Of course, all these desperate attempts to kowtow, bow, cringe and scurry before the vicious, ruthless, bloodsoaked, bloodthirsty elites of this howlingly dysfunctional society will indeed stand Barack Obama in good stead as he seeks another term as a "safe pair of hands" for the American Imperium. But the real clincher for our militarist Dominationists will be this (from Fortune):
Thanks to a surge in overseas demand, the F-15 and other aging U.S. weapons systems are hotter than they've been in years. The Department of Defense last year told Congress of plans to sell up to $103 billion in weapons to overseas buyers, a staggering rise from an average of $13 billion a year between 1995 and 2005 ...
As defense giants like Boeing, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin increasingly seek to peddle their wares to well-financed (sometimes by the U.S.) international customers, they have a surprising ally: the President. "Obama is much more favorably disposed to arms exports than any of the previous Democratic administrations," says Loren Thompson, a veteran defense consultant. Or, as Jeff Abramson, deputy director of the Arms Control Association, puts it: "There's an Obama arms bazaar going on."
...the Obama team has hustled to pave the way for big sales like the Saudi deal; the President himself recently sought to secure a pending $4 billion aircraft deal with India. Obama is also backing a massive push to rewrite the rules that govern arms exports, a process that some say will reduce oversight of U.S. weapons sales.
Obama in his first term is peddling almost 10 times as many weapons of death, destruction, repression and suffering than George W. Bush in his second term at the helm of the world-engulfing American War Machine. This is the reason why our Masters of War gave more money to Obama than to John McCain in 2008. The historic agent of hope and change had obviously clued them in on how well he would serve their sinister interests.
And the bulk of the Obama arms bazaar is going to one of the most repressive, hidebound, extremist regimes on earth: Saudi Arabia. The Saudi royals make the odious Moammar Gaddafy look like Thomas Jefferson in comparison. Yet Obama has gifted them with one of the biggest arms deals in human history. What will the Saudis do with these weapons? They will, like Gaddafy, turn them against their own people should they dare rise up against the ethnic, religious, economic, gender and political repression that stifles them.
What can you say about this sort of thing? It is sickening beyond words. It is a total -- even gleeful -- abdication to the very worst instincts of our common human kind: grasping greed, domination, brutality, corruption, and a pervasive, corrosive nihilism drained of compassion, of empathy, of all but the most base, most bestial impulses.
Yet even now, the "progressive blogosphere" is ablaze with partisan fervor bent toward a single goal: the re-election of Barack Obama in 2012. Because if Obama is not re-elected, we might get a president who ... kowtows to Wall Street, tortures Americans, kills innocent people -- that is, who actually, literally, physically has children torn into splatters and shreds of viscera and bone -- and sells arms to tyrants. And if we don't support this, if we don't "stop bitching and get to work" making sure that this continues, then we could end up with a Republican president who kowtows to Wall Street, tortures Americans, shreds innocent children into viscera and sells arms to tyrants. And that would be just terrible.
(I must confess here a lamentable failure of imagination. I simply cannot get my mind around the concept of progressive lovers of humanity who support the shredding of innocent children into splatters of viscera and bone. I simply cannot fathom progressive defenders of freedom and human rights who pledge themselves to arms peddlers dealing weapons to brutal regimes that have a proven record of using them against the legitimate demands and aspirations of their people. No doubt I lack some genetic component or neuronal constellation that would make all of this clear to me. But, stunted as I am, it looks like the most blinkered, willfully ignorant, Tea Partyish partisan extremism to me.)
In any case, it is good to see the bipartisanship that has long been the Holy Grail of the Potomac political class now taking shape at last. With both progressives and war-profiteering plutocrats making common cause on his behalf, the re-election of Barack Obama looks more certain all the time.
Arthur Silber rises from his sickbed to pen a powerful piece on the torture of Bradley Manning by the Nobel Peace Laureate in the White House -- torture which has only gotten worse since I wrote about it here yesterday. You should read the entire article by Silber (and give him some financial support in a grave hour of need while you are there, if you can); but here are a few excerpts:
A human being can be destroyed in a seemingly infinite number of ways, as history repeatedly demonstrates. Our capacity for cruelty is limitless. It would appear to defy gratification. We are all too familiar with the horrifying varieties of physical violence inflicted on the human body, but there is another method of seeking to destroy those whom we have designated as enemies to our own survival. In one critical respect, this method is worse than injuries that might be visited on our fragile corporeal form, for while the body may survive intact, the person -- that is, his mind and soul -- will never be made whole again.
This method of destruction throws the victim into a nightmare world, one which mocks every effort to comprehend it. Cruelty is presented as compassion and solicitude for the victim's well-being; the words of justification seek to convince those who suffer that their unbearable pain should be accepted for their own good. The victim knows that every utterance of his tormentors is a lie, and the more he attempts to understand why they act so monstrously, the greater his suffering grows. ...This is evil; those who seek to impose this fate on a human being are engaged in evil of an especially monstrous kind.
Read this New York Times story about the latest cruelties inflicted on Bradley Manning, and you will see the operation of these mechanisms. We must remember that Manning is, as the Times story states in its first sentence, the "accused." As of this date, Manning has been tried for nothing. As of this date, Manning has been convicted of nothing.
The story informs us that Manning "will be stripped of his clothing every night as a 'precautionary measure' to prevent him from injuring himself," and that he "will also be required to stand outside his cell naked during a morning inspection." A Marine spokesman says that "the underwear was taken away from him as a precaution to ensure that he did not injure himself."
But as the story goes on to tell us, Manning "has not been elevated to the more restrictive 'suicide watch' conditions." The same Marine spokesman also says that "the new rule on clothing ... would continue indefinitely," and that "he was not allowed to explain what prompted it 'because to discuss the details would be a violation of Manning’s privacy.'”
