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Tag Archives: EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLING

THE CASE FOR DONALD TRUMP

 

John Chuckman

 

Anyone who knows my writing and background knows I am not a conservative and certainly have little use for the right wing anywhere.

But they will also know that I despise war and that I believe America’s establishment has brought moral degradation to the country’s international affairs. It has also brought degradation to America’s own people, completely ignoring their welfare for decades, regarding them only as a herd from which to solicit votes with television advertising and from whom to collect taxes.

America’s establishment – as, for example, represented by the Senate, its most powerful and anti-democratic tool in government – is almost indistinguishable from members of the old Politburo in the heyday of the USSR. Crinkly faces, heavy-set bodies, more money than they can spend, dripping with special privileges, enjoying limitless terms of office, but enjoying no ability to say anything fresh or interesting or helpful, ever.

So, too, the arrogant, almost unchecked power of America’s massive security and military establishments. Almost the only sounds coming from them, including even retired members looking for fifteen minutes of media fame, are ugly threats about Russia or Syria or Iran or a number of other places in this world. They function like a powerful Mafia with arms and assistance to mercenary trash and fanatics as well as to the privileged trash of absolute monarchies in a dozen different places. And they function as a Murder Incorporated with their organized extrajudicial executions and bombings in many lands.

America’s establishment, either directly using “the boyz” or with proxies, has likely killed two million people in the last fifteen years or so of the Neocon Wars. It has virtually destroyed several states and societies, and it has sent millions running for their lives as refugees, effectively de-stabilizing the foundations of Europe.

There are two major impacts of this dirty work, if you choose to ignore the sheer mass killing and destruction. First, what we call ‘international terror” is in fact the illegitimate child of these efforts. It is a result of many young men with limited means trying to protect, as young men tend to do everywhere and always, their own kind from the horrors being visited upon them. It has nothing to do with the nature of Islam. After all, Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin were all brought up in Christian churches, and millions of Christian young men have gone to fight in bloody, unholy causes in countless places over the centuries.

International terror was also fostered by the government’s own use of such groups in the Neocon Wars. The Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, some of whose members were every bit as bloody and extreme as the Taleban, was used to fight the Taleban, minimizing American casualties. That success gave a model to repeat. America again used and supplied cutthroats in Libya to get rid of a decent and reasonable ruler it did not like. It did the same in the aftermath of the colossal horror its own troops made in the original invasion of Iraq. And it does so today in the beautiful land of Syria. The arrogance, ruthlessness, and immorality of these acts are breathtaking.

Second, these wars have produced the greatest refugee crisis of our time. Waves and waves of desperate people running for their lives have smashed through organized border control in many places. There have been an estimated six million refugees from Syria alone. About three million sit in camps in Turkey, and they could be released gradually by a Turkish government angry over an American-engineered coup if Europe doesn’t pay for their support as promised by Germany’s Mrs. Merkel.  About a million and a half are in poor little Lebanon. Europe has close to de-stabilized itself politically by accepting a million or more. This is completely the doing of America’s vicious policy in Syria, and no European leaders or others have had the courage to speak up about it. It could all have been prevented, but any European speaking out would only have received serious economic or other threats behind the scenes.

The Neocon Wars have been the greatest moral and ethical disaster of the modern era, and they have achieved nothing worth achieving.

Months ago, when Trump started his run for the nomination, a sudden rumbling noise of opposition became apparent. The most vociferous voices and most extreme words suddenly came from the Neocon crowd. People like William Kristol became extremely active. Some other, lesser known figures, in unprecedented and vitriolic language, actually used the word “assassination.” Now, none of these people are known for deep humanitarianism or concern over social issues, as with migration issues, so their intense opposition became a bit of a mystery. It became clear, in view of Trump statements around war, the mess made of the Middle East, Syria, and relations with Russia, that Trump was hated for his views on war by the nation’s most powerful and entrenched war lobby. That fact made me listen to Trump more carefully.

Meanwhile, the people of the United States have been lied to through the entire Neocon War effort, and they have been subjected to many deliberate scares and non-stop press promotion to keep them on edge for what the establishment has been doing. They also have had their privacy secretly destroyed by an arrogant government which never explains anything.

The government doing these things, at the same time, has completely ignored the economic lives of Americans. Real incomes have dropped for decades, cities have rotted into vast slums in some cases, corporate jobs have been transferred offshore on a massive scale, many schools are in poor shape across the nation, and their own government cannot provide a rational healthcare system for them, Obamacare being a poorly designed creation which is already failing. The middle class is in decline by every measure, median family income has fallen steadily, the hopelessly poor are on the increase with an explosion in food stamps, home ownership levels are in decline, student debt has exploded, and labor force participation has only declined.

Lack of adequate government regulation and oversight literally created the 2008 financial disaster – much in the fashion of the hideous George Bush’s response to hurricane Katrina – and this leaves a gigantic threat overhanging the lives of hundreds of millions. Obama has made no effort at repairing the structural and regulatory mess responsible, and all he has done to keep things somewhat steady is to print money – a la Weimar Germany – for eight years, creating yet another threat overhanging the future.

