Written by Chris Floyd
Monday, 14 September 2009 10:00
The Economist -- the veritable Bible of the Anglo-American Establishment -- paints a grim portrait of the Iraqi regime installed at the point of American guns: a sinkhole of torture, execution, increasing repression and brazen power-grabs.
The Shia-led government has overseen a ballooning of the country’s security apparatus. Human-rights violations are becoming more common. In private many Iraqis, especially educated ones, are asking if their country may go back to being a police state.
Old habits from Saddam Hussein’s era are becoming familiar again. Torture is routine in government detention centres. “Things are bad and getting worse, even by regional standards,” says Samer Muscati, who works for Human Rights Watch, a New York-based lobby. His outfit reports that, with American oversight gone (albeit that the Americans committed their own shameful abuses in such places as Abu Ghraib prison), Iraqi police and security people are again pulling out fingernails and beating detainees, even those who have already made confessions. A limping former prison inmate tells how he realised, after a bout of torture in a government ministry that lasted for five days, that he had been relatively lucky. When he was reunited with fellow prisoners, he said he saw that many had lost limbs and organs.
The domestic-security apparatus is at its busiest since Saddam was overthrown six years ago, especially in the capital. In July the Baghdad police reimposed a nightly curfew, making it easier for the police, taking orders from politicians, to arrest people disliked by the Shia-led government. In particular, they have been targeting leaders of the Awakening Councils, groups of Sunnis, many of them former insurgents and sympathisers, who have helped the government to drive out or capture Sunni rebels who refused to come onside. Instead of being drawn into the new power set-up, many of them in the past few months have been hauled off to prison. In the most delicate cases, the arrests are being made by an elite unit called the Baghdad Brigade, also known as “the dirty squad”, which is said to report to the office of the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki.
There are more details in the full story. However, the Economist is being a bit demure in attributing the current degradation to the machinations of the al-Maliki regime alone. The United States has been deeply, directly and instrumentally involved in the dirty work of the Iraqi regime since the very beginning of the conquest. In fact, the Iraqi security forces whose atrocities are detailed in the Economist were created by the Americans, as I noted in a Moscow Times article way back in August 2003:
Here's a headline you don't see every day: "War Criminals Hire War Criminals to Hunt Down War Criminals."
Perhaps that's not the precise wording used by the Washington Post this week, but it is the absolute essence of its story about the Bush Regime's new campaign to put Saddam's murderous security forces on America's payroll.
Yes, the sahibs in Bush's Iraqi Raj are now doling out American tax dollars to hire the murderers of the infamous Mukhabarat and other agents of the Baathist Gestapo – perhaps hundreds of them. The logic, if that's the word, seems to be that these bloodstained "insiders" will lead their new imperial masters to other bloodstained "insiders" responsible for bombing the UN headquarters in Baghdad – and killing another dozen American soldiers while Little George was playing with his putts during his month-long Texas siesta.
Naturally, the Iraqi people – even the Bush-appointed leaders of the Potemkin "Governing Council" – aren't exactly overjoyed at seeing Saddam's goons return, flush with American money and firepower. And they're certainly not reassured by the fact that the Bushists have also re-opened Saddam's most notorious prison, the dread Abu Ghraib, and are now, Mukhabarat-like, filling it with Iraqis – men, women and children as young as 11 – seized from their homes or plucked off the street to be held incommunicado, indefinitely, without due process, just like the old days. As The Times reports, weeping relatives who dare approach the gleaming American razor-wire in search of their "disappeared" loved ones are referred to a crude, hand-written sign pinned to a spike: "No visits are allowed, no information will be given and you must leave." Perhaps an Iraqi Akhmatova will do justice to these scenes one day.
It didn't take a genius to see, in August 2003, what would happen when the American conquerors began filling the old torture chambers of Abu Ghraib with innocent captives. The International Red Cross later estimated that some 70-90 percent of the thousands of prisoners rounded up by the Americans in Iraq were not guilty of any kind of crime whatsoever, much less any connection to terrorism or the insurgency.
But these tortures -- which the Economist does at least mention in passing -- are just the tip of a very large slag-heap of atrocities. The United States has also been running its own "dirty squads" from the very start, as we detailed here last year in A Furnace Seal'd: The Wondrous Death Squads of the American Elite.
That post was occasioned by the release of Bob Woodward's latest lumbering tome from the deepest bowels of the Beltway. As we noted last year:
Woodward revealed -- or, rather, confirmed -- the existence of what he called the key element to the "success" of Bush's escalation of the war crime in Iraq: a "secret killing program" aimed at assassinating anyone arbitrarily deemed a "terrorist" by the leaders of the foreign forces occupying the conquered land.
In a TV appearance to puff the book, Woodward celebrated the arbitrary murder, by methods unknown, of people designated "terrorists," by criteria unknown, as "a wonderful example of American ingenuity solving a problem in war, as we often have." ....
What is most noteworthy about the "revelations" is that they have provoked no controversy at all. The United States admits that it is operating secret death squads in Iraq, and this barely rates a passing mention in the press, and certainly no comment whatsoever on the campaign trail, no debate among the national leadership. And this despite the fact that, as Woodward makes clear, the targets of the American death squads are not merely "terrorists," as the general public broadly understands the term -- i.e., religious extremists in the al Qaeda mold -- but anyone arbitrarily designated an "insurgent" or a leader in "the resistance."
That is, anyone who resists the invasion and occupation of his native land is deemed a legitimate target for a secret death squad. For execution without charges, without trial, without evidence. And this, to Woodward, is "wonderful" and "amazing." By this logic, of course, the Nazis were fully justified in murdering leaders of the French resistance in World War II. The British would certainly have been justified in sneaking into George Washington's house and killing the insurgent leader in his bed. (And his wife too, no doubt, as an acceptable level of "collateral damage.") In fact, Woodward sternly warns members -- members, mind you, not just leaders -- of "the resistance" to "get your rear end out of town;" i.e., leave your native land or else be murdered in your bed by secret assassins of the occupying power.
This is the heroic, honorable stance of the American elite in the 21st century. What the Nazis did, we do, and for the same reason: to secure the forcible occupation of a land we conquered through an unprovoked war of aggression. It is indeed wonderful and amazing that such a state of affairs -- such an abyss of depravity -- is accepted so calmly by the great and good among us....and by tens of millions of our fellow citizens.
The 2008 post goes on to detail just some of the vast amount of information, readily available in mainstream newspapers and magazines, about the American use of death squads and "paramilitaries" to carry out "extrajudicial killings" of people accused -- by someone, somewhere, for some reason or no reason at all -- of being "terrorists" or "insurgents," or "bad guys," to use the playground parlance so favored by our high priests and their media acolytes. These killings, these "dirty squads," have been part of the occupation of Iraq since the beginning, as has the systematic use of torture and the unlawful detention of innocent people. That al-Maliki is carrying on the practices and policies of those who put him into power should come as no surprise -- not even to the Economist.
Written by Chris Floyd
Saturday, 12 September 2009 14:41
"I took some flesh home and called it my son."
The NATO airstrike that killed more than 70 civilians near Kunduz earlier this month was a deadly confluence of two primary elements that characterize the living hell of Afghanistan: relentless violence and crushing poverty.