Thus, according to this spokesman, Manning is subjected to repeated humiliation and degradation -- for his own good. Moreover, the reason for the repeated humiliation and degradation cannot be provided because of the military's boundless concern for Manning's "privacy" -- that is, the military also refuses to explain the reason for its cruelty for Manning's own good.
...First, forcing a prisoner to remain naked for extended periods of time is not only a barbaric means of humiliating and degrading him: it necessarily includes a very significant element of specifically sexual humiliation and degradation. Add to this unforgivable atrocity the well-known fact that Manning is gay. Especially in the hypermasculinized world of the military, such sexual humiliation and degradation represents an intentional, additional cruelty. I can only say that the U.S. government and the military of which it is so proud put Torquemada to shame.
Second, these cruelties and the purported "justifications" offered by the military, all in a notably high profile case, definitively put the lie to the propaganda spewed by the U.S. government in response to the torture, including sexual humiliation, revealed at Abu Ghraib: that such incidents were an "aberration" perpetrated by a few "bad apples." (I emphasize that similar torture and humiliation occurred in other locations as well; Abu Ghraib is probably the best-known instance.) They also definitively put the lie to Obama's patently false claim that he has "ended torture," a point I have made repeatedly.
Now we have the U.S. military, with the full support of the U.S. government, openly engaging in repeated acts of cruelty, atrocity, humiliation and degradation -- acts which the military proclaims will "continue indefinitely" -- and offering nauseatingly ludicrous justifications which would not convince a minimally healthy ten-year-old child. No honest observer can regard these actions of the U.S. government and its military as "aberrations": these actions are brazenly offered as U.S. government policy. ...
Silber also very wisely bids us keep this important fact in mind: "...we must beware falling into the trap of selective outrage. The horrifying case of Bradley Manning is an especially high profile one, but he is hardly the only victim of even this particular form of the U.S. government's monstrousness."
Indeed. Similar -- and even worse -- treatment has been doled out to many thousands of people caught up in the American gulag (and its proxy operations) over the past decade. Many others are suffering this kind of torture, and worse, today, right now, at the hands of the Peace Laureate. And many more will be subjected to this evil in the future.
NOTE: Yesterday we pointed out here that the New York Times story first confirming that Manning had been subjected to forced nudity by the Peace Laureate appeared on Page 3 in the printed version of the "paper of record." The latest story, which Silber links to, and which confirms that Manning will now be subjected to this mind-breaking torture every single day, appeared on .... Page 8of the "paper of record." The story -- only fitfully noted as it is -- is rapidly sinking out of sight.
It is a question that has sparked much debate, at least in certain rare quadrants where the unvarnished reality of the American imperium is recognized. But surely now the debate is over. Question it no more; the supposition, the fear, the heartbreaking intimation is a fact. It is real. It is here.
Fascism has come to America.
And no, it didn't come in jackboots. It didn't come in massed, marching ranks. It didn't come in greasy-haired frothers ranting on a stage.
It came with cool. It came with savvy. It came wearing the mask of past evils redeemed by the image of a persecuted minority elevated to power. It came spouting scripture, hugging bright children, quoting pop music, sporting pricey leisure threads.
It came on Facebook, it came with 269 cable channels blazing, with I-Pad apps offering Catholic confession and YouTube porn. It came with the Super Bowl, with de la Renta gowns on the Oscar carpet, with 36 brands of dips and chips on the bulging shelves of your local Wal-Mart.
It came right in the midst of your ordinary life, as you went to work -- or looked for work -- as you partied, as you courted, as you watched TV, as you worshipped, as you studied, as you played, as you went about the business of being human.
As you went about the business of being human, this inhuman thing has come. It has come in your name, wrapped in your flag, claiming your security as its raison d'etre.
And in the guise of a young, hip, educated progressive, it has just now declared that anyone who reveals any hidden evil committed by the fascist state is subject to prosecution for a capital crime. That's right. It has revealed that you -- you American citizen, you patriot, you believer in goodness and justice and genuine democracy -- you can be killed by the government if you tell the truth.
This is what the administration of President Barack Obama has demonstrated -- indeed, has proudly proclaimed -- in its treatment of the young man it is avowedly, openly torturing for telling the truth about American war crimes, Bradley Manning. There can be no mistaking the meaning, implications and import of Barack Obama's actions.
Corporal Bradley Manning has been charged with leaking "classified material," including a video posted on WikiLeaks that showed American forces gleefully shooting up Iraqi civilians with helicopter gunships. Manning is also alleged to have obtained thousands of other files detailing crimes, corruption, cover-ups, lies and deceit by American forces and American diplomats around the world.
Although American officials have repeatedly said that none of leaks attributed to Manning and to WikiLeaks have caused any bodily harm to any agent of American imperial power around the world, Manning is being accused of "threatening national security" and "aiding the enemy."
The charge sheet did not explain who “the enemy” was, leading some to speculate that it was a reference to WikiLeaks. On Thursday, however, the military said that it instead referred to any hostile forces that could benefit from learning about classified military tactics and procedures.
It could not be clearer. The release of any information that the American government declares might be of any use whatsoever to any possible "hostile" force -- real, imagined, or possibly run by American provocateurs -- somewhere in the world at some point in time is a crime that can be punishable by death. Thus any person or any entity that reveals embarrassing or criminal facts that the government wishes to keep hidden now stands in the shadow of death.
If that is not fascism, there has never been such a thing on the face of the earth.
To be sure, American officials say that they will seek only life imprisonment for Manning -- who they are now subjecting to hours of forced nakedness in front of video cameras. But the military judge who will oversee Manning's court martial is entirely free to disregard the prosecutor's stated intention and impose the full penalty for aiding the "enemy."
