Empire Burlesque
Leading by Example: Elites' Apt Pupils Launch 'Surge' in Uganda
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 13 July 2010 13:56

Jason Ditz puts this week's horrific bombing in Uganda by Somali extremists in perspective: the perspective of the relentless killing of civilians perpetrated by Western-backed forces in Somalia for years.

The American-led meddling in the ravaged nation has led directly -- and inevitably -- to the rise of extremist militias like al-Shabab, and to the deaths of thousands of innocent people. As we noted here back in 2008:

Somalia is the invisible third front of the Terror War, an American-backed "regime change" operation launched by the invading army of Ethiopia and local warlords in December 2006. In addition to helping arm, fund and train the army of the Ethiopian dictatorship, the United States has intervened directly into the conflict, carrying out bombing raids on fleeing refugees and nomads, firing missiles into villages, sending in death squads to clean up after covert operations, and, as we reported here long ago, assisting in the "rendition" of refugees, including American citizens, into the hands of Ethiopia's notorious torturers.

Together, the American Terror Warriors, the Ethiopians and the [Somali] warlords (some of them directly in the pay of the CIA) have created the worst humanitarian disaster on earth. Thousands have been killed in the fighting. Hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes ...

The United States is not only backing the Ethiopians and the Somali transitional government (TGF) propped up by the occupation; Washington has also provided "robust financial and logistical support to armed paramilitaries resisting the command and control of the TGF," according to a major new study of the conflict by the human rights organization, Enough. In addition to these freebooters, it turns out that the wide-ranging Somali pirates ... are supported by "backers linked to the Western-backed government" in Mogadishu.

In other words, the United States is sponsoring a hydra-headed conflict that spews fire and destruction in every direction, and is trampling an already ravaged people deeper into the dirt. It is by any measure -- even the mass-murdering standards of our day -- a sickening abomination, a war crime of staggering proportions. Yet it goes on, day after day, without the slightest comment, much less criticism, from the entire bipartisan political establishment, and almost all of the media -- including most of the "dissident" blogosphere. The Somalis are simply non-people, a nation of ghosts, unseen and unseeable. [For more, see Background section below.]


And still it goes on today. The Ethiopians have finally pulled out of Somalia, but as Ditz points out, other Western-backed forces remain:

The world has, far from “ignoring” Somalia, been trying to prop up illegitimate governments there for years, and Uganda has been at the forefront of this, contributing the most troops to the African Unions military adventure into Somalia.

This [week's bomb] attack [in Uganda] did not happen in a vacuum but rather came after repeated threats from the Somali militant faction to “retaliate” against Uganda for its many, many attacks on residential neighborhoods under al-Shabaab’s control.

Though one can not but condemn al-Shabaab for taking out its retaliation on innocent civilians, it is also impossible to notice that the Ugandan troops in Somalia have been doing virtually the same thing, responding to ambushes against them by shelling residential neighborhoods, on a regular basis since the troops got there.

In fact since we’re so keen on the soccer aspect of the killings, let us not forget an incident in mid-January, when AU troops responded to an attack on the presidential palace by al-Shabaab by launching artillery shells at a playground in al-Shabaab-held territory, killing seven children who were playing soccer at the time.

It was shortly after this that al-Shabaab started talking about banning soccer, and while the official line on this is that it proves the group’s extremism the reality is that it largely isn’t safe to play soccer in Somalia not because of al-Shabaab but because Ugandan troops have declared the right to attack any region under “insurgent” control, which considering the self-proclaimed government owns little more than a few city blocks in Mogadishu, puts virtually the entire civilian population of Somalia directly in the line of fire.


Before the American-backed invasion of 2006, Somalia had achieved a precarious but growing level of stability for the first time after many years of anarchy under the violent rule of warlords. But this government was made up of a broad coalition of Islamic groups. And although the coalition, led by moderates, was not remotely as extreme as, say, the sectarians of Saudi Arabia, it was outside the control or clientage of the Potomac Empire, and thus could not be allowed to survive.

And so the CIA's warlords and Washington's Ethiopian proxies went to work. The coalition was destroyed -- and with it the hopes of a moderate, secure, independent Somalia, working out its own destiny, its own path toward development. In the resulting swamp of carnage and suffering, only the extremists were left standing to confront the extreme violence being inflicted by the forces of 'civilization.'

Now the brutal -- and brutalizing -- cycle of violence spins ever more furiously, feeding on its own momentum, lashing out beyond the borders, and creating its own nightmare world where whole generations are being devoured.

As Ditz says, the bombing in Uganda is a contemptible, abominable crime -- as is the killing of all innocent people by the forces of organized violence. But it did not come out of nowhere, it did not spring from some abyss of mysterious, mystical, motiveless evil. It was an entirely rational act within the system adopted -- and imposed -- by the "Great Powers," which holds that the slaughter of innocent people is a perfectly acceptable way to advance your political, economic and ideological agendas.