The villagers were slaughtered while trying to siphon gasoline from two fuel tankers that the Taliban had hijacked from the occupation forces. The trucks were stranded in the ford of a shallow river. Unable to get the trucks out, the insurgents invited local villagers to come gather the fuel for themselves. The prospect of salvaging a can or two of free fuel to help them get through the coming winter drove many of the villagers out into the dead of night. At about 1 a.m, an airstrike ordered by a German commander struck the fuel tankers and the surrounding area.
The result was a firestorm that ripped the villagers to pieces and roasted their bodies beyond all recognition. But that was not the end of it, nor, perhaps, the worst of it. For then the survivors of the slain had to come to the smoking field and try to find their loved ones amidst the gruesome, ungodly residue.
The Guardian's Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, who has contributed some of the most remarkable reporting from the Terror War's fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan, spoke to some of the survivors. Their stories speak with bleak and harrowing eloquence of the reality of the war, beyond all the pious rhetoric and strategic reviews and "serious" analysis in the imperial courts.
Below are some excerpts, but you should read the entire piece, which was the top story, blazoned across the top of the front page, in the print edition of Saturday's Guardian. Saturday editions of UK papers are generally the equivalent of Sunday editions of US paper, the big showcase edition of the week. Try to imagine a major American paper giving up such prime real estate to let the victims of the "good war" in Afghanistan tell their story in their own words.
From the Guardian:
At first light last Friday, in the Chardarah district of Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan, the villagers gathered around the twisted wreckage of two fuel tankers that had been hit by a Nato airstrike. They picked their way through a heap of almost a hundred charred bodies and mangled limbs which were mixed with ash, mud and the melted plastic of jerry cans, looking for their brothers, sons and cousins. They called out their names but received no answers. By this time, everyone was dead.
What followed is one of the more macabre scenes of this or any war. The grief-stricken relatives began to argue and fight over the remains of the men and boys who a few hours earlier had greedily sought the tanker's fuel. Poor people in one of the world's poorest countries, they had been trying to hoard as much as they could for the coming winter.
"We didn't recognise any of the dead when we arrived," said Omar Khan, the turbaned village chief of Eissa Khail. "It was like a chemical bomb had gone off, everything was burned. The bodies were like this," he brought his two hands together, his fingers curling like claws. "There were like burned tree logs, like charcoal.
"The villagers were fighting over the corpses. People were saying this is my brother, this is my cousin, and no one could identify anyone."
So the elders stepped in. They collected all the bodies they could and asked the people to tell them how many relatives each family had lost.
A queue formed. One by one the bereaved gave the names of missing brothers, cousins, sons and nephews, and each in turn received their quota of corpses. It didn't matter who was who, everyone was mangled beyond recognition anyway. All that mattered was that they had a body to bury and perform prayers upon.
...Jan Mohammad, an old man with a white beard and green eyes, said angrily: "I ran, I ran to find my son because nobody would give me a lift. I couldn't find him."
He dropped his head on his palm that was resting on the table, and started banging his head against his white mottled hand. When he raised his head his eyes were red and tears were rolling down his cheek: "I couldn't find my son, so I took a piece of flesh with me home and I called it my son. I told my wife we had him, but I didn't let his children or anyone see. We buried the flesh as it if was my son."
He broke off, then shouted at the young Assadullah, who had knocked at the old man's house and told his son to come with them there was free fuel for everyone, "You destroyed my home", Assadu-llah turned his head and looked at the wall. "You destroyed my home," he shouted again. Jan Mohammad dropped his head again on his palm and rolled it left and right, his big gray turban moving like a huge pendulum, "Taouba [forgiveness]," he hissed. "People lost their fathers and sons for a little bit of fuel. Forgiveness."
Omar Khan, the village chief, was crying now and looking at the ceiling.
...Islamu-ldin, a 20-year-old from Issa khail village with tufts of hair sprouting from his cheek, took his turn to speak. He said he ran for three hours to get to the riverbed to look for his brother.
"Our village is far from the river, I searched a lot through the dead, and I found my brother. I recognized him from his clothes. But we only found his upper body, maybe someone took the legs, maybe it just burned to ashes."
Omar Khan was weeping openly now. A few other men resisted, but their eyes were as red as those of Jan Muhamad, who was babbling and shouting at the young Assadullah again and again.
.."At midnight my brother and nephew went to get fuel. I also wanted to go but I didn't have a car," said Saleh Muhamad. "At one in the morning I went to bed. When I heard the explosion I called my brother but his phone was off … when I arrived at 3am there were dead everywhereI was searching for my brother and nephew but I couldn't find anyone.
"I had a torch with me and I could see well, but I still couldn't recognise anyone." His eyes looked straight through me as he said: "I found one body and took it home and we buried it. It was a full body, with arms and legs. We buried it well."
Further comment would be superfluous here. Omar Khan's reaction is the only proper, fully human response to the horrific reality of these monstrous operations of power, the blind, brute drive for domination.
Written by Chris Floyd
Friday, 11 September 2009 00:00
Well, it's that time of year again, when all of us who pontificate in public must offer up a comment on the momentous events of September 11, 2001. I don't have much to add beyond what I said on the subject two years ago -- or even what I said on the subject eight years ago, in a newspaper column written the day after the events, and published on September 14. Both of these pieces are excerpted below.
First, from September 11, 2007:
A commenter asked recently about my take on 9/11. In light of the anniversary ... I thought this might be a good time to set out, very briefly, what I think on the subject.
It's really quite
simple and, to my mind, self-evident: the "official" story of what
happened on September 11, 2001, is not a complete or accurate account.
(We should of course speak of official stories,
because there have been several shifting, contradictory scenarios
offered by the great and the good in the six years since the attack.
However, for clarity's sake, we'll stick with the singular for now, and
will assume -- as the entire media and political establishment does --
that the report by the Hamilton-Kean 9/11 Commission is the final
put it plainly, this official account is riddled with holes:
unexplained inconsistencies, unprecedented occurrences, astounding
coincidences, mysterious lacunae, and deliberate obfuscations. It is,
in fact, a more improbable "conspiracy theory" than many of those
suggested by the much-derided "9/11 truth movement."
more, the commission that was finally, grudgingly appointed to look
into the attacks was obviously a whitewash from the word go. As I wrote in the Moscow Times when the panel was first formed, in January 2003:
George W. Bush's first choice to head an "independent" probe into the
Sept. 11 attacks – suspected war criminal Henry Kissinger – went down
like a bad pretzel, he quickly plucked another warm body from the
stagnant pool of Establishment worthies who are periodically called
upon to roll out the whitewash when the big boys screw up.
replacement, retired New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, was a "safe pair
of hands," we were assured by the professional assurers in the
mainstream media. The fact that he'd been out of public life for years
– and that he hadn't collaborated in the deaths of tens of thousands of
Cambodians, Chileans and East Timorese – certainly made him less
controversial than his predecessor, although to be fair, Kissinger's
expertise in mass murder surely would have given the panel some unique
insights into the terrorist atrocity.
now it seems that Kean might possess some unique insights of his own.
Fortune Magazine reports this week that both Kean and Bush share an
unusually well-placed business partner: one Khalid bin Mahfouz – a
shadowy figure who looms large in the financial web that binds the
Bushes, the bin Ladens and the Saudis.
like so many worthies, followed the revolving door out of public
service into lucrative sweetheart deals and well-wadded sinecures on
corporate boards. One of these, of course, is an oil company – pretty
much a requirement for White House work these days. (Or as the sign
says on the Oval Office door: "If your rigs ain't rockin', don't come
a-knockin'!") Kean is a director of Amerada Hess, an oil giant married
up to Saudi Arabia's Delta Oil in a venture to pump black gold in
Azerbaijan. (The partnership is incorporated in a secretive offshore
"tax haven," natch. You can't expect a worthy like Kean to pay taxes
like some grubby wage slave.)
