American exceptionalism

Open Letter to President Putin

Anthony-Freda_empty-kingdomFrom the keyboard of Morris Berman
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Published on Dark Ages America on October 17, 2015


Dear Mr. President:

Gaspadin:

I am writing in response to your remark–accurate in the extreme, in my opinion–that members of the American government have mush in their heads instead of brains. Indeed, Mr. Obama has no coherent foreign policy, is basically adrift, and as you have no doubt figured out long ago, is a political and intellectual lightweight. He has no idea at all of what he is doing, and this applies to the majority of American politicians. 

However, what you wrote about the members of the American government also applies to members of the country at large: they have gavno inside their heads; they are a collection of duraki. After all, as a famous American comedian once remarked, our leaders come from the people; they don't originate on Mars. The remarkable thing is that in the US, even the smart ones are dumb, due in large part to our remarkable system of brainwashing. Let me remind you of that hilarious exchange you and Mr. Obama had a while back, regarding American "exceptionalism." Your response to his speech on this topic was to rebuke him, pointing out that regarding oneself as exceptional was a potentially destructive position to take. His response–I told you, he's not very smart–was more exceptionalist propaganda. The problem is that roughly 99.99% of the American public believes this nonsense, that we were chosen by God to lead the world by example. (A bit ironic, considering the fact that that example has not been very exemplary.) There is a knee-jerk reaction in this country, whenever we have a conflict with any other country, that we are good (always innocent) and they are evil, or at the very least misguided. We don't have a great talent for looking within, and the only president who asked us to do that–Jimmy Carter–is regarded by most Americans today as a loser and a fool.

You may well wonder how this nation of "individuals" wound up with a completely uniform ideology. The Australian journalist, John Pilger, tells the story–possibly apocryphal, I have no idea–of a project undertaken by America in the wake of Stalin's death in 1953, and the beginning of a thaw or detente between our two countries. The idea was to invite about two dozen apparatchiki over to the US to view a pluralistic society, "democracy in action." They could go anywhere they wanted, unescorted, and they did: the Senate, the Supreme Court, high schools, newspapers, universities–the works. At the end of the two weeks they all convened at the White House, and the official in charge of the project, beaming with pride, said, "Well?" The response was not exactly what he expected. After an embarrassed silence, one of the Russian officials spoke up:

"How do you do it?" he asked. "To get this extreme degree of conformity of opinion, everyone thinking exactly alike, we in the USSR have to beat our citizens, send them to Siberia, put them in psychiatric hospitals and fill them with drugs, shoot them, and so on. Here, in your country, you achieve the results we can only dream about, and with no coercion at all!"

Anyway, I don't mean to condone your own methods. The assassination of critical Russian journalists under your tenures in office is notorious (Anna Politkovskaya, for example), and forgive me, but I suspect your hands aren't completely clean in these abysmal events. So quite obviously, if you want a free society that allows for real dissent, you've got a ways to go. But Pilger's example, even if it never happened, is true to the spirit of how the United States operates, and to the very low level of citizen awareness of what's really going on in the world. All of which is to say that you might as well pursue your own interests (which you are already doing), and not worry too much about what we say, because all we are doing is pursuing our interests, and it is clear enough to most of the world that American "democracy" is a pretext for the projection of power into every corner of the globe, much of it for the purpose of economic gain.

In any case, it's not very likely that you will be reading this, inasmuch as I am a very minor intellectual figure in the US, not really on the radar screen of public discussion. But if you do happen to run across this, and would like to continue the conversation, I would be glad to do so with a nice samovar of tea from Sochi sitting between us. At the very least, I can assure you that it will be a far more interesting discussion than any you have had, or are likely to have, with virtually any American political figure.

Thank you for listening (if you did). Do svidanya, and vsevo haroshevo.

-Morris Berman

 

©Morris Berman, 2015 


Morris Berman is well known as an innovative cultural historian and social critic. He has taught at a number of universities in Europe and North America, and has held visiting endowed chairs at Incarnate Word College (San Antonio), the University of New Mexico, and Weber State University. During 1982-88 he was the Lansdowne Professor in the History of Science at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. Berman won the Governor’s Writers Award for Washington State in 1990, the Rollo May Center Grant for Humanistic Studies in 1992, and the Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity (from the Media Ecology Association) in 2013. He is the author of a trilogy on the evolution of human consciousness–-The Reenchantment of the World (1981), Coming to Our Senses (1989), and Wandering God: A Study in Nomadic Spirituality (2000)–and in 2000 his Twilight of American Culture was named a “Notable Book” by the New York Times Book Review.

American Exceptionalism: Not the Rule Any More

Off the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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America-Firsters hated it when Will McAvoy deflated the country’s standing in the world on HBO’s The Newsroom. They hate it even more when academic studies show everything he said was true. (HBO Photo)

Published on the Daily Impact on July 27, 2015


In the first episode of HBO’s The Newsroom, anchorman Will McAvoy (played by Jeff Daniels) delivers a rant that begins: “There is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world.  We’re 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, No. 4 in labor force and No. 4 in exports.” Writer Aaron Sorkin was accused of everything but jihad for having his character express such negative thoughts about America, and the program was heartily loathed during its run by real Americans. Now, three years later, a new academic study confirms what Will had to say. And more.

Now, Will’s rant was presented as an ad-libbed monologue by a pissed-off anchorman. It was not sourced, nor was it precise in its definitions. “Literacy” by what definition, for example, as tested by whom, how? These conversational imprecisions gave “fact-checkers” all kinds of room to brand one assertion or another as inaccurate (in each case that I have seen, the result of the proposed correction was not to make America great again, but to make it not-quite-that-bad.) They also make direct comparison with an academic study difficult if you want to avoid comparing apples to oranges.

That’s not what we’re doing. It has been claimed that the fruit is spoiling. We’re trying to see how rotten it is.

Now come Dr. Hershey Friedman of the City University of New York and Dr. Sarah Hertz of the State University of New York with a studywhose first sentence gives away its conclusion and echoes Will McAvoy: “Americans must stop convincing themselves that nothing is wrong and that the United States is still number one in the world.”

  • Will said we were “17th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science.” Friedman/Hertz say we are “17th in reading, 21st in science, and 26th in math.”
  • Will said we were “49th in life expectancy.” According to Friedman/Hertz, we’re 42nd, with a life expectancy of 79.5 years, ten fewer than first-place Monaco.
  • Will said we were third in median household income. (What? We’re not the richest country in the world?) Friedman/Hertz use a similar measure, median adult wealth, and finds we rank 27th in the world, behind Cyprus (25), Spain (20) and Ireland (18). Number One? Australia.
  • Will said we were 178th in infant mortality; today, the CIA ranks us at 169th. Friedman/Hertz look instead at maternal deaths in childbirth, for which we  rank 60 of 180 countries. Our maternal mortality has  been increasing since 1990, and is more than twice Canada’s rate.
  • Friedman/Hertz identify many more categories than did Will McAvoy. For example, 25 countries have lower rates of people in poverty, 35 have proportionately fewer children in poverty. And when it comes to income inequality, the United States is the fourth worst country in the world.
  • Will and Friedman/Hertz agree that there are still two areas in which the United States in undisputed number one: it imprisons more of its citizens and spends more on its military than anybody. US prisons hold 2.2 million prisoners of a population of 320 million. China, with nearly five times the population (1.4 billion) imprisons only 1.6 million people. The US spends more on its military than the next eight countries on the list combined.

