From protests in Chile to a “coup” in Paraguay, the worrying signs come across Latin America that it may have an Arab Spring of its own, but in fact those are the signs of a new form of war waged against the region.
A specter haunts Latin America
Latin America is undergoing increasingly violent turmoil on many fronts. This often makes it difficult to distinguish between spontaneous, bona fide social protest and covert foreign intervention, just as we see today throughout the Arab world.
In spite of Latin America’s decades of experience with foreign-orchestrated military coups, in today’s world the local military are no longer an option. They were necessary proxies acting as local cops for the US during the Cold War, until they became a redundant embarrassment.
So just as the ’60s and ’70s saw a domino effect of “anti-communist military coups” – graciously applauded by the US and UK – the ’80s and ’90s saw a comeback of “democracy”, riding on the wave of “human rights”. In short: military boots were “out”; corrupt controllable “democratic” politicians were “in”.
Nominally “democratic” governments mean local power no longer managed by guns and bayonets but by tons of money. As the Global Power Masters execute a highly complex planet-wide strategic reset, Latin America is ripe for another turn of the screw: a new bout of “Spring” treatment.
It would, however, be a mistake to think this will be a copy of the Arab Spring, because a key factor behind today’s global Machtpolitik lies in understanding prevailing local conditions, which in Latin America are very different from those of the Arab world.
What makes each country tick?
Last year’s lighting of the Arab Spring fuse depended very much on understanding that fact huge sectors of the local populations – particularly the young – were fed up with authoritarian, long-entrenched regimes: whether Mubarak’s 31 years in Egypt, Gaddafi’s 42 years in Libya or the al-Assads’ 40 years in Syria.
But there’s no way this can be done in Latin America, because all governments here are nominally “democratic”, with corrupt politicians taking turns in mismanaging their countries.
On the religious front, Islam demands active militancy from its followers to defend the Faith, so an important dividing line for the Arab Spring is the centuries-old conflict between Shiites and Sunnis, plus the modern struggle between clerical and secular regimes.
Such highly complex issues have thwarted the Muslim world’s ability to unite under one solid and strong leadership, so fundamental to neutralize decades – centuries! – of Western interference and intervention in that region. Divide and conquer has always been imperialism’s leitmotiv.
By playing one side against the other; by appealing to the naïve young yearning for change whose paradigms are (de)formed by Western pop “culture”, last year’s triggering of social and generational conflict was really a “piece of cake”: from Tunisia to Egypt; from Libya to Syria; from Sudan to Iran.
At most, the tricky part was keeping FOW’s (Friends of the West) like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain isolated from this process. The West’s ability to slosh trillions of Petro-Dollars, plus the Western Media’s extreme discretion towards “friendly countries”, the ominous presence of the US Fifth Fleet and a little help from our (Israeli) friends seems to have done the trick. So far, anyway…
Latin America is not at all like this. Not a chance of violently pitting Catholics against Protestants…and since all countries are formally “democratic”, people won’t readily take to the streets to get rid of any authoritarian regimes because, officially, there are none. Maybe a Monsanto-coup in Paraguay or an electoral money-for-your-vote hiccup in Mexico, but the US is too busy looking at Chavez in Venezuela to bother.
Where, then, is the war front in Latin America?
War in ‘Spring’ time
When we talk of war, we normally think in terms of World War II-like invading armies. But war has become far more covert and far less overt. Today, more subtle forms are used like engineering financial or social coups or – as Libya and now Syria learned – engineering civil war.
In traditional war, the focus is on military hardware, strategy and territorial logistics. ‘Spring’ wars, however, are remote-planned, and then deployed inside the target country. First you identify dividing lines in local society: what are people’s grievances, which religious fervors and ethnic hatreds are ripe for stirring.
Then comes PsyWar channeling through NGO’s, local militants and lobbies, opposition politicians, paid journalists and, of course, yours truly “The Embassy”. Throughout Latin America, “la Embajada” is an ominous phrase pointing to US, UK and Israeli embassy meddling.
And if they can’t get their desired “Regime Change”, there’s always “Plan B”: escalate to blatant financing, training and arming of local subversives, terrorists and gangs as in Libya and Syria.
