psychosexual panickers seem most exercised about -- Great Britain -- and in a neighborhood where at least every third person is a Muslim, or of Muslim background, I always find these condemnations of my "ignorance" on the subject of Islam in Europe pretty funny. I live among Muslims, work alongside Muslims, trade with Muslims, my children go to school with Muslims. I can reports from years of my own experience the astonishing fact that Muslims are actual, individual human beings like everyone else: a unique combination of disparate, changing, often conflicting elements, with wildly varying beliefs and behaviors. (What's more, a great many "Muslims" are not really Muslims; that is, they are about as "religious" in their actual behavior as, say, the countless millions of American "Christians" who have made pornography one of the Homeland's largest industries.)

But you would never know any of this from our best-selling Islamophobes. Or, given the ethnic and linguistic origins of Islam, should we not call them by their true names: anti-Semites? For indeed, their own rhetoric and ideas are indistinguishable from those of the anti-Semites of the early 20th century, who also wrote of dark, barbaric hordes of religious fanatics breeding and wheedling their way into dominance over a weak, flaccid, overly "liberal" white Europe. Substitute "Muslim" for "Jew" in the scared-stiff (or is it scared-flaccid?) screeds of Steyn, Amis, and others, and you will hear an exact replica of the anti-Semitism that was so rife throughout Western "civilization" in the pre-Holocaust years....

The second post was a response to the response the first piece provoked from one of the leading race-based sexual panickers of our day: Mark Steyn. Some excerpts from the second piece are below:

In that august forum of serious, respectable conservatism, "The Corner," Mark "Mandingo" Steyn has responded to the post here yesterday taking him and his fellow Islamophobes to task for the "psychosexual panic" they evince in the face of their self-concocted vision of a "takeover" of Europe by prodigiously breeding Muslims. It goes without saying that Steyn (and a few of his fanboys in the comments section here) make no genuine reply to the substance of the piece, which drew heavily on a long, detailed essay on Islamophobia by Pankaj Mishra in the Guardian.

Instead, Mandingo comes up with what he obviously believes is the "smoking gun" to prove that a monolithic, undifferentiated, hive-minded Muslim horde is procreating its way to domination over the cowardly "pantywaists" of white Europe. And what is this killer evidence? (And "killer" is certainly the right term; for as we reported here yesterday, Steyn is on record as saying that Europeans will soon figure out how to "buck" the Muslim demographic surge: "If you can't outbreed the enemy, cull 'em.") Anyway, Mandingo's proof of Muslim overbreeding is -- brace yourself:

Lists of the most popular names for newborn boys.

Yes, Steyn -- the scholar's scholar, statistician extraordinaire -- has perused the popular names for babies in two whole European cities, and has discovered -- gasp! -- that they are headed by "Mohammed," and also have other Islam-derived names among the top ranks. This, he says, should convince "even the squishiest multiculti pantywaist" that there is sure enough an evil Ay-rab in the woodpile out there, and that, as he put it in one of his shaky-kneed screeds, it's "the end of the world as we know it."

Now, I would never put my meager learning up against an intellectual giant like Herr Professor Mandingo, but I would like to offer a few layman's observations on these earth-shattering revelations.

First, Herr Professor does not seem to realize that, as general rule, those of Muslim heritage tend to draw their children's first names from a small pool of historic Islamic names; and that variations of "Mohammed" are far and away the top choice from this small pool. Hence, in a list of baby's names, you will find a preponderance of a few Islamic monikers skewing the statistics.

At the same time, it is now the general fashion among those of Christian heritage in Europe (and the United States and Canada) to draw upon a far larger and more diverse pool of first names for their children. A few generations ago, most of these too would have come from a small pool of historic Christian names: saints, apostles, Biblical figures, etc. Now, they come from everywhere -- when they are not simply made up out of whole cloth. In other words, if it were the fashion today for Europeans of Christian heritage to name their children after, say, the four evangelists, then those same lists would be teeming with Matthews, Johns, Lukes -- and even Marks. I myself am a fairly prodigious breeder of offspring, and my four children have names drawn from Russian literature, Celtic myth, a Jane Austen novel and the Jewish scriptures. And this is typical of millions of other parents of Christian heritage.

Second, Professor Mandingo and his allies and acolytes also seem blissfully unaware that not every little baby named Mohammed is going to grow up to be one of the zealous, monolithic Muslims of their imagination. That boy is more likely to grow up to be a largely if not wholly secular guy, at home in the culture of the nation where he was born. (The same goes for girls too, of course, but as Steyn's little two-city lists deal only with boys, we'll confine the discussion to males.) And if he does grow up to be a practicing Muslim, again he will not be a member of some mythical zombie-like monolith, but will have to find his own individual path in a faith that is every bit as variegated, diverse, fractured and conflicted as Christianity, if not more so. But Mandingoism blinds its adherents to the fact that Muslims are actual, individual human beings, with all the inherent complexities and conflicts thereof. They can only see a dark, undifferentiated mass spreading like an oil slick over the pristine marble surface of European "civilization."

