Following up from the previous post, we see the woman-bashing beat goes on. A Missouri pol has introduced a bill that would require women to get the written approval of a man in order to obtain an abortion; that is, the signature of the one what knocked her up. Rick Brattin, statesman from Kansas City, says the only exception to his man-mandating abortion restriction is in the case of "legitimate rape."
But as Mother Jones reports, Brattin is quick to assure us that he doesn't mean "legitimate rape" in the same way that his fellow Missouri statesman Todd Akin employed the term, during his disastrous run for the Senate. As you recall, Akin, delving deep into occult science, informed the world that a woman who really didn't want to experience the forcible insertion of hot salami could not get pregnant; ergo, any woman who claimed to have been impregnated by a rapist was, to put it in the most Christian terms possible, a lying slut of a whore who had it coming and wanted it anyway.
Brattin is much more enlightened. What he means by "legitimate rape" is that a woman reports the assault to the police, and "takes steps to prove it." Whether that means she must prove she was raped or that she must prove she at least tried to prove she was raped remains unclear. But rigor of jurisprudence is rarely a concern of our dedicated embryonists. The main thing is that women must seek the written approval of a man if they want to claim their constitutional right to an abortion. But if the babydaddy -- whoever he may be, as long as no lying slut can "prove" he raped her -- then the fetus-vehicle is out of luck.
Brattin adds another twist. Apparently, any woman who is raped by an abusive partner is also disqualified from the magnanimous "exemption" he provides to women seeking their own bodily freedom. As MJ reports:
When asked if he would support an exception for women whose partners are abusive, Brattin says, "I haven't really thought about that aspect of it." But he adds, "What does that have to do with the child's life? Just because it was an abusive relationship, does that mean the child should die?" Brattin notes that women in these situations can obtain protective custody once the child is born.
So if your guy beats you up then knocks you up, you must have his baby anyway. And if he's still ornery afterward, you can always get one of those protection thingies that have worked so well for the thousands of women who've been murdered by men under restraining orders.
Yes, it's just another day in the most advanced democracy the world has ever known -- or even imagined. I expect we'll be seeing Brattin in Congress soon enough -- or maybe even the White House, once the serpentine-entwined Bush and Clinton clans give their game of musical chairs a rest.
Tamara Loertscher had a feeling she was pregnant, so she went to see a doctor last summer. She didn’t have health insurance, but sought care anyway. It turns out that her suspicions were right, a pregnancy test revealed she was 14 weeks along.
After a urine test, Loertscher said she disclosed to her doctor that, because of a thyroid condition and depression, she had been self-medicating with marijuana and methamphetamine, but had stopped when she suspected she was pregnant. It didn’t matter. Loertscher lives in Wisconsin, and a law there allows the state to arrest, detain and incarcerate pregnant women found to be using drugs, or, in Loertscher’s case, pregnant women who have used drugs in the past.
Hospital workers reported her, and a process was set in motion. The state accused her of child abuse and appointed her fetus a lawyer. (This is a familiar pattern.) She was ordered into an in-patient treatment facility, despite the fact that she was no longer using drugs and had voluntarily sought medical care. She refused, and was soon incarcerated.
Of course, this “law” is neither designed nor intended to “protect the fetus.” The most cursory thought makes this clear. How many more fetuses will suffer from this law, from lack of proper prenatal care because women will be too afraid to tell doctors of their full medical history? Many, many more. This the true aim of this law is clear: it is to punish women.
A woman who has taken drugs is automatically a "fallen woman" in the eyes of shallow moralists who hold such sway in our society. She is more likely to be poor (though by no means in every case). She is more likely to be unmarried (though by no means in every case). She is more likely to have expressed her sexuality in some way that makes the angry, wounded, fearful, sexually insecure white men who dominate our legislatures feel uncomfortable. These pathetic wretches, who fear and hate any woman they can't control, would be pitiable in their brokenness -- if they didn't have the power of the state at their command, to use as a weapon to hurt those who threaten the weak, frayed stitching of their fragile psyches.
On an individual basis, one might deal with such a person with some understanding, take mitigating factors into account -- upbringing, personal experiences, cultural milieu, etc. -- and seek some way to reach them and repair them (as we all need to be reached and repaired in different ways). But when this disease of the soul clothes itself in the robes of state, turning personal prejudice into a monolithic hammer brought down on the heads of the innocent, then there can be no pity, no accommodation with such people. An anti-Semitic wretch on the streets of Munich who projects his personal pain onto the caricatured Other of "The Jew" is simply pathetic; but one who joins this inner putrescence with a mass movement, a public ideology, encouraging it in others and finally taking hold of the power to punish the Other for being the mirror of his own self-hatred -- this is an entirely different proposition.
