Category Archives: Bill Blum’s Anti-Empire Reports

The Anti-Empire Report #147

The Anti-Empire Report #147

By William Blum – Published November 30th, 2016

What can go wrong?

That he may not be “qualified” is unimportant.

That he’s never held a government or elected position is unimportant.

That on a personal level he may be a shmuck is unimportant.

What counts to me mainly at this early stage is that he – as opposed to dear Hillary – is unlikely to start a war against Russia. His questioning of the absolute sacredness of NATO, calling it “obsolete”, and his meeting with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an outspoken critic of US regime-change policy, specifically Syria, are encouraging signs.

Even more so is his appointment of General Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser. Flynn dined last year in Moscow with Vladimir Putin at a gala celebrating RT (Russia Today), the Russian state’s English-language, leftist-leaning TV channel. Flynn now carries the stigma in the American media as an individual who does not see Russia or Putin as the devil. It is truly remarkable how nonchalantly American journalists can look upon the possibility of a war with Russia, even a nuclear war.

(I can now expect a barrage of emails from my excessively politically-correct readers about Flynn’s alleged anti-Islam side. But that, even if true, is irrelevant to this discussion of avoiding a war with Russia.)

I think American influence under Trump could also inspire a solution to the bloody Russia-Ukraine crisis, which is the result of the US overthrow of the democratically-elected Ukrainian government in 2014 to further advance the US/NATO surrounding of Russia; after which he could end the US-imposed sanctions against Russia, which hardly anyone in Europe benefits from or wants; and then – finally! – an end to the embargo against Cuba. What a day for celebration that will be! Too bad that Fidel won’t be around to enjoy it.

We may have other days of celebration if Trump pardons or in some other manner frees Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and/or Edward Snowden. Neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton would do this, but I think there’s at least a chance with the Donald. And those three heroes may now enjoy feeling at least a modicum of hope. Picture a meeting of them all together on some future marvelous day with you watching it on a video.

Trump will also probably not hold back on military actions against radical Islam because of any fear of being called anti-Islam. He’s repulsed enough by ISIS to want to destroy them, something that can’t always be said about Mr. Obama.

International trade deals, written by corporate lawyers for the benefit of their bosses, with little concern about the rest of us, may have rougher sailing in the Trump White House than is usually the case with such deals.

The mainstream critics of Trump foreign policy should be embarrassed, even humbled, by what they supported in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Instead, what bothers them about the president-elect is his lack of desire to make the rest of the world in America’s image. He appears rather to be more concerned with the world not making America in its image.

In the latest chapter of Alice in Trumpland he now says that he does not plan to prosecute Hillary Clinton, that he has an “open mind” about a climate-change accord from which he had vowed to withdraw the United States, and that he’s no longer certain that torturing terrorism suspects is a good idea. So whatever fears you may have about certain of his expressed weird policies … just wait … they may fall by the wayside just as easily; although I still think that on a personal level he’s a [two-syllable word: first syllable is a synonym for a donkey; second syllable means “an opening”]

Trump’s apparently deep-seated need for approval may continue to succumb poorly to widespread criticism and protests. Poor little Donald … so powerful … yet so vulnerable.

The Trump dilemma, as well as the whole Hillary Clinton mess, could have probably been avoided if Bernie Sanders had been nominated. That large historical “if” is almost on a par with the Democrats choosing Harry Truman to replace Henry Wallace in 1944 as the ailing Roosevelt’s vice-president. Truman brought us a charming little thing called the Cold War, which in turn gave us McCarthyism. But Wallace, like Sanders, was just a little too damn leftist for the refined Democratic Party bosses.

State-owned media: The good, the bad, and the ugly

On November 16, at a State Department press briefing, department spokesperson John Kirby was having one of his frequent adversarial dialogues with Gayane Chichakyan, a reporter for RT (Russia Today); this time concerning US charges of Russia bombing hospitals in Syria and blocking the UN from delivering aid to the trapped population. When Chichakyan asked for some detail about these charges, Kirby replied: “Why don’t you ask your defense ministry?”

GK: Do you – can you give any specific information on when Russia or the Syrian Government blocked the UN from delivering aid? Just any specific information.

KIRBY: There hasn’t been any aid delivered in the last month.

GK: And you believe it was blocked exclusively by Russia and the Syrian Government?

KIRBY: There’s no question in our mind that the obstruction is coming from the regime and from Russia. No question at all.

MATTHEW LEE (Associated Press): Let me –- hold on, just let me say: Please be careful about saying “your defense minister” and things like that. I mean, she’s a journalist just like the rest of us are, so it’s -– she’s asking pointed questions, but they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned -– from a state-owned –

LEE: But they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet, Matt.

LEE: But they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet that’s not independent.

LEE: The questions that she’s asking are not out of line.

KIRBY: I didn’t say the questions were out of line.

……

KIRBY: I’m sorry, but I’m not going to put Russia Today on the same level with the rest of you who are representing independent media outlets.

One has to wonder if State Department spokesperson Kirby knows that in 2011 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking about RT, declared: “The Russians have opened an English-language network. I’ve seen it in a few countries, and it is quite instructive.”

I also wonder how Mr. Kirby deals with reporters from the BBC, a STATE-OWNED television and radio entity in the UK, broadcasting in the US and all around the world.

Or the state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation, described by Wikipedia as follows: “The corporation provides television, radio, online and mobile services throughout metropolitan and regional Australia, as well as overseas … and is well regarded for quality and reliability as well as for offering educational and cultural programming that the commercial sector would be unlikely to supply on its own.”

There’s also Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, Radio Liberty (Central/Eastern Europe), and Radio Marti (Cuba); all (US) state-owned, none “independent”, but all deemed worthy enough by the United States to feed to the world.

And let’s not forget what Americans have at home: PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) and NPR (National Public Radio), which would have a near-impossible time surviving without large federal government grants. How independent does this leave them? Has either broadcaster ever unequivocally opposed a modern American war? There’s good reason NPR has long been known as National Pentagon Radio. But it’s part of American media’s ideology to pretend that it doesn’t have any ideology.

As to the non-state American media … There are about 1400 daily newspapers in the United States. Can you name a single paper, or a single TV network, that was unequivocally opposed to the American wars carried out against Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Panama, Grenada, and Vietnam while they were happening, or shortly thereafter? Or even opposed to any two of these seven wars? How about one? In 1968, six years into the Vietnam war, the Boston Globe (February 18, 1968) surveyed the editorial positions of 39 leading US papers concerning the war and found that “none advocated a pull-out”. Has the phrase “invasion of Vietnam” ever appeared in the US mainstream media?

In 2003, leading cable station MSNBC took the much-admired Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq. Mr. Kirby would undoubtedly call MSNBC “independent”.

If the American mainstream media were officially state-controlled, would they look or sound significantly different when it comes to US foreign policy?

Soviet observation: “The only difference between your propaganda and our propaganda is that you believe yours.”

On November 25, the Washington Post ran an article entitled: “Research ties ‘fake news’ to Russia.” It’s all about how sources in Russia are flooding American media and the Internet with phoney stories designed as “part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders”.

“The sophistication of the Russian tactics,” the article says, “may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on ‘fake news’.”

The Post states that the Russian tactics included “penetrating the computers of election officials in several states and releasing troves of hacked emails that embarrassed Clinton in the final months of her campaign.” (Heretofore this had been credited to Wikileaks.)

The story is simply bursting with anti-Russian references:

  • An online magazine header – “Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy.”
  • “the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns.”
  • “more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season.”
  • “stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.”
  • “The Russian campaign during this election season … worked by harnessing the online world’s fascination with ‘buzzy’ content that is surprising and emotionally potent, and tracks with popular conspiracy theories about how secret forces dictate world events.”
  • “Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience”
  • “They use our technologies and values against us to sow doubt. It’s starting to undermine our democratic system.”
  • “Russian propaganda operations also worked to promote the ‘Brexit’ departure of Britain from the European Union.”
  • “Some of these stories originated with RT and Sputnik, state-funded Russian information services that mimic the style and tone of independent news organizations yet sometimes include false and misleading stories in their reports.”
  • “a variety of other false stories — fake reports of a coup launched at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and stories about how the United States was going to conduct a military attack and blame it on Russia”

A former US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, is quoted saying he was “struck by the overt support that Sputnik expressed for Trump during the campaign, even using the #CrookedHillary hashtag pushed by the candidate.” McFaul said Russian propaganda typically is aimed at weakening opponents and critics. “They don’t try to win the argument. It’s to make everything seem relative. It’s kind of an appeal to cynicism.” [Cynicism? Heavens! What will those Moscow fascists/communists think of next?]

The Post did, however, include the following: “RT disputed the findings of the researchers in an e-mail on Friday, saying it played no role in producing or amplifying any fake news stories related to the U.S. election.” RT was quoted: “It is the height of irony that an article about ‘fake news’ is built on false, unsubstantiated claims. RT adamantly rejects any and all claims and insinuations that the network has originated even a single ‘fake story’ related to the US election.”

It must be noted that the Washington Post article fails to provide a single example showing how the actual facts of a specific news event were rewritten or distorted by a Russian agency to produce a news event with a contrary political message. What then lies behind such blatant anti-Russian propaganda? In the new Cold War such a question requires no answer. The new Cold War by definition exists to discredit Russia simply because it stands in the way of American world domination. In the new Cold War the political spectrum in the mainstream media runs the gamut from A to B.

Cuba, Fidel, Socialism … Hasta la victoria siempre!

The most frequent comment I’ve read in the mainstream media concerning Fidel Castro’s death is that he was a “dictator”; almost every heading bore that word. Since the 1959 revolution, the American mainstream media has routinely referred to Cuba as a dictatorship. But just what does Cuba do or lack that makes it a dictatorship?

No “free press”? Apart from the question of how free Western media is (see the preceding essays), if that’s to be the standard, what would happen if Cuba announced that from now on anyone in the country could own any kind of media? How long would it be before CIA money – secret and unlimited CIA money financing all kinds of fronts in Cuba – would own or control almost all the media worth owning or controlling?

Is it “free elections” that Cuba lacks? They regularly have elections at municipal, regional and national levels. They do not have direct election of the president, but neither do Germany or the United Kingdom and many other countries. The Cuban president is chosen by the parliament, The National Assembly of People’s Power. Money plays virtually no role in these elections; neither does party politics, including the Communist Party, since all candidates run as individuals. Again, what is the standard by which Cuban elections are to be judged? Is it that they don’t have private corporations to pour in a billion dollars? Most Americans, if they gave it any thought, might find it difficult to even imagine what a free and democratic election, without great concentrations of corporate money, would look like, or how it would operate. Would Ralph Nader finally be able to get on all 50 state ballots, take part in national television debates, and be able to match the two monopoly parties in media advertising? If that were the case, I think he’d probably win; which is why it’s not the case.

Or perhaps what Cuba lacks is our marvelous “electoral college” system, where the presidential candidate with the most votes is not necessarily the winner. Did we need the latest example of this travesty of democracy to convince us to finally get rid of it? If we really think this system is a good example of democracy why don’t we use it for local and state elections as well?

Is Cuba a dictatorship because it arrests dissidents? Many thousands of anti-war and other protesters have been arrested in the United States in recent years, as in every period in American history. During the Occupy Movement of five years ago more than 7,000 people were arrested, many beaten by police and mistreated while in custody. And remember: The United States is to the Cuban government like al Qaeda is to Washington, only much more powerful and much closer; virtually without exception, Cuban dissidents have been financed by and aided in other ways by the United States.

Would Washington ignore a group of Americans receiving funds from al Qaeda and engaging in repeated meetings with known members of that organization? In recent years the United States has arrested a great many people in the US and abroad solely on the basis of alleged ties to al Qaeda, with a lot less evidence to go by than Cuba has had with its dissidents’ ties to the United States. Virtually all of Cuba’s “political prisoners” are such dissidents. While others may call Cuba’s security policies dictatorship, I call it self-defense.

The Anti-Empire Report #137

The Greek Tragedy: Some things not to forget, which the new Greek leaders have not.

The Anti-Empire Report #137 by William Blum

American historian D.F. Fleming, writing of the post-World War II period in his eminent history of the Cold War, stated that “Greece was the first of the liberated states to be openly and forcibly compelled to accept the political system of the occupying Great Power. It was Churchill who acted first and Stalin who followed his example, in Bulgaria and then in Rumania, though with less bloodshed.”

The British intervened in Greece while World War II was still raging. His Majesty’s Army waged war against ELAS, the left-wing guerrillas who had played a major role in forcing the Nazi occupiers to flee. Shortly after the war ended, the United States joined the Brits in this great anti-communist crusade, intervening in what was now a civil war, taking the side of the neo-fascists against the Greek left. The neo-fascists won and instituted a highly brutal regime, for which the CIA created a suitably repressive internal security agency (KYP in Greek).

In 1964, the liberal George Papandreou came to power, but in April 1967 a military coup took place, just before elections which appeared certain to bring Papandreou back as prime minister. The coup had been a joint effort of the Royal Court, the Greek military, the KYP, the CIA, and the American military stationed in Greece, and was followed immediately by the traditional martial law, censorship, arrests, beatings, and killings, the victims totaling some 8,000 in the first month. This was accompanied by the equally traditional declaration that this was all being done to save the nation from a “communist takeover”. Torture, inflicted in the most gruesome of ways, often with equipment supplied by the United States, became routine.

George Papandreou was not any kind of radical. He was a liberal anti-communist type. But his son Andreas, the heir-apparent, while only a little to the left of his father, had not disguised his wish to take Greece out of the Cold War, and had questioned remaining in NATO, or at least as a satellite of the United States.

Andreas Papandreou was arrested at the time of the coup and held in prison for eight months. Shortly after his release, he and his wife Margaret visited the American ambassador, Phillips Talbot, in Athens. Papandreou later related the following:

I asked Talbot whether America could have intervened the night of the coup, to prevent the death of democracy in Greece. He denied that they could have done anything about it. Then Margaret asked a critical question: What if the coup had been a Communist or a Leftist coup? Talbot answered without hesitation. Then, of course, they would have intervened, and they would have crushed the coup.

Another charming chapter in US-Greek relations occurred in 2001, when Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street Goliath Lowlife, secretly helped Greece keep billions of dollars of debt off their balance sheet through the use of complex financial instruments like credit default swaps. This allowed Greece to meet the baseline requirements to enter the Eurozone in the first place. But it also helped create a debt bubble that would later explode and bring about the current economic crisis that’s drowning the entire continent. Goldman Sachs, however, using its insider knowledge of its Greek client, protected itself from this debt bubble by betting against Greek bonds, expecting that they would eventually fail.

Will the United States, Germany, the rest of the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund – collectively constituting the International Mafia – allow the new Greek leaders of the Syriza party to dictate the conditions of Greece’s rescue and salvation? The answer at the moment is a decided “No”. The fact that Syriza leaders, for some time, have made no secret of their affinity for Russia is reason enough to seal their fate. They should have known how the Cold War works.

I believe Syriza is sincere, and I’m rooting for them, but they may have overestimated their own strength, while forgetting how the Mafia came to occupy its position; it didn’t derive from a lot of compromise with left-wing upstarts. Greece may have no choice, eventually, but to default on its debts and leave the Eurozone. The hunger and unemployment of the Greek people may leave them no alternative.

The Twilight Zone of the US State Department

“You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. Your next stop … the Twilight Zone.” (American Television series, 1959-1965)

State Department Daily Press Briefing, February 13, 2015. Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki, questioned by Matthew Lee of The Associated Press.

Lee: President Maduro [of Venezuela] last night went on the air and said that they had arrested multiple people who were allegedly behind a coup that was backed by the United States. What is your response?

Psaki: These latest accusations, like all previous such accusations, are ludicrous. As a matter of longstanding policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means. Political transitions must be democratic, constitutional, peaceful, and legal. We have seen many times that the Venezuelan Government tries to distract from its own actions by blaming the United States or other members of the international community for events inside Venezuela. These efforts reflect a lack of seriousness on the part of the Venezuelan Government to deal with the grave situation it faces.

Lee: Sorry. The US has – whoa, whoa, whoa – the US has a longstanding practice of not promoting – What did you say? How longstanding is that? I would – in particular in South and Latin America, that is not a longstanding practice.

Psaki: Well, my point here, Matt, without getting into history –

Lee: Not in this case.

Psaki: – is that we do not support, we have no involvement with, and these are ludicrous accusations.

Lee: In this specific case.

Psaki: Correct.

Lee: But if you go back not that long ago, during your lifetime, even – (laughter)

Psaki: The last 21 years. (Laughter.)

Lee: Well done. Touché. But I mean, does “longstanding” mean 10 years in this case? I mean, what is –

Psaki: Matt, my intention was to speak to the specific reports.

Lee: I understand, but you said it’s a longstanding US practice, and I’m not so sure – it depends on what your definition of “longstanding” is.

Psaki: We will – okay.

Lee: Recently in Kyiv, whatever we say about Ukraine, whatever, the change of government at the beginning of last year was unconstitutional, and you supported it. The constitution was –

Psaki: That is also ludicrous, I would say.

Lee: – not observed.

Psaki: That is not accurate, nor is it with the history of the facts that happened at the time.

Lee: The history of the facts. How was it constitutional?

Psaki: Well, I don’t think I need to go through the history here, but since you gave me the opportunity –- as you know, the former leader of Ukraine left of his own accord.

………………..

Leaving the Twilight Zone … The former Ukrainian leader ran for his life from those who had staged the coup, including a mob of vicious US-supported neo-Nazis.

If you know how to contact Ms. Psaki, tell her to have a look at my list of more than 50 governments the United States has attempted to overthrow since the end of the Second World War. None of the attempts were democratic, constitutional, peaceful, or legal; well, a few were non-violent.

The ideology of the American media is that it believes that it doesn’t have any ideology

So NBC’s evening news anchor, Brian Williams, has been caught telling untruths about various events in recent years. What could be worse for a reporter? How about not knowing what’s going on in the world? In your own country? At your own employer? As a case in point I give you Williams’ rival, Scott Pelley, evening news anchor at CBS.

In August 2002, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told American newscaster Dan Rather on CBS: “We do not possess any nuclear or biological or chemical weapons.”

In December, Aziz stated to Ted Koppel on ABC: “The fact is that we don’t have weapons of mass destruction. We don’t have chemical, biological, or nuclear weaponry.”

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein himself told CBS’s Rather in February 2003: “These missiles have been destroyed. There are no missiles that are contrary to the prescription of the United Nations [as to range] in Iraq. They are no longer there.”

Moreover, Gen. Hussein Kamel, former head of Iraq’s secret weapons program, and a son-in-law of Saddam Hussein, told the UN in 1995 that Iraq had destroyed its banned missiles and chemical and biological weapons soon after the Persian Gulf War of 1991.

There are yet other examples of Iraqi officials telling the world, before the 2003 American invasion, that the WMD were non-existent.

Enter Scott Pelley. In January 2008, as a CBS reporter, Pelley interviewed FBI agent George Piro, who had interviewed Saddam Hussein before he was executed:

PELLEY: And what did he tell you about how his weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed?

PIRO: He told me that most of the WMD had been destroyed by the U.N. inspectors in the ’90s, and those that hadn’t been destroyed by the inspectors were unilaterally destroyed by Iraq.

PELLEY: He had ordered them destroyed?

PIRO: Yes.

PELLEY: So why keep the secret? Why put your nation at risk? Why put your own life at risk to maintain this charade?

For a journalist there might actually be something as bad as not knowing what’s going on in his area of news coverage, even on his own station. After Brian Williams’ fall from grace, his former boss at NBC, Bob Wright, defended Williams by pointing to his favorable coverage of the military, saying: “He has been the strongest supporter of the military of any of the news players. He never comes back with negative stories, he wouldn’t question if we’re spending too much.”

I think it’s safe to say that members of the American mainstream media are not embarrassed by such a “compliment”.

In his acceptance speech for the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature, Harold Pinter made the following observation:

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognized as crimes at all.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

Cuba made simple

“The trade embargo can be fully lifted only through legislation – unless Cuba forms a democracy, in which case the president can lift it.”

Aha! So that’s the problem, according to a Washington Post columnist – Cuba is not a democracy! That would explain why the United States does not maintain an embargo against Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Guatemala, Egypt and other distinguished pillars of freedom. The mainstream media routinely refer to Cuba as a dictatorship. Why is it not uncommon even for people on the left to do the same? I think that many of the latter do so in the belief that to say otherwise runs the risk of not being taken seriously, largely a vestige of the Cold War when Communists all over the world were ridiculed for blindly following Moscow’s party line. But what does Cuba do or lack that makes it a dictatorship?

No “free press”? Apart from the question of how free Western media is, if that’s to be the standard, what would happen if Cuba announced that from now on anyone in the country could own any kind of media? How long would it be before CIA money – secret and unlimited CIA money financing all kinds of fronts in Cuba – would own or control almost all the media worth owning or controlling?

Is it “free elections” that Cuba lacks? They regularly have elections at municipal, regional and national levels. (They do not have direct election of the president, but neither do Germany or the United Kingdom and many other countries). Money plays virtually no role in these elections; neither does party politics, including the Communist Party, since candidates run as individuals. Again, what is the standard by which Cuban elections are to be judged? Is it that they don’t have the Koch Brothers to pour in a billion dollars? Most Americans, if they gave it any thought, might find it difficult to even imagine what a free and democratic election, without great concentrations of corporate money, would look like, or how it would operate. Would Ralph Nader finally be able to get on all 50 state ballots, take part in national television debates, and be able to match the two monopoly parties in media advertising? If that were the case, I think he’d probably win; which is why it’s not the case.

Or perhaps what Cuba lacks is our marvelous “electoral college” system, where the presidential candidate with the most votes is not necessarily the winner. If we really think this system is a good example of democracy why don’t we use it for local and state elections as well?

Is Cuba not a democracy because it arrests dissidents? Many thousands of anti-war and other protesters have been arrested in the United States in recent years, as in every period in American history. During the Occupy Movement two years ago more than 7,000 people were arrested, many beaten by police and mistreated while in custody. And remember: The United States is to the Cuban government like al Qaeda is to Washington, only much more powerful and much closer; virtually without exception, Cuban dissidents have been financed by and aided in other ways by the United States.

Would Washington ignore a group of Americans receiving funds from al Qaeda and engaging in repeated meetings with known members of that organization? In recent years the United States has arrested a great many people in the US and abroad solely on the basis of alleged ties to al Qaeda, with a lot less evidence to go by than Cuba has had with its dissidents’ ties to the United States. Virtually all of Cuba’s “political prisoners” are such dissidents. While others may call Cuba’s security policies dictatorship, I call it self-defense.

The Ministry of Propaganda has a new Commissar

Last month Andrew Lack became chief executive of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees US government-supported international news media such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks and Radio Free Asia. In a New York Times interview, Mr. Lack was moved to allow the following to escape his mouth: “We are facing a number of challenges from entities like Russia Today which is out there pushing a point of view, the Islamic State in the Middle East and groups like Boko Haram.”

So … this former president of NBC News conflates Russia Today (RT) with the two most despicable groups of “human beings” on the planet. Do mainstream media executives sometimes wonder why so many of their audience has drifted to alternative media, like, for example, RT?

Those of you who have not yet discovered RT, I suggest you go to RT.com to see whether it’s available in your city. And there are no commercials.

It should be noted that the Times interviewer, Ron Nixon, expressed no surprise at Lack’s remark.

Anti-Empire Report, November 19, 2014

Russia invades Ukraine. Again. And again. And yet again … using Saddam’s WMD

“Russia reinforced what Western and Ukrainian officials described as a stealth invasion on Wednesday [August 27], sending armored troops across the border as it expanded the conflict to a new section of Ukrainian territory. The latest incursion, which Ukraine’s military said included five armored personnel carriers, was at least the third movement of troops and weapons from Russia across the southeast part of the border this week.”

None of the photos accompanying this New York Times story online showed any of these Russian troops or armored vehicles.

“The Obama administration,” the story continued, “has asserted over the past week that the Russians had moved artillery, air-defense systems and armor to help the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk. ‘These incursions indicate a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway’, Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said. At the department’s daily briefing in Washington, Ms. Psaki also criticized what she called the Russian government’s ‘unwillingness to tell the truth’ that its military had sent soldiers as deep as 30 miles inside Ukraine territory.”

Thirty miles inside Ukraine territory and not a single satellite photo, not a camera anywhere around, not even a one-minute video to show for it. “Ms. Psaki apparently [sic] was referring to videos of captured Russian soldiers, distributed by the Ukrainian government.” The Times apparently forgot to inform its readers where they could see these videos.

“The Russian aim, one Western official said, may possibly be to seize an outlet to the sea in the event that Russia tries to establish a separatist enclave in eastern Ukraine.”

This of course hasn’t taken place. So what happened to all these Russian soldiers 30 miles inside Ukraine? What happened to all the armored vehicles, weapons, and equipment?

“The United States has photographs that show the Russian artillery moved into Ukraine, American officials say. One photo dated last Thursday, shown to a New York Times reporter, shows Russian military units moving self-propelled artillery into Ukraine. Another photo, dated Saturday, shows the artillery in firing positions in Ukraine.”

Where are these photographs? And how will we know that these are Russian soldiers? And how will we know that the photos were taken in Ukraine? But most importantly, where are the fucking photographs?

Why am I so cynical? Because the Ukrainian and US governments have been feeding us these scare stories for eight months now, without clear visual or other evidence, often without even common sense. Here are a few of the many other examples, before and after the one above:

Anti-Empire Report #131, August 11, 2014

Cold War Two

During Cold War One those of us in the American radical left were often placed in the position where we had to defend the Soviet Union because the US government was using that country as a battering ram against us. Now we sometimes have to defend Russia because it may be the last best hope of stopping TETATW (The Empire That Ate The World). Yes, during Cold War One we knew enough about Stalin, the show trials, and the gulags. But we also knew about US foreign policy.

E-mail sent to the Washington Post July 23, 2014 about the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17:

Dear Editor,

Your July 22 editorial was headed: “Russia’s barbarism. The West needs a strategy to contain the world’s newest rogue state.”

Pretty strong language. Vicious, even. Not one word of hard evidence in the editorial to back it up. Then, the next day, the Associated Press reported:

Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that Russia was responsible for ‘creating the conditions’ that led to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, but they offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement. … the U.S. had no direct evidence that the missile used to shoot down the passenger jet came from Russia.

Where were these words in the Post? You people are behaving like a rogue newspaper.

– William Blum

I don’t have to tell you whether the Post printed my letter. I’ve been reading the paper for 25 years – six years during Vietnam (1964-1970) and the last 19 years (1995-2014) – usually spending about three hours each day reading it very carefully. And I can say that when it comes to US foreign policy the newspaper is worse now than I can remember it ever was during those 25 years. It’s reached the point where, as one example, I don’t take at face value a word the Post has to say about Ukraine. Same with the State Department, which makes one accusation after another about Russian military actions in Eastern Ukraine without presenting any kind of satellite imagery or other visual or documentary evidence; or they present something that’s wholly inconclusive and/or unsourced or citing “social media”; what we’re left with is often no more than just an accusation. Do they have something to hide?

The State Department’s Public Affairs spokespersons making these presentations exhibit little regard or respect for the reporters asking challenging questions. It takes my thoughts back to the Vietnam era and Arthur Sylvester, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, the man most responsible for “giving, controlling and managing the war news from Vietnam”. One day in July 1965, Sylvester told American journalists that they had a patriotic duty to disseminate only information that made the United States look good. When one of the reporters exclaimed: “Surely, Arthur, you don’t expect the American press to be handmaidens of government,” Sylvester replied: “That’s exactly what I expect,” adding: “Look, if you think any American official is going to tell you the truth, then you’re stupid. Did you hear that? – stupid.”

Such frankness might be welcomed today as a breath of fresh air compared to the painful-to-observe double-talk of a State Department spokesperson.