But again, who is the "enemy"? You are the enemy -- if you speak a truth that the government does not want you to reveal. (Of course, if you are an approved and coddled courtier, an eager, scurrying scribe like Bob Woodward, for example, you can reveal all the most secret "classified material" that you like, as long as it comes from savvy insiders "authorized" to praise their bosses and make their rivals look bad.) If you speak this unwanted truth, the government, the president -- the cool, savvy, modern, hip, educated progressive president -- can throw you in jail, subject you to torture, deprive you of sleep, and finally strip you naked in front of cameras to break you down and humiliate you in their efforts to dehumanize you, to grind you down into a piece of meat.
2. Here is the New York Times report on Manning's treatment -- a small, brief story which did not make the front page of the print edition and within a few hours disappeared from the dozens of stories on the front page of the on-line edition:
A lawyer for Pfc. Bradley Manning, [David E. Coombs], the Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking secret government files to WikiLeaks, has complained that his client was stripped and left naked in his cell for seven hours on Wednesday. ... The soldier’s clothing was returned to him Thursday morning, after he was required to stand naked outside his cell during an inspection, Mr. Coombs said in a posting on his Web site.
“This type of degrading treatment is inexcusable and without justification,” Mr. Coombs wrote. “It is an embarrassment to our military justice system and should not be tolerated. Pfc. Manning has been told that the same thing will happen to him again tonight. No other detainee at the brig is forced to endure this type of isolation and humiliation.”
First Lt. Brian Villiard, a Marine spokesman, said a brig duty supervisor had ordered Private Manning’s clothing taken from him. He said that the step was “not punitive” and that it was in accordance with brig rules, but he said that he was not allowed to say more. “It would be inappropriate for me to explain it,” Lieutenant Villiard said. “I can confirm that it did happen, but I can’t explain it to you without violating the detainee’s privacy.”
This is rich; this shows a devilish irony at work in the PR boiler rooms of our fascist state. Yes, we tortured Manning, but we can't tell you why -- because we want to protect his privacy! We are very concerned about his sacred right to privacy! "I'm sorry," said Sgt. Heinrich Schultz, spokesman for the Auschwitz-Birkenau detention facility. "I can confirm that Mr Shlomo Stern, formerly of Krakow, was indeed stripped naked by guards here, but it would be inappropriate for me to explain why, because it would violate the detainee's privacy."
PFC Manning was forced to strip naked in his cell again last night. As with the previous evening, Quantico Brig guards required him to surrender all of his clothing. PFC Manning then walked back to his bed, and spent the next seven hours in humiliation.
The decision to require him to be stripped of all clothing was made by the Brig commander, Chief Warrant Officer-2 Denise Barnes. According to First Lieutenant Brian Villard, a Marine spokesman, the decision was "not punitive" and done in accordance with Brig rules. There can be no conceivable justification for requiring a soldier to surrender all his clothing, remain naked in his cell for seven hours, and then stand at attention the subsequent morning. This treatment is even more degrading considering that PFC Manning is being monitored -- both by direct observation and by video -- at all times. The defense was informed by Brig officials that the decision to strip PFC Manning of all his clothing was made without consulting any of the Brig's mental health providers.
What is happening here -- as Arthur Silber foretold long ago -- is that Barack Obama is codifying the worst abuses of the Bush Administration (and its predecessors) -- which had usually been committed on the side, in the dark, in secret, behind many layers of "plausible deniability" -- into the open, declared law of the land. This too is facism in action. Indeed, rarely has there been a regime more legalistic than Nazi Germany, where jurists, legislators and civil servants adhered strenuously to the "law" as determined by the will of the ruling clique. And for all those who make a fetish of the "rule of law," here is the end result: law being used by brutal Power to "justify" inhuman treatment of truth-tellers. As we noted here some months ago:
A conversation during Civil War. (From work-in-progress Bright, Terrible Spirit):
"But in days past, I was a lawyer. Yes, a lawyer, can you believe it? It seems….ridiculous now, doesn't it? An orderly system meant to govern human society, to establish justice, to advance the progress and enlightenment of the human race. Yet that system, that civil cosmos – to which I was so passionately committed – embraced and protected the most wretched evils, entrenched the powerful in their unjust privilege, oppressed the poor and weak most relentlessly and wickedly, yet at every step – at every step – sang hosannas to itself as some kind of divinity. The "Law" – oh, what a hush of reverence surrounded that word, how deeply that reverence and respect penetrated the heart. Well, my heart, anyway. But in these last few years we have seen – in intense, concentrated, microscopic view – the truth about the law, a truth which too often escaped us in the slow unrolling of peacetime. The truth that there is no law, no Platonic Form out there to which we give paltry representation. There is only power: power in conflict with power, power seeking to drive out power, to establish its dominance, maintain its privilege. Power…acquiesces to law – sometimes – but it never, never bows to it. Power goes along with the law when it is convenient to do so, when it is not too restrictive, when it demands little more than the occasional sacrifice – for the powerful are certainly not above throwing one of their own to the mob when circumstances require. But when it comes to the crisis, power shreds the law like a filthy rag and has its own way. And then you see that the law is nothing but a rag, to be torn and patched and fitted to power's aims. The worst atrocities I have seen or heard of in this war have been committed wholly and completely under the law. This thing I held in such reverence was, is, nothing but a scrap soaked with blood and shit."
This is what the administration of President Barack Obama has brought to open fruition in the United States of America. The debate is over. The question is answered. Facism has come.
"Good corporal, good corporal, don't you know the fate Of all those who speak the hard truth to the State And all who trouble the people's sweet dreams? They're mocked into scorn and torn apart at the seams...."
The howling hypocrisy of the American response to the uprising in Libya has been so jaw-dropping and nauseating that I've hardly been able to address it. Fortunately, Seamus Milne is on the case, and voices much of my thinking about the matter:
The same western leaders who happily armed and did business with the Gaddafi regime until a fortnight ago have now slapped sanctions on the discarded autocrat and blithely referred him to the international criminal court the United States won't recognise.