Delta's biggest backers are close associates of the aforesaid Mahfouz,
a Saudi wheeler-dealer who has helped bankroll some of most dubious
players on the world scene: Abu Nidal, Manuel Noreiga, Saddam Hussein
and George W. Bush. Mahfouz was also a front for the bin Laden family,
funneling their vast wealth through American cut-outs in a bid to gain
power and influence in the United States, reports Wayne Madsen of In
of those cut-outs was Mahfouz factotum James Bath, a partner in George
W.'s early oil venture, Arbusto (and a comrade in suspension from
Bush's glory-less days as an AWOL National Guardsman). Bath has
admitted serving as a pass-through for secret Saudi money. Years later,
when Bush's maladroit business skills were about to sink another of his
companies, Harken Energy, the firm was saved by a $25 million
investment from a Swiss bank – a subsidiary of the Bank of Credit and
Commerce International (BBCI), partly owned by the beneficent Mahfouz.
was BCCI? Only "one of the largest criminal enterprises in history,"
according to the United States Senate. What did BCCI do? "It engaged in
pandemic bribery of officials in Europe, Africa, Asia and the
Americas," says journalist Christopher Bryon, who first exposed the
operation. "It laundered money on a global scale, intimidated witnesses
and law officers, engaged in extortion and blackmail. It supplied the
financing for illegal arms trafficking and global terrorism. It
financed and facilitated income tax evasion, smuggling and
Sort of an early version of the Bush Regime, then.
boatload of heavy Establishment lumber was piloted by the Commission's
executive director, Phillip Zelikow, who determined just what got
investigated, and what did not. As the world knows, Zelikow was a Bush
Administration insider, a Condi Rice colleague who had helped pick many
of the Administration figures he was now called upon to probe. After
the Commission finally produced its report -- printed on sheets of
Swiss cheese -- Zelikow went to work for Condi at the State Department.
profound failures of the Commission report have been amply detailed
elsewhere by many hands. For our purposes here it is enough to say that
it was not a thorough, independent investigation in any way, and that
such a probe is still needed: a genuinely independent, wide-ranging,
in-depth investigation, with full subpoena powers and full access to
all material, whatever its security classification -- and testimony
under oath, and under pain of perjury, from every relevant official,
including [George W. Bush and Dick Cheney].
Let us have such a probe, and let the chips fall where they may....
But you and I know that there will never be
an investigation like that into 9/11. Regardless of what it might or
might not reveal about the origin of the attacks, such a free-wheeling,
fully-powered probe would inevitably uncover other vast
swamps of bloody murk in the shadowlands where state power, criminal
gangs, covert ops and financial interests mingle, merge, squabble and
seethe. It would, in other words, open a window into the real way
that the world works, into the bestial realm of raw power and savage
greed that churns on behind the facade of public events and the
trappings of state.
this infernal blazon must not be to ears of flesh and blood. The rubes
are never to know what their betters are getting up to, and how they are getting up to it, and the true cost -- in blood, so much blood, so much suffering and sorrow -- of their goings-on.
said, I certainly applaud any and all efforts to force something like a
more real investigation into events of that portentous day.
of portents, it happens that I was one of the first people who
reported, in print, in a mainstream publication, how the
Cheney-Rumsfeld group, the Project for a New American Century, had
declared -- back in September 2000 -- that it would take a "new Pearl
Harbor" to "catalyze" the American people into supporting the
militarist agenda the group had laid out. I first wrote of this in The Moscow Times in September 2002
(following on from the excellent work by Neil Mackay in Scotland's
Sunday Herald). I also wrote more extensively about it in a mainstream
U.S. paper, the Bergen Record, in February 2003, when PNAC had rated
only a very few mentions in the American press. In both of these
articles, I also noted that after 9/11 -- which was duly described as a
"new Pearl Harbor" by Bush and his officials -- almost the entire PNAC
agenda became official U.S. government policy.
are just indisputable facts: The Bushists admitted they needed a "new
Pearl Harbor" to enact their program. They got a "new Pearl Harbor."
Then they enacted their program.
It seems to me that any
genuine investigation into 9/11 would include, among many other avenues
and areas of exploration, a look into whether these facts represent one
of the most astonishing pieces of political luck in history, or
something else. Pace the estimable George Monbiot, Alex Cockburn, Greg Palast and others, that doesn't seem like an outrageous idea to me.
This was written on September 12, 2001:
.... And so the
unimaginable has come, at last, to America. Unimaginable, that the
innocent could lie dead in their thousands, buried beneath the ruins of
ordinary life. Unimaginable, that the destruction that has swept back
and forth across the world in great waves, leaving the innocent lying
dead in their millions, should have at last spilled over the strong
sea-walls that preserved the nation's wealth and tranquility.
Unimaginable, that Americans should know what so many, too many, have
known before: the sudden, gutting horror of mass-murdering injustice.
did it happen? America spends $30 billion a year, year after year after
year, on "intelligence." Untold trillions have been spent on "defense."
The nation bristles with powerful ordnance, it "projects dominance" (as
the strategists like to say) all over the globe. And yet its leaders
are like blind men, raging like Oedipus, unable to see their attackers
or defend their people or understand what is happening to them.
and wounded, they fall back on empty rhetoric: "an attack on democracy"
– as if the suspected plotters, who spent years in a war to the death
with the Soviet Union, give a damn what America's political system
might be. Then come the metaphysical explanations: "A new evil has come
upon us." "This is a war between good and evil."
yes, it's evil – as the killing of every innocent person is – but it
isn't new. It's as old as the hills, as old as any chipped flint dug up
from the ground. It's religious arrogance, tribalism, lust for power
and – let's be honest about it – a falling-out among former allies, old
comrades in undercover war. Each one of these is a powerful engine of
hatred – churning in the dirt of the real world, in the mixed matter of
the human brain, in the murk and folly of human history.
arrogance: the implacable, impenetrable conviction that absolute truth
is in your sole possession. You are good, favored by God; your enemies
are evil, demonic. Tribalism (or in "civilized" terms, nationalism,
patriotism): the belief that your country, your people, your
grievances, your interests are above all others, that your values are
so important that innocent people must sometimes be sacrificed to them.
Lust for power: the burning desire to impose your will on the whole
world – or failing that, to bring the whole world crumbling down around
a falling-out. The White House points the finger of blame at Osama Bin
Laden – a demon made to order, right out of central casting,
remorseless, demented, crafty, rich. Like Saddam Hussein – another
sinister figure suspected of collusion in the attack – Bin Laden was
once empowered by America itself. The same intelligence services that
now stand blind, struck and wounded, cynically embraced these brutal
renegades as pawns in the Great Game of geopolitics; embraced them,
armed them, paid them, built them up into autonomous powers – then,
like Dr. Frankenstein, lost control of their creatures. The used became
the users, and in Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Afghanistan – and now, New York
and Washington – they have killed their thousands, and their tens of
In the name of religion. In the service of patriotism. In the lust for power – to project their dominance.