Finally, there is the embarrassing fact that Muslims constitute a miniscule minority in Europe: as Mishra pointed out only yesterday, "Muslims account for only 3% to 4% of the EU's total population of 493 million." In the UK, there are an estimated 2 million people who call themselves Muslim, out of a total population of around 61 million. And many if not most of the "statistics" on the "Muslim takeover" of Europe used by the Mandingoist panic-merchants are, to use strict academic nomenclature, bullshit. ...

[But] as Ronald Reagan once said, facts are stupid things. Lies are so much more fun -- and more profitable. (Go write a book about "The Non-Threat of a Muslim Europe" and see if any wingut welfare outfits like Regnery Publishing will write you a check.) The fact that Muslims are a small minority in Europe, that their birthrate is falling, that Islam is not a blank, seething, monolithic mass, that Muslims are human beings who live, work, love, strive, suffer and play alongside and with their fellow compatriots without violence or conflict on a daily basis across Europe and the world -- none of this means anything to those whose blood runs hot at the sound of Mandingo tom-toms beating in their minds.

But, despite everything, we must give Mark Steyn his due. In his baby-name riposte, he does step up and manfully admit that we should "take it as read" that he and Martin Amis and other allies "are all xenophobic racist rightwing nuts suffering from psychosexual panic." I think that here, at last, Herr Professor is standing on solid factual ground.

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Markets, Murder and Trash: The Real New World Order Emerges in Juarez

Written by Chris Floyd 21 June 2011 7688 Hits

Do you want to know what the future looks like? Ed Vulliamy can show you. Just follow him down to Ciudad Juarez, where the witless, heedless, heartless machinery of "market fundamentalism" (or "late capitalism," or whatever other name you'd like to give to the unrestrained greed of our elites) has come to its logical, horrific culmination.

Vulliamy notes, rightly, that the vast profits which the "upperworld" of the financial and political elite earns from the murderous drug trade is at the core of the nihilistic hellmouth that has opened up in Mexico. This same upperworld is also adamant in continuing the immeasurably corrosive and corrupting of criminalizing -- rather than regulating, mitigating and taxing -- the innate human desire to disorder the senses, for whatever reason: pleasure, escape, comfort, despair.

But as Vulliamy also observes, the "drug war" and its discontents are just mirrors of the wider reality of a world ruled by zealots given over to the worship of money and its trappings to the exclusion of every other understanding of human worth. Below are some excerpts, but you should read the whole, harrowing piece:

....But this is not just a war between narco-cartels. Juarez has imploded into a state of criminal anarchy – the cartels, acting like any corporation, have outsourced violence to gangs affiliated or unaffiliated with them, who compete for tenders with corrupt police officers. The army plays its own mercurial role. ... Not by coincidence, Juarez is also a model for the capitalist economy. Recruits for the drug war come from the vast, sprawling maquiladora – bonded assembly plants where, for rock-bottom wages, workers make the goods that fill America's supermarket shelves or become America's automobiles, imported duty-free. Now, the corporations can do it cheaper in Asia, casually shedding their Mexican workers, and Juarez has become a teeming recruitment pool for the cartels and killers. It is a city that follows religiously the philosophy of a free market.

"It's a city based on markets and on trash," says Julián Cardona, a photographer who has chronicled the implosion. "Killing and drug addiction are activities in the economy, and the economy is based on what happens when you treat people like trash." Very much, then, a war for the 21st century.

...Mexico's war does not only belong to the postpolitical, postmoral world. It belongs to the world of belligerent hyper-materialism, in which the only ideology left – which the leaders of "legitimate" politics, business and banking preach by example – is greed.

...People often ask: why the savagery of Mexico's war? It is infamous for such inventive perversions as sewing one victim's flayed face to a soccer ball or hanging decapitated corpses from bridges by the ankles; and innovative torture, such as dipping people into vats of acid so that their limbs evaporate while doctors keep the victim conscious.

I answer tentatively that I think there is a correlation between the causelessness of Mexico's war and the savagery. The cruelty is in and of the nihilism, the greed for violence reflects the greed for brands, and becomes a brand in itself.

Vulliamy notes that there are simple steps that could be taken immediately to curtail and quell this downward spiral. (Parenthetically, I think he downplays the potent effect that decriminalization would have, draining the swamp of inordinate profit that a black market always brings.) But he is absolutely right in observing that none of these steps will be taken -- because they would affect the bottom line of our great and good. His words on this point are harsh, sharp, and true:

People also ask: what can be done? There is endless debate over military tactics, US aid to Mexico, the war on drugs, and whether narcotics should be decriminalised. I answer: these are largely of tangential importance; what can the authorities do? Simple: Go After the Money. But they won't.