Latin America’s war front
The real war in Latin America, where deadly shots are fired and people get killed and maimed, lies in the increasingly huge gap pitting the rich (small numbers, huge power) against the poor (huge numbers, small power).
Latin America’s war is fought in the “villa miseria” slums of Buenos Aires, Bogotá and México; in the “favelas” of Rio de Janeiro; in the shanty towns of Caracas, Guayaquil and every single city in our region.
The poor are becoming increasingly aware of just how poor they are. In today’s global consumer society the rich slap them on the face through TV, the internet and “entertainment” media. The corporate overworld constantly reminds them of just how wonderful life can be if you’re rich and buy their cars, laptops, cell phones, houses, holiday packages. Too poor to enjoy that? Alas, too bad!
Mass social frustration lies at the root of Latin American war. It branches out into street crime, prostitution, drugs, alcohol, gang warfare, pornography. It physically, intellectually and spiritually annihilates untold millions of people in the streets of Mexico, Brazil, Colombia or Argentina.
In contrast to the Muslim world, where religious fervor keeps the rich-versus-poor divide in check, Latin American Catholic and Protestant churches have lost their social appeal and strength. The spiritual vacuum they left has been filled with greedy striving for material wealth.
Not that this is anything new. The big difference now is the unprecedented technological capability available to trigger and control social wars; escalating them to outright insurrection and civil war when it suits the global power masters’ objectives.
But that works both ways, because that same technology is making people more and more politically aware and active. As Trilateral Commission ideologue and former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski recently lamented, “people’s growing political awareness” is a threat… to the global elites.
The whole world is being pushed into war mode, where every victory or defeat in one region has far-reaching consequences for the rest of the world. We The People suffered defeat in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan. In Syria, Iran and Venezuela, We The People fight ongoing battles.
Given the colossal economic crisis affecting the US, Europe, UK – even Israel – if a “Latin Spring” is unleashed on the Rich-versus-the-Poor Front, then Latin America’s ability to fight back intelligently and effectively could have dramatic and positive global consequences.
Adrian Salbuchi is a political analyst, author, speaker and radio/TV commentator in Argentina.www.asalbuchi.com.ar
Source: Adrian Salbuchi | RT
The EU’s unilateral sanctions come after the United States targeted Iran with a set of sanctions against the country’s Central Bank and a number of individuals and companies and threatened to penalize the foreign firms and banks which have financial transactions with Iranian counterparts.
The sanctions are not unprecedented and unexpected for the Iranians, as the United States began to cut off its economic deals with Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 which toppled the Washington-backed Shah; however, what is new and surprising is that the United States and its European allies are extraordinarily intensifying the sanctions, tightening the noose around the ordinary Iranians who are unquestionably the innocent and silent victims of the West’s vitriolic animosity with Iran.
Perhaps what the majority of people in different countries think about Iran’s nuclear program which is the main cause of the West’s hostility with Iran is inspired by the mainstream media’s coverage of the developments in the country. After the painful 9/11 attacks which was followed by George W. Bush’s initiation of the War on Terror plan, the corporate media began to disseminate and foster anti-Iranian sentiments as part of their agenda for demonizing the Muslims and Muslim-majority countries. Iran was dubbed as one of the elements of the so-called Axis of Evil by President Bush during his 2002 State of the Union address and a venomous media campaign against Iran was set in motion afterwards.
Aggrandizing the shortcomings and internal problems, frequently accusing the country of violating human rights, propagating the idea that Iran has become an isolated and reclusive country and portraying a distorted and falsified image of Iranian people and their lifestyle constituted the core of Western mainstream media’s coverage of Iran over the past years. Such a biased coverage laid the groundwork for the United States and its allies to put an excessive pressure on Iran, work to further isolate the country, adopt crippling sanctions against her and even drum-beat for a possible military invasion with the final objective of a regime change in Tehran.
President Bush and his successor who came to power with the flaunting and pompous slogan of “change” identically pursued a policy of antagonism with Iran and although the latter had vowed to take up reconciliation and détente with Iran, he exactly imitated what his predecessor has done.
On September 30, 2006, the U.S. Congress ratified the Iran Freedom and Support Act which allocated $10 million to anti-Iranian groups both inside and outside the country who were seeking to overthrow the Iranian government.
