Empire Burlesque
The Laureate and the Leaker: Swedish Warrant a Salvo in Team Obama's War on Wikileaks
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Saturday, 21 August 2010 21:58

Here it comes: with the bizarre "rape-no rape" charges against Julian Assange, the War Machine's assault against Wikileaks has now begun in earnest.

These days, the powers-that-be don't go straight to the shiv in the back or the poison in the drink or the faked suicide or the tragic car accident on a dark road; no, today we are a bit more circumspect in taking down high-profile irritants of empire. The modern way is to begin the takedown with a smear campaign -- preferably some sort of ""moral turpitude" to sully their public image and discredit their entire cause.

And so on late Friday we had the announcement that Swedish authorities had issued an arrest warrant for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on charges of rape and molestation. This was followed a few hours later -- after Wikileaks mounted a ferocious defense against the charges, and promised to carry on with its work regardless -- by a sudden decision to withdraw the warrant, with officials now saying the rape charge was unfounded -- although they said nothing about the lesser charge of molestation, leaving that vague but turpitudishly resonant charge hanging in the air for the moment.

This rigmarole is about as blatant a smear as can be imagined, coming as it does just after the Obama Administration has been caught out in an outright lie about Wikileaks attempts to redact its next release of classified war documents to ensure that no Afghans named in the papers will be put at risk. Not only has the Peace Laureate's minions been lying about Wikileaks' earnest efforts in the regard, but this deceit has been actively abetted by the New York Times, whose own reporter passed along Wikileaks' offer to the Pentagon -- then publicly dismissed the claim that Wikileaks had made the good-faith offer. (Glenn Greenwald has the story on this egregious -- if depressingly standard -- malefaction by the imperial servitors in the media.)

Wikileaks made the offer to ward off the criticism it received after the last release; i.e., that it had "blood on its hands" because Afghan insurgents would strike at any Afghans named in the documents as cooperating with the occupation forces. This "blood libel" was trumpeted all over the media by Obama officials -- while their own hands were absolutely pouring with the blood of innocent Afghans murdered at their command. The fact is, of course, that not a single case of such retribution has been reported; and the charge itself is based on the ludicrous assumption that the Taliban does not already know who is cooperating with the occupation forces. (In any case, many if not most Afghans cooperating with Americans do it quite openly, as part of the Afghan government, for example, or in liaising with military commanders in their region, or working for the occupation's vast base-building projects, distribution networks and reconstruction programs, etc.)

But this initial blood libel -- belched forth by such longtime butchers as Obama's favorite Bush Family factotum, Bob Gates -- did not really take hold. The revelations continued to pour forth from the 92,000 documents unveiled by Wikileaks last month -- such as this remarkable story by Pratap Chatterjee at TomDispatch, detailing the operations of the American death squad, Task Force 373, whose existence was revealed in the Wikileaks trove. These professional assassins are a key element of the Peace Laureate's strategy in Afghanistan -- and an example of a large-scale trend in the War Machine's ever-evolving "philosophy" of Terror War.

Indeed, many of the proponents of Obama's "surge" in assassination liken it -- favorably! -- to the murderous Phoenix Program in Vietnam directed by the CIA, which killed at least 20,000 people, by the Agency's own admission. (Other, more independent examinations put the the true death count of those slaughtered in these non-combat, "extrajudicial killings" at in the range of 40,000 to 70,000. For more on the Phoenix Program, and on Obama's grand "continuity" with imperial atrocities past, see here.) As Chatterjee notes:

President Obama has, by all accounts, expanded military intelligence gathering and “capture/kill” programs globally in tandem with an escalation of drone-strike operations by the CIA.

There are quite a few outspoken supporters of the “capture/kill” doctrine. Columbia University Professor Austin Long is one academic who has jumped on the F3EA bandwagon. Noting its similarity to the Phoenix assassination program, responsible for tens of thousands of deaths during the U.S. war in Vietnam (which he defends), he has called for a shrinking of the U.S. military “footprint” in Afghanistan to 13,000 Special Forces troops who would focus exclusively on counter-terrorism, particularly assassination operations. “Phoenix suggests that intelligence coordination and the integration of intelligence with an action arm can have a powerful effect on even extremely large and capable armed groups,” he and his co-author William Rosenau wrote in a July 2009 Rand Institute monograph entitled” “The Phoenix Program and Contemporary Counterinsurgency.”

Others are even more aggressively inclined. Lieutenant George Crawford, who retired from the position of “lead strategist” for the Special Forces Command to go work for Archimedes Global, Inc., a Washington consulting firm, has suggested that F3EA be replaced by one term: “Manhunting.” In a monograph published by the Joint Special Operations University in September 2009, “Manhunting: Counter-Network Organization for Irregular Warfare,” Crawford spells out “how to best address the responsibility to develop manhunting as a capability for American national security.”