This is not a new evil. It's as old as the hills, and is with us always.
atrocity tends to raze the ground of history. In the aftermath, with
the cries of lamentation rising over fresh graves, it is always Zero
Hour. "That which happened" – to borrow the poet Paul Celan's phrase
for the Nazis' unspeakable crimes – buries what came before, effaces
the paths that led us to this place, strips away the cloak of reason (a
thin rag in the best of times), and leaves nothing but the bare,
anguished call for revenge.
will have blood; that's certain. But blood will not end it. For murder
is fertile: it breeds more death, like a spider laden with a thousand
eggs. And who now can break this cycle, which has been going on for
generations? Past folly undoes us, but who, in the Zero Hour, can
ignore the lamentations? Who can deny the ghosts, these loved ones
gone, the red food demanded by the dead?
is no answer. It will not stop. They say the world has now changed
irreversibly, that nothing will ever be the same. But it will be the same. The same engines of hatred, the same murk, the same dirt, the same mixed matter in human brains.
This is not a new evil. It's as old as the hills, and it is with us always.
Written by Chris Floyd
Thursday, 10 September 2009 22:13
Want to know the true significance of Barack Obama's speech on health care "reform" Wednesday night? Then just follow the money: Insurance Stocks Rise After Obama Speech (Truthdig):
Remember President Obama’s reference during his health care address to “Wall Street’s relentless profit expectations”? Well, those expectations were apparently met by that same address. Insurance company stocks got a boost from the speech, which foreshadowed the death of the public option and promised to deliver millions of currently “irresponsible” customers.
Truthdig then quotes Reuters:
Shares of U.S. health insurers climbed on Thursday after analysts saw no “game changers” from President Barack Obama’s highly anticipated speech on health reform.
Following the speech, analysts predicted any changes to the system would be moderate, with Obama backing many initiatives put forth earlier this week by a leading Senate committee. The possibility a threatening public health plan would be enacted also now seemed doubtful, analysts said.
Think about that: "No game changers." But isn't the point of reform to, you know, change the game?
But of course there will be no reform, and there was never going to be. Obama is going to "reform" America's broken health care system the same way he has "reformed" the War on Terror and "reformed" Wall Street: by taking the existing policies and making them even worse.
My old Moscow Times colleague Matt Taibbi nails the reality of the situation to the wall in his latest Rolling Stone piece: Sick and Wrong. In addition to detailing the deliberately engineered failure of any genuine "reform," Taibbi rightfully ties the health care debacle to the larger system failure of "the political entity known as the United States of America."
Written by Chris Floyd
Thursday, 10 September 2009 11:24
NATO, the "North Atlantic" treaty organization now fighting a slaughterous war in, er, Central Asia, is going green,setting up a new panel of heavy-duty worthies to pursue the strategic ramifications of global climate change. But as David Cronin reports in the Guardian, when militarists mull the ailments of Mother Earth, they aren't looking to mop the old lady's brow; they're trying to shake her down for every little bauble she's got left. The whole piece is worth reading, but here are some excerpts:
Over the past week a group appointed by the new Nato secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen held its first meeting on how the "strategic concept" guiding the organisation's activities should be updated to take account of climate change and other key challenges. The group's chief? One Madeleine Albright, previously US secretary of state under Bill Clinton. Albright, lest we forget, is the same woman who foisted mass pauperisation on Iraq in pursuit of the ignoble goal of putting that country's oil resources under western control. In 1996, she was asked on the TV show 60 Minutes if she could justify the deaths of half of a million Iraqi children caused, according to Unicef, by an economic embargo that deprived the country of basic medicines. "I think this is a very hard choice but the price – we think the price is worth it," she replied.
Albright's deputy in the new group will be Jeroen van der Veer, until recently the chief executive of Shell. Thanks to the makers of the film The Age of Stupid, we know that Shell's gas flaring in the Niger Delta releases more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than all the other sources of greenhouse gas emissions in sub-Saharan Africa combined.
...Rather than taking a broad definition of human security, which acknowledges that the future of humanity depends on changing how ecological resources are managed, it is merely interested in grabbing as much of those resources as it can. That much was acknowledged by Rasmussen's predecessor as secretary-general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer before he stepped down over the summer. He spent much of his final year in the job predicting how climate change will increase competition between countries over water, territory and farmland. Nato should have an aggressive and interventionist role in disputes over resources, he suggested, by, for example, protecting oil and gas pipelines identified as critical to the west.
Cronin also makes the crucial connection between NATO's particularly grabby take on greenness, and its current civilian-shredding misadventure in Afghanistan:
Nato's interest in climate change cannot be divorced from the nasty, imperialist war that George Bush declared against Afghanistan and Barack Obama has pledged to continue. A recent paper by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives ridicules the myth that British and other Nato forces are solely driven by the need to defeat al-Qaida and the Taliban so that bombings on European trains and buses can be prevented. While Afghanistan may have limited significance as an energy supplier itself, its neighbours Iran and Turkmenistan are blessed (or cursed, depending on one's perspective) with the world's second and third largest reserves of natural gas. The US has been eager to tap into those reserves – especially those of Turkmenistan – and to route a pipeline through Afghanistan since at least the 1990s. Departing slightly from the official narrative about the necessity of the war on terror, Richard Boucher, then America's assistant secretary for state, spoke in 2007 about linking south and central Asia for energy purposes.
As we said yesterday, the war in Afghanistan has no other purpose than the maintenance and expansion of the power and privilege of the elite. That is why the war has such a strange, absurdist, contradictory nature. The outward polices -- surges, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, reconstruction, nation-building, etc. -- can and do shift wildly, act at cross-purposes, undermine each other, exacerbate problems, produce more insecurity, and very often make no sense whatsoever...if measured by their ostensible goals. But they are, in the end, a meaningless sideshow, a toxic combination of deliberate deceit and catastrophic self-delusion that masks the war's true purpose. As with Iraq, if you view this war through the prism of elite aggrandizement, it all becomes, in the immortal words of that strange, absurdist warmonger of yore, "perfectly clear."
Written by Chris Floyd
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 22:32
The Grand Guignol in Afghanistan plays on, growing ever more absurd and macabre. A farcical election that makes the recent balloting in Iran -- the subject of such stern denunciation at the imperial court in Washington -- look like an exercise of the strictest civic probity. A "counterinsurgency" doctrine that churns out insurgents like an assembly line, manufacturing discontent with mass murders of civilians, and armed support of vicious warlords and corrupt officials. Influential voices on influential platforms calling for the establishment of an extermination program that killed up to 40,000 innocent people the last time it was tried. A skulking, scheming general hoping to parlay two disastrous wars into a run for the presidency. A failed "surge" about to be re-"surged" with thousands of more troops and billions upon billions of more public dollars poured into the pockets of contractors, weapons dealers -- and vicious warlords and corrupt officials. A weak and feckless president, who -- just like the cool, good-looking progressive played by Robert Redford in "The Candidate" -- obviously had no program or principle beyond getting elected, and is plunging headlong into a quagmire created by his despised predecessor, using the same war team, the same policies, and the same shifting, bogus "justifications" for continuing -- and widening and deepening -- a conflict so ruinous and pointless that even some of the Empire's most gung-ho cheerleaders are getting the vapors about it.