On May 27, 2007, Daily Telegraph quoted intelligence sources as reporting that President Bush had given the CIA approval to launch covert “black” operations to achieve regime change in Iran. According to the British paper, Bush had signed an official document endorsing CIA plans for a campaign of propaganda and disinformation intended to destabilize and eventually topple the Islamic Republic government.
Bush’s plan also included covert support for notorious terrorist gangs such as Jundallah and MKO which over the past years have carried out several terrorist operations across Iran, claiming the lives of tens of innocent civilians. The main goal of these cults is to sabotage Iran’s security and pave the way for the United States and its allies to invade Iran and implement their perilous plans for the country.
According to an ABC News report published on May 22, 2007, some former officials in the Bush administration who spoke on the condition of anonymity revealed that the U.S. government had designed plans for manipulating the value of Iran’s currency and damaging its international financial transactions.
They also unveiled that the U.S. government which has been involved in several regime change operations in such countries as Syria, Guatemala, Indonesia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Greece, Chile, Argentina, Afghanistan, Turkey, Poland and Nicaragua since the World War I had authorized a $400 million covert operation to create unrest in Iran, especially following the 2009 presidential election in which the defeated candidates claimed that the results had been rigged.
At the same time, however, the leaders of the United States and the European states who imposed upon Iran a set of relentless biting sanctions hypocritically talk of friendship with the Iranian nation and state that they seek rapprochement and camaraderie with Iran.
In his March 2009 videotaped message to the Iranian people on the occasion of Persian New Year (Nowrouz), the U.S. President Obama adored Persian culture, civilization, arts and literature and overtly cajoled Iranians with the aim of persuading them to confide in the United States and its policies vis-à-vis Iran: ” In particular, I would like to speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nowruz is just one part of your great and celebrated culture. Over many centuries your art, your music, literature and innovation have made the world a better and more beautiful place… Here in the United States our own communities have been enhanced by the contributions of Iranian Americans. We know that you are a great civilization, and your accomplishments have earned the respect of the United States and the world.”
Thereafter, he turned to the leaders of Iran to reach out to them directly: “we have serious differences that have grown over time. My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community. This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.”
President Obama appreciated Iranian culture and talked of his commitment to diplomacy and negotiations with Iran; however, by the end of the same year, he authorized the renewal of the long-standing U.S. financial sanctions against Iran, provoking a wave of anger and disappointment among Iranians.
In the following years, President Obama recorded similar videotaped messages on the occasion of Nowrouz, and despite the fact that his tone got unsympathetic over time, he still insisted on his being concerned for the Iranians and their “rights.”
With regards to Iran, the Western politicians, including President Obama, seemingly follow a modus operandi of “divide and rule.” They want to separate the Iranian government and people and pretend that they care for the interests of the Iranians, and at the same time, oppose the policies of the government; a government which they say has long repressed its own people, while the reality proves otherwise.
Now, the gist of Iran-West standoff can be expressed this way: the United States and its allies demand that Iran should give up its nuclear rights and make other concessions. Iran doesn’t accept these demands, calling them illegitimate and beyond its liability. The West doesn’t spare any effort to punish Iran: sanctions, assassination of its nuclear scientists, passing resolutions in the UN Security Council, psychological operations and other punitive measures. Iranians have firmly tolerated the pressures to show that they don’t give in to bullying. The future is unclear and blurred; however, what is certain is that the ones who bear the burden of West’s hostility toward Iran are the ordinary people.
The sanctions have targeted Iran’s medical sector. Aside from the official data which show that many European countries have banned the shipment of different medicines to Iran, my personal observations prove that Iran is direly running out of sensitive medical products, including medicine for psychological patients, those who suffer from various types of cancer, diabetes, hemophilia, thalassemia, multiple sclerosis and heart diseases. I’ve personally encountered patients who needed medicine from countries such as Canada and Belgium, but as a result of the sanctions, they couldn’t find them. Aren’t such diabolical sanctions contrary to the principles of human rights? Why don’t those who preach human rights and democracy take the fact into consideration that banning the export of medicine to a country whose people are in dire need of such products is simply a collective punishment of innocent civilians?
Every year, tens of Iranian citizens are killed in painful air accidents, which is a direct result of the U.S.-engineered sanctions against Iran. According to the U.S. sanctions which were implemented almost 30 years ago, the European aviation companies are not allowed to sell aircrafts to Iran and the aging fleet of Iranian airlines cannot accommodate the growing demand of the people for safe and secure air travels. According to the chancellor of Amir Kabir University of Iran, the country needs at least 600 civilian aircraft, but no country sells Iran such a huge number of aircrafts and the people always travel via Iranian airliners in an atmosphere of trepidation and anxiety.
Overall, what is clear is that the sanctions game started by the U.S. and its European allies has no winner. It simply blackens the image of the Western superpowers in the eye of Iranian people and makes them believe that the United States and its cronies cannot ever be trusted.
During the week of July 1st – 7th an international cabal of corporate lobbyists will be meeting behind closed doors in San Diego. Their aim is moving the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) towards completion. For over two years TPP negotiations have been in process, yet the proposals and agreements made so far have been carefully kept from public view, until recently.
A leaked TPP document, published at Public Citizen, has revealed what the 600 corporate advisers involved in the negotiations, including representatives from Verizon, FedEx, and Walmart, have been up to. Considering the contents of this document, it is no wonder why the public and even elected representatives have been kept in the dark.
Publicly the TPP is being described as a Free Trade Act (FTA). This understates its scope. While the FTAs already in existence have raked in giant profits for the corporate elite, for workers internationally they have resulted in lay offs and a race to the bottom in terms of living conditions and rights. The big business tops have been working hard to enhance the power of their moneymaking weapons of mass destruction. If NAFTA was a hand grenade, the TPP is a bunker buster.
What is perhaps most astonishing about the TPP is its architects’ disregard for the consequences of its destructive potential. Their greed has blinded them to the political instability and popular revolt the consequences of the TPP will create. The corporate elite imagines their rule to be absolute and eternal. Sheltered by these illusions and goaded on by the need to increase their riches regardless of social costs, they are creating a bomb that could blow them up as well.
Currently the countries in on the TPP are the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. These countries alone are a combined market of 658 million people worth $20.5 trillion annually. (1) Canada, Japan, and Mexico are also expected to get on board. The TPP also has built in mechanisms to allow other nations to join after its ratification.
While China could theoretically become a member, there can be little doubt that part of the intention of this pact is for the United States to build a coalition, in which its big business interests dominate, to compete against China’s economic might. This ratcheting up of competition will result in greater political animosity. In turn, these consequences will contribute to a course towards greater conflict, including the possibility of war. This is because international capitalist competition is not determined by gentlemanly agreements, but by the law of the jungle and, frequently, brute force. While it may be a relatively simple matter for the United States to bully its economically weaker TPP partners into line, China is not so easily dominated. Other more crude and costly measures than diplomacy will be required to get the competitive upper hand and the TPP is laying the foundation for this possibility.
What all FTAs share in common, including the TPP, is how they open up doors for multi-national corporations to transfer operations to other nations where labor is cheaper and the profit rate is greater. In the first 10 years of NAFTA this outsourcing resulted in the net loss of 879,280 U.S. jobs. (2) Considering the greater number of countries involved in the TPP, this number of lost jobs will be all the greater.
In addition, for the nations these jobs are outsourced to, the results are even more devastating. The dislocation of local economies by the larger scale corporations moving in also results in greater unemployment. For instance, NAFTA resulted in the loss of 1.3 million Mexican farm jobs as U.S. agribusiness moved in (3), leaving the farmers to toil for a living in the brutal Maquiladoras or move to the U.S. for jobs where they have been persecuted as “illegal” immigrants. Even more damaging was how NAFTA accelerated the privatization of Mexico’s once strong public sector resulting in huge layoffs, wage cuts, and a dramatic drop in the countries unionization rate. Other than for a well-connected few within the developing nations signing onto the TPP, there is nothing to gain and much to lose for these countries’ citizens if this agreement is enacted.
Where the TPP departs from past FTAs is in the range of issues it covers and the degree it flagrantly defies national sovereignty in favor of multi-national corporate interests. Only two of the TPP’s 26 chapters have to do with trade. The rest are focused on new corporate rights, privileges and tools to override local government interests.