There’s a word we need to bring back into general usage: jingoism, meaning “extreme patriotism, especially in the form of aggressive or warlike foreign policy.” The pundits and pols who were offended by the fictitious Will McAvoy, who will be outraged by the conclusions of Friedman/Hertz, who will declare unpatriotic anyone who dares to repeat their heresy — they are so many jingo bells, making rhythmic noises to avoid thinking about the bleak realities of a country in decline.

When a child dons a cape and claims to be a superhero, it’s cute. When an adult does it and offers to demonstrate his superpowers by jumping out a window, he must be restrained and treated. The people who want to restore our country’s damaged spirit — the true patriots, in other words, know that if it can be done it will not be by superpowers, but by even rarer stuff: dogged persistence, sacrifice and hard, hard work.

Wouldn’t that be great?

The Anti-Empire Report #132 – Ukraine and Neo-Nazis

From the Keyboard of William Blum
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Published originally in The Anti-Empire Report September 16th, 2014

Ukraine and neo-Nazis

Ever since serious protest broke out in Ukraine in February the Western mainstream media, particularly in the United States, has seriously downplayed the fact that the usual suspects – the US/European Union/NATO triumvirate – have been on the same side as the neo-Nazis. In the US it’s been virtually unmentionable. I’m sure that a poll taken in the United States on this issue would reveal near universal ignorance of the numerous neo-Nazi actions, including publicly calling for death to “Russians, Communists and Jews”. But in the past week the dirty little secret has somehow poked its head out from behind the curtain a bit.

On September 9 NBCnews.com reported that “German TV shows Nazi symbols on helmets of Ukraine soldiers”. The German station showed pictures of a soldier wearing a combat helmet with the “SS runes” of Hitler’s infamous black-uniformed elite corps. (Runes are the letters of an alphabet used by ancient Germanic peoples.) A second soldier was shown with a swastika on his helmet.

On the 13th, the Washington Post showed a photo of the sleeping quarter of a member of the Azov Battalion, one of the Ukrainian paramilitary units fighting the pro-Russian separatists. On the wall above the bed is a large swastika. Not to worry, the Post quoted the platoon leader stating that the soldiers embrace symbols and espouse extremist notions as part of some kind of “romantic” idea.

Yet, it is Russian president Vladimir Putin who is compared to Adolf Hitler by everyone from Prince Charles to Princess Hillary because of the incorporation of Crimea as part of Russia. On this question Putin has stated:

The Crimean authorities have relied on the well-known Kosovo precedent, a precedent our Western partners created themselves, with their own hands, so to speak. In a situation absolutely similar to the Crimean one, they deemed Kosovo’s secession from Serbia to be legitimate, arguing everywhere that no permission from the country’s central authorities was required for the unilateral declaration of independence. The UN’s international court, based on Paragraph 2 of Article 1 of the UN Charter, agreed with that, and in its decision of 22 July 2010 noted the following, and I quote verbatim: No general prohibition may be inferred from the practice of the Security Council with regard to unilateral declarations of independence.

Putin as Hitler is dwarfed by the stories of Putin as invader (Vlad the Impaler?). For months the Western media has been beating the drums about Russia having (actually) invaded Ukraine. I recommend reading: “How Can You Tell Whether Russia has Invaded Ukraine?” by Dmitry Orlov.

And keep in mind the NATO encirclement of Russia. Imagine Russia setting up military bases in Canada and Mexico, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Remember what a Soviet base in Cuba led to.

Has the United States ever set a bad example?

Ever since that fateful day of September 11, 2001, the primary public relations goal of the United States has been to discredit the idea that somehow America had it coming because of its numerous political and military acts of aggression. Here’s everyone’s favorite hero, George W. Bush, speaking a month after 9-11:

“How do I respond when I see that in some Islamic countries there is vitriolic hatred for America? I’ll tell you how I respond: I’m amazed. I’m amazed that there’s such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us. I am – like most Americans, I just can’t believe it because I know how good we are.”

Thank you, George. Now take your pills.

I and other historians of US foreign policy have documented at length the statements of anti-American terrorists who have made it explicitly clear that their actions were in retaliation for Washington’s decades of international abominations. But American officials and media routinely ignore this evidence and cling to the party line that terrorists are simply cruel and crazed by religion; which many of them indeed are, but that doesn’t change the political and historical facts.

This American mindset appears to be alive and well. At least four hostages held in Syria recently by Islamic State militants, including US journalist James Foley, were waterboarded during their captivity. The Washington Post quoted a US official: “ISIL is a group that routinely crucifies and beheads people. To suggest that there is any correlation between ISIL’s brutality and past U.S. actions is ridiculous and feeds into their twisted propaganda.”

The Post, however, may have actually evolved a bit, adding that the “Islamic State militants … appeared to model the technique on the CIA’s use of waterboarding to interrogate suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.”

Talk given by William Blum at a Teach-In on US Foreign Policy, American University, Washington, DC, September 6, 2014

Each of you I’m sure has met many people who support American foreign policy, with whom you’ve argued and argued. You point out one horror after another, from Vietnam to Iraq. From god-awful bombings and invasions to violations of international law and torture. And nothing helps. Nothing moves this person.

Now why is that? Are these people just stupid? I think a better answer is that they have certain preconceptions. Consciously or unconsciously, they have certain basic beliefs about the United States and its foreign policy, and if you don’t deal with these basic beliefs you may as well be talking to a stone wall.

The most basic of these basic beliefs, I think, is a deeply-held conviction that no matter what the United States does abroad, no matter how bad it may look, no matter what horror may result, the government of the United States means well. American leaders may make mistakes, they may blunder, they may lie, they may even on the odd occasion cause more harm than good, but they do mean well. Their intentions are always honorable, even noble. Of that the great majority of Americans are certain.

Frances Fitzgerald, in her famous study of American school textbooks, summarized the message of these books: “The United States has been a kind of Salvation Army to the rest of the world: throughout history it had done little but dispense benefits to poor, ignorant, and diseased countries. The U.S. always acted in a disinterested fashion, always from the highest of motives; it gave, never took.”

And Americans genuinely wonder why the rest of the world can’t see how benevolent and self-sacrificing America has been. Even many people who take part in the anti-war movement have a hard time shaking off some of this mindset; they march to spur America – the America they love and worship and trust – they march to spur this noble America back onto its path of goodness. In

Many of the citizens fall for US government propaganda justifying its military actions as often and as naively as Charlie Brown falling for Lucy’s football.

The American people are very much like the children of a Mafia boss who do not know what their father does for a living, and don’t want to know, but then wonder why someone just threw a firebomb through the living room window.

