Life of Brian: The Unbearable Lightness of American Being

Written by Chris Floyd 08 February 2015 2506 Hits

One thing I always wonder about: when did the people who consider themselves hip start to worry about what the hell was on television? When did they begin to write long, earnest disquisitions about the box set of some TV show? When did they start to dig deep into the philosophical and sociocultural implications of what a TV news anchor — a professional liar by trade — says about himself …. or anything?

I guess I’m too old to understand. I’m not pretending I hung around with Ginsberg and Burroughs or anything, but I do remember very well a time when anyone who thought of themselves as anti-establishment — even to the slightest degree, even while they worked in an office or in a factory or anywhere else to get a paycheck to keep body and soul together — would not have even known what television series was playing or what anchorman was spewing conventional wisdom on network, corporate-owned TV. And, more to the point, they would not have even cared about such things, or expected to find any kind of meaning or insight there.

Yet it seems today that 95 percent of the so-called ‘dissident’ or ‘counter-cultural’ media spends 95 percent of its time discussing the deep political/social/cultural ramifications of Game of Thrones or Girls or The Wire or whatever. There are also yards — acres — square miles — of print and pixels given over to the latest scandal or stance or political leaning of whatever witless, vapid talking head happens to be fronting this or that corporate-sponsored news show.

The latest, of course, is the bullshit about Brian Williams. Oh, what does this say about our media, our culture, etc., etc.? It doesn’t say anything. It says that Williams, like every other person in our ridiculous and pathetic public life, gilds the lily whenever he can to make himself look good. So fucking what? Is there anyone with half or even a quarter of a brain who has ever, for a single moment of their lives, given one iota of thought or concern to Brian Williams and his “integrity”? What could that possibly matter to anyone even marginally concerned with reality?

For god’s sake, Ronald Reagan spent decades — decades — telling the most bald-faced lies about “liberating” Nazi death camps during WWII, when in actuality he spent the entire war parked on his well-paid, comfortable ass in Hollywood. And what happened to him? He became president of the whole freaking United States for eight years, and is now regarded as such an icon of moral virtue that thousands of people spend their days trying to make sure that every state and every county in the Union has some kind of facility or statue or dog pound named after him.

Again, it’s probably because I’m too old. It’s probably because I grew up in a time when anyone associated with national power structures and elites were considered sinister jokes and ludicrous non-entities, worthless suits of clothes, who should be resisted, yes — but who should never, ever be taken seriously. Yet today — OK, let us, like the New York Times, sit on the ground and tell sad stories of the hiatuses taken by warmongering, military-worshipping, bullshit-peddling NBC anchormen.

Jesus Christ Almighty, what a country. What a culture.

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Waltzing To Armageddon: The West's Dance With Death in Ukraine

Written by Chris Floyd 06 February 2015 2774 Hits

Last week, the Obama Administration announced it is sending troops to Ukraine to "train" the Ukrainian National Guard. The folly of this move -- which, as later stories showed, is only the beginning of a much larger U.S. military involvement in Ukraine -- is so astounding and appalling as to defy comprehension.

What it amounts to, in essence, is deliberately provoking a crisis that will bring the world closer to a nuclear war than it has been since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, all for the sake of a territorial and political dispute in one corner of Ukraine.  In following this insane policy, Obama is backed by the full weight of the entire bipartisan political establishment -- and by the media establishment, which is eagerly pushing a maniacal anti-Russianism unseen since the McCarthy era.

Nowhere is the latter more true than among many "progressive" writers -- people who easily saw the catastrophic danger of the push to war with Iraq, but are now championing an identical advance to an unnecessary war. Whereas before they rightly resisted the primitive "humanitarian intervention" argument that "Saddam is bad, therefore the war is good" -- even it is carried out by a transparently rapacious imperial system which had already killed, by its own admission, more than half a million Iraqi children through years of murderous, senseless sanctions -- now they swallow that specious argument whole: "Putin is bad, ergo we must now trust that same transparently rapacious imperial system to pursue the same policies and propaganda and demonization against Putin and Russia that it did against Saddam and Iraq -- but this time, everything will turn out fine! This time, we'll be the good guys! This time, we'll be on the right side of history!"

In many cases, the demonization of Putin seems to surpass that of Saddam. For our new-style Liberal war hawks, it is not enough that Putin is ruthless, authoritarian and heedless of law and morality in his exercise of power; he must be an inhuman monster, a "psychopath," mentally unstable, impossible to deal with in any rational manner, fit only to be gotten rid of, like a rabid dog.  Yet in being ruthless, authoritarian, heedless of law and morality, Putin is exactly like his counterparts in the West -- especially the "leader of the free world" who meets with his security bosses every single week and ticks off names on a list of people to be assassinated without mercy, outside all legal process. Putin's regime also assassinates arbitrarily designated enemies, but on a scale and with a frequency that is several orders of magnitude below that of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate in the White House.

But wait; Putin is notoriously corrupt, right, running the country for the benefit of a few well-connected oligarchs? That's bad! Yes, he is, and yes, it is. But even the Kremlin's epic corruption can hardly match that of Washington, which has given $14 trillion in bailouts and "guarantees" to the few well-connected oligarchs who run Wall Street. Trillions more have gone to the war profiteers who have benefited from the gargantuan corruption in the War on Terror's military operations. Likewise, Putin's repressive domestic regime finds strong echoes in America's militarized police forces, who routinely -- almost every week -- kill innocent people without any consequences. The Kremlin stifles dissent, cracks down any protest not specifically authorized by law; this is shocking, but -- where are America's "Occupy" encampments today? What happened to them? Where are the mass, permit-less protests, like those which evoked such furious repression in Russia? They don't exist in America either; protest is limited to specially designated, heavily policed "free speech zones." Anyone straying outside these strict limits risks a bashed head and a spell in stir.

None of these parallels excuse atrocious behavior on either side. The fact that the United States government has killed hundreds of thousands more innocent people than the Russian government has in the last 12 years does not make Putin a moral exemplar, or make him any less culpable for crimes carried out by his regime. But it does mean that all those who declare that Putin is a "psychopath" who cannot be reasoned with and who can only be resisted by military force must also apply those same epithets and approaches to the leaders of the West, especially the United States. But I see nothing of that among the liberal demonizers. At most, you might see a criticism or two of Obama, offered more in sorrow than in anger, and always mitigated with anecdotes about some cool thing he did, or some cool dig he made at the nasty Republicans -- who are, of course, entirely to blame for any bad thing that Obama might have been "forced" to do. (Oh, that awful Ted Cruz, breaking into the Oval Office every week and forcing Obama to murder people all over the world! Oh, that evil John Boehner, literally putting a gun to Obama's head and forcing him to prosecute people who reveal government crimes and to protect torturers and war criminals from any harm! And oh my god, that beastly Sarah Palin, who stuck Obama with a cattle prod and made him save the criminal bankers instead of the millions of people they ruined! O that poor man! O that poor, sweet, helpless man, who only wanted to do good!)

But enough of that for now. The folly of arming the Ukrainian National Guard is compounded by the prominent role played in that organization by avowedly neo-fascist groups like the Azov Battalion. I wrote recently of the disturbing neo-fascist elements now in ascendance in Ukraine; Chris Ernesto at focuses on the Azov Battalion in particular. These are the people that American taxpayers will soon be funding and arming and training:

According to the BBC, Azov’s aims are stated in one of their online publications: "To prepare Ukraine for further expansion and to struggle for the liberation of the entire White Race from the domination of the internationalist speculative capital," and "to punish severely sexual perversions and any interracial contacts that lead to the extinction of the white man."