And this dynamic is exactly what we are dealing with in movement to criminalize pregnant women. The idea that in 21st century America we would put a woman in jail for being concerned enough about her baby that she informs her doctor about the full range of physical factors that might affect its development -- that we would throw someone in jail for this -- is simply astounding. (And yes, I know that technically she was jailed for refusing to submit to the state's order that she enter the somewhat less stringent incarceration of a treatment facility. The fact remains that the state has the power to incarcerate a pregnant woman for speaking the truth about her medical history in order to help her unborn child.)
These laws are just part of a wide-ranging campaign to punish women -- for their fertility, for their sexuality, for asserting their freedom and equality. These efforts provoke genuine, virulent hatred in many people, and not just those of extreme religious or rightwing view (or, sadly, not just men). And some these haters stand on the commanding heights of American society, in politics and media.
What drove the man who killed Dr. George Tiller? Perhaps someone who had seen Tiller lambasted by one of the nation's leading media figures as someone "who will execute babies for $5,000" and protects "rapists impregnating 10-year-olds." Tiller's activities were compared by the leading national media figure to "the kind of stuff that happened in Mao's China and Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union." The multimillionaire media figure then promised that "we're going to try to stop Tiller," declaring that Tiller's Nazi-like atrocities were stripping the entire nation of its moral authority.
In other words, one the nation's most prominent and highly paid media figures told his national television audience that Dr. George Tiller was child-murdering protector of child-rapists, a figure of filth and evil on a par with Adolf Hitler. And on Sunday, someone filled with precisely that idea walked into Tiller's church -- his church -- and shot the doctor dead.
As Salon.com reports, Bill O'Reilly (aka "The Falafel of Love") has been "trying to stop" Tiller for years, since denouncing him as a Hitlerian child-murderer and child-rape accomplice on national television in 2006. We have no doubt that O'Reilly, who routinely trumpets his ability to move millions with his golden words (Is he not the man who, year after year, saves Christmas from the evil encroachments of Jews like George Soros?), will manfully step up to claim a large share of responsibility for the stormcloud of murderous demonization that has engulfed Tiller for years, and has now taken his life.
Come on, Bill, be a man: step up to the microphone, put your rubbery jowls right up there in the camera and tell us you are glad that your acolyte pumped some hot lead into George Tiller. After all, he was as bad as Hitler, right? If someone had gunned down Hitler, you wouldn't hide behind any milksoppery about "the process of law" or namby-pamby handwringing about "vigilantism," would you? Go ahead; dip your finger into one of the holes in Tiller's corpse, smear the blood on your cheek, and say it loud and proud: "We got him!"
The defining issue of modernity is control of women's fertility. It is this question – more than religion, politics, economics or the "clash of civilizations" – that forms the deepest dividing line in the world today. It is a line than cuts through every nation, every people, from the highest level of organized society down to, in many cases, the divided minds and emotions of individual men and women.
Control of fertility – and its active principle, sexuality – has always been an organizing principle of human society, of course, but modernity has presented the world with a revolutionary concept that overthrows millennia of received wisdom and tradition: namely, that an individual woman should control her own fertility. This notion destabilizes state structures and religious dogmas, and uproots cultural mores whose origins reach back to prehistoric times. It is a profoundly disturbing development in the life of humankind.
Little wonder, then, that anxieties over fertility and sexuality are the chief engines driving the frenzied and increasingly violent fundamentalist movements now sweeping through the world. It is here that extremists of every stripe make common cause against modernity. Almost every other aspect of "the modern" – science and technology, high finance, industrialization, etc. – has been absorbed, in one form or another, by the most "traditionalist" societies. But what today's fundamentalists – from Osama bin Laden to George W. Bush to Pope John Paul II, from the American-backed warlords of Afghanistan to the anti-American mullahs of Iran – cannot accept, at any cost, is the freedom of a woman's body.
This frenzy, this primitive fear – understandable perhaps in the face of such a wrenching upheaval – does not in itself make a fundamentalist an evil person. But it can – and does – lead them into evil: sometimes blindly, in ignorance and panic; but sometimes knowingly, with eyes wide open, a willing embrace of primitive emotions to serve selfish and cynical ends.
There are a great many aspects of today's world that are variously horrifying, ghastly, destructive and appalling -- and among the very worst is an idea that appears to be rapidly gaining support: the noxious notion that all questions relating to abortion rights should be returned to the states. For many reasons, only a few of which are discussed below, this idea is completely incoherent as a matter of political theory, and it undercuts any defense of individual rights on the most fundamental level. If you give a damn at all about the liberty of a single human being, you should oppose all such attempts to your last breath.
The human being to which I refer is not the developing fetus, but the woman who carries the child. I well understand that many people believe that the fetus is a human being long before birth, with all the rights that attend to that designation. In the political context, I consider all such beliefs irrelevant, no matter how sincerely and deeply held. Only one ultimate point matters here: whether you think the developing fetus is a human being or not, the fetus is contained in and supported by the woman's body. If the woman's body did not exist, neither would the fetus. Only the woman's existence makes that of the fetus possible.