The United States and Great Britain (among other defenders of civilization) have practiced this for centuries. Yet for centuries, they have always been surprised -- shocked -- outraged -- when the "lesser peoples" follow their example and strike back in like manner. What is high policy for the Great is base terror when employed by the Low.

But as there is absolutely no sign that the Great are about to give up the profitable path of state terror -- quite the opposite! -- we can be assured of many more such "logical" responses from their all-too-apt pupils around the world.

NOTE: In the wake of the Uganda bombing, we will doubtless see and hear more of this kind of thing from the Peace Laureate and his blood-and-iron secretary of state. From August 2009:

[Hillary] Clinton has pledged to double the recently announced supply of American weapons to Somalia's "transitional government" -- a weak reed cobbled together by Western interests from various CIA-paid warlords and other factions, and now headed, ironically, by the former leader of the aforementioned fledgling state overthrown by Washington. (Yes, it is hard to tell the players without a scorecard -- or even with one. But if you follow the weapons and the money, you can usually tell who is temporarily on which side at any given moment.)

Clinton, bellicose as ever, accompanied the shipment of 80 tons of death-dealing hardware with a heavy dose of the wild fearmongering rhetoric we've come to know so well in this New American Century. As AP reports, she declared that the radical faction al-Shabab, now leading the insurgency against the transitional government, has only one goal in mind: bring in al Qaeda and destabilizing the whole entire world.

Yes, dear hearts, once again the survival of the planet -- not to mention the sacred American way of life -- is under imminent threat from a gang of evil maniacs; a threat requiring the urgent enrichment of the U.S. arms industry -- sorry, I mean the urgent intervention of American know-how. For as the history of American foreign policy in the last 60 years has clearly shown us, there has never been an internal conflict in any country of the world that was not actually, deep down, a direct threat to all the sweet American babies sleeping in their cribs.

The interim Somali president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed -- an Islamist who only a few years ago was considered by Washington as, well, an evil maniac in league with al Qaeda -- agreed with Clinton, saying that al-Shabab aims to "make Somalia a ground to destabilize the whole world." This would be the same al-Shabab that Ahmed has spent most of his presidency trying to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with. (Where's that scorecard again?)

As usual, the AP story buries some of the most blazing, salient facts way down in the uncritical regurgitation of official rhetoric. But credit where it's due, the story does finally note that the new American assistance is not confined to stuff that can kill more Somalis; it also includes - wait for it again -- U.S. military "advisors" to help "train" the forces of the ever-collapsing transitional government.

Clinton also shook a sword at neighboring Eritrea, accusing it of supporting al-Shabab and "interfering" in Somalia's internal affairs. This, while she was announcing the delivery of 80 tons of American weapons to be poured into Somalia's internal affairs. This line is of course just an echo of the continual Bush-Obama warnings against "foreigners" interfering in Iraq. The gall of these gilded poltroons -- denouncing foreign interference while standing on mountains of corpses produced by the endless American "interference" in other countries -- is truly sublime. Clinton said that if Eritrea doesn't start toeing the imperial line, "we intend to take actions." (All you future Gold Star mothers and war widows out there better get out your atlases: your loved ones could soon be dying in yet another part of the world you never heard of.)

What will be the effect of this new "humanitarian intervention" of weapons and advisers? Same as it ever was: more death, more ruin, more suffering, more extremism, more hatred, more sorrow -- and more money for the war profiteers. That is the point, isn't it? 


ANOTHER NOTE: For more on the direct American involvement in the dismemberment of Somalia, here's a snippet from 2007:

Kill Anyone Still Alive': American Special Ops in Somalia

How many people did American forces actually kill when they attacked refugees fleeing from the U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia last January? We know from reports by Oxfam, the Guardian, the Associated Press and Reuters that dozens of innocent civilians were slaughtered near the Kenyan border, including villagers and nomadic tribesmen hit by American gunships seeking to kill alleged al Qaeda operatives who may or may not have been among the refugees. But a new story in Esquire magazine — detailing the creation of America's most recent military satrapy, the Africa Command — provides disturbing indications that the post-invasion killing by American operatives in Somalia was far more extensive — and deliberate — than previously known. [Extensive background on the war in Somalia can be found here.]

The Esquire piece, by Thomas Barnett, is a mostly glowing portrait of the Africa Command, which, we are told, is designed to wed military, diplomatic, and development prowess in a seamless package, a whole new way of projecting American power: "pre-emptive nation-building instead of pre-emptive regime change," or as Barnett describes it at another point, "Iraq done right." Although Barnett's glib, jargony, insider piece — told entirely from the point of view of U.S. military officials — does contain bits of critical analysis, it is in no way an expose. The new details he presents on the post-invasion slaughter are thus even more chilling, as they are offered simply as an acceptable, ordinary aspect of this laudable new enterprise.