"Run by the extremist Patriot of Ukraine organization, which considers Jews and other minorities "sub-human" and calls for a white, Christian crusade against them, it sports three Nazi symbols on its insignia: a modified Wolf’s Hook, a black sun (or "Hakensonne") and the title Black Corps, which was used by the Waffen SS," stated the BBC.

…Vadim Troyan, an Azov deputy commander was appointed as Police Chief of Kiev Oblast (Region). "If they are appointing people like this to positions of such importance and power it is a very dangerous signal to the Jewish community of Ukraine," said Efraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office. "This is a very strange way of convincing the justifiably concerned Jewish world that there is no intention to encourage fascist sympathies or neo-Nazi activities."

…Azov’s founder, Andriy Biletsky, who also heads two neo-Nazi political groups, was elected to serve in Ukraine’s parliament while the battalion itself has been integrated into the country’s National Guard, according to Sky News’ Kemp.

Biletsky, who was given an "Order For Courage" award by Poroshenko, recently wrote, "The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the white races of the world in a final crusade for their survival. A crusade against the Semite-led sub-humans. The task of the present generation is to create a Third Empire."

This is the mentality that American money is empowering in a region that has become the most volatile and dangerous place on earth. These are the people acting as America's proxies in what is increasingly becoming a direct military confrontation between the world's two largest nuclear arsenals. This is an act of monstrous, murderous, mind-boggling folly.

It precisely parallels the creation of the international jihadi movement by the United States and Saudi Arabia in order to goad the Kremlin in Afghanistan. We are still dealing with the ever-worsening consequences of that moral insanity more than 35 years later. The latest ISIS atrocity is a direct result of that policy, which originated in the Oval Office of yet another Nobel Peace Prize-winning "centrist" Democrat, Jimmy Carter.  Now we are planting the seeds of another generation of evil, arming and funding violent extremists -- and for the same reason: to goad the Kremlin! -- who, like the jihadi "freedom fighters" of yore, will go on to pursue their own agendas.

Patrick Smith continues to write with depth and fervor on the West's drive to war with Russia. His latest piece gives a sharp and disturbing look at how the warmongers in Washington are working in happy tandem with the media -- particularly the New York Times -- in the Potomac Empire's latest Drang mach Osten:

As of Monday—as of Monday’s New York Times, to be precise—we are now on notice. In all probability, in a matter of months the U.S. will begin sending lethal weapons to the Ukrainian military. Those named as part of the deliberations for this turn in policy include Secretary of State Kerry, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Defense Secretary Hagel, Joint Chiefs chairman Martin Dempsey,  and Philip Breedlove, the American commander of NATO’s military forces.

Look at the list. Two soldiers, who by training and tradition think in terms of military capability alone, a Vietnam veteran turned Republican hawk who is not noted for his field of vision, and two Democrats of the breed lately achieving egregious prominence, the liberal interventionists. The take-homes here are two: One, be on notice, too, that there is little consequential opposition, if any, as Washington once more reiterates America’s right to pursue the providential mission in every corner of the planet. Two, this is not about Ukraine: It is about a greatly craved face-off with Russia with a long history behind it.

I stand astonished we are hurtling toward armed confrontation at this speed, with no one in sight to check what starts to look like an obsessive-compulsive addiction to some kind of regeneration through violence.

“The U.S. has already dragged us into a new Cold War, trying to openly implement its idea of triumphalism,” Mikhail Gorbachev, whose subtle grasp of the divide between East and West is second to nobody’s, said in an interview last week. “Where will that lead all of us? Have they totally lost their heads?”

On this side of the concertina wire, we are amid a propaganda campaign that exceeds itself as we speak. The latest is an old Pentagon “study” leaked to the networks Wednesday  —and dutifully reported in grave tones—purporting to establish that Vladimir Putin suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. Any younger reader who does not understand why this column brays regularly about a return to the suffocating absurdities of the 1950s, now you know. Future generations will laugh, but we cannot now.

Along with the above-named officials, eight others gathered separately to publish a report urging—you will never guess—arming Ukraine against its rebellious population in the East and countering the yet-to-be-demonstrated Russian presence behind them. Here we have a retired Air Force general, a retired admiral, two former ambassadors to Ukraine and one to NATO, two former Pentagon officials (Michèle Flournoy could be defense secretary were Hillary Clinton to win in 2016), and Strobe Talbott, Bill Clinton’s deputy defense secretary. Talbott now presides at the Brookings Institution, one of three think tanks to issue the report.  ...The report recommends the U.S. send Ukraine $3 billion worth of anti-armor missiles, reconnaissance drones, armored vehicles and radar systems to identify the source of rocket and artillery fire.

The choreography at work in the Times report is remarkable even for a paper accustomed to doing what it is told. Michael Gordon, a long-serving defense and security correspondent noted for his obedience, reported the deliberations in Washington (without naming a single source) the same day the Brookings report appeared (and in the same story).

First, anyone who continues to mistake a clerk such as Gordon for a journalist must by now be judged irredeemably naive. … Second and more important, the careful coordination of the disclosures spoon-fed Gordon suggests very strongly that a) public opinion is now being prepared for a new military intervention and b) planning for this intervention is in all likelihood already in motion.

And here we go. On Wednesday the defense secretary-designate, Ashton Carter, testified at his confirmation hearings that arming Ukraine would be fine with him. On Thursday Secretary Kerry arrived in Kiev to confer with the Poroshenko government. It will be interesting to read the reporting on this curiously timed visit in light of the artlessly artful manner in which we seem to be advised of our next war in the making.

It will also be interesting to see what, if anything, comes from the summit between Putin, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande who are meeting today (Friday) to discuss a peace plan. Will the Europeans be able to derail -- or at least delay -- the American drive for confrontation? Or has the bloodlust gone too far, as it did with Iraq? (You might recall the fate of the many diplomatic initiatives that tried to avert that war -- including Saddam's complete capitulation to all terms for unbridled inspection by the UN.) Either way, with the entire American power structure now lined up for more conflict with the "psychopath" in the Kremlin, we have a treacherous path ahead of us.

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Letter Head: The Enduring Sorrows of the Savvy Liberal

Written by Chris Floyd 28 January 2015 2883 Hits

Rooting around in my files for something else tonight, I ran across a letter I sent to the Guardian a few months back. They didn’t print it, of course. They ran a fair few of my letters back in the Bush-bashing days, but not so much in recent years. Anyway, as it deals with a perennial theme — the yearning of “savvy” liberals for “tough” leaders — I thought it might be worth a brief airing, especially in light of one of the likely electoral outcomes next year.

To the Editor:

Timothy Garton-Ash wonders what would have happened if Hillary Clinton had been elected in 2008 instead of Barack Obama ("Should the US have chosen Hillary Clinton instead of Barack Obama?"). That’s easy: the same, only more so. The same blunderbuss foreign policy, the same kowtowing to the rich elite, the same spying, lying and White House death squads — all with the added fillip of corruption scandals emanating from her husband’s Tony Blair-like private foundation. But Garton-Ash believes H. Clinton would have been “tougher” than Obama”: even more interventionist, even quicker on the draw, even more cretinously bellicose in word and deed. This, he thinks, would have been better. 

Garton-Ash, like the rest of us, lives in an Anglo-American power-sphere that in the last ten years alone has sent hundreds of thousands of innocent people to their deaths, and sown chaos and extremism across the Middle East and North Africa. Yet he, like so many of our “savvy” liberal analysts, constantly decries the lack of “toughness” in American policy. They shake with moral outrage at, say, the Kremlin’s machinations in Crimea; they want, always, a “tougher” response — more brinkmanship, more aggression. They want lives (other people’s lives) put on the line to maintain the West’s “credibility.” All this, while in their name — in all our names —  thousands of people are murdered, civil liberties are ravaged and whole regions are destroyed by a system our savvy analysts laud and uphold. 

In any case, we will likely see H. Clinton’s “toughness” and “credibility” in action soon enough. And I’m sure the world will be a better place for it.

Chris Floyd

Or to put it another way:

We saw the sleepwalkers
Come dancing down the street
Thrashing at the empty air
with their jagged knives
You been chewing wormwood for so long
It tastes sweet
Every day you cut away a little more
Of what could survive


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Word Association: White House Threatened By Drones

Written by Chris Floyd 26 January 2015 2768 Hits

WASHINGTON – The White House faces a serious threat from drones, administration officials said today, after a recent incident in which a small, private drone crashed on the lawn near the president’s home. This episode, though minor, has alerted the White House to a wider problem, the official said.

“The drone campaign conducted by President Obama in countries all over world threatens to make the term ‘White House’ synonymous with murder, destruction, violence, terror and cowardly sneak attacks that have claimed hundreds of innocent lives,” said the official.

“Even now, there are many people who, when they hear the words ‘White House,’ immediately think of wedding parties blown to bits, of sleeping children eviscerated by flying shards of burning metal, of farmers in their fields atomized by missiles fired by comfortable suburban soldiers sitting in a wadded armchair ten thousand miles away, wolfing down Doritos while they push a button to kill someone. And hey, we don’t want people thinking that.”

The official said this risk from drones is compounded by the fact that President of the United States actually sits in his office in the White House and goes through checklists of people who are to be murdered that week by imperial fiat, with no charges, no judicial process, no defense, “not shriving time allowed,” he added, apparently making some kind of literary reference.

This association was particularly unfair, the official said. “Some of the people on White House death lists aren’t even murdered by drones! Guns, knives, garrottes, poison, defenestration, old-fashioned, non-robotic bombs and missiles — the White House murders people in many different ways all over the world, week after week. I think we should get more credit for this variety, and not have it all reduced to ‘drone attacks.’ Not only does that put the White House at risk of being identified solely as the center for a particularly hideous technology-driven evil of our times, it also does a disservice to the skills and inventiveness of our death squads.”

The official said the White House is taking urgent steps to protect itself from its association with the murderous state terror of the drone campaign. “We’re going to be stepping up the number of happy, peppy events we have at the White House,” he said, “and making sure they all have a very prominent ‘White House’ label. In the next few weeks, we’ll be having the White House Sweet Ole Granny Quilting Bee, featuring photogenic grannies from all over the country, and the White House ‘Smores and More Weekend, where the President and Mrs. President will gather with kindergarten kids from across this great land of ours to make some simple, tasty picnic treats.

“That will be followed by the White House Gala of Goodness at the White House, a celebration of all that is good and wholesome and right about America. The real coup of that one is that Clint Eastwood is going to be the guest host, and we have a really funny skit with Clint and the President and a chair, in the White House. The week after that we’ll have the White House Shout-Out to Brooklyn and Portland, where the nation’s hipster elite will gather at the White House to trade self-deprecating drollery with the Hipster-in-Chief. I’m not supposed to say anything about Lena Dunham being there, so you didn’t hear it from me!”

The official said the White House was confident these measures will help defend the White House from being attacked by drone associations. “I think we’re pushing at an open door,” the official said. “Look at the boffo box office for American Sniper. The American people want — and the American people deserve — to feel good about the murders being done in their name. A few marshmallow roasts, a few poetry readings or ceremonies with national champions of something or other, and the words ‘White House’ will go back to what they’ve always been: a synonym for good, clean fun.”

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Can't Slay the Serpent: Ancient Ills Rise Again

Written by Chris Floyd 25 January 2015 2781 Hits

Old evils never die.  You think you’re got them whipped — but they spring up again, years or decades (or centuries) later, as virulent as ever.  Our cursed 21st century has given ample proof of this, both at home and abroad: ancient ills returning with horrific force (torture, racism, repression, oligarchy, feudalism, imperialism, militarism, etc. etc.), old battles to be fought over and over again. This is also true for the “electrics in our brain,” of course, a stubbornly enduring pattern of the individual human psyche.

Anyway, here’s the lovely Velma and Pansy the Dancing Horse to tell us all about it. Take it away, friends!


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Necks and Nostrils: The Murderous Folly of the New Cold War

Written by Chris Floyd 22 January 2015 3351 Hits


Let's be clear about this. The Putin regime is odious. What it is doing to the Russian people -- the degradation of their liberties; the imposition of Tea Party-style willful ignorance, false piety and bellicose nationalism on the culture; the crippling corruption of its klepto-capitalism (which almost, but not quite, approaches the level in the US and UK, where trillions of dollars have been transferred from working people to a tiny sliver of politically connected elites on Wall Street); its brutal prison system (which, while rivalling the American gulag in its harshness, lags far behind it in the proportion of citizens it imprisons and the racial disparities of the captive population) -- all of this is insupportable.  I hold no brief for the oft-seen stance that soft-pedals the Putin regime's domestic depredations in order to play up the egregious sins of America's foreign policy. You don't have to do that in order to condemn the murderous poltroonery of the Potomac imperialists, any more than you had to pretend that Saddam Hussein was an enlightened statesman in order to condemn America's Nazi-like military aggression to destroy his regime.

But as Patrick Smith notes in a recent column, America’s media and political elites are colluding to obscure the realities of the most volatile and dangerous situation in world politics today: Washington's insane drive to destroy the Russian economy and force "regime change" in the Kremlin.

As Smith reports, Americans -- and to barely lesser degree, the Brits -- are being sold an extremely fetid bill of goods in regard to the New Cold War in general, and the situation in Ukraine in particular. One major aspect of this snow job is the fierce -- not to say hysterical -- dismissal in the West of any idea that repulsive neo-fascists factions played a decisive role in the final overthrow of the previous government and are playing a leading role in many aspects of Ukrainian policy today, particularly in the war against Russian-leaning eastern Ukraine. (And again, you don't have to pretend that the pro-Russian separatists are all noble freedom fighters free of any ideological taint or criminal activity in order to criticize the sinister nature of the neo-fascist militants now in ascendancy in Ukraine.) As Smith points out, any Western media references to the neo-fascists in Ukraine -- most of whom are proud to publicly proclaim their association with right-wing extremism, even national socialism-- are always put in quotes, e.g., "the so-called 'neo-fascist' groups," etc. Their point, of course, is that only conspiracy-theory nuts and Kremlin apologists would use such terminology to label these very important factions in the new Washington-backed (and Washington-picked) Ukrainian government. Smith writes:

It has been more or less evident for some time that extreme-right nationalists have been key to Kiev’s military strategy as an advance guard and as shock troops in the streets of eastern Ukraine’s cities. Here is a Facebook entry posted the other day on Voice of Ukraine by Right Sector USA, which reps for said right-wing group in the States:

“As promised, here’s the news you are probably aware of by now—the combat has moved into Donetsk. The Right Sector and the 93rd Mechanized Brigade have wedged themselves into the city and continue to fight. Separatists are suffering heavy losses and keep running away. Despite this, the support is still needed, so we need you to share [this info] for maximum resonance and forcing the authorities to act immediately…. Please offer your support by sharing and sending prayers to our heroes! Glory to Ukraine!”

Horse’s mouth. And there is worse from the same source. Considering the cynical American role in creating and now worsening the Ukraine crisis, the following is a source of shame.

On New Year’s Day members of Svoboda, the extreme-right party that many neo-Nazis count their political home, held a candle-lit parade through Kiev to mark the 106th anniversary of Stepan Bandera’s birth. Bandera was the Jew-hating, Russian-hating, Pole-hating Third Reich collaborator, assassin and terrorist now honored as an icon of Ukrainian nationalism.

Look at the video, provided by Liveleak. Listen to the crazed chanting. Czech President Milos Zeman did, and the images reminded him of similar scenes during Hitler’s occupation of Czechoslovakia. Here is what Zeman said: “There is something wrong with Ukraine.”

Here is what the E.U. said: Nothing.
Here is what the State Department said: Nothing.
Here is what the American press reported: Nothing.

There is yet more, per usual with this bunch in Kiev. The day after the neo-Nazi parade Liveleak posted a video, with transcript, of a lengthy interview Channel 5 TV in Kiev conducted with a Ukrainian soldier. Poroshenko owned the station until he became president last year.
The station did the interview but killed it: “This interview was not aired, because the Ukrainian Government decided that it wasn’t appropriate for their purposes.” This is to put it mildly.

Forget about neo- or crypto- or any of that. This “trooper,” as the transcript unfortunately calls this man, is a right-in-the-open Nazi, worse than the most committed skeptic might have conjured. Ukraine is even better than Europe: “Only gays, transvestites and other degenerates live there.” Then: “When we have liberated Ukraine, we will go to Europe under our banners and revive all national socialist organizations there.”

All sorts of talk about “the purification of the nation,” a phrase Hitler liked, “a strong state,” who can stay in Ukraine and who must go. Now comes repellent language, readers, but we should all know of it:

“First of all, we ought to oust, and if they do not wish to leave, then cut the throats of all of the Muscovites, or kikes—we will exterminate all of them. Our principle is ‘One God, one country, one nation’”—this also from Hitler. “As far as the current government is concerned, can you see that they are the same scum? Poroshenko is a kike….”

The blood boils. And it boils over with the haunting knowledge that American officials support these people. Beyond the sewer consciousness and language, there is the apparent danger: These people have the Kiev government backed into a corner, unable to behave responsibly.

Smith notes that pressure from these armed and violent extremists is one reason Ukrainian officials suddenly and peremptorily broke off peace negotiations last week and instead launched a new full-blown assault on the rebellious regions.

Another reason for the return to violence is, as Smith notes, the destruction of the Ukrainian economy -- and the vast degradation of the lives and hopes of the Ukrainian people -- by the harsh austerity demanded by the enlightened West. The yearning to escape the orbit of the Kremlin and turn toward the West was one of the driving forces of the original Maidan protest movement; many Ukrainians wanted the kind of freedom, prosperity and economic opportunity they saw in the West. (Or in increasingly smaller pockets of Western society.) It was these understandable yearnings that were seized upon by our Great Gamesters in the State Department, our corporate oligarchs seeking new fields for profitable exploitation, and by oligarchic and neo-fascist forces in Ukraine who saw the opportunity for gaining power.

But what has been the reality of the successful turn to the West? What has it brought Ukrainians? Utter ruin, as Smith reports (italics are mine):

The news coming from Kiev starts to make Greece look like the Klondike. The economy shrank 7.5 percent last year and will recede at least as much this. No one knows. It could shrink as much as 10 percent. Here is what Roland Hinterkoerner, a thoughtful analyst at RBS Asia-Pacific, the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Hong Kong outpost, had to say about Ukraine in a recent economic report:

“The country is clinically dead…. There is nothing government or the central bank can do to stop the decline. The population is being pushed further and further into poverty. Food prices are up 25 percent and rent, electricity, gas and water by 34 percent…. This is the picture of a Ukraine that is looking an economic collapse in the eye. But its government is still attempting to channel money into the military to fend off the big bear’s aggression…. The danger for Ukraine is not Russia. It is its own demise….”

Bloomberg published an interesting report earlier this month on Ukraine’s external position … The news in it is that Ukraine’s 2017 bond is now selling at 58 cents, down from par ($1) a year ago. Translation: The markets are now pricing in an across-the-board default. … Further tranches of the IMF’s $17 billion bailout, launched last April, are now blocked until Kiev makes more and very deep cuts in public spending.

O.K., $17 billion from the IMF, once the government savages its budget. Against this, Kiev has payments of $10 billion in debt service alone due this year—that is interest, not principal. With principal, Bloomberg puts the figure at $14 billion, and an additional $10 billion is due next year. It is not clear it can cover these payments even with the IMF funds.

Do you see what is going on here? The IMF’s bailout is not marked for Ukrainian social services or any other benefit to the citizenry. All that is about to be taken away, in the neoliberal style. The bailout money goes to Kiev and back out again to the Western financial institutions holding Ukrainian debt. In effect, debt held by private-sector creditors is transferred to the IMF, which uses it to leverage Ukraine into a free-market model via its standard conditionality: No austerity, no dough.

Now you know why the new finance minister in Kiev is an American apparatchik with long experience in the Hillary-era State Department. Now you know what Washington means when it uses the words “democracy” and “freedom.”

Once again, we see tragic confirmation of the true aims of American foreign policy. Those aims are not and have never been the welfare, freedom and prosperity of the the people it purports to "help" by its interventions and machinations. Washington does not care -- in the slightest, for even a second -- what actually happens to the actual human beings living in Ukraine (or Russia or Iraq or Syria or Libya or Egypt or Yemen -- or even in America, whose citizens have been bankrupted, repressed and made targets for blowback from their leaders' reckless violence and destabilization overseas.) All that matters is that the interests of the dominating elite are advanced. All that matters is that American-backed satraps -- or, in the case of Ukraine, an actual American citizen, former State Department staffer Natalie Jurasko, who had to be hastily awarded Ukrainian citizenship before taking over the nation's finances -- are put in power. All that matters is that foreign governments bleed their own people dry in order to enrich Western financial elites (who are, of course, busy bleeding their own people dry). All that matters is that legacy insiders like Hunter Biden, the Vice-President's son, get plum jobs with Ukrainian energy companies in Kiev's new, American-centric dispensation. (Shades of the oil company jobs and sweetheart deals bestowed on the son of another Vice-President (and later President) back in the day: George Dubya Bush. I expect we will see good old Hunter stepping into America's increasingly dynastic political mix in the future.)

Barack Obama's economic strangulation of Russia is another example. As in all other cases of war-by-sanctions, these measures will not harm the elites in Russia nor cause the people to rise up as one and overthrow Putin. It only strengthens him politically -- and allows him to paint the legitimate opposition to his authoritarian rule as "unpatriotic," at best, or "traitors" or "foreign agents" at worst. (This dreary dynamic should be thoroughly familiar to anyone who has dissented even mildly against American policy over the last, oh, 100 years or so.) The only people who will suffer from Obama's sanctions will be the most vulnerable -- physically, financially, politically.

In any case, if the Russian state actually does collapse under the pressure of sanctions and their economic destructiveness, it will almost certainly not be replaced by the liberal, open, tolerant, democratic, secular opposition that still bravely takes to the streets to protest Putin's rule. That was not the case in Iraq. It was not the case in Libya. It was not the case in Afghanistan, where the Americans and Saudis colluded in the destruction of secular government and the creation of the international jihadi movement. It will certainly not be the case in Syria. In the event of a sanctions-led downfall in Russia, the result will very likely be a regime even worse than Putin's -- one even more unstable, xenophobic, nationalistic, even more repressive and violent at home, more bellicose and unpredictable abroad. Or else there could be chaos and collapse on the Syrian or Libyan scale -- with nuclear weapons in the mix.

Yet far from reconsidering the policy of maximum pressure on Russia (that is to say, economic warfare whose main victims will be ordinary Russians -- and the ordinary Europeans who will suffer if the Russian economy is destroyed; as Smith says: "you cannot shove the world's No. 8 economy into the gutter and expect it to land there alone"), Obama keeps doubling down on the strategy. What's more, he keeps bragging about the damage he is doing to ordinary Russian people by economic warfare.

He did again in his State of the Union address, boasting with a Bush-like swagger, "Russia is isolated with its economy in tatters. That's how American leads." This followed a statement of such staggering, breathtaking, jaw-dropping hypocrisy that it almost surpasses comprehension. Describing his New Cold War policies, Obama actually said:

"We're upholding the principle that bigger nations can't bully the small."

This from the head of a government that spends every waking hour seeking to bend "small nations" to its will by hook, crook, violence and intimidation. This from a man who actually sits in his office every week and ticks off names of people to be killed -- without trial, without charge, without defense -- all over the world. This from a man who weekly shreds the sovereignty of other nations to rain sudden death on wedding parties, worshippers, farmers, picnickers, family homes and an endless parade of unknown, nameless people in distant villages and poverty-stricken regions whose "activities"-- observed from on high by robotic eyes -- are somehow considered to match the "signature" of those who somehow, in some way, might conceivably wish to somehow, in some way, do some kind of harm to America's "national interest" at some point in the future. This death-deserving behaviour might include things like two men putting shovels in a pick-up truck, or a group of Muslim farmers gathering goods for a trip to the market, or a sheepherder carrying a rifle along a narrow path in some mountain wasteland (obviously on his way to shoot his secret atom bomb straight at Times Square).

This from a man who, in one of his first foreign policy triumphs, greenlighted a coup in Honduras when the existing government made mild noises about possibly curtailing the boundless privilege of the elite just a little bit, and now supports the repressive regime he helped into power. This from a man who boldly walked into CIA headquarters shortly after taking office and bravely told the agents there … that none of them would ever be prosecuted for the sickening torture atrocities they committed and then brazenly covered up. This is the man who –

Well, enough. The list of the "bullying" that America is perpetrating in the world is too long to enumerate here. It also well known to anyone who cares about such matters. Meanwhile, no amount of enumeration or outrage will change the minds of those (including most progressives) who see these facts but still believe that Washington has even the slightest crumb of moral standing from which to lecture other nations on their behavior -- much less gleefully leave those nations "in tatters" because they don't act as Washington wishes them too.

And for God's sake, let's not pretend that it is the "immorality" of Russian policies that have provoked the sanctions and the New Cold War.  Any nation which counts as one of its staunchest allies the repressive feudal tyranny of Saudi Arabia is not concerned with the "morality" of any nation's behavior. (And again, if "morality" is the standard, what to make of a nation whose leader personally runs a death squad out of his office? And if taking over and holding territory, like Crimea, is a sanction-worthy crime, where are the sanctions against China or Israel?) No, what matters is how much any given nation might stand in the way of our elites' endless, heedless, shark-like appetite for power and profits.  If you play ball -- or at least turn a blind eye -- to their domination agenda, then you are all right, Jack. But if you are thought to pose some kind of threat to that agenda -- or even offer a benign alternative to our elites' extremist ideology of domination -- then you will be dealt with, in one way or another, at some point.

Because Putin is odious, we can pretend that what Washington has done and is doing in Ukraine is not odious. We can pretend that Obama’s genuinely stupid policy — dicing with the prospect of nuclear war just to grab a new trough for our elites to chow down in — is not a moral abomination that is degrading the lives of millions of people in Ukraine and Russia, and casting a minatory shadow over the future of our children. But this pretense doesn’t change the reality. We are up to our necks — up to our nostrils — in a river of blood and folly.

UPDATE: Arthur Silber gives us a telling look at America's "moral authority" in his latest essay.

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The Unmourned: Another Mass Killing by the Peace Prize Prez

Written by Chris Floyd 12 January 2015 3612 Hits

In keeping with the concept of "unmournable bodies" limned by Teju Cole in the New Yorker (more on this below), news arrives today of yet another clutch of unimportant, unmournable deaths at the hands of extremist violence. From McClatchy:

A U.S.-led coalition airstrike killed at least 50 Syrian civilians late last month when it targeted a headquarters of Islamic State extremists in northern Syria [the town of Al Bab, near the Turkish border], according to an eyewitness and a Syrian opposition human rights organization.

… The Syrian Network for Human Rights, an independent opposition group that tracks casualties in Syria, said it has documented the deaths of at least 40 civilians in airstrikes in the months between the start of U.S. bombing in Syria Sept. 23 through the Dec. 28 strike on Al Bab. The deaths include 13 people killed in Idlib province on the first day of the strikes. Other deaths include 23 civilians killed in the eastern province of Deir el Zour, two in Raqqa province and two more in Idlib province.

The issue of civilian deaths in U.S. strikes is a critical one as the United States hopes to win support from average Syrians for its campaign against the Islamic State. The deaths are seen by U.S.-allied moderate rebel commanders as one reason support for their movement has eroded in northern Syria while support for radical forces such as al Qaida’s Nusra Front and the Islamic State has gained. Rebel commanders say they have intelligence that could avoid civilian casualties, but that U.S. officials refuse to coordinate with them.

McClatchy located two sources who confirmed a high civilian death toll from the strike. One witness, an activist in Al Bab, gave the death toll as 61 civilian prisoners and 13 Islamic State guards. The Syrian Network for Human Rights estimated the death toll at 80, and said 25 of those were Islamic State Guards and another 55 were either civilians or imprisoned fighters from non-Islamic State rebel groups. Either number would make the Al Bab strike the single worst case of civilian deaths since the U.S. began bombing targets in Syria.

… [A witness] said some 35 of the prisoners had been jailed shortly before the airstrike for minor infractions of the Islamic State’s harsh interpretation of Islamic law, such as smoking, wearing jeans or appearing too late for the afternoon prayer….

Huda al Ali, a spokeswoman for the Syrian Network, said its investigation had found that in addition to violators of Sharia law, the two-story building also was being used as a prison for fighters from groups opposed to the Islamic State.

In other words, the unilateral, illegal bombing campaign of the Peace Prize Laureate killed dozens of victims of Islamic extremism. But unlike the Charlie Hebdo case, there is no worldwide mourning for these nobodies, these brown nobodies from the back of beyond. Islamic State denied their "free speech" by imprisoning them; then Barack Obama ended it entirely, by killing them. An excellent example of bipartisanship in action, where both sides find common ground and work together! Then again, we see a lot of that in the Terror War.

Meanwhile in Paris, more than a million people marched in a moving -- if highly selective -- show of solidarity against violent extremism and the repression of free speech. Unfortunately, the moral high ground of the march was lowered somewhat by the presence of several purveyors of violent extremism and repression of free speech in its ranks. Such as that well-known avatar of tolerance and free speech, Benjamin Netanyahu, who, as Cole notes, had killed more than a dozen journalists in Gaza last year, in his American-supported (and American-armed, American-funded) devastation of Gaza last year.

Not far from him was Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas, the Holocaust denier who became a darling of the West when he instigated a civil war among the Palestinians after his party lost a free and open democratic election to Hamas. Abbas is the still the "president" of the PA, although his term ended years ago; and despite being forced by internal politics to make dissenting noises from time to time, he continues to serve the Israelis well by sternly policing the West Bank for them. There were officials from the horrific Saudi regime -- who had, that very weekend, given 50 lashes to a journalist, the blogger Raif Badawi, for exercising his free speech. These lashes were just the first of a weekly series of 50 lashes until Badawi has been given 1,000 strokes to punish him for having opinions that the elite don't like.

Daniel Wickham provides an excellent rogues' gallery of the free speech repressors -- including, most emphatically, the chief mourner at the rally, French President Francois Hollande -- who paraded their moral virtue at the Charlie Hebdo march.

But while the whole word lamented the murders at the magazine (see this striking graphic of a world engulfed with JeSuisCharlie twitter messages in the hours after the attack), there are whole classes of people who are, literally, unmournable in the discourse of our society, as Tejo Cole notes in his New Yorker article. Here are a few excerpts:

Western societies are not, even now, the paradise of skepticism and rationalism that they believe themselves to be. The West is a variegated space, in which both freedom of thought and tightly regulated speech exist, and in which disavowals of deadly violence happen at the same time as clandestine torture. But, at moments when Western societies consider themselves under attack, the discourse is quickly dominated by an ahistorical fantasy of long-suffering serenity and fortitude in the face of provocation. Yet European and American history are so strongly marked by efforts to control speech that the persecution of rebellious thought must be considered among the foundational buttresses of these societies. Witch burnings, heresy trials, and the untiring work of the Inquisition shaped Europe, and these ideas extended into American history as well and took on American modes, from the breaking of slaves to the censuring of critics of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Rather than posit that the Paris attacks are the moment of crisis in free speech—as so many commentators have done—it is necessary to understand that free speech and other expressions of liberté are already in crisis in Western societies; the crisis was not precipitated by three deranged gunmen. The U.S., for example, has consolidated its traditional monopoly on extreme violence, and, in the era of big data, has also hoarded information about its deployment of that violence. There are harsh consequences for those who interrogate this monopoly. The only person in prison for the C.I.A.’s abominable torture regime is John Kiriakou, the whistle-blower. Edward Snowden is a hunted man for divulging information about mass surveillance. Chelsea Manning is serving a thirty-five-year sentence for her role in WikiLeaks. They, too, are blasphemers, but they have not been universally valorized, as have the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo.

The killings in Paris were an appalling offense to human life and dignity. The enormity of these crimes will shock us all for a long time. But the suggestion that violence by self-proclaimed Jihadists is the only threat to liberty in Western societies ignores other, often more immediate and intimate, dangers. The U.S., the U.K., and France approach statecraft in different ways, but they are allies in a certain vision of the world, and one important thing they share is an expectation of proper respect for Western secular religion. Heresies against state power are monitored and punished. People have been arrested for making anti-military or anti-police comments on social media in the U.K. Mass surveillance has had a chilling effect on journalism and on the practice of the law in the U.S. Meanwhile, the armed forces and intelligence agencies in these countries demand, and generally receive, unwavering support from their citizens. When they commit torture or war crimes, no matter how illegal or depraved, there is little expectation of a full accounting or of the prosecution of the parties responsible.

…This focus [on the Hebdo victims] is part of the consensus about mournable bodies, and it often keeps us from paying proper attention to other, ongoing, instances of horrific carnage around the world: abductions and killings in Mexico, hundreds of children (and more than a dozen journalists) killed in Gaza by Israel last year, internecine massacres in the Central African Republic, and so on. And even when we rightly condemn criminals who claim to act in the name of Islam, little of our grief is extended to the numerous Muslim victims of their attacks, whether in Yemen or Nigeria—in both of which there were deadly massacres this week—or in Saudi Arabia, where, among many violations of human rights, the punishment for journalists who “insult Islam” is flogging. We may not be able to attend to each outrage in every corner of the world, but we should at least pause to consider how it is that mainstream opinion so quickly decides that certain violent deaths are more meaningful, and more worthy of commemoration, than others.

… We mourn with France. We ought to. But it is also true that violence from “our” side continues unabated. By this time next month, in all likelihood, many more “young men of military age” and many others, neither young nor male, will have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere. If past strikes are anything to go by, many of these people will be innocent of wrongdoing. … Those of us who are writers will not consider our pencils broken by such killings. But that incontestability, that unmournability, just as much as the massacre in Paris, is the clear and present danger to our collective liberté.

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The Lash and the Sword: Hebdo, Hypocrisy and the Mob-Mind

Written by Chris Floyd 10 January 2015 3095 Hits

Arthur Silber -- naturally -- has something of depth and insight to say about the Hebdo case, and the self-righteous mob mentality it has provoked — on a worldwide, witless scale — in the aftermath. As always, do yourself a favor and go read the whole thing. (Especially his startling and perceptive connection of the current mindset to the words of John Brown and Abraham Lincoln.) Meanwhile, here are just a few excerpts:

“Nothing can justify the Charlie Hebdo murders. All civilized people must condemn these murders absolutely and unequivocally.”

Endless variations of such proclamations have issued from almost everyone in recent days. These titans of virtue and proper thought offer their judgment as if its mere utterance embodies courage of ungraspable dimensions. Truly, moral giants walk among us.

Genuine moral courage does not require the company of a mob. The contrary proposition states the truth of this particular matter: genuine courage forbids the company of a mob that includes almost everyone -- from all political leaders, including those who direct the operations of the most terrifying terrorist organization on Earth, which goes by the name "the United States Government," to every well-known writer, to public personalities of dubious intellect and questionable character, to the most sickeningly bigoted and hate-filled ignoramuses. …

But I know this: it is obscene that the Hebdo murders should be singled out for an orgy of spluttering condemnation and outrage when the West, led by the monstrous U.S. Government with able support from most European nations, routinely murders more innocents in a single day (and, often, in less than a single day) than were murdered in Paris. The United States commits its murders across the globe -- from Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Syria, to Libya, on through other countries in Africa, and Asia, and in every corner of the world. England and, yes, France, and other countries provide significant aid in this unending campaign of terror.

I also know this: when the U.S. and its accomplices commit murderous acts of terrorism -- when the U.S. and its accomplices murder innocents -- with a regularity and on a scale that would be the envy of the most barbarous and bloodthirsty criminals in all of history, there will be resistance. "Nothing can justify the Charlie Hebdo murders." Nothing? This is the voice of the master, the imperialist, the slaveowner, the sadist: "We can bomb you, we can starve you, we can torture you, we can eviscerate you, we can visit every imaginable horror on you, we can utterly destroy you -- but you are forbidden to ever attack even one of us in any manner at all." …

I offer this not as a justification of the Hebdo murders, or as approval of violence. The obsession with "justification" and "approval" in this manner -- an obsession shared, it appears, by almost every semiconscious human being, who is breathlessly eager to tell us what he thinks of world events, on the assumption that masses of idiots can't wait to hear what one additional idiot thinks of it all -- is the mark of an arrested narcissistic adolescent, who still believes at the age of 30, or 40, or 50 or more, that the world, and history, require his approval to move forward.

…Today, our enemy is a campaign of terror that encompasses the world. Do I desperately hope for a far better world, one that can be reached by only peaceful means? Of course. As I said in the earlier essay, I consider the recourse to violence to be always deeply tragic, even when it is thoroughly understandable. Today, when faced with an enemy more powerful than any the world has ever known -- when the West's ruling class continues to be ruthlessly intent on amassing ever more power and wealth, when it is determined to eliminate and murder all those who stand in its way, when there is no place on Earth to make oneself safe from the barbaric violence unleashed by the ruling class every minute, of every hour, of every day -- resistance which includes violence is not only understandable, but inevitable.

Facts can be awful things. This is but one example, albeit on an unusually large scale, which makes the awfulness that much more terrifying. Facts do not ask for your approval, or for mine. Your unhappiness or fear will not cause them to dissolve.

You may find comfort in the mob, with its gutter talk of "justification" and what is "approved," and what kinds of resistance are permissible. Always remember: the mob that comforts you today will kill you tomorrow.

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Conflict, not Cartoons: Hebdo Shows the Common Goals of Both Sides in Terror War

Written by Chris Floyd 08 January 2015 3154 Hits

Juan Cole has some insightful words on the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. As he points out, the shooters were neither "attacking free speech" nor "defending Mohammed"; they were using a time-honored tactic of radical extremists (of all stripes): "sharpening the contradictions," hoping to provoke an overreaction that would lead to repression and persecution of Muslims in general -- thus helping the extremists recruit new members. This is what bin Laden did with such spectacular success with 9/11: provoking an endless global war, with Western "interventions" and "targeted assassinations" and drone strikes that have killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people -- all of which, as our own security services tell us, have fed the flames of extremism and made the situation worse.

It would be nice if we tried a different approach, but this is not going to happen. By this time, the symbiosis between the West's military-industrial-security complex and the extremists it purports to fight is virtually complete. The MISC holds the commanding heights of society now, and it is utterly dependent on a steady supply of terrorist attacks (and the constant production of new terrorist entities to fight) in order to keep its power, privileges -- and profits -- going strong. It is probably not too far-fetched to say that the modern American system -- a militarist state protecting the interests of a small, rapacious elite -- would collapse without terrorism. "Security" is the only "legitimacy" this system has. Its power rests entirely on the belief -- the completely unfounded, hysterical, hallucinated belief -- that only the System (with its wars, its death squads, its torture, its mass surveillance, etc. etc.) can protect "us" from terrorism … the very terrorism that the System itself foments and creates with its depredations. And organized terror depends on the System feeding it recruits. (And of course, in many cases, feeding it directly with arms and money when it suits the System's agenda, as in the stoking of jihad in Syria, just to take one example.)

Cole writes:

The horrific murder of the editor, cartoonists and other staff of the irreverent satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, along with two policemen, by terrorists in Paris was in my view a strategic strike, aiming at polarizing the French and European public.

The problem for a terrorist group like al-Qaeda is that its recruitment pool is Muslims, but most Muslims are not interested in terrorism. .. French Muslims may be the most secular Muslim-heritage population in the world. … In Paris, where Muslims tend to be better educated and more religious, the vast majority reject violence and say they are loyal to France.

Al-Qaeda wants to mentally colonize French Muslims, but faces a wall of disinterest. But if it can get non-Muslim French to be beastly to ethnic Muslims on the grounds that they are Muslims, it can start creating a common political identity around grievance against discrimination ...

This horrific murder was not a pious protest against the defamation of a religious icon. It was an attempt to provoke European society into pogroms against French Muslims, at which point al-Qaeda recruitment would suddenly exhibit some successes instead of faltering in the face of lively Beur youth culture (French Arabs playfully call themselves by this anagram). Ironically, there are reports that one of the two policemen they killed was a Muslim. …

For those who require unrelated people to take responsibility for those who claim to be their co-religionists (not a demand ever made of Christians), the al-Azhar Seminary, seat of Sunni Muslim learning and fatwas, condemned the attack, as did the Arab League that comprises 22 Muslim-majority states.


While putting this together, hoping to add a few more thoughts, I ran across Tom Englehardt's latest piece, which deals with these same themes: the way the "War on Terror" is producing more terrorism -- to the benefit of our powerful national security profiteers and terrorist organisations … while the rest of us have to live with the growing chaos, insecurity, lack of liberty, depleted treasuries and broken economies this deadly symbiosis keeps producing. Rather than reinvent the wheel, here are some excerpts from his article that underscore and expand upon many of the points I was making above. The frame of Englehardt's piece is imagining how a visitor from January 1963, just months after the Cuban missile crisis, would confront the bizarro world of today. He writes:

... In these years the national security state triumphed in the nation’s capital in a way that the U.S. military and allied intelligence outfits were incapable of doing anywhere else on Earth ... They had been engorged by literally trillions of taxpayer dollars.  A new domestic version of the Pentagon called the Department of Homeland Security had been set up in 2002.  An “intelligence community” made up of 17 major agencies and outfits, bolstered by hundreds of thousands of private security contractors, had expanded endlessly and in the process created a global surveillance state that went beyond the wildest imaginings of the totalitarian powers of the twentieth century.

... Its officials increasingly existed in a crime-free zone, beyond the reach of accountability, the law, courts, or jail.  Homeland security and intelligence complexes grew up around the national security state in the way that the military-industrial complex had once grown up around the Pentagon and similarly engorged themselves.  In these years, Washington filled with newly constructed billion-dollar intelligence headquarters and building complexes dedicated to secret work -- and that only begins to tell the tale of how twenty-first-century “security” triumphed.

This vast investment of American treasure has been used to construct an edifice dedicated in a passionate way to dealing with a single danger to Americans, one that would have been unknown in 1963: Islamic terrorism.  Despite the several thousand Americans who died on September 11, 2001, the dangers of terrorism rate above shark attacks but not much else in American life.  Even more remarkably, the national security state has been built on a foundation of almost total failure.  Think of failure, in fact, as the spark that repeatedly sets the further expansion of its apparatus in motion, funds it, and allows it to thrive.

It works something like this: start with the fact that, on September 10, 2001, global jihadism was a microscopic movement on this planet.  Since 9/11, under the pressure of American military power, it has exploded geographically, while the number of jihadist organizations has multiplied, and the number of people joining such groups has regularly and repeatedly increased, a growth rate that seems to correlate with the efforts of Washington to destroy terrorism and its infrastructure.  In other words, the Global War on Terror has been and remains a global war for the production of terror.  And terror groups know it.

It was Osama bin Laden’s greatest insight and is now a commonplace that drawing Washington into military action against you increases your credibility in the world that matters to you and so makes recruiting easier.  At the same time, American actions, from invasions to drone strikes, and their “collateral damage,” create pools of people desperate for revenge.  If you want to thrive and grow, in other words, you need the U.S. as an enemy. ... This has, in other words, proved to be a deeply symbiotic and mutually profitable relationship.

From the point of view of the national security state, each failure, each little disaster, acts as another shot of fear in the American body politic, and the response to failure is predictable: never less of what doesn’t work, but more.  More money, more bodies hired, more new outfits formed, more elaborate defenses, more offensive weaponry.  Each failure with its accompanying jolt of fear (and often hysteria) predictably results in further funding for the national security state to develop newer, even more elaborate versions of what it’s been doing these last 13 years.  Failure, in other words, is the key to success.

In this sense, think of Washington’s national security structure as a self-perpetuating machine that works like a dream, since those who oversee its continued expansion are never penalized for its inability to accomplish any of its goals.  On the contrary, they are invariably promoted, honored, and assured of a golden-parachute-style retirement or -- far more likely -- a golden journey through one of Washington’s revolving doors onto some corporate board or into some cushy post in one complex or another where they can essentially lobby their former colleagues for private warrior corporations, rent-a-gun outfits, weapons makers, and the like.  And there is nothing either in Washington or in American life that seems likely to change any of this in the near future.

… Official Washington has ... invented a system so dumb, so extreme, so fundamentalist, and so deeply entrenched in our world that changing it will surely prove a stunningly difficult task.

Welcome to the new world of American insecurity and to the nightmarish inheritance we are preparing for our children and grandchildren.

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A Hundred Years of Evil Folly: The Bloody Roots of the Paris Attack

Written by Chris Floyd 07 January 2015 3178 Hits

As you might expect, the very secular "Angry Arab, As'ad AbuKhahlil, has some pertitent observations on the Charlie Hebdo attack. You should read the whole piece, but here are some excerpts from his "Notes on the shooting in Paris":

I feel strongly about the right to offend and to mock as an artist (and as a human being).  That right should be absolute. .. Muslims do need to lighten up, and should feel secure enough to stomach mockery and satire against their religion. And they should not allow their enemies (even the bigots among them) to provoke them so easily....

... Yes, one should vehemently condemn the crimes against the cartoonist and writers and journalists but should in the same vein condemn the on-going French and US bombing raids that are taking place from Mali to Afghanistan, passing through Yemen and Syria. And those bombs are real and they are killing real people.  Those are terrorist actions as much as the shooting in Paris was a terrorist action.

Western policies in Syria have produced, and will continue to produce, terrorist organizations the likes of which we have not seen since the creation of Al-Qa`idah. The enthusiastic policies of arming and sponsoring "rebel groups in Syria" are responsible for the proliferation of fanatical terrorist groups which will terrorize those countries that had sponsored them.

The source of all those terrorist groups is known: Gulf regimes and their Western sponsors. They have been indulging those regimes form the days of the Cold War.  I was on the side of the left and progressive forces during the Cold War, while you--in the West--were on the side of those speaking the language of Jihad and...oil.

The direct roots -- and bitter fruits -- of actions like the attack in Paris and the depredations of ISIS in the ruins of American-raped Iraq go back 100 years, to the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, then forward through decades of fateful, and fatal, decisions by Western elites to support, advance -- and arm -- the most retrograde forms of Islam in order to prevent the rise of any alternatives to the authortiarian client states they favored in the region. At every turn, the West has exacerbated the century-long crisis within Islam, producing -- as AbuKhalil notes above -- a relentless series of extremist groups, each seemingly more virulent than the last, who, as he rightly says, "terrorize those countries that had sponsored them."

(For example, the latest news reports indicate that the Paris attackers probably had some kind of formal military training; they could well have fought in the Syrian "jihad" which the West and its extremist allies in the Middle East, like Saudi Arabia, have been fuelling for years with arms and aid. And who can forget -- except for 99 percent of the American political-media establishment, of course -- the original joint American-Saudi creation of the global jihadi movement in the late 70s and early 80s, designed as a "Great Game" ploy to goad the Soviets in Afghanistan?)

William Pfaff tells this long and sordid history in a powerful piece in The American Conservative, which appeared on line shortly before the Paris killings. It too is very much worth reading in full, but here is just one excerpt on the modern period of the tragic saga:

The “New Middle East,” officially proclaimed by NATO at the end of 2003, has conspicuously failed to appear, but it remains a goal of the expansionist neoconservative visionaries among the makers of American policy. In Bush’s government, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote in Foreign Affairs in 2008, “Democratic state-building is now an urgent component in our national interest” reflecting a “uniquely American realism” teaching that it is America’s job “to change the world,” and in its own image. On September 11, 2014 the eminent dean of the School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University, Vali R. Nasr, wrote in the New York Times that America “must rally the whole region to support power-sharing—and nation building. This is a tall order. But the crises facing America demand a grand strategy…” A decade of failures has passed, but the grand design has not changed.

President Obama has declared that the jihadism of the new “Islamic State” is itself an incarnation of evil that must be deterred and destroyed. The two sides in this renewal of George W. Bush’s War Against Global Terror—Jews and Christians in the West and their Arab enemies—both consider themselves “people of the Book” and descendants of the Prophet Abraham. They have now become in their own minds actors in the apocalyptic destiny described in the Book of Revelation. Many American Evangelical Protestants have convinced themselves that contemporary American foreign policy can only be understood in such a context.

... Washington’s conduct since the 2001 attack by Islamic radicals on New York and the Pentagon has undermined or deliberately subverted institutions of international order to which, in the past, the United States was a leading contributor. The codes of international justice and morality, developed in the Western community of nations since the 17th century, have when expedient been disregarded or rejected, with demands that the United States be exempted from the jurisdiction of international law and even from what until recently were accepted norms of international morality concerning human rights and national sovereignty.

Thus the foreign policies of the United States have been stripped of a vital part of their assumed original moral content. An assimilation of modern totalitarian influences, values, and practices occurred in the United States after 2001, with state assassinations, selective drone killings, disregard of due process, torture, and permanent incarceration without trial justified by American leaders in their conduct of what has amounted to a war, not really of religions, as such, but between absolutisms, the one religious, and the other, ours, a political culture of extreme and solipsistic millenarian nationalism.

That is indeed an apt description of modern America. What we have seen played out in Paris is yet another manifestation of this insane and asymmetrical war between two absolutisms. The inevitable bellicose, repressive reaction to the crime of the individuals in Paris will be inflicted on the bodies of countless innocent people around the world -- and will, inevitably, blow back on the West itself. For a hundred years, at every turning we have taken the wrong road, leading us deeper and deeper into chaos and blood. No doubt we are about plung down yet another wrong turn.


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Make the Groceries Free: A Political Program for Our Benighted Times

Written by Chris Floyd 07 January 2015 2805 Hits

Looking for something else tonight, I ran across this piece from six years ago. Thought it was worth a reprise. As I put it then:

Here are some lines first set down in the typescript of a 14-page songbook, "Alonzo Zilch's Own Collection of Original Songs and Ballads," written by a 23-year-old high school dropout named Woodrow Wilson Guthrie in 1935. With only the slightest revision in the presidential moniker, it could stand as a viable and vibrant political program for our day.

If I was President Roosevelt
I'd make the groceries free --
I'd give away new Stetson hats
And let the whisky be.
I'd pass out suits of clothing
At least three times a week --
And shoot the first big oil man
That killed the fishing creek.

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