The fetus only exists because of the woman's body -- not yours, not that of some possibly corrupt and stupid politician in Washington, and not the body of some possibly ignorant and venal politician in a state legislature. As I have watched this debate develop, and as I have considered with astonishment the increasingly byzantine efforts to " draw lines" about the point of viability, the time at which a full set of rights attaches to the fetus, and all the rest, I have become increasingly convinced that the right of the woman to control her own body when she is pregnant must be absolute up to the point of birth. All the attempts to craft legislation circumscribing that right prior to birth quickly become enmeshed in what are finally subjective claims that can be disputed into eternity, and impossible of proof in one direction or another.
Certainly, the woman's right to an abortion must be absolute in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. And even in the third trimester, up to the time of birth, that right must be absolute, and the decision must be that of the woman in consultation with those medical personnel she chooses. Yes, a decision to abort late in pregnancy may be agonizingly difficult, just as it may be at an earlier time -- but whatever agony is involved is that of the woman, not a politician or bureaucrat who is unjustly empowered to make decisions that affect someone else on the most profound level. The responsibility and the consequences are the woman's, and no one else's. The choice is also hers, and no one else's.
But little by little (and lots by lots), these choices , these rights are being stripped away from women, piece by piece, as this degraded, dystopian century grinds on and on.
[A quick but necessary digression: please note that this torture regimen has been lauded as "effective" and "life-saving" by the Obama Administration -- even after the release of the report; indeed, the Administration says that the fruits of these crimes still "inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day." Just bear that in mind as you read the reams of justified denunciations of the Bush Administration for the commission of these particular crimes by this particular agency. The Bush thugs should be excoriated -- and prosecuted -- for their crimes. But a multitude of crimes in many forms (including torture) are still being committed by the Terror War machine under Obama -- the man who has stoutly shielded his predecessors from prosecution and now even praises some of their worst crimes.]
But of course there is nothing new in report's uncovering of the psychologists' role. (Except for one element: the fact that these two sinister quacks were paid a whopping $81 million for helping the United States government torture defenseless captives and produce garbage intelligence.) Anyone who wanted to know about their Mengele-style perversion of medical ethics could have read about it in reputable mainstream publications years ago. (Actually, this is also true of almost all the incidents and practices detailed in the report. Anyone who didn't know of these things before now -- especially in the political-media world -- simply didn't want to know of these things.) There were also other psychologists and medical personnel involved in the program after it got started, as Mark Benjamin detailed at Salon.com back in 2007.
In that same year, the New Yorker's Jane Mayer produced an extensive report on the wide-ranging Terror War torture regimen. The article should have produced a firestorm of outrage and aggressive, in-depth, high-profile investigations from, say, the U.S. Senate, which was then in the control of the Democrats. But as we know, her revelations sank like a stone. And it is very, very likely that the same thing will happen with the newly released (and, it must always be noted, heavily truncated, censored and incomplete) Senate report. Indeed, McClatchy is already reporting that the incoming Republican-controlled Senate will gladly let the report "gather dust," taking no follow-up action. This stance will doubtless please their Terror War partners in the White House, who fought against the release of the report -- and who certainly aren't going to do anything about it.
For those who have been following and chronicling the rise of the gulag since its inception (back in the days when its instigators and practitioners were still happy to brag to cheerleading newspapers about "taking the gloves off" and going to "the dark side"), there is not a lot that is new in Mayer's piece. But she has brought it all together with devastating thoroughness and clarity.
Mayer mentions tellingly -- but briefly -- one key aspect of Bush's torture chambers that has been largely overlooked: the key role played by a couple of psychologists in drawing up the sinister regimen (which was also based in part on KGB practices): CIA contractors James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. Mark Benjamin of Salon has much more on this pair, who devoted their clinical skills to devising ways to destroy a captive's mind -- in the somewhat bizarre conviction that a destroyed mind can somehow produce useful intelligence. (Benjamin in turn drew on a 2005 piece by Mayer about Mitchell and the Bush Regime's Mengelean use of medical personnel in interrogations.)
Mitchell and Jessen helped run the military's SERE program, originally designed to teach American forces how to resist and survive torture inflicted on them by evil regimes or terrorists. But it turns out that the Rumsfeld Pentagon and its mad scientists were using U.S. soldiers as guinea pigs to help devise their own torture program. For years, the Pentagon flatly denied using SERE tactics on the captives in the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp, and in Afghanistan and Iraq. This was, of course, a lie. As Benjamin reports:
Until last month, the Army had denied any use of SERE training for prisoner interrogations. "We do not teach interrogation techniques," Carol Darby, chief spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, said last June when Salon asked about a document that appeared to indicate that instructors from the SERE school taught their methods to interrogators at Guantánamo.
