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THE PROFOUND DISAPPOINTMENT OF ANGELA MERKEL

John Chuckman

 

Anyone who says she admires Hillary Clinton, as Angela Merkel has said, plainly invites revulsion if not contempt. The lack of judgment broadcast by such words strikes the mind like a grating noise. Clinton’s record of behavior literally stinks to high heaven, much as a pile of corpses left to rot in the hot sun, and, as it happens, there are a great many rotting corpses in Clinton’s history.

What an immense disappointment Merkel is. Intelligent and well educated with an appealing, fairly benign face, but, wait, am I describing Merkel or, in fact, Obama? It turns out not to matter. They are a pair of malignant soul mates born thousands of miles apart who conspired later in life to bring the world a great deal of unhappiness.

Merkel has been de facto leader of Europe during an extremely challenging period, one demanding real statesmanship. Instead, she has provided attitudes and short-term fixes married to complete acceptance of the most destructive American policies possible. Her policies have alienated large numbers of her own people and, almost more importantly, contributed mightily to the weakening of loyalties in Europe – not a record of which to be proud.

Unfortunately, during the period of her Chancellorship, there have been no other European leaders of stature and ability to balance or oppose her. Absolutely none. Britain had the flabby joke of David Cameron who collapsed his own house of cards through sheer political incompetence. France had the absurd Francois Hollande, an impossibly pompous man with not a single achievement to his credit, a parody of a French President, certainly the worst leader in modern French history.

So, Europe at a time when America put great new stresses and demands upon it for its own selfish reasons had no leadership worth mentioning. All the major figures were content with accommodating America’s harsh and destructive initiatives. Well, I do think there is something to be said for the dictum that history is biography.

Everyone involved has suffered for Merkel’s attitudes and whims. Europe simply could not have done much worse. The press so glibly speaks of the rise of the political Right in Europe and in America, but what we really see on both continents is public reaction to years of blundering policies causing vast misery in many places.

You cannot support America’s destruction of the Middle East without accepting its direct consequences both in massive migrations of terrified people and in the rise of terror by relatively powerless young men wanting revenge for what has been done to them, their families and homes. Yet this is precisely what Angela Merkel has tried to do, trying to avoid inevitable, destructive consequences of stupid acts she has supported. Having never raised her voice against what America was doing, Merkel decided to deal with some of the consequences by playing the grandmotherly figure who welcomes an avalanche of refugees, seemingly not appreciating for a second what that means on the streets of her own country.

No decent person is against organized, peaceful immigration or against giving assistance to desperate refugees. There is an ethical obligation for both as well as some sound economic reasons. But if a truck, set to deliver two hundred gallons of fuel oil to your home’s heating system, pumps instead two thousand gallons, you suddenly have a disturbing, costly, and dangerous situation. The analogy is actually quite inadequate for what has happened in some places with armies of terrified people fleeing America’s imposed-horrors.

Merkel, realizing what her support of America’s destruction in Libya, Syria, and other places has wrought, tried setting the example of a benign figure ready to help everyone, a kind of bonhomie approach to what was a totally-avoidable catastrophe. The impossibility of this should have been seen, but it was not. Too many extremely-different refugees – different in language, customs, religion, wealth, and politics – cannot be absorbed quickly or peacefully by any country, and perhaps that is even more true of relatively old and homogeneous societies such as Germany.

We like to speak of xenophobia with contempt, but in the gritty real lives of vast populations everywhere on the planet, it is a reality just as much as backward religious practices, which cannot be wished away. True xenophobia, indeed, much resembles fundamentalist religion in that it is an expression of superstitious instincts, deeply-rooted instincts whose origins go beyond mere learned behaviors. Just try asking highly religious people to set aside their feelings for completely different newcomers, the example coming to mind of the Ultra-Orthodox in Israel and their “take” on others. It is possible only in the imagination.

But xenophobia is only part of the mix, despite the claims of a superficial mainstream press, and I am not just speaking of it. We promote nationalism and national unity in every Western country with flags, anthems, pledges, holiday customs, uniforms, speeches, parades, even laws, and then some leaders seem to expect their people, almost on command, to turn their backs on all the lifelong indoctrination and embrace sudden, great change? It simply cannot be done.

