It was, as usual, a powerful piece, marshalling a wealth of damning evidence that laid bare the corporate media's avid -- not to say rabid -- eagerness to serve the desire of our ruling elites to finally break the "recalcitrant tribe" of Persians and restore Washington's dominance over that strategically situated -- and oil-rich -- land. One cannot underestimate the simmering resentment still felt by American elites from their "humiliation" during the 1980 hostage crisis -- which, as you'll recall, only ended after the sainted Ronald Reagan gave the Iranians everything they'd been asking for to release the hostages: i.e., the money Jimmy Carter had frozen in American banks. What's more, the severely conservative Reagan also cut deals to send the "mad mullahs" weapons and spare parts for their military arsenal. (And we won't even go into the brazen act of treason Reagan's handlers committed in negotiating with the Tehran "terrorists" in the run-up to the 1980 election.)
This psychosexual humiliation -- which has passed down to American elites who were still in diapers (or not even born) when it occurred -- is but one factor behind the relentless, maniacal, slavering drive toward war with Iran which is suddenly filling front pages and prime TV time everywhere. In the main, it is simply the decades-long, thoroughly bipartisan agenda of world domination that the American elite have been pursuing since the end of World War II -- as Noam Chomsky outlines here.
In any case, while reading Greenwald's stringent stripping of the lies and prejudices of a recent NBC report on the "Iranian threat," I kept waiting for him to make the pivot to something beyond yet another trenchant piece of media criticism. I kept saying, Yes, you're right, the media are misinforming -- miseducating -- the American people in the most egregious way, preparing them for yet another pointless war of aggression and domination that will only degrade their own lives, and kill thousands of innocent people ... now what? I honestly thought, as I was reading along, that he would at any moment link to Arthur Silber's recent articles (here and here) which lay out a specific, practical -- and non-violent -- plan precisely for the kind of counter-education campaign that is needed to combat the propaganda that Greenwald was rightly condemning.
As I understand it, Silber's idea is kind of jiujitsu: it uses the power and procedures and tropes of our reality-distorting media to combat the media's own pernicious effects. In other words, it would use the media to subvert the media. Or, to put it more positively, it would return the media to its more proper function of looking reality plainly in the eye and speaking the truth about it.
Silber's plan -- which he offers merely as a starting point, not an ironclad blueprint, inviting any and all creative suggestions to make it more effective -- relies on high-profile figures in the dissident media to leverage their public profile, their media platforms and their extensive contacts to bring in the money needed to launch a national campaign of truth-speaking, with hard-hitting print and video ads that bypass the decorous filters of corporate journalism to take the truth directly to the public.
And so, caught up in the flow and logic of Greenwald's piece, I thought he would have to get to that -- if not in a direct reference to Silber's campaign then something very much like it. But instead, it was, in the end, just another slam at our servile, power-enablinng, dysfunctional media.
Now, I like a good slam at the servile ministers of our media as much as the next person. Indeed, I've been enjoying them for lo these many decades, going back to, say, James Fallows in the 1990s, to Chomsky and Hermann's "Manufacturing Consent" in the 1980s -- even to some of Gore Vidal's bitterly insightful pieces in the 1960s and 70s. I have in fact spent my entire conscious life reading trenchant criticisms of how the corporate media misinform and manipulate the American public into support for the elite's destructive wars of domination. I am entirely in agreement with Silber when he writes:
Those writers and websites have offered hundreds, even thousands, of articles over the years about the immense destructiveness of U.S. foreign policy in general, and more particularly about the devastation and chaos that would result from a criminal U.S. attack on Iran. They have also published articles about the destruction of civil liberties and the massive growth of the surveillance state. I've written many such articles myself, including many dozens about Iran and the Middle East. During this time, all the terrible problems to which we've devoted so much attention have gotten steadily worse -- and not simply worse, but much worse. How do I know this? I follow the news -- and I read the dissenting writers and the alternative websites. They tell me that all these problems become more nightmarish by the day, and they tell me (and all of us) in excruciating, lengthy detail. Thousands of articles document the gathering, worsening horrors -- and the horrors constantly grow still more horrifying.
I do not want to be misunderstood on one critical point. The articles I refer to (and the alternative websites) have very significant value. They provide an inestimable educational service, by setting forth history, facts and analysis that are not available elsewhere for the most part. That is crucial. Also, and very importantly, they offer a sense of community and kinship to those who would otherwise feel isolated and alienated by the depravity and cruelty that dominate our culture.
But I also agree when he says this:
But if we hope to alter the course of events, even if all we can do is slow down what now seems to be a rush toward disaster on an ungraspable scale, thus to buy ourselves more time if we can, it cannot be disputed that all those articles are not enough -- and they will never be enough.
And so I read the Greenwald piece looking for, hoping for, that pivot beyond the customary criticism, the laying out of evidence (which, let me add, is really all that I do here). Hoping, I suppose, that someone who commands a far larger reach than a relatively marginal site like mine or Silber's would at least reference something like the Silber idea, if only to say: "Hey, here's a thought -- why don't we try something like this?" Or "What do people think of this?" Or even, "Silber suggests this, but I have an even better idea."
Again: I very much believe that the enumeration of imperial evils serves a useful purpose. As I said, that's basically what I do here. But I also believe -- more strongly all the time -- that this is not enough. Not nearly enough. The historical record shows that the cataloguing of such evils has not stopped them or lessened them or mitigated them at all. From the time I began reading Vidal and Chomsky more than 30 years ago to the powerful critiques of Greenwald and others today, things have only gotten worse on the domination front. The system is more brutal and brazen than ever; our society is more degraded; our liberties are more shredded.
There is only so much that talking at the margins can do. We must look to those who have the platforms and networks and leverage to put these issues into national circulation -- in a very concrete, practical way, not just preaching to the choir but taking the truth directly to those now starved of it.
