Lost Horizons: The Degradation of the Democratic Dogma

Written by Chris Floyd 26 February 2011 6943 Hits

From the front lines of the as yet still-fitful upsurging of American dissent, Wisconsin resident Alexey Floyd (of Magnificent Valor fame), sends along this intriguing historical document recently posted at Armagideon Time:

"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.

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Imperial Sunset: Wave of Awakening Hits American Satrapy

Written by Chris Floyd 25 February 2011 8383 Hits

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?

The BBC, the Guardian and the NY Times have more on the country-wide protests in Iraq:

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.

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"The Persians": Soliloquy of the Suffering

Written by Chris Floyd 23 February 2011 6434 Hits

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.

The Persians

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.

 

 

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Mideast Meets Midwest: Joining the Surge Against Corrupt Elites

Written by Chris Floyd 20 February 2011 8626 Hits

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.

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Politics 101:The Sleep of Reason

Written by Chris Floyd 19 February 2011 6436 Hits

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)

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DOWNFALL: The Triumph of the Egyptian People

Written by Chris Floyd 11 February 2011 7211 Hits

Mubarak is gone! Ordinary people took to the streets, in their hundreds of thousands, they stood their ground against state goons and hired thugs, they saw ordinary soldiers and many officers refuse to obey orders to repress them, and they have brought down a 30-year dictatorship supported by the full might of the American imperium.

Many, many things are still in play, many dangers abound, many uncertainties remain -- and many forms of retribution will no doubt be assayed by the powerful elites in both America and Egypt who have been humiliated by this uprising of the "rabble" against their "betters." But it is a great day, a day of rejoicing for all those who believe in the worth and dignity of individual human beings.

The Egyptians stood up, they asserted that worth, they embodied that dignity, and they have set themselves free. Long may they hold on to this liberation -- and long may it serve as an inspiration to everyone beset by the dead hand of elite domination.

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They Got Nothin’: Progressives Turn Palinesque on Egypt

Written by Chris Floyd 11 February 2011 7072 Hits

I know one can never underestimate the impregnable insularity of the American commentariat, but even so, I still find my jaw dropping slightly at the weak, wan, shoulder-shrugging response of some our leading “progressives” toward the world-shaking events in Egypt.

We’re talking about people who consider themselves to be educated, informed individuals: alert, aware, engaged with the world. And as such, they feel able to opine on a broad range of topics: economics, culture, military operations, political campaigns, legislative processes, judicial rulings, infrastructure, transportation, energy, the environment, law enforcement, health care – and, decidedly, foreign policy. Yet when it comes to Egypt, we suddenly see a remarkable reticence to offer any analysis whatsoever. Indeed, there is even a cheerfully admitted cluelessness about the little snippets being offered by our progressive beacons.

Here is Atrios -- who for years has offered us his view on the war in Afghanistan, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the political machinations behind American foreign policy and so on – writing on a day when the Egyptian uprising was reaching a new crescendo, and a 30-year dictatorship in a major U.S. ally was tottering on the brink of the abyss:

On Egypt, I got nothin’.

A shrug of the shoulders, a dopey grin, and that’s it. To be sure, he does offer an explanation for displaying the kind of willful ignorance for which he routinely and rightly flays Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. But the explanation is actually worse than his Gomer Pyle schtick:

There are some subjects I know a few things about and can at least pretend to opine adequately, and there are some subjects I don't know much about but have a reasonable sense of people who do know about that subject and can use them as my filter. On Egypt, I got nothin’.

He got nothin’ on Egypt; nothin’ in his own noggin to say about this world-historical event that could change the nature of global politics. He don’t even got no experts to “filter” events for him and tell him what to think about it. Putting aside this confession of an inability to think for oneself (which, again, seems to apply only to this issue), the Egyptian uprising has been going on for 18 days. In 18 days, an educated, professional progressive commentator could not find even one person anywhere in the world who knows something about the situation in Egypt? Not a single one "to use as a filter"? Nope; he got nothin’.

No one is required to comment on the events in Egypt, of course. But why, if you are an informed, engaged commentator on a wide array of public events, and a purveyor of progressive views aimed at widening the circle of freedom and opportunity for all, would you go out of your way to make a great show of how ignorant you are about this vast upsurge of grassroots liberation – except to imply, perhaps unwittingly, that it’s really not all that important in the grand scheme of things? For as we all know, to most of our progressive champions, the “grand scheme of things” is a painfully constricted little circle centered almost entirely on the partisan squabbles between the two corrupted factions of the corporatist-militarist power structure in Washington.