By any reckoning of reason, morality -- or even practicality -- it is a monstrous, evil folly. And yet it goes on and on, worsening by the year, by the month -- and with every major player in the ghoulish game declaring that it will keep going on, for years and years, if not decades. And despite the war's increasing unpopularity both in the United States and Britain, there is evidently nothing or no one that will stop it -- as long as the militarists hold to their long-running, highly successful tactic of not instigating a draft, and instead fighting their wars with overstetched, stop-lossed volunteers drawn from the poor (a burgeoning pool, thanks to the bipartisan continuity of the Bush-Obama oligarchy protection policies) -- and with a vast horde of out-of-control mercenaries and third-world indentured servants slaving away to keep "war-fighters" enjoying all the comforts of home. It seems more and more apparent that the majority of Americans are willing, if not always happy, to let the War Machine devour the national treasury, kill thousands of innocent people, destabilize the world and create generations of enemies for the United States -- as long as they or their children are not forced to fight the wars themselves.
I hope I'm wrong. I'd love to be wrong. I hope there is some great turning going on out there beyond the Beltway and the blogosphere. And by that, of course, I mean a turning toward justice and enlightenment -- not an unfocused, confused, inchoate rage that will likely take many sinister forms as it explodes. But I fear the latter is more likely.
Meanwhile, Tom Englehardt provides us with some chilling metrics of the monstrosity in "Afghanistan by the Numbers: Measuring a War Gone to Hell." He marshals an array of thoroughly sourced facts to paint a damning picture of where we are now in Afghanistan -- in free fall toward the fiery pit. Read the whole thing -- and know rage and despair.
These are remarkably grim days; remarkable to watch a government commiting the same awful crimes, making the same murderous mistakes, displaying the same brutal arrogance and sheer pig-ignorance that we have seen over and over and over again, decade after decade. Every story out of Afghanistan reads like a dispatch from the botch and butchery in Korea, or the blundering frenzy in Vietnam, or the still-boiling bloodbath in Iraq. No lesson is ever learned from these depraved episodes, save one: empire means money and power for the few -- so do whatever the hell you have to do to climb into that golden circle and stay there.
If ou don't believe that our leaders are that venal and stupid, if you think they are doing anything other than scrambling around blindly, heedlessly, trying to find ways to keep their little racket of power and privilege going, then attend to this quote from Englehardt, as he zeroes in on the great statesman-like wisdom of Richard Holbrooke, Obama's personally appointed "special envoy" to the killing fields in Afghanistan and Pakistan:
Sometime later this month, the Obama administration will present Congress with "metrics" for... well, since this isn't the Bush era, we can't say "victory." In the style of special envoy to the region Richard Holbrooke, let's call it "success." Holbrooke recently offered this definition of that word, evidently based on the standards the Supreme Court used to define pornography: "We'll know it when we see it."
"We'll know it when we see it." What are we fighting for? "We'll know it when we see it." What is the reason my son or daughter died? "We'll know it when we see it." What is the reason that thousands of innocent civilians -- children, women, peaceful men, whole families, the sick, the old -- have been torn to shreds by bombs and bullets? "We'll know it when we see it."
This cynical, "savvy," tough-guy phrase is the perfect emblem of our age: blustering, inhuman, cruel and ignorant.
Written by Chris Floyd
Monday, 07 September 2009 09:47
Barack Obama seems to be making quite a habit of throwing overboard any black person associated with him who might have spoken an uncomfortable truth or raised some disturbing questions at some point in their lives. First his lifelong friend and mentor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, now his "green jobs" advisor, Van Jones. As Jonathan Schwarz puts it:
Van Jones is a genuinely worthwhile person, from which it follows he's someone whom America's right-wing would inevitably go berserk about. Yet if Obama were willing to face down their berserkitude, this would mean I would have to redraw my mental map of who and what Obama is.
Thank god that turned out not to be necessary. I have enough on my plate as it is.
It's like the old saying: When the going gets tough, the tough get panicked and start throwing people under the bus.
I hope Michelle is keeping an eye out for any Greyhounds coming down the street.
Let's look again at the precursor to Obama's latest cave-in to rightwing white folks: his skewering of Jeremiah Wright during the 2008 campaign. It's worth re-considering as an indicator of the character and outlook of the man -- traits we are seeing confirmed, over and over, now that he's in power.
Arthur Silber wrote with savage brilliance on this subject last April, and you should read his piece in full. Taking off from that deep foundation, I offered a few observations of my own at the time, which are excerpted below:
On Monday, Barack Obama humiliated and demeaned himself with yet another denunciation of his old friend and mentor, Jeremiah Wright. But there was no "national dialogue on race" this time around -- just cold, flat-out condemnation. Obama even declared that Wright was "not the same man I've known for 20 years" anymore -- echoing the newly crowned King Henry's blast at Falstaff: "I know thee not, old man; fall to thy prayers." ...
Obama ridiculed Wright for "caricaturing himself" at a National Press Club appearance, and declared that his preacher was a vain showboat: "What mattered to him was commanding center stage." Obama bristled with disdain as he condemned Wright for his "divisive and destructive" remarks....
But this is indeed a curious and telling episode. If one actually takes the trouble to read Wright's remarks before the Press Club -- which almost no journalist in America did, although they are easily available at the Washington Post's web site -- it is difficult to see what in God's name all the brouhaha is about. Even Wright's most "controversial" remarks -- about AIDS, Louis Farrakhan and, in Obama's words, "equating America's wartime efforts with terrorism" -- are couched in plausible contexts, and are actually more nuanced than the, well, caricature of them that Obama condemned. Most ludicrous of all were Obama's hysterics about the "divisiveness" of Wright's remarks, when the theme of racial and cultural and religious reconciliation was sounded over and over throughout the appearance.
At any rate, let's do something really radical here. Let's actually see what Wright actually said. The quotes below are from the WP transcript. Now, I realize that reading a transcript is different from watching a "spectacle," as Obama put it, on the Tee-Vee. ... But still, there are scattered pockets out there where words still mean something, so let us consult the text. Here's Wright on the "black church":
The prophetic tradition of the black church has its roots in Isaiah, the 61st chapter, where God says the prophet is to preach the gospel to the poor and to set at liberty those who are held captive. Liberating the captives also liberates who are holding them captive. It frees the captives and it frees the captors. It frees the oppressed and it frees the oppressors....what you see is God's desire for a radical change in a social order that has gone sour.
God's desire is for positive, meaningful and permanent change. God does not want one people seeing themselves as superior to other people. God does not want the powerless masses, the poor, the widows, the marginalized, and those underserved by the powerful few to stay locked into sick systems which treat some in the society as being more equal than others in that same society.
God's desire is for positive change, transformation, real change, not cosmetic change, transformation, radical change or a change that makes a permanent difference, transformation. God's desire is for transformation, changed lives, changed minds, changed laws, changed social orders, and changed hearts in a changed world.
Well, perhaps Obama is correct, after all. This is pretty divisive stuff. It divides the miniscule sliver of rapacious elites (and their sycophants) from the vast majority of the American population. Obviously, when Obama says he is trying "to bridge the gap between different kinds of people," he wants to reconcile "the poor, the widows, the marginalized" with "the powerful few." The former should learn to love the latter -- and for God's sake not seek to change any social orders or sick systems. No, that kind of talk is indeed "appalling." As Obama says: "It is completely opposed to what I stand for and where I want to take this country." Good to know, Barack. Thanks for clearing that up for us.
Wright goes on:
Our congregation, as you heard in the introduction, took a stand against apartheid when the government of our country was supporting the racist regime of the African government in South Africa.
Our congregation stood in solidarity with the peasants in El Salvador and Nicaragua, while our government, through Ollie North and the Iran-Contra scandal, was supporting the Contras, who were killing the peasants and the Miskito Indians in those two countries.