This basic belief in America’s good intentions is often linked to “American exceptionalism”. Let’s look at how exceptional US foreign policy has been. Since the end of World War 2, the United States has:

  1. Attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically-elected.
  2. Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries.
  3. Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.
  4. Attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 countries.
  5. Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.
  6. Led the world in torture; not only the torture performed directly by Americans upon foreigners, but providing torture equipment, torture manuals, lists of people to be tortured, and in-person guidance by American teachers, especially in Latin America.

This is indeed exceptional. No other country in all of history comes anywhere close to such a record.

So the next time you’re up against a stone wall … ask the person what the United States would have to do in its foreign policy to lose his support. What for this person would finally be TOO MUCH. If the person mentions something really bad, chances are the United States has already done it, perhaps repeatedly.

Keep in mind that our precious homeland, above all, seeks to dominate the world. For economic reasons, nationalistic reasons, ideological, Christian, and for other reasons, world hegemony has long been America’s bottom line. And let’s not forget the powerful Executive Branch officials whose salaries, promotions, agency budgets and future well-paying private sector jobs depend upon perpetual war. These leaders are not especially concerned about the consequences for the world of their wars. They’re not necessarily bad people; but they’re amoral, like a sociopath is.

Take the Middle East and South Asia. The people in those areas have suffered horribly because of Islamic fundamentalism. What they desperately need are secular governments, which have respect for different religions. And such governments were actually instituted in the recent past. But what has been the fate of those governments?

Well, in the late 1970s through much of the 1980s, Afghanistan had a secular government that was relatively progressive, with full rights for women, which is hard to believe, isn’t it? But even a Pentagon report of the time testified to the actuality of women’s rights in Afghanistan. And what happened to that government? The United States overthrew it, allowing the Taliban to come to power. So keep that in mind the next time you hear an American official say that we have to remain in Afghanistan for the sake of women’s rights.

After Afghanistan came Iraq, another secular society, under Saddam Hussein. And the United States overthrew that government as well, and now the country is overrun by crazed and bloody jihadists and fundamentalists of all kinds; and women who are not covered up are running a serious risk.

Next came Libya; again, a secular country, under Moammar Gaddafi, who, like Saddam Hussein, had a tyrant side to him but could in important ways be benevolent and do marvelous things for Libya and Africa. To name just one example, Libya had a high ranking on the United Nation’s Human Development Index. So, of course, the United States overthrew that government as well. In 2011, with the help of NATO we bombed the people of Libya almost every day for more than six months. And, once again, this led to messianic jihadists having a field day. How it will all turn out for the people of Libya, only God knows, or perhaps Allah.

And for the past three years, the United States has been doing its best to overthrow the secular government of Syria. And guess what? Syria is now a playground and battleground for all manner of ultra militant fundamentalists, including everyone’s new favorite, IS, the Islamic State. The rise of IS owes a lot to what the US has done in Iraq, Libya, and Syria in recent years.

We can add to this marvelous list the case of the former Yugoslavia, another secular government that was overthrown by the United States, in the form of NATO, in 1999, giving rise to the creation of the largely-Muslim state of Kosovo, run by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The KLA was considered a terrorist organization by the US, the UK and France for years, with numerous reports of the KLA being armed and trained by al-Qaeda, in al-Qaeda camps in Pakistan, and even having members of al-Qaeda in KLA ranks fighting against the Serbs of Yugoslavia. Washington’s main concern was dealing a blow to Serbia, widely known as “the last communist government in Europe”.

The KLA became renowned for their torture, their trafficking in women, heroin, and human body parts; another charming client of the empire.

Someone looking down upon all this from outer space could be forgiven for thinking that the United States is an Islamic power doing its best to spread the word – Allah Akbar!

But what, you might wonder, did each of these overthrown governments have in common that made them a target of Washington’s wrath? The answer is that they could not easily be controlled by the empire; they refused to be client states; they were nationalistic; in a word, they were independent; a serious crime in the eyes of the empire.

So mention all this as well to our hypothetical supporter of US foreign policy and see whether he still believes that the United States means well. If he wonders how long it’s been this way, point out to him that it would be difficult to name a single brutal dictatorship of the second half of the 20th Century that was not supported by the United States; not only supported, but often put into power and kept in power against the wishes of the population. And in recent years as well, Washington has supported very repressive governments, such as Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Indonesia, Egypt, Colombia, Qatar, and Israel.

And what do American leaders think of their own record? Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was probably speaking for the whole private club of our foreign-policy leadership when she wrote in 2000 that in the pursuit of its national security the United States no longer needed to be guided by “notions of international law and norms” or “institutions like the United Nations” because America was “on the right side of history.”

Let me remind you of Daniel Ellsberg’s conclusion about the US in Vietnam: “It wasn’t that we were on the wrong side; we were the wrong side.”

Well, far from being on the right side of history, we have in fact fought – I mean actually engaged in warfare – on the same side as al Qaeda and their offspring on several occasions, beginning with Afghanistan in the 1980s and 90s in support of the Islamic Moujahedeen, or Holy Warriors.

The US then gave military assistance, including bombing support, to Bosnia and Kosovo, both of which were being supported by al Qaeda in the Yugoslav conflicts of the early 1990s.

In Libya, in 2011, Washington and the Jihadists shared a common enemy, Gaddafi, and as mentioned, the US bombed the people of Libya for more than six months, allowing jihadists to take over parts of the country; and they’re now fighting for the remaining parts. These wartime allies showed their gratitude to Washington by assassinating the US ambassador and three other Americans, apparently CIA, in the city of Benghazi.

Then, for some years in the mid and late 2000s, the United States backed Islamic militants in the Caucasus region of Russia, an area that has seen more than its share of religious terror going back to the Chechnyan actions of the 1990s.

Finally, in Syria, in attempting to overthrow the Assad government, the US has fought on the same side as several varieties of Islamic militants. That makes six occasions of the US being wartime allies of jihadist forces.

I realize that I have fed you an awful lot of negativity about what America has done to the world, and maybe it’s been kind of hard for some of you to swallow. But my purpose has been to try to loosen the grip on your intellect and your emotions that you’ve been raised with – or to help you to help others to loosen that grip – the grip that assures you that your beloved America means well. US foreign policy will not make much sense to you as long as you believe that its intentions are noble; as long as you ignore the consistent pattern of seeking world domination, which is a national compulsion of very long standing, known previously under other names such as Manifest Destiny, the American Century, American exceptionalism, globalization, or, as Madeleine Albright put it, “the indispensable nation” … while others less kind have used the term “imperialist”.

In this context I can’t resist giving the example of Bill Clinton. While president, in 1995, he was moved to say: “Whatever we may think about the political decisions of the Vietnam era, the brave Americans who fought and died there had noble motives. They fought for the freedom and the independence of the Vietnamese people.” Yes, that’s really the way our leaders talk. But who knows what they really believe?