This then is where we are. We have the President of the United States -- who has already openly proclaimed his "right" to assassinate anyone on earth, including American citizens, without the slightest due process of law, simply at his arbitrary command -- now feverishly expanding the use of death squads, whose stealthy night raids on sleeping villages have already killed a vast number of innocent civilians in Afghanistan (as the Wikileaks documents show). This same administration is now running "black ops," secret armies, proxy wars and other covert activities in more than 75 countries around the world. That is to say, the Obama Administration is now murdering people in their beds, fomenting bloody ethnic conflict, supporting and/or carrying out acts of terrorism, spreading corruption, assisting dictators, arming warlords, spreading hate and suffering all over the world -- and doing it knowingly, proudly. ("Evil in broad daylight" indeed, as Arthur Silber details here.)

And these are the moral paragons who have now turned their machinery of lies and smears against Wikileaks. For make no mistake; although the rape charges were manufactured in Sweden -- which, incidentally, is where some of Wikileaks' servers are located -- they emanate from the proud deathlords in Washington. Indeed, didn't we hear just a few weeks ago that the Peace Laureate's people had launched a campaign of pressuring foreign governments to put fetters on Assange and his organization? Now Sweden's center-right government -- no, Rush, Sweden is no longer the super-socialist fairyland of your nightmares -- has obviously hearkened to the master's voice.

But although this first foray has been rebuffed, it is certain that what we are seeing is the beginning of a concerted effort to destroy Assange as a public figure and thereby discredit the work of Wikileaks -- and by extension, the truth of its revelations.

And smearing, of course, is just the first step. If that doesn't work ... well, the avowed and openly proclaimed proponents of assassination certainly have other, more "prejudicial" methods at their disposal, nicht war?

II.
John Pilger, writing before this latest assault, speaks strongly about the need to defend and support Wikileaks' mission. Of course, no one has spoken more eloquently, insightfully and to the point on this issue than Arthur Silber, whose multi-part series on the manifold implications of Wikileaks' efforts is absolutely essential reading. (See also here and here.)

I'd like to take this chance to say that I now believe that my initial response to Wikileaks' Afghan Papers release (see here) was almost entirely wrong. I fell into the all-too-common trap of discussing the issue in the terms that power itself had set: i.e, how the revelations could be spun by the War Machine for its advantage, instead of standing back and seeing the larger picture of just what such an act of defiance -- unstoppable due to its invisible dissemination via the internet -- really meant. Yet Silber wisely pointed out a salient fact of our time: that our warlords will use anything and everything -- and nothing at all -- to advance their agenda. The substance of any given story doesn't matter to them: they will spin it into a reason to continue the Terror War and the agenda of domination. But this basic truth somehow escaped me.

I seized upon the very first stories in the mainstream press about the leaks, noting -- with righteous fury -- that they told us nothing we had not already heard before. I was writing literally within a couple of hours of the first look at a gargantuan storehouse of 92,000 documents -- yet I was certain that I knew just what the trove contained, and what it meant. I downplayed their significance, tossing off the "savvy" observation that these were "no Pentagon Papers." But scant hours after this confident proclamation, there was the man behind the Pentagon Papers himself, Daniel Ellsberg, making precisely that comparison.

With a hasty, thoughtless rush to judgment -- and with a focus far too fixed on the "media narrative," and on the need to get my uniformed opinion out there -- I did what I now feel was a great disservice to an event that was in fact a significant blow against the empire; a significance confirmed by the empire's panicked reaction to it.

It is easy to sit on the sidelines and pontificate. Over the years, I've spoken out as forthrightly as I know how, but I'm no activist, I haven't risked much; all it has cost me is a few journalism gigs. But the people at Wikileaks are putting their liberties -- and their lives -- on the line, to take practical action to try to bring some of the horrors of the Terror War to an end. It's not a question of romanticizing any one organization, or any one man, seeing them as paragons whose every action or statement is sacrosanct; nobody needs that, and it never accomplishes anything. It just gets in the way of the task at hand.

But when people are putting everything on the line to stand up against the ravages of power -- against war, against aggression, against assassination and atrocity -- then  I want to stand with those people, and stand by those people. As the old gospel song says, "I want to be there in that number."

 
Back to the Heart of Darkness in America's Unended War in Iraq
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Saturday, 21 August 2010 11:42

In a week when the American establishment has been ludicrously lauding "the end" of the most decidedly unended war in Iraq, a new book takes us back to the very heart of darkness in this still ongoing war crime, which is nowhere near its end.

In the Guardian, novelist and Vietnam War veteran Edward Wilson reviews what he calls "the best book by far about the Iraq war": Black Hearts: One Platoon's Descent Into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death, by Jim Frederick. The book tells the story of the horrific rape and multiple murder carried out one night by American soldiers in an Iraqi village in 2006. As Wilson puts it:

This isn't a book for armchair war junkies. It's about what Wilfred Owen called "the pity of war". The centre and the pity of Jim Frederick's account is the murder of the Janabis, an Iraqi family, and the rape of their 14-year-old daughter by four US soldiers. The most chilling aspect of the crime was the casual manner in which it was carried out. It was almost a jape – something to break the boredom of endless hours at a checkpoint. The soldiers did it because they had the power to do it; they didn't need a reason why – almost the invasion of Iraq in microcosm.