If could do it, I would. But I don't have that platform, that leverage. I have a few hundred readers. I'm only rarely linked to any larger site. I can't get a meeting with George Soros or some well-funded foundation or organization that does have the money necessary to put something like Silber's education plan into action. So while I continue to appreciate and be informed by the trenchant media criticisms and evidence gathering that fills the choir room of the 'dissident' blogosphere, I know that something more must be done. We must somehow break through the thick, cloudy glass that mutes the truth from the general public. I hope that those better placed to do it will take up this challenge and carry it forward.
What are seeing in Greece is not an" economic" program; it is -- most openly and brazenly -- a political program: a savagely destructive extremist ideology being imposed on ordinary people by force. In its all-pervasive brutality and tyrannical control of every aspect of life, it makes the "Shariah law" bogeyman of right-wing nightmares look like an anarchists' picnic.
And make no mistake: the extremist doctrine being forced on Greece is, in every particular, the ruling ideology of the United States, Great Britain, and all the "great democracies" of the West. The aim of the doctrine is the "final solution" of the "problem" of democracy: i.e., the fact that the rabble keep seeking a decent life for themselves and trying to order their own affairs instead of staying in harness to enrich an all-powerful elite.
There is black irony in the fact that these elites are literally strangling Western democracy in its cradle. But it is also apt; for as Whitney points out, one of the specific points of the new bailout "agreement" for Greece is, incredibly, "lifting constraints [i.e., safety regulations] on restricted product categories such as baby food." As Whitney puts it:
That’s right; according to the authors of this fuliginous memo, the only way Greece is going to be able to lift itself out of the doldrums is by poisoning its kids with banned baby food.
You should read the whole sorry saga as Whitney lays it out, but here are a few excerpts:
On Sunday, the Greek parliament approved a new round of austerity measures that will further deepen the 5-year depression and sever the last fraying threads of social cohesion. In order to secure a 130 billion euro loan, Greek political leaders agreed to comply with a “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) that will not only intensify the sacrifices of ordinary working people, but also effectively hand the control of the nation’s economy over to foreign banks and corporations.
The Memorandum is as calculating and mercenary as anything ever written. And while most of the attention has been focused on the deep cuts to supplementary pensions, the minimum wage, and private sector wages; there’s much more to this onerous warrant than meets the eye.... Greece will have to prove that it’s reached various benchmarks before it receives any of the money allotted in the bailout. The Memorandum outlines, in great detail, what those benchmarks are— everything from reduced spending on life-saving drugs to “lift(ing) constraints for retailers to sell restricted product categories such as baby food.” ...
Instead of providing fiscal aid so Greece can meet its budget targets and can get back on its feet again, the troika (the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund) is using the crisis to snatch vital state assets and deliver them to its corporate friends. The MOU is opening new avenues for exploitation and plunder. And there’s more:
“The Government will neither propose nor implement measures which may infringe the rules on the free movement of capital. Neither the State nor other public bodies will conclude shareholder agreements with the intention or effect of hindering the free movement of capital or influence the management or control of companies. The Government will neither initiate nor introduce any voting or acquisition caps, and it will not establish any disproportionate and non-justifiable veto rights or any other form of special rights in privatised companies.”
Well, that’s pretty clear: Capital Rules. The interests of corporations and banks will take precedent over those of the people. The proclamation limits the role of government to rubber stamping the predatory actions of cutthroat speculators whose only interest is fattening the bottom line for their shareholders. ...
The Memorandum also contains an illuminating section on “Business environment”, which covers everything from perks for industry to unrestricted free trade. Here’s a typical example:
.... “Implementation of law 3982/2011 on the fast track licensing procedure for technical professions, manufacturing activities and business parks and other provisions”.
...What does this have to do with anything, you ask? It doesn’t. It just shows what the MOU is really all about. It’s a corporate “wish list”; a mix of punitive belt tightening policies for working people and perks for big oil, big gas, electric, aviation, railroads, communications etc. “Fast track licensing” and “baby food” have nothing to do with helping Greece reach its budget targets. It’s a joke. ... None of this has anything to do with helping Greece. It’s just corporate pillaging gone haywire. Greece is a big pinata that’s just been cracked open and everyone is pushing and shoving to grab their fistful of candy.
All of this is coming soon to a neighborhood near you. If not's already there, that is .....
Arthur Silber follows up the post we linked to yesterday with some more specifics on how an effective campaign against the war with Iran might look: "The First Ad: Who Are the Nazis Now?" Ads like these would be a devastating Zen slap in the head to the stunted American consciousness. Get on over there and read it now.
Meanwhile, the Peace Laureate is tightening the screws on Iran even further. Barack Obama took a few minutes away from the big game on Super Bowl Sunday and imposed still more sanctions on Tehran -- to punish them for legally pursuing a peaceful nuclear energy program under close international supervision. (The pure, unmitigated evil of these Persians, eh?)
Again, it must be stressed that not a single government in the world -- including Israel -- believes that Iran is building a nuclear weapon. Not one. No one is making that claim. In fact, leading figures in both the United States and Israel have made it very plain in recent weeks that they do not believe Iran is building a nuclear weapon. There is no Iranian nuclear weapons program. It does not exist. And yet these same leaders, at the same time, tell us that we must put more and more pressure on Iran -- we must assassinate its scientists, we must carry out covert ops inside its territory, we must surround it with bristling military bases, we must belly up to its shores with vast fleets, we must fill its skies with spy drones, and we must drive its ordinary citizens into ruin and suffering with an ever-increasing array of sanctions -- in order to .... what, exactly?
Again, let's make it clear, in great block letters ten feet high and five feet wide: the elites pushing us rapidly toward war do not believe Iran is building a nuclear bomb. What's more, they would not feel threatened if Iran did have a bomb. There is only one thing they want: regime change in Tehran. And there is only reason they want it: domination of strategic oil lands of the Middle East. They certainly aren't concerned about the actual nature of the Tehran regime -- which is far less repressive than the West's beloved extremists in Saudi Arabia -- nor are they concerned in the slightest about the Iranian people. The sanctions themselves prove that.
[Last month] we could read in the New York Times (January 15) that "three leading Israeli security experts — the Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo, a former Mossad chief, Efraim Halevy, and a former military chief of staff, Dan Halutz — all recently declared that a nuclear Iran would not pose an existential threat to Israel."
