Illness and other aggravations have hindered the blogivating of late, so below are some choice items from other quarters that are well worth your attention.
The Children's Crusade Andy Worthington tells the truly horrendous story of Omar Khadr, who was taken captive as a child by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and has now spent eight years in the lower depths of the American gulag. He is now being "tried" in the kangaroo "tribunals" of the Bush-Obama Continuum, under arbitrarily concocted, illogical "laws" whose cruel absurdity would shame a Stalinist show trial, including this arbitary ruling by the Department of Defense: “a detainee may be convicted of murder in violation of the law of war even if they did not actually violate the law of war.” You must read the whole piece to see the abysmal depravity that now reigns supreme throughout the highest, most respectable reaches of the bipartisan American estabishment.
Chris Hedges tells a few home truths about the state of the union, in the aptly titled, "No One Cares":
We are approaching a decade of war in Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq is in its eighth year. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands more Afghans and Pakistani civilians have been killed. Millions have been driven into squalid displacement and refugee camps. Thousands of our own soldiers and Marines have died or been crippled physically and psychologically. We sustain these wars, which have no real popular support, by borrowing trillions of dollars that can never be repaid, even as we close schools, states go into bankruptcy, social services are cut, our infrastructure crumbles, tens of millions of Americans are reduced to poverty, and real unemployment approaches 17 percent. Collective, suicidal inertia rolls us forward toward national insolvency and the collapse of empire. And we do not protest. The peace movement, despite the heroic efforts of a handful of groups such as Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Green Party and Code Pink, is dead. No one cares.
The roots of mass apathy are found in the profound divide between liberals, who are mostly white and well educated, and our disenfranchised working class, whose sons and daughters, because they cannot get decent jobs with benefits, have few options besides the military. Liberals, whose children are more often to be found in elite colleges than the Marine Corps, did not fight the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994 and the dismantling of our manufacturing base. They did nothing when the Democrats gutted welfare two years later and stood by as our banks were turned over to Wall Street speculators. They signed on, by supporting the Clinton and Obama Democrats, for the corporate rape carried out in the name of globalization and endless war, and they ignored the plight of the poor. And for this reason the poor have little interest in the moral protestations of liberals. We have lost all credibility. We are justly hated for our tacit complicity in the corporate assault on workers and their families.
Our passivity has resulted, however, in much more than imperial adventurism and a permanent underclass. A slow-motion coup by a corporate state has cemented into place a neofeudalism in which there are only masters and serfs. And the process is one that cannot be reversed through the traditional mechanisms of electoral politics.
Outsourcing Pain for Insider Profit From Corrente comes the shocking news that Barack Obama has put the voracious foxes of privilege and profit in charge of the henhouse of entitlement programs. The Correnthians point to a piece by James Ridgeway:
When Obama’s new deficit commission gets going, it intends to be “partnering“–in the words of executive director Bruce Reed – with outside groups. Among them will be the foundation run by Wall Street billionaire Peter G. Peterson, who on Wednesday will upstage the president with his own fiscal summit in Washington. Obama insists he is keeping an open mind about how to deal with the deficit and national debt–but as I’ve written before, he’s already stacked his own commission with people who lean heavily toward one particular solution: cutting entitlements. And now he is working hand-in-glove with a wealthy private organization whose central purpose is to cut Social Security and Medicare. Talk about foregone conclusions.
Not just foregone, but foreordained, as anyone who noted the herd of Big Money moose that Candidate Obama had gathered around him during his run for the White House could have foreseen. (Step forward, Arthur Silber and Pam Martens!)
Partners in Crime As Dan Kovalik reports, the "genocidal democracy" in Colombia continues to rage on, with even more American help than ever from the progressive Peace Laureate in the White House. With up to 150,000 "extrajudicial killings" by state forces and their proxies, the Obama administration is hugging the berserkers even tighter:
Father Giraldo, citing new estimates by Colombia's own Prosecutor General, has now shattered those original estimates, announcing that the Prosecutor General is currently investigating 150,000 extrajudicial killings by the paramilitary groups - killings which took place between the late 1980's and the current time. ... [Yet] even as the U.S. has provided Colombia with massive amounts of assistance - most of it military, of course - Colombia has continued to slip deeper and deeper into poverty, with 43% of its population now living in poverty and 23% living in "extreme poverty." As the Washington Post explained, Colombia is "the only major country in Latin America in which the gap between the rich and poor has increased in recent years, according to a report by the UN Economic Commission on Latin America."
