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THE ILLUSION OF RIGHTS

John Chuckman

 

In truth, there is no such thing as a right.

The last three centuries or so of European history developed the concept and fixed it in our minds as something real and many modern states have enumerated lists of rights, but, in the limit, the concept of rights has no force behind it.

Words on paper mean nothing when those with real power in your society decide that the words are only that, words. Judges have no power to direct where the society’s power is unwilling to cooperate.

Apart from what has happened at various times in a number of European countries, the ability simply to switch off rights has been demonstrated many times in America’s history, and there can be little doubt that dimming down and gradually switching off rights now has become a central activity in American society.

Nothing so effectively trumps rights as government claims of emergency situations, such as civil war and now the so-called war on terror. For the foreseeable future, rights in Western countries are going to increasingly be limited or ignored, if not even proscribed.

This is certainly the case in the United States where construction of a national security state is well underway, the template being that of Israel, a state which despite a stage show of democracy is quite literally more of a security state than the former East Germany, more both because technologies now are vastly more effective and penetrating than anything the Stasi had and because the proportion of military and security services in society is far greater in Israel than it was in a supposed absolute state.

Establishing such a vast state apparatus anywhere is never without consequences for human freedom and rights, although Israel has never pretended to establish defined rights, it being an impossible task to do so for a “democracy” where only one kind of person is welcome and where millions are literally held against their wills and where the state apparatus feels free to seize anyone’s property at any moment.

So it is a very ominous model towards which America is working. The work has proceeded gradually since 9/11, so that there is no sudden panic in such a large general population, but it proceeds inexorably, with new steps announced periodically limiting this or that activity. Of course, it just so happens that the project serves the establishment’s own power interests, effectively securing continued and increased authority.

The events used to excuse the project and make it acceptable, those of so-called international terror, were themselves natural outcomes, reactions to the establishment’s abuse of authority in a long series of attacks and wars to reshape the Middle East and its endless tolerance of an intolerable human situation in Israel. The establishment’s behavior created international terror.

In the end, the unpleasant truth is that only might makes right, and sentiments and fine words count for very little. We truly have made small progress since the days when a French nobleman’s coach could run down a peasant in the roadway without consequences. We are still ruled by wealth, and the security services, servants of wealth, gain added and unaccountable powers almost daily.

After all, that is how America governs much of the rest of the planet today, isn’t it? Why should home be any different?

 

RUNAWAY TRAIN

America’s election and its inability to alter the nation’s deadly course

 

John Chuckman

 

America is engaged in another of its sprawling and costly national election campaigns. A few of the events, such as the New Hampshire primary or the Iowa Caucus, I’m sure have participants seeing themselves as Thomas Jefferson’s sturdy yeomen doing their civic duty. But such humble and misty-eyed tableaux can be deceiving for the big picture is quite disturbing, including, as it does, billions of dollars spent and a lot of noise generated about things which will not change in any outcome.

America is, despite all the noise and expense of its election campaigns, not a democracy, and, as the world’s greatest imperial power, it is not a place which genuinely honors human rights, either at home or abroad although its politicians never stop talking about them. It is a country controlled by wealth whose purpose is the acquisition of still more wealth, equipped with a military that in scores of wars and interventions has fought, arguably, precisely once for the country’s defense.

It marked a fateful time in the modern era when America, under Harry Truman, decided to partner with the emerging state of Israel, a very fateful time indeed. Today much of the Middle East is in ruins, whole states and societies have been destroyed, at least a million have died, and some of the world’s great archeological and historical treasures have been destroyed as though by a gang of gleeful wanton young men.

Accompanying America’s long march of destruction through the Middle East – the work both of its own armed forces and of various proxies – has been the rise of a phenomenon called international terrorism. Our newspapers and broadcasters all focus on this last, leaving the preceding great acts of destruction unquestioned. After all, America’s much-consolidated press is an industry like any other and is owned by a relatively small number of wealthy people, and it depends upon good relations with other great industries for its revenue and with the government for its operating environment. It never questions policies, no matter how brutal, and it never scrutinizes what those policies are doing to people. America’s major allies all carry on in exactly the same fashion for they have become highly dependent on America’s goodwill.

Day after day, our press gives horrifying accounts of events such as the bombing in Brussels or the attacks in Paris, and it has been doing so since 9/11, providing a relentless war chant of “See what these bastards do!” These horrors are always treated as though they had no context, having sprung full-blown from the minds of bizarre people who think nothing, for example, of blowing themselves up. But I’m pretty sure that virtually every person who does such things sees himself or herself in the same light as the Japanese Kamikazes everyone once fearfully admired.

When was the last time your newspaper or broadcaster featured life in Gaza or in Syria or in Iraq or in Libya or in Yemen? It simply does not happen, and except for the rare independent article or book, our information about these places and the terrible assaults they are under is deliberately constrained. I am convinced that the natural human sympathy of most people, including many residents of imperial America, would respond to such sights and reports, but you are simply not given the opportunity to do so.

For me, this subject is the pivotal matter in the upcoming American election. Donald Trump, despite many unpleasant views and much careless rhetoric, seemed to have a spark of something new, an independent mind not shaped by America’s political establishment, and he an extremely successful and self-confident man in business not beholden to the special interests which shape the insincere news and own the loyalty of a great many politicians. He has made a number of encouraging statements, saying America should get along with Russia and China, leave Syria for Russia to clean-up, and talked about making deals instead of conflicts, but, most remarkably, he said that Israel should pay for its own defense. That last, something most timorous American politicians wouldn’t dream of uttering, is an example of bravery under the threat of fire, a quality I admire and one sorely needed to ever have a hope of having America extricated from the its Middle East’s Gordian Knot.

But two things just recently have given me pause: Trump’s words about using torture and the recent appointment to his foreign relations team of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. Torture is unacceptable, ever. Legally innocent people are kidnapped and hurt in the mere hope they know something of interest, and in the process many die, convicted of nothing. The CIA has killed a number of prisoners in its Rendition Gulag since 9/11, whether accidentally or deliberately almost doesn’t matter, but their filthy work violates every principle we hold dear.

Calls for more torture are not new thinking, and they are repulsive. They ignore the actual cause of terror, which is America’s treatment of countless people in societies swept aside and rudely rearranged as though their homes and places were toy living room furniture being tossed by an angry child giant. As for Senator Sessions, there is a man who gets along just fine with the bloodiest people in Washington doing the rearranging.

Perhaps I should not have allowed a glimmer of hope that at least in one part of America’s domain a few things might change for the better. After all, seven years ago, I had hopes for a young black man with a charming smile and a tendency to talk and act with more independence than we usually see in Washington, not afraid sometimes to wear sandals and do without the primordial totem of an American flag pin always fixed to his lapel, but look what happened to him. He joined the great game and became nothing less than a mass murderer. Oh, he had one or two modest successes, as in stopping Israel’s raging demands to attack Iran, a country which has attacked no one in its entire modern history, but otherwise his is a long and dreary tale.

He has America still killing in Iraq, still killing in Afghanistan, destroying a decent civilization in Libya, supporting destruction in beautiful Syria, re-inserting an absolute dictator into Egypt to keep its prickly neighbor Israel happy, and creating an armada of drones to assassinate people in far off places guilty of no crime, killing in the process many others besides the innocent targets. Oh, and there are many other Neanderthal stupidities, from creating a coup and ensuing civil war in Ukraine to demanding Europe join in destructive economic sanctions and a huge military build-ups tight on Russia’s borders. And then there are all the efforts to intimidate China in its own sphere of influence.

You see, these are all the brutal stupidities of America’s establishment which our press would have you ignore while it goes on and on with its war chant about mindless international terror, virtually all of which is simply a pathetic human response to the stupidities, a response likely as unavoidable as having accidents if you go around driving drunk.

I say unavoidable, but that is not absolutely true. If a society goes far enough into the suppression of rights, terrorism can be almost eliminated. Stalin’s Russia did not experience much in the way of terrorism. Neither does Netanyahu’s Israel. And there is no doubt that America’s huge effort to suppress traditional rights and freedoms since 9/11 reflects that understanding, and the effort at suppression is not over. New surprises await Americans and their allies without question. It is an interesting sidelight to this ongoing process of building a super-security state that it just happens also to leave the ruling establishment increasingly unchallenged and unchallengeable. It is, indeed, a very dark path America has taken.

Is it any wonder I would grab at straws to see some change, even a modest re-think about what is being done? But I do fear that’s just what it is, grabbing at straws. The only realistic alternative is Hillary Clinton, a proven killer and serial liar and someone who much resembles Tony Blair for repulsive insincerity and selling herself to wealthy interests.

Indeed just at this writing, Radovan Karadzic has been convicted of war crimes during the Serbian war. I think it would be impossible to convincingly distinguish a great deal of what he did to Muslims in Bosnia and what Hillary Clinton did in Libya, which included running a program to gather small armies of thugs and arm them for insertion into Syria where they helped kill more than a quarter of a million people and create devastation. Her satanic laughter over her own bizarre joke about the leader of Libya, “We came, we saw, he died,” speaks volumes about her. This was a leader who had for decades given his people enlightened state policies and who ended being murdered in an American-created chaos.

It has been interesting to see the reactions to organized opposition against Trump, opposition taking a form sadly resembling 1930’s German Brownshirts shoving, threatening, and shouting at political rallies. Trump’s base, which is not only part of the Right but includes people who decades ago would have been Democrat-voting union people before their jobs disappeared, has very confusingly attributed all the organized opposition to “liberals.” Well, George Soros and Hillary Clinton are not, by any stretch of the imagination, liberals. Soros is in the CIA’s pocket, as Russia well knew when it recently banned his NGOs from operating there, and Hillary is just a plain killer.  I’m pretty sure America has no liberals anymore, at least as an organized body. George Soros and Hillary Clinton and John Kerry are perhaps best described as neocon “fellow travellers.”

Now, in case you don’t know who the neocons are, they are a group of influential people in the Washington establishment and in Right-wing publishing who forcefully advocate that America use its full might to re-order the planet to its liking. Many of the best known of them are Jewish Americans who never have Israel far from their concerns. There was a natural meshing of interests in supposedly re-making and stabilizing the Middle East with support for Israel. All the countries flattened or decimated in recent years effectively represent a collective effort to make the Middle East safe for Israel, to surround it with a vast cordon sanitaire, eliminating virtually all independent-minded leaders in an almost continent-sized region, and assuring Israel’s hegemony as a kind of regional miniature replica of what the United States has become in the world.

The chief problem here has been the murder of huge numbers of people and the perfectly natural reactions of many to revenge what has happened to their families, friends, and lands. If that is to be called terror, so be it, but in other times we have called the same reaction everything from the resistance or national liberation to war by other means or simple vengeance. The most important thing to understand about it is that it is not some unnatural eruption of insane extremists as our press constantly makes every effort to impress upon us.

The only way to control terror is to stop your part in it. The biggest part of all modern terror is the work of the United States, unless you regard a family blown up in Damascus or Tripoli or Fallujah or Gaza City or Sana’a as being somehow different in kind to the victims in Brussels or Paris. America also pressures all its traditional allies to support the work with efforts of one kind or another, anything from arms to training, always maintaining the stance that it opposes terror and insisting they do the same. Well, it does oppose terror, but only the wrong kind of terror, the terror which does not support or advance America’s efforts. America’s destruction and mass killing in recent years are the great bulk of what any reasonable person, one not dedicated to the silly idea that America is a benign force, would call terror. Events in Brussels or Paris or even New York have been only the results of what America and its allies have been doing, the “blowback” as they quaintly put it in intelligence circles.

Well, it has been my faint hope that Trump might represent at least some progress in this horrible business, but I am growing to doubt that possibility. I do think for many reasons things are rather out of control, hence my reference to a runaway train. The American establishment of wealth along with its Praetorian Guard of military and security services is firmly in control and the ability of any elected individual to redirect things seems remote, as does the initial likelihood of such a person even being elected to office.

In my heart of hearts I do still believe that Obama was the kind of man who wanted things otherwise, but the realities of those meetings at huge conference tables surrounded by square-jawed generals in uniforms stiff and glittering with brass and medals and the sneering, elusive country-club types of the security services, impenetrably self-confident in all their secret operations and resources, many of which will never even be known to a president, made him what he has become. That and the pressing demands of hugely wealthy individuals and corporations, powerful lobby groups, and the virtually daily calls from people like Netanyahu (we do know that “daily calls” is no exaggeration from a slip of Obama’s tongue several years back) have given us this failed man who may well have had good intentions at the start.

The cause of so much of the war and terror in the world, the artificial re-creation of Israel and its endless demands for the re-ordering of its region, will likely just have to run its course. It is a state which, rather surprisingly, shares a great many features with the former Soviet Union. It is monstrously over-militarized, occupied by vast and invasive security services, with no guarantees of any rights, holding millions down who don’t want to be held, and boasts an inefficient economy only kept afloat by huge subsidies from outside. I do think, just like the Soviet Union, it eventually will collapse on its own weak foundations.

As for the United States, I have long believed that the era of its unquestioned authority in the world, which it has always greatly abused, is drawing to a close. The world is not only becoming multi-polar, the United States simply cannot govern itself in many of its activities, almost like a great spoiled child who cannot stop gobbling ice cream cones. It is always pushing to excesses. Its finances are in appalling shape and it can only be a matter of time before huge corrections occur with all the terrible consequences they entail for many. It is spending unconscionable amounts it doesn’t even have on its military and security, and the exaggerated, paranoid perceptions of need motivating these expenditures reflect all that we’ve discussed above. But perhaps most important of all, it has no effective leadership, and its absolutely corrupt political system is unable to provide any, allowing the inside ruling coterie to just keep stumbling along towards we don’t know quite what.

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT IS REALLY AT STAKE IN THE ODDEST AMERICAN ELECTION SEASON OF A LIFETIME

John Chuckman

 

I keep reading stuff in British papers about what America’s Left must do in an election where Donald Trump “has thrown caution to the wind.” Each time I read anything along that line, invariably, I ask myself, “What Left are they talking about?” As perhaps few in Europe understand, there is no Left in the United States.

Bernie Sanders comes closest to being Left, but he is not only from one of the very smallest states in the Union, it is a state known for its liberal bent, something which exists in very few corners of that huge “pounding fist” of a country.

It would be refreshing if Sanders could win, but he cannot. The odds are completely stacked against him. I believe the unexpected force of his campaign, this man whose name was widely unknown west of New England in a campaign against someone whose name and face are, by contrast, as well known as Hershey bars, is a quiet wave of public recognition of just how repulsive a person Hillary Clinton is. It seems a miracle that he has run so well against her, sometimes beating or virtually tying her.

But remember, this is America we’re talking about, a plutocratic imperial power, not a democracy, and one engaged in vast military and secret state security operations. There is simply no room for a self-declared “democratic socialist.” America has no truck with socialists, even rather nice and soft ones.

Money counts hugely in politics, as it does in every nook and cranny of American life. An accurate motto for America might well be, “If it can’t be bought, it ain’t worth having.” Hillary is exceptionally well connected with, and financed by, the people who really count in shaping American government. Short of a tidal wave of support, any primary lead by Sanders would be stripped of delegates or would be defeated by “super-delegates” at the convention by party insiders.

As for Hillary being elected, nothing in my view could be a greater disaster. She has a murderous record, and I doubt she has told the truth twice in her entire life.

There is simply no question about her tendency to brutal violence. She pushed husband Bill on the needless war in Serbia. She advocated inside the administration for what became the Waco horror. She voted for the illegal invasion of Iraq. She ran at least part of what went on in Libya, a black operation to gather weapons and men to send to Turkey for terrorizing Syria. And we have her brutal idea of humor, complete with sneering laughter, about Gadhafi, a man who on the whole did a decent job of governing in a difficult part of the world: “We came, we saw, he died.” She supports Israel’s worst bloody excesses with a smile and regularly takes money from some of the people who work strenuously to keep them going.

Trump carries a great deal of heavy baggage, and has said many things with which I totally disagree, but he does not have Hillary’s record of death and destruction on a grand scale. He may often be quite unpleasant, but Hillary is almost certainly a psychopath whose narcissistic personality feels driven and entitled to be President so she can continue toying with human beings. I reject 90% of what Trump says, but I reject just about 100% of what Hillary has actually done.

There is one area, and a very important one, where possibly Trump can do something good for the world, and that is foreign affairs. Some of his views there are sound, sounder by far than Hillary’s. His views on matters like Syria and Russia are entirely rational and not weighed down by America’s malicious policies of the last quarter century, policies which Hillary not only supports but helped to establish and execute.

A vote for Hillary is a vote for more American bullying and terror in the world, and that is not in the least an exaggeration.  Terror is the right word for what America has done in the Middle East: it has crashed and raged through the region, leaving it in blazes. Hillary has served as a “willing executioner” in that hellish effort.

If you look at the groups and individuals who are key Hillary supporters, it is a pretty grim picture. It includes many corrupt and brutal foreign governments such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and Israel, and a vast collection of gigantic international corporate special interests, even financial terrorists like the firm of Goldman Sachs who played a key role in the collapse of 2008 and who have never really been called to account for bringing so many to ruin. There is not a glimmer of genuine liberalism or democratic ideals in the people paying and easing her way, although she likes to put on her best clownishly little-girl face and claim how interested she is in the welfare of ordinary Americans at campaign stops.

If we could only gain some sense and rationality in America’s foreign affairs, it would be a genuine advance for the entire world. Almost certainly you have to pay a price for doing that in a place like the United States. Nothing comes free in a throbbing plutocratic power. That price may be living with Trump’s many unpleasant aspects.

The neocons especially see that possibility in Trump, which is why they hate him beyond telling. Already many have said really ugly things in public. And, remarkably, the word “assassination” keeps popping up in those circles. That fact alone should tell us how destructive the impact of the neocons has been upon America’s own society.

It would have been unthinkable fifty years ago for prominent Americans to talk or joke of assassinating a political candidate.  That is how low American society has sunk during its long march with neocons, bombing, invading, promoting terrorism through proxies, and assassinating in the Middle East and in places like Ukraine – virtually all of which derives from the special influence of the neocons.

The political poverty of America was embarrassingly displayed in the original field of Republican candidates which resembled nothing so much as Madame Tussaud’s Chamber of Horrors. Fortunately, most of them are gone. As for Ted Cruz, the neocons’ possible “go to” man for stopping Trump, he is, just for a start, a right-wing religious wacko. There is a video of him on-line sitting at breakfast holding hands with his perfect little suburban family praying over the Sugar Pops. Staff working for Cruz include neo-con and CIA-types, and his wife is associated with Goldman Sachs. He is intellectually gifted, but many of his old associates in government say he is an extremely unpleasant man with which to work, extremely arrogant, and one not to be trusted, being given to treacherous turns. His former roommate at Princeton tells of getting e-mails from other students asking why he didn’t suffocate Cruz with a pillow while he had the chance. At least one person has commented on his resemblance to a serial killer. It would be a pretty desperate move by Republicans to try stopping Trump by loading Cruz, a man they simply don’t like, with money and influence. And I tend to feel the effort would fail in any event.

You get nothing free in a big, ugly place like America, so if you would like to see some end to a quarter century of brutal wars and the savage practices which have taken root under Bush/Clinton/Obama, perhaps you need to take a chance.

As few non-Americans realize, in domestic affairs the American President’s office is a rather weak one. It was designed to be that way. We have seen the frustration of Obama trying increasingly to govern by executive order, a pernicious practice not much different than imperial fiats, but even with that practice he has made little headway in this rigidly structured society. And no one, certainly no genuine liberal, ever can, without fundamental changes we have no reason to expect any time soon. America in its governance much resembles a giant wearing a huge, thick suit of concrete.

It is only in the area of military and foreign affairs that the American President has some real power, and that is an area which needs serious change. It won’t happen under bloodthirsty Hillary, loyal servant to neocon interests.

As far as ugly stuff like great walls or drastic changes to migration, Trump could do nothing without both houses of Congress, so they are proposals unlikely to become realities. Even on such domestic subjects, however, we do hear echoes of the neocon influence. After all, Israel has built many walls and builds more now, all on other people’s land and all of which prevent normal life for millions of others. It couldn’t be more unfair and anti-democratic, but the same people viciously attacking Trump for his proposals are the last ones to say a word about Israel’s actual practices. So those most violently attacking Trump cannot claim concerns for human decency or human rights motivate them, although they very much pretend to do so rather than being open about their real motives. Calling Trump a fascist over mere rhetoric and proposals is pretty ridiculous when we see Israel’s actual practices left unquestioned by crowds of prominent people.

 

 

HILLARY’S SECRET LETTER AND THE WHOLE MATTER OF ENDLESS WAR AND THE ALMOST COMPLETE CORRUPTION OF AMERICA’S GOVERNMENT

 

John Chuckman

 

An almost perfect measure of the decay of democratic values in American politics is found in a letter from Hillary Clinton to Haim Saban, a wealthy American-Israeli and a major contributor to the Democrats. It is a letter whose only purpose is to elicit funds, ingratiating its author to the recipient by condemning the perfectly legitimate right of free people to choose boycotting Israel over its appalling behaviors.  The letter is disturbing in some of its views and characterizations, but it has been reviewed and remarked upon by many, as here.

We were not supposed to know this, but there are actually two letters. The first letter was released by its recipient, but the second letter was intended only for its recipient’s eyes. Somehow, it managed to be leaked to The Guardian, although in searching the Internet to discover just what happened it seems Google has done a pretty good job of sweeping over the trail.

It is the second letter, the one we were not supposed to see, which goes beyond being disturbing.

I am not exaggerating when I characterize it as something comparable to words which might have been written by… well, choose the name of any grisly dictator, but Adolph Hitler’s would have to be the one jumping to the minds of most people. This second letter’s words are absolutely chilling. If you think I’m exaggerating, here are Hillary’s words:

“Quite frankly, Israel didn’t teach Hamas a harsh enough lesson last year. True to form, Obama was too hard on our democratic ally, and too soft on our Islamofascist foe.

 “As president, I will give the Jewish state all the necessary military, diplomatic, economic and moral support it needs to truly vanquish Hamas – and if that means killing 200,000 Gazans, then so be it.

 “We realist Democrats understand that collateral damage is an unavoidable by-product of the War on Terror, and me being a mother, grandmother and tireless children’s rights advocate does not mean that I will flinch even one iota in allowing Israel to obliterate every last school-cum-rocket launching pad in Gaza. Those who allow their children to be used as human shields for terrorists deserve to see them buried under one-ton bombs.”

 Let’s just analyze a few of the more unacceptable and repugnant statements in this letter.

“Israel didn’t teach Hamas a harsh enough lesson…”

In 2014, Israel killed over 500 children plus another 1,700 adults in Gaza, and that came after another invasion, 2008, and a series of operations beginning in 2006, which saw Israel kill more than another 1,500 Palestinians. It should be noted that the Palestinian population is a young one, so a disproportion of children is always at risk in any attack. We had reliable reports that Israeli soldiers grabbed Palestinian children to hold in front of them in a number of instances. We also had first-hand reports of families being targeted.

Over this period, Israel has maintained a brutal blockade of Gaza, which in its first inception included an actual calorie count for the amount of food which could just keep a person alive, an idea we might want to credit to Himmler. International pressure brought an end to that aspect of the blockade, but even today the Palestinians cannot get cement to repair their sanitation and homes. Israel also launched its infamous Gaza flotilla raid in 2010, seizing half a dozen ships attempting to bring aid to Gaza and killing 10 crew members, all of them unarmed.

I remind readers just what Gaza is. It is essentially a huge refugee camp, a place where Palestinians huddled for protection from Israel’s 1948 terror campaign against residents of ancient villages long since bulldozed out of existence. Today, surrounded by fences and guards and towers with automated, radar-operated machine-guns, Gaza resembles a vast outdoor prison, or, if you will, a Bantustan or concentration camp. Even its fishermen are allowed to go only a short distance into the sea before being attacked by Israeli gun boats. Periodically, Israel does dirty work like cut its power or foul its water. Recently, a huge swath of land around its perimeter was sprayed with herbicides, cutting food supplies and insuring future malformation of children, just as we see in Vietnam as a result of America’s use of Agent Orange.

“…our democratic ally…”

 Israel is certainly one of the world’s strangest “democracies.” About half the people living under its rule do not want to live under its rule, have no votes, have absolutely no rights, and are treated in the most abusive manner. Even their homes are not their own with Israel periodically seizing them for its own purposes.

Then we have the fact that only Jews are supposed to live in “the Jewish state.” Only Jews are welcomed. Indeed only Jews are accepted. Other kinds of refugees are turned away. There is a government program underway right now to clean out the Knesset, Israel’s legislature, of its few Arab members. These are the representatives of Arabs trapped in what became Israel in 1948 and reluctantly granted citizenship, although in daily practice and in many laws, Arab citizens are not deemed as full citizens, identity papers are stamped and they are subjected to hearing regular demagogic demands that they all be pushed across the Jordan River and out of the country.

If you consider Israel a genuine democracy, then you must also view the American Confederacy or South Africa under the National Party as democracies. They both held elections and had legislatures and the dress-up appearances of democracy. It was just that huge numbers of those countries’ people could not vote and could not own certain property and had no rights.

Israel’s so-called democracy has other serious impairments, including a structure for the role of money in politics that much resembles America’s. It is at best a plutocracy. Millions pour in to favored candidates like Netanyahu from sources like American billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Israel has another highly undemocratic characteristic, and that is its aversion to democracy in countries or groups anywhere near it. It always has supported happily tyrants like Mubarak in Egypt and has worked assiduously to get what was a democratic organization like Hamas declared and treated as some kind of terrorists.

If Israel is, as Israelis like to say, the Middle East’s only democracy, I think we can be glad there are not more such democracies.

“…our Islamofascist foe…”

 Since when are the Palestinians – who, as is often ignored, include both Islamic and Christian people – “our foe”? I don’t recall them threatening or attacking anyone? Women and children and hard-working men on farms and in shops are our foe? People without even the semblance of a military?