Barnett reveals that the gunship attacks on refugees were just the first part of the secret U.S. mission that was "Africa Command's" debut on the imperial stage. Soon after the attacks, "Task Force 88, a very secret American special-operations unit," was helicoptered into the strike area. As Barnett puts it: "The 88's job was simple: Kill anyone still alive and leave no unidentified bodies behind."
Some 70,000 people fled their homes in the first wave of the Ethiopian invasion. (More than 400,000 fled the brutal consolidation of the invasion in Mogadishu last spring.) Tens of thousands of these initial refugees headed toward the Kenyan border, where the American gunships struck. When the secret operation was leaked, Bush Administration officials said that American planes were trying to hit three alleged al Qaeda operatives who had allegedly been given sanctuary by the Islamic Councils government decapitated by the Ethiopians. But Barnett's insiders told him that the actual plan was to wipe out thousands of "foreign fighters" whom Pentagon officials believed had joined the Islamic Courts forces. "Honestly, nobody had any idea just how many there really were," Barnett was told. "But we wanted to get them all."

Thus the Kenyan border area — where tens of thousands of civilians were fleeing — was meant to be "a killing zone," Barnett writes:

America's first AC-130 gunship went wheels-up on January 7 from that secret Ethiopian airstrip. After each strike, anybody left alive was to be wiped out by successive waves of Ethiopian commandos and Task Force 88, operating out of Manda Bay. The plan was to rinse and repeat 'until no more bad guys, as one officer put it.

At this point, Barnett — or his sources — turn coy .. So there is no way of knowing at this point how many survivors of the American attacks were then killed by the "very special secret special-operations unit," or how many "rinse-and-repeat" cycles the "88s" were able to carry out in what Barnett called "a good plan."

Nor do we know just who the "88s" killed. As noted, the vast majority of refugees were civilians, just as the majority of the victims killed by the American gunship raids were civilians. Did the "88s" move in on the nomadic tribesmen decimated by the air attack and "kill everyone still alive"? Or did they restrict themselves to killing any non-Somalis they found among the refugees?


And even then, three years ago, it was easy to see the outcome of these murderous policies. From that same 2007 piece:

No doubt, the brutal destruction of the broad-based Courts government — which had brought Somalia its first measure of stability in more than 15 years of violent anarchy — will in fact spur the rise of al Qaeda-related groups in Somalia, feeding on the chaos and despair engendered by the Bush-backed invasion. Thus, American forces will always have a handy excuse for striking Somalia whenever they please, as they strive to "project dominance" over Africa.

BACKGROUND: For more on Somalia, see:

Pirates of the Horn: U.S. Backs Reign of Crime and Death in Somalia
Work of Evil: Beyond the Worst-Case Scenario in Somalia
Willing Executioners: America's Bipartisan Atrocity Deepens in Somalia
Alliance With Atrocity: Bush's Terror War Partners in Ethiopia
Black Hawk Rising: CIA Warlords Take Control in Mogadishu
 

 
Timebends: Parsing Progressive Perspectives on Power’s Abuses
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Friday, 09 July 2010 12:10

Imagine how great the "progressive" furor would be if the Bush Administration had suddenly denied a visa to an award-winning Colombian journalist because of his reportage on human rights abuses by his American-backed government.

Would we not have heard, rightly, how this draconian action exemplified the administration's tyrannical nature, its use of raw, arbitrary power to throttle any voices trying to shed light on the very murky corners of the Drug War and Terror War operations in Colombia that are armed and funded with billions of dollars from American taxpayers?

Would this not have been added to a long train of similar abuses of power – arbitrary confinement and indefinite detention; concentration camps; shielding torturers;  escalating pointless wars and killing countless civilians; running secret armies, assassins and covert operations throughout the world, etc. – and served up as a damning indictment of a lawless regime?

So now let us see what our leading progressive lights have to say about the case of Hollman Morris, “a prominent Colombian journalist who specializes in conflict and human rights reporting,” who has just been denied a visa by the Obama Administration, preventing him from taking up a fellowship at Harvard University, as AP reports.

Morris – who “produces an independent TV news program called "Contravia," [that] has been highly critical of ties between illegal far-right militias and allies of outgoing President Alvaro Uribe, Washington's closest ally in Latin America" – has been to the United States many times before. In fact, he was free to enter the country under the loathed Bush Administration. But now, in our bright and glorious progressive era, he has suddenly – dare we say arbitrarily – been declared “permanently ineligible for a visa under the ‘Terrorist activities’ section of the USA Patriot Act,” AP reports.