Even Digby feels compelled to tell us that “I honestly don’t know what to say about Egypt.” You know what to say about UK politics, you know what to say about North Korea, you know what to say about China, you know what to say about Iran, you know what to say about Iraq – but you don’t know what to say about Egypt? Did Egypt fall into a big black hole? Is there some kind of cloaking device over that country that prevents progressives from looking at it and thinking about it? To her credit, Digby does at least bestir herself to find someone she "can use as a filter," and points readers to an analysis of Thursday’s wrenching turn of events. But why this strange shyness about the revolution in Egypt?

I understand that most progressive bloggers see themselves as operatives of the Democratic Party (albeit the eternally disappointed, abused and exploited “left wing” of the party), and thus are absorbed in the factional machinations on the margins of the bipartisan power structure (which never changes its core agenda of elite domination, no matter which gang of gasbags and grafters is in the managerial role). That's their ultimate concern, and their main focus. But it is still shocking to see how self-proclaimed progressives – who are, after all, meant to be devotees of human advancement – have treated the Egyptian uprising as a sideshow, scarcely worth more than an occasional passing glance. Again, what would they say if some talking head on CNN asked Sarah Palin her view on the situation in Egypt, and she replied: “On Egypt, I got nothin’.” Oh, the howls of derisive laughter we would hear about the ig-nor-ray-moose from Alaska! Yet this same moosiness has characterized much of the progressive response to the revolution.

This is admittedly a very, very minor issue, on a day when the Egyptians are surging forward once again with remarkable courage. But I thought it worth noting -- in a passing glance -- the willful, cheerful ignorance and unaccountable reticence being displayed by so many “informed” opinionists when it comes to Egypt.

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Kairos in Cairo: Seizing the Moment of Moral Courage

Written by Chris Floyd 11 February 2011 12284 Hits

I was among the million people who marched through London on February 15, 2003, to protest the imminent invasion of Iraq. I don't think anyone in the crowd thought a single march would stop the Anglo-American coalition from launching a war of aggression, but most felt it was important that the widespread anger and dismay at this murderous course of action be embodied, literally, on the streets, by a broad cross-section of the public.

This was done. And it was not totally unimportant, as an act of bearing witness. But now, years later, the people of Egypt -- especially the young people -- have shown us what a small, feeble act that 2003 march really was, and how we all let thuggish leaders play us for fools. We showed up, we marched, we massed -- then we quietly went home, back to our lives, and let the brutal machinery of aggressive war roll on.

What would have happened had we possessed the courage and commitment that the Egyptians are demonstrating today? What if we, like them, had refused to go home, and had stood our ground, thronged in the center of London, day after day, railing against a regime bent on aggressive war: "the supreme international crime, only different from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of all the others," as Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal put it. (It also added: "To initiate a war of aggression is a crime that no political or economic situation can justify.")

Day after day after day, the Egyptians have withstood the blows of a vicious police state, the savage attacks of paid goons, the strain, exhaustion and deprivation of constant vigil under threat of arrest or death -- and still they are standing there, more and more of them all the time, in a remarkable, near-miraculous display of moral courage that will undoubtedly topple the criminal regime, despite the desperate, clueless delaying tactics that Hosni Mubarak pulled on Thursday night.

But in London on that long-ago day, which now lies behind us across a surging river of blood choked with the bodies of a million innocent dead, we simply melted away in the course of an afternoon. A single day; a few hours; a few speeches -- then nothing. How Blair and Bush and all the militarist apparatchiks must have laughed at that! "Let them have their little march. Who gives a shit? Give them their permits, redirect the traffic for them, let them wave their signs. What does it matter? When it's over, they'll just go home, and we can get on with our business."

But what if we had stayed? By the tens of thousands if not the hundreds of thousands? What if we, like the Egyptians, had gotten in the way of business as usual, and brought more and more pressure to bear on the system, forcing the issue of aggressive war on the public consciousness, unavoidably, day after day -- and by this, as in Egypt, forcing officials of the system to declare where they stood? How badly would the power structure and its functionaries have been shaken? How many of the latter would have been emboldened to begin at least asking questions and demanding more information about the senseless rush to war? How many indeed might have voted "no confidence" in a government so deeply enmeshed in a scheme of deliberate deception aimed to perpetrate mass murder?