Since when are they “Islamofascists”? They are just people driven out of their own ancient homes and farms by groups of well-armed newcomers from Europe and America. And what is an “Islamofascist,” beyond a slur term coined in Israel for people who are resented, hated, and abused merely for the fact of their very existence? We did briefly see in the last assault on Gaza how ugly things get in Israel, something generally kept from our eyes, with video of Israelis in lawn chairs on the heights watching homes being bombed and cheering as though it were the home team scoring a goal at a football match.

“I will give the Jewish state all the necessary military, diplomatic, economic and moral support it needs to truly vanquish Hamas…”

 What in God’s name does that mean? America literally pours military, security, and technical assistance into Israel. There is continuous typhoon of it hitting Israel’s shores. And how would more help “truly vanquish Hamas”? What would be the shape of that? A couple of thermonuclear weapons lobbed into Gaza? But Israel already has its own thermonuclear weapons, albeit through lying and deceit and even theft and against the intent of all international law and organization, although with the secret contrivance and acceptance of a couple of generations of politicians like Hillary.

Why should Hamas be vanquished? It was elected to office in a clean election, likely cleaner than most American and Israeli elections. But I forget, Israel hates having democracies anywhere near its borders. It prefers dealing with – when it deigns even to speak to its neighbors – men like Mahmoud Abbas, who last legally held office in 2009 and has unilaterally extended his own term as President ever since, and who is completely ineffectual in his relations with Israel.

We shouldn’t forget that after Hamas’s internationally-supervised election, Israeli troops raced into Gaza and illegally arrested many of its elected officials. It also publicly threatened the leader’s assassination. Funny, but I don’t recall things going the other way from this supposedly terrorist organization. After all, it earned the “official” designation as terrorist from politicians like Hillary Clinton or Newt Gingrich or Dick Armey working to keep those pro-Israeli campaign funds flowing in.

All of the horrors of invasions, bombardments, and blockades came after that simple election. Israel hates Hamas because it does not do exactly as it is ordered to do. Always the excuse is used that Hamas won’t recognize Israel as “the Jewish state,” but that view deliberately hides many legitimate issues. In conflict or disagreement, countries typically do not extend formal recognition. The United States has done this countless times, including for the last half century with Cuba. It did it for years with the Soviet Union.

But Israel’s case is not just a matter of formal recognition. There is a subtle but immensely important difference. It wants recognition as “the Jewish state.” What would happen to those million or so Palestinians who hold Israeli passports and are now at least nominally Israelis? Forced marches across the Jordan River? What happens to the many important Palestinian claims on Israel? What claims do you think a non-Jew can have in “a Jewish state” under purely Jewish courts and laws? What happens to the entire West Bank, which exists under Israeli occupation and is regularly predated by sudden demands for non-Jewish properties? This is no simple issue as Israel repeatedly and tiresomely insists that it is.

You are not a terrorist because you refuse to accept Israel’s terms: you are a people looking out for your own interests, something all people have the right and need to do. Israel always insists that this acceptance come before any other matters can be dealt with, and it then turns to the press and says, “See, I told you, they are terrorists.”  Simply absurd, expecting people to just lie down and let you do whatever you want to them!

“…and if that means killing 200,000 Gazans, then so be it…”

 Only a person so exceedingly biased towards Israel as to be effectively blind would fail to recognize the tone of those words. They could easily have been written by Adolph Hitler or one his charming goons such as Heinrich Himmler or Joseph Goebbels.

In the churches and schools where I was brought up, such speech could never be countenanced, yet here it is, written by a woman who was Secretary of State now wants to be President. She obviously knows enough to keep this morally-filthy language secret, hence her method of the second letter. So, even in her, maybe there is some little remaining sense of shame? But I doubt it because she is writing these ghastly words for what purpose? To ask for a large amount of money.

Now, if you wrote words like that in Israel or in a number of countries, only changing the name of who are to be killed in mass, you would most certainly go to prison, besides being labelled a terrorist for life. Apparently, when Hillary learned that this letter leaked, she made the excuse that there had been a typo, that it should have read “20,000.” Her moral and ethical organs are so charred and twisted that she actually thinks 20,00 people killed sounds okay, just fine, maybe ten times as good as killing 200,000?

But of course, Hillary is grotesquely lying even in this excuse, as she has lied innumerable times over her adult life, an ongoing stage play we have all enjoyed in the news: watching her defend her predatory husband for the sake of future political success, watching her politically-motivated statement of being shot at in Bosnia in 1996, a claim almost instantly proved fraudulent by the press, watching her squirm and lie about what really happened during the murderous events at Benghazi, and watching her lie as she is investigated about using her private server for top secret material as Secretary of State.

“Those who allow their children to be used as human shields for terrorists deserve to see them buried under one-ton bombs”

 This statement is so sick and twisted, it is frightening. It begs the whole genuine issue of whether any Palestinian ever did this, while we know from witnesses that Israeli soldiers did. Just what is it here that we are talking about where children are said to have been used as shields? A full-fledged invasion by heavily-armed troops, supported with tanks and artillery and fighter planes into a densely-crowded civilian area, often aptly described as an open-air prison for a million and a half souls. How could children avoid becoming targets? In the poor places of the Middle East with their high birth rates, children are a greater portion of the population than in advanced countries. Only a genuine monster would launch such an invasion, and only an equal monster would defend it.

To my mind, this damnable behavior of Israel’s could be compared to, say, the Detroit Police Department, supported by the Michigan National Guard, invading the ghettos of Detroit to capture a few criminals and killing literally thousands of innocent people in the process and leaving the place a pile of rubble. The whole world would be appalled. But even that comparison is inadequate. Israel was not chasing criminals. What Israel was really hoping to do was murder the leaders of Hamas, a legitimate political party. But even if Hamas were not a legitimate party, Israel’s act is comparable to Detroit’s police and National Guard killing thousands to try getting a few members of the Black Panther Party in the 1970s.

We’ve surmised that things like this letter go on in private because we see our politicians countenancing mass murder and we see the entire Middle East in flames owing to the same cause. But having the paper in hand is another matter. For instance, we know Newt Gingrich received the best part of $20 million for his last nomination campaign from billionaire Sheldon Adelson and proceeded to make campaign speeches about there being “no such thing as a Palestinian.”

We know former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, a man whose career was well financed by special interests, actually said in the late part of his career that Israel should just sweep all the Palestinians out of the country.

We know that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in response to a question about 500,000 deaths of children in Iraq, “We think the price is worth it,” and does anyone wonder why Albright not only strongly supports Hillary but recently spoke of “a special place in hell for women” who didn’t support Hillary?

It tells us a great deal of the lengths to which an American politician will go to secure large sources of funds. It tells us too something about her relationship with the recipient that Hillary believed she could freely address him in such an appalling fashion. Finally, it confirms everyone’s worst fears about the Israel Lobby and the extremes to which its supporters are prepared to go.

We all know there is a huge amount of behind-the-scenes, dirty dealing in American politics, but not just in politics, in foreign affairs. There is no other explanation for the murky, bloody swamp into which America’s government has towed the country. America has been continuously at war for a quarter century. It has killed great numbers of people and destroyed whole societies. And none of those people threatened the United States, not even the Taleban who were arbitrarily and without proof held responsible for the events of 9/11.

Virtually all of it relates directly or indirectly to Israel and making the Middle East comfortable for a state which itself never hesitates to threaten, attack, kill, imprison, torture to gain its objectives, its objectives being to enlarge itself far beyond its original accepted boundaries, to reduce the native Palestinian population of millions to such miserable discomfort that they flee their homes, and to assure itself of hegemony throughout the region, seeing independent-minded leaders like Assad or Gadhafi literally murdered and their countries torn apart.

It is a program which parallels closely historical examples which none of us has been taught to admire or approve, historical examples which have caused great wars and massive human misery. We have established some of our greatest international institutions precisely out of the wreckage of history with the aim of not letting it happen again, but today every one of these institutions is compromised by American pressure on Israel’s behalf, the work of corrupt politicians like Hillary Clinton.

So it is happening again, although on a smaller scale – though I wouldn’t want the job of explaining to the people of Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, and a number of other places that their desolation and misery are on a smaller scale.

The present Secretary General doesn’t even peep at America’s many appalling acts. Past Secretaries General who managed to get elected despite their opposition to American imperialism – an example was Boutros Boutros-Ghali – were removed in behind-the-scenes plots. Madeleine Albright for example won her State Department spurs arranging just that kind of thing. Combinations of threats and bribes do the job nicely, and, of course, the UN hasn’t forgotten the long period of time the United States simply refused to pay its treaty-required dues, a quarter of the institution’s budget.

But ordinary Americans and others rarely get even a peek at any of the details going into the shaping of their world. Here is one small instance where they do, and it is a telling one.

 

FOOTNOTE: It comes to my attention that there is reason to suspect the original source of the second letter. It may well have been a hoax. But even if that proves to be the case, I stand by my comments and observations as things which needed saying, having their own validity quite apart from that of the letter.

OBAMA’S TEARS

 “Even those tears, I me mine

“I me mine, I me mine” – the Beatles

 

John Chuckman

 

Had I seen the image of Obama, weeping over American gun deaths, seven years ago, I know I would have been deeply moved. It would have reinforced my view of him then as an empathetic, bright, and progressive politician. And I did then, and do now, find America’s violence – all of it, not just the small fraction of it seen in street killings – an appalling assault on the human spirit.

But the image comes seven years later, following a period of Obama’s proving himself an utterly cold and dry-eyed killer. Actually, apart from seven years packed with regular killing and support of others doing killing in at least half a dozen lands, he is reliably reported to have once said at a high-level meeting, without tears or the least change in demeanor, “I’m pretty good at killing.”

I don’t know whether the recent tears were artificially induced, as by an irritant placed on a fingertip to be touched to his face at the right moment of his performance, or squeezed out from heretofore unknown political acting talent. Perhaps they just reflect a kind of strangely compartmentalized brain.

This last possibility would make him more bizarre than I had come to regard him. I had come pretty much to accept him as just one more of the garden-variety psychopaths who have held the American Presidency for decades. There were even rumors, stemming from gaps in his resume, that he was CIA, an organization that employs a lot of psychopaths and has now deeply penetrated America’s elected government, having itself produced several presidents – George Bush père for sure – and other high office holders. The practice is equivalent to the Mafia’s having a “made man” on the bench of a high court.

After seven years of mass murder, dirty tricks destroying countless lives and destabilizing many peaceful lands, thousands of extrajudicial killings conducted by young thugs from basement computer-games rooms at CIA, and unblinking acceptance of such brutal savageries as we’ve seen from Israel or Saudi Arabia or Turkey, his tears truly mean nothing, except perhaps somewhere in the back of his own dark and terrible mind.

Only a few days before my writing this, I read of Israel spraying a huge swath of land inside the boundary of Gaza with a deadly herbicide. So these miserable people – these people who cannot even import cement to repair Israel’s savage destruction of homes and schools and public sanitation in 2014 – are now also to live with reduced arable land plus the virtual certainty of heavy future birth defects, much as the Vietnamese still experience from America’s hellish saturation of their land with Agent Orange about half a century ago.

That Nazi-like behavior solicited no teary scenes from Obama, just as Israel’s slaughter of more than 500 children and 1,700 adults in 2014 solicited not a tear from Obama, not so much as an awkward throat-clearing.

I don’t know what caused him to cry in his little performance about guns in America, but if you tell me it was because a decent human was overwhelmed momentarily by America’s hideously murderous society, I will not even bother to answer.

As remarkably few in other lands appear to grasp, America is a massively brutal society. This is true both at home and abroad, and I should know because I grew up there. I also know it will not change within the lifetimes of any readers, the overwhelming size and nature of the situation being beyond what many outside observers can imagine.

Certainly the insipid measures Obama has taken will not make a dint in the toll. Strangers to American society simply cannot imagine how many guns are floating around there. A recent Small Arms Survey estimated 270 million small arms, but there are a remarkable number of military-grade weapons in private hands as a result of exposure to a vast armed services with its galaxy of local military bases, major national guard organizations and facilities in every state, and the past heavy arming of police and numerous agencies such as the TSA. The kind of police who beat up drug suspects and take their money are also the kind of police who illicitly trade in guns, and America has large numbers of them amongst its rag-tag collection of a million or so.

America swims in guns, and there is a vast market just in private sales and stolen guns. There will always be a market under such conditions no matter what regulations Washington may impose. And increasingly, the individual states have permitted what was in my day in Chicago a serious felony, the concealed carrying of guns. Some also allow citizens to carry them openly in holsters.

Remember, there is not just the matter of thousands of murders and countless maimings each year. There is, as was revealed by The Guardian for the first time ever, 1,134 people killed by their own police in 2015. It all charges the atmosphere of the United States with a kind of regular, low-grade terror. And America’s prisons have an international reputation for brutality. They include such barbaric innovations as super-max prisons (in which prisoners live out entire lives in total isolation), private profit-motivated prisons, and a prison population whose total size dwarfs that of all other advanced countries.

I read in British newspapers, discussing Obama’s efforts, expressions from readers such as “it’s about time” or “those awful Republicans,” and I know they reflect views of people who just really do not understand America.

America is a country which has killed at least 6 million people over the last half century abroad, virtually all the killing to no purpose other than America’s trying to have its own way in places as distant as Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Chile, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and still others. If you think violence officially sanctioned on such a scale has no effect on the country responsible for it, you are extremely naïve.

Much of the killing was savage beyond description, employing fire bombs, napalm, white phosphorus, Agent Orange, carpet bombing, and that truly hideous invention, cluster bombs.

America also remains the only country ever to use nuclear weapons, twice, on civilian targets of no military significance, and this after Japan had made strong feelers for its surrender. No, for America only unconditional surrender was acceptable. And a series of 12 atomic bombs for 12 cities was scheduled. Some sensible minds questioned the lunacy, considering that Japan had been almost flattened by a ferocious campaign of fire-bombing, so that not one primary or even secondary military target was left standing.

The fact that only two atomic bombs were used had nothing to do with America’s humanity. In later years, detailed plans for massive atomic attacks on Russia and China were drawn up, the last of which so far as I am aware was in 1961, being earnestly advocated to President Kennedy by the insane men then running the Pentagon. Nuclear weapons also were seriously discussed as options during the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Vietnam War.

America is, far and away, the world’s largest arms dealer, literally dwarfing the trade in death machines of any other country, and it sells its arms to tyrants and madmen across the planet enabling players like Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, or Egypt to hugely expand the total number of deaths for which America is responsible.

America also spends as much on its military as all the world’s militaries combined. It is an obscene amount of money dedicated to killing and oppression.

American advisors are in the business of advising kings and tyrants how they can control people and efficiently kill them if needed. America had an outfit called The Army School of the Americas which became infamous for its teaching military personnel sent from Latin America in the fine points of killing and torture. Today it’s been reborn as the bland-sounding Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

In a county like contemporary America, with its often poor employment prospects for young adults, the military is a major employer. It has an elaborate enticement system to attract young people. General military training anywhere consists of just two central matters: how to be doggedly obedient and how to kill people. So every year in America, many thousands of such young people are dumped back into the general population. Many of them then go on to become police because military service is a favorite entry qualification. Many of them remain unemployed. Some even homeless.

There are not just the regular armed forces involved in saturating the country with military values and attitudes, there are also the huge national guards and reserves and high school and college ROTCs. It is a massive effort, blanketing a supposedly democratic society with undemocratic and violent ideas. You might view it as kind of a national immunization program, immunization against democratic and human values, conducted year-in, year-out. So the young generation of Americans is constantly immersed in the concepts of blind obedience and killing. And all this is further reinforced by the vast numbers of Americans dependent upon work at its many regional military bases and other facilities.

Just a portion of this avalanche of annual spending on murder might have created countless new opportunities in America with new and better schools, better medical facilities, improved housing, and intervention into troubled families. No, instead, everything is just allowed to rip, and on the streets of Chicago and other cities, week-in and week-out, the toll of young blacks resembles minor battle scenes with as many as twenty-five shot (not all killed) on a single week-end.

That brings us to yet another aspect of American violence and passion for guns. America remains in many respects just as divided a society on racial lines as it was a century ago. The unspoken reason for many Americans keeping guns is the same one that caused Southern plantation owners to sleep each night with a knife and a pistol under the pillow. It rarely is openly discussed, but it is there like a great unnerving presence in a thousand dark places.

There is yet one more dimension to American violence. About half a dozen years ago, a study, led by a Harvard Medical School researcher, found evidence of mental problems in 26.4 % of people in the United States, versus, for example, 8.2% of people in Italy. The researchers were concerned with matters such as lack of access to treatment and under-treatment, but for those concerned about a safe and decent world, I think the salient finding is simply America’s high percentage. The world is being led by a nation where more than one-quarter of the people have genuine mental problems.

I’m afraid America’s movie industry has created sugary fantasies about America which still influence the views of many abroad. There really are no Jimmy Stewart types, with tears in the eyes and benign expressions, running America.

And in case you missed it, even in as sugary a confection as “It’s a Wonderful Life,” sobbed over by millions every Christmas season, some raw truth creeps in. Jimmy Stewart’s run-in with Bert the cop ends with Stewart running madly away in the snow and good old Bert pulling out his pistol and firing several times, trying to hit Stewart in the back and putting at risk pedestrians up and down the charming street. That’s the truest scene in the film.

And that is America. Fine-tuning and tears are about as fitting for the state of America as they would be on the Russian Front in World War II, the most horrendous conflict in all of human history in which 27 million Soviets and millions of Germans perished.

DONALD TRUMP IS ELECTABLE AS PRESIDENT, BUT…

John Chuckman

I think it entirely possible Donald Trump could be elected President. I am not in favor of it – but then neither am I in favor of any of the other candidates on offer – yet I do think his election is increasingly possible. America displays every four years – almost like a temporary clothesline erected on the front lawn of the White House loaded with soiled and tattered undergarments – the sheer poverty of its political system. Every four years, a gang of mediocrities and thugs spend vast amounts of money to say, from coast to coast, nothing worth hearing.

Sometimes I wonder why anyone bothers to run for office in a long, costly, and exhausting contest which if won means four years of taking directions from the Pentagon and seventeen security agencies. America is not a democracy, and the last president who actually tried to exert some significant influence on affairs left much of the right side of his head in the streets of Dallas. But ego is a mighty powerful motivator, and the gang engaged in national American politics has plenty of it, even if few other redeeming qualities.

Trump could make Hillary Clinton regret she ever shared a stage to debate with him, especially a Hillary Clinton whose past has finally begun to catch up with her, now finally wounded by her long record of dark intrigues and vicious lies. Trump is no angel by comparison, but his focus has been on making money and aggrandizing his name, things most Americans respect. He has no political record for which to account or apologize.

He has said many things which make him sound like a juvenile given to insulting people’s appearances, and he has some proposals which would prove impossible for anyone to implement, yet somehow he has hit on some issues which find a welcome hearing by many, especially unsophisticated people who might even once have been Democratic voters. Americans are tired of unresponsive politicians, something of which they have stables full. They are also tired of the bewildering events in a world at the center of which invariably the United States finds itself. Most Americans never voted for such things and have no interest in them. Only dishonest appeals about supporting the troops keep them from rebelling, and their own increasingly difficult economic lives generate a lot of stress. America is full of frustrated and angry people, many of them not even sure what it is they are so angry about and many of whom have no time or patience to understand the world in which they live. Hard-hitting simplicities are music to the ears.

One of the sharpest ironies of Trump is that not all of his views are simplicities. Some are dead-on assessments of things which could have been avoided and leaders who failed the country. So this man comes bundled with a wide-ranging group of political goods, far more so than anyone I can recall in recent times. Just think of the simple-minded recitals of senior American politician after senior American politician. They all sound rather like Sarah Palin reciting her money-generated mantra but with differing levels of sophistication and vocabulary. She is the basic template while other models come with little tweaks and feature, but they all say nothing worth hearing. There is a very real reason for that: under America’s establishment-run, aristocratic political system, there is almost zero latitude for change either in domestic or foreign affairs, except in the field of war where more seems always welcome.

No matter what you think of Trump’s views – and the author should confess he is not an admirer of most of them – many people find it utterly refreshing to hear him touch subjects none of the usual Washington politicians touch. He goes far beyond the pathetic high-school recitation of lines by Sarah Palin. Or, I might add, the paid lies of men like Newt Gingrich and scores of others who will literally speak in absurdities in return for multi-million dollar campaign contributions. I only mention Newt because the last time he tried to campaign, he ran around the country saying there really was no such thing as a Palestinian, his quid pro quo for nearly twenty million dollars in funds from a man with claustrophobic ties to Israel.

Just think of the all the bland, say-nothing-worth-hearing types, epitomized by Jeb Bush who resembles nothing so much as a well-groomed hamster both in the sounds he makes and in his blinking-into-the-camera, insipid-smile looks. And think of all the grotesque liars who run for high office in America never telling people what really motivates or enables them or what special interests pay their way. It all really is a parody of democracy.

You might think a brash and independent-minded guy like Trump is just the answer to changing some of that, and I can well understand the hopes, but there are very powerful barriers in American society as it now has come to be organized against such hopes being realized. The first day of sitting at a huge polished conference table, greatly outnumbered by arrogant country-club security chiefs with secret budgets you cannot imagine and rigid generals whose uniforms glitter almost like Christmas trees, might just test the mettle of a Trump. Add to that the heads of great corporations each worth hundreds of billions of dollars making private appointments. And then the polished heads of mighty special interest lobby groups used to getting their way. And just who are your allies and confidants in opposing some of the things they demand? You have no political background from which you would have built such relations.

It’s a daunting and dreary picture, and you have to remember, these powerful people who compose the formidable American aristocracy are the very ones who allowed and encouraged the ugly situations into which America is straight-jacketed.

Despite Trump’s freshness and energy, a Trump victory could prove a disaster. Not because he would flirt with atomic war, something Obama now already does regularly, or create vast new domestic schemes. Of course, the scheme of building a fence across Mexico and rounding up and returning all illegal migrants is vast indeed – a virtual moon-landing project from scratch – but this author thinks it would fortunately prove impossible. Even if the American aristocracy permitted him to pursue such a Don Quixote project, it would only be in order to gain his compliance in other, far more important and consequential matters such the vast, destabilizing, and murderous wars in the Middle East and the bullying of Russia and China.

On top of all that, Trump has made some deadly serious enemies, and number one on the list is Israel and its supporters who view him as not adequately friendly to Israel’s interests.

When Trump, for example, speaks, entirely sensibly, about leaving Syria for Putin to sort out, he goes dead against a dark and costly scheme which was in part created by Israel. They want Assad dead. They want Syria Balkanized much as Iraq is. And they are enjoying the stolen, discount-priced oil they get indirectly from ISIS through Turkey.

And they don’t want Russia gaining genuine influence in the Mideast, the United States being Israel’s source of seemingly inexhaustible assistance, permission, and protection – the provider of vast subsidies of every kind imaginable. Moreover, Netanyahu and other leaders in Israel have long striven to have Israel assume a geopolitical role in the Mideast as a kind of miniature replica of what the United States is in the world, a bully hegemon. There’s no room in that picture for Russia.

If you read the kind of columnists who regularly serve as apologists for Israel’s brutality – there’s at least one filling that role on the staff of every mainline newspaper – you find a universally negative attitude towards Trump. It has nothing to do with conservatism versus liberalism, and it certainly has nothing to do with human rights. The columnists use words about human rights to make their view more palatable to the general population of readers and to serve as a smokescreen for what it is with which they are really defending.

After all, Israel’s Netanyahu is perhaps the world’s most flagrant violator of human rights, holding about five million people completely against their will with absolutely no rights or freedoms, periodically stealing their homes and land, violating the sanctity of their religious places, and frequently just killing large batches of them – always undoubtedly with an eye to making them so miserable that they will pick up and leave. The people of Gaza are not even allowed to import cement to repair Israel’s recent destruction of their homes and institutions. I simply do not know of crueler circumstances in the world completely tolerated by America’s aristocracy.

There have been several ugly outbursts recently, including one from an executive of Colorado’s American Civil Liberties Union who was yelling about assassinating Trump voters, words I just could not believe when I first read them.

But then in past years we have had extremist defenders of Israel propose many horrible measures including one from an American lawyer who proposed summarily killing the entire families of any Palestinian acting as a “terrorist,” so the raving speech is not without precedent. The executive’s words communicate the intense level of hate which simmers. I am sure this disturbed man – since forced to quit – is not the only one with such thoughts bubbling like sewerage through his mind.

Always admirers of political hamsters and gerbils as candidates with dark eminences behind them doing the necessary filth, the Bush-Cheney model if you will, or indeed the Eisenhower-Dulles or Reagan-Casey one – the Republicans will make every effort to stop Trump with backstage political manipulations, such as a brokered convention, but they may well not succeed, his position being made quite strong by the possibility of his running as a third-party candidate, and one with huge financial resources to boot.

But if they fail, and he wins, look out for the darkest possibilities.

All this is quite terrible, but that is simply what America is today, terrible.

John Chuckman

BRITAIN’S DAVID CAMERON WANTS TO USE BOMBS TO PROSPECT FOR GOLD IN SYRIA

 

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the British Labour Party, is a man of genuine integrity and honesty in his opposition to British bombing of Syria.

Indeed, he is everything the Prime Minister of Britain, David Cameron, is not.

I think we see from the storm in the British press against Corbyn just how much the establishment values integrity and honesty, which is to say, not at all.

Almost every word of Cameron’s on the subject of bombing is deliberately deceptive.

He is in fact an intimate part of “the club” which privately regards ISIS and other murdering rogues as tools to an end, and that end is to destroy Assad and turn Syria into a rump state. The club’s members always falsely describe the situation in Syria as a civil war rather than what it truly is, an invasion of a peaceful land by the creatures of outside powers.

They freely admit ISIS is horrible, innumerable propaganda videos having established the fact for the public, but they make no move to do something genuine about it. They portray the only man who is doing something to help Syria’s brave army, Vladimir Putin, as some kind of evil figure with dreams of empire. There is a stream of propaganda and lies about everything Russia does, from its cruise missiles hitting Iran to its planes bombing hospitals, all offered with zero evidence.