My personal breath of fresh air in recent years has been the television station RT (formerly Russia Today). On a daily basis many progressives from around the world (myself included occasionally) are interviewed and out of their mouths come facts and analyses that are rarely heard on CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, NPR, PBS, Fox News, BBC, etc. The words of these progressives heard on RT are typically labeled by the mainstream media as “Russian propaganda”, whereas I, after a long lifetime of American propaganda, can only think: “Of course. What else are they going to call it?”

As for Russia being responsible for “creating the conditions” that led to the shooting down of Flight 17, we should keep in mind that the current series of events in Ukraine was sparked in February when a US-supported coup overthrew the democratically-elected government and replaced it with one that was more receptive to the market-fundamentalism dictates of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the European Union. Were it not for the coup there would have been no eastern rebellion to put down and no dangerous war zone for Flight 17 to be flying over in the first place.

The new regime has had another charming feature: a number of outspoken neo-Nazis in high and low positions, a circumstance embarrassing enough for the US government and mainstream media to turn it into a virtual non-event. US Senator John McCain met and posed for photos with the leader of the neo-Nazi Svoboda Party, Oleh Tyahnybok (photos easily found on the Internet). Ukraine – whose ties to Naziism go back to World War Two when their homegrown fascists supported Germany and opposed the Soviet Union – is on track to becoming the newest part of the US-NATO military encirclement of Russia and possibly the home of the region’s newest missile base, target Moscow.

It is indeed possible that Flight 17 was shot down by the pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine in the mistaken belief that it was the Ukrainian air force returning to carry out another attack. But other explanations are suggested in a series of questions posed by Russia to the the Secretary-General of the UN General Assembly, accompanied by radar information, satellite images, and other technical displays:

“Why was a military aircraft flying in a civil aviation airway at almost the same time and the same altitude as a civilian passenger aircraft? We would like to have this question answered.”

“Earlier, Ukrainian officials stated that on the day of the accident no Ukrainian military aircraft were flying in that area. As you can see, that is not true.”

“We also have a question for our American colleagues. According to a statement by American officials, the United States has satellite images which show that the missile aimed at the Malaysian aircraft was launched by the militants. But no one has seen these images.”

There is also this intriguing speculation, which ties in to the first Russian question above. A published analysis by a retired Lufthansa pilot points out that Flight 17 looked similar in its tricolor design to that of Russian President Putin’s plane, whose plane with him on board was at the same time “near” Flight 17. In aviation circles “near” would be considered to be anywhere between 150 to 200 miles. Could Putin’s plane have been the real target?

There is as well other serious and plausible questioning of the official story of Russia and/or Ukrainian anti-Kiev militias being responsible for the shootdown. Is Flight 17 going to become the next JFK Assassination, PanAm 103, or 9-11 conspiracy theory that lingers forever? Will the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and the Syrian chemical weapons be joined by the Russian anti-aircraft missile? Stay tuned.

Will they EVER leave Cuba alone? No.

The latest exposed plot to overthrow the Cuban government … Oh, pardon me, I mean the latest exposed plot to bring democracy to Cuba …

Our dear friends at the Agency For International Development (USAID), having done so well with their covert sub-contractor Alan Gross, now in his fifth year in Cuban custody … and their “Cuban Twitter” project, known as ZunZuneo, exposed in 2012, aimed at increasing the flow of information amongst the supposedly information-starved Cubans, which drew in subscribers unaware that the service was paid for by the US government … and now, the latest exposure, a project which sent about a dozen Venezuelan, Costa Rican and Peruvian young people to Cuba in hopes of stirring up a rebellion; the travelers worked clandestinely, using the cover of health and civic programs, or posing as tourists, going around the island, on a mission to “identify potential social-change actors” to turn into political activists. Can you believe that? Can you believe the magnitude of naiveté? Was it a conviction that American exceptionalism would somehow work its magic? Do they think the Cuban people are a bunch of children just waiting for a wise adult to come along and show them what to think and how to behave?

One of these latest USAID contracts was signed only days after Gross was detained, thus indicating little concern for the safety of their employees/agents. As part of the preparation of these individuals, USAID informed them: “Although there is never total certainty, trust that the authorities will not try to harm you physically, only frighten you. Remember that the Cuban government prefers to avoid negative media reports abroad, so a beaten foreigner is not convenient for them.”

It’s most ironic. The US government could not say as much about most of their allies, who frequently make use of physical abuse. Indeed, the statement could not be made in regard to almost any American police force. But it’s this Cuba that doesn’t beat or torture detainees that is the enemy to be reformed and punished without mercy … 55 years and counting.

The United States and torture

Two of the things that governments tend to cover-up or lie about the most are assassinations and torture, both of which are widely looked upon as exceedingly immoral and unlawful, even uncivilized. Since the end of the Second World War the United States has attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders and has led the world in torture; not only the torture performed directly by Americans upon foreigners, but providing torture equipment, torture manuals, lists of people to be tortured, and in-person guidance and encouragement by American instructors, particularly in Latin America.

Thus it is somewhat to the credit of President Obama that at his August 1 press conference he declared “We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.”

And he actually used the word “torture” at that moment, not “enhanced interrogation”, which has been the euphemism of preference the past decade, although two minutes later the president used “extraordinary interrogation techniques”. And “tortured some folks” makes me wince. The man is clearly uncomfortable with the subject.

But all this is minor. Much more important is the fact that for several years Mr. Obama’s supporters have credited him with having put an end to the practice of torture. And they simply have no right to make that claim.

Shortly after Obama’s first inauguration, both he and Leon Panetta, the new Director of the CIA, explicitly stated that “rendition” was not being ended. As the Los Angeles Times reported at the time: “Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.”

The English translation of “cooperate” is “torture”. Rendition is simply outsourcing torture. There was no other reason to take prisoners to Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Somalia, Kosovo, or the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, to name some of the known torture centers frequented by the United States. Kosovo and Diego Garcia – both of which house large and very secretive American military bases – if not some of the other locations, may well still be open for torture business. The same for the Guantánamo Base in Cuba.

Moreover, the Executive Order referred to, number 13491, issued January 22, 2009, “Ensuring Lawful Interrogations”, leaves a major loophole. It states repeatedly that humane treatment, including the absence of torture, is applicable only to prisoners detained in an “armed conflict”. Thus, torture by Americans outside an environment of “armed conflict” is not explicitly prohibited. But what about torture within an environment of “counter-terrorism”?

The Executive Order required the CIA to use only the interrogation methods outlined in a revised Army Field Manual. However, using the Army Field Manual as a guide to prisoner treatment and interrogation still allows solitary confinement, perceptual or sensory deprivation, sensory overload, sleep deprivation, the induction of fear and hopelessness, mind-altering drugs, environmental manipulation such as temperature and noise, and stress positions.

After Panetta was questioned by a Senate panel, the New York Times wrote that he had “left open the possibility that the agency could seek permission to use interrogation methods more aggressive than the limited menu that President Obama authorized under new rules … Mr. Panetta also said the agency would continue the Bush administration practice of ‘rendition’ – picking terrorism suspects off the street and sending them to a third country. But he said the agency would refuse to deliver a suspect into the hands of a country known for torture or other actions ‘that violate our human values’.”

The last sentence is of course childishly absurd. The countries chosen to receive rendition prisoners were chosen precisely because they were willing and able to torture them.

No official in the Bush and Obama administrations has been punished in any way for torture or other war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and the other countries they waged illegal war against. And, it could be added, no American bankster has been punished for their indispensable role in the world-wide financial torture they inflicted upon us all beginning in 2008. What a marvelously forgiving land is America. This, however, does not apply to Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, or Chelsea Manning.

In the last days of the Bush White House, Michael Ratner, professor at Columbia Law School and former president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, pointed out:

The only way to prevent this from happening again is to make sure that those who were responsible for the torture program pay the price for it. I don’t see how we regain our moral stature by allowing those who were intimately involved in the torture programs to simply walk off the stage and lead lives where they are not held accountable.

I’d like at this point to once again remind my dear readers of the words of the “Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”, which was drafted by the United Nations in 1984, came into force in 1987, and ratified by the United States in 1994. Article 2, section 2 of the Convention states: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

Such marvelously clear, unequivocal, and principled language, to set a single standard for a world that makes it increasingly difficult for one to feel proud of humanity.

The Convention Against Torture has been and remains the supreme law of the land. It is a cornerstone of international law and a principle on a par with the prohibition against slavery and genocide.

“Mr. Snowden will not be tortured. Torture is unlawful in the United States.” – United States Attorney General Eric Holder, July 26, 2013

John Brennan, appointed by President Obama in January 2013 to be Director of the CIA, has defended “rendition” as an “absolutely vital tool”; and stated that torture had produced “life saving” intelligence.

Obama had nominated Brennan for the CIA position in 2008, but there was such an outcry in the human-rights community over Brennan’s apparent acceptance of torture, that Brennan withdrew his nomination. Barack Obama evidently learned nothing from this and appointed the man again in 2013.

During Cold War One, a common theme in the rhetoric was that the Soviets tortured people and detained them without cause, extracted phony confessions, and did the unspeakable to detainees who were helpless against the full, heartless weight of the Communist state. As much as any other evil, torture differentiated the bad guys, the Commies, from the good guys, the American people and their government. However imperfect the US system might be – we were all taught – it had civilized standards that the enemy rejected.

Just because you have a right to do something does not make it right.

The city of Detroit in recent months has been shutting off the supply of water to city residents who have not paid their water bills. This action affects more than 40% of the customers of the Detroit Water and Sewage Department, bringing great inconvenience and threats to the health and sanitation of between 200 and 300 thousand residents. Protests have of course sprung up in the city, with “Water is a human right!” as a leading theme.

Who can argue with that? Well, neo-conservatives and other true believers in the capitalist system who maintain that if you receive the benefit of a product or service, you pay for it. What could be simpler? What are you, some kind of socialist?

For those of you who have difficulty believing that an American city could be so insensitive, allow me to remind you of some history.

On December 14, 1981 a resolution was proposed in the United Nations General Assembly which declared that “education, work, health care, proper nourishment, national development are human rights”. Notice the “proper nourishment”. The resolution was approved by a vote of 135-1. The United States cast the only “No” vote.

A year later, December 18, 1982, an identical resolution was proposed in the General Assembly. It was approved by a vote of 131-1. The United States cast the only “No” vote.

The following year, December 16, 1983, the resolution was again put forth, a common practice at the United Nations. This time it was approved by a vote of 132-1. There’s no need to tell you who cast the sole “No” vote.

These votes took place under the Reagan administration.

Under the Clinton administration, in 1996, a United Nations-sponsored World Food Summit affirmed the “right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food”. The United States took issue with this, insisting that it does not recognize a “right to food”. Washington instead championed free trade as the key to ending the poverty at the root of hunger, and expressed fears that recognition of a “right to food” could lead to lawsuits from poor nations seeking aid and special trade provisions.

The situation of course did not improve under the administration of George W. Bush. In 2002, in Rome, world leaders at another UN-sponsored World Food Summit again approved a declaration that everyone had the right to “safe and nutritious food”. The United States continued to oppose the clause, again fearing it would leave them open to future legal claims by famine-stricken countries.

I’m waiting for a UN resolution affirming the right to oxygen.

Notes

  1. See various examples at RT.com, such as “Jen Psaki’s most embarrassing fails, most entertaining grillings”, or simply search the site for “Ukraine Jen Psaki”
  2. Congressional Record (House of Representatives), May 12, 1966, pp. 9977-78, reprint of an article by Morley Safer of CBS News
  3. “Letter dated 22 July 2014 from the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General”, released by the UN 24 July, Document No. A/68/954-S/2014/524
  4. “Pre-WWIII German Pilot Shocker, MH17 ‘Not Hit By Missile’”, Before It’s News, July 31 2014
  5. Associated Press, August 4, 2014
  6. Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2009
  7. New York Times, February 6, 2009
  8. Associated Press, November 17, 2008
  9. Associated Press, November 26, 2008
  10. Washington Post, November 18, 1996
  11. Reuters news agency, June 10, 2002

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

Anti-Empire Report #130

William Blum

Official website of the author, historian, and U.S. foreign policy critic.

The Anti-Empire Report #129, June 2014

Edward Snowden

Is Edward Snowden a radical? The dictionary defines a radical as “an advocate of political and social revolution”, the adjective form being “favoring or resulting in extreme or revolutionary changes”. That doesn’t sound like Snowden as far as what has been publicly revealed. In common usage, the term “radical” usually connotes someone or something that goes beyond the generally accepted boundaries of socio-political thought and policies; often used by the Left simply to denote more extreme than, or to the left of, a “liberal”.

In his hour-long interview on NBC, May 28, in Moscow, Snowden never expressed, or even implied, any thought – radical or otherwise – about United States foreign policy or the capitalist economic system under which we live, the two standard areas around which many political discussions in the US revolve. In fact, after reading a great deal by and about Snowden this past year, I have no idea what his views actually are about these matters. To be sure, in the context of the NBC interview, capitalism was not at all relevant, but US foreign policy certainly was.

Snowden was not asked any direct questions about foreign policy, but if I had been in his position I could not have replied to several of the questions without bringing it up. More than once the interview touched upon the question of whether the former NSA contractor’s actions had caused “harm to the United States”. Snowden said that he’s been asking the entire past year to be presented with evidence of such harm and has so far received nothing. I, on the other hand, as a radical, would have used the opportunity to educate the world-wide audience about how the American empire is the greatest threat to the world’s peace, prosperity, and environment; that anything to slow down the monster is to be desired; and that throwing a wrench into NSA’s surveillance gears is eminently worthwhile toward this end; thus, “harm” indeed should be the goal, not something to apologize for.

Edward added that the NSA has been unfairly “demonized” and that the agency is composed of “good people”. I don’t know what to make of this.

When the war on terrorism was discussed in the interview, and the question of whether Snowden’s actions had hurt that effort, he failed to take the opportunity to point out the obvious and absolutely essential fact – that US foreign policy, by its very nature, regularly and routinely creates anti-American terrorists.

When asked what he’d say to President Obama if given a private meeting, Snowden had no response at all to make. I, on the other hand, would say to Mr. Obama: “Mr. President, in your time in office you’ve waged war against seven countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria. This makes me wonder something. With all due respect, sir: What is wrong with you?”

A radical – one genuine and committed – would not let such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity pass by unused. Contrary to what his fierce critics at home may believe, Edward Snowden is not seriously at war with America, its government or its society. Does he have a real understanding, analysis, or criticism of capitalism or US foreign policy? Does he think about what people could be like under a better social system? Is he, I wonder, even anti-imperialist?

And he certainly is not a conspiracy theorist, or at least keeps it well hidden. He was asked about 9-11 and replied:

The 9/11 commission … when they looked at all the classified intelligence from all the different intelligence agencies, they found that we had all of the information we needed … to detect this plot. We actually had records of the phone calls from the United States and out. The CIA knew who these guys were. The problem was not that we weren’t collecting information, it wasn’t that we didn’t have enough dots, it wasn’t that we didn’t have a haystack, it was that we did not understand the haystack that we had.

Whereas I might have pointed out that the Bush administration may have ignored the information because they wanted something bad – perhaps of unknown badness – to happen in order to give them the justification for all manner of foreign and domestic oppression they wished to carry out. And did. (This scenario of course excludes the other common supposition, that it was an “inside job”, in which case collecting information on the perpetrators would not have been relevant.)

The entire segment concerning 9/11 was left out of the television broadcast of the interview, although some part of it was shown later during a discussion. This kind of omission is of course the sort of thing that feeds conspiracy theorists.

All of the above notwithstanding, I must make it clear that I have great admiration for the young Mr. Snowden, for what he did and for how he expresses himself. He may not be a radical, but he is a hero. His moral courage, nerve, composure, and technical genius are magnificent. I’m sure the NBC interview won him great respect and a large number of new supporters. I, in Edward’s place, would be even more hated by Americans than he is, even if I furthered the radicalization of more of them than he has. However, I of course would never have been invited onto mainstream American television for a long interview in prime time. (Not counting my solitary 15 minutes of fame in 2006 courtesy of Osama bin Laden; a gigantic fluke happening.)

Apropos Snowden’s courage and integrity, it appears that something very important has not been emphasized in media reports: In the interview, he took the Russian government to task for a new law requiring bloggers to register – the same government which holds his very fate in their hands.

Who is more exceptional: The United States or Russia?

I was going to write a commentary about President Obama’s speech to the graduating class at the US Military Academy (West Point) on May 28. When he speaks to a military audience the president is usually at his most nationalistic, jingoist, militaristic, and American-exceptionalist – wall-to-wall platitudes. But this talk was simply TOO nationalistic, jingoist, militaristic, and American-exceptionalist. (“I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.”) To go through it line by line in order to make my usual wise-ass remarks, would have been just too painful. However, if you’re in a masochistic mood and wish to read it, it can be found here.

Instead I offer you part of a commentary from Mr. Jan Oberg, Danish director of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research in Lund, Sweden:

What is conspicuously lacking in the President’s West Point speech?

  1. Any reasonably accurate appraisal of the world and the role of other nations.
  2. A sense of humility and respect for allies and other countries in this world.
  3. Every element of a grand strategy for America for its foreign and security policy and some kind of vision of what a better world would look like. This speech with all its tired, self-aggrandising rhetoric is a thin cover-up for the fact that there is no such vision or overall strategy.
  4. Some little hint of reforms of existing institutions or new thinking about globalisation and global democratic decision-making.
  5. Ideas and initiatives – stretched-out hands – to help the world move towards conflict-resolution in crisis areas such as Ukraine, Syria, Libya, China-Japan and Iran. Not a trace of creativity.

Ironically, on May 30 the Wall Street Journal published a long essay by Leon Aron, a Russia scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington. The essay took Russian president Vladimir Putin to task for claiming that Russia is exceptional. The piece was headed:

“Why Putin Says Russia Is Exceptional”

“Such claims have often heralded aggression abroad and harsh crackdowns at home.”

It states: “To Mr. Putin, in short, Russia was exceptional because it was emphatically not like the modern West – or not, in any event, like his caricature of a corrupt, morally benighted Europe and U.S. This was a bad omen, presaging the foreign policy gambits against Ukraine that now have the whole world guessing about Mr. Putin’s intentions.”

So the Wall Street Journal has no difficulty in ascertaining that a particular world leader sees his country as “exceptional”. And that such a perception can lead that leader or his country to engage in aggression abroad and crackdowns at home. The particular world leader so harshly judged in this manner by the Wall Street Journal is named Vladimir Putin, not Barack Obama. There’s a word for this kind of analysis – It’s called hypocrisy.

“Hypocrisy is anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised.” – Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoi, (1828-1910) Russian writer

Is hypocrisy a moral failing or a failing of the intellect?

The New Cold War is getting to look more and more like the old one, wherein neither side allows the other to get away with any propaganda point. Just compare any American television network to the Russian station broadcast in the United States – RT (formerly Russia Today). The contrast in coverage of the same news events is remarkable, and the stations attack and make fun of each other by name.

Another, even more important, feature to note is that in Cold War I the United States usually had to consider what the Soviet reaction would be to a planned American intervention in the Third World. This often served as a brake to one extent or another on Washington’s imperial adventures. Thus it was that only weeks after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the United States bombed and invaded Panama, inflicting thousands of casualties and widespread destruction, for the flimsiest – bordering on the non-existent – of reasons. The hostile Russian reaction to Washington’s clear involvement in the overthrow of the Ukrainian government in February of this year, followed by Washington’s significant irritation and defensiveness toward the Russian reaction, indicates that this Cold War brake may have a chance of returning. And for this we should be grateful.

After the “communist threat” had disappeared and the foreign policy of the United States continued absolutely unchanged, it meant that the Cold War revisionists had been vindicated – the conflict had not been about containing an evil called “communism”; it had been about American expansion, imperialism and capitalism. If the collapse of the Soviet Union did not result in any reduction in the American military budget, but rather was followed by large increases, it meant that the Cold War – from Washington’s perspective – had not been motivated by a fear of the Russians, but purely by ideology.

Lest we forget: Our present leaders can derive inspiration from other great American leaders.

White House tape recordings, April 25, 1972:

President Nixon: How many did we kill in Laos?

National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger: In the Laotian thing, we killed about ten, fifteen [thousand] …

Nixon: See, the attack in the North [Vietnam] that we have in mind … power plants, whatever’s left – POL [petroleum], the docks … And, I still think we ought to take the dikes out now. Will that drown people?

Kissinger: About two hundred thousand people.

Nixon: No, no, no … I’d rather use the nuclear bomb. Have you got that, Henry?

Kissinger: That, I think, would just be too much.

Nixon: The nuclear bomb, does that bother you? … I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes.

May 2, 1972:

Nixon: America is not defeated. We must not lose in Vietnam. … The surgical operation theory is all right, but I want that place bombed to smithereens. If we draw the sword, we’re gonna bomb those bastards all over the place. Let it fly, let it fly.

“Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.” – Michael Ledeen, former Defense Department consultant and holder of the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute

Help needed from a computer expert

This has been driving me crazy for a very long time. My printer doesn’t print the document I ask it to print, but instead prints something totally unrelated. But what it prints is always something I’ve had some contact with, like an email I received or a document I read online, which I may or may not have saved on my hard drive, mostly not. It’s genuinely weird.

Now, before I print anything, I close all other windows in my word processor (Word Perfect/Windows 7); I go offline; I specify printing only the current page, no multiple page commands. Yet, the printer usually still finds some document online and prints it.

At one point I cleared out all the printer caches, and that helped for a short while, but then the problem came back though the caches were empty.

I spoke to the printer manufacturer, HP, and they said it can’t be the fault of the printer because the printer only prints what the computer tells it to print.

It must be the CIA or NSA. Help!

Notes

  1. William Blum, Killing Hope, chapter 50
  2. Jonah Goldberg, “Baghdad Delenda Est, Part Two”, National Review, April 23, 2002

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

Anti-Empire Report #125, February 4, 2014

The Anti-Empire Report #125

by William Blum, February 4, 2014

“Bias in favor of the orthodox is frequently mistaken for ‘objectivity’. Departures from this ideological orthodoxy are themselves dismissed as ideological.” – Michael Parenti

An exchange in January with Paul Farhi, Washington Post columnist, about coverage of US foreign policy:

Dear Mr. Farhi,

Now that you’ve done a study of al-Jazeera’s political bias in supporting Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, is it perhaps now time for a study of the US mass media’s bias on US foreign policy? And if you doubt the extent and depth of this bias, consider this:

There are more than 1,400 daily newspapers in the United States. Can you name a single paper, or a single TV network, that was unequivocally opposed to the American wars carried out against Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Panama, Grenada, and Vietnam? Or even opposed to any two of these wars? How about one? In 1968, six years into the Vietnam war, the Boston Globe surveyed the editorial positions of 39 leading US papers concerning the war and found that “none advocated a pull-out”.

Now, can you name an American daily newspaper or TV network that more or less gives any support to any US government ODE (Officially Designated Enemy)? Like Hugo Chávez of Venezuela or his successor, Nicolás Maduro; Fidel or Raúl Castro of Cuba; Bashar al-Assad of Syria; Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran; Rafael Correa of Ecuador; or Evo Morales of Bolivia? I mean that presents the ODE’s point of view in a reasonably fair manner most of the time? Or any ODE of the recent past like Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, Moammar Gaddafi of Libya, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, or Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti?

Who in the mainstream media supports Hamas of Gaza? Or Hezbollah of Lebanon? Who in the mainstream media is outspokenly critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians? And keeps his or her job?

Who in the mainstream media treats Julian Assange or Chelsea Manning as the heroes they are?

And this same mainstream media tell us that Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, et al. do not have a real opposition media.

The ideology of the American mainstream media is the belief that they don’t have any ideology; that they are instead what they call “objective”. I submit that there is something more important in journalism than objectivity. It is capturing the essence, or the truth, if you will, with the proper context and history. This can, as well, serve as “enlightenment”.

It’s been said that the political spectrum concerning US foreign policy in the America mainstream media “runs the gamut from A to B”.

Sincerely, William Blum, Washington, DC

(followed by some of my writing credentials)

Reply from Paul Farhi:

I think you’re conflating news coverage with editorial policy. They are not the same. What a newspaper advocates on its editorial page (the Vietnam example you cite) isn’t the same as what or how the story is covered in the news columns. News MAY have some advocacy in it, but it’s not supposed to, and not nearly as overt or blatant as an editorial or opinion column. Go back over all of your ODE examples and ask yourself if the news coverage was the same as the opinions about those ODEs. In most cases. I doubt it was.

Dear Mr. Farhi,

Thank you for your remarkably prompt answer.

Your point about the difference between news coverage and editorial policy is important, but the fact is, as a daily, and careful, reader of the Post for the past 20 years I can attest to the extensive bias in its foreign policy coverage in the areas I listed. Juan Ferrero in Latin America and Kathy Lally in the Mideast are but two prime examples. The bias, most commonly, is one of omission more than commission; which is to say it’s what they leave out that distorts the news more than any factual errors or out-and-out lies. My Anti-Empire Report contains many examples of these omissions, as well as some errors of commission.

Incidentally, since 1995 I have written dozens of letters to the Post pointing out errors in foreign-policy coverage. Not one has been printed.

Happy New Year

I present here an extreme example of bias by omission, in the entire American mainstream media: In my last report I wrote of the committee appointed by the president to study NSA abuses – Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies – which actually came up with a few unexpected recommendations in its report presented December 13, the most interesting of which perhaps are these two:

“Governments should not use surveillance to steal industry secrets to advantage their domestic industry.”

“Governments should not use their offensive cyber capabilities to change the amounts held in financial accounts or otherwise manipulate the financial systems.”

So what do we have here? The NSA being used to steal industrial secrets; nothing to do with fighting terrorism. And the NSA stealing money and otherwise sabotaging unnamed financial systems, which may also represent gaining industrial advantage for the United States.

Long-time readers of this report may have come to the realization that I’m not an ecstatic admirer of US foreign policy. But this stuff shocks even me. It’s the gross pettiness of “The World’s Only Superpower”.

A careful search of the extensive Lexis-Nexis database failed to turn up a single American mainstream media source, print or broadcast, that mentioned this revelation. I found it only on those websites which carried my report, plus three other sites: Techdirt, Lawfare, and Crikey (First Digital Media).

For another very interesting and extreme example of bias by omission, as well as commission, very typical of US foreign policy coverage in the mainstream media: First read the January 31, page one, Washington Post article making fun of socialism in Venezuela and Cuba.

Then read the response from two Americans who have spent a lot of time in Venezuela, are fluent in Spanish, and whose opinions about the article I solicited.

I lived in Chile during the 1972-73 period under Salvadore Allende and his Socialist Party. The conservative Chilean media’s sarcastic claims at the time about shortages and socialist incompetence were identical to what we’ve been seeing for years in the United States concerning Venezuela and Cuba. The Washington Post article on Venezuela referred to above could have been lifted out of Chile’s El Mercurio, 1973.

[Note to readers: Please do not send me the usual complaints about my using the name “America(n)” to refer to “The United States”. I find it to be a meaningless issue, if not plain silly.]

JFK, RFK, and some myths about US foreign policy

On April 30, 1964, five months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, was interviewed by John B. Martin in one of a series of oral history sessions with RFK. Part of the interview appears in the book “JFK Conservative” by Ira Stoll, published three months ago. (pages 192-3)

RFK: The president … had a strong, overwhelming reason for being in Vietnam and that we should win the war in Vietnam.

MARTIN: What was the overwhelming reason?

RFK: Just the loss of all of Southeast Asia if you lost Vietnam. I think everybody was quite clear that the rest of Southeast Asia would fall.

MARTIN: What if it did?

RFK: Just have profound effects as far as our position throughout the world, and our position in a rather vital part of the world. Also it would affect what happened in India, of course, which in turn has an effect on the Middle East. Just as it would have, everybody felt, a very adverse effect. It would have an effect on Indonesia, hundred million population. All of those countries would be affected by the fall of Vietnam to the Communists.

MARTIN: There was never any consideration given to pulling out?

RFK: No.

MARTIN: … The president was convinced that we had to keep, had to stay in there …

RFK: Yes.

MARTIN: … And couldn’t lose it.

RFK: Yes.

