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Fri

24

Sep

2010

No Good Men Left Here: The Kill Team in Afghanistan and the Kill Team at Home
by Christopher Ketcham

We already know enough from the Wikileaks Afghan archives to conclude that the news of the so-called “Kill Team” in Afghanistan – twelve US Army soldiers wantonly murdering and mutilating Afghan civilians – is no news at all.  It is the norm of empire.   It is the monstrous quotidian.  Certainly there are many more instances like it that will never come to light.

The soldier who first revealed the predations of the Kill Team, in a post to his parents on Facebook, writes of Afghanistan that “There are no good men left here.  It eats away at my conscience every day.”  Would that it ate at his fellow Americans.   The Team’s work, after all, is ours, paid for by us, abetted by our silence and our receivables, sanctioned by our standing up nowhere to be seen in opposition to a government that renders barbarism as statesmanship.  The work, to be sure, consisted of that for which the Team was well-trained, their minds at ease for the labor, the empire having asked of them only to oil their muscles and derange their hearts enough to put into action the deranged policy programmed by the higher-ups behind the laptops and in the lounge chairs.  That all war creates victims of soldiers, victimized by their own governments, is forgotten, yet it should be the axiom of the age.  

If the Kill Team is guilty of what we’re told, then how judge them?   The twelve soldiers now charged with premeditated murder, conspiracy, and “possessing human body parts” were said to have slaughtered innocent men, exploding their bodies with grenades or gunning them down, then laying into the dead flesh with knives.  They collected as keepsakes the fingerbones, leg bones, teeth; one soldier carried off an Afghan skull as thanks for the memories.  

They are guilty only of bringing the policy to its logical conclusion.  The policy is lunatic. It has no purpose beyond its own justification, which is that it must succeed because it is our policy.  It cannot succeed because it entails the subjugation of a fractious tribal people who have shown to history again and again that they will not be subjugated.   The lunacy of the policy has its predictable effect on the troops who are meant to enforce it.  Leaping on corpses to take scalps seems the natural course, the meaningful act in a meaningless affair, the occupation of Afghanistan finally making a twisted sense, freed of the hypocrisies of the political class.   We are there with guns to kill other human beings, the corpses as totems of victory – the people subjugated at last! – an accomplishment where there is no victory to be had.    

Godspeed, and more please.  Or so we are to interpret the message from Congress, whose members, our very own representative kill team, year after year vote the appropriations for the continuing of the lunacy.  The real kill team, of course, is in the White House, under the leadership of a Democratic president who, it’s clear by now, is covertly serving out George W. Bush’s third term in office.  The kill team is an executive and its minions   asserting the right of assassination of any person deemed fit, the Joint Chiefs of Staff drawing up “hit lists” that include American citizens, the Obama Administration expressly authorizing the CIA to bring down the death sentence on its select targets in the manner of a thunderbolt from the skies – no arrest, no charges, no trial, no defense, no prosecution, no process.   
 

Fri

24

Sep

2010

Fruit Flies in a Bottle
by Ernest Partridge Ph.D.

Place a few fruit flies in a bottle with a layer of honey at the bottom, and they will quickly multiply to an enormous number, and then, just as quickly, die off to the very last, poisoned by their wastes. Similarly, add a few yeast cells to grape juice, seal the bottle, and the cells will consume the sugar and turn it into alcohol. When the alcohol rises to 12.5% it will kill off all the yeast, and the wine will be ready for the table.

Fruit flies and yeast in a bottle are embarked upon suicidal endeavors. They can’t help it. They don’t know any better, lacking the cognitive equipment to “know” anything at all.

Human beings, we are told, are different. Humans can utilize their accumulated knowledge, evaluate evidence and apply reason, and with these skills and accomplishments they can imagine alternative futures and choose among them to their advantage.

Human beings have these capacities. But history teaches us that all too often, human beings simply refuse to apply them and, like the mindless fruit flies, march blindly into oblivion. For example:

  • None of the antagonists in the First World War wanted the war. It was touched off by the assassination of an Austrian Duke in the Balkans. And when it was all over four years later and sixteen million had died, one German politician asked another, “How did it all happen?” The second replied, “Ach, if we only knew!” (Tuchman)
     

  • When the Nazi pogrom against the Jews accelerated, a few wise Jews fled Germany, leaving friends, professions and all their possessions behind. The others, reflecting that “This can’t be all that bad, after all, I am a loyal German,” remained. When in January 1942 “the final solution” was decided at the Wansee conference, it was too late.
     

 

Fri

24

Sep

2010

How To Reverse A Deflation: Helicopter Ben Needs To Drop Some Money On Main Street
by Eileen Fleming

The Fed is proposing another round of “quantitative easing,” although the first round failed to reverse deflation. It failed because the money went into the coffers of banks, which failed to lend it on. To reverse deflation, the money needs to be funneled directly to state and local economies.

In 2002, in a speech that earned him the nickname “Helicopter Ben,” then-Fed Governor Bernanke famously said that the government could easily reverse a deflation, just by printing money and dropping it from helicopters. “The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent),” he said, “that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost.” Later in the speech he discussed “a money-financed tax cut,” which he said was “essentially equivalent to Milton Friedman’s famous ‘helicopter drop’ of money.” You could cure a deflation, said Professor Friedman, simply by dropping money from helicopters.

It seems logical enough. If there is insufficient money in the money supply (deflation), the solution is to put more money into it. But if deflation is so easy to fix, then why has the Fed’s massive attempts to date failed to do the job? At the Federal Reserve’s Jackson Hole summit on August 27, Chairman Bernanke said he would fight deflation with his whole arsenal, including “quantitative easing” (QE) – purchasing longterm securities with money created on a computer. Yet since 2008, the Fed has added more than $1.2 trillion to “base money” doing just that, and the economy is still in a serious deflationary spiral. In the first quarter of this year, the money supply actually shrank at a record annual rate of 9.6%.