Yes, does this not, as they say, take the cake ... and the plate and the forks and the napkins too? The United States pushing through a measure to refer Libyan leaders to an international court which the United States resolutely refuses to recognize -- lest its own leaders and their underlings find themselves in the dock for the most monstrous war crimes of this century? Yet even today, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate was sternly wagging his finger at Gaddafi and his underlings, telling them they "will be held accountable" for their actions before the august institutions of international justice, which weigh the whole world in the balance ... except for the Peace prize-winning drone assassin and Continuer-in-Chief of a worldwide campaign of state terror, that is. But now back to Milne:
With Colonel Gaddafi and his loyalists showing every sign of digging in, the likelihood must be of intensified conflict – with all the heightened pretexts that would offer for outside interference, from humanitarian crises to threats to oil supplies.
But any such intervention would risk disaster and be a knife at the heart of the revolutionary process now sweeping the Arab world. Military action is needed, US and British politicians claim, because Gaddafi is "killing his own people". Hundreds have certainly died, but that's hard to take seriously as the principal motivation.
When more than 300 people were killed by Hosni Mubarak's security forces in a couple of weeks, Washington initially called for "restraint on both sides". In Iraq, 50,000 US occupation troops protect a government which last Friday killed 29 peaceful demonstrators demanding reform. In Bahrain, home of the US fifth fleet, the regime has been shooting and gassing protesters with British-supplied equipment for weeks.
The "responsibility to protect" invoked by those demanding intervention in Libya is applied so selectively that the word hypocrisy doesn't do it justice. And the idea that states which are themselves responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands in illegal wars, occupations and interventions in the last decade, along with mass imprisonment without trial, torture and kidnapping, should be authorised by international institutions to prevent killings in other countries is simply preposterous.
One key point Milne makes here deserves underlining: Western military intervention would be "a knife at the heart of the revolutionary process now sweeping the Arab world." But of course, that's exactly what Peace prizeniks and Etonian schoolboys now leading the "Free World" would like to see happen. As Milne notes, the Arab Awakening is threatening some of the West's favorite dictators and tough guys, from the religious extremists in Saudi Arabia to the ever-complaisant corruptocrats in Bahrain to the client brutalists in Iraq and elsewhere.The dullards directing world affairs have been desperately casting about for a way to put the kibosh on the movement - and Libya might give them the opening they've been fumbling for. Milne again:
The reality is that the western powers which have backed authoritarian kleptocrats across the Middle East for decades now face a loss of power in the most strategically sensitive region of the world as a result of the Arab uprisings and the prospect of representative governments. They are evidently determined to appropriate the revolutionary process wherever possible, limiting it to cosmetic change that allows continued control of the region.
In Libya, the disintegration of the regime offers a crucial opening. Even more important, unlike Tunisia and Egypt, it has the strategic prize of the largest oil reserves in Africa. Of course the Gaddafi regime has moved a long way from the days when it took over the country's oil, kicked out foreign bases and funded the African National Congress at a time when the US and Britain branded Nelson Mandela a terrorist. Along with repression, corruption and a failure to deliver to ordinary Libyans, the regime has long since bent the knee to western power, as Tony Blair and his friends were so keen to celebrate, ditching old allies and nuclear ambitions while offering privatised pickings and contracts to western banks, arms and oil corporations such as BP.
Now the prospect of the regime's fall offers the chance for much closer involvement – western intelligence has had its fingers in parts of the Libyan opposition for years – when other states seem in danger of spinning out of the imperial orbit. ... Military intervention wouldn't just be a threat to Libya and its people, but to the ownership of what has been until now an entirely organic, homegrown democratic movement across the region.
Again, that would be -- will be? -- the very point of any type of Western military intervention in Libya: to kill a popular, democratic movement that is at present beyond the control of the imperial militarists along the Potomac. Such an intervention would allow Gaddafi and other tyrants under threat to paint opponents to their rule as "tools of the imperialists," while rallying many who oppose them back to their side, to defend the nation against outsiders. This in turn would help "stabilize" the revolutionary situations -- and the leaders, now safe once more, could then turn back to their cynical backroom deals with the West, and hoarding the blood and toil of their people in the cool vaults of Swiss banks. Hey, it's a win-win situation all around.
Events are in free, chaotic flow right now. The Libyan opposition might be able to oust Gaddafi before President Peacey and Prime Minister Fauntleroy go in with guns blazing. And events elsewhere might suddenly erupt and draw off attention and resources. But we are certainly seeing a creeping militarization in the response to the Libyan uprising -- and behind the exigencies of this crisis, there is the deeper shadow that Milne discerns: the longer-range project to diffuse and destroy the Arab Awakening before it further spreads its genuine threat to the business-as-usual dominance of Western elites.
Here is the deep, dark secret at the heart of the socialistic Commie Red Pinko Conspiracy -- the esoteric doctrine kept hidden by hooded illuminati since time out of mind, revealed at last by Terry Eagelton in the London Review of Books:
Marx, too, was an artist of sorts. It is often forgotten how staggeringly well read he was, and what painstaking labour he invested in the literary style of his works. He was eager, he remarked, to get shot of the ‘economic crap’ of Capital and get down to his big book on Balzac. Marxism is about leisure, not labour. It is a project that should be eagerly supported by all those who dislike having to work. It holds that the most precious activities are those done simply for the hell of it, and that art is in this sense the paradigm of authentic human activity. It also holds that the material resources that would make such a society possible already exist in principle, but are generated in a way that compels the great majority to work as hard as our Neolithic ancestors did. We have thus made astounding progress, and no progress at all.