Narco-cartels are not pastiches of global corporations, nor are they errant bastards of the global economy – they are pioneers of it. They point, in their business logic and modus operandi, to how the legal economy will arrange itself next. The Mexican cartels epitomised the North American free trade agreement long before it was dreamed up, and they thrive upon it.

Mexico's carnage is that of the age of effective global government by multinational banks – banks that, according to Antonio Maria Costa, the former head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, have been for years kept afloat by laundering drug and criminal profits. Cartel bosses and street gangbangers cannot go around in trucks full of cash. They have to bank it – and politicians could throttle this river of money, as they have with actions against terrorist funding. But they choose not to, for obvious reasons: the good burgers of capitalism and their political quislings depend on this money, while bleating about the evils of drugs cooked in the ghetto and snorted up the noses of the rich.

And so here we are. The Drug War long ago merged with the Terror War, which in turn has merged with the long-running war of the elites against the ordinary people of their own countries. We live in the midst of a perfect storm of elitist terror (and its offshoots) raining down on us from every side. As Vulliamy bleakly concludes:

So Mexico's war is how the future will look, because it belongs not in the 19th century with wars of empire, or the 20th with wars of ideology, race and religion – but utterly in a present to which the global economy is committed, and to a zeitgeist of frenzied materialism we adamantly refuse to temper: it is the inevitable war of capitalism gone mad. Twelve years ago Cardona and the writer Charles Bowden curated a book called Juarez: The Laboratory of Our Future. They could not have known how prescient their title was. In a recent book, Murder City, Bowden puts it another way: "Juarez is not a breakdown of the social order. Juarez is the new order."

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No-Life Zone: Deeper and Deeper Into the Mire

Written by Chris Floyd 20 June 2011 8673 Hits

Obviously, there was a typo in the UN resolution approving NATO’s operations in Libya. It was widely reported that the resolution authorized the establishment of a “no-fly” zone in Libya to protect civilians from being killed by military attack. However, it’s clear now that what the international body really greenlighted was a “no-life” zone, designed to, er, kill people with, er, military attacks.

It’s an easy mistake to make, really, transposing the “f” and “l” like that; a UN transcriptionist probably misheard the original intention, then mentally “corrected” it with the “y” to make it read in the more accustomed manner. Happens all the time.

In any case, a “no-life” zone is what we have in Libya, as the latest story of civilian casualties from NATO bombs makes clear. In this case, the slaughter was so open and egregious that NATO actually had to admit killing Libyan civilians for the first time; previously, we’ve been asked to believe that dumping tons of high explosives in the middle of a heavily populated city had not harmed the hair of a single innocent head.

(The three young grandchildren of Moamar Gadafy that were killed by NATO bombs last month obviously don’t count – because, duh, they were kin to Gadafy! They bear the blood taint of evil. Stalin, who ruthlessly condemned family members of “enemies of the people,” and Hitler, who killed anyone with the slightest tincture of Jewish blood in them, would no doubt be proud to see their rigorous standards of hygiene being adopted by the moral paragons of the “Western alliance.”)

Yet even as the Nobel Peace Laureate and Constitutional law scholar continues a war in Libya that his own top legal advisers tell him is patently unlawful and unconstitutional, he is racheting up yet another illegal war that has already reaped a rich harvest of civilian deaths: in Yemen.

As Jason Ditz notes, the Peace Laureate is using the increasingly violent civil strife in Yemen as a cover for a vast expansion of his drone missile assassination program in that country. These attacks are ostensibly aimed at “eradicating” yet another handful of cranks calling themselves “al Qaeda;” the alleged involvement of this group in a couple of failed “terrorist actions” so ludicrous and inept (exploding underwear!) that a cynic might be tempted to say they were designed to fail is, evidently, a dire and imminent existential threat to the United States, requiring billions of dollars, thousands of missiles – and the lifeblood of hundreds of innocent people – to combat. So saith the Nobel Peace Prizewinner.

In the first half of June alone, the Peace Laureate killed at least 130 people in daily assaults with his big, bold, brave drone missiles, fired by big, bold, brave American operatives back in the States or at some other imperial installation hundreds or thousands of miles out of harm’s way. Some of these attacks have been aimed at alleged members of the local AQ, including, of course, the American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been publicly condemned to death, without trial, for the crime of exercising his constitutional right to say stupid and hateful things. (Apply that stricture universally, and the entire American political class would be drone food.)
Other attacks have been aimed at – well, we don’t know. We’re not even sure if the CIA – the increasingly powerful and militarized Praetorian Guard in charge of this particular mass killing program – knows who most of the missiles are being aimed at. All we do know is that innocent people are being slaughtered in their dozens and hundreds by American missiles in Yemen. 

Yet with that wise, far-seeing, 11th-dimensional chess brain that the Peace Laureate is famed for, he is already looking to the future. Now that the government upheaval in Yemen has deprived him of a reliable dictator to assist his illegal war of mass assassination, Obama has decided to build yet another secret base somewhere in the volatile region – at a cost of unknown secret billions – for the express purpose of escalating the Praetorian Guard’s robotic killing spree.

