AuthorTopic: Global Systemic Geopolitical Crisis  (Read 83191 times)

Offline Palloy

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Re: Global Systemic Geopolitical Crisis
« Reply #30 on: May 01, 2016, 06:12:38 PM »
The EU has a currency union (EuroZone) without a fiscal union, and a migration union (Shengen) without a border protection union.  Both work OK while things are going well, but when they don't, they cause big disruptions and unsolvable problems, and threaten the very break up of the EU.  Why would so many countries agree to such an obviously vulnerable system? - this article perhaps explains why.

I voted "YES" in the 1975 referendum about Britain staying in the EEC, based on the vague hope that it would make wars between member states less likely.  Now I think a renegotiation of NATO is more pressing, with expelling the US and Turkey being the best outcome.
Another Reason for Brexit: EU 'Was a CIA Project from the Beginning'
By Sputnik
May 01, 2016

In a recent piece for The Telegraph, commenting on President Obama's trip to the UK earlier this month to attempt to convince the island nation to vote against Brexit, Evans-Pritchard recalled that "Brexiteers should have been prepared for the shattering intervention of the US," since "the European Union always was an American project."

In fact, the journalist recalled, taking a look back through archival history, one finds that "it was Washington that drove European integration in the late 1940s,", and Washington that "funded it covertly under the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations."

Contrary to popular belief among some in Europe that the US may have viewed European integration as a threat, the project was in actually always seen as an "anchor to American regional interests alongside NATO," all the way back to its inception.

Evans-Pritchard recalled that the May 1950 Schuman Declaration, the proposal by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman to create the European Coal and Steel Community, which "set the tone of Franco-German reconciliation – and would lead by stages to the European Community – was cooked up by the US Secretary of State Dean Acheson at a meeting in Foggy Bottom" (in Washington DC).

And it was the Truman administration "that browbeat the French to reach a modus vivendi with Germany in the early post-war years, even threatening to cut off US Marshall aid at a furious meeting with recalcitrant French leaders [if] they resisted in September 1950."

Truman's motive at the time was obvious, the journalist suggests. "The Yalta settlement with the Soviet Union was breaking down," and Truman "wanted a united front to deter the Kremlin from further aggrandizement" as the Cold War conflict began to gather steam.

As for the figure of Jean Monnet, the French economist and diplomat considered to be one of the founding fathers of the European Union, he "looms large in the federalist pantheon, the eminence grise of supranational villainy" among British eurosceptics, but "few are aware that he spent much of his life in America, and served as war-time eyes and ears of Franklin Roosevelt."

In fact, Charles de Gaulle, an opponent of supranational Europe and a staunch supporter of French sovereignty, "thought [Monnet to be] an American agent, as indeed he was in a loose sense." French historian Eric Roussel's voluminous 1,000 page biography of Monnet, yet to be translated into English, "reveals how he worked hand in glove with successive administrations."

Unfortunately, Evans-Pritchard writes, many Britons, and other Europeans, remain unaware of the declassified documents from the US State Department archives "showing that US intelligence funded the European movement secretly for decades, and worked aggressively behind the scenes to push Britain into the project."

For instance, "one memorandum dated July 26, 1950, reveals a campaign to promote a full-fledged European parliament. It was signed by Gen William J Donovan, head of the American wartime Office of Strategic Services, [the] precursor of the Central Intelligence Agency."

In fact, "the key CIA front was the American Committee for a United Europe (ACUE), chaired by Donovan. Another document shows that it provided 53.5 percent of the European movement's funds in 1958. The board [of the ACUE] included Walter Bedell Smith and Allen Dulles, CIA directors in the fifties, and a caste of ex-OSS officials who moved in and out of the CIA."

The archives, Evans-Pritchard adds, show that the CIA essentially "treated some of the EU's 'founding fathers' as hired hands," and even "actively prevented them [from] finding alternative funding that would have broken reliance on Washington."  - © AFP 2016/ ADRIAN DENNIS

At the same time, the journalist notes, "there were horrible misjudgments along the way," with "a memo dated June 11, 1965 instruct[ing] the vice-president of the European Community to pursue monetary union by stealth, suppressing debate until 'the adoption of such proposals would become virtually inescapable'. This too was clever by half, as we can see today from debt-deflation traps and mass unemployment across southern Europe."

"In a sense," Evans-Pritchard notes, "these papers are ancient history." But "what they [do] show is that the American 'deep state' was in up to its neck" with the project which has now morphed into the 28-nation European Union.

"It is true that America had second thoughts about the EU once the ideological fanatics gained ascendancy in the late 1980s, recasting the union as a rival superpower with ambitions to challenge and surpass the US. John Kornblum, the State Department's chief of European affairs in the 1990s, says it was a nightmare trying to deal with Brussels," particularly on issues of military, security and defense policy.

At the same time, the journalist writes, Kornblum's view "is interesting, but it is a minority view in US policy circles. The frustration passed when Poland and the first wave of East European states joined the EU in 2004, bringing in a troupe of Atlanticist governments."

"We know it is hardly a love-affair. A top US official was caught two years ago on a telephone intercept dismissing Brussels during the Ukraine crisis with the lapidary words, 'f*** the EU'. Yet the all-pervading view is that the Western liberal order is under triple assault, and the EU must be propped [up]."  - © AFP 2016/ RAMI AL-SAYED

This trifecta of threats, Evans-Pritchard argues, includes jihadi terror and the "string of failed states across the Maghreb and the Levant." They also (very debatably) include Russia and China, which are flexing their muscles and 'testing the US alliance structure'.

Ultimately, he argues, if the Brexit camp wants a real shot at success, it "should be laying out plans to increase UK defense spending by half to 3% of GDP, pledging to propel Britain into the lead as the undisputed military power of Europe," and to "bind this country closer to France in an even more intimate security alliance. These moves would at least spike one of Project Fear's biggest guns" ('Project Fear' being the slang for the 'Bremain' campaign).

While Evans-Pritchard's argument about Russia posing a threat to a disunited Europe is highly debatable, the questions he raises about the CIA's role in the creation of the European supranational project are highly relevant. How can any self-respecting Briton, or European for that matter, support a project that was cooked up across the Atlantic for the purpose of maintaining Washington's Cold War hegemony?
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Offline RE

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A Dire Future- Killary: The Last POTUS
« Reply #31 on: May 09, 2016, 02:43:26 AM »
PCR is getting very Doomerish.  He does like cats though!  :icon_sunny:


A Dire Future

Paul Craig Roberts

Do you remember all the hopes Americans had for Obama when we elected him to his first term? Painful memories. He betrayed the voters on every one of his promises. There was no change, except for the worst as Obama went on to become one of the most vicious war criminals in world history. Despite his horrific record, we re-elected him, only to have US economic policy turn against the people in order to bail out at our expense the mega-banks and the One Percent.

Now Obama is coercing Asia and Europe to turn the governments of their countries over to rapacious American corporations empowered by TPP and TTIP to subordinate all interests to their profits.

Here is Pepe Escobar on how the great and wonderful United States treats its enserfed vassals: “Hardball, predictably, is the name of the game. Washington no less than threatened to block EU car exports [to the US] to force the EU to buy [Monsanto’s] genetically engineered fruits and vegetables.”

Now we face the prospect of electing an even worse president than Obama—Killary Clinton. Killary is the bought-and-paid-for property of Wall Street, Israel, and the military-security complex. She will bring back to power the totally discredited neoconservatives, and the US will proceed with its butchery and slaughter of other countries and all reformist governments everywhere.

The question is: will enough insouciant Americans align with the One Percent, the neocons, the men-hating feminists, homosexuals, the transgendered, and other “preferred minorities” to put the US presidency in the hands of an aggressive, corrupt person with a conscience deficit? That is the goal toward which the presstitutes are driving the brainwashed.

If we end up with Killary, neither the US nor the world will survive the mistake. She will be the last American president.

Killary is compromised with secret agendas, and secret agendas lead to conflict and war. With a crazed President Killary who declared Russian Presient Vladimir Putin, the world’s leading peacemaker, to be “the new Hitler,” with crazed American generals who declare Russia to be “an existential threat to the United States,” and with the insane neoconservatives back in the saddle determined to impose American hegemony on the rest of the world, Killary’s election will terminate life on earth.

From the Archive:

September 28, 2014

Washington’s Secret Agendas

Paul Craig Roberts

One might think that by now even Americans would have caught on to the constant stream of false alarms that Washington sounds in order to deceive the people into supporting its hidden agendas.

The public fell for the lie that the Taliban in Afghanistan are terrorists allied with al Qaeda. Americans fought a war for 13 years that enriched Dick Cheney’s firm, Halliburton, and other private interests only to end in another Washington failure.

The public fell for the lie that Saddam Hussein in Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” that were a threat to America and that if the US did not invade Iraq Americans risked a “mushroom cloud going up over an American city.” With the rise of ISIS, this long war apparently is far from over. Billions of dollars more in profits will pour into the coffers of the US military security complex as Washington fights those who are redrawing the false Middle East boundaries created by the British and French after WW I when the British and French seized territories of the former Ottoman Empire.

The American public fell for the lies told about Gaddafi in Libya. The formerly stable and prosperous country is now in chaos.

The American public fell for the lie that Iran has, or is building, nuclear weapons. Sanctioned and reviled by the West, Iran has shifted toward an Eastern orientation, thereby removing a principal oil producer from Western influence.

The public fell for the lie that Assad of Syria used “chemical weapons against his own people.” The jihadists that Washington sent to overthrow Assad have turned out to be, according to Washington’s propaganda, a threat to America.

The greatest threat to the world is Washington’s insistence on its hegemony. The ideology of a handful of neoconservatives is the basis for this insistence. We face the situation in which a handful of American neoconservative psychopaths claim to determine the fate of countries.

Many still believe Washington’s lies, but increasingly the world sees Washington as the greatest threat to peace and life on earth. The claim that America is “exceptional and indispensable” is used to justify Washington’s right to dictate to other countries.

The casualties of Washington’s bombings are invariably civilians, and the deaths will produce more recruits for ISIS. Already there are calls for Washington to reintroduce “boots on the ground” in Iraq. Otherwise, Western civilization is doomed, and our heads will be cut off. The newly created propaganda of a “Russian threat” requires more NATO spending and more military bases on Russia’s borders. A “quick reaction force” is being created to respond to a nonexistent threat of a Russian invasion of the Baltics, Poland, and Europe.

Usually it takes the American public a year, or two, three, or four to realize that it has been deceived by lies and propaganda, but by that time the public has swallowed a new set of lies and propaganda and is all concerned about the latest “threat.” The American public seems incapable of understanding that just as the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth threat was a hoax, so is the sixth threat, and so will be the seventh, eighth, and ninth.

Moreover, none of these American military attacks on other countries has resulted in a better situation, as Vladimir Putin honestly states. Yet, the public and its representatives in Congress support each new military adventure despite the record of deception and failure.

Perhaps if Americans were taught their true history in place of idealistic fairy tales, they would be less gullible and less susceptible to government propaganda. I have recommended Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s The Untold History of the United States, Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, and now I recommend Stephen Kinzer’s The Brothers, the story of the long rule of John Foster and Allen Dulles over the State Department and CIA and their demonization of reformist governments that they often succeeded in overthrowing. Kinzer’s history of the Dulles brothers’ plots to overthrow six governments provides insight into how Washington operates today.

In 1953 the Dulles brothers overthrew Iran’s elected leader, Mossadegh and imposed the Shah, thus poisoning American-Iranian relations through the present day. Americans might yet be led into a costly and pointless war with Iran, because of the Dulles brothers poisoning of relations in 1953.

The Dulles brothers overthrew Guatemala’s popular president Arbenz, because his land reform threatened the interest of the Dulles brothers’ Sullivan & Cromwell law firm’s United Fruit Company client. The brothers launched an amazing disinformation campaign depicting Arbenz as a dangerous communist who was a threat to Western civilization. The brothers enlisted dictators such as Somoza in Nicaragua and Batista in Cuba against Arbenz. The CIA organized air strikes and an invasion force. But nothing could happen until Arbenz’s strong support among the people in Guatemala could be shattered. The brothers arranged this through Cardinal Spellman, who enlisted Archbishop Rossell y Arellano. “A pastoral letter was read on April 9, 1954 in all Guatemalan churches.”

A masterpiece of propaganda, the pastoral letter misrepresented Arbenz as a dangerous communist who was the enemy of all Guatemalans. False radio broadcasts produced a fake reality of freedom fighter victories and army defections. Arbenz asked the UN to send fact finders, but Washington prevented that from happening. American journalists, with the exception of James Reston, supported the lies. Washington threatened and bought off Guatemala’s senior military commanders, who forced Arbenz to resign. The CIA’s chosen and well paid “liberator,” Col. Castillo Armas, was installed as Arbenz’s successor.

We recently witnessed a similar operation in Honduras and Ukraine.

President Eisenhower thanked the CIA for averting “a Communist beachhead in our hemisphere,” and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles gave a national TV and radio address in which he declared that the events in Guatemala “expose the evil purpose of the Kremlin.” This despite the uncontested fact that the only outside power operating in Guatemala was the Dulles brothers.

What had really happened is that a democratic and reformist government was overthrown because it compensated United Fruit Company for the nationalization of the company’s fallow land at a value listed by the company on its tax returns. America’s leading law firm or perhaps more accurately, America’s foreign policy-maker, Sullivan & Cromwell, had no intention of permitting a democratic government to prevail over the interests of the law firm’s client, especially when senior partners of the firm controlled both overt and covert US foreign policy. The two brothers, whose family members were invested in the United Fruit Company, simply applied the resources of the CIA, State Department, and US media to the protection of their private interests.

The extraordinary gullibility of the American people, the corrupt American media, and the indoctrinated and impotent Congress allowed the Dulles brothers to succeed in overthrowing a democracy.

Keep in mind that this use of the US government in behalf of private interests occurred 60 years ago long before the corrupt Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama regimes. And no doubt in earlier times as well, as General Smedley Butler has attested.

The Dulles brothers next intended victim was Ho Chi Minh. Ho, a nationalist leader, asked for America’s help in freeing Vietnam from French colonial rule. But John Foster Dulles, a self-righteous anti-communist, miscast Ho as a Communist Threat who was springing the domino theory on the Western innocents. Nationalism and anti-colonialism, Foster declared, were merely a cloak for communist subversion.

Paul Kattenburg, the State Department desk officer for Vietnam suggested that instead of war, the US should give Ho $500 million in reconstruction aid to rebuild the country from war and French misrule, which would free Ho from dependence on Russian and Chinese support, and, thereby, influence. Ho appealed to Washington several times, but the demonic inflexibility of the Dulles brothers prevented any sensible response. Instead, the hysteria whipped-up over the “communist threat” by the Dulles brothers landed the United States in the long, costly, fiasco known as the Vietnam War.

Kattenburg later wrote that it was suicidal for the US “to cut out its eyes and ears, to castrate its analytic capacity, to shut itself off from the truth because of blind prejudice.” Unfortunately for Americans and the world, castrated analytic capacity is Washington’s strongest suit.

The Dulles brothers’ next targets were President Sukarno of Indonesia, Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba of Congo, and Fidel Castro. The plot against Castro was such a disastrous failure that it cost Allen Dulles his job. President Kennedy lost confidence in the agency and told his brother Bobby that after his reelection he was going to break the CIA into a thousand pieces. When President Kennedy removed Allen Dulles, the CIA understood the threat and struck first.

Warren Nutter, my Ph.D. dissertation chairman, later Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, taught his students that for the US government to maintain the people’s trust, which democracy requires, the government’s policies must be affirmations of our principles and be openly communicated to the people. Hidden agendas, such as those of the Dulles brothers and the Clinton, Bush and Obama regimes, must rely on secrecy and manipulation and, thereby, arouse the distrust of the people. If Americans are too brainwashed to notice, many foreign nationals are not.

The US government’s secret agendas have cost Americans and many peoples in the world tremendously. Essentially, the Dulles brothers created the Cold War with their secret agendas and anti-communist hysteria. Secret agendas committed Americans to long, costly, and unnecessary wars in Vietnam and the Middle East. Secret CIA and military agendas intending regime change in Cuba were blocked by President John F. Kennedy and resulted in the assassination of a president, who, for all his faults, was likely to have ended the Cold War twenty years before Ronald Reagan seized the opportunity.

Secret agendas have prevailed for so long that the American people themselves are now corrupted. As the saying goes, “a fish rots from the head.” The rot in Washington now permeates the country.

It is a rot that threatens the entire world.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts' latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West, How America Was Lost, and The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.
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Offline RE

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The Untold History of US War Crimes
« Reply #32 on: May 09, 2016, 01:46:05 PM »

The Untold History of US War Crimes
By Peter Kuzinick and Edu Montesanti
Global Research, May 05, 2016
Region: USA
Theme: Crimes against Humanity, US NATO War Agenda

In this exclusive interview, Prof Peter Kuznick speaks of: the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagazaki; US crimes and lies behind the Vietnam war, and what was really behind that inhumane invasion; why the US engaged a Cold War with the Soviet Union, and how that war and the mainstream media influences the world today; the interests behind the assassinations of President Kennedy; US imperialism towards Latin America, during the Cold War and today, under the false premise of War on Terror and War on Drugs.

Edu Montesanti: Professor Peter Kuznick, thank you so very much for granting me this interview. In the book The Untold History of the United States, Oliver Stone and you reveal that the the launch of the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki by President Harry Truman was militarily unnecessary, and the reasons behind it. Would you comment these versions, please?