Obama has not only kept the Neocon Wars going, he has expanded them and introduced an entire new establishment for extrajudicial killing, differing in no way other than in its technology from the filthy work of the Argentine military junta of the 1980s. The Pentagon and CIA today receive and consume unholy amounts of resources so that they can kill, plot coups, and de-stabilize others while millions of Americans are not provided with decent schools or the most basic public services such as clean drinking water.

No one can solve all these problems, and I certainly think it would be foolish to expect that Trump can, but I am confident that he can make an important contribution. America’s priorities need re-ordering, and it needs to extricate itself from the bloody lunatic adventures of the Neocon Wars.

And, while I at first expected nothing special from Trump on the domestic front, his recent speech in Michigan ranks as a great one. As a child of the Midwest, I can tell you everything he said to black people was deadly accurate. And courageous. Professional politicians are afraid to speak the truth. If you want to see what he was talking about, look for images of the South Side of Chicago or Detroit, Michigan, or Gary, Indiana, on the Internet. Many Americans never see such places in their own country. There are sights as appalling as one sees from war zones in the news, and no one in government lifts a finger to help. Any effort here would be a blessing, and if Trump could carry it off to any degree, he might well be proved right in his speech’s claim, that in future, he’ll get 95% of black votes and “What in the hell do you have to lose?”

As an old saying goes, you must pick your battles, and nowhere is this truer than in politics. Candidates, in the language of economics, always represent a bundle of goods, not all of which will be attractive to any voter. When you choose a candidate, you always get goods you don’t want along with those you do. It much resembles what happens when you buy an album of music to get certain songs.

Politics, being quite rightly described by Bismarck as “the art of the possible,” is an institution you must not look to solve or correct everything, but if you can get a few important things right, you are doing well. The politicians, supported by manipulative media flacks, try to endear themselves to many kinds of voters with cheap sound bites or suggestive statements, none of which are in any way specific. They are trying to assemble a virtual bundle of goods that will be bought by a majority. If elected, they go on to do as other powerful forces would have them do, never having to deliver on what were mere, fleeting suggestive statements.

It will take a mighty tough and determined leader to achieve any progress with America’s miserable problems. We all see how the man who looked decent and intelligent and caring eight years ago has been totally flattened by the establishment. He resembles Rachel Corrie after being backed over by an Israeli bulldozer. We may just have been deceived by his manner in 2008, not realizing the smile was the smile of a charming psychopath, but I am inclined to think he was simply overwhelmed by the rooms full of arrogant, be-tinseled generals, intelligence executives, fat with privilege and resources, and extremely powerful and arrogant special interests.

Trump has the merit of being a very tough-minded man who has dealt for decades with powerful people to get what he wants, and he has made billions doing it. He is no mere respecter of title or position, but a man who judges by what you actually can do. By comparison, Obama appears a weak figure next to such people, and so he has proved. He leaves office having achieved the status of a smiling mass killer. He has done not a single worthwhile thing for his own people.

And that is the so-called legacy Hillary Clinton is there to preserve and extend. This is a woman who has done little besides take huge amounts of money from many powerful people for years, special interests and ugly foreign governments. It is all packed into a foundation, treated but not functioning as a charity. It happens to function as a giant political slush fund, a money-laundering scheme for questionable funds, and a source of employment for relatives and friends. She starts on day one, as it were, as a completely bought-and-sold figure many times over.

I think no story better sums up these personal qualities of Hillary’s than one found in her recently released tax records. She apparently made “charitable” donations last year of about $1,0040,000, which at first glance sounds vaguely impressive. Then you read that $1,000,000 of that was in donations to her own the Clinton Foundation. It just doesn’t come more corrupt than that.

This also is the woman who, as Secretary of State, ran America’s filthy operation out of Benghazi that collected weapons from prostrated Libya – prostrated by American bombs and American-paid terrorists – plus boatloads of maniac fanatics to send to Turkey for transshipment into Syria. The American ambassador killed at Benghazi was an instance of “blowback” in a covert operation when some of the maniacs decided he made a better target than anything to be found in Syria.

Our last great investigative reporter, Seymour Hersh, has just told us for the first time that the sarin nerve gas, actually used in Syria a few years ago a few times, was transshipped from Libya under her auspices. Hundreds of civilians were hideously killed by America’s proxy fanatics in the clearest of war crimes. It was an effort to create a crossing-a-red-line stunt with which to blame Syria’s beleaguered, elected government so that Obama could send in the jets and bomb the crap out of yet another country. Only Putin’s deft statesmanship prevented that disaster.

The moral and ethical characters of the American leaders involved here – Obama and Hillary plus the generation or two before them – surely rank with some of history’s most hateful figures, and it is time to put a stop to their handiwork. As well, it is time for a government that actually works for the interests of its own people, a simple idea but one which is entirely foreign to contemporary Washington.

I think of the great Franklin Roosevelt, and people who have no history do not realize how intensely hated he was by a major part of the establishment. Apart from constant attacks in the press, his life was threatened. I think also of Abraham Lincoln, and again, people with no history do not realize how hated the man was at first. He was called “an obscene ape” in the newspapers, and he felt the need to travel to Washington for his inauguration in disguise.