As with anything else you may care to discuss, the time to act is before a great problem or crisis has been created. Preventative health care is no less valuable for nations than it is for individuals. The leaders of Europe should have seen what America’s fanatical crusade was going to do and opposed it, forcefully, before it was started. In doing so, Europe would have been strengthened instead of diminished as it has been., to say nothing of preventing the death and maiming of millions in the Middle East. Instead they quietly supported it and even donated resources to the insane efforts of America’s Grande Armée in the Middle East.

Merkel’s contribution to disaster goes further, to her relations with one of the planet’s genuine madman-leaders, Netanyahu. She has been selling him sophisticated submarines at knock-down prices for years. Only recently they agreed to three more of them in a deal which has Netanyahu being examined in Israel for criminal activity. I think it fair to ask, too, why a sardine-sized country needs a fleet of sophisticated submarines, some or all of which are widely rumored to be outfitted with nuclear-armed cruise missiles? Does that make sense to anyone other than Merkel, Netanyahu, Clinton, and Obama?  Does that contribute to stability in the Middle East? And why doesn’t the excruciating injustice of Israel’s occupation and regular theft of land enter into considerations?

Germany’s taking a million refugees is roughly equivalent to America’s taking four million. It does not take a great imagination to see what the results of such a massive, short-term influx would be. Moreover, never mind Donald Trump, there has been no American government, ever, willing to accept such numbers at one time. Indeed, had America’s recent governments demonstrated the slightest sense of responsibility for what they had caused, they would have taken extraordinary steps for the refugees, but they did not. Instead, they encouraged measures like Merkel’s response, which, in terms of total numbers involved in the human catastrophe, is necessarily pathetic.

But, if you read enough history, you will know it has always been part of the American government’s character to do what as it pleases in the world with little or no regard for the consequences, so long as those consequences are on foreign shores. It is an attitude bred in a people who too often feel they can have it all and have it now and a people who have the illusion, generated both in commercial advertising and in fundamentalist Christianity, of endless youth with all its happy irresponsibility. It is something which actually marks America as especially unsuitable for enlightened world leadership, while it is the very quality demonic figures such as Kissinger or Brzezinski regarded as useful to their twisted international purposes.

Merkel quickly learned what she had done was a terrible political mistake. Consequences were quick, so she backtracked, never a dignified behavior for a national leader. But more than that, Merkel, realizing what the consequences might be of a few million more refugees temporarily encamped in Turkey continuing on into Europe, was quick to strike a deal with another of our planet’s most unscrupulous and dangerous leaders, the madman who rules Turkey, Erdogan. She agreed to pay him several billion Euros to keep the refugees in their massive Turkish camps.

This was not just a highly unethical deal, it should have been seen for the ongoing danger it represented, especially in view of Europe’s general relations with Erdogan and its confused efforts to deal with his many demands, ranging from visa-free travel in Europe for Turks to full membership in the EU. Again, American policy had created a huge problem by treating Turkey, an undemocratic country with limited respect for human rights and one for some years ruled by a madman, as an indispensable ally against Russia, so the EU to this day feels it must accommodate that ugly reality in all its policies.

Obviously, a country in the state we see in Turkey – constant war and terror against the Kurds, serious government suppression of free speech and activities, assassinations, widespread Muslim fundamentalism, and now new waves of repression following a failed coup – is in no shape to qualify for EU membership under the EU’s own requirements, which at least struggle to be faithful to Enlightenment principles.

Erdogan, never one to be shy about what he wants, has already threatened publicly to “open the gates” if the EU does not proceed in treating his demands appropriately. So, Merkel’s dirty deal with the devil is seriously threatened and becomes just one more source of uncertainty and instability. It is not a promising situation.

I believe Merkel was permanently scarred by growing up in East Germany and likely harbors both inordinate fear of Russia and slavish admiration for America, neither attitude being warranted in the least today. Her mental landscape possibly includes images of Andropov versus Jimmy Stewart, but policy built on fantasy and fears is bad policy, always.