Of course, as Father Giraldo noted ... this is all according to Washington's plan to make Colombia a compliant country open to unchecked exploitation by U.S. companies with an endless well of hunger for Colombia's vast reserves of oil, coal, fruits, flowers and precious metals and gems, as well as for a desperate workforce willing to accept barely-subsistent wages.
With President Obama continuing to solidify the U.S.'s relationship with Colombia through a new deal which will give the U.S. access to 7 military bases, and through a Free Trade Agreement which Obama is now pushing, despite his campaign pledges to oppose it, this deadly game plan continues unabated. Only massive resistance in this country can end such destructive foreign policies.
Well, it would end such destructive policies -- except for the fact that, as noted above, no one cares. After all, there has not been a single objection raised among our great and good -- or the public at large -- against Obama's own embrace of "extrajudicial killing" of American citizens (and anyone else on earth our elite want to kill). So what's a few more -- or a hundred more -- or 150,00 more -- assassinated peasants?
I. The Ghost Who Walks
Last week, the reappearance of a figure from the recent past briefly stirred the amnesiac fog that enfolds the brutal reality of the American empire. Former Panamanian ruler Manuel Noriega was taken from the American prison which has been his home for the past 21 years and flown to Paris, where he is to stand trial for decades-old drug-trafficking charges.
The extradition was itself illegal. Noriega, who was captured after the illegal American invasion of his country in 1989, was classed by the United States as a "prisoner of war." In fact, he is the only official POW in American hands today; the empire's innumerable Terror War captives have been denied this designation and its legal protections under the Geneva Conventions. But of course the United States long ago stopped paying even lip service to those "quaint" strictures, as the Noriega case once again demonstrates. Under the Geneva Conventions, POWs cannot be sent by their captors to a third country. But Washington wants to keep Noriega – a former CIA asset who left the rez and defied his imperial paymasters – under wraps, even though his U.S. sentence for drug charges has now been served. So off he went to France at the order of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – convention, and Conventions, be damned.
But why is it so vital to keep the ex-CIA hireling deep-sixed? Simon Tisdall has some answers in the Guardian. Tisdall notes that the U.S. invasion was ordered by Noriega's former CIA boss turned president, George Herbert Walker Bush, to complete an American-backed coup that had failed a few months earlier. Bush sent 24,000 troops to the tiny Central American country – which had been illegally hived off from Colombia in the early 20th century in order to give America control over the territory where the Panama Canal would be built.
By the time of the Bush invasion, American elites had been fuming for years over the Panama Canal Treaty signed in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter, which finally gave control of the Canal to Panama. Even though the treaty would not go into effect until 1999, it evoked bitter and virulent controversy, as anyone around in those days will remember well: Carter was a traitor, a socialist, a weakling, giving away sacred American territory and undermining national security, etc., etc. In fact, the battle was in many ways a test-run for the well-oiled combination of corporate interests, aggressive nationalism and right-wing crankery that would dominate American life after 1980.