But the declassified DoD inspector general's report described initiatives by high-level military officials to incorporate SERE concepts into interrogations. And it said that psychologists affiliated with SERE training -- people like Mitchell and Jessen -- played a critical role. According to the inspector general, the Army Special Operations Command's Psychological Directorate at Fort Bragg first drafted a plan to have the military reverse-engineer SERE training in the summer of 2002. At the same time, the commander of Guantánamo determined that SERE tactics might be used on detainees at the military prison. Then in September 2002, the Army Special Operations Command and other SERE officials hosted a "SERE psychologist conference" at Fort Bragg to brief staff from the military's prison at Guantánamo on the use of SERE tactics.
And Mayer notes:
The SERE program was designed strictly for defense against torture regimes, but the C.I.A.’s new team used its expertise to help interrogators inflict abuse. “They were very arrogant, and pro-torture,” a European official knowledgeable about the program said. “They sought to render the detainees vulnerable—to break down all of their senses. It takes a psychologist trained in this to understand these rupturing experiences.”
The use of psychologists was also considered a way for C.I.A. officials to skirt measures such as the Convention Against Torture. The former adviser to the intelligence community said, “Clearly, some senior people felt they needed a theory to justify what they were doing. You can’t just say, ‘We want to do what Egypt’s doing.’ When the lawyers asked what their basis was, they could say, ‘We have Ph.D.s who have these theories.’”
… Mitchell and Jessen were not experts sought for their dispassionate advice in determining the best policy options for government officials. All the "experts" employed by the Bush Regime are just dupes … or, as with the psychologists, willing stooges, brought in to act as window dressing for policies already decided upon. Bush and Cheney and their minions wanted to torture people -- not only for the psychosexual kick these genuine perverts get from it but also because it was a central element in their drive to establish an authoritarian executive unfettered by any law. They could not, as a matter of "principle," submit to the authority of the Geneva Conventions, American law or Constitutional precepts. They had plenty of scientists and practiced interrogators on hand to tell them that the KGB-SERE system was useless -- indeed, counterproductive -- in producing actionable intelligence. But they chose to listen only to those who told them what they wanted to hear, whose pseudo-science buttressed decisions they had already taken.
I finished that 2007 piece with a paragraph that still holds true today, as a description of the kind of people who hold power in our blood-soaked bipartisan imperial system:
They don't want to govern; they want to rule. They simply cannot be treated -- on any issue whatsoever -- as an ordinary government engaged in ordinary tussles over politics and policy. They are not a government in any traditional sense of the word. They are the criminal vanguard of a radical movement that is now holding the nation hostage. And any political "opposition" that does not recognize this fact is worse than useless; it is, as we've said before, complicit in the gang's crimes.
A truncated version of the Senate investigation into the CIA's Terror War torture regime has finally been released. Even in its limited form, it details an operation of vile depravity, one which would plunge a civilized nation into a profound crisis of conscience and spark a deep and anguished debate on how best to transform a system of government -- and a national ethos -- that could lead to such putrid crimes. It would also occasion a wide-ranging effort to subject the originators, perpetrators and accomplices of the torture program to the full measure of legal punishment they deserve.
Needless to say, nothing like that is going to happen in America. Indeed, even before the report was released, the New York Times -- the standard-bearer and shaper of "decent" liberal thought for the nation -- was splashing an opinion piece on the front page of its website, demanding that we "Pardon Bush and Those Who Tortured." This was the very first "think piece" pushed by the Times on the morning of the report's release.
I'm sure that by the end of the day, the dust will have already settled into the usual ruts. The Hard Right -- and its pork-laden publicists -- will denounce the investigation and continue to champion torture, as they have done in the weeks running up to the release. The somewhat Softer Right that constitutes the "liberal" wing of the ruling Imperial Party (and its outriders in the "progressive" media) will wring their hands for a bit -- as they did during the multitude of previous revelations about systematic torture, White House death squads, Stasi-surpassing surveillance programs, war profiteering, military aggression and so on. Then they will return to what is always their main business at hand: making sure that someone from their faction of the Imperial Party is in the driver's seat of the murderous War-and-Fear Machine that has now entirely engulfed American society.
Speaking of the Machine, what has been the reaction of the current driver, the belaurelled prince of progressivism, Barack Obama? He sent out the present head of the CIA, John Brennan, an "Obama confidant," as the Guardian notes, to … defend the use of torture.
You see, one of the main points of the report was that the abominable practices ordered at the highest levels of the American government and used far more widely than previously admitted were not even effective. This, of course, is the most damning criticism one can make of the soul-drained technocrats who staff the Empire. Morality and humanity be damned; the real problem was that torture didn't work. It produced reams of garbage and falsehood from hapless victims who, like torture victims the world over, from time immemorial, simply regurgitated what they thought their tormentors wanted to hear.
So in the end, the torture regime was not only ineffective, it was counterproductive: this is the report's conclusion. But it is this that the Technocrat-in-Chief cannot bear. And so he sent his confidant Brennan out to refute this heinous charge. Brennan actually got up in public and said, openly, that torture did work and that it's a good thing:
“Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom EITs were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives. The intelligence gained from the program was critical to our understanding of al-Qaida and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day,” Brennan said.