I am not comparing Trump, but I am reminding readers of some of the unpleasant details that never appear on the plaques of monuments to such great figures. I do very much believe, despite the sometimes loose and careless words of an inexperienced politician, that there is great promise in this man. He is a doer, not a talker, but his Michigan speech especially had intimations of greatness in it. Just as he said, addressing America’s more than thirty-million black population, “What the hell do you have to lose?”

And just look at the alternative. My God, none are so blind as those who will not see, and anyone who can be enthusiastic for a woman of her bloody and corrupt achievements is indeed willfully and dangerously blind.

Many commentators still miss the most essential truth of this election, and I owe the profound observation to Robert Reich. This election is not about Left versus Right. It is not about Democrat versus Republican. It is about pro- versus anti-establishment, a very bloody, corrupt, and dishonest establishment.

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OBAMA KILLS TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE

Hints of the dark place he is taking us

 John Chuckman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A STRANGE, SOULLESS MAN AND HIS UTTERLY FAILED PRESIDENCY

 

John Chuckman

 

How vividly I remember the photos of Obama in Berlin during his campaign in 2008: streets literally flooded with people keen to get a glimpse of a promising young politician, expressing for us all how exhausted the world was with the most ignorant and contemptible man ever to have been a president. Reporters said a quarter of million turned out to see a man who was a junior senator and had no claim yet to being a world figure. It was intoxicating to think this bright, attractive figure might replace the murderous buffoon, George Bush, and his éminence grise, Dick Cheney, a man who might comfortably have served any of the 20th century’s great bloody dictators.

A few years later, in 2013, an estimated 4 to 6 thousand showed up for a major speech by then-President Obama, and one is surprised even that many showed, but then there is always a set of people who just want to be able to say they saw a celebrity. After all there are inexplicable people who travel to places associated with genuine monsters, notorious murderers and torturers, and have snapshots of themselves taken standing in front as though they were at the Grand Canyon or Disneyworld.

In 2009, the Norwegian Nobel Committee, excited at seeing Bush replaced with a promising man, just as the earlier crowd in Berlin, awarded President Obama its Peace Prize after he had been in office for less than year and had achieved nothing of substance towards peace or any other worthy goal. But the Peace Prize often is awarded in hopes of influencing and encouraging a leader rather than in recognition of genuine achievement.

In Obama’s case, the hopes and encouragement fell stillborn and lifeless, and he has proved himself one of the least worthy recipients, keeping historical company with killers like Kissinger or Begin, winners whose awards also were based on futile hopes and encouragement. Obama’s distinctions in the sphere of peace include abandoning the Palestinians to their tormenters, abandoning the Egyptians to a new tyranny, pitching the people of Syria into a bloody civil war, never speaking out about the suppression of people in places like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and Yemen, pitching the people of Ukraine into chaos, establishing a new hi-tech death-squad approach to the extrajudicial killing of people, not standing up to Israel over its unwarranted threats of war against Iran, and force-feeding the military-intelligence establishment so that it resembles a gigantic waddling Pâté de foie gras goose.

He has done nothing for his own people, signing not one worthy piece of legislation to better the lives of less fortunate Americans. His only major domestic legislation is a costly, almost unworkable compromise on health care that will enrich insurance companies in the only Western nation not having a form of national health insurance. He will also leave his country with an almost incomprehensible debt, a debt America’s people are not asked to pay down through taxes and other appropriate fiscal and budgetary measures, ultimately leaving all the world’s holders of dollars to be cheated through the dollar’s future decline, a scam that beggars the size of Bernie Madoff’s pyramid operation or the Nigerian industry in e-mail invitations to share in vast wealth just by providing your bank account. It is irresponsibility on a colossal scale, all of the gains from the scam having served American interests from investment bankers to the military and military contractors. Obama’s force-fed military will have all its stuffing supplied involuntarily by non-Americans who have no interest in what he has done. In truth, America doesn’t have a single honest dollar to spend on anything.

The sense of dignity Obama displayed in the early days is gone too, simply evaporated, although I am open to the suggestion that my judgment is affected by grim disappointment in his non-achievement and display of what I can only regard as a form of moral cowardice, not different in quality to that displayed by George Bush. He made some noises early on about closing America’s torture gulag, about ending its pointless wars, about pushing Israel into a decent settlement for millions of Palestinian captives, about new starts in general, but it has all blown away like so much dust on the wind. Now we have a man who almost never utters an inspiring or even meaningful word, never takes a risk to do anything worthwhile, and actually looks quite ineffectual at times. Imagine, the first black President of the United States at the funeral of a world-figure like Nelson Mandela, sitting next to his wife and flirting with the blond prime minister of Denmark, taking “selfies” during the service? It was contemptible behavior. It wasn’t the silly flirting that mattered: it was the complete lack of a statesman’s demeanor, communicating to millions of eyes the sense of a small man behaving like a hormonal teenager on a solemn international occasion.

