cold war

This Week In Doom July 14, 2019


That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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                                                                                                                                                                               Anthony Freda

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on July 14, 2019

“The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history's clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again.” 
― Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August
 


There is a steady drumbeat of madness in the air… or it is simply my pulse in my ears? It grows louder. It screams of inevitability. When I was a little boy, four or five, I distinctly recall wondering whether mine might not be the last generation to live until "the end of the world."  A singular thought for a child– but this was the age of fallout shelters and under-the-desk nuclear attack drills– all of it kabuki, but calculated to help you feel you were doing something. Lately I've had those thoughts again, unbidden after sixty years. A fear, leading up to a Third, and final, world war as pieces float into place. 

A nuclear tipped empire led by a madman drunk on vanity, enabled by a vocal, hate-brimmed minority intent on nothing so much as making Those People suffer. "Those people" mean the right people in their view– immigrants, democrats, liberals, academics, knowledge-workers, African-americans, Latinos, queers– anyone not likely to be found in a Prosperity Gospel megachurch, a Chamber of Commerce breakfast, or a Trump Klux Klan meeting. These people have always been with us. In his satirical 1922 novel about American culture, Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis observed the vacuity of middle-class life and the social pressure toward conformity in a midwestern town. To remember that a quarter of our neighbors are nazis-in-waiting, never forget that as Nixon boarded the helicopter to his ride to shame and infamy, he stood at 24 per cent approval, per Gallup.

Our media reinforces that conformity, even though we are all repeatedly told what special snowflakes we are. Corporate media holds the coat for the military-industrial complex as we push for war. All is propaganda, to "support the troops;" special camo-version uniform accents for major league sports teams; Blue Angels overflights. Relentless propaganda against the new enemy, which this month has been Iran. Unlike the Cold War that informed my childhood, our world is no longer kept “stable” through a bipolar death grip of mutually assured destruction. The mood these days seems to evoke the period prior to WWI, where no one knows how shifting diplomatic alliances will fall, when the competition was between nation states and competing economic orders rather than ideologies. Prior to WWI, the global hegemon/empire was Britain, which after being bled white by two World Wars found the costs of Empire unsupportable. The US assumed the mortgage, and in the fullness of time, we too will assume that Whiter Shade of Pale. In the runup to WWI, the unstable nutcase in the equation was Kaiser Wilhelm. In our case, the loose orange cannon has 24-7 access to our nuclear codes and a troubled path to re-election.

Here's the week:


Alex Acosta Had to Go, But the Jeffrey Epstein Scandal Is Really About Money and Privilege

Acosta took the fall in the Jeffrey Epstein debacle for his role in the disgraceful 2008 sweetheart plea deal that gave Epstein mansion "house arrest" and other perks not available to those us whose net worth is south of ione figures. But it is likely Acosta is merely the first domino.

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta’s resignation Friday amid the mushrooming Jeffrey Epstein investigation made him the latest in a growing list of President Trump’s Cabinet members to depart under a cloud of scandal, plunging an administration that has struggled with record turnover into further upheaval.

As a private businessman, Trump had socialized with Epstein in the early 2000s, was famously quested as saying Epstein "enjoyed his social life," but said he had a "falling out" with Epstein some 15 years ago and ended their relationship.

People who knew the hedge fund business didn't know Epstein, unusual for someone who maintained a lavish lifestyle (including his own private island) supposedly by running hedge funds. 

Real Hedge-Fund Managers Have Some Thoughts on What Epstein Was Actually Doing

Long before Epstein pleaded guilty to prostitution charges in Florida more than a decade ago, his fellow Palm Beach resident and hedge-fund manager Douglas Kass was intrigued by the local gossip about his neighbor.

“I’m hearing about the parties, hearing about a guy who’s throwing money around,” says Kass, president of Seabreeze Partners Management. While stories about young girls swarming Epstein’s waterfront mansion and the sex parties he hosted for the rich and powerful were the talk of the town, Kass was more focused on how this obscure person, rumored to be managing billions of dollars, had become so wealthy without much of a track record.

Kass was well-connected on Wall Street, where he’d worked for decades, so he began to ask around. “I went to my institutional brokers, to their trading desks and asked if they ever traded with him. I did it a few times until the date when he was arrested,” he recalls. “Not one institutional trading desk, primary or secondary, had ever traded with Epstein’s firm.”

When a reporter came to interview Kass about Bernie Madoff shortly before that firm blew up in the biggest Ponzi scheme ever, Kass told her, “There’s another guy who reminds me of Madoff that no one trades with.” That man was Jeffrey Epstein….

…there is much skepticism among the hedgies Intelligencer spoke with that Epstein made the money he has — and he appears to have a lot, given a lavish portfolio of homes and private aircraft — as a traditional money manager.  A fund manager who knows well how that kind of fortune is acquired notes, “It’s hard to make a billion dollars quietly.” Epstein never made a peep in the financial world.

More in this excellent article from The Intelligencer at the link.

Some have observed that we've seen the like of Epstein before. I think not. While indulging his taste for pedophilia, Epstein has for all intents and purposes run a honeypot operation spanning decades, and including high rollers and the odd president or two. The contents of Epstein's "little black book" is worth billions. Acosta said he was waved off in the 2008 plea deal, having been told that Epstein "belonged to intelligence." Whose intelligence, no one is saying. 

As Douglas Kass said in the quote above, "It's hard to make a billion dollars quietly." Yet no one in hedge find circles knew of him, had traded with him, or knew anyone who had. Yet someone was paying for his lifestyle. Billionaires and politicos buying decades of silence?


A Twitter post by one Quantian that lays out a likely scenario for Epstein's scheme that ticks off all that we know to be true. If is worth a read, on Threadreader here and on Twitter, if you'd rather.


It mat be that Epstein is not a garden variety pedo. He ran a network supplying children– not "young women," as the media spinners might put it– for high rollers and the connected. Whether or not we will ever know the "truth," or what passes for it, remains very doubtful. We've seen this act before– remember the Franklin affair and cover-up? Those bastards literally got away with murder. the investigators got steamrollered with money, and even the FBI got involved on the part of those accused: they managed to stop a John Walsh America’s Most Wanted series which featured the Franklin case. Most charges were dismissed. So those seeking justice may be disappointed, but before the charges are dismissed, some of the names in Epstein's famous "little black book" may do some summertime sweating. The root issue is the workings of the American class system. From Franklin, Nebraska to New York City and "St. Jeff's Island," we see the the manner in which people of great wealth and high social standing are often able to purchase their own flavor of justice, regardless of how flagrant or hideous their crimes may be.  Judges, prosecutiors, and juries often genuflect before a high enough pile of cash.


Savage tick-clone armies are sucking cows to death; experts fear for humans. 
Spreading invasive tick spawns without mating and can transmit deadly disease.
Ravenous swarms of cloned ticks have killed a fifth cow in North Carolina by exsanguination—that is, by draining it of blood—the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services warned this week….

The tick—the Asian longhorned tick, or Haemaphysalis longicornis—was first found terrorizing a sheep in New Jersey in 2017 and has established local populations in at least 10 states since it sneaked in. Its invasive sweep is due in large part to the fact that a single well-fed female can spawn up to 2,000 tick clones parthenogenetically—that is, without mating—in a matter of weeks. And unlike other ticks that tend to feast on a victim for no more than seven days, mobs of H. longicorni can latch on for up to 19 days.

The state government is North Carolina no longer maintains any capability to respond to this type of new public health threat – the Republicans who took control of the state legislature in 2010 eliminated the  Public Health Pest Management Section — which included the state’s tick control and research programs — in their 2011 budget.


Trump backs away from census citizenship question, orders agencies to hand over citizenship information to Commerce

President Donald Trump retreated from his quest to add a question about US citizenship to the 2020 census on Thursday, instead asking government agencies to provide records that could determine a head-count of citizens without polling census-takers directly. 

The turnaround comes after Trump repeatedly said he would continue fighting to insert the question despite a Supreme Court ruling that dealt a blow to the effort last month. It reflects legal reality intersecting with Trump's desire to bolster his image as an immigration hard-liner as he moves ahead with his 2020 reelection bid.

Some type of direct action by Trump had been one of several avenues explored by the administration to place the question on the population survey following the late June Supreme Court ruling. 

The Trump administration initially announced printing would go forward without the citizenship question. Government attorneys had asserted to the courts that the printing process — either with or without the question — needed to begin on July 1 to avoid extra costs.


Top 1% Up $21 Trillion. Bottom 50% Down $900 Billion.
Stop the Presses: The rich get richer.

Every quarter, the Federal Reserve puts out the Financial Accounts (aka “Z1” or “Flow of Funds”), which provide economy-wide aggregates for nearly every kind of asset and liability there is. Every three years, they put out the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), which is a household survey that records many of the same kinds of assets and liabilities that are in the Financial Accounts. In a perfect world, the assets and liabilities in the SCF would sum up to the aggregates in the Financial Accounts, but for various reasons they do not.

Recently, the Federal Reserve released a new data series called the Distributive Financial Accounts, which combine the Financial Accounts and the SCF to provide quarterly estimates of the distribution of wealth in America that do sum to the aggregates in the Financial Accounts. The series goes back to 1989, the first year the modern SCF was administered and runs to the fourth quarter of 2018, the last quarter for which there is Financial Accounts data.

The insights of this new data series are many, but for this post here I want to highlight a single eye-popping statistic. Between 1989 and 2018, the top 1 percent increased its total net worth by $21 trillion. The bottom 50 percent actually saw its net worth decrease by $900 billion over the same period…

What the final product reveals is a 2018 where the top 1 percent owns nearly $30 trillion of assets while the bottom half owns less than nothing, meaning they have more debts than they have assets. This follows from 30 years in which the top 1 percent massively grew their net worth while the bottom half saw a slight decline in its net worth.


By 2050, many world cities will have weather like they’ve never seen, new study says

The price of climate denial will be paid. Gardeners already know that growing zones have moved steadily northward during our lifetimes, and that temps keep getting hotter as glaciers at both poles melt and sea levels rise, and storms come earlier and with greater force and water load. Tropical Storm Barry this week was an early preview.