There is no rhyme or reason to any of this. Regardless of the ever-shifting explanations our leaders offer – to the public, and, who knows, to themselves – the killing machine has long taken on a momentum of its own. They are now killing people – innocent people, around the world, every day – simply because they can do it. And because it’s the only thing they know how to do, the only way they know how to maintain and extend the brutal domination of world affairs that the American ruling class believes is the sole purpose of our national existence. And because too many elites are making too much money from killing people. And because too many leaders are getting too much pleasure, and filling too many holes in their own crippled souls, from wielding an unaccountable power of life and death over the nations of the earth.

And no one will stop them because too many ordinary people, battered by too many years of the relentless class warfare that has hollowed out their lives and society, and by an endless tsunami of self-righteous, self-glorifying propaganda, have adopted the perverted values of the elite, and given up all notion of a common good or a common humanity, or else have been beaten and broken and driven into hopeless despair, as each turn of the political gyre makes things worse – more harsh, more brutal, more unfeeling, more insecure, more grating, more shallow, more hollow, more deadly, more corrupt.

Yet every day, at every turn, we are told by earnest progressives that we must support the leader of this system, a man who has entrenched and exacerbated its bloodiest and most brutal currents in almost every way. We must support, encourage, and enable assassination, slaughter, corruption and mass murder; we must, as I noted the other day, be prepared to tear small children into bloody pieces, day after day, for no other discernible reason than to preserve the unlawful, immoral domination of a bloodthirsty militarist elite. That’s what it means to be a “progressive” today. (If you want to see this hideous argument demolished with remarkable power, eloquence and savage wit, read the latest posts from Arthur Silber here and here.)

But there is nothing new in this. Even before the Peace Prizer was gifted with the laurel, his zeal, his love for the killing machine was evident. I’ll close here with an excerpt from a piece written in September 2009 that describes where we were then – and, unfortunately, where we are now.

At some point earlier this month, Barack Obama took a moment out of his busy day to sign an "execute order." That is, he ordered American agents to kill a man without any legal procedure whatsoever: no arrest, no trial, no formal presentation – and disputation – of evidence, no defense…and no warning. They killed him on the open road, in a sneak attack; he was not engaged in combat, he was not posing an imminent threat to anyone at the time, he had not been charged with any crime. This kind of thing is ordinarily regarded as murder. Certainly, if you or I killed someone in this way – or paid someone to do it – then we would find ourselves in the dock, facing life imprisonment or our own execution. But then, you and I are subject to the law; our leaders are not.

Let's say it again, just to let the reality of the situation sink in a bit further: at some point last week, Barack Obama ordered men in his employ to murder another human being. And not a single voice of protest was raised anywhere in the American political and media establishments. Churchmen did not thunder from the pulpits about this lawless action. The self-proclaimed patriots and liberty-lovers on the ever-more militant Right did not denounce this most extreme expression of state tyranny: the leader's arbitrary power to kill anyone he pleases. It is simply an accepted, undisputed fact of American life today that American leaders can and do – and should – murder people, anywhere in the world, if they see fit. When this supreme tyranny is noted at all, it is simply to celebrate the Leader for his toughness -- or perhaps chide him for not killing even more people in this fashion.

I wrote a great deal about this theme when George W. Bush was president. I began back in November 2001, after the Washington Post reported that Bush had signed an executive order giving himself the power to order the killing of anyone he arbitrarily designated a terrorist. Year after year, I wrote of how this murderous edict was put into practice around the world, and of its virulently corrosive effects on American society.  Now Barack Obama is availing himself of these same powers. There is not one crumb, one atom, one photon of difference between Obama and Bush on this issue. They both believe that the president of the United States can have people killed outside of any semblance of a judicial process: murdered, in cold blood, in sneak attacks, with any "collateral damage" regarded as an acceptable by-product – just like the terrorists they claim to be fighting with these methods.

Nor does this doctrine of presidential murder make any distinction between American citizens and foreigner. Indeed, one of the first people known to have been killed in this way was an American citizen living in Yemen. So let us put the reality in its plainest terms: if the president of the United States decides to call you a terrorist and kill you, he can. He doesn't have to arrest you, he doesn't have to charge you, he doesn't have to put you on trial, he doesn't have to convict you, he doesn't have to sentence you, he doesn't have to allow you any appeals: he can just kill you. And no one in the American power structure will speak up for you or denounce your murder; they won't even see that it's wrong, they won't even consider it remarkable. It's just business as usual. It's just the way things are done. It's just the way we are now.