What are Morris’ crimes? Well, the American-trained Colombian security organs declared that the reporter had exhibited "opposition tendencies to government policies." God knows that kind of thing can’t be allowed in any colony – sorry, client state – sorry, sovereign ally of the United States. And so they put him under surveillance – years ago. He also – horrors – acted as a go-between Colombian rebels and French diplomats trying to free Ingrid Betancourt, who had been held hostage for years. All of this pre-dates the current administration.

Of course, as we all know, the Supreme Court has now accepted the Obama Administration’s earnest argument that anyone who tries to do anything that might lead to the peaceful resolution of any situation that might possibly involve a group that has been arbitrarily declared a “terrorist organization” by His Potomac Majesty is, perforce, also a terrorist, and thus unfit to pass the gates of God’s shining city on the hill.

We realize, of course, that Morris’ case – and the whole bill of indictment cited above, wherein Obama has continued and often expanded the crimeful policies of his predecessor – is not nearly as important as, say, a progressive blogger temporarily being denied access to witless talking heads shows on a corporate TV network.  That, as they say, is some serious shit. Still, we wait with trembly anticipation the coming firestorm of righteous progressive anger that will, no doubt, soon engulf the Obama Administration for its repressive, Bush-like handling of Morris. You know it’s coming. Any minute now. Just you wait and see.

 
Afghan Sunset: A Searing Survey of Imperial Failure
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 06 July 2010 09:58

William Dalrymple is one of the knowledgeable and experienced observers of Central Asia and India in the West. His insights are always valuable, and usually prescient, especially on the greatly variegated complexities -- social, economic, cultural, political, historical -- of the volatile region, where the American imperial impulse is now coming to grief in arrogance and ignorance ... as so many others have done before it.

In a New Statesman article rich with historical detail and direct reportage from the frontlines of "Af-Pak" front of the bipartisan Terror War, Dalrymple brings fresh confirmation of what everyone but the moronic masters of war along the Potomac knows: the war in Afghanistan is lost, and all the vaunted "surges" of the drone-firing Peace Laureate and his various COIN-operated commanders are only prolonging the pointless agony -- and building up a tsunami of horrific blowback.

Here are some extensive excerpts -- but they are only a few highlights. The whole piece well repays a full reading.

In1843, shortly after his return from Afghanistan, an army chaplain, Reverend G R Gleig, wrote a memoir about the First Anglo-Afghan War, of which he was one of the very few survivors. It was, he wrote, "a war begun for no wise purpose, carried on with a strange mixture of rashness and timidity, brought to a close after suffering and disaster, without much glory attached either to the government which directed, or the great body of troops which waged it. Not one benefit, political or military, has Britain acquired with this war. Our eventual evacuation of the country resembled the retreat of an army defeated."


As Dalrymple notes, the 1842 British "regime change" intervention in Afghanistan was:

arguably the greatest military humiliation ever suffered by the west in the Middle East: an entire army of what was then the most powerful military nation in the world utterly routed and destroyed by poorly equipped tribesmen, at the cost of £15m (well over £1bn in modern currency) and more than 40,000 lives. But nearly ten years on from Nato's invasion of Afghanistan, there are increasing signs that Britain's fourth war in the country could end with as few political gains as the first three and, like them, terminate in an embarrassing withdrawal after a humiliating defeat, with Afghanistan yet again left in tribal chaos and quite possibly ruled by the same government that the war was launched to overthrow....


Embarrassing withdrawal after humiliating defeat is almost certainly the fate awaiting this latest Anglo-American imperial folly. The facts on the ground are mounting up, Ossa-like:

The Taliban have now advanced out of their borderland safe havens to the very gates of Kabul and are surrounding the capital, much as the US-backed mujahedin once did to the Soviet-installed regime in the late 1980s. Like a rerun of an old movie, all journeys by non-Afghans out of the capital are once again confined largely to tanks, military convoys and helicopters. The Taliban already control more than 70 per cent of the country, where they collect taxes, enforce the sharia and dispense their usual rough justice. Every month, their sphere of influence increases. According to a recent Pentagon report, Karzai's government has control of only 29 out of 121 key strategic districts. ... Already, despite the presence of huge numbers of foreign troops, it is now impossible - or at least extremely foolhardy - for any westerner to walk around the capital, Kabul, without armed guards; it is even more inadvisable to head out of town in any direction except north: the strongly anti-Taliban Panjshir Valley, along with the towns of Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat, are the only safe havens left for westerners in the entire country. In all other directions, travel is possible only in an armed convoy.


Dalrymple also writes chillingly of

... the blowback that is today destabilising Pakistan and the tribal territories of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). Here the Pakistani Taliban are once more on the march, rebuilding their presence in Swat, and are now surrounding Peshawar, which is almost daily being rocked by bombs, while outlying groups of Taliban are again spreading their influence into the valleys leading towards Islamabad. ...