It is my hope that many of you who are not now activists against the empire and its wars will join the anti-war movement as I did in 1965 against the war in Vietnam. It’s what radicalized me and so many others. When I hear from people of a certain age about what began the process of losing their faith that the United States means well, it’s Vietnam that far and away is given as the main cause. I think that if the American powers-that-be had known in advance how their “Oh what a lovely war” was going to turn out they might not have made their mammoth historical blunder. Their invasion of Iraq in 2003 indicates that no Vietnam lesson had been learned at that point, but our continuing protest against war and threatened war in Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, and elsewhere may have – may have! – finally made a dent in the awful war mentality. I invite you all to join our movement. Thank you.

Notes

  1. NBC News, “German TV Shows Nazi Symbols on Helmets of Ukraine Soldiers”, September 6 2014
  2. BBC, March 18, 2014
  3. Information Clearinghouse, “How Can You Tell Whether Russia has Invaded Ukraine?”, September 1 2014
  4. Boston Globe, October 12, 2001
  5. See, for example, William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower(2005), chapter 1
  6. Washington Post, August 28, 2014
  7. Foreign Affairs magazine (Council on Foreign Relations), January/February 2000

Notes

  1. William Blum, Killing Hope, chapter 50
  2. Jonah Goldberg, “Baghdad Delenda Est, Part Two”National Review, April 23, 2002

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

 

The Anti-Empire Report #129

From the Keyboard of William Blum
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Published originally in The Anti-Empire Report June 7, 2014

Edward Snowden

Is Edward Snowden a radical? The dictionary defines a radical as “an advocate of political and social revolution”, the adjective form being “favoring or resulting in extreme or revolutionary changes”. That doesn’t sound like Snowden as far as what has been publicly revealed. In common usage, the term “radical” usually connotes someone or something that goes beyond the generally accepted boundaries of socio-political thought and policies; often used by the Left simply to denote more extreme than, or to the left of, a “liberal”.

In his hour-long interview on NBC, May 28, in Moscow, Snowden never expressed, or even implied, any thought – radical or otherwise – about United States foreign policy or the capitalist economic system under which we live, the two standard areas around which many political discussions in the US revolve. In fact, after reading a great deal by and about Snowden this past year, I have no idea what his views actually are about these matters. To be sure, in the context of the NBC interview, capitalism was not at all relevant, but US foreign policy certainly was.

Snowden was not asked any direct questions about foreign policy, but if I had been in his position I could not have replied to several of the questions without bringing it up. More than once the interview touched upon the question of whether the former NSA contractor’s actions had caused “harm to the United States”. Snowden said that he’s been asking the entire past year to be presented with evidence of such harm and has so far received nothing. I, on the other hand, as a radical, would have used the opportunity to educate the world-wide audience about how the American empire is the greatest threat to the world’s peace, prosperity, and environment; that anything to slow down the monster is to be desired; and that throwing a wrench into NSA’s surveillance gears is eminently worthwhile toward this end; thus, “harm” indeed should be the goal, not something to apologize for.

Edward added that the NSA has been unfairly “demonized” and that the agency is composed of “good people”. I don’t know what to make of this.

snowdenWhen the war on terrorism was discussed in the interview, and the question of whether Snowden’s actions had hurt that effort, he failed to take the opportunity to point out the obvious and absolutely essential fact – that US foreign policy, by its very nature, regularly and routinely creates anti-American terrorists.

When asked what he’d say to President Obama if given a private meeting, Snowden had no response at all to make. I, on the other hand, would say to Mr. Obama: “Mr. President, in your time in office you’ve waged war against seven countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria. This makes me wonder something. With all due respect, sir: What is wrong with you?”

A radical – one genuine and committed – would not let such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity pass by unused. Contrary to what his fierce critics at home may believe, Edward Snowden is not seriously at war with America, its government or its society. Does he have a real understanding, analysis, or criticism of capitalism or US foreign policy? Does he think about what people could be like under a better social system? Is he, I wonder, even anti-imperialist?

And he certainly is not a conspiracy theorist, or at least keeps it well hidden. He was asked about 9-11 and replied:

The 9/11 commission … when they looked at all the classified intelligence from all the different intelligence agencies, they found that we had all of the information we needed … to detect this plot. We actually had records of the phone calls from the United States and out. The CIA knew who these guys were. The problem was not that we weren’t collecting information, it wasn’t that we didn’t have enough dots, it wasn’t that we didn’t have a haystack, it was that we did not understand the haystack that we had.

Whereas I might have pointed out that the Bush administration may have ignored the information because they wanted something bad – perhaps of unknown badness – to happen in order to give them the justification for all manner of foreign and domestic oppression they wished to carry out. And did. (This scenario of course excludes the other common supposition, that it was an “inside job”, in which case collecting information on the perpetrators would not have been relevant.)

The entire segment concerning 9/11 was left out of the television broadcast of the interview, although some part of it was shown later during a discussion. This kind of omission is of course the sort of thing that feeds conspiracy theorists.

All of the above notwithstanding, I must make it clear that I have great admiration for the young Mr. Snowden, for what he did and for how he expresses himself. He may not be a radical, but he is a hero. His moral courage, nerve, composure, and technical genius are magnificent. I’m sure the NBC interview won him great respect and a large number of new supporters. I, in Edward’s place, would be even more hated by Americans than he is, even if I furthered the radicalization of more of them than he has. However, I of course would never have been invited onto mainstream American television for a long interview in prime time. (Not counting my solitary 15 minutes of fame in 2006 courtesy of Osama bin Laden; a gigantic fluke happening.)

Apropos Snowden’s courage and integrity, it appears that something very important has not been emphasized in media reports: In the interview, he took the Russian government to task for a new law requiring bloggers to register – the same government which holds his very fate in their hands.

Who is more exceptional: The United States or Russia?

I was going to write a commentary about President Obama’s speech to the graduating class at the US Military Academy (West Point) on May 28. When he speaks to a military audience the president is usually at his most nationalistic, jingoist, militaristic, and American-exceptionalist – wall-to-wall platitudes. But this talk was simply TOO nationalistic, jingoist, militaristic, and American-exceptionalist. (“I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.”) To go through it line by line in order to make my usual wise-ass remarks, would have been just too painful. However, if you’re in a masochistic mood and wish to read it, it can be found here.

Instead I offer you part of a commentary from Mr. Jan Oberg, Danish director of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research in Lund, Sweden:

What is conspicuously lacking in the President’s West Point speech?

  1. Any reasonably accurate appraisal of the world and the role of other nations.
  2. A sense of humility and respect for allies and other countries in this world.
  3. Every element of a grand strategy for America for its foreign and security policy and some kind of vision of what a better world would look like. This speech with all its tired, self-aggrandising rhetoric is a thin cover-up for the fact that there is no such vision or overall strategy.
  4. Some little hint of reforms of existing institutions or new thinking about globalisation and global democratic decision-making.
  5. Ideas and initiatives – stretched-out hands – to help the world move towards conflict-resolution in crisis areas such as Ukraine, Syria, Libya, China-Japan and Iran. Not a trace of creativity.

Ironically, on May 30 the Wall Street Journal published a long essay by Leon Aron, a Russia scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington. The essay took Russian president Vladimir Putin to task for claiming that Russia is exceptional. The piece was headed:

“Why Putin Says Russia Is Exceptional”

“Such claims have often heralded aggression abroad and harsh crackdowns at home.”

