Archive for the ‘BLAIR’ Tag

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: THINGS MY MOTHER NEVER TOLD ME   Leave a comment

 

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.

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: HALL OF MIRRORS   Leave a comment

HALL OF MIRRORS

John Chuckman

Perhaps you remember the “fun houses” that were once part of old big-city amusement parks? They were filled with mazes, frights, and surprises. Often, these included a hall of mirrors, a maze of rooms walled with mirrored doors. The confusion of reflections made the maze seem infinitely more complex than it actually was.

The relationship between political leaders and intelligence institutions is a great deal like a hall of mirrors. Looked at from a perspective above, a perspective not permitted most people, the maze may be fairly simple, but it is designed so that any individual trying to make his or her way through it is confused and set off balance.

It is unsettling, though not unexpected, to see the press in America and in the UK lost in the maze, looking for the failures of intelligence that gave us a needless war over non-existent weapons. One has no certain way of knowing whether reporters are just playing a game that continues supporting what their publications supported before the war or whether they are honestly lost, but a reasonable working assumption in all such matters is that they are playing a game.

This business is not limited to the mainstream press. There are scores of articles on the Internet’s alternative-news sites covering the same subject. In this case, one feels inclined to believe that much of it reflects real bafflement, since it so difficult to understand why they, too, should play the game.

These articles are dangerous to people’s understanding of how government at the highest level actually works, and they effectively relieve the responsible parties, President Bush and Tony Blair, of their responsibility.

There is always a pretense about intelligence agencies being independent sources of information, high-court judges, incorruptible priests, cloistered academics dedicated to a country’s interests, influenced only by the reliability of the information they gather, sift, and sort. The CIA was baptized under President Truman with buckets of such swill.

My favorite historical example of how silly this view is concerns the famous Cambridge spies. The Soviets were amazingly successful in the 1930s in recruiting highly-intelligent, idealistic, and well-connected young Englishmen who would one day rise to positions of authority in the British establishment. Perhaps no more complete penetration of an opponent’s intelligence service ever took place.

Stalin, with the purges of the 1930s, was convinced that there was a vast Western conspiracy against the Soviet Union, and Soviet intelligence made great efforts trying to support his notion. The precious time and effort of the Cambridge spies was wasted looking for what did not exist, they themselves came under suspicion as plants, and their talented handlers in some cases lost their lives at least in part for not finding evidence of the plot. Later, under the pressure of war with Germany, the situation changed and information provided by these spies was immensely helpful on the Russian front.

The whim of a leader had for a time intimidated many very clever and experienced people in Soviet intelligence from defending what they knew was the truth of their success – that is, that they had placed almost a set of high-resolution cameras well positioned in important offices of the British government.

Power is power, regardless of how it is conferred, whether elected or not. When an American President wants something produced or an attitude assumed by the intelligence services, intellectual integrity and notions of independence soon melt in the furnace of his wishes. After all, he appoints senior intelligence officials. He can decide to a considerable extent whether their day-to-day work is even regarded as worthwhile and useful. He also has a great deal to say about funding. It is impossible for a director of intelligence to long resist a President’s demands without being put in an untenable position: the appointed official of a secretive organization unresponsive to the elected President of a democratic society.

Of course, these demands generally are not given as direct orders. They are communicated in intricate and subtle ways. After all, when the CIA assassinates or attempts to assassinate foreign leaders or attempts to destabilize foreign governments, it cannot do this without approval at the highest level, yet no President wants letters on White House stationery directing such unethical activities to end up on display at the national archives.

We can assume, always, with events holding the world’s attention, as with the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, that the White House orders support for the arguments it wants to make. Of course, generally, a President will not demand nor will the intelligence people produce material that is immediately absurd or embarrassingly inaccurate. It’s up to all those clever people with unlimited resources to provide something suitable, something that only detailed study might reveal as faulty.

After all, intelligence is an assembly of many bits of information, and these always necessarily contain ambiguities and gray areas. Sifting and weighting raw information to present a coherent picture is a prime responsibility for an agency like the CIA, since trainloads of raw intelligence from many sources is useless to decision-makers – that’s part of what the “central” in the agency’s name implies.

So one only has to give some bits a new emphasis or weight to make a case that would not otherwise have been made. Such adjusting of weights later can be defended as resembling one alternate scenario of a corporate plan (e.g., the unexpectedly high or low cases for oil prices). The dishonesty will be clear only to those who understand that the official view already has alternate scenarios, but with the sacred robe of national security casting its long shadow, few close questions can be expected.

The pure collection of information is often an inseparable part of other clandestine activities in an intelligence agency anyway, including misleading or destroying those regarded as opponents. Creating information for domestic consumption is an easy, perhaps almost unavoidable at times, part of this work. Despite the solemn atmosphere of honorable service cultivated at CIA headquarters, great energy and resources have always gone into nasty and brutish work – everything from paying off favored foreign leaders, counterfeiting currencies, and secretly supplying weapons to corrupting foreign elections and planting false information abroad.

The agency grew out of America’s OSS of World War Two whose leaders and activities were free-wheeling, manic, often comically adventurous, and even absurd. Read the part of Gordon Liddy’s book that has Liddy and ex-CIA agent Howard Hunt (members of Nixon’s “plumbers”) hiding for hours in a bar, peeing into partly-empty liquor bottles, amusing themselves with thoughts of patrons next day drinking the stuff. The book is valuable only for revealing more about the psychology of such people than the author may have intended. An older man I knew in Chicago, dead now, a former submariner, once described the people they sometimes had to deliver to places like Cuba – they were, he said, not the kind of people he would even want aboard his boat if it were up to him.

I mention these anecdotes only because it is important to appreciate the nature of much of the work of an agency like the CIA, work that unquestionably colors its ethics and thinking. It is not the cool, cerebral, above-the-fray campus of academics portrayed in Washington. I think Americans should never forget that it was a former CIA Director, William Colby, in striped school tie with crisp, educated voice, who tattled about a program for the organized murder of twenty thousand civilians in Vietnam, Operation Phoenix, and he knew what he was talking about because he was the one who ran the program.

But as certain people in America are so fond of saying, you don’t blame the gun, you blame the shooter.