The Fata, it is true, have never been fully under the control of any Pakistani government, and have always been unruly, but the region has been radicalised as never before by the rain of shells and cluster bombs that have caused huge civilian casualties and daily add a stream of angry foot soldiers to the insurgency. Elsewhere in Pakistan, anti-western religious and political extremism continues to flourish, as ever larger numbers of ordinary Pakistanis are driven to fight by corruption, predatory politics and the abuse of power by Pakistan's feudal elite, as well as the military aggression of the drones. Indeed, the ripples of instability lapping out from Afghanistan and Pakistan have reached even New York. When CIA interrogators asked Faisal Shahzad why he tried to let off a car bomb last month in Times Square, he told them of his desire to avenge those "innocent people being hit by drones from above".


Dalrymple gets to the heart of the ignorance and arrogance that sustains the ever-more brutal and brutalizing conflict:

The reality of our present Afghan entanglement is that we took sides in a complex civil war, which has been running since the 1970s, siding with the north against the south, town against country, secularism against Islam, and the Tajiks against the Pashtuns. We have installed a government, and trained up an army, both of which in many ways have discriminated against the Pashtun majority, and whose top-down, highly centralised constitution allows for remarkably little federalism or regional representation. However much western liberals may dislike the Taliban - and they have very good reason for doing so - the truth remains that they are in many ways the authentic voice of rural Pashtun conservatism, whose views and wishes are ignored by the government in Kabul and who are still largely excluded from power. It is hardly surprising that the Pashtuns are determined to resist the regime and that the insurgency is widely supported, especially in the Pashtun heartlands of the south and east.


These observations are underlined by a harrowing trip Dalrymple takes trying to retrace the steps of that British retreat in 1842. For security, he travels with the forces of "a regional tribal leader who was also a minister in Karzai's government. He is a mountain of a man named Anwar Khan Jegdalek, a former village wrestling champion who made his name as a Hezb-e-Islami mujahedin commander in the jihad against the Soviets in the 1980s."

During lunch, as my hosts casually pointed out the various places in the village where the British had been massacred in 1842, I asked them if they saw any parallels between that war and the present situation. "It is exactly the same," said Anwar Khan Jegdalek. "Both times the foreigners have come for their own interests, not for ours. They say, 'We are your friends, we want democracy, we want to help.' But they are lying."

...“Afghanistan is like the crossroads for every nation that comes to power," [said] Jegdalek. "But we do not have the strength to control our own destiny - our fate is always determined by our neighbours. Next, it will be China. This is the last days of the Americans."...


The trip also points out one of the main factors inflicting a long and agonizing defeat on the Western coalition: the inherent, inescapable corruption and murder that are the inevitable products of any enforced military occupation:

As Predator drones took off and landed incessantly at the nearby airfield, the elders related how the previous year government troops had turned up to destroy the opium harvest. The troops promised the villagers full compensation, and were allowed to burn the crops; but the money never turned up. Before the planting season, the villagers again went to Jalalabad and asked the government if they could be provided with assistance to grow other crops. Promises were made; again nothing was delivered. They planted poppy, informing the local authorities that if they again tried to burn the crop, the village would have no option but to resist. When the troops turned up, about the same time as we were arriving at nearby Jegdalek, the villagers were waiting for them, and had called in the local Taliban to assist.

...One of the tribal elders came over and we chatted for a while over a glass of green tea. "Last month," he said, "some American officers called us to a hotel in Jalalabad for a meeting. One of them asked me, 'Why do you hate us?' I replied, 'Because you blow down our doors, enter our houses, pull our women by the hair and kick our children. We cannot accept this. We will fight back, and we will break your teeth, and when your teeth are broken you will leave, just as the British left before you. It is just a matter of time.'"

What did he say to that? “He turned to his friend and said, 'If the old men are like this, what will the younger ones be like?' In truth, all the Americans here know that their game is over. It is just their politicians who deny this." ...


The catalogue of brutal stupidities and rampant corruption goes on:

Now as then [in 1842], the problem is not hatred of the west, so much as a dislike of foreign troops swaggering around and making themselves odious to the very people they are meant to be helping. On the return journey, as we crawled back up the passes towards Kabul, we got stuck behind a US military convoy of eight Humvees and two armoured personnel carriers in full camouflage, all travelling at less than 20 miles per hour. Despite the slow speed, the troops refused to let any Afghan drivers overtake them, for fear of suicide bombers, and they fired warning shots at any who attempted to do so. By the time we reached the top of the pass two hours later, there were 300 cars and trucks backed up behind the convoy, each one full of Afghans furious at being ordered around in their own country by a group of foreigners. Every day, small incidents of arrogance and insensitivity such as this make the anger grow. ...