"EIT" is, of course, the technocratic euphemism for the systematic brutalization of helpless, captive human beings by wretched cowards armed with the power of the state. Brennan -- Obama's confidant -- says, in the name of the president, that torture "saved lives." What's more, he admits that Obama is still using the fruits of the torture program to "inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day."
Let's say this again: the conclusion of the Barack Obama administration is that the use of torture is a good thing, and that it is still "informing" its Terror War operations "to this day."
One of the chief objections mouthed by the torture champions opposed to the release of the report was that public exposure of these crimes would rouse anger and anti-American feeling around the world. This was always a specious argument, of course; the people targeted by Washington's Terror War have always known full well what is being done to them and theirs. This latest report will merely be another confirmation, another tranche of evidence to add to the mountain of war crime and atrocity they have experienced.
No, it is not the report itself, but the reaction of the American establishment -- particularly the Obama Administration itself -- that will be the true scandal, a new outrageous slap in the face. A door opens up on a sickening chamber of horrors …. and all that Obama can say is that torture is good; yea, it is even salvific, it saves lives, it is good and effective and necessary and we need it.
Torture is good. That is Barack Obama's takeaway from the Senate report. It is astounding -- or would be astounding, if we were not living in an age given over to state terror and elite rapine.
Eric Garner. Another unarmed black man gone down for no good goddamn reason, with not even a charge for those who caused his death. Not even a charge, not a trial, no open public examination of the facts. I’m not going to pontificate on this issue, because there are a multitude of African-American voices who can speak more directly and eloquently to this situation than yet another middle-aged white man. I’ll just point to this piece I wrote a few months ago “following the police berzerkery in Ferguson, Missouri.”
The post dealt with the fact that this kind of thing has been going on for a long, long time — strange fruit bearing on a multitude of blood-soaked trees. This particular post focused on the emblematic case of George Jackson, killed in San Quentin in 1971. But it’s a piece that could have been written — and could be written, and will be written — every few weeks, year after year after year.
As noted in the piece, in 1960, when George Jackson was sent to prison — “for one year to life” — for a $70 robbery, there were 200,000 people in prison in the United States. When he was killed in 1971, there were 300,000 people in prison. By 2011, there were 2.3 million people imprisoned in the United States — and more than 7 million human beings under some form of correctional supervision: prison, parole or probation.
Is this the picture of a healthy society? An “exceptional” society?
So now there is no money left for the Syrian refugees created by the civil war fomented and fanned for years on end by Western governments. (Who, bizarrely, then prosecute any of their citizens who go off to fight in the war their governments promote as a noble and worthy cause.) For want of $64 million — the amount of money the US spends in an eyeblink on its drone campaigns and death squads, the kind of money that’s just chump change for, say, oligarchs who prowl the world destabilizing governments and monetizing misery for their own pockets — the UN says it must halt a vital support program for Syrian refugees.
What is happening in Syria is sickening and surreal. Almost all of the public discourse surrounding this vast and vile slaughterhouse has been completely divorced from reality. The critical work of As’ad AbuKhalil, the “Angry Arab,” has been one of the very few places where one can thread the labyrinth of bullshit that all sides in this shameful conflict spew forth.
Western governments are tiring of Muslim wars. They are also tiring of their victims. The UN is reported to have run out of money to relieve the refugee tide now spreading across the Middle East. Some 4 million people are living in camps reliant on the UN’s World Food Programme, not to mention other camps caused by wars in Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic. A million Syrians have fled to Lebanon and a million to Jordan, creating new desert cities of indolence and disease.
Now the cash vouchers that supply liquidity to the camps and sustain food supplies are to end. Some £500m has been pumped into the Jordanian camps by the UN alone and money has run out. Food rations are to be cut and host governments, facing an apparently ceaseless human migration, are starting to close their borders. The means by which the world relieves such suffering are seizing up. …
The US, Britain and Nato played a major part in disrupting the region, indulging in “wars of choice” in Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. For a decade they toppled regimes and either fought or backed insurgents with bombs and troops. Peace they did not bring.
There was always money for military action. America spent $3tn fighting in Iraq. Britain spent £40bn on Afghanistan alone, under the obscene rubric of “humanitarian intervention”. David Cameron yearned to go to war in Syria. Yet Britain’s eagerness for war contrasts with an aversion to the consequences, whether frantic young Afghans in Calais camps, Libyans adrift in the Mediterranean or Iraqi translators desperate for asylum.
