The Damned Man: Blair Scorched by Chilcot Report

Written by Chris Floyd 06 July 2016 11284 Hits

Surprised -- but glad -- to see how scathing the Chilcot Report turned out to be. It’s not a criminal indictment, but already, just the bullet points from Chilcot's press conference are highly damning of Blair as a leader: rushing headlong into a totally unnecessary war, with very dubious legal backing, ignoring reports on the likely consequences of the invasion, bowing to belligerent US wishes at every turn, showing incredible disregard for the soldiers he was sending in to occupy a country (and for the innocent civilians of that country, who, Chilcot notes, died in vast numbers) and knowingly exaggerating murky intelligence to justify the unnecessary campaign. All of these points are now thoroughly established and can’t be disputed, whatever else one might say about Blair's motives or moral turpitude or criminal responsibility. It has been confirmed -- by the British establishment itself -- that Blair led the country into an unmitigated disaster that has destabilized the world and led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. What a nightmare. What an endless nightmare.

And as the Chilcot Report is released, let's remember how the Baath Party, and Saddam's particular faction, came to power in Iraq in the first place: with not one but two coups backed by the White House and assisted by the CIA, which provided the plotters with hit lists of "suspected Communists and leftists" for mass execution, as Roger Morris reported long ago, just before the invasion -- in the New York Times.

Also good to remember that George H.W. Bush (now regarded as the "good George Bush") happily pushed weapons, money, intel and WMD material to Saddam even when the US government knew he was using chemical weapons. It was only when he got into a tussle with the Kuwaiti royals -- long-time business partners of oilman GWH Bush -- that he suddenly became the "new Hitler" and Iraq was subjected to 25 years (and counting) of war, sanctions, terror and chaos that has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people (if not more; US Sec of State Albright admitted that US/UK sanctions alone were responsible for the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children by the late 1990s). The US/UK record in Iraq -- morally horrific, murderously cynical, shameful beyond measure -- goes back many decades and is thoroughly bipartisan. GW Bush and Tony Blair should pay for their contribution to this record (although of course they won't); but their war of aggression is only one chapter in this long, sickening history.

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13 Ways of Looking at the Deep State

Written by Chris Floyd 04 July 2016 10784 Hits

Deep State is a Terror State, Torture State,
Tyrant State — and it’s OK with that.

Deep State was formed to bodyguard elites,
keeping their dominance ever-refreshed.

Deep State doesn’t care what you advocate,
just as long as you toe the unsaid line.

Deep State is cold, lacks true affect;
hates only that which hinders it.

Deep State fences the range of opinion
like a cattle baron stringing barbed wire.

Deep State loves culture war, stokes all sides,
thrives on strife, the bitterer the better.

Deep State is not in full control; it just
knows which way it wants the world to roll.

Deep State kills the leaders it doesn’t like;
a lesson our leaders learned long ago.
 
Deep State doesn’t care if a whistle’s blown;
it already holds the reins of ‘reform.’

Deep State enjoys the horse-race hoopla,
voters vexed by the vetted and the duped.

Deep State’s wars have no other aim
than to keep our masters’ coffers in coin.

Deep State doesn’t mind blowing up the world,
if the world won’t do what Deep State wants.

Deep State is Red, Deep State is Blue;
Deep State don’t give a damn for you.

©2016 by Chris Floyd

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No Flag Memes for Baghdad, No Hope for Terror War Respite

Written by Chris Floyd 03 July 2016 11579 Hits

JeSuisBaghdad? Iraqi flag colors on the Eiffel Tower, the White House? No? Wrong sort of victims, I guess. The responsibility for Sunday’s carnage in Baghdad — and countless other killings around the world — goes directly to George W. Bush and Tony Blair, who willingly, even eagerly, launched a war of aggression on false evidence and tore the entire region apart. ISIS was spawned in the brutal prisons Bush & Blair set up after the invasion, and has thrived in the chaos that US/UK policies have fomented in all the years since, particularly in Libya and Syria. But these two men walk free, honored and enriched, while thousands upon thousands of innocent people continue to die for their ignorant, arrogant, murderous folly.

And there is no end in sight. Both presidential candidates have proudly proclaimed they will double down on the evil idiocy of the War on Terror; Trump promises indiscriminate bombing and whole new levels of torture, while Hillary — gathering Dick Cheney’s old neocons around her — is bent on policies that will not only exacerbate chaos and Islamist terror, but will also bring us to the brink of war (if not beyond) with Russia and China.