...Now as then, there have been few tangible signs of improvement under the western-backed regime. Despite the US pouring approximately $80bn into Afghanistan, the roads in Kabul are still more rutted than those in the smallest provincial towns of Pakistan. There is little health care; for any severe medical condition, patients still have to fly to India. A quarter of all teachers in Afghanistan are themselves illiterate. In many areas, district governance is almost non-existent: half the governors do not have an office, more than half have no electricity, and most receive only $6 a month in expenses. Civil servants lack the most basic education and skills.

This is largely because $76.5bn of the $80bn committed to the country has been spent on military and security, and most of the remaining $3.5bn on international consultants, some of whom are paid in excess of $1,000 a day, according to an Afghan government report. This, in turn, has had other negative effects. As in 1842, the presence of large numbers of well-paid foreign troops has caused the cost of food and provisions to rise, and living standards to fall. The Afghans feel they are getting poorer, not richer.


It is all most strange -- and terrible. Not only are the Potomac poltroons (and their British camp followers) unable to grasp the myriad complexities of the situation; they can't see the simple truth underlying their predicament either: i.e., you can't invade a country, kill the people, despoil their land, degrade their lives, and then expect them to support your domination. Only a lunatic would believe such a thing. But then, as you may have already noticed, the lunatics have long been in charge of the imperial asylum.

 
Infinite Jest: State Terror From Nixon to Obama
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 06 July 2010 19:11

As Arthur Silber pointed out so ably the other day, the high and horrendous crimes that the world's governments will openly commit -- and admit to, if not brag about -- in their push for loot and power are by no means the full record of their depredations. This is, as Silber rightly says, "an absolute certainty given the testimony of history." Indeed. For while we look on, shocked and awed, at the public parade of horrors rolling by each day, there are foul deeds afoot which will only come to light -- in dribs and drabs, in shards and splinters --after many decades. (And of course this does not include the countless crimes of elitist power that will never surface, that lie forever buried and rotting with their victims.)

One such crime -- oh, just a minor one, just the murder of one man; hardly worth mentioning, really -- came bobbing up from the fetid depths of history just the other day. It surfaced on a sliver of tape released from that endless, ever-gushing fountain of state crime and folly: the Nixon tapes. As Gore Vidal once noted: "Where Kennedy never forgot that he was being recorded, Nixon seems never to have remembered ... Despite intermittent political skills, Nixon seems, on the evidence of the tapes, to have had no conscious mind. He is all flowing unconscious." Crimes, slurs, wild hairs, flaming bigotry and galloping anxiety -- all have come tumbling out over the years from the taped trove of the jowl-quivering figure whose closest, most loyal apparatchik, Bob Haldeman, once called "the weirdest man ever to live in the White House." 
 
But the latest revelation involves no choice Nixonian weirdness; on the contrary. It is simply the record of two of the highest officials of the American republic sharing a hearty, manly joke about a foreign official they have had assassinated. As Jeff Stein reports on his Washington Post blog:

President Richard M. Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, joked that an “incompetent” CIA had struggled to successfully carry out an assassination in Chile, newly available Oval Office tapes reveal. At the time, in 1971, Nixon and Kissinger were working to undermine the socialist administration of Chilean President Salvador Allende, who would die during a U.S.-backed military coup two years later. One of the key figures to stand in the way of Chilean generals plotting to overthrow Allende was the Chilean army commander-in-chief, Rene Schneider, who was killed during a botched kidnapping attempt by military right-wingers in 1970.


As Stein puts it, rather demurely, the CIA's role in Schneider's killing has been "disputed" for decades. But the newly released tape nails the case as solidly as it can be in the murky machinations of power. Nixon and Kissinger are discussing the murder of a right-wing Chilean politician; a killing that some had blamed on the CIA. This Socratic dialogue followed:

Kissinger: They’re blaming the CIA.
Nixon: Why the hell would we assassinate him?
Kissinger: Well, a) we couldn’t. We’re—
Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: CIA’s too incompetent to do it. You remember—
Nixon: Sure, but that’s the best thing. [Unclear].
Kissinger: —when they did try to assassinate somebody, it took three attempts—
Nixon: Yeah.
Kissinger: —and he lived for three weeks afterwards.


Stein quotes historians who note that this perfectly fits the circumstances of Schneider's death:

"Two Chilean groups, both with ties to the CIA, carried out three attempts to kidnap the general, and on the third attempt shot him. He languished for three days (not three weeks) before dying on October 22, 1970,” [said John] Dinges, [author of two books on Chilean history of the period.] "Kissinger’s denial, in his book and in statements to Congress, alleges that the CIA had broken off contact with the group before it carried out the third and successful attempt against the general. The clear language of Kissinger’s remarks to Nixon, and Nixon’s affirmation of his comments, is that the assassination-kidnapping was a CIA operation."