It states: “To Mr. Putin, in short, Russia was exceptional because it was emphatically not like the modern West – or not, in any event, like his caricature of a corrupt, morally benighted Europe and U.S. This was a bad omen, presaging the foreign policy gambits against Ukraine that now have the whole world guessing about Mr. Putin’s intentions.”

So the Wall Street Journal has no difficulty in ascertaining that a particular world leader sees his country as “exceptional”. And that such a perception can lead that leader or his country to engage in aggression abroad and crackdowns at home. The particular world leader so harshly judged in this manner by the Wall Street Journal is named Vladimir Putin, not Barack Obama. There’s a word for this kind of analysis – It’s called hypocrisy.

“Hypocrisy is anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised.” – Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoi, (1828-1910) Russian writer

Is hypocrisy a moral failing or a failing of the intellect?

The New Cold War is getting to look more and more like the old one, wherein neither side allows the other to get away with any propaganda point. Just compare any American television network to the Russian station broadcast in the United States – RT (formerly Russia Today). The contrast in coverage of the same news events is remarkable, and the stations attack and make fun of each other by name.

Another, even more important, feature to note is that in Cold War I the United States usually had to consider what the Soviet reaction would be to a planned American intervention in the Third World. This often served as a brake to one extent or another on Washington’s imperial adventures. Thus it was that only weeks after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the United States bombed and invaded Panama, inflicting thousands of casualties and widespread destruction, for the flimsiest – bordering on the non-existent – of reasons.  The hostile Russian reaction to Washington’s clear involvement in the overthrow of the Ukrainian government in February of this year, followed by Washington’s significant irritation and defensiveness toward the Russian reaction, indicates that this Cold War brake may have a chance of returning. And for this we should be grateful.

After the “communist threat” had disappeared and the foreign policy of the United States continued absolutely unchanged, it meant that the Cold War revisionists had been vindicated – the conflict had not been about containing an evil called “communism”; it had been about American expansion, imperialism and capitalism. If the collapse of the Soviet Union did not result in any reduction in the American military budget, but rather was followed by large increases, it meant that the Cold War – from Washington’s perspective – had not been motivated by a fear of the Russians, but purely by ideology.

Lest we forget: Our present leaders can derive inspiration from other great American leaders.

White House tape recordings, April 25, 1972:

President Nixon: How many did we kill in Laos?

National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger: In the Laotian thing, we killed about ten, fifteen [thousand] …

Nixon: See, the attack in the North [Vietnam] that we have in mind … power plants, whatever’s left – POL [petroleum], the docks … And, I still think we ought to take the dikes out now. Will that drown people?

Kissinger: About two hundred thousand people.

Nixon: No, no, no … I’d rather use the nuclear bomb. Have you got that, Henry?

Kissinger: That, I think, would just be too much.

Nixon: The nuclear bomb, does that bother you? … I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes.

May 2, 1972:

Nixon: America is not defeated. We must not lose in Vietnam. … The surgical operation theory is all right, but I want that place bombed to smithereens. If we draw the sword, we’re gonna bomb those bastards all over the place. Let it fly, let it fly.

“Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.” – Michael Ledeen, former Defense Department consultant and holder of the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute

Help needed from a computer expert

This has been driving me crazy for a very long time. My printer doesn’t print the document I ask it to print, but instead prints something totally unrelated. But what it prints is always something I’ve had some contact with, like an email I received or a document I read online, which I may or may not have saved on my hard drive, mostly not. It’s genuinely weird.

Now, before I print anything, I close all other windows in my word processor (Word Perfect/Windows 7); I go offline; I specify printing only the current page, no multiple page commands. Yet, the printer usually still finds some document online and prints it.

At one point I cleared out all the printer caches, and that helped for a short while, but then the problem came back though the caches were empty.

I spoke to the printer manufacturer, HP, and they said it can’t be the fault of the printer because the printer only prints what the computer tells it to print.

It must be the CIA or NSA. Help!

Notes

  1. William Blum, Killing Hope, chapter 50
  2. Jonah Goldberg, “Baghdad Delenda Est, Part Two”National Review, April 23, 2002

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

 

The Week In Doom, November 3, 2013

That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964Off the keyboard of Surly1

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on November 3, 2013
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

 

Behind the Mask

klansmen

“As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, he is trash.”
                                                                 ― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

In This Week In Doom, Pakistan is in a lather because we droned away another Taliban leader; with closing of the NATO supply routes to Afghanistan certain to follow. The funeral was held in secret, for fear of the famed “double tap”  now the USA’s calling card for drone warfare.  In Japan, TEPCO reports record profits at the same time  Fukushima waxes even more ominous. Golden Dawn provocateurs are shot in Greece. Ostensible liberal Dianne Feinstein offers a new NSA bill to codify and extend mass surveillance.  Obama’s popularity takes a hit as it turns out that some people actually don’t get to keep their health care coverage; a result almost guaranteed when you invest faith in the ethical behavior and decency of insurance companies. SNAP card  recipients take a 5% reduction in their buying power at the same time that inflation for commodities such as food nears double digits.  For that give thanks to a Congress intent on hitting America’s poorest while they’re down.  Tiny plastic beads are invading the Great Lakes. Lou Reed died. And away from the prying eyes of mere citizens, the Trans-Pacific Partnership continues to be negotiated by corporate lobbyists and free-trade charlatans. According to some, this agreement has little to do with free trade but everything to do with enabling a global corporatocracy,  and assuring the primacy of corporate rights over any others, local control or preference be damned. If you have not heard of this, give full credit to the lickspittles in charge of your loyal corporate media.

Yet for all that, this week’s thoughts are much closer to home.

For most of us, Halloween marks the beginning of a festive holiday season. For my part, ever since my daughter was too old to trek for her own candy boodle, she and a girlfriend  have made it a tradition to come to my home to pass out candy to little ones.  Likewise, for Contrary’s family, Halloween was a High Holy Day fully invested with creativity, imagination and effort. Her family went all in for Halloween. She has albums full of pictures of Halloween parties past, where every member of her extensive  family turned out in full costumed, make-up bedecked regalia.

In this context, then, for this Halloween, Contrary and her niece Sassy (who is staying with us) went all out in decorating.  I arrived home Halloween evening to find my quite ordinary home bedecked with crime scene tape, lit tiki torches,  young ladies in full costume, the works. Quickly the game was afoot: gaggles of parents and kids meeting on corners, traveling en masse from house to house to share in the season’s bounty.  it was a Halloween season ordinary in every way save one.  After the trick or treaters had come and gone, Contrary alerted me to this little bon mot,  which ended up putting this quite ordinary suburban neighborhood into the unwelcome glare of a national spotlight.

Better luck next year to the woman who will be handing out fat-shaming letters to overweight trick-or-treaters because America’s Worst Neighbor officially resides in Norfolk, Virginia.

A since-removed Craigslist post attributed to someone living in Norfolk neighborhood of Larchmont-Edgewater has riled up residents who say the sentiments expressed therein are not their own.