In Britain, the Brexit vote has shaken the political foundations of the nation, bringing new people to the fore — but none of them will change a single jota of the UK’s slavish kowtowing to Washington’s Terror War, nor the British establishment’s never-ending attempts to act like an imperial power. Only one leader opposes these policies — Jeremy Corbyn — but he is facing an almost certain overthrow, or else a split of the party into ineffectual factions, in a rebellion organized by the adherents of the war criminal Tony Blair.

So on the most important matter driving the madness and misery of the world today — the insane, never-ending, hydra-headed, multi-directional, all-corrupting Terror War — nothing is going to change. Brexit or no Brexit, Trump or no Trump, the blood and fire will continue to flow.

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Love and Desire: The Truest Resistance to Terror and Power

Written by Chris Floyd 13 June 2016 13151 Hits

The victims in Orlando were killed because of who they loved, who they desired, and for no other reason. The massacre was not “an attack on our country.” It was a savage hate crime against gay people by a known homophobe (and aspiring policeman) trained in the use of weapons by the world’s largest corporate security firm. Although like so many “lone wolf” terrorists (and would-be terrorists), the Orlando killer was “on the FBI’s radar,” we don’t yet know — and may never know — if he, like many of his predecessors, had been encouraged and enabled by the FBI to pursue a terrorist action. But that he was driven primarily by hatred of homosexuality seems certain.

We are told that at one point in his shooting spree, Omar Mateen phoned emergency services and pledged his allegiance to ISIS. This may be so. In any case, one can accept that he made such a call and such a pledge, having apparently undergone some a recent ‘radicalization’ that no one had noticed before, which led him to follow ISIS’s well-known suggestion that any Muslim carrying out a violent act should feel free to do so in their name, even if they have no connection to the organization. (And as expected, ISIS, after some delay, has now claimed ownership of the attack.) But this does not automatically turn the crime into a case of “international terrorism”; it simply adds a provocative patina to the long-held personal hatred of homosexuals that Mateen had clearly exhibited over the years. By all indications, the crime remains, at its core, an act of individual violence against LGBT people — not in order to advance the establishment of an Islamist caliphate in some way, but solely to express an overwhelming hatred against a group of people on account of their sexual preference. This is the classic definition of a hate crime.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that there are mighty efforts underway to force the narrative squarely into the “Terror War” paradigm, much as the case in San Bernadino, where what looked to be in many ways an “ordinary” workplace dispute (“ordinary” because workplace killings are so frequent in America today that many of them don’t even make the news) was also turned into a raging red flag for the Terror Warriors. In the latest killing, we have already seen the predictable demonizing of 1.6 billion people for the act of one man. We have seen the incredibly variegated shadings and understandings of a global religion reduced to a single, sinister monolithic mass. We have seen the propaganda bull-roarer of “ISIS” used as if that organization sprang full-blown from the stones of the earth, instead of being incubated in the American prisons of occupied Iraq after a war of aggression that left a million innocent people dead. We have seen this horrific incident in Orlando— this shattering human tragedy cutting a swath through so many actual, real lives — sucked up into the airless, dehumanizing Terror War echo chamber, where it will be drained of all meaning and converted into rhetorical firewood for the partisan furnaces of our imperial factions, with both sides bent on war and domination, regardless of the cost to their own people and others.

There is no hope that this latest incident will stop or even slow the the death spiral of the Terror War, as it circles round and round and down and down in an ever-widening gyre. There is every indication that it will make things worse, that the war-profiteers and the fear-profiteers and the power-grabbers will wring every bit of poison from it that they can to fuel the War Machine and the Domination Agenda. For we should not forget where the Terror War comes from, where ISIS comes from, where al Qaeda comes from, where the machinery of “radicalization” comes from: as I wrote after the Paris attacks, it comes directly from the decades-long policies of Western nations, particularly the US, to deliberately torment, encourage, enable and empower religious extremism in order to undermine secular opposition to American dominion over the world’s economy, politics and natural resources. (For more detail on that sordid history, see this piece by Ben Norton. For more on the more recent consequences of these policies — particularly their relevance to the upcoming election, do yourself a favor and get a copy of Diane Johnstone’s Queen of Chaos.)