Noriega came to power after the death of the Panamanian leader who had signed the treaty, Omar Torrijos – who went down in a plane crash a few months after anti-treaty stalwarts Ronald Reagan and CIA chief Herbie Walker took over in Washington. Noriega, who had been a CIA "asset" since the late 1950s, carried on his yeoman service on behalf of his new bosses for awhile – but the assumption of formal power went to his head. He forgot he was a servant, was surly with his masters, and finally crossed the line: refusing to take part in the secret terrorist war that Reagan and Bush were waging, with Iranian money, against Nicaragua. Suddenly, Noriega's manifold crimes and massive corruption, which Washington had tolerated – indeed rewarded – for decades, suddenly became matters of urgent concern. Noriega went from imperial pet to "new Hitler" in fairly short order. Tisdall takes up the story:
Noriega was a thug. But for many years, he was America's thug – until he turned on his mentors. Trained in military and intelligence matters at the School of the Americas, he became for a time a valued CIA "asset" working for the agency and the US Drug Enforcement Administration. Government documents submitted to the Miami court in pre-trial hearings in 1991-92 confirmed that Noriega was paid (at least) $320,000 by the US government for services rendered. Simply put, Noriega knew too much. He acted as a cold war listening post for the US during turbulent times in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, according to William Buckley's book, Panama: the Whole Story. …
In this capacity, Noriega would have heard a great deal of interesting material, as the Reagan-Bush team aided and abetted horrific atrocities carried out by their right-wing proxies in the region, depredations that killed thousands of innocent people – more than 200,000 in Guatemala alone. Back to Tisdall:
The jury in Noriega's trial on 10 narrowly defined drug-related counts heard none of this. Nor did it hear about Noriega's contacts with Oliver North, John Poindexter, CIA chief William Casey and other key figures in the Ronald Reagan and Bush administrations who, allegedly, connived in the supply of arms to Nicaragua's Contra rebels paid for with Medellín cartel drug cash. There were many other such allegations; and Noriega claimed to have proof of senior US politicians' connivance in drug trafficking for political purposes. But none was allowed in evidence.
Having served his sentence, the "prisoner of war" Noriega should now be returned to his own country. But this cannot be allowed. As Tisdall notes:
In Panama, Noriega would have been free to tell all he knew. And for many powerful men in Washington, some of whom are still alive, that prospect was potentially dangerous. The outcome of the Noriega case in Miami, like the 1989 invasion, was never in doubt from day one. It was a show trial, a warning to others. It was pure vengeance. It was a cover-up of decades of illicit regional meddling. But it was also a demonstration of raw American power, of which the world was soon to have more frightening examples.
II. The Past is Prologue
What does this "ancient" history have to do with our brave new world, where world-renowned progressive heroes and Peace Laureates guide with benign and benevolent hand? Plenty.
Noriega's case reminds us of the cynical and brutal nature of the American empire's actual operations. Not the gauzy pictures painted by the increasingly all-pervading "psy-ops" warfare conducted by our militarist honchos to control the "information battlespace" of the American mind (as powerfully detailed in a new piece by Tom Hayden), but the genuine blood-soaked filth and crime which undergirds "the shining city on a hill." This is not old news or ancient history: it is happening today, all over the world, in shadows and corners we will never see – except in stolen glimpses revealed by accident, or by leaks from one pack of courtiers trying to bring down another, or through diligent efforts of a handful of journalists and investigators, and the enormous courage of some survivors and eyewitnesses to the operations of power.
The rise of Barack Obama to temporary management of the imperial enterprise has changed nothing of this. Nor was it ever intended to. As I noted here back in March 2008, before Obama had secured the Democratic nomination:
Well, it doesn't really get much plainer than this, does it? From AP:
Obama Aligns Foreign Policy with GOP
Sen. Barack Obama said Friday … "that my foreign policy is actually a return to the traditional bipartisan realistic policy of George Bush's father, of John F. Kennedy, of, in some ways, Ronald Reagan...."
Obama is doing two things here, reaching out to two very different audiences, on different wavelengths. First, for the hoi polloi, he is simply pandering in the most shameless way imaginable, throwing out talismans for his TV-addled audience to comfort themselves with: "You like JFK? I'll be like him! You like Reagan? I'll be like him too! You like the first George Bush? Hey, I'll be just like him as well!" This is a PR tactic that goes all the way back to St. Paul the spinmeister, who boasted of his ability to massage his message and "become all things to all men." Obama has long proven himself a master of this particular kind of political whoredom -- much like Bill Clinton, in fact, another champion of "bipartisan foreign policy" who for some strange reason got left off Obama's list of role models.