Peter Kuznick: It is interesting to me that when I speak to people from outside the United States, most think the atomic bombings were unnecessary and unjustifiable, but most Americans still believe that the atomic bombs were actually humane acts because they saved the lives of not only hundreds of thousands of Americans who would have died in an invasion but of millions of Japanese.

That is a comforting illusion that is deeply held by many Americans, especially older ones. It is one of the fundamental myths emanating from World War II. It was deliberately propagated by President Truman, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, and many others who also spread the erroneous information that the atomic bombs forced Japanese surrender. Truman claimed in his memoirs that the atomic bombs saved a half million American lives.

Hiroshima after the Bomb

President George H.W. Bush later raised that number to “millions.” The reality is that the atomic bombings neither saved American lives nor did they contribute significantly to the Japanese decision to surrender. They may have actually delayed the end of the war and cost American lives. They certainly cost hundreds of thousands of Japanese lives and injured many more.

As the January 1946 report by the U.S. War Department made clear, there was very little discussion of the atomic bombings by Japanese officials leading up to their decision to surrender. This has recently been acknowledged somewhat stunningly by the official National Museum of the U.S. Navy in Washington, DC, which states, “The vast destruction wreaked by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the loss of 135,000 people made little impact on the Japanese military.

However, the Soviet invasion of Manchuria…changed their minds.” Few Americans realize that six of America’s seven five star admirals and generals who earned their fifth star during the war are on record as saying that the atomic bombs were either militarily unnecessary or morally reprehensible or both.

That list includes Generals Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, and Henry “Hap” Arnold and Admirals William Leahy, Ernest King, and Chester Nimitz. Leahy, who was chief of staff to presidents Roosevelt and Truman, called the atomic bombings violations of “every Christian ethic I have ever heard of and all of the known laws of war.” He proclaimed that the “Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender…The used of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. In being the first to use it we adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the dark ages.”

Eisenhower agreed that the Japanese were already defeated. MacArthur said that the Japanese would have surrendered months earlier if the U.S. had told them they could keep the emperor, which the U.S. did ultimately allow them to do.

What really happened? By spring 1945, it was clear to most Japanese leaders that victory was impossible. In February 1945, Prince Fumimaro Konoe, former Japanese prime minister, wrote to Emperor Hirohito, “I regret to say that Japan’s defeat is inevitable.”

The same sentiment was expressed by the Supreme War Council in May when it declared that “Soviet entry into the war will deal a death blow to the Empire” and was repeated frequently thereafter by Japanese leaders.

The U.S., which had broken Japanese codes and was intercepting Japanese cables, was fully aware of Japan’s increasing desperation to end the war if the U.S. would ease its demand for “unconditional surrender.” Not only was Japan getting battered militarily,

it’s railroad system was in tatters and its food supply was shrinking. Truman himself referred to the intercepted July 18 cable as “the telegram from the Jap emperor asking for peace.” American leaders also knew that what Japan really dreaded was the possibility of a Soviet invasion, which they maneuvered unsuccessfully to forestall.

The Japanese leaders did not know that at Yalta Stalin had agreed to come into the Pacific War three months after the end of the fighting in Europe. But Truman knew this and understood the significance. As early as April 11, 1945, the Joint Intelligence Staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was reporting that “If at any time the USSR should enter the war, all Japanese will realize that absolute defeat is inevitable.”

Yalta Conference 1945

At Potsdam in mid-July, when Truman received Stalin’s confirmation that the Soviets were coming into the war, Truman rejoiced and wrote in his diary, “Fini Japs when that comes about.” The next day he wrote home to his wife, “We’ll end the war a year sooner now, and think of the kids who won’t be killed.”

Potsdam July 1945, Churchill, Truman and Stalin

So there were two ways to expedite the end of the war without dropping atomic bombs. The first was to change the demand for unconditional surrender and inform the Japanese that they could keep the emperor, which most American policymakers wanted to do anyway because they saw the emperor as key to postwar stability. The second was to wait for the Soviet invasion, which began at midnight on August 8.

It was the invasion that proved decisive not the atomic bombs, whose effects took longer to register and were more localized. The Soviet invasion completely discredited Japan’s ketsu-go strategy. The powerful Red Army quickly demolished the Japan’s Kwantung Army. When Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki was asked why Japan needed to surrender so quickly, he replied that if Japan delayed, “the Soviet Union will take not only Manchuria, Korea, Karafuto, but also Hokkaido.

This will destroy the foundation of Japan. We must end the war when we can deal with the United States.” The Soviet invasion changed the military equation; the atomic bombs, as terrible as they were, did not. The Americans had been firebombing Japanese cities for months. As Yuki Tanaka has shown, the U.S. had already firebombed more than 100 Japanese cities.

Destruction reached as high as 99.5 percent in downtown Toyama. Japanese leaders had already accepted that the United States could wipe out Japanese cities. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were two more cities to vanquish, however thorough the destruction or horrific the details. But the Soviet invasion proved devastating as both American and Japanese leaders anticipated it would.

But the U.S. wanted to use atomic bombs in part as a stern warning to the Soviets of what was in store for them if they interfered with U.S. plans for postwar hegemony. That was exactly how Stalin and those around him in the Kremlin interpreted the bombings. U.S. use of the bombs had little effect on Japanese leaders, but it proved a major factor in jumpstarting the Cold War.

And it put the world on a glide path to annihilation. Truman observed on at least three separate occasions that he was beginning a process that might result in the end of life on this planet and he plowed ahead recklessly. When he received word at Potsdam of how powerful the July 16 bomb test in New Mexico had been, he wrote in his diary, “We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world.

It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era after Noah and his fabulous Ark.” So the atomic bombings contributed very little if anything to the end of the war, but they began a process that continues to threaten humanity with annihilation today–70 plus years after the bombings. As Oliver Stone and I say in The Untold History of the United States, to kill innocent civilians is a war crime. To threaten humanity with extinction is far, far worse. It is the worst crime that can ever be committed.

Edu Montesanti: In the Vietnam War’s chapter, it is revealed that the US armed forces conducted in that small country the launch of a greater number of bombs that all launched during World War II. Would you please detail it, and comment why you think it happened, professor Kuznick?

Peter Kuzinick: The U.S. dropped more bombs against little Vietnam than had been dropped by all sided in all previous wars in history–three times as many as were dropped by all sides in WWII. That war was the worst atrocity–the worst example of foreign aggression– committed since the end of WWII. Nineteen million gallons of herbicide poisoned the countryside. Vietnam’s beautiful triple canopy forests were effectively eliminated. The U.S. destroyed 9,000 of South Vietnam’s 15,000 hamlets.

It destroyed all six industrial cities in the North as well as 28 of 30 provincial towns and 96 of 116 district towns. It threatened to use nuclear weapons on numerous occasions. Among those who discussed and occasionally supported such use was Henry Kissinger. Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara told my students that he believes that 3.8 million Vietnamese died in the war.

Thus, the war was truly horrific and the Americans have never atoned for this crime. Instead of winning a Nobel Peace Prize for ending the war, Henry Kissinger should be in the dock in the Hague standing trial for having committed crimes against humanity.

Edu Montesanti: Please speak of your experiences in the 60′s in Vietnam, and why the US decided to engage a war against that nation.

Peter Kuznick: Oliver and I approached the war from different perspectives. He dropped out of Yale and volunteered for combat in Vietnam. He was wounded twice and won a medal for combat valor. I, on the other hand, was fiercely opposed to the U.S. invasion of Vietnam from the start.

As a freshman in college, I started an anti-war group. I organized actively against the war. I hated it. I hated the people who were responsible for it. I thought they were all war criminals and still do. I attended many antiwar marches and spoke often at public events. I understood, as my friend Daniel Ellsberg likes to say, we weren’t on the wrong side. We were the wrong side.

The U.S. got gradually involved. It first financed the French colonial war and then took over the fighting itself after the Vietnamese defeated the French. President Kennedy sent in 16,000 “advisers,” but realized the war was wrong and planned to end it if he hadn’t been killed. U.S. motives were mixed. Ho was not only a nationalist, he was a communist. No U.S. leader wanted to lose a war to the communists anywhere.

This was especially true after the communist victory in China in 1949. Many feared the domino effect–that Vietnam would lead to communist victories across Southeast Asia. That would leave Japan isolated and Japan, too, would eventually turn toward the communist bloc for allies and trading partners. So one motivation was geopolitical.

Another was economic. U.S. leaders didn’t want to lose the cheap labor, raw materials, and markets in Indochina. Another reason was that the military-industrial complex in the U.S.–the “defense” industries and the military leaders allied with them–got fat and prosperous from war. War was their reason for being and they profited handsomely from war in both inflated profits and promotions.

So it was a combination of maintaining U.S. preeminence in the world, defending and exploiting U.S. economic interests, and a perverse and corrosive anti-communist mentality that wanted to defeat the communists everywhere.

Edu Montesanti: What were the real reasons behind the US Cold War with the Soviet Union?

Peter Kuznick: George Kennan, the U.S. State Department official who provided the theoretical rationale for the containment theory, laid out the economic motives behind the Cold War in a very illuminating memo in 1948 in which he said, “We have about 50 percent of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population…we cannot fail to be the object of envying resentment.

Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity.” The U.S. pursued this task. Sometimes that required supporting brutal dictatorships. Sometimes it required supporting democratic regimes. The fight occurred on the cultural as well as the political, ideological, and economic realms.

Henry Luce, the publisher of Time and Life Magazines, said, in 1941, that the 20th century must be the American Century. The U.S. would dominate the world. The U.S. set out to do so. The Soviets, having been invaded twice through Eastern Europe, wanted a buffer zone between themselves and Germany. The U.S. was opposed to such economic and political spheres that limited U.S. economic penetration.

Although the U.S. and the U.S.S.R, never went to war, they fought many dangerous proxy wars. Human beings are lucky to have survived this dismal era.

Edu Montesanti: How do you see US politics towards Cuba since the Cuban Revolution, and towards Latin America in general since the Cold War?

Peter Kuznick: The U.S. completely controlled the Cuban economy and politics from the 1890s until the 1959 revolution. Batista carried water for U.S. investors. The U.S. had intervened repeatedly in Latin American affairs between 1890 and 1933 and then often again in the 1950s. Castro represented the first major break in that cycle.

The U.S. wanted to destroy him and make sure that no one else in Latin America would follow his example. It failed. It didn’t destroy his revolution, but it guaranteed that it would not succeed economically or create the people’s democracy many hoped for.

However, it has succeeded in other ways. And the revolution has survived throughout the Cold War and since. It has inspired other Latin American revolutionaries despite all the U.S.-backed and U.S.-trained death squads that have patrolled the continent, leaving hundreds of thousands of dead in their wake.

The U.S. School for the Americas has been instrumental in training the death squad leaders. Hugo Chavez and others have picked up where Fidel left off in inspiring the Latin American left. But many progressive leaders have been brought down in recent years.

Today Dilma Rouseff is fighting for her life but Evo Morales and Alvaro Garcie Linera in Bolivia are standing proud and standing tall to resist U.S. efforts to again dominate and exploit Latin America. But across Latin America, progressive leaders have either been toppled or are being weakened by scandals. U.S.-backed neoliberals are poised once again to loot local economies in the interest of foreign and domestic capitalists. It is not a pretty picture. The people will suffer immensely while some get rich.

Edu Montesanti: According to your researches, Professor Kuznick, who killed President John Kennedy? What interests were behind that magnicide?

Peter Kuznick: Oliver made a great movie about the Kennedy assassination–JFK. We didn’t feel that we needed to revisit those issues in our books and documentaries. We focused instead on what was lost to humanity when Kennedy was stolen from us. He had grown immensely during his short time in office.

He began as a Cold Warrior. By the end of his life, following the lessons he learned during the first two years of his administration and punctuated by the Cuban Missile Crisis, he wanted desperately to end the Cold War and nuclear arms race. Had he lived, as Robert McNamara stated, the world would have been fundamentally different.

The U.S. would have withdrawn from Vietnam. Military expenditures would have dropped sharply. The U.S. and the Soviets would have explored ways to work together. The arms race would have been transformed into a peace race. But he had his enemies in the military and intelligence communities and in the military sector of the economy.

He was also hated by the Southern segregationists, the Mafia, and the reactionary Cuban exile community. But those behind his assassination would much more likely have come from the military and intelligence wing.

We don’t know who did it, but we know whose interests were advanced by the assassination. Given all the holes in the official story as detailed by the Warren Commission, it is difficult to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and that the magic bullet did all that damage.

Edu Montesanti: Do you think US imperialism against the region today, especially attacks against progressive countries are in essence the same policy during the Cold War?

Peter Kuznick: I don’t think the U.S. wants a new cold war with a real rival that can compete around the globe. As the neocons proclaimed after the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. really wants a unipolar world in which there is only one superpower and no rivals.

Progressive countries have fewer major allies today than they had during the Cold War. Russia and China provide some balance to the U.S., but they are not really progressive countries challenging the world capitalist order. They both are beset by their own internal problems and inequalities.

There are few democratic socialist models for the world to follow. The U.S. has managed to subvert and sabotage most of the forward thinking and visionary governments. Hugo, despite all his excesses, was one such role model. He achieved great things for the poor in Venezuela. But if we look at what is happening now in Brazil, Argentina, Honduras, it is a very sad picture.

A new revolutionary wave is needed across the third world with new leaders committed to rooting out corruption and fighting for social justice. I am personally excited by recent developments in Bolivia, despite the results of the latest election.

Edu Montesanti: How do you see the Cold War culture influences US and world society today, Professor Kuznick? What role the Washington regime and the mainstream media play on it?

Peter Kuznick: The media are part of the problem. They have served to obfuscate rather than educate and enlighten. They inculcate the sense that there are dangers and enemies lurking everywhere, but they offer no positive solutions.

As, a result, people are driven by fear and respond irrationally. Former U.S. Vice President Henry Wallace, one of America’s leading visionaries in the 20th century, responded to Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech in 1946 by warning,

    “The source of all our mistakes is fear… If these fears continue, the day will come when our sons and grandsons will pay for these fears with rivers of blood… Out of fear great nations have been acting like cornered beasts, thinking only of survival.”

This also operates on the personal level where people will sacrifice their freedoms to achieve greater security. We saw that play out in the U.S. after 9/11. We’re seeing that now in France and Belgium.

The world is moving in the wrong direction. Inequality is growing. The richest 62 people in the world now have more wealth than the poorest 3.6 billion. That is obscene. There is no excuse for poverty and hunger in a world of such abundant resources. In this world, the media serve several purposes, the least of which is to inform the people and arm them with the information they need to change their societies and the world.

The media instead magnify people’s fears so that they will accept authoritarian regimes and militaristic solutions to problems that have no military solutions, provide mindless entertainment to distract people from real problems, and narcotize people into somnambulence and apathy.

This is especially a problem in the United States where many people believe there is a “free” press. Where there is a controlled press, people learn to approach the media with skepticism. Many gullible Americans don’t understand the more subtle forms of manipulation and deception.

In the U.S., the mainstream media rarely offer perspectives that challenge conventional thinking. For example, I’m constantly getting interviewed by leading media outlets in Russia, China, Japan, Europe, and elsewhere, but I’m rarely interviewed by media in the United States.

Nor do my progressive colleagues get invited onto mainstream U.S. shows. So, yes, there is a certain measure of press freedom in the United States, but that freedom is undermined not by the government as much as it is by self-censorship and silencing of progressive voices. Much of the rest of the world is more open to criticizing the U.S. but not as forthright when it comes to criticizing their own governments’ policies.

Edu Montesanti: What could you say about the ideia that the current US “War on Terror” and even “War on Drugs” especially in Latin America are ways the US has found to replace the Cold War, and so expand its military power and world domination?

Peter Kuznick: The U.S. rejects the methods of the old colonial regimes. It has created a new kind of empire undergirded by between 800 and 1,000 overseas military bases from which U.S. special forces operate in more than 130 countries each year.

Instead of invading forces consisting of large land armies, which has proven not to work in country after country, the U.S. operates in more covert and less heavy-handed ways. Obama’s preferred method of killing is by drones.

These are of dubious legality and produce questionable results. They are certainly effective in killing people, but there is lots of evidence to suggest that for every “terrorist” they kill, they create 10 more in his or her place.

The War on Terror that the U.S. and its allies have waged for the past 15 years has only created more terrorists. Military solutions rarely work. Different approaches are needed and they will have to begin with redistribution of the world’s resources in order to make people want to live rather than to kill and die. People need hope.

They need a sense of connection. They need to believe that a better life is possible for them and their children. Too many feel hopeless and alienated. The failure of the Soviet model has produced a vacuum in its place. As Marx warned long ago, Russia was too culturally and economically backward to serve as a model for global socialist development.

The Revolution was challenged from the start by invading capitalist forces. Problems abounded from the beginning. Then Stalinism brought its own spate of horrors. To the extent that the Soviet model became the world standard for revolutionary change, there was little hope for creating a decent world. Nor did the Chinese model provide a better standard.

So some have turned to radical Islam, which brings its own nightmare vision. As progressive governments continue to stumble and fall, U.S. hegemony strengthens. But the U.S. has had little positive to offer the world. Future generations will look back at this Pax Americana not as a period of enlightenment but one of constant war and growing inequality.

Democracy is great in principle but less uplifting in practice. And now with the nuclear threat intensifying and climate change also threatening the future existence of humanity, the future remains uncertain. The U.S. will cling to wars on terror and wars on drugs to maintain the disparities that George Kennan outlined 68 years ago. But that is not the way forward.