I remember, too, another picture of Obama, taken in Hawaii where he had gone to visit during his campaign a gravely ill Madelyn Dunham, the grandmother who had raised him. The picture showed him walking profile in sandals, and the image immediately gave the impression of a self-confident, independent-minded man which I quite relished. But all sense of that image of Obama is gone, save the almost surrealistic right wing descriptions of him as a communist, a view whose origins it is difficult to imagine, although his wearing sandals a few times might qualify in the Palinesque world of American right wing politics.

Of course the American institution most accurately described as communistic is its massive military-security-police apparatus, a monstrosity whose scale and scope make the old East German Stasi seem almost quaintly amateur, although aspects of it would immediately bring a smile of recognition to the lips of retired Stasi agents: matters such as the soliciting of general public informers, the blackmailing or bribing of others to serve as informers inside groups and organizations, the interception of virtually all messages, or the scrutiny of what people are reading at the library and on-line. This all predates Obama, and he has done nothing but ardently support its growth. But I guess you just cannot do enough for these ghastly institutions to avoid being called a communist by people who share Sarah Palin’s intellectual gene pool.

During Obama’s first election campaign, there was a mindless controversy over his not wearing a flag pin on his lapel. That is the kind of seemingly insignificant detail which sets the “you can never have enough patriotism” mob to a fever pitch, bellowing voices about freedom from intolerant men with bellies sagging ponderously over their belts, comparable in intensity to prayer vigils over embryos or “support the troops” parades in small towns (who cares that they’ve invaded some unfortunate land no one ever heard of and are busy killing civilians?). Remember Jonathon Edwards, that syrupy-voiced wealthy tort lawyer running for Vice President in 2004, offering a homily in one of his speeches where he suggested American families should gather together each morning to discuss the blessings of America over their bowls of Coco Puffs? Presumably Papa Bear would lead the service before he and Mommy Bear and all the Baby Bears rushed off in gas-guzzling trucks and four-by-fours through a landscape of sprawl to their corporate cubicles and private schools.  And Edwards was regarded – ugh, foul word that it is considered in America – as a liberal.

How refreshing I thought Obama at the time of this nonsense over whether someone else’s patriotism was being adequately displayed, again a self-confident, independent-minded man who did not see the need to follow the herd of American politicians who resemble nothing so much as members of the old Soviet Politburo with red star pins on their lapels. He didn’t need to parade the obvious fact of an American running for office in America. He didn’t need to display what has become an American fetish, a voodoo charm, the totem of a secular religion, and, at the same time, a symbol, for a great many of the world’s people, of arrogant power and almost endless bloodshed. Of course, today Obama is never seen without a ridiculous flag pin. He probably has a drawer full of them in a bureau of his bedroom, a Secret Service man being solemnly tasked to keep it stocked and to drop a few (respectfully, mind you) into his pocket as back-ups for any trip. It must be the last thing Obama’s butler at the White House does each morning, too, making sure a pin is on the suit to be worn that day, the correct lapel, leveled properly, and polished. How very inspiring, like a Rotarian executive preparing for a club luncheon.

We perhaps can never know what has motivated Obama’s behavior as President. Certainly the memoirs of retired Presidents rarely enlighten us on anything of importance. Is he, as some in his own party have suggested, simply not up to the job? Of course, when they say that, they are not using the same criteria this writer does. In America, even the supposed left is never far from mounting a horse and charging up San Juan Hill. Is he merely responding to the fact of the awesome power of America’s unelected government? Is he satisfied to give them their way, enjoy the 8-year ride, and retire with full pension and benefits, avoiding that haunting nightmare of the last President who seriously challenged just a few of the establishment’s assumption, John Kennedy, in the streets of Dallas?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE REAL LESSONS FROM THE DEATH OF NELSON MANDELA

John Chuckman

The press has echoed for days with admiration for Nelson Mandela and his genuinely heroic fight against the apartheid government of South Africa. There have been many recollections of the brutal quality of that government, all perhaps carrying an unstated sense of how could people live that way?

As I listened on the radio, I couldn’t help thinking of the common human frailty which sees us caught up in gasping over and memorializing what is past while ignoring much the same thing that is present, as on what is called Remembrance or Armistice Day, we’ve recalled for the best part of a century the terrifying experiences of a war which was to end all war, while yet marching on to even more brutal and murderous conflicts. This seems contrary to logic, and it certainly works against the interest of institutionalizing and making permanent what it is that we praise, but it remains a conflicting duality of thought we find almost universally established. After all, it is so much safer and easier to praise heroism once the threat it struggled against has faded into history. And, sad to say, but history does tend to support the idea of most people behaving like cowards while they sing the praises of heroism.

We have no less an authority than Nelson Mandela himself, in an opinion shared by the equally admirable Bishop Tutu, that the terrible system of oppression against which they struggled in South Africa is very much alive and flourishing in still another place today. That place is, of course, Israel and its occupied territories.