What is happening across the “Arc of Conflict” that now takes in the Middle East, the Horn of African and North Africa (and penetrating ever deeper into the African continent) is almost beyond description. It is a madhouse engineered by the most “advanced,” "sophisticated" and “enlightened” “democratic” governments in the world. They have gone into country after country and reduced them to howling chaos — Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Libya (and the countries now groaning from the knock-on effects from these inhumane interventions, such as Mali, Nigeria and Kenya). They do it for profit. They do it for the political and personal (and who knows, the psychosexual) aggrandizement of the pathetic wounded souls who spend their days climbing the blood-greased pole of power. (And who are then cheered and served by the even more pathetic lickspittles in our national media and political circles.) None of it — not a single bit of it — is related in the slightest way to the peace, prosperity or “national security” of the people they purport to represent.
We live in a time when the entire system of government in the “enlightened” West is based on lies. Not just the usual hypocrisies and the all-too-human falling short of a nation’s professed ideals, but on knowing, deliberate, cold-blooded lies. There is no way that Barack Obama or David Cameron actually believe their policies are helping their own people or the people they are “liberating” or “aiding” in their murderous campaigns, or that they are advancing the ideals of freedom and humanitarianism. While they may be moral cretins, they are too intelligent, too educated, too aware to fool themselves on these points. They know they are serving a monstrous system of elite domination, a system that doesn't give one good goddamn how many refugees it creates, or how many of these non-entities wither and die because of their policies. And our leaders serve this system gladly, eagerly; “man, they did make love to this employment.”
So let the refugees die. Who cares? The main thing is that the war goes on — in Syria, in Iraq, in Somalia, in Afghanistan, where the hell ever. Who cares? None of these nations matter. None of these people matter. Nor do the “folks at home.” Barack Obama and David Cameron — and all of their wanna-be successors — know that their policies are simply creating more terrorists, more extremism, more violence, more repression.
They know this, all of them, across the whole “Anglosphere” political class. They know it. But they do not care. So let us return this disregard to them. Let us not care what happens to them. Let us not fret about, OMG, which “team” of murderers and moral idiots is gonna win at the next election? We already know who will win: the profiteers of death and domination.
Andy Worthington asks a burning question: “Why is Shaker Aamer still at Gitmo?” And after detailing the case of Aamer — an innocent man sold to the American security forces by the human traffickers who partnered with the CIA in Afghanistan, a man who was cleared for release from the American concentration camp seven years ago — Worthington suggests the likely answer:
Aamer knows too much about the torture regime at Gitmo, and has been too vocal in standing up for fellow prisoners throughout his illegal captivity — and has made it clear he will continue to speak out against the inhumane conditions in the camp.Worthington’s piece should be read in full, but here are a few excerpts:
Imagine being imprisoned, year after year, despite having been told that your captors had undertaken a high-level review process and no longer wanted to hold you?
At the United States’ detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, is facing just that situation. More than seven years ago, the George W. Bush administration approved Aamer for release from the detention facility. Five years ago, the high-level interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force, appointed by President Barack Obama when he took office, also approved him for release (PDF) and told him he would be freed, along with 125 others, once the necessary arrangements were made.
When releasing its illegal captives, the United States insists that its victims’ home countries (or some other country) will be willing to take them. As Worthington notes, for seven years, the British government has been calling for Aamer to be returned to the UK, his home country. Thus even by the perverted rules of the American concentration camp system, there should be no bar to Aamer’s released. He’s been cleared by the Bush administration; he’s been cleared by the Obama administration; his home country stands ready to welcome him, and has continually called for his release. So why he is still be held captive? Worthington writes:
We know that Aamer has been an eloquent defender of prisoners’ rights from the moment he was handed over to the U.S. by bounty hunters in Afghanistan, where he had traveled with his family to provide humanitarian aid. We know that he has been a leader in the prison, because of his outspoken criticism of conditions at Guantánamo, and has tales of torture and abuse to share with the world.
Perhaps this fear of embarrassment is the only thing preventing the United States from ending Aamer’s 13-year imprisonment and allowing him to rejoin his wife and children in Britain.
A man sold into captivity by crooks working with spies to facilitate the vast, endless expansion of America’s imperial war state (a plan laid out years ago by some of the top leaders of the American elite, as we have noted here so often before): this is the reality of the American state. This is what we are now, this is what we do. Yet people still get exercised, on both left and right, over the question of which bloodstained murderer will preside over this slaughterhouse of human values for the next four years. They still think this is the democracy they were taught about in school. They still think that if we can just get the right peachy-keen person in charge of this world-ravaging war machine, then all will be well. I confess that I can no longer fathom such wilful blindness to reality, such utter moral idiocy.
Moscow-based American writer and critic John Freedman has penned a tremendously powerful piece on his blog, Russian Culture in Landmarks. Writing a response to an article by Russian-born writer Martha Gessen in the New York Times, Freedman has encapsulated, in so many ways, the experience of those of us who, in this grim and ugly century, have "lost" both our countries -- the America that gave us birth, and the Russia which, as with Rilke, became our "spiritual homeland" -- to bizarre, brutal, murderous, belligerent, xenophobic, mean-spirited, wilfully ignorant perversions of themselves. In America, in Russia, and in so many other places around the world, what is best in human nature has indeed been “captured by aliens and stuffed into a trunk” — to borrow Freedman’s chillingly apt evocation of the poem by Alexander Timofeevsky.