....The murder will also serve as lesson for would-be terrorists around the world – the same lesson that the War on Terror has been teaching day after day, year after year, from the day it was launched by George W. Bush to its continuance and expansion by Barack Obama today. That lesson is stark and simple: Murder works. Murder is the way to advance your agenda. Murder is what "serious" players on the world stage do. There is no law but the law of power; there is no way but the way of violence. There is no morality, there is no liberty, we share no common humanity.

This is the example that America now sets for the world. This is what we teach our children – and the children of our victims. This is what Barack Obama affirmed once again when he signed his "execute order."

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A Dozen Beasts Slouching: Long View of a Dark Age

Written by Chris Floyd 13 June 2011 6173 Hits

I wrote the lines below more than 25 years ago; but when I finally got around to putting them to music some months ago, what had seemed allusive and metaphorical – both the public overview and the personal intimations of mortality – had become all too real. It’s like the passage toward the end of Doctor Zhivago, when two survivors of revolution, famine, purge, camps and war are looking back:

“This has happened several times in the course of history. A thing which had been conceived in a lofty, ideal manner becomes coarse and material. Thus Rome came out of Greece and the Russian Revolution came out of the Russian enlightenment. Take that line of Blok’s: ‘We, the children of Russia’s terrible years.’ You can see the difference of period at once. In his time, when he said it, he meant it figuratively, metaphorically. The children were not children, but the sons, the heirs of the intelligentsia, and the terrors were not terrible but apocalyptic; that’s quite different. Now the figurative has become literal, the children are children and the terrors are terrible. There you have the difference.”

Anyway, those rough beasts once dimly perceived have not only come slouching, they’ve now emerged full-blown, ravenous and vivid. So when I ran across this sketch again while searching for something else, I thought it might be worth a brief re-visiting.

Standing in the Morning by Chris Floyd

Have them play Shostakovich at my funeral:
Something grim, unnerving, hard to hum.
But make sure that you're laughing in the background;
Be glad that I am quit of what's to come.

For the destruction of the world is never-ending;
And just as tirelessly, creation rears.
This dark age is but an hour for apprehending
The trace left by a cold sweat-drop of fear.

A dozen beasts come slouching, a hundred prophets rise –
The timewheel, like a winepress, brings them forth.
The next two thousand years are here in incubation:
We are the forefathers, the ancient of the earth.

But I myself am standing in the morning of non-being,
Which has worn its way through me at last.
I'm taut with wild yielding to the mighty yawning
That swallows up the waters of the past.

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Visible Means of Support: Backing Brutality in Bahrain

Written by Chris Floyd 12 June 2011 9792 Hits

Last week, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate met with the crown prince of Bahrain and "reaffirmed" the United States' "strong commitment" to the regime of unelected autocrats. The Peace Laureate -- who in his acceptance of the Prize wrapped himself in the mantle of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi -- also "expressed strong support" for the regime's "ongoing efforts to initiate national dialogue ... [and] forge a just future for all Bahrainis."

President Obama had dropped in a meeting the prince was having with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who likewise extolled the autocrats for their "national dialogue" and "important work."

There is indeed "important work" going on in Bahrain these days, and the autocratic regime's "ongoing efforts to initiate dialogue" -- the campaign lauded by the Laureate -- are quite vigorous. Here, for example, The Independent details a case study of just how the crown prince and his family's regime is pursuing "national dialogue" in the manner so warmly approved by the presidential peacenik:

Bahraini security forces beat the detained poet Ayat al-Gormezi across the face with electric cable and forced her to clean with her bare hands lavatories just used by police, members of her family said yesterday in a graphic account of the torture and humiliation suffered by those rounded up in the Gulf nation's crackdown on dissent.

The 20-year-old trainee teacher, who spent nine days in a tiny cell with the air conditioning turned to freezing, is due back in court this weekend on charges of inciting hatred, insulting the king and illegal assembly, and her family fear she may suffer further mistreatment in custody amid threats of another round of interrogation.

Masked police arrested Ayat at her home on 30 March for reciting a poem criticising the monarchy during a pro-democracy rally in the capital Manama in February. ... The details of her interrogation and imprisonment are similar to the experiences of other women detained by Bahraini security forces since they launched a full scale repression on 15 March against all those demanding democratic reform in the island kingdom.

Ayat gave herself up to police after they threatened to kill her brothers. She was taken away in a car with two security officials – a man and a woman – both of whom were masked and dressed in civilian clothes. They immediately started to beat her and threaten her, saying she would be raped and sexually assaulted with degrading photographs of her put on the internet.

... While Ayat was meeting her family during the arraignment, a policeman overheard her giving details of her mistreatment. He said that if she continued to do so, she would be returned to the interrogation centre and tortured again.

This is what the regime of the honored and lauded crown prince is doing to those who dare to state publicly their desire to have a democratic government. This is the "national dialogue" which last week was given a highly public imprimatur of approval from the administration of the Nobel Peace Laureate.

One wonders sometimes how his head can bear up under those laurels, caked and heavy as they are with dried blood, clots of viscera and vast heavings of hypocrisy.