Then, a few days afterward, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in an interview with Israeli Army Radio (January 18), had this exchange:
Question: Is it Israel's judgment that Iran has not yet decided to turn its nuclear potential into weapons of mass destruction?
Barak: People ask whether Iran is determined to break out from the control [inspection] regime right now ... in an attempt to obtain nuclear weapons or an operable installation as quickly as possible. Apparently that is not the case.
Lastly, we have the US Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, in a report to Congress: "We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons. ... There are "certain things [the Iranians] have not done" that would be necessary to build a warhead.
But as Blum notes, these statements are "never put into headlines by the American mass media; indeed, only very lightly reported at all." Instead, the fierce watchdogs of the American media are more than happy to shape their stories in the service of the greater cause of warmongering -- even though, again, our elites know full well that the "Iranian bomb" is an empty threat:
On the Public Broadcasting System (PBS News Hour, January 9), the non-commercial network much beloved by American liberals, the Panetta quote above was reported as: "But we know that they're trying to develop a nuclear capability, and that's what concerns us." Flagrantly omitted were the preceding words: "Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No ..." 5
One of Israel's leading military historians, Martin van Creveld, was interviewed by Playboy magazine in June 2007:
Playboy: Can the World live with a nuclear Iran?
Van Creveld: The U.S. has lived with a nuclear Soviet Union and a nuclear China, so why not a nuclear Iran? I've researched how the U.S. opposed nuclear proliferation in the past, and each time a country was about to proliferate, the U.S. expressed its opposition in terms of why this other country was very dangerous and didn't deserve to have nuclear weapons. Americans believe they're the only people who deserve to have nuclear weapons, because they are good and democratic and they like Mother and apple pie and the flag. But Americans are the only ones who have used them. ... We are in no danger at all of having an Iranian nuclear weapon dropped on us. We cannot say so too openly, however, because we have a history of using any threat in order to get weapons ... thanks to the Iranian threat, we are getting weapons from the U.S. and Germany."
And so the beat goes on. Ordinary Iranians are going hungry, getting poorer, having their futures destroyed for the sole purpose of augmenting the wealth and power and privilege of our American elites and their colonial outriders. And if this domination is not handed to them on a platter by the current Iranian regime, our elites are quite happy to kill countless thousands of innocent people to get it.
That's the reality. That's the world you're living in. Do you like it? No? Then change it.
Almost every day brings some new barrage of fear-mongering lies and vaporous accusations from leading members of the Obama Administration and other nabobs at the top of the political-media elite, all of them aimed relentlessly at one goal: justifying military action against Iran.
It is an almost exact replay of what we saw in 2002-2003 during the build-up to the war of aggression against Iraq – with one significant exception. The "progressive" opposition to the baseless warmongering is virtually non-existent this time around – because the warmonger-in-chief is their own champion, their partisan standard-bearer. Many voices that hurled thunderous denunciations at the Bush Regime for its brazen manipulations toward a baseless and unjustified war are now silent – that is, if they are not actively supporting the increasingly rabid saber-rattling by the Peace Laureate. To them, Obama's re-election is more important than anything on earth: certainly more important than the thousands (or tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands) of innocent people who will die in the long-running, far-reverberating hellstorm that an attack on Iran will create.
So now there is even less resistance to the fever-stoking against Iran. Yet what is playing out before our eyes is even more brazen than the build-up to the war crime against Iraq. Right now, in real time, in real life, the Obama administration and its allies in warmongering are telling the American people, over and over, that Iran is preparing terrorist strikes in the United States, that Iran is joining hands with Al Qaeda, that Iran is killing American soldiers in Afghanistan (just as they did in Iraq), that Iran is building long-range missiles that launch their nearly-completed nuclear weapons straight into the Heartland. The Obama administration is carefully – and deliberately and knowingly – building up the Iranian "threat" to such monstrous heights that it will be impossible to back down: Tehran terrorists striking in the Homeland with Al Qaeda while they ready their nukes to destroy America – we're supposed to negotiate with such monsters? There is only one way to save our sweet little children from nuclear obliteration – strike the Persian aggressors before they kill us! It's a plain case of self-defense.
There is of course absolutely no substance to any of this. There is no substance to the claim that Iran is building a nuclear weapon. And there would be no "threat" to the United States if they did build one. (And no threat to Israel either, which is sitting there with its vast nuclear arsenal, fully able – right now, in real time, in real life – to "wipe Iran from the map" at the push of a button.) The only "threat" Iran poses – with or without nuclear weapons – is to the domination of the Middle East and its oil wealth by the American elite and its international partners.
Yet here we are, genuinely on the brink of another war – a war which will make the mass-murdering, $3 trillion FUBAR in Iraq and Afghanistan look like the Summer of Love. Yet the "professional Left" is bending all its might to re-elect the perpetrator behind this Bush-like push for aggressive war. (And of course the professional Right is fully on board.) Can anything stop this runaway train?
In his latest post, Arthur Silber lays out a number of practical, effective steps that can be taken today to bring the danger of this lunatic course to public consciousness. They are there if anyone wants to take them up – especially those in the "dissident" world who already have a broad media platform, and could leverage that position to force this issue to the forefront.
Will anyone do it? Like Silber, I have my doubts. But the alternative is a numb acquiescence to an enormous evil being prepared right in front of us. If it happens, no one can say that they didn't see it coming. When the thousands lie dying and the world grows darker, the only question will be this: Did you try to stop it, or not?
It's hard to say which is more disturbing in Patrick Cockburn's recent analysis of America’s warmongering toward Iran: his portrait of wily Jews manipulating and "bamboozling" the American power elite into acting against their own interests and good intentions; or the 'Amos and Andy' echoes in the image of a Negro President too dumb to know he's being played by wicked Hebrews. In any case, it is an astounding -- and dismaying -- performance from a writer who has long been one of the very best in delineating the operations of empire in the Middle East.