The Bush-Obama years have been, in so far as foreign policy goes, about as stupidly and blunderingly destructive as Lyndon Johnson’s bull-headed insistence on fighting a major war in Vietnam. Johnson ended by killing about 3 million people, generating instability and misery, dividing America itself, and achieving nothing worth achieving. Bush-Obama have killed at least a couple of million, generated instability and misery, divided the countries of Europe, also achieving nothing worth achieving. There is not one part of the vast sphere America has arrogantly viewed as its area of influence that has not been made worse by Bush-Obama policies.

Mass killing, mass destruction of old societies and cities, induced-coups, threats, fears, torture, the creation of huge and desperate human movements, promotion and reward of terror as a covert policy tool, the decline everywhere in the rule of law, extra-judicial killing on an organized scale, a huge erosion in respect for international institutions like the now much-debased UN, an endless and confusing patchwork of lies told about terrible events – all while ignoring genuinely terrible situations like those in Palestine or in Saudi Arabia or in Turkey.

Apart from the horrors Merkel has implicitly or explicitly embraced and apart from the anger and disruptions and economic hardship her embrace has meant for Europe – America’s arbitrary and unwarranted sanctions against Russia have cost the German and French economies literally billions which America smilingly allows them to pay –  one look at a map of Europe tells you just part of the reason why her views are so utterly counter-productive.

For scores of reasons, the future of Europe is in a cooperative and close relationship with Russia. It just cannot be otherwise, although, if you are determined to waste enough resources, impoverishing to some degree your own people through decreased trade and increased military waste, you can hold the inevitable off for quite a while. Look at America’s ten years of sheer insanity in Vietnam if you doubt for a moment that it is possible for a great country to do absolutely pointless and insanely costly things. Well, another insane and costly crusade is exactly the course America has been on in recent years, and leaders like Merkel have served as the most willing helpers in the task.

Obama and his political associate, Hillary Clinton, are total failures as figures of principle and as leaders, and Merkel very much resembles them, even down to the pathetic recent appeal she is using with German voters in anticipation of 2017 elections. She has imported wholesale Hillary’s squalid, 1950s-style claim that Russia threatens the integrity of elections, her empty claims being just an effort to stoke-up fears to get what she wants.

And then there are the remarkably empty and pretentious words she wrote in her official letter to President-elect Trump:

“Germany and America are united by shared values: through democracy, freedom, respect for the right and dignity of every individual, irrespective of origin, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation or political attitude. On the basis of these values, I would like to offer you a close cooperation between the governments of our countries.”

No clear-thinking person can accept such words as anything but hypocritical establishment claptrap – the kind of phony stuff just rejected by the American people. There is not a sincere phrase contained in the paragraph, just an arrogant assumption of moral loftiness and a presumption of setting standards for future relations. Can any thoughtful reader not sense almost an insult in the words? Insufferable stuff coming, as it does, from someone who never lifted a finger, except to assist, in the killing of tens of thousands of women and their families in half a dozen lands.

Trump will not do everything right, I know, but Merkel has done almost nothing right, much as her admired friends, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

 

 

 

FOOLING MOST OF THE PEOPLE MOST OF THE TIME IS WHAT AMERICAN POLITICS ARE ABOUT, EVEN WHEN IT COMES TO THE THREAT OF NUCLEAR WAR

John Chuckman

I read a column recently, and it was imbued with hopeful thinking about America’s political establishment dealing with its constituents concerning the now increasing threat of nuclear catastrophe.

The author said the piece was intended as “Drano” to clear the political pipes, but I am afraid that much as I sometimes enjoy the same author’s pieces, this one for me had to be characterized as illusion. It may have a lot to do with the author not being a native of the United States, and I do think my background in that country and having studied its history removes any possibility of illusion ever seriously taking hold.

When did America’s establishment ever discuss, in elections or at other times, issues of war and peace for the people’s understanding and consent?

Virtually never.

There was no mandate for Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, Libya, Syria, or a dozen other conflicts.

Of course, once a war gets going, there is a tendency for Americans to close ranks with flags and ribbons and slogans such as “Support our troops” and “Love it or leave it.”

The senior leaders know this psychological pattern, and they count on it, every time.

