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Red Mist Rising: Inside the World's Most Powerful Terrorist Organization
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 19 November 2014 17:00

Glenn Greenwald notes the blizzard of bellicose propaganda pieces pouring from the High Media lately concerning the Peace Laureate's latest flurry of drone killings. In story after story, headline after headline, we hear of "militants" slaughtered by the dead-eyed machinery that floats above the distant villages of the "recalcitrant tribes" who bedevil the Empire with their disobedience -- or, in the case of the drone campaign, which overwhelmingly kills innocent civilians, with their mere existence.

Greenwald draws on a new article by Steve Coll in the New Yorker, which provides a detailed -- and damning -- look at the Progressive Way of State Terror as practiced by our noble Nobelist in the White House. Coll in turn draws on the remarkable efforts of photographer Noor Behram, who for years has been going to the actual sites of American drone strikes to record the truth behind the horseshit headlines. As Greenwald notes:

There’s simply no doubt that U.S. media outlets have continuously and repeatedly—and falsely—described innocent civilians killed by U.S. drone attacks as “militants.” Just last month, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documented that “fewer than 4% of the people killed have been identified by available records as named members of al Qaeda,” directly contrary to “John Kerry’s claim last year that only ‘confirmed terrorist targets at the highest level’ were fired at.”

Coll's article also looks again at the devastating -- and universally ignored -- 2012 report by the Stanford and NYU law schools, "Living Under Drones." As that report pointed out, the drone campaign is terrorism -- unadulterated, unmitigated, plain, simple terrorism. What's more, it is terrorism on a scale, duration and scope that pipsqueak outfits like ISIS and al Qaeda can only dream of. Greenwald quotes Coll:

Being attacked by a drone is not the same as being bombed by a jet. With drones, there is typically a much longer prelude to violence. Above North Waziristan, drones circled for hours, or even days, before striking. People below looked up to watch the machines, hovering at about twenty thousand feet, capable of unleashing fire at any moment, like dragon’s breath. “Drones may kill relatively few, but they terrify many more,” Malik Jalal, a tribal leader in North Waziristan, told me. “They turned the people into psychiatric patients.”

These days there is an overwhelming amount of blather about the political machinations on Capitol Hill in the wake of the recent elections. Who's in, who's out, how will this player out-play that player, and -- most important of all -- how will these machinations affect the all-important, historically decisive 2106 presidential campaign? All this earnest speculation, all this avid interest, all this heartfelt ardor -- and for what? To figure out which blood-soaked poltroon will be the temporary head of this monstrous, murderous terrorist apparatus -- an empire that brazenly kills scores of innocent people, week in, week out, year after year, all the while celebrating its own rectitude and righteousness and "exceptional" virtue.

2.
I think it's worth re-visiting the "Living With Drones" in some detail. Below are some excerpts from a 2012 piece I wrote ("Blood is Their Argument: The Real Campaign Trail") not long after the report was released -- a post that coincided with the climax of the last all-important, historically decisive presidential campaign.

Even as the presidential candidates meet in ersatz agon to spew their self-serving lies and scripted zingers in a "debate" on foreign policy, the real campaign -- the campaign of blood and bone, of death and terror, being waged in Pakistan by the American government -- goes on it all its horror.

This week, the Mail on Sunday -- one of Britain's most conservative newspapers -- published a story outlining, in horrific detail, the true nature of the drone killing campaign begun by George W. Bush and vastly expanded by Barack Obama. …The story concerns legal action being taken in Pakistan on behalf of families of drone-murder victims by Pakistani lawyer and activist Shahzad Akbar and the UK-based human rights group, Reprieve. The MoS quotes the Living With Drones report to set the context:

…Between 2,562 and 3,325 people have been killed since the strikes in Pakistan began in 2004. The report said of those, up to  881 were civilians, including 176  children. Only 41 people who had  died had been confirmed as ‘high-value’ terrorist targets.

As the paper notes, full figures on the killings are hard to come by, due to the convenient fact that "the tribal regions along the frontier are closed to journalists." The true death count of civilians is almost certainly far higher….

One of the officials targeted in the lawsuit is former CIA general counsel John Rizzo. As the paper notes:

Mr Rizzo is named because of  an interview he gave to a US reporter after he retired as CIA General Counsel last year. In it, he boasted that he had personally authorised every drone strike in which America’s enemies were ‘hunted down and blown to bits’.

He added: ‘It’s basically a hit-list. The Predator is the weapon of choice, but it could also be someone putting a bullet in your head.’

That's nice, isn't it? Noble, worthy, honorable, isn't it? Again, these are the mafia thug values being embraced, lauded, supported and reinforced at every turn by the most respectable figures throughout American politics and media, including of course the popular media, where TV shows and movies abound with tough guys "doing whatever it takes" to kill the dehumanized "enemy" and "keep us safe." ...

The second case now before the Pakistani courts involves "signature strikes," the policy of killing unknown people simply because you don't like how they look or how they act. No evidence -- not even false evidence, not even the thin scraps of rumor and innuendo and ignorance that constitute the overwhelming majority of "intelligence reports" -- is required before the well-wadded Cheeto-chewer in Nevada crooks his finger and fires a drone. The MoS quotes a Pakistani official describing the signature strikes:

‘It could be a vehicle  containing armed men heading towards the border, and the operator thinks, “Let’s get them before they get there,” without any idea of who they are. It could also just be people sitting together. In the frontier region, every male is armed but it doesn’t mean they are militants.’

One such signature strike killed more than 40 people in Datta Khel in North Waziristan on March 17 last year. The victims, Mr Akbar’s dossier makes clear, had gathered for a jirga – a tribal meeting – in order to discuss a dispute between two clans over the division of royalties from a chromite mine.

Some of the most horrifying testimony comes from Khalil Khan, the son of Malik Haji Babat, a tribal leader and police officer. ‘My father was not a terrorist. He was not an enemy of the United States,’ Khalil’s legal statement says. ‘He was a hard-working and upstanding citizen, the type of person others looked up to and aspired to be like.

"What I saw when I got off the bus at Datta Khel was horrible,’ he said. ‘I immediately saw flames and women and children were saying there had been a drone strike. The fires spread after the strike. The tribal elders who had been killed could not be identified because there were body parts strewn about. The smell was awful. I just collected the pieces that I believed belonged to my father and placed them in a small coffin.’

...He added that schools in the area were empty because ‘parents are afraid their children will be hit by  a missile’.

This ... is not just an illegal military operation; it is -- and is designed to be -- a terrorist campaign. It is meant to terrorize the population of the targeted regions, to keep the people there enslaved to fear and uncertainty, never knowing if the buzzing drone flying high and unreachable above their heads will suddenly spew out a Hellfire missile on their house, their school, their farm, their hospital, and blow them or their loved ones into unidentifiable shreds. It is a terrorist campaign -- not a random attack here and there, not an isolated spasm of violence -- but a continual, relentless, death-dealing campaign of terror designed to poison the daily lives of innocent people and force their cowed acquiescence to the dictates of domination.