Our congregation sent 35 men and women through accredited seminaries to earn their master of divinity degrees, with an additional 40 currently being enrolled in seminary, while building two senior citizen housing complexes and running two child care programs for the poor, the unemployed, the low-income parents on the south side of Chicago for the past 30 years. Our congregation feeds over 5,000 homeless and needy families every year, while our government cuts food stamps and spends billions fighting in an unjust war in Iraq.
Our congregation has sent dozens of boys and girls to fight in the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, and the present two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. My goddaughter's unit just arrived in Iraq this week, while those who call me unpatriotic have used their positions of privilege to avoid military service, while sending ... while sending over 4,000 American boys and girls of every race to die over a lie.
This is what Obama called "a very different vision of America" from the one that he espouses. Obama is "outraged" by this kind of com-symp stuff -- dissing Oliver North, for God's sake! Why, the mind boggles at such anti-American divisive unpatrioticness! Outrage indeed!
Then Wright got to the heart of his divisive, destructive, racist remarks:
God wants us reconciled, one to another. And that third principle in the prophetic theology of the black church is also and has always been at the heart of the black church experience in North America.
When Richard Allen and Absalom Jones were dragged out of St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, during the same year, 1787, when the Constitution was framed in Philadelphia, for daring to kneel at the altar next to white worshippers, they founded the Free African Society and they welcomed white members into their congregation to show that reconciliation was the goal, not retaliation.
Absalom Jones became the rector of the St. Thomas Anglican Church in 1781, and St. Thomas welcomed white Anglicans in the spirit of reconciliation.
Richard Allen became the founding pastor of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the motto of the AME Church has always been, "God our father, man our brother, and Christ our redeemer." The word "man" included men and women of all races back in 1787 and 1792, in the spirit of reconciliation.....
And we recognize for the first time in modern history in the West that the other who stands before us with a different color of skin, a different texture of hair, different music, different preaching styles, and different dance moves, that other is one of God's children just as we are, no better, no worse, prone to error and in need of forgiveness, just as we are.
Only then will liberation, transformation, and reconciliation become realities and cease being ever elusive ideals.
That was the end of his prepared remarks. He did not mention AIDS, Farrakhan or the War on Terror in the talk; these were all brought up by questioners afterward. And his responses formed the soundbites which will now reverberate in the media echo chamber from now until election day. So let's take a look at these controversial remarks.
First, what Obama called "such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS." After citing some books on the subject, Wright said:
I read different things. As I said to my members, if you haven't read things, then you can't -- based on this Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything. In fact, in fact, in fact, one of the -- one of the responses to what Saddam Hussein had in terms of biological warfare was a non- question, because all we had to do was check the sales records. We sold him those biological weapons that he was using against his own people.
So any time a government can put together biological warfare to kill people, and then get angry when those people use what we sold them, yes, I believe we are capable.
I personally don't believe that the U.S. government concocted the AIDs virus; but the notion that a government which conducted murderous medical experiments on black men for decades, and sold chemical weaponry to a brutal dictator (and, by providing military intelligence, helped him use them against the Iranians), and also launched a war of aggression in Iraq that has killed at least million innocent people might also be capable of creating and unleashing a deadly disease is certainly not implausible. (See Arthur Silber for much more on this.)
Now what about Farrakhan? Obama denounced Wright for saying that Farrakhan was "one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st centuries." Of course, Wright didn't say that. He said Farrakhan was one of the "most important" voices, because he was able to reach millions -- and move them to action. This is simply a statement of fact. Adolph Hitler was one of the most important voices of the 20th century for the same reason. And so was Martin Luther King Jr. Let's go to the tape:
So what I think about [Farrakhan], as I've said on Bill Moyers and it got edited out, how many other African-Americans or European-Americans do you know that can get one million people together on the mall? He is one of the most important voices in the 20th and 21st century. That's what I think about him. I've said, as I said on Bill Moyers, when Louis Farrakhan speaks, it's like E.F. Hutton speaks, all black America listens. Whether they agree with him or not, they listen.
As for terrorism, Wright simply referred the questioners to his previous "controversial" sermon on the matter. And here's what he said in that sermon:
I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday. Did anybody else see him or hear him? He was on Fox News. This is a white man, and he was upsetting the Fox News commentators to no end. He pointed out, (Did you see him, John?) -- a white man -- he pointed out -- an ambassador -- that what Malcolm X said when he got silenced by Elijah Muhammad was in fact true; America's chickens are coming home to roost.
We took this country, by terror, away from the Sioux, the Apache, the Arawak, the Comanche, the Arapajo, the Navajo. Terrorism -- we took Africans from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism. We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians -- babies, non-military personnel. We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with Stealth Bombers and killed unarmed teenagers, and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard working fathers. [fullest voice] We bombed Khaddafi, his home and killed his child. Blessed be they who bash your children's head against the rocks.
We bombed Iraq, we killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed the plant in Sudan to pay back for the attack on our embassy -- killed hundreds of hard-working people -- mothers and fathers, who left home to go that day, not knowing they'd never get back home. [Even fuller voice] We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye. Kids playing in the playground, mothers picking up children after school -- civilians, not soldiers. People just trying to make it day by day. We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans and now we are indignant? Because the stuff we have done overseas is brought back into our own front yards.
America's chickens are coming home to roost. Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred, and terrorism begets terrorism.
A White ambassador said that, y'all, not a black militant. Not a Reverend who preaches about racism; an ambassador whose eyes are wide open, and who's trying to get us to wake up, and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised.
So there you have it. This is what Obama calls "equating the United States' wartime efforts with terrorism."
Let's give Obama the benefit of the doubt when he says he is not just "politically posturing" in his denunciations, that he is speaking from the heart. What are we left with? That his "vision of America" does not include any "positive change, transformation, real change, not cosmetic change" in a "social order that has gone sour." And that the "War on Terror" is just peachy-keen with him; in fact, it is so sacrosanct that it cannot even be criticized. A war of aggression that kills hundreds of thousands of innocent people cannot be compared with "terrorism"; it is a legitimate expression of national policy, even if one might disagree with its timing and the mechanics of its execution.
Seen anything in the past eight months that would prove this wrong? Me neither.
P.S. It's been almost a month since we had the last transmission from Arthur Silber, a rather harrowing bulletin from the midst of an horrific health crisis. I don't know what his situation is at the moment, but it is likely to be very dire. If you have any spare wherewithal at all, please consider sending some of it his way, to help see him through this current bout.
Written by Chris Floyd
Sunday, 06 September 2009 21:09
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. -- Dwight D. Eisenhower's speechwriter, 1953.
This is the true character of a nation that fights wars of "humanitariam intervention" for the sake of "peace": U.S. Increases Its Share of Worldwide Arms Market (NYT):
Despite a recession that knocked down global arms sales last year, the United States expanded its role as the world’s leading weapons supplier, increasing its share to more than two-thirds of all foreign armaments deals, according to a new Congressional study.
The United States signed weapons agreements valued at $37.8 billion in 2008, or 68.4 percent of all business in the global arms bazaar, up significantly from American sales of $25.4 billion the year before.
As the Times reports, most of these instruments of death and ruin went to the "developing world;" that is, American war profiteers pocketed tens of billions of dollars by running guns to some of the most volatile and vulnerable places on earth, to regimes who laid out their meager resources on weapons rather than the welfare of their people. (Of course, in this they were just following the example of the most "developed" nation of all, the United States.):
The United States was the leader not only in arms sales worldwide, but also to the subset of nations in the developing world, signing $29.6 billion in weapons agreements with these nations, or 70.1 percent of all such deals.