No matter what past abuse by the former apartheid government the newsmen and commentators may mention, there is an equal, or in some cases an even greater, one not mentioned for Israel. For the Soweto and Sharpeville Massacres, we have Operation Cast Lead in Gaza and the several invasions of Southern Lebanon, the toll of these measured in thousands killed and thousands more injured. For the many people, like Mandela, arrested for opposing oppression and left to rot in prison, we have tens of thousands of illegal arrests by Israel of people also left to rot in prison and often tortured there. For the secret murders which South African security forces routinely carried out in the manner of the Argentine Junta’s “disappearing” people, we have scores of assassinations of Palestinian leaders, including not so very long ago Yasser Arafat. For the Bantustans South Africa created to pen up millions of blacks, depriving them of access to most of the country, we have Israel’s Wall, an armored fortress which snakes through the homes and farms of countless people without regard for their welfare or rights and the utter isolation of Gaza’s one-and-a-half million behind razor-wire fences with radar-controlled machine-gun towers set at intervals and warships blocking the coast. For South Africa’s two classes of citizenship with unequal rights and responsibilities, we have Israel’s two classes of citizenship with unequal rights and responsibilities plus the perpetual consignment of millions to a life of occupation with no defined citizenship or rights.

And what actually brought down the oppressive South African regime? Not really the bravery of the Mandelas and Tutus directly, but the outside world’s gradually turning against that government’s excesses and bringing the force of embargo and economic penalties. The United States was a late-comer to the process – after all, it highly valued the anti-Communist stance of the apartheid government in the Cold War, given its strategic position on the Cape. But once the United States was turned by its own people to join the boycott, apartheid’s days became numbered. And, happily, the end came with remarkable peacefulness.

I have often said that only pressure from the United States will correct the terrible abuses of Israel, but the United States shows few signs yet of exercising that potentially decisive power for good. It is, first, in the midst of another massive equivalent of the Cold War, its so-called War on Terror. In this War, Israel plays the role South Africa once played in the Cold War as occupier of a key strategic point. Israel also makes every effort to have Americans and others see its brutalities as part of a shared battle, a fight against terror, even though its struggles more closely resemble those of the late South African government, a war against the rights and dignity of millions of people with whom they do not want to live. And many Americans still do not understand, being given every encouragement in their press not to understand, that the War on Terror is blowback from Israel’s oppression.

Israel has another advantage it exercises to the fullest. American elections have become utterly corrupted by special interests and money, so much so that American democracy is, at best, described as on life support. This is the work of Americans themselves, but Israel has cleverly devised an expert and systematic way to exploit the corruption. Its lobby rewards with campaign funds and good publicity those who support Israel’s interests, and it punishes those who do not. Newly-elected officials are given the clearest set of guidelines for what is expected of them with initial paid trips to Israel for every new Congressman and regular consultation thereafter concerning issues on which they are to vote.

I have to believe that ultimately the basic human impulse for fairness – something we find remarkably in many people in many lands no matter what kind of government they may live under – will prevail, but I have no hope that can happen soon. In the meantime, maybe we can learn a little bit about our tendency to sing praises with our eyes closed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A VAST WASTELAND OF EFFORT SPENT: AMERICA’S RAMPAGE THROUGH THE MIDDLE EAST

John Chuckman

I read that six thousand people have been killed by sectarian violence so far this year in Iraq, surely a good rough measure of what America’s invasion achieved there. In Afghanistan, America’s chosen man publically disagrees with America’s ideas of what withdrawal means, how many occupying American forces should remain, and the role the Taleban should play. Killing remains a daily occurrence, including regular instances of American special forces murdering civilians, drugs flow freely through the country and out to the world, and most women still wear the burka. Libya is reduced to rag tag bands engaged in fighting like rival gangs of bandits. Syria writhes in agony as the victim of an artificially-induced civil war with even the use of nerve gas on civilians by America’s proxy fighters winked at and lied about.

Such are just the continuing aftershocks of America’s violent, senseless campaign on the Middle East and the Muslim world.

The screams of the hundreds of thousands of initial victims of cluster bombs, Hellfire rockets, depleted uranium explosions, and white phosphorus were what Condi Rice once described as “the birth cries of a new Middle East,” likely just before she set off on another shopping spree to New York for more cute new shoes. You might say Condi and her psychopathic associates assumed the God-like perspective in their work, as the people being devastated were regarded with the importance of ants being squashed by gleeful children in a playground.

Ideas of “nation building” around all the slaughter and destruction are now almost forgotten in the press where they were once earnestly discussed like big government social programs of the 1960s. It is hard to know whether those ideas were ever taken seriously in Washington by the platoons of Pentagon consultants over expense account lunches or whether they were never intended as more than glib slogans and talking points for politicians’ convenience, banners with nice words to cover piles of bleeding bodies. No clear-thinking person ever took the idea seriously, but as we know there is not a great deal of clear thinking in times of war, nor is there much of it at any time among American politicians.

The notion that you can change the basic culture and social structure of a nation of tens of millions over a foreseeable time span is laughable. Culture, including the unpleasant parts contained by any of them, is a complex of habits, beliefs, relationships, and prejudices formed over an immensely long period in the workings of a people’s economy. Just as language and religious traditions cannot be greatly altered or undone quickly, so too all the other aspects of a culture. It is simply nonsense to believe otherwise. The efforts, over much of a century, by Russia’s Communists to change an ancient culture, including its church and national customs, should serve to intimidate glib references to nation-building.