As so often happens, Arthur Silber has already been on the case. In his latest post, Silber notes that most of Cockburn's analysis is right on target. Cockburn writes that the methods being used "by the US, Israel and West European leaders" to whip up war fever against Iran are "deeply dishonest," and "similar to the drumbeat of propaganda and disinformation about Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction." Cockburn also says that sanctions, such as the ones recently imposed by the European Union on Iranian oil sales, "are likely to intensify the crisis, impoverish ordinary Iranians and psychologically prepare the ground for war because of the demonization of Iran." All of this is demonstrably and undeniably true. But then he goes on. Silber sets the scene (and adds the emphases):
But note what else Cockburn says, which is most definitely not similar to anything I've written. Writing about U.S. neoconservatives, the Likud Party and the Israel lobby in Washington, Cockburn states:
These are very much the same people who targeted Iraq in the 1990s. They have been able to force the White House to adopt their program and it is now, in turn, being implemented by a European Union that naively sees sanctions as an alternative to military conflict. ….
It is this latter policy [of toppling the Iranian government] that has triumphed. Israel, its congressional allies and the neoconservatives have successfully bamboozled the Obama administration into a set of policies that make sense only if the aim is overthrow of the regime in Tehran….
It is difficult not to admire the skill with which Netanyahu has maneuvered the White House and European leaders into the very confrontation with Iran they wanted to avoid.
Let me see if I understand this correctly. Obama was strapped down, blindfolded, deprived of all food and water for weeks on end, and tortured in numerous ways. Perhaps Netanyahu screamed at him nonstop for 10 or 12 days. (It would unquestionably work on me.) And then, on top of that, Obama was tricked. Tricked!!! How unbelievably dastardly.
Thus was Obama -- who happens to be the goddamned President of the United States, who happens to be the goddamned Commander-in-Chief of all the U.S. military forces -- "forced," "bamboozled" and "maneuvered" into taking actions he doesn't begin to understand and doesn't actually intend.
Silber goes on to lay out the overwhelming evidence, from Obama's own statements and actions, disproving Cockburn's ludicrous contention -- evidence which, as Silber says, "supports only one conclusion: what Obama is doing comports fully and precisely with what he himself believes."
Exactly. Unlike Cockburn -- and the innumerable progressive apologists for Obama -- I have the fullest respect for the president's intellect and his powers of perception. I think it is deeply insulting to him to say that he is not aware of the true impact of his policies, both in foreign and domestic affairs. As Cockburn himself states, Obama is pursuing "a set of policies that make sense only if the aim is overthrow of the regime in Tehran." Yes. That is indeed the case. The glaringly obvious aim of American policy toward Iran is regime change. But Cockburn is asserting that Barack Obama literally has no sense. He is too stupid to see what Cockburn plainly (and rightly) sees.
Again, what's being said here? That Jews have some kind of occult power to control the minds of America's power elite and force them to act against their will? One really can't credit a writer like Cockburn with such a crude conception -- but something very like it is implicit in his wording. And of course, this idea is prevalent in many circles, on both the right and the left, who continually posit "wag the dog" scenarios about decent Americans being led astray by mesmerizing Israeli leaders and Homeland neo-cons. As I wrote a few years ago, when the Iraq War was plunging deeper and deeper into horror:
To think that all of this has happened because a small band of extremist ideologues – the neocons – somehow "hijacked" U.S. foreign policy to push their radical dreams of "liberating" the Middle East by force and destroying Israel’s enemies is absurd. The Bushist power factions were already determined on an aggressive foreign policy; they used the neocons and their bag of tricks – their inflated rhetoric, their conspiratorial zeal, their murky Middle East contacts, their ideology of brute force in the name of "higher" causes – as tools (and PR cover) to help bring about a long-planned war that had nothing to do with democracy or security or any coherent ideology whatsoever beyond the remorseless pursuit of wealth and power, the blind urge to be top dog.
The neocons were happy to be used, of course … [but] Shakespeare anticipated this tawdry crew long ago, in Hamlet: "Such officers do the king best service in the end: he keeps them, like an ape, in the corner of his jaw, first mouthed, to be last swallowed. When he needs what you have gleaned, it is but squeezing you, and sponge, you shall be dry again." Whatever their baleful influence, these servile ministers were not the drivers of Bush’s war chariot to Babylon. The reins – and the whip – have always been in the hands of the blood-and-iron factions and their feckless front man, the Commander-in-Chief.
For what's the underlying implication of the "neo-cons über alles" meme? … It's that no U.S. administration would ever undertake the kind of rapacious policies we've seen in the last five years – unless they'd been tricked into it by wily Zionists and their ideological outriders. It is, in short, our old friend "American exceptionalism," decked out in dissident drag. ….
It is the American elite – pursuing, as always, the enhancement of its own power and privilege, heedless of the consent of the governed or the genuine interests of the American people (or the Palestinian people or the Israeli people or the Lebanese people or the Iraqi people) – that bedevils us. The emergence of the cretinous neo-conservative cult is just a symptom of a deeper moral corruption coursing through the dominant institutions and structures of American society. The body politic is rotting from the head.
II. But there's something else going on here, and Silber, as usual, goes deeper to get at it:
What interests me about this kind of mental contortion -- and where I think its significance lies -- is what it achieves, and what unspoken premises it reveals. Among other things, it accomplishes a distancing from evil. If we acknowledge that Obama knows exactly what he's doing and that he intends the likely outcome of the events he sets in motion, we are compelled to conclude that he is engaged in a plan which can only be described as deeply, unforgivably evil. The effects of regime change, most likely accompanied by air strikes or military action(s) of some other kind, will include the widespread deaths of innocent human beings and vast destruction."
Again, you cannot pretend that the American elite do not know this. They know it very well. They are discussing it openly every day. As Jim Lobe tells us, yet another bipartisan gaggle of the great and good has just released yet another report stoking war fever against Iran.
The "Bipartisan Policy Center" is chaired by former Democratic Senator Chuck Robb and ex-Air Force general Charles Wald and included "retired flag officers, several former congressmen from both parties" and other wise elders plugged into the power grid. Lobe also notes that group's "staff director was Michael Makovsky, who worked as a consultant to the controversial Pentagon office set up in 2002 to find evidence of operational ties between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein as a justification for the invasion the following year."