Cameron’s every word on Syria is inappropriate. A British Prime Minister has no business pronouncing on the legitimacy of this or that government, especially one supported by the majority of the country’s people, clans, and armed forces. Cameron himself, posing as some cheap knock-off defender of democracy, positively Churchillian in his own eyes, enjoys the support of about 35% of British voters.

Assad’s government has fought bravely against monsters shipped in by Turkey and supplied by Saudi Arabia, Israel, and America for years now, while David Cameron sat back and pontificated.

Assad is not an angel, but he runs a state with tolerance for all religious groups in a region where that is not common, and he has often been generous in helping those badly hurt by the likes of David Cameron – for example, the millions of refugees created by the criminal invasion of Iraq. The reason Assad is hated by Cameron and his associates in “the club” is his independent-mindedness in not following Washington’s dictates. Cameron functions as a noisy little lap dog yapping and snapping at anyone ignoring his master, always in expectation of another approving stroke on the head. It truly is that simple, and all the rest we read and hear is just noisy propaganda.

Washington and Tel Aviv are determined to see Assad gone. And you must ask yourself why that should be a shared goal of the two most violent societies on earth today, each of them in a state of perpetual war and oppression of millions.

Yes, Turkey and Saudi Arabia hate Assad, too, but they mostly do as they are told by Washington.

And remember, one of those countries, Turkey, is run by a lunatic who assassinates journalists and any Kurdish person he can get his hands on, and the other, Saudi Arabia, is run by a senile absolute monarch who regularly cuts off heads and crucifies people and is conducting an illegal war in Yemen, killing civilians daily.

Those are the characters with which David Cameron shares his bed.

What is really at stake here is virtually never discussed in public: the right of countries to exist in peace without outside interference from aggressive states like America and Israel. The United Nations should be in the forefront of demanding just that, but it has been reduced to servility through internal manipulations and threats, especially threats of withholding American financial support as was done some years back. Ban Ki-moon is perhaps the most ineffectual Secretary General in memory, sometimes sounding like a pope enjoining peace with no one listening.

Britain’s bombing in Syria would be just plain old-fashioned aggression adding to that already being done by ISIS, al-Nusra, and other cutthroats. We don’t know what targets Cameron has in mind, but he simply has no business in the country, and we can be sure that if he were sincere about only attacking terrorists, Syria would have welcomed him in its desperate fight. Cameron just keeps repeating, like an unpleasant child who thinks repetition makes something so, that the government of Syria must go.

The government of Syria has not sought Britain’s help, and contrary to arrogant people like David Cameron, Syria does indeed have a government, as legitimate as most in the world.

The only people doing any bombing with the permission of the government are the Russians, and they are supporting the only people doing any real fighting, the Syrian army.

This is not a small point for all those concerned about the rule of law, which you might think would be a prime concern for those who claim they oppose terror.

It took centuries to establish some rule of law in international affairs, and today states like America and Israel and Turkey ignore it completely.

Good old David Cameron wants to join the mob, getting his bit of attention.

And it can’t have escaped Cameron’s attention how handsomely the war criminal, Tony Blair, has been rewarded for doing his dirty part in tearing apart Iraq. He has been showered with gold and sinecures.

Wouldn’t it be natural for Cameron to expect a bit of that for dropping bombs on Syria?

 

FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH IN PARIS AND THE UGLY TRUTH OF STATE TERROR

John Chuckman

Mass murder, as that which just occurred in Paris, is always distressing, but that does not mean we should stop thinking.

Isn’t it rather remarkable that President Hollande, immediately after the event, declared ISIS responsible? How did he know that? And if he was aware of a serious threat from ISIS, why did he not take serious measures in advance?

Within days of Friday 13, French forces assaulted an apartment with literally thousands of bullets being fired, killing a so-called mastermind, Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Just how are you instantly elevated to the rank of “mastermind”? And if security people were previously aware of his exalted status, why did they wait until after a disaster to go after him?

Well, the ugly underlying truth is that, willy-nilly, France for years has been a supporter of ISIS, even while claiming to be fighting it. How do I know that? Because France’s foreign policy has virtually no independence from America’s. It could be described as a subset of American foreign policy. Hollande marches around with his head held stiffly up after getting off the phone at the Élysée Palace, having received the day’s expectations from Washington. He has been a rather pathetic figure.

So long as it is doing work the United States wishes done, ISIS remains an American protectorate, and regardless of Hollande’s past rhetoric, he has acted according to that reality. But something may just have changed now.

It is important to note the disproportionate attention in the West to events in Paris. I say disproportionate because there are equally ugly things going on in a number of places in the Middle East, but we do not see the coverage given to Paris. We have bombs in Lebanon and Iraq. We have daily bombings and shootings in Syria. We have cluster bombs and other horrors being used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. And of course, there are the ongoing horrors of Israel against Palestinians.

We have endless interviews with ordinary people in Paris, people who know nothing factual to help our understanding, about their reaction to the terror, but when was the last time you saw personal reactions broadcast from Gaza City or Damascus? It just does not happen, and it does raise the suspicion that the press’s concern with Paris is deliberately out of proportion. After all, Israel killed about twenty times as many people in Gaza not very long ago, and the toll was heavily weighted with children, many hundreds of them. Events in Paris clearly are being exploited for highly emotional leverage.

Leverage against what? Arabs in general and Muslims in particular, just part of the continuing saga of deliberately-channeled hate we have experienced since a group of what proved (after their arrest) to be Israeli spies were reported on top of a truck, snapping pictures and high-fiving each other as the planes hit the World Trade Center in 2001. What those spies were doing has never been explained to the public. I’m not saying Israel is responsible for 9/11, but clearly some Israeli government interests were extremely happy about events, and we have been bombarded ever since with hate propaganda about Muslims, serving as a kind of constant noise covering the crimes Israel does commit against Palestinians and other neighbors.

It is impossible to know whether the attack in Paris was actually the work of ISIS or a covert operation by the secret service of an ISIS supporter. The point is a bit like arguing over angels on a pinhead. When you are dealing with this kind of warfare – thugs and lunatics of every description lured into service and given deadly toys and lots of encouragement to use them – things can and do go wrong. But even when nothing goes wrong in the eyes of sponsors for an outfit like ISIS, terrible things are still happening. It’s just that they’re happening where the sponsors want them to happen and in places from which our press carefully excludes itself. Terrible things, for example, have been happening in the beautiful land of Syria for four or five years, violence equivalent to about two hundred Paris attacks, causing immense damage, the entire point of which is to topple a popularly-supported president and turn Syria into the kind of rump states we see now in Iraq.

A covert operation in the name of ISIS is at least as likely as an attack by ISIS. The United States, Israel, Turkey, and France are none of them strangers to violent covert activities, and, yes, there have been instances before when a country’s own citizens were murdered by its secret services to achieve a goal. The CIA pushed Italian secret services into undertaking a series of murderous attacks on their own people during the 1960s in order to shake up Italy’s “threatening” left-wing politics. It was part of something called Operation Gladio. Operation Northwoods, in the early 1960s, was a CIA-planned series of terrorist acts on American civilians to be blamed on Cuba, providing an excuse for another invasion. It was not carried out, but that was not owing to any qualms in the CIA about murdering their own, otherwise no plan would have ever existed. The CIA was involved in many other operations inside the United States, from experiments with drugs to ones with disease, using innocent people as its subject-victims.

There have been no differences worth mentioning between Hollande’s France and America concerning the Middle East. Whatever America wants, America gets, unlike the days when Jacques Chirac opposed the invasion of Iraq, or earlier, when de Gaulle removed France’s armed forces from integration within NATO or bravely faced immense hostility, including a coup attempt undertaken by French military with CIA cooperation, when he abandoned colonialism in Algeria.

If anything, Hollande has been as cloyingly obsequious towards America’s chief interest in the Middle East, Israel, as a group of Republican Party hopefuls at a Texas barbecue fund-raiser sniffing out campaign contributions. After the Charlie Hebdo attack, Hollande honored four Jewish victims of the thugs who attacked a neighborhood grocery store with France’s highest honor, the Legion of Honor. I don’t recall the mere fact of being murdered by thugs ever before being regarded as a heroic distinction. After all, in the United States more than twenty thousand a year suffer that fate without recognition.

Israel’s Netanyahu at the time of the Charlie Hebdo attack actually outdid himself in manic behavior. He barged into France against a specific request that he stay home and pushed himself, uninvited, to the front row of the big parade down the Champs-Élysées which was supposed to honor free speech. He wanted those cameras to be on him for voters back home watching.

Free speech, you might ask, from the leaders of Egypt, Turkey, the UAE, and Israel, who all marched in front?  Well, after the free-speech parody parade, the Madman of Tel Aviv raced around someone else’s country making calls and speeches for Jewish Frenchmen to leave “dangerous” France and migrate “home” to Israel. It would in fact be illegal in Israel for someone to speak that way in Israel to Israelis, but illegality has never bothered Netanyahu. Was he in any way corrected for this world-class asinine behavior? No, Hollande just kept marching around with his head stiffly up. I guess he was trying to prove just how free “free speech” is in France.

But speech really isn’t all that free in France, and the marching about free speech was a fraud. Not only is Charlie Hebdo, the publication in whose honor all the tramping around was done, not an outlet for free speech, being highly selective in choosing targets for its obscene attacks, but many of the people marching at the head of the parade were hardly representatives of the general principle.

France itself has outlawed many kinds of free speech. Speech and peaceful demonstrations which advocate a boycott of Israel are illegal in France. So a French citizen today cannot advocate peacefully against a repressive state which regularly abuses, arrests, and kills some of the millions it holds in a form of bondage. And Hollande’s France enforces this repressive law with at least as much vigor as Israel does with its own version, in a kind of “Look, me too,” spirit. France also has a law which is the exactly the equivalent of a law against anyone’s saying the earth is flat: a law against denying or questioning the Holocaust. France also is a country, quite disgracefully, which has banned the niqab.

Now, America’s policy in the Mideast is pretty straightforward: subsidize and protect its colony Israel and never criticize it even on the many occasions when it has committed genuine atrocities.  American campaign finance laws being what they, politics back home simply permits no other policy. The invasion of Iraq, which largely was intended to benefit Israel through the elimination of a major and implacable opponent, has like so many dark operations backfired. I call the invasion a dark operation because although the war was as public as could be, all of America’s, and Britain’s, supposed intelligence about Iraq was crudely manufactured and the reasons for undertaking an act which would kill a million people and cripple an entire country were complete lies.

America’s stupid invasion created new room for Iran to exert its influence in the region – hence, the endless noise in Israel and Saudi Arabia about Iran – and it led directly to the growth of armed rabble groups like ISIS. There were no terrorists of any description in Saddam’s Iraq, just as there were no terrorists in Gadhafi’s Libya, a place now so infested with them that even an American ambassador is not safe.

Some Americans assert that ISIS happened almost accidentally, popping out of the dessert when no one was looking, a bit like Athena from the head of Zeus, arising from the bitterness and discontents of a splintered society, but that view is fatuous. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens by accident in this part of the world. Israel’s spies keep informed of every shadowy movement, and America always listens closely to what they say.

It is silly to believe ISIS just crept up on America, suddenly a huge and powerful force, because ISIS was easy for any military to stop at its early stages, as when it was a couple of thousand men waving AK-47s from the backs of Japanese pick-up trucks tearing around Iraq. Those pick-up trucks and those AK-47s and the gasoline and the ammunition and the food and the pay required for a bunch of goons came from somewhere, and it wasn’t from Allah.

A corollary to America’s first principle about protecting Israel is that nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in Israel’s neighborhood that is not approved, at least tacitly, by the United States. So whether, in any given instance of supply and support for ISIS, it was Israel or Saudi Arabia or Turkey or America – all involved in this ugly business – is almost immaterial. It all had to happen with American approval. Quite simply, there would be hell to pay otherwise.

As usual in the region, Saudi Arabia’s role was to supply money, buying weapons from America and others and transshipping them to ISIS. Ever since 9/11, Saudi Arabia has been an almost pathetically loyal supporter of America, even to the extent now of often cooperating with Israel. That couldn’t happen before an event in which the majority of perpetrators proved to be Saudi citizens and which led to the discovery that large amounts of Saudi “go away” money had been paid to Osama bin Laden for years. But after 9/11, the Saudis feared for the continuation of their regime and now do what they are told.  They are assisted in performing the banking function by Qatar, another wealthy, absolute state aligned with the United States and opposing the rise of any possibly threatening new forces in its region.

Of course, it wasn’t just the discoveries of 9/11 that motivated Saudi Arabia. It intensely dislikes the growing influence of Iran, and Iran’s Shia Muslim identity is regarded by Sunni sects in Saudi Arabia in much the way 17th century Protestantism was viewed by an ultramontane Catholic state like Spain. The mass of genuine jihadists fighting in Syria – those who are not just mercenaries and adventurers or agents of Israel or Turkey or the Saudis – are mentally-unbalanced Sunni who believe they are fighting godlessness. The fact that Assad keeps a secular state with religious freedom for all just adds to their motivation.

ISIS first achievement was toppling an Iraqi government which had been excessively friendly to Iran in the view of Israel, and thereby the United States. Iraq’s army could have stopped them easily early on but was bribed to run away, leaving weapons such as tanks behind. Just two heavy tanks could have crushed all the loons in pick-up trucks. That’s why there was all the grotesque propaganda about beheadings and extreme cruelty to cover the fact of modern soldiers running from a mob. ISIS gathered weapons, territory, and a fierce reputation in an operation which saw President al-Maliki – a man disliked by the United States for his associations with Iran and his criticism of American atrocities – hurriedly leave office.

From that base, ISIS was able to gain sufficient foothold to begin financing itself through, for example, stolen crude sold at a discount or stolen antiquities. The effective splitting up of Iraq meant that its Kurdish population in the north could sell, as it does today, large volumes of oil to Israel, an unheard of arrangement in Iraq’s past. ISIS then crossed into Syria in some force to go after Assad. The reasons for this attack were several: Assad runs a secular state and defends religious minorities but mainly because the paymasters of ISIS wanted Assad destroyed and Syria reduced in the fashion of Iraq.

Few people in the press seem to have noted that ISIS never attacks Israel or Israeli interests. Neither does it attack the wheezingly-corrupt rulers of Saudi Arabia, the Islamic equivalent of ancient Rome’s Emperor Nero. Yet those are the very targets a group of genuine, independent warrior-fundamentalists would attack. But ISIS is not genuine, being supplied and bankrolled by people who do not want to see attacks on Israel or Saudi Arabia, including, notably, Israel and Saudi Arabia. ISIS also is assisted, and in some cases led, by foreign covert operators and special forces.

There does seem to be a good deal of news around the idea of France becoming serious in fighting ISIS, but I think we must be cautious about accepting it at face value. Putin is reported as telling ship commanders in the Mediterranean to cooperate and help cover the French aircraft carrier approaching. Hollande keeps calling for American cooperation too, as Putin has done for a very long time, but America’s position remains deliberately ambiguous. A new American announcement of cooperation with Turkey in creating a “safe zone” across the border with northern Syria is a development with unclear intentions. Is this to stop the Kurds Erdogan so despises fighting in the north of Syria from establishing themselves and controlling the border or is it a method for continued support of ISIS along the that border? Only time will tell.

I do think it at least possible Hollande may have come around to Putin’s view of ISIS, but America has not, and the situation only grows more fraught with dangerous possibilities. I’ve long believed that likely America, in its typically cynical fashion, planned to destroy ISIS, along with others like al-Nusra, once they had finished the dirty work of destroying Syria’s government and Balkanizing the country. In any event, Israel – and therefore, automatically, America – wants Assad destroyed, so it would be surprising to see America at this point join honestly with Putin and Hollande.

America has until now refused Russia any real support, including such basic stuff as sharing intelligence. It cooperates only in the most essential matters such avoiding attacks on each other’s planes. It also has made some very belligerent statements about what Russia has been doing, some from the America’s Secretary of Defense sounding a lot like threats. Just the American establishment’s bully-boy attitude about doing anything which resembles joining a Russian initiative does not bode well.

After all, Putin has been portrayed as a kind of Slavic Satan by American propaganda cranking stuff out overtime in support of Ukraine’s incompetent coup-government and with the aim of terrifying Eastern Europe into accepting more American weapons and troops near Russia’s border, this last having nothing to do with any Russian threat and everything to do with America’s aggressive desire to shift the balance of power. How do you turn on a dime and admit Putin is right about Syria and follow his lead?

And there are still the daily unpleasant telephone calls from Israel about Assad. How do you manoeuvre around that when most independent observers today recognize Assad as the best alternative to any other possible government. He has the army’s trust, and in the end it is the Syrian army which is going to destroy ISIS and the other psychopaths. Air strikes alone can never do that. The same great difficulty for Hollande leaves much ambiguity around what he truly means by “going to war against ISIS.”

It is an extremely complicated world in which we live with great powers putting vast resources towards destroying the lives of others, almost killing thousands on a whim, while pretending not to be doing so. We live in an era shaped by former CIA Director Allen Dulles, a quiet psychopath who never saw an opportunity for chaos he did not embrace.

The only way to end terror is to stop playing with the lives of tens of millions in the Middle East, as America has done for so long, and stop supporting the behaviors of a repressive state which has killed far greater numbers than the madmen of ISIS could dream of doing, demanding instead that that state make peace and live within its borders. But, at least at this stage, that is all the stuff of dreams.

 

DANGEROUS FLAILING AND BELLOWING OF THE BEAST

John Chuckman

When I think of America’s place in the world today, the image that comes to mind is of a very large animal, perhaps a huge bull elephant or even prehistoric mammoth, which long roamed as the unchallenged king of its domain but has become trapped by its own missteps, as caught in a tar pit or some quicksand, and it is violently flailing about, making a terrifying noises in its effort to free itself and re-establish its authority. Any observer immediately knows the animal ultimately cannot succeed but certainly is frightened by the noise and crashing that it can sustain for a considerable time.

I think that is the pretty accurate metaphor for the situation of the United States today, still a terribly large and powerful society but one finding itself trapped after a long series of its own blunders and errors, a society certain ultimately to become diminished in its prestige and relative power with all the difficulties which that will entail for an arrogant people having a blind faith in their own rightness. America simply cannot accept its mistakes or that it was ever wrong, for Americanism much resembles a fundamentalist religion whose members are incapable of recognizing or admitting they ever followed anything but the divine plan.

America has made a costly series of errors over the last half century, demonstrating to others that the America they may have been in awe of in, say, 1950, and may have considered almost godlike and incapable of mistakes, has now proved itself indisputably, in field after field, as often not even capable of governing itself. The irony of a people who are seen as often unable to govern themselves advising others how to govern themselves brings a distinct note of absurdity to American foreign policy.

America’s establishment, feeling their old easy superiority in the world beginning to slip away in a hundred different ways, seems determined to show everyone it still has what it takes, determined to make others feel its strength, determined to weaken others abroad who do not accept its natural superiority, determined to seize by brute force and dirty tricks advantages which no longer come to it by simply superior performance.

Rather than learn from its errors and adjust its delusional assumptions, America is determined to push and bend people all over the world to its will and acceptance of its leadership. But you cannot reclaim genuine leadership once you have been exposed enough times in your bad judgment, and it is clear you are on the decline, just as you cannot once others realize that they can do many things as well or better than you.

In the end, policies which do not recognize scientific facts are doomed. Policies based on wishes and ideology do not succeed over the long run, unless, of course, you are willing to suppress everyone who disagrees with you and demand their compliance under threat. The requirement for an imperial state in such a situation is international behavior which resembles the internal behavior of an autocratic leader such as Stalin, and right now that is precisely where the United States is headed. Stalin’s personality had a fair degree of paranoia and no patience for the views of others. He felt constantly threatened by potential competitors and he used systematic terror to keep everyone intimidated and unified under him.

Stalin’s sincere belief in a faulty economic system that was doomed from its birth put him in a position similar to that of America’s oligarchs today. They have a world imperial system that is coming under increasing strain and challenge because others are growing and have their own needs and America simply does not have the flexibility to accommodate them. America’s oligarchs are not used to listening to the views of others. Stalin’s belief in a system that was more an ideology than a coherent economic system is paralleled by the quasi-religious tenets of Americanism, a set of beliefs which holds that America is especially blessed by the Creator and all things good and great are simply its due. Americanism blurrily assumes that God’s promise in the Old Testament that man should have dominion over the earth’s creatures applies now uniquely to them. Such thinking arose during many years of easy superiority, a superiority that was less owing to intrinsic merits of American society than to a set of fortuitous circumstances, many of which are now gone.

In Vietnam, America squandered countless resources chasing after a chimera its ideologues insisted was deadly important, never once acknowledging the fatal weaknesses built right into communism from its birth. Communism was certain eventually to fail because of economic falsehoods which were part of its conception, much as a child born with certain genetic flaws is destined for eventual death. America’s mad rush to fight communism on all fronts was in keeping with the zealotry of America’s Civic Religion, but it was a huge and foolish practical judgment which wasted colossal resources. In Vietnam, America ended in something close to total shame – literally defeated on the battlefield by what seemed an inconsequential opponent, having also cast aside traditional ethical values in murdering great masses of people who never threatened the United States, murder on a scale (3 million) comparable to the Holocaust. It used weapons and techniques of a savage character: napalm, cluster bombs, and secret mass terror programs. The savagery ripped into the fabric of America’s own society, dividing the nation almost as badly as its Civil War once had. America ended reduced and depleted in many respects and paid its huge bills with devalued currency.

Following Vietnam, it has just been one calamity after another revealing the same destructive inability to govern, the same thought governed by zealotry, right down to the 2008 financial collapse which was caused by ignoring sound financial management and basically instituting a system of unlimited greed. The entire world was jolted and hurt by this stupidity whose full consequences are not nearly played out.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were completely unnecessary, cost vast sums, caused immense misery, and achieved nothing worth achieving. We now know what was kept hidden that more than million Iraqis died in an invasion based entirely on lies. These wars also set in motion changes whose long term effects have yet to be felt. Iraq, for example, has just about had its Kurdish, oil-producing region hived off as a separate state.

America’s primitive approach to the Soviet Union’s collapse, its sheer triumphalism and failure to regard Russia as important enough to help or with which to cooperate, ignored America’s own long-term interests. After all, the Russians are a great people with many gifts, and it was inevitable that they would come back from a post-collapse depression to claim their place in the world.

So how do the people running the United States now deal with a prosperous and growing Russia, a Russia which reaches out in the soundest traditional economic fashion for cooperation and partnership in trade and projects? Russia has embraced free trade, a concept Americans trumpeted for years whenever it was to their advantage, but now for Russia is treated as dark and sinister. Here America fights the inevitable power of economic forces, something akin to fighting the tide or the wind, and only for the sake of its continued dominance of another continent. Americans desperately try to stop what can only be called natural economic arrangements between Russia and Europe, natural because both sides have many services, goods, and commodities to trade for the benefit of all. America’s establishment wants to cut off healthy new growth and permanently to establish its primacy in Europe even though it has nothing new to offer.

America’s deliberately dishonest interpretation of Russia’s measured response to an induced coup in Ukraine is used to generate an artificial sense of crisis, but despite the pressures America is capable of exerting on Europe, we sense Europe only goes along to avoid a public squabble and only for so long as the costs are not too high. The most intelligent leaders in Europe recognize what the United States is doing but do not want to clash openly, although the creation of the Minsk Agreement came pretty close to a polite rejection of America’s demand for hardline tactics.

The coup in Ukraine was intended to put a hostile government in control of a long stretch of Russian border, a government which might cooperate in American military matters and which would serve as an irritant to Russia. But you don’t get good results with malicious policy. So far the coup has served only to hurt Ukraine’s economy, security, and long-term interests. It has a government which is seen widely as incompetent, a government which fomented unnecessary civil war, a government which shot down a civilian airliner, and a government in which no one, including in the West, has much faith. Its finances are in turmoil, many important former economic connections are severed, and there is no great willingness by Europe, especially an economically-troubled Europe, to assist it. It is not an advanced or stable enough place to join the EU because that would just mean gigantic subsidies being directed to it from an already troubled Europe. And the idea of its joining NATO is absolutely a non-starter both because it can’t carry its own weight in such an organization and because that act would cross a dangerous red line for Russia.

Kiev is having immense problems even holding the country together as it fights autonomous right-wing outfits like the Azov Battalion in the southeast who threaten the Minsk Agreement, as it tries to implement military recruiting in Western Ukraine with more people running away than joining up, as it finds it must protect its own President with a Praetorian Guard of Americans from some serious threats by right-wing militias unhappy with Kiev’s failures, as it must reckon with the de facto secession of Donetsk and the permanent loss of Crimea – all this as it struggles with huge debts and an economy in a nosedive.

America is in no position to give serious assistance to Ukraine, just plenty of shop-worn slogans about freedom and democracy. These events provide a perfect example of the damage America inflicts on a people with malicious policy intended only to use them to hurt others. There is such a record of this kind of thing by America that I am always surprised when there are any takers out there for the newest scheme. One remembers Kissinger encouraging the Iraqi Kurds to revolt against Saddam Hussein and then leaving them in the lurch when the dictator launched a merciless suppression. I also think of the scenes at the end of the Vietnam War as American helicopters took off in cowardly fashion from the roof of the embassy leaving their Vietnamese co-workers, tears streaming down their faces, vainly grasping for the undercarriages of helicopters, a fitting and shameful end to a truly brainless crusade.

I don’t know but I very much doubt that the present government of Ukraine can endure, and it is always possible that it will slip into an even more serious civil war with factions fighting on all sides, something resembling the murderous mess America created in Libya. Of course, such a war on Russia’s borders would come with tremendous risks. The American aristocracy doesn’t become concerned about disasters into which they themselves are not thrust, but a war in Ukraine could easily do just that. In ironic fashion, heightened conflict could mark the beginning of the end of the era of European subservience to America. Chaos in Ukraine could provide exactly the shock Europe needs to stop supporting American schemes before the entire continent or even the world is threatened.