The details of the case were laid out well by Gail McGowan Mellor, when the chief instigator of the atrocity, Stephen Green, was convicted in a civilian trial in May 2009:

Fourteen-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi's home in Iraq was a sturdy farmhouse full of light in an isolated area but only a few hundred yards from a U.S. traffic checkpoint [TCP.] After watching the tall, modestly-dressed girl working in her family's field, U.S. 101st Airborne Private James Barker, as he testified, decided to rape her. He recruited Green, who wanted to kill some civilian Iraqis and then their sergeant. In uniform, Barker became bold enough to barge into her home, leering at Abeer in front of a family which was helpless to stop U.S. troops in full gear. Off again to themselves, drinking whiskey which they would later say they got from the Iraqi Army, the eventually five U.S. soldiers reasoned that the family would be easy to kill and that nothing more substantial than her parents stood between them and Abeer. Sex was incidental; the goal, they all testify, was to hurt Iraqis. All but one of the five got out of uniform, putting on the dark Army "ninja" outfits that the Army had designed to keep them warm at night. Then they deserted their post, maneuvering through backyards to burst into the house in black clothes in full daylight.

While Specialist James Barker pinned a terrified Abeer down, and Cortez raped her, Green shoved her parents and six-year-old sister Hadeel at gunpoint into a room with him and shut the door. The mother Fakhriya Taha Muhasen and the father Qassim Hamza Raheem huddled in a corner trying to shield Hadeel, so Green killed the father, then the mother, then Hadeel, shooting the six-year-old point blank in the face with an AK47. He then re-entered the main room where she was, threw the AK47 down, raped Abeer, and standing up from doing it, put a pillow over her face and shot and killed her.

The soldiers used kerosene to set the lower part of her dead body on fire, and after they left, flames caught the house, bringing the family's relatives who saw the smoke then the bodies. They ran to the U.S. checkpoint for help, but two of the killers who were among the U.S. troops responding managed to blame the slaughter on "insurgents." Abeer's two younger brothers, surviving because they had been at school, came home to find their house burned, their family dead and blood and brains all over the walls. The killers meanwhile celebrated with a barbeque. Green bragged to anyone who would listen about what he had done, including the officer. Then Green, unpunished, was honorably discharged with a diagnosis of "antisocial psychiatric disorder."


To "justify" the crime -- or at least mitigate it -- the defense called numerous witnesses who revealed that inevitable mindset of counterinsurgency cited above:

The witnesses said that the family whom Green and the other four soldiers had slaughtered were killed because they were Iraqi; that combatants and non-combatanbts seemed indistinguishable; or as one said with what sounded like bewildered accusation, "they look just like me and you," they were "all out to get us."


In his review of Frederick's book, Wilson describes how this murderous mindset evolved:

There are three basic things to avoid in war: getting killed, being convicted of war crimes and having a commanding officer who thinks you are useless. B Company's ill-fated 1st Platoon avoided none of these. By the end of their deployment, 11 of 1st Platoon's 33 members were dead or in jail for murder. Why? According to their commander, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Kunk, it was all their fault: "You 1st Platoon are fucked up. Fucked up! Every single one of you!" Colonel Kunk was straight out of Catch-22. His officers referred to his control-freak outbursts as "getting Kunked" or being under the "Kunk gun". He seemed to have had every tact and empathy instinct removed: 1st Platoon's seven killed in action "were dead because of their failings", and the survivors were "quitters, crybabies and complainers". Such leadership is not unknown in the US military. Sometimes it works, but when it doesn't, the results can be bloody.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The platoon's best leaders were killed early on, and the remaining soldiers were a mixture of seething resentment, indiscipline and combat exhaustion. Young soldiers on a battlefield packed with civilians need constant and close supervision. This didn't happen.

The best of 1st Platoon's lost leaders was Sergeant Kenith Casica. A photo shows James Barker, one of the rapists, with his arms around gentle giant Casica. The expression on Barker's face as he hugs Casica is pure bliss. Barker has found a replacement for the father who died when he was 15, but soon afterwards the surrogate father is dead as well. Casica was openly friendly to the Iraqis. When he was teased as a "hadji hugger" he reminded his men that they were there to help the Iraqis. If Casica had lived, Abeer Janabi and her family would also be alive today.


But of course, Sgt. Casica was tragically deluded -- judging the system, and his superiors, by his own morality and intentions, perhaps. For the undeniable fact is that the American military was not in Iraq "to help the Iraqis." This has not only been confirmed by the evidence of what has actually happened -- a million innocent people killed, four million displaced, a society destroyed and plunged into a state of permanent terror, violence and extremist hatred - - but also by the historical record of the preparations for the war at the highest levels. The record shows that the intention of the war was to remove the regime of Saddam Hussein and through military force implant a more favorable government in what was considered a key strategic area for enforcing and extending American dominance over world affairs.