Lobe lays out what these heavyweights are calling for. In the inevitable event that sanctions fail to force Iran to give up its entirely legal nuclear energy program (which is policed by the most intensive international inspection regimen in history):
Washington should launch an “effective surgical strike against Iran’s nuclear program” involving aerial attacks and the deployment of U.S. Special Forces units over a period of weeks, according to the task force. …
In addition to hitting suspected nuclear sites, according to the report, an initial U.S. military attack should target Iranian communications systems and air-defense and missile sites, facilities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Iranian and IRGC navies, sites related to Iran’s missile and biological or chemical weapons programs, munitions storage facilities, and airfields, aircraft, and helicopters on the ground or in the air.
If, as a result of retaliation by Tehran or its allies in the region, it was deemed necessary to escalate the conflict, Washington should expand its target list to include Iranian tanks and artillery units, power-generation plants and electrical grids, transportation infrastructure, and manufacturing plants and refineries.
While “U.S. plans would not include targeting of civilians,” according to the task force, Washington should also prepare to provide humanitarian relief in Iran “to counter any crisis that could result from kinetic action.”
No, they are not "targeting civilians" -- just power plant and electric company employees, bus drivers, train drivers, factory workers, highway crews, oil riggers, people who work for mobile phone companies, television and radio stations and all other media which might be used by the regime for "communications." And all the civilians working in government offices and military facilities, and all the civilians who might live near factories, train stations, power plants, oil fields, government offices, military facilities, and all the civilians who ride trains, buses, drive on the roads and highways and otherwise avail themselves of "transportation infrastructure."
Despite their tender forbearance in declining to target civilians (except for the millions of innocent civilians described above), even our bipartisan poobahs recognize that "kinetic action" will induce a need for "humanitarian relief." However, lest anyone think our poobahs are going soft, they make clear that this "relief" is intended solely for PR purposes:
“The United States would lose international support for military action against Iran — or for future action against other states — if it neglected to address the humanitarian consequences of a military strike,” according to the report.
To repeat: this kind of talk is going on across the networks of power in Washington, on every level: formal, informal, official, semi-official, openly and secretly. Indeed, as Lobe notes, this week the Obama administration has been racketing up the warmongering to new heights:
On Sunday, for example, Pentagon chief Leon Panetta vowed to take “whatever steps are necessary” to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, while on Tuesday, the director of national intelligence, Gen. James Clapper, testified that Tehran may be preparing to conduct terrorist attacks in the U.S. in the event of a war.
The impetus behind these efforts is the same: to force regime change in Iran, either by collapsing the regime now in place or else breaking it into complete acquiescence with the armed domination of world affairs that is Washington's openly stated agenda. As Defense Secretary Leon Panetta put it, in introducing Obama's "Defense Strategic Review" last month: "We must maintain the world's finest military, one that supports and sustains the unique global leadership role of the United States in today's world."
This includes maintaining the American military's "ability to project power in areas in which our access and freedom to operate are challenged," the Obama review says. In other words, no one, anywhere, has any right to deny the American war machine from doing whatever it wants in their territory. Any "potential adversary," as the Review puts it, must be deterred by the "power projection” of America’s overwhelming military might.
Obama himself presented this reaffirmation of the doctrine of armed domination in a special appearance at the Pentagon. And as Silber points out (and carefully documents), Obama's open and enthusiastic embrace of this doctrine goes back many years. It is myopic -- to a mind-boggling degree -- to assert that he is being "bamboozled" into carrying out his own clearly stated strategy: “projecting power” against a "potential adversary" in a region that is crucial for "sustaining America’s unique global leadership role" in today's oil-driven world.
This is precisely what he came to power to do. It is precisely what he said he intended to do. It is precisely what he has been doing for years, all over the world. He is serving the interests, promoting the agenda and embodying the values of the American elite, whose lust for empire long pre-dates the founding of the state of Israel. He knows what he is doing; the militarist courtiers in Washington know it; the Israelis know it; and so do the Iranians.
The only people being “bamboozled” about the direction and intentions of American policy toward Iran are the “mental contortionists” who, for whatever reasons, are trying desperately not to see the stark reality in front of their eyes.
One unanticipated benefit of the relentless drive to turn every nook and cranny of the American war machine into a cash cow for private profit is the fact that so much of the nitty-gritty operational work is now put out for bids. And this can give us an occasional glimpse -- through the weeds of contract arcana -- of what our poobahs and satraps are really up to on the far-flung fields of empire.
For example, in olden times -- when war pork was confined more to vittles and blankets and bullets and such -- we might never have known of the latest development in the not-at-all-ended American occupation of Iraq. As the New York Times reports, Iraqis were outraged this week to find they are being spied upon by a fleet of American drones hovering constantly in their supposedly sovereign skies, long after the supposed withdrawal of American forces. Once, such an operation might have flown below radar (so to speak), rigged up on a secret base somewhere and operated by actual soldiers or government agents: no public acknowledgement -- and certainly no advertising -- necessary. But in our era of the ever-accelerating revolving door -- where policymakers and profiteers blend into a single, dizzying, shit-brown blur of corruption -- the call to the trough often trumps other concerns.
And so the existence of the drone operation in Iraq was revealed in an obscure government report containing a "two-page online prospectus for companies that might bid on a contract to manage" the robotic voyeurism. (The supposedly sovereign Iraqis were not even told of program -- much less asked for their permission. What's it to them, anyway?)
Of course, the drone op is run by the State Department not the Pentagon -- but this is a distinction without a difference. Just as the military now carries out endless "nation-building" programs in the nations it destroys, the "diplomatic corps" has become a bristling militarized beast, commanding thousands of mercenaries and various covert operators -- such as Raymond Davis in Pakistan -- who use State's diplomatic cover to spy, subvert and kill the occasional local yokel in countries all over the world. Foggy Bottom and Hell's Bottom (the original name for the Virginia swampland where the Pentagon was built) are simply two heads of the same hydra, with the same mission: enforcing American domination of the world.