CLIMATE FORECAST FOR 2050: New York City winters will have the weather of today’s Virginia Beach, damp and cold London will be hot and dry like Barcelona, wet Seattle will be like drier San Francisco, and Washington D.C. will be more like today’s Nashville but with even greater variation in temperatures and precipitation. Those predictions are according to the first global analysis of how some cities’ climate conditions will shift under climate change.

“We wanted to know what’s the most conservative estimate of what the climate will be for 520 major cities in 2050,” said Tom Crowther, a researcher at ETH Zürich, and senior author of the study published today in the peer-reviewed science journal PLOS ONE.

“The changes we found are huge,” Crowther says in an interview.

Generally speaking, cities in the Northern Hemisphere will have the climates cities more than 620 miles to their south have today, he said.

There are no good pairings or analogues for more than 22 percent of the world’s major cities—those with one million or more people currently, researchers found. Those 115 cities, including Washington and 16 other U.S. cities, will have unprecedented climate conditions by 2050 compared to what they saw in 2000, the baseline for the study.

That doesn’t mean that Washington will be hotter than Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, today. It means that there is no current match for the wide climate variations in temperatures, seasonality, and precipitation the city will experience, said Crowther.

The vast majority of the 115 cities that will experience “novel” climates are in the tropics and include metropolises like Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Rangoon, and Singapore. Changes in tropical cities will be less in terms of temperature increases, but will be dominated by more frequent extreme precipitation events and the severity and intensity of droughts.

“The fate of major tropical cities remains uncertain as many will experience unprecedented climate conditions,” the study concludes.


Earth's Ancient Life Forms Are Awakening After 40,000 Years in Permafrost

Researchers in a warming Arctic are discovering organisms, frozen and presumed dead for millennia, that can bear life anew. These ice age zombies range from simple bacteria to multicellular animals, and their endurance is prompting scientists to revise their understanding of what it means to survive.

"You wouldn't assume that anything buried for hundreds of years would be viable," said [evolutionary biologist Catherine} La Farge, who researches mosses at the University of Alberta.

In 2009, her team was scouring Teardrop's margin to collect blackened plant matter spit out by the shrinking glacier. Their goal was to document the vegetation that long ago formed the base of the island's ecosystem.

"The material had always been considered dead. But by seeing green tissue, "I thought, 'Well, that's pretty unusual'," La Farge said about the centuries-old moss tufts she found.

She brought dozens of these curious samples back to Edmonton, lavishing them with nutrient-rich soils in a bright, warm laboratory. Almost a third of the samples burst forth with new shoots and leaves.

"We were pretty blown away," La Farge said. The moss showed few ill effects of its multi-centennial deep-freeze.

Russian teams working on a similar project have reanimated nematodes from over 40,000 years ago:  the most complex creatures ever revived after a lengthy deep freeze. What else could be buried in the Arctic deeps awaiting reanimation? And what could possibly go wrong?


Global clean-energy spending is plummeting

Worldwide funding of clean-energy projects fell to its lowest level in six years, in a staggering blow to the battle against climate change.

The findings: BloombergNEF found that global investments in solar, wind, and other clean energy sources added up to $117.6 billion during the first half of 2019, a 14% decline from the same period last year and the lowest six-month figure since 2013.
China saw a 39% drop in investments, as the nation eases up on its aggressive solar subsidies to get costs under control. But spending also declined 6% in the US and 4% in Europe, part because of policies that are being phased out and weak demand for additional energy generation in mature markets.

The big picture: The new report suggests last year’s slowdown in renewable-energy construction has extended into 2019, taking the world in exactly the wrong direction at a critical time (see “Global renewables growth has stalled—and that’s terrible news”).  Every major report finds that the world needs to radically accelerate the shift to clean energy to have any hope of not blowing past dangerous warming thresholds (see “At this rate, it’s going to take 400 years to transform the energy system”).

The smart money says we don't have 400 years, or even 40.


The fact is that our modern system is dependent upon petroleum, and will be for the foreseeable future. Our lives, society and economies are based on oil and petroleum byproducts.  The plastics, the supply chains that take the raw ingredients from manufacturing to retail are all dependent on petroleum and byproducts. Whether we can generate enough renewable power to replace a significangt portion. of this is arguable. . Decision makers have always known this.

We knew the potential impacts of global warming 40 years ago. Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the White House; Reagan had them removed, and declared, "Morning in America." Weaning a society and a world from petroleum might have been difficult enough had we summoned the will; but with the Reaganauts in charge such change was off the boards.

Today, production webs are now globally interlocked. The rise of developing nations like China and India and the Pacific Rim means that their citizens want a car in the driveway and steak on their plate just like the first world imperialists that stole their assets 100 years ago. Any attempts for the West to move to a zero emission scheme would have been rendered moot if the Third World refused to go along. Forego growth? Not likely.

So knowing this, the elites have chosen to deny climate change for as long as possible to a public too complacent to notice or make changes themselves. Once a general alarm was sounded and a tipping point of public opinion was close, they would pay lip service to environmentalism. Enter some toothless carbon-cutting deals without enforcement mechanisms, and with an action date near mid-century. Anything to keep people placated and assuming that their Governments were actually working the issue.

Use the notion of the free market meeting the problem head on once there is enough profit involved. By the time this might be viable, it'll be far too late to head off the four degrees Celsius increase, the tipping point towards full blown environmental Armageddon.

Meanwhile, TPTB maximize short term profit, and use that profit to start socially engineering the lower energy footprint, ownership-free world that the New World Order will demand. And rathole money in land, bunkers and other assets to make sure they and their progeny are prepared to survive a couple years of zombie unpleasantness, then emerge with prerogatives intact.

The exacerbated income inequality demonstrated above is just more evidence that TPTB are concentrating the wealth. It's a game we're not even aware is being played, because we're so complacent. By the time the jig is up, they will already field their own private armies in order to keep themselves and their families safe from a very pissed off population.

Two degrees rise is almost certainly baked in at this point, and because the world economic system is reliant on petroleum, there's no changing its current  direction absent a worldwide commitment, the consensus for which is notably absent. And this does not account for other hidden feed back loops within the Earth's biosphere, such as frozen methane reserves in the Arctic.

When I was young, the earth was home to 3.7 billion people. Now, 8+ billion people will all want desperately to survive what is coming. The kind of climate migrations we'll be facing will almost certainly mean nations will go to war over dwindling supplies, sources of fresh, clean water foremost among them. Look to the news out of India this week, then consider what the disappearance of glaciers will mean for the great, glacier-fed rivers of Asia. We know what the end game is, and we've known, or been able to deduce, for forty years. Nothing has changed except that time grows shorter. And I still wonder whether my generation will be the last to walk the earth as we knew it.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere. He lives a quiet domestic existence in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary. Descended from a long line of people to whom one could never tell anything, all opinions are his and his alone.

Cold War, today, tomorrow, every day till the end of the world

gc2smFrom the Keyboard of William Blum
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anthony-freda-war-mind

Published originally in The Anti-Empire Report October 3, 2016


“Russia suspected of election scheme. U.S. probes plan to sow voter distrust.”

That’s the Washington Post page-one lead headline of September 6. Think about it. The election that Americans are suffering through, cringing in embarrassment, making them think of moving abroad, renouncing their citizenship; an election causing the Founding Fathers to throw up as they turn in their graves … this is because the Russian Devils are sowing voter distrust! Who knew?

But of course, that’s the way Commies are – Oh wait, I forgot, they’re no longer Commies. So what are they? Ah yes, they still have that awful old hangup so worthy of condemnation by decent people everywhere – They want to stand in the way of American world domination. The nerve!

The first Cold War performed a lobotomy on Americans, replacing brain matter with anti-communist viral matter, producing more than 70 years of functional national stupidity.

For all of you who missed this fun event there’s good news: Cold War Two is here, as big and as stupid as ever. Russia and Vladimir Putin are repeatedly, and automatically, blamed for all manner of bad things. The story which follows the above Washington Post headline does not even bother to make up something that could pass for evidence of the claim. The newspaper just makes the claim, at the same time pointing out that “the intelligence community is not saying it has ‘definitive proof’ of such tampering, or any Russian plans to do so.” But the page-one headline has already served its purpose.

Hillary Clinton in her debate with Donald Trump likewise accused Russia of all kinds of computer hacking. Even Trump, not usually a stickler for accuracy, challenged her to offer something along the lines of evidence. She had nothing to offer.

In any event, this is all a diversion. It’s not hacking per se that bothers the establishment; it’s the revelations of their lies that drives them up the wall. The hack of the Democratic National Committee on the eve of the party’s convention disclosed a number of embarrassing internal emails, forcing the resignation of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

On September 12 we could read in the Post that a well-known physician had called for Clinton to be checked for possible poisons afer her collapse in New York. Said the good doctor: “I do not trust Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump. With those two all things are possible.”

Numerous other examples could be given here of the Post’s near-juvenile anti-Russian bias. One of the most common subjects has been Crimea. Moscow’s “invasion” of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine in February 2014 is repeatedly cited as proof of Moscow’s belligerent and expansionist foreign policy and the need for Washington to once again feed the defense-budget monster. But we’re never reminded that Russia was reacting to a US-supported coup that overthrew the democratically-elected government of Ukraine on Russia’s border and replaced it with a regime in which neo-Nazis, complete with swastikas, feel very much at home. Russia “invaded” to assist Eastern Ukrainians in their resistance to this government, and did not even cross the border inasmuch as Russia already had a military base in Ukraine.

NATO (= USA) has been surrounding Russia for decades. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov captured the exquisite shamelessness of this with his remark of September 27, 2014: “Excuse us for our existence in the middle of your bases.”

By contrast here is US Secretary of State, John Kerry: “NATO is not a threat to anyone. It is a defensive alliance. It is simply meant to provide security. It is not focused on Russia or anyone else.” 

NATO war games in these areas are frequent, almost constant. The encirclement of Russia is about complete except for Georgia and Ukraine. In June, Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, shockingly accused NATO of “war-mongering” against Russia. How would the United States react to a Russian coup in Mexico or Canada followed by Russian military exercises in the same area?

Since the end of Cold War One, NATO has been feverishly searching for a reason to justify its existence. Their problem can be summed up with this question: If NATO had never existed what argument could be given now to create it?

The unmitigated arrogance of US policy in Ukraine was best epitomized by the now-famous remark of Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary at the State Department, reacting to possible European Union objection to Washington’s role in Ukraine: “Fuck the EU”, she charmingly declared.

Unlike the United States, Russia does not seek world domination, nor even domination of Ukraine, which Moscow could easily accomplish if it wished. Neither did the Soviet Union set out to dominate Eastern Europe post-World War II. It must be remembered that Eastern Europe became communist because Hitler, with the approval of the West, used it as a highway to reach the Soviet Union to wipe out Bolshevism forever; and that the Russians in World Wars I and II lost about 40 million people because the West had twice used this highway to invade Russia. It should not be surprising that after World War II the Soviets were determined to close down the highway.

The Washington Post’s campaign to depict Russia as the enemy is unrelenting. Again, on the 19th, we could read in the paper the following: “U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies are investigating what they see as a broad covert Russian operation in the United States to sow public distrust in the upcoming presidential election and in U.S. political institutions, intelligence and congressional officials said.”

Nothing, however, compares with President Obama’s speech to the UN General Assembly (September 24, 2014) where he classified Russia to be one of the three threats to the world along with the Islamic State and ebola.

A war between nuclear-powered United States and nuclear- powered Russia is “unthinkable”. Except that American military men think about it, like Cold-War US General Thomas Power, speaking about nuclear war or a first strike by the US: “The whole idea is to kill the bastards! At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win!” The response from one of those present was: “Well, you’d better make sure that they’re a man and a woman.” 

Responses from the Left to my attacks on radical Islam

It’s not my intention here to resume the heated discussion about my recent articles calling for the destruction of ISIS, which led numerous of my readers to criticize me, some 50 of whom asked to be removed from my mailing list, but I hope that many will find the following summary of their stated or implied objections of interest:

  1. They are religious enough to resent what they detect as my less-than-fervent religious bent.

  2. They refuse to acknowledge any Islamic motivation or context for ISIS, labeling ISIS as no more than US/Israeli/Saudi mercenaries – end of discussion. Or Salafi or Wahhabi sects – not really Islamic, they insist. Islam is thus spared from any contamination.

  3. They resent my not making a clear enough distinction between ISIS and Islam in general, being particularly annoyed by my use of the term “radical Islam” or “Islamic terrorism”. (I pointed out that the West commonly, and correctly, associated Stern/Irgun terrorism with Jews and IRA terrorism with Catholics.)

    For the record I am condemning those Muslims who engage in suicide bombings, stabbings and other acts of murderous jihad, those who extol and teach the glory and heavenly rewards for such acts, and those who preach that all non-Muslims are infidels and the enemy. In this context it’s no excuse to cite the various acts of horror carried out by the US or the West, particularly when the jihadists’ targets (restaurants, theatres, stores, passersby, etc.) usually have nothing at all to do with Western imperialism.

  4. They are annoyed that I don’t mention the usual list of US atrocities in the Middle East as being responsible for all of radical Islam’s horrors, which are seen as simple retaliation. (See part 3 above.)

  5. They hate US foreign policy even more than I do, a sentiment I hadn’t known was so common, or even possible.

  6. I supported the use of US military force against ISIS and their ilk, a terrible black mark against me inasmuch as such force is regarded by leftists as the original sin and cannot conceivably be used for a good end. But the US “accidental” bombing of Syrian troops September 16, killing and wounding about 160, clearly lends credence to my critics.

The US election

On more than one occasion during the recent US primary campaign, Senator Bernie Sanders was asked if he would run on a third-party ticket if he failed to win the Democratic nomination. His reply was a form of the following: “If it happens that I do not win that process, would I run outside of the system? No, I made the promise that I would not, and I’ll keep that promise. And let me add to that: And the reason for that is I do not want to be responsible for electing some right-wing Republican to be president of the United States of America.” 

So instead he’s going to be responsible for electing some right-wing Democrat to be president of the United States of America. It’s certainly debatable who’s more right wing, Clinton or Trump. Clinton surely earns that honor on foreign policy. Think of Syria, Iraq, Honduras, Yugoslavia, Libya … et al.

The revelation that the Democratic Party was secretly favoring Clinton over Sanders is reason enough for Sanders to have broken his promise and accepted the offer of the Green Party to be their candidate.

“Qualified” is a word one hears often in this campaign. Hillary, we’re told, is eminently so, Donald is outstandingly un-. But what does the word mean in this context? If a candidate doesn’t share your opinion on most of the crucial issues, who cares if she or he is “qualified”? Conversely, if a candidate shares your opinion on most of the crucial issues, should you be concerned that she or he is “unqualified”?

Reason number 39,457 to give up on capitalism

Macy’s, one of the leading department stores in the United States, has announced it is closing 100 of its stores. Just think of all that was involved in creating each of those stores, from design and building to filling it with staff and goods; all soon to be gone, leaving empty shells of buildings, eyesores for the neighborhoods, thousands of lost jobs … all because a certain net-profit goal was not met.

Such a waste. So many empty stores, and at the same time so many unemployed people.

Not far from so many empty houses, and at the same time so many homeless people.

Can it be imagined that an American president would openly implore the nation’s young people to fight a foreign war to defend “capitalism”?


Notes

  1. Washington Post, December 3, 2015
  2. Various online sources, see for example Thomas Power’s wikipedia entry
  3. Democracy Now!, June 9, 2016

 


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 #133

From the Keyboard of William Blum
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isis execution

Published originally in The Anti-Empire Report October 16, 2014

The Islamist State

You can’t believe a word the United States or its mainstream media say about the current conflict involving The Islamic State (ISIS).

You can’t believe a word France or the United Kingdom say about ISIS.

You can’t believe a word Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, or the United Arab Emirates say about ISIS. Can you say for sure which side of the conflict any of these mideast countries actually finances, arms, or trains, if in fact it’s only one side? Why do they allow their angry young men to join Islamic extremists? Why has NATO-member Turkey allowed so many Islamic extremists to cross into Syria? Is Turkey more concerned with wiping out the Islamic State or the Kurds under siege by ISIS? Are these countries, or the Western powers, more concerned with overthrowing ISIS or overthrowing the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad?

You can’t believe the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels. You can’t even believe that they are moderate. They have their hands in everything, and everyone has their hands in them.

Iran, Hezbollah and Syria have been fighting ISIS or its precursors for years, but the United States refuses to join forces with any of these entities in the struggle. Nor does Washington impose sanctions on any country for supporting ISIS as it quickly did against Russia for its alleged role in Ukraine.

The groundwork for this awful mess of political and religious horrors sweeping through the Middle East was laid – laid deeply – by the United States during 35 years (1979-2014) of overthrowing the secular governments of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. (Adding to the mess in the same period we should not forget the US endlessly bombing Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.) You cannot destroy modern, relatively developed and educated societies, ripping apart the social, political, economic and legal fabric, torturing thousands, killing millions, and expect civilization and human decency to survive.

Particularly crucial in this groundwork was the US decision to essentially throw 400,000 Iraqis with military training, including a full officer corps, out onto the streets of its cities, jobless. It was a formula for creating an insurgency. Humiliated and embittered, some of those men would later join various resistance groups operating against the American military occupation. It’s safe to say that the majority of armored vehicles, weapons, ammunition, and explosives taking lives every minute in the Middle East are stamped “Made in USA”.

And all of Washington’s horses, all of Washington’s men, cannot put this world back together again. The world now knows these places as “failed states”.

Meanwhile, the United States bombs Syria daily, ostensibly because the US is at war with ISIS, but at the same time seriously damaging the oil capacity of the country (a third of the Syrian government’s budget), the government’s military capabilities, its infrastructure, even its granaries, taking countless innocent lives, destroying ancient sites; all making the recovery of an Assad-led Syria, or any Syria, highly unlikely. Washington is undoubtedly looking for ways to devastate Iran as well under the cover of fighting ISIS.

Nothing good can be said about this whole beastly situation. All the options are awful. All the participants, on all sides, are very suspect, if not criminally insane. It may be the end of the world. To which I say … Good riddance. Nice try, humans; in fact, GREAT TRY … but good riddance. ISIS … Ebola … Climate Change … nuclear radiation … The Empire … Which one will do us in first? … Have a nice day.

Is the world actually so much more evil and scary today than it was in the 1950s of my upbringing, for which I grow more nostalgic with each new horror? Or is it that the horrors of today are so much better reported, as we swim in a sea of news and videos?

After seeing several ISIS videos on the Internet, filled with the most disgusting scenes, particularly against women, my thought is this: Give them their own country; everyone who’s in that place now who wants to leave, will be helped to do so; everyone from all over the world who wants to go there will be helped to get there. Once they’re there, they can all do whatever they want, but they can’t leave without going through a rigorous interview at a neighboring border to ascertain whether they’ve recovered their attachment to humanity. However, since very few women, presumably, would go there, the country would not last very long.

The Berlin Wall – Another Cold War Myth

November 9 will mark the 25th anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. The extravagant hoopla began months ago in Berlin. In the United States we can expect all the Cold War clichés about The Free World vs. Communist Tyranny to be trotted out and the simple tale of how the wall came to be will be repeated: In 1961, the East Berlin communists built a wall to keep their oppressed citizens from escaping to West Berlin and freedom. Why? Because commies don’t like people to be free, to learn the “truth”. What other reason could there have been?

First of all, before the wall went up in 1961 thousands of East Germans had been commuting to the West for jobs each day and then returning to the East in the evening; many others went back and forth for shopping or other reasons. So they were clearly not being held in the East against their will. Why then was the wall built? There were two major reasons:

1) The West was bedeviling the East with a vigorous campaign of recruiting East German professionals and skilled workers, who had been educated at the expense of the Communist government. This eventually led to a serious labor and production crisis in the East. As one indication of this, the New York Times reported in 1963: “West Berlin suffered economically from the wall by the loss of about 60,000 skilled workmen who had commuted daily from their homes in East Berlin to their places of work in West Berlin.”

It should be noted that in 1999, USA Today reported: “When the Berlin Wall crumbled [1989], East Germans imagined a life of freedom where consumer goods were abundant and hardships would fade. Ten years later, a remarkable 51% say they were happier with communism.” Earlier polls would likely have shown even more than 51% expressing such a sentiment, for in the ten years many of those who remembered life in East Germany with some fondness had passed away; although even 10 years later, in 2009, the Washington Post could report: “Westerners [in Berlin] say they are fed up with the tendency of their eastern counterparts to wax nostalgic about communist times.”

It was in the post-unification period that a new Russian and eastern Europe proverb was born: “Everything the Communists said about Communism was a lie, but everything they said about capitalism turned out to be the truth.”

It should be further noted that the division of Germany into two states in 1949 – setting the stage for 40 years of Cold War hostility – was an American decision, not a Soviet one.

2) During the 1950s, American coldwarriors in West Germany instituted a crude campaign of sabotage and subversion against East Germany designed to throw that country’s economic and administrative machinery out of gear. The CIA and other US intelligence and military services recruited, equipped, trained and financed German activist groups and individuals, of West and East, to carry out actions which ran the spectrum from juvenile delinquency to terrorism; anything to make life difficult for the East German people and weaken their support of the government; anything to make the commies look bad.

It was a remarkable undertaking. The United States and its agents used explosives, arson, short circuiting, and other methods to damage power stations, shipyards, canals, docks, public buildings, gas stations, public transportation, bridges, etc; they derailed freight trains, seriously injuring workers; burned 12 cars of a freight train and destroyed air pressure hoses of others; used acids to damage vital factory machinery; put sand in the turbine of a factory, bringing it to a standstill; set fire to a tile-producing factory; promoted work slow-downs in factories; killed 7,000 cows of a co-operative dairy through poisoning; added soap to powdered milk destined for East German schools; were in possession, when arrested, of a large quantity of the poison cantharidin with which it was planned to produce poisoned cigarettes to kill leading East Germans; set off stink bombs to disrupt political meetings; attempted to disrupt the World Youth Festival in East Berlin by sending out forged invitations, false promises of free bed and board, false notices of cancellations, etc.; carried out attacks on participants with explosives, firebombs, and tire-puncturing equipment; forged and distributed large quantities of food ration cards to cause confusion, shortages and resentment; sent out forged tax notices and other government directives and documents to foster disorganization and inefficiency within industry and unions … all this and much more.

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, of Washington, DC, conservative coldwarriors, in one of their Cold War International History Project Working Papers (#58, p.9) states: “The open border in Berlin exposed the GDR [East Germany] to massive espionage and subversion and, as the two documents in the appendices show, its closure gave the Communist state greater security.”

Throughout the 1950s, the East Germans and the Soviet Union repeatedly lodged complaints with the Soviets’ erstwhile allies in the West and with the United Nations about specific sabotage and espionage activities and called for the closure of the offices in West Germany they claimed were responsible, and for which they provided names and addresses. Their complaints fell on deaf ears. Inevitably, the East Germans began to tighten up entry into the country from the West, leading eventually to the infamous wall. However, even after the wall was built there was regular, albeit limited, legal emigration from east to west. In 1984, for example, East Germany allowed 40,000 people to leave. In 1985, East German newspapers claimed that more than 20,000 former citizens who had settled in the West wanted to return home after becoming disillusioned with the capitalist system. The West German government said that 14,300 East Germans had gone back over the previous 10 years.

Let’s also not forget that while East Germany completely denazified, in West Germany for more than a decade after the war, the highest government positions in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches contained numerous former and “former” Nazis.

Finally, it must be remembered, that Eastern Europe became communist because Hitler, with the approval of the West, used it as a highway to reach the Soviet Union to wipe out Bolshevism forever, and that the Russians in World War I and II, lost about 40 million people because the West had used this highway to invade Russia. It should not be surprising that after World War II the Soviet Union was determined to close down the highway.

For an additional and very interesting view of the Berlin Wall anniversary, see the article “Humpty Dumpty and the Fall of Berlin’s Wall” by Victor Grossman. Grossman (née Steve Wechsler) fled the US Army in Germany under pressure from McCarthy-era threats and became a journalist and author during his years in the (East) German Democratic Republic. He still lives in Berlin and mails out his “Berlin Bulletin” on German developments on an irregular basis. You can subscribe to it atwechsler_grossman@yahoo.de. His autobiography: “Crossing the River: a Memoir of the American Left, the Cold War and Life in East Germany” was published by University of Massachusetts Press. He claims to be the only person in the world with diplomas from both Harvard University and Karl Marx University in Leipzig.

Al Franken, the liberal’s darling

I receive a continuous stream of emails from “progressive” organizations asking me to vote for Senator Franken or contribute to his re-election campaign this November, and I don’t even live in Minnesota. Even if I could vote for him, I wouldn’t. No one who was a supporter of the war in Iraq will get my vote unless they unequivocally renounce that support. And I don’t mean renounce it like Hillary Clinton’s nonsense about not having known enough.

Franken, the former Saturday Night Live comedian, would like you to believe that he’s been against the war in Iraq since it began. But he went to Iraq at least four times to entertain the troops. Does that make sense? Why does the military bring entertainers to soldiers? To lift the soldiers’ spirits of course. And why does the military want to lift the soldiers’ spirits? Because a happier soldier does his job better. And what is the soldier’s job? All the charming war crimes and human-rights violations that I and others have documented in great detail for many years. Doesn’t Franken know what American soldiers do for a living?

A year after the US invasion in 2003, Franken criticized the Bush administration because they “failed to send enough troops to do the job right.” What “job” did the man think the troops were sent to do that had not been performed to his standards because of lack of manpower? Did he want them to be more efficient at killing Iraqis who resisted the occupation? The volunteer American troops in Iraq did not even have the defense of having been drafted against their wishes.

Franken has been lifting soldiers’ spirits for a long time. In 2009 he was honored by the United Service Organization (USO) for his ten years of entertaining troops abroad. That includes Kosovo in 1999, as imperialist an occupation as you’ll want to see. He called his USO experience “one of the best things I’ve ever done.” Franken has also spoken at West Point (2005), encouraging the next generation of imperialist warriors. Is this a man to challenge the militarization of America at home and abroad? No more so than Barack Obama.

Tom Hayden wrote this about Franken in 2005 when Franken had a regular program on the Air America radio network: “Is anyone else disappointed with Al Franken’s daily defense of the continued war in Iraq? Not Bush’s version of the war, because that would undermine Air America’s laudable purpose of rallying an anti-Bush audience. But, well, Kerry’s version of the war, one that can be better managed and won, somehow with better body armor and fewer torture cells.”

While in Iraq to entertain the troops, Franken declared that the Bush administration “blew the diplomacy so we didn’t have a real coalition,” then failed to send enough troops to do the job right. “Out of sheer hubris, they have put the lives of these guys in jeopardy.”

Franken was implying that if the United States had been more successful in bribing and threatening other countries to lend their name to the coalition fighting the war in Iraq the United States would have had a better chance of WINNING the war.

Is this the sentiment of someone opposed to the war? Or in support of it? It is the mind of an American liberal in all its beautiful mushiness.

William Blum’s books in foreign languages available for only the cost of shipping in the United States ($5 each)

Killing Hope

Rogue State

Freeing the World To Death

America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy

Notes

  1. Derived from William Astore, “Investing in Junk Armies”, TomDispatch, October 14, 2014
  2. New York Times, June 27, 1963, p.12
  3. USA Today, October 11, 1999, p.1
  4. Washington Post, May 12, 2009; see a similar story November 5, 2009
  5. Carolyn Eisenberg, “Drawing the Line: The American Decision to Divide Germany, 1944-1949” (1996); or see a concise review of this book by Kai Bird in The Nation, December 16, 1996
  6. See William Blum, “Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II”, p.400, note 8, for a list of sources for the details of the sabotage and subversion.
  7. The Guardian (London), March 7, 1985
  8. Washington Post, February 16, 2004
  9. Star Tribune, Minneapolis, March 26, 2009
  10. Huffington Post, June 2005
  11. Washington Post, February 16, 2004

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 #131

From the Keyboard of William Blum

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Published originally in The Anti-Empire Report August 10, 2014

Cold War Two

During Cold War One those of us in the American radical left were often placed in the position where we had to defend the Soviet Union because the US government was using that country as a battering ram against us. Now we sometimes have to defend Russia because it may be the last best hope of stopping TETATW (The Empire That Ate The World). Yes, during Cold War One we knew enough about Stalin, the show trials, and the gulags. But we also knew about US foreign policy.

E-mail sent to the Washington Post July 23, 2014 about the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17:

Dear Editor,

Your July 22 editorial was headed: “Russia’s barbarism. The West needs a strategy to contain the world’s newest rogue state.”

Pretty strong language. Vicious, even. Not one word of hard evidence in the editorial to back it up. Then, the next day, the Associated Press reported:

Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that Russia was responsible for ‘creating the conditions’ that led to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, but they offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement. … the U.S. had no direct evidence that the missile used to shoot down the passenger jet came from Russia.

Where were these words in the Post? You people are behaving like a rogue newspaper.

– William Blum

I don’t have to tell you whether the Post printed my letter. I’ve been reading the paper for 25 years – six years during Vietnam (1964-1970) and the last 19 years (1995-2014) – usually spending about three hours each day reading it very carefully. And I can say that when it comes to US foreign policy the newspaper is worse now than I can remember it ever was during those 25 years. It’s reached the point where, as one example, I don’t take at face value a word the Post has to say about Ukraine. Same with the State Department, which makes one accusation after another about Russian military actions in Eastern Ukraine without presenting any kind of satellite imagery or other visual or documentary evidence; or they present something that’s wholly inconclusive and/or unsourced or citing “social media”; what we’re left with is often no more than just an accusation.  Do they have something to hide?

The State Department’s Public Affairs spokespersons making these presentations exhibit little regard or respect for the reporters asking challenging questions. It takes my thoughts back to the Vietnam era and Arthur Sylvester, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, the man most responsible for “giving, controlling and managing the war news from Vietnam”. One day in July 1965, Sylvester told American journalists that they had a patriotic duty to disseminate only information that made the United States look good. When one of the reporters exclaimed: “Surely, Arthur, you don’t expect the American press to be handmaidens of government,” Sylvester replied: “That’s exactly what I expect,” adding: “Look, if you think any American official is going to tell you the truth, then you’re stupid. Did you hear that? – stupid.”

Such frankness might be welcomed today as a breath of fresh air compared to the painful-to-observe double-talk of a State Department spokesperson.

