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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.

 

 

 

 

 

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

The Origin of Modern Terror and Crumbling Western Values

 

John Chuckman

Do you ever solve problems by ignoring them? Most of us would say that is not possible, yet that is precisely what western governments do in their efforts to counteract what is called “Islamic terror.” Yes, there are vast and costly efforts to suppress the symptoms of what western governments regard as a modern plague, including killing many people presumed to be infected with it, fomenting rebellion and destruction in places presumed to be prone to it, secretly returning to barbaric practices such as torture, things we thought had been left behind centuries ago, to fight it, and violating rights of their own citizens we thought were as firmly established as the need for food and shelter. Governments ignore, in all these destructive efforts, what in private they know very well is the origin of the problem.

Have Islamic radicals always existed? Yes, we have records through the history of British and French empire-building of strange and fearsome groups. It appears every large religion has a spectrum of believers, always including at one end of the spectrum extreme fundamentalists. They are not a new phenomenon anywhere, so why has one group of them, in the sands of the Middle East, become part of our everyday awareness?

It is also nothing new that young men become hot-blooded and disturbed over what they regard as attacks upon their kind. Western society’s record of crusades, religious wars, colonial wars, and revolts, a total likely having no equal in the histories of the world’s peoples, offers countless examples of young men being angered by this or that circumstance and joining up or running off to fight.

George Bush told us today’s terrorists hate our freedom and democratic values, but like virtually every utterance of George Bush, that one was fatuous, explaining nothing. Nevertheless, his is the explanation pounded into public consciousness because governments and the corporate press never stop repeating versions of it, the Charlie Hebdo affair and its theatrical posturing over free speech being only the latest. Theatrical? Yes, when we know perfectly well that most of those who marched at the front of the parade in Paris are anything but friends of free speech.

All backward peoples are uncomfortable with certain western values, that being the nature of backwardness, and backwardness is a defining characteristic of all fundamentalist religious groups – Hasidic or ultra-Orthodox Jews, Mennonites, Roman Catholic Cardinals, cloistered nuns, Sikhs, and many others – who typically choose modes of dress, rules to obey, and even foods to eat having little or no relationship with the contemporary world and science. Of course, that is their right so long as they are peaceful and law-abiding.

Any fundamentalist group, pushed by more powerful people from outside their community, is entirely capable of, and even prone to, violence, and all human beings are capable of violence when faced with abuse and injustice. Centuries of religious wars and terrors in Europe about such matters as how the Mass is celebrated prove the proposition and should be held as a warning, but they are forgotten by most, if they were ever known. The tendency towards violence continues today amongst many fundamentalist faiths. In so relatively small and seemingly homogeneous a society as Israel, there are regular attacks from ultra-Orthodox Jews against the country’s worldly citizens or against fair-minded rules about such pedestrian matters as women riding buses or walking on a street. The attacks become quite violent – punching, spitting, burning down homes, and killing sometimes – and all go against what we call western values, but because the scale is fairly small, and our press also has a constant protective bias concerning all things Israeli, these events rarely make our mainline news. They must be found on the Internet.

It took Western Europe literally centuries to leave behind such recurrent and violent themes as witches and the need to burn them alive, the Evil Eye, casting out demons, execution for differences of belief, and countless other stupidities which characterized whole societies and destroyed lives. And if you want to go still further back, go to the Old Testament, a collection of ancient writing packed with violence, superstition, prejudice, and just plain ignorance, which Christians and others even today regard as containing important truths for contemporary life. Human progress, at least in some matters, takes a very long time indeed.

Our world has more backward people than most of us can imagine. The news does not feature their extremes and savageries because it serves no political purpose. In Africa, for example, we find practices and beliefs utterly repellent to modern minds: the practice of senior village men raping young girls as an accepted right, the genital mutilation of 3 million girls annually (an African, not an Islamic, practice), the hunting down and butchering such “strange” people as albinos, their parts to be eaten as medicine, and many others. In India, a country well on its way to becoming modern yet one with a huge backward population, we have practices such as marrying off mere girls to old men rich enough to pay dowries to poor parents. At one stroke this enriches the parents and relieves them of the burden of a child, a female child too, always viewed less favorably.  The practice generates a large population of widows when the old husbands of girls married at, say, twelve die. These women are then condemned to entire lives as widows, never allowed to remarry, required to dress and eat in certain ways, and basically shunned to live in squalid equivalents of old folks homes., living entirely meaningless lives. India also has the practice of “bride burning” where new brides who are deemed unacceptable for various reasons become the prey of the groom’s family, literally being burned alive. There are many other barbarities in that society too, including “honor killing” and young women who are made inmates in certain temples to serve as glorified prostitutes.

Our press assiduously avoids much of the world’s horrors as it focuses on “Islamic extremism,” and politics are the only explanation for the bias. The press theme of Islamic terror and indeed real incidents of terror grow from a reality always taken for granted, never debated, and certainly never criticised: the elephant in the room, as it were, is Israel’s illegal and agonizingly long occupation of the Palestinians.

It may be not be important to our press and governments that Israel holds millions as prisoners, crippling the lives of generation after generation, or that Israel periodically strikes out in every direction – Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank – causing the deaths of many thousands, or that Israel is seen to bulldoze people’s homes and sacred monuments with complete impunity, but it very much matters to many millions of Muslims in the world, and some of them, fundamentalist men, strike out against it just as young men everywhere have sometimes struck out against keenly-felt hurts and injustice.

In western countries, under the hard influence of America, a country in turn under the hard influence of the world’s best organized and financed lobby, the Israel Lobby, we have come to regard Israel’s behavior as normal, but it is, of course, not normal, not in any detail. What is normal about holding several million people prisoner for half a century? What is normal about bulldozing homes and literally stealing the land upon which they stood? What is normal about declaring an honestly elected government as criminal and treating its people as though they were criminals? What is normal about limiting people’s opportunity to earn a living or to import some of the needs of life? What is normal about killing nearly a thousand children, as Israel has done just in Gaza, since 2008?

Pretending that Israel’s behavior is not the major cause of what screams from our headlines and news broadcasts has reached absurd levels. America has only vastly compounded the problem of Israel’s organized abuse of a people: it and its silent partners have destroyed Iraq, destroyed Libya, are working hard to destroy Syria, have seen to it that Egypt’s tens of millions again live under absolute government, ignore countless inequities and barbarities in secretly-helpful countries like Saudi Arabia, and carry out extra-judicial killings through much of the region. All of it is carried out on Israel’s behalf and with Israel’s cooperation. Can any reasonable person not see that this vast factory of death also manufactures countless grievances and vendettas? The stupidity is on a colossal scale, rooted in the notion that you can kill your way out of the terrible consequences of terrible policies.

In America, paid political shills (Newt Gingrich was one) have campaigned about there being no such thing as a Palestinian. Others (Dick Armey was one) have said that millions of Palestinians should be removed, all their land left conveniently to Israel. That last is an odd thing to say, isn’t it, considering there are supposed to be no such thing as Palestinians? And just what country would take millions of “non-existent” Palestinians? Obviously no politician with even pretence of integrity would say such things, and how can intelligent and successful people like America’s Jews take satisfaction in hearing politicians reciting such embarrassing scripts? But this is a good measure of the way intelligence and sound thinking are scorned in American politics. How can you achieve anything worth achieving without intelligence and sound thinking? You cannot, but that doesn’t stop American Presidents and Secretaries of State from carrying on the world’s longest-running dumb show, something called the “peace process.” The sombre, moose-like figure of John Kerry is photographed playacting at statesmanship while American-supplied arms just keep killing thousands of innocent people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

SOME HARD FACTS ABOUT TERROR

John Chuckman

 

We are having an outbreak of reports in the Canadian press about “home grown” terrorists, “radicalized” young men of Muslim faith traveling out of the country to participate in extremist groups abroad, a relatively insignificant phenomenon which has received inordinate publicity. In any event, if you give the matter some thought, you realize that this “news” is a kind of empty publicity, noise about something as old and familiar as human life itself, although it has been bestowed with a new name intended to frighten us into supporting measures outside the framework of a society of laws.

The truth is that young men, at least a certain portion of them, have always traveled abroad to join causes and wars. It’s about as ordinary a phenomenon as playing team sports or joining clubs. In many cases, we end up praising them for their bravery and idealism, as was certainly the case with the many thousands of Europeans, Americans, and Canadians who traveled to Spain in the 1930s to volunteer in the civil war against General Franco. In other cases, we condemn and imprison them and sometimes even execute them as part of the losing side, as America has been doing in its rampage through the Middle East.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the emergence of new, independent nations from the British Empire drew thousands of young men to Africa to fight as mercenaries or volunteers. Apartheid South Africa used to run classified ads in newspapers abroad to attract young men in its battle against the African National Congress. Young Jewish men in the past went to Israel to join the IDF out of some sense of brotherhood, and they do so still. The French Foreign Legion gained almost mythical status as a place for young men to leave things behind, embracing an undefined sense of purpose and brotherhood. Young European adventurers, often young noblemen with hopes of gaining glory, sailed across the Atlantic in the 1770s to volunteer in the American colonies’ revolt against the British Empire, far more of them than Washington’s meagre army could use.

Magnetic leaders like Napoleon or Castro or Nasser attracted countless volunteers from abroad in their heyday. Our history books don’t dwell on the fact but large numbers of young men from many countries volunteered for Hitler’s invading legions. The phenomenon does not depend on the high or noble nature of the cause, although the luster and publicity around grand causes undoubtedly attracts a still wider range of young men.

Young men often just want to escape from every-day, humdrum life, a boring marriage, a nothing job, or, as in the case of the Foreign Legion, to leave a criminal or failed past behind in hopes of high adventure, a new identity, and a fresh start in life. The genuine nature of a cause often matters little because young men’s fantasies convert grubby deeds into mythic stuff at least for a time. Young men in the Foreign Legion were actually fighting for a brutal imperialism in North Africa. Volunteers to the IDF only assist in the oppression of an abused people, not in the protection of the Jewish people. Those who joined Napoleon thought they were spreading liberté, égalité et fraternité across a mummified old-order Europe, but they were helping one of history’s great bloody soldier-conquerors glorify himself and do what it was he lusted after doing.

Mental illness also intrudes into terrorist matters, all things unusual or different being grist for the big dumb mill of the press. In Canada, during the wave of empty chatter about “home-grown terrorists,” there were two isolated incidents of murder in different parts of the country, one of a policeman and one of a reservist in the military. Immediately the press began a completely uninformative and patience-exhausting round of speculation about the dark nature of the perpetrators, complete with interviews of various self-proclaimed “terrorism experts,” men, as it generally turns out, who run security firms and are out drumming up business. In both cases, we finally learned through the fog of misinformation generated by the press, that the young dead men were deeply mentally disturbed, their acts having no more political significance than the crazed men set on suicide who first kill their wives or children or the boys who periodically show up heavily armed at school, shooting their way through classmates.

And of course, it is almost invariably males who do these things, our prisons containing about ten men for every woman. The violence we see in professional football, hockey, or boxing being almost an exclusive male domain. Woman rarely commit murder, males being responsible for almost all of it, with young males being responsible for an extraordinarily disproportionate share.

Aside from the psychotic and deeply depressed, there is a certain segment of young men in every society who are simply attracted to opportunities for legal killing, rape, and mayhem – this being the truly ugly side of every war and conflict that we never mention in our sentimental world-war memorial services or high school textbooks. These men are variously termed sociopaths or psychopaths, and they appear to exist naturally in some proportion in any population. They enjoy killing, inflicting pain, and the sense of supreme power over the lives of others, and they are incapable of sympathy for their victims or remorse for their acts. They only fear being caught, and war provides a wonderful legal playground for them.

The bloodiest, most brutal and pointless war of the last half century, America’s grotesque slaughter in Vietnam, attracted thousands of volunteers from other countries to join in the gruesome fun – acts which included everything from raping girls and then shooting them to throwing men out of helicopters. Even then-peaceful Canada, whose prime minister, Lester Pearson, bravely turned down Lyndon Johnson’s bullying demands to send troops (charmer that Johnson was, he is said to have grabbed our Nobel Peace Prize-winning leader by the lapels during a meeting and pushed him against a wall), saw hundreds of adventure-seeking young men, on their own, join the American holocaust, which would see three million horribly slaughtered, countless wounded, and an ancient agricultural land overwhelmed with America’s landmines, cluster bombs, and poisons.

Today we call people terrorists as easily as we more accurately might have called them reckless or mad. The word terrorist has been given an almost frightening, superstitious connotation much resembling the word witch in the seventeenth century when any poor old soul who suffered from a mental illness like schizophrenia might be burnt alive for her mumblings and delusions. Today, the same people we once burnt would be sent to a homeless shelter or a psychiatric hospital. Another aspect of the word terrorist is related to what Stalin used to say when he expected his officials to launch a new purge to keep the country terrorized into submission. The Vozhd would say something about “wreckers” or “wreckers of the revolution” and his minions would busy themselves demonstrating alacrity in finding large numbers to consign to prison or death. All of our press and government spokespeople now use terrorist with those two meanings, and to the extent that they do, we should recognize the foolishness of their speech and its danger to a free society.

Of course, anyone who commits violent crime needs dealing with, and we do have laws covering every form of violent crime and what is judged the degree of culpability. But creating a special class or type of crime, somehow understood to be different in nature from other crimes, and thereby requiring extraordinary measures of espionage and policing and imprisonment and standards of evidence, is a shabby, dishonest, and cowardly political act. It is a political act in exactly the sense best explained by George Orwell.