3.
My 2012 article went on to note the truly bizarre spectacle of rock-ribbed opponents of empire, like Daniel Ellsberg and estimable Robert Parry, who detailed the horrors of the Potomac Empire's murder campaign, took full cognizance of its irredeemable immorality, assigned the responsibility for its present crimes clearly where it belongs -- on the current president …. and then urged people to vote for him. [Arthur Silber dealt powerfully with this moral depravity at the time in this stunning piece, "Accomplices to Murder."]

Ellsberg's stance was the most bizarre of all. He urged people to vote for Obama -- and then to impeach him for his high crimes. I then quoted an early piece I'd written about Parry's stance, which applied then -- and applies now -- to "all good progressives who advocate a 'reluctant' but 'realistic' vote for Obama [and soon for Clinton, or any other Democratic upholder of empire -- and yes, that includes Elizabeth Warren]:

Parry believes he is preaching a tough, gritty doctrine of "moral ambiguity." What he is in fact advocating is the bleakest moral nihilism. To Parry, the structure of American power -- the corrupt, corporatized, militarized system built and sustained by both major parties -- cannot be challenged. Not even passively, not even internally, for Parry scorns those who simply refuse to vote almost as harshly as those who commit the unpardonable sin: voting for a third party. No, if you do not take an active role in supporting this brutal engine of war and injustice by voting for a Democrat, then it is you who are immoral.



You must support this system. It is the only moral choice. What’s more, to be truly moral, to acquit yourself of the charge of vanity and frivolity, to escape complicity in government crimes, you must support the Democrat. If the Democratic president orders the "extrajudicial" murder of American citizens, you must support him. If he chairs death squad meetings in the White House every week, checking off names of men to be murdered without charge or trial, you must support him. If he commits mass murder with robot drones on defenseless villages around the world, you must support him. If he imprisons and prosecutes whistleblowers and investigative journalists more than any other president in history, you must support him. If he cages and abuses and tortures a young soldier who sought only to stop atrocities and save the nation’s honor, you must support him. If he "surges" a pointless war of aggression and occupation in a ravaged land and expands that war into the territory of a supposed ally, you must support him. If he sends troops and special ops and drones and assassins into country after country, fomenting wars, bankrolling militias, and engineering coups, you must support him. If he throws open the nation's coastal waters to rampant drilling by the profiteers who are devouring and despoiling the earth, you must support him. If he declares his eagerness to do what no Republican president has ever dared to do -- slash Social Security and Medicare -- you must support him.

For Robert Parry, blinded by the red mist of partisanship, there is literally nothing -- nothing -- that a Democratic candidate can do to forfeit the support of "the left." He can even kill a 16-year-old American boy -- kill him, rip him to shreds with a missile fired by a coddled coward thousands of miles away -- and you must support him. And, again, if you do not support him, if you do not support all this, then you are the problem. You are enabling evil.

I confess I cannot follow such logic. But in his article, Ellsberg compounds the puzzlement when he tries to clinch his case by citing Henry David Thoreau, of all people. Ellsberg writes:

I often quote a line by Thoreau that had great impact for me: “Cast your whole vote: not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence.”  He was referring, in that essay, to civil disobedience, or as he titled it himself, “Resistance to Civil Authority.”

In other words, Ellsberg is using a call for resistance to civil authority to justify supporting a civil authority which he himself acknowledges is committing war crimes and destroying American democracy. Again, I find this "reasoning" unfathomable.

But I too often quote a line by Thoreau that has had a great impact for me. In fact, I would say that it encapsulates my entire political philosophy in this dirty, degraded Age of Empire:

“How does it become a man to behave toward this American government today? I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.”

If only more of our compatriots would say the same.

 
It’s All Right, Ma, I’m Only Bleeding
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Monday, 17 November 2014 02:07

While I’ve been off tending various wounds, a number of interesting stories have come over the transom. All of them deserve more unpacking, but for now I’d just like to make note of a few of them for the dwindling number of eyes still casting a gaze this way now and again. Hope to be writing more here soon.

1.
As the Masters of the World (or in most cases, the Masters’ temporary flunkies in high office) gather at the G20 summit in Australia, Patrick Smith provides a fascinating look at some behind-the-scenes developments that could help make the bewildering facade of American foreign policy make more sense. You will not be surprised to find that it centers around our monied, militarized elites’ desire to retain and expand their domination of the world — no matter what.

2.
Glenn Greenwald rightly excoriated President-in-Waiting Hillary Clinton for the enthusiastic support she is receiving from, well, our monied, militarized, domination-desiring elites. Greenwald rightly pays particular attention to the fact that Clinton’s budding campaign is being lovingly embraced by unreconstructed neo-cons, who see a Clinton presidency as a restoration of the glory days of the PNAC crowd.

Yet in that same week, Greenwald enthusiastically announced the hiring of a long-time imperial courtier (and sometime writing partner of top neocons) for his radical, dissident, speaking-truth-to-power journal, The Intercept. Sharon Weinberger is joining the payroll of oligarch Pierre Omidyar’s house organ to lead “our investigative reporting on intelligence, military affairs, government surveillance and the Snowden archive,” Greenwald gushed.

As Scott Creighton notes, Weinberger indeed knows a lot about intelligence, military affairs and government surveillance — from the inside. You can read of her fascinating work history and her close connection to some of the most vociferous proponents of our monied, militarized elites’ domination agenda here.

To be fair to Greenwald, however, it is likely that he knew nothing about her background when he hired her. After all, he has famously declared that he knew nothing about Omidyar — and his extensive involvement in our monied, militarized elites’ domination agenda — when he first took the oligarch’s money. Anyway, suffice it to say that the appointment of an old friend like Weinberger to head up investigations of the imperial power structure will not exactly have said power structure shaking in its boots.

3.
Bringing it all back home, sending it out there again
At Firedoglake, Jeff Kaye tells the inspiring story of a gritty Chicago cop who brought the highest standards of Homeland law enforcement to his patriotic service of our whole god-blessed country at the Bastion of Freedom in Guantanamo Bay. Here’s a snippet:

July 2003, Guantanamo. A sole man was kept in a darkened solitary cell for months on end. For many days in a row he was interrogated 16 hours a day. Loud music blared constantly, dogs menaced. Guards cursed him, banged on his cell at all hours to keep him awake. The temperature in the cell was purposely set close to freezing. An interrogator told the prisoner about a dream he had, one that supposedly had other detainees digging a grave and carrying a coffin with the prisoner’s number on it.