Maybe it would not have stopped the war. There's no way of knowing now. But we have seen in Egypt and Tunisia how an explosion of mass moral courage -- and physical courage -- can tear a hole in the zeitgeist and make a space for new realities, for transformations which seemed unthinkable only days before. Such kairotic moments (to borrow Tillich's phrase) are rare, and if they are not seized, the window closes. There we were, a million people in the center of London, of all classes, all races, all creeds, all professions, united against war. Kairos hung heavy in the air, like the invisible pressure before a thunderstorm.

But we turned away. We let it go. The moment passed. "And the war came."

That's why February 15 will remain nothing more than a brief footnote in a long, still-churning saga of atrocity and slaughter, while January 25, the day the Egyptians first took to the streets -- and stayed in the streets -- will be honored for generations as a landmark of human liberation.

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Cry Freedom: Cairo Crowds Shred the Lies of the Power Players

Written by Chris Floyd 09 February 2011 9087 Hits

"The American power structure has been set reeling by something that is simply outside the boundaries of their mental universe: a non-violent, non-sectarian, non-ideological, leaderless revolution by ordinary people."

For a few days, the imperial gang thought they had turned the tide -- and their stenographers in the mainstream media followed suit. The protests in Egypt were running out of gas, we were told; now the power players were coming to the fore, in Washington and Cairo, to take charge of the situation and move things along -- slowly, moderately -- down a path of gradual reform and stability.

Newspapers ran pictures of the "nearly empty" Tahrir Square, sometimes in tandem with pictures of last week's massive crowds. We saw shots of Egyptians "getting back to normal life" -- going to the bank, shopping for shoes, crossing the street in suit, tie and briefcase on the way to the office. Attention was turned to the "moderate" figure who had taken the reins in Cairo, the dictator-appointed security chief Omar Suleiman. He was strongly backed by the Obama Administration as just the kind of steady, moderate hand we needed to make judicious concessions to the opposition without allowing the country to slip beyond the control of Washington's foreign policy agenda. The general line among the imperial courtiers and their media sycophants was that the uprising had reached its peak and was now receding.

It was all a lie, part of the remarkably witless self-delusion that has afflicted the Washington-Cairo power structure from the beginning of the uprising: the illusion that they are still in control of events, that they can tinker a bit here, recalibrate a bit there, and still end up with the same system of elite domination and corruption basically in place.

But what we did see on Tuesday? The false reality painted for us by our betters simply melted away, and Cairo saw perhaps the largest protest yet, as hundreds of thousands of people filled Tahrir Square -- including multitudes who were joining the uprising for the first time. Thousands more were gathering in front of the Parliament building in what the Guardian rightly called "a second front" of the uprising. And the Cairo crowds were joined by thousands massing in Alexandria, Suez and other cities across the nation.

This was the answer of the Egyptian people to the limp package of worthless, stalling "concessions" cobbled together by the Nobel Peace Laureate in Washington and his proxy torturer in Egypt. The reply to the regime was simple, powerful, concise: "We want our freedom. You must go."

And oh, how that stung Washington's new lordling! Suleiman immediately resorted to the same bluster we have heard from America's henchmen since time out of mind. He put it plainly: "There will be no ending of the regime." He railed against the "presence of protestors in Tahrir Square and some satellite stations insulting Egypt and belittling it" -- obviously a reference to al-Jazeera -- and declared: "We can't put up with this for a long time." And he sounded the time-honored "more in sorrow than in anger" note of all two-bit tyrants, saying that he hoped the protests would end because "we don't want to deal with Egyptian society with police tools."

This is pretty rich coming from the man who has been directly in charge of doing just that to Egyptian society for many years. The only way the corrupt regime has kept itself in power is by "dealing with Egyptian society with police tools."

These be your gods, O Progressives! This is the man your champion had championed to "manage" the "transition" in Egypt from the dead hand of a discredited dictator to a backroom string-puller lacquered with a new coat of PR. Of  course, when word of Suleiman's private temper tantrum leaked out, the Obama Administration began to backpedal on the firm support for Suleiman it had shown earlier in the day (which had come complete with a long phone call from Suleiman's long-time friend, Joe Biden). Now, the White House was troubled by these "unhelpful" remarks. Unhelpful indeed -- for they gave the game away too soon. Wrong-footed by this unforeseen outpouring of popular will, Washington has not been able to cobble together a proper storyline to justify a violent crackdown by the regime.