The single most important part of any serious effort to change a place and its ways of doing things is the steady advance of its economy. It is the fluidity of a nation undergoing long-term economic growth that gradually washes away old and inefficient and fearful customs, changing everything from the nature of marriage and the way families work to the kind of clothes people wear and food they eat. After all, America’s backwaters still enjoyed family picnics at public lynchings as late as Franklin Roosevelt’s day, and it was largely the cumulative effects of economies restructured over decades with increasing opportunities and movement of people and ideas that brought those ghastly practices to a close.

Even changing minor aspects of an entire society, as we’ve seen many times in our own, is a long effort. Smoking is the clearest example of this, it having taken over half a century, despite medical understanding of its hazards, to move us from smoking being a stylish part of every Hollywood film to cigarettes being hidden behind the counters at corner stores.

And this is all the more true when you employ force, as the United States does habitually. People do not react well to aggression, and it is not the way to change anything which it may be desirable to change. On even so basic a level as raising children, our laws and courts and schools have evolved to rule out physical force. And despite decades of the war on drugs with its seemingly endless march of folly – armed raids, mass arrests, seizures, and imprisonment plus tens of billions spent – we have made no perceptible progress on what all of us recognize as a gigantic medical and social problem.

But when the force you employ includes B-52s, F-16s, and private armies of hired cutthroats, it is a certainty you will change little beyond the death rate.

The United States government now has been swept by a new enthusiasm in the application of violence. It is a new interpretation of the concept of airpower. In places like Libya, America embraced the almost benign-sounding concept of a “no-fly zone” to bomb and shoot the crap out of a national army fighting rebels. It developed the concept over the decade after the first Gulf War where it enforced a no-fly zone that was actually an active program of attacking any Iraqi installation or suppressing any movement it wanted while an embargo continued to inflict terrible suffering on the children of Iraq. Another version of the concept was used in the invasion of Afghanistan. The United States bombed the country with everything it had, including B-52s doing carpet-bombing, while most of the fighting done on the ground was done by other Afghans, the tribes of the Northern Alliance serving as American stand-ins.

The new approach has several advantages. It sends fewer coffins back home so that political opposition to the killing abroad never grows as it did in the Vietnam holocaust. It’s likely cheaper, too, than sending in and supplying large numbers of troops. After all, I read somewhere that just the air-conditioning bill for American troops in Iraq ran into many billions of dollars. And it maintains a kind of polite charade about not really invading a place.

Over the same period, another form of airpower came into its own, drones used as platforms for Hellfire missiles targeted by remote control. The Israelis, always leaders in the work and technology of murder, used a version of this method in what they blithely call “targeted killings,” a long series of acts known to most of the world by the terms “extrajudicial killing” or “disappearing people” or “political assassination.” Al Capone might have called it simply “rubbing guys out.” Well, whatever you choose to call it, the United States is in the business in a serious way now, having murdered people in Somalia, Bahrain, Pakistan, Yemen, and perhaps other places we don’t yet know about.  It has killed several thousand this way, many of them innocent bystanders and all of them people charged with no crime and given no due process.

Of course, Israel’s long string of murders have achieved little beyond making still more enemies and dragging in the gutter any claim it may once have had to ethical reputation or worthy purpose. And just so with America’s valiant effort by buzz-cut thugs sitting in crisply-pressed uniforms at computer screens playing murderous computer games with real people in the explosions.

As for diplomacy and reason and rule of law, these are practices almost forgotten by America in the Middle East, as it mimics Israel’s reprehensible behavior towards the people of the occupied territories and neighboring states. And all democratic values have been laid aside or bulldozed over in Gaza, the West Bank, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and other places as Israel’s special interests are put before the democratic and human rights of many, many millions of people.

 

 

 

 

 

John Chuckman

Of course, the cozy popular myth of America’s Founding Fathers as an earnest, civic-minded group gathered in an ornate hall, writing with quill pens, reading from leather-bound tomes, and offering heroic speeches in classical poses – all resembling Greek philosophers in wigs and spectacles and frock coats – was always that, a myth. They were in more than a few cases narrow, acquisitive men, ambitious for their personal interests which were considerable, and even the more philosophic types among them were well-read but largely unoriginal men who cribbed ideas and concepts and even whole phrases from European Enlightenment writers and British parliamentary traditions.

And much of what they wrote and agreed upon involved what would prove mistaken ideas, with a lack of foresight into what the almost unchangeable concrete their words would shape. Americans today often are not aware that the word “democracy” for many of the Founders was an unpleasant one, carrying just about the same connotations that “communist” would a century and a half later. Men of the world of privilege and comparative wealth – Washington, Morris, and many others – were having nothing to do with ideas which rendered unimportant men important. That is why the country was styled as a “republic” – that most undefined term in the political lexicon, which then meant only the absence of a king with decisions made by a tight group of propertied elites.