Writing under the headline “Reminder: Overage Trick Or Treaters Stay Out!,” the anonymous poster starts by ranting about “kids older than twelve going house to house for free candy.”

We hate seeing kids older than twelve going house to house for free candy. Doing so is illegal and this year we will be calling the police on you bastards. Overage trick or treating is a Class 4 misdemeanor and carries a $250 fine. This will also go on your criminal record if you don’t have one already.

Were it to have ended there, the post, found in the site’s “Rants and Raves” section, would be acceptably grouchy.

But it doesn’t end there. Instead, it goes from a rant, to a rave, to unabashedly racist:

And you niglets, stay the hell out! We’re a white neighborhood and we don’t want you baboons here!! You little turds better think twice going into my neighborhood or you will be legally punished.

“That`s awful, that`s awful,” Larchmont-Edgewater resident Ainel Alerth told NewsChannel3. “When I see that, I don`t know where it comes from, where all the anger comes from. Why are we using these words?”

Another resident, Timo Mitchell, agreed with the poster insofar as overage trick-or-treaters were concerned, but less so about the rest.

“I can understand if you have a 16 or 17-year-old show up without a costume, but just a blanket statement to say all kids of different colors can’t come in?” said Mitchell. “I don`t think that is appropriate for this neighborhood, because we are very eclectic here.”

Nobody wants crackers for Halloween.

One of the things I like about my neighborhood is that very little ever happens here. Here I raised a daughter, and taught her to read, to ride a bike,  play soccer, and know that she could walk to and from school in safety.  Thus to find that in this place, behind nicely manicured lawns and freshly painted doors, lurks the same sort of sentiment one generally encounters behind a tobacco barn, or on the sort of rural billboards that used to encourage the impeachment of Earl Warren, is deeply disconcerting.

 

One commenter:

Welcome to the “post-racial” South. I grew up in Norfolk, but not in that neighborhood. My wife lived there, though. It’s definitely upper-middle class, but borders on the Lambert’s Point neighborhood, which is decidedly African-American, though it’s becoming gentrified with the expansion of Old Dominion University. There are still a lot of crusty, old money bigots living in Larchmont/Edgewater. And while this saddens me, it doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s still the South, after all.

The story spread like an unwelcome fungus. A brief search search show that I could find it here, here, here, and here.

Even Wonkette, fergodsake.

One should never forget that Norfolk was one of the battlegrounds for “Massive Resistance.”  Little remembered or talked about now, “Massive Resistance” was that policy declared by Harry Byrd in 1956 to prevent public school desegregation in the wake of the Brown versus Board of Education decision of the Supreme Court in 1954.

To implement Massive Resistance, in 1956, the Byrd Organization-controlled Virginia General Assembly passed a series of laws known as the Stanley plan, after Governor Thomas Bahnson Stanley. One of these laws forbade any integrated schools from receiving state funds, and authorized the governor to order closed any such school. Another of these laws established a three-member Pupil Placement Board that would determine which school a student would attend. The decision of these Boards was based almost entirely on race. Another facet of these laws was the creation of tuition grants which could be given to students so they could attend a private school of their choice; again, in practice, this meant support of all-white schools that appeared as a response to forced integration (the “segregation academies“).

Later in 1956, the NAACP then filed lawsuits around the state in response to these laws in an attempt to force integration of Virginia schools. By 1958, things had come to a head. Federal courts ordered public schools in Warren County, the cities of Charlottesville and Norfolk and Arlington County to integrate.

Six schools in the city of Norfolk were closed,  eventually reopened by a judicial appeal. Many members of the “Lost class of ’59”  are still alive, and reside in the city even yet.

Why make such a big deal out of some garden variety ignorance?   Something has changed. And not just in Norfolk. Other unwelcome Halloween news included this

 

 

A group costume features a man dressed as Martin, wearing blackface and a blood-stained hoodie, and a man portraying Zimmerman, wearing a shirt that reads “Neighborhood Watch.” In a photo uploaded to the Facebook account of Caitlin Cimeno, the woman in the picture, the man portraying Zimmerman has fashioned a gun out of his right hand and has pointed it at the man dressed as Martin.

Cimeno’s Facebook account has since been deleted, but the photo has gone viral and elicited widespread condemnation. (Per Gawker, one of the men chose to set the photo as his Facebook profile picture before then swapping it out and setting his profile to “private.”)

According to the Smoking Gun, the men in the Martin and Zimmerman costumes are residents of Florida, where the Zimmerman case took place.

The Stir’s Lisa Fogarty takes particular issue with the pair “choosing to make light of the murder of a 17-year-old child.” She also adds that the men, aged 22 and 25, aren’t naive children who made a regrettable choice: “[T]hese men are too old to not know or understand that it’s also disrespectful to the family that is grieving for Trayvon.”

Ah, madness.   And perhaps I can hear you saying, “Yes, you old scold. It’s just a couple of young people with really bad taste.”  Sure. But these are somebody’s children. What have we taught them?

Recently, America–firsters had to endure criticism by Vladimir Putin of the notion of “American exceptionalism”   in a New York Times op-ed piece.  We understand “American exceptionalism” to be characterized by that historic sense to carry on a particular mission in the world, at all times informed by the message of freedom. Is the flipside of that old notion a negative exceptionalism, where the US has been racist, murderous, and rapacious?  Is it such a stretch to think that, while we feel ourselves entitled to deal out death from above in Yemen and Pakistan, that the old demons of racism, ignorance, and intolerance may not also feel themselves free to once again raise their heads at home?

While we may feel free to lecture the world on what its values are to be (economic and extractive), and strike our opponents from above by drones with murderous accuracy, we act as the freedom to do so is our God-given right. No… We are not special; the cavalry is not coming; there is no happy ending. The flipside of American exceptionalism is a blood drenched darkness. A darkness that requires ignorance to flourish. A darkness that just raised its snout where I live.

It’s a reminder that things are not always what they appear to be. That the order, that the sense of law, the services we take for granted, the institutions, the sense of community we think we enjoy all hang by the merest of threads.

Apparently you never know which of your neighbors has a hood in their closet.

Taper (Not)

Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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Published on Clusterfuck Nation August 2013

pieinthesky

Taper (Not)

     

Remember, the doleful, lonesome figure of Ben Bernanke stands (or slumps) at the top of a pyramid of obfuscation so high, broad, and massive that all the debt serfs in a history of the future will not avail to reconstruct its hypothecated contours. When the world picks itself up from the smoldering ruins of the financial landscape currently being rigged to blow, nobody will be able to explain how the modern world collateralized itself out of existence.

     What a set up. Bernanke gave the financial markets five months of the heebie-jeebies punctuated by a big fake-out and so the consensus finally perceives a giant green-light for resumed asset inflation. That’s why I like standing outside the consensus. Assets can inflate all they like on their way to the biggest train wreck of organized money ever recorded. Dow 20,000 is accelerating on a parallel track with the complete loss of confidence in paper representations of wealth. Enjoy your Facebook shares, or at least the digital ghost of them on your iPhone screen, while they’re fluorescing.

     It was perfectly obvious all spring and summer that the Federal Reserve could not neck down its purchases of US Treasury debt paper and bundled mortgage swindles without causing the equivalent of the 1942 Boston Coconut Grove nightclub fire in the financial markets. But not pretending to contemplate the “taper” would have entailed an admission that the so-called economy was on artificial life support juice. That would have suited neither the politicians and their political economists, who clung to their “recovery” story, nor the 1 percenters who were the direct beneficiaries of the wealth transfer activated by the life support liquidity juice injections.

     The net result is a return to the grand theme of pretend, with an increasingly dark outlook for the consequences, which will be the repudiation of what is officially called “money.” Meanwhile, congress now convenes to debate the question of extend, which can only add a frisson to the spectacle of pretend. The problem with these best laid plans of mouse-like creatures is that shit happens.

     Those distant rumbles of thunder are the audible traces of the destruction at the margins, certainly out of earshot of those at the very center. The margins is the place where nations, towns, institutions, families, and individual lives are ground down into a fine entropic powder of broken dreams. From the standpoint of the blogger-journalist, the story has been about how the destruction travels from the margins to the center. The center has been able to protect itself so far with one swindle after another, at the expense of the poor schnooks at the margins. The swindles are so abstruse and impenetrable that the schnooks don’t have a clue what is hitting them. At least so far.

     Faced with such a quandary, the schnooks may opt for political suicide, which is apparently the program of both major parties. Out of this sort of tragic muddle, Great Men emerge to galvanize the potential energy of the swindled multitudes. Recent models of this archetype are not so reassuring: Lenin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Ayatollah Khomeini. What history has in store for the USA is probably something that could only be cooked up on TV. One can hope that it turns out to be comedy, not something breaking bad.

          Of course the inverse of the idiotic American exceptionalism story lies beyond the fact that were not as special as we think. There is a whole vast world beyond the podium of Ben Bernanke and in that big world other mouse-like creatures are working sedulously to take advantage of our exceptional fecklessness. Distracted by everything from same-sex marriage to Monday Night Football, we don’t pay attention to the attrition. They’ve got our gold now, and despite the theory that gold has no more intrinsic value than $100 Federal Reserve notes, you can bet that before this is all over it will buy whatever food and fuel remains in the ground.

The Anti-Empire Report #119

The Anti-Empire Report #118

Published July 30, 2013 | By William Blum

From the keyboard of William Blum

Published  in The Anti-Empire Report, July 30, 2013

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The Anti-Empire Report #119

That most charming of couples: Nationalism and hypocrisy

It’s not easy being a flag-waving American nationalist. In addition to having to deal with the usual disillusion, anger, and scorn from around the world incited by Washington’s endless bombings and endless wars, the nationalist is assaulted by whistle blowers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, who have disclosed a steady stream of human-rights and civil-liberties scandals, atrocities, embarrassing lies, and embarrassing truths. Believers in “American exceptionalism” and “noble intentions” have been hard pressed to keep the rhetorical flag waving by the dawn’s early light and the twilight’s last gleaming.

  

That may explain the Washington Post story (July 20) headlined “U.S. asylum-seekers unhappy in Russia”, about Edward Snowden and his plan to perhaps seek asylum in Moscow. The article recounted the allegedly miserable times experienced in the Soviet Union by American expatriates and defectors like Lee Harvey Oswald, the two NSA employees of 1960 – William Martin and Bernon Mitchell – and several others. The Post’s propaganda equation apparently is: Dissatisfaction with life in Russia by an American equals a point in favor of the United States: “misplaced hopes of a glorious life in the worker’s paradise” … Oswald “was given work in an electronics factory in dreary Minsk, where the bright future eluded him” … reads the Post’s Cold War-clichéd rendition. Not much for anyone to get terribly excited about, but a defensive American nationalist is hard pressed these days to find much better.

At the same time TeamUSA scores points by publicizing present-day Russian violations of human rights and civil liberties, just as if the Cold War were still raging. “We call on the Russian government to cease its campaign of pressure against individuals and groups seeking to expose corruption, and to ensure that the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of all of its citizens, including the freedoms of speech and assembly, are protected and respected,” said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary. 1

“Campaign of pressure against individuals and groups seeking to expose corruption” … hmmm … Did someone say “Edward Snowden”? Is round-the-clock surveillance of the citizenry not an example of corruption? Does the White House have no sense of shame? Or embarrassment? At all?

I long for a modern version of the Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954 at which Carney – or much better, Barack Obama himself – is spewing one lie and one sickening defense of his imperialist destruction after another. And the committee counsel (in the famous words of Joseph Welch) is finally moved to declare: “Sir, you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” The Congressional gallery burst into applause and this incident is widely marked as the beginning of the end of the McCarthy sickness.

US politicians and media personalities have criticized Snowden for fleeing abroad to release the classified documents he possessed. Why didn’t he remain in the US to defend his actions and face his punishment like a real man? they ask. Yes, the young man should have voluntarily subjected himself to solitary confinement, other tortures, life in prison, and possible execution if he wished to be taken seriously. Quel coward!

Why didn’t Snowden air his concerns through the proper NSA channels rather than leaking the documents, as a respectable whistleblower would do? This is the question James Bamford, generally regarded as America’s leading writer on the NSA, endeavored to answer, as follows:

I’ve interviewed many NSA whistleblowers, and the common denominator is that they felt ignored when attempting to bring illegal or unethical operations to the attention of higher-ranking officials. For example, William Binney and several other senior NSA staffers protested the agency’s domestic collection programs up the chain of command, and even attempted to bring the operations to the attention of the attorney general, but they were ignored. Only then did Binney speak publicly to me for an article in Wired magazine. In a Q&A on the Guardian Web Snowden cited Binney as an example of “how overly-harsh responses to public-interest whistle-blowing only escalate the scale, scope, and skill involved in future disclosures. Citizens with a conscience are not going to ignore wrong-doing simply because they’ll be destroyed for it: the conscience forbids it.”

And even when whistleblowers bring their concerns to the news media, the NSA usually denies that the activity is taking place. The agency denied Binney’s charges that it was obtaining all consumer metadata from Verizon and had access to virtually all Internet traffic. It was only when Snowden leaked the documents revealing the phone-log program and showing how PRISM works that the agency was forced to come clean. 2

 

“Every country in the world that is engaged in international affairs and national security undertakes lots of activities to protect its national security,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said recently. “All I know is that it is not unusual for lots of nations.” 3

Well, Mr. K, antisemitism is not unusual; it can be found in every country. Why, then, does the world so strongly condemn Nazi Germany? Obviously, it’s a matter of degree, is it not? The magnitude of the US invasion of privacy puts it into a league all by itself.

Kerry goes out of his way to downplay the significance of what Snowden revealed. He’d have the world believe that it’s all just routine stuff amongst nations … “Move along, nothing to see here.” Yet the man is almost maniacal about punishing Snowden. On July 12, just hours after Venezuela agreed to provide Snowden with political asylum, Kerry personally called Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua and reportedly threatened to ground any Venezuelan aircraft in America’s or any NATO country’s airspace if there is the slightest suspicion that Snowden is using the flight to get to Caracas. Closing all NATO member countries’ airspace to Venezuelan flights means avoiding 26 countries in Europe and two in North America. Under this scenario, Snowden would have to fly across the Pacific from Russia’s Far East instead of crossing the Atlantic.

The Secretary of State also promised to intensify the ongoing process of revoking US entry visas to Venezuelan officials and businessmen associated with the deceased President Hugo Chávez. Washington will also begin prosecuting prominent Venezuelan politicians on allegations of drug trafficking, money laundering and other criminal actions and Kerry specifically mentioned some names in his conversation with the Venezuelan Foreign Minister.

Kerry added that Washington is well aware of Venezuela’s dependence on the US when it comes to refined oil products. Despite being one of the world’s largest oil producers, Venezuela requires more petrol and oil products than it can produce, buying well over a million barrels of refined oil products from the United States every month. Kerry bluntly warned that fuel supplies would be halted if President Maduro continues to reach out to the fugitive NSA contractor. 4

Wow. Heavy. Unlimited power in the hands of psychopaths. My own country truly scares me.

And what country brags about its alleged freedoms more than the United States? And its alleged democracy? Its alleged civil rights and human rights? Its alleged “exceptionalism”? Its alleged everything? Given that, why should not the United States be held to the very highest of standards?

American hypocrisy in its foreign policy is manifested on a routine, virtually continual, basis. Here is President Obama speaking recently in South Africa about Nelson Mandela: “The struggle here against apartheid, for freedom; [Mandela’s] moral courage; this country’s historic transition to a free and democratic nation has been a personal inspiration to me. It has been an inspiration to the world – and it continues to be.” 5

How touching. But no mention – never any mention by any American leader – that the United States was directly responsible for sending Nelson Mandela to prison for 28 years. 6

And demanding Snowden’s extradition while, according to the Russian Interior Ministry, “Law agencies asked the US on many occasions to extradite wanted criminals through Interpol channels, but those requests were neither met nor even responded to.” Amongst the individuals requested are militant Islamic insurgents from Chechnya, given asylum in the United States. 7

Ecuador has had a similar experience with the US in asking for the extradition of several individuals accused of involvement in a coup attempt against President Rafael Correa. The most blatant example of this double standard is that of Luis Posada Carriles who masterminded the blowing up of a Cuban airline in 1976, killing 73 civilians. He has lived as a free man in Florida for many years even though his extradition has been requested by Venezuela. He’s but one of hundreds of anti-Castro and other Latin American terrorists who’ve been given haven in the United States over the years despite their being wanted in their home countries.

American officials can spout “American exceptionalism” every other day and commit crimes against humanity on intervening days. Year after year, decade after decade. But I think we can derive some satisfaction, and perhaps even hope, in that US foreign policy officials, as morally damaged as they must be, are not all so stupid that they don’t know they’re swimming in a sea of hypocrisy. Presented here are two examples:

In 2004 it was reported that “The State Department plans to delay the release of a human rights report that was due out today, partly because of sensitivities over the prison abuse scandal in Iraq, U.S. officials said. One official … said the release of the report, which describes actions taken by the U.S. government to encourage respect for human rights by other nations, could ‘make us look hypocritical’.” 8

And an example from 2007: Chester Crocker, a member of the State Department’s Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion, and formerly Assistant Secretary of State, noted that “we have to be able to cope with the argument that the U.S. is inconsistent and hypocritical in its promotion of democracy around the world. That may be true.” 9

In these cases the government officials appear to be somewhat self-conscious about the prevailing hypocrisy. Other foreign policy notables seem to be rather proud.

Robert Kagan, author and long-time intellectual architect of an interventionism that seeks to impose a neo-conservative agenda upon the world, by any means necessary, has declared that the United States must refuse to abide by certain international conventions, like the international criminal court and the Kyoto accord on global warming. The US, he says, “must support arms control, but not always for itself. It must live by a double standard.” 10

And then we have Robert Cooper, a senior British diplomat who was an advisor to Prime Minister Tony Blair during the Iraq war. Cooper wrote:

The challenge to the postmodern world is to get used to the idea of double standards. Among ourselves, we operate on the basis of laws and open cooperative security. But when dealing with more old-fashioned kinds of states outside the postmodern continent of Europe, we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era – force, pre-emptive attack, deception, whatever is necessary to deal with those who still live in the nineteenth century world of every state for itself. 11

His expression, “every state for itself”, can be better understood as any state not willing to accede to the agenda of the American Empire and the school bully’s best friend in London.

So there we have it. The double standard is in. The Golden Rule of “do unto others as you would have others do unto you” is out.

The imperial mafia, and their court intellectuals like Kagan and Cooper, have a difficult time selling their world vision on the basis of legal, moral, ethical or fairness standards. Thus it is that they simply decide that they’re not bound by such standards.

Hating America

   

Here is Alan Dershowitz, prominent American lawyer, jurist, political commentator and fervent Zionist and supporter of the empire, speaking about journalist Glenn Greenwald and the latter’s involvement with Edward Snowden: “Look, Greenwald’s a total phony. He is anti-American, he loves tyrannical regimes, and he did this because he hates America. This had nothing to do with publicizing information. He never would’ve written this article if they had published material about one of his favorite countries.” 12

“Anti-American” … “hates America” … What do they mean, those expressions that are an integral part of American political history? Greenwald hates baseball and hot dogs? … Hates American films and music? … Hates all the buildings in the United States? Every law? … No, like most “anti-Americans”, Glenn Greenwald hates American foreign policy. He hates all the horrors and all the lies used to cover up all the horrors. So which Americans is he anti?

Dershowitz undoubtedly thinks that Snowden is anti-American as well. But listen to the young man being interviewed:

“America is a fundamentally good country. We have good people with good values who want to do the right thing.”

The interviewer is Glenn Greenwald. 13

Is there any other “democratic” country in the world which regularly, or even occasionally, employs such terminology? Anti-German? Anti-British? Anti-Mexican? It may be that only a totalitarian mentality can conceive of and use the term “anti-American”.

“God appointed America to save the world in any way that suits America. God appointed Israel to be the nexus of America’s Middle Eastern policy and anyone who wants to mess with that idea is a) anti-Semitic, b) anti-American, c) with the enemy, and d) a terrorist.” – John LeCarré, London Times, January 15, 2003

Notes

  1. White House Press Briefing, July 18, 2013
  2. Washington Post, June 23, 2013
  3. Reuters news agency, July 2, 2013
  4. RT television (Russia Today), July 19, 2013, citing a Spanish ABC media outlet
  5. White House press release, June 29, 2013
  6. William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, chapter 23
  7. RT television (Russia Today), July 22, 2013
  8. Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2004
  9. Washington Post, April 17, 2007
  10. Hoover Institute, Stanford University, Policy Review, June 1, 2002
  11. The Observer (UK), April 7, 2002
  12. “Piers Morgan Live”, CNN, June 24, 2013
  13. Video of Glen Greenwald interviewing Edward Snowden (at 2:05 mark)

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

 

william_blum

 

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.

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