The template for this kind of state activity comes directly from Israel. It long ago succeeded in changing the outside perception of events since 1948 from that of a relatively powerless people having their homes and lands taken with great brutality. Everyone knows instinctively that people treated in that fashion have every right in international law and custom to fight their oppressors. We call them at various times and circumstances freedom fighters, guerillas, resistance fighters, or irregulars. But in this case, they were transformed into terrorists who seek only to destroy law-abiding, democratic Israel – unspeakably evil beings intent on attacking the imported Ozzie-and-Harriet peacefulness of white-picket fence neighborhoods constructed on other people’s property. It truly is a case of the world turned on its head.

It does make things so much easier when you shoot someone or bulldoze their home or send them to prison indefinitely with no trial and subject to torture, if you first have demonized them, much as in the case of witches or wreckers, with terrorist being this generation’s choice demonizing word. And when Israel kills some people whose identity as “terrorists” might be seen as very doubtful, the victims magically become militants, a Newspeak word which strives to make the killing of anyone from boys to grandfathers palatable, our shabby press in the West having adopted the word in its reportage without so much as blinking an eye, much less asking a question. This has been Israel’s day-in, day-out pattern of government for decades, but now it has managed to export to the United States the same pattern of behavior. The United States, after all, is a nation given to Captain Ahab-like obsessions, as it has demonstrated many times in its history, Muslims now having displaced the Communists it pursued with relentless fury for decades at home and abroad. And when the United States embraces a new obsession, its dependants in Europe, Canada, Australia, and other places are bullied into embracing it too. America has many avenues for pressuring the acceptance and recognition of its latest craze or special interest or dark operation and to quiet the criticism which would naturally flow from those who disagree and think for themselves.

Were America not enthralled with this voodoo about terror, Europe and others would quickly fall away, and Israel’s ugly behavior would be left in a glaring spotlight, much as South Africa’s once was.

It is the force of these considerations in part which leads so many to question the true nature of what happened on 9/11, for that set of events was pivotal in having American public opinion embrace extraordinary, anti-democratic, and anti-human rights measures. I do not subscribe to the (not-uncommon) conspiracy notion that the American government was complicit in 9/11, using it as a kind of Nazi Reichstag Fire to ignite the mindless war on terror and a crusade through the Middle East to overturn governments unfriendly to Israel. I do very much believe though that the full story of that event has never been told, and, as always, that can only mean highly embarrassing or compromising facts are being suppressed. The immense body of confidential information in Washington on all matters of state – literally tens of billions of documents – would largely disappear if it weren’t for considerations of embarrassment and compromise, the need for genuine government secrecy being much rarer than many assume.

A free society does not recognize crimes deemed in some way to be different or more heinous or extraordinary: it maintains and enforces sensible, well-reasoned laws which apply equally to all. It does not create criminal laws which reflect political pressure or special interests. The United States, now on a new hunt for a great white whale, has virtually re-created East Germany’s dreaded Stasi, only in a much more sophisticated and far-reaching form. It meshes with the all-pervasive secret state police apparatus Israel has constructed in the Middle East with infinite care since 1948. Now, over all our lives there is something, not answerable to any electorate, working to dissimulate, to intimidate, and to generate fear as nothing of which the Soviet Union was remotely capable. It influences all of our laws and customs, even attempting to shape the way we speak and think.

 

 

 

 

 

TRYING TO IMAGINE HELL

John Chuckman

 

Christians have always had it wrong. Hell is not a place loaded with terrifyingly dramatic scenes and flaming Hollywood special effects. That not only seems improbable, it actually is rather unimaginative.

Hell must be a place where all the people you would hate spending five minutes with become your intimate neighbors for eternity. It would be filled with people who never had an interesting thought, who never cared about the beauties of the universe, who only ever grasped for more, and people who spewed hate and ignorance their entire lives.

Of course, it contains figures like Hitler, and the Fuhrer’s closest associates sit gathered around to feel the mind-deadening, unremitting pain of hearing his views repeated in late evening monologues forever. Henry Kissinger will sit at Hitler’s feet, forced eternally to just listen, learning from the master as it were. One also finds the banalities and droning platitudes of George Bush. Imagine an eternal replay of his barely-literate mumbling, often stumbling over his own tongue while reciting his contributions to democracy and the goodness of America. Tony Blair will smirk, count his blood money, and display the smug stupidity of his smarmy smile forever. Madeleine Albright sits holding broken children’s bodies in her arms, an impious parody of Michelangelo’s Pieta.

But the halls of hell must also resonate with the sounds of lesser dark figures: the chirping vapidity of Sarah Palin pleading for campaign contributions over a bleeding moose carcass; the cowardly John McCain alternating between the black-faced rage of a world-class spoiled brat and his pose as the boyish hero who was shot down while bombing civilians in Hanoi; Bill Clinton’s syrupy Arkansas slop about integrity; Jonathon Edwards reciting his sugar-plum visions of America a million, million times; Newt Gingrich posed in a perpetual tableau telling his wife dying of cancer that he’s divorcing her for a hot babe; J.Edgar Hoover, cross-dressed as he was wont to do in his off-hours, shares an eternal loveseat embrace with his beloved Clyde Toland.

Folks who spent their entire lives grasping desperately for the substance of others fill the halls of hell with their moral emptiness, grasping still where there’s nothing left to grasp. There are puffed-up philanthropists sitting eternally on corporate thrones in castle-like headquarters, one pretending to humility in turtleneck sweaters, offering dollops of tax-free interest earnings from their foundation-intact fortunes to humble petitioners. Phony pitchmen of every description spend eternity repeating and refining their insincere friendliness. You hear the words “folks” and “my friends” echoing frequently. An eternity of unwanted telephone calls, unwanted mail offers, and e-mail spam awaits everyone in hell.

The phony pitchmen of American think-tanks will be generously represented, still posing as genuine academics while regurgitating their paid propaganda eternally, much resembling actors in white lab coats pretending to be scientists in television headache commercials. Indeed, when you think about it, Americans seem very likely to fill a disproportionate space in hell.

The Jerry Falwells, Pat Robertsons, Franklin Grahams, and Jimmy Swaggarts thump their Bibles, sputter, gush theatrical tears, drop to their knees, and beg for money endlessly – all done to a background accompaniment of Tammy Faye Baker warbling hymns in a voice resembling a cat in heat at midnight in the backyard. Imagine, ten quadrillion years of that, and then in the words of the wonderful old hymn, “with no less time…than when we first began.”

I suspect Hell actually looks a great deal like the world in which we live. It just excludes all the things that give us any hope and beauty and truth in life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UNCANNY PARALLELS IN CHARACTER

John Chuckman

I’m not one of those who scribble blunt little mustaches on pictures of politicians I dislike, but here I make some uncomfortable and I believe accurate observations comparing personality and character traits of a contemporary politician with one of history’s darkest figures.

I don’t know whether anyone else has noticed the fact that Benjamin Netanyahu and Adolph Hitler share uncomfortably similar personality and character traits. Certainly there are, and have been, other politicians who also share the same traits, but it is of particular concern today that a man of this nature dominates events in the Middle East. In the case of Hitler we can read about his personality and character in any of a number of scholarly biographies and histories of World War II. In the case of Netanyahu, we can see them displayed on the world stage despite an immense amount effort by public relations flaks and apologists to airbrush them. We have also, something we do not always have for contemporaries, the first-hand testimony of several world figures about key aspects of his behavior to which we wouldn’t otherwise be exposed.

One of Hitler’s most prominent traits was a driving will, really a consuming obsession, to re-build the world he inhabited into a place which conformed to his wishes, illusions, and prejudices. He was, if you will, the dangerous ideologue or dreamer par excellence. Several sweeping idees fixes dominated his thinking.

Identifying with Germany rather than the small country of his origin, Austria, he wanted to see that nation become as great and powerful as possible. Caught in the general blind enthusiasm when World War I was declared, he volunteered for service with Germany. He served with decorated bravery, receiving serious wounds, and ended with crushing disappointment over Germany’s defeat. Within a few years, if not earlier in private, he began thinking of himself as Germany’s man of destiny to lead the nation to future victory, making up for the humiliations of World War I. Undoubtedly, his own odd early life, full of humiliations for a man who always regarded himself as quite special, undoubtedly contributed force to his thinking.

Hitler was a supreme narcissist, one who came eventually around to regarding himself in messianic terms with regard to the German people and their future. As with all narcissists who gain authority through their skills and charm – yes, Hitler could be quite charming in private as many contemporaries have testified – it is easy for them to slip into sociopathic behavior. Lying and dissimulation were as natural as breathing for Hitler, and again as with all narcissists, there was no sense of wrong-doing but rather a sense of success in fooling others to serve his purposes. These qualities are not unknown in the politics of other democratic states, and we observe them in everyday life in fields such as finance or big-time selling.

Hitler was famous for the terrifying rages he could throw in private. Sometimes they were employed against generals or officials who raised objections to an idea or plan of his. It was a favorite method he used on the leaders of foreign states from whom he tried to extract concessions during a crisis negotiation. One can almost picture him sometime after the raging meeting, relaxing in private, laughing about the poor shocked witnesses. The rages were undoubtedly often genuine but they were also a part he played, and played quite convincingly.

Psychiatric studies of Hitler fail to find a psychotic mind. He was not mad, which of course makes his acts all the more frightening. It is easy to dismiss the violent acts of madmen, but the banality of evil is a far less predictable force in human society.

Hitler understood that America’s sheer size in population and resources made her very powerful through huge internal markets and economies of scale, and he wanted to achieve the same status for Germany. His central idea for doing so from his earliest days was the conquest of Russia, whose great resources and lands would be exploited by Germans and whose Slav population would be reduced to slavery. The world’s German people, according to his thinking, would then flourish and increase their numbers. His ideas about Russia had in part a fairly old lineage, there having been many past schemes and efforts to connect German know-how with Russian resources. Many thinkers in the world at the time saw Germany as the most important economic, scientific, and cultural force in Europe and saw Russia as an immense place inhabited by less enlightened people. All of his early victories in Europe were in preparation for the great Russian assault, many of them taken in reaction to those who sought to stop him.

Of course, Hitler’s thinking in such matters as the conquest of Russia was never just straightforward or analytical, being always blurred with a deep sense of values, almost a mysticism, related to early German mythology. Embracing the barbarism represented in these stories was his way of freeing himself of constraints he saw in German society holding back its progress, and embrace it he did.

Hitler had what all educated people today would regard as crackpot ideas about the nature of human biology, but they actually did not seem quite so far out in the 1920-30s when general understanding of such matters was rudimentary. Terms like race purification were not heard only from Hitler but from a surprising assortment of people in the West. The “land of the free,” for example, had government eugenics programs well before Nazi Germany, programs in which tens of thousands of American citizens were involuntarily sterilized, having been judged unfit for reproduction. Many famous American business barons supported these and other related views and policies, most notably Henry Ford who wrote openly, among other things, of the need for eugenics and of his visceral hatred of Jews. Hitler actually kept a photo of Ford in his Chancellery office. Other Americans who went out of their way to demonstrate sympathy with the Nazis included Prescott Bush, Randolph Hearst, Irénée Du Pont, Henry Luce, Joseph Kennedy, John Rockefeller, Thomas J. Watson, Charles Lindbergh, plus a host of executives in major American corporations who did business with the Nazis and generally regarded them exactly as Hitler regarded himself, as a bulwark against communism and social chaos.

Hitler’s views on race and people were twisted outgrowths of his brutal – he liked that term, considering it a compliment to his hard-nosed insight and rejection of sentimentality – views on the economy and the state. Despite using the word socialist as part of the name of his party, Hitler was a social Darwinist, a philosophy shared in one degree or another by many influential Americans even today from corporate leaders and “think tank” flaks to the Tea Party and many so-called libertarians. He used the term socialist as just one lure for support in the chaos of Germany from the 1920s into the early 1930s, a time when he tried fervently to be elected to office, something he never achieved (about 37% of the vote at his high-water mark, eventually being appointed as Chancellor by an aged President), but he used the term also because he felt always the state had the right and obligation to interfere in the economy to serve greater ends. Not a few Americans embrace the same view, so long as the areas of concern are limited to the military, the national security apparatus, or the well-being of huge corporations – with none of which Hitler would have disagreed.

He viewed the military as the supreme tool of the state, and he once said, when reminded many young men would die, that that was what they were for. Through the early- and mid-1930s, he built formidable new armed forces in Germany which put him in a position eventually to carry out his dream. In the end, Hitler did achieve something out of ancient Germanic mythology, not the part he wanted but something terrible which destroyed the lives of tens of millions, Gotterdammerung.

Netanyahu is also something of a transplant, having been born in Israel but having spent many years in the United States. His English has an American accent.

Netanyahu is notorious for his lying and his rages. While the general public often would not be able to detect all of the lies, those involving confidential or secret matters, we have the extraordinary testimony of former presidents Clinton and Sarkozy as well President Obama that you cannot believe one word that Netanyahu utters. He spins whole webs of lies to get what he wants or to avoid what he doesn’t want. I think it pretty clear that anytime he uses the words peace or a Palestinian state, he is lying. President Obama, in his earlier dealings with Netanyahu and before he was quite reduced to a spineless servant of powerful lobbyists, actually said he did not believe Netanyahu wanted peace. Certainly every step of Netanyahu’s political career supports the perception, from his early rejection of the Oslo Accords to his mass slaughter of fenced-in civilians in Gaza. Yes, he has made speeches about peace, but then so did Hitler who made a speech about peace in the 1930s, William Shirer called one of the greatest ever made.