Another interrogator, actually the chief of a “Special Projects Team” at the American naval base prison, lied and told the prisoner his mother had been detained, and that if he did not cooperate she would be brought to Guantanamo and kept as the only woman prisoner there. The implication of the threat against his mother seemed dire. The chief of the SP team produced a forged letter to back up his contention. But the prisoner had nothing to admit, and kept telling interrogators the truth, until finally he gave in under torture and told them what they wanted to hear.

The Guantanamo prisoner was Mohamedou Ould Slahi. The interrogation team leader in charge of Slahi’s “Special Project” torture was then-Lieutenant (and former Chicago homicide detective) Richard Zuley.

Meanwhile, also in 2003, another man sat in solitary confinement in an Illinois prison. Lathierial Boyd had been sentenced to 82 years in jail for the alleged shooting of two men, one of whom, Michael Fleming, died at the scene; the other was permanently paralyzed. Police called it a revenge drug murder. Both the victims and Boyd were African-American.

For 13 years Boyd had proclaimed his innocence. He told the story of how Chicago police officers had hid witness testimony, fabricated evidence, lied in reports, and coerced witnesses. In 2002, his plight picked up some news interest after a Chicago television station’s investigation dug up new evidence (see video), but Boyd, a former fashion model, remained in jail awaiting another appeal. He told anyone who would listen, “I am dying in here man, can’t you see I am dying.”

According to recent legal filings, one of these cops was alleged to have withheld the fact the sole survivor of the shooting, Ricky Warner, could not identify the shooter, nor could any of those who viewed the police line-up.

This same cop was said to have coerced Warner’s father to say his son had been threatened by Boyd. The cop fabricated evidence for the father to look at. He also convinced Warner to ID Boyd as the man who shot him and his partner. In this, the cop worked together with other Chicago police. Later, the cop allegedly helped fabricate a piece of evidence for Warner to use to help “lead” interrogators to Boyd.

The cop was the same man who years later led Slahi’s torture, Richard Zuley.

Man, ain't it grand to be exceptional?

 
Children of Lies: Fragments From the Long and Wasted Years
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Thursday, 06 November 2014 17:22

Below is a slightly revised version of my column in the latest print edition of Counterpunch Magazine.

In the course of a massive clean-out the other day, I came upon a box of overstuffed folders and musty papers — copies of some of the first pieces I’d ever had published, going back 35 years. For almost two decades they’d lain unseen in the bottom of an old trunk in my parents’ basement, stored there during one of the several peripatetic upheavals that punctuated my early adulthood. Then a freak flood hit the town, and most of the papers were damaged beyond rescue, fused into bundles that couldn’t be prised apart without crumbling into pieces.

Only one small box made it through; it had been sitting on top of a cache of love letters and other tender memorabilia destroyed by the water. This survivor I duly carted back across the ocean, to my home in England, where my peripateticism had come to an end. There it was promptly relegated to a new dark corner, to molder and yellow for several years more — until last week’s day of cleaning.

Naturally, I took the opportunity to let nostalgia draw me away from my chores, and spent an hour or so leafing through the articles. But beyond the bemusement at my early style (an odd mix of hellfire preacher and Gore Vidal manqué), I was most struck by the grim continuity between then and now. The same themes, and in many cases virtually the same content, sounded over and over, like “an echo from the future,” as Pasternak put it. With only a slight shifting of names, those yellowed pieces of political commentary could have been written in our era.

It’s all there: illegal wars based on lies; escalating inequality and militarization; the growing lawlessness of the elite; the radicalization of the Right by theocrats and corporate Birchers; the anemia of a "Left" sinking into accommodation and careerism; the manufactured hysteria over "terrorism" to justify the unchecked expansion of state power; the ineradicable racism; and the sinister embrace of "American exceptionalism" to hide the hollowness of a society in deep moral and physical decay, rotting under the sway of neoliberal extremism, letting its communities and infrastructure collapse, scorning the very idea of a “common good.”

Even some of the names were the same. In the clips there were rants against a feckless warmonger named Bush, against sell-outs to empire and Big Money by Democratic pols named Clinton and Kerry. There were howls of disbelief as the nation was hustled into a baseless war in, yes, Iraq, attacking an “evil power” which had once been used as a convenient tool to advance Washington’s agenda but had gone off the reservation and was suddenly transformed into an existential threat to civilization, its long-ignored and oft-excused atrocities brandished like a bloody shirt to justify war (and war profiteering). This was in 1991; we saw the same scenario played out in 2003 — and once again this year, in the new war against the new “existential threat” of ISIS.

In fact, perhaps the best, most succinct piece of political writing I’ve ever done concerned that 1991 war crime, the invasion of Iraq on behalf of the Bush Senior’s old business partners, the Kuwaiti royals. Oddly enough, it was not a column in this case but a letter to the editor, published in that well-known bastion of radicalism — Knoxville, Tennessee. It read, in its entirety:

“Concerning the war, and all the noble-sounding reasons adduced for it, and brutal sentimentality of the propaganda and ‘reportage’ surrounding it, I can say only this: I think we are living in a world of lies — lies that don’t even know they are lies, because they are the children and grandchildren of lies.”

In some ways, that is the sum total of what I’ve been writing all these years, not just about war but other issues as well. There is a despair in it; a despair of ever being able to speak a simple word of truth and make it heard through the lies that have been heaped on our heads — and bred into our bones — since the day we were born. Especially if, as in my case, you were not preaching to the choir but writing for a general audience, hoping to make a difference, hoping to – in the now-discarded and derided parlance of old – raise consciousness. It was almost impossible to speak of the reality of any given situation without having to fill in whole volumes of history which our masters and their media scribes had rigorously suppressed. Most readers literally had no idea what you were talking about, they had no context for processing the information.

Things are worse today, of course. The rise of Fox News, Bush Junior’s war crimes, Barack Obama’s disastrous entrenchment and expansion of the Permanent War State, the now-total takeover of society by the 1-Percenter Kleptocracy, the utter degradation of the national ‘debate’ and democracy itself:  the past's rough beasts have grown gargantuan, the lies are higher and wider, the rot is deeper. But in another sense, nothing had changed; and certainly, despite expending millions of furious words, I had changed nothing, nothing at all.

I sat there with the yellowed papers, my meager share of the “fragments shored against our ruins,” all that was left after the love letters were gone. And I thought of a song I heard an old man sing on a London stage last winter: "So much for tears -- so much for those long and wasted years."

 

 
Notes from the Oligarch Era: Monetizing Charity, 'Managing' Democracy
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 04 November 2014 17:17

Circumstances have prevented me from digging into the new Mark Ames article on the Omidyariazation of Ukrainian politics as I intended, so let me just point you to it again, with a few choice excerpts (see the original for copious links):

Ukraine just held its first post-revolution parliamentary elections, and amid all of the oligarchs, EU enthusiasts, neo-Nazis, nepotism babies, and death squad commanders, there is one newly-elected parliamentarian’s name that stands out for her connection to Silicon Valley: Svitlana Zalishchuk, from the billionaire president’s Poroshenko Bloc party.