Cullen Roche at The Pragmatic Capitalist has an answer to that puzzle.  He says that as currently practiced, quantitative easing (QE) is not really a money drop.  It is just an asset swap:

“[T]he Fed doesn’t actually ‘print’ anything when it initiates its QE policy.  The Fed simply electronically swaps an asset with the private sector.  In most cases it swaps deposits with an interest bearing asset.”

The Fed just swaps Federal Reserve Notes (dollar bills) for other assets (promissory notes or debt) that can quickly be turned into money.  The Fed is merely trading one form of liquidity for another, without raising the overall water level in the pool. 
 

Fri

24

Sep

2010

The Photo before the Storm: Peace Talks Already Failed
by Ramzy Baroud

A picture is not always worth a thousand words. The recently released photographs of Palestinian and Israeli leaders in Washington during their first direct talks in many months certainly don’t say anything new.

It was the status quo at its best, a mere procession of regional and US leaders before hungry cameramen. The leaders promised “not to spare any effort” and praised the undeniable altruism embedded in the very concept of “peace”. Israeli Prime Minister repeated the martyr-like emphasis of past Israeli leaders regarding the “painful” compromises and sacrifices required to defeat the many obstacles standing before them. Mahmoud Abbas – with his expired presidency over a corrupt Palestinian Authority - smiled, shook hands and spoke unconvincingly about his hopes and expectations.

Jordanian and Egyptian leaders also attended. Their presence was purely an endeavor to mark a difference between this event and the last failed attempt at reaching a peace agreement. When late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israel’s Ehud Barak were herded into Camp David under the auspices of then President Bill Clinton, Arafat was left to fend for himself without any Arab backing. This left Barak, fully backed by the US, with all the cards. The process was a mockery then, as it is now.

Today’s badly staged talks are actually much less promising than the ones of July 2000. Barak had a considerably serious mandate, while Netanyahu runs a discontented coalition of largely rightwing fanatics. Arafat, although his popularity had dwindled, also represented a moral authority and a unifying figure among all Palestinian factions, including Hamas. Abbas, on the other hand, sits on the helm of hugely discredited and ineffectual band of contractors and self-serving politicians. More, Abbas operates with an expired mandate, and his cabinet members are handpicked to replace the democratically elected government of Hamas, whose members are either under siege in Gaza or held in Israeli prisons.

Needless to say, this latest round of peace talks is seriously lacking in legitimacy and goodwill.
 

Fri

24

Sep

2010

Veto power is an insult to the international community: Kenneth O'Keefe
by Kourosh Ziabari in Iran

Kenneth O'Keefe is a world citizen. As an anti-war activist and social entrepreneur, he renounced his U.S. citizenship on March 1, 2001 and burned his American passport on January 7, 2004 in protest to the United States' Imperialism and called for the immediate withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. O'Keefe is a former U.S. Mariner who served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and subsequently revealed the use of depleted uranium by the United States as a crime against humanity.

O'Keefe has taken part in a number of substantial anti-war movements and served as the director of Human Shield Action to Iraq. He founded a group of activists who traveled to Iraq to act as human shields to prevent the U.S.-led coalition troops from bombing certain locations during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In 2004 O'Keefe established an association known as the "P10K Force," a group of 10,000 Westerners intended to act as international observers in the occupied Palestinian territories and help bring peace with Israel

In the fall of 2008, he served as a Captain and 1st Mate with the Free Gaza Movement, a direct action in which 46 people successfully challenged the Israeli siege of Gaza

O'Keefe was one of the international peace activists onboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla that was intended to end the Israeli siege of Gaza Strip.

Kenneth O'Keefe joined me in an in-depth interview to answer my questions on his anti-imperialistic viewpoints, the prospect of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the continued international controversy over Iran's nuclear program, the chronic hostility between the United States and Iran and his experiences in the Freedom Flotilla mission.

Kourosh Ziabari: as an anti-imperialist activist, what's in your view, the source of America's enormous imperialistic power? America is a country with less than 400 years of history; however, it has successfully transformed the international order, dominated the less powerful countries around the world and revolutionized the global political equations. How is it possible for the United States to do so?

Kenneth O'Keefe: The world is full of illusions that are used by the rich and powerful to manipulate and control the people. The greatest illusion, and the one with the most devastating consequences, is that the American people and the Israeli, and the British, and numerous others, vote in their governments and hold them to account. Those who really control the governments are those powerful few who control the banking systems, the major multi-national corporations and, of course, the mass media. If you look beyond the faces of the presidents, prime ministers and politicians you will see that these governments' policies remain virtually the same, no matter who is 'leading' these countries. These 'leaders' do not answer to the people they have pledged to serve; they answer to those who remain behind the scenes.
 

Fri

24

Sep

2010

Beyond Hiroshima - The Non-Reporting Of Fallujah's Cancer Catastrophe
by Media Lens

Compassion is sometimes a central theme of media reporting. On August 25, journalists across the UK described how a British woman, Mary Bale, had been filmed dropping a cat into a wheelie bin. The cat was later released unharmed. The Guardian reported and commented on the story on August 24 and 25. Matt Seaton wrote:

“OK, there are lots of acts of random cruelty involving humans on humans every day, but this was somebody's pet, for Pete's sake. Who would do such a thing?” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/ commentisfree/2010/aug/24/ coventry-cat-wheelie-bin)

On August 26, the Guardian followed up with a report describing how animal protection charities were considering whether to prosecute Bale. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/ world/2010/aug/26/rspca-woman- cat-wheelie-bin)

On August 27, Alexander Chancellor devoted a section of his Guardian column to the story. On August 28, Michele Hansen also wrote an article focusing on the cat and on cruelty to animals more generally. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/ commentisfree/2010/aug/28/cat- litter-pets-protected-and- persecuted)

On August 29, almost a week after the Guardian had first reported the incident, Euan Ferguson commented:

“The same Facebook, the same Britain, that ‘named and shamed’ Mary Bale is the one that had over 30,000 followers for Raoul Moat RIP, who was a killer. Do we love animals more than people?” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/ world/2010/aug/29/mary-bale- cat-fluffy-animal)

Good question. According to our LexisNexis search (September 7), two articles appeared on the cat story in the Independent and two in the Independent on Sunday. The Daily Telegraph mentioned it in three articles; the Times in seven. The Observer had one article, the Mirror and Sunday Mirror had a total of ten articles. More than 170 articles have so far mentioned Mary Bale in the UK press.
 

Fri

24

Sep

2010

Expanding U.S.-Canada Security and Economic Partnership
by Dana Gabriel

In recent years, U.S.-Canada border issues have been overshadowed by concerns surrounding illegal immigration and drug violence on the southern border. Earlier this summer, both countries agreed to work towards a more joint approach to border security aimed at addressing common threats and promoting economic cooperation.

In July, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, “met to advance a strategic dialogue on developing a shared vision for border security for Canada and the United States—one that will enhance security and resilience against common threats, while bolstering competitiveness and job creation.” A number of initiatives were announced, including an agreement to complete a joint threat and risk assessment which, “addresses drug trafficking and illegal immigration, the illicit movement of prohibited or controlled goods, agricultural hazards, and the spread of infectious disease.” In addition, a memorandum of understanding on cross-border currency seizures and information sharing was signed that, “will help to identify potential threats and assist in money-laundering and terrorist-financing investigations and prosecutions.” Increasingly, Canada is being pressured to further take on U.S. security priorities in an effort to keep trade flowing across the northern border.

Secretary Napolitano and Minister Toews also reached an agreement to safeguard and respond to disruptions of shared infrastructure that connect the two nations such as roads, power grids and bridges. The Canada-U.S. Action Plan for Critical Infrastructure is designed to, “strengthen the safety, security and resiliency of Canada and the United States by establishing a comprehensive cross-border approach to critical infrastructure resilience.” This includes building partnerships, improved information sharing, as well as risk management aimed at increasing the ability to prepare for emergencies like a terrorist attack or a natural disaster. The action plan is part of ongoing cross-border collaboration and builds off a recent deal reached between the Canadian federal and provincial governments in regards to protecting local infrastructure. It also appears to be linked to the Civil Assistance Plan signed by the U.S.-Canadian military in 2008, which allows the armed forces of one nation to support the other during a civil emergency.

In April, Minister of International Trade Peter Van Loan was in Washington, D.C to promote deeper Canada-U.S. ties. He met with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and they agreed to hold twice-annual trade meetings to enhance bilateral relations. In July, they met in Ottawa to discuss greater economic cooperation and the need to avoid protectionism. Through NAFTA, both nations economies are already intimately interrelated. and integrated. While some advocate more trade between the two partners as the answer to strengthening their respective economies, it was recently reported that Canada’s trade deficit increased by a record level in July. This is related in large part to its dependence on the struggling American economy.

At the trade meetings in Ottawa several months back, Minister Van Loan and Ambassador Kirk also addressed the Canada–U.S. Agreement on Government Procurement. The deal resolved the Buy American issue and is essentially an extension of NAFTA. Some believe that it is an important step in providing protection for future bilateral trade relations, but in the process it opens up provincial and municipal contracts to foreign corporations. The 5th round of negotiations between Canada and the European Union (EU) on a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will take place in October. One of the EU’s top objectives includes gaining access to procurement and services in areas of health, energy, water, as well as other sectors. The Canada-U.S. Buy American deal could be used to further reinforce EU demands. While Canada needs to lessen its dependence on the U.S. economy, there are concerns that CETA will be based on the failed NAFTA trade model.

The report Skating on Thin Ice: Canadian-American Relations in 2010 and 2011 released earlier this year and authored by Alexander Moens of the Fraser Institute, praised the Canada-U.S. agreement on government procurement. It suggested the deal, “should encourage free traders on both sides of the line to continue pressing for deeper economic cooperation.” Considering the bilateral discussions and initiatives which have progressed in the last several months, it appears as if this forecast was indeed correct. The report also emphasized that, “Canada and the United States need to pursue deeper trade integration in such areas as regulatory harmonization, common external tariffs on manufactured products, free trade in agricultural products, and an overall energy and environmental accord.” For the U.S. to be more receptive to increased trade and investment, it recommends establishing a, “unified regime to deal with a common security threat.” In order for deeper economic integration to move forward, Canada will be further pressed to adopt a single security strategy dominated by American interests. This poses a serious threat to its sovereignty.

The trilateral framework remains intact, but NAFTA partners at least for the time being, are pursuing a more bilateral agenda for advancing continental integration. This seems to be drawing less attention. The current approach is due in part to the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America being exposed and discredited. It is interesting to note that there has yet to be an announcement concerning this year’s edition of the North American Leaders Summit introduced in 2005 with the launching of the SPP. Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s separate trips to the U.S. to meet with President Barack Obama and to Canada to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper back in May, might have served as this year’s version of the leaders summit. Calderón used the state visits as an opportunity to strengthen NAFTA ties and promote deeper North American economic integration.

The SPP appears to be dead in name only as some of its key priorities continue through other initiatives. It remains the blueprint for further expanding NAFTA. Continental integration is a permanent agenda and the vision for a North American Union has not been abandoned.

Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, as well as other issues. Contact: beyourownleader@hotmail.com. Visit his blog site at beyourownleader.blogspot.com

 

Thu

23

Sep

2010

Tomgram: Michael Klare, China Shakes the World
by Tom Engelhardt

The year 2009 was a bad one for the United States.  And no, I’m not talking about unemployment, or poverty, or home foreclosures, or banks too-big-to-fail, or any of the other normal bad news.  I’m talking about something serious.  As the world’s leading maker of things that go bang in the night (and I don’t mean Hollywood films), we took a hit last year.  A big one.  The planet’s leading arms-maker and dealer -- that’s us by a country mile -- with a 68.4% cut of the global market in 2008, had the value of its arms deals drop by almost $16 billion in the gloomy economic times of 2009.  Consider it a blow to one of the few things Americans do well these days.  Fortunately, there was a simpatico country rich enough to bail us out.  I’m referring to Saudi Arabia, which is now doing for U.S. arms what the Chinese have long done for U.S. Treasury bills.

For a whopping $60 billion -- yes, Virginia, that is “billion” -- the Saudis, according to Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service, have agreed to buy 84 F-15s and 175 helicopters as part of the largest arms deal in U.S. history.  In addition, the sale, soon to be presented to Congress for approval by the White House, could end up involving a supplemental $30 billion deal “to upgrade the Saudi kingdom’s naval forces and yet another for new missile-defense systems.”  (You didn’t even know that Saudi Arabia had a navy, did you?)  This, Lobe writes, will “by itself exceed the value of all conventional arms transfer agreements signed worldwide by developing and developed countries alike in 2009 -- $57.5 billion.”  And there’s even an added bonus for U.S. arms makers.  Though this sale is theoretically aimed at Iran, the Saudi military, for all its weaponry, has shown little urge to fight, or to fight effectively.  This will, however, surely mean billions more in compensatory U.S. weaponry flowing to Israel. (And keep in mind that, after years of disastrous war and occupation unleashed by the Bush administration's 2003 invasion, the American-built Iraqi military may soon offer U.S. arms-makers thanks in the form of major new tank and plane orders.) 

Consider it then a rescue package in tight times, part of a spectacle in which the U.S. and some American jobs are being saved from the brink by client states.  Consider it part of a larger spectacle of American decline, barely acknowledged in official Washington, something energy expert Michael Klare, author most recently of the invaluable book Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet, has been following for a while.  So it’s only appropriate that TomDispatch launches a “Decline of America” week with him writing the first article on the subject.  Watch for pieces by Dilip Hiro and me later in the week, and if you have a moment, catch Klare discussing China's energy superpowerdom on Timothy MacBain's latest TomCast audio interview by clicking here or, to download it to your iPod, here.  Tom

Twenty-First Century Energy Superpower 
China, Energy, and Global Power 

By Michael T. Klare

If you want to know which way the global wind is blowing (or the sun shining or the coal burning), watch China.  That’s the news for our energy future and for the future of great-power politics on planet Earth.  Washington is already watching -- with anxiety.

 
 

Tue

21

Sep

2010

Oceania by Andre Vltchek - Book Review by Jim Miles

by Jim Miles

Having spent six years travelling and exploring the many regions of the idylicized South Pacific, Andre Vltchek reveals in his latest book, “Oceania,” that it is a region endangered by its encounters with external actions and ideas. While all is not lost yet, and some smaller areas still retain their indigenous subsistent inhabitation of the water and lands, all the islands, atolls, and reefs are highly stressed by many factors, factors that in the confined spaces of an island or atoll, suddenly seem magnified in significance as compared to a larger continental land mass.

Vltchek wanders across the entire region - slowly as it were - using the highly constrained and schedules and authoritarian rules of the few airlines that service the area. The airlines are predominantly foreign controlled, and that foreign control is what leads to the majority of the problems in the region. Most of the island groups are nominally independent countries, yet have become ‘re-colonized’ through a variety of modern connivances and rules and regulations imposed from outside, often supported by elites and their cronies within. The themes and ideas covered in the book are familiar to anyone following current world events, but in an area where so much is focussed on such a small land base, the litany of negative events and actions appear almost overwhelming.

Paradise lost (almost)

As I made notes reading through this book, they quickly veered from straight line sequenced notes to a web of interactions wherein one event or rule or regulation affected not only one small area, but interacted with other events and rules creating a spider web of reinforcing - and controlling - intentions. Those intentions, in their simplest expression, is to control the resources of the area (fishing, mining, agriculture), to control the geopolitical access and rights of the region (the political machinations of the China/Taiwan game, UN voting preferences on international issues, western countries that support various elite groups), and to control information concerning the region and the subjugation it suffers from these foreign and elitist groups.

Environmental disasters

Generally I place all current events under three very general headings, all of which are necessarily related and intertwined with each other: the environment, the economy, and the military /political.

The environment in the region is generally known as an idyllic tropical get-away, with some concern about the rising ocean waters that affect Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, and Kiribati, with the former receiving the most media attention. As if losing three nations and their distinct indigenous cultures is not enough, environmental concerns arise in all of the islands for similar and other reasons.

Vltchek discusses logging on the larger islands and the resulting chemical contamination of fresh and salt waters. That necessarily ties over into the economy as the logs are exported, leaving the concerned area with a devastated forest, little in the way of economic development as the earnings go to the elites but mostly to the overseas corporations that operate in the area. The economy then has an impact on the human economy as crime, prostitution, disease, tend to become norms in an area in which the indigenous culture no longer offers a valid means in which to maintain a living.

Another environmental/economic factor stemming from the above is that of agriculture. This broad topic covers everything from rising obesity, diabetes, illnesses, pollution from garbage dumps, to insecticides and herbicides used in palm oil plantations. Land ownership becomes an issue as the corporations run rampant over areas that may have formerly been communal but now are claimed by the elites and their cronies who then profit from their use for other than subsistence agricultural purposes.
 

Wed

15

Sep

2010

Toward a New Public Diplomacy - Redirecting U.S. Foreign Policy. Book Review by Jim Miles
by Jim Miles
Toward a New Public Diplomacy - Redirecting U.S. Foreign Policy. Ed. Philip Seib. Palgrave MacMillan, New York. 2009.

This collection of essays could be summed up in one word: image. Other words used throughout the text range from the more benign terms of “perception” and “communication tactics” through to the harder terms of “propaganda,” the military “strategic communications” and the rather laborious military phrase of “coordinated information dissemination.” At its base however it wall returns to the one word, image.

Image as opposed to actions, in that U.S. public diplomacy rarely if ever admits to mistakes in the grand purpose of the U.S. and will only do so under limited circumstances when media exposure catches their actions at cross purposes with their purported rhetorical ideology. The underlying assumption of all authors, some more boldly stated than others, is that the U.S. is right, it is good, and therefore we do not need to change our actions, what we need to adjust is our image.

Toward a New Public Diplomacy

is divided into roughly three sections. The first looks at the case for public diplomacy. The second examines three different view points from the outside looking in (essentially all three give ‘fails’). Finally, there are five essays on what the future should hold for U.S. public diplomacy - none of which mention the essential factor that the U.S. is a highly militarized society occupying several countries with military bases in over 150 countries at a huge cost to the U.S. economy.

Soft Power

The book attempts to make the case for “soft power”, all those things that are non-military that can “establish the legitimacy of American action,” partly because “The current struggle against terrorism is a struggle to win hearts and minds.” The assumptions supporting all these arguments are the over-used phrases about “our democracy and our political system generally,” including the neo-liberal free market capitalism as a large part of that system. The first chapter on soft power ends with the statement that the “natural soft power advantages America enjoys can be of great benefit to the national interest.” Not the Iraqi national interest… nor Afghanistan… Pakistan… Mexico… any country in Latin America… in other words, the U.S. “national interest” is seldom one that serves other countries well, in spite of the jargon, in spite of the rhetoric, in spite of the image, in spite of the attempts to use soft power in the face of hugely militarized foreign geopolitical policy.

The second chapter provides a rather boring history of attempts by Various U.S. agencies/departments to organize public diplomacy. If this is the stuff of U.S. academia and its insights into foreign policy, it is no wonder U.S. diplomacy is so dismal.

Legacies of colonialism and more

In chapter three, “The Lessons of Al Hurra Television,” the U.S. sponsored Arab language TV station, the general commentary is on its failure. Within the discussion is the statement that the station “may have further strengthened perceptions, of the United States as an arrogant, disrespectful and bullying nation.” Or perhaps the realities on the ground, of the extensive use of pre-emptive hard force, military force, and occupation, and torture, and murder and all those other things that go along with the military might have had some influence. Or perhaps the rest of the world is not as ignorant as the U.S. assumes they are, and are quite aware of the U.S. interests in oil, containment of Russia and China, and the harvesting of the wealth of the world for their own purposes.

The U.S. assumes ignorance in viewers/recipients of U.S. propaganda when their own population is highly ignorant of world geography, cultural, and political issues. The author recognizes this somewhat saying, “Arab anti-American sentiment and opposition to U.S. policies in the region stem from a number of historical factors, including the legacies of European colonialism, as well as some important substantive disagreements about the purpose and effect of U.S. policy, not a lack of access to information.” [italics added]

That legacy includes the overthrow of the democratically elected Mossadegh government, the support of the Shah and his SAVAK inquisitors, the unparallel support given to Saudi Arabia for its oil in counterpoint to its multi-billion dollar support of Israel in its occupation of Palestinian land. I would imagine that the “important substantive disagreements” would include the sanctions on Iraq/Iran, the occupation of Iraq, the occupation of Afghanistan, the drone attacks on Pakistan and the many covert government and private actions that are spread throughout the Middle East.

Fail

The three essays looking at U.S. public diplomacy from the outside can be summed up in one word: fail. The views arrive from Russia, Egypt, and China.

Russia is identified as a lost opportunity, lost after the dismantling of the Soviet empire. The author recognizes that “The convergence of business and public diplomacy activity can be successful because today’s global business is deeply engaged in global politics and international affairs.” All too true, both for Russia and the rest of the world.

What is not discussed in this essay is the huge impact the IMF interests had on an unstructured post-Soviet economy and how all the rhetoric of free markets and globalization robbed much of the wealth of Russia into the hands of a few powerful oligarchs as well as western financial interests. Further, throughout all the essays, there is little recognition that along with the military hardware that the U.S. throws around the globe, there is also a lot of influence, hard influence on the politics and financial well being of many countries under the negative influence of IMF/World Bank/WTO/OECD regulations under supranational corporate power. Not all of that is U.S. power, but the initiatives come from the Washington consensus and most other countries fall into line behind their leadership. Otherwise, even more invasive hard power is used, covert or overt.
 

Wed

15

Sep

2010

The Truth and Its Consequences
by Timothy V. Gatto

The current political paradigm in the United States is untenable. This rift between left and right, liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican is not a natural state of affairs, it is engineered. This state of affairs is fostered by those in power to divide the American people and to keep us off-balance, enmeshed in issues that have no simple solution, and that are presented as critical problems that must be decided.

The truth is that most of these issues are straw-man arguments. Let me mention some of these “critical issues”.

1.       Lesbian and Gay marriage.

2.       Immigration and border security.

3.       Abortion.

4.       The illegal drug trade.

5.       The right to bear arms.                                                                  

 None of these issues threaten the average American family in the way that they are presented in the media, and just as all of these issues can be decided on a local or State level, all of these issues can be negotiated and compromises can be reached.

Why then are they presented to the American public as such critical issues? I believe that because they are complex, they make perfect vehicles to keep the American people off-balance and at swords point with their neighbors. The simple truth is if gay and lesbian marriages were recognized as a legal contract in regard to health care, hospital visiting rights and so on, it would hardly affect most people. The same holds true with most of these issues above. Most of these issues have been decided by individual States. Gun laws are different in New York than in South Carolina. The same with abortion, drug laws and border security.

I believe that these issues will never go away. The people at the Federal level keep bringing these issues up in order to keep people from looking at the things that truly matter. This is the way they keep us divided and at each other’s throats. This is the old tactic of divide and conquer in 21st Century America.
 

Wed

15

Sep

2010

Murder and genocide are natural, therefore rebel! A socio-biological critique of First-World middleclass activism
by Denis G. Rancourt Ph.D.

Evolution can be societal. Here I argue that we must recognize our primal drive for murder and genocide and society’s propensity for violently oppressive hierarchies in order to react with the needed determined and sustained individual-based rebellion. This rebellion is against the rogue warlords and hierarchies that dominate us. Warring and its hierarchical support serve no useful purpose now that the human species is not ecologically threatened by natural competitors and now that there is no need for genetic selection (otherwise imposed on a small gene pool by an unforgiving natural environment).

This is a critique of First-World middleclass activism, in the hope that it will start contributing to human evolution.

I argue that laws and ethical systems are diversions that serve hierarchy and I argue that a victim mentality induced by hierarchy makes us susceptible to the appeal of canned justice and to various escapes into cowardice; rather than allowing us to perceive the otherwise obvious possibility of rebellion and self-defence.

I describe a positive feedback trap in which perturbed activists respond to perceived threats by launching into behavioural rule generation (an anxious quest for the perfect model) which in turn supports the system causing the threats. This leads to off-target and co-opted actions such as ineffective appeals to politicians, lobbying for new laws and regulations, adopting extreme personal lifestyle rules, and extremes in applied political correctness (“inclusive language,” “safe space,” etc.). The more the activists feel threatened the more they spin pseudo-comforting behavioural rules and make requests to the hierarchical oppressors for better rules, thereby increasing their societal isolation and further distancing themselves from effective means.

The gargantuan failures of First-World middleclass activism in the face of advancing soul-battering corporate fascism, murderous militarism and exploitive finance globalization since the 1970s should be cause for radical self-examination. Canadian queer pride parades (that can’t agree on whether Israel is an apartheid sate), reparationless apologies for aboriginal residential schools, zero-impact demonstrations and petitions, and tolerated and disappeared public musings about proportional representation and parliamentary free votes just don’t cut it; whereas corporate greening counts negatively. It’s like the activism was designed to fail. There is little sign of actual resistance from the First-World middleclass.
 

Tue

14

Sep

2010

Munir’s Story: 28 years after the Massacre at Sabra-Shatila
by Franklin Lamb Ph.D. in the Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camp, Beirut

The untreated psychic wounds are still open. Accountability, justice and basic civil rights for the survivors are still denied.

Scores of horror testimonies have been shared over the past nearly three decades by survivors of the September 1982 Sabra- Shatila massacre. More come to light only through circumstantial evidence because would be affiants perished during the slaughter. Other eyewitness are just beginning to emerge from deep trauma or self imposed silence.

Some testimonies will be shared this month by massacre survivors at Shatila camp. They will sit with the every growing numbers of international visitors who annually come to commemorate one of the most horrific crimes of the 20th century.

There are no average massacre testimonies.

Zeina, a handsome bronzed-faced middle-aged woman, an acquaintance of Munir Mohammad’s family, asked a foreigner the other day: “How can it be 28 years? I think it was just last fall that my husband Hussam and our two daughters, Maya, 8 years old, and Sirham, 9 years old, left our two room home to search for food because the Israeli army had sealed Shatila camp nearly two days before and few inside Shatila Camp had any. I still pray and wait for them to return.”In Shatila Palestinian refugee camp and outside Abu Yassir's shelter, the bullet marks still cover the lower half of the 11 “walls of death” where some of the dried blood is mixed and feathered in with the thin mortar. An elderly gentleman named Abu Samer still has some souvenirs of the American automatic pistols fitted with silencers and a couple of knives and axes that were strapped to some of the killers belts as they quickly and silently shot, carved and chopped whoever they came upon starting at around 6 p.m. on Thursday September 16, 1982. These weapons were gifted to Israel by the US Congress and subsequently issued along with drugs and alcohol and other "policing equipment" by Ariel Sharon to the killers in his "most moral army."•Earlier this year, one of the murderers from the Numour al-Ahrar (Tigers of the Liberals) militia, the armed wing of Lebanon’s right-wing National Liberal Party founded by former Lebanese President Camille Chamoun, nonchalantly confessed, “we sometimes used these implements in order to advance silently through the alleys of Shatila so as not to cause unnecessary panic during our work.” The Tigers militia, one of five Christian killer units, was assisted inside Shatila by more than two dozen Israeli Mossad agents, and led in this blitz by none other than Dani Chamoun, son of the former President.

No plaque or sign notes what happened here.

The world learned of the slaughter at Sabra-Shatila on the morning of Sunday September 19, 1982. Photos, many now available on the Internet, taken by witnesses such as Ralph Shoneman, Mya Shone, Ryuichi Hirokawa, Ali Hasan Salman, Ramzi Hardar, Gunther Altenburg, and Gaza and Akka Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) Hospital staff, preserve the gruesome images deeply etched in the survivors memory. The Israeli Kahan Commission, five months later in its February 7, 1983 Report, substantially whitewashed Israeli responsibility referring more than once to the massacre as “a war.”Zeina ushered me down a narrow alley from her house arriving at the 3 by 8 meter wall outside her sister’s home, spraying here and there with an aerosol can as we walked. She apologized for the spray but insisted that she and her neighbors could even now smell the slaughter that happened there three decades earlier.

For readers unfamiliar with the location of Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camp in Beirut, this particular “wall of death” is located across from the PRCS Akka Hospital, such as it is, after years without adequate financial or NGO support. Locating the 11 “walls of death” requires help from the few older Palestinians who still live in this quarter. They are among those still living at the scene and who still vividly recall the details of the massacre. Some provide personal history of some of the butchered, seemingly urging the dead to return by making them seem so alive, often describing a personality trait and the name of their family village in Palestine.

“A sweet boy who adored his older brothers Mutid and Bilal”

Zeina recalls that Munir Mohammad was 12 years old on September 16, 1982, a pupil at the Shatila camp school, named Jalil (Galilee). Virtually all of the 75 remaining UNRWA schools in Lebanon, like other Palestinian institutions, are named after villages, towns or cities in occupied Palestine. Often they are named after villages that no longer actually exist, being among the 531 villages the Zionists colonizers obliterated during and after the 1947-48 Nakba (Catastrophe).

Zeina recalls that it was late on a Thursday afternoon, September 16, that the Israeli shelling had grown intense. Designed to drive the camp residents into the shelters, almost all of which Israeli intelligence, arriving the previous day in three white vehicles and posing as "concerned NGO staff" had identified and noted the coordinates on their maps. Some residents, thinking aid workers had come to help the refugees, actually revealed their secret sanctuaries. Other refugees, based on their experience in the crowded shelters during the preceding 75 days of indiscriminate, “Peace for Galilee” Israeli bombing of Shatila, suggested to the "aid workers" that the shelters needed better ventilation and perhaps the visitors would help provide it. According to Zeina the Israeli agents quickly sketched the shelter locations, marked them with a red circle and returned to their HQ which was located less than 70 meters on the raised terrain at the SE corner of Shatila camp still known as Turf Club Yards. Today, this sandy area still contains three death pits which according to the late American journalist Janet Stevens is where some of the hundreds of still missing bodies of the more than 3,000 slaughtered are likely buried. Janet had theorized that there was a second Sabra-Shatila Massacre that occurred on Sunday morning, September 19th, which piggybacked the first and was conducted on the west side of Shatila inside the second Israeli-Phalange HQ, known as the Cite Sportiff athletic complex. As the Israeli soldiers took custody from the Phalange militia of the surviving refugees, trucks entered Cite Sportiff loaded with hundreds of camp residents on the back to be taken to “holding centers”. Family members forced to wait outside heard volleys of gunfire and screams from inside the complex. Hours later the same flat beds drove away to unknown locations, tarps covering the unseen mounded cargo.
 

Tue

14

Sep

2010

The New-Old Fascist History
by Carolyn Baker Ph.D.

In 2006 I published U.S. History Uncensored: What Your High School Textbook Didn't Tell You. The book's introduction informs the reader that it is not a textbook but rather a supplement written to expand and illumine material included in institutionally approved college history textbooks. I was motivated to offer the supplement because as a professor of history, I was appalled at the amount of history omitted in mainstream U.S. history college textbooks not only due to the desire of publishers to produce less costly books but as a result of a massive dumbing down of American culture in recent years. Or as one former history student of mine put it: "I used to be bored when I would watch the news with my dad because it was actually news, but today when I watch the news, it's fun because it's about things that really interest me like celebrity gossip, hip hop music, and funny commercials."

U.S. History Uncensored provides well-documented resources beyond traditional textbook material to which the reader can refer to glean additional information about historical events and read for him/herself the primary and secondary sources that are so frequently ignored in college history textbooks.

I'm not Howard Zinn, even though my book has sometimes been referred to as "Zinn on steroids." Dear Howard left us just before the Texas history textbook controversy erupted, and I have no doubt that he's spinning in his grave in response to it.

So is this article a commercial for my book? In a sense yes, but more importantly, it is an urgent appeal to the reader to connect the dots of the rabid agenda perpetuated those who are currently obsessed with revising U.S. history. Why does this matter? Because if you want to conquer a people-any people, one of the first strategies for doing so is to eliminate or distort their history. While the neo-fascist revisionist "historians" would disagree, the fact is that nineteenth-century public education in the United States devised a specific agenda for removing Native American culture from Native children in this country who were forced (often kidnapped and then forced) to attend non-Native schools. Likewise, it was not until the 1960s that African American culture was taught in white schools in America because from the white perspective, the only history worth knowing was white history.

Excise a human being's culture and history from him/her, and you have a human being which you can fashion in any manner you desire.

The revision of U.S. history by the rabid, neo-fascist right in a tragically dumbed-down culture signals the conquest of young minds in service of a particular social and political perspective that indoctrinates them in geopolitical exceptionalism and expansionism, white supremacy, corporate capitalism, and a virulent religionist ideology. In fact all of these are characteristics of political fascism and a society immersed in its principles.

The revision of history did not begin with Nazi Germany, but the Third Reich's success in manipulating German history is a stellar example of revisionist history in the modern world. Later, in the Soviet Union under Stalin, that nation's history was similarly revised. Overall, historical revision emerges from attempts by political minorities to advance their political position or ideology.
 

Tue

14

Sep

2010

Who pays for the loss of life in Iran?
by Kourosh Ziabari in Iran

Since the victory of Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979 which toppled the U.S.-backed regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Iran has been facing with devastating and agonizing financial sanctions of the United States and its European allies who didn't favor the post-revolutionary Iran's doctrine of confrontation with the superpowers and its denial of Western liberal democratic values.

 

The 1979 revolution which put an end to 2,500 years of imperial monarchy in Iran was pivoted on theocratic and ideological values which the sumptuous, thrilling West usually tends to dislike and rebuff. Under the spiritual leadership of Imam Khomeini, Iranians declared that they wouldn't need the support of Western and Eastern superpowers, will stand on their own feet and only seek to realize a political regime which establishes its bases and principles in accordance with morality and Islamic solidarity.

 

Iran's ideological disagreement with the West and its efforts to fulfill independence as an Islamic state, however, cost for the Iranian people heavily. First of all, the United States spurred its regional puppet, the late dictator Saddam Hussein, on to launch a massive, crushing war against Iran so as to push the country's newly-established political regime to annihilation. The 8-year war demolished Iran's infrastructures irreversibly, caused irreparable damages to country's economy and left more than 350,000 Iranians dead.

 

The 8-year resistance of the Iranian people, however, rendered the plans of the U.S. and its Baathist ally futile. Iran rose from the rubbles of 8-year war with Iraq and set out to emerge as a regional superpower gradually. Iranians recreated the country's war-torn economy once again, renewed the obliterated infrastructures, appeased the pains of the families of 350,000 martyrs with compassion and brought hopes to the hearts of those who had come to think that a political state with the ideological pillars of Islam would be impossible to survive.

 

The animosity of the United States and its cronies, however, didn't seem to be ending. In 1984, the United States approved its first set of sanctions against Iran which would prohibit Washington from selling American weapons to Tehran. During the presidency of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, the sanctions got tougher and broader. In April 1995, President Bill Clinton issued a total embargo on U.S. dealings with Iran, banning every kind of financial transaction with the war-hit country. In 1996, the United States Congress passed the Iran–Libya Sanctions Act under which all the foreign firms and companies that provide investments over $20 million for the development of petrochemical projects in Iran would be penalized. The most inequitable and unreasonable sanctions against Iran, however, were those which would were endorsed in 1995 and disallowed the aviation companies around the world to sell aircrafts and repair parts to the Iranian airlines directly.

 

Iran's aviation fleet which is chiefly comprised of Russian low-quality Tupelov and outdated Airbus and Fokker planes is one of the most vulnerable fleets in the world which suffers from increasing dilapidation and is considered to be highly at risk due to the unjust sanctions which are imposed against the country.

 

In December 2005, BBC World published a report in which it was expressively stated that Iran's civil and military aviation fleet is undergoing intense safety setbacks. The report came after an Iranian Air Force C-130E military transport aircraft crashed into a residential complex in Tehran, killing 128 people including 68 reporters and journalists that were supposed to cover a military drill off the country's southern coast on the Persian Gulf.
 

Tue

14

Sep

2010

Labor Pains 2010
by Rosemarie Jackowski

On Labor Day we celebrate those who work — as opposed to those who inherit family wealth and those whose financial investments work so they don’t have to. Many workers who deserve to be honored on this special day have come from across the border. In a global economy, workers who strive for justice in their own country must, by necessity, unite with workers around the world.

Workers from across the border, as well as native born workers, often experience hostility. They work on farms and in factories. They empty bed pans in nursing homes. They scrub toilets and make beds in the hotel industry. They work in retail outlets. They work in the construction industry as carpenters and roofers. They educate our children. They care for our elders. They have earned our respect and gratitude.

Below are typical statements made by bosses to their employees – workers who struggle for survival on the dark side of Capitalism.

1. Look, it doesn’t matter if the fumes are making you sick. OSHA says everything is OK.

2. I already told you that you couldn’t have the morning off. Your Father’s funeral can wait till the weekend.

3. Union, did I just hear somebody say, “Union”? Fire that damn Commie !

4. You want a raise……..hahhhhahhhahahahhhah.  

5. If you want health insurance, move to Costa Rica. This is the USA. Love it, or leave it. Besides, we don’t have any sick people here. We fire them when they get sick.

6. You say you want paid maternity leave. If the corporation wanted you to have a baby we would have issued you one.

7. What's the big deal - it's just asbestos.

8. Hey kid, stop crying and pick those tomatoes faster. You can celebrate your 8th birthday tonight when you get back to your camper.

9. Next time that you want to go to the bathroom, ask for permission first. That’s the rule.

10. You say that the school called and told you that your child was just injured on the playground and needs to go to the hospital. Who gave you permission to use the phone? Get back to work.

11. A little bit of ionizing radiation never hurt anybody.

12. Think of it as an adventure. Nobody dies from black lung anymore.

13. You say you want a week of paid vacation — move to France, this is America.

14. Hell no, you can’t leave. Wait till your shift is over. I don’t care if your labor pains are just 3 minutes apart.

Rosemarie Jackowski     Rosemarie Jackowski is an advocacy journalist and is a candidate for Vermont Attorney General.

  dissent@sover.net

 
 
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