The fundamental problem in America’s government is an elaborate political structure much resembling democracy but with actual rule by a powerful establishment and a set of special interests – all supported by a monstrous security apparatus and a huge, lumbering military, which wouldn’t even know what to do with itself in peace.

Unfortunately, I don’t think there is any apparent solution to this horrible political reality, and, while once it affected primarily Americans themselves, today it affects the planet.

There is an intense new element that has been added to America’s governing establishment: the drive of the neo-cons for American supremacy everywhere, for complete global dominance, and it is something which is frighteningly similar to past drives by fascist governments which brought only human misery on a vast scale.

The neo-cons’ underlying motive, I believe, is absolute security for America’s colony in the Middle East, Israel – put another way, their concern is for Israel’s hegemony over its entire region with no room for anyone else to act in their own interests. It is only if the United States is deeply engaged all over the planet that Israel can constantly benefit from its strange relationship with America.

It did not require the neo-cons to interest America’s establishment with interfering in other people’s affairs. America has a long history of doing so, stretching back to the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American War, the brazen seizure of Hawaii from its people and going right up to the pointless War in Vietnam and Cambodia in the hope of keeping the Pacific Ocean effectively an American lake. But the neo-cons have added a new force, a new impulse to something which would be better left alone, and they are very influential in American affairs.

Ordinary Americans are not interested in world affairs, and there is a great deal of evidence to support that statement. American Imperialists of earlier times disparaged this tendency to just want peace at home with the pejorative name, isolationism, and avoiding isolationism became an excuse for a whole series of wars and interventions.

So, Americans today cannot be allowed to fall back into their natural tendency of not caring. Thus we have the drive of the neo-cons and, tragically, thus we have America being driven into direct confrontation with Russia. And with China, too, of course, but Russia is my focus since Russia is the only country in the world literally capable of obliterating the United States. There is unquestionably a sense here of Rome wanting to go after Carthage, although cavalry, swords, spears, and catapults no longer can settle such conflicts.

The situation is compounded by the American establishment’s dawning realization that its days of largely unquestioned supremacy in the world are fading into memory, as other countries grow and develop and have important interests in world affairs. In many respects, it has been a long downhill slide for the average American since the economic heyday of the 1950s. Decline in real incomes, decline in good job opportunities at home, the export of American industries abroad to areas of less costly labor, and the virtual collapse of American towns and cities in many places, Detroit being perhaps the most sorrowful case of many – all these are evident year-in and year-out.

I do think the American establishment simply does not know how to handle its role in a brave new world, but do something it clearly thinks it must, and that is an extremely dangerous state of mind. It is armed with vast armies and terrible weapons so that it retains a sense of being able to act in some way to permanently reclaim its place, an illusion if ever there was one.

We know from scholars of the past the role that the mere existence of terrible military power can play in disaster. Huge standing armies were one of the major underlying causes of the First World War, a conflict in which twenty millions perished. Germany repeated the effort with Hitler’s government working tirelessly to create what was to become the finest and most advanced army the world had ever seen until that time, but it, too, ended in disaster, and of even greater proportions. America has not discovered the secret to making itself invulnerable, although I fear that its establishment believes that it can do so, and that represents the most dangerous possible thinking.

Contrary to political speeches, America’s establishment has never shown great concern over the welfare of ordinary Americans, and today its lack of concern is almost palpable. Washington’s white-maned, over-fed, crinkly-faced Senators spend virtually every ounce of effort in two activities: raising funds from special interests for re-election (estimated at two-thirds of an average Senator’s time) and conspiring on how to keep America dominant in the world. Anything else is just piffle. America’s unique place in the world of 1950 took care of ordinary Americans, not any effort by government. Again, the utter contempt for ordinary Americans perhaps offers a dark element in the thinking of America’s establishment when it comes to possible nuclear war.

Russia is not, of course, a direct threat to neo-con interests, except when it comes to matters like Syria, a deliberately-engineered horror to bring down the last independent-minded leader in the Middle East and to smash and Balkanize his country, parts of which, Israel has always lusted after in its vision of Greater Israel. The coup in Ukraine, which borders along a great stretch of Russia, represented a direct challenge to Russia’s security, offering a place ultimately to be filled with hostile forces and missiles and American advisors – all of which was expected to silence Russia’s independent voice in the world and its ability to in any way thwart neo-con adventures, if not, in the longer-range, savage dreams of some, to provide a platform for the ultimate destruction or overthrow of Russia herself.