Russia has been my intellectual, emotional and aesthetic raison d’etre for many, many decades. I have lived in Moscow for many decades. I’ve published a lot of books about Russian culture. I have been followed by the KGB and the FSB. I have been, essentially, kidnapped and interrogated. My phones and my apartments have been tapped. My car has been stolen (probably by the authorities), I have been recruited openly and otherwise to be a snitch. I have lost most of what little money I had in various defaults, financial crashes and monetary reforms. I have been the victim of vandalism and slur campaigns. And through it all I didn’t give a damn. Because my love for Russia and its culture was that strong. It was that strong. All that other crap was just that, crap. All I cared about, figuratively speaking, was Pushkin. Erdman. Dostoevsky. Tolstoy. Gogol. Kurochkin. Korkia. Klavdiev. Mukhina. Ginkas. Bakshi. Krymov. Yukhananov. It’s unfair to begin a list because the list must stop somewhere and the riches of Russian culture, the riches that have fed me for most of my adult life are such that the list could damn near be endless.
So when Masha Gessen writes about love, I know what she means. I have lived that love. And that love has held me strong through trying times. And then “the present” came. I’m going to say “the present” came in late 2010. It’s an arbitrary choice, but it’s more or less when Vladimir Putin truly began pushing his people over the edge and some of them began pushing back. What we have witnessed since then is something akin to the mayhem of a slaughterhouse gone mad. The arrests, the harassment of peaceful citizens, the murders of journalists and lawyers attempting to do their job, the bizarre machine of lawmaking that seeks to ban the human being from thinking at all (outlawing curse words, outlawing the questioning of official history, outlawing “propaganda of a gay lifestyle”), the use of hatred to inspire love of country, the vilification of anyone daring to have his or her own opinion, the use of lies, lies, lies, bold, brazen lies as an excuse for anything the state wishes to do …
But the bigger point is this – as this tsunami of insanity has inundated those of us living in Russia, the worst, the most horrible, the most untenable, the most inexcusable aspect of it all has been the way the vast majority of Russians have either turned a blind eye – “Oh, I don’t know anything about it!” – or embraced it …
I have been accused – by former friends and by utter strangers – of being a spy, of being here to undermine Russia, of being one of those from the West who has destroyed Russian values.
As this cacophony of nonsense and words built up, I found myself drifting farther and farther from my love until we lost touch with one another. This was followed by despair and utter confusion fueled by outrage and deep, gnawing sorrow. One cannot live like that. One either loves or one dies.
Reading Freedman’s words, I was thinking, Yes, the same thing has happened in America too: the wilful, bellicose blindness, and the widespread embracing of horrors that in my own lifetime would have once been considered monstrously “un-American,” not to mention evil and inhumane by any moral standard. And of course, I’d spent the last 13 years — since my first columns questioning and denouncing the militarist American empire in the aftermath of 9/11 — being called a traitor, a subverter out to destroy America and its sacred values. etc. Then, reading further, I saw that Freedman also recognized the similarities:
I am not setting myself up in opposition to [Gessen] at all … On the contrary, I share with her that love and loss of it. It’s traumatic, believe me. Moreover, Gessen is talking about losing her own native culture and a feeling for it. … I also want to say that I, as an American, can fully share Gessen’s disillusionment with her own native culture. I mean, let’s be honest, I am writing this as streets in many U.S. cities are burning once again, because … yes, again, a young black man or boy has been shot by a white policeman who gets off scot-free. This is to say nothing of my disgust over the complete collapse of the American political system, which now has been simplified to this: He with the most dollars wins (notice I don’t bother to add “she” because it’s always a “he”). I, too, like Masha Gessen gazing upon a home culture that nurtured her and then scorned her, know that horrible feeling of realizing that my home is no longer my home. The shock of realizing that your home has been lost while you were making tea, flirting with the neighbor, or scrubbing the toilet, has never been described better than by the great poet Alexander Timofeevsky, who wrote in his long, narrative poem Tram Car No. 37: Russia was pilfered by aliens. In five minutes they beamed her up, Squashed her down, and stuck her in a trunk. Meanwhile, as you and I were busy dreaming, Somebody replaced her with a counterfeit.
These are grim times. Monstrous, ugly, implacable — and seemingly immovable — systems of power hold increasingly brutal sway over vast areas of the earth`; a monstrous weight crushing hope and light out of the future. But as Freedman writes, you either love, or die. One way Freedman combats our age’s despair and soul-death is through his blog, which focuses on the deepest currents of Russian culture, on what remains eternally true — worthy of love, expressing the always-provisional, eternally-failing but ever-striving desire to find and hold and nurture and enhance “the better angels of our nature.”