In its usual demure fashion, the Times sketches the real nature of the State Department's operations in Iraq:
The drones are the latest example of the State Department’s efforts to take over functions in Iraq that the military used to perform. Some 5,000 private security contractors now protect the embassy’s 11,000-person staff, for example, and typically drive around in heavily armored military vehicles.
When embassy personnel move throughout the country, small helicopters buzz over the convoys to provide support in case of an attack. Often, two contractors armed with machine guns are tethered to the outside of the helicopters.
Let's see: if you had thousands of armed foreigners prowling your streets in heavily armoured -- and heavily armed -- military vehicles, and your skies were filled with foreign helicopters sporting machine-gunners and all-seeing foreign robot drones watching your every move, would you say you had a "sovereign" country? Would you say were no longer under the heel of an armed occupying power?
The ever-circumspect Times calls this heavy-handed aggression "yet another tricky issue for the two countries." It seems that "many Iraqis" remain "deeply skeptical of the United States" -- though Lord knows why. A million innocent dead, millions more displaced, millions more ruined, sectarian violence and government torture set loose on the land -- why would you be "skeptical" of the folks who brought you that?
But of course, those little brown silly-billies are worrying themselves over nothing. Why, these diplomatic drones aren't even armed! How do we know this? Because the State Department says so:
The State Department drones, by contrast, carry no weapons and are meant to provide data and images of possible hazards, like public protests or roadblocks, to security personnel on the ground, American officials said. They are much smaller than armed drones, with wingspans as short as 18 inches, compared with 55 feet for the Predators.
The State Department has about two dozen drones in Iraq, but many are used only for spare parts, the officials said.
All very comforting -- but try reading that passage using our patented Newspeak Detangler Technique; i.e., at the end of every quoted assertion by a government official, in any story, on any subject, always add this little phrase: "but they could be lying."
This week, the warlords of the West took yet another step toward their long-desired war againt Iran. (Open war, that is; their covert war has been going on for decades -- via subversion, terrorism, and proxies like Saddam Hussein.) On Monday, the European Union obediently followed the dictates of its Washington masters by agreeing to impose an embargo on Iranian oil.
The embargo bans all new oil contracts with Iran, and cuts off all existing deals after July. The embargo is accompanied by a freeze on all European assets of the Iranian central bank. In imposing these draconian measures on a country which is not at war with any nation, which has not invaded or attacked another nation in centuries, and which is developing a nuclear energy program that is not only entirely legal under international law but is also subject to the most stringent international inspection regime ever seen, the EU is "targeting the economic lifeline of the regime," as one of its diplomats put it, with admirable candor.
The embargo will have serious, perhaps disastrous effects on many of Europe's sinking economies, which are heavy users of Iranian oil. This is particularly true in Greece, the poster boy for our modern "Shock Doctrine über alles" global economic system. For even as Greece writhes beneath the blows of European bankers determined to bleed the country dry to avoid the consequences of their own knowingly corrupt loan policies, the Iranians have been giving the Greeks substantial discounts on oil, which has helped ease -- at least in some measure -- the economic ruin being imposed on the "birthplace of democracy."
Now this slender lifeline is being cut, leaving Greece -- and other nations under assault by the plutocrats and their political lackeys -- to seek a replacement for discounted Iranian oil in what will be a seller's market, thanks to the shortages caused by the embargo. The result will be higher prices across the board, leading to more economic ruin for all those beyond the golden penumbra of the One Percent.
And of course, the effects will be even more catastrophic for millions of innocent people in Iran. Already the lives of these innocent people -- including all of the dissidents supposedly so cherished by the West -- are being diminished and degraded by the series of sanctions imposed by the United States and its pack of tail-wagging Europuppies. But who cares about that? After all, it is glaringly obvious that our Euro-American elites are more than happy to see their own rabble go down the shock-doctrine toilet; it is inconceivable that the ruin of a bunch of dirty Mooslim furriners would disturb them for even a nano-second.
The ostensible aim of all these sanctions, we are told, is to "force Iran back to the negotiating table" on its nuclear program. This is patent nonsense. Innumerable "negotiations" -- including major concessions by Iran -- have been rejected by Washington and the puppies. For example, who can forget Barack Obama's "major diplomatic initiative" in 2010, when he proposed a solution to the impasse: Iran should ship its nuclear fuel to Brazil and Turkey for processing. What happened? Well, as we noted here at the time:
Obama puts forth what is purported to be a major "diplomatic" solution to have Iran ship its nuclear fuel to Brazil and Turkey for processing. This was, of course, a hollow gesture, meant to show how intransigent and untrustworthy Iran really is; the nuke-hungry mullahs would naturally reject the deal. But when Iran made an agreement with Brazil to do exactly what Obama requested, this was immediately denounced -- by Obama -- as .... a demonstration of how intransigent and untrustworthy Iran really is. Meet a benchmark, and the masters simply change the rules. That's how it works until they get what they want: regime change in strategic lands laden with natural resources.
The latter statement is the key. The aim of this endless string of sanctions, this constant tightening of the noose, is not more "negotiations." It is regime change, by any means necessary. The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, laid out one possible school of thought motivating the Western warmongers: "[The sanctions have] nothing to do with a desire to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation. It's aimed at stifling the Iranian economy and the population in an apparent hope to provoke discontent."
That is a scenario often touted by our high and mighty mongerers: squeeze an enemy regime until the people rise up and get rid of a ruler you don't like. Of course, as we saw in Iraq, a people driven to their knees by murderous sanctions rarely have the strength or capability to overturn a regime. In fact, the leaders of sanctioned regimes are almost always strengthened (and enriched) by sanctions.
But unlike some bitter cynics, I happen to have great faith in the abiding intelligence of our betters. I believe they know perfectly well that sanctions will not drive the Iranian regime from power. Instead, I think the current strategy here is two-fold.
First, while long-running sanctions do not in themselves overturn a regime, they do make the entire country much weaker. Infrastructure falls apart, society crumbles, communities wither, families fray, the people themselves become physically weaker -- indeed, they can die in droves, in multitudes, as in Iraq. All of this makes for a much softer target when you finally decide to pull the trigger on military action.