The American power structure has been set reeling by something that is simply outside the boundaries of their mental universe: a non-violent, non-sectarian, non-ideological, leaderless revolution by ordinary people. Our power structuralists know only one thing: violent domination. Since that is what they seek to impose, they believe that anyone who opposes them must seek the same. They cannot conceive of anything different. They don't know how to react to such an incomprehensible event. There's no one to demonize. There are no armed groups to flex their muscles against -- or to make a cynical deal with, if necessary. (Violent dominationists of every stripe have much in common; they know each other's minds, they can often come to terms, if only temporarily -- like Hitler and Stalin, or Reagan and Saddam.) The poltroons on the Potomac are dumbstruck as they look at these crowds of people who have freed themselves, who just walked out into the streets and claimed their human freedom -- on their own, individual by individual, with no "authority", no leader, no armies to "grant" them what is already theirs by their birthright, our birthright, on this our common planet.

It is now past midnight as I write. This has been a great day in Egypt -- a day when truth tore through the lies and made fools of the killers, thieves and torturers trying to impose their cankered will on free people. May we see more such great days ahead -- in Egypt and around the world.

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Torturers R Us: The Continuity Kid Does Cairo

Written by Chris Floyd 07 February 2011 9114 Hits

Below is a piece that never got posted in all the hackfoonery that was going with the site recently. It was written in the first heat of Egypt's uprising, but in some ways, it is even more pertinent today, as the Obama Administration rallies around the suave and vicious torturer they have installed in Cairo, in a desperate attempt to produce the kind of "continuity" of militarist-elitist corruption in Egypt that Barack Obama has achieved so magnificently at home in his takeover from the Bush Regime.

This is when you know a regime is in on the ropes: when its security apparatchiks start the panicked, wholesale destruction of the evidence of their crimes. From the Economist:

I KNEW it was truly over when I came home to find a neighbour in a panic. He had smelled a fire nearby. We traced its source soon enough, after climbing to the roof of my building. Smoke drifted from the garden of the villa next door, where workers had recently been digging a peculiarly deep hole, as if for a swimming pool. In a far corner of the garden stood rows of cardboard boxes spilling over with freshly shredded paper, and next to them a smouldering fire.

More intriguingly, a group of ordinary looking young men sat on the lawn, next to the hole. More boxes surrounded them, and from these the men extracted, one by one, what looked like cassette tapes and compact discs. After carefully smashing each of these with hammers, they tossed them into the pit. Down at its bottom another man shovelled wet cement onto the broken bits of plastic. More boxes kept appearing, and their labours continued all afternoon.

The villa, surrounded by high walls, is always silent. Cars, mostly unobtrusive Fiats and Ladas, slip in and out of its automatic security gates at odd hours, and fluorescent light peeps through shuttered windows late in the night. This happens to be an unmarked branch office of one of the Mubarak regime's top security agencies. It seems that someone had given the order to destroy their records. Whatever secrets were on those tapes and in those papers are now gone forever.

There were of course no such scenes in the leafy suburbs surrounding Washington in the days after Barack Obama's election. Naturally, during the Bush years there had been the judicious destruction of particular pieces of evidence -- tapes of torture sessions, for instance -- that might have proved briefly embarrassing. (And embarrassment was really all that the Bushists had to worry about when they were still in power; they had seen that even the horrors of Abu Ghraib had scarcely troubled the public waters for more than a couple of news cycles.)

But there were no worries at all about the coming of Obama. No need for those involved in the torture of thousands and the custodial killing of dozens of captives to start digging deep holes and sealing their tapes and papers beneath concrete. They knew well how Obama would treat them: like heroes. Indeed, one of his earliest acts was to appear at CIA headquarters and assure the assembled covert operators that they would never be held accountable under the law for their atrocities.

Meanwhile, the Guardian alerts us to a piece in Dissident Voice detailing "The Torture Career of Egypt’s New Vice President: Omar Suleiman and the Rendition to Torture Program." Suleiman was of course Cairo's longtime chief of intelligence -- and as such a willing proxy torturer for the bipartisan ruling elite in Washington. Bear in mind that the administration of the Nobel Peace Laureate worked closely with Suleiman in his intelligence role until his (doubtless temporary) elevation by Mubarak at the weekend. Stephen Soldz reports:

When Suleiman was first announced, Al-jazeera commentators were describing him as a “distinguished” and “respected ” man. It turns out, however, that he is distinguished for, among other things, his central role in Egyptian torture and in the US rendition-to-torture program. Further, he is “respected” by US officials for his cooperation with their torture plans, among other initiatives....Jane Mayer, in The Dark Side, pointed to Suleiman’s role in the rendition program:

Each rendition was authorized at the very top levels of both governments….The long-serving chief of the Egyptian central intelligence agency, Omar Suleiman, negotiated directly with top Agency officials. [Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt] Walker described the Egyptian counterpart, Suleiman, as “very bright, very realistic,” adding that he was cognizant that there was a downside to “some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on. But he was not squeamish, by the way” (pp. 113).