Although Freedman’s post is very personal, and deals mainly with Russia, it has an insight that reaches beyond the particulars of person and place and geopolitics. It calls us back from the pit of our despair, calls us back to the fight, the only fight that matters: the struggle to deepen the meaning of what it means to be human, in ourselves and in our relation to all others.
Oh dear. Rand Paul, favorite candidate of those who dream of an anti-imperial coalition of hardcore libertarians and the antiwar left, has popped many a bubble this week with his proposed Senate bill to declare war on ISIS.
Supporters will doubtless say that Paul (like another young politician on the make who served as a blank screen for his followers' aspirations for genuine hope and change) is merely playing "11th dimensional chess" with the move, trying to put America's war machine back on a Constitutional footing, while outflanking potential rivals for the GOP nomination who might otherwise have painted him as "soft" on killing large amounts of people with massive amounts of expensive and profitable machinery.
But Paul is not simply calling the war machine's bluff. As Antiwar.com points out, he has already been supporting the American return to war in Iraq; he now wants to codify it, constitutionalize it -- and, remarkably, expand it beyond the admittedly porous "limitations" that the Warmonger-in-Chief has placed on the effort so far.
As with every other intervention in the West's great Terror War, even the militarists' own intelligence services are pointing out the obvious fact that the war on ISIS is actually strengthening extremism throughout the region and elsewhere. Yet Paul -- who has garnered broad national interest chiefly through his antiwar and anti-imperial rhetoric -- wants to double down on the new war. He could have moved to have Obama impeached for waging unconstitutional war -- but he chose instead to seek legitimization and expansion of America's decades-long atrocity in Iraq.
The war bill is yet another confirmation that Paul is damn sure running for president in 2016. More shrewd than his father, he knows that you must prove your bloody bona fides to the powers-that-be if you want a chance to take your turn at the top. No doubt the keepers of the coffers of our war profiteers are already looking favorably in young Rand's direction.
As so many have done before him, Paul has decided that state power -- so dreadsome elsewhere, especially if it threatens to restrict the rapacious greed of the powerful in any way or, god forbid, make the least effort at helping anybody -- is fine and dandy when it's used to slaughter people. Especially if you hope to have your own finger on the trigger.
"My brother's blood is crying from the grave but you can't hear the voice I stand in jeopardy every hour, Wonderin' what reason you have to rejoice.
Look at your feet see where they've been to Look at your hands, see what they've been into… Yonder comes sin..." – B. Dylan
Patrick Smith, man on fire, takes on a theme we were were discussing here the other day -- the true nature and origin of terrorism in our benighted Age of Terror. In his piece for Salon.com, Smith focuses on the outrageous and brazen lies of the American political and media establishment concerning the "Arab Spring" and its disastrous aftermath. As Smith points out, in every case where Washington took a hand in events, the outcome has been catastrophe, chaos, repression and -- terror. The whole piece is worth reading in full, especially the detail on the American-led imposition of a horrific tyranny in Egypt, where the people had foolishly elected the wrong person in an open democratic vote and needed to have the proper leader installed for them. From "We are the terrorists too":
Take this apart. Everywhere there is crisis, violence and suffering, Washington has been active. Syria, Libya, Egypt, Iraq: All these fall into this category. Where the Obama administration and its covey of neoliberal evangelists in the State Department have allowed the events set in motion during the Arab Spring to take their course, there is at least some semblance of calm, if not better. Let Tunisia, now developing as a secular democracy, stand as the control in this experiment.
And let Egypt stand as the most grotesque, boldest-faced display of Washington’s anti-democratic intent to be found anywhere in the region. Here the lines are most clearly drawn. Here the generals within and the meddlers without got the subversion work done in front of our eyes. And here neither Secretary of State Kerry nor National Security Adviser Susan Rice nor President Obama has anything to say as Egyptians surrender all hope of a return to elected government in exchange for a reign of terror worse than those of the dictators who provoked the Tahrir Square protests.
A reign of terror. One grows heartily sick of this term in all its forms — terrorists, terrorism and so on. All movements opposed to Western interventions in the Middle East are terrorist. The Muslim Brotherhood, explicitly opposed to terror and violence and with a long record attesting to this, is terrorist. The dissident populations of eastern Ukraine are terrorists, for that matter. The word is deployed now merely to deprive those so named of any dimensionality or purpose that requires understanding. It cancels all historical perspective and altogether any recognition of causality. As a standing rule I never use it.
But I do in the case of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s Egypt, advisedly. This guy may sit in the presidential palace, but if Egypt since he overthrew Mohammad Morsi in July 2013 is not a horror house of terror, we better call in the lexicographers. There is simply no other way to describe Egypt as he rules it. … Mass murders in public places, middle-of-the-night arrests, show trials, the en masse sentencing of hundreds of innocent people, the blanket muzzling of the press, the coercion of an entire society into a silence Stalin could not improve upon — the list is long.
Yes, once again, in Egypt as elsewhere, the chickens have come home, the blowback has arrived, and it's time to pay the piper: