Written by Chris Floyd
Wednesday, 28 July 2010 00:37
In the first year of his presidency, the first year of the "hope and change" he promised to bring to the conduct of American affairs, Barack Obama countenanced -- and abetted -- a coup in Honduras that ousted a mildly reformist, democratically elected president and replaced him with a clique of thuggish elites who now rule, illegitimately, through repression, threat and outright murder.
Since the installation of these throwbacks to the corrupt and brutal 'banana republics' of yore, Obama's secretary of state, the "progressive" Hillary Clinton, has spent a good deal of time and effort trying to coerce Honduras' outraged neighbors in Latin America to "welcome" the thug-clique, now led by Porfirio Lobo, back into the "community of nations." Let bygones be bygones, Clinton says, as Lobo's regime murders journalists (nine so far this year), political opponents and carries on the wholesale trashing of Honduran independence (such as sacking four Supreme Court justices who opposed the gutting of liberties and the overthrow of constitutional order). After all, isn't that Obama's own philosophy: always "look forward," forget the crimes of the past? Every day is a new day, a clean slate, a chance for a new beginning -- indeed, for "hope and change."
In other words: let the dead bury the dead -- and the rich and powerful reap their rewards.
In her assiduous backroom efforts to "rehabilitate" the killers and crooks that she and Obama have helped foist on Honduras, Clinton might profitably paraphrase a wise old saying of her great hero, Franklin Roosevelt, when he was needled about his support for the murderous Nicaraguan dictator, Anastasio Somoza: "He may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch."
At the London Review of Books blog, John Perry details the state of the stolen nation of Honduras one year after the beloved pets of Barry and Hillary took over:
On the night of 14 June, Luis Arturo Mondragón was sitting with his son on the pavement outside his house in the city of El Paraíso in western Honduras. He had often criticised local politicians on his weekly radio programme, the latest edition of which had just been broadcast. He had received several death threats, but disregarded them. At 10 p.m. a car drew up and the driver fired four bullets, killing him instantly. Mondragón was the ninth journalist to be murdered so far this year. Honduras is now officially the most dangerous country in the world in which to work for the press.
The overthrow of President Zelaya last year was only the second military coup in Latin America since the end of the Cold War. The first, a US-backed attempt to overthrow Chávez in Venezuela in 2002, was a failure. The coup in Tegucigalpa shouldn’t have succeeded either: Obama had promised a new approach to US policy in the region, and there was strong popular resistance to the coup in Honduras itself. And yet, a year on, the coup’s plotters have got practically everything they wanted. Zelaya is in exile in the Dominican Republic, and the right-wing Porfirio Lobo, elected president in January’s widely-boycotted elections, has consolidated his power base. Honduras is slowly being welcomed back into the international fold: it’s still excluded from the Organisation of American States, but was quietly invited to rejoin SICA last week. In Honduras, Lobo has reversed the changes begun by Zelaya. In particular, he has blocked land reform and done nothing to resolve violent conflicts between peasants and land owners, supported by the army and police, in the Aguan river valley.
Last month, 27 members of the US congress wrote to Hillary Clinton to express their ‘continuing concern regarding the grievous violations of human rights and the democratic order which commenced with the coup and continue to this day’. Along with the murders of the nine journalists, they noted the arbitrary arrests, torture and disappearances of members of the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP). They also pointed out that four supreme court judges who opposed the coup have been sacked, while military leaders involved in it have benefitted. General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, the head of the armed forces at the time of the coup, has not only been pardoned for arresting an elected president and expelling him from the country, but in January was allowed to retire from the army and given the presidency of Hondutel, the state-owned telephone company.
How very nice for the general. Perry notes that Roland Valenzuela, a former minister in Zelaya’s government, claimed in an interview that he had papers which named several American-connected business figures behind the coup plot, including "former members of the army death squad known as Battalion 316." Perry also notes that "in a separate development, it has become known that the plane which flew Zelaya out of the country first called at the US airforce base Palmerola."
And what has been the upshot of these shocking charges?
Not surprisingly, the exiled Zelaya has claimed that all this points to the prior knowledge and probable involvement of the US government in the coup. The State Department describes his allegation as ‘ridiculous’. Unfortunately, Valenzuela is unable to elaborate as, shortly before the recorded interview was broadcast, he was shot.
Yes, that's "continuity" for you; that's just how they did in the good old days, to protect our sons of bitches.
But it turns out that the Honduran people are not as supine as some other folks just north of them that we could mention when it comes to watching their lives and liberties be blighted by rapacious elites. Instead of keeping their heads down, obeying their betters -- or joining "Tea Parties" that support (and are bankrolled by) the very malefactors of great wealth who have ruined their country, they are standing up courageously:
Like the rest of Central America, Honduras celebrates its independence on 15 September. By then the resistance front aims to have collected more than a million signatures (in a country with fewer than eight million people) calling for a new constitution. In his absence, they have elected Zelaya as their leader. They show no signs of giving up the struggle, but on the other hand they are well aware that, if Honduras slips back into obscurity, the oppression will only get worse.
One-eighth of the population openly, adamantly refusing to accept the rule of rapacious elites, even in the face of arbitrary arrest, dispossession and murder! That would translate into more than 37 million Americans fired into action against the fraudsters of Wall Street and the war criminals in Washington.
And that is one main reason why said fraudsters and war criminals will continue to work hard to "rehabilitate" their junta pals in Honduras. For one of the greatest "continuities" of America's bipartisan elite in the past century has been their adamant determination to quash any "bad examples" of people trying to order their lives and societies in any way outside the "Washington Consensus." Those who do must be punished: with juntas, with sanctions, with covert actions -- or with invasions, if need be. The American people must never get the idea that they can get together and stand up to their bosses, their benevolent betters. (See Matt Taibbi's skewering of David Brooks' recent advocacy of this übermensch rule.)
Of course, this exemplary punishment does not apply solely to foreigners. Remember the last American who seriously threatened the power structure with a mass movement behind his call for economic justice, a "revolution of values" in society and his condemnation of the American War Machine as the "greatest purveyor of violence in the world today?"
That's right; we celebrate his birthday every January 15 ... while forgetting everything he really stood for -- and stood against. I wonder how hard he would be trying to "rehabilitate" the killers of Luis Arturo Mondragón?
Written by Chris Floyd
Sunday, 25 July 2010 21:54
Years ago, I wrote about the use of chemical weapons in the American assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004. I was attacked at the time for my "wild accusations" by many people, across the political spectrum, even by stalwart dissidents, who felt that such "exaggerations" undermined the "effectiveness" of the anti-war movement, preventing it from being taken "seriously" by the "serious" players in the power structure. Later, of course, American military officials -- and serving soldiers -- admitted using white phosphorus and other chemical weapons in the assault.
Over the years, small-scale medical studies have pointed to the horrific effects of these USA-WMD attacks. Now, a new comprehensive medical study has shown that the "dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukemia" in Fallujah since 2004 have "exceeded those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945," The Independent reports.
The Independent story follows up on an initial video report by top BBC journalist John Simpson last week -- a story that was almost universally ignored, not only in the fawning corporate press but also across the "dissident" blogosphere (except by a very few, such as Winter Patriot). Both stories make clear that the chief victims of the American WMD are, overwhelming, children:
Iraqi doctors in Fallujah have complained since 2005 of being overwhelmed by the number of babies with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl born with two heads to paralysis of the lower limbs. They said they were also seeing far more cancers than they did before the battle for Fallujah between US troops and insurgents.
Their claims have been supported by a survey showing a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in under-14s. Infant mortality in the city is more than four times higher than in neighbouring Jordan and eight times higher than in Kuwait.
Dr Chris Busby, a visiting professor at the University of Ulster and one of the authors of the survey of 4,800 individuals in Fallujah, said it is difficult to pin down the exact cause of the cancers and birth defects. He added that "to produce an effect like this, some very major mutagenic exposure must have occurred in 2004 when the attacks happened".
US Marines first besieged and bombarded Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, in April 2004 after four employees of the American security company Blackwater were killed and their bodies burned. After an eight-month stand-off, the Marines stormed the city in November using artillery and aerial bombing against rebel positions. US forces later admitted that they had employed white phosphorus as well as other munitions.
The background here is good as far as it goes, but it omits the salient point of that mutilation of American mercenaries; it followed a series of security shoot-em-ups that killed a number of innocent civilians in Fallujah. The attacks on the Blackwater mercenaries were a violent reprisal for murders committed by foreign agents in the midst of an illegal act of military aggression. But, as always, the American revenge for the attacks was vastly disproportionate: an entire city destroyed, thousands of people killed -- and generations of terrible suffering for innocent children -- all to get "payback" for four mercenaries.
The Independent continues:
In the assault US commanders largely treated Fallujah as a free-fire zone to try to reduce casualties among their own troops. British officers were appalled by the lack of concern for civilian casualties. "During preparatory operations in the November 2004 Fallujah clearance operation, on one night over 40 155mm artillery rounds were fired into a small sector of the city," recalled Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, a British commander serving with the American forces in Baghdad.
He added that the US commander who ordered this devastating use of firepower did not consider it significant enough to mention it in his daily report to the US general in command. Dr Busby says that while he cannot identify the type of armaments used by the Marines, the extent of genetic damage suffered by inhabitants suggests the use of uranium in some form. He said: "My guess is that they used a new weapon against buildings to break through walls and kill those inside."
The effects of these secret "wonder-weapons" were astounding:
The study, entitled "Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009", is by Dr Busby, Malak Hamdan and Entesar Ariabi, and concludes that anecdotal evidence of a sharp rise in cancer and congenital birth defects is correct. Infant mortality was found to be 80 per 1,000 births compared to 19 in Egypt, 17 in Jordan and 9.7 in Kuwait. The report says that the types of cancer are "similar to that in the Hiroshima survivors who were exposed to ionising radiation from the bomb and uranium in the fallout".
Researchers found a 38-fold increase in leukaemia, a ten-fold increase in female breast cancer and significant increases in lymphoma and brain tumours in adults. At Hiroshima survivors showed a 17-fold increase in leukaemia, but in Fallujah Dr Busby says what is striking is not only the greater prevalence of cancer but the speed with which it was affecting people.
Of particular significance was the finding that the sex ratio between newborn boys and girls had changed. In a normal population this is 1,050 boys born to 1,000 girls, but for those born from 2005 there was an 18 per cent drop in male births, so the ratio was 850 males to 1,000 females. The sex-ratio is an indicator of genetic damage that affects boys more than girls. A similar change in the sex-ratio was discovered after Hiroshima.
I have written about Fallujah over and over for a long time. In many respects, these stories are like the ones I've written about the American-abetted horrors in Somalia: no one gives a damn. Well, I don't give a damn that no gives a damn. I'm going to keep ringing this bell until my arm falls off. We -- Americans -- have committed and countenanced a great evil in Iraq. I can't change that -- and it's obvious that I cannot prevent the "continuity" of such hellish atrocities by the progressive Peace Laureate now in the White House, and by whatever similar blood-soaked poltroon comes to lead the never-ending Terror War for Loot and Power after him. But by god I will not let it be said that I stood by and failed to bear witness to this raging filth.
From 2004 (see original for links):
"The inferno…is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space." -- Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities.
There is of course no space, nowhere to move or breathe in the sealed chamber of the American Infoglomerate – the vast entanglement of corporate media and government propaganda that smothers the body politic with hysterical outpourings of diversion, drivel and deadening white noise. Here, events occur in a total vacuum: they have no history, no context, no consequences. Stripped of the heft and scope of reality, they can easily be molded and distorted to fit the prevailing political and business agendas. Amnesia, ignorance, confusion and fear are left to rule the day: excellent fuel for the stokers of the inferno, who use the heat to work their alchemical magic – transforming human blood into gold.
"There are more and more dead bodies on the streets and the stench is unbearable. Smoke is everywhere. It's hard to know how much people outside Fallujah are aware of what is going on here. There are dead women and children lying on the streets. People are getting weaker from hunger. Many are dying are from their injuries because there is no medical help left in the city whatsoever. Some families have started burying their dead in their gardens."
This was a voice from the depths of the inferno: Fadhil Badrani, reporter for the BBC and Reuters, trapped in the iron encirclement along with tens of thousands of civilians. It was a rare breath of truth. The reality of a major city being ground into rubble was meant to be obscured by the Infoglomerate's wall of noise: murder trials, state visits, Cabinet shuffles, celebrity weddings – and, above all, the reports of "embedded" journalists shaping the "narrative" into its proper form: a magnificent feat of arms carried out with surgical precision against an enemy openly identified by American commanders as "Satan," the Associated Press reports.
One of the first moves in this magnificent feat was the destruction and capture of medical centers. Twenty doctors – and their patients, including women and children – were killed in an airstrike on one major clinic, the UN Information Service reports, while the city's main hospital was seized in the early hours of the ground assault. Why? Because these places of healing could be used as "propaganda centers," the Pentagon's "information warfare" specialists told the NY Times. ...
So while Americans saw stories of rugged "Marlboro Men" winning the day against Satan, they were spared shots of engineers cutting off water and electricity to the city – a flagrant war crime under the Geneva Conventions, as CounterPunch notes, but standard practice throughout the occupation. Nor did pictures of attack helicopters gunning down civilians trying to escape across the Euphrates River – including a family of five – make the TV news, despite the eyewitness account of an AP journalist. Nor were tender American sensibilities subjected to the sight of phosphorous shells bathing enemy fighters – and nearby civilians – with unquenchable chemical fire, literally melting their skin, as the Washington Post reports. Nor did they see the fetus being blown out of the body of Artica Salim when her home was bombed during the "softening-up attacks" that raged relentlessly – and unnoticed – in the closing days of George W. Bush's presidential campaign, the Scotland Sunday Herald reports.
I will not forget Artica Salim. I will not forget Fallujah. I will not "move on." I will not become part of the inferno.
Written by Chris Floyd
Monday, 26 July 2010 14:08
(Updated and revised.)
(Updated and revised again, Tuesday, July 27)
"I am shocked -- shocked! -- to find gambling is going on in here" -- Captain Renault at the gaming tables in Casablanca.
The much ballyhooed dump of intelligence and diplomatic files concerning the Afghan War has been trumpeted as some kind of shocking expose, "painting a different picture" than the official version of events -- revelations that are sure to rock the Anglo-American political establishments to their foundations.
The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel were given 92,000 reports by Wikileaks, including thousands of pages of raw "human intelligence" (i.e., uncorroborated claims and gossip from interested parties and anonymous sources pushing a multitude of agendas), and diplomatic notes passed between the promulgators of the occupation in Washington and their factotums "in country" -- reports which you might imagine also purvey a multitude of agendas ... not least the supreme agenda of all officials involved in a dubious enterprise: ass-covering.
Yet these reports are being treated as if they are the "grim truth" behind the shining picture of official propaganda. But what do these stories in the NYT and Guardian actually "reveal"? Let's see:
- That the occupation forces kill lots of civilians at checkpoints and botched raids, then lie about it afterward.
- That these killings make Afghans angry and fuel the insurgency.
- That elements of Pakistani intelligence are involved with some elements of the many resistance groups known collectively (and incorrectly) in the West as the Taliban.
- That the Americans are using more and more robot drones to kill people.
- That the Americans are running death squads in Afghanistan aimed at Taliban leaders.
- That Afghan officials are corrupt, and that Afghan police and military forces are woefully inadequate.
Is there anything in these breathless new recitations that we did not already know? For example, the NYT offers a few short vignettes from the leaked documents concerning botched raids and errant missiles that slaughter civilians. But in almost every case, these have already been extensively reported -- in the Times itself and other mainstream venues -- in much greater detail, with quotes and evidence from the victims and local eyewitnesses, and not just the self-interested, ass-covering perspective of official occupation reports. And the "revelation" that occupation forces are killing "an amazing number of people" who have "never proven to be a threat" at checkpoints was confirmed months ago by no less than Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the erstwhile commander of the whole shebang.
Likewise, the entanglement between Pakistani intelligence services and some elements of violent resistance in Afghanistan has been a constant theme of mainstream reportage on the Afghan War since the very beginning -- not to mention a relentless drumbeat of official "concern" in Washington. It is a rare week indeed when some Washington bigwig is not hinting darkly -- or declaring outright -- that Pakistan needs to "get with the program" in one way or another.
The increasing use of drones is also no secret; indeed, it is frequently featured in giddy press reports about these neat gizmos our boys are using to bravely blast villages on the other side of the world from comfortably padded chairs in Nevada control rooms.
And America's assassination squads have also been loudly proclaimed and hailed; scarcely a week goes by without a story about yet another "top-level" Taliban or al Qaeda dastard meeting his doom. And of course, the Peace Laureate's administration recently "leaked" the news that America is running hit squads, secret armies and other covert operators in more than 75 countries around the world -- with the Peace Laureate also proclaiming his right to assassinate American citizens when he feels like it.
As for the corruption and incompetence of the Afghan "government" installed by the foreign occupiers, and the untrustworthiness of the Afghan police and military being trained by the foreign occupiers to do their dirty work for them -- again, this too has been a running theme not only of media coverage but a plethora of official pronouncements. Has a month gone by in recent years when some top-level Washington figure has not scolded the powerless Afghan government for its manifold failings? Has a month gone by without long, detailed stories -- usually in the New York Times itself -- outlining the venality and brutality of the warlords, gangsters, religious extremists and corruptocrats that the United States has empowered in the occupied land?
Where then are the "revelations"? Anyone who has regularly read, well, the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel could not remotely be surprised by any of the facts (as opposed to the oceans of spin and supposition) buried in this mountain of leakage. These are not the Pentagon Papers or the Downing Street Memos; they do almost nothing to alter the public image of the war, and tell almost nothing that we don't already know.
In fact, the overall effect of the multi-part coverage of the documents is to paint a portrait of plucky, put-upon Americans trying their darnedest to get the job done despite the dastardly dealings and gooberish bumblings of the ungrateful little brown wretches we are trying to save from themselves. The NYT is quite explicit in this spin:
[T]he documents sketch a war hamstrung by an Afghan government, police force and army of questionable loyalty and competence, and by a Pakistani military that appears at best uncooperative and at worst to work from the shadows as an unspoken ally of the very insurgent forces the American-led coalition is trying to defeat.So you see, if our noble enterprise is failing, it’s because the Afghans are idiots, the Pakistanis are backstabbers ... and the Iranians are behind it all, training Taliban fighters, making their bombs and bankrolling the political opposition to America's appointed satrap, Hamid Karzai.
Ah, here we get down to it. Here's metal more attractive for our militarists. The treachery of Iran is a constant theme in the leakage -- both in the raw, unsifted, uncorroborated "humint" and in the diplomatic cables of puzzled occupiers who cannot fathom why there should be any opposition to their enlightened rule. It must the fault of those perfidious Persians!
One can only imagine the lipsmacking and handclapping now rampant among the Bomb Iran crowd as they pore over these unsubstantiated rumors and Potomac ass-coverings which are being doled out -- by the "liberal" media, no less! -- as the new, grim truth about Afghanistan. The Guardian helpfully compiles the incendiary material for them:
Iran is engaged in an extensive covert campaign to arm, finance, train and equip Taliban insurgents, Afghan warlords allied to al-Qaida and suicide bombers fighting to eject British and western forces from Afghanistan, according to classified US military intelligence reports contained in the war logs.
The secret "threat reports", mostly comprising raw data provided by Afghan spies and paid informants, cannot be corroborated individually. Even if the claims are accurate, it is unclear whether the activities they describe took place with the full knowledge of Tehran or are the work of hardline elements of the semi-autonomous Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, ideological sympathisers of the Taliban, arms smugglers or criminal gangs ....
Yes, no doubt there are a great many "ideological sympathisers" of the Taliban's Shiite-hating Sunni extremists among the, er, Shiites in Iran. But such nuances don't matter; all that matters is that you get some headlines out there about "Iran's covert operations in Afghanistan." [Because, as we all know, it is an unmitigated evil for any nation to conduct covert operations in another country -- unless, of course, that nation is run by nice, clean, English-speaking people.]
The Guardian details a number of raw humint reports on Iranian dastardy, then makes a curious claim for its other sources:
Summaries of US embassy diplomatic cables and situation assessments contained and distributed through the war logs offer firmer ground than some of the raw intelligence data, given that they are evidently written by American officials and represent an official record, or official evaluation, of high-level meetings.
Why should the "situation assessments" of ass-covering bureaucrats necessarily be "firmer" than the gossip and denunciations being retailed in the "humint" reports? Especially if they are telling Washington exactly what it wants to hear: the Iranians are behind our manifest failures, both militarily and politically. The Guardian:
Summaries of classified diplomatic cables produced by the US embassy in Kabul, contained in the war logs, reveal high-level concern about Tehran's growing political influence in Afghanistan. Senior US and Afghan officials appear at a loss over how to counter Iran's alleged bribery and manipulation of opposition parties and MPs whom Afghan government officials dismiss as Tehran's "puppets"....
"Over the past several months Iran has taken a series of steps to expand and deepen its influence," says a secret cable sourced to the US embassy in Kabul and written in May 2007 by CSTC-A DCG for Pol-Mil Affairs [combined security transition command deputy commanding general for political and military affairs]. The cable cites the creation of the opposition National Front and National Unity Council, which it claims are under Iranian influence.
Wow, that's heavy stuff, man. An apparatchik in the US embassy says that the political opposition to America's man in Kabul is just Iranian puppetry. Obviously, those Afghan ragheads couldn't possibly put together an opposition by themselves. (It's just like that Civil Rights stuff back in the day; it was all a Communist front. You know our docile darkies would never have tried to get above their raising if the Commies hadn't stirred them up.)
We see here a reflection of one of the enduring principles of the American power structure: that no one could ever have any reasonable objections to the enlightened hegemony of our elites. Any opposition to their dominance and privilege has to come from "outside agitators," sinister troublemakers driven by motiveless evil to destroy all that's good and holy in this world.
So in the end, what really is the "takeaway" from this barrage of high-profile "revelations" dished up by these bold liberal gadflies speaking truth to power? Let's recap:
Occupation forces kill lots of civilians. But everybody already knew that -- and it's been obvious for years that nobody cares. How does this alter the prevailing conventional wisdom about the war?
Pakistan is pursuing its own strategic interests in the region: interests that don't always mesh with those of the United States. Again, this has been a constantly -- obsessively -- reported aspect of the war since its earliest days. How does this alter the prevailing conventional wisdom about the war?
The Afghan government installed by the occupation is corrupt and dysfunctional. Again, this theme has been sounded at every level of the American government -- including by two presidents -- for years. How does this alter the prevailing conventional wisdom of the war?
There is often a dichotomy between official statements about the war's progress and the reality of the war on the ground. Again, has there been a month in the last nine years that prominent stories outlining this fact have not appeared in major mainstream publications? Is this not a well-known phenomenon of every single military conflict in human history? How does this alter the prevailing conventional wisdom about the war?
Iran is evil and is helping bad guys kill Americans and should be stopped. It goes without saying that this too has been a relentless drumbeat of the American power structure for many years. The occupation forces in Iraq began blaming Iran for the rise of the insurgency and the political instability almost the moment after George W. Bush proclaimed "mission accomplished" and all hell broke loose in the conquered land. The Obama administration has "continued" -- and expanded -- the Bush Regime's demonization of Iran, and its extensive military preparations for an attack on that country. The current administration's "diplomatic effort" is led by a woman who pledged to "obliterate" Iran -- that is, to kill tens of millions of innocent people -- if Iran attacked Israel. The American power structure has seized upon every single scrap of Curveball-quality "intelligence" -- every rumor, every lie, every exaggeration, every fabrication -- to convince the American people that Iran is about to nuke downtown Omaha with burqa-clad atom bombs.
So once again, and for the last time, we ask the question: How does this alter the prevailing conventional wisdom about the war?
It doesn't, of course. These media "bombshells" will simply bounce off the hardened shell of American exceptionalism -- which easily countenances the slaughter of civilians and "targeted killings" and "indefinite detention" and any number of other atrocities anyway. In fact, I predict the chief "takeaway" from the story will be this:
American forces are doing their best to help the poor Afghans, but the ungrateful natives are too weak and corrupt to be trusted, while America's good intentions are also being thwarted by evil outsiders.
For our many War Machinists across the political spectrum, getting this mythological message out via "critical" stories in "liberal" publications will be much more effective than dishing up another serving of patriotic hokum on Fox news or at a presidential press conference. (And in fact, on Tuesday Obama claimed that the leaks actually supported the need for his two death-dealing, destabilizing, terror-exacerbating, corruption-oozing "surges" in Afghanistan.) The way the narrative is being framed at the outset -- the small selection of stories being offered as the first "face" of the leaks from the mountains of material as yet unmined -- evokes the age-old question: in the end, cui bono?
The war chiefs are assuming that these 92,000 files about the Afghan war were obtained by an American private serving in Iraq, the unfortunate Bradley Manning. (Wikileaks denies that this particular cache comes from Manning.) Manning is already under arrest for the "crime" of leaking something far more disturbing than any written document: a video showing the slaughter of Iraqi civilians by American Apache helicopters in 2007. Washington knows that a couple of moving pictures on the tee-vee have a far greater potential to disturb the moral sleep of the American people than tens of thousands of newspaper reports -- or leaked documents -- detailing similar killings. (That said, in the end the Apache video has had zero effect on public perceptions of the Iraq War, which most people believe is "over," or on public support for the murderous machinations of the Terror War in general, which most people believe needs to continue in one form or another, to "keep us safe.") The only kind of grim truth attended to by anyone in America these days is that which can be shown in moving pictures. (Although the number of people who are upset even by that seems to be rapidly diminishing. That's why Manning had to be put away.
Ultimately, I suppose on balance it is better to have this material than not to have it. But I still question the usefulness of rolling out mountains of raw "human intelligence" -- precisely the same kind of unfiltered junk that was "stovepiped" to build the false case for the mass-murdering invasion of Iraq -- about Iran, al Qaeda, Pakistan; even North Korea gets into the mix. None of this can be checked -- but all of it will be extremely useful to those who want to build cases for more and more military action, death squads and covert actions around the world.
And it seems very odd that intelligence reports and bureaucratic memos by forces carrying out a prolonged, brutal military occupation of another country are now being treated by "liberal" media outlets as holy writ which paints a "true" picture of the war -- a picture that omits any reference to American war-related corruption, for instance, not only in Afghanistan but more especially in Washington, or to America's wider "Great Game" machinations in Central Asia, involving pipelines, strategic bases and "containing China," etc.
If I believed anything would come of this document dump, if I believed it would actually lead to, say, the prosecution of even one single person for a war-related crime, or to a genuine debate over the morality of the war in the political and media establishments, or even a 5 point rise in public opposition to the Terror War project, then I would rejoice, and embrace the flashy packages of the NYT, Guardian and Der Spiegel at their own self-inflated valuation.
But I honestly believe that the net effect will be simply to entrench the conventional wisdom about the war in the halls of power -- and in the echo chambers of opinion -- on both sides of the Atlantic. We have already seen far too many atrocities, brutalities and acts of criminal folly countenanced, when they are not actually praised, far too many times -- over and over and over again -- in the course of the last decade to believe that these disgorgings of junk intelligence and apparatchik memos will make any difference.
Any difference for the better, that is. For I believe they will supply plenty of ammunition to those bent on further murder and plunder.
(*NOTE: A few sentences have been rewritten today (July 27) to reflect new information and to clarify a couple of points in the original.**)
Written by Chris Floyd
Sunday, 25 July 2010 00:20
News from Blighty: the disparity in death rates between the well-off and the poor in the UK is now greater than at any time since 1921. The London Review of Books points to a new study by the British Medical Journal that shows that by 2007, "for every 100 people under the age of 65 dying in the best-off areas, 199 were dying in the poorest tenth of areas."
The Journal study said that the data suggest "it was only prolonged and enthusiastic state intervention" that kept the disparity from being greater. On the other hand, the elite-coddling market jihadism of the Clintonian-Obamaish "New Labour" government (or as the BMJ more politely puts it, "the prolonged state disengagement in promoting equality in outcome") helped stretch the yawning gap even further.
In other words, the few spare pence that the war criminals of the Labour government threw at the poor kept them from dying quite as fast as they would have done otherwise under the system of voracious corporate rapine that Labour entrenched and expanded after inheriting it from the Thatcherite Tories in 1997.
Now, even those few pence are being stripped away -- gleefully -- by what many say is the most extremist government Britain has ever seen, outstripping even Margaret Thatcher in the scope of its draconian cuts and the fervor of its market fundamentalism. The savage cutbacks and vast, churning upheavals being pushed through, at breakneck speed, by the new Conservative government (and its truly pathetic coalition "partner," the lapdog Lib Dems) will sends millions of people tumbling down into a permanent underclass -- and finally, after 60 years of trying, gut the national health service with a stealth "Americanization" that will turn the operation of local doctors' offices over to private firms (many of them from the US) and privatize public hospitals, allowing them to "fail" -- and close -- if they don't produce enough cash for their elite shareholders. Meanwhile, the schools are now in the hands of the arch-neocon Michael Gove, who is plotting with revisionist historian Niall Ferguson to impose a pro-Empire, pro-elite "national greatness" ideology on the young. Gove is also using "emergency" legislative procedures to strip public schools away from the oversight of democratically elected local government and put them into the hands of unaccountable corporations, religious groups and wealthy elites.
This Revolution of the Rich is being justified by a carefully crafted, constantly stoked panic about budget deficits, pointing to the example of the perpetually weak government and economy of Greece as a horror story to be avoided at all costs. Yet even if the Greek situation was as dire as the fearmongers make out, the fact remains that the cuts which the Tory-LapDog coalition is making in the much stronger, much more stable UK are actually far in excess than those being imposed upon Greece. As with the fearmongering about "Iraqi WMDs," the "dangers of the deficit" are being exaggerated -- and manufactured -- in order to put into place a pre-existing (and transatlantic) ideological agenda: neo-feudal oligarchism.
But in almost all of these measures, the Tory-LapDog government is only entrenching and expanding the "market-led reforms" imposed by New Labour. And "New Labour" was of course a close copy of the "New Democrats" of Bill Clinton and his clique of "triangulating" bagmen for Big Money -- scarcely distinguishable from the Reagan-Bush faction that preceded them, and then succeeded them in the Bush dynasty's second turn in the White House. And we all know that "continuity" is the byword of the Obama administration, which is chock-a-block with holdovers not only from strangulating triangulators of the Clinton era but also the imperial militarists from the two Bush reigns.
Thus for more than 30 years, the world-dominating Anglo-American alliance has been under the sway of factions which, for all their internal squabbling and hair-splitting, are strongly united in their steadfast, unshakeable adherence to the perpetuation -- and expansion -- of elite power and privilege. They have shown themselves willing -- eager -- to degrade their own societies (and destroy many others) in the service of this brutal, barbaric, inhuman faith. The poor have no place in this system, which is a retrograde, hi-tech, rhetorically sugarcoated revival of the laissez-faire fantasies of the past, as Jeremy Seabrook notes:
"Pauperism" long ago took on the colour of culpability. The distinction between the idle and improvident poor and the "deserving" goes back at least to the Elizabethan poor law. It took on a new force in the early industrial era, which saw an unprecedented growth in pauperism. The enthusiasts of laissez-faire concluded that the evil was compounded by efforts to relieve it, and helping the poor only increased their number. Everything indicated that "natural" processes should be allowed to take their course. .... In this version of the world, the market mechanism is as flawless a creation as the earth, and should remain untouched by the hand of meddlers, whose only effect is to upset its power to enrich us all. It is remarkable that the establishment of laissez-faire itself in the early 19th century required an enormous amount of government intervention and regulation ...
And so it is today. The "regulation" of the health care industry introduced by the Obama Administration is actually a gargantuan transfer of wealth, by force, from working people and the poor to a few huge corporations. The financial "regulation" signed into law is yet another sham that will leave the rapacious fools and fraudsters who brought down the global economy -- and triggered the convenient "deficit crisis" by demanding massive bailouts of public money for their private businesses -- at large and in charge of the world's finances. Meanwhile, more and more government regulations restrict the right of ordinary citizens to challenge the rich and powerful in court, or to register a public protest (herding them instead into the truly hideous "free speech zones") -- even as the state grants corporations extraordinary privileges to interfere with the political process with their vast resources and protects their leaders from personal accountability for the ravages they commit. The government "intervention and regulation" on behalf of the industries and elites who service the endlessly expanding symbiosis of corporate, military and 'security' power -- stretching even to the countenancing and cover-up of torture and murder -- is one of the defining elements of our age.
And as Glenn Ford notes, Obama is preparing to "regulate" the last tattered fragments of the social welfare system -- already decimated by the progressives' favorite good old boy, Bill Cinton -- right out of existence:
In April of this year, Obama once again reminded everyone that everything is and has always been "on the table," as far as he's concerned, including Social Security. His so-called "deficit commission" is stacked with rich sociopaths sharpening their knives to carve up, sell off or otherwise doom Social Security. It is a battle that safety net defenders thought they had won against George Bush. Barack Obama has picked up Bush's marbles and put them back into play. He is the right wing's most potent weapon, the one before which liberal Democrats throw up their hands in surrender without the dignity of a fight. Obama, working in plain sight over the past 18 months, has constructed and rigged a deficit commission to render a kind of death sentence to the foundational program of Roosevelt's New Deal.
This is the system -- the creed, the extremist faith -- that all "serious" players in all the "major" power faction on both sides of the Atlantic adhere to. Their god of greed demands human sacrifices: and so the poor must die. And to keep the system going, more and more people must be made poor: first those in the "outer darkness" of faraway lands, then finally those in the sacred "Homelands" themselves. We have been watching the latter process play out slowly in the past few decades -- but it is accelerating now at dizzying speed.
As I once noted of some our representative elites:
Perhaps if they could obtain these same privileges as easily by other, less horrific means, they would. As it is, they take the world as they find it, and go about their business without fretting over the consequences -- the dead, the ruined, the spreading hate, the poisoned planet. Why should they care? As the maggot cannot see beyond the meat, so too these [people] of greed-stunted understanding can see nothing of worth outside their own bottomless appetites.
*Corrected for typos.