False as they are, the very fact that there are such pleasant myths does tell us something about past popular ideals informing their creation. Now, how would any future Americans manage to weave attractive myths about a president who sits in the Oval Office signing authorizations for teams of young buzz-cut psychopaths in secret locked rooms to guide killing machines against mere suspects and innocent bystanders, often adopting the tactics of America’s lunatic anti-abortion assassins, sending a second hellish missile into the crowd of neighbors who come to the assistance of the victims of the first?

How would they weave attractive myths around the CIA’s International Torture Gulag, including that hellhole, Guantanamo, where kidnapped, legally-innocent people are imprisoned and tortured and given absolutely no rights or ethical treatment under international laws and conventions?

During the Revolutionary War, the battles were between armies, and captured soldiers were frequently granted their freedom upon their paroles, pledges of not returning to the fight. Spies were thought poorly of and often hung. Torture was uncommon and certainly not embraced as policy.

What myths can be written of two wars involving the deaths of a million or so people, the creation of millions of refugees, and the needless destruction of huge amounts of other peoples’ property, and all to achieve nothing but a change of government? Or about massive armed forces and secret security agencies which squander hundreds of billions in resources year after year, spreading their dark influence to all corners of the globe, and offering an insurmountable obstacle to America’s own citizens who might imagine they ever can rise against a government grown tyrannous? After all, polls in America show that its Congress is held in contempt by the overwhelming majority of its people, with percentages of disapproval rivaling those held for communism or Satanic rituals.

There are no myths about today’s Congressional figures. Everyone understands they are often to be found bellowing in ornate halls about points most Americans couldn’t care less about. Everyone understands that they are ready to go anywhere and say almost anything for large enough campaign contributions. That they take off on junkets paid for by groups hoping to influence votes and put faces to the exercise of future influence, trips commonly involving a foreign power trying to shape American policy. That their work is often steeped in secrecy from the voters, secrecy not governed by genuine national security concerns but by the often shameful nature of their work. That a good deal of the legislation and rules they create repress their own people’s interests and favor only special interests.

That their government regularly suppresses inconvenient truths and labels those who raise questions as foolishly addicted to conspiracy or even as treacherous. What are just a few of the events which have been treated in this fashion? The assassination of a President. The accidental or deliberate downing of at least three civilian aircraft by America’s military in recent years – an Iranian airliner, TWA Flight 800 on the East Coast, and the fourth plane of the 9/11 plot over Pennsylvania. The CIA’s past cooperation and engagement with the American Mafia during its anti-Castro terror campaign. The CIA’s use of drug trafficking to raise off-the-books income. The military’s assassination of American prisoners of war cooperating with their Vietnamese captors. Obfuscating Israel’s deliberate attack on an American intelligence-gathering ship during its engineered 1967 War. The huge death toll of locals, civilian and military, in America’s grisly imperial wars, from Vietnam to Iraq. 9/11.

I do not believe in 9/11 insider plots, but I know there has been strenuous official effort to disguise that event’s full nature. The motives? One suspects a great deal of embarrassment at demonstrated incompetence has been at work. Blowback from CIA operations in the Middle East seems more than likely. The documented involvement of Mossad in following and recording the plotters inside the United States leaves disturbing unanswered questions. One also knows that America’s establishment discovered in the wake of 9/11 the perfect opportunity for doing a great many nasty things it had always wanted to do anyway. You might say the terrorists did the military-industrial-intelligence complex a big favor. Anti-democratic measures involving surveillance, privacy in communications, secret prisons, torture, and effective suspension of some of the Constitution are all parts of the new American reality.

The FBI can record what you borrow from the public library. The NSA captures your every phone call, text message, and e-mail. The TSA can strip search you for taking an inter-city bus. Drones are being used for surveillance, and the TSA actually has a program of agents traveling along some highways ready to stop those regarded as suspicious. Portable units for seeing through clothes and baggage, similar to those used at airports, are to tour urban streets in vans randomly. Agencies of the government, much in the style of the former Stasi, encourage reports from citizens about suspicious behavior. Now, you can just imagine what might be called “suspicious” in a society which has always had a tendency towards witch-hunts and fears of such harmless things as Harry Potter books or the charming old Procter and Gambel symbol on soapboxes.

America has become in many ways a police state, albeit one where a kind of decency veil is left draped over the crude government machinery. How can a place which has elections and many of the trappings of a free society be a police state? Well, it can because power, however conferred, can be, and will be, abused. And the majority in any democratic government can impose terrible burdens on the minority. That’s how the American Confederacy worked, how apartheid South Africa worked, and that’s how Israel works today. Prevention of those inevitable abuses is the entire reason for a Bill of Rights, but if you suspend or weaken its protections, anything becomes possible.

American police forces have long enjoyed a reputation for brutal and criminal behavior – using illegal-gains seizure laws for profit, beating up suspects, conducting unnecessary military-style raids on homes, killing people sometimes on the flimsiest of excuses – having earned international recognition from organizations such as Amnesty International. The reasons for this are complex but include the military model of organization adopted by American policing, the common practice of hiring ex-soldiers as police, the phenomenon of uncontrolled urban sprawl creating new towns whose tiny police forces have poor practices and training, and, in many jurisdictions, a long and rich history of police corruption. Now, those often poor-quality American police have unprecedented discretion and powers of abuse.