Zalishchuk was given a choice spot on the president’s party list, at number 18, ensuring her a seat in the new Rada. And she owes her rise to power to another oligarch besides Ukraine’s president —  Pierre Omidyar, whose funding with USAID helped topple the previous government. Zalishchuk’s pro-Maidan revolution outfits were directly funded by Omidyar.

Earlier this year, Pando exposed how eBay billionaire and Intercept publisher Pierre Omidyar co-funded with USAID Zalishchuk’s web of nongovernmental organizations — New Citizen, Chesno, Center UA. According to the Financial Times, New Citizen, which received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Omidyar, “played a big role in getting the [Maidan] protest up and running” in November 2013. Omidyar Network’s website features Zalishchuk’s photograph on its page describing its investment in New Citizen. …

The president’s party tasked Zalushchik with publicly selling the highly controversial new “lustration law” — essentially a legalized witch-hunt law first proposed by the neo-fascist Svoboda Party earlier this year, and subsequently denounced by Ukraine’s prosecutor general and by Human Rights Watch, which described a draft of the law as “arbitrary and overly broad and fail(s) to respect human rights principles,” warning it “may set the stage for unlawful mass arbitrary political exclusion.”

The lustration law was passed under a wave of neo-Nazi violence, in which members of parliament and others set to be targeted for purges were forcibly thrown into trash dumps.

…Shortly before the elections, on October 17, Zalishchuk used her Omidyar-funded outfit, “Chesno,” to organize a roundtable with leaders of pro-EU and neo-fascist parties. It was called “Parliament for Reform” and it brought together leaders from eight parties, including Zalishchuk’s “Poroshenko Bloc” (she served as both NGO organizer and as pro-Poroshenko party candidate), the prime minister’s “People’s Party” and leaders from two unabashedly neo-Nazi parties: Svoboda, and the Radical Party of Oleh Lyashko, who was denounced by Amnesty International for posting YouTube videos of himself interrogating naked and hooded pro-Russian separatist prisoners. Lyashko’s campaign posters featured him impaling a caricatured Jewish oligarch on a Ukrainian trident.

Meanwhile, Zalishchuk’s boss, President Petro Poroshenko, has led a bloody war against pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country that left at least 3700 dead in a half year of fighting. Human Rights Watch recently accused Poroshenko’s forces of “indiscriminate” use of cluster bombs in heavily populated areas, that “may amount to war crimes.” Poroshenko’s forces include neo-Nazi death squads like the notorious Azov battalion.

Last month, Poroshenko further cemented his ties to the extreme right by hailing Ukraine’s wartime Nazi collaborators, the violently anti-Semitic UPA, as “heroes.” The fascist UPA participated in the Holocaust, and were responsible for killing tens of thousands of Jews and ethnic Poles in their bid to create an ethnically pure Ukraine. Many UPA members filled the ranks of the Nazi SS “Galicia” Division. The neo-Nazi Right Sektor, which spearheaded the violent later stages of the Maidan revolution, sees itself as the UPA’s contemporary successors…

This latest twist in Omidyar Network’s murky, contradictory or two-faced roles raises more disturbing questions about what the tech billionaire is up to. On the one hand, Omidyar plays the “adversarial” watchdog of the US National Security State, having privatized Snowden’s NSA files, the largest national security secrets leak in history, for his startup publication The Intercept with Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, the only two people entrusted with the complete Snowden cache.

On the other hand, Omidyar and his wife have been among the most frequent visitors to the Obama White House, intermingling with members of his National Security Council and State Deptartment. Meanwhile, in just the past year Omidyar Network has co-funded Ukraine revolution groups in Ukraine with the US government, and directly financed far-right, pro-business political actors in both Ukraine and in India, where a former top figure in Omidyar Network, Jayant Sinha now serves in the ultranationalist BJP Party and as close advisor to its controversial far-right leader, Narendra Modi.

Meanwhile, Tarzie offers a scathing analysis of the New York magazine article about the bizarre billionaire who has effectively bought off -- and disarmed -- mainstream dissident journalism with his money.

II.
One of the more important points that Ames has revealed in Omidyar's background -- a background that none of the "fiercely independent" dissident journalists who went to work for him, like Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and the now outcast Matt Taibbi, bothered to check -- was his role as a prime mover in the monetization of philanthropy. Over the past decades, the whole world has been subjugated by the extremist doctrine of neoliberalism -- essentially, the monetization of every aspect of public and private life, turning every element of human reality into a source of profit for a very small, powerful elite.

Omidyar has been in the vanguard of this movement, as Ames reported, an article which we explored here: Omidyar and the Oligarch’s Code: Enabling Extremism, Monetizing Dissent. Ames alerts us to the ways that Omidyar's partnerships with foreign oligarchs have led not only to despoliation and destitution of those they are purporting to help, but also to mass suicides by people driven to the limits of desperation by our gilded, lauded philanthropists-for-profit.

Such horrific hijinks are not limited to Omidyar, of course. The Guardian reports today on how the world's most celebrated philanthropist, Bill Gates, has actually directed the vast majority of his 'philanthropy' not to the world regions ravaged for decades by colonialism and neoliberalism, but to -- surprise, surprise! -- the monied bosom of the West's richest powers. From the Guardian:

Most of the $3bn (£1.8bn) that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given to benefit hungry people in the world’s poorest countries has been spent in the US, Britain and other rich countries, with only around 10% spent in Africa, new research suggests.

Analysis of grants made by the foundation shows that nearly half the money awarded over the past decade went to global agriculture research networks, as well as organisations including the World Bank and UN agencies, and groups that work in Africa to promote hi-tech farming.

Note that last sentence: money is being given to groups that "promote hi-tech farming." Imagine that: a techno-billionaire's philanthropy for the world's hungry is directed mainly at …. the development of profitable technology. This is very much in keeping with Omidyar's "philanthropic" support of "dissident journalism," which, as Greenwald himself has admitted, is now aimed not at content but at "products": "new technologies for delivering and consuming news."

The Guardian has more on the report on Gates' largess:

“The north-south divide is most shocking, however, when we look at the $669m given to non-government groups for agriculture work. Africa-based groups received just 4%. Over 75% went to organisations based in the US,” says the report.

“When we examined the foundation’s grants database, we were amazed that they seem to want to fight hunger in the south by giving money to organisations in the north. The bulk of its grants for agriculture are given to organisations in the US and Europe,” said agronomist Henk Hobbelink, a co-founder of Grain.

“It also appeared that they’re not listening to farmers, despite their claims. The overwhelming majority of its funding goes to hi-tech scientific outfits, not to supporting the solutions that the farmers themselves are developing on the ground. Africa’s farmers are cast as recipients, mere consumers of knowledge and technology from others.”