Second -- and I think much more relevant to this case -- there is the hope that ever-tightening sanctions will provoke a violent response from the victim, thereby "justifying" a war of "self-defense" against the "unprovoked" attack. The series of escalating provocations being carried out by Washington and its allies, chiefly Israel -- including an increasingly open program of assassinations -- is clearly designed to goad the Iranians into a casus belli retaliation.
So far, the Iranians have resisted -- a forbearance that has driven the Western warmongers into ludicrous attempts to manufacture casus belli incidents. such as the recent "Gleiwitz gambit": the story that the super-duper Iranian spymasters tried to hire a goofball car dealer to kill a Saudi diplomat on the streets of Washington. But the matches our masters keep throwing at this bone-dry pile of tinder are getting closer and closer to sparking the desired conflagration. The Iranians have already threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz if the EU goes through with its embargo. This, of course, would likely be the "Pearl Harbor" moment the war-whoopers are waiting for: an "unprovoked" attack aimed at -- what else? -- "targeting the economic lifeline" of the West. (Targeting economic lifelines is a tactic reserved solely for God's good eggs, you understand; it's an unmitigated evil when those heathen devils try it.)
The Iranians might back down on this threat, of course; the wily Persians tend to play the long game, and usually with more subtle calibration than the Western elites, who, like spoiled children, like to have their loot and power now now now! But if this latest provocation doesn't do the trick, rest assured there are more coming in the, er, pipeline. For the bipartisan goal, as noted above, remains the same: "regime change in strategic lands laden with natural resources." And our masters have already demonstrated that they do not care how many people are ruined -- or are killed -- in pursuit of this aim.
UPDATE: Arthur Silber offers some powerful amplification of these observations in his latest post. As always, you should read the whole thing, but here is one particularly piercing -- and tragically true -- insight from his piece:
After Iraq, after Afghanistan, after Libya, after all of these horrors and many more, can the American people be led into another war? Why, it's the easiest thing in the world.
In a remarkable piece of reportage, the Guardian's Ghaith Abdul-Ahad details the glorious fruits of the "liberation" that America has so generously and selflessly gifted to the people of Iraq:
Um Hussein had six children. Her eldest son was killed by Sunni insurgents in 2005, when they took control of the neighbourhood. Three of her remaining sons were kidnapped by a Shia militia group when they left the neighbourhood to find work. They were never seen again.
[Her last surviving son] Yassir was detained in 2007. For three years she heard nothing of him and assumed he was dead like his brothers. Then one day she took a phone call from an officer who said she could go to visit him if she paid a bribe. She borrowed the money from her neighbour and set off for the prison.
"We waited until they brought him," she said. "His hands and legs were tied in metal chains like a criminal. I didn't know him from the torture. He wasn't my son, he was someone else. I cried: 'Your mother dies for you, my dear son.' I picked dirt from the floor and smacked it on my head. They dragged me out and wouldn't let me see him again. I have lost four. I told them I wouldn't lose this one."
Afterwards, the officers called from prison demanding hefty bribes to let him go while telling the family he was being tortured. ... "We had to send [the security men] phone cards so they could call us. They said: 'Your son is being tortured – he will die if you don't pay.' So we paid and paid. What could I do? He is the last I have.
Yassir's case is part of a growing body of evidence collected by the Guardian that shows Iraqi state security officers are systematically arresting people on trumped-up charges, torturing them and extorting bribes from their families for their release. Endemic corruption in Iraq has created a new industry in which senior security service officers buy their authority over particular neighbourhoods by bribing politicians, junior officers pay their seniors monthly stipends and everyone gets a return on their investment by extorting money from the families of detainees. ...
This is the system that was installed, financed, armed and maintained at every step by the American invaders. Yassir's ordeal -- and those of thousands like him -- occurred under the American occupation, which only came to its ostensible end a few weeks ago. (Of course, thousands of armed American forces and mercenaries still remain in the raped and broken country.) This is precisely the system that the Americans intended to leave in place. Indeed, it is the very system that the bipartisan American power elite have openly yearned to impose on Iraq since the days following the 1991 Gulf War: a strongman regime, corrupt, brutal, but open for business to Western oil interests and American war profiteers -- Saddamism without Saddam. And that is exactly what they have achieved.
Rafic is an officer in one of the most feared security units in Iraq, one of the many commando anti-terrorism units which, at the height of the civil war, had a reputation for being a government-backed death squad. ... When we met him in December he was closing a $5,000 deal with the family of a detainee. He promised them he would send their son blankets and food and assured them the beating and torture would stop. The money was the first of many payments Rafic would receive before the man would be released.
... Rafic stood outside a small shop where he held his "surgery" every evening, drinking Greek ouzo with his friends and receiving visitors. His scope of business is not limited to detainees but covers anything related to corrupt officialdom, including getting ID cards and passports ...
"We are neutral," he said, referring to his commando unit. "We don't do Sunni and Shia any more. We are professional. We detain Shia and Sunni. There is no difference."
How do you make detainees confess? "We hang them from the ceiling and beat them until they are motionless corpses," he said. "Then they confess."
"Look," he added, "the system now is just like under Saddam: walk by the wall, don't go near politics and you can walk with your head high and not fear anything. But if you come close to the throne then the wrath of Allah will fall on you and we have eyes everywhere."
Read the whole story; these excerpts are just the tip of the bloodsoaked slagheap. This is what the American people have paid trillions of tax dollars to achieve. This is the outcome and the enduring legacy of America's unrepented, still-ongoing war crime in Iraq. This is a poisonous seed that will bear poisonous fruit for generations to come.
"When the children of the slain/Cry for revenge to ease their pain/Lost in shadows you'll never see/Will you be free? Will you be free?"
As you might expect, Arthur Silber cuts straight to the core -- and also lays out the much broader, much darker, more evil context -- of the latest obscenity in the ongoing atrocity of America's occupation of Afghanistan: the desecration of dead bodies by American soldiers. Below is just an excerpt -- but do read it in full. (And while you're there, give any support you can. Silber's health situation continues to be catastrophic, and he is solely dependent on his website for survival.)