But see how powerful and prevalent the Terror War paradigm is, how it informs — and deforms — all our discourse today: even my attempt here to delineate how the Orlando massacre falls outside that paradigm has been sucked into it. But this is hard, perhaps impossible, to avoid: the Terror War — and the Dominationist agenda behind it — has now become our national life, the American way of being in the world. To speak of American policy and society means you cannot escape the Terror War, because it pervades everything, especially in politics.

(Which is one reason why Bernie Sanders’ ‘revolution’ was doomed from the start: you will never be able to enact any far-reaching reforms on the domestic front unless you dismantle the War Machine that looms over our whole society like a mushroom cloud, devouring precious resources, destroying lives, distorting our political and economic infrastructure beyond all sustainability, and sickening our society with the poisonous radiation of imperialism and authoritarianism.)

The man who committed the atrocity in Orlando happened to be a Muslim; but there are also Christians actively working to kill vast numbers of homosexuals “legally,” spearheading efforts in Africa to pass laws making homosexuality a capital crime. If these laws take hold, these politically-connected American Christians will be responsible for far more deaths, for many more years, than Mateen managed to cause in a single night. Yet there has not been any universal condemnation of all Christians, of Christianity itself, because of this, or any other hate crime or act of terrorism that has been committed by people calling themselves Christians. (Including the millions of people killed by the state terror perpetrated and/or abetted by America’s leaders, all of whom have claimed to be Christians). The increasingly virulent and violent homophobia in Russia is likewise being driven by a supposed adherence to Orthodox Christianity.

The tragedy in Orlando is a nightmare collision of homophobia and Islamophobia. As we can see in the crocodile tears of people like Mike Huckabee, at the moment Islamophobia is in the ascendant. Huckabee claims to be saddened by the violent, sudden death of homosexuals in Orlando; yet he believes, fervently believes, that homosexuals should burn in anguish for all eternity. In his mind, every one of the victims — killed in the midst of their sin, drinking and dancing and lusting — are right now, this minute, howling in hellfire. Because of who they loved, who they desired, and for no other reason.

Among the “peoples of the Abrahamic faiths” — and among all those who seek to control and dominate others for power and profit — there is nothing more disturbing, more enraging, more frightening than human love and desire. It dissolves barriers, tears down walls, disobeys laws, is fluid, flowing, uncontrollable. For that reason, we should honor it and support it, now more than ever. It is a form of true dissent, a true — perhaps the truest — expression of resistance against all the forces that seek to extinguish the human spirit.

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Tangled Up in Trump

Written by Chris Floyd 05 June 2016 12808 Hits

My latest column from the CounterPunch print magazine: The tangled tropes of Trump are many and various. Most have at least a tincture of veracity in them — although the phenomenon of his candidacy is so vast and gaseous it’s not surprising that some discharge from it would fall, like mist, or a wet clump of coagulate matter, on scattered bits of the truth here and there.

One trope says we’ve been here before, with the political triumph of a gleefully ignorant, blustering, bigoted faux populist made famous by show biz: Ronald Reagan. Although he was more closely handled, Reagan’s off-hand idiocies and nasty nativism were very much in the Trumpian vein. Then there’s Dubya Bush, a certified chowderhead riding to power spouting gooberish nonsense and simplistic slogans while, like Reagan, acting as cover for a rapacious agenda of corporatism and militarism. In this view, Trump is just one more in an inglorious line of dimbulb hucksters whose success confirms, yet again, H.L. Mencken’s bleak view of the knuckle-dragging American electorate, whose intelligence can never be underestimated. (Or even misunderestimated.)

Another view sees Trump as a welcome — if inadvertent — heightener of contradictions, exposing the unsustainable hypocrisies of the system and bringing the rancid impostume of our militarized hyper-capitalism to the bursting point. The poisons that ooze from this opened carbuncle — the racism, aggression, nativism, hatred and vulgarity that pour from Trump’s mouth in a gangrenous stream — will provoke a movement that will — eventually, after much struggle and suffering — cleanse the body politic at last. (“The worse, the better” is a stance with a long history in political warfare; Lenin was an adept of the principle, as are the Senate Republicans.)