Naturally, the CIA denied that the tapes proved -- or even suggested -- anything untoward in the operations of the drug-running, death-squadding, torture-inflicting, coup-throwing agency of professional liars and covert operators:

"This incident from October 1970 -- almost 40 years ago -- has been, as I understand it, thoroughly dissected, examined, and investigated," said [CIA spokesman Paul] Gimigilano. "And now, based on someone’s interpretation of part of a conversation, it’s time for a completely different conclusion? Give me a break."


I totally agree. I think we should give Mr. Gimigilano a break. How about, oh, two to five years in a minimum security prison for his active association with a criminal organization? That would give him an ample period of reflection in which to thoroughly dissect, examine and investigate the poisonous, soul-killing equivocations and rationalizations of evil that are the daily meat and drink of any mouthpiece for the CIA.

But of course there will be no charges -- not for small fry like Mr. Gimigilano, and certainly not for the big fish at the top, whose head-rot has spread throughout American society. Although the worms have long since finished with Nixon's corpse, he went to his grave as a "rehabilitated" and honored "elder statesman." Henry Kissinger is still among us, still doling out counsel, publicly and privately, to our rulers -- and still lying every inch of the way to his own impending worm encounter about the many crimes of his past. From unleashing genocidal hell on Cambodia to helping guide the Bush Regime in its machinations for aggressive war on Iraq -- via such blood-soaked way stations as East Timor and the covert killing fields of Latin America -- Kissinger has been an instrumental accomplice in the murder of hundreds of thousands of human beings. [For just a few examples, see here, here, here, and here.]

But it doesn't matter. And Kissinger knows it. This latest revelation will produce not the slightest ripple of discomfort for this "elder statesman." It did not even make the news pages of the Post, or any other paper. Just a passing notice on a blog. This is not surprising, of course. Just a few months ago, in April, yet another shard of ancient evil slipped out: more confirmation of Kissinger's acquiescence in a "targeted assassination" carried out by foreign power on American soil: the infamous murder of former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier and an American colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt, on the very streets of Washington D.C. in 1976. The car-bombing was carried out by agents of America's staunch ally, mass-murdering Chilean tyrant Augusto Pinochet. Kissinger spent decades furiously spinning away his complicity. But as I noted here in April:

Poor old Henry Kissinger. All that botheration, all those lies, all the years of gut-churning anxiety about scandal, even prosecution -- and for what? Mere complicity in state murder of foreigners carried out by a foreign government? Why, nowadays, we have U.S. presidents openly ordering the murder of American citizens, and nobody bats an eye. There is no scandal, no prosecution -- there is not even any debate. It's just a fact of life, ordinary, normal, unchangeable: the sun rises in the east, cows eat grass, rain is wet, American presidents murder people. What's the big deal?


Yes, we've come a long way since those bad old days of weird old Nixon. He and Super K had to skulk around, straining to swathe their crimes in clouds of misdirection, implication and winking allusion. Now we have, as Silber aptly puts it in another recent essay, "evil in broad daylight": state murder on tap, cheery admissions of death squads and secret armies operating in 75 countries, free passes for torturers, indefinite detention championed by "progressives," and  the bipartisan, widespread, institutional acceptance of Nixon's own pernicious doctrine: "If the president does it, that means it's legal."

So who cares if the American president and his minions ordered the murder of Rene Schneider almost 40 years ago because he tried to defend the democratic system of his country? Who cares if this murder helped pave the way to mass butchery and repression under an American-backed dictator? Who cares if this kind of moral rot is now accepted as normal, even praiseworthy, by the entire American establishment? Who cares if it has led us to a place where a Nobel Peace Prize laureate can order the murder of his own citizens without charges, trial or evidence, while killing multitudes of innocent foreigners each year with drones, with bombs, with midnight raids?

Who cares? Look around you. Look at the news. Look at our politics. Look at our leaders. Look at our culture. Look at our people. What is the answer to the question?

That's right. No one. No one cares.

Keep laughing, Tricky Dick, down there with the worms. The joke is on us

 
The Glittering Prizes: War Crime Continues to Pay
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Friday, 02 July 2010 13:55
"The world continues to offer glittering prizes to those who have stout hearts and sharp swords." -- F.E. Smith, Earl of Birkenhead


Another day, another glittering prize for one of the great war criminals of our day. We speak of course of that tanned and gurning jackanapes, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.

It was announced this week that Blair would be receiving a great big bushel basket of simoleons -- a hundred thousand of them -- from some U.S. outfit called The National Constitution Center. It seems the sinister twit has been awarded the Center's "Liberty Medal" for, among other things, his "steadfast efforts to broker peace" in the Middle East, as the BBC reports.

This is of course most appropriate; for there are currently in excess of one million human beings enjoying eternal peace thanks to the war of aggression that Blair was instrumental in unleashing against Iraq. Oddly enough, just as the Liberty award was being announced, the Chilcot Inquiry into the war's origins was disgorging even more confirmation of Blair's adamant determination to march "shoulder to shoulder" with George W. Bush into the annals of Nurembergian perfidy.