What? The poor being treated as mere fodder for the personal profit (and public PR-preening) of the super-rich? How can this be? This dastardly situation obviously calls for "fiercely independent" journalists of a dissident ilk, unswayed by the power of Big Money. Where could we find a passel of those paragons? Oh, that's right: working for super-rich oligarchs, the ones out there monetizing philanthropy and "managing democracy" to their liking.

 
Revenge of the Interceptors: Oligarch's Team Mugs Renegade Taibbi
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Friday, 31 October 2014 16:38

A few random thoughts on the imbroglio over Matt Taibbi leaving the media stable of oligarch Pierre Omidyar -- and the remarkable response to this by the oligarch's remaining celebs, led by Glenn Greenwald.

1. The Intercept article on Taibbi's departure -- bylined under the names of Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill, and John Cook, but almost certainly written mostly by Greenwald -- is, at its core, a scurrilous piece of work. Purporting to be a boldly transparent piece -- it even (lightly) criticizes the Boss! -- it is instead, transparently, an attempt by the oligarch's organization to get its side of the story out first before the famously acerbic Taibbi makes any statement.

2. It is also a means for the authors to laud themselves as "fiercely independent journalists" (yes, Greenwald actually wrote that about himself) who, despite being radical bohemians who "view corporate cultures and management-speak with disdain," were able to heroically grapple with their employer and procure for themselves "a sizable budget, operational autonomy, and a team of talented journalists, editors, research specialists, and technologists working collaboratively and freely in the manner its founders always envisioned" … unlike that loser Taibbi, who obviously lacked their moxie and got slapped around by the Big Boss Man.

3. The poison shiv of the article is buried deep in the acres of Greenwald's ever-deadening slabs of prose (as well as deep in Taibbi's back): the accusation of sexist behavior on Taibbi's part when he was upbraiding one of his staff. To be sure, the Interceptors make great show of saying that an internal investigation of the charge found that his action did not rise "to the level of legal liability" (libel-dodging weasel-wording at its best!) -- and added, as an appendix, an encomium from another Omidyar stablemate as to Taibbi's good character and lack of sexism. But the damage was done, as was obviously intended. The quick takeaway of anyone wondering about the situation will be: "What happened with Taibbi and First Look?" "Well, he was facing some kind of sex abuse charge or something, wasn't he? Abusing the women there, threatening or yelling at them, something." "What an asshole. They were right to get rid of him." Or maybe just a quick headline in the NY Post or Drudge Report: "Taibbi Leaves First Look After Sexism Row."

4. Anyone who has ever known or worked with Taibbi -- as I did in Moscow years ago -- knows that he is indeed a combative, abrasive personality. The Interceptors point this out repeatedly, ostensibly in his defense, as if to say, "Well, Taibbi's volatile ways were a known quality, part of what made his work so powerful; no wonder he clashed with the corporate structure of the organization." But this too is actually a subtle defense of the Big Boss Man, carrying a counter-implication: "Look, everybody knows Taibbi is an angry jerk; no wonder the Boss had to come down hard on him."

5. I have no way of knowing how Taibbi behaved toward the staff he hired with the "multimillions" Omidyar gave him to play with. I certainly don't know if he made a sexist remark to a staffer or not. I do know that when he and Mark Ames (whose work, like Taibbi's, I've frequently referenced here) edited The eXile magazine in Moscow, it was filled with relentless misogyny -- visceral, juvenile, contemptuous, and often highly personal, especially when directed at Taibbi's female former colleagues  at the Moscow Times. But that was a long time ago, and I assume that both writers have grown up a bit since then in regards to their attitude toward women. I've certainly seen nothing of that sneering contempt in any of their work since their eXile days. If there was some blow-up with a staffer at Omidyar's shop, involving harsh and abrasive language, I would imagine it was more general then gendered. But in his editorship of The eXile, Taibbi did indeed give many hostages to fortune in terms of defending himself against later charges of sexism.

6. That's why bringing up already investigated and apparently dismissed sexism charges is a doubly effective technique for the Inteceptors: the insinuation poisons Taibbi's present reputation, while his past makes it harder for him to defend himself. "You say you aren't sexist? What about all that shit in The Exile?"

7. That said, I know for a fact that Greenwald will tell lies -- knowing, demonstrable falsehoods -- to blacken a person's reputation when it suits him. I know because he did it to me, just a few months ago. In response to some criticism of his journalistic methods, Greenwald spewed out a very nasty, petty, personal smear -- an outright lie which he had to know was a lie when he wrote it. [See here for details.] He was willing to do this in order to discredit criticism from what, in his position, could only be considered the most marginal of sources. How much more might he do to defend the billionaire oligarch who has given him "a sizable budget, operational autonomy, and a team of talented journalists, editors, research specialists, and technologists" from a high-profile PR threat like the renegade Taibbi? In any case, when it comes to discussing matters such as Taibbi's behavior, Greenwald has zero credibility.

8. As others have pointed out, the Interceptors' article actually confirms many of the suspicions and criticisms that have been voiced about the oligarch's media operation from the beginning. Contrary to the Interceptors' insistent denials, Omidyar obviously has been deeply involved in the editorial operations of his "fiercely independent" hirelings, exerting control over personnel decisions, management -- even the petty cash, such as taxi receipts. And now we learn from Greenwald's latest slab that Omidyar is no longer interested in journalism at all, but in "products" -- "new technologies for delivering and consuming news." A techno-billionaire more concerned with enriching himself with more techno-product than forging a powerhouse of dissident journalism -- wow, who could have seen that coming? Anyone and everyone -- except, of course, for our leading dissident journalists.

9. In the end, this particular imbroglio is just a minor tempest in a celebrity teapot. There are more important -- and more sinister -- aspects to the oligarch's growing empire of profit-seeking political influence. Mark Ames (as it happens) has just published a very important article on Omidyar's continuing machinations in Ukraine and his continuing collusion with neo-fascists there and in India. I hope to take a closer look at his article and its implications soon. It certainly puts the Interceptors' proud association with the oligarch -- demonstrated by their hatchet job on Taibbi -- in a new, darker light.

10. As for Taibbi himself, I can say only this: You lie down with dogs, Matt, you get up with fleas. What the hell else did you think would happen?

 
Pale Riders: The Moral Blindness of our Leading Liberals
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 29 October 2014 01:24

Behold the quintessential earnest progressive liberal in the highest moral dudgeon: Digby railing with thunderous fury at the possibility (the very distinct possibility) that Barack Obama is going to suppress the Senate's report on CIA torture. Digby quotes the recent letter from some of Obama's fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureates, who are calling on Obama to release the report (and close the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, for good measure.) Worthy sentiments and justifiable anger indeed. But then Digby adds this gloss:

"Honestly, if they deep six the report (or redact it so heavily that it's meaningless) I think President Obama has no choice but to give back his prize. There's [sic] a lot of actions he's taken as president that people could claim disqualify him for the prize anyway. Arguments about the dirty wars and targeted assassination programs alone will go on for generations. But one can, at least, say they represent some form of modern warfare and that the President of a military Empire is always going to be required to deal in such ugly matters. (That, in fact, s one reason why it was ludicrous to give him the prize in the first place --- he runs the most powerful killing machine on the planet.)