Of course, the treatment being meted out to 20-year-old unarmed poets by the Obama-lauded, Clinton-approved Bahraini regime is just the tip of the iceberg. The repression is deep, brutal, violent -- and backed up by military forces from that other highly approved autocracy in the region: Saudi Arabia. (Where Hillary Clinton would be put in jail if she dared to drive a car.)

As usual, you can find more on Bahrain -- including direct reports from the ground and copious links to media sources (such as that radical journal, The Economist) -- at the site of As'ad AbuKhalil, the "Angry Arab." He keeps a sharp and scornful eye on the crimes and follies committed on all the sinister operators -- imperial meddlers, local thugs, unctuous collaborationists, repressive sectarians -- in the region. For example, here's a recent post:

Bahraini comrades sent me this:  "As you may know the oppressors in Bahrain are targeting professional women arresting from their places of work or study. Many have disappeared into military style prisons and have not had access to lawyers or their families. The few who have been released report sexual attacks, verbal and physical insults and threats and other forms of torture. I attach for your attention a spreadsheet with the names of only 55 of these detainess. You will note that one of those arrested is a pregnant woman who happens to be the wife of an activist.  Many others are young women in their early 20's. One of these young ladies is a poet and a student teacher who was arrested after 4 of her brothers were threatened at gunpoint to turn their sister in.  No other Arabic regime has used torture and arrest against women to crush protests in this systematic and brutal manner. Yet media outlets in the west and Aljazeera Arabic are largely silent on these abuses in stark and shameful contrast to the coverage given to other protests."

And this:

Jane sent me this (I cite with her permission):  "I guess you saw the news that four men have been sentenced to death today by a military court that convicted them of killing two policemen during the uprising. Today Bahrain TV aired a "documentary" that gives full details, including televised "confessions" from several of the men. ..."

As some people have asked, why would defendants who were pleading "not guilty" make confessions on camera? The names of those confessing aren't given, but Chanad, an eagle-eyed blogger/tweep, pointed out that the first man "confessing" (six minutes into the programme) appears to be Ali Isa Saqer. Mr Saqer was one of the people detained in connection with the killings, but he was not sentenced yesterday. That's because he already died in custody in early April. Human Rights Watch, which saw his body, said it bore signs of "horrific abuse". He was buried on April 10th.

Frank Gardner of the BBC wrote about him recently ....:

"Accused of trying to run over a policeman during a protest, Ali Isa al-Saqer had handed himself over to police after his family say they were threatened. Six days later he died in their custody, the authorities say he fought his jailers. His family, seeing his battered body for the first time since his arrest, collapsed in howls of grief; his wounds were quite simply horrific.

Beaten black and blue, his lacerated back resembled a bloody zebra; he appeared to have been whipped with heavy cables, his ankles and wrists manacled.

I brought up his case with the health minister, Dr Fatima al-Beloushi, who is also minister for human rights. At first she said that the opposition had altered the images to invent the lacerations. But when I replied that we had been to the funeral and seen them ourselves she immediately promised a full investigation."

Beaten black and blue. Whipped with heavy cables. Battered to death. By agents of powers approved and backed and armed and trained by Washington -- powers, which, like their Potomac mentors, simply lie about their crimes -- or blame the victims themselves.

Again, I say what I have said here over and over (and will keep on saying): This is what you are supporting, enabling and continuing when you support the Obama Administration. Whether that support is wholehearted -- if you, like Kevin Drum, proudly shut down you own brain and defer supinely to Obama's superior wisdom -- or whether it is reluctant, defensive, "to keep the other guys out" because you desperately hope the Democrats might possibly be marginally better, the results are still the same: murder, brutality, violence, corruption, chaos and suffering.

If that's what you want to support -- if you feel for whatever reason that this is the best, most honorable, moral, productive course to take -- then that's your right, of course. But be aware of what that choice really means -- in actual lives of real human beings, right now, at this minute, and far into the future. Don't pretend that you don't know; don't pretend that you aren't saying, "I will pull the trigger and kill this little child to make the world a better place."

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The Impossible Distance: A Choice to Kill

Written by Chris Floyd 06 June 2011 10127 Hits

I watched them marching toward the border. Row upon row of them in the hot, bright sun. They marched without guns, without tanks and missiles -- although some, like the shepherd boy David, did pick up a few rocks to hurl into the impossible distance.

I watched them stream down the green hill toward the heaps of dirt and wire. I saw them, old and young, walk toward the occupied land. I saw them come closer -- close enough for the heavily-armed occupying force to have them in range.

From a distance -- behind the barbed wire, with the occupiers, where the cameras that showed the scene were set -- I heard the dull pops and parps of the guns as they fired. I saw the marchers kept streaming down the hill, although the first wave was now breaking in disarray. I heard the guns again. I saw some marchers fall, others scramble back, and still more coming down.