I remind readers that while Russia’s economy is not as large as America’s, it is a country with a strong history in engineering and science, and no one on the planet shares its terrifying experiences with foreign invasion. So it has developed and maintains a number of weapons systems that are second to none. Each one of its new class of ballistic missile submarines, and Russia is building a number of them, is capable of hitting 96 separate targets with thermo-nuclear warheads, and that capability is apart from rail-mounted ICBMs, hard-site ICBMs,  truck-mounted missiles, air-launched cruise missiles, sea-launched cruise missiles, and a variety of other fearsome weapons. Modern Russia does not make threats with this awesome power, and you might say Putin follows the advice of Theodore Roosevelt as he walks softly but carries a big stick, but I do think it wise for all of us to keep these things in mind as America taunts Russia and literally play a game of chicken with Armageddon. I don’t believe America has a legitimate mandate from anyone to behave in this dangerous way. Europe’s smartest leaders, having lived at the very center of the Cold War and survived two world wars, do understand this and are trying very carefully not to allow things to go too far, but America has some highly irresponsible and dangerous people working hard on the Ukraine file, and accidents do happen when you push things too hard.

In another sphere of now constant engagement, instead of sponsoring and promoting fair arrangements in the Middle East, America has carried on a bizarre relationship with Israel, a relationship which is certainly against the America’s own long term interests, although individual American politicians benefit with streams of special interests payments – America’s self-imposed, utterly corrupt campaign financing system being ultimately responsible – in exchange for blindly insisting Israel is always right, which it most certainly is not. An important segment of Israel’s population is American, and they just carried over to Israel the same short-sightedness, arrogance, and belligerence which characterize America, so much so, Israel may legitimately be viewed as an American colony in the Middle East rather than a genuinely independent state. Its lack of genuine independence is reflected also in its constant dependence on huge subsidies, on its need for heavily-biased American diplomacy to protect it in many forums including the UN, and on its dependence upon American arm-twisting and bribes in any number of places, Egypt’s generous annual American pension requiring certain behaviors being one of the largest examples.

Here, too, inevitability has been foolishly ignored. The Palestinians are not going anywhere, and they have demonstrated the most remarkable endurance, yet almost every act of Israel since its inception, each supported by America, has been an effort to make them go away through extreme hardship and abuse and violence, looking towards the creation of Greater Israel, a dangerous fantasy idea which cannot succeed but it will fail only after it has taken an immense toll. Despite America’s constant diplomatic and financial pressure on other states to support its one-sided policy here, there are finally a number of signs that views are turning away from the preposterous notion that Israel is always right and that it can continue indefinitely with its savage behavior.

Recently, we have had a great last effort by America and covert partners to secure Israel’s absolute pre-eminence in the Middle East through a whole series of destructive intrusions in the region – the “Arab Spring,” the reverse-revolution in Egypt, the smashing and now dismemberment of Iraq, the smashing and effective dismemberment of Libya, and the horrible, artificially-induced civil war in Syria which employs some of the most violent and lunatic people on earth from outside and gives them weapons, money, and refuge in an effort to destroy a stable and relatively peaceful state.

I could go on, but I think the picture is clear: in almost every sphere of American governance, internally and abroad, America’s poor political institutions have yielded the poorest decisions. America has over-extended itself on every front, has served myths rather than facts, has let greed run its governing of almost everything, and has squandered resources on achieving nothing of worth.

I view America’s present posture in the world – supporting dirty wars and coups in many places at the same time and treating others as game pieces to be moved rather than partners – as a desperate attempt to shake the world to gain advantages it couldn’t secure through accepted means of governance and policy. America is that great beast, bellowing and shaking the ground, and for that reason, it is extremely dangerous.

MORE MONEY WON’T FIX CBC

John Chuckman

I’ve heard leaders of both the Liberal Party and the NDP promise more money for CBC should either of them be elected later this year. We know CBC has suffered fairly severe cuts in funding from Stephen Harper’s bleak government. But at the same time, something else has been happening for years at CBC, and much of it has little to do with money. CBC relentlessly has dumbed itself down, hiring hosts with little interesting knowledge or even effective intelligence, muting and censoring the content of shows, and demonstrating, again and again, its implicit rejection of what should be its mandate.

A national broadcaster can never compete directly with commercial broadcasters. You don’t have to be an expert to understand that. A national broadcaster only makes sense if it focuses on quality, as a showcase for the nation’s talent, as an educator for children and the nation’s immigrants about the political and cultural nature of a country, as a forum for new ideas, and as a contributor to general understanding by others about what Canada is.

CBC is failing miserably today on all fronts. I address radio broadcasting since I am not someone who watches television, and besides it is the radio service which long has enjoyed the superior reputation, but that now has ceased to be the case. Much of what now is broadcast day-in, day-out, both on Radio One and Radio Two, is simply a waste of airtime. Blubbering about pop music for hours of every day, as CBC Radio has done now for years, is about as far as you can run away from the responsibilities of a national broadcaster.

Some once-excellent shows are decaying even as we listen. “The Current,” for example, with Anna Maria Tremonti, one of most capable interviewers Canada has ever produced, has her doing few incisive interviews, avoiding topics, and substituting Oprah Winfrey-style fluff, as for example, a half hour about plus-size women recently. I’m eagerly anticipating the “complete make-over” show. Apart from the noticeable decline in political or cultural interviews, which to my mind were the show’s raisons d’être, the now-usual Friday host and temporary fill-in is a person (aka, future possible replacement in training) who has neither the skill nor sharp intelligence to conduct an enjoyable, hard-hitting interview.

Moreover, that fill-in host just happens to be the wife of a senior newsman on the same station, raising once again the problem of nepotism and favoritism which has long plagued the radio network.

The “Sunday Edition” with Michael Enright is a mere shadow of itself, not only cut from three to two hours but filled with boring crap like precious personal essays and documentaries from wannabe producers and there is a noticeable limit on the worthiness of the people being interviewed. There is a rather viciously quiet, persistent strain of bias on some topics, one being the Middle East, injected regularly and without the least effort to balance other views. Such news and current event shows have been drained of most of their meaningful content.

The show, “As It Happens,” has been literally run into the ground, its original premise of telephone interviews with an assortment of the day’s newsmakers or eccentrics having become outdated by the timeliness of events on the Internet. Anyone who spends a bit of time on a computer knows those things before this show gets around to them today,  yet the show desperately tries to hold on and find a purpose with not-very-good interviews and even boring little panel groups.

The National News and the regional news, coming out of Toronto, border on embarrassing at times. Apart from the now-often poor grammar of newsreaders, the content is just thin and uninformative. There is no digging, there is no follow-up, and there is no judgment or concern demonstrated over clearly unanswered questions. It comments on events in other parts of the world today with no understanding and often considerable bias, often sounding as though as though press releases from Washington were being read. A truly Canadian viewpoint has just about disappeared. Reportage on other stories throughout the country is often by very young women correspondents who sound as though they just graduated from Ryerson, using the obviously-learned gimmicks of journalism courses, always attempting to end with little punch-lines, which are more often than not predictable and desperately contrived.

The parade of not even second-rate musical talent jammed into every available opening – everything from junky rap to knock-offs of soul or 1960s stuff and a lot of silly girlie-sounding elevator music – has increased steadily everywhere so that barely a few minutes pass before it starts up again. I doubt one out of ten of these is worth broadcasting, making CBC sound like what I imagine the old, fabled Ted Mack Radio Amateur Hour must have sounded like. And besides, the main content of Radio One should be intelligent talk, not music, much less starving-artist style pop music.

All of the classy, knowledgeable people on specialty shows – from Bernard St Laurent to Bob McDonald or Eleanor Wachtel or Ed Lawrence – are getting old, and one can only imagine with what teeny-bopper horrors they will be replaced.

The show, “Ideas,” originally of some interest, now is pretty much a tired, deflated balloon. There rarely is anything worthy of the name idea making an appearance. The show buys documentaries of remarkably little worth and broadcasts them with a vapid voiceover by the host.

A complete lack of imagination and meaningful direction at CBC has been running things into the ground for years. The management has only one theme, come up with some pop stuff so that we’ll be popular, and of course that’s questionable assumption as well as a dereliction of its duty as a national broadcaster.

I think the hideous Jian Gomeshi saga nicely illustrates what has happened, serving almost as an allegory, his dreary career closely corresponding with the descent of CBC into meaninglessness. Apart from his grotesque personal life, the man always was a walking mediocrity with almost nothing he said worth hearing but with a lot of bad judgment and bad taste thrown in as flavoring, yet because the show achieved some popularity – after all, if you throw enough crap on a wall, there will always be people entertained by the act – the man was allowed to run his show for years as a sadistic bully, supposed CBC principles of humanity and fairness cast to the wind by all involved. No, there’s far more in that dreary story than a man charged with rape and abuse of women, there’s the mask of the CBC ripped off to reveal a whining, inadequate, and timid management.

I simply do not see how handing over hundreds of millions of additional public funds can change CBC for the better, given the people who are entrenched there now and have made nothing but poor decisions for years.

OBAMA KILLS TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE

Hints of the dark place he is taking us

 John Chuckman

Obama has been quoted saying he “takes full responsibility” for the two hostages, one American and one Italian, killed recently in a drone attack. At the same time, Obama praised the United States for its transparency in such matters.

What in God’s name does he mean? How can you have responsibility with no consequences? Isn’t that a bit like patting yourself on the back for high principles, having just committed murder? And transparency? That also is a word without meaning when applied to a country which runs a string of secret wars and coups, a country which spies on virtually the entire planet, and a country whose warehouses bulge with so many classified documents it would take a thousand years to review them.

Obama’s use of words has no meaning, much like the lack of meaning inherent in the kind of world into which he is eagerly helping to pitch us.

He has killed two innocent people in the course of an extrajudicial killing of others who were themselves, as is usual in these attacks, mere suspects.

And it is not the first time he has done this, only the first time where we know the names and faces of his victims. We only know the names and faces here because they were an American and an Italian. Our feeble and utterly corrupt press never lifts a finger to investigate who the thousands of others have been.

Estimates vary, but something on the order of 2,500 people have been murdered this way by the United States, almost all of them innocent, ordinary people, and even America’s intended targets, supposed terrorists, are guilty of nothing in law.

If a leader uses the word terror today, he can pretty much do anything he or his sadistic military/ security/ intelligence creeps want to do. I do not see any difference in these acts from those of the former military juntas in South America who made thousands of “undesirable” people simply disappear.

There’s an old saying about democratic governments that you pretty much deserve the government you get, but the glib saying is, of course, considerably less than true. Besides, it is not a great stretch to say of America today that it is about as much a democracy as was the former Soviet Union, with the key difference being voters in America get two choices instead of one on their ballots, each of them however ready to do exactly the same things, with only minor stylistic variations. You might say the choices represent two fashion statements in one official party.

However, if Western people in general just quietly accept the institutional barbarism Obama represents, they will indeed deserve the governments they get.

And what’s hurtling towards us, far more quickly than many realize, is government entirely by and for elites – wealthy, wealthy people with their paid mouthpiece political leaders and the vast military/ security apparatus they employ – the rest of humanity being reduced to unimportant mobs to be kept under control at the smallest sign of their becoming difficult, not so very much different from prisoners and perhaps even livestock.

We actually have an early prototype of the kind of society our leaders are working towards. We see it in Israel. The word “terror” there plays the same ugly role, almost like an air raid siren, justifying literally any response.

Has the world said one word of 2,200 people slaughtered in Gaza recently and left to rot in its rubble? How about Israel’s treatment of refugees of color? I see no protest over their being horribly abused and even being turned away against international laws and conventions.

And now Israel uses dirty tricks like shipping refugees off to questionable African states whose leaders have been paid bribes to take them. Can you imagine a bright future for any of them under such circumstances? They too are more than a little likely to disappear.

Of course, assassination in many forms and in many places has played a large role in Israel’s brief history. Anyone Israel does not like is expendable, and America’s whole response to “terror” is right out of an official Israeli manual.

Israel loves to sing tired songs about democracy, but half the people under its control have no rights, no vote, no future, and are frequently openly told they are undesirable and should get out. Thousands are kept in prisons, and brutal acts like spraying farm land with filthy wastewater or with potent herbicides or cutting off power supplies are fairly regular events. When those on the receiving end get too uppity, they will be either assassinated or bombed or have their homes stolen through some of the most unjust laws on the planet.

Apart from the ghastly lives enforced upon millions of non-Jews by the “Jewish state,” Israel’s Jewish population demonstrates another part of the social model. Ordinary Israelis have quite unpleasant lives by Western standards, with home ownership out of reach, the price of everything exorbitant, being subject to oppressive army service, and living in a place which in many ways resembles a high security prison with guards, spies, and restrictions everywhere. The elites of Israel do very handsomely, thank you, just as oligarchs anywhere do, all the groaning mass of other residents’ problems and limits providing them with boundless opportunities, and most of the oligarchs freely move back and forth between continents with their dual passports to cut deals or avoid troubles.

That set of conditions and practices has become a model now for the United States, and where the United States goes, so go its weak-kneed allies like Britain, France, Germany, and even our once fair-minded Canada.

JOY OH JOY, HILLARY IS RUNNING

John Chuckman

Yes, there is still bias “out there,” as some have written, about an American woman running for President, but I do not believe the bias is decisive: after all, America has broken what surely was its fiercest taboo with the election of a black man, twice. There is, however, another bias “out there,” and a decisive one: a bias against the Clintons, a ghastly pair in almost every respect, America’s contemporary version of the Borgias – both of them grasping, vicious, ruthless, two-faced, and lacking only the Borgias’ good taste in art and literature.

Among the distinguished achievements of Hillary’s husband are the bombing of Serbia’s capital, including the offices of journalists, and the bombing of a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan claimed to be a chemical weapons plant. President Clinton bragged of “ending welfare in our time,” quite the claim for a self-styled liberal. It was his blundering, belligerent FBI and ATF that committed the atrocities at Waco. He embarrassed everyone with his grotesque personal behavior, and he pardoned some ghastly criminals in return for huge contributions to his “foundation.” He is good friends with people like Jeffrey Epstein, a registered sex offender who solicited and kept underage girls to “service” guests on his private island or on the “Lolita Express,” nick-name for his private jet – both jet and island having Clinton recorded as a guest.

Bill Clinton failed every major undertaking of worth, including healthcare reform, Hillary playing a large role in that failure. Sometimes forgotten, he also frequently played the public coward, not standing behind appointments he made when they were attacked viciously in the Senate, allowing honorable people to be pilloried, then finally withdrawing their nominations. Perhaps his greatest act of cowardice involved the genocidal horrors of Rwanda. He was aware of them quite early, but his government was instructed not to use inflammatory language in public, and he made virtually no effort to save a million lives.

His contemptible behavior should, in theory, have nothing to do with Hillary, but in fact it very much does. They were the ones going around talking up the idea of getting “two for one” during his term of office. She still treats him as a confidant and advisor, having been photographed a number of times engaged in serious tête-à-têtes, and he has had several sessions with Obama, and big money sources, concerning Hillary’s ambitions.

Both Clintons have long records of chasing, indeed grovelling in much the same fashion as the smarmy Tony Blair, after big money – money for the foundation, money for elections, she having set an unenviable record for cancerous spending when running for the Senate in New York, and they have both been involved in at least as many questionable deals on the side as several former Israeli Prime Ministers combined.

I wish a woman could run for President, but must the candidate be someone who resembles Richard Nixon in drag and shares views the late ogre, J. Edgar Hoover? Everyone who doubts what a colossally unpleasant character Hillary has in private should read the memoirs of former secret service agents. Her behavior was appalling, tasking agents with things like holding her purse in public, and shouting a stream of “f–k off” invective at them if they declined.

She has always voted for war in the Senate, including the horrible war crime of invading Iraq. She goes around making speeches – at $300,000 a pop plus a whole printed list of demanded perquisites – about America’s need for a strong defense. Strong defense? America? How does one manage to spend more than America already spends on death and destruction? Park a nuclear-loaded B-52 at every civilian airport? Supply every Boy Scout troop with heavy machine guns and plenty of ammo? The woman borders on deranged here.

She has lied countless times in office and while running for office. The bloody mess at Benghazi was her baby, and she has done nothing but lie about its embarrassing and deadly failure. The last time she ran for President, in order to bolster her image for toughness, she bragged of coming under gunfire when she landed on a visit to Bosnia as First Lady, but a news video promptly appeared which showed nothing but a sweet little girl presenting flowers to her at the airport. Of course, she had to lie again when the video turned up, saying she hadn’t remembered events clearly, but no one ever forgets coming under gun fire. It is not possible unless your faculties are in such a jumbled state you should be disqualified from office.

Of course, in the end, Hillary’s mass of deceptions and terrible associations and rotten personality really do not matter because America’s real government, its ongoing unelected one, allows no President to depart much from the established script. The last one who made a serious try had half his head blasted into the streets of Dallas.

Anticipation and excitement about the first woman candidate reminds me of America’s electing and celebrating its first black – a seemingly charming and intelligent man at the time – and he has proved just another George Bush, giving ordinary Americans nothing, and especially his own people. He weekly approves extrajudicial killings in a half dozen places, behavior completely in keeping with former South American juntas who made thousands of people just disappear, and he happily does business with tyrants and absolute monarchs and madmen like Netanyahu. Hillary would do precisely the same.

In the end, the person America elects as President makes no appreciable difference to what America does in the world or how its wealthy rulers treat their own people, a presidential election being little more than the most costly theater performance in the world, “a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing.”

THE ENDURING REALITY OF GOVERNMENT BY WEALTH AND SOME OF ITS CONSEQUENCES

John Chuckman

 

If you really want to understand the world in which we live – its endless wars, coups, interventions, and brutality towards great masses of people – you need to start with a correct understanding of the political machinery at work. Talk of liberal interventions or fighting for rights, Western values, and democracy are hopelessly naïve and mostly deliberately deceptive. America’s record in such matters is one of securing everything from bananas, copper, and crude oil concessions to, at the very least, foreign governments obedient to its mandates after removing a disliked leader, whether elected or not. There is no concern for principles outside of their being featured in blowhard, insincere political speeches. The interests of America’s government do not match the interests of ordinary people, those in America or anywhere else, and, were the informed consent of the governed genuinely involved in launching bloody adventures, they likely never would happen.

The underlying reality of how people in the West are governed now compared to hundreds of years ago is surprisingly unchanged, much the way the rules governing how chemical bonds form have not changed despite a long and great parade of events and discoveries in the visible world. Despite all the revolts, revolutions, congresses, constitutions, and great movements over the centuries, we are in fact governed in the same essential way people people were governed in 1600 or even earlier.

Of course to see this, you have to strip away the forms and rituals we have constructed over the centuries, forms and rituals which create impressive effects much like the green smoke and thunderous voice of the Wizard of Oz, a wizened old man who worked from his curtained control room, pulling levers and hitting buttons to create intimidating effects. Most Americans remain impressed with the smoke and thunder and cheap magic tricks, it requiring some dedicated effort to shake off well-done illusions, and, as I’ve written before, Americans work extremely hard in their jobs or live a kind of marginal life trying to scrape by on low wages or part-time work, either of which situations leaves little time or inclination to question what government is really doing and for whose benefit.

And so long as America remains under the rule of wealth, it is unlikely other states, as in Western Europe, will emerge from it because America’s establishment has such decisive influence – economic, financial, military, and political – over many of them.

What is considered as wealth changes over time and with economic development, and with those changes so do its interests as well as the practices of its power. Great deposits of copper ore or crude oil In the Middle Ages were virtually worthless. Wealth then was land for agriculture, forestry, and hunting, with the family names of owners determined by their estates. The revenue from that natural wealth was converted to great houses and jewels and the implements of war. War, too, was a source of wealth with most wars being little more than adventures for dominance and looting on a grand scale. Again, as in our own day, they were dressed up with slogans about principles or causes which had almost no meaning. The case of the “Christian” Crusades, which continued their pillaging and orgy of killing, on and off, for centuries, springs to mind. Soldiers and sailors, up until modern times, were not motivated by their paltry pay and poor supplies, it being understood as a condition of employment that they would enjoy a share of the bounty looted in any campaign.

Today, the forms wealth are as diverse and complex as is our society, and many of them are not apparent to ordinary people in the way great estates and hunting rights and obligations in war and peace to great lords were apparent in 800. Even as late as, say, 1850, wealth in the form of belching factories employing armies of people was often still quite apparent, but today’s complex banking and securities and financial institutions are not well understood by most people, although they represent immense wealth just as real in its demands and power as estates and obligations of the 9th century. Wealth today also comes from huge global manufacturing concerns of every description often with operations scattered out of sight, great shipping and transportation fleets, or electronic and communications empires. Land itself remains an important form of wealth where it can produce industrial-scale crops or contains deposits of valuable minerals or can generate flows of electricity or has been developed into great cities or resorts. War remains a source of wealth, only on a scale which could not have been imagined a few hundred years ago, but the spoils no longer go to soldiers in professional armies, they go to those responsible for the war, often in forms not easily recognized, as with special rights and concessions and secret arrangements.

As the nature of wealth evolved from the Middle Ages to the Modern Era, outward forms and rituals of government also changed. We have moved from the near-absolute power of kings and autocrats through aristocracies and republics with senates to a great variety of forms, parliaments and congresses, which appear designed to yield, to one degree or another, the consent of the governed.

But appearances, as in the case of the Wizard of Oz, can be deceiving.

Today, a single wealthy individual cannot make the kind of demands upon ordinary people that marked arrangements in the Middle Ages – although that must be qualified as I’m sure anyone who has become involved in a dispute with a wealthy neighbor or a great corporation will be happy to explain – but the class of wealthy people can indeed make just such demands, and they do so all the time. You will be taxed to pay for the schemes that their lobbying establishes, your water and air will contain the pollution of their manufacturing and mining, your children will be sent to kill and die in their wars, the ethics or morals you were taught as a child will be trampled upon, and virtually all important legislation will deal with the rights and interests of wealth, and not those of the broad mass of people.

In America, once in four years you will be asked to choose between two names, both of which have been closely vetted by the powers that be, to elect as head of government. Not only have they been vetted, but the immense costs of their campaigns in reaching you on television, at rallies, and with opinion polls to regularly fine tune their words will be paid almost exclusively by those whose real interests are at stake in every major election, the wealthy and their important serving institutions of government. The end effect is not really all that different than the old single-candidate Soviet elections at which the press trained Americans to sneer.

Many of America’s founding fathers had dark suspicions about the existence of wealth being secure in the presence of democratic government, and that is why they created forms – mostly adapted from Britain, a place no one regarded as a democracy then – to keep wealth safe. Over a couple of centuries, the original arrangements were modified, the country moving from a tiny one percent or so privileged voters – for perspective, that’s roughly the same as the percent of voters in China’s Communist Party deciding who rules the country – to something approaching universal suffrage, but always arrangements were made to safeguard wealth against the assumed predations of democracy.

In elections for the American Senate, the legislative body with real power, authority, and privilege, you again will be asked to choose between two well-vetted and well-connected candidates. Others may run, but they will be rendered helpless by the vetted candidates’ flood of money and resources, you will never hear their voices, and America’s press – itself an empire of wealth serving wealth – will waste no time on their views. In the case of the Senate, you will be asked once in six years to vote, with the elections staggered so that only one-third of that body faces election at any time – a perfectly-conceived formula for keeping the old bunch in charge despite issues which might have generated election discontent. In fact, you can never “throw the bums out” in America. Anyway, there really isn’t much risk for Senators running for re-election, with incumbents winning about 95% of the time. Senate seats are so secure they sometimes become family sinecures, handed down from father to son. After the election, unless you live in a small-population, insignificant state, you will never see or meet your Senator, and you will certainly have no opportunity to lobby. Virtually all seeing, meeting, and lobbying will be done by the wealthy sponsors of the successful candidates or by their hired help.

The average American Senator is said to spend two-thirds of his or her time securing funds for the next election, and such elections have now been bid-up to unbelievable amounts of money. The huge costs serve as what economists call “a barrier to entry,” a kind of high financial wall which keeps others from entering the political market, or, if somehow they do manage to enter, keeps them from effectively competing. Only the other wealth-vetted and connected candidate will have any hope of collecting a big enough pot of money to threaten an incumbent. The belief that people giving millions of dollars to candidates expect nothing in return is not even worth discussing. What they get – apart from goodies like important and prestigious appointments or valuable government contracts – is access, and access is exactly what most people never enjoy. Intimate access to politicians in high office, people always mindful of the necessity for another overflowing campaign war chest, is genuine power.

It is not impossible to have compatibility between democracy and wealth, but it requires a set of laws and regulations concerned with campaign financing, lobbying, and dis-establishing a political duopoly of two privileged parties, laws which simply cannot happen in America over our lifetimes. In America, law makes corporations persons, and the highest court, packed by judges appointed to serve wealth’s interests, has ruled that campaign money is free speech. These are not things easily turned around.

The American system of campaign financing not only assures the secure power of domestic wealth, it assures also the influence of wealthy lobbies serving the interests of foreign states, Israel being the most outstanding example. Other foreign states also exploit this system to varying degrees, but no other state has more than five million American citizens in great part keen to serve its interests. And many of them are successful, affluent, and well-placed people enjoying a connected set of organizations and well-funded lobbies. Other foreign states also do not enjoy having many of their lobbyists in America being dual-citizens, free to move back and forth between the country being lobbied and the country being lobbied for, surely an ethical issue for politics and foreign affairs of the first magnitude. It is a unique situation in many respects, and it has helped create a unique set of problems in the world.

The wealthy interests of America happen to share some important interests with lobbyists for Israel, including securing the Western world’s supply of energy and not permitting the rise of states of any power in the Middle East who disagree with America’s essential views. It is important to keep in mind that “America’s essential views” are not necessarily the views of most of the American people and that many of those “essential views” have never received genuine informed consent. Elections conducted the way America’s high-level elections are conducted are incapable of bestowing meaningful consent, especially in vitally important matters.