But however you see his performance as Commander in Chief, There can be no debate about torture. It's a war crime. It should be prosecuted. But even if they cannot do that, covering it up is to be complicit."

Old cynic that I am, I must admit that even my grizzled jaw dropped as I read these words. "Arguments about the dirty wars and targeted assassination programs alone will go on for generations." This, again, is from one of our leading liberal lights. She thinks dirty wars -- secret incursions into other nations to murder, subvert, wreak havoc, terrorize -- are open to debate. She thinks that "targeted assassination programs" -- one of which is run directly out of the White House, with regular weekly meetings where Obama and his advisors tick off names of human beings to be killed without warning, without the slightest pretense of judicial process or rule of law -- will be argued about for generations. The morality of death squads and dirty wars is something about which serious, concerned citizens can disagree and debate, apparently.

Running a death squad -- which, among many others, kills American citizens without due process, then, just for the hell of it, murders their children: this doesn't put a person beyond the pale of acceptable human behavior. Not at all. It's something we can argue about, sure; but not only is it within the parameters of acceptable behavior, it does not even disqualify you from enthusiastic political support, not even from earnest, peace-loving antiwar liberals like Digby, who fought tooth and nail to keep Obama running his death squads and dirty wars in 2012. (And if he could run for a third term there is no doubt -- none whatsoever -- that he would have fierce backing of the earnest, peace-loving antiwar liberals like Digby.)

But my poor jaw had not yet done descending. For Digby, astonishingly, goes on to offer one of those arguments for state murder and the Nuremberg-level war crime of carrying out "dirty wars" on the sovereign territory of other nations: "One can, at least, say they represent some form of modern warfare and that the President of a military Empire is always going to be required to deal in such ugly matters."

Now, I'm sure we are all to understand that Digby herself wouldn't make that argument. But she does see its point. She thinks it’s something that can be debated. She might not like it, she might even oppose it (while of course never opposing the continuation of its perpetrator in power). But from the gritty, savvy realpolitik perspective that our earnest progressive liberals are always so keen to show they understand and appreciate, you can certainly make that argument and remain within the bounds of respectable debate in Digby's eyes.

Isn't this a wonderment? A progressive, peace-loving liberalism that can accept a president actually checking off names on a death list, like Stalin in the Politburo -- that can accept "dirty wars" that have slaughtered thousands of innocent civilians and destabilized whole regions, breeding more violence and terror. And although Digby has criticized such actions, it is obvious that none of them have put Obama beyond the moral pale for her. He's still within the bounds of acceptable realpolitik. ("Hey, the guy has to run a military Empire. What's he supposed to do?"). He is still -- if only just -- on "our" side.

Wholesale murder, wanton destruction, untold -- and unnecessary -- anguish and grief and suffering and turmoil: these things can be borne, if reluctantly, by our liberal progressive peace-lovers. But torture -- that, apparently, is the one thing that is beyond the pale. And in this particular case, it is not even torture being carried out by the Obama administration. (There is torture still going on, of course, but it's not at issue in the Senate report on past CIA actions which has so fixated our progressive liberals.) No, just the mere act of covering up a report on past torture is, for Digby, a step too far at last. Killing, mayhem, subversion -- well OK, if you have to; but torture -- why, that's "a war crime"! There can be absolutely "no debate about torture."

But here the obvious question arises: why not? If you can swallow all the rest and still support the perpetrator, why draw the line at torture? If, by Digby's own logic, you can "at least" make the argument that dirty wars and death squads "represent some form of modern warfare" -- then why not torture? Why not lump it in with those other "forms of modern warfare"? "Hey, we do lots of things now that used to be considered war crimes --- because we now face new dangers in our modern warfare. We have to kill people without due process, we have wage dirty wars -- and every now and then, we have to get rough with a prisoner. If you can support a president who murders and subverts, why not support him when he tortures, or covers up for torturers?"

What is that makes torture worse than actually murdering innocent people? Why is torture an undebatable war crime, but blowing up children sleeping in their homes in some Pakistani village is something that can be "argued about" -- indeed, such an open moral question that the debate will go on "for generations"?

The truth, of course, is that murder and dirty war are even worse than torture. But all of them partake of a radical evil that should put any perpetrator beyond the pale, making the person a war criminal who indeed "should be prosecuted." But if our earnest progressive liberals took off their blinders and acknowledged this truth -- then what? They would have to admit that they have been supporting -- with however much showy reluctance and "savvy" constructive criticism -- the perpetrator of monstrous war crimes.

So they focus on what is, relatively speaking, the lesser evil. Probably because most of them believe that Obama really has abolished torture in our far-flung gulags and bases and "secret facilities," rather than just entrenching it and codifying it with new manuals and different jargon. So in the end, Obama is not really that evil, is he? Since they cannot accept the full moral import of the death squads and dirty wars, they expend their righteous fury on the safer and more limited ground of torture. Or again, in this case, on "complicity" with torture, by covering up a report on the crimes committed years ago by the real bad guys, from the other side of the partisan divide: the Bush gang.

But let's say that Obama does quash or whitewash the report, confirming his "complicity" in torture. What then? What condign punishment does our morally furious liberal progressive envision for him in that case? Impeachment? Prosecution? Imprisonment? No. If Obama does this really, really bad thing -- which is so much worse than murdering people and waging dirty war -- then Digby believes he should ... he should ... give his Nobel Peace Prize back.

That's it. Pretty rough, huh? That would really teach him a lesson, if he had to do that!

But even if Digby's worst fears come to pass, is there anyone who believes that she would then disown the president, break with him, denounce him publicly as a war criminal? Of course not. She, and the other earnest progressive liberals, will continue to support him -- with loving chastisement and sad shakes of the head, to be sure -- but they've got his back.

And we will see them on the hustings for Hilary Clinton when the time comes for her to perpetrate these same moral outrages, these same war crimes. Their partisan tribalism blinds them to the fullness of the reality that confronts us. (And I know how that works; I suffered from the same tribal blindness for many, many years.) They cannot genuinely and effectively oppose the monstrous system of military Empire because, in the end, what is most important to them is not stopping the system -- but making sure that one of "theirs" is running it.

 
Being Human: Supporting the Vital Work of Arthur Silber
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 28 October 2014 00:03

Friends, I hope you will attend to this brief but important message. One of our very best, most insightful, powerful writers is now in extremely low water. Long-time readers of this column will know that Arthur Silber has faced a relentless barrage of health difficulties in recent years. He is once more in extremely poor shape, and faces the very real risk of losing his home — a fate which, as he points out in his latest post, will effectively be the end of him.