His rages, at least some of them, are public knowledge. You may easily search for pictures on the Internet of Netanyahu shouting, finger pointing, red in the face, and virtually spitting with his eyes bulging like those of some ancient Asian warlord in a scroll painting. As was the case sometimes with Hitler, some of the rages may be deliberate acts but that does not make them any less frightening.

Netanyahu also adheres to a mythology, the biblical myths about the Promised Land and the narcissistic stuff about God’s chosen people, and that expression “God’s chosen people” is frightfully reminiscent of Hitler’s vision of the Germanic people. So far as I am aware, Netanyahu has not used that expression in public, but belief in it is implicit in so much that he does. It certainly is implicit in the very concept of claiming the ancient land of Israel as belonging to you and your people. People may be forgiven for believing such things in private as part of their religious faith, but when they provide templates for a state and its policies, they are utterly pernicious nonsense. Also, Netanyahu is known to have uttered in private and in not-so-private situations many contemptuous expressions describing Palestinians and Arabs.

There is a second layer of myth in Netanyahu’s thinking, one just as fantasy-like as Hitler’s Germanic myths, and that is the idea that he and his fellow countrymen are descended from the biblical Hebrews. The Ashkenazi Jews who are the bone and sinew of modern Israel are simply a European people, the name Ashkenazi meaning German. Recent DNA tests suggest the Ashkenazi trace to a woman from around Italy who migrated to Germany maybe a thousand years ago. Other tests suggest Ashkenazi origins as the Kazhars, a Caucasian tribe who were converted to Judaism and lived in and around modern Ukraine a thousand years ago, later migrating west, settling in a number of Eastern and Central lands. Some of the early Zionists and future Israeli politicians were well aware of this latter possibility, there being many suggestive clues in language and cultural artifacts, because they wrote and spoke of it. In all events, the native language of many Ashkenazi people is Yiddish, a hybrid of German evolved over a very long period. Hebrew has long been studied in the Hebrew schools associated with temples in many places as part of religious observance the same way many Muslims learn some Arabic and by biblical scholars in universities, but until it was artificially imposed on Israel, it was virtually a dead language spoken day-to-day by no one.

There is no record of the original Hebrew people of the Bible having been expelled en masse from Palestine, and such behavior was totally uncharacteristic of the Romans. The Romans faced many ferocious enemies in their conquests – the Celts, the Gauls, Germanic tribes, and others – as well as many people whose customs they regarded as barbarous, but they did not expel any of them en masse, or the Roman Empire would have been very thinly populated with no agricultural economic base to pay the taxes and tributes Rome always exacted. The stories of an expelled people wandering about here and there for ages are certainly as fanciful as the older Hebrew stories of Jonah or Lott’s wife or slavery in Egypt (which not one bit of archeological evidence has ever confirmed). All such stories are just as unsuitable to claiming territory as the Teutonic myths would be.

And they are particularly unsuitable to claiming a place already long populated by another group of people. In saying this, I do not question the existence of Israel, just its belligerent expansion. I do believe supporting its 1948 unilateral declaration was a matter of poor judgment and political skulduggery, particularly by the United States, because it created something completely not-in-keeping with its environment and a source of future ceaseless hostilities. But the mistake was made, and the world can accept an Israel which keeps to its early boundaries and behaves civilly to its neighbors – and that includes the Palestinians and even Hamas, it being a Netanyahu lie that Hamas will never do so since it has already said in private that it will. The problem is precisely that Netanyahu’s Israel does not want to keep those boundaries. The creation of Greater Israel is something we see underway year in and year out, slowly and brutally doing something not entirely different to what Hitler had dreamed of for Russia, taking the land and reducing its natives to slaves or people with no status and rights, untermensch, as he called them dismissively.

Some Israelis compare what they are doing to Palestinians with North America’s treatment of indigenous people, but that is an entirely false comparison. All indigenous people in Canada and America are citizens, and they may go to live and work where they wish. That is certainly not what Palestinians under Israeli control experience, nor is it what the Netanyahu-minded of Israel have in mind for the future, demanding always recognition as an exclusively Jewish state, a seemingly simple formulation which hides a multitude of potential evils. In any event, comparing the ethics of your behavior in the early 21st century to what others did in the 18th century – a time of general slavery, inferiority of women, and capital punishment for modest crimes – is a ridiculous proposition.

Although he has never declared so in public, judging by the totality of his aggressive acts and seizures with flimsy excuses, Netanyahu is dedicated to some form of Greater Israel, an Israel which includes the West Bank and Gaza and Jerusalem and even parts of Syria and Lebanon in most definitions. The Six Day war was deliberately engineered by like-minded Israelis earlier to lay the foundation of a future grander state. Netanyahu has never indicated disagreement with what was done. The millions of people who live in those places now are either to simply pick up and leave everything behind – going someplace, any place, Jordan or the Sinai having featured in Israel’s wishes at times – or accept perpetual existence as nonentities living in unconnected reservations behind walls and fences and earning their living as cheap temporary labor for Israel. If Netanyahu did not embrace this vision, he has had plenty of opportunity to end the nearly half century of repressive occupation but has never made the smallest effort to do so, only adding his own large-scale confiscation of more peoples’ homes and farms and a terrible, bloody investment and invasion of the open-air prison of Gaza. And when soldiers in the occupation zones kill innocent people, as they frequently do for slight provocations, they are never held to account, so too in the case of fanatical “settlers” who periodically swarm poor Palestinian farmers, chopping down or burning ancient olive trees or other property. Netanyahu’s voice is never once heard against outrages.

Netanyahu’s version of Greater Israel is a place that influences events and peoples around it for a thousand miles, as it already is doing in its early days, which is why the people of Egypt again live under American-influenced tyranny, the people of Syria are fighting armed madmen owing in part to Israel’s dark collusion, Iraq is left a broken and bleeding state, as is Libya, and Iran, which has started no wars and never threatened Israel, is threatened regularly in ugly rants from Netanyahu much resembling those of Hitler aimed at Czechoslovakia or other non-offending states he was eventually to destroy. It is of course to be a Greater Israel only for one kind of people. Those living in the occupied territories are kept miserably uncomfortable in hopes they will leave. Even the Arabs who are citizens of Israel – an unintended accident of events in 1948 and a purely technical status for them – are undoubtedly seen as leaving one day after living under the duress, as they do, of unequal laws and frequent attacks on their loyalty, especially once Israel has formal recognition as a Jewish state. Can you image a better formula for endless war and instability, a formula strongly resembling Hitler’s vision of Greater Germany, ending his rhetorical thousand year Reich in just twelve years?

Just as was the case for Hitler, Netanyahu is not a majority leader, his government depending on alliances with some even more unpleasant, extremist personalities, as for example his present Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who has made outrageously racist speeches and openly suggested pushing Israel’s non-Jewish citizens out of their homes. This sly pattern of underlings making distasteful suggestions represents a game Hitler, too, played. He did not always go on record himself saying the most terrible things. He often let lieutenants say them, observing to see the strength and direction of public reaction. All reasonable people will agree that the leader of a country must be held responsible for what his ministers say, unless the leader refutes the words in public and dismisses the offending minister, something we do not see from Netanyahu.

Again, looking for pictures on the Internet, it is not hard to find some of Netanyahu suggesting the ability sometimes to charm with a sly smile and inviting gestures. Here we also have the testimony of some world figures. He is apparently able to be quite charming in private, while at the same time lying through his teeth. The narcissism is clear.

The army too is the primary tool of state for Netanyahu. He himself served, was wounded, and he expects others to do so uncomplainingly, including those with religious objections. Israel spends an inordinate amount of money – its own and a great deal from others – on armed forces which are immensely out of proportion to its size and legitimate needs – that is, if you aren’t thinking in terms of conquest and occupation and arrogant demands, just exactly the terms which characterize Netanyahu’s entire career.

One of the interpretations of Hitler’s statesmanship and conquests, that of a modern biographer, Ian Kershaw, sees him as having been an obsessive high-rolling gambler who just kept raising the stakes until luck abandoned him. I actually cannot think of a better description of Netanyahu’s entire political career.

More than a few well known observers have said that Netanyahu quite possibly will end by destroying Israel, something I regard as distinctly possible, a parallel to Hitler’s Gotterdammerung for Germany. And in the meantime, countless people will be threatened, intimidated, imprisoned, tortured, or killed needlessly over a set of feverish, unrealistic obsessions.

Apologists for Israel often say that it acts with great restraint in its violence. Yes, Israel has not murdered the millions who live under its endless occupation, and in that limited sense only does Israel show restraint. Hitler murdered millions, but he did so largely in secret and under cover of the bloodiest war in all of human history, the invasion of Russia. The whole world watches Israel, even though Israel does a great deal to make observation and reportage difficult. But Israel works under conflicting impulses. It desperately wants to be considered as an open, modern, and democratic society, notions promoted in Netanyahu’s every speech aimed or delivered abroad and through truckloads of slick propaganda. It must be mindful of attracting immigrants and avoiding an exodus. It simply isn’t possible to completely shut the world out without Israel imploding, and it is hardly a merit not to have imitated Hitler.

But, remember, Israel has kept millions as prisoners for nearly half a century, depriving them of all rights, depriving them of property, offering them no hope, and terrorizing them with periodic home invasions, attacks, and atrocities. Freely-elected members of Palestinian governments have been arrested, leaders have been assassinated, and thousands of innocents at any given time languish in Israeli prisons where torture is common. The Palestinians have experienced such horrors as water wells poisoned, human waste dumped or sprayed, crops poisoned or otherwise destroyed, shops bulldozed, children shot for throwing rocks, and an entire police-state apparatus of check-points and identity papers and outrageous rules imposed twenty-four hours a day. There is nothing in Israel’s behavior resembling ethics or human values or even a genuine democratic impulse, and calling it restraint ranks as some of the world’s sickest humor.

 

 

 

 

 

THE TRAGEDY OF MODERN DEMOCRACY

John Chuckman

 

I read and heard about Hong Kong’s students putting themselves at risk demonstrating for democracy, and my first instinct was sympathy, sympathy for their passionate idealism, but sympathy in another sense too, for their sad illusions. I ask myself, and it is not a trivial question, what is it exactly that they believe they fight for? Democracy has become such a totemic word, we all are trained to revere it, unquestioningly, almost the way 16th century people were expected to behave in the presence of the Host during Communion. But just where in the West do we see countries who call themselves democracies behaving in democratic ways, indeed where do we see genuine democracies? And if it is such an important concept, why should that be?

In Canada, to start where I live, we have a serious democratic deficit. A Conservative government today, elected to a parliamentary “majority” with about 39% of the national vote, behaves for all the world as an authoritarian government in many things at home and abroad. It turned its back completely on Canada’s historic support of green initiatives, embarrassing our people in international forums with blunderingly incompetent ministers of the environment. It has built a large new batch of prisons, completely against the general public’s sympathies and in contradiction to historically low and falling crime rates. It echoes the sentiments from Washington on almost anything you care to name and does so completely against Canada’s modern history and prevailing public opinion. It has lost the respect Canada once commanded in the United Nations. It has dropped Canada’s tradition of fairness in the Middle East, blindly supporting Israel’s periodic slaughters, ignoring the horrifying situation of the Palestinians. Only now the government decided to send fighter jets to support the American anti-ISIS farce, an act completely out of step with Canada’s long-term policy of using force only where there is a United Nations’ mandate.

But Canada still has a way to go to match the appalling modern record of Great Britain. Its recent prime ministers include Tony Blair and David Cameron – men, supposedly from separate parties, who both cringingly assent to America’s every wink or nod suggesting some policy, ever ready to throw armies, planes, money, and propaganda at questionable enterprises their people neither understand nor would be likely to support if they did. Promoting the mass deaths of innocents and the support of lies and great injustice are now fixtures in the mother of all parliaments. And, with all the scandals around Rupert Murdoch’s news empire, we got a breathtaking glimpse of how shabbily public policy is formulated behind the scenes, of how smarmy politicians like Blair and Cameron cater to unethical individuals of great wealth and influence.

Israel’s endless patter of propaganda always includes the refrain, “the Middle East’s only democracy.” The press does not think to ask how you can have a democracy with only one kind of person wanted as a voter and with only one kind of citizen enjoying full rights. Nor do they inquire about the millions who live under systematic oppression enforced by that “democracy.” Effectively, Israel rules millions of people who have no rights and no ability to change their status through any form of citizenship, not even the ability to keep their family home if Israel suddenly wants to take it. We have seen “democracies” like that before, as for example in South Africa or in the Confederate States of America, both places where people voted but only a specified portion of the people, millions of others being consigned to a netherworld existence maintained with a carefully designed structure of fraudulent legality. Ironically, viewed from the Middle East’s perspective, it is undoubtedly a good thing there are not more such democracies as Israel.

And the students should perhaps keep in mind the tragic example of Egypt. It too had huge demonstrations with thrilling moments like a dictator of thirty years fleeing and the nation assembling its first free election. But a brief spring garden of elected government was bulldozed after the government said and did things its small neighbor, Israel, did not like. There were more huge demonstrations and thousands of deaths and illegal arrests and the return to military dictatorship in a threadbare disguise of elected government. Eighty million people must now continue life under repressive government because seven million people with extraordinary influence in Washington can’t tolerate democracy next door.