Russia’s effective countering with skillful moves in its own interests both in Syria and Ukraine has driven some of America’s establishment to the edge of madness, and that madness is what we see and hear in Europe. Europe is once again being turned into a vast armed camp, and it is now seething with anti-Russian rhetoric, threats, and activities such as huge war games, the largest of which occurred around the anniversary of Hitler’s invasion of Russia, the single most destructive event in all of human history.

America has created deliberately a situation almost as dangerous as the days of the Cuban missile crisis, which itself arose from the American establishment’s belief that it had every right to interfere in Cuba’s affairs.

We have another element, now compounding the danger, in a far greater variety and level of sophistication of weapons, including some nuclear weapons whose controlled yields are regarded by America’s military as being perhaps “usable” in a theater like Europe. The installation of anti-missile systems near Russia is very much part of this threat since these systems not only are intended to neutralize Russia’s capacity for response to a sudden, massive attack but to provide a cover for future covert, easily-done substitution of other kinds of missiles into the launchers, faster-arriving, nuclear-armed missiles which would indeed be an element in such an attack.

Russia, a country twice invaded with all the might of Germany and before that by Napoleon’s Grande Armeé, cannot be expected just to sit and do nothing. It won’t. It cannot.

The world must not forget that America’s military, a number of times in the past, created complete plans for a massive, surprise nuclear attack on what was then the Soviet Union, the last of which I am aware was in the early 1960s, and it was presented as being feasible to President Kennedy, who is said to have left the Pentagon briefing sick to his stomach.

Nuclear war, just as with any other kind of war, can happen almost by accident through blunders and careless acts and overly-aggressive postures. Just let the blood of two sides get up enough, and an utter disaster could quickly overtake us. Constantly decreasing the possibilities for accidents and misunderstandings is a prime responsibility of every major world leader, and right now the United States is pretty close to having completely abdicated its responsibility.

TO PARAPHRASE CHURCHILL, TURKEY RIGHT NOW IS A RIDDLE WRAPPED IN A MYSTERY INSIDE AN ENIGMA

 

John Chuckman

Events in Turkey just become stranger with each passing day.

We now have Middle Eastern and Persian sources, cited by Russian and German papers, that Russia’s security agencies overheard helicopter radio transmissions by the coup participants, and President Putin warned Erdogan about what was happening, likely saving his skin.

If true, this would help explain the apparent ineptness of the coup forces. My first hypothesis explaining this ineptness plus other peculiarities of the coup was that the plotters were unwittingly working in a dark operation run by Turkish security forces, intended to make them fail while flushing them out and giving Erdogan a free hand.

This possibility of Russian advance warning put together with Erdogan’s own belief that the coup originated in America should yield some serious geopolitical shifts in the region.

We could have an even stronger rapprochement between Turkey and Russia than was already underway, a rapprochement, by the way, which could well have helped tip the United States into giving a wink and a nod (and of course, as always, some cash) to Turkish rebel forces.

But that would not be the only reason for America’s supporting a coup. The truth is, from the American point of view, Erdogan’s erratic behavior – shooting down a Russian war plane, firing artillery into Syria at American Kurdish allies, blackmailing Europe over large numbers of refugees resident in Turkish camps, and still other matters – over the last few years has added uncertainty and potential instability to a strategically important region.

Even if the United States were not involved in the coup, although right now Turkey’s government appears to believe firmly that it was, Putin’s warning would add a powerful positive element to Russian-Turkish relations.

Just as America’s failure to warn Erdogan adds a new negative element to Turkish-American relations. After all, no one is better equipped for international communication interception than the NSA. If the United States were not involved, why didn’t it warn Erdogan? Either way, the outcome is negative for Turkish-American relations.