The Israeli-American alliance is something of an unholy one because in binding America so closely to Israel, some huge and unresolvable conflicts have been created. Israel is associated with a long series of wars and abuses in the region, and, ipso facto, so is America. Israel, given the nature of its founding, expansion, and practices, is not liked by any neighboring states, although many now cooperate secretly, and sometimes even openly, in areas of mutual interest and have learned to tolerate its existence, the way generally eased by large American bribes or equally large American threats.

Traditionally, states in the Middle East are not democracies. Their often short histories have given limited opportunity for wide-spread development and prosperity creating a strong middle-class, the sine qua non for democracy. With the United States always (insincerely) praising democracy – including Israel’s grotesque contradiction of “democracy for some but not others” – it has been caught in a bind between supporting what it says it opposes and opposing what it says it supports.

Its proposed solution was a huge CIA project, nick-named “the Arab Spring” by America’s wealth-serving and often dishonest press, a set of manufactured uprisings intended to bring a semblance of democracy to the region. It has been largely a failure, ending with some countries trapped in chaos or civil war and others, notably Egypt, briefly gaining a government Israel hated intensely, the truth being that genuine democracy in virtually any of these countries will not be friendly to Israel’s geopolitical ambitions in the region nor to those of its American promoter and protector. While the “Arab Spring” was allowed to proceed in some states, in others, where it was neither intended nor desired, such as Saudi Arabia or Bahrain, spill-over effects were deliberately and violently suppressed with American assistance. So the American-Israeli relationship now still locks the United States effectively in fighting against democracy in some countries and in supporting absolute monarchs and oligarchs in others, while in still others, such as Syria and Iraq, it is involved literally in smashing them as states, in violation of all international law and long-term good sense.

The entire situation is an ongoing disaster and is almost certainly not sustainable over the long term. How do you insist a huge country like Egypt remain a backwater without democratic rights indefinitely? How can you justify the destruction of an ancient and beautiful country like Syria? How can you justify supporting absolute monarchs and keeping their people in total political darkness? How do you continue supporting Israel in its abuse of millions, depriving them of every human right, or in its constant aggression to secure its hegemony? The drive for regional hegemony is all that is behind Israel’s constant hectoring of Iran, and how is that behavior different to the aggressive wars condemned by the Nuremberg Tribunal? It’s not, of course. Further, destructive, deliberately-induced conflicts like that in Syria, by degrading its economic advance, only slow the day for democracy’s having a real chance to emerge.

So here is America, self-proclaimed land of the free, mired in a vast situation where it works to suppress democracy, supports tyrants, and supports aggressive war because its leaders, with no genuine consent of the governed, have put it there, and this is just one of many unhealthy and destructive consequences of wealth’s rule in the United States. Wealth has no inherent interest in democracy, and it is entirely up to a people anywhere to demand respect for democracy through laws.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE CIA AND AMERICA’S PRESIDENTS
Some rarely discussed truths shaping contemporary American democracy

 

John Chuckman

Many people still think of the CIA as an agency designed to help American presidents make informed decisions about matters outside the United States. That was the basis for President Truman’s signing the legislation which created the agency, and indeed it does serve that role, generally rather inadequately, but it has become something far beyond that.

Information is certainly not something to which any reasonable person objects, but the CIA has two houses under its roof, and it is the operational side of the CIA which gives it a world-wide bad reputation. The scope of undercover operations has evolved to make the CIA into a kind of civilian army, one involving great secrecy, little accountability, and huge budgets – altogether a dangerous development indeed for any country which regards itself as a democracy and whose military is forbidden political activity. After all, the CIA’s secret operational army in practice is not curtailed by restrictions around politics, many of its tasks having been quite openly political. Yes, its charter forbids operations in the United States, but those restrictions have been ignored or bent countless times both in secret programs like Echelon (monitoring telephone communications by five English-speaking allies who then share the information obtained, a forerunner to the NSA’s recently-revealed collection of computer data) and years of mail-opening inside the United States or using substitutes to go around the rule, as was likely the case with the many Mossad agents trailing the eventual perpetrators of 9/11 inside the United States before the event.

As with all large, powerful institutions over time, the CIA constantly seeks expansion of its means and responsibilities, much like a growing child wanting ever more food and clothing and entertainment. This inherent tendency, the expansion of institutional empire, is difficult enough to control under normal circumstances, but when there are complex operations in many countries and tens of billions in spending and many levels of secrecy and secret multi-level files, the ability of any elected politicians – whose keenest attention is always directed towards re-election and acquiring enough funds to run a campaign – to exercise meaningful control and supervision becomes problematic at best. The larger and more complex the institution becomes, the truer this is.

Under Eisenhower, the CIA’s operational role first came to considerable prominence, which is hardly surprising considering Eisenhower was a former Supreme Commander in the military, the military having used many dark operations during WWII, operations still classified in some cases. In his farewell address, it is true, Eisenhower gave Americans a dark warning about the “military-industrial complex,” but as President he used CIA dark operations extensively, largely to protect American corporate interests in various parts of the world – everything from oil interests to banana monopolies in Central America. Perhaps, he viewed the approach as less destructive or dangerous or likely to tarnish America’s post-WWII reputation than “sending in the Marines,” America’s traditional gang of paid-muscle for such tasks, but, over the long term, he was wrong, and his extensive use of CIA operations would prove highly destructive and not just tarnish America’s image but totally shatter it. It set in motion a number of developments and problems which haunt America to this day.

In the 1950s, the CIA was involved in a number of operations whose success bred hubris and professional contempt for those not part of its secret cult, an attitude not unlike that of members of an elite fraternity or secret society at university. The toppling of disliked but democratic governments in Guatemala and Iran and other operations had, by about the time of President Kennedy’s coming to power in 1960, bred an arrogant and unwarranted belief in its ability to do almost anything it felt was needed. The case of Cuba became a watershed for the CIA and its relationship with Presidents of the United States, President Eisenhower and his CIA having come to believe that Castro, widely regarded by the public as a heroic figure at the time, had turned dangerous to American corporate and overseas interests and needed to be removed. Fairly elaborate preparations for doing so were put into place, and parts of the southern United States became large secret training grounds for would-be terrorists selected from the anti-Castro exile community by CIA officers in charge of a project which dwarfed Osama bin Laden’s later camp in the mountains of Afghanistan.

A just-elected President Kennedy was faced with a momentous decision: whether to permit and support the invasion of neighboring Cuba, great effort and expense having gone into the scheme. Kennedy supported it with limited reservations, reservations which became the source of the deepest resentment by the old boys at the CIA looking for someone to blame for the invasion’s embarrassing public failure. The truth is the CIA’s plans were ill-considered from the beginning, the product of those arrogant attitudes bred from “successes” such as Guatemala. Cuba was not Guatemala, it had a far larger population, fewer discontented elements to exploit, a cohort of soldiers freshly-experienced from the revolution against former dictator Batista, and Castro was widely regarded as a national hero. The Bay of Pigs invasion never had a chance of success, and the very fact that the CIA put so many resources into it and pressured the President to have it done shows how badly it had lost its way by that time.

That failure of the invasion, a highly public failure, created a serious rift between the President and the CIA. When the President, in an unprecedented act, fired three senior CIA figures, holding them responsible for the fiasco, we can only imagine the words which echoed in the halls of Langley. CIA plots against Castro nevertheless carried right on. America was an intensely hostile place on the matter of communism at that time, its press continuously beating the drums, and no President could afford politically to appear even slightly indifferent. Kennedy himself was not quite the peace-loving figure some of his later admirers would hold him to be. He was a work in progress, and he gave speeches often colored by strident martinet and jingo phrases. Secret attempts were made to assassinate Castro, and the Kennedys, at that time, undoubtedly would have been pleased had they succeeded.

Again, in some these attempts, the CIA went to great and genuinely weird lengths, including an arrangement with Mafia figures, something the public did not know until the 1975 Church Committee looking into illegality in CIA operations. Rumors and threats of another invasion, likely often fed by the CIA itself as psychological warfare against Cuba, led to the confrontation known as the Cuban Missile Crisis in late 1962. Here, more than ever, the President was ill-served by the CIA and the Pentagon. They wanted an immediate invasion of Cuba when U2 spy cameras detected what appeared to be missile installations under construction, utterly unaware that Russia already had battlefield-ready tactical nuclear weapons mounted on short-range missiles ready to repel an invasion.

The 1975 Church Senate Committee looking into earlier illegality came into being because a number of sources were suggesting the CIA had been engaged in assassination and other dark practices, matters which at that time quite upset the general public and some decent politicians. The names in rumors included Lumumba of Congo, Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, Diem of Vietnam, Schneider of Chile, and others, but since only part of the Church Report was released we cannot know the full extent of what had been going on. Another possible name is Dag Hammarskjöld of the UN. It is perhaps a key measure of how far things have deteriorated with the CIA that the Church Committee today appears almost naïve. Following the committee’s report, President Ford issued an Executive Order banning assassinations. This was replaced just a few years later by an Executive Order of Ronald Reagan’s, Reagan being a great fan of dark operations, having appointed one of the more dangerous men ever to hold the title of CIA Director, William Casey.

The CIA, of course, now runs a regular assassination air force which has killed thousands of innocent people apart from the intended targets, themselves individuals proved guilty of nothing under law. The CIA today thinks nothing of using mass killing to reach desired goals, the Maidan shootings of innocent people demonstrating in Kiev being an outstanding example, shootings which precipitated a coup last year in Ukraine against an elected government. And then there are the trained and armed maniacs which were set loose upon the people of Syria to do pretty much whatever they pleased.

Kennedy managed to resist demands for invasion in 1962, perhaps his one great achievement as President, and he took another path which eventually led to an agreement with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. That agreement, which included America’s pledge not to invade Cuba, made Kennedy a marked man. He was hated by the fanatical and well-armed Cuban émigré community, and he was hated by all the men who had devoted a fair part of their lives to eliminating Castro, the émigrés’ recruiters, trainers, handlers, and suppliers – members all of the CIA country club set whose commie-hatred was so intense it could make the veins in their foreheads pop. Some at the CIA were undoubtedly even further irked by backchannel communications which opened up between Kennedy and Khrushchev, and tentative efforts to open something of that nature with Castro. They weren’t supposed to know about these efforts, but they almost certainly did.

It is difficult today for people to grasp the intensity of anti-communist and anti-Castro feelings that pervaded America’s establishment in 1963, more resembling a religious hysteria than political views. One thing is absolutely clear, Kennedy’s assassination was about Cuba, and it was conceived out of a simmering conviction that Kennedy literally was not fit to be President. No important person who ever expressed a quiet opinion on the matter – including Mrs. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and some members of the Warren Commission – ever believed the fantasy story fashioned by the Warren Commission. Neither did informed observers abroad – the Russian and French governments for example later expressed their views – as well as a great many ordinary Americans.

Other facts about Kennedy undoubtedly added to the volatile reactions of the plotters, facts not known by the public until decades later, one fact in particular was his relatively long and intense affair with Mary Pinchot Meyer, a highly intelligent woman, socialite, and former wife of a senior CIA agent, Cord Meyer, who for a time ran Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. Kennedy and Mary Meyer are said to have had long talks about world affairs and prospects for peace, and she also is said to have introduced Kennedy to marijuana and LSD, he, given his chronic back pain, willing to try almost anything. She kept a diary which was known to the CIA’s James Angleton because he was discovered searching for it after her mysterious, professional hit-style murder in 1964 (small calibre bullet by a gun held to the head). One can only imagine the raised eyebrows of CIA officials when they learned about drugs and Mary’s influence on Kennedy (could some of their numerous meetings possibly not have been bugged?). Double betrayal over Cuba, backchannel communications with Russia, and drugs and sex with an artistic, intellectual type – those surely would have made the men who decided the fates of leaders in much lesser places extremely uneasy about the future.

My focus is not the assassination, but I’ve gone into some length because I believe it was a defining event in relations between future Presidents and the CIA. After this, every President would work under its rather frightening shadow.

Lyndon Johnson was ready from day one to give the CIA anything it wanted. Whether Johnson was involved in the assassination as some plausibly believe, or whether he was just intimidated by those involved – after all, like all bullies, Johnson was at heart a coward as he demonstrated numerous times. He wasn’t long in launching the most vicious and pointless war since World War II with the cheap trick of a story about an attack upon American ships. The CIA got right into the fun in 1965 with its Operation Phoenix, which over some years involved tens of thousands of silent assassinations of village leaders and others by night-crawling Special Forces soldiers guided to their targets by CIA agents.

Like all the CIA’s more lunatic operations – this one just kept running until at least 1972 – chalking up a toll of murders estimated as high as 40,000 and proving a complete failure in its goal of securing America’s artificial rump-state of South Vietnam. It was madness to be involved in Vietnam, and it proved in the end infinitely more embarrassing and destructive to America’s morale and reputation than the Bay of Pigs invasion, but then more a few people who knew and worked with Johnson have said that he was pretty much mad himself. The CIA fed Johnson the kind of things he wanted to hear, but the War in Vietnam was always characterized by poor intelligence, and when the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese launched the huge, surprise of the Tet Offensive in early 1968, Washington was hit by an earthquake, and a lot of people suddenly understood Vietnam was a lost cause. Johnson, always the coward, his party starting to split into factions over the matter, announced his resignation not long after.

Of course, the truth is that the information side of the CIA’s house has never been very good at its work. Apart from the abject failures of Vietnam, the CIA is said to have never once got the most critical assessments of the Cold War era, those of the Soviet Union’s economic and military strength, anywhere close to accurate. There were many reasons for that, but the perceived need to exaggerate your enemy’s strength to inflate the size of CIA budgets was an important one. Whether Big Intelligence ever really works in obtaining reliable information and reliable information which will be used by politicians is certainly a topic open for discussion. The most successful information-gathering intelligence service of the early Cold War, the KGB, often had its sometimes remarkable material questioned or cast aside by Stalin.

Richard Nixon’s demise in the Watergate scandal likely was served up by CIA dirty tricks. The Watergate break-in was in mid-1972, although it took more than two years before Nixon resigned. Some of the old CIA hands who worked for Nixon’s secret “plumber’s unit,” a private operations group which did jobs like breaking in to the Watergate Hotel offices of the Democrats, had a history going back to the assassination. They undoubtedly kept Langley informed of what steps they were being ordered to take. Nixon was a problem for some of the CIA’s darkest secrets: he was jealous and bitter towards the Kennedys for beating him in the 1960 election (he also knew election fraud was used), and he had an obsessive curiosity about the assassination, having made a number of attempts to ascertain just what happened for which he was rebuffed.

A possible second reason for the CIA’s wanting to dump Nixon was the deteriorated situation in Vietnam. The Paris Peace Accords were signed early in 1973, however there is evidence that Nixon and Kissinger actually put forward their proposals in the hope that they would be rejected and Congress then would allow them a free hand in seeking a clearer victory. But by that time even the CIA recognized the war in Vietnam could not be won by conventional means and that the interests of the United States were being damaged by its continuation. Despite press blurbs about peace, Nixon always desperately wanted to triumph in Vietnam, having gone so far in secret as to discuss the possibility of using nuclear weapons on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Despite various speculations, we have never learned just what Nixon’s burglars were after at the Watergate, and the reason for that may just well be the CIA’s having baited him with false information about what might be discovered there. The job very likely was deliberately sabotaged when old CIA hands do things like sloppy door-taping. The neat little trick alerted a security guard and led to the whole long Watergate Affair and Nixon’s eventual resignation, just the kind of neat outcome operations-types love to chuckle over at expense account lunches.

George H. W. Bush senior, the man for whom the Langley headquarters is named was more than a short-term appointed CIA Director. He had a long but never acknowledged background in CIA, a fact which has come to light from a few references in obscure documents obtained by assassination researchers over decades. He almost certainly was involved with the operations against Castro before the assassination. He was likely America’s first official CIA President. One of the regular activities of the CIA abroad is to pay secret pensions to likely future leaders in select countries so that they will be both beholden and in a position to be compromised. They do this in dozens of significant countries as part of an effort to control future relations with America. So why not take a similar approach to leadership inside the United States? The first clear example was George H. W. Bush whose single term as President gave the CIA several schemes abroad dear to their hearts, including setting up Saddam Hussein for invasion after his foolish invasion of Kuwait (done following the seeming approval of the United States’ ambassador to Iraq), and the invasion of Panama in 1989. Panama’s General Noriega had apparently done the unforgivable thing of setting up “honey traps” in which American diplomats and CIA officials were photographed having sex, giving Noriega a powerful weapon against Washington’s interference. So he was set up on drug charges – which may or may not have been true, but they were not the business of American justice – other provocations were arranged like a silly stunt about an American sailor being beaten up, and Noriega’s country promptly was invaded.

Of course George Bush Junior was not CIA, lacking the fundamental requirement of a decent brain. But his presidency was effectively America’s first dual presidency, with Dick Cheney serving as senior partner despite his lesser title, and Dick Cheney was CIA-connected, having served as Secretary of Defense under George Bush’s father, overseen such operations as Desert Storm, and after George H. W.’s election defeat, serving as Chairman and CEO of Halliburton, a gigantic oil services company which operates all over the globe. Such companies – in much the same fashion as large American news organizations such as Time-Life, CBS, or The New York Times – notoriously are well connected with the CIA. Because companies like Halliburton operate in scores of countries, deal with strategic resources, travel to remote sites, and often have access to important figures, they provide perfect cover for CIA agents and other intelligence assets. The Bush-Cheney period was certainly a golden one for the CIA in terms of institutional growth and new projects. Many ugly projects now making our world a less secure place were started in this period.

The CIA now is so firmly entrenched and so immensely well financed – much of it off the books, including everything from secret budget items to peddling drugs and weapons – that it is all but impossible for a president to oppose it the way Kennedy did. Obama, who has proved himself a fairly weak character from the start, certainly has given the CIA anything it wants. The dirty business of ISIS in Syria and Iraq is one project. The coup in Ukraine is another. The pushing of NATO’s face right against Russia’s borders is still another. Several attempted coups in Venezuela are still more. And the creation of a drone air force for extrajudicial killing in half a dozen countries is yet another. They don’t resemble projects we would expect from a smiley-faced, intelligent man who sometimes wore sandals and refused to wear a flag pin on his lapel during his first election campaign.

More than one observer has speculated about Obama’s being CIA, and there are significant holes in his resume which could be accounted for by his involvement. He would have been an attractive candidate for several reasons. Obama is bright, and the CIA employs few blacks in its important jobs. He also might have been viewed as a good political prospect for the future in just the way foreign politicians are selected for secret pensions. After all, before he was elected, there were stories about people meeting this smart and (superficially) charming man and remarking that they may just have met a future president.

If Obama is not actually CIA, then he is so intimidated that he pretty much rubber stamps their projects. A young, inexperienced President must always be mindful of that other young President whose head was half blown off in the streets of Dallas. Moreover, there are some shady areas in Obama’s background around drugs and perhaps other matters which could be politically compromising. The CIA is perfectly capable of using anything of that nature for political exposure while making it look as though it came from elsewhere.

So, when people write of America’s secret government or of its government within the government, it is far more than an exaggeration. It is actually hard to imagine now any possibility of someone’s being elected President and opposing what the CIA recommends, the presidency having come to resemble in more than superficial ways the Monarchy in Britain. The Queen is kept informed of what Her government is doing, but can do nothing herself to change directions. Yes, the President still has the power on paper to oppose any scheme, and then so does the Queen simply by refusing her signature, but she likely could exercise that power just once. In her case the consequence would be an abrupt end to the Monarchy. In a President’s case, it would be either a Nixonian or Kennedyesque end.

 

 

 

 

ISIS 101

What’s really terrifying about this threat

 

John Chuckman

ISIS certainly is not what a great many people think that it is, if you judge what they think by what our corporate press proclaims incessantly.

Judging by what ISIS actually does and whom its acts benefit, its clandestine associates, and the testimony of some witnesses, ISIS is a complex intelligence operation. Its complexity reflects at least in part the fact that it serves the interests of several countries and that it has more than one objective. Its complexity reflects also the large effort to reinforce a false image with disinformation and staged events such as a video of a beheading which could not have been a beheading unless they’ve discovered a bloodless method until now unknown to science.

The subject of ISIS is not without brief glimmers of humor. The image of bands of men, swathed in Arabic robes and bumping their way around the desert in Japanese pick-up trucks with Kalashnikovs raised in the air for every picture has elements of Monty Python. The idea of modern, trained and well-armed military units turning and running from them resembles a war scene in a Laurel and Hardy comedy such as the one with Hardy stuck upside down in a WWI tank turret kicking his legs the whole time Laurel drives towards the German positions managing accidentally to round-up a whole trench-full of prisoners with some wire fencing that becomes snagged on the tank.

Despite the tiresome stupidities we see and hear about it, ISIS unquestionably does kill people and destroy things, that being its purpose, and there is no humor in that.

ISIS appears to have served several tasks so far. First, it frightened Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, out of office in Iraq, a man America and Israel grew very much to dislike owing simply to his good relations with Iran, one of the unintended consequences of America’s invasion of Iraq being expanded Iranian influence in the region. No doubt al-Maliki was terrified not so much by ISIS approaching in their pick-up trucks as he was by his own military’s tendency, as if on cue, to turn and run from ISIS, often leaving weapons behind. The message was clear: you won’t be protected.

Second, America’s highly selective “air war” against ISIS somehow manages to attack infrastructure targets inside Syria with the feeble excuse that they are facilities helping ISIS. We’ve seen what American bombing can do when it’s undertaken seriously, and somehow I have a hard time imaging the men in Japanese pick-ups lasting long when faced with what hit the Taleban in Afghanistan or Gadhafi’s forces in Libya. The air strikes are partly a show for the world – after all, how can America be seen not to be fighting such extremely well-advertised, super-violent terrorists, guys putting out videos regularly from a studio trailer they must haul around with one of their pick-up trucks?  The air strikes’ main purpose appears to be a way of hurting Assad and assisting those fighting Syria’s army without coming into conflict with Russia, as they would with a large, direct campaign. They likely also punish elements of ISIS which have exceeded their brief and serve as a reminder to the rest of what could happen to them if they stray too far from their subsidized purpose once the war comes to an end.

Three, in some of the ground fighting in Iraq where we’ve read of Iraqi units fighting ISIS, the units are often Kurdish, and sometimes the press uses expressions like “Iraqi and Kurdish troops.” But the Kurdish region is still part of Iraq legally, although it has been given a good deal of autonomy by the central government. The Kurdish region of Iraq is the country’s prime oil-producing area, and in the estimation of many observers, an area both the United States and Israel would very much like to see severed from Iraq in the way Kosovo was severed from Serbia after America’s devastating air war there. This would not only permanently assure Iraq’s weakness, it would create a rather grateful and more willing oil supplier.

Where does ISIS get its technical equipment and the know-how to produce videos and run Internet sites? These are not qualities commonly found among fanatical fundamentalists anywhere; indeed most true radical fundamentalists tend to eschew technology. A supply of advice, technical assistance, and equipment comes from somewhere. Where does ISIS get the money for food, gasoline, clothes, ammunition, and Japanese pick-up trucks? And I wonder, did one of those wild-looking jihadi types just show up one day at an Iraqi car dealership and order a fleet of Japanese pick-ups? Were they delivered out on the desert or did a gang of jihadists march in, waving their Kalashnikovs, to drive them away?

The effort to destroy the Syrian government, whether by means of ISIS or anyone else, is warmly and generously supported by Saudi Arabia and its buddy Qatar – another oil-rich, absolute monarchy where political parties are banned – both these counties’ primary interest being the defence of their immensely privileged situations against creeping threats of all progressive developments such as equal human rights or democracy or indeed against revolt led by external forces. The payments we now know the Saudi royal family long made to Osama bin Laden before 9/11 were simply bribes to keep him and his anti-establishment work out of the country. They really didn’t care a lot about what the money bought elsewhere, but since 9/11 and its many Saudi connections – 15 of the perpetrators plus the past financing plus the many members of the royal family and bin Laden family secretly flown out by American officials at the time – the Saudi authorities were genuinely fearful of how America might respond and have become far more responsive to what America wants in the Middle East and now apply their money to such projects. What America wants in the Middle East is, invariably, what Israel wants, so there is now extensive, secret cooperation where once there was complete official hostility.

We have reports from plane-spotters in the region of daily flights of mysterious planes from Israel to Qatar. We have several eye-witness reports and photographs of supply bundles dropped from unknown planes into ISIS territory. Maybe ISIS has its own air force now? We know Turkey has served both as an entry point for countless terrorists into Syria and as a place of retreat and refuge when fighting with the Syrian army becomes too hot for them, the volumes of such activity having been too great to keep secret. We have reports of Turkish supply flights. A Jordanian official recently told a reporter that ISIS members were trained in 2012 by American instructors working at a secret base in Jordan.

If ISIS is what our corporate news pretends that it is – a fanatical Muslim extremist group that sprang suddenly from the desert sands much like Jack’s bean stalk – one blindingly obvious question is, why does it not attack Israel or Israeli interest? Isn’t that what one would expect from such a cast of characters? But it has not done so, undoubtedly because Israel is an important covert benefactor and supplier.

We might equally ask why ISIS has not attacked Saudi Arabia or its interests, for although the Saudi royal family officially professes a strict and conservative form of Islam, Wahhabism, in fact many of them are very worldly people who spend a good deal of time and money at the world’s great pleasure palaces. Perhaps even more damning for a genuine fanatical fundamentalist, the Saudis now often secretly cooperate and make plans with Israel where mutual interests exist.

No, there is something highly suspicious about Islamic fundamentalist terrorists who avoid such interests while managing to brutally kill poor Syrian soldiers just doing their jobs along with the odd foreign journalist or aid worker who may just have seen something they shouldn’t have seen. Of course, we have Edward Snowden himself having described ISIS as an operation intended to protect Israel. Despite the fact that some news sources have said the interview in which this was revealed never took place, my instincts tell me it likely did. Snowden has never refuted it, and the news sources saying it did not are highly suspect on such a subject.

The way ISIS serves Israeli and American interests is by providing a focus point for extremists, attracting them from various parts of the world so that they can be recorded and kept track of. Also the tracks back to the various countries from which they come provide security services with leads to places where there might be some festering problems. In the meantime, ISIS serves the interest of helping to bring down President Assad, a goal dear to the hearts of Israelis. Please remember that black operations, even the ones about which we know, show little consideration for lives or property. Just think of Israel’s attack on an American spy ship in the Mediterranean during the Six Day War, its pilots knowingly shooting up and bombing for two hours the well-marked ship of its ally and benefactor, no explanation worth hearing ever having been offered.

Just read conservative mainline sources (pretty much a redundant pair of adjectives) about the harm Snowden has done: claims of everything from his revelations about American intelligence having served to help ISIS avoid detection (!) to his revelations having set up the United States for another 9/11! You might think intelligent people would be ashamed of making such asinine public statements, but, no, there are almost no limits to trying to discredit those revealing murderous, dark operations.

We’ve had many reports of officials in various countries, including Canada as I write, concerned about the odd individual or small group running off to join ISIS. Now why should that be a concern? A few flaky people going abroad just removes them from your country, something I should have thought was a complete gain from a security point of view. Even if they were ever to return in future, you would know exactly who they are. Where is the basis for serious concern? But the psychological advantages of noise and hype to scare people about obscure dangers and “lone wolves” and “home-grown terrorists” outweigh completely good sense and intelligence.

Finally, there are numerous reports that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (a nom de guerre, not his real name), the leader of ISIS, is a Western intelligence asset. What little we can learn about him makes that entirely plausible. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, has said that the man is a Mossad agent, a claim supported supposedly by documents revealed by Edward Snowden. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is by all accounts a secretive man who speaks directly with few people, and even his birth place, given as Samarra, Iraq, is not sure. Records of his past, as those from his period of American captivity (always a great opportunity to “turn” someone to serving two interests), are not available. He was once reported killed but is still alive. He is said to have received intensive training from Mossad and the CIA, and some sources give his real name as Simon Elliot (or, Elliot Shimon), but few details can ever be certain in such dark operations.

The truly terrifying aspect of ISIS and other forces fighting with it in Syria is that the United States and Israel have approved and supported such wanton destruction in so beautiful and formerly-peaceful a place as Syria. Millions of lives destroyed and countless historic places damaged as though they were all nothing more than a few pieces moved on a geopolitical chessboard. I think it fair to describe that as the work of psychopaths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE GRAND ILLUSION

The truth is that the risk of an American being killed by terrorism is close to zero, having been calculated at 1:20,000,000

 

John Chuckman

In the years since 9/11, American police alone have killed at least twice as many Americans as died in that single large event, the annual toll of police killings being somewhere between 500 and 1,000, the variation owing to many such events going inaccurately reported by police.

Each year, somewhere between 30 and 40 thousand Americans are killed in automobiles, the level having declined in recent years. Each year about 15,000 Americans are murdered, down from about 25,000 not too many years ago. Each year about 100,000 Americans are killed by medical malpractice. About 40,000 Americans commit suicide annually. These are just a few causes of death in America, not the largest ones but some of the more interesting.

Let’s get a rough total estimate of what has happened to Americans from these causes in the time since 9/11. Just using the low number in each case for fourteen years, 7,000 Americans were killed by their own police, 420,000 were killed by something parked in their garage, 210,000 were murdered by fellow citizens, 1,400,000 were killed by friendly family doctors, and there were 560,000 who just decided to pack it in for one reason or another. The total of these various causes of death rounds to 2, 600,000 deaths, nearly 867 times the number of Americans killed in 9/11, 867 collapsed sets of twin towers, nearly 62 collapsed sets of towers per year.

So why are we spending countless billions of dollars fighting terror, an almost insignificant threat to our well-being? We spend a total by various estimates of between 1 and 5 trillion dollars (yes, that’s trillion with a “t”), although such totals can never accurately be given owing to secrecy, false accounting, and the immense waste that is an inherent part of all military and intelligence operations. Even in the crudest military terms of “bang for the buck,” ignoring all the death and destruction and ethical issues, just as the military routinely does in its grim work, the War on Terror has to be the greatest misdirection of resources in all of human history.

Or is it? Perhaps there are other reasons for the War on Terror, reasons never discussed in newspapers or on news broadcasts, reasons which make the expenditure of such colossal amounts against such an insignificant risk acceptable to those doing the spending? Unless American leaders are all lunatics, I think there must be.

Most people are aware that the War on Drugs has been a stupendous flop, with a great deal of resources having bought nothing except a general diminishment of personal freedoms, construction of new prisons, and make-work employment for many unnecessary police and prison guards. But each year the War on Terror spends many, many times the amount spent on the War on Drugs, and what has it bought us? A far greater debasement of freedoms, almost wiping clean parts of the Bill of Rights, raising to a high status in our society such dark and anti-democratic forces as security agents of every kind and the military, increasing exponentially the secrecy of government and thus giving voters no hope for an informed ballot, making countless future enemies in the world, and causing Americans willy-nilly to support filthy acts identical to the hateful work of military juntas who made tens of thousands of civilians disappear.

I think there are only a couple of explanations for this waste of resources which otherwise employed could have made the world an immeasurably better place. They are assisted greatly by what I’ll call the “crime in the news” effect, although I might just as well call it the “advertising effect,” because advertising works on people’s minds through its seeming omnipresence and repetition planting suggestions, suggestions not entirely different to those planted by the stage-performer hypnotist in the minds of his volunteers from the audience.

It has been demonstrated many times that daily reports of violent crime, even when the crimes occur outside a listening community, cause people to become apprehensive about many ordinary activities such as letting kids walk to school or go to the park to play. And no advertising campaign in history could begin to compare to the complete audience saturation of “terror this or that” in our newspapers, magazines, and on-air. Surely, no totalitarian government ever more completely blanketed its people with fearful suggestions than does America’s “free press” today. You literally cannot hear a news broadcast or read a newspaper with the word terror missing, a fact which keeps most people in an unquestioning frame of mind about what properly should be regarded as sinfully immense expenditures to no useful purpose, at the same time conditioning them to surrender precious freedoms. For most people, the fact is that fear overcomes both logic and courage.

Americans, along with people in other lands heavily under American influence, have voluntarily given up claims to what we believed were well-established rights. Yes, there is some controversy over the high-tech equivalent of Big Brother’s telescreens, over the construction of immense new or expanded agencies such as the TSA and NSA, and even some over a seemingly-endless set or wars, but much less than you might have expected. There has been relatively little controversy over America’s smashing its adherence to everything from the Geneva Conventions to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the complete disregard for established basic principles of common law in America’s international behavior goes largely unremarked, at least in America.

In a very real sense, America’s establishment, its government within the government consisting of leaders in security and the military and of its great corporations, has been given licence to create a kind of Frankenstein monster which now stands ready with terrible powers to do its bidding. It certainly isn’t just terrorists who need fear, it is every person with the impulse in his or her breast for justice, fairness, and human decency, and it is every country which has an impulse for independence from America’s imperious declarations of how they should carry on their affairs. I don’t like the expression New World Order, but it does in fact communicate something of what has been pursued relentlessly by America’s establishment since 9/11 with an unbounded sense of its entitlement and privilege. The awesome creature it has brought to life – which already runs secret prisons, tortures, conducts non-judicial killings, and supports horrible governments in many places – is no respecter of principles or human rights or even basic decency. We all know from history and common experience that over time any well-funded, established, and privileged institution grows, altering the terms of its charter and spreading its influence always farther, just as today American intelligence, bound by charter not to spy on Americans, spies on them all the time through various technical arrangements effectively going around its charter.

This monster serves ambitions abroad – crush democracy anywhere it proves inconvenient or a barrier to the interests of America’s establishment, as in Ukraine and in Egypt and as attempted in Venezuela, but also crush old arrangements which have produced advancing societies in other lands, even though they are not yet democratic, as in Syria, Iraq, or Libya.

In a relatively short time the monster has made a chaotic wasteland of such previously prosperous lands as Iraq and Libya, and it is now hard at work doing the same to the lovely, ancient land of Syria where it is allied in its efforts with some of the ugliest violent fanatics you could hope to find anywhere. Its acts have resulted in many hundreds of thousands of deaths in these places, countless refugees and injuries, the destruction of much precious infrastructure, and left people to wallow in chaos for years to come.

It created a coup, and thereby a civil war, in Ukraine, reducing that impoverished land still further, and it allied itself for the effort with the kind of stormfront militia trash that even the pathetic FBI surely would infiltrate and investigate were they active in the United States. It did all this just to gain temporary psychological advantages over Russia, a country whose leadership today far better represents principles of international peace and good order – not without some distant echo of irony for those of us raised on a steady diet of Cold War propaganda – than those in Washington who never stop mouthing slogans about rights and democracy which they routinely ignore. We all have an immense investment in America’s reckless game of “playing chicken” with Russia, the only country on the planet capable of obliterating most of Western civilization. I’ve never liked frat-boy pranks and humor, but in this case the overgrown frat-boys at the CIA are guffawing over stupidities which risk most of what we hold precious.

But the monster serves also to intimidate America’s own population. Don’t hold big or noisy demonstrations against injustice, don’t complain too much about authorities and truly abusive police, don’t communicate with others who may be viewed as undesirables for whatever reasons by the government, and don’t describe any group which has been arbitrarily-declared terrorist as being merely freedom fighters – any of these acts or many others risks arbitrary powers that never formally existed before.

Homeland Security has stocked huge amounts of crowd-control equipment and weapons, and it was a military general who quietly announced a few years back that the Pentagon was prepared should martial law became necessary in America. America’s local police forces, long ago having earned an international reputation for violent, militaristic behavior, have been given surplus military-grade crowd-control equipment. The FBI seeks new authorities and capabilities regularly, the same FBI with such a sorry record, going back to its origins, of abusing authority.

In my mind, and I think in the minds of many, America’s posture towards the world resembles a pug-ugly bully confronting you on the street, someone who just will not let you pass until you give him what he demands. The bully is the country’s immensely wealthy and influential privileged establishment, having the country’s general population now completely in tow, fearful and intimidated, quite apart from being in large part underemployed or unemployed. The bully naturally pays no attention to international organizations and agreements, believing himself above the rules and constraints to which others hold. The organizations are either simply ignored or, as in the case of the UN, coerced into behaving along acceptable lines, America having spent some years recently refusing to pay its legally-required dues just to prove a point as well as having been involved in more than one cabal to unseat a disliked Secretary General.

And I fear this gives us just a hint of what is likely to come because, as we should never stop reminding ourselves, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The world’s hope for relief from a form of international tyranny comes from the growth of countries like Russia, China, India, and Brazil. I wish I could add the EU to the list, but it seems almost as supine and voiceless as America’s own general population or Canada’s present government. Only forces capable of saying “no” to America’s establishment and building interest blocs to oppose its excesses offer redress and relief in future, and it is only through political contention that new international organizations are likely to emerge, ones with some power and effect. Americans all give lip service to competition in economics, but the concept applies no less to the spheres of politics and world affairs. And Americans all give lip service to democracy, not realizing that its governing elites represent the tiniest fraction of the world’s population and resemble in their acts abroad about as aristocratic a government as ever existed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOW AMERICA SCREWS UP THE WORLD WITHOUT EVER LETTING ITS OWN PEOPLE KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING

John Chuckman

 

Brian Williams, American television network anchor caught telling his audience a fantasy version of his experience on a foreign assignment, has unintentionally provided us with a near perfect allegory and tale of caution about American journalism and the role it plays in politics and foreign affairs.

I am not referring to the fact that a number of prominent Americans have done exactly the same thing Williams did making false public claims of risky deeds, this Münchausen-like condition being surprisingly common among American politicians. Hillary Clinton, in her 2008 nomination campaign, claimed she came under fire in Tuzla, Boznia in 1996, when her plane landed. Actual video of the harrowing event showed her being greeted peacefully by a young child with a welcoming poem. John Kerry, in his quick four-month “grab some glory for a future political career” stint in Vietnam made exaggerated claims of risk and bravery and certainly decency when indeed most of his activities involved shooting at peasant farmers working their fields from his heavily-armed patrol boat on a river, ferrying the odd cutthroat assassin for the CIA’s ghastly Operation Phoenix project, and killing a man, likely Viet Cong, who was lying on the ground badly wounded by the boat’s heavy machine gun fire. Rich men’s sons do get medals for rather hard to understand achievements.

The awful truth is, given the state of American journalism, stunts like that of Williams, despite their symbolism, are virtually without concrete importance. American network anchors like Williams are expected to have good looks, good voices, and sincere, home-townish demeanors while reading scripts. Beyond that, they have almost no connection with what most people understand as journalism. There is the odd effort by large American networks to make their handsome talking heads seem to be at the center of events, the most hilarious of which in my memory was CBS’s Dan Rather garbed in Afghan-style robes crawling around on the ground somewhere pretending to be secretly reporting something or other about Afghanistan, his soundman, lighting technician, cameraman, and make-up artist never making an appearance. Such absurdities lend theatrical flair to American news and probably help frustrated journalists stuck with million-dollar, talking-head jobs feel slightly useful, and you might say they are therapeutic, but they have nothing whatever to do with journalism.

Journalism, as it is taught in schools, is about discovering, or at least suggesting, through a series of well-defined techniques what is actually happening in events of interest and reporting the findings in a non-biased, almost scientific, way, but, remarkably, this is something which virtually never happens in American journalism. Truthfulness and journalistic principles simply have no place in the intensely politically-charged atmosphere of America where no event and no utterance is without political dimensions. Actually, this has been the case for a very long time, but it just hasn’t always been so starkly clear as it is now. The same Dan Rather mentioned above, rising star reporter back in 1963, shortly after the Kennedy assassination, told an audience of millions he had seen the legendary Zapruder film – an amateur 8mm film taken by a man named Zapruder which unintentionally recorded Kennedy’s death. Rather, in almost halting words and with eyes often turned downward suggesting the immensity of what he claimed to have seen, described to millions how the film showed Kennedy slumping forward after being hit in the back by a shot from the “sniper’s nest” with Governor John Connally then hit while turned around towards the President, coat open, widely exposing his white-shirted breast, and with a third shot causing the President “to move violently forward” as his head explodes. Except for the count of three shots striking the car’s occupants, Rather’s description was close to a complete fabrication, but the public didn’t know that until 1975, twelve years later, when the film was first broadcast. (There was actually at least one more on-target, non-lethal shot plus a missed shot hitting a street curb, but even Rather’s three shots, given before security officials had sorted out their story line, was ignored by the feebly-dishonest Warren Commission when it later told us there were only two shots plus a miss.) Even in the film’s almost-certainly doctored state – after all, it had been purchased immediately after the assassination, and held for years, by Life Magazine, a known cooperating resource for the CIA in its day – the film shows Kennedy in distress from a neck wound as he emerges from behind an expressway sign, almost certainly having been shot from the front owing to his body position and the motions of his hands. Connally does turn but his coat is not open exposing his shirt front, and, judging by the time interval involved, is hit by a separate bullet (something he himself maintained in all testimony). The film then shows Kennedy hurled backward as his head explodes, absolute proof by the laws of physics of a shot from the front.

American major news broadcasts and newspapers all have become hybrids of infotainment, leak-planting, suggestion-planting, disinformation, and other manipulative operations. Many of them, such as The New York Times or NBC, maintain a seemingly unassailable appearance of authority and majesty, but it is entirely a show much like a grand march being played as a Louis XIV sauntered into a room, at least when it comes to any important issue in foreign affairs and even most controversial matters in domestic affairs, as with the Kennedy assassination or a thousand other examples from election fraud to corporate bribery. Massive corporate media consolidation (six massive corporations supply virtually all the news Americans receive), the dropping of most foreign correspondent and investigative journalism efforts owing to high costs, the constant and ready compliance of the few remaining owners of news media to adhere to the government line no matter how far-fetched, plus America’s now non-stop interference into the affairs of other people, have made American television and newspapers into a kind of Bryan Williams Media Wonderland where no reported item of consequence can be accepted at face value.

The owners of America’s news media have every reason to comply with government wishes. Failure to do so would immediately cut them off from access to government officials and from the kind of juicy leaks that make journalists here and there look like they are doing their jobs. It would also be costly in the advertising department where the sale of expensive ads to other huge corporations is what pays the bills.  And it would simply not be in keeping with the interests of the very people who own massive corporate news outlets. After all, it was an American, A. J. Leibling, who told us with precise accuracy, “Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one.”

Americans, the broad mass of them, simply do not know what is happening in Ukraine or in Syria or in Palestine or in a score of other places under assault by America’s establishment, its de facto, ongoing, non-elected government. Those place names are mentioned of course, and regularly, and various interviews are conducted, and maps and charts are shown, but the careful listener or reader will see that none of what is offered is genuinely informative, all of it serving to build one pre-determined idea of events, many of the words resembling the kind of one-liners politicians repeat over and over in America’s literally content-free political campaigns. We see many bits and pieces of seeming information, but they are all just pieces taken from the same jig-saw puzzle, capable only of being assembled in one way.

Americans also have very little idea of the nature of the men who are the actors in these various places, America’s press and networks virtually never granting or soliciting the insights of foreign leaders and representatives not already toeing the American line. Thoughtful foreign leaders generally are only seen through brief images and highly-colored descriptions.

Americans also are rarely informed of the consequences of their government’s acts, informed in hard facts and numbers such as the number of deaths and injuries and the extent of destruction. America’s press has covered up countless facts such as the number of Iraqis killed in the First Gulf War, the number of Iraqi children who perished under an American embargo so feverishly championed by Madeline Albright, or the number of Iraqis killed and crippled by the George Bush’s “I’ll go one better than Pappy” invasion. They never saw pictures of women and children torn up by cluster bombs unless they deliberately searched them out on the Internet. When Americans are given numbers, such as deaths and refugees, as in the American-induced Syrian conflict, it is only because the numbers are said to be the Syrian government’s responsibility, with no reference to the gangs of foreign mercenaries and thugs paid and armed by America or its associates in the region.

For Ukraine, any numbers and facts Americans receive are shaped to fit the construct of an aggrandizing Russia, led by a new Czar intent on upsetting the balance of Europe, opposing a now free and democratic government in Kiev. You can almost imagine the smiles and snickers of the good old boys gathered in planning meetings at Langley a few years ago when they realized how their scheme could both give them Ukraine and discredit Putin, the only reasonable actor in the whole dirty business. No images of Ukrainian militias and thugs displaying swastikas and other neo-Nazi symbols, no discussion of repressive measures taken by the new crowd at Kiev against Russian-speakers, no discussion of a country starting a war on its own people who stood up for their rights, and no discussion of an incompetent Ukrainian military shooting down a plane-load of civilians.

I don’t know whether Brian Williams just became so comfortable over his years of work broadcasting fantasies that he grew easy about adding a personal tall tale or whether he may suffer from some unfortunate disability, but his ridiculous affair does provide us reason to focus on contemporary American journalism’s real function, which is anything but journalism. I think it likely the reason corporate news executives were in a flap over the affair, having handed Williams a 6-month suspension, is not scrupulous concern for truth – there simply is no such thing in such organizations – but fear of having one of the chief presenters of so many other misrepresentations made a laughing-stock.

JE NE SUIS PAS CHARLIE

The Extremely Dark and Unexamined Underside of the Charlie Hebdo Affair

John Chuckman

We hear much about bloody events in Paris being an attack upon western traditions and freedom of the press, and I am sorry but such claims are close to laughable, even though there is nothing remotely funny about mass murder. It certainly is not part of the best western tradition to insult the revered figures of major religions. You are, of course, technically free to do so in many western countries – always remembering that in many of them, a wrong target for your satire will get you a prison term for “hate crimes” – but it does represent little more than poor judgement and extremely bad taste to exercise that particular freedom. What Charlie Hebdo does is not journalism, it is sophomoric jokes and thinly disguised propaganda. Hebdo’s general tone and themes place it completely outside the mythic tableau of heroic defender of free speech or daring journalism, it being very much a vehicle for the interests of American imperialism through NATO.

Of course, the best western traditions don’t outlaw what garments or symbols people may wear for their beliefs, as France has done. Note also the history of some of the politicians making grandiose statements about freedom of the press. Nicolas Sarkozy was involved a number of times in suppressing stories in the press, even once getting a journalist fired. Sarkozy is a man, by the way, who took vast, illegal secret payments from the late Muammar Gaddafi and from France’s richest heiress to secure his election as president. David Cameron had police seize computers at Guardian offices and allows Julian Assange to remain cooped in the Embassy of Ecuador to avoid trumped-up charges in Sweden. Cameron is also best buddies with Rupert Murdoch, the man whose idea of journalism appears to be what he can dredge up to exchange for what he wants from government. His Fox News in the United States enjoys a reputation for telling the truth only by sheer accident. Barack Obama is a man transfixed by secrecy and ready to use all of his powers to punish those who tell the truth, a man who holds hundreds in secret prisons, and a man who regularly oversees the extrajudicial execution of hundreds and hundreds of people in a number of countries.

The parade celebrating the good things of western tradition – which Obama missed but which saw now-potential presidential candidate Sarkozy shove his way to the front – also included such luminaries as the Foreign Minister of Egypt’s extremely repressive government, which, even as the minister marched proudly, held innocent journalists in prison simply for writing the truth. The Prime Minister of Turkey was there celebrating, a man who has put a number of journalists in jail. Celebrating rights and freedoms also was King Abdullah of Jordan who once saw a Palestinian journalist sentenced to hard labor for writing so simple a truth as that the king was dependent upon Israel for power.

We shouldn’t forget, too, that Israel targeted and killed a number of journalists in its Gaza invasions, that the United States’ forces in Iraq targeted and killed a number of journalists, and that “NATO” deliberately targeted Serbia’s state television service with bombing, killing many civilians. Free speech and western traditions, indeed.

There are more doubts and questions in the Charlie Hebdo affair than there will ever be answers. In part this is because the French security forces silenced witnesses, killing three assumed perpetrators in a display which seems to say that Dirty Harry movies are now part of French training programs.

And then we have the sudden death by apparent suicide of a police commissioner in charge of the investigation just as he was writing his report alone at night, an event which received little mainline press coverage. A man in his forties in the midst of likely the biggest case of his career just decides to kill himself?

We should all be extremely suspicious of a trained killer, seen as being informed and exceedingly efficient at his work, leaving behind his identity card in an abandoned car. It really is a touch more serendipity than we would credit in a mystery story. We should all be extremely suspicious of men so obviously well trained in military techniques, about men who were well informed about schedules at the offices they attacked, and about men heavily armed in the center of Paris. People serving in notorious killer outfits like America’s SEALs or Britain’s SAS rarely achieve such complete success as twelve victims, all shot dead, and an easy get-away.

And just to add to the confusion we have the video of one of the armed men shooting a police officer lying on the sidewalk. The armed man, face covered, lowers his AK-47 to within a couple of feet of the victim’s head and fires. The head goes down, but we see no blood. Have you ever seen photos of someone shot in the head with a high velocity weapon? That’s what the Zapruder film is about, and the results are more like an exploding pumpkin than a death at the end of a stage play. Even the propaganda-ridden BBC now has expressed doubts about the video.

We need to be more than suspicious about anyone or any event which has any connection with ISIS. ISIS is one of the terror groups assembled, armed, and supplied by Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States for the deliberate and wanton destruction of Syria. The two brothers killed in Paris both fought in Syria. It certainly would be easy enough for someone to have obtained an ID card there from one of them. Remember, the excesses of ISIS we all read about – at least those that aren’t clearly staged propaganda stunts such as video of a hostage beheading – are the direct result of assembling large bands of cutthroats and fanatics, arming them, and setting them loose to terrorize someone else’s country.

It is the simplistic view of ISIS that the involved intelligence services want us to have that it is a spontaneous fanatical rebellion in favor of one extreme interpretation of Islam. Despite many recruits for ISIS holding what are undoubtedly genuine fanatical beliefs, they almost certainly have no idea who actually pays their salaries or provides their equipment – that is simply the way black intelligence operations work. And those participating in such operations are completely disposable in the eyes of those running them, as when the United States bombs some in ISIS who perhaps exceeded their brief.

Every society has some percentage of its population which is dangerously mad, and if such people are gathered together and given weapons, their beliefs are almost beside the point, except that they provide the targeting mechanism used by those doing the organizing.

We should all be extremely suspicious about any event when a man such as Rupert Murdoch is quoted afterward saying, “Muslims must be held responsible for jihadist cancer,” as he was in The Independent. In case you forgot, Murdoch is a man whose news organizations for years lied, stole, and violated a number of laws to obtain juicy tidbits for his chain of cheesy mass-circulation newspapers. Murdoch also is a man who has had the most intimate and influential relationships with several prime ministers including that smarmy criminal, Tony Blair, and that current mindless windbag and ethical nullity, David Cameron. Publicity from large circulation newspapers, which can swing at a moment’s notice from supporting to attacking you, plus campaign contributions buy a lot of government compliance. Murdoch also is one of the world’s most tireless supporters of Israel’s criminal excesses.

And speaking of David Cameron, Murdoch’s made man in Britain, David felt compelled to chime in on the Hebdo publicity extravaganza with, “Muslims face a special burden on extremism….” Now, why would that be? No less than Murdoch’s creepy words, Cameron’s statement is an indefensible thing to say.

Who has a special burden for the massacre of students at Columbine High school in Colorado? Who has a special burden for Israeli Baruch Goldstein who murdered 29 Palestinians as they worshipped? Do Noweigians bear a special burden for Anders Breivik, who shot 69 people, mostly children, perhaps the most bizarre mass murderer of our times? Does the American Army bear a special burden for Timothy McVeigh’s horrific bombing in Oklahoma City, killing 168, he and his associates having met in Fort Benning during basic training, two of them having been roommates? Perhaps, in both these latter cases, Christianity bears a special burden since these people were exposed to that religion early in life? As was Hitler, as was Stalin, as was Mussolini, as was Franco, as was Ceaușescu, as was Pinochet, and countless other blood-drenched villains?