As far as what Colin Powell once called, in a tit-for-tat with a French Foreign Minister, “the world’s oldest democracy,” well, he was just as inaccurate in that assertion as he was about hidden weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. America’s own founding documents do not proclaim a democracy but rather that most fuzzily-defined of all forms of government, a republic. It was a republic in which the President was not elected by the general population, where the Senate was appointed, where the Supreme Court had no authority to enforce the high-sounding phrases of the Bill of Rights, and where as little as one-percent of the population could even vote – it was, in sum, an aristocracy of wealthy and influential citizens dressed up in high-sounding phrases. The American Revolution was aptly summed up by a writer as “a homegrown aristocracy replacing one from abroad.”

And since America’s founding, while the voting franchise gradually has been extended to become nearly universal (prisoners and ex-convicts still often cannot vote in a nation with the world’s highest incarceration rate), equally gradual changes in the structure of America’s institutions pretty much keep that original form of government intact. At every level, barriers erected by the two ruling parties make it nearly impossible to establish an effective alternative party. Even getting listed on all the ballots was an immense task for a billionaire – Ross Perot – who in fact represented no substantive alternative by any measure. The two parties’ privileged position also is protected by the need for immense amounts of campaign funds, America’s regular election costs being in the billions, the Supreme Court having declared money as “free speech.” You do not get that kind of money from ordinary citizens, and you necessarily owe those who do supply it, and you simply cannot compete in American politics without it.

For major offices, the vetting of politicians is now so long and demanding that no candidate can possibly run who isn’t completely acceptable to the establishment. The campaign money simply will not appear otherwise. Such quiet political controls are now backed up by a gigantic military-intelligence establishment with such authorities and resources that it much resembles a government within the government. For example, with the NSA spying on every form of communication by every person around the clock, information about politicians is close to perfect. No undesirables can slip through and no undesirable policy can be enacted given the ability to threaten or blackmail every politician over his or her monitored personal and financial affairs. Nobody in his right mind calls that democracy.

The truth is that despite a long history of struggle, revolutions, and movements of various descriptions characterizing the West’s modern era, those with great wealth and influence still rule as effectively as they did centuries ago. Their rule is not as apparent and open to scrutiny as it once was, and there are many mechanisms in place to give the appearance of democracy, at least for those who do not examine closely. Modern elections require money and lots of it. Voters’ choices are limited as surely as they are in many authoritarian states. The ability of any elected officials to act in the public interest is curtailed by a powerful establishment and a number of special interests.

Once in power, modern democratic governments behave little differently than many authoritarian states do. Wars are started without consent and for purposes not in the public interest. Secret services carry out acts government would be ashamed to be seen openly doing. Armies for needless wars are conscripted or bribed into existence. Rights people regarded as basic may be suspended at any time. Injustices abound. Many “democratic” states practice illegal arrest, torture, assassination, and, above all, secrecy. Secrecy is so much a part of things today that when citizens do vote, they haven’t the least idea what they are voting for. Public education is generally poor, especially with regard to the real workings of government and the encouragement of critical thinking. The press has become nothing more than an informal extension of government, a volunteer cheering section, in many important matters. Voters go to the polls hardly understanding what is happening in the world.

So I praise the idealism and bravery of the Chinese students, but I know democracy everywhere remains only a small, hopeful glimmer in the eyes of people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOREIGN AFFAIRS AS OPERA BUFFA: THE GLOBAL FIGHT AGAINST ISIS

John Chuckman

 

There is a forgotten 1933 movie serial called The Three Musketeers in which three members of the French Foreign Legion are rescued by an American, a young John Wayne, using the machine gun on his biplane to mow down Arab bad guys threatening the Legionnaires in the Sahara. What was John Wayne doing flying around the French Sahara? He had flown over from France to visit his girlfriend. Why did he have a machine gun mounted on his plane? There wouldn’t be a story otherwise. Like all such series, it is silly, but it is notable for a plot which includes a secret organization called the Devil’s Circle led by a mysterious and evil figure called El Shaitan, someone who wants to destroy the Legion and, after many false leads, turns out in the last reel to be a western merchant rather than an Arab.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Substitute al-Qaeda for the Devil’s Circle, substitute Osama bin Laden for El Shaitan, and substitute the Mideast for North Africa. John Wayne remains John Wayne, symbol as they used to say on the voiceover for the 1950s Superman television show, “for the American way of life.” It does sound as though the script for al-Qaeda was lifted from the old serial. I’m sure someone at Langley would be able to confirm that. With all its twists and turns around the identity of El Shaitan, the story would make a great libretto for an extravagant opera buffa, or a Broadway comedy musical.

Of course, we had indisputable proof years ago, in the testimony of a former British Foreign Minister and several other significant world figures, that there was indeed no such organization as al-Qaeda, the Arab word commonly meaning “hole” or “toilet,” hardly the choice of cutthroats. The term was a convenient Washington insider shorthand to designate scattered, unrelated populations of Islamic bad guys, as Washington saw them, lurking in deserts and on mountain redoubts or maybe even hiding in Western cities, ready to spring into action at a signal from El Shaitan, I mean, Osama bin Laden. But the fact that al-Qaeda does not exist, as is the case so many times with facts, made no impression on Americans, and especially not on their ever-vigilant press, and certainly had no influence on a lunatic policy called the War on Terror.

Of course, the root cause of 9/11 and so many other acts of angry, frustrated, and powerless people is America’s embrace of the seemingly never-ending injustice and brutality of Israel towards millions of Arabs. But Washington doesn’t deal with hard realities; it is too busy always dealing with self-created fantasies like al-Qaeda. After all, it is the same in its own society. Police brutality, corrupt elections, massive abuses of lobbyists, crying need for reform of a truly sick democracy, massive urban poverty, poor public education, and a dark and overwhelming military-intelligence influence are not topics of discussion in America’s government. No, American politicians’ ideas of domestic issues are proposed flag-desecration amendments, The Star Spangled Banner being sung in Spanish, the role of drones in cities, supplying the nation’s police forces with surplus armored vehicles and gear from all the nation’s wars, stopping the flow of poor refuges, especially children, from all the horrors America has helped create in Central America and Mexico, maintaining the world’s largest prison population at minimum cost, and paying less taxes.

Well, as al-Qaeda fades into the sunset, we are suddenly flooded with media noise about an even more bizarre organization called ISIS (or ISIL) which honorable and honest Western leaders – try not laugh: Obama, Cameron, and Hollande – insist is ready to attack us in city streets, sabotage power grids, and poison water supplies if we don’t start bombing the crap out of them in Iraq and Syria. Some of America’s more bizarre congressmen are also blubbering about an ISIS invasion from Mexico, calculatingly dragging in paranoid fears over the widely disliked situation on America’s southern border concerning refugees. What’s that about Syria? Don’t all the chilling tales of ISIS come from Iraq? Well, pretty much so, but ISIS is said to be very ambitious. Tales of its growth and spread resemble lines from the script of a cheap 1950s science fiction film called The Blob. And besides, Syria is what the United States really cares about, now that Iraq drags itself around almost like a veteran with three limbs nearly severed.

We have indisputable proof in the testimony from a certain former NSA employee, that ISIS is the creation of Mossad and American intelligence. As with so many of America’s recent ghastly projects in the Middle East, financing comes from Saudi Arabia, the Saudis having spent the last 13 years desperately repenting their (still undefined) role in events around 9/11, even to the point of secretly embracing Israel in their regional plans and plots. The Saudis remain under great pressure to cough up wads of cash whenever America now beckons with a new bone-headed project. All the creeps – various collections of mindless fundamentalists, soldiers of fortune, just plain opportunists, and CIA thugs – working to overthrow Assad’s government in Syria also receive their bounty, just as they receive weapons and refuge in Turkey. ISIS first worked in Syria as just one of several rag-tag armies assembled by the United States and its helpers to destroy a peaceful nation which has had the temerity to oppose some of American policy, especially with regard to Israel. Again, to remind readers, the incident at Benghazi, Libya, involving the killing of an American ambassador and a great deal of embarrassment for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was precisely about gathering up violent people and arms in the wasteland created there and shipping them off to Turkey in order to create hell in Syria.

But ISIS is just too over-the-top even for opera buffa. Its creation served several dark aims. First, it serves as a lure for malcontents from many places, many of its recruits being American or English, drawing them together at one location. The leadership of ISIS, associated to a certainty with Israel and the United States, can gather information from these recruits about their associates or organizations in various countries. Effectively, after doing any dirty work assigned to them, the recruits are being set up to be killed, either by American air strikes or by the opponents they face in their work. Few in ISIS would know who the “undercover cops” are and who the bad guys are to be used and disposed of like so much toilet paper. The method reflects Israel’s secret services’ long, ugly use of Palestinians to undermine Palestinians.

Second, ISIS served as a mechanism to topple Nouri al-Maliki, recently prime minister of Iraq, a figure with whom Washington had become very unhappy, chiefly owing to his friendliness with Iran, yet another target of the American/Israeli Axis. Maliki proved lucky compared to most leaders Washington sets up and with whom it becomes disenchanted: they generally end up as the proverbial Mafia figures fitted with cement overshoes at the bottom of a river. Maliki was given a good scare with the advancing blood-curdling hordes of ISIS and wisely understood it as his cue to exit.

Third, ISIS has served as an excuse to work with the Kurdish population in Iraq, more or less separately from the national government. This involves giving weapons and intelligence to Kurds and furthering their de facto separation from Iraq, thus greatly weakening any future Iraq since the Kurdish areas have a great portion of the country’s crude oil. After all, the most basic reason for America’s invasion of Iraq was to eliminate it as even a potential enemy of Israel. There also have been some mysterious disappearances of Iraqi crude shipments, which may well have ended up in Israel.

Fourth, the ISIS move back into Syria provides the perfect excuse for American bombing there, something President Putin of Russia managed to prevent earlier with some deft statesmanship. America has already warned President Assad, busy fighting an engineered civil war created by the same folks who created ISIS, that they will attack his defences if he interferes with their bombing his country. Incidentally, no one consulted the Syrian government on any of this, America having already recognized the collection of rabble and criminals called the Free Syrian Army as legitimate.

American air power and perhaps ground troops, while using the excuse of fighting ISIS, will attempt to swing the engineered civil war back in favor of the “rebels,” Assad’s national forces having had considerable success in defeating them recently. The failure to achieve Assad’s overthrow is one of the more worrying developments in America’s bloody scheme for a re-birth of the Middle East, a plan which seeks to surround Israel with a giant cordon sanitaire, albeit at the cost of more than a million innocent lives. Never mind death or homelessness, such matters never are never concerns of American policy except where there is an advantage to be gained. Look at their filthy work in Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Egypt.

It is of course remotely possible that ISIS, in attempting to set up “an Islamic state” comprising parts of both Iraq and Syria, has gone rogue, out of the control of its handlers – that kind of event being called blowback in the dirty intelligence business – but I think likely it was always in the script. Most ISIS recruits are destined to die after doing what their handlers told them to do, and along the way President Assad’s country is to be further destroyed and if possible reduced to the kind of paraplegic-like nation Iraq has become.

ISIS started as no more than a couple of thousand guys in pick-up trucks with rifles and grenade launchers. It grew, drawing bizarre recruits from many countries, as its reputation for ferocity was artificially played up by the western press. There are after all always and everywhere a fair number of individuals drawn to violence and dangerous adventure. You might call its wonderings in Iraq a gestation period for bigger things, the ultimate goal being an acceptable way to help topple Assad while disposing of a collection of unwanted people. This all amounts to a giant-scale police entrapment scheme, something our courts consistently strike down, but this is entrapment played for keeps on a scale of thousands of lives.

The pick-up truck brigade proved enough to scare off group after group of well-armed units of the Iraqi army – especially with bags of loot from the Saudis tossed into tents at night. Of course, gradually, ISIS did manage to collect some vehicles and tanks left behind by Iraqi forces and present something more threatening. If you just think about it, how would unprofessional recruits have the least idea of how to operate sophisticated weapons? Imagine operating modern tanks or artillery without expert training?  But ISIS has plenty of undercover experts to train them and make them seem more formidable. The head of ISIS is a man, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was an American prisoner for a time. He seems to know America’s greatest pug-ugly senator and roaming unofficial ambassador for killing, John McCain (judging from a number of photos on the Internet showing them together), and he is, according to a number of sources, actually a former Jewish actor named Elliot Shimon, trained by Mossad for a different kind of theater.

Now we’ve had a crescendo of beheadings supposedly captured live on video, only each of these is a patent fraud. Even the mainstream press, the last to discover almost anything worth knowing these days, have now admitted the first one was a fraud, although not before many columnists and commentators spewed great quantities of self-righteous outrage on the subject. Not that the victims probably haven’t died somehow or other, but they were not beheaded by a mysterious eight-foot British giant dressed in black and armed with a paring knife. Staged beheadings of course are intended to revolt people and rouse support for Western governments to act. The real beheadings which occur regularly in Saudi Arabia – there was a batch of 19 only recently – are never shown on American news, nor are they even discussed. But a single video of a fake terrorist beheading is played and replayed and commented on endlessly with indignation over such horror. And the hundreds of Palestinians, including children, whom Israel has beheaded with bombs and artillery never make an appearance on television or rate any commentary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NATION OF COWARDS

John Chuckman

 

What else can you fairly call a people who attack a population of refugees confined to a small space surrounded on every side by fences and machine-gun towers, a population with nowhere to run? No, that is not put strongly enough. Not just attack, but use the latest and most ferocious weapons from the American arsenal to slaughter more than 2100 people, including more than 500 children, destroying along the way a major portion of the housing, businesses, and institutions of a poor people.

The definition of a coward is not the traditional military one of a soldier who won’t fight. No, that’s far too simplistic and self-serving. The genuine meaning of the word, the meaning that warrants our full sense of revulsion and contempt, is someone who attacks someone far weaker than themselves. A large man who beats a woman or a child with his fists or a policeman who clubs a handcuffed prisoner – that is the accurate and meaningful definition of the word. And the people of Israel responsible for Operation Protective Edge are as sadly perfect examples of genuine cowards as you can find in the world.

What remarkable courage it takes – outfitted as the IDF is with Kevlar armor, the latest intelligence gadgets, satellites, radios, support of every imaginable kind, and immensely powerful weapons (they even get hot pizzas delivered as they pause in their gruesome work) – to shoot people who cannot run away, are often poorly fed and clothed, and who mostly have no weapons. And the courage of the Israeli pilots who make bombing runs over homes, schools, apartments, and stores from the safety of their supersonic fighters is surely remarkable. They remind me of the American pilots who shot and incinerated countless retreating Iraqi soldiers in the (engineered) First Gulf War while the television broadcasts caught their gleeful shouts of “Wow, it’s just like shooting fish in a barrel!”

Yes, Americans are the only comparable example of Israel’s cowardice, the Americans who literally enable Israel’s savagery but also themselves have given the world the best part of half a century of savagery abroad, the deaths of literally millions of civilians in half a dozen countries – deaths by carpet bombing, napalm, missiles, white phosphorus, various poisons, and the razor-like shards of cluster bombs.

The United States, like Israel, is never called to account for the worst record on the planet of mass killing and destruction. You simply cannot name a contemporary criminal enterprise or a so-called terrorist organization which has a record so steeped in horrors as those two.

Wholesale death inflicted with utter disregard for international law and custom has become standard policy for both countries. Yes, there are always excuses for mass murder, the weasel words such as communists or terrorists or dictators and weapons of mass destruction (Americans ironically being the only people on earth who actually used them, twice, on civilians) – all of them having no more real meaning than Stalin’s chilling wreckers, a word he used to signal his creatures that it was time for a new bloody purge. In some cases those purged were simply people Stalin did not like or of whom he felt jealous, but in most cases of the millions smashed or consigned to hell on earth, the only motive was to terrify a population into submission, and that is exactly what Israel’s motive is for its periodic massacres of Palestinians and Lebanese.

Anyone of moderate intelligence who reads and thinks must know Israel is in no danger from anyone, least of all the Palestinians who have no organized army, no navy, and no air force, not to mention very little of anything else. Israel is armed to the teeth with conventional and non-conventional weapons, it leans back arrogantly into the arms of super-power America and plays the victim in a land it victimizes, and it functions as a garrison state whose major purpose is to hold down and make miserable millions of people who happen not to be Jewish, all the while hoping they will one day pick up and leave. It is absurd to say Israel’s security is endangered by anyone, and especially by the hopeless, lifetime prisoners of Palestine.

Turning a blind eye to the Holocaust three-quarters of a century ago was an unforgivable thing, but in at least one very real sense, it is now even more culpable the way the West turns a blind eye to Israel’s horrors. The Holocaust was perpetrated in great secrecy, and there was no Internet or international media equipped with satellites to tell the world what was happening. There was no United Nations or other international organizations watching. Today, what Israel does is everywhere to be seen. People in America eat their suppers watching Israeli jets bombing homes. Without much effort you can find images of Palestinian children with portions of their heads missing. And we all saw the Israelis from Sderot sit in lawn chairs on a bluff in the evening breeze laughing and applauding as women and children writhed in agony far below much like ants being stepped on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MODERN CIVILIZATION AND RELIGION

“I, at any rate, am convinced that He [God] does not throw dice.” Albert Einstein

 

John Chuckman

Even the greatest minds sometimes are befuddled by emotional preconceptions, as this famous quote shows Einstein was by his rejection of randomness implicit in quantum mechanics. Ironically, Einstein himself was one of the founders of quantum theory with his work on black-body radiation.

Nothing is more befuddling than the topic of religion because it consists of nothing but preconceptions, veiled under the more seemingly-weighty word, faith. The topic destroys friendships, has caused immense oppression, and has started many bloody wars. These facts alone should provide strong warning against bringing it into public political discourse.

Not everything an individual deems as good for himself is good for society. This touches one of the basic flaws in Christian thinking which can so destructive to civil society. Christians regard all people as being essentially the same in the sense that they all are expected to be nearly identical over a wide range of human behaviors. It is departure from this set of expected behaviors that marks a person as a sinner. But it is easy to see that people are not the same in almost any physical and mental characteristic you care to measure: they in fact represent a spectrum of differences in each category of human behavior and thought, the mix being never quite the same twice.

The Christian way of looking at people is just another, older stream of 1950s’ thinking about what is normal. In those days, it was easy to be classed as deviant or abnormal just on the basis of dress or behavior which did not fit into society’s fairly narrow expectations for normality. Those were the days when the FBI busied itself with matters like garbage checks on people such as Einstein himself. Those were the days when a boy could become a Junior G-Man for snitching on someone. Those were also the days when people with mental illnesses could be involuntarily institutionalized and even lobotomized. Government took full advantage of the 1950s’ frame of mind, indeed it helped create it, encouraging the idea that those looking or acting different are potentially dangerous. The naturally-occurring paranoia which has always been a feature of American society (a genetic heritage from the Puritans perhaps) just needs a frameworklikethat to kick into high gear with witch hunts and citizens snitching on their neighbors. In both cases – Christianity and secret police – there is an underlying impulse to regiment and classify a population, much as every army recruit receives a buzz-cut, dog tags, and standard issue underwear.

The people who classify others as sinners or deviants, of course, believe they are promoting good behavior, but the idea of good in both cases is not a standard set by anyone but themselves in their interpretations of ancient texts, often corrupt from generations of copyists, always inaccurately translated, censored and picked through by the Church ages ago for what is acceptable and what is not, and readily misunderstood in the ambiguity or even nonsense of various passages. Even with such specific and generally accepted ideas as “Thou shalt not kill,” we know modern courts recognize many kinds of killing, not all carrying the same blameworthiness and penalty. Remember the famous line by Hannah Arendt about “the banality of evil”? That is a perfect description for both the Stasi/FBI-friendly citizen and a good many Christians: in being repressive, they thinktheyare doing good by the accepted norms of their society.

At least general thinking in our society has progressed somewhat beyond that of the 1950s, although the FBI carries on in its frat-boy-with-a-badge stupidities, just having new targets. The fundamentalist Christians also carry on with hell-fire sermons, often invoking intense and mindless hatreds, as of homosexuals or foreigners. One well known preacher, Franklin Graham, invoked the use of atomic weapons after 9/11. Another, Pat Robertson, blamed destructive hurricanes on homosexuals and advocated assassinations. Then there are the folks who writhe on the church floor blubbering incoherent grunts and shouts, calling it “speaking in tongues,” those who insist on poisonous snake-handling as part of worship, and many, many who practice prayer for winning football games, particularly homecoming games when grateful alumni can fill the institution’s coffers in their delirious happiness over victory . Hard to see anything of what we knowofJesus in any of that, yet it all has legions of eager American consumers.

Apart from such carnival side-show excesses, all Christians believe they have a set of received truths and that everyone should be brought to hear them, rejecting them at their peril. These truths include the odd conception that all men are hopeless sinners without Christianity. This very urge to convert others, this belief in a single, unchangeable truth, and, importantly, the implicit idea that all people are somehow just alike is destructive to democratic thinking and the values of modern free society.

The very sins of the sinners tend to be defined by criteria that science daily reduces to nonsense. Many differences among individuals – from sexual behavior to truthfulness, from propensity to violence to compassion, from ability to understand to various mental illnesses – reflect nothing more than differences in the make-up of individuals, differences largely in genetic endowments but also to a lesser degree in environmental experiences. Even the tendency to embrace certain religions and political parties as opposed to others almost certainly is shaped by these fundamental differences in make-up. The genuine acceptance of differences is a key to a modern democratic society.

And if there is one country in the advanced world that often does not accept this principle, it is the United States. In its foreign affairs, it is guided by what often are called Christian principles – a rather fuzzily defined and selective set of them and certainly not the rigorous precepts of historical Jesus so far as we know them. These principles are not written down, codified, or officially announced, but casual discussion and the words of innumerable private and religious organizations confirm the widely-held view. This explains in part the embrace of modern Israel, a relationship as destructive to civil society in its nature as the two-thousand year-old, frightening hallucinations of the Book of Revelations upon which it is partly based. Well, the conflation of ancient rubbish and modern society’s needs doesn’t work well even within the United States – that is why it is such a divided and angry society – and itcertainlydoesn’t work for the world in general.

And the United States is a divided and angry society. It is revealed in the rhetoric of many politicians, it is revealed in the sermons of many extreme preachers, it is evident in the extreme violence and lack of regard for citizens of police forces all over the country, it is revealed in the countless schemes to defraud ordinary people, it is revealed in the intolerance for so insignificant a difference as a politician not wearing an American flag lapel pin, it is felt in the embrace of utterly ignorant political figures (Sarah Palin, George Bush, Newt Gingrich, John McCain) by large factions, and its pulse can be felt in many television shows such as the ones showing police doing their worst nasty work on citizens.

Once admitted to public institutions and policy, religion, in any form, leaves little room for rationality or criticism or individuality, which is almost identical to saying, it leaves little room for thought. You are not supposed to criticize someone’s religion – it tends to create anger and aggression – so what do you do when people bring their religion into public institutions with which you must deal? The human race has terrible, bitter experience with this conflict in everything from the long creaking span of the Dark Ages to countless murderous, meaningless wars. And it is important to understand that religions are not always about a god. They may equally be about an ideology or cult of personality. Communism and fascism were both modern religions in every sense of the word, as is every form of inflexible political ideology.

But the human race learns only very, very slowly from its own history. Why else do we keep commemorating the horrors of World War I? Why else do people feel it necessary to build things like Holocaust museums? You might think such titanic murderous events could no more be forgotten than a natural disaster, but then natural disasters are forgotten regularly. The human brain does not want to dwell on past pain. It is a survival mechanism. And likewise each generation wants to create and experience new dreams and hopes. Too often, though, sweeping dreams and hopes are dangerous fantasies which threaten, perhaps unintentionally, to repeat forgotten horrors. Dreams and hopes, especially sweeping ones, are often the begetters of new and dangerous religions.

The continued commemoration of past horrors is itself a religious rite, one not useful for any good social purpose. World War I, for example, was little more than a gigantic blunder made by men bristling with pride and religious-like patriotism. Twenty million died horribly just so one branch of a royal family could not dominate in Europe at the expense of another. It achieved nothing, and indeed set the stage for the even worse terrors of World War II, including the Holocaust. We commemorate World War I largely to keep young men inspired enough to go off to the next useless war their shabby political leaders decide to fight. The constant commemoration of the Holocaust also is a religious rite using guilt and fear to manipulate support for Israel in the face of what is plainly its own savagery towards neighbors.

For as little as we might like it, it is a fact that all of humanity’s great horrors grew out of sweeping dreams and hopes taken to extremes, from the Crusades and the Hundred Years War to the Holy Inquisition and the great world wars. Catholicism, for example, provided and helped enforce for centuries the dangerous and delusional idea of the divine rights of kings. It blessed the conquest and slaughter of great Indian civilizations in the Americas. One Pope even issued a special gold medal commemorating Catherine de Medici’s work for the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in which thousands of French Protestants were slaughtered in their beds or on the streets. And through the centuries of the Church’s dominance in society, its followers believed they were doing what is right because a respected authority told them it was.

Fascism and Communism were only the Twentieth Century’s contributions to religion in politics. Wisdom from the writings and speeches of a few men with either messianic claims for themselves or claims for great sweeping changes in society were received by millions who had suffered bad times. It might not be bad to reflect on the fact that Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin were all raised in the Church.

In America, fundamentalist Christianity was the main pillar of slavery for centuries. Christianity, from the early Great Awakenings (a series of mass, semi-hysterical back-to-Christian-basics movements in early America) to the Scopes Monkey trial in the 1920s, has always been in the forefront of rejecting new ideas and supporting human oppression in one form or another. Missionaries have gone hand-in-hand with the military seizure of other people’s lands time and time again, the case of the Hawaiian Islands being only one of the most egregious. The only time these people served a progressive influence in their long history was a period of advocacy for public education – something many have turned their backs on now – which had the motive of exposing all to the Gospels. A small portion of them also spoke out against slavery in its last days.

Christianity appears to have arisen as a sect or sects of Judaism. Look at the bloody turmoil of the Old Testament. Murder, war, rapine, slavery are just a few of its delightful themes. That is why the most bloody-minded Israelis or Christian fundamentalist supporters of Israel can cite scripture to support almost any excess that appeals to them. 19th Century Zionism also was one of the modern forms of fanatical political religion, and the damage it has done is there for all to see. In its early days, it never went beyond being a narrow cult rejected overwhelmingly by Jews, but the fears and guilt around the horrors of World War II enabled it to gain a serious foothold and begin its own horrors inflicted on innocents.

We now regularly make new discoveries in almost every branch of science, and, with each advance in rapidly-changing technology, we acquire still more able tools with which to make still more discoveries. This process is only going to accelerate to rates we cannot imagine, and, indeed, with which much of humanity may have great difficulty coping. The received popular wisdom about things changing so rapidly now is close to meaningless small talk: things began to change rapidly at the dawn of the modern era, five or six centuries ago, the change gaining in rapidity with each significant increment of time, and there is nothing to say the established pattern should not continue. Coming, just over the horizon, are the assembly of synthetic life forms, robots that can do almost anything, and machines that will replace the experts in every profession, but even those coming “scary” realities are only the beginning of a journey whose end, ifitever has an end, none can imagine.  Any trouble in our coping along the way may well be met with new intrusions of religion into public life, either from traditional faiths feeling oppressed or new secular ones having sprung into being, a disturbing possibility.

All discoveries in science tend to confirm and reinforce the concept of randomness and such fundamental ideas as evolution and quantum theory. Remarkable new fossils are discovered and dated almost weekly, pointing to the rise and fall of innumerable species over time as well the interrelated nature of all life. At the microscopic level, studies of human and animal DNA point in the same direction, that is, to the interrelated nature of all life. In astronomy, the strange nature of the cosmos comes to us in wave after wave of discovery from black holes and dark matter to the very chemical building blocks of life being randomly created in the turmoil of galactic clouds, perhaps to be randomly rained down on countless passing planets with only those randomly possessing the suitable physical conditions becoming the incubators of life.

It is more than a little odd that the only source, regarded by Christians and other faiths as authentic, for the idea of intelligent design has not been supplemented in two thousand years, since the time when some religious eccentrics living in caves scribbled their dreams, hopes, and poetic fantasies on papyruses, giving their work the most sweeping publisher’s blurb of all time, that of being authorized by the Creator Himself.

Society’s needs through politics, government, and public institutions can hardly benefit from concepts unchanged in two thousand years. Saying otherwise really is a bit like saying we should still use chariots and papyrus and oxen in the fields, but then there are religious groups who do pretty much that. Amish, Mennonites, strict Catholic religious orders, and ultra-Orthodox Jews all live as if it were another century. Just why each of them settles on a particular era’s set of conveniences and dress is rather a mystery. Why the 18th or 19th century rather than, say, 50 BCE or the Stone Age? The choices are just a few of the countless irrationalities displayed by religions, with the intensity of the irrationality being greater the more extreme the faith. And this is no less true of the political religions, from those who insisted onanancient Indian symbol on armbands to those insisting on little enameled flag pins on lapels.

As someone who cherishes human freedom and democratic values, I certainly don’t oppose the practice of religion, but I very much oppose any of those practices being imposed on public institutions or manipulated for political purposes. As someone wisely observed, freedom of religion means also freedom from religion. Jesus himself said that prayer was for your private closet, not for exhibition as practiced by the publicans of his day. Remember, as soon as any politician or public official flaunts any kind of religiosity – from public prayer to the display of giant flags, you are being emotionally manipulated by the suggested support of higher powers for particular policies and acts, much as the Catholic Church once crowned and blessed the acts countless bloody kings and tyrants.

 

 

 

 

 

PENETRATING THE DARKNESS COVERING TWO MALAYSIAN AIRLINE DISASTERS

In each case, there appears to be only one explanation consistent with known facts

John Chuckman

 

I wrote previously of a second great mystery surrounding the disappearance over the Indian Ocean of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, and that second great mystery is the United States’ utter silence surrounding its disappearance, despite its being the very nation able to offer the best information from the world’s most sophisticated radars and spy satellites. There can be no question that the United States gathered data on that catastrophe because its military and intelligence surveillance is unblinking. The fact that we did not hear a word from America, and still do not, can only mean its government wants the event, like the airplane itself, to sink, in this case into public forgetfulness.

Now we have a second Malaysian Airliner destroyed (its national origin is presumably sheer coincidence), Flight MH17, this time at a location from which the wreckage was recoverable. The American press immediately jumped to the conclusion that a Russian high-altitude anti-aircraft missile called BUK was responsible, which surely reflected nothing more than suggestive whispers from American intelligence since no evidence was offered. The altitude of the plane before it was destroyed excluded other ground-based missiles.

But Russia had no possible motive for attacking the airliner, and, indeed, the unfortunate event has only served as fodder for a Western press eager to declare Russia a new threat to the world. The Russian-speakers of eastern Ukraine who broke away from that country’s new American-installed government simply do not have this missile in their arsenal, but Ukraine’s government definitely does. These basic facts demonstrate the inappropriateness of the American press’s early suggestions, but we know that in the disinformation business the first one out with even a remotely plausible story repeated loudly enough leaves a lasting impression, as witness the sad fact that polls show a sizeable proportion of Americans yet believe Saddam Hussein hid terrible weapons.

Despite the wreck’s physical accessibility, there were substantial delays getting investigators to it as Ukraine’s new government pressed attacks against its own eastern, Russian-speaking population. We cannot know, but the long delay may well have permitted sanitizing of the crash site. When able to access the site, experts found the flight recorders intact, but, to this writing, nothing from those recorders has been made public. I don’t recall another case of a major crash when at least some information from an intact flight recorder was not made public quickly. After all, the principle behind such data is to discover problems for civilian aviation, enabling others to avoid them. The data, under international civil aviation agreements, is not anyone’s private property, it is to be shared with all in a timely fashion.

But we have heard nothing except a promise that the investigation’s findings will eventually be made public. With such a suspicious delay, the possibility of tampering or destruction of data cannot be ruled out. And here, too, we have silence from the United States which would have the best supplementary data in the form of radar tracks and satellite images on a European event not far from Russia’s border, an area of intense interest to America. Why don’t they produce them? Moreover, despite repeated requests from Russia and others, Ukraine’s new government has released no data of its own, things we know it must have, such as tower-to-pilot recordings. Clearly, information is being deliberately suppressed, and when we hear in our press and from American-influenced governments about Russia’s underhandedness, it is only a loud diversion from that disturbing fundamental fact.

Do you see the television networks and newspapers in the United States calling for the immediate release of information? No, instead you see the suggestion, sometimes far more than a suggestion, that Russia is responsible for destroying the airliner, and this accusation is made with no evidence and without shame.

You might say we have a conspiracy of silence around an event of international importance. But why should that be so? Why is a country whose politicians regularly make speeches praising themselves about openness, democratic values, and fairness, found withholding critical information in two catastrophes of international importance?

In the first case over the Indian Ocean, it is almost certainly because the United States itself shot down the airliner, either mistakenly or deliberately as it may have been regarded as a potential threat to the secret base at Diego Garcia. Neither of these possibilities would be new experiences for America’s military which, over the years, has been involved in destroying at least half a dozen civilian airliners (see my essay with its footnotes, “The Second Mystery Around Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370” found at Chuckman’s Words on WordPress).

In the case of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, destroyed over Ukraine, I believe the United States is hiding the fact that the Ukrainian armed forces shot it down. Why would the United States do this? We know, there being a great deal of good information in the public record, that the United States has made a huge investment in Ukraine over the past few years trying to destabilize an elected government, one friendly to Russia, and it succeeded when that government fled from a coup. Imagine America’s embarrassment at the world’s seeing its new proxy government, its supposed champion of eastern democracy, first misdirecting a civilian airliner, Flight MH17 having inexplicably been sent off course over a war zone, and then shooting it down with a fighter. Russian data, released to the public, shows a Ukrainian fighter was near the airliner, and an early photo of the wreckage leaked to the world clearly shows a large fuselage panel from the pilot’s cabin riddled with holes as by heavy caliber ammunition from a fighter’s canon.

That embarrassment would come on top of a series of embarrassments America’s meddling in Ukraine’s affairs has produced: over the general revolt of Russian-speaking Ukrainians against a new government openly unfriendly to their interests; over revelations that Nazi-like groups – and Ukraine has a number of them, notably the Right Sector – committed the sniping murders of hundreds of civilians from rooftops in Kiev in support of the original coup; over Ukraine’s pathetic military failures on the ground with its soldiers displaying poor morale and worse leadership; over the world’s seeing Ukraine bombing and rocketing its own citizens; over the failure of various cheap ruses such as using repainted surplus Hungarian T-72 tanks, fit only for scrap, to pass as invading Russian armor (while this ruse failed, it did for a while take in a lot of Western journalists, surely a reflection on the depth of their investigations); and, perhaps, most grating of all for the engineers of the whole murderous and destructive scheme, some deft statesmanship by Vladimir Putin snatched from their grasp important expected fruits of the enterprise.

In a number of instances the Ukrainian armed forces have demonstrated embarrassing incompetence, and reading between the lines of screaming propaganda and demands for this or that, appear actually to be losing the highly unequal fight. They do not fight with motivation for their new American-installed government, with its neo-Nazi auxiliaries, and against fellow citizens. I believe the shooting down of the airliner was one of many blunders, and the recordings from the black boxes, if revealed without doctoring, would unambiguously prove this to be the case. As would Ukraine’s flight controller recordings, still held secret.

The United States, despite embarrassments and setbacks, has worked to make other gains out of its dirty work in Ukraine. It has been able to use almost comical assertions of a new Russian threat to strengthen its hold on NATO, an organization which has been obsolete for years and which serves only to thinly disguise American hegemony in Europe. Even now it pushes members for increased military spending to a minimum of two percent of GDP as the admission price for playing with the big boys in NATO. For America, the great appeal of increased expenditures would be a further subsidizing of its costly presence in Europe. NATO is held together by America’s financial, economic, and diplomatic power, still great despite that country’s having entered its relative decline in world influence. It can still grant rich favors and contracts or it can work away quietly against the interests of a dissenting state. A Europe with the many economic problems we see today is naturally fearful of summoning America’s wrath

Altogether, it’s a vast and shameful enterprise the United States has launched, and while most of its unpleasant consequences have yet to be seen, it has certainly brought war and grief to a previously peaceful region. But the stark truth is that, in recent years, bringing war and grief seems to be a core mission of American foreign affairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THINGS MY MOTHER NEVER TOLD ME

John Chuckman

 

Despite my title, this is not a memoir, dealing as it does with some of the most deadly serious subjects on the planet.

I was brought up by a hard-working, fiercely honest woman. She was brave in the most profound way, not the momentary, over-hyped stuff of soldiers and sports stars, but the unsung stuff of facing great odds and painful situations and doing her duty, not for moments or days, but for year after year. She was unusual for the early 1950s, a time of great social conformity in America, for having left my father whose drunken abuse she refused to endure. She set off on her own with two very young boys and never looked back. She always set an example of high standards, expecting the same from my brother and me, made us regular church-goers, and generally bestowed a great deal of love on us.

For the greatest part of my life, I believed in the same values and precepts she taught although I parted with church-going before I was a man. I was not without cynicism about many things I observed through life, but now, in my old age, I realize forcefully how entirely different are the rules which actually govern human affairs, and especially those pertaining to international affairs. Virtually everything my mother taught me, and my church too, was mistaken.

We hear a good deal these days about the problem of bullying in schools, and my instincts always put me on the side of victims and make me question teachers and authorities who do not step in to protect the innocent. But just look at the major political and economic leaders of our time: virtually every one of them has been an unqualified bully. It appears that being a bully features prominently on the road to success.

And we all believed that the bad guys never won and that time would see victims receive justice. The painful truth is though that the bad guys, at least all the clever and well-connected ones, always win and their victims almost never receive justice.

My mother had no tolerance for lying, and obvious lies still try my patience, but lying is in fact one of the chief occupations of those who govern us. Messrs. Obama, Netanyahu, Cameron, Harper are all the grossest liars, as were Sharon, Clinton, Blair, Bush, Cheney, and a very long list of others notable for their positions and the headlines they generated. Most of these individuals, along with a good many others, likely have never, in their entire careers, uttered a single truthful sentence, discounting the platitudes and bromides they are accustomed to delivering.

The issue of lying most comes into prominence in the case of war. I have seen so many wars in my lifetime, and it is painfully clear that every one of them was based on lies. The poor citizens of every land are never told why their lives are being snatched and their wealth squandered. They are certainly never consulted about whether so terribly serious a measure as war should be undertaken. Instead they are lied to. The ghastly horror of Vietnam, all that vast work of death and destruction on a genocidal scale – carpet bombing, napalm, and poisons dropped – was about nothing which mattered to almost all ordinary people, it was about blood-drenched lies their leaders told them.

And how can you possibly have meaningful democracy when the voters are lied to daily by those running for office and those holding office? You cannot, clearly.

And today, the whole Middle East is either in flames or has recently passed through war or revolution – Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, Libya, and still others. We are given many reasons for this phenomenon, but at the heart of the matter, there really is only one cause, and that cause is never mentioned in our press.

In all cases, American is found either covertly directing affairs or at least pouring money and weapons into countries to de-stabilize them. And why does it do this? It reflects a vast effort to mold the Middle East into a shape comfortable for the rather unusual requirements of its colony in the region, Israel. Why unusual requirements? What other small country in the world seems to need to control and dominate everything around it for at least a thousand miles? And this is only necessary because Israel refuses to obey almost any of the laws and customs of nations as we have grown to understand them in modern times. Israel continues to rule areas conquered in what itself was a fraudulent war, the Six Day War, nearly fifty years ago, and it doesn’t just rule these places against all international law and conventions, it treats their millions of residents as entitled to no law or justice, no hopes or aspirations, and not even entitled to hold the property they have because whenever a chunk of it appeals to Israelis, they simply take it.

Such is the behavior of the self-designated “only democracy in the Middle East,” a glib and meaningless phrase which completely ignores the fact that half the people ruled by Israel have no votes and no human rights. Actually, it is a good thing there are not more such “democracies,” or the region would be total hell on earth. Democracy for some is not democracy at all. Think of Orwell’s precept in Animal Farm, a book intended to satirize Stalin’s Soviet Union, “All animals are equal, but some are more equal.” That could have been just as well written about modern Israel. Israel’s embrace of neighbors who are virally anti-democratic – from Egypt to Saudi Arabia – again says something profound about the nature of Israeli “democracy.”

And the much bigger country which likes to style itself, the world’s oldest democracy and the land of the free, not only supports Israel in its disregard for law, customs, and international conventions, it finances a great deal of the tyrannous behavior. Where is the regard for democracy, rights, or even due process in that?

The always-tolerated violation of accepted principles by Israel which seems most remarkable to me is its regular theft of homes and farms. Americans are comfortable with bombings and assassinations and torture, at least judging from their national behavior over a good many decades in a number of countries, but when you consider how Americans revere property rights above all else in their society, it does seem it should be another matter when it comes to property being swiped in public. Property and profits are the truest guiding, long-term principles in American society. So you might think, despite the shower of lies in which Americans are immersed concerning Israel and its neighbors, public theft would stir something deep in their hearts. So why don’t we see American leaders, even if they can’t get worked up over endless occupation and abuse and killing and apartheid-like laws, at least strenuously objecting to Israel’s regular, high-handed thefts of property?

America’s politicians always back Israel because America’s government is constituted on the fallacious and unethical concept that money is free speech when it comes to political campaign contributions – fixed by a Supreme Court whose history includes vigorous support of such other glorious principles as slavery. When you allow such a political financing system to dominate your politics, it follows, ipso facto, that those able and willing to give very large sums as campaign contributions (as well as favorable press coverage, there not being a single major newspaper or network in America which does not play the game of boosting Israel) receive access and have their voices heard to the virtual exclusion of others.

What is certainly one of the most efficient and untiring lobbies, the Israel lobby, understands America’s system perfectly and has adapted over time to work it perfectly, resulting almost in a custom-designed, industrial-scale machine for turning out loyal and uncritical politicians in one country concerning the acts of a foreign country. Again, there’s very little truth and even less democracy in that way of conducting politics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

REFLECTIONS ON THE ORIGINS AND MEANING OF AMERICA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY

Why no on should be surprised when America behaves as an international bully

 

John Chuckman

If you relish myths and enjoy superstition, then the flatulent speeches of America’s Independence Day, July 4, were just the thing for you. No religion on earth has more to offer along these lines than America celebrating itself.

Some, believing the speeches but curious, ask how did a nation founded on supposedly the highest principles by high-minded men manage to become an ugly imperial power pushing aside international law and the interests of others? The answer is simple: the principles and high-mindedness are the same stuff as the loaves and the fishes.

The incomparable Doctor Johnson had it right when he called patriotism the last refuge of scoundrels and scoffed at what he called the “drivers of negroes” yelping about liberty.

Few Americans even understand that Johnson’s first reference was to their sacred Founding Fathers (aka Patriots). I have seen a well known American columnist who attributed the pronouncement to Ben Franklin, a man who was otherwise admirable but nevertheless dabbled a few times in slave trading himself.

Johnson especially had in mind history’s supreme hypocrite, Jefferson, with his second reference. Again, few Americans know that Jefferson kept his better than two hundred slaves to his dying day. I know a well educated American who sincerely believed Jefferson had freed his slaves. Such is the power of the myths of the American Civic Religion.

Jefferson was incapable of supporting himself, living the life of a prince and being a ridiculous spendthrift who died bankrupt and still owing money to others, the man of honor being a trifle less than honorable in paying back the money he often borrowed. When a new silk frock or set of shoes with silver buckles was to be had, Jefferson never hesitated to buy them rather than pay his debts.

The date we now celebrate, July 4, is based on the Continental Congress’s approval of the Declaration of Independence, but in fact the date is incorrect, the document was approved on July 2.

Jefferson wrote the first draft of the declaration, but it was edited by the redoubtable Benjamin Franklin, and later was heavily amended by the Continental Congress. Jefferson suffered great humiliation of his pride and anger at the editing and changes.

Despite the document’s stirring opening words, if you actually read the whole thing, you will be highly disappointed.

The bulk of it has a whining tone in piling on complaint after complaint against the Crown. Some would say the whining set a standard for the next quarter millennium of American society.

In Jefferson’s draft it went on and on about Britain’s slave trade. The ‘slave trade’ business was particularly hypocritical, trying to sound elevated while in fact reflecting something else altogether. At the time there was a surplus of human flesh in Virginia, and prices were soft.

The cause of the Revolution is also interesting and never emphasized in American texts. Britain’s imposition of the Quebec Act created a firestorm of anti-Catholicism in the colonies. They were afraid of being ruled from a Catholic colony.

The speech and writing of American colonists of the time was filled with exactly the kind of ugly language one associates with extremist Ulstermen in recent years.

This combined with the sense of safety engendered from Britain’s victory in the French and Indian War (the Seven Years War)and the unwillingness to pay taxes to help pay for that victory caused the colonial revolt.

Few Americans know it, but it was the practice for many, many decades to burn the Pope in effigy on Guy Fawkes Day along the Eastern Seaboard. Anti-Catholicism was quite virulent for a very long time.

The first phase of the revolt in and around Boston was actually something of a popular revolution, responding to Britain’s blockading the harbor and quartering troops in Boston.

The colonial aristocrats were having none of that, and they appointed Washington commander over the heads of the Boston Militias who volunteered and actually elected their officers.

Washington, who had always wanted to be a British regular commander but never received the commission, imposed his will ferociously. He started flogging and hanging.

In his letters home, the men who actually started the revolution are described as filth and scum. He was a very arrogant aristocrat.

The American Revolution has been described by a European as home-grown aristocrats replacing foreign-born ones. It is an apt description.

Washington, Hamilton, Adams, and many other of the Fathers had no faith in democracy. About one percent of early Virginia could vote. The president was not elected by people but by elites in the Electoral College. The Senate, which even today is the power in the legislature, was appointed well into the 20th century.

The Supreme Court originally never dared interpret the Bill of Rights as determining what states should do. It sat on paper like an advertising brochure with no force. At one time, Jefferson seriously raised the specter of secession, half a century before the Civil War, over even the possibility of the Bill of Rights being interpreted by a national court and enforced.

The Founding Fathers saw popular voting as endangering property ownership. Democracy was viewed by most the same way Washington viewed the “scum” who started the Revolution around Boston. It took about two hundred years of gradual changes for America to become anything that seriously could be called democratic. Even now, what sensible person would call it anything but a rough work still in progress.

It is interesting to reflect on the fact that early America was ruled by a portion of the population no larger than what is represented today by the Chinese Communist Party as a portion of that country’s population.

Yet today we see little sign of patience or understanding in American arrogance about how quickly other states should become democratic. And we see in Abu Ghraib, in Guantanamo, and in the CIA’s International Torture Gulag that the principles and attitudes of the Bill of Rights still haven’t completely been embraced by America.

Contrary to all the posturing amongst the Patriots – who few were a minority at the time – about tyranny, the historical facts indicate that Britain on the whole actually had offered good government to its North American Colonies.

Everyone who visited the Colonies from Europe noted the exceptional health of residents.

They also noticed what seemed an extraordinary degree of freedom enjoyed by colonists. It was said to be amongst the freest place in the known world, likely owing in good part to its distance from the Mother Country. A favorite way to wealth was smuggling, especially with the Caribbean. John Hancock made his fortune that way.

Ben Franklin once wrote a little memo, having noted the health of Americans and their birth rates, predicting the future overtaking of Britain by America, an idea not at all common at the time.

Indeed, it was only the relative health and freedom which made the idea of separation at all realistic. Britain was, of course, at the time viewed much the way, with the same awe of power, people view America today. These well-known facts of essentially good government in the Colonies made the Declaration of Independence list of grievances sound exaggerated and melodramatic to outsiders even at the time.

The combination of the Quebec Act, anti-Catholicism, dislike of taxes, plus the desire to move West and plunder more Indian lands were the absolute causes of the Revolution.

Britain tried to recognize the rights of the aboriginals and had forbidden any movement west by the Colonies.

But people in the colonies were land-mad, all hoping to make a fortune staking out claims they would sell to later settlers. The map of Massachusetts, for example, showed the colony stretching like a band across the continent to the Pacific. Britain did not agree.

George Washington made a lot of money doing this very thing, more than any other enterprise of his except for marrying Martha Custis, the richest widow in the colonies.

The tax issue is interesting.

The French and Indian War (the Seven Years War) heavily benefited the Colonists by removing the threat of France in the West. Once the war was over, many colonists took the attitude that Britain could not take the benefits back, and they refused to pay the taxes largely imposed to pay the war’s considerable cost.

And Americans have hated taxes since.

By the way, in the end, without the huge assistance of France, the Colonies would not have won the war. France played an important role in the two decisive victories, Saratoga and Yorktown. At Saratoga they had smuggled in the weapons the Americans used. At Yorktown, the final battle, the French were completely responsible for the victory and for even committing to the battle. Washington had wanted instead to attack New York – which would have been a disaster – but the French generals then assisting recognized a unique opportunity at Yorktown.

After the war, the United States never paid the huge French loans back. Some gratitude. Also the United States renounced the legitimate debts many citizens owed to British factors (merchant/shippers) for no good reason at all except not wanting to pay.

It was all a much less glorious beginning than you would ever know from the drum-beating, baton-twirling, sequined costumes, and noise today. And if you really want to understand why America has become the very thing it claimed it was fighting in 1776, then you only need a little solid history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IRAQ, ISIS, AND INTERVENTION: JUST WHAT IS GOING ON?

 

John Chuckman

As so often is the case in foreign affairs, we will never know with precision what is happening in Iraq. The governments involved have reasons to disguise what they are doing, and a number of governments are indeed at work there. The press doesn’t spend the resources needed to discover the facts, thus saving government considerable embarrassment and themselves a good deal of work.  But, if you look carefully, there are enough bits of information scattered around to gain an adequate picture of events, just as you might detect what people had been eating from the crumbs and splashes left on a dinner table.

From columnists and editorials, you can find almost any explanation of events in Iraq you care to find, all of them together yielding precisely a huge muddle. My favorite example of confusion is the story which made its way around about the way the United States and Iran were coming together to stop ISIS, each of them having their own reasons for doing so. As it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth. Iran, indeed, cares deeply about stopping ISIS. The United States makes a good deal of noise – what else can it do when pictures are published, intended to inflame public opinion, of prisoners being violently murdered? – but it does nothing of substance because it does not want to do anything.

The less-than 300 troops America sent to Iraq are only for embassy protection, not fighting, the monster embassy the United States forced on occupied Iraq being a private city of spies and communication and resources, totally out of proportion to a country the size of Iraq – if you will, a Middle East branch plant for CIA headquarters in Virginia. Now the United States talks of sending 300 advisers to Iraq’s army. Advisers? Since when does the United States send advisers to a besieged area where it has vital interests? So, too, the matter of air support: Prime Minister al-Maliki is reported to have asked for air support, and the United States is reported to have responded that it will be sent if he resigns. That is a very odd response for a government supposedly having common cause with Iran.

Yes, ships with planes have been sent to the region, but I think they may well be used in a different fashion than how the press speculates.

ISIS (aka ISIL) is often called a powerful and frightening force, but that is almost laughably inaccurate. All estimates of its manpower range from 7 to 15,000 – that is not a lot of soldiers by any standard and no larger than some American street gangs. The Iraq military, in the last numbers I saw, had approaching 300,000 on active service and more than half-a-million reserves. You can find pictures on the Internet of ISIS forces on the move, a rag-tag bunch with small arms riding around in Japanese pick-up trucks. They would be scary for any individual or village, but they wouldn’t stand a chance against even a single division of a modern army. Iraq’s government has many hundreds of armored combat vehicles, including more than 200 heavy tanks, a mix of American M1A1s and Russian T-72s, and several billion dollars’ worth of other high-end military equipment.

So why does Maliki seek American help? The Maliki government is not popular in Iraq, as proves the case so often with governments set up by the United States after its colonial wars. It has all the faults found throughout the Middle East of cronyism, nepotism, etc.  And in a country with great divides of ethnicity and religion – Arabs, Kurds and Sunni, Shia – plus still other regional divides – oil-producing, agricultural, plains and mountains, urban and rural – any central government is bound to suffer unpopularity. Democracy has no history here, so popularity is not necessarily even a relevant criterion. But Maliki also is not popular with his original benefactor, the United States, almost certainly a far more relevant fact.

On the other hand, the Maliki government has become quite well disposed towards Iran, far more so than the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Israel like. Some earlier observers of America’s handiwork in Iraq said that the ultimate beneficiary might just prove to be Iran. Israel, in one of the more informative statements made about the situation, said that Iran was far more a threat to the region than ISIS. Maliki’s government forms an important link in an arc of Shiite power through the region from Iran through Syria (Assad is Shia) to Hezbollah in Lebanon (also Shia). The Shia are viewed by many in the Muslim world, which is overwhelmingly Sunni, much the way Protestants in the 17th century were viewed by the Catholic Church, as a minority which has broken old traditions, cultural patterns, and loyalties. All of the great reformers of Protestantism were viewed by the Catholic Church as heretics, and as many Protestants as possible were disposed of in bloody persecutions like the Holy Inquisition or the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. It is actually  the politics and attitudes of the Shia, rather than this or that minor difference in theology, which makes them unwelcome to the folks running Saudi Arabia, much as was the case with the Reformation and Rome, the rulers of Saudi Arabia being in general about as genuinely religious as many of the old hedonistic popes in Rome.

Some observers, early in the American occupation, predicted that Iraq would crumble into three rump states, and to some extent their expectations have proved perceptive. It is not clear that America would have been entirely averse to that development since it would have eliminated a state which might one day again possess the strength to oppose Israel. Saddam Hussein held Iraq together through ruthlessness towards any who were opposed or questioned his central authority, but he did represent more than a simple bloody dictator. He was also building something of a modern secular society with public institutions serving welfare needs, more rights for women, and the advance of education and science – in many ways, his Iraq was the most advanced state in the Arab world, and undoubtedly the growing middle class his policies helped create would have brought democracy one day after his death. The American invasion smashed all of that, leaving little of which to be proud and three regions pulling in different directions. To the degree Maliki has again tried to impose a will on the situation, he naturally has not been popular. And his efforts to work with Iran, a natural and powerful regional ally for him to turn, have made him loathed in Israel and Saudi Arabia.

ISIS, whatever the exact paths from its origins, represents just one more of the rag-tag groups that Saudi Arabia and Turkey, working under the close eye of the United States, introduced into Syria to topple Assad in an engineered civil war. We have many reports of ISIS members with British or American passports. The past Benghazi, Libya fiasco, never explained by Washington, was part of these efforts, the murdered American ambassador running a black operation to collect weapons and radical fighters to ship to Turkey for insertion into Syria when he was caught in what intelligence agencies call “blowback,” a group of those with whom he was dealing turning on him, viewing an available American ambassador as perhaps a more worthy target than Assad. ISIS has expanded its horizons to include Iraq, and it has been encouraged and assisted to do so by the Saudis.

Why do jihadist types hate Assad enough to go there risking their lives? Apart from the natural attractions for some young men of adventure, war, and escape from rules, it is because Assad, like Hussein, actually represents some progressive, modern developments in a large Arab state. He has at his disposal fewer resources, not being a major oil producer like Hussein’s Iraq, but, within the limits imposed on him, Syria exhibits secular tendencies and some openness to modern trends. The great irony of the region is that the very states with which Israel keeps the best relations are absolute ones doing all they can to dampen social progress, places like Saudi Arabia or Egypt.

ISIS is a perfect mechanism for two American goals, the first being to assist in the disposal of Maliki, something which would make Israel very happy because it would cut the Iran connection. Second, ISIS can be used as an excuse for American air attacks into Syria, perhaps even the insertion of limited ground forces there. Assad and the Syrian army have foiled the elaborate secret effort to topple him, and a great opportunity, from America’s point of view, stands to be lost if some additional effort is not made. ISIS being chased into Syria by American jets and Special Forces may just be an opportunity not to be missed: attacks on Syrian forces staged as hot pursuit of repulsive ISIS fanatics. And the fanatics, having served their purpose from America’s point of view, will be slaughtered too. Of course, none of this has anything to do with the welfare of the Syrian people who have endured countless horrors as though their country were a dump site for the toxic wastes of some great corporation.

ISIS has been given waves of publicity for its ferocity and barbarism, but as with all such publicity, we must make allowances for inflated claims. We do have reports that in villages where residents ran from ISIS, they are returning and being treated decently. Would anyone return to place occupied by a wild band of cutthroats? If such a force shows up at a town or village where there is a great deal of dissatisfaction with the Maliki government, it is not hard to see how the locals might run, but how do we explain reports of those who ran away being welcomed back?

The key factor as to whether Maliki can stop ISIS is the loyalty of the army as well as local populations, and that is not certain at all. It is extremely likely that strategic payments to soldiers and others are being made to secure results like those of the early ISIS victories, the funds coming from Saudi Arabia. Soldiers running and leaving behind modern tanks when confronted with a mob in Japanese pick-ups are not credible otherwise. Remember, Iraq is a place where pallet-loads of freshly-printed United States’ hundred dollar bills disappeared in countless payments and bribes to silence various groups active in the violent wake of America’s so-called victory. It is the way the place has worked for a decade of corrupt American influence.

A high Israeli official was quoted recently saying it was Iran’s influence that is most dangerous in the region, not that of ISIS. Of course, that should tell us a great deal. In this part of the world, Israel’s views count for far more than those of all the other countries put together, at least, so far as the United States’ government is concerned, the ridiculous lopsidedness in that reflecting the best Congress campaign funding can buy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

GENOCIDE, GREAT WARS, AND OTHER HUMAN DEPRAVITY

 

John Chuckman

The word genocide, coined in 1944 in an effort to describe what the Nazis called “the final solution” and what today we call the Holocaust, attempted to distinguish the crime of killing people of a certain identity in such great numbers that you tried eliminating them as a group. Earlier in that century, there had been the mass murder of Armenians by the Turks, an event Hitler once cynically reminded associates was not even remembered only a few decades later.

Some would include in the category the terrible starvation induced in Ukraine by Soviet agricultural policies and ineptitude, an event which indeed killed millions, or the ruthless policies of Mao’s China which caused many millions of peasants to starve. But these events, utterly nightmarish as they were, begin to lose the legitimate sense of genocide. Although we cannot rightly call these genocides, they remain depravity on a colossal scale, but I am not sure the distinction is one with great meaning, and certainly not for any of the victims. After all, when nations go to war, the job defined for each soldier is to kill as many of the people from another land as possible. Our great wars now typically kill vast numbers, and it is just a fact of history that since the 19th century we have moved from killing mainly other soldiers to killing mainly civilians.

I think it likely there were many genocides through early human history because humans are little more than chimps with large brains, and we know through long-term studies that chimps are quite murderous, making regular expeditions to slaughter neighboring tribes of their own kind. One of the theories for the extinction of the Neanderthals is that they were murdered off by our kind some thirty thousand years ago. Recorded human history, not counting archeological digs, goes back less than three thousand years of homo sapiens’ half million years or so, and even much of that small fraction of our history is poorly recorded by modern standards of scholarship, but we have so many dark legends which almost certainly point to horribly brutal unrecorded events: ghouls, vampires, monsters, cannibals, human sacrifice, and tales of savage hordes. The Old Testament, thought to have been written largely from 1000 to 600 BCE, itself is rich with tales of mass murder and killing determined by identity, rather disturbingly for a book embraced by so many as God’s own word.

There really are few limits to human depravity. The word genocide hadn’t been invented yet, but think of Columbus or the Conquistadors wiping out entire native populations regarded as savage. Or think of the centuries of Christianity in Europe in which countless people were garroted or burned at the stake over some turn of phrase in the liturgy. The Crusades over centuries killed whole populations owing solely to their religion, with Popes in Rome having been among their biggest organizers and supporters. The Hundred Years’ War, mid-14th to mid-15th centuries devastated Europe. In the 20th Century, Europe thought little of entering a conflict which would kill 20 million over which branch of the same royal family would dominate the continent. Having settled nothing by that carnage, much the same forces about twenty years later engaged in an even greater conflict which would destroy more than 50 million people.

If words mean anything, you might think genocide is a word that would never be carelessly used, but it is, and quite regularly. Indeed, few words today are more abused than genocide. When relatively small groups of people are killed (“small” in the scheme of things – after all, we are discussing mass killings) in places of interest to the West (i.e., Serbia) where war or civil war is underway, the killings are frequently characterized as genocide by our politicians and their faithful echoes in the press, trying to squeeze out every last possible bit of dread and horror from audiences. There was a large effort in the early part of the last decade to sell the conflict at Darfur as genocide, but I suspect it actually closely resembled primitive wars from the early times of human history.

When a million or so people are killed in places of little interest to the West (i.e., Rwanda), it is ignored in all but words, the sensational stories used to sell newspapers and books and juice-up television’s talking-head shows after the fact.

Genocides do periodically still occur, but when has any powerful nation like the United States, or international organization like NATO, stood in the way of genocide in the post-war period? Has the United States or NATO ever opposed genocide other than with cheap words? In these matters, the United States’ government’s declarations so often resemble press releases from, say, the Vatican with ineffectual and wheezing platitudes about some horribly bloody war. It is the United States which holds political and economic sway over international organizations like the United Nations and NATO, and it is the United States which has the military power to do something when events require it.

We have had several unmistakable genocides in the last fifty years, and, regrettably, not once did America lift a finger to help. Indeed, the United States actually played a role in establishing or extending the circumstances for a couple of these ghastly events, but you’d never know that when American politicians rise to huff and puff about what is happening in a place far away or in a place not necessarily far away but whose government is intensely disliked. And, of course, you’d never know it from the pages of the mainline press, without doing more detective work than most people are willing to do.

We had what everyone agrees was genocide in Rwanda with around a million people killed simply for their tribal identity, with further destructive aftershocks in neighboring states for some while after. The United States’ government, immediately well aware of what was happening there, simply refused to allow the word to be used in its internal communications, and the cowardly Bill Clinton avoided the rhetoric he employed on Serbia, a place where mass murder came in at literally one percent the rate of Rwanda.

We had genocide in Cambodia with perhaps a million and a half killed, and it actually was precipitated by America’s de-stabilizing of the once peaceful, but neutral, country with secret bombings and invasions during its Captain Ahab-like madness over “victory” in Vietnam. Neutrality, where America wants something, as it did in Vietnam, is simply not an option. When tough little Vietnam, despite the massive horrors it had just suffered at America’s hands, stepped in to do something about what was happening on its border, the United States’ government stood back and bellowed, “See, we told you, there’s the domino theory at work! We did have a reason to fight in Vietnam after all.”

We had a true genocide in Indonesia with the fall of Sukarno in 1965. Half a million people, vaguely identified as communists, had their throats slashed by machetes and their bodies dumped into rivers: it was said that the rivers ran red for a time. Not only did the United States’ government do nothing to halt the rampage, officials at the State Department busied themselves with phones late into the night, transmitting lists of persons suitable for the new government’s attention, the word “communist” then possessing for America’s government about the same power to dehumanize a victim as “heretic” did for The Holy Inquisition a few centuries earlier.

I would argue, too, that America’s slaughter in Vietnam was a genuine genocide, the greatest of the post-war period, but even if you do not grant the word genocide in this case, it remains still the greatest mass murder since World War II. About three million were killed, mostly civilians, often in horrible fashion as with napalm, for no reason other than their embracing the wrong economic system and rejecting the artificial rump state America tried to impose. Hundreds of thousands more were crippled and poisoned, and a beautiful land was left strewn with land mines and noxious pools of Agent Orange to keep killing for decades more.

So when an American President speaks to stir his audience with ghost-written words from his teleprompter machine about some new outrage somewhere, trying to cast someone else in the role of demonic villain, we had better always be careful about taking him at his word. And it is a good practice to judge the words, weighing them against the United States’ own abysmal record over the last half century.

It is one of the gravest of contemporary truths that the greatest modern historical sufferers of genocide, the Jewish people, should be found now treating millions of others in brutal and degrading fashion, something now continued for more than half a century. Israel hasn’t killed millions, but it has killed tens of thousands in its wars and suppressions and their aftermath, including necessarily thousands of children in Middle Eastern populations heavily skewed to youth, and it holds millions in a seemingly perpetual state of hopelessness and degradation and without any rights, a situation America’s government effectively has ignored, failing to use its power for good yet again.

It is a natural human tendency to try forgetting our terrifying experiences, and nature does seem to have constructed us with varying abilities to do so, being if you will an extension of “sleep that knits the ravelled sleeve of care.” But human perversity is intent on remembering many of our horrors, always citing the provably false slogan about those who forget history being condemned to relive it. Of course, such forced (and cleaned-up) memories have other purposes, as for example keeping each generation of young men ready to grab a gun at the beat of the drums. I feel this keenly every time poppies come up for sale again, much as I sympathize with the old men selling them and much as I’m aware of what occurred in Flanders Fields. It is time to stop sentimentalizing an event too ugly to accurately remember: the stench of the battlefields of 1914-8 and the endless screams of mangled men dying slowly in the mud and the rats eating corpses – these are things no one in their right mind wants to remember, and remembering anything else really isn’t remembering at all.

As for the idea of “Never again!” when it comes to human depravity, it is best to remember that the words are just a slogan – as we’ve conclusively proved over fifty years – and, like all slogans, it is selectively applied to sell something.

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Postscript:

Recently we saw some glamorous celebrities, as we have before from time to time, at a large, well-publicized gathering decrying the use of rape in war, and, after a moment’s curiosity as to whether they continued afterward over cocktails and nibbles, all I could do was wonder what it was they hoped to do and what audience they thought they were addressing? Armies have always raped, it is one more of the many ugly facts of war we keep out of school books and remembrance ceremonies. War is, quite simply, the end of the rule of law for a time, and because that is a set of circumstances especially attractive to the population of sociopaths and violence-prone people we have always among us, an inordinate number of men who enjoy killing and raping always will be attracted to war. Yes, armies have codes and courts martial, and I’m sure rape is technically illegal in any modern army, but those codes are mainly established for public consumption, being rarely enforced. When you are engaged in bloody war, there is almost no motivation for leaders to pause events for trials. Knowing that, soldiers so inclined will always feel free to rape. Even in peace, we see from the statistics in the contemporary United States’ military, rape is quite a problem right on bases and ships. How much more so in war? Why not decry the mass murder we call war in the first place? If there were no wars, there could be no mass rapes. Doing anything less seems a form of cowardice.

 

 

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