Others take heart from some of Trump’s sporadic sputterings that seem to echo fragments of a Ron Paul-like desire to rein in the bipartisan imperial project. They point to the fact that Trump declared — in a GOP debate, no less — that Dubya and his cronies should be put on trial for the Iraq War: something no other figure in either major party has ever done. He has also made noises about a more rational policy toward Russia (as opposed to the endless provocations and Cold War chest-beating of the Peace Prize Prez). He even once mentioned in a speech that we should take cognizance of the millions of foreigners who’ve been killed in the War on Terror: again, something that no other Dem/GOP politician has ever dared mention. (Not even Bernie Sanders, whose “radical” stance is that the Saudis should take over some of the killing for us.) Such statements have been seized upon by some who hope that a Trump presidency will break the bipartisan consensus on America’s deadly and sinister foreign policy.

Other tropes view Trump as an unprecedented catastrophe for American politics, a fascist (or fascist-like) figure whose like has never been seen before in our Republic. Or as the undertaker of the Republican Party, which, some savants say, will now go the way of the Whigs. Still others see Trump as a lightning rod for the disaffections of the white working and middle classes whose security and prosperity have been destroyed by globalization and corporate greed; Trump provides them with racist and xenophobic scapegoats for their suffering, while obscuring the true culprits: he and his fellow gorgers in the financial elite (and the politicians whom, he freely admits, the elite buy with their contributions).

This hardly exhausts the meanings that have been attached to Trump’s ascendancy. And as noted, there’s some truth in most of them. (Although I do think the reports of the GOP’s death are greatly exaggerated.) We have had shallow fools in charge of the country before. It is true that the irreconcilable contradictions of the system are coming to a head. Trump has uttered some truths about U.S. imperialism that we never hear from our politicians. He is more openly like a quasi-fascist authoritarian than we’ve seen before. He is tapping into the justified frustrations of millions of Americans at the depredations of the bipartisan neoliberal project.

But almost all of these tropes have been contradicted by Trump himself. Yes, he occasionally critiques American imperialism — then makes bellicose statements about augmenting it, including the possibility of using nukes in the Middle East. (To be fair, he stole that from Hillary’s 2008 campaign). Yes, he speaks to working class loss — then touts economic policies that will exacerbate it, such as lifting the few remaining feeble restraints on Wall Street. Yes, he talks of breaking the militaristic foreign policy paradigm — then promises to put the military in charge of foreign policy, expand the use of torture, “go after” the families of terrorist suspects, and so on.

Despite some garish trappings — such as the continual disgorgement of his id on Twitter — if Trump attains the White House, he will no doubt perpetuate the current system in its essential form. As will Clinton, of course; indeed, that perpetuation is the raison d’être of her whole campaign. In either case, the Deep State — that unfathomably vast network of contracts and covert ops, surveillance and subversion, corruption and corporatism that constitutes the genuine substance of the American government — will carry on.

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Terror War and Trumpery Take US into Terra Incognita

Written by Chris Floyd 02 June 2016 12538 Hits

Another day, another Trump delegate calling for the violent overthrow of the government.  This sort of thing used to be frowned upon, I believe, but now is simply par for the political course. The odd thing, of course, is that if Obama wasn't black, he would be a conservative's dream. He's opened up more offshore drilling than Bush, expanded fracking, deported more people than any president in history, killed thousands of Muslims (and is currently bombing seven Muslim countries), raised military budgets, cut federal taxes to their lowest levels in 60 years, cut social programs, spent almost 8 years trying to strike a "grand bargain" with Republicans to cut Social Security and Medicare (until this week when, in his last months in office, he's suddenly decided we should increase Social Security), worked hard to derail public healthcare in favor of a program drawn up by a conservative think-tank and first used by a Republican governor, put troops on the Russian border, beefed up US military presence in Asia to threaten China, supported right-wing coups in Latin America, gave Wall Street trillions of dollars in bailouts and credits, refused to prosecute any CIA officials for torture (despite admitting "we tortured some folks"), jailed more whistleblowers than any other president, pushed fanatically pro-business trade treaties, and so on.

Yet there is a mass delusion (carefully and methodically stoked by powerful interests) that he is some kind of socialist peacenik "surrendering to terrorists" and giving away "free stuff" to the lazy poor (when in fact the poor and the middle class are sinking, while the rich have never been richer), etc. Now Trump is deliberately drawing the most frenzied and violent of these delusionals into the center of American politics. The "respectable" bi-partisan establishment has already loosed many demons with its "Terror War" (torture, aggressive war, drones, assassination squads, covert ops, mass surveillance, etc.); now Trump is drawing even more evil from the depths. America has drifted deep into terra incognita -- and "here be dragons".