The late Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, was responsible for a great many murders, including about a hundred people bombed in a terror attack on the King David Hotel. He also was responsible for the assassination of the distinguished Swedish diplomat, Count Folke Bernadotte, and he started the invasion of Lebanon which eventually left thousands dead, but you’ll have a hard time finding him described anywhere as a “Jewish terrorist” or finding prominent people asking who has a special responsibility for his extraordinarily bloody career.

There is something hateful and poisonous in conflating the religious background of a criminal or mentally unbalanced person and his violent crime. We seem to do this only in cases involving violent men with Muslim backgrounds. Why? How is it possible that even one decent Muslim in this world has any responsibility for the acts of madmen who happen to be Muslim? This gets at one of the deep veins of hate and prejudice in western society today, Islamophobia, a vein regularly mined by our “free” press and by our ‘democratic” governments. Our establishment having embraced Israel’s excesses and pretensions, we have been pushed into worshipping the mumbo-jumbo of Islamic terror, a phenomenon virtually invented in Israel and perpetuated by Israel’s apologists as a way of stopping anyone from asking why Israel does not make peace, stop abusing millions of people, and return to its recognized borders.

Well, we do have an entire industry exploiting every event which may be imagined as terror. I read an interview with the great cartoonist, Robert Crumb, who happens to live in France. When asked if any other journalists had approached him on the topic of controversial cartoons, he said that there weren’t any journalists in America anymore, just 250,000 public relations people. That is precisely the state of American journalism. It digs into nothing, at least nothing of consequence, working full time to manage the public’s perceptions of government and its dreadful policies, from murdering innocents with drones and remaining quiet on the many American and Israeli atrocities of recent decades to manipulating fears of “terrorism” and saying little about such domestic horrors as the many hundreds of citizens shot dead by American police every single year.

The French government is reported to have been quite concerned about Benjamin Netanyahu showing up at the Paris march and making volatile speeches, and they specifically asked him not to come. At first, Netanyahu’s own security service, Shin Bet, agreed that he should not go because the parade in the streets represented a difficult security situation. But neither the host government’s formal request nor the security service’s concerns can stop a man like Netanyahu. France was advised he would come, and the French made their displeasure clear by saying they would then also invite Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestine Authority to the parade, which they did.

Netanyahu not only marched for the cameras at the front rank of a parade where he had no business, he made arrangements with the families of four Jewish victims for an all-expense-paid showy funeral in Jerusalem. None of the victims was even an Israeli citizen, yet at this writing they have all been buried in there with pomp and plenty of publicity. But Netanyahu didn’t stop there, he went on to make speeches that the French and other European Jews should leave their countries riddled with anti-Semitism and come to Israel, their true homeland. In diplomatic terms, this was what is termed unacceptable behavior which in almost any other case would get you thrown out of a country. In ordinary terms, it was outrageous behavior, much like seeing a seriously drunken guest loudly insulting his host at a party to which he was not even invited.

The ineffectual current President of France, François Hollande, sent notice to Jerusalem that the four dead shop victims were being awarded the Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor. The nation’s highest honor, founded by Napoleon over two hundred years ago for exceptional contributions to the state, awarded for the act of being murdered by thugs? Simply bizarre.

I don’t pretend to understand everything involved in this complex set of events, but it is unmistakable that we are being manipulated by a number unscrupulous and unethical people who use murder victims and the public’s natural sympathies for them as board pieces in some much larger game.

There is even a trivial side to these bloody events with many Parisians carrying signs which read “Je suis Charlie,” surely the kind of asininity posing as deep feeling that long has been established in the United States where Walmart teddy bears and plastic flowers with cheap slogans are regularly tossed in piles here and there as memorials to this or that. Perhaps Euro-Disney has had a more devastating influence on French culture than I realized.

 

 

 

 

 

THIS IS WHAT WAR DOES

John Chuckman

 

A Canadian photographer named Bryan Adams (yes, the rock singer) has done something extraordinary in publishing a book of photographs of what war does to soldiers. The wounds of his subjects are not covered with gore as they would be on the battlefield. His pictures are clean studio shots. The subjects sometimes even are smiling. Their wounds are healed, at least as much as such wounds can ever be called healed, but the surrealistic sense of the pictures says something profound story about our society. We’ve done these savage things to our own young, and then left them to spend the rest of their lives struggling with the results.

For an institution which quite literally dominates human history, it is a remarkable that the real face of war is never seen by most people. The press goes so far in avoiding it that it creates a fantasy picture, in many respects resembling those beautifully done dioramas of lead soldiers in famous battles. It’s the same psychology at work when caskets containing the blasted remains of soldiers are draped with bright, cheery flags. And when war is over, there’s the home town parade with flags and drums and high-stepping baton twirlers in cute little sequinned outfights, with no sign of death or gore to be seen.

A few times in my life a bit of the truth has leaked out. During Vietnam, the first major war in the mature television age, the public was exposed to some of it. Not a great deal, mind you, but it was enough to provide governments a harsh warning on the effects such images have upon the public’s support for war.

Fairly early, television showed us Marines dutifully torching the thatched homes of peasants, I’m sure never giving a thought to someone’s doing the same to Mom and Dad’s farmhouse back in Indiana. But still we never saw a hint of the wholesale slaughters of a war which extinguished three million lives. We saw the distant flashes and puffs of smoke of bombings, including the instantaneous infernos of that hellish stuff, napalm, ripping across a landscape, but never a single frame of the resulting incinerated bodies. No newsreel ever showed close-ups of a village or city after American carpet-bombing by B-52s. We did see the odd distant shot of a prisoner falling from a high-flying helicopter but never the preceding close-up scene of his being hurled out by American Special Forces or intelligence operatives unhappy with his answers to questions.

I recall an American deserter speaking at a public meeting in Toronto of his raping a young Vietnamese woman and then emptying his rifle into her, an atrocity which is reported to have been repeated many times over the years. After all, what do you think happens when young men, often from the most marginal backgrounds, are dumped in a foreign place they cannot understand and often hate, armed with powerful weapons and under no normal restraints? Young men, especially under stress, are capable of almost any savagery, and you do have a responsibility to consider that reality before sending them off to terrorize others.

Early during Vietnam I recall another young man briefly interviewed on television whose face had been turned into a molten-looking mass, perhaps from napalm, his mouth consisting of a hole into which a straw could be inserted. What purpose could possibly be worth that sacrifice? I’m not sure, but I know it wasn’t a dirty colonial war in Vietnam started by cheating and lying to the people who had to fight it.

When Britain went to war in the Falklands, the warning of Vietnam was heeded. All the British people saw were selected, cleaned-up images of another dirty colonial war, images like a stalwart Maggie Thatcher waving off the Falklands fleet, and who on this planet could better play the role of a stern and impressive god of war than Mrs. Thatcher? She gave Winston Churchill himself a run for his money.

I did read of one instance of a dead or dying invading British soldier having been photographed on the beach with bowels torn open and spilled out, but the image was suppressed.

Some very heroic cameramen from the Middle East did obtain shocking images of the savagery of America’s war in Iraq, a war in which cluster bombs were heavily used but also white phosphorus and depleted uranium shells. I recall images of horribly mangled children, burnt smudgy corpses, a woman virtually smashed into the ground, and others, but they were only a small sample of America’s destruction of a million or so souls.

The images were found on not-widely-known sites on the Internet, even Al-Jazeera itself being then not familiar to most Americans. The images never made their way onto the pages of The New York Times or the evening news on NBC where they would have been seen by the millions of ordinary Americans in whose name the atrocities were committed. The American military does appear to have made an effort to target foreign journalists trying to capture some truth, killing the messengers, as it were, in the spirit of vicious boys ripping the wings off butterflies.

There were still other images from Iraq on the Internet, and these came straight from America’s own dear “boys in harm’s way.” There was an Internet site, briefly, which provided young American soldiers with free access to raw pornographic sexual images in return for their submitting raw pornographic war images, as from cell phones and the like. There were reportedly large numbers of takers on the offer, sending in their snaps of things like bloody boots with bits of leg sticking out or of a human head half turned into beef tartar before Pentagon matrons dedicated to decency in war closed the operation down.

America’s horrors at Abu Ghraib were heavily censored. According to America’s best investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, we saw only the most innocuous images of degrading treatment, the frat-boy pranks with naked humans, dog leashes, and shit. We did not see the hard-core stuff of torture, rape, including of children, and death, pictures which did in fact exist but were suppressed. The stuff from Guantanamo was along the same lines, images of degrading treatment, men in jump suits and chains kneeling in tiny cells – just enough for the folks back home to say “Good, it’s what they deserve,” but not enough to shock or terrify Americans about what was being done in their name.

I recall an image from Israel’s first savage assault on Gaza, one killing several hundred children and more than a thousand others, an image of a narrow  street running with a small river of blood and desperate people trying to pass without stepping into it. Such images are rare because Israel allows no one access to document its filthy work. Even after the savagery is over, various organizations and officials generally are refused entry even on humanitarian missions, as is the case today after a second mass murder in Gaza killing even more children than the first.

War is such a time of fearful darkness and chaos that great horrors can be hidden easily under its cover. In Afghanistan, three thousand American prisoners were “disappeared” by one of America’s war lord allies by being taken out in sealed trucks into the desert to suffocate, their bodies then dumped into mass graves. This occurred shortly after American Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made a shameful Nazi-like public statement that the large numbers of Taliban prisoners being held in Afghanistan should either be killed or walled away for the rest of their lives. This war crime was committed right under the noses of occupying American soldiers and clearly with Mr. Rumsfeld’s secret blessing, and it has never been featured or investigated except by a British documentary film maker.

It is invariably human nature to show others our work, of any kind, when we are proud of what it is that we have done. The great irony of war is that we invariably are ashamed of what we have done, and yet we repeat, some of us, the work again and again.

Another great irony of war is that it is almost never about defending ourselves, although that is what the propaganda never stops telling us that that is what it is about. That is why America uses the term Department of Defense, and Israel calls its army the Israeli Defense Force.

What was America defending in Vietnam, in Cambodia, in Serbia, in Afghanistan, or in Iraq? Only its right to tell others what to do, a right based solely on the concept of might makes right, the slogan of the bully. So too for its many violent and destructive interventions using hired thugs into the affairs of others, whether in Cuba, Chile, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Iran, Syria, Ukraine, or other places.

What does Israel defend in its endless assaults upon its neighbors, none of them remotely capable of seriously threatening Israel much less destroying it, and its ceaseless hectoring for even more war in the region? Again, nothing more than the right to tell others what to do, a right based only on might makes right. And what of its countless assassinations in half a dozen countries, of its interference into the affairs of Egypt, Iran, Syria, Iraq, and other countries?

I notice something in what I’ve written. While I started with war’s effect upon soldiers, almost all my words deal with civilians, and that brings us to the greatest irony of modern war: soldiers are just a tiny part of those killed and brutally injured. It cannot be otherwise with missiles, heavy bombing, and other indiscriminate weapons. Modern war is mass killing of civilians, always and everywhere, a practice which evolved in World War II and has done nothing but progress in that direction since. Even when they aren’t the actual targets, as in America’s nightmarish assassination-by-drone project, large numbers of dead or mangled civilians are the unavoidable consequence. Well, if you’re in for killing mere suspects as in the drone project, I guess extra civilians don’t mean much, do they? “In for penny, in for pound,” as they say.

We’ve even developed special language for the realities of indiscriminate killing. Israel, at the very least, always is said to be killing “militants.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met a “militant,” and I doubt I’d be able to recognize one walking down the street. But our clever press instantly recognizes them when they are shot full holes by Israeli soldiers. You see, Israel simply can never be wrong in our press, so if it hasn’t killed terrorists, it has to have killed “militants,” and that’s surely almost as good.

As for the tens of thousands maimed and slaughtered by America’s hideous bombings in many lands, well, they are called, right on the evening news by announcers in pancake makeup with blow-dried hair in momentarily subdued tones just before moving on to the sports scores, “collateral damage.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AMERICA STUMBLES THROUGH ANOTHER YEAR, SPREADING CHAOS AND TRIVIA EVERYWHERE IN ITS PATH

 

John Chuckman

 

The Palestinians are seeking a vote in the United Nations’ Security Council on a resolution favoring their statehood, unquestionably a reasonable proposal in the minds of most of the world’s people. Of course, the United States, a permanent member of the Security Council, would automatically veto such a resolution, as it vetoes all efforts to restore order to the chaos of the Middle East. And of course, were such a resolution somehow miraculously to pass, Israel would simply ignore it, as it has ignored a long list of binding UN resolutions. But a veto and certain contempt are not enough for an upright, God-fearing Southern gentleman like US Senator Lindsey Graham. He busied himself recently with threatening America’s withholding funds from a United Nations that gets involved in the “peace process.” Imagine, the United Nations getting involved in peace? That is a chilling thought. Since the United States has a history of withholding its UN dues against its solemn treaty obligations to bully its way to certain changes, such threats do carry weight.

Senator Graham, regarded neither as an idealist nor a  voice for peace, is only doing what so many American politicians do under the unbelievably corrupt, money-drenched American election system, and that is to make ridiculous public statements about the Middle East in return for generous dollops of campaign funds from the world’s most tireless political lobby, that for Israel. You might think that the lobby itself would tire of funding backwater blowhards demanding the other ninety-five percent of humanity play the game by America’s rules or America is picking up its marbles or chips or whatever and going home, but clearly it does not.

“The peace process” is the longest running farce on the planet, continuing for nearly fifty years. It might have been funny in the vein of The Mouse That Roared, but there is nothing remotely funny in the killing of thousands of people and the extreme abuse and hopelessness of millions. You just could not make a worse hash of a diplomatic and human welfare situation than America has made in the Middle East. And the situation has only intensified in its cruelty and injustice. Today, Israel openly and regularly steals homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. It threatens ancient Muslim shrines and desecrates some of them. It has savaged Gaza, the world’s largest open-air prison camp, twice, killing close to four thousand including nearly a thousand children. It has attempted to starve Gaza’s people out with a years-long embargo, and is making ugly noises about still another invasion. It is about to steal Syrian oil on the occupied Golan Heights, drilling there illegally, and it is busy arranging the theft of offshore natural gas that belongs to Gaza and Lebanon. It does all of this with complete impunity and not even a cross word from the likes of Senator Graham. I do think the Middle East provides the strongest possible evidence of the complete unsuitability of the United States to play a dominant role in international affairs. It is genuinely a case of the inmates running the asylum.

In another example of chaos mixed with farce, the United States pretends to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and while that charade continues, planes loaded with American weapons keep flying out of Turkey to make the seeming lunatics even stronger. Indeed, the various ragtag factions trying to overthrow the Syrian government, cutthroats assembled by the US and its friends from all corners of the globe in a kind of hellish foreign legion, announced a new alliance, so telling Washington’s approved terrorists in the conflict from those who haven’t made the cut is more difficult than ever. Recently, one or another of the lunatic mobs shot down two fighter jets, and how do you think they managed that without American anti-aircraft missiles? Turkey’s certifiably unbalanced president, Tayyip Erdoğan, one day makes fiery speeches threatening Israel (to please the poor fools voting for him) and the next makes new secret deals with Israel. Remember, this is a man who just built a one-thousand room palace for himself – yes, that’s right, exactly one thousand rooms – and it is the ugliest, most pointless large structure built since the early Soviet era, a kind of gigantic sprawling warehouse incrusted with jewels and filled with porcelain.

Well, dippiness is no barrier to membership in a secret club in the region which includes the UAE, Saudia Arabia, and Israel, all lovingly assisted by the US. They are all governments who regard change as desirable only when it results in an even more rigid status quo, as in Egypt.  Never mind the welfare of the region’s people or democracy or human rights or national boundaries. These guys resemble twelfth century lords seeing paupers cross their paths: they run them down and proceed to a rollicking good dinner in the great hall. The club is all about security for hereditary monarchs, security for America’s crusader fortress colony in the Middle East, and security for helper states in the American agenda. We’ve had many reports recently of secret air-freight flights between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi. We also have reports of flights out of Turkey into Syria. The never explained events at Benghazi were undoubtedly blowback from an operation collecting unemployed thugs and arms for secret shipment to Turkey and then into Syria. Saudi Arabia is voluntarily taking a bath by pushing oil prices down, a favor to the US and Israel and Turkey and a way of hurting Russia, Iran, Syria, and even Venezuela – all current members in good standing of Captain America’s ever-changing galaxy of villains – aka, the Axis of Evil. The US is willing to sacrifice for the time being its booming shale oil industry, whose more costly production requires higher prices than Saudi conventional crude, in return for the Saudi sacrifice.

Since both countries are desperate to hurt Russia, Iran, and Syria, the deal is a marriage made in Realpolitik heaven. Russia has helped Syria and does business with Iran, and Saudi Arabia and Israel hate Iran and Syria. The US has made a large investment in toppling Syria for Israel’s benefit, but the plan has been thwarted by Syrian endurance and Russian help. The plan also overlooked the loyalty of important Syrian societal groups to President Assad, but America often overlooks details as it attempts to reshape the world to its liking with bombs. Of course, there was also the precedent of Iraq, a bloody fiasco that achieved nothing but a million deaths and splintering a country into pieces. That splintering, by the way, continues with the ISIS fiasco: Iraq’s Kurds are being used against ISIS to strengthen their own region’s quasi-independence from Iraq.

The chaos the secret club-member countries have created in Syria – perhaps 200,000 killed and a couple of million refugees – appears not to bother them in the least, just so many paupers in the roadway when galloping home to dinner at the great hall. The victims do provide useful free material for the propaganda war being waged, the understanding implicit in America’s and Canada’s and Europe’s press being always that President Assad is responsible for the catastrophe. The US, and cheerleaders on the sidelines like Canada’s current dismal right-wing government, are doing virtually nothing for the refugees, or for the many civilians crippled or wounded. Ironically, Israel actually accepts for treatment in its northern medical facilities some of the very fanatics wounded in the dirty work. After all, it is ultimately Israel’s dirty work they do, regardless of their fanaticism. It’s a phenomenon we might call selective terrorism: fanatical killers who do America’s work, or Israel’s, are not treated as terrorists at all. No matter how many women and children you kill, no matter how many places you bomb, you only become a terrorist if you oppose the interests of America or Israel.

The toll in killed and wounded and homeless in Eastern Ukraine continues to mount. New punitive measures come regularly from Kiev, undoubtedly with American advice about possible vulnerabilities – after all, a top cabinet minister in the coup-created government is American. Only the other day we read reports of Ukrainian militia-types, the kind of right-wing thugs who helped the US overthrow an elected government in Kiev, blocking food traffic into the East. Attempting to starve people into submission is defined in international law as a war crime, but we hear no word of concern from America, just as we heard no word of concern for Israel’s original blockade of Gaza which actually included a calculated level of calories intended to just keep the population alive (since modified under intense secret international pressure).

In all these induced chaotic situations, we hear little or nothing from the UN, an institution which should be among the first condemning aggressive behavior. But the UN, despite the many differing private views of its members, is now in all official capacities under the thumb of the US. Its current Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, a candidate favored by America, is ineffectual and behaves at times almost as though he headed an organization having nothing to do with peace or human rights.

Well, there is some intimidating history. Boutros Boutros-Ghali was the only UN secretary-general not to be elected to a second term in office, and the reason was an American plan to be rid of him, one of Madeleine Albright’s glorious career achievements. America vetoed his second term because it was most unhappy when he did not embrace the bombing of Bosnia, and they disliked other of his views which tended to be thoughtful and compassionate. Earlier, Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, a much admired man, was assassinated in an engineered plane crash, said to have been the work of Belgian mining companies unhappy with the UN’s policies in Congo, a place the mining companies had drained of wealth for decades of brutal exploitation, but I think it unlikely anything of that nature happened without at least a nod of approval from Washington, which after all was a major customer for the products of Congo.

The evidence is piling up, despite delays and many irregularities in the official investigation into the crash of airline Flight MH-17 in Ukraine, that a Ukrainian pilot deliberately shot the plane down. His fighter is said to have been armed with air-to-air missiles on take-off, something completely out-of-the-ordinary in the conflict since Eastern Ukrainians have no air force. It returned, according to an eye-witness, with no missiles and the pilot’s muttering cryptic phrases. Of course, this would be the kind of act you might expect from people who used sniper rifles earlier this year to kill many hundreds of civilians in Maidan, the central square of Kiev, in order to terrorize the population and start the coup. But where is America’s voice in these grotesque doings? As Russia has patiently pointed out, an American spy satellite was virtually overhead at the time of the crash, so definitive evidence exists without a doubt but is not produced. But then neither is it produced for the destruction of Flight MH-370 in the Indian Ocean, an event it is virtually certain was the work of American forces at the secret Diego Garcia base as the plane came their way for whatever unknown reason.

The irregularities around Flight MH-17’s investigation include Malaysia, owners of the airline, being excluded from the group conducting the investigation and include the fact that segments of the wreckage were left behind at the crash site, and that after taking a very long time to get there in the first place, making manipulation of forensic evidence possible and even likely. We also have the absence of any American satellite or radar records, and we have not a word about the autopsy on the pilot, something which might solve the entire mystery, as from the discovery of Ukrainian missile fragments in his body.

What kind of world do we want to live in? One where coups and civil wars are engineered for the pleasure of others? One where airliners full of people are shot down deliberately? This is the chaos, and just part of it, America has bestowed upon us in the twenty-first century. I won’t even go into the financial tsunami it created in 2008 with the same lack of caution for others and concern about doing things correctly. The full impact of that has yet to strike us all.

But America brings laughable trivia, too. The President of the United States spending time and breath on the hacking of a private company’s web site? A Japanese company, no less? And turning the relatively trivial business of hacking, which happens every day now somewhere, into an international incident by blaming, almost certainly incorrectly, North Korea?

The President said the FBI had investigated and assured him that North Korea was responsible. What he didn’t tell us was that the FBI has a decades-long record of being wrong, seriously wrong, a great deal of the time. Given the FBI’s history, it certainly is in the running for the title of Most Incompetent Security Organization in the Western World, although, like other national security institutions in the United States, it is grossly over-funded with money gushing out like water from broken plumbing. Americans pay more per unit of misinformation than likely any other people on the planet.

Anyone familiar with the record of the FBI listens to assurances like the President’s with a sarcastic smile at best (see FOOTNOTE for a partial list of the FBI’s viciousness and incompetence over the years). Shortly after the president’s silly words, we had several world-class tech experts tell us why it could not have been North Korea, and I’ll take bets against the FBI on this one from anyone.

It likely was someone at Sony doing a publicity stunt to promote what by all reports is a dud of a film, but why should the man with the biggest job in the world join in? Consider also the fact that if you make what can be viewed as a threatening comment or presentation of any kind against the President of the United States, you will be visited and interviewed by the Secret Service, who will then keep you on file permanently. Why is it okay to make a movie about the assassination of North Korea’s president then, the subject of The Interview? Sony certainly has right to do stupidly foolish things, but it is more than a little muddled for the President eagerly to support it. Will he now address the rights of porn actors in California to work without condoms?

As I write this, a British newspaper reports that some Sony employees have been quietly dismissed. Reported also is the discovery of a web site strongly suggesting disgruntled employees. See what I mean about America overlooking the facts before it acts?

 

 

FOOTNOTE ON HOW WRONG AND DISHONEST THE FBI HAS BEEN: The FBI was wrong in claiming there was no such thing as the Mafia, something J. Edgar Hoover insisted for many years while he gambled at their racetracks and stayed at their resorts for free, some biographers believing Hoover had been compromised by the Mafia with photos of his secret gay, cross-dressing life. The FBI was wrong in focusing huge resources for many years on the pathetic American Communist Party, half of whose small membership is said to have consisted of FBI agents. The FBI was wrong about the threat of Albert Einstein, seeking his extradition for a time and checking the contents of his garbage to his dying day. The FBI was wrong about the danger of Dr. Martin Luther King, and it played judge and jury with his personal life. The FBI was wrong about Dr. Wen Ho Lee of Los Alamos being a spy, although it ruined his career. The FBI was wrong about the crash of TWA Flight 800, taking an inordinate amount of time trying to let public interest cool and avoid the obvious fact that the crash was an accidental shoot-down by the American military, there being a radar track showing something like a missile rising towards the plane. Despite its vast resources, the FBI never saw 9/11 coming. One of its own senior agents, Robert Hanssen, was one of the more damaging spies of modern times, a man whose carelessness in many details, classic indicators of a paid spy, went unnoticed for years. The FBI was wrong in the Atlanta Olympic bombing, ruining the life of another innocent man. It couldn’t have been more wrong in its handling of the sad kooks at Waco, effectively murdering them all. So, too, at the Ruby Ridge standoff where an FBI sniper killed a woman and her child needlessly. The FBI Crime Labs were cited in the 1990s by the Inspector General for misconduct and manipulating evidence, something many had suspected for years. The FBI specialized for years in hurting the reputations of those it didn’t like or those it merely suspected, as by asking questions at their place of work and neighborhood, not have any proof of wrong-doing. The FBI, at least under J. Edgar Hoover, held career-threatening information obtained by spying over the heads of many prominent congressmen and government leaders, effectively blackmailing them to do its bidding. It did the same with non-government officials where it felt so inclined. The FBI was wrong about the assassination of President Kennedy, it being the only investigative agency for the lamentable, embarrassing Warren Commission, thereby assuming at least equal responsibility for its inaccurate, dishonest report. Indeed, the FBI did not reveal at the time that Oswald secretly worked for them as a paid informant (since documented). It also lied about evidence a senior FBI agent destroyed after the assassination, a note Oswald had written.

 

 

 

 

 

 

LIVING WITH INSANITY

Harper, Abbott, and Cameron at the Brisbane G-20

 

John Chuckman

Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is reported by a spokesman, to have had the following exchange with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin during the Brisbane G-20 summit: “Well, I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I only have one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine.” Putin is said to have replied, “Impossible. Since we are not there.”