Pop. Pop. Parp. The dull sounds, intermittent, careful. The bullets whizzed across the distance -- the impossible distance, which no stone could traverse. The bullets threw up clouds of dirt, they struck flesh. I saw bodies twisting and going down. The march became a rescue party. The dead and wounded were lifted onto sheets and stretchers as the bullets kept coming: dull, intermittent, careful. Pop. Pop. Parp.

Finally, as many lay dead, many lay bleeding in bright, hot sun, finally, across the distance, from behind the barbed wire and hot-barrelled weapons, I watched the canisters of tear gas sailing through the air, trailing streams of smoke. They landed on the dirt and the green grass, and spewed their painful, irresistible fog.

Now, at last, the marchers -- who had kept coming in the face of the bullets -- turned and fled. Carrying the dead, the dying and bleeding, they ran back up the green hill.

Then suddenly the scene shifted to an anonymous government office, where a comely young spokeswoman, speaking crisp, American-accented English, explained that these unweaponed marchers walking in the hot, bright sun posed such an overwhelming threat to the heavily-armed occupying forces behind the walls of barbed wire that there was no alternative, no other choice, but to open fire across the impossible distance that no stone could traverse, to fire into the unarmed crowd, to fire again and again, to watch them twist and fall into the mounds of dirt. No choice. No alternative.

Her appearance on the screen lasted almost as long as the time given to the marchers and their dead. The reporter, who was standing near the border, behind the barbed wire, who had seen it all with his own eyes, dutifully concluded his piece with geopolitical context -- one side says this, the other says that, plots and machinations lie behind every public outpouring. But even given all that, even he -- speaking as the marchers were fleeing from the noxious clouds behind him -- even he could not avoid the obvious question: Why use the tear gas last? Why shoot first? Why fire into the bodies, into the unarmed marchers, and kill them, when all along you were equipped with the proven means to disperse them without death and blood?

It seems, then, there was a choice for the occupying force. And they made the that choice. The choice to kill, to speak with death and blood across the impossible distance.

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For This Relief, Much Thanks

Written by Chris Floyd 05 June 2011 5985 Hits


Just a quick note to say that I am overwhelmed by the support shown for Empire Burlesque after the recent pitch for donations. It was completely unexpected; I had no idea there was such feeling for the website out there. I just want everyone who gave to know how very much their gift is appreciated, however large or small. Words fail me on this, really. Thank you again.

Now I'll have to get to work and try to write some posts worthy of such an outpouring!

UPDATE: I also wanted to note that due to security measures to ward off hack attacks, most comments have to be approved by hand now, instead of going up automatically. I try to keep on top of it, but it can back up at times, especially if I'm away. So if you post a comment and don't see it for awhile, that's why. My apologies for any inconvenience.

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Money, Murder, and the Madness of Empire

Written by Chris Floyd 03 June 2011 6111 Hits

As always, I hate to do this, but I just wanted to put out a brief call for donations, if anyone feels moved to pitch a few coins into the hat. Regular financial support for this site has dwindled down to almost nothing; there is now only one regular subscriber, where once there had been dozens. (Was it something I said?) People do chip in from time to time, and I'm enormously grateful for that. And of course, times are hard all over, and there are needs far greater than mine. (Arthur Silber, for one; don't you dast give anything here without giving there first.) Still, the income once generated by my political writings has essentially disappeared, and one does feel that gap every now and then.

So if you've got a few pennies, and you've taken care of your own needs and those of others in more need, and you take a notion, we would be mighty grateful and much beholden for anything you might toss this way.

Meanwhile, pressing personal business of various sorts have kept me preoccupied of late. So in lieu of my own deathless take on various issues of the day, please take a gander at a few of these important articles which have appeared in the last few days.

War Against Humanity, Part 1
A new drive has been launched to end the so-called "War on Drugs." A whole raft of Establishment worthies -- conveniently out of power now, alas -- have signed their names to a new call to end what is probably the most pernicious, corrupting, and corrosively evil movement of our time. The "War on Drugs" has doubtless done more to degrade human society -- and civil liberties -- than anything else in the past 30 years. It has given jet fuel to the expansion of the underworld, corrupted the "overworld" beyond all reckoning, aided and exacerbated the rise of authoritarian regimes in what were once considered democracies across the world, and generally added immeasurably to the burden of human suffering, in every corner of the globe, for decade after decade.

Yet, because it serves the interests of the powerful few so superbly, there is almost no hope that this "war" will ever end -- even though some, or many, of those who once served and feasted in the gilded circles of the elite now publicly acknowledge that this relentless onslaught on liberty and reason will, in the end, devour the goose that gave them so many golden eggs.

Two recent articles address this issue. First, Peter Wilby in the Guardian; and this news piece in The Independent.