How can we afford to lose such a voice: humane, caring, witty, wise – and always open, searching, ever-more inquisitive? Arthur has something to say, something worth hearing, worth thinking about, worth taking in and acting upon. His work offers something beyond the bounds of ordinary political commentary. I think his is one of the most vital voices we have today, in any format, anywhere.

Times are hard all over, I know. Especially for the small band of readers who still cast an eye toward this blog. There are no 1 Percenters here. Many of the regular readers are in straitened circumstances themselves. I understand that. But I do ask that if anyone out there who sees this feels that they can contribute something toward keeping Arthur’s work — and life — going, then please head over to his blog and throw something in the hat. Thanks.

 
The Dark Alliance of Media and Empire: The ‘Dissident’ Smear of Gary Webb
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Monday, 20 October 2014 00:06

I assume that most of the rapidly dwindling number of people who read this blog have already read Tarzie’s takedown of The Intercept’s curiously CIA-slanted smear of Gary Webb, who revealed the Agency’s instrumental involvement in the 1980s crack epidemic that devastated America’s inner cities in order to fund the illegal Contra war in Nicaragua.

(As an aside, I’d like to note that the flood of crack into America was not of course confined to the inner cities, although that was indeed its epicenter. Over time, it crept out into that rural “heartland” where, in Gore Vidal’s immortal phase, “chiggers burrow and Jesus saves,” and destroyed the lives of many “good old boys” along with the ghetto dwellers who were the primary targets. One of these old boys was a close friend of mine, a good-hearted, “unharmful gentle soul” damaged by a violent upbringing who got hooked on crack and ended up in the absolute hellhole of the American prison complex. This was a sweet, music-loving, friend-supporting man who’d never hurt a single person in his life, who spent his time in prison trying to mediate between the racist gangs — paying the price for it with beatings and threats — trying to walk the line and being scorned for it by guards and prisoners alike. All this for a quiet, diversionary high he could have gotten from a couple of legal six-packs every night, if not for the insidious addictive nature of the product the CIA pushed into the hands of the pushers. This is one of the main things that drive my rage against the murderers and liars who strut upon the national and international stages, pretending to be pious leaders: the fate of good people like my friend, ordinary people, people filled with love, with dreams, who just want to get beyond whatever torments their pasts have inflicted upon them and enjoy their time, their friends, their children, their lovers, but are instead crushed like bugs beneath the bootheels of imperial policy. It’s things like this that make me want to say: Damn these killers and liars to hell, whatever their party or professed ideals may be.)

Anyway, in his original piece, Tarzie committed the increasingly rare sin of genuine journalism by investigating and debunking, point by point, The Intercept’s ugly spin on Webb’s work — work which was later confirmed by the CIA itself. Now Tarzie is back with a follow-up on the continuing disparagement of Webb’s work by the Establishment media (covering its own spotty posterior for its original collaboration with CIA smears) in a new piece, with links to several other important stories on the case. Both pieces are well worth reading, if you haven’t already.

II. The Oligarch’s Code Revisited

Speaking of The Intercept, and the billionaire oligarch behind this doughty bastion of ‘dissent,’ what has Pierre Omidyar’s favorite religious neo-fascist been up too, after Pierre’s money helped him into power? Why, fomenting war at one of the world’s most dangerous nuclear flashpoints, of course!

We speak of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has spent the months since his election in May stoking the flames in Kashmir, the disputed border region between India and Pakistan: a flashpoint that has already sparked three wars and numerous standoffs between the two nuclear-armed rivals. Modi and his minions now boast of his bellicosity in the new stirring of the hornet’s nest:

“The message we have been given from the prime minister’s office is very clear and precise,” said a senior Indian Home Ministry official. “The prime minister’s office has instructed us to ensure that Pakistan suffers deep and heavy losses.”

In his first extensive comments on the violence, Mr Modi told a political rally on Thursday, when 1,000 Indian mortars rained across into Pakistan, that “it is the enemy that is screaming”.

“The enemy has realised that times have changed and their old habits will not be tolerated,” he said.

We have written here before of our ‘dissenting’ oligarch’s profitable alliance with Modi, such as in this excerpt (see original for links):

Who  is Modi? What sort of politician has America’s leading bankroller of dissent given his copious support to? Pankaj Mishra has written one of the best articles that I've seen on the situation. From the Guardian:

Modi is a lifelong member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a paramilitary Hindu nationalist organisation inspired by the fascist movements of Europe, whose founder's belief that Nazi Germany had manifested "race pride at its highest" by purging the Jews is by no means unexceptional among the votaries of Hindutva, or "Hinduness". In 1948, a former member of the RSS murdered Gandhi for being too soft on Muslims. The outfit, traditionally dominated by upper-caste Hindus, has led many vicious assaults on minorities. A notorious executioner of dozens of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 crowed that he had slashed open with his sword the womb of a heavily pregnant woman and extracted her foetus. Modi himself described the relief camps housing tens of thousands of displaced Muslims as "child-breeding centres".

…

His record as chief minister is predominantly distinguished by the transfer – through privatisation or outright gifts – of national resources to the country's biggest corporations. His closest allies – India's biggest businessmen – have accordingly enlisted their mainstream media outlets into the cult of Modi as decisive administrator; dissenting journalists have been removed or silenced.

Omidyar has acquired impenetrable “liberal” cred since he decided to bankroll some of America’s leading adversarial journalists — including Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and Matt Taibbi — to the tune of a cool quarter of a billion dollars. Yet, although some of these journalists continue to produce some informative work (Taibbi has a good piece in the Guardian this week on America’s two-tier justice system), one might be forgiven for suspecting that Omidyar is using them as something along the lines of human shields to cover some of his less salubrious activities — such supporting religious fascists like Modi, and working hand-in-glove with Washington to engineer a ‘regime change’ in Urkraine that relied heavily on avowed neo-fascist factions to force the issue.

For more on this, see Omidyar and the Oligarch’s Code: Enabling Extremism, Monetizing Dissent, which draws heavily on the incisive reporting that Mark Ames has been doing on Omidyar at Pando Daily.

 
Negative Capability: Glimpses Beyond the Brutalities of Power
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 15 October 2014 00:28

When you write regularly of politics and empire, you necessarily spend much time steeped in the very worst aspects of human nature. The reality of power is overwhelmingly brutal, ugly and negative; and if as a writer you wish to engage with reality, then the negative will be prominent in your work. I make no apologies for that — except perhaps to apologize that my skills are not sufficient to convey the full “negativity” of our reality. So when I hear the charge that my work is “negative,” I shrug my shoulders. I’m writing about politics and power; how could it not be negative?

But of course, anyone who spends time raging against the depredations of power, against the negativity of our reality, possesses somewhere within them a more positive vision of what life is, or what it could be, both on public level and in the deeper, murkier depths of the individual personality. It is the violation and degradation of this vision by the brutishness of our reality that evokes the outrage in the first place. If these more positive intimations did not exist, then there would be no cause for anger or resistance; there would be nothing but a nihilistic acceptance of the unchangeable ugliness of reality.

To me, such positive intimations are always elusive (and allusive), on the margins of perception, seen in the glimpse and the glance. They can’t be captured or hammered into dogma, but are part of a ceaseless process; a process of change and churning, of “breakage and mutation,” of new coalescences of fact, fate, circumstance and will, of loss and possibility — all shifting and mixing, back and forth, like colored sands.

It’s easy to let such intimations slip away. Especially if they come early, to a mind unready, a personality unformed, a psyche too fragile to embrace the annihilating fire of connection and flow. (An annihilation that paradoxically gives back the psyche in a more refined, distinctive form.) But certain names, places, snatches of thought and expression can attach themselves to these intimations, sending faint echoes to the future that a person might one day hear again.

Anyway, these are some of the thoughts and feelings behind the piece below. I’m working on some other posts about politics and empire — and you can bet they will be plenty “negative.”  But meanwhile, here’s a little train ride “back into that old élan vital.”

 
Pay the Piper: Imperial Evils Bearing Bitter Fruit
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Sunday, 12 October 2014 22:32

America, of course, is renowned for the historical amnesia that permeates its public discourse. Thanks to the tireless efforts our media, our educators and, above all, our elites, Americans enjoy a level of ignorance about the actions of their government that approaches the sublime. However, the truth is that past actions do have consequences — and chickens sure enough do come home to roost. In what has been a long season of bad news -- with new wars, new chaos, mass death, riots, repression, rampant terror (and the concomitant profiteering) exploding on almost every front -- one message is ringing clear: our reckless militarism and imperial ambitions are bearing bitter fruit. As the song says: it's time to pay the piper -- and we got nothing in our purse.....

 
Potomac Fever: Washington's Insane Clown Posse Rides Again
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 10:35

Below is my column in the latest print edition of CounterPunch. It was written last month, just after Barack Obama’s latest public embracement of the Potomac Empire’s Grand Philosophical Theory of International Statecraft: “More rubble, less trouble!” There may some overlap with my last post on this site, which developed a few of the ideas first explored in this article. The text below has been slightly revised and expanded from the print version.

**

The Peacey Prizey Prez has spoken, and the word he brings is — war! Not just war back in our old stomping grounds of Iraq, where the Imperial Winepress has been squeezing out the grapes of wrath for nigh on quarter of a century now. Nay, he bringeth us vast new fields to plow, in the ancient land of Assyria, therefore to make us fruitful with engorged blood.

Yes, it’s Iraq War III, or perhaps Sykes-Picot Revisited, or maybe even the Eighth (or Ninth or Forty-Fifth) Crusade of the Christian West Against the Infidel Saracens. Call it what you will, we are once more firmly embarked on a fruitless (and, we are fervently assured, bootless) quest for loot and dominance in Mesopotamia and environs. As always, these raw and bestial impulses are being gussied up in noble tropes; over the centuries, the rhetorical shadings change, but the propaganda message is always the same: the forces of good are fighting to save civilization from evil, world-devouring savages.

The bumper-sticker bromides offered by Obama in his White House revival of the long-running George Bush classic, “Bullshit in Babylon,” might have been simple, but the situation itself is as murky as the middle of the Hundred Years War. A gurgling stew of warring factions, shifting alliances, secret deals, base betrayals, panic reactions, cynical ploys and — above all — a pack of blundering, blithering idiots at the top, thrashing mindlessly and murderously back and forth. Tactical twits, yes, but united by a single, steady strategic goal: to maintain and expand the power and privileges of their respective ruling classes by any means necessary.

Obama’s speech was the usual farrago of arrant, transparent lies — delivered with his characteristic affectlessness. This is perhaps Obama's one redeeming feature as a leader: not only does he obviously know what a sick joke the whole set-up is -- he also can't hide this grim awareness. His whole aspect radiates unbearable tedium at going through the motions required to satisfy the American public’s insatiable craving for self-righteousness; hence the bromides, the pieties, the cartoon narratives and threadbare paeans to our holy “exceptionalism," delivered in a tranked-out drone. Poor guy: all this boring katzenjammer to get through – just to get on with the ugly, bloody business of empire.

Then again, this “redeeming” feature of awareness is also doubly damning: for Obama clearly knows that the course he has embarked upon will lead — inevitably, inexorably, without fail — to the death of thousands of innocent people and unimaginable suffering for millions more, as the poisonous fruits of America’s endless Terror War bear crop after crop in the years, the generations to come. He knows this is what he is doing, he knows what the results will be — but he is going forward anyway, like Macbeth stepped so far in blood that there is no point in turning back now.

To be sure, Obama sought to downplay the significance of this new American-made hellstorm of death. Taking pains to differentiate his military aggression in the region from his predecessor’s military aggression in the region, Obama likened this new effort to his existing campaigns of bombing, drone terrorism and death squads in Somalia and Yemen. He apparently thinks this comparison somehow puts him on the moral high ground. (“Hey, I’m a retail state terrorist, an upscale boutique merchant of death, not some vulgar wholesaler like that guy from Texas.”)

Much can be said about the specifics of the new Age of Insanity being ushered in by Obama and the other pipsqueaks of the Western world. For instance, how America and its allies have created the present crisis through the Hitlerian rape of Iraq in 2003, the deliberate division of the occupied land into corrupt sectarian enclaves, and the arming of extremists to foment civil war in Syria. (And that's just taking the last few years into account; never mind the genocidal slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis through sanctions, the millions killed in the region through America’s double-dealing prolongation of the Iraq-Iran War, the American-Saudi founding of the global jihadi movement to hotfoot the Soviets in Afghanistan, and so on and on back through the decades.) Not to mention the instigation of a new Cold War through the backing of violent regime change in Ukraine and the relentless, reckless push of NATO to Russia’s borders, which will likely fuel a new arms race and another era of nuclear brinkmanship.

Unpacking the details of the festering, multifarious evils of this new imperial “surge” is important work, and we should support all those who are carrying it out. This is especially vital in regard to younger people. There are whole generations coming of age who have never known anything but the howling echo chamber of post-9/11 militarism, fear, aggression and state murder. Anything and everything that can smuggle nuggets of truth to them, to “inoculate them with disillusionment” (in Henry Miller’s phrase) is to be encouraged.

But on another level, the situation embodied by Obama’s speech defeats all rational commentary and analysis. There is no longer even a pretense of reason or consistency behind the official enunciations of American policy. The system — the whole system — is now given over entirely to permanent war: hot war in Muslim lands, cold war in Eastern Europe, class war against the 99 percent at home. [As I noted here earlier,] that’s their only consistency. That’s their only casus belli. That’s all they know.

 
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