But beyond all the rubes out there, Obama is also signaling to the real masters of the United States, the military-corporate complex, that he is a "safe pair of hands" -- a competent technocrat who won't upset the imperial applecart but will faithfully follow the 60-year post-war paradigm of leaving "all options on the table" and doing "whatever it takes" to keep the great game of geopolitical dominance going strong.
What other conclusion can you draw from Obama's reference to these avatars, and his very pointed identification with them? He is saying, quite clearly, that he will practice foreign policy just as they did. And what they do? Committed, instigated, abetted and countenanced a relentless flood of crimes, murders, atrocities, deceptions, corruptions, mass destruction and state terrorism… [This was followed by detailed examples from this glorious record.]
What Obama promised, he has delivered. Escalating the Terror War, expanding arbitrary powers over life and liberty (even openly proclaiming the power to kill American citizens by executive order), protecting the avowed torturers of his predecessor while continuing "enhanced interrogations" by American agents and foreign proxies, filling the coffers of war profiteers with ever-increasing mountains of loot – in all things he has proved himself an apt pupil and worthy heir of the imperial ancestors he lauded.
Just last month had another of those rare glimpses into the thuggish reality of imperial power in its continuity under Obama. It was in Afghanistan, now ruled by Obama's hand-picked commander, General Stanley McChrystal – a long-time expert in the blackest ops of covert war, a man "whose entire career in Iraq remains a classified secret," as Hayden reminds us. It was a small story, making only the slightest stir for a few hours: the report that Obama's secret terror warriors had dug the bullets out of the bodies of two pregnant women and a teenage girl they had killed in a botched night raid on a home that was actually occupied by officials of the American-backed Afghan government. Evidence indicated that the American agents used knives – or for all we know, can openers – to pry their bullets loose from the still-fresh corpses, and from the surrounding walls which had been sprayed, berserker-style, in the raid. Then the respectable official spokesmen for the American military put out the story that the dead women had been victims of an "honor killing" at the hands of the barbaric natives: the hands, in fact, of the two men who had also been killed in the raid – a police commander and a prosecutor for the U.S-backed government, now transformed into "insurgents."
In this particular case, the operations of the fog machine were thwarted by a reporter for the UK paper, The Times, who, practicing the ever more novel art of journalism, uncovered the truth by going to the scene and talking to eyewitnesses, survivors, and local officials. Finally, weeks later, the American brass were forced to admit that their agents had murdered the innocent villagers, violated their corpses and then lied to the world about it. The usual scrapings from petty cash were passed around to the survivors -- $10,000 for five lives. American officials made the usual apologies. "Black Ops" McChrystal made the usual noises about avoiding civilian casualties and tightening the reins on his night riders.
That's it. That's all that happened. No one was punished, no one was prosecuted, no one was fired or even reprimanded for this act of murder and butchery. The story appeared, there was the slightest parting of the cloud, then the fog enfolded reality again.
And this was just one story. What of the many – the countless – other stories that never see even a glint of the light of day? The incidents that go on – the murder, corruption, subornation, subversion, thuggery, and crime of every description that are the daily business of maintaining a system of military dominion and rampant oligarchy? We don't know the half of it, the tenth of it; we wander in the fog, hearing the distant ghostly moans, but never knowing where they come from, or what they mean.
Listen now to a further point: no mortal thing
Has a beginning, nor does it end in death and obliteration;
There is only a mixing and then a separating of what was mixed,
But by mortal men these processes are named 'beginnings.'
"Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion. Life is a train of moods like a string of beads, and as we pass through them they prove to be many-coloured lenses which paint the world their own hue, and each shows only what lies in its focus."
