In a recent London Review of Books article detailing the abysmal horrors of Egypt's prison system -- a multi-circled hell with visible and invisible layers, all of them wretched, some of them unspeakably so -- Tom Stevenson noted, in passing, this piece of historical context:
I don’t really want to go too far down the road on this when there are far more important things happening in the world, but really, take just a moment to look at the language in the Ken Silverstein piece on the world-historical tragedy of him finding out that it was less than ideal to work for a rapacious, dodgy billionaire:
As always, Bill Blum gives us meet food to feed upon in his latest Anti-Empire Report. I was going to quote some pertinent excerpts, but why not just read the whole thing. Of special interest is Blum’s look at the true history of today’s “Greek crisis”— and, given that history, the grim prospects ahead for Syriza; the jaw-dropping (but not surprising) ignorance of history evinced by the “experts” in our State Department; and the all-consuming ideology of the “non-ideological” American media. In the latter, he digs up one choice quote from Brian Williams’ former boss at NBC, Bob Wright, who defended the beleaguered anchorman thus: “He has been the strongest supporter of the military of any of the news players. He never comes back with negative stories.” That one quote speaks volumes, vast tomes, about our own recent history, and our current predicament. Anyway, the full Report is here.
Robert Ford, once one of the most vociferous champions of an aggressive American policy toward Syria has now changed his mind, McClatchy reports. Ford, who famously resigned from his diplomatic post last year in protest at the Obama Administration's "weak" support of Syrian rebels, now says the United States should not give any weapons to the rebels at all; they are too "disjointed and untrustworthy because they collaborate with jihadists."
Ordinarily the death of an American hostage held by Islamic extremists is the occasion of bellicose, ballyhooed, bloody shirt-waving rage, stoked in tandem by government and media. It usually evokes widespread calls for retaliation, for taking the gloves off at last and exterminating the barbarians once and for all. Today, it almost always comes with its own hashtag, so that people can immediately identify themselves with the victim, who is seen invariably as a martyr for the goodness and specialness of America.
Millions of words have already been written about the Charlie Hebdo spectacle. No doubt readers have seen much of the small proportion of this verbiage that was pertinent, informative and insightful. There have been laudable attempts to provide political context, cultural nuance, historical background — and that rarest of unicorns, the voice of reason — amidst the Niagra-level roar of bullshit that engulfed the Hebdo case within minutes of the first tweets about the incident. And of course, it is good that we go on trying to make sense of a reality that is at all times besieged by a bewildering array of powerful forces trying to manipulate our perceptions to suit their agendas.
The American record in Somalia is shameful beyond measuring. Few people even know that 10 years ago, the US had a direct military involvement in Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia, which destroyed the country’s first stable government in 15 years, killed thousands of innocent people, and opened the door for the radical extremists who plague the country today. I wrote about this Terror War sideshow for years (see below); nobody cared then, and nobody cares now. And still the beat goes on. George Monbiot details a new move by the Peace Prize Laureate in the White House that puts the lives of thousands of Somalis at risk — and will only exacerbate the terrorism that the policy is ostensibly designed to quell. But that has been the bipartisan MO of US policy for many years now.
For anyone interested, a small tribute to the great poet Boris Pasternak, born 125 years ago today, can be found here: In Praise of Boris Pasternak.If you'd like to hear the man himself reading one of his poems, you can find that here.For a previous article on Pasternak, go here: Immortal Communion: One Lowly Word and the Subversion of Power.
One thing I always wonder about: when did the people who consider themselves hip start to worry about what the hell was on television? When did they begin to write long, earnest disquisitions about the box set of some TV show? When did they start to dig deep into the philosophical and sociocultural implications of what a TV news anchor — a professional liar by trade — says about himself …. or anything?
Last week, the Obama Administration announced it is sending troops to Ukraine to "train" the Ukrainian National Guard. The folly of this move -- which, as later stories showed, is only the beginning of a much larger U.S. military involvement in Ukraine -- is so astounding and appalling as to defy comprehension. What it amounts to, in essence, is deliberately provoking a crisis that will bring the world closer to a nuclear war than it has been since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, all for the sake of a territorial and political dispute in one corner of Ukraine. In following this insane policy, Obama is backed by the full weight of the entire bipartisan political establishment -- and by the media establishment, which is eagerly pushing a maniacal anti-Russianism unseen since the McCarthy era. Nowhere is the latter more true than among many "progressive" writers -- people who easily saw the catastrophic danger of the push to war with Iraq, but are now championing an identical advance to an unnecessary war. Whereas before they rightly resisted the primitive "humanitarian intervention" argument that "Saddam is bad, therefore the war is good" -- even it is carried out by a transparently rapacious imperial system which had already killed, by its own admission, more than half a million Iraqi children through years of murderous, senseless sanctions -- now they swallow that specious argument whole: "Putin is bad, ergo we must now trust that same transparently rapacious imperial...