My god! Time for art, time for leisure, time for aimless noodling around?! Have you heard of such a hellish vision of society in all your born days? No nose to the grindstone, no pickaxe in the salt mine? "Leisure not labour?" Heaven forfend! You see now why our hip-joined bipartisan elites (the double-headed hydra known as Beckobama, or Barakobeck; depends on what faction you favor) are so fierce in their efforts to save us from Commie-ism and force us all to "have some skin in the game" by "sacrificing" little things like entitlements, bargaining rights, benefits, vacations, family life and personal freedoms to keep Wall Street living high on the hog.
Of course, there's nothing new about Marx's deeply buried notion (buried no less assiduously by most Marxists as well). The yearning for idleness -- that is, for a deeper, freer, more human life -- has been a revolutionary idea since the beginning of recorded history. The Babylonians encoded it in their myths about their ruling gods, who staged a heavenly uprising in order to set themselves up on easy street. Which brings to mind a few idle lines quickly scrabbled down in the back of a copy of Gilgamesh a few years ago:
If the gods themselves grew tired of ceaseless labor and rebelled, making the clay things that we are, endowing us with sufficient mind and spirit not only to do their work but also look and yearn beyond, why shouldn't we in our turn overthrow divine order in search of ease, rich pleasures and idleness? Death, you say, will follow; but death is here already, it waits on the good servant and the bad, swallows both, swallows all. Why then blister your hand with the heft of an axe when you might instead lay it gently on some soft flesh?
But for god's sake, don't tell the children that's what it's all about. For who would serve as cannon fodder for plutocratic domination if this radical doctrine ever takes hold?
Distant lives become entangled with our own when for some reason they cross the glowing synaptic web at a fateful moment, and take on emblematic power for inner constellations of need and desire that seek some form beyond their own chaos. And when death's darkness covers them, we might feel some ghostly trembling in that antique web, buried now under so many layers of years and changes, but still embered in the timeless now that saw it created. You might see, as in a dream, some near one's eyes, returned from darkness, for a moment, just a moment, perhaps no longer than the breathing of a song.
Following up from Friday's post on dissent against the American-imposed regime in Iraq, here are some observations from As'ad AbuKhalil on how the reality of the occupied land gets transmuted through the magic seeing stones of the American media into something more rosy and benign:
First, notice that US media, especially the New York Times and Washington Post, cover Iraq with barely a mention that the country is occupied and has been occupied since 2003. Secondly, notice that every article about repression and protests in Iraq has to mention that the country is a "democracy" as if to express amazement at the willingness of Iraqis to protest against it (this is today's NYT: "Unlike protests elsewhere in the region, the crowds in this young, war-torn democracy did not call for an entirely new form of government...").
Secondly, notice that the murder and repression by Iraqi puppet forces are always justified: (in the NYT today it said that people died from "clashes": "Iraq’s “day of rage” on Friday ended with nearly 20 protesters killed in clashes with security forces.").
Thirdly, notice that any protests against the occupation and its puppet forces are instantly conflated with Al-Qa`idah terrorism (this is from today's NYT: "But on Friday, he celebrated the fact that there had been no suicide bombings. Their absence was perhaps a fluke, but it suggested that heavy security restrictions..." I mean, why should they link the protests to suicide bombings? Unless they are implying--like the sectarian puppet, Al-Maliki, that Bin Laden was behind the protests--just like Qadhdhafi has claimed in Libya).
Fourthly, there is no opportunity missed to heap praise on puppet Iraqi repression forces. (Upon learning that some 20 protesters were killed, this is what a US commander has said: "Col. Barry A. Johnson, a spokesman for the United States military, said Iraq’s security forces appeared to respond well to the volatile, sometimes violent, crowds. “The Iraqi forces’ response appeared professional and restrained,” he said in an e-mail.").
Well, at least he didn't suggest that the Iraqi victims shot themselves in order to make Americans look bad, following the logic of the Grand High Poobah of the Militarist Lodge, David Petraeus, with his recent "suggestions" that the grubby little darkies in Afghanistan were burning their own children as a PR stunt.
But really: 20 people mowed down in protests, and this is a "professional and restrained" response? Recall the cries of condemnation that rightly greeted the attack on protestors during the December elections in Belarus. There, government thugs charged unarmed demonstrators and beat them. For this, and for repressions that in no way surpassed anything seen in Iraq daily, Belarus was hit with new sanctions. Yet in Iraq, a corrupt regime shoots down 20 citizens in a blood-and-iron crackdown; and they are praised by the imperial progressives along the Potomac for their restraint.
"We demand the guarantee of collective bargaining for labor. We demand a just, efficient, impartial administration of the National Labor Relations Act. We demand the guarantee of a floor under wages and a ceiling over hours for all who labor, skilled and unskilled, organized and unorganized.
"Likewise, we demand the guarantee of unemployment insurance. We demand social security, old-age pensions, care of the aged, the blind, the sick and dependent children.
"We demand the guarantee of Federal work relief for all those not employed by private industry; but we want a rapid reconstruction of our system of free private enterprise to the end that every American shall have a full share of our good life through the secure tenure of a real American job.
And who is the socialist Muslim Commie radical freeloader making these terroristic demands from our God-given free-market paradise?
It is, of course, the Republican nominee for president in 1940, Wendell Willkie.
Yes, Virginia, back in caveman times, even Republicans felt compelled to speak up for the rights of working people and to demand "guarantees" of a whole web of social benefits -- including the supply of government jobs when the private sector failed to provide full employment.
Today, of course, even "progressive" Democrats are waging all-out class war on workers, the old, the sick, the vulnerable -- on any and all of us who stand outside the tiny golden circle of the rapacious oligarchy and the militarist security/media apparatus that defends it. As Mike Whitney notes in Counterpunch, the public sector workers now being pressed to the wall in Wisconsin (and elsewhere) were some of the most fervent campaigners for Obama -- and this is what he has given them in return:
A bigger war in Afghanistan, a renewal of the Patriot Act, a porno-scanning system at the airports, more blank checks for Wall Street, and a lot of empty posturing about Guantanamo.