-- R.W. Emerson
*** A conversation during Civil War. (From Bright, Terrible Spirit):
"But in days past, I was a lawyer. Yes, a lawyer, can you believe it? It seems….ridiculous now, doesn't it? An orderly system meant to govern human society, to establish justice, to advance the progress and enlightenment of the human race. Yet that system, that civil cosmos – to which I was so passionately committed – embraced and protected the most wretched evils, entrenched the powerful in their unjust privilege, oppressed the poor and weak most relentlessly and wickedly, yet at every step – at every step – sang hosannas to itself as some kind of divinity. The "Law" – oh, what a hush of reverence surrounded that word, how deeply that reverence and respect penetrated the heart. Well, my heart, anyway. But in these last few years we have seen – in intense, concentrated, microscopic view – the truth about the law, a truth which too often escaped us in the slow unrolling of peacetime. The truth that there is no law, no Platonic Form out there to which we give paltry representation. There is only power: power in conflict with power, power seeking to drive out power, to establish its dominance, maintain its privilege. Power…acquiesces to law – sometimes – but it never, never bows to it. Power goes along with the law when it is convenient to do so, when it is not too restrictive, when it demands little more than the occasional sacrifice – for the powerful are certainly not above throwing one of their own to the mob when circumstances require. But when it comes to the crisis, power shreds the law like a filthy rag and has its own way. And then you see that the law is nothing but a rag, to be torn and patched and fitted to power's aims. The worst atrocities I have seen or heard of in this war have been committed wholly and completely under the law. This thing I held in such reverence was, is, nothing but a scrap soaked with blood and shit.
"I know there are philosophical arguments to be made against this viewpoint. I have made them in the past, and could even now conjure them up like spirits and make them dance before us. It would be a solace to me, to believe once again. But it would only last a moment. For I know what I know. I know what life has taught me, what it has shown me, I see the evidence laid clearly before me and the jury of my mind returns the inescapable, indisputable verdict. I can tell by your expression that you know what I'm talking about."
"I have some inkling, yes," Jim said, warily. He was reluctant to give away anything of his own troubled thoughts. He was also not entirely sure that Malcolm Stuart was sane. Where was this bleak outpouring headed? Toward some mad act of despair? Or was it simply the overflow of a long-pent mind, giving vent to some of its pressures?
The dead sun drew
a smile of blood across my face,
spoke to me through
the shadow of my voice:
Man, it said, this might be next to nothing
and drawn through a bitter tap,
but it's all you'll ever have.
Don't spill a drop.
-- John Glenday, from Grain
And here's Emerson again, on organ, with a backing band:
Well, that wasn't exactly the headline – but it was the truth behind the reports about the vote in the House of Representatives to tighten the ligature of sanctions around the neck of Iran, as Antiwar.com reports. In accordance with the "diplomacy" of the Peace Laureate in the Oval Office, the House wants to "cripple" the Iranian economy by starving the human beings who live there of gasoline and other vital goods necessary to maintain a modicum of ordinary life.
In other words, the popularly elected leaders of the world's greatest democracy – champions of liberty, justice and human rights – want to stop ambulances from transporting sick and dying children to the hospital. They want whole families to burn to death, whole city blocks to go up in flames while fuelless fire trucks stand idle. They want deliveries of food and medicine to grind to a halt, setting off spirals of starvation, disease, chaos and vast suffering. They want to see tens of millions of innocent human beings driven into a low and brutal level of subsistence, to languish, diminish – and die – in deprivation and misery. This is what they want to see happen. This is the clear intent of their "diplomatic" strategy.
And why are they doing this? Because – ostensibly because – the government of Iran is pursuing the development of a nuclear energy program in accordance with international treaties and under international supervision. And if the above condign punishment of millions of innocent people does not force the government of Iran to give up this legal, carefully inspected program, then the champions of liberty, justice and human rights have proclaimed their intent to unilaterally attack Iran with all the "options" at their command, up to and including the "option" of immolating multitudes of innocent human beings with nuclear weapons.
Now, the government of Iran is an odious regime. Not nearly as odious as, say, the regime of America's staunch ally in the region, Saudi Arabia, of course, but odious enough. But as restrictive as it has been to its own citizens, it has not – in the last decade alone – launched and maintained massive wars of aggression and domination that have killed, by direct and collateral hand, more than a million innocent people. The bipartisan champions of liberty, justice and human rights in Washington have done that, and are doing that.