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Twilight of the Grifter: Bill Clinton’s Fading Powers

Written by Chris Floyd 19 May 2016 15379 Hits

In the warm twilight of a spring evening 15 years ago, in the quiet, green garden of Rhodes House at Oxford, I watched Bill Clinton give an impromptu talk to a group of graduate students who had gathered around him with their glasses of wine after an official function earlier in the day. (I was there in a service capacity.) He was pushing the same line he espoused last week while campaigning for Hillary, when he declared that he had “killed himself” to get a state for the Palestinians at the high-stakes Camp David summit in 2000. At one point in the twilight talk at Oxford, he quoted — or claimed to quote — Yasser Arafat as testimony to his altruistic efforts: “Arafat told me, ‘Mr President, you have done more for the Palestinian people than all the Arab leaders combined!’” Sadly, the pressures those short-sighted Arabs brought to bear on Bill’s friend Yasser thwarted Clinton’s painstaking and heroic labors on the Palestinians’ behalf, and the summit failed.

I admit, Clinton is (or was) good at this kind of thing. He held the group in the palm of his hand, speaking with an engaged — and engaging — passion, direct and personal, without soaring rhetoric or the practiced glibness of the professional politician. It was interesting to see this phenomenon up close. In the immediate spell of his performance, you hardly noticed the great hubris and arrogance in what he actually said: that he alone had almost brought peace to the Middle East, that he loved the Palestinians more than the Arabs themselves did, that no one could have done more than he did to resolve the situation — all the while reducing Arafat to the role of a servile coolie, who humbly attests to the Master’s greatness and nobility.

And even though I knew at the time there was hardly a word of truth in what he said (as this story, unearthed by Spencer Thayer, makes clear), I could still feel the tidal pull of his charisma, the temptation to let go and believe in the portrait, the fantasy, he was painting. Indeed, I think Clinton himself probably believed it, at least in the moment of its telling — which is course the hallmark, the supreme talent, of a master grifter.

Of course, that was long ago. Watching Clinton today on the campaign trail for Hillary, it seems clear that his charisma has severely decayed, perhaps rotted by the years of money-grubbing with oligarchs and despots. Or maybe it's just the natural fading that comes with age and disuse. (When I saw him, he was only a few weeks out of his presidency, still at the top of his game with the skills he’d honed during decades of continual politicking.) Now he seems brittle, rattled and scattered; he can summon the spirits, in a wan attempt to paint over the truth — but they no longer come when he calls.

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Slumber Party: Americans Close Their Eyes to the Nation's Crimes

Written by Chris Floyd 17 May 2016 12773 Hits

Baghdad attacks: At least 69 killed in suicide attacks and car bombings in Iraq capital. JeSuisBaghdad hashtags? Iraqi flag colors on Facebook statuses? World leaders rushing to the scene to show solidarity? No? No. It's just another day for the Iraqis, living in the open range for violent extremism created by our invasion (on false pretenses) and our other interventions in the region. These victims of terrorism don't count because: a) they're Muslims, so nobody cares; b) the truth that Muslims are the primary victims of Islamic terrorism upsets the wildly popular notion that all Muslims are terrorists; c) acknowledging the actual consequences of what we have done in Iraq would make it hard for Americans to go to bed at night believing they're God's little sunbeams in the world's bestest nation that's never done anything wrong. And we can't have that. Far better that multitudes of innocent people die for our crimes, just as long as nothing disturbs our self-righteous slumber.

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Protection Racket: Why Our Leaders Shield Torturers

Written by Chris Floyd 16 May 2016 11875 Hits

Here’s a headline for you: “GOP Senator Wants to Make Sure the Full CIA Torture Report Never Sees the Light of Day.” And why does he want to do that? Because our sexually anxious overlords get off on torture. It makes them hard. It makes them feel tough. It makes them forget what cringing, servile ass-kissers they’ve had to be — for years on end — in order to slither and slime their way to the top.  That’s it. That’s all of it. All the other ‘reasons’ they adduce for protecting the practice — and practitioners — of torture are just bullshit. They love it because they are weak, sick, damaged wretches dead to their own humanity.

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