One of the strongest suggestions for American involvement is the fact that Turkish jets, for bombing and fuel supplies, took off from the İncirlik Airbase during the coup. This airbase is Turkish, but has many Americans resident, including some high-level ones, since there is not only a sizable air force stationed there but an estimated fifty thermonuclear bombs. The Turkish commander, Gen. Bekir Ercan Van, was in daily contact with the Americans and sought asylum in the United States before he was arrested by Turkey.

If it is true that Putin warned Erdogan, this would also be the second time Putin has blunted the success of a major American-inspired coup, as he very much did in Ukraine.

Seems as though poor old America, for all its grossly swollen and over-paid security services, just cannot run a good coup anymore.

Putin is disliked by Washington’s establishment precisely because he successfully blunted a huge and costly operation in Ukraine, so disliked that NATO has been pushed dangerously into something resembling the terrifying preparations for Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa in Eastern Europe, 1941.

And, of course, Putin also has thwarted the American effort to overthrow President Assad with paid and supplied proxy forces of mercenaries and religious maniacs. Interestingly, Erdogan has been a key player there. French intelligence has just estimated that even now about a hundred thugs cross the border from Turkey into Syria each week.

If Putin has now also stopped a Turkish adventure, the hissing in Washington will likely become much louder.

A new relationship between Turkey and Russia offers a lot of possibilities, none of them favorable from America’s point of view, the restart of the Turkish Stream natural gas project being just one.

And if Europe speaks up or acts too strongly against Erdogan’s counter-coup measures, there’s always the possibility of a new release of refugees from Turkish camps, something which could genuinely destabilize the EU after so many other recent woes. And smooth control of the EU has been one of America’s chief policy objectives for years.

Of course, we should remember that Churchill’s famous quote originally applied to Russia in the days of Stalin. It does not apply to contemporary Russia, and Putin’s deft moves have made some of America’s clumsy efforts at re-ordering the world rather make it resemble Stalin in international affairs.

 

AMERICA’S BRUTAL TACTICS

John Chuckman

Naturally enough, few details of what American troops do in Iraq and Afghanistan reach the nation’s television screens, the main source of news for most Americans. American television takes the approach of the New York Times when it refers to professional soldiers as GIs, as though they were humble mechanics and bricklayers of America drafted into the titanic struggle against Hitler and Tojo.

But if you are genuinely interested in discovering the truth, there are plenty of sources for first-hand information. And anyone taking a little time to search through some of these comes away with a sick feeling.

From several ex-soldiers comes a vivid image of America’s house-to-house methods of searching for “insurgents.” A small block of C-4 plastique is fixed to the front door of a house, the door is blown in, and several armored giants rush through the shock and smoke with their automatic weapons at the ready. Women and children are held to one side at gunpoint, while any men are taken roughly for questioning. In most cases, the men have nothing worthwhile to say, but they and other members of their families are left with a terrifying experience they will never forget.

These violent procedures have been repeated thousands of times, both in Iraq and in the mountain villages of Afghanistan. Could this be part of what Condoleezza Rice meant when she said recently in Britain that despite thousands of tactical mistakes, America’s basic strategy was sound? Can you imagine her saying the same thing if Washington-area police blew her door down and stormed into her home in Chevy Chase or whatever other exclusive area she lives, perhaps looking for drug dealers or murderers, suspecting her home because she is black?

Another aspect of America’s crude tactics has been their way of responding to periodic mortar fire. The American forces use a high-tech radar gizmo that tracks the path of such shells supposedly to permit accurate return fire by artillery. Unfortunately the gizmo often does not work properly, and even when it does operate well, the tactics of mobile guerillas firing a shell from a truck or car and driving away leave the data of the gizmo useless. Well, not completely useless, because American artillery still responds. It’s just that all they hit are innocent residences or businesses.

The trigger-happy nature of Americans at check points is a well-established fact. These boys, many of them having joined up for benefits like money for college, do not want to be in these places, and they are irritated by the strange tongues and cultures and the blazing heat and sandstorms. They simply shoot first and ask questions after. I suppose this tactic might have been appropriate on the Eastern Front in World War II, but it is totally unsuited to a place you are occupying after having invaded, a place where the overwhelming majority of people with which you interact are just ordinary people going about their lives.