They seek to break Iran not because it is an odious regime, but because it defies the imperial will, and balks the bipartisan imperial agenda to impose domination on the oil lands. If Iran agreed to become an American client state tomorrow, it would not matter in the least how odious its regime might be -- as we saw in the long, atrocious decades when America's pet tyrant, Reza Pahlavi, ruled there. But because Iran has not agreed to this, it is now a target for decimation: by sanctions and the ongoing campaign of American-backed terrorism and covert operation (all of which are themselves acts of war, including most emphatically the sanctions, as noted here recently), or else by direct military action by American war machine or its proxy in Israel.
And that is why we hear the constant regurgitation of ludicrous charges from our national leaders on the "great threat" that Iran poses to the entire planet. Indeed, Harry Reid, the leading Democrat in the United States Senate -- lauding the House vote and licking his chops to advance this escalation bill to final approval in his bailiwick -- declared that Iran was "a festering sore in the world": crude, dehumanizing language familiar to anyone with even the slightest knowledge of Nazi propaganda. Reid went on:
"As [the House] get [the bill] out, I will move everything within my power to move it to the floor [of the Senate] The Middle East is unstable. This will help stabilize it."
Just think of the towering stupidity of that remark. Whatever else you might say about tightening sanctions on Iran -- even if you believed it was the right thing to do -- the one thing you could not say is that such a move will "help stabilize" the Middle East. Indeed, Iran hawks of every stripe -- from the sanctionist strangulators to the bomb-em-now brigade -- openly, even proudly aver that their ultimate aim is to overthrow the current Iranian regime: that is, to greatly, vastly, decisively de-stabilize the Middle East by bringing down one of its most powerful governments. And of course, the sanctions themselves -- like all the other war measures launched by the United States against Iran, and like all the aggressive, constant threats to attack, punish, even obliterate Iran -- are clearly and deliberately aimed at provoking retaliation by the Tehran government: blowback which will, by design, make the Middle East more unstable ... thus 'justifying' whatever measures the United States takes to further its dominationist agenda.
Reid knows this, of course. He does not believe -- not for a single nano-second -- that tightening the noose around Iran's neck will "help stabilize" the Middle East. But he -- like our entire bipartisan foreign policy establishment -- thinks that you are stupid enough to believe it.
Reid's warmongering lies were echoed by another top Democrat, Rep. Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who, as AFP reports, forthrightly declared that "the world faces no security threat greater than the prospect of a nuclear Iran."
O lucky world! The greatest thing we have to fear -- in all the world -- is the prospect that Iran -- whose leaders consistently denounce even the idea of nuclear weapons as the gravest sin, and whose nuclear energy program (we repeat for the nth time) is under the closest international supervision ever imposed on a nation -- might, somehow, someday, produce a nuclear weapon. If the mere prospect of this remote possibility is the greatest thing we have to fear in the modern world, then by Godfrey we are in a lot better shape than I thought.
But again, none of this is true. And Berman -- even though he is one of many Congressfolk who seem to believe that they actually represent a district located somewhere between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea -- knows it is not true. He knows, as any sentient being knows, that even if Iran did produce a nuclear weapon, it would not and could not pose an "existential threat" to Israel -- or to the United States for that matter. Any nuclear attack by Iran on Israel would result in a massive retaliation from Israel's nuclear arsenal (obtained and maintained illegally, outside any international treaty or supervision). And even if Israel had no nukes, a nuclear attack by Tehran in the close quarters of the Middle East would rain deadly fallout back on Iran itself. Not to mention the distinct possibility of retaliation by the United States -- or indeed Russia or any number of nuclear states who would feel threatened by this wanton, self-destructive act of nuclear aggression.
In any case, all of this speculation -- every bit of it -- is itself the purest fantasy. It is not going to happen -- and our champions of liberty, justice and human rights who sit ensconced in the midst of thousands of nuclear weapons while directing wars of aggression -- know it is not going to happen. The "Iranian threat," as promulgated by the leaders of both parties in the United States, is the basest of falsehoods -- as the promulgators themselves well know.
I realize it is deeply insulting to the intelligence of anyone with a modicum of intelligence to point out these glaringly, tediously obvious facts -- but when you are dealing with the vast amount of crude, Nazi-like propaganda that daily inundates the American people on the subject of Iran, this kind of waste treatment is necessary.