And when their pay and pensions and their jobs were on the line, Obama was nowhere to be found. Name one thing that Obama has done for working people? Health care? That fetid trillion dollar giveaway to big pharma? That just doesn't cut it.
Obama has called for a spending freeze on government workers' pay for the next 5 years while renewing the $700 billion Bush tax cuts at the same time. That's a feat that even Reagan couldn't have managed without igniting a revolt in the ranks. But smooth-talking Obama pulled it off without a hitch. In fact, his devotees are more ga-ga over him than ever.
Two weeks ago, Obama wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal promising to reduce "burdensome" regulations for his friends in big finance. He figured that the trillions they'd already been given wasn't quite enough to keep them happy, so he decided he'd find more rules that he could eliminate.
Then he slithered over to the Chamber of Commerce to assure them that he'd do whatever he could to "change the tone" at the White House to help them increase profitability. Just days later, Obama delivered an entirely different message to striking Wisconsin teachers. He told them that everyone would have to "make sacrifices" to make up for state budget shortfalls. Everyone except his rich friends, that is.
Recently, Obama appointed bank tycoon William Daley as his new chief of staff, and GE's "outsourcing" Jeffrey Immelt to lead his new jobs creation program. Then he finished off the month by throwing his support behind the latest labor-crushing free trade bill, this time with South Korea. According to the Oakland Business Journal: "The proposed trade deal with South Korea would cost 159,000 U.S. jobs over seven years and hurt some of the highest paying industries in the U.S., including motor vehicles and parts, electronics equipment and metal products, according to the Economic Policy Institute." Big labor is against the bill. Obama is for it. What a surprise.
This ties back to the Noam Chomsky quote we noted here yesterday: "It is necessary to destroy hope, idealism, solidarity, and concern for the poor and oppressed, to replace these dangerous feelings with self-centered egoism, a pervasive cynicism that holds that [an order of] inequities and oppression is the best that can be achieved."
This is precisely what has happened in the United States in the decades since Wendell Willkie made his declaration -- which of course was not at all radical at the time, but was if anything, standard boilerplate, as mainstream as Mom and apple pie, a reflection of what the vast majority of people expected their government to do. No one needs to sentimentalize the past -- or Wendell Willkie, for that matter -- and pretend that the deep current of imperialist militarism and elite domination that has run like a red thread through American history was not also in heavy operation during that era as well. But at the same time, it's also true that something real and valuable -- a countervailing current of hope, solidarity and concern for the poor and oppressed -- has been lost ... or else buried beneath mountains of the bloodflecked slag of empire and elitism since the days when Republican standardbearers talked this way.
Rhetoric is often empty and meaningless, of course; the current gasbag in the White House gives ample proof of that. But it's not entirely unimportant either. It sets down markers by which the hypocrisy of those in power can be judged; and it can help shape the consciousness, the perceptions and the expectations of individuals in a society. When even the word of compassion is no longer heard, when even the rhetoric of solidarity and fellow-feeling are scorned and demonized, then yes, something real has been lost, and people's society -- and their minds -- have been degraded.
Muammar Gaddafi is not the only Arab tyrant using deadly violence against his people when they speak out against the destitution, repression and corruption that plague their country. In Iraq, the sectarian thugs put into power by American invaders are gunning down citizens in the streets.
The BBC reports that at least five people have shot and killed by security forces so far today, as the corrupt elite tries to keep the Arab Awakening from spilling into the war-ravaged land. But protests against the atrocious living conditions inflicted on most Iraqis by the client lords of the American occupation have broken out across the country.
Maliki, just like Gaddafi, has ordered troops into the streets to shut down the nation's capital city and stifle popular discontent against his rule. And just like Gaddafi, he has blamed "al Qaeda" for organizing protests against his benevolent rule -- without offering any proof at all for his wild assertions. He has, so far, refrained from actually bombing the populace like his Libyan counterpart, but the situation presents a curious contrast in reactions from the poobahs on the Potomac.
Deadly violence against peaceful protestors in other lands has been sternly (if often belatedly) denounced by the Nobel Peace Laureate in the White House and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (who prefers roughing up elderly, silent, non-violent protestors who dare stand up in her presence). But what will our stalwart defenders of freedom and human rights say about the killing of ordinary civilians by security forces in a country controlled by tens of thousands of American soldiers? And will these soldiers be called in to defend "stability" if it looks as if Maliki will go the way with Mubarak?
At least five people have been killed in anti-government protests in Iraq as thousands take to the streets in cities across the country for a "day of rage". Baghdad has been virtually locked down, with the authorities banning traffic in the city centre and deploying several thousand soldiers on the streets. ..
Iraqi army helicopters buzzed overhead, while Humvees and trucks took up posts throughout the square, where a group of about 2,000 flag-waving demonstrators shouted "No to unemployment," and "No to the liar al-Maliki," referring to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The protests stretched from the northern city of Mosul to the southern city of Basra, reflecting the widespread anger many Iraqis feel at the government's seeming inability to improve their lives.
A crowd of angry marchers in the northern city of Hawija, 150 miles north of Baghdad, tried to break into the city's municipal building, said the head of the local city council, Ali Hussein Salih, prompting security forces to open fire killing three people and injuring 15, according to the Hawija police chief, Col. Fattah Yaseen.
In Mosul, hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the provincial council building, demanding jobs and better services, when guards opened fire, according to a police official. A police and hospital official said two protesters were killed and five people wounded. ...
In the south, a crowd of about 4,000 people demonstrated in front of the office of Gov. Sheltagh Aboud al-Mayahi in the port city of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad. ...
... Around 1,000 demonstrators also clashed with police in the western city of Fallujah 40 miles west of Baghdad clashed with authorities, witnesses said. [For more on the glorious American legacy in Fallujah, see this recent piece.]
Justin Raimondo gives an apt description of what America's bipartisan elite have wrought in Iraq: "A sectarian regime dominated by Shi’ite fanatics has been handed power by the US occupiers, and there is no electricity, no regular supply of water, and certainly no "democracy" or anything vaguely resembling it."
And of course, the bitter, horrible irony of it all is that the tide now sweeping long-entrenched dictators from power in the Middle East would almost certainly be carrying off Saddam Hussein as well, if indeed he had not been removed by his own people before now. Hussein, who spent much of his career being aided to power and coddled in power by the American elite -- especially the Bush-Reagan-Rumsfeld wing -- would likely have chosen the Gaddafi exit strategy, with much attendant suffering; but this would have paled, by several orders of magnitude, before the million innocent people slaughtered as a result of the American aggression, the displacement of four million people from their homes, and the wholesale destruction of Iraqi society, once one of the most modern, secular and cosmopolitan in the Middle East, and now a sinkhole of murder, fear, violence and religious extremism.
But the old order of imperial domination, directly and by proxy, is crumbling before our eyes. It may be that the American aggression against Iraq was its high-water mark -- and its fatal overreach. The currents of the world are slipping out of the hands of the elites who believed they could always control them. I don't think people have yet realized the nature and extent of the youthquake we are seeing. There are more young people in the world than ever before, by far; the world belongs to them now, and they are taking hold it and reshaping it in ways no one can foresee. Again and again these days, Bob Dylan's words from almost half a century ago keep ringing in the mind: "Your sons and daughters are beyond your command;/Your old road is rapidly aging./Please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand./O the times they are a-changin'."
It is not just a movement of the young, of course; many generations are adding their wisdom, energy and spirit (and across the Middle East, their bodies as well) to the fight. Here's an old campaigner, John Pilger, offering his perspective on one key aspect of our changing times:
The revolt in the Arab world is not merely against a resident dictator but a worldwide economic tyranny designed by the US Treasury and imposed by the US Agency for International Development, the IMF and World Bank, which have ensured that rich countries like Egypt are reduced to vast sweatshops, with half the population earning less than $2 a day. The people’s triumph in Cairo was the first blow against what Benito Mussolini called corporatism, a word that appears in his definition of fascism.
How did such extremism take hold in the liberal West? "It is necessary to destroy hope, idealism, solidarity, and concern for the poor and oppressed," observed Noam Chomsky a generation ago, "[and] to replace these dangerous feelings with self-centred egoism, a pervasive cynicism that holds that [an order of] inequities and oppression is the best that can be achieved. In fact, a great international propaganda campaign is under way to convince people – particularly young people – that this not only is what they should feel but that it’s what they do feel."
Like the European revolutions of 1848 and the uprising against Stalinism in 1989, the Arab revolt has rejected fear. An insurrection of suppressed ideas, hope and solidarity has begun. In the United States, where 45 per cent of young African-Americans have no jobs and the top hedge fund managers are paid, on average, a billion dollars a year, mass protests against cuts in services and jobs have spread to heartland states like Wisconsin. In Britain, the fastest-growing modern protest movement, UK Uncut, is about to take direct action against tax avoiders and rapacious banks. Something has changed that cannot be unchanged.
As the ancient spirit of defiance against brutal -- and brutalizing -- elites waxes strong once more across the world, I thought the spoken-word piece below might be of some relevance. The depredations of the high and mighty store up great reservoirs of wrath, even in the most cowed and broken souls. And when the levee breaks, who can say what course the flood will follow? How stupid, how evil and stupid, are the masters who believe they can control the forces they unleash with their crimes.
Let them march out to fight the Persians, And we will rise that very night To slaughter everyone remaining: Every Spartan, man and boy, girl and woman, in their beds. Not a house will be left standing, Not a stone unsmeared with blood. A hundred generations of helot pain Will be revenged before the dawn.
Let them march out, take all the army, To meet the mighty Persians. Strip the walls of men, the stockades; Let them, O hot-faced Dis, let them Cloud their minds with haughty visions Of their triumph over Persians. Set them on the road to Susa, Have them preen before their women, Fall in step beside their lovers, Give their sons their weighty counsel, How to comport themselves as Spartans Should their fathers not return.
I too have sons, O mighty Spartans; Some worked to death, some killed by hunters; And daughters, raped and yoked to service. So put on your armor, your great helms, Beat the ground with rhythmic march, Turn your swords against the Persians, That vast sea of Eastern men, And leave us to guard your children, Tend your flocks, work your gardens. You have beaten us like oxen, And we are broken, tamed – believe it. Let every able, worthy man Take the distant field with Athens; Save us, masters, from the Persians, Hear your lowly servants' plea.
March out, march out, you Spartans: The Great King himself has come.
Tens of thousands of ordinary people pour into the streets in a desperate bid to stop yet another vicious assault on their human rights -- and their human dignity -- by an utterly corrupt political system run by callous, greedy elites. The factotums of the system -- the same kind of third-rate lackeys and shriveled-up souls found in the goon squads of governments since time immemorial -- mewl and bawl at the rabble's effrontery: how dare they challenge their "legitimate" rulers!
The goons spew the usual lies about the regrettable necessity of their repressive measures: there is, as always, a great crisis at hand which requires draconian sacrifices -- of liberty, opportunity, living standards -- from the common people. The elite, of course, are immune from such calls -- which is only fitting, for in this case, as in so many others, they have deliberately manufactured the "crisis" in the first place, in order to extend their dominance over society even further. They are deadly serious in this ambition; and thus the goons, despite the tender, paternalistic tones of their pronouncements, make it clear that they will bring in the military if the rabble continues to defy their masters' wishes. In the meantime, they bus in a handful of "supporters" who, despite being vastly outnumbered by the ranks of the protestors, are featured prominently in the reports of the elite-dominated national media.