Suleiman wasn’t just the go-to bureaucrat for when the Americans wanted to arrange a little torture. This “urbane and sophisticated man” apparently enjoyed a little rough stuff himself. Shortly after 9/11, Australian citizen, Mamdouh Habib, was captured by Pakistani security forces and, under US pressure, tortured by Pakistanis. He was then rendered (with an Australian diplomats watching) by CIA operatives to Egypt, a not uncommon practice. In Egypt, Habib merited Suleiman’s personal attention. As related by Richard Neville, based on Habib’s memoir:

Habib was interrogated by the country’s Intelligence Director, General Omar Suleiman…. Suleiman took a personal interest in anyone suspected of links with Al Qaeda. As Habib had visited Afghanistan shortly before 9/11, he was under suspicion. Habib was repeatedly zapped with high-voltage electricity, immersed in water up to his nostrils, beaten, his fingers were broken and he was hung from metal hooks.

That treatment wasn’t enough for Suleiman, so:

To loosen Habib’s tongue, Suleiman ordered a guard to murder a gruesomely shackled Turkistan prisoner in front of Habib – and he did, with a vicious karate kick.

After Suleiman’s men extracted Habib’s confession, he was transferred back to US custody, where he eventually was imprisoned at Guantanamo. His “confession” was then used as evidence in his Guantanamo trial.

As I noted early in the Obama administration, the Peace Laureate has been fully on board with this program from the beginning. From June 2009:

But we must give credit where it's due. Obama has wrought some changes in the imperial torture policies, making good on his campaign pledges to restore the American values that were lost or diminished under his odious predecessor. As Alfred McCoy -- the premier historian of the American elite's long, long love affair with torture -- points out, Obama has revived the venerable bipartisan practice of relying on client states to do the bulk of the dirty work for the U.S. security apparat. McCoy writes (at TomDispatch):

If, like me, you've been following America's torture policies not just for the last few years, but for decades, you can't help but experience that eerie feeling of déjà vu these days. With the departure of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney from Washington and the arrival of Barack Obama, it may just be back to the future when it comes to torture policy, a turn away from a dark, do-it-yourself ethos and a return to the outsourcing of torture that went on, with the support of both Democrats and Republicans, in the Cold War years....

Then, on April 16th, President Obama ... released the four Bush-era memos detailing CIA torture, insisting: "Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past." During a visit to CIA headquarters four days later, Obama promised that there would be no prosecutions of Agency employees. "We've made some mistakes," he admitted, but urged Americans simply to "acknowledge them and then move forward." The president's statements were in such blatant defiance of international law that the U.N.'s chief official on torture, Manfred Nowak, reminded him that Washington was actually obliged to investigate possible violations of the Convention Against Torture.

That piece, by the way, was prompted by a story about a then-recent "suicide" at the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp, where the Peace Laureate was force-feeding captives being held in indefinite detention:

The recent, mysterious death of yet another captive in the Guantanamo concentration camp opens yet another door into the blood-caked labyrinth of the American gulag, where despite all the soaring rhetoric about "restoring the rule of law," torture is still very much the order of the day.

Scott Horton at Harper's provides this telling quote from an AP story on the death of Mohammad Ahmed Abdullah Saleh Al Hanashi, which gulag officials have classified as an "apparent suicide":

A Guantanamo Bay detainee who left his cell to meet with military commanders as prisoner representative never returned, and was instead sent to a psychiatric ward where he died five months later, a former detainee recalled…The U.S. military has refused to say how Saleh allegedly killed himself in the closely watched ward. But the former detainee, Binyam Mohamed, said it wasn’t like him to commit suicide. “He was patient and encouraged others to be the same,” Mohamed said. “He never viewed suicide as a means to end his despair.” Even if it was suicide, Mohamed still classifies the death as “murder, or unlawful killing, whichever way you look at it,” saying that the U.S. had caused Saleh to lose hope by locking him up indefinitely without charges.

They took him away, held him under the close supervision in a psychiatric ward -- and yet he still managed to magically kill himself by some as-yet undisclosed method. No doubt the "ongoing investigation" -- by the NCIS guys! just like on TV! -- will eventually manage to concoct an explanation plausible enough to satisfy our ever-incurious political and media elites.

But as Horton notes, Saleh was also a victim of an particularly sadistic form of torture that is still being practiced -- openly, unapologetically -- by the Obama Administration's agents in the Guantanamo concentration camp: force-feeding. Horton writes:

The techniques do not comply with the international standards for actual force-feeding, established in the World Medical Association’s Malta Declaration of 1991. Instead they have a darker and more distressing progeny. From the use of restraint chairs down to the specific brand of commercial diet supplement used by the doctors, the force-feeding techniques now in use at Guantanamo replicate the methods used by the CIA at black sites under Bush. At the black sites, those methods were not part of any medical regime. Instead, they were a part of a carefully designed torture regime, the very same regime that Obama claims to have abolished in his first executive order.


2.
Meanwhile, as Egyptians rise up for freedom, the United States is forcing its puppet satrapy in Afghanistan to violate its own laws -- in order to keep the Peace Laureate's Bactrian gulag going. Clive Stafford Smith has the incredible story in the Guardian. (Yes, the British newspaper. What, you thought it would be leading the CBS Evening News?)

[As] the US looks to hand over responsibility for the prisoners in Parwan prison to the Karzai government ... hey have come face-to-face with an intractable problem: they are holding 1,400 prisoners without trial. Every week, the number grows; it is predicted to rise to 3,200. Some have been there for many years.Dare we allow them to face Afghan justice?

According to the US, few if any of these prisoners would be convicted at a fair trial. They have been detained as a result of intelligence tips – and hearsay is not admissible in court; and there is no forensic evidence that proves them guilty of any crime."Right now," one unnamed, but clearly unnerved, senior American official said this week, "if we turned them over to the Afghans tomorrow, they'd be in a position, under their laws and their constitution, that they may be released."

In other words, the Afghan legal system would respect their legal rights and, if they were not charged with a crime, they would have to be set free. Ten years ago, this would have been seen as a sign of great progress. Had the Taliban recognised the ancient writ of habeas corpus, and insisted on freedom or a fair trial, we would have been both surprised and delighted.Ten years on, we have taught the world a better way. Among the Afghan rules that concern the Americans is the requirement that a suspect be charged within 72 hours of arrest. He must also be granted a speedy trial – generally, within two months. The US also worries that a detainee must be tried in the province where he committed his crime.

Compare these "problems" with the rights ascribed to citizens under the US bill of rights, the paradigm that we once hoped to export to the lawless countries of the third world. The US constitution requires that the suspect be charged within 48 hours, and be allowed a speedy trial. The sixth amendment provides that he has a right to be tried "in the state and district" where the crime occurred.

He then tells of the case of yet another child prisoner of the American gulag:

...Hamidullah, a Pakistani kid who is in Parwan. He was just 14 years old when the Americans detained him, and he appears to be wholly innocent of any crime. After several years in which to gather evidence, his American captors recently conceded that they do not even know how old he is. Yet, they have successfully argued that he should be allowed no legal rights.

US officials will not speculate when a handover will occur, but say that a "detentions decree" from Karzai is a critical prerequisite. In other words, before he will be allowed to assume custody of Hamidullah and hundreds of other prisoners, Karzai must commit to dismantling the Afghan rule of law.

Thus is our civilisation exported to the world.

Do remember these stories the next time you are called upon by some earnest  progressive to come to the aid of Barack Obama in his hour of political need. This is what they are asking you to support. And this is exactly what you will enable if you give that support.

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Back to the Future: Progressives, Repression, and the Echoes of History

Written by Chris Floyd 06 February 2011 9316 Hits

Hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens rise up in protest against a long-entrenched dictatorship backed by the United States. The dictatorial regime warns of chaos and instability if the uprising is not suppressed; otherwise, they say, the country will fall into the hands of America's chief global enemy, the representatives of an extremist ideology that "hates us for our freedoms."

In the White House, the progressive Democratic president gathers with his foreign policy advisers to consider the American reaction. In the end, they opt -- of course -- for "stability." They back the installation of the client nation's intelligence chief -- one of the key perpetrators of the regime's repression -- as the new leader.

The main thing, say the progressive Democratic president's advisers, is to restore order in the short term while pressing the regime to institute some "political reforms" to ease public anger in the long term. This is considered an enlightened, "moderate" course of action.

The result, of course, is the crushing of the popular movement for democracy, and several more years of harsh repression by the regime -- again, with the full backing, economically and militarily, of the bipartisan political establishment in Washington.