My personal breath of fresh air in recent years has been the television station RT (formerly Russia Today). On a daily basis many progressives from around the world (myself included occasionally) are interviewed and out of their mouths come facts and analyses that are rarely heard on CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, NPR, PBS, Fox News, BBC, etc. The words of these progressives heard on RT are typically labeled by the mainstream media as “Russian propaganda”, whereas I, after a long lifetime of American propaganda, can only think: “Of course. What else are they going to call it?”

mccainAs for Russia being responsible for “creating the conditions” that led to the shooting down of Flight 17, we should keep in mind that the current series of events in Ukraine was sparked in February when a US-supported coup overthrew the democratically-elected government and replaced it with one that was more receptive to the market-fundamentalism dictates of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the European Union. Were it not for the coup there would have been no eastern rebellion to put down and no dangerous war zone for Flight 17 to be flying over in the first place.

The new regime has had another charming feature: a number of outspoken neo-Nazis in high and low positions, a circumstance embarrassing enough for the US government and mainstream media to turn it into a virtual non-event. US Senator John McCain met and posed for photos with the leader of the neo-Nazi Svoboda Party, Oleh Tyahnybok (photos easily found on the Internet). Ukraine – whose ties to Naziism go back to World War Two when their homegrown fascists supported Germany and opposed the Soviet Union – is on track to becoming the newest part of the US-NATO military encirclement of Russia and possibly the home of the region’s newest missile base, target Moscow.

It is indeed possible that Flight 17 was shot down by the pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine in the mistaken belief that it was the Ukrainian air force returning to carry out another attack. But other explanations are suggested in a series of questions posed by Russia to the the Secretary-General of the UN General Assembly, accompanied by radar information, satellite images, and other technical displays:

“Why was a military aircraft flying in a civil aviation airway at almost the same time and the same altitude as a civilian passenger aircraft? We would like to have this question answered.”

“Earlier, Ukrainian officials stated that on the day of the accident no Ukrainian military aircraft were flying in that area. As you can see, that is not true.”

“We also have a question for our American colleagues. According to a statement by American officials, the United States has satellite images which show that the missile aimed at the Malaysian aircraft was launched by the militants. But no one has seen these images.”

There is also this intriguing speculation, which ties in to the first Russian question above. A published analysis by a retired Lufthansa pilot points out that Flight 17 looked similar in its tricolor design to that of Russian President Putin’s plane, whose plane with him on board was at the same time “near” Flight 17. In aviation circles “near” would be considered to be anywhere between 150 to 200 miles.  Could Putin’s plane have been the real target?

There is as well other serious and plausible questioning of the official story of Russia and/or Ukrainian anti-Kiev militias being responsible for the shootdown. Is Flight 17 going to become the next JFK Assassination, PanAm 103, or 9-11 conspiracy theory that lingers forever? Will the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and the Syrian chemical weapons be joined by the Russian anti-aircraft missile? Stay tuned.

Will they EVER leave Cuba alone? No.

The latest exposed plot to overthrow the Cuban government … Oh, pardon me, I mean the latest exposed plot to bring democracy to Cuba …

Our dear friends at the Agency For International Development (USAID), having done so well with their covert sub-contractor Alan Gross, now in his fifth year in Cuban custody … and their “Cuban Twitter” project, known as ZunZuneo, exposed in 2012, aimed at increasing the flow of information amongst the supposedly information-starved Cubans, which drew in subscribers unaware that the service was paid for by the US government … and now, the latest exposure, a project which sent about a dozen Venezuelan, Costa Rican and Peruvian young people to Cuba in hopes of stirring up a rebellion; the travelers worked clandestinely, using the cover of health and civic programs, or posing as tourists, going around the island, on a mission to “identify potential social-change actors” to turn into political activists. Can you believe that? Can you believe the magnitude of naiveté? Was it a conviction that American exceptionalism would somehow work its magic? Do they think the Cuban people are a bunch of children just waiting for a wise adult to come along and show them what to think and how to behave?

One of these latest USAID contracts was signed only days after Gross was detained, thus indicating little concern for the safety of their employees/agents. As part of the preparation of these individuals, USAID informed them: “Although there is never total certainty, trust that the authorities will not try to harm you physically, only frighten you. Remember that the Cuban government prefers to avoid negative media reports abroad, so a beaten foreigner is not convenient for them.”

It’s most ironic. The US government could not say as much about most of their allies, who frequently make use of physical abuse. Indeed, the statement could not be made in regard to almost any American police force. But it’s this Cuba that doesn’t beat or torture detainees that is the enemy to be reformed and punished without mercy … 55 years and counting.

373220_cia-torture

The United States and torture

Two of the things that governments tend to cover-up or lie about the most are assassinations and torture, both of which are widely looked upon as exceedingly immoral and unlawful, even uncivilized. Since the end of the Second World War the United States has attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders and has 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 and encouragement by American instructors, particularly in Latin America.

Thus it is somewhat to the credit of President Obama that at his August 1 press conference he declared “We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.”

And he actually used the word “torture” at that moment, not “enhanced interrogation”, which has been the euphemism of preference the past decade, although two minutes later the president used “extraordinary interrogation techniques”. And “tortured some folks” makes me wince. The man is clearly uncomfortable with the subject.

But all this is minor. Much more important is the fact that for several years Mr. Obama’s supporters have credited him with having put an end to the practice of torture. And they simply have no right to make that claim.

Shortly after Obama’s first inauguration, both he and Leon Panetta, the new Director of the CIA, explicitly stated that “rendition” was not being ended. As the Los Angeles Times reported at the time: “Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.”

The English translation of “cooperate” is “torture”. Rendition is simply outsourcing torture. There was no other reason to take prisoners to Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Somalia, Kosovo, or the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, to name some of the known torture centers frequented by the United States. Kosovo and Diego Garcia – both of which house large and very secretive American military bases – if not some of the other locations, may well still be open for torture business. The same for the Guantánamo Base in Cuba.

tortureMoreover, the Executive Order referred to, number 13491, issued January 22, 2009, “Ensuring Lawful Interrogations”, leaves a major loophole. It states repeatedly that humane treatment, including the absence of torture, is applicable only to prisoners detained in an “armed conflict”. Thus, torture by Americans outside an environment of “armed conflict” is not explicitly prohibited. But what about torture within an environment of “counter-terrorism”?

The Executive Order required the CIA to use only the interrogation methods outlined in a revised Army Field Manual. However, using the Army Field Manual as a guide to prisoner treatment and interrogation still allows solitary confinement, perceptual or sensory deprivation, sensory overload, sleep deprivation, the induction of fear and hopelessness, mind-altering drugs, environmental manipulation such as temperature and noise, and stress positions.

After Panetta was questioned by a Senate panel, the New York Times wrote that he had “left open the possibility that the agency could seek permission to use interrogation methods more aggressive than the limited menu that President Obama authorized under new rules … Mr. Panetta also said the agency would continue the Bush administration practice of ‘rendition’ – picking terrorism suspects off the street and sending them to a third country. But he said the agency would refuse to deliver a suspect into the hands of a country known for torture or other actions ‘that violate our human values’.”

The last sentence is of course childishly absurd. The countries chosen to receive rendition prisoners were chosen precisely because they were willing and able to torture them.

No official in the Bush and Obama administrations has been punished in any way for torture or other war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and the other countries they waged illegal war against. And, it could be added, no American bankster has been punished for their indispensable role in the world-wide financial torture they inflicted upon us all beginning in 2008. What a marvelously forgiving land is America. This, however, does not apply to Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, or Chelsea Manning.

In the last days of the Bush White House, Michael Ratner, professor at Columbia Law School and former president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, pointed out:

The only way to prevent this from happening again is to make sure that those who were responsible for the torture program pay the price for it. I don’t see how we regain our moral stature by allowing those who were intimately involved in the torture programs to simply walk off the stage and lead lives where they are not held accountable.

I’d like at this point to once again remind my dear readers of the words of the “Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”, which was drafted by the United Nations in 1984, came into force in 1987, and ratified by the United States in 1994. Article 2, section 2 of the Convention states: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

Such marvelously clear, unequivocal, and principled language, to set a single standard for a world that makes it increasingly difficult for one to feel proud of humanity.

The Convention Against Torture has been and remains the supreme law of the land. It is a cornerstone of international law and a principle on a par with the prohibition against slavery and genocide.

“Mr. Snowden will not be tortured. Torture is unlawful in the United States.” – United States Attorney General Eric Holder, July 26, 2013

John Brennan, appointed by President Obama in January 2013 to be Director of the CIA, has defended “rendition” as an “absolutely vital tool”; and stated that torture had produced “life saving” intelligence.

Obama had nominated Brennan for the CIA position in 2008, but there was such an outcry in the human-rights community over Brennan’s apparent acceptance of torture, that Brennan withdrew his nomination. Barack Obama evidently learned nothing from this and appointed the man again in 2013.

During Cold War One, a common theme in the rhetoric was that the Soviets tortured people and detained them without cause, extracted phony confessions, and did the unspeakable to detainees who were helpless against the full, heartless weight of the Communist state. As much as any other evil, torture differentiated the bad guys, the Commies, from the good guys, the American people and their government. However imperfect the US system might be – we were all taught – it had civilized standards that the enemy rejected.

Just because you have a right to do something does not make it right.

The city of Detroit in recent months has been shutting off the supply of water to city residents who have not paid their water bills. This action affects more than 40% of the customers of the Detroit Water and Sewage Department, bringing great inconvenience and threats to the health and sanitation of between 200 and 300 thousand residents. Protests have of course sprung up in the city, with “Water is a human right!” as a leading theme.

Who can argue with that? Well, neo-conservatives and other true believers in the capitalist system who maintain that if you receive the benefit of a product or service, you pay for it. What could be simpler? What are you, some kind of socialist?

For those of you who have difficulty believing that an American city could be so insensitive, allow me to remind you of some history.

On December 14, 1981 a resolution was proposed in the United Nations General Assembly which declared that “education, work, health care, proper nourishment, national development are human rights”. Notice the “proper nourishment”. The resolution was approved by a vote of 135-1. The United States cast the only “No” vote.

A year later, December 18, 1982, an identical resolution was proposed in the General Assembly. It was approved by a vote of 131-1. The United States cast the only “No” vote.

The following year, December 16, 1983, the resolution was again put forth, a common practice at the United Nations. This time it was approved by a vote of 132-1. There’s no need to tell you who cast the sole “No” vote.

These votes took place under the Reagan administration.

Under the Clinton administration, in 1996, a United Nations-sponsored World Food Summit affirmed the “right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food”. The United States took issue with this, insisting that it does not recognize a “right to food”. Washington instead championed free trade as the key to ending the poverty at the root of hunger, and expressed fears that recognition of a “right to food” could lead to lawsuits from poor nations seeking aid and special trade provisions.

The situation of course did not improve under the administration of George W. Bush. In 2002, in Rome, world leaders at another UN-sponsored World Food Summit again approved a declaration that everyone had the right to “safe and nutritious food”. The United States continued to oppose the clause, again fearing it would leave them open to future legal claims by famine-stricken countries.

I’m waiting for a UN resolution affirming the right to oxygen.

Notes

  1. See various examples at RT.com, such as “Jen Psaki’s most embarrassing fails, most entertaining grillings”, or simply search the site for “Ukraine Jen Psaki”
  2. Congressional Record (House of Representatives), May 12, 1966, pp. 9977-78, reprint of an article by Morley Safer of CBS News
  3. “Letter dated 22 July 2014 from the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General”, released by the UN 24 July, Document No. A/68/954-S/2014/524
  4. “Pre-WWIII German Pilot Shocker, MH17 ‘Not Hit By Missile’”Before It’s News, July 31 2014
  5. Associated Press, August 4, 2014
  6. Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2009
  7. New York Times, February 6, 2009
  8. Associated Press, November 17, 2008
  9. Associated Press, November 26, 2008
  10. Washington Post, November 18, 1996
  11. Reuters news agency, June 10, 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.

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.  

World Cup Reality Check

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on July 18, 2014

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Discuss this Rant at the Podcast Table inside the Diner

Snippet:

…A few days ago, my partner in Doom Surly put up an article from Pepe Escobar, one of our cross posting bloggers who covers the Geopolitical scene on the ground as a roving free lance reporter and writer. The article was titled “The Fall of a Superpower

From the title and given Pepe’s general geopolitical focus, I figured this was going to be about the implosion of the FSoA Military.

Instead, its a Futbol Tragedy from the World Cup, held over the last month or so in Brasil, where Pele once roamed the fields and took on God-like status in the world of Futbol. As trivial as a sporting event might seem given the current kilotons of Death From Above being heaped on the Gaza Strip today, sporting events still capture the imagination and emotions of millions of people, and no matter hwo bad things might be in a given neighborhood, sportsfans will dwell on the fate of their favorite team. In some cases, you’ll even see Cease Fires in ongoing wars when a “Big Game” is on…

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

RE

The Anti-Empire Report #128

From the Keyboard of William Blum

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
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 Obama Putin chess

Published originally in The Anti-Empire Report May 9, 2014

“The Russians are coming … again … and they’re still ten feet tall!”

So, what do we have here? In Libya, in Syria, and elsewhere the United States has been on the same side as the al-Qaeda types. But not in Ukraine. That’s the good news. The bad news is that in Ukraine the United States is on the same side as the neo-Nazi types, who – taking time off from parading around with their swastika-like symbols and calling for the death of Jews, Russians and Communists – on May 2 burned down a trade-union building in Odessa, killing scores of people and sending hundreds to hospital; many of the victims were beaten or shot when they tried to flee the flames and smoke; ambulances were blocked from reaching the wounded. Try and find an American mainstream media entity that has made a serious attempt to capture the horror.

And how did this latest example of American foreign-policy exceptionalism come to be? One starting point that can be considered is what former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Robert Gates says in his recently published memoir: “When the Soviet Union was collapsing in late 1991, [Defense Secretary Dick Cheney] wanted to see the dismemberment not only of the Soviet Union and the Russian empire but of Russia itself, so it could never again be a threat to the rest of the world.” That can serve as an early marker for the new cold war while the corpse of the old one was still warm. Soon thereafter, NATO began to surround Russia with military bases, missile sites, and NATO members, while yearning for perhaps the most important part needed to complete the circle – Ukraine.

In February of this year, US State Department officials, undiplomatically, joined anti-government protesters in the capital city of Kiev, handing out encouragement and food, from which emanated the infamous leaked audio tape between the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, and the State Department’s Victoria Nuland, former US ambassador to NATO and former State Department spokesperson for Hillary Clinton. Their conversation dealt with who should be running the new Ukraine government after the government of Viktor Yanukovich was overthrown; their most favored for this position being one Arseniy Yatsenuk.

My dear, and recently departed, Washington friend, John Judge, liked to say that if you want to call him a “conspiracy theorist” you have to call others “coincidence theorists”. Thus it was by the most remarkable of coincidences that Arseniy Yatsenuk did indeed become the new prime minister. He could very soon be found in private meetings and public press conferences with the president of the United States and the Secretary-General of NATO, as well as meeting with the soon-to-be new owners of Ukraine, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, preparing to impose their standard financial shock therapy. The current protestors in Ukraine don’t need PHDs in economics to know what this portends. They know about the impoverishment of Greece, Spain, et al. They also despise the new regime for its overthrow of their democratically-elected government, whatever its shortcomings. But the American media obscures these motivations by almost always referring to them simply as “pro-Russian”.

An exception, albeit rather unemphasized, was the April 17 Washington Post which reported from Donetsk that many of the eastern Ukrainians whom the author interviewed said the unrest in their region was driven by fear of “economic hardship” and the IMF austerity plan that will make their lives even harder: “At a most dangerous and delicate time, just as it battles Moscow for hearts and minds across the east, the pro-Western government is set to initiate a shock therapy of economic measures to meet the demands of an emergency bailout from the International Monetary Fund.”

Arseniy Yatsenuk, it should be noted, has something called the Arseniy Yatsenuk Foundation. If you go to the foundation’s website you will see the logos of the foundation’s “partners”. Among these partners we find NATO, the National Endowment for Democracy, the US State Department, Chatham House (Royal Institute of International Affairs in the UK), the German Marshall Fund (a think tank founded by the German government in honor of the US Marshall Plan), as well as a couple of international banks. Is any comment needed?

Getting away with supporting al-Qaeda and Nazi types may be giving US officials the idea that they can say or do anything they want in their foreign policy. In a May 2 press conference, President Obama, referring to Ukraine and the NATO Treaty, said: “We’re united in our unwavering Article 5 commitment to the security of our NATO allies”. (Article 5 states: “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them … shall be considered an attack against them all.”) Did the president forget that Ukraine is not (yet) a member of NATO? And in the same press conference, the president referred to the “duly elected government in Kyiv (Kiev)”, when in fact it had come to power via a coup and then proceeded to establish a new regime in which the vice-premier, minister of defense, minister of agriculture, and minister of environment, all belonged to far-right neo-Nazi parties.

The pure awfulness of the Ukrainian right-wingers can scarcely be exaggerated. In early March, the leader of Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) called upon his comrades, the infamous Chechnyan terrorists, to carry out further terrorist actions in Russia.

There may be one important difference between the old Cold War and the new one. The American people, as well as the world, can not be as easily brainwashed as they were during the earlier period.

Over the course of a decade, in doing the research for my first books and articles on US foreign policy, one of the oddities to me of the Cold War was how often the Soviet Union seemed to know what the United States was really up to, even if the American people didn’t. Every once in a while in the 1950s to 70s a careful reader would notice a two- or three-inch story in the New York Times on the bottom of some distant inside page, reporting that Pravda or Izvestia had claimed that a recent coup or political assassination in Africa or Asia or Latin America had been the work of the CIA; the Times might add that a US State Department official had labeled the story as “absurd”. And that was that; no further details were provided; and none were needed, for how many American readers gave it a second thought? It was just more commie propaganda. Who did they think they were fooling? This ignorance/complicity on the part of the mainstream media allowed the United States to get away with all manner of international crimes and mischief.

It was only in the 1980s when I began to do the serious research that resulted in my first book, which later became Killing Hope, that I was able to fill in the details and realize that the United States had indeed masterminded that particular coup or assassination, and many other coups and assassinations, not to mention countless bombings, chemical and biological warfare, perversion of elections, drug dealings, kidnapings, and much more that had not appeared in the American mainstream media or schoolbooks. (And a significant portion of which was apparently unknown to the Soviets as well.)

But there have been countless revelations about US crimes in the past two decades. Many Americans and much of the rest of the planet have become educated. They’re much more skeptical of American proclamations and the fawning media.

President Obama recently declared: “The strong condemnation that it’s received from around the world indicates the degree to which Russia is on the wrong side of history on this.” Marvelous … coming from the man who partners with jihadists and Nazis and has waged war against seven nations. In the past half century is there any country whose foreign policy has received more bitter condemnation than the United States? If the United States is not on the wrong side of history, it may be only in the history books published by the United States.

Barack Obama, like virtually all Americans, likely believes that the Soviet Union, with perhaps the sole exception of the Second World War, was consistently on the wrong side of history in its foreign policy as well as at home. Yet, in a survey conducted by an independent Russian polling center this past January, and reported in the Washington Post in April, 86 percent of respondents older than 55 expressed regret for the Soviet Union’s collapse; 37 percent of those aged 25 to 39 did so. (Similar poll results have been reported regularly since the demise of the Soviet Union. This is from USA Today in 1999: “When the Berlin Wall crumbled, East Germans imagined a life of freedom where consumer goods were abundant and hardships would fade. Ten years later, a remarkable 51% say they were happier with communism.”)

Or as the new Russian proverb put it: “Everything the Communists said about Communism was a lie, but everything they said about capitalism turned out to be the truth.”

A week before the above Post report in April the newspaper printed an article about happiness around the world, which contains the following charming lines: “Worldwide polls show that life seems better to older people – except in Russia.” … “Essentially, life under President Vladimir Putin is one continuous downward spiral into despair.” … “What’s going on in Russia is deep unhappiness.” … “In Russia, the only thing to look forward to is death’s sweet embrace.”

No, I don’t think it was meant to be any kind of satire. It appears to be a scientific study, complete with graphs, but it reads like something straight out of the 1950s.

The views Americans hold of themselves and other societies are not necessarily more distorted than the views found amongst people elsewhere in the world, but the Americans’ distortion can lead to much more harm. Most Americans and members of Congress have convinced themselves that the US/NATO encirclement of Russia is benign – we are, after all, the Good Guys – and they don’t understand why Russia can’t see this.

The first Cold War, from Washington’s point of view, was often designated as one of “containment”, referring to the US policy of preventing the spread of communism around the world, trying to block the very idea of communism or socialism. There’s still some leftover from that – see Venezuela and Cuba, for example – but the new Cold War can be seen more in terms of a military strategy. Washington thinks in terms of who could pose a barrier to the ever-expanding empire adding to its bases and other military necessities.

Whatever the rationale, it’s imperative that the United States suppress any lingering desire to bring Ukraine (and Georgia) into the NATO alliance. Nothing is more likely to bring large numbers of Russian boots onto the Ukrainian ground than the idea that Washington wants to have NATO troops right on the Russian border and in spitting distance of the country’s historic Black Sea naval base in Crimea.

The myth of Soviet expansionism

One still comes across references in the mainstream media to Russian “expansionism” and “the Soviet empire”, in addition to that old favorite “the evil empire”. These terms stem largely from erstwhile Soviet control of Eastern European states. But was the creation of these satellites following World War II an act of imperialism or expansionism? Or did the decisive impetus lie elsewhere?

Within the space of less than 25 years, Western powers had invaded Russia three times – the two world wars and the “Intervention” of 1918-20 – inflicting some 40 million casualties in the two wars alone. To carry out these invasions, the West had used Eastern Europe as a highway. Should it be any cause for wonder that after World War II the Soviets wanted to close this highway down? In almost any other context, Americans would have no problem in seeing this as an act of self defense. But in the context of the Cold War such thinking could not find a home in mainstream discourse.

The Baltic states of the Soviet Union – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – were not part of the highway and were frequently in the news because of their demands for more autonomy from Moscow, a story “natural” for the American media. These articles invariably reminded the reader that the “once independent” Baltic states were invaded in 1939 by the Soviet Union, incorporated as republics of the USSR, and had been “occupied” ever since. Another case of brutal Russian imperialism. Period. History etched in stone.

The three countries, it happens, were part of the Russian empire from 1721 up to the Russian Revolution of 1917, in the midst of World War I. When the war ended in November 1918, and the Germans had been defeated, the victorious Allied nations (US, Great Britain, France, et al.) permitted/encouraged the German forces to remain in the Baltics for a full year to crush the spread of Bolshevism there; this, with ample military assistance from the Allied nations. In each of the three republics, the Germans installed collaborators in power who declared their independence from the new Bolshevik state which, by this time, was so devastated by the World War, the revolution, and the civil war prolonged by the Allies’ intervention, that it had no choice but to accept the fait accompli. The rest of the fledgling Soviet Union had to be saved.

To at least win some propaganda points from this unfortunate state of affairs, the Soviets announced that they were relinquishing the Baltic republics “voluntarily” in line with their principles of anti-imperialism and self-determination. But is should not be surprising that the Soviets continued to regard the Baltics as a rightful part of their nation or that they waited until they were powerful enough to reclaim the territory.

Then we had Afghanistan. Surely this was an imperialist grab. But the Soviet Union had lived next door to Afghanistan for more than 60 years without gobbling it up. And when the Russians invaded in 1979, the key motivation was the United States involvement in a movement, largely Islamic, to topple the Afghan government, which was friendly to Moscow. The Soviets could not have been expected to tolerate a pro-US, anti-communist government on its border any more than the United States could have been expected to tolerate a pro-Soviet, communist government in Mexico.

Moreover, if the rebel movement took power it likely would have set up a fundamentalist Islamic government, which would have been in a position to proselytize the numerous Muslims in the Soviet border republics.

Notes

  1. See RT.com (formerly Russia Today) for many stories, images and videos
  2. Robert Gates, Duty (2014), p.97
  3. If this site has gone missing again, a saved version can be found here.
  4. Voice of Russia radio station, Moscow, April 18, 2014; also see Answer Coalition, “Who’s who in Ukraine’s new [semi-fascist] government”, March 11, 2014
  5. RT.com, news report March 5, 2014
  6. CBS News, March 3, 2014
  7. Washington Post, April 11, 2014
  8. USA Today (Virginia), Oct. 11, 1999, page 1
  9. Washington Post print edition, April 2, 2014; online here

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 #127

From the Keyboard of William Blum

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Untitled-1

Published originally in The Anti-Empire Report April 7, 2014

Indoctrinating a new generation

Is there anyone out there who still believes that Barack Obama, when he’s speaking about American foreign policy, is capable of being anything like an honest man? In a March 26 talk in Belgium to “European youth”, the president fed his audience one falsehood, half-truth, blatant omission, or hypocrisy after another. If George W. Bush had made some of these statements, Obama supporters would not hesitate to shake their head, roll their eyes, or smirk. Here’s a sample:

“In defending its actions, Russian leaders have further claimed Kosovo as a precedent – an example they say of the West interfering in the affairs of a smaller country, just as they’re doing now. But NATO only intervened after the people of Kosovo were systematically brutalized and killed for years.”

Most people who follow such things are convinced that the 1999 US/NATO bombing of the Serbian province of Kosovo took place only after the Serbian-forced deportation of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo was well underway; which is to say that the bombing was launched to stop this “ethnic cleansing”. In actuality, the systematic deportations of large numbers of people did not begin until a few days after the bombing began, and was clearly a reaction to it, born of Serbia’s extreme anger and powerlessness over the bombing. This is easily verified by looking at a daily newspaper for the few days before the bombing began the night of March 23/24, 1999, and the few days following. Or simply look at the New York Times of March 26, page 1, which reads:

… with the NATO bombing already begun, a deepening sense of fear took hold in Pristina [the main city of Kosovo] that the Serbs would now vent their rage against ethnic Albanian civilians in retaliation.[emphasis added]

On March 27, we find the first reference to a “forced march” or anything of that nature.

But the propaganda version is already set in marble.

“And Kosovo only left Serbia after a referendum was organized, not outside the boundaries of international law, but in careful cooperation with the United Nations and with Kosovo’s neighbors. None of that even came close to happening in Crimea.”

None of that even came close to happening in Kosovo either. The story is false. The referendum the president speaks of never happened. Did the mainstream media pick up on this or on the previous example? If any reader comes across such I’d appreciate being informed.

Crimea, by the way, did have a referendum. A real one.

“Workers and engineers gave life to the Marshall Plan … As the Iron Curtain fell here in Europe, the iron fist of apartheid was unclenched, and Nelson Mandela emerged upright, proud, from prison to lead a multiracial democracy. Latin American nations rejected dictatorship and built new democracies … “

The president might have mentioned that the main beneficiary of the Marshall Plan was US corporations , that the United States played an indispensable role in Mandela being caught and imprisoned, and that virtually all the Latin American dictatorships owed their very existence to Washington. Instead, the European youth were fed the same party line that their parents were fed, as were all Americans.

“Yes, we believe in democracy – with elections that are free and fair.”

In this talk, the main purpose of which was to lambaste the Russians for their actions concerning Ukraine, there was no mention that the government overthrown in that country with the clear support of the United States had been democratically elected.

“Moreover, Russia has pointed to America’s decision to go into Iraq as an example of Western hypocrisy. … But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state that could make decisions about its own future.”

The US did not get UN Security Council approval for its invasion, the only approval that could legitimize the action. It occupied Iraq from one end of the country to the other for 8 years, forcing the government to privatize the oil industry and accept multinational – largely U.S.-based, oil companies’ – ownership. This endeavor was less than successful because of the violence unleashed by the invasion. The US military finally was forced to leave because the Iraqi government refused to give immunity to American soldiers for their many crimes.

Here is a brief summary of what Barack Obama is attempting to present as America’s moral superiority to the Russians:

The modern, educated, advanced nation of Iraq was reduced to a quasi failed state … the Americans, beginning in 1991, bombed for 12 years, with one dubious excuse or another; then invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, tortured without inhibition, killed wantonly … the people of that unhappy land lost everything – their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women’s rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives … More than half the population either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile … The air, soil, water, blood, and genes drenched with depleted uranium … the most awful birth defects … unexploded cluster bombs lying in wait for children to pick them up … a river of blood running alongside the Euphrates and Tigris … through a country that may never be put back together again. … “It is a common refrain among war-weary Iraqis that things were better before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003,” reported the Washington Post. (May 5, 2007)

How can all these mistakes, such arrogance, hypocrisy and absurdity find their way into a single international speech by the president of the United States? Is the White House budget not sufficient to hire a decent fact checker? Someone with an intellect and a social conscience? Or does the desire to score propaganda points trump everything else? Is this another symptom of the Banana-Republicization of America?

Long live the Cold War

In 1933 US President Franklin D. Roosevelt recognized the Soviet Union after some 15 years of severed relations following the Bolshevik Revolution. On a day in December of that year, a train was passing through Poland carrying the first American diplomats dispatched to Moscow. Amongst their number was a 29 year-old Foreign Service Officer, later to become famous as a diplomat and scholar, George Kennan. Though he was already deemed a government expert on Russia, the train provided Kennan’s first actual exposure to the Soviet Union. As he listened to his group’s escort, Russian Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov, reminisce about growing up in a village the train was passing close by, and his dreams of becoming a librarian, the Princeton-educated Kennan was astonished: “We suddenly realized, or at least I did, that these people we were dealing with were human beings like ourselves, that they had been born somewhere, that they had their childhood ambitions as we had. It seemed for a brief moment we could break through and embrace these people.”

It hasn’t happened yet.

One would think that the absence in Russia of communism, of socialism, of the basic threat or challenge to the capitalist system, would be sufficient to write finis to the 70-year Cold War mentality. But the United States is virtually as hostile to 21st-century Russia as it was to 20th-century Soviet Union, surrounding Moscow with military bases, missile sites, and NATO members. Why should that be? Ideology is no longer a factor. But power remains one, specifically America’s perpetual lust for world hegemony. Russia is the only nation that (a) is a military powerhouse, and (b) doesn’t believe that the United States has a god-given-American-exceptionalism right to rule the world, and says so. By these criteria, China might qualify as a poor second. But there are no others.

Washington pretends that it doesn’t understand why Moscow should be upset by Western military encroachment, but it has no such problem when roles are reversed. Secretary of State John Kerry recently stated that Russian troops poised near eastern Ukraine are “creating a climate of fear and intimidation in Ukraine” and raising questions about Russia’s next moves and its commitment to diplomacy.

NATO – ever in need of finding a raison d’être – has now issued a declaration of [cold] war, which reads in part:

“NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday [April 1, 2014] reaffirmed their commitment to enhance the Alliance’s collective defence, agreed to further support Ukraine and to suspend NATO’s practical cooperation with Russia. ‘NATO’s greatest responsibility is to protect and defend our territory and our people. And make no mistake, this is what we will do,’ NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. … Ministers directed Allied military authorities to develop additional measures to strengthen collective defence and deterrence against any threat of aggression against the Alliance, Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said. ‘We will make sure we have updated military plans, enhanced exercises and appropriate deployments,’ he said. NATO has already reinforced its presence on the eastern border of the Alliance, including surveillance patrols over Poland and Romania and increased numbers of fighter aircraft allocated to the NATO air policing mission in the Baltic States. … NATO Foreign Ministers also agreed to suspend all of NATO’s practical cooperation with Russia.”

Does anyone recall what NATO said in 2003 when the United States bombed and invaded Iraq with “shock and awe”, compared to the Russians now not firing a single known shot at anyone? And neither Russia nor Ukraine is even a member of NATO. Does NATO have a word to say about the right-wing coup in Ukraine, openly supported by the United States, overthrowing the elected government? Did the hypocrisy get any worse during the Cold War? Imagine that NATO had not been created in 1949. Imagine that it has never existed. What reason could one give today for its creation? Other than to provide a multi-national cover for Washington’s interventions.

One of the main differences between now and the Cold War period is that Americans at home are (not yet) persecuted or prosecuted for supporting Russia or things Russian.

But don’t worry, folks, there won’t be a big US-Russian war. For the same reason there wasn’t one during the Cold War. The United States doesn’t pick on any country which can defend itself.

Cuba … Again … Still … Forever

Is there actually a limit? Will the United States ever stop trying to overthrow the Cuban government? Entire books have been written documenting the unrelenting ways Washington has tried to get rid of tiny Cuba’s horrid socialism – from military invasion to repeated assassination attempts to an embargo that President Clinton’s National Security Advisor called “the most pervasive sanctions ever imposed on a nation in the history of mankind”. But nothing has ever come even close to succeeding. The horrid socialism keeps on inspiring people all over the world. It’s the darnedest thing. Can providing people free or remarkably affordable health care, education, housing, food and culture be all that important?

And now it’s “Cuban Twitter” – an elaborately complex system set up by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to disguise its American origins and financing, aiming to bring about a “Cuban Spring” uprising. USAID sought to first “build a Cuban audience, mostly young people; then the plan was to push them toward dissent”, hoping the messaging network “would reach critical mass so that dissidents could organize ‘smart mobs’ – mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice – that might trigger political demonstrations or ‘renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society’.” It’s too bad it’s now been exposed, because we all know how wonderful the Egyptian, Syrian, Libyan, and other “Arab Springs” have turned out.

Here’s USAID speaking after their scheme was revealed on April 3: “Cubans were able to talk among themselves, and we are proud of that.” We are thus asked to believe that normally the poor downtrodden Cubans have no good or safe way to communicate with each other. Is the US National Security Agency working for the Cuban government now?

The Associated Press, which broke the story, asks us further to believe that the “truth” about most things important in the world is being kept from the Cuban people by the Castro regime, and that the “Cuban Twitter” would have opened people’s eyes. But what information might a Cuban citizen discover online that the government would not want him to know about? I can’t imagine. Cubans are in constant touch with relatives in the US, by mail and in person. They get US television programs from Miami and other southern cities; both CNN and Telesur (Venezuela, covering Latin America) are seen regularly on Cuban television”; international conferences on all manner of political, economic and social issues are held regularly in Cuba. I’ve spoken at more than one myself. What – it must be asked – does USAID, as well as the American media, think are the great dark secrets being kept from the Cuban people by the nasty commie government?

Those who push this line sometimes point to the serious difficulty of using the Internet in Cuba. The problem is that it’s extremely slow, making certain desired usages often impractical. From an American friend living in Havana: “It’s not a question of getting or not getting internet. I get internet here. The problem is downloading something or connecting to a link takes too long on the very slow connection that exists here, so usually I/we get ‘timed out’.” But the USAID’s “Cuban Twitter”, after all, could not have functioned at all without the Internet.

Places like universities, upscale hotels, and Internet cafés get better connections, at least some of the time; however, it’s rather expensive to use at the hotels and cafés.

In any event, this isn’t a government plot to hide dangerous information. It’s a matter of technical availability and prohibitive cost, both things at least partly in the hands of the United States and American corporations. Microsoft, for example, at one point, if not at present, barred Cuba from using its Messenger instant messaging service.

Cuba and Venezuela have jointly built a fiber optic underwater cable connection that they hope will make them less reliant on the gringos; the outcome of this has not yet been reported in much detail.

The grandly named Agency for International Development does not have an honorable history; this can perhaps be captured by a couple of examples: In 1981, the agency’s director, John Gilligan, stated: “At one time, many AID field offices were infiltrated from top to bottom with CIA people. The idea was to plant operatives in every kind of activity we had overseas, government, volunteer, religious, every kind.”

On June 21, 2012, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) issued a resolution calling for the immediate expulsion of USAID from their nine member countries, “due to the fact that we consider their presence and actions to constitute an interference which threatens the sovereignty and stability of our nations.”

USAID, the CIA, the National Endowment for Democracy (and the latter’s subsidiaries), together or singly, continue to be present at regime changes, or attempts at same, favorable to Washington, from “color revolutions” to “spring” uprisings, producing a large measure of chaos and suffering for our tired old world.

Notes

  1. William Blum, America’s Deadliest Export – Democracy: The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else, p.22-5
  2. Walter Isaacson & Evan Thomas, The Wise Men (1986), p.158
  3. Washington Post, March 31, 2014
  4. NATO takes measures to reinforce collective defence, agrees on support for Ukraine”, NATO website, April 1, 2014
  5. Sandy Berger, White House press briefing, November 14, 1997, US Newswire transcript
  6. Associated Press, April 3 & 4, 2014
  7. Washington Post, April 4, 2014
  8. Associated Press, June 2, 2009
  9. George Cotter, “Spies, strings and missionaries”, The Christian Century (Chicago), March 25, 1981, p.321

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.

 

 

Deep State Blues

Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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Lady-Gaga-and-Comfort-in-Vomit-Painting-at-SXSW-650x488
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  March 16, 2014

 

     Those of you too caught up in Lady Gaga’s latest cutting edge art project — she arranged for another woman to vomit on her while seated at the keyboard to show, well, I guess to demonstrate that not even vomit can stop the power of pop music — may have missed the latest moves in our nation’s foreign policy quest to remain Hall Monitor of the World. It appears that the Crimean peninsula has voted rather persuasively to become part of adjoining Russia, a nation that they were functionally a province of longer than the USA has been the independent and exceptional beacon of liberty that we became. Now, all that’s left are some procedural formalities, and then our side has promised to do some very bad things to punish Russia for this dastardly outcome.

     Have the Lady Gaga fans forgotten that our country set this whole fiasco in motion by promoting a tug-o-war between a proposed Russian free trade zone (the Customs Union) and the European Union (another trade zone) with Ukraine as the rope? Alas, the rope broke in the early going, leaving the Russians to try to splice it back together in some way that aligns with the ethnic composition of the territory and their treaty perquisites regarding port facilities on the Black Sea. This “crisis” has got Secretary of State Kerry pulling his hair out, perhaps in his own personal quest to achieve mature male hair equality with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Mr. Kerry has more work to do before the world will stop calling him “a haircut in search of a brain.”

     Notice that for ten years the Russians have not been jumping up and down as the USA hops from one Central Asian state to the next blowing things up and arranging affairs so that hundreds of thousands of people get killed — quite a few by our cunning model airplanes controlled by military video gamesters, who blow away “folks” on morning watch before repairing to the nearest Taco Bell for an order of Doritos Locos (and a chance to watch Lady Gaga get vomit-tagged on their iPhones). I wonder how the USA would feel if the Russian foreign ministry ginned up an operation to persuade Texas to secede from the Union (again).

     What will be the next step of the menswear model in the oval office? Is he coordinating with the EU to make sure that Russia can’t sell its products to anyone, say, the EU, which really has nowhere else to buy a great deal of the methane gas it uses every winter to keep the pipes from freezing? Of course our country has made promises that it will export liquefied natural gas to Europe from the depleting shale plays of Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas — but, wait a minute (or maybe five years) because we have to build new pipelines, gas export terminals, and a fleet of compressed gas tanker ships before that’ll work. But maybe Europe will have five exceptionally mild winters until then. Note to Mr. Obama: increase National Prayer Breakfasts to once-a-month.

      Then there is the question of what Russia may offer to do to the USA in return. Perhaps nothing, because America is doing such a good job of imploding under its own fecklessness and inertia. If I were Mr. Putin — not saying I want to be, you understand, but in the spirit of conjecture — I would just kick back and tune in on the Web to watch this nation of overfed clowns and tattooed savages vomit over each other, since that is apparently now embroidered into the zeitgeist. Mr. Putin could also (in the spirit of the game of chess, which he is reputed to be good at) add some frisson to the situation by stealthily unloading quantities of Russian-held US Treasury paper, not to crash the market but just enough to turn the ten-year bond above the 3.00 percent line — a point at which the US government’s bankruptcy (that is, inability to service our debt) creeps above the horizon like a bad moon rising.

     State Department chess players are gloating at the moment that the Russian ruble has lost ten percent of its value this year. No doubt a few functionaries in the Kremlin are going boo-hoo over this. But remember: they are a nation who lost about 8.6 million soldiers to overcome Hitler. Do you think a little austerity will persuade them to cede Ukraine to the Walt Disney Company? Has anyone in the pay of America’s Deep State asked themselves whether it really matters to us who runs Ukraine? Did it matter to us before and then after the Soviet regime collapsed? What was so terrible about Ukraine joining the Russian free trade zone that we felt compelled to go in and vomit all over it?

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

 

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