War Against Humanity, Part 2
Of course, the "Drug Wars" are only part of a much larger campaign to enclose the human community in a super-techno, ultra-modern feudal regime of servitude and dependence on the high and mighty. For some searing explications of how this pernicious dynamic operates, see this piece by Johan Hari in the Independent; and the always excellent (and harrowing) Michael Hudson in CounterPunch.

War Without End, Amen
As usual, wise man William Pfaff has much to say about the unbearable burdens of empire, in this piece on Truthout: Budget Problems, America? Try Ending Your Many Wars.

More on empire: This is what an imperial state looks like in action: not just criminalizing free speech, but putting it under a death sentence.

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Borderline Case: Some Real News Beyond the "Reset" Rhetoric

Written by Chris Floyd 26 May 2011 9478 Hits

In the last few days, Barack Obama has delivered two “major,” “landmark,” even “historic” speeches, which apparently have “reset” American policy in the Middle East, reaffirmed the overwhelming importance of “the West” (i.e., Britain and America) to the proper functioning of the world, and, we are told, “squarely” put the United States on the side of the dissidents and rebels of the Arab Spring.  All of these claims, put forth in reams of earnest analysis and paeans of praise, call to mind the immortal words of Brick Pollitt: “Wouldn’t that be funny if that was true?”

Of course, none of it is true. Obama’s soaring rhetoric about America changing its policy of supporting dictators in favour of boosting democracy in the Middle East could have been taken word for word from several major landmark historic speeches that George W. Bush made on the same subject. But these words – the ones Bush used to mouth and the one mouthed by Obama these days – are always belied by the facts on the ground.

For example, in his afflated rhetoric to the UK parliament, Obama piously declared that “democracies are our best allies.” But in fact, on the ground, America’s best ally in the Middle East, outside of Israel, is Saudi Arabia – the most repressive, extremist regime on the face of the earth, with the possible exceptions of North Korea and Burma. And while Obama waxed lyrical about “the West’s” great moral beaconry and devotion to peace, NATO forces were pounding Tripoli with Western bombs, and planning to send Apache attack helicopters (whose very name evokes stirring echoes of the West’s pious history and its attitude toward ‘recalcitrant’ native tribes like the heathen redskins out West and those worthless sandgrubbers in Libya) to take part in a civil war between two armed factions.

But really, it is pointless to parse these things, or expend any mental energy on them at all, beyond that needed to note the murderous mendacity of these grand occasions with their endlessly rehashed bromides. There is no “news” in Obama’s speeches, nothing that will materially affect any of the complex processes now playing out in the Arab world (aside, of course, from his earnest pledge to continue killing people in Libya in order to save people in Libya from, er, being killed). The phrase “hot air” falls cosmically short of capturing the vacuous insubstantiality of these weighty addresses.

However, there was some real news in the Middle East this week, a development that will actually have a far greater impact on the labyrinthine power plays in the Middle East than any rhetorical “reset” in Washington. The Egyptian government announced that it is lifting the hideous blockade of Gaza imposed by the Mubarak regime in collaboration with Israel – a move which turned Gaza into a Warsaw Ghetto writ large, the “world’s largest open-air prison,” and subjected multitudes of innocent people to horrible suffering, grinding poverty, declining health, hopelessness, despair and rage. All of this was imposed on the Palestinians in Gaza for their heinous crime of ... voting for the wrong party in a free, fair, open democratic election. So much for the great Western commitment to “democracy” limned so nimbly by Obama this week.

Of course, anyone with the slightest acquaintance of history (which, of course, leaves out 97 percent of the Anglo-American chattering classes) knows that the United States has always been firmly and forthrightly committed to democracy for all god’s chillums all over the world – as long as they vote for the leaders that Washington wants.

In any case, the move by Egypt to open its border should have a genuinely profound effect on the region, in all kinds of ways. Most importantly, of course, it means that the old, the sick, the vulnerable and the young in Gaza will have a chance to have a little more food, a little more health care, a little more hope that their life will not always be a grinding hell of deprivation and enclosure.

UPDATE: As this post was being written, the newswires began crackling with reports that a major war criminal – a psychopathic thug said to be responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in a vicious campaign of ethnic cleansing – had been apprehended. Naturally, I expected to see George Bush or David Petraeus or Stanley McChrystal or Don Rumsfeld or Nouri al-Maliki being perp-walked to a paddy wagon for their roles in the furious campaign of ethnic cleansing that characterized the murderous “surge” in Iraq. (Yes, the same campaign that Peace Laureate Barack Obama once called “an extraordinary achievement.”) But no, it was old Ratko Mladic, an egregious beserker from the Bosnian wars. Mladic was evidently given up by his long-time protectors in order to facilitate Serbia’s bid to join the European Union.

Commentators are already rushing to join the arrest with the killing of Osama bin Laden as proof that the psychopathic bad guys on the international scene always get caught in the end. And so they do – unless of course they have done their killing, their ethnic cleansing, their drone bombing, their night raiding, their kidnapping, their torturing, and their gulaging for the right side.

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