Are we speaking of Egypt and Barack Obama in 2011? No; it is the story of Korea and Jimmy Carter, back in 1980. As'ad AbuKhalil points us to the remarkable historical account written in May 2010 by Tim Shorrock. One almost wants to say that the parallels between the two situations are uncanny; then one remembers the numbing sameness of the American power structure's reaction to any situation that might potentially threaten its golden applecart: secure "stability" for the client regime; make scary noises about the Great Enemy (Commies, Islamists, whatever) seizing control; keep grinding on with business as usual for as long as you can. The parallels only seem uncanny because the American elite always, without fail, act in the same dull-witted, brutal way, regardless of which imperial faction happens to be in the managerial slot at any given moment. And so we are bound to see historical correspondences again and again down through the years.

But Shorrock's story is an excellent example of how our good progressives -- even gentle little sunbeams of Jesus like Jimmy Carter -- eagerly carry out the empire's enduring agenda of violent domination once they have climbed to the top of that blood-greased pole. The whole story is worth reading, but below are some key excerpts:

[The late Richard Holbrooke -- a top adviser in the Obama Administration -- played a key role in the Korean crisis. Shorrock's story was written before Holbrooke's death, so I've amended the wording to reflect this.] From Tim Shorrock:

One of the most important documents I obtained in my 15-year quest to unearth the US role in South Korea in 1979 and 1980 were the minutes to a White House meeting that took place on May 22, 1980. At this meeting, the Carter administration made its critical decision to support the South Korean military as it moved to crush the Kwangju Uprising, the largest citizens’ rebellion in the south since the Korean War ended in 1953.

The document, which I first obtained in 1996, is significant for historical reasons. But it’s also important because two of the key players at that meeting were Richard Holbrooke and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Holbrooke, [who was] a perennial favorite in Democratic circles for the coveted job of secretary of state, [was] a high-ranking official in Hillary Clinton’s State Department. Brzezinski, who was Carter’s national security adviser, has won a certain claim to fame in fashionable Washington think-tanks (such as the New America Foundation) for his opposition to the war in Iraq and his biting critique of the Bush/neoconservative school of foreign policy.

In South Korea, however, both men showed an appalling disregard for democracy and human rights. Their actions should not be forgotten – particularly by progressives who like to champion Holbrooke and Brzezinski as men of honor who exemplify the conduct of US foreign policy.


On May 22, 1980, President Jimmy Carter’s national security team gathered at the White House for a high-level meeting on an unprecedented political crisis in South Korea.

The situation was dire. Twelve hours earlier in the city of Kwangju, hundreds of thousands of armed students, industrial workers, taxi drivers, students and citizens had gathered in a downtown plaza to celebrate the liberation of their city from two divisions of Army Special Forces troops who had been sent to quell anti-military protests throughout the country five days earlier.

The demonstrations had been called to denounce military intervention in Korean politics and the May 17 declaration of martial law by a Korean General and intelligence chief, Chun Doo Hwan, who later took power as president and ruled the country for eight years. ... In Kwangju ... students continued to defy the martial law edicts.

On May 18, apparently warned by their commanders that a communist revolution was unfolding in Kwangju that could infect the whole country and inspire North Korea to invade, Chun’s troops began a two-day rampage through the city. In broad daylight, they began beating, bayonetting and shooting anyone who dared to stand up to martial law. Bystanders too were attacked – some of them chased into their homes and killed. Horrified and angered by the actions of the storm troopers, the people of Kwangju – most of them skilled in firearms because of males’ mandatory stints in the army – formed a citizens’ militia and started shooting back. After two days of combat and hand-to-hand fighting in which dozens of people were killed and wounded, Chun’s Special Forces turned tail and pulled out of the city. It was the first armed insurrection in modern South Korean history.

Back in Washington, the events in Kwangju were viewed with fear and loathing. The United States had nearly 40,000 combat troops in South Korea, and these forward-based, nuclear-armed troops were key to the US Cold War strategy of encircling the Soviet Union and China with military bases. Indeed, just months before, Carter had agreed to reverse his 1976 campaign promise to withdraw US troops from Korea after enormous pressure from conservative lawmakers and the Pentagon concerned about upsetting the US military posture towards North Korea and East Asia. Moreover, South Korea was a symbol to US policy makers of an ideal ally that supported the US in unpopular wars like Vietnam; unlike in many countries, anti-Americanism was virtually unknown. In this context, the armed uprising by ordinary citizens with an unknown agenda was a frightening prospect.

..As Holbrooke and the rest of Carter’s national security team gathered at the White House that day, they knew much of the details of what had happened in Kwangju. The few foreign media in the city had managed to transmit stories of the savage brutality inflicted by the Special Forces on the city’s population, especially its youth. Secret cables from the US Embassy in Seoul to the State Department that I later obtained under the Freedom of Information Act confirmed that massacres had indeed taken place and were the primary cause of the uprising. The Defense Intelligence Agency, in other documents I obtained, warned that the Special Forces were fully capable of vicious cruelty and that Chun was secretly planning to seize power.

But none of that seemed to matter: what was important to Carter’s White House was the preservation of US national security interests – not the democratic impulses of a Korean population sick from 18 years of dictatorship. As the citizens of Kwangju waited for a sign of hope, Carter’s team made a fateful decision: to support Chun’s plan to put down the rebellion by force.

The participants in the May 22 meeting, according to the declassified minutes I later obtained from the National Security Council, included the Deputy Secretary of State, Warren Christopher; Holbrooke, assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific; Brzezinski, Carter’s National Security Adviser; CIA director Admiral Stansfield Turner; Donald Gregg, the NSC’s top intelligence official for Asia and a former CIA Station Chief in Seoul; and U.S. Defense Secretary Harold Brown.

This crack foreign policy team quickly came to a consensus. “The first priority is the restoration of order in Kwangju by the Korean authorities with the minimum use of force necessary without laying the seeds for wide disorders later,” the minutes stated. “Once order is restored, it was agreed we must press the Korean government, and the military in particular, to allow a greater degree of political freedom to evolve.” ...  As for the situation in Kwangju, the group decided that “we have counseled moderation, but have not ruled out the use of force, should the Koreans need to employ it to restore order.” If there was “little loss of life” in the recapture of the city, “we can move quietly to apply pressure for more political evolution,” the officials decided. Once the situation was cleared up, the war cabinet agreed, normal economic ties could move forward – including an important $600 million Export-Import Bank loan to South Korea to buy American nuclear power equipment and engineering services.

Within hours of the meeting, the US commander in Korea gave formal approval to the Korean military to remove a division of Korean troops under the US-Korean Joint Command and deploy them to Kwangju. The city and its surrounding towns had already been cut off from all communications by a tight military cordon. Military helicopters began flying over the city urging the Kwangju urban army – which had taken up positions in the provincial capital building in the middle of the city – to surrender. At one point, a Kwangju citizens’ council asked the US ambassador, William Gleysteen, to intervene seek a negotiated truce; but the request was coldly rejected.

In the early morning of May 27, the Korean troops from the Joint Command shot their way into the provincial capital and quickly put an end to the resistance. The Kwangju Commune was shut down, and hundreds of people who had participated were rounded up and imprisoned. In early June, Carter’s team approved the Eximbank loan, and South Korea went ahead with its plan to buy US nuclear technology – a deal that went right into the pockets of Westinghouse and Bechtel corporations. By September 1980, Chun was president, and in January 1981 he was chosen by incoming President Reagan as the first foreign head of state to visit the White House. US-Korean ties were restored, and a crisis averted. But not for the people of South Korea. Partly because of the decisions made at that White House meeting, they endured eight more years of authoritarian rule.

...I asked Holbrooke once about his role in US diplomacy at the time, particularly the decision to allow the Korean military to use force to end the Kwangju Uprising. In a story that appeared in The Nation, he said this: “Kwangju was an explosively dangerous situation, the outcome was tragic, but the long-term results for Korea are democracy and economic stability". He added: “The idea that we would actively conspire with the Korean generals in a massacre of students is, frankly, bizarre; it’s obscene and counter to every political value we articulated.” When the Carter Administration heard Chun was sending Special Forces to Kwangju, “we made every effort to stop what was happening,” Holbrooke said.

That was a flat-out lie, as my documents attest. In fact, as I wrote in The Nation and the Journal of Commerce, Holbrooke took it upon himself to prevent the democratic Korean opposition from speaking out against military intervention, and then kept his mouth firmly shut when the Kwangju disaster struck. Later, after leaving the Clinton administration, Holbrooke went on to make a small fortune advising large corporations – including South Korea’s Hyundai Group.

Same as it ever was, as the saying goes. With hand on heart, the American elite profess their undying dedication to democracy and self-determination for all peoples; with the other hand, buried deep in their pockets, they jingle the blood-soaked coins they receive for serving the agenda of domination.

UPDATE: Speaking of the American elite's enduring agenda of war profiteering with repressive regimes, Pratap Chatterjee gives us a telling report on the highly profitable alliance between the American and Egyptian military-industrial complexes.

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