A graceless bit of diplomatic crudity from a truly graceless man, Stephen Harper, someone Canadians know has a history of underhanded practices at home, from introducing ugly personal-attack campaign advertising, using secretive and bullying tactics in parliament, failing to deal with corrupt practices by subordinates especially an American-style election scandal of robo-calls which sent some voters to the wrong polls, to having appointed several unbelievably incompetent and corrupt ministers. He is known for a ferocious temper in private, a very controlling man who grants his political associates absolutely no freedom of expression, and is reported by insiders as having on at least one occasion thrown a chair in a meeting. His silencing of Canadian government scientists from offering their opinions on issues in areas of expertise has been a simmering international scandal, as has his complete suppression of environmental issues.

Before Harper, Canada enjoyed for many decades a reputation for fairness and decency and intelligence in international affair with statesmanship and openness exhibited by figures like Lester Pearson or Jean Chretien or Paul Martin. Harper has destroyed a great deal of that as he pursues a single-minded role as American junior partner in almost all things.

He completely abandoned Canada’s traditional policies of fairness and balance in the Middle East, literally shocking many Canadians at times with fervent outbursts about Israel, including suggestions that Canadian critics of Israel are anti-Semitic. He does this, as any astute political observer recognizes, to solicit increased campaign funds from Canada’s financially successful Jewish community, taking his cue from Republicans in the United States such as Newt Gingrich who alone received $18 million dollars from one wealthy supporter of Israel for his last nomination campaign in exchange for inserting into his speeches that there was no such thing as a Palestinian, an utterly insincere and ridiculous statement. Since Israel is no admirer of President Putin’s, he being too independent-minded and opposed to the American exceptionalism Israel tightly embraces and by which it prospers, this activity of Harper’s puts him in an anti-Russian frame of mind from the start.

Harper has made an annual photo-op journey to Canada’s North, always trying to appear to voters as the man most concerned with a future there of melting ice creating free access through the Northwest Passage. Ironically, he periodically mentions Russia as the nation he is most concerned about, but Canada’s recent history couldn’t make it clearer that it is the United States which represents the great threat to our Northern waters and shore. Everything from unauthorized American atomic submarine prowling to a giant American oil tanker passing to published American charts showing this future open water as international tells a pretty harsh story. But in every detail, Harper only pretends America is a great and non-threatening friend.

Harper is the single most obsessed leader in Canada’s history with pleasing, almost fawning over, the United States. Had the history of Canada, which included a great deal of disagreement and contention with the United States over its many imperialistic behaviors, included many leaders of Harper’s character, there quite likely would not be a county called Canada today.

So here are the demonstrated qualities of the man performing as Canada’s diplomatic ass at the G-20 in Brisbane. He demonstrates a genuinely anal-retentive temperament, is intolerant of differences of opinion, and embraces a willful blindness to the world’s greatest threat to peace, the United States in its self-appointed role as imperial arbiter among nations.

In case you wonder why a man like Harper even holds office in Canada, it is because the effective opposition was split with internal battles and because the last leader they selected in desperation following those battles was a man of no political intelligence or even experience and a totally unattractive personality to the public, Michael Ignatieff, someone who managed to do almost everything wrong. It also reflects a democratic deficit in our parliamentary structure where a party with just over 39% of the vote can be a parliamentary majority. So despite Canadians consistently being about 60% or higher inclined to somewhat progressive parties, Harper has had a free run at pole-axing the country’s traditional international reputation. Every day we come to be seen as a bit more like the deceptive and brutal American colony in the Middle East he embraces so closely.

We unfortunately live in a time utterly lacking statesmen in the West. I don’t know the detailed backgrounds of those other aggressive fools at the G-20, Abbott of Australia and Cameron of Britain, but I know they are both men who have lied exceedingly and been intimately involved with such nasty business as favors for the unsavory Rupert Murdoch empire. I can think of nothing which recommends either of them as statesmen. Indeed, they both, quite literally, kowtow to America.

Putin is head and shoulders above these men in intellect and focus, readiness to communicate clear views to the world, someone demonstrating considerable patience, and, from all evidence, someone notably free of the blowhard ideology which virtually characterizes Harper, Abbott, and Cameron.

Putin’s moves in Ukraine seem to me appropriate for dealing with a deliberately-induced crisis in an important neighboring country, and one with a long history of connections and associations. He has not invaded Ukraine, something which he could easily do were he so inclined. I suspect he has supplied weapons to East Ukraine, but that is something the United States does all the time, including supplying weapons to some of the most brutal groups and governments on earth, as it is right now doing in Syria, with secret night cargo flights out of Turkey to terrorist cutthroats. Just ask yourself what America would do about a comparable situation in Mexico: patience simply would not exist, and Mexico City would be quickly overrun by tanks.

The people of East Ukraine, Russian in background and sympathies, deserve protection as much as they deserve the huge amounts of emergency supplies Russia has supplied in a conflict owing its origin entirely to the covert acts of America. Had the coup-established government of Ukraine originally offered protection of Eastern interests, including language rights they openly tried suppressing, the story might have been different, but they did precisely the opposite, passing unfair laws, making threat after threat, and attacking their own citizens. Who wouldn’t rebel in that environment, including any of the states of the United States? How easily people forget past rebellions in the United States, the greatest of which was the Civil War, still the bloodiest war Americans ever experienced.

It is quite clear that the United States is responsible for destabilizing Ukraine. Its CIA funds have been invested into many unsavoury projects, perhaps most disturbing is its paying support to a collection of neo-Nazi groups ranging from extremist parties to violent militia forces, some of the very groups who have committed atrocities such as murdering many hundreds of civilians and some of whom actually march under swastika-like flags. It does seem more than a bit strange that men like Harper, Abbott, and Cameron implicitly support that kind of filthy work while charging Putin with dark acts, dark acts which are stated ambiguously and certainly never proved.

It is also clear that the United States has pressured all authorities involved to delay and obscure the investigation into the destruction of Flight MH17, and the only explanation for that can be America’s preventing, for as long as possible while the new coup-created government of Ukraine consolidates its position, the highly embarrassing finding that Ukraine in fact shot it down. The United States has said over and over it has evidence about the crash, yet it has never produced a scrap of it. Just as it never produced evidence for so many past claims from what actually happened on 9/11 to the assassination of a President.

The great irony of the G-20 summit in Brisbane is that its only substantial agreement concerned doing everything possible to promote growth in a world whose economy is dangerously stagnating, yet it wasted time and energy on America’s fantasy stories about Russia and Ukraine, insulted Russia’s President, and threatened in some cases further growth-suppressing sanctions. Nothing could be more contradictory and unproductive or, frankly, just plain stupid.

WHAT WE TRULY LEARNED FROM THE GREAT WAR AND THE ABSURDITY OF REMEMBRANCE DAY

John Chuckman

No matter what high-blown claims the politicians make each year on Remembrance Day, The Great War was essentially a fight between two branches of a single royal family over the balance of power on the continent of Europe, British foreign policy holding to a longstanding principle that no one nation should ever be permitted to dominate the continent.

It was also a war between the world’s greatest existing imperial power, Britain, and another state, Germany, which aspired to become a greater imperial power than it was.

To a considerable extent, it was a war resulting from large standing armies and great arms races, a telling indictment of those who preach the false gospel of ever-greater military strength to defend freedom. As with any huge, shiny new investment, great armies will always be used, and the results are almost invariably great misery.

The First World War was not a war to end all wars, as a slogan of the time claimed. If anything, it was a precursor for a great many wars to follow, and, most importantly, it was a powerful and important cause of World War II.

It also was not a war about democracy since none of the participants, including Britain, would qualify as democracies by any reasonable reckoning with their heavily limited voting franchise and government structures stacked in the interests of old and privileged orders, quite apart from their holding empires whose populations enjoyed no franchise at all.

The war was also one of history’s great instances of mass hysteria, particularly among the young men of several countries. In Britain, there have been many laments over the loss of some fine and promising young men who rushed to join up. In Germany, it was no different, and we note one young man, then of no importance, by the name of Adolph Hitler rushing to join up, much as his British contemporaries, to share in the “glory.”

Today, we pretend shock that young men sometimes go abroad to fight for a cause, religious or otherwise, but compared to the mass insanity of World War I, what we see today is truly petty. The authorities everywhere then made great efforts to push young men, using songs, marching bands, slogans, shame and social pressure in many forms, and countless lies. The nonsense about the Kaiser’s troops bayonetting babies was one example, a lie served up again decades later with a slight twist by George Bush the Elder’s government as it desperately wanted support to invade Iraq, the babies the second time around supposedly being ripped from respirators.

World War I made absolutely no sense. It achieved nothing worth achieving, and it did so at immense cost. Apart from killing about 20,000,000 people, the war left countless crippled and disabled and created a great swathe of destruction across Europe.

If Germany had been allowed to dominate Europe for a time, it would have made comparatively little difference to the lives of most people. Indeed, today, that is the situation we find in the European Union.

It is important to realize that large wars are always revolutionary in nature, and no one at the outset can possibly predict the outcomes of such chaotic storms in terms of social, economic, and political change. World War I very much set the stage, with huge losses of men and the incompetence demonstrated by Imperial commanders, for the Communists to take power in Russia, a development which led ultimately to the Cold War.

The War’s immense costs and the realization by millions of soldiers from abroad that they fought for a nation which gave them no rights provided the great first blow towards ending the British Empire. The approaching World War II would finish the work of imperial rot and collapse.

The First World War set the stage for the rise of Hitler less than two decades later and made inevitable the catastrophe of World War II, which would inflict at least two and a half times as many deaths again and would see such horrors as the Holocaust and the use of atomic bombs.

So why, about a century later, do we still treat The Great War with reverence and sentimental remembrance?

The act of remembrance actually contradicts the sound human tendency to forget terrible experiences. Of course, we hear repeated countless times the words of George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” one of those glib and catchy sayings which seem at first hearing to carry some deep truth. Just the consideration that in real life no two events ever can be identical makes the saying a pleasantly-phrased nonsense, resembling the aphorisms on far lighter subjects from Oscar Wilde.

Those repeating the glib phrase as received wisdom from an unimpeachable prophet always neglect to remind us of the importance of scrupulously defining what it is that you are remembering. If we remember World War One for exactly what it was, and not for what we wish it had been, we see a vast, pointless slaughter that succeeded in setting conditions for still more slaughter. Never repeating it would be a blessing indeed.

But if we see it as moving and inspirational, if we associate its name with thoughts of ending war or protecting democracy or of great camaraderie and shared hardship, if we are emotionally moved by troops in uniforms and flags flying and bugles and drumbeats, then we most assuredly will repeat it, as we have already done more than once, and I’m pretty sure that’s what the arrogant politicians and jingoes want us ready to do.

Remembrance Day surely is not about the loss of life, as we pretend it is, because the only way to hold those or any lives sacred is not to send them off to war in the first place. The ugly truth is that governments, run by men with great egos – likely more often than not, actual narcissists – who are supported by privileged wealth wanting to keep or expand its privilege, make the decision for wars largely on the basis of fairly primitive instincts, instincts about being first or not letting a competitor gain an advantage, or just vague and meaningless stuff about being manly or resolute – standing your ground, keeping a stiff upper lip, putting up with no nonsense, showing your manhood, and so on and so forth.

One American politician, in a play on an infamous quote by George Wallace, said no one would ever “out-commie” him again in an election. Such was the thinking of Lyndon Johnson in making the fatal decision to start a major war in Southeast Asia. On just such hormone-laden considerations hung a decade’s brutal fighting and the deaths of 3 million Vietnamese.

The real reason for the ceremonies and parades and speeches is to keep young men keen to go and kill and die, there being no group of humans more subject to cheap emotional appeals about glory and heroism than young men, as we see, ad nauseam, generation after generation.

As I’ve written before, humans are little more than chimpanzees with larger brains, those larger brains enabling us to magnify immensely the power of our murderous instincts, a fact we seem determined proudly to display every Remembrance Day.

 

 

 

 

 

POLITICAL BUNRAKU

John Chuckman

 

For those who are not familiar, Bunraku is an old form of Japanese puppet theater, its distinctive characteristic being that the puppeteers are on the stage with their puppets, dressed in black so that the audience can pretend not to see them.

While many old art forms have conventions that are unrealistic by modern standards, there is something particularly unsatisfying about bunraku: you can pretend not to see the puppeteers but you cannot fail to see them.

Bunraku, as it happens, offers a remarkable metaphor for some contemporary operations of American foreign policy. So many times – in Syria, Ukraine, Libya, Venezuela, Egypt – we see dimly the actors on stage, yet we are supposed to pretend they are not there. We can’t identify them with precision, but we know they are there. Most oddly, the press in the United States, and to a lesser extent that of its various allies and dependents, pretends to report what is happening without ever mentioning the actors. They report only the movements of the puppets.

One of the consequences of this kind of activity is that many people, including many of your own, come simply not to believe you, no matter what newspapers and government spokespersons keep saying. Another consequence is that because many knowledgeable people no longer believe you, when it comes time to enlist the support of other nations for your activities, you must use behind-the-scenes pressure and threats, stretching the boundaries of alliance and friendship. After all, your major government friends and allies have sophisticated intelligence services themselves and are often aware of what you are trying to do.

Still another consequence is that many people start doubting what you are saying concerning other topics. In the United States, a fairly large segment of the population does not believe the official version of a great deal of comparatively-recent American history, including explanations of John Kennedy’s assassination, of events around 9/11, of the downing of TWA Flight 800, of what Israel was doing when it attacked an American spy ship in 1967, and of the CIA’s past heavy connections with cocaine trafficking – just to name a few outstanding examples.

Government in America feels the need only to go so far in its efforts to explain such matters because the doubters and skeptics, though many, are not a big enough segment of the population to matter greatly in political terms, and it is simply brutally true that the great passive mass of people are never well informed about anything outside their own lives. America is a place, as relatively few people abroad understand, where people must work very hard. Its industrial working class went through a great depression since, say, 1960, many of them now holding low-paid service jobs. Its middle-class workers have seen real incomes decline for decades, something providing part of the incentive for both parents in a family to work and for them to move into America’s great suburban sprawl of lower land costs as well as to embrace stores such as Wal-Mart with their bare-bones costs. Many Americans work so hard, they have little time to be concerned or informed about government, satisfying themselves that a few minutes with corporate television news is adequate, a phenomenon favoring the government’s interests since on any important and controversial subject the television networks (and the major newspapers) do the government’s bidding, mostly without being asked. American corporate news, especially in matters of foreign affairs, resembles nothing so much as nightly coverage of a banraku performance.

Selling stuff, whether it’s widgets or religion or political ideas, is at the core of American life, and America’s one unquestionably original creation in the modern world involves the disciplines of marketing, advertising, and public relations – all highly artful aspects of selling stuff. The success of these methods has long been proved in American commerce, but they are no less effective when applied to other areas. So, it should hardly surprise that the same “arts” are heavily employed by and on behalf of government in propaganda and opinion-manipulation around its acts and policies. Indeed, we see America’s entire election system today having been reduced to little more than a costly, massive application of these crafty skills, and no department or agency of government is ever without its professional, full-time spokespeople and creative back-up staff, making sure that whatever words or numbers are spoken or printed never slip beyond what those arts have conjured up. Unacceptable photos, say those of women and children smashed by bombs or missiles hurled into the Mideast, are made simply to disappear much as they were in 1984.

Government knows, too, that the American political system is heavily stacked against people with doubts ever gaining serious influence. Ninety-five percent of Senate elections go to incumbents, and because only one-third of the Senate faces re-election at any given election, a majority on some new matter is virtually impossible to build. The presidential candidates of the only two parties with a hope of being elected are almost as carefully groomed and selected as the party chairman of a former communist-bloc country, and generally about as surprising in their views.

And always, time makes people forget, even with the most terrible issues. After a generation or two, there are relatively few people who are even aware there was an issue. In the case of the most overwhelming and terrifying event of my life, the Vietnam War, polls show a huge number of young Americans today don’t know what it was or when it occurred.

These are the key factors permitting an American government to commission horrific acts abroad resembling those of the bloodiest tyrant, all while it smilingly prances across the international stage as democracy’s self-designated chief representative and advocate. As for the great mass of people, the 95% of humanity living outside the United States, no one in America’s government ever gives them a moment’s thought, unless they step out of line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GEORGE BUSH IN HELL

John Chuckman
Opening Scene: Entrance hall in the Bush mansion in Houston where George and Laura have retired after leaving the White House.

There is grand staircase in the center, an elaborate chandelier hanging down from the ceiling, a half-table with a vase along the wall to the right, and a federal-style entrance door with brass fittings and a fan-window above on the far right.

A clicking noise is heard and the door swings open. The silhouette of George Bush is seen against dim bluish lights from the street. He pauses a few seconds and reaches for a switch on the wall, not finding it easily. When he does, sconces on the same wall as the table and vase come on, casting a warm, soft light on the scene. He awkwardly turns and closes the door quietly.

The figure starts to move forward, and it is immediately apparent from his lurching motion that he is drunk. He moves slowly, trying to prevent any noise or accidents. Nevertheless, after a few steps, he collides with the table, knocking the vase over to smash noisily on the floor.

At the top of the stairs, Laura appears in a rather elegant, flowing nightgown. She places her hands on her hips and glares hard towards George.

GEORGE: “Hi, Honey. Didn’t know ya’d still be up.”

LAURA: “I wasn’t up. You smashing the furniture woke me up.

“And don’t you ‘Honey’ me, you bastard! You’re drunk again.”

GEORGE: Moving awkwardly toward the stairs, “Aw, Laura darlin’, I jus’ had a li’le too much,” making an exaggerated measurement sign towards Laura with his finger and thumb as he speaks.

Laura doesn’t move, just glaring as George works his way slowly up the stairs, huffing and puffing and swaying as he goes.

GEORGE: “See, I’m okay, I’m getting’ up the stairs myself.”

LAURA: “You shit, you promised, not once but dozens of times.”

GEORGE: “Yah, Honey, I know, but I’m tryin’.”

LAURA: “You son of a bitch, you haven’t tried at all. You’ve embarrassed everyone in the family.

GEORGE: “Won’t happen ag’in, Hon, I promise.”

LAURA: “You’re damned right about that. It won’t happen again!” she screams. She suddenly swings her arms out violently, striking George as he nears her, sending him tumbling down the stairs

George’s body comes to a stop at the bottom of the stairs, limp and broken-looking.

Suddenly from the left comes a Secret Service agent, aroused by all the noise. He kneels at the body and checks for vital signs.

SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Looking up towards Laura, “Mrs. Bush, I’m sorry, the President is dead!”

He immediately reaches for his Blackberry and places a call for emergency services. Laura walks offstage in the direction she first came from.

SCENE TWO

We see a striking, elaborate gate, as we might expect to see at the front of a great mansion. Behind the gate is the suggestion of a lush, sunlit garden complete with the beautiful singing of birds. Despite the brilliant sunlight, the floor of the stage is covered with a thick white mist, which represents clouds scudding along. At the gate, a tall dignified figure stands holding a staff in his right hand and a book in his left.

From the right side, the figure of George appears. He isn’t drunk now, but he appears mystified by his location.

GEORGE: As he approaches the gate, “Hi, I got no idea where I am. Maybe y’all kin help?”

ST. PETER: “Yes, Mr. President, I can help you. That’s just what I’m here for.”

GEORGE: “Jeez, ya’ll know me. That’s great. I got no idea what’s goin’ on. I was comin’ home, an’ suddenly I wake up here.

“Hey, an’ I ain’t got no hangover neither.”

ST. PETER: “Mr. President, you’re dead.”

GEORGE: “Dead? How the hell kin that be?”

ST. PETER: “You came home drunk, and Laura was so furious she pushed you down the stairs.”

GEORGE: “I’ll be damned, Laura killed me?”

ST. PETER: “That’s right, Mr. President. She’s now being treated for shock, and you’re here at the gates of Heaven. I’m St. Peter.”

GEORGE: “Well, Pete, open ‘er up. Guess there’s gonna be some good times here. I gotta tell ya, I was gettin’ mighty tired of Laura naggin’ all the time.”

ST. PETER: “We have a little business here, first, Mr. President, before anyone goes anywhere.”

GEORGE: “Y’all know I’m born agi’n. Don’t ‘spect no problem.

“Well, fire away, as I used to say there in the White House. Haw, haw. Jus’ a li’le joke there, Pete. Guess ya know I ain’t one to stand around jawin.’ Let’s get her done.”

ST. PETER: “Mr, President, we’re going to take a short look at some outstanding events of your life, ones that weigh heavily in the balance, so to speak.

St Peter opens his book, and a picture appears, cast like a slide in the white mist. It is of a child whose face is torn, horribly clotted with blood.

ST. PETER: “Do you recognize this child, Mr. President?

GEORGE: “Hell no – oops, sorry there! No, I never seen him, Pete, honest.”

ST. PETER: “That is correct, Mr. President, you never saw him, but nevertheless you did this to him, and many thousands of others in the bombing of Iraq.”

GEORGE: “I’m tellin’ ya, Pete, I di’n’t know. I’d never do somethin’ like that.”

Another picture appears, this one of a woman’s body smashed into the ground.

ST. PETER: “What about this one, Mr. President?”

GEORGE: “Promise I never saw nothin’ like that. God dang, who’d go ‘n’ do somethin’ like that?”

ST. PETER: “You would, Mr. President. This woman lived in Baghdad.”

GEORGE: “Well, I gotta say, I don’t think it’s fair bringin’ up this kinda ol’ stuff, Pete.”

ST. PETER: “What about this one?”

Another picture appears. It’s Laura with a black eye and a swollen lip.

GEORGE: “God darn if I wasn’t drunk that night. Didn’t mean it at all.”
SCENE THREE

George finds himself in a dark, gloomy place, with only hints of its being a room. He suddenly becomes aware of a series of sounds, a mixture of singing and shouting and George starts walking towards them. The sounds become louder. Soon we realize that they are people talking and shouting and singing, many of them, all at once. George tries covering his ears, the sound becomes so loud and unpleasant.

Finally, a figure appears in the gloom. It’s a tremendously fat Jerry Falwell looking for all the world like Jabba the Hutt waddling.
JERRY: “Well, now I kin hardly believe my eyes, welcome home, Mr. President!”

GEORGE: “Jeez, gotta say this place don’t look much like what I figured.”

JERRY: “Hell ain’t such a bad place. Ya pretty much get to do what ya always liked doin’ forever.”

GEORGE: “Hell? Whoa there, now, what’s goin’ on? I ain’t sposed to be in no Hell!

“I was jus’ talkin’ to Pete couple a minute ago, remindin’ him how I was saved an’ all.”

JERRY: “Well, I’m right sorry to disappoint you, Mr. President, ‘cause ya’ll was always a favorite.

“But we all knew you was on your way here, an’, like I was sayin’, it ain’t such a bad place an’ all.

“Ya’ll get to do pretty much what ya always did. Ya kin sure see I’m enjoyin’ the brunches, all laid out real nice, any time night or day, jus’ like a big cruise ship.

“An’ jus’ listen to that singin’ ! It don’t never stop. Gospel selections for the next trillion years!

“Some nice ol’ friends down here too, Mr. President. I reckon ya’ll know half of ‘em. Dick an’ Lynn. Your Pappy’s here, an’ your Grandpappy.”

GEORGE: “Ain’t ya sufferin’ with everlastin’ fires or nothin’ like that?”

JERRY: “Shucks, no, Mr. President. That jus’ ain’t the way it is.

“I know, I know, I was preachin’ kind of regular ‘bout that kinda stuff, but ya gotta figure, I was earnin’ a livin’ an’ all, an’ there jus’ ain’t no topic better ‘an damnation for gettin’ that there offerin’ plate full to overflowin’.”

GEORGE: “Well, I’ll be damned.”

JERRY: “Ya’ll are, Mr. President, that’s for sure.

“They got a copy of your ol’ office all set up for ya. Ya’ll gonna be able to go on bein’ President for millions an’ millions of years.

With a wink and a chuckle, “Snort a little coke now an’ then. All the damn mint juleps ya’ll can swaller. Go huntin’ with Dick.

“Give your Ol’ Man a good right now an’ then…as many times as ya’d like. An’ if that li’l’ woman of yours – jus’ sose ya know, she’ll be joinin’ up with ya before too long – goes mouthin’ off any, jus’ give her a smack in the gob the way ya’ll used to. Ain’t no cops here for her to call, embarrassin’ ya an’ all.

“Ya’ll be runnin’ that there war forever, seein’ every damned heathen an’ troublemaker blowed up jus’ like ya was there.”

GEORGE: “Well I gotta say that don’t sound none too bad. Ever get any vacation?”

JERRY: “Well, I gotta tell ya honest-like now, Mr. President, ya don’t get no vacation ‘roun’ here.

“Ya gonna do all them things ya always liked doin’, but ya gotta keep doin’ ‘em over and over, forever.”

“It might get a li’l’ tiresome-like after a while, but I sure ‘nough ain’t found that to be the case yet.”

GEORGE: “Ya, I kin see that right ‘nough. If ya’ll can’t stop packin’ down all the grub, ya gonna have a mighty sorry time draggin’ that fat gut of yours aroun’.

“Ya already startin’ to look like one them damned ol’ frogs I useta stuff with firecrackers. Damned, if I didn’t enjoy watchin’ ‘em gettin’ blowed up!

“Maybe ya’ll gonna blow up someday without any damned firecrackers in your mouth!”
George bends over, cracked up with uncontrollable laughter, tears running down his cheeks.

JERRY: Chuckling heartily, “Ah shucks, Mr. President, mighty nice to hear ya ain’t lost your ol’ boyish charm an’ sense of humor. Ya’ll gonna fit in jus’ fine here.”

George and Jerry, chuckling and laughing, walk slowly off into the gloom towards ear-splitting sounds of laughs and screams and screeching gospel music.

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