There have been dozens of pictures on the Internet of whole families obliterated in their cars by American soldiers. Children have been pumped full of holes. A kidnapped Italian journalist almost lost her life on her short journey back to freedom. The brave Italian secret service agent who had secured her freedom and was accompanying her to freedom was pumped full of holes. Yet this car and its contents were well known and had been identified to American forces.

It is extremely unlikely this was an error, the Italian journalist being someone hated by American occupation authorities for her critical stories. Such a number of unarmed journalists have been shot by American troops that the idea of the accidents of war is not credible. Of course, the recent revelation in Britain that Bush actually discussed bombing offices of Aljazeera adds another dimension to these events.

A number of British soldiers, Britain’s pathetic Blair being America’s only true ally in the phony coalition America’s press never fails to name, have gone on record about American tactics. These include several senior officers, an unprecedented criticism of an ally during war. What they have said to the press is that American tactics are brutal and thoughtless, almost certain in the long run to produce more enemies than friends. Few forces in the world have more genuine experience than Britain’s after decades in Northern Ireland, yet all their advice is treated with contempt by arrogant American commanders and politicians.

It seems both public and press have forgotten the words of Donald Rumsfeld not long after the U.S. triumphed in Afghanistan, the words being among the most shameful in American history and certainly ranking with anything a dread figure like Reinhard Heydrich uttered. On what to do with the thousands of prisoners taken in the invasion, Rumsfeld publicly stated they should be killed or walled away forever. It does appear he was taken at his word, for thousands of prisoners disappeared around the time. There are many eye-witness reports – a documentary film was made by a Scots director – about Afghan prisoners having been taken into the desert in trucks to suffocate in the blazing heat. American soldiers, if they didn’t actively help, just stood around and let it happen.

In the early part of the invasion of Afghanistan, tens of thousands of emergency de-hydrated food packets were dropped by American planes in some of the same areas that cluster bombs were being dropped. As pictures on the Internet testify, the bomblet canisters (pressure-sensitive cans packed with something like razor wire and high explosive) and the food packages were virtually the same optical yellow color. Imagine how many hungry peasants and children were attracted to these deadly areas by the food packets, only to be torn apart?

Bad publicity all over the world did stop the Pentagon’s grotesque practice, but the question of using cluster bombs near civilian populations remains. It was done both in Afghanistan and Iraq. The brave journalists of Aljazeera took dozens of pictures of what these bombs did to children in Iraq, their publication providing one of the reasons for the Pentagon’s and Bush’s intense hatred of the network.

The revelations about the behavior of American soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison are well known, although the last round of abuse and torture pictures released did not include the worst stuff that American Senators saw in closed session a while back. It’s almost as though the “tamer” stuff was released to defuse demands for more information. America’s great investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has said the worst stuff included boys being raped by American soldiers.

How many senior officers or officials have paid for these horrors that absolutely had to be known to them? The answer is none. What did Lieutenant Calley and Captain Medina suffer for the mass murder and rape of women and children in Vietnam a few decades ago? Not much, and their seniors nothing at all.

Of course we know from many sources including amateur plane spotters and flight records that America runs a gigantic secret prison system. Sources in Europe say that 14,000 are held in Iraq alone. There are also secret prisons in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, and at Guantanamo. All of these prisoners are held with no legal rights whatever, just as though they had disappeared into Stalin’s Gulag.

In most cases the prisoners are simply people who fought Americans in their invasions of two lands. Since when do we do this to the fighters who oppose us in war? Americans themselves in the past have joined foreign wars as idealists or as mercenaries. This happened in South Africa, various African anti-colonial wars, Central America, South America, Indo-China, Spain, and other places. It’s an old tradition going back to Lafayette and Pulaski in the American Revolutionary War. The men, and boys, America now holds with no rights were doing no more than what tens of thousands of Americans and others have done previously.

As I have written before, if you want the rule of law, you cannot stand outside the law and claim its moral support. What America is doing in its “war on terror” is little more than freshened-up fascism. It wants a pipeline through Afghanistan and a subservient government in Iraq, and it dresses up the brutal tactics used to achieve these goals as a war on terror.