In fact, just this week, buried in the hoopla over the "end of combat operations" in Iraq, we saw fresh proof of the war's true intentions, in a small business story from AP: Halliburton gets letter of intent for Iraq oil.

Halliburton Co. said on Wednesday that it has gotten a letter of intent from Shell Iraq Petroleum Development BV that would make Halliburton the project manager for developing the Majnoon field in southern Iraq.

... Iraq reached a deal with Shell in January to develop the mammoth oil field, along with partner Petronas, Malaysia's state-run oil company. Shell and Petronas plan to raise production in the field from the current 45,900 barrels per day to 1.8 million barrels per day over 10 years.

Halliburton shares rose 9 cents to close at $28.79 on Wednesday.


And of course even the stated reasons for starting the war had absolutely nothing to do with "helping the Iraqi people." These war-fomenting propaganda points centered removing the (non-existent) threat of Iraq's (non-existent) "weapons of mass destruction," and also framed the invasion as a response to the "terrorists who attacked us on 9/11," although Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks, or with the forces involved in them.

But there they were, the soldiers thrown into a criminal enterprise by their commanders and their civilian chiefs. What else could such an operation spawn but more crime? Wilson continues:

Frederick acknowledges the adrenaline buzz of battle but does not attempt to gloss over war's inherently brutal and dehumanising nature. ... Inevitably, there are echoes of Vietnam, the most chilling of which comes from a 1st Platoon soldier: "You can't think of these people as people." The same dehumanisation that led to My Lai led to the murder of the Janabis. And in both wars, the soldiers who refused to tolerate dehumanisation were the real heroes ... Black Hearts is the best book by far about the Iraq war – a rare combination of cold truth and warm compassion.


II.
Below is my first piece on these crimes, shortly after they came to light -- a look inside the blood-clouded, war-battered mind that birthed atrocity:

Did you see her and want her so bad, that young, forbidden fruit? Did she once smile nervously at the checkpoint, and you thought it was just for you? Did you come on strong the next time around, flash a little money maybe, or lay a syrupy line on her that you got from a phrasebook? What did she do – recoil? Look away? Look disgusted? Look blank? What did she do to bring on the big hurt from a big, tough man like you?

So you planned it all out. You cased the house, you reconnoitred. You got your buddies in on it – or were they in from the start, did they make a play too, were they too turned away by this haughty Arab bitch, this piece of trash from a shitheap town in a shitheap country filled with nothing but lazy, lying, murdering towelheads? Somebody like that thinks they're too good to give it up to you? You liberated her goddamned country, for Christ's sake, and now she won't even put out? That dog won't hunt. Hell no. You and your pals had to teach her a lesson. You had the power, you had the guns, you were Americans; who was going to stop you?

So you set up the mission. You knew how to do it. How many houses had you raided before? Dozens, hundreds – who the hell knows? Who the hell cares? You went in and got her, you did what you wanted to her. You shoved the other hajjis into the next room, put a gun on them, then got down to business. Did your buds take a turn? Everybody get a taste? Or maybe you'd already ruined her before they got a chance – beat her, tore her, pounded her into goo? Who the hell knows? Who the hell cares? At some point, she just wasn't worth it anymore. No fight left in her. Laid there like a limp rag. Passed out maybe.

So you took out your gun, you took out your power, you took out the thing that makes you an American – a ralteal person, a human being --- instead of a walking piece of shit like everyone else in that godforsaken hellhole of a country, you took it out and you shot her in the head. One shot, clean kill. Did you say anything? Crack a joke? "Not tonight, honey, I've got a headache." Or did you just stand there and curse her, puking your self-righteous rage all over her dead body?

Who took charge after that? Was it you, or one of the others? It all started moving so fast, like a dream had been broken – or maybe this was the dream? Maybe it was all a dream, the whole fucking thing, from day one, all of it nothing, happening to nobody, going on nowhere, never. But the smell was real, you couldn't get away from it, that wet smell, meat and guts in a slime of blood. It filled your nose, filled up your whole head behind your face, it lined your throat, coated your skin. And if the smell was real, then the whole thing….

Move, fast, now! The hajjis in the other room: no witnesses, goddamn it! Who's this, the mother? Head shot, head shot, down. Who's this old bastard? Father, brother? Who cares? Head shot, head shot, in the face, down. And what's this? Oh for Christ's sake, how old is she? Six? Seven? Eight? What are you going to do, wait till she grows up and comes looking for your ass? Catch her, goddamn it, just shoot, shoot! Down.

Now burn the other one. Yeah, the bitch in the other room. Set her on fire and get the hell out. Report terrorist activity. The Sunni bastards in the area. Secure the perimeter. Get your fucking story straight and keep your fucking mouth shut. We're home free. Home free….

***

Is that how it went down? Does it still feel good? They got two of your brothers from the same platoon later, chopped off their heads. Reckon that was payback? Now the squealers are coming out. It's in the goddamned papers. The brass are going to throw you to the dogs. They can be big men, they can rape whole countries, kill tens of thousands of people -- but just let some grunt try to get a little on the retail side, and all hell breaks loose. It just ain't fair.

Well, buddy, what can we say? You should have your fun last year, when there wasn't an election. Nobody would have paid a blind bit of notice. And you should have called in an airstrike, not that half-assed burning job – nothing buries evidence like a 500-pound bomb.

The only thing now is to get a good lawyer, then hunker down. If you can string it out long enough, Bush's media brigades can start working the refs for you, muddying the waters, smearing your accusers, providing the proper context, invoking 9/11. And speaking of 9/11, isn't that what it's really all about? Isn't that what you were really doing when you raped that girl and shot her in the head and burned her body and killed her family – defending our country from those who attacked us on that tragic day? What you did was justice, damn it, not a crime! Just like the whole war.

But you're on your own this time, comprade; Uncle Rummy's done cut you loose, set you up for the old "bad apple" shuck-and-jive. Sure, he's personally signed direct orders that he knew would kill thousands of civilians every bit as innocent as that family you massacred -- but then, he's an Ivy League man, a corporate chieftain, a respected public servant, and you are just another hick from the sticks. He's home free; you're going all the way down.

Let this be a lesson to all the cannon fodder out there: don't get above your raising, don't emulate your betters. Law is for the lowly, not the great and good.
 
In Dreams Begin Responsibilities
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Monday, 16 August 2010 12:03

(UPDATED BELOW)

Flights of Imagination
As I noted here the other day (in a piece that went over like ye olde lead balloon), many things are still possible in this world; there are many ways in which we could be reshaping some of the present abominable realities that beset us. Tom Englehardt presents a few possibilities for profound change in our militarist empire -- although, sadly, these must be offered more as thought experiments, due to the extreme unlikelihood of their adoption as policy by our blood-soaked, morally lobotomized elites. Still, any genuine change begins, at some point, as an act of imagination, so Englehardt's five alternative scenarios are well worth contemplating, as is his conclusion:

Right now, as a nation, we find it remarkably difficult to imagine ourselves as anything but what we now believe ourselves to be – and Washington counts on that. We find it almost impossible to imagine ourselves as just another nation (even perhaps, a more modest and better one), making our way on this disturbed planet of ours as best we can. We can’t imagine ourselves “safe” without being dominant, or being dominant without killing others in distant lands in significant numbers to ensure that safety; nor can we imagine ourselves dominant without that full panoply of secret armies, global garrisons, overlapping spy agencies, fear manias, and all the money that goes with them, despite the abundant evidence that this can’t be safety, either for us or for the planet.

We no longer know what a policy of cautious peace might look like, not having put a cent into envisioning such a project. War and an aggressive global national security state (and the language that goes with it) are all Washington knows and all it cares to know. It is completely invested in the world it now so shakily oversees, and cares for no other .... Maybe one of these days, what-if fever will spread in this country....


A consummation devoutly to be wished, of course. But in a culture where imagination -- an open, creative, intuitive, receptive engagement with reality -- is scorned in favor of barren fantasy -- self-closed, flat, cartoonish renditions of the impossible -- that ever-dormant fever may be long in reawakening. Still, to quote that famous American, Edsel Floyd, we live in hope and die in despair.

Opting Out
Jonathan Schwarz points out a salient fact too little observed: i.e., when our leaders declare that "all options are on the table" regarding some recalcitrant state or difficult situation, they don't really mean it. In fact, the use of that bellicose phrase -- whose only real meaning is, "We will kill lots of people if we have to, with everything we've got, including nuclear weapons, if that's what it takes" -- automatically closes off a whole range of options. As Schwarz notes, after quoting the psychopathic repetition of the "options" trope by tough-talking Obama minions threatening war with Iran:

Any actual reporter would have pointed out the glaringly obvious fact about this rote repetition: all options are not on the table. For instance, Israel is not going to consider giving up its own nuclear weapons if it were part of a deal to make it certain Iran would not develop its own. Nor is the United States considering giving up its nukes. Nor do we have any interest in a region-wide peace settlement that would satisfy us regarding Iran if it required U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the United States hasn't even signaled any openness to apologizing to Iranians for our numerous crimes against them (overthrowing their government, teaching the Shah how best to torture them, helping Saddam use WMD against them, etc.). Apparently we would prefer to attack Iran or indeed for Iran to get nuclear weapons rather than exercise any of these possible options.


Pakistan: The Drowned and the Droned
Pakistan is in the midst of one of the worst humanitarian crises in modern history. More than 20 million people have been displaced by floods whose extent beggars the imagination; at one point, an area the size of Great Britain has been underwater -- and more floods are coming. Millions face the threat of immediate starvation. In the wake of the water and the massive displacement, disease is growing, with "6 million children are at risk of life-threatening diarrhoeal diseases, malnutrition and pneumonia," as the Guardian reports. "Stagnant flood plains in densely populated, poverty-stricken urban areas may become breeding grounds for cholera, mosquitos and malaria." UN chief Ban Ki-moon calls it the worst natural disaster he has ever seen.

Yet you could go days without hearing or reading about this epochal suffering -- although you might run across an occasional "think piece" on how the floods could affect Washington's Great Gaming in the region, which is, of course, the most important thing. And in the UK, you could read yards and yards of print about the UK-Pakistan cricket series without being disturbed with ugly scenes of children dying in their own watery filth -- or, indeed, with any of those annoying pleas for donations that always crop up in other disasters.

The looking-away from this disaster is extraordinary -- especially in a country that our elites have identified as "crucial" to America's "national security strategy." Perhaps they feel that, all in all, it's a good thing if the floods thin out the troublesome Pakistani population a little bit, and keep the survivors pre-occupied with basic survival. More likely, they just don't give a damn one way or another. As long as they keep the ever-profitable war machine churning in the region, it doesn't matter what happens to the actual people who live there.

We could see this exemplified clearly over the weekend, as the Obama Administration made a notable contribution to the relief effort: drone missiles. Yes, while the Pakistanis were literally trying to keep their society afloat in a world-historical cataclysm, the Peace Laureate was lobbing a few more missiles into remote Pakistani villages, killing alleged "rebels" in yet another in a series of illegal acts of aggression on the sovereign territory of an American ally.

Everyone knows that these attacks are only exacerbating the problems they are ostensibly designed to solve -- extremism, anti-Americanism, political instability in the region, etc. Yet still they go on, and on. One can only conclude from this that the ostensible reasons offered for the policy are not the real reasons motivating it.

Those real reasons -- in essence, the perpetuation of power, loot and dominance for our militarized, imperialized American elite -- are so overwhelmingly important to our leaders that they would keep killing Pakistanis, in Pakistan, even during an unprecedented national crisis. It seems there is nothing that will induce them to make even the slightest, momentary pause in this murderous campaign. Killing people is that important to them; they can no longer exist, or even imagine an existence, without it.

Meanwhile, here's one of those annoying pleas for donations to help the flood victims: Oxfam America and Oxfam UK

UPDATE: The NY Times finally finds some front page room for the Pakistan disaster, with only the briefest mention of its all-important impact on the strategies of the Potomac imperium.

God and Man and War Criminals at Yale
Yale University continues its modern tradition of hiring war criminals to instruct young minds in the ways of the world. First, it was Tony Blair, brought over to pontificate at Yale Divinity School -- and now Stanley McChrystal, chief honcho of death squads and "strenuous interrogation" in Iraq and later failed leader of the "Obama Surge" in Afghanistan, has been hired by the august institution to ''examine how dramatic changes in globalization have increased the complexity of modern leadership," the NY Times reports.

Yes, modern leadership is a complex business, all right, but the wisdom McChrystal has to offer can probably be boiled down to this essential nugget: "Kill all the ragheads you want, all over the world -- but for god's sake don't make disparaging remarks about the president to a music magazine!" No doubt our future modern leaders will take that lesson to heart.

The Mirror Crack'd: Silber Delves Deeper on the Mosque Affair
Arthur Silber goes another level deeper in this followup to his analysis of the pervasive racism animating the "Ground Zero Mosque" affair. As always, you'll cheat yourself if you don't treat yourself to his arguments in full, but here is just one of the insights from the piece:

Those who repeatedly and furiously denounce the "Ground Zero mosque," as they speak in horrified tones of the coming conquest of America by Islam, tremble before one possibility far more than any enemy they have chosen to identify. Their capacity for more accurate perception and even minimal self-awareness is altogether obliterated by their greatest of all fears: that they might have to hold up a mirror to their own souls and see the diseased, twisted nature of what they have allowed to permanently reside there.

Such people cannot be reasoned with, and it is futile to try. But we should always remember what it is that actually drives them to such destructive rage, and that it has nothing at all to do with the source they are willing to identify. This pattern is, of course, as old as humankind. What we loathe in ourselves, we place in others. Then we destroy those others, believing we thus destroy what we loathe.

But the enemy still lives, inside us. Until that is understood, the battle will never end, nor will the destruction, the suffering and the death.

 
Release the Kagan: Neocon Nabob Hired by Team Obama
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 18 August 2010 13:21

Buried many fathoms deep in an LA Times story about the latest American scolding of its unruly satrap in Bactria, we find this little nugget:

Some senior officials are saying privately that they fear their reliance on the Karzai administration could be the weakest link of their strategy to stabilize the country. Government corruption is seen as one of the most important factors driving ordinary Afghans to support the Taliban. ...

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the newly appointed head of the international forces in the country, has hired two experts known for their strong emphasis on fighting corruption, Frederick Kagan and Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster.


That's right; Frederick Kagan, the neocon architect of the Iraq "surge," the epitome of the armchair warriors who have sent thousands of human beings (including their fellow Americans) to needless death and plunged millions more into needless suffering, has been hired by the Peace Laureate Administration to serve as guide and counsel to the Laureate's newly appointed military supremo.

It goes without saying that Kagan -- yet another spawn of the Project for a New American Century, that gaggle of bloodthirsty Beltwayers who openly longed, in September 2000, for a "new Pearl Harbor" to scare the American public into supporting the group's hyper-militarist agenda -- is not an expert on "fighting corruption" or on Afghanistan, just as he knew nothing about Iraq. He is an "expert" on one topic only: churning out bullshit to justify war. And that is exactly why he has been hired by Obama and Petraeus.

As I noted here back in January 2007:

Now Bush has drawn on AEI "scholar" Frederick Kagan to fashion his genuinely demented plan for a major escalation of the Iraq War: the famous "surge" that has dominated the shoptalk of the Beltway in the past month – the same month in which American soldiers were dying in near-record numbers while Bush cleared brush on his fake ranch. (The spread was purchased as a campaign prop in 1999 but is invariably referred to by media sycophants as his "beloved" homestead, as if he'd spent years of his life communing with the soil there, rather than the odd month now and then on vacation). While he dithered – consulting with his "brain trust" on the best way to ignore the suggestions of the Iraq Study Group and the clearly expressed will of the American people to bring the American occupation of Iraq to an end – more than 100 U.S. soldiers were shot to death or blown to pieces. An almost equivalent number of Iraqi civilians were murdered every day during December by the death squads of the factions brought to power by Bush and their sectarian opponents in the nationalist insurgency that arose in response to his invasion.

What the Kagan plan called for – and what Bush accepted in a slightly diluted form ... – is a re-invasion of Baghdad, with thousands of additional U.S. troops thrown into savage urban warfare in "critical Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhoods." (The latter of which are now practically non-existent, thanks to the virulent "ethnic cleansing" in the city by Bush-backed Shia militias and their Sunni counterparts). In the unintentionally revealing language that permeates so much of the war-porn generated by the well-fed, stay-at-home armchair generals of PNAC, AEI and the White House, Kagan – a young, portly academic with no expertise whatsoever in the Middle East – writes in the Washington Post that "the only 'surge' option that makes any sense is both long and large."

The mass-murdering blandishments that Kagan poured in Bush's ear demanded that already-overstrained American ground forces "accept longer tours for several years" (italics mine), as he stated in his AEI report, "Choosing Victory." The citizen-soldiers in National Guard units will also have to "accept increased deployments during this period," it seems. Meanwhile, Kagan will no doubt continue to discuss the finer points of "counterinsurgency" and "clearing neighborhoods" with congenial colleagues at Washington's finest restaurants – while also insisting, as he does in "Choosing Victory," that "the president must issue a personal call for young Americans to volunteer to fight in the decisive conflict of this age."

In this plan – and the version of it Bush adopted for his "New Way Forward" – we see the hideous obscenity of the whole criminal enterprise laid bare. The bloodlust of physical cowards like Bush and Cheney and Kagan – their overpowering need to see other people kill and die – is now reaching genuinely irrational proportions. The war in Iraq was launched solely to serve the political ambitions, personal fortunes and radical ideologies of a small group of American elitists (and the delusions of grandeur of its little handmaiden in the UK). It had no larger strategic benefit or moral purpose, despite all the ever-shifting rhetoric to the contrary. It has not enhanced American security. It has not given the Iraqis a better life. It has not spread freedom and democracy throughout the Middle East. It was not designed to do these things. But neither has it accomplished its true aim, as clearly defined by PNAC and others, of establishing a solid American military presence in Iraq as a launching pad for further expansion of the "single sustainable model of national success" and the juicy contracts that would follow.


And so we had Kagan's "surge," the sole aim of which was to perpetuate and entrench the American presence by an adroit manipulation of the then-prevailing media "narrative." What was seen as an appalling "failure" soon became a rousing "success" (or even "an extraordinary achievement," as the Peace Laureate himself put it) in the American media. Why? Because after the Americans helped its Shiite protégés finish their ethnic cleansing of Baghdad, and bribed other insurgents to change sides (for awhile), the horrific monthly death counts of murdered civilians dropped from the world-historical levels of 2006-2007 to the "merely" abominable levels that afflict Iraq today.

And so here, at last, is the true "mission accomplished": the establishment of a permanent American military presence in Iraq -- which was one of the stated aims of PNAC's 2000 blueprint for an expanded militarist empire. Although America's "combat role" in Iraq was declared over this month, 50,000 troops (and an equal number of Washington-paid privateers) remain in the conquered land, carrying out the same missions as before. Meanwhile, the State Department is now amassing its own armed force of up to 50,000, which will be a massive, permanent military presence, even if the Pentagon ever decides to move its troops elsewhere. (Which is highly unlikely, with the American-installed local leaders currently saying that US troops will be needed "at least" until 2020.)

No doubt Kagan's paymasters, Obama and Petraeus, are hoping they can pull off the same trick in Afghanistan, which at the moment is in roughly the same "narrative" frame as Iraq was in 2007: a five-alarm, full-scale FUBAR. And who knows? They may do it. If they can get the death counts down a bit -- and keep St. David the Unquestionable out there awing the ever-credulous media and political establishments -- p
erhaps they can entrench the American military presence, in all those “supersize me" bases they are now building, for years and years to come.

And once again, we are left to wonder: How many times, and in how many ways, must we be shown the true nature of the Obama Administration -- its absolute, steely determination to perpetuate and expand a militarist empire, no matter what it costs in human life abroad and internal rot at home -- before we can see and acknowledge the reality before us? So much sound and fury is expended on the hair-splitting differences (or the appearance of differences) between our political factions, but the fact remains is that they are all one party: the party of imperial power. As Andrew Bacevich noted recently:

For the last 50 years, the U.S. national security establishment has remained essentially unchanged. It is a worldwide military presence configured not to defend the nation but to project power around the globe. That standing force fosters a penchant for interventionism, whether overt or covert. ... The [bipartisan] consensus no longer makes sense, yet it persists—not because it produces effective policies but because of deeply ingrained habits, and because it serves a variety of purposes...

It produces profit for companies. It provides status prerogatives for the military. It justifies the budgets of the Defense Department and the intelligence community. It provides a sustainable source of funding for congressional campaigns. And it provides people with opportunities to participate in what they think are great historical events.


No one is allowed anywhere near the halls of power or the levers of influence if they do not subscribe to this consensus. Anyone who questions it is automatically relegated to the margins. Barack Obama would not have been nominated by his faction or elected president if he was not a zealous adherent of the imperial agenda, and all that it entails: endless war, erosion of liberty, endemic corruption, and economic injustice.

And that is why Obama is happy to employ figures from the Bush Regime, like David Petraeus (and his death-squad wingman, Stanley McChrystal), like Robert Gates, like the odious toady Frederick Kagan -- because he and they are part of the same system, the same agenda. This is the underlying reality of American politics today.

 
Profiles in Pusillanimity: Obama and the 'Ground Zero Mosque'
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Sunday, 15 August 2010 22:35

There was great rejoicing on the port side of the blogosphere this weekend after Barack Obama took the "brave step" of announcing "his support for the Ground Zero mosque." (There was also much rejoicing on the starboard side as well, as it "proved" the Right's contention that Obama is a double-secret Islamic Muslim Moslem Mohammedan out to convert every American into Islamic Muslim Moslems.) Even stern critics of many aspects of the Obama regime declared that here, at last, the pusillanimous progressive prez had taken a worthy stand, and should be praised.

[I confess that I have never understood this latter stance, especially when it comes from those who continually lay out the high crimes and atrocities of the current administration in devastating detail. Why should we make a point of praising leaders whom we know are engaged in criminal, immoral and unconstitutional actions? As I've noted here many times before, every government in the history of the world has done "good" things, in some areas, for some people, or even many people -- even the worst regimes of the last century. They built roads, established social programs, dug sewers, built hospitals, schools, parks, museums, brought electricity to rural regions, lifted millions out of poverty and illiteracy, and so on and so forth. Their leaders often made speeches about their abiding belief in freedom and peace and a decent life for all; Stalin's constitution, for example, promised a virtual paradise of democracy, tolerance, equality and ease. Indeed, you can find "good" deeds being done by all kinds of criminal groups: Al Capone's gang helped many of the poor and sick in their neighborhoods -- in fact, it was the Chicago mob that first forced milk producers to date-stamp their products, to protect consumers from buying old milk which had been sold as fresh. But no one feels compelled to be "fair" by noting their good deeds along with the many murders, atrocities and acts of terrors they committed. Why then should we praise a president who is directing -- and expanding -- the murderous operations of rampaging, liberty-gutting war machine?]

In any case, soon -- in less than 24 hours, in fact -- it was walkbacks all around, as the Pusillanimous One issued a statement that diluted his original declaration to the point of anodyne meaninglessness. No longer a bold stand against the truly sickening racism -- and deliberate deceit -- of the manufactured "controversy," Obama's "stance" was reduced to beltway boilerplate about our exalted American principles ... while specifically (and cravenly) denying that these principles could be or should be applied to this, or any, particular case.

As you might imagine, Arthur Silber has been on this case like the proverbial duck on the folkloric June bug. I was going to write on this topic, but he has already said most everything that I was going to say -- and much more besides. So let me then direct you immediately to his take on the subject, which opens with the most salient point -- that our "bold, brave" president is, by any measure (including those most solemnly encoded in the laws of the United States of America), a wanton war criminal. He also adds many other insights along the way -- such as the entirely ignored fact that the "Ground Zero Mosque" is, strictly speaking, not a mosque at all, and not at Ground Zero, while also scoring the deep, widespread and, dare we say it, popular racism at the core of this whole issue (which he also deals with in this follow-up piece). Hie thee there immediately, and read.

*Broken link fixed. My apologies. 

 
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