Who was the distant runner-up in war-formenting profiteering around the globe? Was it the evil commies in China? The rascally Russians? Not at all: it was the neo-fascist, oligarchic regime of staunch American ally, media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, "with $3.7 billion in worldwide weapons agreements in 2008."
Talk, as they say, is cheap; and any nation that talks of "peace" and leads the world, year after year, in profiteering from weapons of war and death is a nation drunk on the runoff from its own bulllshit.
Written by Chris Floyd
Saturday, 05 September 2009 00:07
If you need more proof that we are living in a masquerade, in a world of sham, show and deceit, in a veritable -- dare we say it? -- empire burlesque, look no further than the recent manufactured "scandal" over the release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the bombing of PanAm 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988.
Al-Megrahi, who is dying, was released on "compassionate grounds" by the Scottish government last week, and returned to a hero's welcome in his native land of Libya. As soon as he was freed, we heard howls of outrage from Washington: how could such a heinous killer be allowed to walk free? There were stern words from the UK government in London, which pretended that it had nothing to do with the Scots' decision. There was ponderous talk from various punditti about a breach in the "special relationship," even of boycotts of British goods.
All of this -- every bit of it -- was just shoddy theatrics, a puppet show for the rubes. You can bet that every single official trumpeting their moral outrage at al-Megrahi's release knew the truth of the matter: he was not released because he was dying, but because the slow-turning wheels of his appeals process was about to force the release of hundreds of pages of damning documents that would confirm, yet again, that he had been, as the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission put it, the victim of a "miscarriage of justice" -- a frame job by the US and UK governments which has been covered up, in admirable bipartisan fashion, for years.
Why did they frame al-Megrahi, when they knew the real instigators of the bombing? Because they needed the support of the instigators to launch the wanton slaughterfest known as "Desert Storm."
John Pilger and William Blum lay out the details. First Pilger:
No one in authority has had the guts to state the truth about the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 above the Scottish village of Lockerbie on 21 December 1988 in which 270 people were killed. The governments in England and Scotland in effect blackmailed Megrahi into dropping his appeal as a condition of his immediate release. Of course there were oil and arms deals under way with Libya; but had Megrahi proceeded with his appeal, some 600 pages of new and deliberately suppressed evidence would have set the seal on his innocence and given us more than a glimpse of how and why he was stitched up for the benefit of "strategic interests."
"The endgame came down to damage limitation," said the former CIA officer Robert Baer, who took part in the original investigation, "because the evidence amassed by [Megrahi's] appeal is explosive and extremely damning to the system of justice." New witnesses would show that it was impossible for Megrahi to have bought clothes that were found in the wreckage of the Pan Am aircraft – he was convicted on the word of a Maltese shopowner who claimed to have sold him the clothes, then gave a false description of him in 19 separate statements and even failed to recognize him in the courtroom....
Megrahi was convicted by three Scottish judges sitting in a courtroom in "neutral" Holland. There was no jury. One of the few reporters to sit through the long and often farcical proceedings was the late Paul Foot, whose landmark investigation in Private Eye exposed it as a cacophony of blunders, deceptions and lies: a whitewash.
...Foot reported that most of the staff of the US embassy in Moscow who had reserved seats on Pan Am flights from Frankfurt canceled their bookings when they were alerted by US intelligence that a terrorist attack was planned. He named Margaret Thatcher the "architect" of the cover-up after revealing that she killed the independent inquiry her transport secretary Cecil Parkinson had promised the Lockerbie families; and in a phone call to President George Bush Sr. on 11 January 1990, she agreed to "low-key" the disaster after their intelligence services had reported "beyond doubt" that the Lockerbie bomb had been placed by a Palestinian group contracted by Tehran as a reprisal for the shooting down of an Iranian airliner by a US warship in Iranian territorial waters. Among the 290 dead were 66 children. In 1990, the ship’s captain was awarded the Legion of Merit by Bush Sr. "for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service as commanding officer."
Perversely, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1991, Bush needed Iran’s support as he built a "coalition" to expel his wayward client from an American oil colony. The only country that defied Bush and backed Iraq was Libya. "Like lazy and overfed fish," wrote Foot, "the British media jumped to the bait. In almost unanimous chorus, they engaged in furious vilification and op-ed warmongering against Libya." The framing of Libya for the Lockerbie crime was inevitable. Since then, a US defense intelligence agency report, obtained under Freedom of Information, has confirmed these truths and identified the likely bomber; it was to be centerpiece of Megrahi’s defense.
And that is the crux of the matter, and the reason for the release. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission had referred the case for appeal. The intelligence agency reports would have been forced into the open by a new hearing. No one wanted that. The sacred "continuity" of the militarist oligarchies in America and Britain would have been shaken if the truth of how they really operate -- regardless of which party is in office -- came out.
President Obama said that the jubilant welcome Megrahi received was "highly objectionable". His White House spokesman Robert Gibbs added that the welcoming scenes in Libya were "outrageous and disgusting". British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was "angry and repulsed", while his foreign secretary, David Miliband, termed the celebratory images "deeply upsetting." Miliband warned: "How the Libyan government handles itself in the next few days will be very significant in the way the world views Libya's reentry into the civilized community of nations."
Ah yes, "the civilized community of nations", that place we so often hear about but so seldom get to actually see. American officials, British officials, and Scottish officials know that Megrahi is innocent. They know that Iran financed the PFLP-GC, a Palestinian group, to carry out the bombing with the cooperation of Syria, in retaliation for the American naval ship, the Vincennes, shooting down an Iranian passenger plane in July of the same year, which took the lives of more people than did the 103 bombing. And it should be pointed out that the Vincennes captain, plus the officer in command of air warfare, and the crew were all awarded medals or ribbons afterward. No one in the US government or media found this objectionable or outrageous, or disgusting or repulsive. The United States has always insisted that the shooting down of the Iranian plane was an "accident". Why then give awards to those responsible?
Today's oh-so-civilized officials have known of Megrahi's innocence since 1989. The Scottish judges who found Megrahi guilty know he's innocent. They admit as much in their written final opinion. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which investigated Megrahi's trial, knows it. They stated in 2007 that they had uncovered six separate grounds for believing the conviction may have been a miscarriage of justice, clearing the way for him to file a new appeal of his case. 3 The evidence for all this is considerable. And most importantly, there is no evidence that Megrahi was involved in the act of terror.
The first step of the alleged crime, sine qua non — loading the bomb into a suitcase at the Malta airport — for this there was no witness, no video, no document, no fingerprints, nothing to tie Megrahi to the particular brown Samsonite suitcase, no past history of terrorism, no forensic evidence of any kind linking him to such an act.
And the court admitted it: "The absence of any explanation of the method by which the primary suitcase might have been placed on board KM180 [Air Malta to Frankfurt] is a major difficulty for the Crown case."
The scenario implicating Iran, Syria, and the PFLP-GC was the Original Official Version, endorsed by the US, UK, Scotland, even West Germany — guaranteed, sworn to, scout's honor, case closed — until the buildup to the Gulf War came along in 1990 and the support of Iran and Syria was needed for the broad Middle East coalition the United States was readying for the ouster of Iraq's troops from Kuwait. Washington was also anxious to achieve the release of American hostages held in Lebanon by groups close to Iran. Thus it was that the scurrying sound of backtracking could be heard in the corridors of the White House. Suddenly, in October 1990, there was a New Official Version: it was Libya — the Arab state least supportive of the US build-up to the Gulf War and the sanctions imposed against Iraq — that was behind the bombing after all, declared Washington.