Further, according to the words of one high-ranking general a few years back, the American military is prepared to impose martial law in the event of another great act of terror. Certainly that is an encouraging and uplifting thought considering all the blunders and waste and murder and rape the American military has inflicted upon countries from Vietnam to Iraq.

Where it is possible, power prefers to know about and even to control what is going on at the most humble level of its society, and the greater the power, the more irresistible the drive to know and control. It is essential to appreciate that whether you are talking about the military or huge corporations or the security apparatus, you are not talking about institutions which are democratic in nature. Quite the opposite, these institutions are run along much the same lines as all traditional forms of undemocratic government, from monarchs to dictators. Leadership and goals and methods are not subject to a vote and orders given are only to be obeyed, and there is no reason to believe that any of these institutions cherishes or promotes democratic values or principles of human rights. Of course, corporations, in order to attract talent, must publicly present a friendly face towards those principles, but that necessary charade reflects their future behavior about as much as campaign promises reflect future acts of an American politician.

Those at the top of all powerful and hierarchical institutions inevitably come to believe that they know better than most people, and those with any hope of gaining top positions must adopt the same view. For centuries we saw the great landed gentry and church patriarchs of pre-democratic societies regard themselves as inherently different from the population. It is no different with the psychology of people who enjoy their wealth and influence through positions in these great modern, un-democratic institutions. The larger and more pervasive these institutions become in society – and they have become truly bloated in America – the more will their narcissistic, privileged views prevail. Also, it is axiomatic that where great power exists, it never goes unused. Large standing armies are the proximate cause of many of history’s wars. And just so, the power of corporations to expand through illegality of every description, this being the source of the many controversies about failing to pay taxes in countries where they operate or the widespread practice of bribery in landing large contracts with national governments.

So far as security services go (the United States, at last count, having sixteen different ones), they may well be the worst of all these modern, massive anti-democratic institutions. Their lines of responsibility to government are often weak, and citizens in general are often regarded as things with which to experiment or play. Their leaders and agents are freely permitted to perjure themselves in courts. The organizations possess vast budgets with little need to account for the spending. They can even create their own funds through everything from drug and weapons trading to counterfeiting currency, all of it not accounted for and subject to no proper authority. And their entire work is secret, whether that work involves legitimate national security or not. The nature of their work breeds a secret-fraternity mindset of superiority and cynicism. They start wars and coups, including against democratic governments sometimes, they pay off rising politicians even in allied countries, they use money and disinformation to manipulate elections even in friendly governments, and of course they kill people and leaders they seriously disapprove of. Now, does any thinking person believe that they simply forget these mindsets and practices when it comes to what they regard as serious problems in their own country?

The record of arrogance and abuse by security organizations, such as CIA or the FBI, is long and costly, filled with errors in judgment, abuse of power, incompetence, and immense dishonesty. Owing to the black magic of classified secrecy, much of the record involves projects about which we will never know, but even what we do know about is distressing enough. And I’m not sure that it can be any other way so long as you have Big Intelligence. Apart from Big Intelligence’s own propensity towards criminal or psychopathic behavior, one of the great ironies of Big Intelligence is that it will always agree to bend, to provide whatever suppressions and fabrications are requested by political leaders working towards the aims of the other great anti-democratic institutions, the military and the corporations. This became blindingly clear in the invasion of Iraq and, even before that, in the first Gulf War.

America’s political system, honed and shaped over many decades, fits comfortably with these institutions. National elections are dominated by a two-party duopoly (being kept that way through countless institutional barriers deliberately created to maintain the status quo) , both these parties are dominated by huge flows of campaign contributions (contributions which form what economists call an effective barrier to entry against any third party seriously being able to compete), both parties embrace much the same policies except for some social issues of little interest to the establishment, and election campaigns are reduced to nothing more than gigantic advertising and marketing operations no different in nature to campaigns for two national brands of fast food or pop. It takes an extremely long time for a candidate to rise and be tested before being trusted with the huge amounts of money invested in an important campaign, and by that time he or she is a well-read book with no surprising chapters.

If for any reason this political filtering system fails, and someone slips through to an important office without having spent enough time to make them perfectly predictable, there still remains little chance of serious change on any important matter. The military-industrial-intelligence complex provides a molded space into which any newcomer absolutely must fit. Just imagine the immense pressures exerted by the mere presence of senior Pentagon brass gathered around a long polished oak table or a table surrounded by top corporate figures representing hundreds of billions in sales or representatives or a major lobbying group (and multi-million dollar financing source for the party). We see the recent example of popular hopes being crushed after the election of Obama, a man everyone on the planet hoped to see mend some of the ravages of George Bush and Dick Cheney. But the man who once sometimes wore sandals and bravely avoided a superfluous and rather silly flag pin on his lapel quickly was made to feel the crushing weight of institutional power, and he bent to every demand made on him, becoming indistinguishable from Bush. Of course, the last president who genuinely did challenge at least some of the great institutional powers, even to a modest extent, died in an ambush in Dallas.