These stirring scenes of mass dissent are not set in Egypt, Libya or Bahrain, but deep in the heart of the Homeland itself: Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker, one of more indecorous bagmen of the corporate elite, is using a "budget crisis" that he himself created with tax favors for the wealthy in a bid to destroy the collective bargaining rights of working people. The immediate target is the public sector unions, but the ultimate goal is the destruction of the very principle of collective bargaining in every sector, as Craig Unger makes clear at Forbes.com.
Walker's class war blitzkrieg is part of a long-running campaign by the gluttonous Koch Brothers and other bloated multi-billionaires to remove the last, fraying restraints on their total control of society. They disguise their apish lust for dominance in libertarian drag, claiming to stand up for the "individual" against the socialistic "collectivism" of union power. But what they want is a world where isolated, atomized, ordinary individuals can offer no resistance whatsoever to the impositions of the moneyed elite. What single employee could stand alone against the Koch Brothers' billions of dollars in any workplace conflict or salary negotiation? What our elites want -- and what they are increasingly getting -- is a people reduced to helotry, to wage slavery, to feudal dependence on unaccountable, uncontrollable overlords.
While it is indeed heartening to see, at last, even the slightest pushback against America's forced march into peonage, no one should be deceived about the thoroughly bipartisan nature of the feudalization process. Walker -- a third-rate, bought-off Republican hack for billionaire string-pullers -- makes an easy target, and has perhaps been too blatant in going about his sugar daddies' business. But his elite entanglements are dwarfed -- like a molehill to Everest -- by those of the progressive Democrat now in the White House. No president in history -- not George Bush II, not George Bush I, not Richard Nixon -- has been more servile to Big Money than Barack Obama. (Although Bill Clinton -- who greenlighted the regulatory gutting that led to the current economic meltdown -- might run him a close second.)
As Matt Taibbi details in yet another remarkable article on the monumental corruption of the American system, Obama has not only made extraordinary efforts to shield Wall Street's criminal class from the slightest accountability for their vastly destructive atrocities, he has put that same criminal class in charge of his economic policy -- and of his literally laughable regulatory "reforms" as well. As Taibbi notes:
Over drinks at a bar on a dreary, snowy night in Washington this past month, a former Senate investigator laughed as he polished off his beer. "Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail," he said. "That's your whole story right there. Hell, you don't even have to write the rest of it. Just write that."
...Nobody goes to jail. This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world's wealth — and nobody went to jail. Nobody, that is, except Bernie Madoff, a flamboyant and pathological celebrity con artist, whose victims happened to be other rich and famous people. The rest of them, all of them, got off.
...Instead, federal regulators and prosecutors have let the banks and finance companies that tried to burn the world economy to the ground get off with carefully orchestrated settlements — whitewash jobs that involve the firms paying pathetically small fines without even being required to admit wrongdoing. To add insult to injury, the people who actually committed the crimes almost never pay the fines themselves; banks caught defrauding their shareholders often use shareholder money to foot the tab of justice.
... As for President Obama, what is there to be said? Goldman Sachs was his number-one private campaign contributor. He put a Citigroup executive in charge of his economic transition team, and he just named an executive of JP Morgan Chase, the proud owner of $7.7 million in Chase stock, his new chief of staff. "The betrayal that this represents by Obama to everybody is just — we're not ready to believe it," says [Wall Street whistleblower Oliver] Budde, a classmate of the president from their Columbia days. "He's really fucking us over like that? Really? That's really a JP Morgan guy, really?"
Which is not to say that the Obama era has meant an end to law enforcement. On the contrary: In the past few years, the administration has allocated massive amounts of federal resources to catching wrongdoers — of a certain type. Last year, the government deported 393,000 people, at a cost of $5 billion. ... In Ohio last month, a single mother was caught lying about where she lived to put her kids into a better school district; the judge in the case tried to sentence her to 10 days in jail for fraud, declaring that letting her go free would "demean the seriousness" of the offenses.
So there you have it. Illegal immigrants: 393,000. Lying moms: one. Bankers: zero. The math makes sense only because the politics are so obvious. You want to win elections, you bang on the jailable class. You build prisons and fill them with people for selling dime bags and stealing CD players. But for stealing a billion dollars? For fraud that puts a million people into foreclosure? Pass. It's not a crime. Prison is too harsh. Get them to say they're sorry, and move on. Oh, wait — let's not even make them say they're sorry. That's too mean; let's just give them a piece of paper with a government stamp on it, officially clearing them of the need to apologize, and make them pay a fine instead. But don't make them pay it out of their own pockets, and don't ask them to give back the money they stole. In fact, let them profit from their collective crimes, to the tune of a record $135 billion in pay and benefits last year. What's next? Taxpayer-funded massages for every Wall Street executive guilty of fraud?
This is the system -- the "utterly corrupt political system run by callous, greedy elites" -- that produced the egregious assault on our rights and liberties now roiling Wisconsin. And while you will always have factional infighting for the perks of power between various elite cliques, there is a seamless continuum running from the provincial twerp in Madison to the suave global statesman in Washington. They serve the same masters. They seek the same goals. May these first American ripples of the global surge of dissent against corrupt elites grow quickly into a flood.
Our guest blogger this evening is Mr Galileo Galilei:
"In the long run my observations have convinced me that some men, reasoning preposterously, first establish some conclusion in their minds which, either because of its being their own or because of their having received it from some person who has their entire confidence, impresses them so deeply that one finds it impossible ever to get it out of their heads. Such arguments in support of their fixed idea ... gain their instant acceptance and applause. On the other hand whatever is brought forward against it, however ingenious and conclusive, they receive with disdain or with hot rage - if indeed it does not make them ill. Beside themselves with passion, some of them would not be backward even about scheming to suppress and silence their adversaries. I have had some experience of this myself. ... No good can come of dealing with such people, especially to the extent that their company may be not only unpleasant but dangerous."
from Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632)