The two Libyans were formally indicted in the US and Scotland on Nov. 14, 1991. Within the next 20 days, the remaining four American hostages were released in Lebanon along with the most prominent British hostage, Terry Waite.
They overlooked hundreds of innocent people killed in a covert terrorist attack in revenge for hundreds of other innocent people killed in a celebrated, decorated state terrorist attack in order to ensure that they could kill thousands of innocent people in a pointless war to preserve the fortunes of the Bush family business partners and Western favorites, the repressive, undemocratic tyrants of Kuwait, who were having a financial and territorial dispute with the repressive, undemocratic tyrant of Iraq, who until he threatened the Bush partners had been a favorite of the West. This is the corrupt, blood-soaked reality that lies behind the trumpery of the "respectable" world.
You know what? Barack Obama was right, after all. The whole thing is a damnable "outrage."
Written by Chris Floyd
Wednesday, 02 September 2009 23:32
In a new piece at TomDispatch, David Swanson and Tom Englehardt do a good job of encapsulating the continuity that has become the hallmark of our so-called Age of Change. The title says it all: "Bush's Third Term? You're Living It." It is a very thorough and detailed demolition job; but the roots of the corruption go much deeper than the current administration – or the last one.
But first, a few excerpts (though do go and read the whole piece, especially for the copious links):
It sounds like the plot for the latest summer horror movie. Imagine, for a moment, that George W. Bush had been allowed a third term as president, had run and had won or stolen it, and that we were all now living (and dying) through it... There’s Dubya now, still rewriting laws via signing statements. Still creating and destroying laws with executive orders. And still violating laws at his whim. Imagine Bush continuing his policy of extraordinary rendition, sending prisoners off to other countries with grim interrogation reputations to be held and tortured. I can even picture him formalizing his policy of preventive detention, sprucing it up with some “due process” even as he permanently removes habeas corpus from our culture.
I picture this demonic president still swearing he doesn’t torture, still insisting that he wants to close Guantanamo, but assuring his subordinates that the commander-in-chief has the power to torture “if needed,” and maintaining a prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan that makes Guantanamo look like summer camp. I can imagine him continuing to keep secret his warrantless spying programs while protecting the corporations and government officials involved.
If Bush were in his third term, we would already have seen him propose, yet again, the largest military budget in the history of the world… And of course, he would have held onto his secretary of defense from his second term, Robert Gates, to run the Pentagon, keep our ongoing wars rolling along, and oversee the better part of our public budget.
Bush would undoubtedly be following through on the agreement he signed with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for all U.S. troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2011 (except where he chose not to follow through). His generals would, in the meantime, be leaking word that the United States never intended to actually leave. He’d surely be maintaining current levels of troops in Iraq, while sending thousands more troops to Afghanistan and talking about a new “surge” there. He’d probably also be escalating the campaign he launched late in his second term to use drone aircraft to illegally and repeatedly strike into Pakistan’s tribal borderlands with Afghanistan….
If the Democrats in Congress attempted to pass any set of needed reforms like, to take an example, new healthcare legislation, Bush, the third termer, would have held secret meetings in the White House with insurance and drug company executives to devise a means to turn such proposals to their advantage. And he would have refused to release the visitor logs so that the American public would have no way of knowing just whom he’d been talking to.
During Bush’s second term, some of the lowest-ranking torturers from Abu Ghraib were prosecuted as bad apples, while those officials responsible for the policies that led to Abu Ghraib remained untouched. If the public continued to push for justice for torturers during the early months of Bush’s third term, he would certainly have gone with another bad-apple approach, perhaps targeting only low-ranking CIA interrogators and CIA contractors for prosecution. Bush would undoubtedly have decreed that any higher-ups would not be touched, that we should now be looking forward, not backward. And he would thereby have cemented in place the power of presidents to grant immunity for crimes they themselves authorized.
There is much more in this vein, as the authors skillfully morph Barack into the spitting image of Bush.
But of course, in many ways, we are not really living through Bush's third term, but the 16th term of the National Security State that was founded by secret presidential directives during Harry Truman's second term. Beginning with the ur-document, NSC-68, these directives mandated a thoroughgoing militarization of the American state, complete with vast secret forces specifically designed to carry out criminal actions – subversion, coups, "black ops," break-ins, kidnappings, torture, assassination programs, gruesome medical experiments: "the dark side, if you will." Not that things were all peaches and cream before then, of course; just ask the Filipinos (or the Cherokee, or the slaves, etc.) But in 1951, the new National Security State raised the war machine budget by 400 percent in a single year. And it has never looked back, not even after the collapse of the Soviet Union – the ostensible reason for devouring the lifeblood and seed-corn of the nation and giving it to war profiteers. As we noted here a couple of years ago:
[NSC-68] constituted the re-founding of the country as a "National Security State," controlled by the military-industrial complex and driven by a nightmare vision of exaggerated threats, craven fear, secrecy and deception, bellicosity and brinkmanship. This vision has waxed and waned in intensity at various times over the years, but it has never been displaced as the central dynamic of American power. The demonic, all-powerful enemy has now morphed from the Soviet Union to Islamic extremism, but the paranoid rhetoric and "Pentagon uber alles" philosophy of the Cold War has been seamlessly transferred whole cloth to the supposedly transformed "post-9/11 age."
Indeed, these fanatical tropes are encoded in the very genetic structure of the National Security State. As NSC-68 itself says:
"The Soviet Union, unlike previous aspirants to hegemony, is animated by a fanatical faith, antithetical to our own, and seeks to impose its absolute authority over the rest of the world."
Substitute "islamofascism" for the Soviet Union, and you suddenly reading Mark Steyn, Christopher Hitchens, Dick Cheney – or the lates dispatches from Hillary Clinton's State Department.
What's more, consider for a moment that the above passage from NSC-68 was written just five years after the defeat of Nazi Germany. Did these mandarins – most of them "liberal" Democrats at the time, by the way – really believe that the previous aspirant to hegemony, Adolf Hitler, was not animated by a fanatical faith, antithetical to our own, and eager to impose his authority over world affairs? That the Soviet Union represented the eruption of some unique evil, whose threat justified any crime, any atrocity, any gutting of liberty? Just five years after the Holocaust, after the deaths of 40 million people (20 million in the Soviet Union alone)? The late David Halberstam, who quotes the passage in his remarkable last book, The Coldest Winter, points out the chilling fact that the NSC-68 was a top-secret document, intended only for the eyes of the very highest poobahs; it was not a propaganda piece designed to snow the rubes.
Here we have a glimpse into one of the central processes which lead human beings to perpetrate inhuman slaughter and suffering: the self-hypnosis by which elites convince themselves of the absolute righteousness of their own barbaric urge for domination – and the absolute, irredeemable evil of those who stand in their way.
In any case, there is nothing new or unusual in Obama's "continuity." It has been the very air we've breathed for generations –a fetid, poisonous, cancerous vapor. Still, it is always salutary to have reality delineated as clearly as possible as often as possible. After all, someone must tell the children – and the millions of adult "progressives" who evidently have to re-learn these harsh lessons after every electoral victory for "hope" and "change."