The world may look upon U.S. internal politics as a descent into lunacy–an amusing sign of the complete failure of American democracy–but the outsider success of Bernie Sanders and even the anti-establishment revolt among the Republican grassroots shows that Americans are hungry for change. Both Hillary Clinton and the Republican establishment, with their Wall Street ties and militaristic solutions, do not command respect outside of certain limited segments of the population.

They may win now, but their time is limited. People everywhere are desperate for new positive, progressive answers. Some, clearly, as we see now across Europe, will turn to rightwing demagogues in times of crisis, but that is at least in part because the left has failed to provide the leadership the world needs.

A revitalized left is the key to saving this planet. We’re running out of time though. The road ahead will not be easy. But we can and must prevail.

Peter Kuznick, a History Professor and Director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University at American University, Washington D.C., with Oliver Stone co-authored the 10 part Showtime documentary film series and book, both titled The Untold History of the United States.  A New Yorker who was active in the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, and remains active in antiwar and nuclear abolition efforts, Professor Kuznick is also author of Beyond the Laboratory: Scientists As Political Activists in 1930s America (University of Chicago Press), co-author with Akira Kimura of Rethinking the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Japanese and American Perspectives(Horitsu Bunkasha, 2010), co-author with Yuki Tanaka of Genpatsu to Hiroshima – Genshiryoku Heiwa Riyo No Shinso [Nuclear Power and Hiroshima: The Truth Behind the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Power (Iwanami, 2011)], and co-editor with James Gilbert of Rethinking Cold War Culture (Smithsonian Institution Press).

Edu Montesanti is author of Lies and Crimes of “War on Terror” (Ed. Scortecci, Brazil, 2012; Mentiras e Crimes da “Guerra ao Terror”, original in Portuguese), and writes forPravda (Russia)
The original source of this article is Global Research
Copyright © Peter Kuzinick and Edu Montesanti, Global Research, 2016
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Offline MKing

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Re: Global Systemic Geopolitical Crisis
« Reply #33 on: May 09, 2016, 03:24:33 PM »

I voted "YES" in the 1975 referendum about Britain staying in the EEC, based on the vague hope that it would make wars between member states less likely.  Now I think a renegotiation of NATO is more pressing, with expelling the US and Turkey being the best outcome.

Now that is just plain funny. NATO wasn't built to protect the US, it was built to put some lead in the European pencil. Kicking the US out now would be GREAT! But Europeans that know they aren't worth dick when it comes to modern military operations won't be happy, I mean really, they haven't figured out a way to either grow or get a spine surgically implanted yet, so until then, they only have us.
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Offline Surly1

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Re: Global Systemic Geopolitical Crisis
« Reply #34 on: May 10, 2016, 11:58:52 AM »

I voted "YES" in the 1975 referendum about Britain staying in the EEC, based on the vague hope that it would make wars between member states less likely.  Now I think a renegotiation of NATO is more pressing, with expelling the US and Turkey being the best outcome.

Now that is just plain funny. NATO wasn't built to protect the US, it was built to put some lead in the European pencil. Kicking the US out now would be GREAT! But Europeans that know they aren't worth dick when it comes to modern military operations won't be happy, I mean really, they haven't figured out a way to either grow or get a spine surgically implanted yet, so until then, they only have us.


That mission for NATO ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. As Gorbachev unwound the USSR, we solemnly promised to not encroach on their historical areas of interest, and immediately demonstrated that we were lying through our teeth. NATO was rejiggered to defend American multinational corporate interests by adapting itself to support the highly elastic and convenient "War on Terror."

For which you and I continue to foot the bill. Apparently for both sides of the conflict.

Support the troops: bring them home.
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Offline Palloy

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Re: Global Systemic Geopolitical Crisis
« Reply #35 on: May 10, 2016, 06:14:04 PM »
MK: NATO wasn't built to protect the US, it was built to put some lead in the European pencil.

Sure NATO wasn't built to protect the US, but it was to protect the territory they had won, just as the Warsaw Pact was to protect the territory that the Soviet Union had won.  Empires are like that.  Both empires then proceeded to develop their new territory according to their own philosophies - US producing huge wealth disparities among societies, the Soviets producing more equality especially in education, health, housing, jobs, etc.  Things were so good in the Soviet Union that the main complaint was that the people couldn't get denim jeans and other fashion items.

Both sides produced decades of propaganda against the other, and blocked the other sides' propaganda.  Both sides spied on the other, tested each other's defenses, and both sides hounded their political dissidents and suppressed ethnic minorities.  Both sides supported political divisions within foreign countries, with the US always supporting the wealthy elites and the Soviets always supporting the poor workers.  Both sides developed personality cults around their leaders, and personally demonised their opponents.

Oh no, you chortle, it wasn't like that at all.  But that just shows how incredibly powerful propaganda is, especially when it gets written into the history books (and Wikipedia) and taught to impressionable young minds in schools and universities.

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Offline MKing

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Re: Global Systemic Geopolitical Crisis
« Reply #36 on: May 10, 2016, 07:52:54 PM »
Now that is just plain funny. NATO wasn't built to protect the US, it was built to put some lead in the European pencil. Kicking the US out now would be GREAT! But Europeans that know they aren't worth dick when it comes to modern military operations won't be happy, I mean really, they haven't figured out a way to either grow or get a spine surgically implanted yet, so until then, they only have us.


That mission for NATO ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Ended. And then found other missions to save the usual suspects from themselves, such as Kosovo and Yugoslavia. They came in handy in Afghanistan, Pakistan earthquake relief, hell, the new mission was arguably more Pepe friendly than the original.

And then obviously began again, with Putin happy to provide the excuse. And the cool part? Its the same mission as before!! And that one worked so well the first time, it dissolved the entire organization it was arrayed against! Wonder if Putin is getting cold sweats, considering what happened the last time his ilk lined up against a bunch of spineless...backed by the greatest military force in the history of the species?

Quote from: Surly1
Support the troops: bring them home.

Sounds like a Trump voter to me!
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Offline Palloy

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Re: Global Systemic Geopolitical Crisis
« Reply #37 on: May 11, 2016, 11:47:29 PM »,_what_principles_rule_the_world/
The Costs of Violence
Masters of Mankind (Part 2)

Noam Chomsky
May 12, 2016

[This piece, the second of two parts, is excerpted from Noam Chomsky’s new book, Who Rules the World? (Metropolitan Books). Part 1 can be found by clicking here.]

In brief, the Global War on Terror sledgehammer strategy has spread jihadi terror from a tiny corner of Afghanistan to much of the world, from Africa through the Levant and South Asia to Southeast Asia. It has also incited attacks in Europe and the United States. The invasion of Iraq made a substantial contribution to this process, much as intelligence agencies had predicted. Terrorism specialists Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank estimate that the Iraq War “generated a stunning sevenfold increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks, amounting to literally hundreds of additional terrorist attacks and thousands of civilian lives lost; even when terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan is excluded, fatal attacks in the rest of the world have increased by more than one-third.” Other exercises have been similarly productive.

A group of major human rights organizations -- Physicians for Social Responsibility (U.S.), Physicians for Global Survival (Canada), and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (Germany) -- conducted a study that sought "to provide as realistic an estimate as possible of the total body count in the three main war zones [Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan] during 12 years of ‘war on terrorism,'" including an extensive review “of the major studies and data published on the numbers of victims in these countries,” along with additional information on military actions. Their "conservative estimate" is that these wars killed about 1.3 million people, a toll that "could also be in excess of 2 million." A database search by independent researcher David Peterson in the days following the publication of the report found virtually no mention of it. Who cares?

More generally, studies carried out by the Oslo Peace Research Institute show that two-thirds of the region’s conflict fatalities were produced in originally internal disputes where outsiders imposed their solutions. In such conflicts, 98% of fatalities were produced only after outsiders had entered the domestic dispute with their military might. In Syria, the number of direct conflict fatalities more than tripled after the West initiated air strikes against the self-declared Islamic State and the CIA started its indirect military interference in the war -- interference which appears to have drawn the Russians in as advanced US antitank missiles were decimating the forces of their ally Bashar al-Assad. Early indications are that Russian bombing is having the usual consequences.

The evidence reviewed by political scientist Timo Kivimäki indicates that the “protection wars [fought by ‘coalitions of the willing’] have become the main source of violence in the world, occasionally contributing over 50% of total conflict fatalities.” Furthermore, in many of these cases, including Syria, as he reviews, there were opportunities for diplomatic settlement that were ignored. That has also been true in other horrific situations, including the Balkans in the early 1990s, the first Gulf War, and of course the Indochina wars, the worst crime since World War II. In the case of Iraq the question does not even arise. There surely are some lessons here.

The general consequences of resorting to the sledgehammer against vulnerable societies comes as little surprise. William Polk’s careful study of insurgencies, Violent Politics, should be essential reading for those who want to understand today’s conflicts, and surely for planners, assuming that they care about human consequences and not merely power and domination. Polk reveals a pattern that has been replicated over and over. The invaders -- perhaps professing the most benign motives -- are naturally disliked by the population, who disobey them, at first in small ways, eliciting a forceful response, which increases opposition and support for resistance. The cycle of violence escalates until the invaders withdraw -- or gain their ends by something that may approach genocide.

Playing by the Al-Qaeda Game Plan

Obama’s global drone assassination campaign, a remarkable innovation in global terrorism, exhibits the same patterns. By most accounts, it is generating terrorists more rapidly than it is murdering those suspected of someday intending to harm us -- an impressive contribution by a constitutional lawyer on the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, which established the basis for the principle of presumption of innocence that is the foundation of civilized law.

Another characteristic feature of such interventions is the belief that the insurgency will be overcome by eliminating its leaders. But when such an effort succeeds, the reviled leader is regularly replaced by someone younger, more determined, more brutal, and more effective. Polk gives many examples. Military historian Andrew Cockburn has reviewed American campaigns to kill drug and then terror “kingpins” over a long period in his important study Kill Chain and found the same results. And one can expect with fair confidence that the pattern will continue.

No doubt right now U.S. strategists are seeking ways to murder the “Caliph of the Islamic State” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who is a bitter rival of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The likely result of this achievement is forecast by the prominent terrorism scholar Bruce Hoffman, senior fellow at the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. He predicts that “al-Baghdadi’s death would likely pave the way for a rapprochement [with al-Qaeda] producing a combined terrorist force unprecedented in scope, size, ambition and resources.”

Polk cites a treatise on warfare by Henry Jomini, influenced by Napoleon’s defeat at the hands of Spanish guerrillas, that became a textbook for generations of cadets at the West Point military academy. Jomini observed that such interventions by major powers typically result in “wars of opinion,” and nearly always “national wars,” if not at first then becoming so in the course of the struggle, by the dynamics that Polk describes. Jomini concludes that “commanders of regular armies are ill-advised to engage in such wars because they will lose them,” and even apparent successes will prove short-lived.

Careful studies of al-Qaeda and ISIS have shown that the United States and its allies are following their game plan with some precision. Their goal is to “draw the West as deeply and actively as possible into the quagmire” and “to perpetually engage and enervate the United States and the West in a series of prolonged overseas ventures” in which they will undermine their own societies, expend their resources, and increase the level of violence, setting off the dynamic that Polk reviews.

Scott Atran, one of the most insightful researchers on jihadi movements, calculates that “the 9/11 attacks cost between $400,000 and $500,000 to execute, whereas the military and security response by the U.S. and its allies is in the order of 10 million times that figure. On a strictly cost-benefit basis, this violent movement has been wildly successful, beyond even Bin Laden’s original imagination, and is increasingly so. Herein lies the full measure of jujitsu-style asymmetric warfare. After all, who could claim that we are better off than before, or that the overall danger is declining?”And if we continue to wield the sledgehammer, tacitly following the jihadi script, the likely effect is even more violent jihadism with broader appeal. The record, Atran advises, “should inspire a radical change in our counter-strategies.”

Al-Qaeda/ISIS are assisted by Americans who follow their directives: for example, Ted “carpet-bomb ’em” Cruz, a top Republican presidential candidate. Or, at the other end of the mainstream spectrum, the leading Middle East and international affairs columnist of the New York Times, Thomas Friedman, who in 2003 offered Washington advice on how to fight in Iraq on the Charlie Rose show: “There was what I would call the terrorism bubble... And what we needed to do was to go over to that part of the world and burst that bubble. We needed to go over there basically, and, uh, take out a very big stick, right in the heart of that world, and burst that bubble. And there was only one way to do it... What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying, which part of this sentence don’t you understand? You don’t think we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy we’re going to just let it go? Well, suck on this. Ok. That, Charlie, was what this war was about.”

That’ll show the ragheads.

Looking Forward

Atran and other close observers generally agree on the prescriptions. We should begin by recognizing what careful research has convincingly shown: those drawn to jihad “are longing for something in their history, in their traditions, with their heroes and their morals; and the Islamic State, however brutal and repugnant to us and even to most in the Arab-Muslim world, is speaking directly to that... What inspires the most lethal assailants today is not so much the Quran but a thrilling cause and a call to action that promises glory and esteem in the eyes of friends.” In fact, few of the jihadis have much of a background in Islamic texts or theology, if any.

The best strategy, Polk advises, would be “a multinational, welfare-oriented and psychologically satisfying program... that would make the hatred ISIS relies upon less virulent. The elements have been identified for us: communal needs, compensation for previous transgressions, and calls for a new beginning.” He adds, “A carefully phrased apology for past transgressions would cost little and do much.” Such a project could be carried out in refugee camps or in the “hovels and grim housing projects of the Paris banlieues,” where, Atran writes, his research team “found fairly wide tolerance or support for ISIS’s values.” And even more could be done by true dedication to diplomacy and negotiations instead of reflexive resort to violence.

Not least in significance would be an honorable response to the “refugee crisis” that was a long time in coming but surged to prominence in Europe in 2015. That would mean, at the very least, sharply increasing humanitarian relief to the camps in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey where miserable refugees from Syria barely survive. But the issues go well beyond, and provide a picture of the self-described “enlightened states” that is far from attractive and should be an incentive to action.

There are countries that generate refugees through massive violence, like the United States, secondarily Britain and France. Then there are countries that admit huge numbers of refugees, including those fleeing from Western violence, like Lebanon (easily the champion, per capita), Jordan, and Syria before it imploded, among others in the region. And partially overlapping, there are countries that both generate refugees and refuse to take them in, not only from the Middle East but also from the U.S. “backyard” south of the border. A strange picture, painful to contemplate.

An honest picture would trace the generation of refugees much further back into history. Veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk reports that one of the first videos produced by ISIS “showed a bulldozer pushing down a rampart of sand that had marked the border between Iraq and Syria. As the machine destroyed the dirt revetment, the camera panned down to a handwritten poster lying in the sand. ‘End of Sykes-Picot,’ it said.”

For the people of the region, the Sykes-Picot agreement is the very symbol of the cynicism and brutality of Western imperialism. Conspiring in secret during World War I, Britain’s Mark Sykes and France’s François Georges-Picot carved up the region into artificial states to satisfy their own imperial goals, with utter disdain for the interests of the people living there and in violation of the wartime promises issued to induce Arabs to join the Allied war effort. The agreement mirrored the practices of the European states that devastated Africa in a similar manner. It “transformed what had been relatively quiet provinces of the Ottoman Empire into some of the least stable and most internationally explosive states in the world.”

Repeated Western interventions since then in the Middle East and Africa have exacerbated the tensions, conflicts, and disruptions that have shattered the societies. The end result is a “refugee crisis” that the innocent West can scarcely endure. Germany has emerged as the conscience of Europe, at first (but no longer) admitting almost one million refugees -- in one of the richest countries in the world with a population of 80 million. In contrast, the poor country of Lebanon has absorbed an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees, now a quarter of its population, on top of half a million Palestinian refugees registered with the U.N. refugee agency UNRWA, mostly victims of Israeli policies.

Europe is also groaning under the burden of refugees from the countries it has devastated in Africa -- not without U.S. aid, as Congolese and Angolans, among others, can testify. Europe is now seeking to bribe Turkey (with over two million Syrian refugees) to distance those fleeing the horrors of Syria from Europe’s borders, just as Obama is pressuring Mexico to keep U.S. borders free from miserable people seeking to escape the aftermath of Reagan’s GWOT along with those seeking to escape more recent disasters, including a military coup in Honduras that Obama almost alone legitimized, which created one of the worst horror chambers in the region.

Words can hardly capture the U.S. response to the Syrian refugee crisis, at least any words I can think of.

Returning to the opening question “Who rules the world?” we might also want to pose another question: “What principles and values rule the world?” That question should be foremost in the minds of the citizens of the rich and powerful states, who enjoy an unusual legacy of freedom, privilege, and opportunity thanks to the struggles of those who came before them, and who now face fateful choices as to how to respond to challenges of great human import.
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Offline Palloy

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Re: Global Systemic Geopolitical Crisis
« Reply #38 on: May 16, 2016, 12:51:31 AM »
Who Rules The World? Part 1
Noam Chomsky

[This piece, the first of two parts, is excerpted from Noam Chomsky’s new book, Who Rules the World? (Metropolitan Books).]

When we ask “Who rules the world?” we commonly adopt the standard convention that the actors in world affairs are states, primarily the great powers, and we consider their decisions and the relations among them. That is not wrong. But we would do well to keep in mind that this level of abstraction can also be highly misleading.

States of course have complex internal structures, and the choices and decisions of the political leadership are heavily influenced by internal concentrations of power, while the general population is often marginalized. That is true even for the more democratic societies, and obviously for others. We cannot gain a realistic understanding of who rules the world while ignoring the “masters of mankind,” as Adam Smith called them: in his day, the merchants and manufacturers of England; in ours, multinational conglomerates, huge financial institutions, retail empires, and the like. Still following Smith, it is also wise to attend to the “vile maxim” to which the “masters of mankind” are dedicated: “All for ourselves and nothing for other people” -- a doctrine known otherwise as bitter and incessant class war, often one-sided, much to the detriment of the people of the home country and the world.

In the contemporary global order, the institutions of the masters hold enormous power, not only in the international arena but also within their home states, on which they rely to protect their power and to provide economic support by a wide variety of means. When we consider the role of the masters of mankind, we turn to such state policy priorities of the moment as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the investor-rights agreements mislabeled “free-trade agreements” in propaganda and commentary. They are negotiated in secret, apart from the hundreds of corporate lawyers and lobbyists writing the crucial details. The intention is to have them adopted in good Stalinist style with “fast track” procedures designed to block discussion and allow only the choice of yes or no (hence yes). The designers regularly do quite well, not surprisingly. People are incidental, with the consequences one might anticipate.

The Second Superpower

The neoliberal programs of the past generation have concentrated wealth and power in far fewer hands while undermining functioning democracy, but they have aroused opposition as well, most prominently in Latin America but also in the centers of global power. The European Union (EU), one of the more promising developments of the post-World War II period, has been tottering because of the harsh effect of the policies of austerity during recession, condemned even by the economists of the International Monetary Fund (if not the IMF’s political actors). Democracy has been undermined as decision making shifted to the Brussels bureaucracy, with the northern banks casting their shadow over their proceedings.

Mainstream parties have been rapidly losing members to left and to right. The executive director of the Paris-based research group EuropaNova attributes the general disenchantment to “a mood of angry impotence as the real power to shape events largely shifted from national political leaders [who, in principle at least, are subject to democratic politics] to the market, the institutions of the European Union and corporations,” quite in accord with neoliberal doctrine. Very similar processes are under way in the United States, for somewhat similar reasons, a matter of significance and concern not just for the country but, because of U.S. power, for the world.

The rising opposition to the neoliberal assault highlights another crucial aspect of the standard convention: it sets aside the public, which often fails to accept the approved role of “spectators” (rather than “participants”) assigned to it in liberal democratic theory. Such disobedience has always been of concern to the dominant classes. Just keeping to American history, George Washington regarded the common people who formed the militias that he was to command as “an exceedingly dirty and nasty people [evincing] an unaccountable kind of stupidity in the lower class of these people.”

In Violent Politics, his masterful review of insurgencies from “the American insurgency” to contemporary Afghanistan and Iraq, William Polk concludes that General Washington “was so anxious to sideline [the fighters he despised] that he came close to losing the Revolution.” Indeed, he “might have actually done so” had France not massively intervened and “saved the Revolution,” which until then had been won by guerrillas -- whom we would now call “terrorists” -- while Washington’s British-style army “was defeated time after time and almost lost the war.”

A common feature of successful insurgencies, Polk records, is that once popular support dissolves after victory, the leadership suppresses the “dirty and nasty people” who actually won the war with guerrilla tactics and terror, for fear that they might challenge class privilege. The elites’ contempt for “the lower class of these people” has taken various forms throughout the years. In recent times one expression of this contempt is the call for passivity and obedience (“moderation in democracy”) by liberal internationalists reacting to the dangerous democratizing effects of the popular movements of the 1960s.

Sometimes states do choose to follow public opinion, eliciting much fury in centers of power. One dramatic case was in 2003, when the Bush administration called on Turkey to join its invasion of Iraq. Ninety-five percent of Turks opposed that course of action and, to the amazement and horror of Washington, the Turkish government adhered to their views. Turkey was bitterly condemned for this departure from responsible behavior. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, designated by the press as the “idealist-in-chief” of the administration, berated the Turkish military for permitting the malfeasance of the government and demanded an apology. Unperturbed by these and innumerable other illustrations of our fabled “yearning for democracy,” respectable commentary continued to laud President George W. Bush for his dedication to “democracy promotion,” or sometimes criticized him for his naïveté in thinking that an outside power could impose its democratic yearnings on others.

The Turkish public was not alone. Global opposition to U.S.-UK aggression was overwhelming. Support for Washington’s war plans scarcely reached 10% almost anywhere, according to international polls. Opposition sparked huge worldwide protests, in the United States as well, probably the first time in history that imperial aggression was strongly protested even before it was officially launched. On the front page of the New York Times, journalist Patrick Tyler reported that “there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.”

Unprecedented protest in the United States was a manifestation of the opposition to aggression that began decades earlier in the condemnation of the U.S. wars in Indochina, reaching a scale that was substantial and influential, even if far too late. By 1967, when the antiwar movement was becoming a significant force, military historian and Vietnam specialist Bernard Fall warned that “Vietnam as a cultural and historic entity... is threatened with extinction... [as] the countryside literally dies under the blows of the largest military machine ever unleashed on an area of this size.”

But the antiwar movement did become a force that could not be ignored. Nor could it be ignored when Ronald Reagan came into office determined to launch an assault on Central America. His administration mimicked closely the steps John F. Kennedy had taken 20 years earlier in launching the war against South Vietnam, but had to back off because of the kind of vigorous public protest that had been lacking in the early 1960s. The assault was awful enough. The victims have yet to recover. But what happened to South Vietnam and later all of Indochina, where “the second superpower” imposed its impediments only much later in the conflict, was incomparably worse.

It is often argued that the enormous public opposition to the invasion of Iraq had no effect. That seems incorrect to me. Again, the invasion was horrifying enough, and its aftermath is utterly grotesque. Nevertheless, it could have been far worse. Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and the rest of Bush’s top officials could never even contemplate the sort of measures that President Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson adopted 40 years earlier largely without protest.

Western Power Under Pressure

There is far more to say, of course, about the factors in determining state policy that are put to the side when we adopt the standard convention that states are the actors in international affairs. But with such nontrivial caveats as these, let us nevertheless adopt the convention, at least as a first approximation to reality. Then the question of who rules the world leads at once to such concerns as China’s rise to power and its challenge to the United States and “world order,” the new cold war simmering in eastern Europe, the Global War on Terror, American hegemony and American decline, and a range of similar considerations.

The challenges faced by Western power at the outset of 2016 are usefully summarized within the conventional framework by Gideon Rachman, chief foreign-affairs columnist for the London Financial Times. He begins by reviewing the Western picture of world order: “Ever since the end of the Cold War, the overwhelming power of the U.S. military has been the central fact of international politics.” This is particularly crucial in three regions: East Asia, where “the U.S. Navy has become used to treating the Pacific as an ‘American lake’”; Europe, where NATO -- meaning the United States, which “accounts for a staggering three-quarters of NATO’s military spending” -- “guarantees the territorial integrity of its member states”; and the Middle East, where giant U.S. naval and air bases “exist to reassure friends and to intimidate rivals.”

The problem of world order today, Rachman continues, is that “these security orders are now under challenge in all three regions” because of Russian intervention in Ukraine and Syria, and because of China turning its nearby seas from an American lake to “clearly contested water.” The fundamental question of international relations, then, is whether the United States should “accept that other major powers should have some kind of zone of influence in their neighborhoods.” Rachman thinks it should, for reasons of “diffusion of economic power around the world -- combined with simple common sense.”

There are, to be sure, ways of looking at the world from different standpoints. But let us keep to these three regions, surely critically important ones.

The Challenges Today: East Asia

Beginning with the “American lake,” some eyebrows might be raised over the report in mid-December 2015 that “an American B-52 bomber on a routine mission over the South China Sea unintentionally flew within two nautical miles of an artificial island built by China, senior defense officials said, exacerbating a hotly divisive issue for Washington and Beijing.” Those familiar with the grim record of the 70 years of the nuclear weapons era will be all too aware that this is the kind of incident that has often come perilously close to igniting terminal nuclear war. One need not be a supporter of China’s provocative and aggressive actions in the South China Sea to notice that the incident did not involve a Chinese nuclear-capable bomber in the Caribbean, or off the coast of California, where China has no pretensions of establishing a “Chinese lake.” Luckily for the world.

Chinese leaders understand very well that their country’s maritime trade routes are ringed with hostile powers from Japan through the Malacca Straits and beyond, backed by overwhelming U.S. military force. Accordingly, China is proceeding to expand westward with extensive investments and careful moves toward integration. In part, these developments are within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which includes the Central Asian states and Russia, and soon India and Pakistan with Iran as one of the observers -- a status that was denied to the United States, which was also called on to close all military bases in the region. China is constructing a modernized version of the old silk roads, with the intent not only of integrating the region under Chinese influence, but also of reaching Europe and the Middle Eastern oil-producing regions. It is pouring huge sums into creating an integrated Asian energy and commercial system, with extensive high-speed rail lines and pipelines.

One element of the program is a highway through some of the world’s tallest mountains to the new Chinese-developed port of Gwadar in Pakistan, which will protect oil shipments from potential U.S. interference. The program may also, China and Pakistan hope, spur industrial development in Pakistan, which the United States has not undertaken despite massive military aid, and might also provide an incentive for Pakistan to clamp down on domestic terrorism, a serious issue for China in western Xinjiang Province. Gwadar will be part of China’s “string of pearls,” bases being constructed in the Indian Ocean for commercial purposes but potentially also for military use, with the expectation that China might someday be able to project power as far as the Persian Gulf for the first time in the modern era.

All of these moves remain immune to Washington’s overwhelming military power, short of annihilation by nuclear war, which would destroy the United States as well.

In 2015, China also established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), with itself as the main shareholder. Fifty-six nations participated in the opening in Beijing in June, including U.S. allies Australia, Britain, and others which joined in defiance of Washington’s wishes. The United States and Japan were absent. Some analysts believe that the new bank might turn out to be a competitor to the Bretton Woods institutions (the IMF and the World Bank), in which the United States holds veto power. There are also some expectations that the SCO might eventually become a counterpart to NATO.

The Challenges Today: Eastern Europe

Turning to the second region, Eastern Europe, there is a crisis brewing at the NATO-Russian border. It is no small matter. In his illuminating and judicious scholarly study of the region, Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands, Richard Sakwa writes -- all too plausibly -- that the “Russo-Georgian war of August 2008 was in effect the first of the ‘wars to stop NATO enlargement’; the Ukraine crisis of 2014 is the second. It is not clear whether humanity would survive a third.”

The West sees NATO enlargement as benign. Not surprisingly, Russia, along with much of the Global South, has a different opinion, as do some prominent Western voices. George Kennan warned early on that NATO enlargement is a “tragic mistake,” and he was joined by senior American statesmen in an open letter to the White House describing it as a “policy error of historic proportions.”

The present crisis has its origins in 1991, with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. There were then two contrasting visions of a new security system and political economy in Eurasia. In Sakwa’s words, one vision was of a “‘Wider Europe,’ with the EU at its heart but increasingly coterminous with the Euro-Atlantic security and political community; and on the other side there [was] the idea of ‘Greater Europe,’ a vision of a continental Europe, stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok, that has multiple centers, including Brussels, Moscow and Ankara, but with a common purpose in overcoming the divisions that have traditionally plagued the continent.”

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was the major proponent of Greater Europe, a concept that also had European roots in Gaullism and other initiatives. However, as Russia collapsed under the devastating market reforms of the 1990s, the vision faded, only to be renewed as Russia began to recover and seek a place on the world stage under Vladimir Putin who, along with his associate Dmitry Medvedev, has repeatedly “called for the geopolitical unification of all of ‘Greater Europe’ from Lisbon to Vladivostok, to create a genuine ‘strategic partnership.’”

These initiatives were “greeted with polite contempt,” Sakwa writes, regarded as “little more than a cover for the establishment of a ‘Greater Russia’ by stealth” and an effort to “drive a wedge” between North America and Western Europe. Such concerns trace back to earlier Cold War fears that Europe might become a “third force” independent of both the great and minor superpowers and moving toward closer links to the latter (as can be seen in Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik and other initiatives).

The Western response to Russia’s collapse was triumphalist. It was hailed as signaling “the end of history,” the final victory of Western capitalist democracy, almost as if Russia were being instructed to revert to its pre-World War I status as a virtual economic colony of the West. NATO enlargement began at once, in violation of verbal assurances to Gorbachev that NATO forces would not move “one inch to the east” after he agreed that a unified Germany could become a NATO member -- a remarkable concession, in the light of history. That discussion kept to East Germany. The possibility that NATO might expand beyond Germany was not discussed with Gorbachev, even if privately considered.

Soon, NATO did begin to move beyond, right to the borders of Russia. The general mission of NATO was officially changed to a mandate to protect “crucial infrastructure” of the global energy system, sea lanes and pipelines, giving it a global area of operations. Furthermore, under a crucial Western revision of the now widely heralded doctrine of “responsibility to protect,” sharply different from the official U.N. version, NATO may now also serve as an intervention force under U.S. command.

Of particular concern to Russia are plans to expand NATO to Ukraine. These plans were articulated explicitly at the Bucharest NATO summit of April 2008, when Georgia and Ukraine were promised eventual membership in NATO. The wording was unambiguous: “NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO.” With the “Orange Revolution” victory of pro-Western candidates in Ukraine in 2004, State Department representative Daniel Fried rushed there and “emphasized U.S. support for Ukraine’s NATO and Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” as a WikiLeaks report revealed.

Russia’s concerns are easily understandable. They are outlined by international relations scholar John Mearsheimer in the leading U.S. establishment journal, Foreign Affairs. He writes that “the taproot of the current crisis [over Ukraine] is NATO expansion and Washington’s commitment to move Ukraine out of Moscow’s orbit and integrate it into the West,” which Putin viewed as “a direct threat to Russia’s core interests.”

“Who can blame him?” Mearsheimer asks, pointing out that “Washington may not like Moscow’s position, but it should understand the logic behind it.” That should not be too difficult. After all, as everyone knows, “The United States does not tolerate distant great powers deploying military forces anywhere in the Western hemisphere, much less on its borders.”

In fact, the U.S. stand is far stronger. It does not tolerate what is officially called “successful defiance” of the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, which declared (but could not yet implement) U.S. control of the hemisphere. And a small country that carries out such successful defiance may be subjected to “the terrors of the earth” and a crushing embargo -- as happened to Cuba. We need not ask how the United States would have reacted had the countries of Latin America joined the Warsaw Pact, with plans for Mexico and Canada to join as well. The merest hint of the first tentative steps in that direction would have been “terminated with extreme prejudice,” to adopt CIA lingo.

As in the case of China, one does not have to regard Putin’s moves and motives favorably to understand the logic behind them, nor to grasp the importance of understanding that logic instead of issuing imprecations against it. As in the case of China, a great deal is at stake, reaching as far -- literally -- as questions of survival.
The Challenges Today: The Islamic World

Let us turn to the third region of major concern, the (largely) Islamic world, also the scene of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) that George W. Bush declared in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attack. To be more accurate, re-declared. The GWOT was declared by the Reagan administration when it took office, with fevered rhetoric about a “plague spread by depraved opponents of civilization itself” (as Reagan put it) and a “return to barbarism in the modern age” (the words of George Shultz, his secretary of state). The original GWOT has been quietly removed from history. It very quickly turned into a murderous and destructive terrorist war afflicting Central America, southern Africa, and the Middle East, with grim repercussions to the present, even leading to condemnation of the United States by the World Court (which Washington dismissed). In any event, it is not the right story for history, so it is gone.

The success of the Bush-Obama version of GWOT can readily be evaluated on direct inspection. When the war was declared, the terrorist targets were confined to a small corner of tribal Afghanistan. They were protected by Afghans, who mostly disliked or despised them, under the tribal code of hospitality -- which baffled Americans when poor peasants refused “to turn over Osama bin Laden for the, to them, astronomical sum of $25 million.”

There are good reasons to believe that a well-constructed police action, or even serious diplomatic negotiations with the Taliban, might have placed those suspected of the 9/11 crimes in American hands for trial and sentencing. But such options were off the table. Instead, the reflexive choice was large-scale violence -- not with the goal of overthrowing the Taliban (that came later) but to make clear U.S. contempt for tentative Taliban offers of the possible extradition of bin Laden. How serious these offers were we do not know, since the possibility of exploring them was never entertained. Or perhaps the United States was just intent on “trying to show its muscle, score a victory and scare everyone in the world. They don’t care about the suffering of the Afghans or how many people we will lose.”

That was the judgment of the highly respected anti-Taliban leader Abdul Haq, one of the many oppositionists who condemned the American bombing campaign launched in October 2001 as "a big setback" for their efforts to overthrow the Taliban from within, a goal they considered within their reach. His judgment is confirmed by Richard A. Clarke, who was chairman of the Counterterrorism Security Group at the White House under President George W. Bush when the plans to attack Afghanistan were made. As Clarke describes the meeting, when informed that the attack would violate international law, "the President yelled in the narrow conference room, ‘I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.'" The attack was also bitterly opposed by the major aid organizations working in Afghanistan, who warned that millions were on the verge of starvation and that the consequences might be horrendous.

The consequences for poor Afghanistan years later need hardly be reviewed.

The next target of the sledgehammer was Iraq. The U.S.-UK invasion, utterly without credible pretext, is the major crime of the twenty-first century. The invasion led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people in a country where the civilian society had already been devastated by American and British sanctions that were regarded as “genocidal” by the two distinguished international diplomats who administered them, and resigned in protest for this reason. The invasion also generated millions of refugees, largely destroyed the country, and instigated a sectarian conflict that is now tearing apart Iraq and the entire region. It is an astonishing fact about our intellectual and moral culture that in informed and enlightened circles it can be called, blandly, “the liberation of Iraq.”

Pentagon and British Ministry of Defense polls found that only 3% of Iraqis regarded the U.S. security role in their neighborhood as legitimate, less than 1% believed that “coalition” (U.S.-UK) forces were good for their security, 80% opposed the presence of coalition forces in the country, and a majority supported attacks on coalition troops. Afghanistan has been destroyed beyond the possibility of reliable polling, but there are indications that something similar may be true there as well. Particularly in Iraq the United States suffered a severe defeat, abandoning its official war aims, and leaving the country under the influence of the sole victor, Iran.

The sledgehammer was also wielded elsewhere, notably in Libya, where the three traditional imperial powers (Britain, France, and the United States) procured Security Council resolution 1973 and instantly violated it, becoming the air force of the rebels. The effect was to undercut the possibility of a peaceful, negotiated settlement; sharply increase casualties (by at least a factor of 10, according to political scientist Alan Kuperman); leave Libya in ruins, in the hands of warring militias; and, more recently, to provide the Islamic State with a base that it can use to spread terror beyond. Quite sensible diplomatic proposals by the African Union, accepted in principle by Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, were ignored by the imperial triumvirate, as Africa specialist Alex de Waal reviews. A huge flow of weapons and jihadis has spread terror and violence from West Africa (now the champion for terrorist murders) to the Levant, while the NATO attack also sent a flood of refugees from Africa to Europe.

Yet another triumph of “humanitarian intervention,” and, as the long and often ghastly record reveals, not an unusual one, going back to its modern origins four centuries ago.
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Re: Global Systemic Geopolitical Crisis
« Reply #39 on: May 16, 2016, 01:20:43 AM »

NC is a GREAT Dot Connector!

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The Great Leap Backward: America’s Illegal Wars on the World
« Reply #40 on: May 16, 2016, 01:39:00 AM »

May 13, 2016
The Great Leap Backward: America’s Illegal Wars on the World

by Luciana Bohne

Can we face it in this election season? America is a weapons factory, the White House a war room, and the president the manager of the neoliberal conspiracy to recolonize the planet. It exports war and mass poverty. On the economic front, usurious neoliberalism; on the military front, illegal wars. These are the trenches of America’s battle for world domination in the 21st century.

If not stopped, it will be a short century.

Since 1945, America’s Manifest Destiny, posing as the Free World’s Crusade against the Red Menace, has claimed 20 to 30 million lives worldwide and bombed one-third of the earth’s people. In the 19th century, America exterminated another kind of “red menace,” writing and shredding treaties, stealing lands, massacring, and herding Native populations into concentration camps (“Indian reservations”), in the name of civilizing the “savages.” By 1890, with the massacre of Lakota at Wounded Knee, the frontier land grab—internal imperialism– was over. There was a world to conquer, and America trained its exceptionally covetous eye on Cuba and the Philippines.

American external imperialism was born.

Then, something utterly dreadful happened in 1917—a successful social revolution in Russia, the second major after the French in 1789, to try to redistribute the wealth of the few to the advantage of the many. The rulers of the world—US, Britain, France and sundry acolytes—put aside their differences and united to stem the awful threat of popular democracy rising and spreading. They invaded Russia, fomented a civil war, funding and arming the counter-revolutionary forces, failed, and tried again in 1939. But Hitler’s war of extermination on the USSR ended in a spectacular victory for Moscow.

For a while, after 1945, the US had to behave as a civilized country, formally. It claimed that the USSR had a barbarian, all-conquering ideology, rooted in terror, disappearances, murder, and torture. By contrast, the US was the shining city on the hill, the beacon of hope for a “the free world.” Its shrine was the United Nations; its holy writ was international law; its first principle was the inviolability of the sovereignty of nations.

All this was rubbish, of course. It was an apartheid society. It nuked Japan not once but twice, deliberately selecting civilian targets. It shielded from justice top Nazi criminals to absorb them as partners in intelligence structures. It conducted virtual “show trials” against dissidents during the hysteria of the McCarthy congressional hearings, seeding the country with a harvest of fear. It waged a genocidal war on Vietnam to prevent independence and unification. It assassinated African independence leaders and bestowed fascist dictators on Latin America. It softly occupied Western Europe, tied it to itself through military “cooperation” in NATO, and it waged psy-op war on its opposition parties. Behind the civilized façade was a ruthless effort to take out the Soviet Union and crush self-determination in the colonial world.

By hook and by crook, the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, and America went berserk with triumphalism. Now, at last, the conquest of the world, interrupted in 1917, could resume. The global frontier reopened and America’s identity would be regenerated through violence, which had delivered the American West to the European invaders in the 19th century. The benign mask dropped. Behind it came a rider on a pale horse. According to the ideologically exulted, history had ended, ideologies had died, and the messianic mission of the US to become the steward of God’s property on earth could be fulfilled.

The “civilizing mission” was afoot.

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 9.15.13 AM

A cabal of neo-conservative policy wonks first sketched what I call the Great Leap Backward into lawlessness as a revival of the myth of the frontier in the 1990s. “The Plan for a New American Century” (PNAC) envisaged the 21st century as a unilateralist drive to entrench American values globally—what the PNAC ideologues call “freedom and democracy”—through preemptive wars and regime change. This frenzied delirium of US military domination turned into official foreign policy with the Bush Doctrine after 9/11, but it was the Clinton administration’s Doctrine of Humanitarian Warfare before 9/11, that shut the door on the prohibition of aggressive wars by the UN Charter, remaking the map of the world into a borderless American hunting reserve by removing the principle of sovereignty and replacing it with “right to protect” (R2P)—or humanitarian pretext for use of force.

Clinton’s doctrine was an act of supreme, even witty, exploitation of liberal principles and commitment to policies of human rights. It was how the liberal left was induced to embrace war and imperialism as the means of defending human rights. The Carnegie Endowment cooked up the doctrine in 1992. Its report, “Changing Our Ways: America’s Role in the New World,” urged “a new principle of international relations: the destruction or displacement of groups of people within states can justify international intervention.” The report recommended that the US use NATO as the enforcer. It must be noted, too, that the principle of “humanitarian war” has no authority in international law. The Charter of the United Nations sought to outlaw war by making it impossible for unilateral interventions in the business of sovereign states by self-appointed guardians of human rights. The reason behind the proscription was not heartlessness but the consciousness that WW II had been the result of serial violations of sovereignty by Germany, Italy, and Japan—by militarist imperialism, in other words.

The bell tolled for the UN and the old order in the 1999 Kosovo War. The bi-partisan effort to dismantle the architecture of the post war’s legal order played out there. With the Kosovo War, the Clinton administration launched the first humanitarian war and set the precedent for waging war without Security Council clearance of many to follow by both Republican and Democrat administrations. The Clintonites who used NATO to bomb Serbia to protect ethnic Albanians in Kosovo from non-existing Serbian genocide may or may not have appreciated the fact that Hitler had used the pretext of R2P—humanitarian intervention—to launch WW II by claiming to protect German minorities in Poland, but they certainly knew that the monopoly on use of force rested with the UN’s Security Council. This monopoly was secured after WW II precisely to prevent unilateral attacks on sovereign states through bogus claims of altruistic interventions, such as Hitler had championed and pursued. Ironically for critics of the Soviet leader, it was Stalin who insisted at the Yalta Conference that if the USSR were to join the United Nations a veto in the Security Council was a must to insure that any war would be a multilateral consensus and a multilateral action.

As the Clintonites understood, the postwar legal authority for peacekeeping and the prevention of war entrusted to the UN Security Council posed a colossal obstacle to the pursuit of American world domination. For the vision of PNAC and the Carnegie Endowment to become reality, the United Nations, the guarantor of sovereignty, had to go. In the run-up to the Kosovo War, the Clintonites fatally and deliberately destabilized the United Nations, substituting the uncooperative UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali with the subservient NATO shill, Kofi Annan. Annan obligingly opined that in the matter of war and peace, UN Security Council resolutions were not the only way to skin a country– especially one chosen by the US for remaking, partitioning, or regime changing, a cynic might add.

So now we live in a dangerous world. Once again, since the 1930s, the world is being stalked by an expansionist power answering to no law but its own unilateral, humanitarian vigilantism. The Kosovo precedent has spun out of control. Libya smolders in the ashes of NATO bombs, dropped to prevent “genocide”; Syria fights for survival under attack by genocidal terrorist groups, armed, trained and funded by genocide preventers grouped in the NATO alliance and the Gulf partners; Afghanistan languishes in a permanent state of war, present ten thousand American troops which bomb hospitals to promote human rights; in Iraq, the humanitarians are back, after twenty-five years of humanitarian failure. And in Ukraine, Nazi patriots are promoting American democratic and humanitarian values by shelling Donbass daily. I hesitate to mention Africa, where humanitarian Special Forces are watering the fields where terrorists sprout like mushrooms after rain—in Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, Kenya.

Then there is Yemen, perhaps the most callous, vicious, and careless humanitarian crime of a litany of crimes against humanity in the Middle East. The US government has recently admitted deploying troops to Yemen. The Pentagon claims that the deployment will assist Saudi Arabia (“the Arab coalition”) to fight al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula. Can a sentient being meet such a grotesque claim with anything but infernal laughter? Help Saudi Arabia to fight its own creature? Are we stupid yet?

$4 trillion dollars later, spent on the War-on-Terror/Humanitarian-R2P, the pattern of military destabilization of sovereign states proceeds apace, one recalcitrant, independent country at a time in the Middle East and North Africa. For the rest of the world, the surrender of sovereignty is sought by means of economic globalization through trade pacts—TTP, TTIP, etc.—that virtually abolish the constitution of states, including our own. Spearheading the economic effort to control the periphery and the entire world is the so-called “Washington Consensus.”

It hugs the market-fundamentalist idea that global neoliberalism and core finance capital’s economic control of the planet by means of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) is the option to poverty and social chaos.

Neither military nor economic war on the sovereignty of nations has yielded anything close to a stable, prosperous, and peaceful world. It had delivered death, destruction, debt, market crises, tidal waves of refugees and displaced persons, and concentrated masses of wealth in a few but powerful hands. What the poet W.H. Auden called “the international wrong,” which he named “imperialism” in his poem “September 1939,” is the crisis that stares out of the mirror of the past into our faces, and it bodes war, war, and more war, for that is where imperialism drives.

In this scenario, no potential presidential candidate—even establishment-party dissenter—who does not call for both the end of the bi-partisan “Washington Consensus” and the end of bipartisan militarist aggression can reverse the totality of the “international wrong” or stem the domestic descent into social brutalization. If none calls this foreign policy debacle “imperialism,” elections will be a sleepwalker’s exercise. Nothing will change. Except, almost certainly, for the worse.
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Luciana Bohne is co-founder of Film Criticism, a journal of cinema studies, and teaches at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. She can be reached at:
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Art, war and social revolution—Part 1
« Reply #41 on: June 01, 2016, 11:03:54 PM »

Art, war and social revolution—Part 1

black-horizontaltgp-movie-reviewsLogoFilms and TV put in their cultural and political contexts.

A talk given in San Diego, Berkeley, and Ann Arbor

By David Walsh
 31 May 2016
We are posting below the first part of an edited version of a presentation given at San Diego State University, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in April and May 2016.

A generation that has only known war

Iwould imagine that most of you here were born between 1990 and 2000, or perhaps 1985 and 2000. If you turn 20 in 2016, you would have been two at the time of the effort to impeach Bill Clinton through a manufactured sex scandal, four at the time of the hijacking of a national election by the Bush-Cheney forces, five by the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan, and seven or so at the time of the invasion of Iraq.

If you are 20, or even 25, the United States has been at war your entire conscious life. (I am somewhat arbitrarily taking 13 or 14 to be the age at which one becomes aware of the wider world, of political events.) For anyone born in 1988 or later, the US military has been embroiled in killing people on a daily basis his or her entire politically conscious life, with no end in sight. Quite the contrary.

In the category I just referred to, those born in the US from 1988 through 2003—i.e., those presently conscious of events, a total that obviously excludes the very young—there are some 65 million people.

Of course, one could take the first Gulf War in 1990-1991, the US assault on Iraq, as the event that truly opened the epoch of renewed imperialist militarism and neo-colonialism in which we still live. Some 104 million people were born from 1977 through 2003. Their, or your, conscious experience encompasses a quarter-century of war or near-war, covert operations, murderous sanctions, “black sites,” torture and apologies for torture, drone strikes—and threats of new and wider wars.


Bill Clinton in 1999

The Clinton administration intervened in dozens of countries during the 1990s, often in the guise of “humanitarian interventions.”

A partial list of those countries:

* Iraq—both military intervention to “assist” the Kurds in northern Iraq, no-fly zones, bombing campaigns and devastating economic sanctions, which led to large-scale death and destruction;

* Operations in many portions of the former Yugoslavia, including Operation Deliberate Force in 1995, the three-week bombing of the Bosnian Serb positions, and culminating in the devastating bombing of Serbia and Serb positions in Kosovo in 1999;

* Somalia (Operation Restore Hope, 1992-1995)—an intervention that began under the first Bush administration); and

* Haiti (Operation Uphold Democracy, 1994-1995)—20,000 US troops eventually deployed to restore Jean-Bertrand Aristide as president.

Then there are those operations launched by the Bush administration and continued by Obama:

* October 2001 to the present: War in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom, etc.)

* March 2003 to the present: War in Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn)

Also under Bush: Yemen (2002), Philippines (2002); Côte d’Ivoire (2002); Liberia (2003); Georgia and Djibouti (2003); Haiti (2004); Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya (2004); Lebanon (2006); Somalia (2007); South Ossetia, Georgia (2008); Somalia (2011); Uganda (2011); Jordan (2012); Turkey (2012); Chad (2012); Mali (2013); South Korean Crisis (2013); and Cameroon (2015)

* 2004 to the present: US drone strikes to aid the War in North-West Pakistan (thousands of deaths)

* 2010 to the present: US drone strikes in Yemen (thousands of deaths)

* 2011: Libya (Operation Odyssey Dawn)

* 2011: Assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan (Operation Neptune Spear)

* 2014 to the present: American-led intervention in Syria

* 2014 to the present: Intervention against ISIS

In 2004, Richard Grimmett, a specialist in international security with the foreign affairs, defense and trade division of the Congressional Research Service, wrote a document, “Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798–2004,” detailing each episode. Literary qualities aside, it is an impressive work. It takes Grimmett 7,816 words to describe US military operations abroad from 1798 through 1991. It takes him 7,476 words—nearly as many—to describe US military operations abroad from 1992 through 2004 ! An orgy of US imperialist violence.

War as an explosive factor in American society

War, in fact, is an explosive factor in American society. Twenty-five years of unending war, militarist violence, aggression and verbal threats. That violence is communicated through the media, the entertainment business, in fact, through every pore of official society.

The Costs of War Project at Brown University has made certain estimates on the death and destruction in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan only since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. (The US sanctions in the 1990s alone cost hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives.)


George W. Bush in 2003

The authors estimate that 370,000 people have died in direct war violence. Of those, approximately 210,000 are civilians. A leading body that studies such things, the secretariat of the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, estimates conservativelythat in contemporary conflicts there are four indirect deaths to every direct death (due to malnutrition, disease, neglect, stress, etc.). That would conservatively put the death toll from the wars since 2001 at between 1.5 and 2 million human beings.

Some 6,900 US soldiers have died in the wars. “New disability claims continue to pour into the Department of Veterans Affairs, with 970,000 disability claims registered as of 31 March 2014. Many deaths and injuries among US contractors have not been reported as required by law, but it is likely that at least 6,900 have been killed.” (The Costs of War Project)

As of 2014, 2.8 million veterans had served in only the first Gulf War and another 2.6 million in only the second Gulf War, but there are another 1.6 million veterans who have served in one of those conflicts as well as another. That adds up to 7 million veterans of “the Gulf Wars era,” 1990 to 2014. How many other human beings has that total affected? Spouses, children, parents, siblings. Twenty, thirty million or more.

There are the physically mutilated and the psychically mutilated. Hundreds of thousands of veterans are affected with traumatic brain injury (TBI), and hundreds of thousands suffer from war-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Bush and Barack Obama in November 2008

These have been wars fought overwhelmingly by the working class, by the impoverished, by young people from small towns, the inner cities, rural areas, often the most depressed and culturally backward regions. These are essentially “economic conscripts.” Recruitment rates in rural and exurban counties across the United States are well above the national average. In rural counties in Southern states, recruitment rates were more than 44 percent above the national average during the early 2000s.

The towns and cities with the highest death rates—ranked in a 2007 report—are:

1. Valdosta, Georgia (126,305 Metropolitan area population in 2007)

2. Kokomo, Indiana (100,877)

3. Bismarck, North Dakota (101,138)

4. Casper, Wyoming (70,401)

5. Altoona, Pennsylvania (126,494)

6. Mansfield, Ohio (127,010)

7. Corvallis, Oregon (79,061)

8. Cheyenne, Wyoming (85,384)

9. Elizabethtown, Kentucky (110,878)

10. Salisbury, Maryland (117,761)

Altoona was once a rail center; Kokomo is identified with the auto industry; Mansfield was home to Westinghouse and GM.

Downtown Kokomo, Indiana

Downtown Kokomo, Indiana

This is from a 2003 article in the Austin [Texas] American-Statesman (“Iraq war dead: a sacrifice of small towns”):

Karen Henry has two boys in Iraq. She spread photos on the Formica table of the Coahoma [a town of 900 in western Texas] Dairy Queen. …

Karen graduated from Coahoma High School nearly 30 years ago. She works at an oil-field service company.

“There wasn’t anything here.” She was explaining why two of her three boys enlisted. (The third, Murphy, had asthma; otherwise he might be in Iraq, too.) Her kids would hang out in front of the Town and Country convenience store until they “got run off.”

They were “bored, and they knew there was no place to get a job and that college was too expensive.”

And then, she said, “90 percent of them start drinking and partying.”

The local police came to a party Steven was attending. He raced out a back door. “He was walking back to his cousin’s house, and he stayed up all night,” Karen Henry recalled. “And that was it. He wanted more out of life.”

Steven went down I-20 to the recruiting station in Midland and enlisted.

This is the stuff of terrible human tragedy.

The impact of 25 years of war and social decline on everyday life in America is staggering. As a recent WSWS perspective noted: “This society has become so brutalized that, according to one report published last week, 200,000 Americans have been murdered in the last 15 years alone. The United States is a country at war, not just with the Middle East, but with itself.”

From the Wall Street Journal: “The US represents less than 5 percent of the 7.3 billion global population but accounted for 31 percent of global mass shooters during the period from 1966 to 2012, more than any other country, [one expert said], adding that he defines a mass shooter as one who killed at least four victims. The 90 killers who carried out mass shootings in the U.S. amounted to five times as many as the next highest country, the Philippines, according to his research.” There was an average of one shooting per week, on a school or college campus, in 2015, according to ABC News.

Even though the wars are not spoken about, by any of the leading candidates, including Bernie Sanders, that does not mean they have no impact on popular consciousness and behavior. The ruling elite and their complacent, subservient media seem to think that because an issue is not framed neatly in a 30-second item on the evening news, it does not exist. This is self-delusion. The wars are gnawing away at American society.

War is now the “normal.” It is an element of everyday life. And no one is prepared for what is to come. The drive to war against Iran, Russia and China has implications that are unimaginable.

There are no foreign bases permanently located on US soil. However, the American military officially acknowledges some 800 bases around the world, in some 80 countries, “including Aruba and Australia, Bahrain and Bulgaria, Colombia, Kenya, and Qatar, among many other places. Although few Americans realize it, the United States likely has more bases in foreign lands than any other people, nation, or empire in history.”

David Vine, Base Nation, writes, “The Pentagon’s overseas presence is actually even larger. There are US troops or other military personnel in about 160 foreign countries and territories. … And don’t forget the Navy’s 11 aircraft carriers. Each should be considered a kind of floating base, or as the Navy tellingly refers to them, ‘four and a half acres of sovereign US territory.’ Finally, above the seas, one finds a growing military presence in space.”

Great Britain has seven bases and France five in former colonies. Russia has eight in former Soviet republics. Japan has a base in Djibouti, alongside US and French bases. South Korea, India, Chile, Turkey and Israel each reportedly have at least one foreign base. There are also reports that China may be seeking its first base overseas. “In total,” Vine writes, “these countries probably have about 30 installations abroad, meaning that the United States has approximately 95 [actually more than 96] percent of the world’s foreign bases.” To speak of Russian and Chinese imperialism under these conditions is absurd.

The consequences for American society and culture

What have been the overall consequences already for American society and culture of decades of continuous warfare? It would take far more than this one talk to adequately answer that.

I hope some of the facts and figures I’ve presented so far are suggestive. But when one is discussing the character and quality of everyday life, its profound deterioration over time, and in the context of a discussion of art, such facts and figures remain a little cold.

It is precisely at this moment, ironically, that one wishes one could point to a film or novel, a drama or series of paintings, that somehow captured this historical transformation in concrete imagery, that provided a key to understanding the essential truth about the past several decades, or at least critical aspects of it. One of our chief difficulties—and criticisms—today is that there has been no such work, or very, very little of it.

Speaking very broadly, the past quarter-century has seen the emergence of a profoundly brutalized and brutalizing culture in the US. Never in history has so much degradation (or trivia) been combined with such advanced technologies. There is hardly an anti-social or psychotic impulse that has not made its way to the public by the most up-to-date means—and hardly one that has not found academic or intellectual justification, no less! Human beings in the future will look back on all this with astonishment.

War has become perpetual. In the 20th century by contrast, wars were shorter, horrible, they were exceptions to the rule. They were considered a terrible waste of human resources, horribly destructive. My father’s generation fought in World War II, my grandfather’s in World War I. Men (and they were mostly men) got out of the military, and they never wanted to put on a uniform again. Often they didn’t want to talk about the entire experience.

War films and novels

I’d like to speak briefly about a number of films and novels that stand out for their treatment of the wars of the 20th century. I have neither the expertise nor the time to speak about other art forms, but I believe the same general trends would show themselves.

When one thinks of World War I, certain films come to mind, especially Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion from 1937 (although for the most part I will be discussing American films and books), All Quiet on the Western Front (both Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel and Lewis Milestone’s 1930 film version), Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms (1929—also turned into films in 1932, directed by Frank Borzage, and 1957, directed by Charles Vidor) and, much later, Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957).

In Renoir’s Grand Illusion, a couple of French soldiers escape from a prisoner of war camp. They take refuge in a farmhouse belonging to a German woman, who has lost her husband and three brothers at battles that she describes bitterly as “our greatest victories.” The French soldier and the German widow fall in love, but the situation conspires against them.

This theme of the fraternization between “enemies,” of the commonality of interests among the various peoples, as opposed to those organizing and running the mass killing, is a major theme of World War I films and books in particular. It countered the ferocious nationalism and chauvinism that accompanied the outbreak of the mass slaughter of the war in 1914.

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT 1930 Universal film with Lew Ayers at left All Quiet on the Western Front tells the story of a young German soldier, who is urged on by his patriotic schoolteacher to join the army. The book is about the horrible psychological and physical suffering caused by the First World War. The soldiers die over a few hundred yards of ground. At one point, the hero stabs an enemy soldier in hand-to-hand combat, and watches him die, agonizingly, over the course of several hours.

Eventually, in Remarque’s novel, the young German addresses the soldier’s corpse: “But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony—Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy? … Take twenty years of my life, comrade, and stand up—take more, for I do not know what I can even attempt to do with it now.”

The Nazis burned the book after they came to power in 1933.

This effort to “humanize” the enemy, to endow him or her with familiar features, to recognize that he or she is like “us,” stands in opposition to the current trend in most Hollywood films, to turn Arabs, Russians, Chinese, Iranians, into subhumans—to inure the population to the possibility of killing massive numbers of them.

World War II, From Here to Eternity

World War II was ideologically sold to the population as a war against fascism, and there was a powerful democratic sentiment felt by many of those who fought, but it remained an imperialist war, a war fought between the great powers for the division and redivision of the world. The anti-fascist, anti-totalitarian theme found expression in many films, not only made in the immediate war years, but extending into the subsequent decade and into other genres (Westerns, film noir, science fiction).

There are innumerable memorable films from this era. Some that come to mind: Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940); Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent (1940) and Saboteur (1942); Frank Borzage’s Three Comrades(1938) and The Mortal Storm (1940); Fritz Lang’s Man Hunt (1941) and Hangmen Also Die! (1943); John Huston’s Across the Pacific (1942); Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca (1942); Raoul Walsh’s Desperate Journey (1942); John Ford’s They Were Expendable (1945); William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives (1946); Henry King’s Twelve O’Clock High (1949); Fred Zinnemann’s From Here to Eternity (1953) and many others.


From Here to Eternity (1953)

Even many of the propaganda films made during the war, including Why We Fight (a series of seven films, mostly directed by Frank Capra), were done with some artistry. The series includes one devoted to the sacrifices of the Soviet people.

Among the novels, several stand out, including Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead (1948), set in the war in the South Pacific. Mailer treats the class system in the military, the power structures that affect every aspect of military life, along with a host of other themes. He was a socialist at the time, and briefly around the edges of the Trotskyist movement.

Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 took the author from 1953 to 1961 to write. Heller coined a phrase that sums up a situation from which an individual cannot escape because of contradictory rules established by those on top.

I would like to spend a few minutes on From Here to Eternity, James Jones’s novel, published in 1951, and Fred Zinnemann’s 1953 film, with Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed and Frank Sinatra.

Jones’s 850-page novel is uneven, overwritten in many parts, but it contains fascinating and revealing elements, which tell us a good deal about America and the American soldier.

The book centers on a US army infantry company stationed in Hawaii on the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The principal figure is Robert E. Lee Prewitt (played by Clift in the film), the son of a Harlan County coal miner, who is incredibly stubborn in his principles and conduct. His superiors only half-jokingly refer to him time and time again as the “Bolshevik.” Sgt. Milt Warden (Lancaster) is another central character. The book radiates with hatred of the officer class, almost universally treated as selfish, incompetent and lazy, or fascistic.

Extremely brutal events occur in From Here to Eternity, including the beating of one soldier to death by guards in the stockade.

James Jones (1921-1977) wrote From Here to EternitySome Came Running (1957), The Thin Red Line (1962)—all of which were made into interesting films—along with a number of other novels and stories.

Zinnemann’s film version of From Here to Eternity has many remarkable features, and it captures certain of the novel’s themes. The principal actors all do serious work. However, the US military and the Production Code Office censored the script and insisted on significant changes. The chief officer-bully is forced to resign in the film, as the army’s Inspector General comes in and clears out all the “bad apples.” Zinnemann, in his autobiography, described the scene in which Prewitt’s chief tormentor is called on the carpet “the worst moment in the film, resembling a [US military] recruiting short” and added, “It makes me sick every time I see it.”

In any event, I would like to cite a few passages from Jones’s From Here to Eternity that might provide the flavor of the novel.

About a third of the way through the novel, Prewitt does some soul searching, in response to the hard time he is being given by his superiors (because he won’t toe the line in various ways). He thinks to himself:

But he had always believed in fighting for the underdog, against the top dog. … So that he had gone right on, unable to stop believing that if the Communists were the underdog in Spain then he believed in fighting for the Communists in Spain; but that if the Communists were the top dog back home in Russia and the (what would you call them in Russia? the traitors, I guess) traitors were the bottom dog, then he believed in fighting for the traitors and against the Communists. He believed in fighting for the Jews in Germany, and against the Jews in Wall Street and Hollywood. And if the Capitalists were top dog in America and the proletariat the underdog, then he believed in fighting for the proletariat against the Capitalists. This too-ingrained-to-be-forgotten philosophy of life of his had led him, a Southerner, to believe in fighting for the Negroes against the Whites everywhere, because the Negroes were nowhere the top dog, at least as yet.

Prewitt goes on:

But where, you ask, does it put you politically? What are your politics? … [I]f we had to answer it, truthfully, under oath (let us suppose that Mr [Martin] Dies and his Un-American Activities Committee called you up…), then I would say that politically you are a sort of super arch-revolutionary, the kind that made the Revolution in Russia and that the Communists are killing now, a sort of perfect criminal type, very dangerous, a mad dog that loves underdogs.

Alittle later in the novel, a chilling discussion takes place among a number of officers, in which one young brigadier general, Sam Slater, essentially proclaims the need for military dictatorship in the US: “I, and men like me, are forced to assume the responsibility of governing. If organized society and civilization as we know it is to continue at all, not only must there be a consolidation of power but there must be a complete unquestioned control to head it.”

Slater goes on: “But when that day comes, we must have utterly complete control, as they over there [in Germany, Japan, USSR] already have complete control. Up to now, it has been handled by the great corporations like Ford and General Motors and US Steel and Standard Oil. … But now consolidation is the watchword, and the corporations are not powerful enough to bring it off—even if they were willing to consolidate, which they are not. Only the military can consolidate them under one central control.”

In The Thin Red Line, set on Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands, during the fierce fighting between American and Japanese forces in November 1942, Jones treats the official claims about the war with considerable disdain. It is a dark novel, at times rather cynical, but often liberating in its lack of cant.

Early on, Sgt. Edward Welsh (as Jones explains, the reincarnation of the Warden character in From Here to Eternity) mutters to himself shortly after his unit has landed on Guadalcanal:

‘Property. Property. All for property.’ Because that was what it was; what it was all about. One man’s property, or another man’s. One nation’s, or another nation’s. It had all been done, and was being done, for property. One nation wanted, felt it needed, probably did need, more property; and the only way to get it was to take it away from those other nations who had already laid claim to it. There just wasn’t any more unclaimed property on this planet, that was all. And that was all it was.

In all of Jones’s novels about World War II, including Whistle (1978), left unfinished at the time of his death, the more perceptive soldiers instinctively sense something foul about the war, something horribly wrong with the official picture. They are outraged or depressed, often tormented by their experiences. Without having a worked-out alternative view, or fully grasping the realities, of course, they don’t believe in any of the claims being made about the great struggle for “democracy.”

In Whistle, for example, a central character, a wounded soldier in a hospital tells another, “For example, I can see how in ten years from now all these people who are fighting each other so desperately now will be back at peace and friendly. And then they’ll be making business deals and treaties with each other. And everybody getting rich. Just like nothing had happened. But all those guys who are dead, young guys like me, guys like you, will still be dead.”


The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

I’d like to make a brief comment on The Best Years of Our Lives. This three-hour film about veterans returning home after World War II was very popular. Astonishingly, it sold 55 million tickets in the US, at a time when the American population numbered 141 million, and the adult population 106 million! Even today, remarkably, after all the blockbusters in recent decades, it remains the sixth-most-attended film in British history. It obviously struck a chord.

Wyler’s film, perhaps above all, is a story about men reconnecting with women after war. There is the deep psychological trauma of individuals who have been deprived of love and find it hard to re-establish relationships. This was a mass phenomenon: returning home, getting out of uniform.

Fred Derry (played by Dana Andrews), just out of the army, wants nothing more than to get into and stay in civilian clothes. In one scene, his status-seeking wife (Virginia Mayo) asks him to wear his uniform when they go out in the evening. He hates the idea.

Derry leaves behind with his father, Pat Derry, a bunch of papers, which includes citations for his medals, written by high-ranking officials in the military. The Andrews character wants nothing to do with them.

This exchange occurs:

Pat Derry: You forgot these, son.

Fred Derry: Oh, I don’t want ’em, Pop.

Pat Derry: What are they?

Fred Derry: Fancy words that don’t mean anything. You can throw ’em away.

Pat Derry: Say, these are citations for your medals. Why, Freddy, you never showed them to us.

Fred Derry: Those things came in the packages with K rations [individual daily combat food ration introduced by the US army during World War II].

The Korean War: “I was wrong…this war is going to last a long time.”

American films about the Korean War tend to be bleak, perhaps because it was the first war US imperialism lost, or at least in which it was fought to a standstill. In many of the films, US forces are taking, or have just taken a beating. There is a lot of anti-communist rubbish and patriotism, of course, but the overall mood is one of gloom and disillusionment.

One thinks of Samuel Fuller’s The Steel Helmet (1951)—characterized by Fuller’s usual dynamism and emotionalism; Joseph H. Lewis’s Retreat, Hell!(1952)—in which a genuine US retreat is called a “tactical withdrawal” or some such phrase; Mark Robson’s The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954)—a somewhat turgid film, but William Holden is memorable as a lawyer forced back into service as a bomber pilot who dies an ignominious death in a ditch; Anthony Mann’s Men in War (1957)—which I want to spend a moment describing; Pork Chop Hill (1959), with Gregory Peck, Rip Torn and Martin Landau, in which a meaningless, bloody battle is fought while peace talks are going on; Denis Sanders’s War Hunt (1961)—the US military makes use of a psychopath as a “special ops” commando; and Burt Topper’s War is Hell (1963)—a megalomaniacal sergeant sends his men into an enemy bunker, neglecting to tell them that a ceasefire has been declared.


Men in War (1957)

Toward the close of Mann’s Men in War, Platoon commander Lieutenant Benson (Robert Ryan) muses forlornly, “I was wrong…this war is going to last a long time.” When the film opens, Benson’s exhausted, depleted unit has been cut off from the rest of the US forces, who have just been “clobbered” and lost 400 men in a single battle. Benson’s group encounters cynical Sergeant “Montana” (Aldo Ray) and a shell-shocked colonel (Robert Keith) who is unable to speak.

For the sergeant, “the war is over.” He’s a brutal type, without compassion or feeling. The Robert Ryan character comments at one point, “God help us if it takes your kind to win this war.” Almost everyone is killed by the end, including the colonel (who awakes from his catatonic state only to rush into the fighting and almost immediately get killed), except for the sergeant and the lieutenant. In the final scene, Ryan reads the names of the dead, while the Ray character throws their medals down the side of a hill.

There is nothing here that would encourage patriotism or national morale.

To be continued

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  David Walsh is’s senior art and film critic.
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Art, war and social revolution—Part 2
« Reply #42 on: June 03, 2016, 08:10:02 AM »

Art, war and social revolution—Part 2

black-horizontaltgp-movie-reviewsLogoFilms and TV put in their cultural and political contexts.

A talk given in San Diego, Berkeley and Ann Arbor

By David Walsh,
 1 June 2016

The various writers may step back occasionally to reflect on individual moral issues, or the debilitating impact of the war on their respective central characters, but never to consider the driving forces of the war itself. Not once. No one makes a genuinely profound critique of the society that produces these horrible wars, or ties them to capitalism.


We are posting below the second part of an edited version of a presentation given at San Diego State University, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in April and May 2016.  Part one is posted here.

The Cold War: “You can’t fight in here. This is the war room!”


Dr. Strangelove (1964)

The Cold War produced many works, including a great deal of reactionary rubbish. But there were certain films that stood out. Stanley Kubrick directed Paths of Glory (1957), as noted before, a scathing indictment of the First World War. Kirk Douglas plays a French officer whose men refuse to continue a suicidal attack. They then face a court-martial. It is a powerful and disturbing film.

Kubrick, of course, also made Dr. Strangelove (1964), a satire about a lunatic US Air Force general who launches a first nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. Peter Sellers memorably plays three parts, including US president Merkin Muffley and the ex-Nazi, wheelchair-bound Dr. Strangelove. The film is an absurdist reaction to the terrors of the time. Who can forget President Muffley chastising the Soviet ambassador and another US air force general for wrestling in the American military’s sanctum sanctorum: “You can’t fight in here. This is the war room!” A sort of nervous hysteria prevails.

Other films of the time included Stanley Kramer’s On the Beach (1959), based on Nevil Shute’s novel, about a group of people in Australia, in the aftermath of World War III, who are waiting for the cloud of deadly nuclear fallout to arrive and exterminate them; John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962), a delirious, bewildering film about the brainwashing of the son of a right-wing politician unwittingly enlisted in a “communist conspiracy,” with Angela Lansbury as a monstrous political mother-wife; Frankenheimer’s Seven Days in May (1964), with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, about an attempted military coup; Sidney Lumet’s Fail Safe (1964), from a screenplay co-written by former blacklisted writer Walter Bernstein, about a Cold War nuclear crisis.

I would not go out too far on the limb artistically with any of these films. But they reflected tremendous anxiety about the global (or specifically American) state of affairs, and they tackled the questions directly, or at least as directly as the circumstances allowed.



MASH (1970)

With the Vietnam War, all hell broke loose, so to speak. Generally speaking, the Vietnam-era films are critical of the war, of the military, of the establishment. Of course, they also reflect the contradictions and limitations of the radicalism of the period. Robert Altman’s MASH (1970), set during the Korean War, in fact, but obviously directed at the Vietnam War, the American military and the Nixon administration, established the tone. The film was written by Ring Lardner Jr., another former Hollywood blacklist victim.

One could point to Hal Ashby’s Coming Home (1978), Sidney J. Furie’s The Boys in Company C (1978), Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter (1978), Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979), Oliver Stone’s Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July (1986), Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987), Brian de Palma’s Casualties of War (1989) and others.

Those films are overwhelmingly negative about the war, about the military. They come out of, in a number of cases, the anti-war movement. These are honest, often confused films, none of them great works of art, but with some extraordinary moments. They exude the spirit of rebellion. Those who take military rules and pronouncements seriously are deluded or mad …

In discussing these various war films, we are not looking back nostalgically to some golden age—there never was a golden age. America is a very dark country in many ways, the major imperialist power of the past century.

How do we look at films?

How do we look at these films, how do we look at present-day films? This raises the question: What is art? What is our approach in evaluating art?

For Marxists, art is ultimately a means by which we cognize, make sense of reality, it is no less concerned with truth than the objective sciences, although in a different way obviously.

We criticize or reject didacticism, preaching in art, because in a didactic work the artist has a prosaic, cut and dried content and the artistic shape is merely an ornament, something extraneous. Such work does not make a deep or enduring impression; it lacks spontaneity, life.

Art largely shows, it doesn’t explain—except in unusual cases. Filmmakers think in images, they dramatize their conceptions. The conceptions are embodied in the relationships, situations and imagery.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that the artist has no opinions or ideas. He or she works through images, feelings play an important role, but feelings attached to thought. The artist doesn’t assume that the audience is a quivering mass of emotionalism to be manipulated.

The best films I’ve mentioned tended to look at American society critically, with the military viewed as one component of the social order. There was a greater awareness of the society’s faults, weaknesses. A more pronounced realism predominated.

And it isn’t simply a matter of the explicitly political level of consciousness. One watches The Best Years of Our Lives, From Here to Eternity, They Were Expendable and others, or read the Jones and Mailer novels, and they are not necessarily works of genius, but they give a sense of the American people, or at least in certain important aspects. There is a much closer relationship in those films and novels to everyday life, especially the distrust of the military brass, of big shots in general.

In one of the opening scenes of The Best Years of Our Lives, one of those big shots basically elbows the Dana Andrews character out of the way at an airline counter. (Self-importantly: “I arranged to have my tickets here. My name is Gibbons. George H Gibbons.”) The class issues are laid out at the very outset.

The enormous distance of filmmaking today, commercial or independent, from the people, the way it actually thinks and feels, is so striking, and I’m speaking, frankly, even of those films and television series that make a special effort to present “ordinary people.”

The connection to the people was much more organic, despite the social, profit-driven character of Hollywood. It was taken for granted that the rich were less interesting, selfish, lazy, self-involved, that the big dramas lay in the working class neighborhoods or workplaces, or in the more intriguing sections of the middle class, whether past or present—or in the drama of science, or war, or political struggles of the past.

Of course, there were the performers themselves, the human material. They didn’t have to pretend so hard to be “average,” they came out of the hardships of the Depression and the war, and they represented something.

The moral collapse of America’s intelligentsia is practically total. The subservience of artists, writers, producers and journalists to the imperial system is well nigh total, accentuating the mediocrity that rises to the top. People like Lea Carpenter and Kathryn Bigelow embody this capitulation. 

The anti-communist purges, the changes in American economic life, the immense social polarization of recent decades, the decades of ideological reaction, all this has had a great impact. Revitalized filmmaking will come out of a new period of struggles, out of defeats and hard-fought lessons, out of painful and exhilarating experiences.

Where is the work that has captured the horror of the “war on terror”?

Now, we’ve had 25 years of war … by now, you would think a great work would have appeared.

Where is the film or novel (or drama or poem or painting) that has captured for an entire generation the horror of the “war on terror”? This is a central issue in this talk, a central problem …

The McCarthy period in the early 1950s was a time of intense repression, but, in many respects, better film work was being done. The problem is not just repression, or even primarily repression. American capitalism’s most powerful weapon is not repression, but the threat of ostracism, the power of conformism. And this itself is largely a product of the absence of a political, social alternative, a mass-based, anti-capitalist opposition. So that all the countervailing forces act on the filmmakers. Their powers of resistance are weakened.

No one has been able to capture the past quarter-century because none of the artists understand the times through which they themselves have lived or are oriented to that sort of broad historical and social representation. It’s a problem and I’ll return to it.

I want to say a few words about what has been produced in recent decades.

Studies of post-September 2001 cinema, for example, are obliged to confront such tendencies as “porno-sadism” and “torture porn,” in the form of films consumed by unrestrained indulgence in bloody revenge fantasies. Entire franchises have been built out of inflicting pain and terror.

Of course, all this did not begin on September 11. The decay and decline of American bourgeois society and its culture has been a protracted process. The mid- to late 1970s witnessed a proliferation of “vigilante” films (Death Wish, et al.), which already signified a diseased mood emerging in sections of the affluent middle class. Moreover, the “action hero” who took on an army of terrorists or criminals, who somehow single-handedly—and fantastically—overcame America’s decline on the world stage was a film phenomenon that grew more and more prominent in the 1980s and 1990s.

But the terrorist attacks of September 11 gave a license, a legitimacy to the public expression of genuinely depraved sentiments that had been long accumulating.


Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004)

In “A Culture at the End of its Rope,” written in June 2004, in response to Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, Vol. 2, we made some points that I think still stand up:

This is a film whose subject matter is torturing and murdering and bloody revenge. It has the word “Kill,” as an imperative [a command], in its title. Remove the pointless dialogue, the self-conscious references to countless other films, the various camera and editing gimmicks, the heaps of self-satisfaction and self-aggrandizement, and what remains? A work about a group of psychopaths eliminating one another. The first speech of the film contains the word “sadism.” …

We will be told by some that Tarantino is merely reflecting the violence in the society around him, or even that he is holding it up to criticism. Nonsense. Kill Bill is not a critique of sadistic bullying, it revels in it. A calculated, manipulative (and orgasmic) heaping up of violent acts cannot possibly constitute a rejection or a critique.

It is not necessary to repeat or extend these comments in regard to every example of violence, sadism and cruelty in American popular culture over the past two decades, in film, television, music, video games and so forth.


K. Sutherland played the hero in the despicable Fox hit series “24” glorifying the Deep State’s pseudo war against a terrorism that it cynically created. Do actors EVER exercise their brains or are they just moronic narcissists?

But one more example: Fox Television’s “24” which first went on the air in November 2001, created by right-wing Bush supporters, pioneered the favorable representation of torture.

Brian Finney, in Terrorized: How the War on Terror Affected American Culture and Society, writes “The Parents Television Council calculated that 24 showed 67 scenes of torture during its first five seasons, about one incident of torture every other episode, or 12 times a day in fictional time.

“Torture became at least an intermittent feature on such shows as The UnitLost, JAGAlias, and Battlestar Galactica, and in numerous hit movies such as The Passion of the ChristCasino Royale, and The Dark Knight … The Parents Television Council researched the number of scenes of torture shown on prime time television. Between 1995 and 2001 there were 110 scenes, an average of 16 a year. Between 2002 and 2005 the number increased to 624, an average of 156 scenes a year, and between 2006 and 2007 there were 212 scenes, averaging 106 a year.” (Brian Finney).

Kathryn Bigelow basking in the spotlight secured by shilling for the imperialist state.

Kathryn Bigelow basking in the spotlight secured by shilling for the imperialist state. Shameless.

We have written extensively about such despicable works as Zero Dark Thirty, the purported story of the decade-long search for Osama bin Laden. Not only did Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal create a new film sub-genre, the “art torture film,” they did it, as journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed, on the basis of a pack of lies.

Films and novels on the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan

Dozens of films have been made about 9/11 or have been inspired by the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ranging from the openly reactionary and bloodthirsty to the more thoughtful and critical.

These are a few of the films treating the “war on terror,” the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Jarhead (2005), Syriana (2005), The Situation (2005), Home of the Brave(2006), Death of a President (2006), United 93 (2006) Battle for Haditha(2007), Grace is Gone (2007), Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), In the Valley of Elah (2007), Lions for Lambs (2007), Redacted (2007), Rendition (2007), Stop-Loss (2008), W. (2008), War, Inc. (2008), Body of Lies (2008), Traitor (2008), The Hurt Locker (2009), Brothers (2009), Green Zone (2010), American Sniper(2014). One could add numerous others that obviously reference 9/11 (War of the Worlds, 2005) or the invasion of Iraq, including James Cameron’s Avatar(2009).


Battle for Haditha (2007)

There are numerous pointed works here (SyrianaIn the Valley of Elah, Redacted, Rendition, The SituationDeath of a President and Battle for Haditha), as well as some truly lamentable ones or worse (Charlie Wilson’s War, Lions for Lambs, Traitor, The Hurt Locker and American Sniper).

In my view, British director Nick Broomfield’s Battle for Haditha—about a massacre carried out by US marines in November 2005—is the strongest of the lot, for its treatment of both the Iraqi civilians and US troops as victims of imperialist war. The final dreamlike sequence, in which an American marine takes the hand of a small Iraqi girl who survived the attack, is deeply moving.

Redacted, directed by Brian De Palma, recounts in fictional form the rape and murders carried out by US soldiers in March 2006 in Mahmudiyah, Iraq. One author writes, “ Redacted concludes with a series of real-life still photographs of dead Iraqis in a sequence called ‘Collateral Damage,’ images that were denied to the American public in the drive to mythologise the war and the reasons why it was being fought.” (Terence McSweeney, The ‘War on Terror’ and American Film: 9/11 Frames Per Second)

As we noted in 2010, there are numerous “pointed films … but if one may say it, these are primarily ‘small-bore’ works, works that take up elements, specific aspects of the situation. If one compares them, as a body, with Apocalypse Now, or even Platoon, for all its histrionics—the latter were movies that attempted to make a broad statement about American involvement in Vietnam, to paint it as a crime, as an imperialist crime. This element is largely missing today.”

Dozens and dozens of novels have appeared that treat the “war on terror” or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, some of them written by veterans of those conflicts.

Ian McEwan’s Saturday (2005) and John Updike’s Terrorist (2006), both shallow and contrived novels, essentially adopt the establishment point of view.

Eleven Days (2013)

Eleven Days (2013)

Lea Carpenter’s Eleven Days (2013) is a deplorable work. It celebrates the efforts of US Special Operations Forces, America’s death squads. Carpenter is a descendant of the original du Pont in America. Her father served in US Army Intelligence in China and Burma. She was previously the deputy publisher of the Paris Review, the literary magazine. She is married to the former managing director of Goldman Sachs, specializing in mergers and acquisitions.

In her novel, the hero, a member of the Special Operations Forces, thinks to himself, after an intervention against Al Qaeda: “Did these contemporary war stories lack the grandeur and arc of their predecessors? Sadr City was not the Somme. That was like comparing Mad Max to Madame Bovary. But they were alike in this simple fact: men were killing other men across a small space to save the lives of millions of others half a world away. Historians would eventually take their pick of the facts and look at the larger questions, but the first wave of understanding would come from the guys who were there.”

Saving the world for Goldman Sachs. This is what passes for the American intelligentsia.

Eleven Days's author Lea Carpenter: Automatically glorifying her class' crimes around the world.

Eleven Days’s author Lea Carpenter: Automatically glorifying her class’ crimes around the world.

Redeployment, a collection of stories about the Iraq war, by Phil Klay, is one of the best known books written by an Iraqi war veteran. Klay enlisted in the Marines and served as a Public Affairs Officer in the surge in Iraq in 2008.

In “After Action Report,” one of the newer members of the narrator’s unit shoots an Iraqi teenager who apparently has grabbed an AK-47. This soldier, “like the rest of us, had actually been trained to fire a rifle, and he’d been trained on man-shaped targets. Only difference between those and the kid’s silhouette would have been the kid was smaller. Instinct took over. He shot the kid three times before he hit the ground. Can’t miss at that range. The kid’s mother ran out to try to pull her son back into the house. She came just in time to see bits of him blow out of his shoulders.”

Kevin Powers, the author of The Yellow Birds, also served in Iraq, as a machine gunner in Mosul and Tal Afar. His novel centers on the efforts of its narrator—a US soldier in Iraq—to prevent the death of a younger, fellow private, an effort that fails. The book expresses considerable disgust and anger. At one point, the narrator is considering suicide:

Or should I have said that I wanted to die, not in the sense of wanting to throw myself off of that train bridge over there, but more like wanting to be asleep forever because there isn’t any making up for killing women or even watching women get killed, or for that matter killing men and shooting them in the back and shooting them more times than necessary to actually kill them and it was like just trying to kill everything you saw sometimes because it felt like there was acid seeping down into your soul and then your soul is gone and knowing from being taught your whole life that there is no making up for what you are doing …


Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Ben Fountain’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, is essentially a satirical work. The novel, a film version of which is coming out directed by Ang Lee, is not so much a novel about Iraq (Fountain is not a veteran) as it is a sharp look at phony patriotism, hypocritical religiosity and corporate greed in Bush’s Texas. The sentiments are legitimate enough, but the targets are fairly easy ones at this point in history. In the end, despite its decent intentions, the book is a little too light-hearted and “soft.”

One comes across in Fountain’s novel to the only reference in any of the novels to a possible ulterior motive on the part of the US authorities. The central character, Billy Lynn, is home and talking to his sister. She says: “Then let me ask you this, do you guys believe in the war? Like is it good, legit, are we doing the right thing? Or is it all really just about the oil?” Billy replies, “You know I don’t know that,” and, later, “I don’t think anybody knows what we’re doing over there.” That’s it, the only discussion of what the US is doing in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Disparate as they are, these latter novels or stories share certain features. None of them discuss the history of the region or the broader motives for American military intervention. Each prides itself on immediacy and immersing the reader in that immediacy. The various writers may step back occasionally to reflect on individual moral issues, or the debilitating impact of the war on their respective central characters, but never to consider the driving forces of the war itself. Not once. No one makes a genuinely profound critique of the society that produces these horrible wars, or ties them to capitalism.

Is it possible to do artistic justice to events as complex and momentous as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan when one has little or no grasp of their broader significance? Such an approach has an influence on the way in which a given writer treats human psychology and the relationships between people.

The conceptions on the whole are limited. The language tends to be flat, “even-handed,” largely non-committal, matching the writers’ attitude to the war itself.

These novels and stories are efforts at realism, but they evade one of the greatest challenges a fiction writer faces, that of providing historical realism, a general picture of a society and its contradictory parts and an overall sense of the character of the times. In the almost complete absence of that, the movement of individuals inevitably has a flattened, reduced quality. People move about, but only for the most immediate reasons. What is driving them in a more profound sense?

No one is taking on the problems head-on, no one has artistically captured the last quarter century.

Where do some of the difficulties come from?

Where do some of the current artistic difficulties come from?

The unpreparedness of the artists is a matter of concern for our movement. The artistic representation of life is vital to the education of the working class, and this education is our central task.

The anti-communist purges, the decades of political reaction, the increasing indifference of large sections of the upper-middle class to the conditions of the mass of the population—all these have had their impact.

There are many issues, including occupational hazards, so to speak. Art lags behind events at the best of times. But there is a big problem today with the conception of art itself.

I want to refer in particular to the predominance of postmodernism in recent decades, in various forms. A portion of my generation became cynical, complacent or pessimistic, or all three, and eventually regretted missing out on the big money on Wall Street and elsewhere. While these individuals were protesting in the 1960s and 1970s, others were already getting rich. They later turned against everything they had once believed in and adopted everything they opposed.

The postmodernists declared the end of “grand narratives” or “master narratives.” What this really meant was the end to a search for fundamental causes; instead they refer to countless factors, none of them given precedence. There is no underlying truth to be discovered, simply one’s impressions, one’s narrative. This has played a disastrous role, associated as it is with the abandonment of any sense of revolutionary alternative and with accommodation, concealed behind obscurantist language, to the status quo.

By grand or master narratives the postmodernists had in mind, above all, Marxism and its “narrative” of the class struggle. Coherent theories of historical development, which often involve social emancipation, were outlawed. These grand narratives were to replaced, as one commentator puts it, by “mini-narratives” or “stories that explain small practices, local events, rather than large scale universal or global concepts. Mini-narratives are always situational, provisional, contingent, temporary and make no claim to universality, truth, reason or stability.”


Jean-Francois Lyotard [Brach L. Ettinger]

This is one of the original statements of the postmodern case, by Jean-François Lyotard: “We no longer have recourse to the grand narratives—we can resort neither to the dialectic of Spirit nor even to the emancipation of humanity as a validation for postmodern scientific discourse. But. .. the little narrative [petit récit] remains the quintessential form of imaginative invention.” (The Postmodern Condition, [1984 in English, originally 1979])

The influences here are Nietzsche, Heidegger and other irrationalist thinkers. This represents not only an attack on Marxism, but on the Enlightenment and the ability to cognize the world in a rational, objective fashion. One is left with fragments and the celebration of fragments.

The art and film of the past several decades has been littered with a multiplicity of “little narratives.” In the case of the artistic treatment of the ongoing wars and the drive to war, this “littleness” jibes all too neatly with the filmmakers’ and novelists’ political and historical reticence, their essential intellectual submission to the official account of the “war on terror” and America’s “humanitarian interventions.”

More than that, the “littleness” justifies and sustains a concern with oneself. The recourse to “mini-narratives” and “small practices” is almost inevitably bound up with the adoption of identity politics, the obsession with one’s race, gender and sexual orientation. The world is incomprehensible, overwhelming, unchangeable, all I know and can know is my immediate, “local” piece of it, my particular narrative. In short, myself. This sort of outlook inevitably encourages selfishness and self-involvement, tedious individualism, which are other characteristics of recent art and film.


The great novelist Leo Tolstoy—Leon Trotsky pointed out in an obituary—had contributed to the 1905 Revolution in Russia although he was no revolutionary. “Everything that Tolstoy stated publicly” about the cruelty, irrationality and dishonesty of tsarist Russia “in thousands of ways … seeped into the minds of the laboring masses … And the word became deed.”

Leo Tolstoy in 1897

This is our conception too, that art has the ability to alter the thinking and feeling of masses of human beings. To have that sort of influence, however, the artist must know something important about the world, about society and history. To do something one must be something, as Goethe observed.

Art brings into play the subjective impressions and imagination of the artist. But these impressions and this imagination carry weight and endure, in the end, only in so far as they correspond—in accordance with art’s distinctive mirrors—to life and reality as they are.

We are not dictating this state of affairs—but it is a fact that only the art with something to say about the decisive questions facing masses of people, however indirectly or poetically, will be of great interest in the years to come. Self-absorption and social indifference will be looked on with as much astonishment as contempt.

Clearly, we have entered a new stage of development. The economic and social crisis, along with relentless wars and militarist violence, are fueling the discontent of masses of people and blowing up—or threatening to blow up—political arrangements and set-ups around the globe, including in the US.

We know Bernie Sanders and his type. There is nothing of socialism here. He is proposing mild reforms that portions of the ruling elite itself favor. He supports the ongoing wars with certain criticisms, he approves of the drone strikes. He is an advocate of economic nationalism, lining up the working class here with the American ruling elite against China and other rivals of US imperialism. The essence of socialism is internationalism, the international unity of the working class.

But the Sanders campaign and the response it has evoked are objectively significant. It has scandalized the media and the political establishment, it has disrupted the dominant narrative. In a country supposedly dominated by anti-socialism, anti-communism, someone who advertises himself as a socialist is suddenly the most popular politician in America, and among the young, by a wide margin.

The two-party system in the US has been fatally undermined because it is no longer possible to contain the vast, unbearable social contradictions within that structure. Millions have already drawn conclusions about the present system. The task of our party is to transform an unconscious historical process into a conscious revolutionary movement. The Socialist Equality Party is running candidates, Jerry White and Niles Niemuth, for president and vice president, for that reason.

When we discuss the difficulties of the recent decades, it’s not a matter of painting a gloomy picture. To a certain extent, an inevitable clearing of the decks has taken place. Tendencies that pretended to be socialist or left-wing have been revealed for what they are. Organizations that claim to represent the working class have been exposed in the eyes of millions. The same goes for many cultural figures and trends.

These decades of cultural backwardness have also created the conditions for their opposite, for an “epidemic” within the broader population and culture of humanity, compassion and social criticism. We are witnessing an immense movement to the left. We have no illusions about the confusion that exists, but it should also be clear that the course millions have set out on leads inevitably to revolutionary struggles. The elementary needs and interests of masses of human beings will bring them into a life-and-death confrontation with the ruling class.

The social and economic crisis will not be resolved quickly or easily. There will be opportunity for art to reflect on and reveal the truth about the immensely complex, sometimes confusing and enormously intense experiences that vast numbers of people will pass through.

Our concern, again, is with the political and cultural development of the working class. We need a new art committed to telling the truth at all costs. This new art will be incompatible “with pessimism, with skepticism, and with all the other forms of spiritual collapse” (Trotsky) and will have an unlimited, creative belief in humanity and its future. That’s what we’re dedicated to in the Socialist Equality Party and on the World Socialist Web Site. We encourage you to join that effort.


About the author
walsh-david-wswsDave Walsh serves as critic for For our money, he’s just about the finest film critic in North America. His use of Marxian analysis makes his analyses especially timely and insightful.
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Re: Art, war and social revolution—Part 2
« Reply #43 on: June 03, 2016, 08:38:03 AM »
I realize he is a film critic and not a music critic, but he really should have used Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue" video.

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Washington Military Planners Have Gone Mad
« Reply #44 on: June 04, 2016, 12:20:04 PM »

 04.06.2016 Author: F. William Engdahl
Washington Military Planners Have Gone Mad
Column: Politics
Region: USA in the World

To read the Western mainstream media, we would be led to believe that the big, bad Russian Bear, with Vladimir Putin atop, shaking a fistful of nuclear warheads, is confronting the West in the most threatening manner imaginable. We should believe Russia is provoking at every turn, frothing at the mouth and threatening to invade the Baltic countries and perhaps all Western Europe. We would feel quite justified, as the propaganda spin of Washington claims, to protect America’s European allies from surprise Russian nuclear attack by surrounding Russia with anti-Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) systems.

So we as citizens in the Western NATO countries have little reaction at all when we read some days ago that the Obama White House announced it had activated the first phase of its anti-ballistic missile defense system (BMD), known as AEGIS, in an air base in Deveselu, Romania. Poland will be next to become activated with Washington’s Aegis.

The Aegis Ashore system has been officially put into operation and can already launch SM-3 interceptor missiles. The system includes 24 anti-aircraft SM-3 missiles. At the same time the Pentagon is placing its BMD installations in Japan and South Korea and possibly, Australia, aimed at China. Our perception of world reality is primarily shaped for us by what we read in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal or hear on CNN or BBC. We sigh a small sigh of relief that our world is now more secure. Nothing is farther from reality. That’s a grave error.

On May 13, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, alongside officials representing the United States and European NATO members, announced the activation of a new missile system, based in Romania. Stoltenberg announced,

“The United States’ Aegis ashore system is declared certified for operations.”

The new missile network is based at Romania’s Deveselu military air base. The US is also building another new US missile base in Poland. On the same day Deveselu missile base was opened for “business,” construction began on the US missile base near Redzikowo, Poland. Both will operate under the direct command of the US Department of Defense. The Pentagon insists both are intended to protect Europe from Iran (sic!). Shall we call that a pretty pathetic propaganda deception of Washington? I would say so. Both and other systems are directly intended for Russia and those “unarmed” Aegis missiles are potentially nuclear-capable and carry Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missiles.

The Romanian missile base is positioned less than 400 miles from Russia’s main Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol, Crimea. AEGIS is able to fire short and long-range missiles.i Neither Romania nor Poland will have any say over its use, even though their territory will be the target of any pre-emptive Russian reaction.

Commenting on the event, the New York Times openly acknowledged, “The launch-pad violates a 1987 treaty intended to take the superpowers off their hair-trigger nuclear alter, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, by banning land-based cruise and medium-range missiles with a range from 300 to 3,400 miles.”

US and NATO officials insist that AEGIS is directed against Iran and other small states viewed by Washington as “rogue states,” and poses no threat to Russia or China, something absurd on the surface.

The reality, that Russia is the target of the Romanian Aegis system was made plain by the remarks at the opening ceremony by Romanian President Klaus Ioannis. Ioannis made clear that the new installation is part of broader plans to use his country as a staging area for NATO activities throughout Eastern Europe and the Black Sea.

Of course the Black Sea is home to Russia’s naval Black Sea Fleet in Russian Crimea. Admitting that the real target of the missiles is the Russian Federation, Ioannis called on NATO leaders to maintain a “permanent naval presence” in the Black Sea, as part of a military buildup aimed at making a “credible and predictable presence of Allied forces on the eastern flank.” A glance at the map shos that the only nation bordering the Black Sea not either in NATO or controlled by pro-NATO regimes is the Russian Federation.

During his swearing in some days before the Aegis opening US Army General and Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Curtis Scaparrotti, warned that Russia “is striving to project itself as a world power.” He declared that US forces in Europe must “enhance our levels of readiness and our agility in the spirit of being able to fight tonight if deterrence fails.” That sounds pretty “hair-trigger” to me.

Russia made clear it does not greet the news of Aegis deployment with grace or joy. Russia’s President Putin told news agencies, “This is not a defense system. This is part of a US nuclear strategic potential brought on to a periphery. In this case, Eastern Europe is such a periphery…Those people taking such decisions must know that until now they have lived calm, fairly well-off and in safety. Now, as these elements of ballistic missile defense are deployed, we are forced to think how to neutralize the emerging threats to the Russian Federation.”

Russian commentator Konstantin Bogdanov told the New York Times, “The antimissile sites in Eastern Europe might even accelerate the slippery slope to nuclear war in a crisis. They would inevitably become priority targets in the event of nuclear war, possibly even targets for preventive strikes… Countries like Romania that host American antimissile systems might be the only casualties, whereas the United States would then reconcile with Russia ‘over the smoking ruins of the East European elements of the missile defense system.”

Possible Russian response

Many Washington “think-tank generals,” neo-conservative academic hawks and even senior Pentagon professional military generals, more concerned with lobbying for a bigger defense budget than for reality, seem to believe the United States is invulnerable and that their drip-drip escalation against Russia and also China in recent years will restore their vanishing sole superpower global hegemony. It won’t, and in fact may end up obliterating the United States mainland as well as Europe, even if it costs Russians dearly.

A well-respected Cold War military veteran originally from the Soviet Union, later in French intelligence, writing under the nom de plume, The Saker, recently outlined in detail what the United States and NATO can expect from Russia if Washington foolishly continues to escalate US troop deployments on Russia’s doorstep in the Baltics, activates more of its BMD missile defenses–which, by the way, as Vladimir Putin pointed out, are also capable of being easily converted to carry nuclear warheads.

Saker correctly points out that Washington’s AEGIS kinetic BMD system at present is no real military threat to Russia’s military defense capabilities. It is the escalation that they see that alarms Moscow. That, especially since Washington’s February, 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine, and the lock-step obedience as literal vassals, of every EU head of government to Washington orders since, even at their own economic expense.

As a consequence, Russia has begun to prepare for the “unthinkable.” Keep in mind Russians abhor war, having lost perhaps up to 30 million souls in the 1940’s only to see the latecomer, USA, who jumped in in 1944, after the Russians has been taking the vast bulk of the fighting against Nazi Germany, claim themselves as “victor.” Yet, through history going back to the Great Schism of 1054, Russians, when forced in existential crises, are capable of defending against all odds.

Saker describes the Russian current response strategy which has been quietly in preparation since the Cheney-Bush Administration announced plans in 2007 for a US BMD in Poland and the Czech Republic:

    “The Russian effort is a vast and a complex one, and it covers almost every aspect of Russian force planning, but there are four examples which, I think, best illustrate the Russian determination not to allow a 22 June 1941 to happen again:

    • The re-creation of the First Guards Tank Army (in progress)

    • The deployment of the Iskander-M operational-tactical missile system (done)

    • The deployment of the Sarmat ICBM (in progress)

    • The deployment of the Status-6 strategic torpedo (in progress)”

Three of the four points are especially worth describing in detail. Saker describes the Iskander-M: “The new Iskander-M operational tactical missile system is…extremely accurate, it has advanced anti-ABM capabilities, it flies at hypersonic speeds and is practically undetectable on the ground…This will be the missile tasked with destroying all the units and equipment the US and NATO have forward-deployed in Eastern Europe…”

Then he details Sarmat ICBM, in progress. After noting that during the Cold War, the SS-18, the most powerful ICBM ever developed, was scary enough. ” “The RS-28 ‘Sarmat’ brings the terror to a totally new level. The Sarmat is…capable of carrying 10-15 MIRVed warheads which will be delivered in a so-called “depressed” (suborbital) trajectory and which will remain maneuverable at hypersonic speeds. The missile will not have to use the typical trajectory over the North Pole but will be capable of reaching any target anywhere on the planet from any trajectory. All these elements combined will make the Sarmat itself and its warheads completely impossible to intercept.”

Then Russia’s Status-6 strategic torpedo: “The Status-6 torpedo would be delivered from an ‘autonomous underwater vehicle’ with advanced navigational capabilities but which can also be remote controlled and steered from a specialized command module. The vehicle can dive as deep as 1 kilometer at a speed up to 185km/h with a range of up to 10,000km (over 6,200 miles). The Status-6 system can target aircraft carrier battle groups, US navy bases (especially SSBN bases) and, in its most frightening configuration, it can be used to deliver high-radioactivity cobalt bombs capable of laying waste to huge expanses of land. The Status-6 delivery system would be…capable of delivering a 100 megaton warhead which would make it twice as powerful as the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated, the Soviet Czar-bomb (57 megatons). Hiroshima was only 15 kilotons.” Saker adds, “Keep in mind that most of the USA’s cities and industrial centers are all along the coastline which makes them extremely vulnerable to torpedo based attacks…the depth and speed of the Status-6 torpedo would make it basically invulnerable to interception.”

The Saker notes there are other equally serious possible Russian responses to any potential existential danger for the motherland, rodina, as Russians call their homeland.

Nuclear Primacy

The active USA BMD project began during Ronald Reagan’s Presidency. In 1972 the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) between Moscow and Washington placed severe limits on development or deployment of Ballistic Missile Defense, but didn’t prevent intense research on such systems. That was what President Ronald Reagan announced to the world in March 1983, when he launched the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which the press quickly dubbed, ‘Star Wars.’ When the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, Washington temporarily shelved full-scale work on deploying their BMD systems. But only temporarily, until the Cheney-Bush Administration in 2001.

Ballistic Missile Defense systems are the final element that could make a US nuclear first strike a possible live option. It would be aimed to take out any Soviet missiles that had somehow survived a US First Strike.

According to the late Lt. Col. Robert Bowman, former head of President Carter’s then-top secret SDI research, anti-missile defense remained in 2009, “the missing link to a First Strike” capability.

Already in 2003 at the onset of the illegal US invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon’s 2003 Nuclear Posture Review made clear that nuclear weapons were here to stay. The declared purpose of US nuclear weapons under the hawkish Cheney-Bush era was changing from nuclear deterrence (MAD) and weapon of last resort to a central, usable component of the US military arsenal. The unthinkable was being thought in Washington.

In September 2015 the Pentagon announced Washington’s decision to station 20 next-generation advanced nuclear bombs of Type B61-12 in Germany, above the protests of leading but impotent German politicians. The B61-12 is in fact a brand new nuclear weapon with vastly improved military capabilities, and the most expensive nuclear bomb project ever. I noted in an article then, that Washington’s deployment of new nuclear weapons in Germany, “is no minor affair as it brings the likelihood of nuclear war by miscalculation between the United States and Russia one giant step closer and it makes the German Republic a direct high-priority target in any such escalation.”

If I am walking down the street minding my own business and I see a psychopath leap at me with a drawn knife clearly aiming to kill, I have a moral responsibility to defend my life with all my means. Likewise, as Kremlin planners carefully monitor the actions of the US military and State Department since declaration of plans to install its Ballistic Missile Defense in NATO Western European lands back in 2007, after the Cheney-Bush Administration unilaterally tore up the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty of 1987 to free itself to deploy its BMD systems, and now with deployments of NATO and US troops and tanks at the periphery of Russia as well as around China, both countries are taking deadly seriously the growing danger to their very existence through an “unthinkable” US nuclear first strike.

As a nice cheery footnote, the state-owned China paper, Global Times, in its May 29, 2016 edition reported that China will send a submarine armed with nuclear missiles into the Pacific for the first time. The paper, making an official Beijing Government response to Washington’s military Asia Pivot, added that China has been adopting an “effective nuclear deterrence” strategy, with much fewer nuclear warheads than the West powers. Also, China is the only one among the nuclear powers to announce a no-first-use policy. It means that China’s nuclear deterrence lies in its capability to strike back… As Sino-US tensions build, it is necessary for China to strengthen its capability for nuclear retaliation. It will help with balance in the Asia-Pacific region and enhance the US willingness to seek peace with China.

It is vital that the still sane among us clearly understand how utterly mad, as in insane, not in Mutual Assured Destruction, the Washington missile defense and Russia provoking strategy of the past two decades, especially the past two years, is. Unlike US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, I for one am not willing to end up in a thermonuclear ash heap.

F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”
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