These remarks are rather instructive from several points of view:

  1. Robert Kennedy contradicts the many people who are convinced that, had he lived, JFK would have brought the US involvement in Vietnam to a fairly prompt end, instead of it continuing for ten more terrible years. The author, Stoll, quotes a few of these people. And these other statements are just as convincing as RFK’s statements presented here. And if that is not confusing enough, Stoll then quotes RFK himself in 1967 speaking unmistakably in support of the war.

    It appears that we’ll never know with any kind of certainty what would have happened if JFK had not been assassinated, but I still go by his Cold War record in concluding that US foreign policy would have continued along its imperial, anti-communist path. In Kennedy’s short time in office the United States unleashed many different types of hostility, from attempts to overthrow governments and suppress political movements to assassination attempts against leaders and actual military combat; with one or more of these occurring in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, British Guiana, Iraq, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba and Brazil.

  2. “Just have profound effects as far as our position throughout the world, and our position in a rather vital part of the world.”

    Ah yes, a vital part of the world. Has there ever been any part of the world, or any country, that the US has intervened in that was not vital? Vital to American interests? Vital to our national security? Of great strategic importance? Here’s President Carter in his 1980 State of the Union Address: “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America”.

    “What a country calls its vital economic interests are not the things which enable its citizens to live, but the things which enable it to make war.” – Simone Weil (1909-1943), French philosopher

  3. If the US lost Vietnam “everybody was quite clear that the rest of Southeast Asia would fall.”

    As I once wrote:

    Thus it was that the worst of Washington’s fears had come to pass: All of Indochina – Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos – had fallen to the Communists. During the initial period of US involvement in Indochina in the 1950s, John Foster Dulles, Dwight Eisenhower and other American officials regularly issued doomsday pronouncements of the type known as the “Domino Theory”, warning that if Indochina should fall, other nations in Asia would topple over as well. In one instance, President Eisenhower listed no less than Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Indonesia amongst the anticipated “falling dominos”.

    Such warnings were repeated periodically over the next decade by succeeding administrations and other supporters of US policy in Indochina as a key argument in defense of such policy. The fact that these ominous predictions turned out to have no basis in reality did not deter Washington officialdom from promulgating the same dogma up until the 1990s about almost each new world “trouble-spot”, testimony to their unshakable faith in the existence and inter-workings of the International Communist Conspiracy.

Killing suicide

Suicide bombers have become an international tragedy. One can not sit in a restaurant or wait for a bus or go for a walk downtown, in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq or Russia or Syria and elsewhere without fearing for one’s life from a person walking innocently by or a car that just quietly parked nearby. The Pentagon has been working for years to devise a means of countering this powerful weapon.

As far as we know, they haven’t come up with anything. So I’d like to suggest a possible solution. Go to the very source. Flood selected Islamic societies with this message: “There is no heavenly reward for dying a martyr. There are no 72 beautiful virgins waiting to reward you for giving your life for jihad. No virgins at all. No sex at all.”

Using every means of communication, from Facebook to skywriting, from billboards to television, plant the seed of doubt, perhaps the very first such seed the young men have ever experienced. As some wise anonymous soul once wrote:

A person is unambivalent only with regard to those few beliefs, attitudes and characteristics which are truly universal in his experience. Thus a man might believe that the world is flat without really being aware that he did so – if everyone in his society shared the assumption. The flatness of the world would be simply a “self-evident” fact. But if he once became conscious of thinking that the world is flat, he would be capable of conceiving that it might be otherwise. He might then be spurred to invent elaborate proofs of its flatness, but he would have lost the innocence of absolute and unambivalent belief.

We have to capture the minds of these suicide bombers. At the same time we can work on our own soldiers. Making them fully conscious of their belief, their precious belief, that their government means well, that they’re fighting for freedom and democracy, and for that thing called “American exceptionalism”. It could save them from committing their own form of suicide.

Notes

  1. Boston Globe, February 18, 1968, p.2-A
  2. New York Times, April 8, 1954

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

Anti-Empire Report #121, October 7, 2013

Anti-Empire Report #121, October 7, 2013

The War on Terrorism … or whatever.


“U.S. hopes of winning more influence over Syria’s divided rebel movement faded Wednesday after 11 of the biggest armed factions repudiated the Western-backed political opposition coalition and announced the formation of an alliance dedicated to creating an Islamist state. The al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, designated a terrorist organization by the United States, is the lead signatory of the new group.” 1

Pity the poor American who wants to be a good citizen, wants to understand the world and his country’s role in it, wants to believe in the War on Terrorism, wants to believe that his government seeks to do good … What is he to make of all this?

For about two years, his dear American government has been supporting the same anti-government side as the jihadists in the Syrian civil war; not total, all-out support, but enough military hardware, logistics support, intelligence information, international political, diplomatic and propaganda assistance (including the crucial alleged-chemical-weapons story), to keep the jihadists in the ball game. Washington and its main Mideast allies in the conflict – Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia – have not impeded the movement to Syria of jihadists coming to join the rebels, recruited from the ranks of Sunni extremist veterans of the wars in Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, while Qatar and the Saudis have supplied the rebels with weapons, most likely bought in large measure from the United States, as well as lots of of what they have lots of – money.

This widespread international support has been provided despite the many atrocities carried out by the jihadists – truck and car suicide bombings (with numerous civilian casualties), planting roadside bombs à la Iraq, gruesome massacres of Christians and Kurds, grotesque beheadings and other dissections of victims’ bodies (most charming of all: a Youtube video of a rebel leader cutting out an organ from the chest of a victim and biting into it as it drips with blood). All this barbarity piled on top of a greater absurdity – these Western-backed, anti-government forces are often engaged in battle with other Western-backed, anti-government forces, non-jihadist. It has become increasingly difficult to sell this war to the American public as one of pro-democracy “moderates” locked in a good-guy-versus-bad-guy struggle with an evil dictator, although in actuality the United States has fought on the same side as al Qaeda on repeated occasions before Syria. Here’s a brief survey:

Afghanistan, 1980-early 1990s: In support of the Islamic Moujahedeen (“holy warriors”), the CIA orchestrated a war against the Afghan government and their Soviet allies, pouring in several billions of dollars of arms and extensive military training; hitting up Middle-Eastern countries for donations, notably Saudi Arabia which gave hundreds of millions of dollars in aid each year; pressuring and bribing Pakistan to rent out its country as a military staging area and sanctuary.

It worked. And out of the victorious Moujahedeen came al Qaeda.

Bosnia, 1992-5: In 2001 the Wall Street Journal declared:


It is safe to say that the birth of al-Qaeda as a force on the world stage can be traced directly back to 1992, when the Bosnian Muslim government of Alija Izetbegovic issued a passport in their Vienna embassy to Osama bin Laden. … for the past 10 years, the most senior leaders of al Qaeda have visited the Balkans, including bin Laden himself on three occasions between 1994 and 1996. The Egyptian surgeon turned terrorist leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri has operated terrorist training camps, weapons of mass destruction factories and money-laundering and drug-trading networks throughout Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Bosnia. This has gone on for a decade. 2

A few months later, The Guardian reported on “the full story of the secret alliance between the Pentagon and radical Islamist groups from the Middle East designed to assist the Bosnian Muslims – some of the same groups that the Pentagon is now fighting in “the war against terrorism”. 3

In 1994 and 1995 US/NATO forces carried out bombing campaigns over Bosnia aimed at damaging the military capability of the Serbs and enhancing that of the Bosnian Muslims. In the decade-long civil wars in the Balkans, the Serbs, regarded by Washington as the “the last communist government in Europe”, were always the main enemy.

Kosovo, 1998-99: Kosovo, overwhelmingly Muslim, was a province of Serbia, the main republic of the former Yugoslavia. In 1998, Kosovo separatists – The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) – began an armed conflict with Belgrade to split Kosovo from Serbia. The KLA was considered a terrorist organization by the US, the UK and France for years, with numerous reports of the KLA having contact with al-Qaeda, getting arms from them, having its militants trained in al-Qaeda camps in Pakistan, and even having members of al-Qaeda in KLA ranks fighting against the Serbs. 4

However, when US-NATO forces began military action against the Serbs the KLA was taken off the US terrorist list, it “received official US-NATO arms and training support” 5 , and the 1999 US-NATO bombing campaign eventually focused on driving Serbian forces from Kosovo.

In 2008 Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia, an independence so illegitimate and artificial that the majority of the world’s nations still have not recognized it. But the United States was the first to do so, the very next day, thus affirming the unilateral declaration of independence of a part of another country’s territory.

The KLA have been known for their trafficking in women, heroin, and human body parts (sic). The United States has naturally been pushing for Kosovo’s membership in NATO and the European Union.

Nota bene: In 1992 the Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and Serbs reached agreement in Lisbon for a unified state. The continuation of a peaceful multi-ethnic Bosnia seemed assured. But the United States sabotaged the agreement. 6

Libya, 2011: The US and NATO to the rescue again. For more than six months, almost daily missile attacks against the government and forces of Muammar Gaddafi as assorted Middle East jihadists assembled in Libya and battled the government on the ground. The predictable outcome came to be – the jihadists now in control of parts of the country and fighting for the remaining parts. The wartime allies showed their gratitude to Washington by assassinating the US ambassador and three other Americans, presumably CIA, in the city of Benghazi.

Caucasus (Russia), mid-2000s to present: The National Endowment for Democracy and Freedom House have for many years been the leading American “non-government” institutions tasked with destabilizing, if not overthrowing, foreign governments which refuse to be subservient to the desires of US foreign policy. Both NGOs have backed militants in the Russian Caucasus area, one that has seen more than its share of terror stretching back to the Chechnyan actions of the 1990s. 7

“Omission is the most powerful form of lie.” – George Orwell

I am asked occasionally why I am so critical of the mainstream media when I quote from them repeatedly in my writings. The answer is simple. The American media’s gravest shortcoming is much more their errors of omission than their errors of commission. It’s what they leave out that distorts the news more than any factual errors or out-and-out lies. So I can make good use of the facts they report, which a large, rich organization can easier provide than the alternative media.

A case in point is a New York Times article of October 5 on the Greek financial crisis and the Greeks’ claim for World War Two reparations from Germany.

“Germany may be Greece’s stern banker now, say those who are seeking reparations,” writes the Times, but Germany “should pay off its own debts to Greece. … It is not just aging victims of the Nazi occupation who are demanding a full accounting. Prime Minister Antonis Samarass government has compiled an 80-page report on reparations and a huge, never-repaid loan the nation was forced to make under Nazi occupation from 1941 to 1945. … The call for reparations has elicited an emotional outpouring in Greece, where six years of brutal recession and harsh austerity measures have left many Greeks hostile toward Germany. Rarely does a week go by without another report in the news about, as one newspaper put it in a headline, ‘What Germany Owes Us’.”

“The figure most often discussed is $220 billion, an estimate for infrastructure damage alone put forward by Manolis Glezos, a member of Parliament and a former resistance fighter who is pressing for reparations. That amount equals about half the country’s debt. … Some members of the National Council on Reparations, an advocacy group, are calling for more than $677 billion to cover stolen artifacts, damage to the economy and to the infrastructure, as well as the bank loan and individual claims.”

So there we have the morality play: The evil Germans who occupied Greece and in addition to carrying out a lot of violence and repression shamelessly exploited the Greek people economically.

Would it be appropriate for such a story, or an accompanying or follow-up story, to mention the civil war that broke out in Greece shortly after the close of the world war? On one side were the neo-fascists, many of whom had cooperated with the occupying Germans during the war, some even fighting for the Nazis. Indeed, the British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, acknowledged in August 1946 that there were 228 ex-members of the Nazi Security Battalions – whose main task had been to track down Greek resistance fighters and Jews – on active service in the new Greek army. 8

On the other side was the Greek left who had fought the Nazis courageously, even forcing the German army to flee the country in 1944.

So guess which side of the civil war our favorite military took? … That’s right, the United States supported the neo-fascists. After all, an important component of the Greek left was the Communist Party, although it wouldn’t have mattered at all if the Greek left had not included any Communists. Support of the left (not to be confused with liberals of course) anywhere in the world, during and since the Cold War, has been verboten in US foreign policy.

The neo-fascists won the civil war and instituted a highly brutal regime, for which the CIA created a suitably repressive internal security agency, named and modeled after itself, the KYP. For the next 15 years, Greece was looked upon much as a piece of real estate to be developed according to Washington’s political and economic needs. One document should suffice to capture the beauty of Washington’s relationship to Athens – a 1947 letter from US Secretary of State George Marshall to Dwight Griswold, the head of the American Mission to Aid Greece, said:


During the course of your work you and the members of your Mission will from time to time find that certain Greek officials are not, because of incompetence, disagreement with your policies, or for some other reason, extending the type of cooperation which is necessary if the objectives of your Mission are to be achieved. You will find it necessary to effect the removal of these officials. 9

Where is the present-day Greek headline: “What The United States Owes Us”? Where is the New York Times obligation to enlighten its readers?

The latest step in the evolution of America’s Police State

“If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear.”

So say many Americans. And many Germans as well.

But one German, Ilija Trojanow, would disagree. He has lent his name to published documents denouncing the National Security Agency (NSA), and was one of several prominent German authors who signed a letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel urging her to take a firm stance against the mass online surveillance conducted by the NSA. Trojanow and the other authors had nothing to hide, which is why the letter was published for the public to read. What happened after that, however, was that Trojanow was refused permission to board a flight from Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, to Miami on Monday, September 30. Without any explanation.

Trojanow, who was on his way to speak at a literary conference in Denver, told the Spiegel magazine online website that the denial of entry might be linked to his criticism of the NSA. Germany’s Foreign Ministry says it has contacted US authorities “to resolve this issue”. 10

In an article published in a German newspaper, Trojanow voiced his frustration with the incident: “It is more than ironic if an author who raises his voice against the dangers of surveillance and the secret state within a state for years, will be denied entry into the ‘land of the brave and the free’.” 11

Further irony can be found in the title of a book by Trojanow: “Attack on freedom. Obsession with security, the surveillance state and the dismantling of civil rights.”

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., who oversees the NSA and other intelligence agencies, said recently that the intelligence community “is only interested in communication related to valid foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes.” 12

It’s difficult in the extreme to see how this criterion would apply in any way to Ilija Trojanow.

The story is a poignant caveat on how fragile is Americans’ freedom to criticize their Security State. If a foreigner can be barred from boarding a flight merely for peaceful, intellectual criticism of America’s Big Brother (nay, Giant Brother), who amongst us does not need to pay careful attention to anything they say or write.

Very few Americans, however, will even be aware of this story. A thorough search of the Lexis-Nexis media database revealed a single mention in an American daily newspaper (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch), out of 1400 daily papers in the US. No mention on any broadcast media. A single one-time mention in a news agency (Associated Press), and one mention in a foreign English-language newspaper (New Zealand Herald).

Notes

  1. Washington Post, September 26, 2013
  2. Wall Street Journal, November 1, 2001
  3. The Guardian (London), April 22, 2002
  4. RT TV (Moscow), May 4, 2012
  5. Wall Street Journal, November 1, 2001
  6. New York Times, June 17, 1993, buried at the very end of the article on an inside page
  7. Sibel Edmonds’ Boiling Frogs Post, “Barbarians at the Gate: Terrorism, the US, and the Subversion of Russia”, August 30, 2012
  8. Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, October 16, 1946, column 887 (reference is made here to Bevin’s statement of August 10, 1946)
  9. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1947, Vol. V (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1971), pp. 222-3. See William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, chapter 3 for further details of the US role in postwar Greece.
  10. Associated Press, October 2, 2013
  11. Huffington Post, “Ilija Trojanow, German Writer, Banned From US For Criticizing NSA”, October 1, 2013
  12. Washington Post, October 5, 2013

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

The Anti-Empire Report #117 (June 4th, 2013)

The Anti-Empire Report #117

By William Blum – Published June 4th, 2013


What our presidents tell our young people

In this season of college graduations, let us pause to remember the stirring words of America’s beloved scholar, George W. Bush, speaking in Florida in 2007 at the commencement exercises of Miami Dade College: “In Havana and other Cuban cities, there are people just like you who are attending school, and dreaming of a better life. Unfortunately those dreams are stifled by a cruel dictatorship that denies all freedom in the name of a dark and discredited ideology.” 1

How I wish I had been in the audience. I would have stood up and shouted: “In Cuba all education is completely free. But most of the young people sitting here today will be chained to a large, crippling debt for much of the rest of their life!”

As the security guards came for me I’d yell: “And no one in Cuba is forced to join the military to qualify for college financial aid, like Bradley Manning was forced!”

As they grabbed me I’d manage to add: “And Congress has even passed a law prohibiting students from declaring bankruptcy to get rid of their debt!”

And as I was being dragged away, with an arm around my neck, I’d squeeze out my last words: “Do you know that $36 billion in student debt belongs to Americans who are 60 or older? … (choke, gasp) … and that students have committed suicide because of their debt?”

I don’t know if Professor Bush would have found any words within his intellect to respond with, but the last words I’d hear from the students, as the handcuffs were being tightened, would be: “If you don’t like it here, why dontya move to Cuba?”

Bad enough they have to pay highway-robbery tuition, but they wind up brainwashed anyhow.

Let us now turn to the current president. Here he is at the May 19 graduation ceremony at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Martin Luther King’s alma mater:

I know that when I am on my deathbed someday, I will not be thinking about any particular legislation I passed; I will not be thinking about a policy I promoted; I will not be thinking about the speech I gave, I will not be thinking the Nobel Prize I received. I will be thinking about that walk I took with my daughters. I’ll be thinking about a lazy afternoon with my wife. I’ll be thinking about sitting around the dinner table and seeing them happy and healthy and knowing that they were loved. And I’ll be thinking about whether I did right by all of them.

And I, like Woody Allen’s Zelig, would have shown up at this graduation as well, and I would have shouted out: “What about the family sitting happy and healthy around the dinner table in Pakistan or Afghanistan, and a missile – your missile – comes screaming through the roof, reducing the precious family to bones and blood and dust. What about the nice happy and healthy families in Yemen and Iraq and Somalia, Pakistan and Libya whom you’ve droned and missled to death? Why haven’t you returned the Nobel Prize? In case you’ve forgotten, it was a PEACE prize!”

Oh, that taser does hurt! Please contribute to my bail fund.


Pipelineistan

I have written on more than one occasion about the value of preaching and repeating to the choir on a regular basis. One of my readers agreed with this, saying: “How else has Christianity survived 2,000 years except by weekly reinforcement?”

Well, dear choir, beloved parishioners, for this week’s sermon we once again turn to Afghanistan. As US officials often make statements giving the impression that the American military presence in that sad land is definitely winding down – soon to be all gone except for the standard few thousand American servicemen which almost every country in the world needs stationed on their territory – one regularly sees articles in the mainstream media and government releases trying to explain what it was all about. For what good reason did thousands of young Americans breathe their last breath in that backward country and why were tens of thousands of Afghans dispatched by the United States to go meet Allah (amidst widespread American torture and other violations of human rights)?

The Washington Post recently cited a Defense Department report that states: The United States “has wound up with a reasonable ‘Plan B’ for achieving its core objective of preventing Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for al-Qaeda and its affiliates.”

“Preventing a safe haven for terrorists” – that was the original reason given back in 2001 for the invasion of Afghanistan, a consistency in sharp contrast to the ever-changing explanations for Iraq. However, it appears that the best and the brightest in our government and media do not remember, if they ever knew, that Afghanistan was not really about 9-11 or fighting terrorists (except the many the US has created by its invasion and occupation), but was about pipelines.

President Obama declared in August 2009: “But we must never forget this is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans.” 2

Never mind that out of the tens of thousands of people the United States and its NATO front have killed in Afghanistan not one has been identified as having had anything to do with the events of September 11, 2001.

Never mind – even accepting the official version of 9/11 – that the “plotting to attack America” in 2001 was devised in Germany and Spain and the United States more than in Afghanistan. Why didn’t the United States bomb those countries? (*)

Indeed, what actually was needed to plot to buy airline tickets and take flying lessons in the United States? A room with a table and some chairs? What does “an even larger safe haven” mean? A larger room with more chairs? Perhaps a blackboard? Terrorists intent upon attacking the United States can meet almost anywhere. At the present time there are anti-American terrorist types meeting in Libya, Syria, Turkey, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, London, Paris, and many other places. And the Taliban of Afghanistan would not be particularly anti-American if the United States had not invaded and occupied their country. The Taliban are a diverse grouping of Afghan insurgents whom the US military has come to label with a single name; they are not primarily international jihadists like al-Qaeda and in fact have had an up-and-down relationship with the latter.

The only “necessity” that drew the United States to Afghanistan was the desire to establish a military presence in this land that is next door to the Caspian Sea region of Central Asia – reportedly containing the second largest proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas in the world – and build oil and gas pipelines from that region running through Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is well situated for such pipelines to serve much of South Asia and even parts of Europe, pipelines that – crucially – can bypass Washington’s bêtes noire, Iran and Russia. If only the Taliban would not attack the lines. Here’s Richard Boucher, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, in 2007: “One of our goals is to stabilize Afghanistan, so it can become a conduit and a hub between South and Central Asia so that energy can flow to the south.” 3

Since the 1980s all kinds of pipelines have been planned for the area, only to be delayed or canceled by one military, financial or political problem or another. For example, the so-called TAPI pipeline (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) had strong support from Washington, which was eager to block a competing pipeline that would bring gas to Pakistan and India from Iran. TAPI goes back to the late 1990s, when the Taliban government held talks with the California-based oil company Unocal Corporation. These talks were conducted with the full knowledge of the Clinton administration, and were undeterred by the extreme repression of Taliban society. Taliban officials even made trips to the United States for discussions. 4

Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific on February 12, 1998, Unocal representative John Maresca discussed the importance of the pipeline project and the increasing difficulties in dealing with the Taliban:

The region’s total oil reserves may well reach more than 60 billion barrels of oil. Some estimates are as high as 200 billion barrels … From the outset, we have made it clear that construction of the pipeline we have proposed across Afghanistan could not begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, leaders, and our company.

When those talks with the Taliban stalled in 2001, the Bush administration reportedly threatened the Taliban with military reprisals if the Afghan government did not go along with American demands. On August 2 in Islamabad, US State Department negotiator Christine Rocca reiterated to the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef: “Either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold [oil], or we bury you under a carpet of bombs.” 5 The talks finally broke down for good a month before 9-11.

The United States has been serious indeed about the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf oil and gas areas. Through one war or another beginning with the Gulf War of 1990-1, the US has managed to establish military bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.

The war against the Taliban can’t be “won” short of killing everyone in Afghanistan. The United States may well try again to negotiate some form of pipeline security with the Taliban, then get out, and declare “victory”. Barack Obama can surely deliver an eloquent victory speech from his teleprompter. It might even include the words “freedom” and “democracy”, but certainly not “pipeline”.

“We are literally backing the same people in Syria that we are fighting in Afghanistan and that have just killed our ambassador in Libya! We must finally abandon the interventionist impulse before it is too late.” – Congressman Ron Paul, September 16, 2012 6

How it all began: “To watch the courageous Afghan freedom fighters battle modern arsenals with simple hand-held weapons is an inspiration to those who love freedom. Their courage teaches us a great lesson – that there are things in this world worth defending. To the Afghan people, I say on behalf of all Americans that we admire your heroism, your devotion to freedom, and your relentless struggle against your oppressors.” – President Ronald Reagan, March 21, 1983


A Modest Proposal

Washington’s sanctions against Iran are a wonder to behold, seriously hampering Tehran’s ability to conduct international commerce, make payments, receive money, import, export, invest, travel … you name the hardship and the United States is trying to impose it on the government and the people of Iran. In early May a bipartisan bill was introduced in Congress aimed at stopping Iran from gaining access to its billions of dollars in euros kept in overseas banks – money that represents up to a third of Tehran’s total hard-currency holdings. In addition, Congress is looking to crack down on a weakness in current sanctions law that allows Iran to replenish its hard-currency accounts by acquiring gold through overseas markets.

Washington has as well closed down Iran’s media operations in the United States, is putting great pressure on Pakistan to cancel their project to build a pipeline to import natural gas from Iran, and punished countless international companies for doing business with Iran.

After a plane crash in Iran in 2011, the Washington Post reported: “Plane crashes are common in Iran, which for decades has been prevented from buying spare parts for its aging fleet by sanctions imposed by the United States.” 7

There are many more examples of the sanctions of mass destruction.

All this to force Iran to abandon any program that might conceivably lead someday to a nuclear weapon, thus depriving Israel of being the only nuclear power in the Middle East. The United States doesn’t actually say this. It instead says, explicitly or implicitly, that a nuclear Iran would be a danger to attack the US or Israel, without giving any reason why Iran would act so suicidal; at the same time Washngton ignores repeated statements from various Israeli and American officials that they have no such fear.

Now, a group of US lawmakers is proposing a more drastic remedy: cutting off Iran entirely from world oil markets. Oil sales provide Iran with the bulk of its foreign-currency earnings. The plan would require all countries to stop buying oil from Iran or risk losing access to the US banking system. 8

And Iran ignores it all, refusing to bend. Islamic fanatics they are.

I have a much simpler solution. Why not cut off all exports of food to Iran? Worldwide. And anything that goes into producing food – seed, fertilizer, farm equipment, etc. Let’s see how good they are at ignoring it when their children’s bellies start to balloon. And medicines and medical equipment as well! Let’s see how good they are at producing whatever they need themselves.

Officials at The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated that as many as 6,000 Iraqi children died each month in the early 1990s primarily due to the sanctions imposed by the US, the UK and others. As proof of the lasting effectiveness and goodness of that policy, today blessed peace reigns in Iraq among its citizens.

And if all else fails with Iran … Nuke the bastards! That may be the only way they’ll learn what a horrible weapon a nuclear bomb is, a weapon they shouldn’t be playing around with.

In recent times Iraq, Libya, Syria and Iran have been the prime forces standing in the way of USraeli Middle East domination. Thus it was that Iraq was made into a psychotic basket case. Libya’s welfare state was wiped out and fundamentalists have imposed Islamic law on much of the country. The basketizing of Syria is currently in process. Iran’s basketizing has begun with draconian sanctions, the way the basketizing of Iraq began.

It’s worth noting that Iraq, Syria, and Libya were the leading secular states of the Middle East. History may not treat kindly the impoverishment and loss of freedoms that the US-NATO-European Union Triumvirate has brought down upon the heads of the people of these lands.


What are we going to do about our sociopathic corporations?

Scarcely a day goes by in the United States without a news story about serious ethical/criminal misbehavior by a bank or stock brokerage or credit-rating agency or insurance agency or derivatives firm or some other parasitic financial institution. Most of these firms produce no goods or services useful to human beings, but spend their days engaged in the manipulation of money, credit and markets, employing dozens of kinds of speculation.

Consider the jail time served for civil disobedience by environmental, justice and anti-war activists, in contrast to the lifestyle enjoyed by the wicked ones who crashed the financial system and continue to fund the wounding of our bleeding planet.

The federal and state governments threaten to sue the financial institutions. Sometimes they actually do sue them. And a penalty is paid. And then the next scandal pops up. And another penalty is paid. And so it goes.

Picture this: A fleet of police cars pulls up in front of Bank of America’s Corporate Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. A dozen police officers get out, enter the building, and take the elevator to the offices of the bank’s top executives. Minutes later the president and two vice-presidents – their arms tightly bound in handcuffs behind their back – are paraded through the building in full view of their employees who stare wide-eyed and open-mouthed. The sidewalk is of course fully occupied by the media as the police encircle the building with tape saying “No tresspassing. Crime scene.”.

But remember, just because America has been taken over by mendacious mass-murdering madmen doesn’t mean we can’t have a good time.


Notes

  1. Washington Post, April 29, 2007
  2. Talk given by the president at Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, August 17, 2009
  3. Talk at the Paul H. Nitze School for Advanced International Studies, Washington, DC, September 20, 2007
  4. See, for example, the December 17, 1997 article in the British newspaper, The Telegraph, “Oil barons court Taliban in Texas”.
  5. Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, September 12, 2012 (Information Clearing House)
  6. The Hill, daily congressional newspaper, Washington, DC
  7. Washington Post, January 10, 2011
  8. Washington Post, May 13, 2013

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

(*) Comment by the webmaster:  There is no evidence that 9/11 was planned in Germany.  There is no evidence that it was planned and perpetrated by Al Qaeda, Muslims or Arabs.  Bill Blum, whose fine articles are posted on this website, is apparently unwilling to take into consideration the absence of evidence, demonstrated in Elias Davidsson, “There is no evidence that Muslims committed the crime of 9/11” (HERE) and in Elias Davidsson’s book “Hijacking America’s Mind on 9/11 (Algora, 2013)

Anti-Empire Report #115, April 8, 2013

Anti-Empire Report #115
 


By William Blum – Published April 8th, 2013

Would you believe that the United States tried to do something that was not nice against Hugo Chávez?

Wikileaks has done it again. I guess the US will really have to get tough now with Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.

In a secret US cable to the State Department, dated November 9, 2006, and recently published online by WikiLeaks, former US ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield, outlines a comprehensive plan to destabilize the government of the late President Hugo Chávez. The cable begins with a Summary:

During his 8 years in power, President Chavez has systematically dismantled the institutions of democracy and governance. The USAID/OTI program objectives in Venezuela focus on strengthening democratic institutions and spaces through non-partisan cooperation with many sectors of Venezuelan society.

USAID/OTI = United States Agency for International Development/Office of Transition Initiatives. The latter is one of the many euphemisms that American diplomats use with each other and the world – They say it means a transition to “democracy”. What it actually means is a transition from the target country adamantly refusing to cooperate with American imperialist grand designs to a country gladly willing (or acceding under pressure) to cooperate with American imperialist grand designs.

OTI supports the Freedom House (FH) “Right to Defend Human Rights” program with $1.1 million. Simultaneously through Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), OTI has also provided 22 grants to human rights organizations.

Freedom House is one of the oldest US government conduits for transitioning to “democracy”; to a significant extent it equates “democracy” and “human rights” with free enterprise. Development Alternatives Inc. is the organization that sent Alan Gross to Cuba on a mission to help implement the US government’s operation of regime change.

OTI speaks of working to improve “the deteriorating human rights situation in” Venezuela. Does anyone know of a foreign government with several millions of dollars to throw around who would like to improve the seriously deteriorating human rights situation in the United States? They can start with the round-the-clock surveillance and the unconscionable entrapment of numerous young “terrorists” guilty of thought crimes.

“OTI partners are training NGOs [non-governmental organizations] to be activists and become more involved in advocacy. ”

Now how’s that for a self-given license to fund and get involved in any social, economic or political activity that can sabotage any program of the Chávez government and/or make it look bad? The US ambassador’s cable points out that:

OTI has directly reached approximately 238,000 adults through over 3000 forums, workshops and training sessions delivering alternative values and providing opportunities for opposition activists to interact with hard-core Chavistas, with the desired effect of pulling them slowly away from Chavismo. We have supported this initiative with 50 grants totaling over $1.1 million.

“Another key Chavez strategy, ” the cable continues, “is his attempt to divide and polarize Venezuelan society using rhetoric of hate and violence. OTI supports local NGOs who work in Chavista strongholds and with Chavista leaders, using those spaces to counter this rhetoric and promote alliances through working together on issues of importance to the entire community. ”

This is the classical neo-liberal argument against any attempt to transform a capitalist society – The revolutionaries are creating class conflict. But of course, the class conflict was already there, and nowhere more embedded and distasteful than in Latin America.

OTI funded 54 social projects all over the country, at over $1.2 million, allowing [the] Ambassador to visit poor areas of Venezuela and demonstrate US concern for the Venezuelan people. This program fosters confusion within the Bolivarian ranks, and pushes back at the attempt of Chavez to use the United States as a ‘unifying enemy. ’

One has to wonder if the good ambassador (now an Assistant Secretary of State) placed any weight or value at all on the election and re-election by decisive margins of Chávez and the huge masses of people who repeatedly filled the large open squares to passionately cheer him. When did such things last happen in the ambassador’s own country? Where was his country’s “concern for the Venezuelan people” during the decades of highly corrupt and dictatorial regimes? His country’a embassy in Venezuela in that period was not plotting anything remotely like what is outlined in this cable.

The cable summarizes the focus of the embassy’s strategy’s as: “1) Strengthening Democratic Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez’ Political Base, 3) Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5) Isolating Chavez internationally.”[1]

The stated mission for the Office of Transition Initiatives is: “To support U. S. foreign policy objectives by helping local partners advance peace and democracy in priority countries in crisis. ”[2]

Notice the key word – “crisis”. For whom was Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela a “crisis”? For the people of Venezuela or the people who own and operate United States, Inc.”

Imagine a foreign country’s embassy, agencies and NGOs in the United States behaving as the American embassy, OTI, and NGOs did in Venezuela. President Putin of Russia recently tightened government controls over foreign NGOs out of such concern. As a result, he of course has been branded by the American government and media as a throwback to the Soviet Union.

Under pressure from the Venezuelan government, the OTI’s office in Venezuela was closed in 2010.

For our concluding words of wisdom, class, here’s Charles Shapiro, US ambassador to Venezuela from 2002 to 2004, speaking recently of the Venezuelan leaders: “I think they really believe it, that we are out there at some level to do them ill.”[3]

 

The latest threats to life as we know it

Last month numerous foreign-policy commentators marked the tenth anniversary of the fateful American bombing and invasion of Iraq. Those who condemned the appalling devastation of the Iraqi people and their society emphasized that it had all been a terrible mistake, since Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein didn’t actually possess weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This is the same argument we’ve heard repeatedly during the past ten years from most opponents of the war.

But of the many lies – explicit or implicit – surrounding the war in Iraq, the biggest one of all is that if, in fact, Saddam Hussein had had those WMD the invasion would have been justified; that in such case Iraq would indeed have been a threat to the United States or to Israel or to some other country equally decent, innocent and holy. However, I must ask as I’ve asked before: What possible reason would Saddam Hussein have had for attacking the United States or Israel other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide? He had no reason, no more than the Iranians do today. No more than the Soviets had during the decades of the Cold War. No more than North Korea has ever had since the United States bombed them in the early 1950s. Yet last month the new Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, announced that he would strengthen United States defenses against a possible attack by [supposedly] nuclear-equipped North Korea, positioning 14 additional missile interceptors in Alaska and California at an estimated cost of $1 billion. So much for the newest Great White Hope. Does it ever matter who the individuals are who are occupying the highest offices of the US foreign-policy establishment? Or their gender or their color?

“Oh, ” many people argued, “Saddam Hussein was so crazy who knew what he might do? ” But when it became obvious in late 2002 that the US was intent upon invading Iraq, Saddam opened up the country to the UN weapons inspectors much more than ever before, offering virtually full cooperation. This was not the behavior of a crazy person; this was the behavior of a survivalist. He didn’t even use any WMD when he was invaded by the United States in 1991 (“the first Gulf War”), when he certainly had such weapons. Moreover, the country’s vice president, Tariq Aziz, went on major American television news programs to assure the American people and the world that Iraq no longer had any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons; and we now know that Iraq had put out peace feelers in early 2003 hoping to prevent the war. The Iraqi leaders were not crazy at all. Unless one believes that to oppose US foreign policy you have to be crazy. Or suicidal.

It can as well be argued that American leaders were crazy to carry out the Iraqi invasion in the face of tens of millions of people at home and around the world protesting against it, pleading with the Bush gang not to unleash the horrors. (How many demonstrations were there in support of the invasion?)

In any event, the United States did not invade Iraq because of any threat of an attack using WMD. Washington leaders did not themselves believe that Iraq possessed such weapons of any significant quantity or potency. Amongst the sizable evidence supporting this claim we have the fact that they would not have exposed hundreds of thousands of soldiers on the ground.

Nor can it be argued that mere possession of such weapons – or the belief of same – was reason enough to take action, for then the United States would have to invade Russia, France, Israel, et al.

I have written much of the above in previous editions of this report, going back to 2003. But I’m afraid that I and other commentators will have to be repeating these observations for years to come. Myths that reinforce official government propaganda die hard. The mainstream media act like they don’t see through them, while national security officials thrive on them to give themselves a mission, to enhance their budgets, and further their personal advancement. The Washington Post recently reported: “A year into his tenure, the country’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, has proved even more bellicose than his father, North Korea’s longtime ruler, disappointing U. S. officials who had hoped for a fresh start with the regime.”[4]

Yeah, right, can’t you just see those American officials shaking their heads and exclaiming: “Damn, what do we have to do to get those North Korean fellows to trust us? ” Well, they could start by ending the many international sanctions they impose on North Korea. They could discontinue arming and training South Korean military forces. And they could stop engaging in provocative fly-overs, ships cruising the waters, and military exercises along with South Korea, Australia, and other countries dangerously close to the North. The Wall Street Journal reported:

The first show of force came on March 8, during the U. S.-South Korean exercise, known as Foal Eagle, when long-range B-52 bombers conducted low-altitude maneuvers. A few weeks later, in broad daylight, two B-2 bombers sent from a Missouri air base dropped dummy payloads on a South Korean missile range.

U. S. intelligence agencies, as had been planned, reviewed the North’s responses. After those flights, the North responded as the Pentagon and intelligence agencies had expected, with angry rhetoric, threatening to attack the South and the U. S.

On Sunday, the U. S. flew a pair of advanced F-22s to South Korea, which prompted another angry response from the North.[5]

And the United States could stop having wet dreams about North Korea collapsing, enabling the US to establish an American military base right at the Chinese border.

As to North Korea’s frequent threats … yes, they actually outdo the United States in bellicosity, lies, and stupidity. But their threats are not to be taken any more seriously than Washington’s oft expressed devotion to democracy and freedom. When it comes to doing actual harm to other peoples, the North Koreans are not in the same league as the empire.

“Everyone is concerned about miscalculation and the outbreak of war. But the sense across the U. S. government is that the North Koreans are not going to wage all-out war, ” a senior Obama administration official said. “They are interested first and foremost in regime survival.”[6]

American sovereignty hasn’t faced a legitimate foreign threat to its existence since the British in 1812.

The marvelous world of Freedom of Speech

So, the United States and its Western partners have banned Iranian TV from North America and in various European countries. Did you hear about that? Probably not if you’re not on the mailing list of PressTV, the 24-hour English-Language Iranian news channel. According to PressTV:

The Iranian film channel, iFilm, as well as Iranian radio stations, have also been banned from sensitive Western eyes and ears, all such media having been removed in February from the Galaxy 19 satellite platform serving the United States and Canada.

In December the Spanish satellite company, Hispasat, terminated the broadcast of the Iranian Spanish-language channel Hispan TV. Hispasat is partly owned by Eutelsat, whose French-Israeli CEO is blamed for the recent wave of attacks on Iranian media in Europe.

The American Jewish Committee has welcomed these developments. AJC Executive Director David Harris has acknowledged that the committee had for months been engaged in discussions with the Spaniards over taking Iranian channels off the air.[7]

A careful search of the Lexis-Nexis data base of international media reveals that not one English-language print newspaper, broadcast station, or news agency in the world has reported on the PressTV news story since it appeared February 8. One Internet newspaper, Digital Journal, ran the story on February 10.

The United States, Canada, Spain, and France are thus amongst those countries proudly celebrating their commitment to the time-honored concept of freedom of speech. Other nations of “The Free World” cannot be far behind as Washington continues to turn the screws of Iranian sanctions still tighter.

In his classic 1984, George Orwell defined “doublethink” as “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. ” In the United States, the preferred label given by the Ministry of Truth to such hypocrisy is “American exceptionalism”, which manifests itself in the assertion of a divinely ordained mission as well in the insistence on America’s right to apply double standards in its own favor and reject “moral equivalence”.

The use of sanctions to prevent foreign media from saying things that Washington has decided should not be said is actually a marked improvement over previous American methods. For example, on October 8, 2001, the second day of the US bombing of Afghanistan, the transmitters for the Taliban government’s Radio Shari were bombed and shortly after this the US bombed some 20 regional radio sites. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the targeting of these facilities, saying: “Naturally, they cannot be considered to be free media outlets. They are mouthpieces of the Taliban and those harboring terrorists.”[8] And in Yugoslavia, in 1999, during the infamous 78-bombing of the Balkan country which posed no threat at all to the United States, state-owned Radio Television Serbia (RTS) was targeted because it was broadcasting things which the United States and NATO did not like (like how much horror the bombing was causing). The bombs took the lives of many of the station’s staff, and both legs of one of the survivors, which had to be amputated to free him from the wreckage.[9]

Notes

[1] Read the full memo.

[2] USAID Transition Initiatives Website

[3] Washington Post, January 10, 2013

[4] Washington Post, March 16, 2013

[5] Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2013

[6] Ibid.

[7] PressTV news release

[8] Index on Censorship online, the UK’s leading organization promoting freedom of expression, October 18, 2001

[9] The Independent (London), April 24, 1999, p. 1

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

Anti-Empire Report – January 8th, 2013

The Anti-Empire Report


Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

“France no longer recognizes its children,” lamented Guillaume Roquette in an editorial in the Figaro weekly magazine in Paris. “How can the country of Victor Hugo, secularism and family reunions produce jihadists capable of attacking a kosher grocery store?” 1

I ask: How can the country of Henry David Thoreau, separation of church and state, and family Thanksgiving dinners produce American super-nationalists capable of firing missiles into Muslim family reunions in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia?

Does America recognize its children? Indeed, it honors them. Constantly.

A French state prosecutor stated that “A network of French Islamists behind a grenade attack on a kosher market outside Paris last month also planned to join jihadists fighting in Syria.” 2

We can add these worthies to the many other jihadists coming from all over to fight in Syria for regime change, waving al-Qaeda flags (“There is no god but God”), carrying out suicide attacks, exploding car bombs, and singling out Christians for extermination (for not supporting the overthrow of the secular Syrian government.) These folks are not the first ones you would think of as allies in a struggle for the proverbial freedom and democracy. Yet America’s children are on the same side, with the same goal of overthrowing Syrian president Bashir Assad.

So how do America’s leaders explain and justify this?

“Not everybody who’s participating on the ground in fighting Assad are people who we are comfortable with,” President Obama sad in an interview in December. “There are some who, I think, have adopted an extremist agenda, an anti-U.S. agenda, and we are going to make clear to distinguish between those elements.” 3

In an earlier speech, Secretary of State Clinton acknowledged the scope of the threat from such movements. “A year of democratic transition was never going to drain away reservoirs of radicalism built up through decades of dictatorship,” she said. “As we’ve learned from the beginning, there are extremists who seek to exploit periods of instability and hijack these democratic transitions.” 4

“Extremist” … “radicalism” … No mention of “terrorists” (which is what Assad calls them). No mention of “jihadists” or foreign mercenaries. Or that they were preparing their movement to overthrow the Syrian government well before any government suppression of peaceful protestors in March of 2011, which the Western media consistently cites as the cause of the civil war. As far back as 2007, Seymour Hersh was writing in The New Yorker:


The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

Nor any explanation of what it says about the mission of the Holy Triumvirate (the United States, NATO and the European Union) that they have been supplying these jihadist rebels with funds, arms and training; with intelligence and communication equipment; with diplomatic recognition(!); later we’ll probably find out about even more serious stuff. But President Obama is simply “uncomfortable” with them, because Assad, like Gaddafi of Libya, is a non-Triumvirate Believer, while the Jihadists are the proverbial “enemy of my enemy”. How long before they turn their guns and explosives upon Americans, as they did in Libya?


Seeing is believing, and believing is seeing

Is it easier for a believer to deal with a tragedy like the one in Newtown, Connecticut than it is for an atheist? The human suffering surrounding the ending of life forever for 20 small children and six adults made me choke up again and again with each news report. I didn’t have the comfort that some religious people might have had – that it was “God’s will”, that there must be a “reason” for such profound agony, a good reason, which you would understand if you could receive God’s infinite wisdom, if you could be enlightened enough to see how it fit into God’s Master Plan.

“How could God let this happen?”, asked a Fox News reporter of former Republican governor of Arkansas and presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee. “Well,” replied Huckabee, “you know, it’s an interesting thing. We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability? That we’re not just going to have to be accountable to the police, if they catch us. But one day, we will stand before a Holy God in judgment. If we don’t believe that, then we don’t fear that.”

So the former governor is clearly implying that the tragedy was the lord’s retribution for not believing in, or not fearing, or just ignoring His Master Plan. Believing this may well reduce the grief Huckabee feels about what happened; perhaps even provide him some satisfaction that those who were not “accountable” are being punished. Whether he includes the children in this group, or only their parents, teachers, school officials and Democrats I don’t know.

Local pastor Jim Solomon recounted the story of a girl in the first grade who, by playing dead, was the only one in her room to survive: “She ran out of the school building covered from head to toe with blood and the first thing she said to her mom was, ‘Mommy, I’m OK but all my friends are dead’.” This child was spared, said the pastor, “by God’s grace”. 5

Ah yes, God’s grace. Do I need to ask the obvious question?

It may be relevant to recall that the fellow who slaughtered 87 young people in Norway last year was a fundamentalist Christian.

“With or without religion, good people will do good things and bad people will do bad things. But for good people to do bad things — that takes religion.” – Steven Weinberg, Nobel Prize-winning physicist

“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”

How true. And nuclear bombs don’t kill people. Government leaders who decide to use nuclear bombs kill people. So why have any bans on nuclear bombs? Get one for each member of the family; well, for those over 16 at least.

The crazed and the disturbed will always walk amongst us. What we must do is strive to deny them the facile ability to engage in mass murder. Everything else being equal, if the Connecticut killer’s mother didn’t have an arsenal of guns at home, including an assault weapon, the story would probably have been a very different one. Ah, but I hear you asking – on the left and on the right – so you wanna let the government have all the guns and the people nothing to defend themselves with? To which I reply: Do you really think the people could hold their own in an armed battle with the police and the military? Mass suicide.

In the past decade various important rights and freedoms of Americans have been seriously curtailed by the Bush and Obama administrations. Did the 300 million guns in private hands prevent any of this from happening? No. And the rights and the freedoms were taken away much more by pieces of paper than guns.

I’d be in favor of eliminating all guns except for some law enforcement purposes. But if that is not feasible, the goal should be to have as few guns in circulation as possible. Or just ban ammunition, which would be a lot easier and probably even more effective. It would be a good start toward our cherished national goal of becoming a civilized society.


The death of Osama bin Laden. What does it profit a country?

The books and the films are coming out. The subject is a sure winner. The American tracking down and execution of Osama bin Laden in May of 2011. Has there ever been a better example of Good triumphing over Evil? Of Yankee courage and cleverness? “The bin Laden operation was a landmark achievement by our country, by our military, by our Intelligence Community, and by our Agency,” said the acting Director of the CIA, Michael Morell. 6

But even if everything the government has told us about the operation is true … How important was it really? What did it change in Washington’s glorious War on Terror? American taxpayers are not spending a penny less on the bloody spectacle. American soldiers still die in Afghanistan as before. American drones still bring extreme anxiety, death and destruction to children and parents in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. Guantánamo still holds numerous damned souls who wonder why they are there as they bang their head against a brick wall.

Anti-American terrorists are still being regularly created as a result of US anti-terrorist operations. (Even the way bin Laden was “buried” increased the hatred.) It’s a mass-production terrorist assembly line working three shifts even if the bin Laden model has been discontinued. If only one in 10,000 of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims is moved to want to attack the US because of Washington’s repeated outrages against Muslims, the United States will have created a pool of 160,000 Muslims devoted to seeking revenge against Americans.

“Remember when the United States had a drug problem and then we declared a War on Drugs, and now you can’t buy drugs anymore? The War on Terrorism will be just like that,” declared author David Rees in 2008. 7

The fear mongering remains as is; airport security has not gotten any less stupid, embarrassing, or destructive of civil liberties than before, only worse. “Will that be frisked or naked pictures with your airline ticket, sir?” The No-Fly list grows bigger with each passing day, listing people who are too guilty to fly, but too innocent to charge with anything.

Wherever you go — “If you see something, say something!”

People are entrapped as much as ever, charged with some form of terrorism (or “terrorism”), staged and financed by government agents, put away for terribly long periods. The State Department puts a country on its terrorist list, then the FBI persecutes Americans for helping someone in that country, perhaps no more than medical aid.

And surveillance of Americans … the science fiction methods are expanded without end … no escape from Fortress America. Protestors in America are monitored and harassed and recorded as much as before; witness the recent revelations concerning the FBI/Homeland Security/et al and the Occupy Movement. The Patriot Act is still the law of the land, now joined by the National Defense Authorization Act which makes it easier than ever to hold people in indefinite detention, for any reason, or no reason, including American citizens. And now we have the president’s clandestine “kill list”. 8 Could it be any worse if bin Laden were still alive?


Just imagine


Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too …

John Lennon’s “Imagine”.

Sung New Years Eve by a performer at Times Square.

Such subversive talk.

And on worldwide television.

Followed immediately by NBC-TV commentator Carson Daly declaring that we have to honor our brave soldiers.

I’m surprised that he didn’t also mention honoring God.

Toshiba sponsored the giant glass ball which rose up to the top at midnight.

Viewers had the name “Toshiba” flashed in their face a hundred times during the evening in all kinds of ways.

Imagine that John Lennon had called upon us to “Imagine there’s no Toshiba”.

Without Toshiba would there not have been a New Years Eve?

Stuck in 2012 forever?

Imagine.


“Summer, 1969: I sit next to Fidel Castro as he watches on the University of Havana’s color TV the astronauts landing on the moon. At times he asks me to render certain idioms. He watches with fascination. The program had begun with ‘TANG: THE BREAKFAST FOOD PRESENTS … THE MOON LANDING.’

“And without Tang,” Castro asks, “would there have been no moon landing?”

– Saul Landau, author of numerous books and films on Cuba


One way to look at it

Capitalism can be seen in historical evolutionary terms, independent of any moral point of view or judgement. Broadly speaking, the organization of mankind’s societies has evolved from slavery to feudalism to capitalism. And it’s now time for the next step: socialism.

Socialism or communism have always been given just one chance to work, if that much, while capitalism has been given numerous chances to do so following its perennial fiascos. Ralph Nader has observed: “Capitalism will never fail because socialism will always be there to bail it out.”

Capitalism gave rise to some very important innovations, such as mass production and distribution, and many technological advances. But now, and for some time past, the system has caused much more harm than good. It’s eating its young. And our environment. We can take the advances instituted by capitalism for the purpose of profit and use them to create a society based on putting people before profit. Just imagine.


Notes

  1. Washington Post, October 21, 2012
  2. Associated Press, October 11, 2012
  3. Washington Post, December 11, 2012
  4. Washington Post, October 15, 2012
  5. Huffington Post, December 17, 2012
  6. Washington Post, December 22, 2012
  7. In his book Get Your War On
  8. New York Times, May 29, 2012

William Blum is the author of:

  • Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
  • Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
  • West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
  • Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire


Anti-Empire Report November 1, 2012

The Anti-Empire Report

The universe unraveling

The Southeast Asian country of Laos in the late 1950s and early 60s was a complex and confusing patchwork of civil conflicts, changes of government and switching loyalties. The CIA and the State Department alone could take credit for engineering coups at least once in each of the years 1958, 1959 and 1960. No study of Laos of this period appears to have had notable success in untangling the muddle of who exactly replaced whom, and when, and how, and why. After returning from Laos in 1961, American writer Norman Cousins stated that “if you want to get a sense of the universe unraveling, come to Laos. Complexity such as this has to be respected.” 1

Syria 2012 has produced its own tangled complexity. In the past 18 months it appears that at one time or another virtually every nation in the Middle East and North Africa as well as members of NATO and the European Union has been reported as aiding those seeking to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad, while Russia, China, and several other countries are reported as aiding Assad. The Syrian leader, for his part, has consistently referred to those in combat against him as “terrorists”, citing the repeated use of car bombs and suicide bombers. The West has treated this accusation with scorn, or has simply ignored it. But the evidence that Assad has had good reason for his stance has been accumulating for some time now, particularly of late. Here is a small sample from recent months:

  • “It is the sort of image that has become a staple of the Syrian revolution, a video of masked men calling themselves the Free Syrian Army and brandishing AK-47s — with one unsettling difference. In the background hang two flags of Al Qaeda, white Arabic writing on a black field … The video, posted on YouTube, is one more bit of evidence that Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists are doing their best to hijack the Syrian revolution.” (New York Times, July 24, 2012)
  • A leading German newspaper reported that the German intelligence service, BND, had concluded that 95% of the Syrian rebels come from abroad and are likely to be members of al Qaeda. (Die Welt, September 30, 2012)
  • “A network of French Islamists behind a grenade attack on a kosher market outside Paris last month also planned to join jihadists fighting in Syria … Two suspects were responsible for recruiting and dispatching people ‘to carry out jihad in some countries – notably Syria’,” a state prosecutor said. (Associated Press, October 11, 2012)
  • “Fighters from a shadowy militant group [Jabhat al-Nusra] with suspected links to al-Qaida joined Syrian rebels in seizing a government missile defense base in northern Syria on Friday, according to activists and amateur video. …The videos show dozens of fighters inside the base near a radar tower, along with rows of large missiles, some on the backs of trucks.” (Associated Press, October 12, 2012)
  • “In a videotape posted this week on militant forums, the Egyptian-born jihadist Ayman al-Zawahiri … urged support for Syria’s uprisings.” (Associated Press, October 28, 2012)

According to your favorite news source or commentator, President Assad is either a brutal murderer of his own people, amongst whom he has had very little support; or he’s a hero who’s long had the backing of the majority of the Syrian population and who is standing up to Western imperialists and their terrorist comrades-in-arms, whom the US is providing military aid, intelligence, and propaganda services.

Washington and its freedom fighters de jour would like to establish Libya II. And we all know how well Libya I has turned out.

Of backward nations and modern nations

Page one of the October 24 Washington Post contained a prominent photo of a man chained to a concrete wall at a shrine in Afghanistan. The accompanying story told us that the man was mentally ill and that “legend has it that those with mental disorders will be healed after spending 40 days in one of the shrine’s 16 tiny concrete cells”, living “on a subsistence diet of bread, water and black pepper.” Every year hundreds of Afghans bring mentally ill relatives to the shrine for this “cure”.

Immediately to the right of this story, constituting the paper’s lead story of the day, we learn that the United States is planning to continue its policy of assassinating individuals, via drone attacks, for the foreseeable future. This is Washington’s “cure” for the mental illness of not believing that America is the savior of mankind, bringing democracy, freedom and happiness to all. (The article adds that the number of “militants and civilians” killed in the drone campaign over the past 10 years will soon exceed 3,000 by some estimates, surpassing the number of people killed on September 11.)

Undoubtedly there are many people in Afghanistan, high and low, who know that their ancient cure is nonsense, but the chainings have continued for centuries. Just as certain, there are American officials who know the same about their own cure. Here’s a senior American official: “We can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us. … We’re not going to wind up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying, ‘We love America’.” Yet , we are told, “Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaeda continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight.”

We can also be confident that there have been people chained to the wall in Afghanistan who were not particularly mentally ill to begin with but became so because of the cure. And just as certain, there have been numerous people in several countries who were not anti-American until a drone devastated their village, family or neighbors.

The Post article also reported that Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, returned from Pakistan a while ago and recounted a heated confrontation with his counterpart, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. “Mullen told White House and counterterrorism officials that the Pakistani military chief had demanded an answer to a seemingly reasonable question: After hundreds of drone strikes, how could the United States possibly still be working its way through a ‘top 20’ list?”

American officials defended the arrangement even while acknowledging an erosion in the caliber of operatives placed in the drones’ cross hairs. “Is the person currently Number 4 as good as the Number 4 seven years ago? Probably not,” said a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official. “But it doesn’t mean he’s not dangerous.” The Post added this comment: “Internal doubts about the effectiveness of the drone campaign are almost nonexistent.”

The next day we could read in the Post: “There is ample evidence in Pakistan that the more than 300 [drone] strikes launched under Obama have helped turn the vast majority of the population vehemently against the United States.”

Wake up and smell the bullshit. Then go vote.

After the second presidential debate in early October, Luke Rudkowski of the media group We Are Change asked Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, about President Obama’s widely reported “kill list” of Americans and foreigners who can be assassinated without charge or trial.

Luke Rudkowski: “If President Romney becomes president, he’s going to inherit President Barack Obama’s secret ‘kill list’? This is going to be debated. How do you think Romney will handle this ‘kill list,’ and are you comfortable with him having a ‘kill list’?”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Luke Rudkowski: “Obama has a secret ‘kill list’ which he has used to assassinate different people all over the world.”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “I’m happy to answer any serious questions you have.”

Luke Rudkowski: “Why is that not serious?”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “Because I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Luke Rudkowski: “Of course you don’t.”

The existence of the U.S. ‘kill list’ has been publicly known for nearly two years and was the subject of a 6,000-word exposé in the New York Times in May.

At the same event, Sierra Adamson of We Are Change asked former White House Press Secretary and current Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs about the U.S. killing of Abdulrahman Awlaki, the teenage son of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.

Sierra Adamson: “Do you think that the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, who was an American citizen, is justifiable?”

Robert Gibbs: “I’m not going to get into Anwar al-Awlaki’s son. I know that Anwar al-Awlaki renounced his citizenship.”

Sierra Adamson: “His son was still an American citizen.”

Robert Gibbs: “Did great harm to people in this country and was a regional al-Qaeda commander hoping to inflict harm and destruction on people that share his religion and others in this country. And…”

Sierra Adamson: “That’s an American citizen that’s being targeted without due process of law, without trial. And he’s underage. He’s a minor.”

Robert Gibbs: “I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father. If they’re truly concerned about the well-being of their children, I don’t think becoming an al-Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.” 2

To demonstrate that the bullshit is bipartisan, we now present Mr. Mitt Romney, speaking during the presidential foreign policy debate: “Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea. It’s the route for them to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon, which threatens, of course, our ally, Israel.”

However, a look at a map reveals firstly that Iran does not share a border with Syria; there’s something called Iraq in between; and secondly that Iran already has access to the sea on both its north and south; actually about 1100 miles of coastline. Romney has made this particular blunder repeatedly, and the Washington Post has pointed it out on several occasions. Post columnist Al Kamen recently wrote: “We tried so hard back in February to get Romney to stop saying that.” 3

Of course, neither Obama nor the debate moderator pointed out Romney’s errors.

The sanctity of life

“I’m as pro-life as a person gets,” Congressman Paul Ryan, the Republican candidate for vice-president, told the conservative Weekly Standard in 2010. 4

How nice. Yet the man supports all of America’s wars, each of which takes the lives of large numbers of people, both American and foreign; and he’s opposed to national health insurance, which would save countless more lives. The good congressman is also an avid hunter and supporter of gun-owners’ rights, so he apparently is not too pro-life concerning other creatures of God’s Kingdom. Of course, what Ryan actually means by “life” is an embryo or fetus, perhaps even a zygote. Oh wait, that’s not all of it – corporations are also people whose lives Ryan cherishes.

The fate of those who do not love the empire

On October 7 Hugo Chávez won his fourth term in office as president of Venezuela. The feeling of frustration that must have descended upon the Venezuelan and American power elite is likely reminiscent of Chile, March 1973, when the party of another socialist and American bête noire, Salvador Allende — despite the best intentions and dollars without end of the CIA — won about 44 percent of the vote in congressional elections, compared to some 36 percent in 1970. It was said to be the largest increase an incumbent party had ever received in Chile after being in power more than two years. The opposition parties had publicly expressed their optimism about capturing two-thirds of the congressional seats and thus being able to impeach Allende. Now they faced three more years under him, with the prospect of being unable, despite their most underhanded efforts, to prevent his popularity from increasing even further.

During the spring and summer the Agency’s destabilization process escalated. There was a whole series of demonstrations and strikes, with a particularly long one by the truckers. Time magazine reported: “While most of the country survived on short rations, the truckers seemed unusually well equipped for a lengthy holdout.” A reporter asked a group of truckers who were camping and dining on “a lavish communal meal of steak, vegetables, wine and empanadas” where the money for it came from. “From the CIA,” they answered laughingly. 5

There was as well daily sabotage and violence, including assassination. In June, an abortive attack upon the Presidential Palace was carried out by the military and the ultra-right Patria y Libertad.

In September the military prevailed. “It is clear,” said the later US Senate investigating committee, “the CIA received intelligence reports on the coup planning of the group which carried out the successful September 11 coup throughout the months of July, August, and September 1973.” 6 The United States had also prepared the way for the military action through its economic intervention and support of the anti-Allende media.

Chávez has already been overthrown once in a coup that the United States choreographed, in 2002, but a combination of some loyal military officers and Chávez’s followers in the streets combined for a remarkable reversal of the coup after but two days. The Venezuelan opposition will not again make the mistake of not finishing Chávez off when they have him in their custody.

Both Hugo Chávez and Salvador Allende had sinned by creating “nationalistic” regimes that served the wrong “national interest”. The hatred felt by the power elite for such men is intense. The day after the legally and democratically elected Venezuelan leader was ousted, but before being restored to power, the New York Times (April 13, 2002) was moved to pen the following editorial:

“With yesterday’s resignation [what the coup leaders called it] of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader.”

It should be noted that the “respected business leader”, Pedro Carmona, quickly dissolved the National Assembly and the Supreme Court, and annulled the Venezuelan constitution.

And keep in mind that in the United States the New York Times is widely regarded as a “liberal” newspaper; most conservatives would say “very liberal”, if not “socialist”.

Notes

  1. William Blum, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, chapter 21
  2. Democracy Now, October 25, 2012
  3. Washington Post, October 24, 2012, column by Al Kamen
  4. New York Times, August 12, 2012
  5. Time, September 24, 1973, p.46
  6. Covert Action in Chile, 1963‑1973, a Staff Report of The Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities (US Senate) December 18, 1975, p.39


Anti-Empire Report, 2 October 2012

The Anti-Empire Report

Syria, the story thus far

“Today, many Americans are asking — indeed I ask myself,” Hillary Clinton said, “how can this happen? How can this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction? This question reflects just how complicated, and at times, how confounding the world can be.” 1

The Secretary of State was referring to the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya September 11 that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans. US intelligence agencies have now stated that the attackers had ties to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.2

Yes, the world can indeed be complicated and confounding. But we have learned a few things. The United States began blasting Libya with missiles with the full knowledge that they were fighting on the same side as the al-Qaeda types. Benghazi was and is the headquarters for Muslim fundamentalists of various stripes in North Africa. However, it’s incorrect to claim that the United States (aka NATO) saved the city from destruction. The story of the “imminent” invasion of Benghazi by Moammar Gaddafi’s forces last year was only propaganda to justify Western intervention. And now the United States is intervening — at present without actual gunfire, as far as is known — against the government of Syria, with the full knowledge that they’re again on the same side as the al-Qaeda types. A rash of suicide bombings against Syrian government targets is sufficient by itself to dispel any doubts about that. And once again, the United States is participating in the overthrow of a secular Mideast government.

At the same time, the Muslim fundamentalists in Syria, as in Libya, can have no illusions that America loves them. A half century of US assaults on Mideast countries, the establishment of American military bases in the holy land of Saudi Arabia, and US support for dictatorships and for Israel’s genocide against the Palestinians have relieved them of such fanciful thoughts. So why is the United States looking to forcefully intervene once again? A tale told many times — world domination, oil, Israel, ideology, etc. Assad of Syria, like Gaddafi of Libya, has shown little promise as a reliable client state so vital to the American Empire.

It’s only the barrier set up by Russia and China on the UN Security Council that keeps NATO (aka the United States) from unleashing thousands of airborne missiles to “liberate” Syria as they did Libya. Russian and Chinese leaders claim that they were misled about Libya by the United States, that all they had agreed to was enforcing a “no-fly zone”, not seven months of almost daily missile attacks against the land and people of Libya. Although it’s very fortunate that the two powers refuse to give the US another green light, it’s difficult to believe that they were actually deceived last spring in regard to Libya. NATO doesn’t do peacekeeping or humanitarian interventions; it does war; bloody, awful war; and regime change. And they would undoubtedly be itching to show off their specialty in Syria — perhaps even without Security Council blessing — except that NATO and the US always prefer to attack people who are exceptionally defenseless, and Syria has ballistic missile capabilities and chemical weapons.

It’s likely that the American elections also serve to keep Obama from expanding the US role in Syria. He may have concluded that there are more votes in the Democratic Party base for peace this time than for waging war against his eighth (sic) country.

The propaganda bias in the Western media has been extreme. Day after day, month after month, we’ve been told of Syrian government attacks, using horrible means, almost invariably with the victims described as unarmed civilians; without any proof, often without any logic, that it was actually the government behind a particular attack, with the story’s source turning out to be an anti-government organization; rarely informing us of similar behavior on the part of the rebel forces. In May, the BBC included pictures of mass graves in Iraq in their coverage of an alleged Syrian government massacre in Houla, Syria. The station later apologized for the pictures saying that they had been submitted to the BBC by a rebel group. 3 On June 7, Germany’s leading daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, citing opponents of Assad, reported that the Houla massacre was in fact committed by anti-Assad Sunni militants, and that the bulk of the victims were members of the Alawi and Shia minorities, which have been largely supportive of Assad.

According to a report of Stratfor, the private and conservative American intelligence firm with high-level connections, many of whose emails were obtained by Wikileaks: “most of the [Syrian] opposition’s more serious claims have turned out to be grossly exaggerated or simply untrue.” They claimed “that regime forces besieged Homs and imposed a 72-hour deadline for Syrian defectors to surrender themselves and their weapons or face a potential massacre.” That news made international headlines. Stratfor’s investigation, however, found “no signs of a massacre”, and warned that “opposition forces have an interest in portraying an impending massacre, hoping to mimic the conditions that propelled a foreign military intervention in Libya.” Stratfor then stated that any suggestions of massacres were unlikely because the Syrian “regime has calibrated its crackdowns to avoid just such a scenario … that could lead to an intervention based on humanitarian grounds.”4

Democracy Now — long a standard of progressive radio-TV news — has been almost as bad as CNN and al Jazeera (the latter owned by Qatar, an active military participant in both Libya and Syria). The heavy bias of Democracy Now in this area goes back to the very beginning of the Arab Spring. The program made some unfortunate choices in its mideast news correspondents, seemingly only because they spoke Arabic and/or had contacts in the region. Where have you gone Amy Goodman? RT (Russia Today) has stood almost alone amongst English-language television news sources in offering an alternative to the official Western line.

Michel Chossudovsky of Global Research, notes that “Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now Syria are but a sequence of stops on a global roadmap of permanent war that also swings through Iran. Russia and China are the terminal targets.” When the Syrian government is overthrown — and in all likelihood the Western forces will not relent until that happens — the al Qaeda types will be dominant in the Syrian version of Benghazi. The American ambassador would be well advised to not visit.

Can you believe that I almost feel sorry for the American military?

In Afghanistan, the US military has tried training sessions, embedded cultural advisers, recommended reading lists, and even a video game designed to school American troops in local custom. But 11 years into the war, NATO troops and Afghan soldiers are still beset by a dangerous lack of cultural awareness, officials say, contributing to a string of attacks by Afghan police and soldiers against their military partners. Fifty-one coalition troops have been killed this year by their Afghan counterparts. While some insider attacks have been attributed to Taliban infiltrators, military officials say the majority stem from personal disputes and misunderstandings.

So the Afghan army is trying something new, most likely with American input: a guide to the strange ways of the American soldier. The goal is to convince Afghan troops that when their Western counterparts do something deeply insulting, it’s likely a product of cultural ignorance and not worthy of revenge. The pamphlet they’ve produced includes the following advice:

  • “Please do not get offended if you see a NATO member blowing his/her nose in front of you.”
  • “When Coalition members get excited, they may show their excitement by patting one another on the back or the behind. They may even do this to you if they are proud of the job you’ve done. Once again, they don’t mean to offend you.”
  • “When someone feels comfortable in your presence, they may even put their feet on their own desk while speaking with you. They are by no means trying to offend you. They simply don’t know or have forgotten the Afghan custom.” (Pointing the soles of one’s shoes at someone is considered a grievous insult in Afghanistan.)
  • The guide also warns Afghan soldiers that Western troops might wink at them or inquire about their female relatives or expose their private parts while showering — all inappropriate actions by Afghan standards.5

Hmmm. I wonder if the manual advises telling Afghan soldiers that urinating on dead Afghan bodies, cutting off fingers, and burning the Koran are all nothing more than good ol’ Yankee customs, meaning no offense of course.

And does it point out that no Afghan should be insulted by being tortured in an American military prison since the same is done at home to American prisoners.

Most importantly, the Afghan people must be made to understand that bombing them, invading them, and occupying them for 11 years are all for their own good. It’s called “freedom and democracy”.

I almost feel sorry for the American military in Afghanistan. As I’ve written about the US soldiers in Iraq, they’re “can-do” Americans, accustomed to getting their way, habituated to thinking of themselves as the best, expecting the world to share that sentiment, and they’re frustrated as hell, unable to figure out “why they hate us”, why we can’t win them over, why we can’t at least wipe them out. Don’t they want freedom and democracy? … They’re can-do Americans, using good ol’ American know-how and Madison Avenue savvy, sales campaigns, public relations, advertising, selling the US brand, just like they do it back home; employing media experts, psychologists, even anthropologists … and nothing helps. And how can it if the product you’re selling is toxic, inherently, from birth, if you’re ruining your customers’ lives, with no regard for any kind of law or morality, health or environment. They’re can-do Americans, used to playing by the rules — theirs; and they’re frustrated as hell.

In case you’re distressed about the possibility of a Romney-Ryan government, here’s some good news:

There are many people in the United States who are reluctant to be active against US foreign policy, or even seriously criticize it, because a Democrat is in the White House, a man promising lots of hope and change. Some of them, however, might become part of the anti-war movement if a Republican were in the White House, even though pursuing the same foreign policy. And we can be sure the policy would be the same for there’s no difference between the two parties when it comes to foreign policy. There’s simply no difference, period, though each party changes its rhetoric a bit depending on whether it’s in the White House or on the outside looking in.

Similarly, the movement for a national single-payer health insurance program has been set back because of President Obama. His health program is like prescribing an aspirin for cancer, but the few baby steps the program takes toward bringing the United States into the 21st century amongst developed nations is enough to keep many American health-care activists content for the time being, especially with Obama facing a tough election. They are satisfied with so little. With a Republican in the White House, however, there might be a resurgence of a more militant health-care activism.

Moreover, if the Republicans had been in power the past three years and done EXACTLY what Obama has done in the sphere of civil liberties and human rights, many Obamaites would have no problem calling the United States by its right name: a police state. I mean that literally. Not the worst police state in the history of the world. Not even the worst police state in the world today. But, nonetheless, a police state. Just read the news each day, carefully.

Sam Smith, editor of the Progressive Review, has written: “Barack Obama is the most conservative Democratic president we’ve ever had. In an earlier time, there would have been a name for him: Republican.”

Oh but there’s Social Security and Medicare, you say. Can Romney be trusted to not make serious cuts to these vital programs? His choice of running mate, Paul Ryan, is practically a poster child for such cuts.

Well, can Obama be trusted to not make such cuts? Consider this recent comment in the New York Times: “[Obama] particularly believes that Democrats do not receive enough credit for their willingness to accept cuts in Medicare and Social Security.” 6

As somebody once said, the United States doesn’t need a third party. It needs a second party.

The only important cause that might significantly benefit from a Democratic administration is appointments to the Supreme Court, if there is in fact an opening. But does this fully override the benefits of Obama being out of office as outlined above?

Dear Reader: I truthfully do not want to be so cynical. Despite the quips, it’s not really fun. But how else can one react to the Republicans and Democrats given their behavior at their recent conventions? If they can so obviously ignore the wishes of their own delegates, what can the average American citizen expect? Have a look at these remarkable scenes caught on video or read this account of the voice votes at the recent conventions.

How many voters does it take to change a light bulb?

None. Because voters can’t change anything.

So what to do?

As I’ve said before: Inasmuch as I can’t see violent revolution succeeding in the United States (something deep inside tells me that we couldn’t quite match the government’s firepower, not to mention its viciousness), I can offer no solution to stopping the imperial beast other than this: Educate yourself and as many others as you can, raising their political and ideological consciousness, providing them with the factual ammunition and arguments needed to sway others, increasing the number of those in the opposition until it raises the political price for those in power, until it reaches a critical mass, at which point … I can’t predict the form the explosion will take or what might be the trigger … But you have to have faith. And courage.

Some further thoughts on American elections and democracy:

Richard Reeves: “The American political system is essentially a contract between the Republican and Democratic parties, enforced by federal and state two-party laws, all designed to guarantee the survival of both no matter how many people despise or ignore them.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832): “In politics, as on the sickbed, people toss from one side to the other, thinking they will be more comfortable.”

Alexander Cockburn: “There was a time once when ‘lesser of two evils’ actually meant something momentous, like the choice between starving to death on a lifeboat, or eating the first mate.”

U.N. Human Development Report, 1993: “Elections are a necessary, but certainly not a sufficient, condition for democracy. Political participation is not just a casting of votes. It is a way of life.”

Gore Vidal: “How to get people to vote against their interests and to really think against their interests is very clever. It’s the cleverest ruling class that I have ever come across in history. It’s been 200 years at it. It’s superb.”

Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius: “The opinion of 10,000 men is of no value if none of them know anything about the subject.”

Michael Parenti: “As demonstrated in Russia and numerous other countries, when faced with a choice between democracy without capitalism or capitalism without democracy, Western elites unhesitatingly embrace the latter.”

Notes

  1. USA Today, September 12, 2012
  2. Washington Post, September 28, 2012
  3. BBC News, May 29, 2012
  4. Huffington Post, December 19, 2011
  5. Washington Post, September 28, 2012
  6. New York Times, “Obama Is an Avid Reader, and Critic, of the News“, Amy Chozick, August 8, 2012

William Blum is the author of:

  • Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
  • Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
  • West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
  • Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org

Previous Anti-Empire Reports can be read at this website.

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Anti-Empire Report, July 3, 2012

The Anti-Empire Report

Julian Assange

I’m sure most Americans are mighty proud of the fact that Julian Assange is so frightened of falling into the custody of the United States that he had to seek sanctuary in the embassy of Ecuador, a tiny and poor Third World country, without any way of knowing how it would turn out. He might be forced to be there for years. “That’ll teach him to mess with the most powerful country in the world! All you other terrorists and anti-Americans out there — Take Note! When you fuck around with God’s country you pay a price!”

How true. You do pay a price. Ask the people of Cuba, Vietnam, Chile, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Iran, Haiti, etc., etc., etc. And ask the people of Guantánamo, Diego Garcia, Bagram, and a dozen other torture centers to which God’s country offers free transportation.

You think with the whole world watching, the United States would not be so obvious as to torture Assange if they got hold of him? Ask Bradley Manning. At a bare minimum, prolonged solitary confinement is torture. Before too long the world may ban it. Not that that would keep God’s country and other police states from using it.

You think with the whole world watching, the United States would not be so obvious as to target Assange with a drone? They’ve done it with American citizens. Assange is a mere Aussie.

And Ecuador and its president, Rafael Correa, will pay a price. You think with the whole world watching, the United States would not intervene in Ecuador? In Latin America, it comes very naturally for Washington. During the Cold War it was said that the United States could cause the downfall of a government south of the border … with a frown. The dissolution of the Soviet Union didn’t bring any change in that because it was never the Soviet Union per se that the United States was fighting. It was the threat of a good example of an alternative to the capitalist model.

For example, on January 21, 2000 in Ecuador, where almost two-thirds live in poverty, a very large number of indigenous peasants rose up in desperation and marched to the capital city of Quito, where they were joined by labor unions and some junior military officers (most members of the army being of indigenous stock). This coalition presented a list of economic demands, seized the Congress and Supreme Court buildings, and forced the president to resign. He was replaced by a junta from the ranks of the new coalition. The Clinton administration was alarmed. Besides North American knee-reflex hostility to anything that look or smells like a leftist revolution, Washington had big plans for a large military base in Manta (later closed by Correa). And Colombia — already plagued by leftist movements — was next door.

The US quickly stepped in to educate the Ecuadorean coalition leaders as to the facts of Western Hemispheric imperial life. The American embassy in Quito … Peter Romero, Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America and Western Hemispheric Affairs … Sandy Berger, National Security Adviser to President Clinton … Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering … all made phone calls to Ecuadorian officials to threaten a cutoff in aid and other support, warning that “Ecuador will find itself isolated”, informing them that the United States would never recognize any new government the coalition might set up, there would be no peace in Ecuador unless the military backed the vice president as the new leader, and the vice president must continue to pursue neoliberal “reforms”, the kind of IMF structural adjustment policies which had played a major role in inciting the uprising in the first place.

Within hours the heads of the Ecuadorian army, navy and air force declared their support for the vice president. The leaders of the uprising fled into hiding. And that was the end of the Ecuadorian revolution of the year 2000.1

Rafael Correa was first elected in 2006 with a 58% majority, and reelected in 2009 with a 55% majority; his current term runs until August 2013. The American mainstream media has been increasingly critical of him. The following letter sent in January to the Washington Post by the Ecuadoran ambassador to the United States is an attempt to clarify one of the issues.

Letter to the Editor:

We were offended by the Jan. 12 editorial “Ecuador’s bully,” which focused on a lawsuit brought by our president, Rafael Correa, after a newspaper claimed that he was guilty of ordering troops to fire on innocent citizens during a failed coup in 2010. The president asked the publishers to release their evidence or a retraction. When they refused, he sued, as any citizen should do when recklessly wronged.

No journalist has gone to prison or paid a significant fine in the five years of the Correa presidency. Media criticism — fair and unfair, sometimes with malice — of the government appears every day. The case involving the newspaper is on appeal. When the judicial process ends, the president has said, he will waive some or all of the penalties provided he gets a retraction. That is a common solution to libel and slander cases in the United States, I believe.

Your writer uses obnoxious phrases such as “banana republic,” but here is the reality of today’s Ecuador: a highly popular, stable and progressive democracy for the first time in decades.

Nathalie Cely, Washington

No shelter from the drones of infinite justice or the bacteria of enduring freedom

Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai said recently that he had had an argument with Gen. John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan, about the issue of American drone attacks in Afghanistan, following yet another deadly airstrike that killed a number of civilians. Karzai asked Allen an eminently reasonable question: “Do you do this in the United States?” The Afghan president added: “There is police action every day in the United States in various localities. They don’t call an airplane to bomb the place.”2

Karzai’s question to Allen was rhetorical of course, for can it be imagined that American officials would bomb a house in an American city because they suspected that certain bad guys were present there? Well, the answer to that question is that it can be imagined because they’ve already done it.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On May 13, 1985, a bomb dropped by a police helicopter burned down an entire block, some 60 homes destroyed, 11 dead, including several small children. The police, the mayor’s office, and the FBI were all involved in this effort to evict an organization called MOVE from the house they lived in.

The victims were all black of course. So let’s rephrase our question. Can it be imagined that American officials would bomb a house in Beverly Hills or the upper east side of Manhattan? Stay tuned.

And what else can we imagine about a society that’s been super militarized, that’s at war with much of the world, and is convinced that it’s on the side of the angels and history? Well, the Boston transit system, MBTA, recently announced that in conjunction with Homeland Security they plan to release dead bacteria at three stations during off-hours this summer in order to test sensors that detect biological agents, which terrorists could release into subway systems. The bacterium, bacillus subtilis, is not infectious even in its live form, according to the government.3

However, this too has a precedent. During five days in June, 1966 the Army conducted a test called “A Study of the Vulnerability of Subway Passengers in New York City to Covert Attack with Biological Agents”. Trillions of bacillus subtilis variant niger were released into the subway system during rush hours, producing aerosol clouds. The report on the test noted that “When the cloud engulfed people, they brushed their clothing, looked up at the grate [at street level] and walked on.”4 The wind of passing trains spread the bacteria along the tracks; in the time it took for two trains to pass, the bacteria were spread from 15th Street to 58th Street.5 It is not known how many people later became ill from being unsuspecting guinea pigs because the United States Army, as far as is known, exhibited no interest in this question.

For the planned Boston test the public has not been informed of the exact days; nor is it known how long the bacteria might linger in the stations or what the possible danger might be to riders whose immune system has been weakened for any reason.

It should be noted that the New York subway experiment was only one of many such experiments. The Army has acknowledged that between 1949 and 1969, 239 populated areas from coast to coast as well as US overseas territories were blanketed with various organisms during tests designed to measure patterns of dissemination in the air, weather effects, dosages, optimum placement of the source, and other factors. Such testing was supposedly suspended after 1969.6

Government officials have consistently denied that the biological agents used could be harmful despite an abundance of expert and objective scientific evidence that exposure to heavy concentrations of even apparently innocuous organisms can cause illness, at a minimum to the most vulnerable segments of the population — the elderly, children, and those suffering from a variety of ailments. “There is no such thing as a microorganism that cannot cause trouble,” George Connell, assistant to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testified before the Senate in 1977. “If you get the right concentration at the right place, at the right time, and in the right person, something is going to happen.”7

The United States has used biological weapons abroad as well, repeatedly, not for testing purposes but for hostile purposes.8 So what will the land which has the highest (double) standards say when such weapons are used against it? Or when foreign drones hit American cities? Or when American hi-tech equipment is sabotaged by a cyber attack as the US has now admitted doing to Iran? A year ago the Pentagon declared that “computer sabotage coming from another country can constitute an act of war. … If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” said a US military official.9

“The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity.” – André Gide

Barack Obama, his mother, and the CIA

In his autobiography, Dreams From My Fathers, Barack Obama writes of taking a job at some point after graduating from Columbia University in 1983. He describes his employer as “a consulting house to multinational corporations” in New York City, and his functions as a “research assistant” and “financial writer”.

Oddly, Obama doesn’t mention the name of his employer. However, a New York Times story of October 30, 2007 identifies the company as Business International Corporation. Equally odd is that the Times did not remind its readers that the newspaper itself had disclosed in 1977 that Business International had provided cover for four CIA employees in various countries between 1955 and 1960.10

The British journal, Lobster — which, despite its incongruous name, is a venerable international publication on intelligence matters — has reported that Business International was active in the 1980s promoting the candidacy of Washington-favored candidates in Australia and Fiji.11 In 1987, the CIA overthrew the Fiji government after but one month in office because of its policy of maintaining the island as a nuclear-free zone, meaning that American nuclear-powered or nuclear-weapons-carrying ships could not make port calls.12 After the Fiji coup, the candidate supported by Business International, who was much more amenable to Washington’s nuclear desires, was reinstated to power — R.S.K. Mara was Prime Minister or President of Fiji from 1970 to 2000, except for the one-month break in 1987.

In his book, not only doesn’t Obama mention his employer’s name; he fails to say exactly when he worked there, or why he left the job. There may well be no significance to these omissions, but inasmuch as Business International has a long association with the world of intelligence, covert actions, and attempts to penetrate the radical left — including Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)13 — it’s reasonable to wonder if the inscrutable Mr. Obama is concealing something about his own association with this world.

Adding to the wonder is the fact that his mother, Ann Dunham, had been associated during the 1970s and 80s — as employee, consultant, grantee, or student — with at least five organizations with intimate CIA connections during the Cold War: The Ford Foundation, Agency for International Development (AID), the Asia Foundation, Development Alternatives, Inc., and the East-West Center of Hawaii.14 Much of this time she worked as an anthropologist in Indonesia and Hawaii, being in good position to gather intelligence about local communities.

As one example of the CIA connections of these organizations, consider the disclosure by John Gilligan, Director of AID during the Carter administration (1977-81). “At one time, many AID field offices were infiltrated from top to bottom with CIA people. The idea was to plant operatives in every kind of activity we had overseas, government, volunteer, religious, every kind.”15 And Development Alternatives, Inc. is the organization for whom Alan Gross was working when arrested in Cuba and charged with being part of the ongoing American operation to destabilize the Cuban government.

How the owners of a society play with their property

The Supreme Court of the United States has just upheld the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law, the Affordable Care Act. Liberals as well as many progressives are very pleased, regarding this as a victory for the left.

Under the new law, people can benefit in one way or another depending on the following factors:

Their age; whether their income is at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level; whether their parents have a health plan; whether they use tobacco; what state they live in; whether they have a pre-existing medical condition; whether they qualify to buy health insurance through newly-created market places known as “exchanges”; and numerous other criteria … They can obtain medical insurance in a “competitive insurance market” (emphasis on the “competitive”); they can perhaps qualify for various other kinds of credits and tax relief if they meet certain criteria … The authors of the Act state that it will save thousands of dollars in drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries by closing a coverage gap called the “donut hole” … They tell us that “It keeps insurance companies honest by setting clear rules that rein in the worst insurance industry abuses.”

That’s a sample of how health care looks in the United States of America in the 21st century, with a complexity that will keep a small army of lawyers busy for years to come. Ninety miles away, in the Republic of Cuba, it looks a bit different. If you feel sick you go to a doctor. You’re automatically qualified to receive any medical care that’s available and thought to be suitable. The doctor treats you to the best of his or her ability. The insurance companies play no role. There are no insurance companies. You don’t pay anything. You go home.

The Affordable Care Act will undoubtedly serve as a disincentive to the movement for single-payer national health insurance, setting the movement back for years. The Affordable Care Act was undoubtedly designed for that purpose.

Notes

  1. Washington Post, January 23, 2000, p.1; “The coup in Ecuador: a grim warning”, World Socialist Web Site, February 2, 2000; Z Magazine (Massachusetts), February 2001, pp.36-7
  2. Washington Post, June 12, 2012
  3. Beacon Hill Patch (Boston), “MBTA to Spread Dead Bacteria on Red Line in Bio-Terror Test”, May 18, 2012
  4. Leonard Cole, Clouds of Secrecy: The Army’s Germ Warfare Tests over Populated Areas (1990), pp.65-9
  5. New York Times, September 19, 1975, p.14
  6. “Biological Testing Involving Human Subjects by the Department of Defense”, 1977, Hearings before the Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research of the Committee on Human Resources, US Senate, March 8 and May 23, 1977; see also William Blum, Rogue State, chapter 15)
  7. Senate Hearings, op. cit., p.270
  8. Rogue State, op. cit., chapter 14
  9. Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2011
  10. New York Times, December 27, 1977, p.40
  11. Lobster Magazine, Hull, UK, #14, November 1987
  12. Rogue State, op. cit., pp.199-200
  13. Carl Oglesby, Ravens in the Storm: A Personal History of the 1960s Antiwar Movement (2008), passim
  14. Wikipedia entry for Ann Dunham
  15. George Cotter, “Spies, strings and missionaries”, The Christian Century (Chicago), March 25, 1981, p.321


The Anti-Empire Report, March 5, 2012

The Anti-Empire Report

The Saga of Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Wikileaks, to be put to ballad and film

“Defense lawyers say Manning was clearly a troubled young soldier whom the Army should never have deployed to Iraq or given access to classified material while he was stationed there … They say he was in emotional turmoil, partly because he was a gay soldier at a time when homosexuals were barred from serving openly in the U.S. armed forces.” (Associated Press, February 3)

It’s unfortunate and disturbing that Bradley Manning’s attorneys have chosen to consistently base his legal defense upon the premise that personal problems and shortcomings are what motivated the young man to turn over hundreds of thousands of classified government files to Wikileaks. They should not be presenting him that way any more than Bradley should be tried as a criminal or traitor. He should be hailed as a national hero. Yes, even when the lawyers are talking to the military mind. May as well try to penetrate that mind and find the freest and best person living there. Bradley also wears a military uniform.

Here are Manning’s own words from an online chat: “If you had free reign over classified networks … and you saw incredible things, awful things … things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC … what would you do? … God knows what happens now. Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms. … I want people to see the truth … because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”

Is the world to believe that these are the words of a disturbed and irrational person? Do not the Nuremberg Tribunal and the Geneva Conventions speak of a higher duty than blind loyalty to one’s government, a duty to report the war crimes of that government?

Below is a listing of some of the things revealed in the State Department cables and Defense Department files and videos. For exposing such embarrassing and less-than-honorable behavior, Bradley Manning of the United States Army and Julian Assange of Wikileaks may spend most of their remaining days in a modern dungeon, much of it while undergoing that particular form of torture known as “solitary confinement”. Indeed, it has been suggested that the mistreatment of Manning has been for the purpose of making him testify against and implicating Assange. Dozens of members of the American media and public officials have called for Julian Assange’s execution or assassination. Under the new National Defense Authorization Act, Assange could well be kidnaped or assassinated. What century are we living in? What world?

It was after seeing American war crimes such as those depicted in the video “Collateral Murder” and documented in the “Iraq War Logs,” made public by Manning and Wikileaks, that the Iraqis refused to exempt US forces from prosecution for future crimes. The video depicts an American helicopter indiscriminately murdering several non-combatants in addition to two Reuters journalists, and the wounding of two little children, while the helicopter pilots cheer the attacks in a Baghdad suburb like it was the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia.

The insistence of the Iraqi government on legal jurisdiction over American soldiers for violations of Iraqi law — something the United States rarely, if ever, accepts in any of the many countries where its military is stationed — forced the Obama administration to pull the remaining American troops from the country.

If Manning had committed war crimes in Iraq instead of exposing them, he would be a free man today, as are the many hundreds/thousands of American soldiers guilty of truly loathsome crimes in cities like Haditha, Fallujah, and other places whose names will live in infamy in the land of ancient Mesopotamia.

Besides playing a role in writing finis to the awful Iraq war, the Wikileaks disclosures helped to spark the Arab Spring, beginning in Tunisia.

When people in Tunisia read or heard of US Embassy cables revealing the extensive corruption and decadence of the extended ruling family there — one long and detailed cable being titled: “CORRUPTION IN TUNISIA: WHAT’S YOURS IS MINE” — how Washington’s support of Tunisian President Ben Ali was not really strong, and that the US would not support the regime in the event of a popular uprising, they took to the streets.

Here is a sample of some of the other Wikileaks revelations that make the people of the world wiser:

  • In 2009 Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano became the new head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which plays the leading role in the investigation of whether Iran is developing nuclear weapons or is working only on peaceful civilian nuclear energy projects. A US embassy cable of October 2009 said Amano “took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency. Amano reminded the [American] ambassador on several occasions that … he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”
  • Russia refuted US claims that Iran has missiles that could target Europe.
  • The British government’s official inquiry into how it got involved in the Iraq War was deeply compromised by the government’s pledge to protect the Bush administration in the course of the inquiry.
  • A discussion between Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and American Gen. David H. Petraeus in which Saleh indicated he would cover up the US role in missile strikes against al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen. “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh told Petraeus.
  • The US embassy in Madrid has had serious points of friction with the Spanish government and civil society: a) trying to get the criminal case dropped against three US soldiers accused of killing a Spanish television cameraman in Baghdad during a 2003 unprovoked US tank shelling of the hotel where he and other journalists were staying; b )torture cases brought by a Spanish NGO against six senior Bush administration officials, including former attorney general Alberto Gonzales; c) a Spanish government investigation into the torture of Spanish subjects held at Guantánamo; d) a probe by a Spanish court into the use of Spanish bases and airfields for American extraordinary rendition (= torture) flights; e )continual criticism of the Iraq war by Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero, who eventually withdrew Spanish troops.
  • State Department officials at the United Nations, as well as US diplomats in various embassies, were assigned to gather as much of the following information as possible about UN officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, permanent security council representatives, senior UN staff, and foreign diplomats: e-mail and website addresses, internet user names and passwords, personal encryption keys, credit card numbers, frequent flyer account numbers, work schedules, and biometric data. US diplomats at the embassy in Asunción, Paraguay were asked to obtain dates, times and telephone numbers of calls received and placed by foreign diplomats from China, Iran and the Latin American leftist states of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. US diplomats in Romania, Hungary and Slovenia were instructed to provide biometric information on “current and emerging leaders and advisers” as well as information about “corruption” and information about leaders’ health and “vulnerability”. The UN directive also specifically asked for “biometric information on ranking North Korean diplomats”. A similar cable to embassies in the Great Lakes region of Africa said biometric data included DNA, as well as iris scans and fingerprints.
  • A special “Iran observer” in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku reported on a dispute that played out during a meeting of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. An enraged Revolutionary Guard Chief of Staff, Mohammed Ali Jafari, allegedly got into a heated argument with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and slapped him in the face because the generally conservative president had, surprisingly, advocated freedom of the press.
  • The State Department, virtually alone in the Western Hemisphere, did not unequivocally condemn a June 28, 2009 military coup in Honduras, even though an embassy cable declared: “there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch”. US support of the coup government has been unwavering ever since.
  • The leadership of the Swedish Social Democratic Party — neutral, pacifist, and liberal Sweden, so the long-standing myth goes — visited the US embassy in Stockholm and asked for advice on how best to sell the war in Afghanistan to a skeptical Swedish public, asking if the US could arrange for a member of the Afghan government to come visit Sweden and talk up NATO’s humanitarian efforts on behalf of Afghan children, and so forth. [For some years now Sweden has been, in all but name, a member of NATO and the persecutor of Julian Assange, the latter to please a certain Western power.]
  • The US pushed to influence Swedish wiretapping laws so communication passing through the Scandinavian country could be intercepted. The American interest was clear: Eighty per cent of all the internet traffic from Russia travels through Sweden.
  • President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy told US embassy officials in Brussels in January 2010 that no one in Europe believed in Afghanistan anymore. He said Europe was going along in deference to the United States and that there must be results in 2010, or “Afghanistan is over for Europe.”
  • Iraqi officials saw Saudi Arabia, not Iran, as the biggest threat to the integrity and cohesion of their fledgling democratic state. The Iraqi leaders were keen to assure their American patrons that they could easily “manage” the Iranians, who wanted stability; but that the Saudis wanted a “weak and fractured” Iraq, and were even “fomenting terrorism that would destabilize the government”. The Saudi King, moreover, wanted a US military strike on Iran.
  • Saudi Arabia in 2007 threatened to pull out of a Texas oil refinery investment unless the US government intervened to stop Saudi Aramco from being sued in US courts for alleged oil price fixing. The deputy Saudi oil minister said that he wanted the US to grant Saudi Arabia sovereign immunity from lawsuits
  • Saudi donors were the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
  • Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, hired investigators to unearth evidence of corruption against the Nigerian attorney general in order to persuade him to drop legal action over a controversial 1996 drug trial involving children with meningitis.
  • Oil giant Shell claimed to have “inserted staff” and fully infiltrated Nigeria’s government.
  • The Obama administration renewed military ties with Indonesia in spite of serious concerns expressed by American diplomats about the Indonesian military’s activities in the province of West Papua, expressing fears that the Indonesian government’s neglect, rampant corruption and human rights abuses were stoking unrest in the region.
  • US officials collaborated with Lebanon’s defense minister to spy on, and allow Israel to potentially attack, Hezbollah in the weeks that preceded a violent May 2008 military confrontation in Beirut.
  • Gabon president Omar Bongo allegedly pocketed millions in embezzled funds from central African states, channeling some of it to French political parties in support of Nicolas Sarkozy.
  • Cables from the US embassy in Caracas in 2006 asked the US Secretary of State to warn President Hugo Chávez against a Venezuelan military intervention to defend the Cuban revolution in the eventuality of an American invasion after Castro’s death.
  • The United States was concerned that the leftist Latin American television network, Telesur, headquartered in Venezuela, would collaborate with al Jazeera of Qatar, whose coverage of the Iraq War had gotten under the skin of the Bush administration.
  • The Vatican told the United States it wanted to undermine the influence of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez in Latin America because of concerns about the deterioration of Catholic power there. It feared that Chávez was seriously damaging relations between the Catholic church and the state by identifying the church hierarchy in Venezuela as part of the privileged class.
  • The Holy See welcomed President Obama’s new outreach to Cuba and hoped for further steps soon, perhaps to include prison visits for the wives of the Cuban Five. Better US-Cuba ties would deprive Hugo Chávez of one of his favorite screeds and could help restrain him in the region.
  • The wonderful world of diplomats: In 2010, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown raised with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the question of visas for two wives of members of the “Cuban Five”. “Brown requested that the wives (who have previously been refused visas to visit the U.S.) be granted visas so that they could visit their husbands in prison. … Our subsequent queries to Number 10 indicate that Brown made this request as a result of a commitment that he had made to UK trade unionists, who form part of the Labour Party’s core constituency. Now that the request has been made, Brown does not intend to pursue this matter further. There is no USG action required.”
  • UK Officials concealed from Parliament how the US was allowed to bring cluster bombs onto British soil in defiance of a treaty banning the housing of such weapons.
  • A cable was sent by an official at the US Interests Section in Havana in July 2006, during the runup to the Non-Aligned Movement conference. He noted that he was actively looking for “human interest stories and other news that shatters the myth of Cuban medical prowess”. [Presumably to be used to weaken support for Cuba amongst the member nations at the conference.]
  • Most of the men sent to Guantánamo prison were innocent people or low-level operatives; many of the innocent individuals were sold to the US for bounty.
  • DynCorp, a powerful American defense contracting firm that claims almost $2 billion per year in revenue from US tax dollars, threw a “boy-play” party for Afghan police recruits. (Yes, it’s what you think.)
  • Even though the Bush and Obama Administrations repeatedly maintained publicly that there was no official count of civilian casualties, the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs showed that this claim was untrue.
  • Known Egyptian torturers received training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
  • The United States put great pressure on the Haitian government to not go ahead with various projects, with no regard for the welfare of the Haitian people. A 2005 cable stressed continued US insistence that all efforts must be made to keep former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whom the United States had overthrown the previous year, from returning to Haiti or influencing the political process. In 2006, Washington’s target was President René Préval for his agreeing to a deal with Venezuela to join Caracas’s Caribbean oil alliance, PetroCaribe, under which Haiti would buy oil from Venezuela, paying only 60 percent up front with the remainder payable over twenty-five years at 1 percent interest. And in 2009, the State Department backed American corporate opposition to an increase in the minimum wage for Haitian workers, the poorest paid in the Western Hemisphere.
  • The United States used threats, spying, and more to try to get its way at the crucial 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen.
  • Mahmoud Abbas, president of The Palestinian National Authority, and head of the Fatah movement, turned to Israel for help in attacking Hamas in Gaza in 2007.
  • The British government trained a Bangladeshi paramilitary force condemned by human rights organisations as a “government death squad”.
  • A US military order directed American forces not to investigate cases of torture of detainees by Iraqis.
  • The US was involved in the Australian government’s 2006 campaign to oust Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
  • A 2009 US cable said that police brutality in Egypt against common criminals was routine and pervasive, the police using force to extract confessions from criminals on a daily basis.
  • US diplomats pressured the German government to stifle the prosecution of CIA operatives who abducted and tortured Khalid El-Masri, a German citizen. [El-Masri was kidnaped by the CIA while on vacation in Macedonia on December 31, 2003. He was flown to a torture center in Afghanistan, where he was beaten, starved, and sodomized. The US government released him on a hilltop in Albania five months later without money or the means to go home.]
  • 2005 cable re “widespread severe torture” by India, the widely-renowned “world’s largest democracy”: The International Committee of the Red Cross reported: “The continued ill-treatment of detainees, despite longstanding ICRC-GOI [Government of India] dialogue, have led the ICRC to conclude that New Delhi condones torture.” Washington was briefed on this matter by the ICRC years ago. What did the United States, one of the world’s leading practitioners and teachers of torture in the past century, do about it? American leaders, including the present ones, continued to speak warmly of “the world’s largest democracy”; as if torture and one of the worst rates of poverty and child malnutrition in the world do not contradict the very idea of democracy.
  • The United States overturned a ban on training the Indonesian Kopassus army special forces — despite the Kopassus’s long history of arbitrary detention, torture and murder — after the Indonesian President threatened to derail President Obama’s trip to the country in November 2010.
  • Since at least 2006 the United States has been funding political opposition groups in Syria, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country.

William Blum is the author of:

  • Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
  • Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
  • West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
  • Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org

Previous Anti-Empire Reports can be read at this website.


Anti-Empire Report, November 1, 2011

The Anti-Empire Report


It doesn’t matter to them if it’s untrue. It’s a higher truth.


“We came, we saw, he died.”
— US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton,
giggling, as she spoke of the depraved murder of Moammar Gaddafi

Imagine Osama bin Laden or some other Islamic leader speaking of 9-11: “We came, we saw, 3,000 died … ha- ha.”

Clinton and her partners-in-crime in NATO can also have a good laugh at how they deceived the world. The destruction of Libya, the reduction of a modern welfare state to piles of rubble, to ghost towns, the murder of thousands … this tragedy was the culmination of a series of falsehoods spread by the Libyan rebels, the Western powers, and Qatar (through its television station, al-Jazeera) — from the declared imminence of a “bloodbath” in rebel-held Benghazi if the West didn’t intervene to stories of government helicopter-gunships and airplanes spraying gunfire onto large numbers of civilians to tales of Viagra-induced mass rapes by Gaddafi’s army. (This last fable was proclaimed at the United Nations by the American Ambassador, as if young soldiers needed Viagra to get it up!)1

The New York Times (March 22) observed:


… the rebels feel no loyalty to the truth in shaping their propaganda, claiming nonexistent battlefield victories, asserting they were still fighting in a key city days after it fell to Qaddafi forces, and making vastly inflated claims of his barbaric behavior.

The Los Angeles Times (April 7) added this about the rebels’ media operation:


It’s not exactly fair and balanced media. In fact, as [its editor] helpfully pointed out, there are four inviolate rules of coverage on the two rebel radio stations, TV station and newspaper:

  • No pro-[Qaddafi] reportage or commentary
  • No mention of a civil war. (The Libyan people, east and west, are unified in a war against a totalitarian regime.)
  • No discussion of tribes or tribalism. (There is only one tribe: Libya.)
  • No references to Al Qaeda or Islamic extremism. (That’s [Qaddafi’s] propaganda.)

The Libyan government undoubtedly spouted its share of misinformation, but it was the rebels’ trail of lies, both of omission and commission, which was used by the UN Security Council to justify its vote for “humanitarian” intervention; followed in Act Three by unrelenting NATO/US bombs and drone missiles, day after day, week after week, month after month; you can’t get much more humanitarian than that. If the people of Libya prior to the NATO/US bombardment had been offered a referendum on it, can it be imagined that they would have endorsed it?

In fact, it appears rather likely that a majority of Libyans supported Gaddafi. How else could the government have held off the most powerful military forces in the world for more than seven months? Before NATO and the US laid waste to the land, Libya had the highest life expectancy, lowest infant mortality, and highest UN Human Development Index in Africa. During the first few months of the civil war, giant rallies were held in support of the Libyan leader.2

For further discussion of why Libyans may have been motivated to support Gaddafi, have a look at this video.

If Gaddafi had been less oppressive of his political opposition over the years and had made some gestures of accommodation to them during the Arab Spring, the benevolent side of his regime might still be keeping him in power, although the world has plentiful evidence making it plain that the Western powers are not particularly concerned about political oppression except to use as an excuse for intervention when they want to; indeed, government files seized in Tripoli during the fighting show that the CIA and British intelligence worked with the Libyan government in tracking down dissidents, turning them over to Libya, and taking part in interrogations.3

In any event, many of the rebels had a religious motive for opposing the government and played dominant roles within the rebel army; previously a number of them had fought against the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq.4 The new Libyan regime promptly announced that Islamic sharia law would be the “basic source” of legislation, and laws that contradict “the teachings of Islam” would be nullified; there would also be a reinstitution of polygamy; the Muslim holy book, the Quran, allows men up to four wives.5

Thus, just as in Afghanistan in the 1980-90s, the United States has supported Islamic militants fighting against a secular government. The American government has imprisoned many people as “terrorists” in the United States for a lot less.

What began in Libya as “normal” civil war violence from both sides — repeated before and since by the governments of Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria without any Western military intervention at all (the US actually continues to arm the Bahrain and Yemen regimes) — was transformed by the Western propaganda machine into a serious Gaddafi genocide of innocent Libyans. Addressing the validity of this very key issue is another video, “Humanitarian War in Libya: There is no evidence“. The main feature of the film is an interview with Soliman Bouchuiguir, Secretary-General, and one of the founders in 1989, of the Libyan League for Human Rights, perhaps the leading Libyan dissident group, in exile in Switzerland.

Bouchuiguir is asked several times if he can document various charges made against the Libyan leader. Where is the proof of the many rapes? The many other alleged atrocities? The more than 6,000 civilians alleged killed by Gaddafi’s planes? Again and again Bouchuiguir cites the National Transitional Council as the source. Yes, that’s the rebels who carried out the civil war in conjunction with the NATO/US forces. At other times Bouchuiguir speaks of “eyewitnesses”: “little girls, boys who were there, whose families we know personally”. After awhile, he declares that “there is no way” to document these things. This is probably true to some extent, but why, then, the UN Security Council resolution for a military intervention in Libya? Why almost eight months of bombing?

Bouchuiguir also mentions his organization’s working with the National Endowment for Democracy in their effort against Gaddafi, and one has to wonder if the man has any idea that the NED was founded to be a front for the CIA. Literally.

Another source of charges against Gaddafi and his sons has been the International Criminal Court. The Court’s Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, is shown in this film at a news conference discussing the same question of proof of the charges. He refers to an ICC document of 77 pages which he says contains the evidence. The film displays the document’s Table of Contents, which shows that pages 17-71 are not available to the public; these pages, apparently the ones containing the testimony and evidence, are marked as “redacted”. In an appendix, the ICC report lists its news sources; these include Fox News, CNN, the CIA, Soliman Bouchuiguir, and the Libyan League for Human Rights. Earlier, the film had presented Bouchuiguir citing the ICC as one of his sources. The documentation is thus a closed circle.

Historical footnote: “Aerial bombing of civilians was pioneered by the Italians in Libya in 1911, perfected by the British in Iraq in 1920 and used by the French in 1925 to level whole quarters of Syrian cities. Home demolitions, collective punishment, summary execution, detention without trial, routine torture — these were the weapons of Europe’s takeover” in the Mideast.6


The worldwide eternal belief that American foreign policy has a good side that can be appealed to

On April 6, 2011 Moammar Gaddafi wrote a letter to President Obama, in which he said: “We have been hurt more morally than physically because of what had happened against us in both deeds and words by you. Despite all this you will always remain our son whatever happened. … Our dear son, Excellency, Baraka Hussein Abu Oubama, your intervention in the name of the U.S.A. is a must, so that Nato would withdraw finally from the Libyan affair.”7

Before the American invasion in March 2003, Iraq tried to negotiate a peace deal with the United States. Iraqi officials, including the chief of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, wanted Washington to know that Iraq no longer had weapons of mass destruction and offered to allow American troops and experts to conduct a search; they also offered full support for any US plan in the Arab-Israeli peace process, and to hand over a man accused of being involved in the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. If this is about oil, they added, they would also talk about US oil concessions.8 … Then came shock and awe!

In 2002, before the coup in Venezuela that briefly ousted Hugo Chávez, some of the plotters went to Washington to get a green light from the Bush administration. Chávez learned of this visit and was so distressed by it that he sent officials from his government to plead his own case in Washington. The success of this endeavor can be judged by the fact that the coup took place shortly thereafter.9

In 1994, it was reported that the leader of the Zapatista rebels in Mexico, Subcommander Marcos, said that “he expects the United States to support the Zapatistas once US intelligence agencies are convinced the movement is not influenced by Cubans or Russians.” “Finally,” Marcos said, “they are going to conclude that this is a Mexican problem, with just and true causes.”10 Yet for many years, the United States provided the Mexican military with all the training and tools needed to crush the Zapatistas.

The Guatemalan foreign minister in 1954, Cheddi Jagan of British Guiana in 1961, and Maurice Bishop of Grenada in 1983 all made their appeals to Washington to be left in peace.11 The governments of all three countries were overthrown by the United States.

In 1945 and 1946, Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, a genuine admirer of America and the Declaration of Independence, wrote at least eight letters to President Harry Truman and the State Department asking for America’s help in winning Vietnamese independence from the French. He wrote that world peace was being endangered by French efforts to reconquer Indochina and he requested that “the four powers” (US, USSR, China, and Great Britain) intervene in order to mediate a fair settlement and bring the Indochinese issue before the United Nations.12 Ho Chi Minh received no reply. He was, after all, some sort of communist.


America’s presstitutes

Imagine that the vicious police attack of October 25 on the Occupy Oakland encampment had taken place in Iran or Cuba or Venezuela or in any other ODE (Officially Designated Enemy) … Page One Righteous Indignation with Shocking Photos. But here’s the Washington Post the next day: A three-inch story on page three with a headline: “Protesters wearing out their welcome nationwide”; no mention of the Iraqi veteran left unconscious from a police projectile making contact with his head; as to photos: just one — an Oakland police officer petting a cat that was left behind by the protesters.

And here’s TV comedian Jay Leno the same night as the police attack in Oakland: “They say Moammar Gaddafi may have been one of the richest men in the world … 200 billion dollars. With all of the billions he had, he spent very little on education or health care for his country. So I guess he was a Republican.”13

The object of Leno’s humor was of course the Republicans, but it served the cause of further demonizing Gaddafi and thus adding to the “justification” of America’s murderous attack on Libya. If I had been one of Leno’s guests sitting there, I would have turned to the audience and said: “Listen people, under Gaddafi health care and education were completely free. Wouldn’t you like to have that here?”

I think that enough people in the audience would have applauded or shouted to force Leno to back off a bit from his indoctrinated, mindless remark.

And just for the record, the 200 billion dollars is not money found in Gaddafi’s personal bank accounts anywhere in the world, but money belonging to the Libyan state. But why quibble? There’s no business like show business.


The Iraqi Lullabye

On February 17, 2003, a month before the US bombing of Iraq began, I posted to the Internet an essay entitled “What Do the Imperial Mafia Really Want?” concerning the expected war. Included in this were the words of Michael Ledeen, former Reagan official, then at the American Enterprise Institute, which was one of the leading drum-beaters for attacking Iraq:


If we just let our own vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely, and we don’t try to be clever and piece together clever diplomatic solutions to this thing, but just wage a total war against these tyrants, I think we will do very well, and our children will sing great songs about us years from now.

After a year of the tragic farce that was the American intervention in Iraq I could not resist. I sent Mr. Ledeen an email reminding him of his words and saying simply: “I’d like to ask you what songs your children are singing these days.”

I received no reply.

Has there ever been an empire that didn’t tell itself and the world that it was unlike all other empires, that its mission was not to plunder and control but to enlighten and liberate?


The United Nations vote on the Cuba embargo — 20 years in a row

For years American political leaders and media were fond of labeling Cuba an “international pariah”. We don’t hear that any more. Perhaps one reason is the annual vote in the United Nations General Assembly on the resolution which reads: “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”. This is how the vote has gone (not including abstentions):


Year Votes (Yes-No) No Votes
1992 59-2 US, Israel
1993 88-4 US, Israel, Albania, Paraguay
1994 101-2 US, Israel
1995 117-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1996 138-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1997 143-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1998 157-2 US, Israel
1999 155-2 US, Israel
2000 167-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2001 167-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2002 173-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2003 179-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2004 179-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2005 182-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2006 183-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2007 184-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2008 185-3 US, Israel, Palau
2009 187-3 US, Israel, Palau
2010 187-2 US, Israel
2011 186-2 US, Israel

Each fall the UN vote is a welcome reminder that the world has not completely lost its senses and that the American empire does not completely control the opinion of other governments.

How it began: On April 6, 1960, Lester D. Mallory, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, wrote in an internal memorandum: “The majority of Cubans support Castro … The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship. … every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba.” Mallory proposed “a line of action which … makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.”14 Later that year, the Eisenhower administration instituted the suffocating embargo against its eternally-declared enemy.


Notes

  1. Viagra: Reuters, April 29, 2011
  2. See, for example, “Million Man, Woman and Child March in Tripoli, Libya”, June 20, 2011
  3. The Guardian (London), September 3, 2011
  4. Washington Post, September 15, 2011, “Islamists rise to fore in new Libya”
  5. USA Today, October 24, 2011
  6. Rashid Khalidi, professor of Arab studies, Columbia University, Washington Post, November 11, 2007
  7. Associated Press, April 6, 2011, some obvious errors in the original have been corrected
  8. New York Times, November 6, 2003
  9. New York Times, April 16, 2002
  10. Los Angeles Times, February 24, 1994, p.7
  11. Guatemala: Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer, Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala (1982), p.183; Jagan: Arthur Schlesinger, A Thousand Days (1965), p.774-9; Bishop: Associated Press, May 29, 1983, “Leftist Government Officials Visit United States”
  12. The Pentagon Papers (NY Times edition, 1971), pp.4, 5, 8, 26; William Blum, Killing Hope, p.123)
  13. Washington Post, October 26, 2011
  14. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Volume VI, Cuba (1991), p.885

William Blum is the author of:

  • Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
  • Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
  • West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
  • Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire


Ant-Empire Report, September 1, 2011

The Anti-Empire Report


Libya and the world we live in


“Why are you attacking us? Why are you killing our children? Why are you destroying our infrastructure?”
– Television address by Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi, April 30, 2011

A few hours later NATO hit a target in Tripoli, killing Gaddafi’s 29-year-old son Saif al-Arab, three of Gaddafi’s grandchildren, all under twelve years of age, and several friends and neighbors.

In his TV address, Gaddafi had appealed to the NATO nations for a cease-fire and negotiations after six weeks of bombings and cruise missile attacks against his country.

Well, let’s see if we can derive some understanding of the complex Libyan turmoil.

The Holy Triumvirate — The United States, NATO and the European Union — recognizes no higher power and believes, literally, that it can do whatever it wants in the world, to whomever it wants, for as long as it wants, and call it whatever it wants, like “humanitarian”.

If The Holy Triumvirate decides that it doesn’t want to overthrow the government in Syria or in Egypt or Tunisia or Bahrain or Saudi Arabia or Yemen or Jordan, no matter how cruel, oppressive, or religiously intolerant those governments are with their people, no matter how much they impoverish and torture their people, no matter how many protesters they shoot dead in their Freedom Square, the Triumvirate will simply not overthrow them.

If the Triumvirate decides that it wants to overthrow the government of Libya, though that government is secular and has used its oil wealth for the benefit of the people of Libya and Africa perhaps more than any government in all of Africa and the Middle East, but keeps insisting over the years on challenging the Triumvirate’s imperial ambitions in Africa and raising its demands on the Triumvirate’s oil companies, then the Triumvirate will simply overthrow the government of Libya.

If the Triumvirate wants to punish Gaddafi and his sons it will arrange with the Triumvirate’s friends at the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants for them.

If the Triumvirate doesn’t want to punish the leaders of Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Jordan it will simply not ask the ICC to issue arrest warrants for them. Ever since the Court first formed in 1998, the United States has refused to ratify it and has done its best to denigrate it and throw barriers in its way because Washington is concerned that American officials might one day be indicted for their many war crimes and crimes against humanity. Bill Richardson, as US ambassador to the UN, said to the world in 1998 that the United States should be exempt from the court’s prosecution because it has “special global responsibilities”. But this doesn’t stop the United States from using the Court when it suits the purposes of American foreign policy.

If the Triumvirate wants to support a rebel military force to overthrow the government of Libya then it does not matter how fanatically religious, al-Qaeda-related,1 executing-beheading-torturing, monarchist, or factionally split various groups of that rebel force are at times, the Triumvirate will support it, as it did certain forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and hope that after victory the Libyan force will not turn out as jihadist as it did in Afghanistan, or as fratricidal as in Iraq. One potential source of conflict within the rebels, and within the country if ruled by them, is that a constitutional declaration made by the rebel council states that, while guaranteeing democracy and the rights of non-Muslims, “Islam is the religion of the state and the principle source of legislation in Islamic Jurisprudence.”2

Adding to the list of the rebels’ charming qualities we have the Amnesty International report that the rebels have been conducting mass arrests of black people across the nation, terming all of them “foreign mercenaries” but with growing evidence that a large number were simply migrant workers. Reported Reuters (August 29): “On Saturday, reporters saw the putrefying bodies of 22 men of African origin on a Tripoli beach. Volunteers who had come to bury them said they were mercenaries whom rebels had shot dead.” To complete this portrait of the West’s newest darlings we have this report from The Independent of London (August 27): “The killings were pitiless. They had taken place at a makeshift hospital, in a tent marked clearly with the symbols of the Islamic crescent. Some of the dead were on stretchers, attached to intravenous drips. Some were on the back of an ambulance that had been shot at. A few were on the ground, seemingly attempting to crawl to safety when the bullets came.”

If the Triumvirate’s propaganda is clever enough and deceptive enough and paints a graphic picture of Gaddafi-initiated high tragedy in Libya, many American and European progressives will insist that though they never, ever support imperialism they’re making an exception this time because …

  • The Libyan people are being saved from a “massacre”, both actual and potential. This massacre, however, seems to have been grossly exaggerated by the Triumvirate, al Jazeera TV, and that station’s owner, the government of Qatar; and nothing approaching reputable evidence of a massacre has been offered, neither a mass grave or anything else; the massacre stories appear to be on a par with the Viagra-rape stories spread by al Jazeera (the Fox News of the Libyan uprising). Qatar, it should be noted, has played an active military role in the civil war on the side of NATO. It should be further noted that the main massacre in Libya has been six months of daily Triumvirate bombing, killing an unknown number of people and ruining much of the infrastructure. Michigan U. Prof. Juan Cole, the quintessential true-believer in the good intentions of American foreign policy who nevertheless manages to have a regular voice in progressive media, recently wrote that “Qaddafi was not a man to compromise … his military machine would mow down the revolutionaries if it were allowed to.” Is that clear, class? We all know of course that Sarkozy, Obama, and Cameron made compromises without end in their devastation of Libya; they didn’t, for example, use any nuclear weapons.
  • The United Nations gave its approval for military intervention; i.e., the leading members of the Triumvirate gave their approval, after Russia and China cowardly abstained instead of exercising their veto power; (perhaps hoping to receive the same courtesy from the US, UK and France when Russia or China is the aggressor nation).
  • The people of Libya are being “liberated”, whatever in the world that means, now or in the future. Gaddafi is a “dictator” they insist. That may indeed be the proper term to use for the man, but it must still be asked: Is he a relatively benevolent dictator or is he the other kind so favored by Washington? It must also be asked: Since the United States has habitually supported dictators for the entire past century, why not this one?

The Triumvirate, and its fawning media, would have the world believe that what’s happened in Libya is just another example of the Arab Spring, a popular uprising by non-violent protestors against a dictator for the proverbial freedom and democracy, spreading spontaneously from Tunisia and Egypt, which sandwich Libya. But there are several reasons to question this analysis in favor of seeing the Libyan rebels’ uprising as a planned and violent attempt to take power in behalf of their own political movement, however heterogeneous that movement might appear to be in its early stage. For example:

  1. They soon began flying the flag of the monarchy that Gaddafi had overthrown
  2. They were an armed and violent rebellion almost from the beginning; within a few days, we could read of “citizens armed with weapons seized from army bases”3 and of “the policemen who had participated in the clash were caught and hanged by protesters”4
  3. Their revolt took place not in the capital but in the heart of the country’s oil region; they then began oil production and declared that foreign countries would be rewarded oil-wise in relation to how much each country aided their cause
  4. They soon set up a Central Bank, a rather bizarre thing for a protest movement
  5. International support came quickly, even beforehand, from Qatar and al Jazeera to the CIA and French intelligence

The notion that a leader does not have the right to put down an armed rebellion against the state is too absurd to discuss.

Not very long ago, Iraq and Libya were the two most modern and secular states in the Mideast/North Africa world with perhaps the highest standards of living in the region. Then the United States of America came along and saw fit to make a basket case of each one. The desire to get rid of Gaddafi had been building for years; the Libyan leader had never been a reliable pawn; then the Arab Spring provided the excellent opportunity and cover. As to Why? Take your pick of the following:

  • Gaddafi’s plans to conduct Libya’s trading in Africa in raw materials and oil in a new currency — the gold African dinar, a change that could have delivered a serious blow to the US’s dominant position in the world economy. (In 2000, Saddam Hussein announced Iraqi oil would be traded in euros, not dollars; sanctions and an invasion followed.) For further discussion see here.
  • A host-country site for Africom, the US Africa Command, one of six regional commands the Pentagon has divided the world into. Many African countries approached to be the host have declined, at times in relatively strong terms. Africom at present is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. According to a State Department official: “We’ve got a big image problem down there. … Public opinion is really against getting into bed with the US. They just don’t trust the US.”5
  • An American military base to replace the one closed down by Gaddafi after he took power in 1969. There’s only one such base in Africa, in Djibouti. Watch for one in Libya sometime after the dust has settled. It’ll perhaps be situated close to the American oil wells. Or perhaps the people of Libya will be given a choice — an American base or a NATO base.
  • Another example of NATO desperate to find a raison d’être for its existence since the end of the Cold War and the Warsaw Pact.
  • Gaddafi’s role in creating the African Union. The corporate bosses never like it when their wage slaves set up a union. The Libyan leader has also supported a United States of Africa for he knows that an Africa of 54 independent states will continue to be picked off one by one and abused and exploited by the members of the Triumvirate. Gaddafi has moreover demanded greater power for smaller countries in the United Nations.
  • The claim by Gaddafi’s son, Saif el Islam, that Libya had helped to fund Nicolas Sarkozy’s election campaign6 could have humiliated the French president and explain his obsessiveness and haste in wanting to be seen as playing the major role in implementing the “no fly zone” and other measures against Gaddafi. A contributing factor may have been the fact that France has been weakened in its former colonies and neo-colonies in Africa and the Middle East, due in part to Gaddafi’s influence.
  • Gaddafi has been an outstanding supporter of the Palestinian cause and critic of Israeli policies; and on occasion has taken other African and Arab countries, as well as the West, to task for their not matching his policies or rhetoric; one more reason for his lack of popularity amongst world leaders of all stripes.
  • In January, 2009, Gaddafi made known that he was considering nationalizing the foreign oil companies in Libya.7 He also has another bargaining chip: the prospect of utilizing Russian, Chinese and Indian oil companies. During the current period of hostilities, he invited these countries to make up for lost production. But such scenarios will now not take place. The Triumvirate will instead seek to privatize the National Oil Corporation, transferring Libya’s oil wealth into foreign hands.
  • The American Empire is troubled by any threat to its hegemony. In the present historical period the empire is concerned mainly with Russia and China. China has extensive energy investments and construction investments in Libya and elsewhere in Africa. The average American neither knows nor cares about this. The average American imperialist cares greatly, if for no other reason than in this time of rising demands for cuts to the military budget it’s vital that powerful “enemies” be named and maintained.
  • For yet more reasons, see the article “Why Regime Change in Libya?” by Ismael Hossein-zadeh, and the US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks — Wikileaks reference 07TRIPOLI967 11-15-07 (includes a complaint about Libyan “resource nationalism”)


A word from the man the world’s mightiest military powers have been trying to kill

“Recollections of My Life”, written by Col. Muammar Gaddafi, April 8, 2011, excerpts:


Now, I am under attack by the biggest force in military history, my little African son, Obama wants to kill me, to take away the freedom of our country, to take away our free housing, our free medicine, our free education, our free food, and replace it with American style thievery, called “capitalism,” but all of us in the Third World know what that means, it means corporations run the countries, run the world, and the people suffer, so, there is no alternative for me, I must make my stand, and if Allah wishes, I shall die by following his path, the path that has made our country rich with farmland, with food and health, and even allowed us to help our African and Arab brothers and sisters to work here with us … I do not wish to die, but if it comes to that, to save this land, my people, all the thousands who are all my children, then so be it. … In the West, some have called me “mad”, “crazy”. They know the truth but continue to lie, they know that our land is independent and free, not in the colonial grip.


The state of our beloved capitalist system, early 21st century

I pay attention to the fat content of my food, so I was pleased to find a can of Pam canola oil cooking spray that had 0 grams fat per serving. Great, can’t do better than zero fat, can you? I used it often for a few months … until one day I took a closer look at the “Nutrition Facts” … Yes, it said 0 grams fat per serving. A serving. How big was that? Let’s see … “Serving Size about 1/4 second spray” … Hmmm, how does one press down on a button for 1/4 second? Is it humanly possible? Even the manufacturer had to say “about”. I had been taken. My hat is off to you Capitalist Robber Barons — You’re good!



The Dow Jones industrial average of blue-chip stocks fell 635 points on Monday August 8.

On Tuesday it rose by 430 points.

Wednesday, the market, in its infinite wisdom, decided to fall again; this time by 520 points.

And on Thursday … yes, it rose once again, by 423 points.

The Dow changed directions for eight consecutive trading sessions.

Upon such marvels of mankind countless people build careers, others wager their life savings, philanthropic foundations and universities risk much of their endowments, and conservative sages deliver sermons to the world on the wisdom and sacredness of the free market.


Main Street is the climax of civilization.
That this Ford car might stand in front of
the Bon Ton store, Hannibal invaded Rome
and Erasmus wrote in Oxford cloisters.

– Sinclair Lewis, “Main Street”, 1920

Do the economic fundamentals really change dramatically overnight? Or is our economic system as psycho as our foreign policy? The Washington Post’s senior economic columnist, Steven Pearlstein, wrote on August 14th of the four days described above: “I suppose there are some schnooks who actually believe that those wild swings in stock prices last week represented sober and serious concerns by thoughtful, sophisticated investors about the Treasury debt downgrade or European sovereign debt or a slowdown in global growth. But surely such perceptions don’t radically change each afternoon between 2 and 4:30, when the market averages last week were gyrating out of control.”



Last month “Pope Benedict XVI denounced the profit-at-all-cost mentality that he says is behind Europe’s economic crisis” as he arrived in hard-hit Spain. “The economy doesn’t function with market self-regulation but needs an ethical reason to work for mankind,” he declared. “Man must be at the center of the economy, and the economy cannot be measured only by maximization of profit but rather according to the common good.”8

“I am a Marxist,” said the Dalai Lama last year. Marxism has “moral ethics, whereas capitalism is only how to make profits.”9

“I don’t believe in anything,” said Barack Obama. “At least not really strongly.” (No, I made that one up.)



Perhaps the worst outcome of the United States “winning the Cold War” is that countless progressive people think there’s no alternative to the capitalist system. Seventy years of anti-communist education and media stamped in people’s minds a lasting association between socialism and what the Soviet Union called communism. Socialism meant a dictatorship, it meant Stalinist repression, a suffocating “command economy”, no freedom of enterprise, no freedom to change jobs, few avenues for personal expression, and other similar truths and untruths. This is a set of beliefs clung to even amongst many Americans opposed to US foreign policy. No matter how bad the economy is, Americans think, the only alternative available is something called “communism”, and they know how awful that is.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party USA has endorsed Barack Obama for re-election.10




“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living in society, they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”
– Frederic Bastiat, (1801-1850) French economist, statesman, and author


Notes

  1. For example, see: The Telegraph (London), August 30, 2011: “Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, the Libyan rebel leader, has said jihadists who fought against allied troops in Iraq are on the front lines of the battle against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.” There is a plethora of other reports detailing the ties between the rebels and radical Islamist groups.
  2. Washington Post, August 31, 2011
  3. McClatchy Newspapers, February 20, 2011
  4. Wikipedia, Timeline of the 2011 Libyan civil war, February 19, 2011
  5. The Guardian (London), June 25, 2007
  6. The Guardian (London), March 16, 2011
  7. Reuters, January 21, 2009
  8. Associated Press, August 11, 2011
  9. Agence France Presse, May 21, 2010
  10. Yikes! Look who just endorsed Obama for 4 more years“, WorldNetDaily, August 3 2011

William Blum is the author of:

  • Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
  • Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
  • West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
  • Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org

Previous Anti-Empire Reports can be read at this website.

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Anti-Empire Report , July 28, 2011

The Anti-Empire Report


Arguing Libya

On July 9 I took part in a demonstration in front of the White House, the theme of which was “Stop Bombing Libya”. The last time I had taken part in a protest against US bombing of a foreign country, which the White House was selling as “humanitarian intervention”, as they are now, was in 1999 during the 78-day bombing of Serbia. At that time I went to a couple of such demonstrations and both times I was virtually the only American there. The rest, maybe two dozen, were almost all Serbs. “Humanitarian intervention” is a great selling device for imperialism, particularly in the American market. Americans are desperate to renew their precious faith that the United States means well, that we are still “the good guys”.

This time there were about 100 taking part in the protest. I don’t know if any were Libyans, but there was a new element — almost half of the protesters were black, marching with signs saying: “Stop Bombing Africa”.

There was another new element — people supporting the bombing of Libya, facing us from their side of Pennsylvania Avenue about 40 feet away. They were made up largely of Libyans, probably living in the area, who had only praise and love for the United States and NATO. Their theme was that Gaddafi was so bad that they would support anything to get rid of him, even daily bombing of their homeland, which now exceeds Serbia’s 78 days. I of course crossed the road and got into arguments with some of them. I kept asking: “I hate that man there [pointing to the White House] just as much as you hate Gaddafi. Do you think I should therefore support the bombing of Washington? Destroying the beautiful monuments and buildings of this city, as well as killing people?”

None of the Libyans even tried to answer my question. They only repeated their anti-Gaddafi vitriol. “You don’t understand. We have to get rid of Gaddafi. He’s very brutal.” (See the CNN video of the July 1 mammoth rally in Tripoli for an indication that these Libyans’ views are far from universal at home.)

“But you at least get free education and medical care,” I pointed out. “That’s a lot more than we get here. And Libya has the highest standard of living in the entire region, at least it did before the NATO and US bombing. If Gaddafi is brutal, what do you call all the other leaders of the region, whom Washington has long supported?”

One retorted that there had been free education under the king, whom Gaddafi had overthrown. I was skeptical of this but I didn’t know for sure that it was incorrect, so I replied: “So what? Gaddafi at least didn’t get rid of the free education like the leaders in England did in recent years.”

A police officer suddenly appeared and forced me to return to my side of the road. I’m sure if pressed for an explanation, the officer would justify this as a means of preventing violence from breaking out. But there was never any danger of that at all; another example of the American police-state mentality — order and control come before civil liberties, before anything.

Most Americans overhearing my argument with the Libyans would probably have interjected something like: “Well, no matter how much you hate the president you can still get rid of him with an election. The Libyans can’t do that.”

And I would have come back with: “Right. I have the freedom to replace George W. Bush with Barack H. Obama. Oh joy. As long as our elections are overwhelmingly determined by money, nothing of any significance will change.”

Postscript: Amidst all the sadness and horror surrounding the massacre in Norway, we should not lose sight of the fact that “peaceful little Norway” participated in the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999; has deployed troops in Iraq; has troops in Afghanistan; and has supplied warplanes for NATO’s bombing of Libya. The teenagers of those countries who lost their lives to the US/NATO killing machine wanted to live to adulthood and old age as much as the teenagers in Norway. With all the condemnation of “extremism” we now hear in Norway and around the world we must ask if this behavior of the Norwegian government, as well as that of the United States and NATO, is not “extremist”.


The Berlin Wall — Another Cold War Myth

The Western media will soon be revving up their propaganda motors to solemnize the 50th anniversary of the erecting of the Berlin Wall, August 13, 1961. All the Cold War clichés about The Free World vs. Communist Tyranny will be trotted out and the simple tale of how the wall came to be will be repeated: In 1961, the East Berlin communists built a wall to keep their oppressed citizens from escaping to West Berlin and freedom. Why? Because commies don’t like people to be free, to learn the “truth”. What other reason could there have been?

First of all, before the wall went up thousands of East Germans had been commuting to the West for jobs each day and then returning to the East in the evening; many others went back and forth for shopping or other reasons. So they were clearly not being held in the East against their will. Why then was the wall built? There were two major reasons:

1) The West was bedeviling the East with a vigorous campaign of recruiting East German professionals and skilled workers, who had been educated at the expense of the Communist government. This eventually led to a serious labor and production crisis in the East. As one indication of this, the New York Times reported in 1963: “West Berlin suffered economically from the wall by the loss of about 60,000 skilled workmen who had commuted daily from their homes in East Berlin to their places of work in West Berlin.” 1

In 1999, USA Today reported: “When the Berlin Wall crumbled [1989], East Germans imagined a life of freedom where consumer goods were abundant and hardships would fade. Ten years later, a remarkable 51% say they were happier with communism.” 2 Earlier polls would likely have shown even more than 51% expressing such a sentiment, for in the ten years many of those who remembered life in East Germany with some fondness had passed away; although even 10 years later, in 2009, the Washington Post could report: “Westerners say they are fed up with the tendency of their eastern counterparts to wax nostalgic about communist times.” 3

It was in the post-unification period that a new Russian and eastern Europe proverb was born: “Everything the Communists said about Communism was a lie, but everything they said about capitalism turned out to be the truth.” It should also be noted that the division of Germany into two states in 1949 — setting the stage for 40 years of Cold War hostility — was an American decision, not a Soviet one. 4

2) During the 1950s, American coldwarriors in West Germany instituted a crude campaign of sabotage and subversion against East Germany designed to throw that country’s economic and administrative machinery out of gear. The CIA and other US intelligence and military services recruited, equipped, trained and financed German activist groups and individuals, of West and East, to carry out actions which ran the spectrum from juvenile delinquency to terrorism; anything to make life difficult for the East German people and weaken their support of the government; anything to make the commies look bad.

It was a remarkable undertaking. The United States and its agents used explosives, arson, short circuiting, and other methods to damage power stations, shipyards, canals, docks, public buildings, gas stations, public transportation, bridges, etc; they derailed freight trains, seriously injuring workers; burned 12 cars of a freight train and destroyed air pressure hoses of others; used acids to damage vital factory machinery; put sand in the turbine of a factory, bringing it to a standstill; set fire to a tile-producing factory; promoted work slow-downs in factories; killed 7,000 cows of a co-operative dairy through poisoning; added soap to powdered milk destined for East German schools; were in possession, when arrested, of a large quantity of the poison cantharidin with which it was planned to produce poisoned cigarettes to kill leading East Germans; set off stink bombs to disrupt political meetings; attempted to disrupt the World Youth Festival in East Berlin by sending out forged invitations, false promises of free bed and board, false notices of cancellations, etc.; carried out attacks on participants with explosives, firebombs, and tire-puncturing equipment; forged and distributed large quantities of food ration cards to cause confusion, shortages and resentment; sent out forged tax notices and other government directives and documents to foster disorganization and inefficiency within industry and unions … all this and much more. 5

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, of Washington, DC, conservative coldwarriors, in one of their Cold War International History Project Working Papers (#58, p.9) states: “The open border in Berlin exposed the GDR [East Germany] to massive espionage and subversion and, as the two documents in the appendices show, its closure gave the Communist state greater security.”

Throughout the 1950s, the East Germans and the Soviet Union repeatedly lodged complaints with the Soviets’ erstwhile allies in the West and with the United Nations about specific sabotage and espionage activities and called for the closure of the offices in West Germany they claimed were responsible, and for which they provided names and addresses. Their complaints fell on deaf ears. Inevitably, the East Germans began to tighten up entry into the country from the West, leading eventually to the infamous Wall. However, even after the wall was built there was regular, albeit limited, legal emigration from east to west. In 1984, for example, East Germany allowed 40,000 people to leave. In 1985, East German newspapers claimed that more than 20,000 former citizens who had settled in the West wanted to return home after becoming disillusioned with the capitalist system. The West German government said that 14,300 East Germans had gone back over the previous 10 years. 6

Let’s also not forget that Eastern Europe became communist because Hitler, with the approval of the West, used it as a highway to reach the Soviet Union to wipe out Bolshevism forever, and that the Russians in World War I and II, lost about 40 million people because the West had used this highway to invade Russia. It should not be surprising that after World War II the Soviet Union was determined to close down the highway.


We came, we saw, we destroyed, we forgot

An updated summary of the charming record of US foreign policy. Since the end of the Second World War, the United States of America has …

  1. Attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, most of which were democratically-elected. 7
  2. Attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 countries. 8
  3. Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries. 9
  4. Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries. 10
  5. Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders. 11

In total: Since 1945, the United States has carried out one or more of the above actions, on one or more occasions, in the following 69 countries (more than one-third of the countries of the world):


  • Afghanistan
  • Albania
  • Algeria
  • Angola
  • Australia
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia
  • Brazil
  • British Guiana (now Guyana)
  • Bulgaria
  • Cambodia
  • Chad
  • Chile
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Congo (also as Zaire)
  • Costa Rica
  • Cuba
  • Dominican Republic
  • East Timor
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • El Salvador
  • Fiji
  • France
  • Germany (plus East Germany)
  • Ghana
  • Greece
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Italy
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Kuwait
  • Laos
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Mongolia
  • Morocco
  • Nepal
  • Nicaragua
  • North Korea
  • Pakistan
  • Palestine
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Portugal
  • Russia
  • Seychelles
  • Slovakia
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • Soviet Union
  • Sudan
  • Suriname
  • Syria
  • Thailand
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela
  • Vietnam (plus North Vietnam)
  • Yemen (plus South Yemen)
  • Yugoslavia

(See a world map of US interventions.)


The occult world of economics

When you read about economic issues in the news, like the crisis in Greece or the Wall Street/banking mortgage shambles are you sometimes left befuddled by the seeming complexity, which no one appears able to untangle or explain to your satisfaction in simple English? Well, I certainly can’t explain it all myself, but I do know that the problem is not necessarily that you and I are economic illiterates. The problem is often that the “experts” discuss these issues as if we’re dealing with hard and fast rules or laws, not to be violated, scientifically based, mathematically sound and rational; when, in fact, a great deal of what takes place in the real world of economics and in the arena of “expert” analysis of that world, is based significantly on partisan party politics, ideology, news headlines, speculation, manipulation, psychology (see the utter meaninglessness and absurdity of the daily rise or fall of stock prices), backroom deals of the powerful, and the excessive power given to and reliance upon thoroughly corrupt credit-rating agencies and insurers of various kinds. The agencies like Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s are protection rackets — pay our exorbitant fees or we give you a bad rating, which investors and governments then bow down to as if it’s the result of completely objective and impressive analytical study.

Then there’s the exceptions made for powerful countries to get away with things that lesser countries, like Greece, are not allowed to get away with, but all still explained in terms of the unforgiving laws of economics.

And when all other explanations fail to sound plausible, the experts fall back on “the law of supply and demand”. But that law was repealed years ago; just try and explain the cost of gasoline based on it, as but one example.

So there’s a lot to cover up, many reasons why the financial-world players can’t be as open as they should be, as forthright as the public and investors may assume they are.

Consider the US budget deficit, about which we hear a great deal of scare talk. What we don’t hear is that the most prosperous period in American history occurred in the decades following the Second World War — from 1946 to 1973. And guess what? We had a budget deficit in the large majority of those years. Clearly such a deficit was not an impediment to growth and increasing prosperity in the United States — a prosperity much more widely shared than it is now. Yet we’re often fed the idea of the sanctity of a balanced budget. This and other “crises” are typically overblown for political reasons; the current “crisis” about the debt ceiling for example. Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan, now an independent columnist, points out that “regardless of whether the debt ceiling is raised the US government is not going to go out of business. … If Goldman Sachs is too big to fail, certainly, the US government is.”

In economic issues that occupy the media greatly, such as the debt ceiling, one of the hidden keys to understanding what’s going on is often the conservatives’ perennial hunger to privatize Social Security and Medicare. If you understand that, certain things become much clearer. Naomi Klein points out that “the pseudo debate about the debt ceiling … is naked class war, waged by the ultra rich against everyone else, and it’s well past time for Americans to draw the line.”

Consider, too, the relative value of international currencies. Logically, reasonably, if the British pound is exchangeable for two dollars, one should be able to purchase in Washington goods and services for two dollars which would cost one pound in London. In real life, this of course is the very infrequent exception to the rule. Instead, at places called “exchanges” in New York and Chicago and London and Zurich and Frankfurt a bunch of guys who don’t do anything socially useful get together each day in a large room, and amidst lots of raised voices, busy computers, and numerous pieces of paper, they arrive at a value for the pound, as well as for a barrel of oil, for a pound of porkbellies, and for various other commodities that affect our daily lives. Why should these speculators and parasites have so much influence over the real world, the real economy, and our real lives?

As a general rule of thumb, comrades, as an all-purpose solution to our economic ills, remember this: We’ll keep going around in crisis circles forever until the large financial institutions are nationalized or otherwise placed under democratic control. We hear a lot about “austerity”. Well, austerity has to, finally, visit the super-rich. There are millions (sic) of millionaires and billionaires in the United States and Europe. As governments go bust, the trillions of dollars of these people must be heavily taxed or confiscated to end the unending suffering of the other 95% of humanity. My god, do I sound like a (choke, gasp) socialist?


Notes

  1. New York Times, June 27, 1963, p.12
  2. USA Today, October 11, 1999, p.1
  3. Washington Post, May 12, 2009; see a similar story November 5, 2009
  4. Carolyn Eisenberg, Drawing the Line: The American Decision to Divide Germany, 1944-1949 (1996); or see a concise review of this book by Kai Bird in The Nation, December 16, 1996
  5. See William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, p.400, note 8, for a list of sources for the details of the sabotage and subversion.
  6. The Guardian (London), March 7, 1985
  7. http://killinghope.org/essays6/othrow.htm
  8. http://killinghope.org/bblum6/suppress.html
  9. See chapter 18 of Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower – add Palestine, 2006 to the list
  10. http://killinghope.org/superogue/bomb.htm
  11. http://killinghope.org/bblum6/assass.htm

William Blum is the author of:

  • Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
  • Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
  • West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
  • Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

 

Anti-Empire Report, July 1, 2011

The Anti-Empire Report


Libya: Unending American hostility

If I could publicly ask our beloved president one question, it would be this: “Mr. President, in your short time in office you’ve waged war against six countries — Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya. This makes me wonder something. With all due respect: What is wrong with you?”

The American media has done its best to dismiss or ignore Libyan charges that NATO/US missiles have been killing civilians (the people they’re supposedly protecting), at least up until the recent bombing “error” that was too blatant to be covered up. But who in the mainstream media has questioned the NATO/US charges that Libya was targeting and “massacring” Libyan civilians a few months ago, which, we’ve been told, is the reason for the Western powers attacks? Don’t look to Al Jazeera for such questioning. The government of Qatar, which owns the station, has a deep-seated animosity toward Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and was itself a leading purveyor of the Libyan “massacre” stories, as well as playing a military role in the war against Tripoli. Al Jazeera’s reporting on the subject has been so disgraceful I’ve stopped looking at the station.

Alain Juppé, Foreign Minister of France, which has been the leading force behind the attacks on Libya, spoke at the Brookings Institution in Washington on June 7. After his talk he was asked a question from the audience by local activist Ken Meyercord:


“An American observer of events in Libya has commented: ‘The evidence was not persuasive that a large-scale massacre or genocide was either likely or imminent.’ That comment was made by Richard Haass, President of our Council on Foreign Relations. If Mr. Haass is right, and he’s a fairly knowledgeable fellow, then what NATO has done in Libya is attack a country that wasn’t threatening anyone; in other words, aggression. Are you at all concerned that as NATO deals more and more death and destruction on the people of Libya that the International Criminal Court may decide that you and your friends in the Naked Aggression Treaty Organization should be prosecuted rather than Mr. Gaddafi?”

Monsieur Juppé then stated, without attribution, somebody’s estimate that 15,000 Libyan civilians had been killed by pro-Gaddafi forces. To which Mr. Meyercord replied: “So where are the 15,000 bodies?” M. Juppé failed to respond to this, although in the tumult caused bt the first question, it was not certain that he had heard the second one. (For a counter-view of the Libyan “massacre” stories, see this video.)

It should be noted that, as of June 30, NATO had flown 13,184 air missions (sorties) over Libya, 4,963 of which are described as strike sorties. You can find the latest figures on the Allied Command Operations website.

If any foreign power fired missiles at the United States would Barack Obama regard that as an act of war? If the US firing hundreds of missiles at Libya is not an act of war, as Obama insists (to avoid having to declare war as required by US law), then the deaths resulting from the missile attacks are murder. That’s it. It’s either war or murder. To the extent there’s a difference between the two.

It should be further noted that since Gaddafi came to power in 1969 there has virtually never been a sustained period when the United States has been prepared to treat him and the many positive changes he’s instituted in Libya and Africa with any respect. For a history of this hostility, including the continual lies and scare campaigns, see my Libya chapter in Killing Hope.


America and its perpetual quest for love


Why can’t we “get some of the people in these downtrodden countries to like us instead of hating us.”

– President Dwight D.Eisenhower, in a March,1953 National Security Council Meeting 1

The United States is still wondering, and is no closer to an understanding than Good Ol’ Ike was almost 60 years ago. American leaders still believe what Frances Fitzgerald observed in her study of American history textbooks: “According to these books, the United States had been a kind of Salvation Army to the rest of the world: throughout history, it had done little but dispense benefits to poor, ignorant, and diseased countries. … the United States always acted in a disinterested fashion, always from the highest of motives; it gave, never took.” 2

In 2007 I wrote in this report about the US military in Iraq:


I almost feel sorry for them. They’re “can-do” Americans, accustomed to getting their way, accustomed to thinking of themselves as the best, and they’re frustrated as hell, unable to figure out “why they hate us”, why we can’t win them over, why we can’t at least wipe them out. Don’t they want freedom and democracy? … They’re can-do Americans, using good ol’ American know-how and Madison Avenue savvy, sales campaigns, public relations, advertising, selling the US brand, just like they do it back home; employing psychologists and anthropologists … and nothing helps. And how can it if the product you’re selling is toxic, inherently, from birth, if you’re totally ruining your customers’ lives, with no regard for any kind of law or morality, health or environment. They’re can-do Americans, accustomed to playing by the rules — theirs; and they’re frustrated as hell.

Here now the Google Cavalry rides up on its silver horse. Through its think tank, Google Ideas (or “think/do tank”), the company paid for 80 former Muslim extremists, neo-Nazis, U.S. gang members and other former radicals to gather in Dublin June 26-28 (“Summit Against Violent Extremism”, or SAVE) to explore how technology can play a role in “de-radicalization” efforts around the globe. Now is that not Can-do ambitious?

The “formers,” as they have been dubbed by Google, will be surrounded by 120 thinkers, activists, philanthropists and business leaders. The goal is to dissect the question of what draws some people, particularly young people, to extremist movements and why some of them leave.

The person in charge of this project is Jared Cohen, who spent four years on the State Department’s Policy Planning staff, and is soon to be an adjunct fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), focusing on counter-radicalization, innovation, technology, and statecraft. 3

So … it’s “violent extremism” that’s the big mystery, the target for all these intellectuals to figure out. … Why does violent extremism attract so many young people all over the world? Or, of more importance probably to the State Department and CFR types: Why do violent extremists single out the United States as their target of choice?

Readers of this report do not need to be enlightened as to the latter question. There is simply an abundance of terrible things US foreign policy has done in every corner of the world. As to what attracts young people to violent extremism, consider this: What makes a million young Americans willing to travel to places like Afghanistan and Iraq to risk their life and limbs to kill other young people, who have never done them any harm, and to commit unspeakable atrocities and tortures?

Is this not extreme behavior? Can these young Americans not be called “extremists” or “radicals”? Are they not violent? Do the Google experts understand their behavior? If not, how will they ever understand the foreign Muslim extremists? Are the experts prepared to examine the underlying phenomenon — the deep-seated belief in “American exceptionalism” drilled into every cell and nerve ganglion of American consciousness from pre-kindergarten on? Do the esteemed experts then have to wonder about those who believe in “Muslim exceptionalism”?


This just in! American leaders do have feelings!

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s criticism of US and NATO forces in his country grows more angry and confrontational with each passing week. Recently, US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry was moved to reply to him: “When Americans, who are serving in your country at great cost — in terms of lives and treasure — hear themselves compared with occupiers, told that they are only here to advance their own interest, and likened to the brutal enemies of the Afghan people … they are filled with confusion and grow weary of our effort here. … We begin to lose our inspiration to carry on.”

That certainly may apply to many of the soldiers in the field. But oh, if only American military and political leaders could really be so offended and insulted by what’s said about them and their many wars.

Eikenberry — who has served in Afghanistan a total of five years as a senior US Army general and then as ambassador — warned that if Afghan leaders reach the point where they “believe that we are doing more harm than good,” then Americans may “reach a point that we feel our soldiers and civilians are being asked to sacrifice without a just cause,” and “the American people will ask for our forces to come home.”

Well, if Eikenberry is really interested, a June 8 BBC World News America/Harris Poll found that 52% of Americans believe that the United States should move to get its troops out of Afghanistan “now”, with only 35% believing that the troops should stay; while a Pew Research Center poll of mid-June showed 56% of Americans favor an “immediate” pullout.

“America has never sought to occupy any nation in the world,” the ambassador continued. “We are a good people.” 4

How nice. Reminds me of US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, after the 1999 78-day bombing of the helpless people of the former Yugoslavia, a war crime largely instigated by herself, when she declared: “The United States is good. We try to do our best everywhere.” 5

Do these grownups really believe what comes out of their mouths? Does Mr. Eikenberry actually think that “America has never sought to occupy any nation in the world”? Sixty-six years after World War II ended, the United States still has major bases in Germany and Japan; 58 years after the end of the Korean War, tens of thousands of American armed forces continue to be stationed in South Korea; for over a century, the United States has occupied Guantanamo Bay in Cuba against the fervent wishes of the Cuban people. And what other term shall we use to describe the American presence in Iraq for more than eight years? And Afghanistan for almost ten?

George W. Bush had no doubt: The Iraqis are “not happy they’re occupied,” he said. “I wouldn’t be happy if I were occupied either.” 6

However, the current Republican leader in the House, John Boehner appears to be a true believer. “The United States has never proposed establishing a permanent base in Iraq or anywhere else,” he affirmed a few years ago. 7

If 18th century Americans could resent occupation by the British, when many of the Americans were British themselves, then how much easier to understand the resentment of Iraqis and Afghans toward foreign occupiers.


An excerpt from William Blum’s memoir of the 1960s-1970s: West-Bloc Dissident

What our natural enemies didn’t do to us, we naturally did to ourselves, as did many of the other underground newspapers and movement groups in the ’60s: disagreements developed, factions formed, and, eventually, a split that rent the organization hopelessly in two — the left’s traditional circular firing squad.

Putting it in the broadest terms, there were two species of activists in these large dysfunctional families who kept bumping heads, here, there, and everywhere. We can call them the “politicos” and the “yippies” (subspecies: hippies, anarchists).

The politicos placed their faith in organization and in the intellect — a mass movement, “vanguard” political parties, hierarchies and leaders, heavy on meetings, ideology, and tracts, at times doctrinaire sounding, using words and ideas to convince the great middle class, if not the great unwashed. There were theories to justify these tactics, theories based on class analysis, presented with historical annotation to certify their viability; theories that Norman Mailer disparagingly referred to as “the sound-as-brickwork-logic-of-the-next-step in some hard new Left program.”

The yippies looked upon all this with unconcealed impatience, scorn, and unbelief. Said a yippie to a politico back then: your protest is so narrow, your rhetoric so boring, your ideological power plays so old fashioned …

Let’s listen to Jerry Rubin, certainly the yippies’ most articulate spokesperson:


The long-haired beast, smoking pot, evading the draft, and stopping traffic during demonstrations is a hell of a more a threat to the system than the so-called “politicos” with their leaflets of support for the Vietcong and the coming working class revolution. Politics is how you live your life, not whom you vote for or whom you support.

The most important political conflict in the United States for Rubin was not of classes, but “the generational conflict”. “The respectable middle-class debates LBJ while we try to pull down his pants.”


Is [American society] interested in reform, or is it just interested in eliminating nuisance? What’s needed is a new generation of nuisances. A new generation of people who are freaky, crazy, irrational, sexy, angry, irreligious, childish, and mad … people who burn draft cards, people who burn dollar bills, people who burn MA and doctoral degrees, people who say: “To hell with your goals”, people who proudly carry Vietcong flags, people who re-define reality, who re-define the norm, people who see property as theft, people who say “fuck” on television, people who break with the status-role-title-consumer game, people who have nothing material to lose but their bodies … What the socialists like the SWP and the Communist Party, with their conversions of Marxism into a natural science, fail to understand is that language does not radicalize people — what changes people is the emotional involvement of action.

Hardly anyone, of course, fit precisely and solely into either of these classifications, including Jerry Rubin. Much of the yippie “party line” was to be taken metaphorically, unless one’s alienation had reached the level of an alien, while most politicos were independent of any political party.

Ray Mungo, one of the founders of Liberation News Service, later wrote of LNS:


It is impossible for me to describe our “ideology,” for we simply didn’t have one; we never subscribed to a code of conduct or a clearly conceptualized Ideal Society … And it was the introduction of formal ideology into the group which eventually destroyed it, or more properly split it into bitterly warring camps.

When Mungo speaks of “formal ideology”, he’s referring to the “politicos” who joined LNS after its inception. These people, whom he refers to as “the Vulgar Marxists”, as opposed to his own “anarchist” camp …


believed fervently in “the revolution”, and were working toward it — a revolution based on Marx and Lenin and Cuba and SDS and “the struggle”; and people were supported only on the basis of what they were worth to the revolution; and most of the things in life which were purely enjoyable were bourgeois comforts irrelevant to the news service, although not absolutely barred. … Their method of running the news service was the Meeting and the Vote, ours was Magic. We lived on Magic, and still do, and I have to say it beats anything systematic.”

Mungo would have one believe that ideology is a “thing” introduced from the “outside”, like tuberculosis, that is best to avoid. I would argue, however, that “ideology” is nothing less than a system of ideas in one’s head, whether consciously organized or not, that attempts to answer the questions: Why is the world the way it is? Why is society the way it is? Why are people the way they are? And what can be done to change any of this? To say you have no ideology comes dangerously close to saying that you have no opinions on — and perhaps no interest in — such questions. Ray Mungo, I believe, was overreacting to people whom he saw as too systematic and who didn’t appreciate his “Magic”.

Just as I knew instinctively that I wasn’t a Quaker or a pacifist, I knew I wasn’t a yippie, hippie or anarchist, which didn’t mean that I couldn’t enjoy and even take part in some of their antics. Jerry Rubin was mistaken in my case, as in many others — language, spoken and print, had played a major role in my radicalization; equally indispensable had been the sad state of the world, but it was language which had illuminated and brought home to me the sad state of the world and proffered explanations for why it was the way it was.

During the American Revolution, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, which sold hundreds of thousands of copies in the first few months of 1776, used language suffused with both reason and emotion to argue powerfully the case for independence, to strike convincingly at one of the greatest obstacles to separation: American veneration of royalty; and to point out that beyond the politics and legalities of the conflict, the colonies were sources of profit the crown would never voluntarily relinquish. This message clarified the revolution for thousands of confused rebels who had been debating points of law with London. Imagine if Paine had been a yippie instead of a politico — his primary message might have been to pull down the king’s pants.

It was the movement’s politicos who stayed the course, continuing to be activists well past the ’60s, while Rubin’s long-haired beast and Mungo’s Magic people — lacking the convictions of their courage — could more likely be found in the ’70s sitting cross-legged at the feet of the newest-flavor guru, probing interpersonal relations instead of international relations, or seeking fulfillment through vegetarianism, “the land”, or Rolfing. By the ’80s they had evolved into yuppies.


Notes

  1. New York Times, August 10, 2003 
  2. Frances Fitzgerald, America Revised (1980), pp.129, 139 
  3. Foreign Policy, “State Department Innovator Goes to Google“, September 7 2010; Washington Post, June 24, 2011 
  4. Washington Post, June 19, 2011
  5. Washington Post, October 23, 1999 
  6. Washington Post, April 14, 2004 
  7. United Press International, July 26, 2007 

William Blum is the author of:

  • Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
  • Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
  • West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
  • Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

 

Anti-Empire Report, June 2, 2011

The Anti-Empire Report

June 2nd, 2011
by William Blum
www.killinghope.org

God Bless America. And its Bombs.

When they bombed Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, El Salvador and Nicaragua I said nothing because I wasn’t a communist.

When they bombed China, Guatemala, Indonesia, Cuba, and the Congo I said nothing because I didn’t know about it.

When they bombed Lebanon and Grenada I said nothing because I didn’t understand it.

When they bombed Panama I said nothing because I wasn’t a drug dealer.

When they bombed Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen I said nothing because I wasn’t a terrorist.

When they bombed Yugoslavia and Libya for “humanitarian” reasons I said nothing because it sounded so honorable.

Then they bombed my house and there was no one left to speak out for me. But it didn’t really matter. I was dead. 1

The Targets

It’s become a commonplace to accuse the United States of choosing as its bombing targets only people of color, those of the Third World, or Muslims. But it must be remembered that one of the most sustained and ferocious American bombing campaigns of modern times — 78 consecutive days — was carried out against the people of the former Yugoslavia: white, European, Christians. The United States is an equal-opportunity bomber. The only qualifications for a country to become a target are: (A) It poses an obstacle — could be anything — to the desires of the American Empire; (B) It is virtually defenseless against aerial attack.

The survivors

“We never see the smoke and the fire, we never smell the blood, we never see the terror in the eyes of the children, whose nightmares will now feature screaming missiles from unseen terrorists, known only as Americans.” 2

NASA has announced an audacious new mission, launching a spaceship that will travel for four years to land on an asteroid, where it will collect dust from the surface and deliver the precious cargo to Earth, where scientists will then examine the material for clues to how life began. Truly the stuff of science fiction. However, I personally would regard it as a much greater accomplishment of humankind if we could put an end to America’s bombings and all its wars, and teach some humility to The Holy Triumvirate — The United States, the European Union and NATO — who recognizes no higher power and believe they literally can do whatever they want in the world, to whomever they want, for as long as they want, and call it whatever they want, like “humanitarian.”

The fall of the American Empire would offer a new beginning for the long-suffering American people and the long-suffering world.

Why is the United States waging perpetual war against the Cuban people’s health system?

In January the government of the United States of America saw fit to seize $4.207 million in funds allocated to Cuba by the United Nations Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for the first quarter of 2011, Cuba has charged. The UN Fund is a $22 billion a year program that works to combat the three deadly pandemics in 150 countries. 3

“This mean-spirited policy,” the Cuban government said, “aims to undermine the quality of service provided to the Cuban population and to obstruct the provision of medical assistance in over 100 countries by 40,000 Cuban health workers.” Most of the funds are used to import expensive AIDS medication to Cuba, where antiretroviral treatment is provided free of charge to some 5,000 HIV patients. 4

The United States sees the Cuban health system and Havana’s sharing of such as a means of Cuba winning friends and allies in the Third World, particularly Latin America; a situation sharply in conflict with long-standing US policy to isolate Cuba. The United States in recent years has attempted to counter the Cuban international success by dispatching the US Naval Ship “Comfort” to the region. With 12 operating rooms and a 1,000-bed hospital, the converted oil tanker has performed hundreds of thousands of free surgeries in places such as Belize, Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Nicaragua and Haiti.

However, the Comfort’s port calls likely will not substantially enhance America’s influence in the hemisphere. “It’s hard for the U.S. to compete with Cuba and Venezuela in this way,” said Peter Hakim, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a pro-US policy-research group in Washington. “It makes us look like we’re trying to imitate them. Cuba’s doctors aren’t docked at port for a couple days, but are in the country for years.” 5

The recent disclosure by Wikileaks of US State Department documents included this little item: A cable was sent by Michael Parmly from the US Interests Section in Havana in July 2006, during the runup to the Non-Aligned Movement conference. He notes that he is actively looking for “human interest stories and other news that shatters the myth of Cuban medical prowess”.

Michael Moore refers to another Wikileaks State Department cable: “On January 31, 2008, a State Department official stationed in Havana took a made-up story and sent it back to his headquarters in Washington. Here’s what they came up with: [The official] stated that Cuban authorities have banned Michael Moore’s documentary, ‘Sicko,’ as being subversive. Although the film’s intent is to discredit the U.S. healthcare system by highlighting the excellence of the Cuban system, the official said the regime knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them.” Moore points out an Associated Press story of June 16, 2007 (seven months prior to the cable) with the headline: “Cuban health minister says Moore’s ‘Sicko’ shows ‘human values’ of communist system.”

Moore adds that the people of Cuba were shown the film on national television on April 25, 2008. “The Cubans embraced the film so much it became one of those rare American movies that received a theatrical distribution in Cuba. I personally ensured that a 35mm print got to the Film Institute in Havana. Screenings of Sicko were set up in towns all across the country.” 6

The United States also bans the sale to Cuba of vital medical drugs and devices, such as the inhalant agent Sevoflurane which has become the pharmaceutical of excellence for applying general anesthesia to children; and the pharmaceutical Dexmetomidine, of particular usefulness in elderly patients who often must be subjected to extended surgical procedures. Both of these are produced by the US firm Abbot Laboratories.

Cuban children suffering from lymphoblastic leukemia cannot use Erwinia L-asparaginasa, a medicine commercially known as Elspar, since the US pharmaceutical company Merck and Co. refuses to sell this product to Cuba. Washington has also prohibited the US-based Pastors for Peace Caravan from donating three Ford ambulances to Cuba.

Cubans are moreover upset by the denial of visas requested to attend conferences in the field of Anesthesiology and Reanimation that take place in the United States. This creates further barriers for Cuba’s anesthesiologists to update themselves on state of the art anesthesiology, the care of severely ill patients, and the advances achieved in the treatment of pain.

Some of the foregoing are but a small sample of American warfare against the Cuban medical system presented in a Cuban report to the United Nations General Assembly on October 28, 2009.

Finally, we have the Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) immigration program, which encourages Cuban doctors who are serving their government overseas to defect and enter the US immediately as refugees. The Wall Street Journal reported in January of this year that through Dec. 16, 2010, CMPP visas had been issued by US consulates in 65 countries to 1,574 Cuban doctors whose education had been paid for by the financially-struggling Cuban government. 7 This program, oddly enough, was initiated by the US Department of Homeland Security. Another victory over terrorism? Or socialism? Or same thing?

Wait until the American conservatives hear that Cuba is the only country in Latin America offering abortion on demand, and free.

Items of interest from a journal I’ve kept for 40 years, part IV

  • • “Remember the scene in Battle of Algiers in which, after the French have ‘killed off’ the revolution, mist fills the screen and then, gradually, coming out of the mist, the Algerians appear waving their fists, ululating with that sound both thrilling and frightening? That’s how I see 9/11 for those of us who grew up believing that the US stood for something grand, despite eras such as slavery, indigenous genocide, Jim Crow, etc. Many people say ‘Everything changed on 9/11.’ I think it’s more that ‘Everything became clear, finally, on 9/11.’ The mist cleared away.” — Catherine Podojil
  • • From a reader in Slovakia: I used the word “democracy” and not “capitalism”, because we were told [after the dissolution of the Soviet Union] that democracy was introduced in Slovakia, not capitalism. Everything was done in the name of democracy and not in the name of capitalism.
  • • “If someone other than Stalin had gained ascendancy in the Soviet Union, it is likely that millions of lives would have been spared — but millions of others still would have been caught up in the maw of the state machine, because the system itself was based on violence, repression and lawlessness — all in the name of ‘preserving the Revolution,’ a phrase which served the same function for the Kremlin as ‘national security’ does for the American elite, or the ‘higher law’ of God does for religious extremists of every stripe.” — Chris Floyd
  • • Bill Richardson, as US ambassador to the UN, re the newly-formed International Criminal Court in 1998: The United States should be exempt [from the court’s prosecution] because it has “special global responsibilities”.
  • • Russia might be a target of an American invasion some day because it’s the most powerful geopolitical opponent of the United States, with the power to extinguish the US in 30 minutes. The US might want to control the Russian oil and have complete control of Central Asia. That’s what’s behind the many missile sites the US has been building in Europe, not the stated fear of Iran.
  • • Bolivia has South America’s largest hydrocarbon deposits after Venezuela.
  • • “The notion that we ought to now go to Baghdad and somehow take control of the country strikes me as an extremely serious one, in terms of what we’d have to do when we got there. You’d probably have to put some new government in place. It’s not clear what kind of government that would be, how long you’d have to stay. For the U.S. to get involved militarily in determining the outcome of the struggle over who’s going to govern in Iraq strikes me as the classic definition of a quagmire.” – Dick Cheney, when he was Secretary of Defense in 1991.
  • • When the plans for a new office building for the U.S. military were brought before the Senate on Aug. 14, 1941, Sen. Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan was puzzled. “Unless the war is to be permanent, why must we have permanent accommodations for war facilities of such size?” he asked. “Or is the war to be permanent?” (Steve Vogel, “The Pentagon: A History” (2007) p.84)
  • • The combination of free trade and heavy US subsidies to American businesses has crippled the Mexican agricultural sector, causing impoverished former subsistence farmers to immigrate to the US by any means necessary. Conservative policies of supporting free trade while restricting immigration are inherently incompatible.
  • • The head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the first US occupation administration of Iraq in 2003, Paul Bremer, made free enterprise a guiding rule, shutting down 192 state-owned businesses where the World Bank estimated 500,000 people were working. (UPI, July 25, 2007)
  • • If an individual were behaving as Israel does as a country, that person would be removed to an institution for the criminally insane and subjected to intense drug therapy and a lobotomy. The person might find the guy next door to be named America.
  • • The United States threatens other states sufficient to cause those states to engage in defensive responses in order to exploit these to justify increasing “defense” expenditures.
  • • Bush, Obama and Western Europe have used criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarianism as a way of showing their publics how they allegedly stand up for democracy.
  • • US right-wingers have a desire to replace our constitutional form of government with an authoritarian theocracy, and to (militarily) spread that theocratic construct around the world. (Ironically, the exact same objective fundamentalist Muslims have!) — Kerry Thomasi, Online Journal
  • • “Behind the ‘unexamined nostalgia for the “Golden Days” of American intelligence’ lay a much more devastating truth: the same people who read Dante and went to Yale and were educated in civic virtue recruited Nazis, manipulated the outcome of democratic elections, gave LSD to unwitting subjects, opened the mail of thousands of American citizens, overthrew governments, supported dictatorships, plotted assassinations, and engineered the Bay of Pigs disaster. ‘In the name of what?’ asked one critic. ‘Not civic virtue, but empire’.” — Frances Stonor Saunders, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters (1999)
  • • … a more just world, a deeper democracy and a liveable planet …
  • • “Colin Powell’s presentation at the UN, February 5, 2003 seems like something out of Monty Python, with one key British report cited by Powell being nothing more than a student’s thesis, downloaded from the Web — with the student later threatening to charge U.S. officials with plagiarism.” — Bill Moyers
  • • “Venezuela’s well-off complain endlessly that their economic power has been diminished; it hasn’t; economic growth has never been higher, business has never been better. What the rich no longer own is the government.” – John Pilger

Notes

  1. 1. Full list of US bombings since World War 2
  2. 2. Martin Kelly, publisher of a nonviolence website ↩
  3. 3. Prensa Latina (Cuba), March 12, 2011 ↩
  4. 4. The Militant (US, Socialist Workers Party), April 4, 2011↩
  5. 5. Bloomberg news agency, September 19, 2007 ↩
  6. 6. Huffington Post, December 18, 2010 ↩
  7. 7. Wall Street Journal, “Cuban Doctors Come In From the Cold” (video), January 14 2011 ↩

William Blum is the author of:

  • • Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
  • • Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
  • • West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
  • • Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org