Silber first lays out very carefully the horrific -- and indisputable -- facts of America's many "interventions," stretching back to the 19th century. (Follow his links for a thorough education.) He then goes on:
As the condensed factual recitation above demonstrates, the United States Government recognizes no difference between the lives of Americans and the lives of anyone else anywhere on Earth: all human beings anywhere are to be brutalized, terrorized and murdered as the United States Government chooses.
The repeated actions of the U.S. Government over more than a hundred years -- and its actions today -- place this fact beyond all question. This is the horror that greets you upon waking in the morning; the screams of the victims are the lullaby to which you fall asleep. The horror is the air you breathe. It is the cultural atmosphere that surrounds you. It is the knock on the door.
In the parlance of the day, or what would be that parlance if we spoke more plainly, we can say with accuracy and precision:
The ruling class of the United States pisses on the entire world, just as it pisses on every human being who is not favored by privilege and power.
This is the ultimate foundation of our lives today. This is the truth that will almost never be spoken.
Since we resolutely refuse to acknowledge the actual horror, we neurotically displace our outrage onto matters of comparative triviality. It is certainly disgusting that U.S. Marines pissed on the bodies of several dead Taliban -- but isn't it more disgusting that the Taliban are dead in a criminal war of aggression waged to advance American global hegemony? Rank these items in terms of the disgust you think they merit:
* The systematic destruction of a series of nations and their peoples over a period of many decades.
* The ongoing murders of people who do not (and most commonly could not) threaten the U.S., in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and on and on and on -- in 120 countries around the globe.
* The claim that the U.S. Government has the "right" to murder anyone in the world for whatever reason it chooses -- a "right," I remind you, which the U.S. Government has actualized.
* Pissing on three dead bodies.
We refuse to speak about the first four items, but the guardians of our culture insist that they are sickened and outraged by the last one. Displacement of this kind is never innocent. The purpose is to help those who claim to be disgusted and outraged convince themselves (and us) that they (and thus "we") are "moral," "good" and "decent." They are not. If they were, they would speak about the other items -- and they would speak about them all the time. But they almost never mention them, except to justify them.
The statement from a "Media Officer" for the Marine Corps is a genuine obscenity: "the actions portrayed are not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps." Under the pressure of the interminable lies of American exceptionalism, joy becomes suffering and life is turned into death, and it is demanded that these perversions be regarded as good. The "Media Officer" engages in another variant of these sickening inversions: "the actions portrayed" are the perfect embodiment of their "core values." The Marine Corps is a key instrumentality used by the United States Government in its wars of criminal aggression against innocent human beings. Nothing they do can be anything other than an obscenity. The fact that they are in Afghanistan at all is an obscenity. The fact that they murder human beings there is an obscenity. That they pissed on the dead bodies is a detail in the context of the policies and actions which give rise to the American presence in that country in the first place.
There is much, much more to this important piece, but I wanted to spread the word about it as soon as possible. Go there, read -- and do not be lulled by the expressions of "moral outrage" by those who gleefully countenance -- and commit -- far greater outrages every single day.
Wise man William Blum has spent decades shredding the tired pieties of empire to reveal the rotten reality of the American war-and-domination machine, as it churns its way back and forth across the world, chewing up individual lives and whole countries. And so, as you might imagine, he has a few choice words to say about the bogus "end" to the American war crime in Iraq, recently praised to the highest heavens by our presidential Peace Laureate as "an extraordinary achievement, nearly nine years in the making."
Here are few excerpts from Blum's take on this extraordinary achievement, from his latest "Anti-Empire Report." (Go here to sign up for the newsletter.)
"Most people don't understand what they have been part of here," said Command Sgt. Major Ron Kelley as he and other American troops prepared to leave Iraq in mid-December. "We have done a great thing as a nation. We freed a people and gave their country back to them."
"It is pretty exciting," said another young American soldier in Iraq. "We are going down in the history books, you might say." (Washington Post, December 18, 2011)
Ah yes, the history books, the multi-volume leather-bound set of "The Greatest Destructions of One Country by Another." The newest volume can relate, with numerous graphic photos, how the modern, educated, advanced nation of Iraq was reduced to a quasi failed state; how the Americans, beginning in 1991, bombed for 12 years, with one dubious excuse or another; then invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, tortured without inhibition, killed wantonly, ... how the people of that unhappy land lost everything — their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women's rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives ... More than half the population either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile ... The air, soil, water, blood, and genes drenched with depleted uranium ... the most awful birth defects ... unexploded cluster bombs lying anywhere in wait for children to pick them up ... a river of blood running alongside the Euphrates and Tigris ... through a country that may never be put back together again …
Blum also quotes the Peace Laureate's final judgment of this vast swamp of carnage and corruption, in the Fort Bragg speech that Obama gave to some of the crime's factotums and cannon fodder on the occasion of the withdrawal of all the American armed forces (except of course for the ones, in uniform and out, who remain behind in their thousands):
"This is an extraordinary achievement, nearly nine years in the making. And today, we remember everything that you did to make it possible. ... Years from now, your legacy will endure. God bless you all, God bless your families, and God bless the United States of America."
Yes, God bless us for killing, wounding, traumatising, imprisoning, displacing or exiling millions of innocent people in a country that never attacked us and posed no threat to us. God bless us for killing hundreds of thousands of children through our years of sanctions, invasion and occupation. God bless us, God bless us, God bless us every one, every one of us a precious sunbeam for the Lord!
And as we noted here last month, the American war crime in Iraq just keeps rolling on. This week saw yet another spate of mass slaughter in yet another series of bombings in the virulent sectarian warfare which was spawned, set loose, empowered and fomented by the invaders, who very deliberately -- with malice aforethought -- divided their new "Iraqi" government along strict sectarian lines, arming and paying death squads and militias on both sides of the Sunni-Shia divide to rip each other -- and Iraqi society -- to pieces. The mass murder this week is a direct result and a direct responsibility of the Americans who instigated, carried out, supported -- and praise -- the "extraordinary achievement" of this endless atrocity. "Nine years in the making," yes -- and still going strong!