As the Independent reports, new documents show how Blair was told -- repeatedly -- by his Attorney General that the planned attack on Iraq would be illegal. The legal chief, Peter Goldsmith, insisted on this position -- despite Blair's growing impatience -- until almost the last moment. As is well known, Goldsmith had a confab with the gilded thugs of Bush's war council, and suddenly reversed his long-held, closely-argued, legally detailed objections to the attack. One can only suppose that Blair and the Bushists "made him an offer he couldn't refuse." From the Independent:

The drafts of legal advice and letters sent to the Prime Minister by Lord Goldsmith had been kept secret despite repeated calls for them to be published. Yesterday they were released by the Chilcot Inquiry into the war, after the head of the Civil Service, Sir Gus O'Donnell, stated that the "long-standing convention" for such documents to be kept confidential had to be waived because the issue of the legality of the Iraq war had a "unique status".

...Tony Blair appeared to show his irritation with the warnings over military actions [from Goldsmith], saying in a handwritten note: "I just do not understand this." In another note, a Downing Street aide said: "We do not need further advice on this matter."

In the documents released yesterday, Lord Goldsmith repeatedly stated that an invasion without a fresh UN resolution would be illegal, and warned against using Saddam Hussein's supposed WMD (weapons of mass destruction) as a reason for attack.

In January 2003 Mr Blair met President Bush at the White House. The Prime Minister's foreign policy adviser, Sir David Manning, wrote a memo paraphrasing Mr Bush's comments at the meeting as: "The start date for the military campaign was now pencilled for 10th March. This was when the bombing would begin."

In a letter to Mr Blair dated 30 January 2003, after the UN had passed another resolution on Iraq, 1441, Lord Goldsmith wrote: "In view of your meeting with President Bush on Friday, I thought you might wish to know whether a further decision of the Security Council is legally required in order to authorise the use of force against Iraq." The letter marked "secret" continued: "I remain of the view that the correct legal interpretation of Resolution 1441 is that it does not authorise the use of military force without a further determination by the Security Council."


The story details the legal chapter-and-verse behind Goldsmith's conclusions, which only grew stronger as the pre-planned invasion grew nearer. In the end, Goldsmith bowed to the will of raw power, remained in his richly robed office until Blair resigned, and now reaps his monetary reward as a top corporate litigator for a New York law firm.

Meanwhile, his blood-caked boss continues to rake in the moolah his own self. He gobbles down millions every year from "advising" JP Morgan and Zurich Financial Services, from the usual exorbitant fees that our modern war criminals command on the rubber chicken circuit, and from the usual backroom grease racket that our great and good set up to milk their connections after leaving office. ("Tony Blair Associates" -- you know, like "Kissinger Associates.")

Blair has also been wadding his trousers with loot from UI Energy, a South Korean oil firm seeking to suck up some of the Iraqi oil that Blair helped "liberate" for corporate exploitation. Oh yes, and for the last three years, he has also been drawing a regular check from the Kuwaiti royal family. And what is the royal hireling doing to earn this crust? Why, he's earnestly "producing a general report on the oil state's future over the next 30 years, at a reported £1m fee," the Guardian reports.

Blair will receive his Liberty Prize from one of his great mentors and partners in international war crime. No, not George W. Bush -- Bill Clinton, who is chairman of the National Constitution Center. After all, it was Clinton and Blair who pioneered the technique -- later perfected by Blair and Bush -- of bypassing the UN and unilaterally attacking a country, under false pretenses, that had not attacked them. And of course, after taking office in 1997, Blair stood shoulder to shoulder with Clinton in strangling the ordinary people of Iraq with a sanctions regime that killed -- at the barest minimum -- more than half a million innocent children. (Not to mention the innocent adults who died from the blockade.)

So what a joyous occasion it will be, when these two giants of international statesmanship meet on the podium in Philadelphia -- the city of brotherly love -- to celebrate a partnership, nay, a special relationship, that has left such an indelible mark on the world. It will surely be an inspiring occasion -- as long as they don't choke on the viscera dribbling from their lips as they utter their self-praising pieties.

Or to put it another way, as I did in an earlier report on the Chilcot panel:

O that the universe was not cold and indifferent, with no avenging furies to drive these bloodstained, sanctimonious wretches into soul-rending storms of madness and remorse. But there is not even an earthly venue where the scurrying servitors of power can receive even a modicum of justice. All we have are a few locked-down, buttoned-up, quasi-secret panels of worthies here and there now and then, to cause, at most, a moment or two of embarrassment before the servitors walk free to line their pockets and heap themselves with honors. Their only punishment, I suppose, must be to be what they are: the stunted, deadened husks of a full humanity which they have lost and will never recover.  

 
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