Perhaps the most controversial of these tools would be the setting up of a three attorney tribunal, with no checks on conflicts of interest, to judge foreign corporate complaints regarding government regulations in the countries they are setting up operations in. If, for instance, a foreign owned corporation argues it is losing profits because of its host nation’s overtime laws, this tribunal could rule that the country’s taxpayers owe that corporation compensation for this loss. Such costly judgments could result from any regulations including labor law, local environmental standards, financial rules, etc. In short, the TPP’s tribunal would act as the hammer of multi-national corporate interests above the power of the states’ governments they do business in. While, because of their size, U.S. based corporations have the most to gain from this arrangement, it will result in not only a greater deterioration of the living standards of those working in the U.S. but also any semblance of democracy as well.
As negotiated under the Obama administration by U.S. trade representative Ron Kirkland, the TPP is extremist. Public interest and national sovereignty are sacrificed on the altar of a corporate agenda to a degree that it is doubtful a Republican president could get away with. Should it be passed into law, revolts against its effects are likely. This will set into motion events that will not go as planned by the 1% behind the measure.
The time is now to start trying to defeat the TPP. Currently, many of the organizations expressing concerns about it, including the AFL-CIO leadership, are limiting the fightback to pressuring the Obama administration to amend or drop the TPP. It should first be demanded that the agreements and proposals regarding the TPP are open for all to see. The public needs to be educated about its effects. If such efforts are linked to a mass action campaign for jobs – not cuts, it would go a long way towards creating a grass roots political movement that could take on this extremist 1 percent agreement.
Such a movement cannot afford to counter the TPP with an equally reactionary protectionist program. Currently, this is the position put forward by the AFL-CIO leadership and their “buy America made” slogan. At first glance, it appears to be common sense for many rank and file U.S. workers. “If we want to prevent the off shoring of American jobs we should only buy products made at home” goes the reasoning. However, there are several problems with this line that undercut our ability to combat the TPP.
One problem is that there are very few products that are made exclusively in the U.S. The division of labor to produce even most “American made” commodities is international in scale. Otherwise, few if any of the corporations that make them would be able to survive. Therefore, the logic behind this protectionist slogan is utopian, harking back to a long gone time before the economy became such a globally dependent system.
There are other more pernicious consequences to protectionism, however. It fosters jingoistic “America first” attitudes that, as political tensions increase between economically competing nations, can easily be manipulated into support for military adventures that are against the 99% interests. In addition, even if U.S. jobs are being protected by such measures as tariffs against foreign competitors, this, in effect, exports unemployment and divides the working class by nationality. If extremist 1% measures are to be defeated, it can only be done by a political policy that unites the 99% across national boundaries. Protectionism creates just the opposite.
Workers need their own international campaign to fight the TPP. The labor movement in the U.S. could begin by linking up with other union and community groups from the nations signing onto it. An international conference could be set up to share information, assist one another in their efforts to combat the TPP, and plan for joint actions. However, in order for such a conference to not be limited to purely symbolic value, serious efforts must be dedicated towards turning the ideas coming out of it into a physical force through mass organizing.
The passage of NAFTA was a defeat for workers that we are still suffering from in a big way. Labor and its allies were unprepared to effectively fight it, though there were notable solidarity efforts between U.S. and Mexican unions. The stakes are even higher with the TPP. Statesman like appeals to President Clinton by labor to drop or, at least, reform NAFTA did no good. Likewise, similar appeals to President Obama, especially after the passage of the Korean, Colombian, and Panama FTAs, will leave us saddled with the TPP. Workers need leverage to defeat the TPP, and that leverage comes from mass organizing and action.
For further reading check out the leaked document at http://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/tppinvestment.pdf
For “Controversial Trade Pact Text Leaked, Shows U.S. Trade Officials Have Agreed to Terms That Undermine Obama Domestic Agenda go to http://www.citizen.org/documents/release-controversial-trade-pact-text-leaked-06-13.pdf
For Public Interest Analysis of Leaked Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Investment text go to http://www.citizen.org/documents/Leaked-TPP-Investment-Analysis.pdf
1.) Trans-Pacific Partnership decoded: Canada lobbied to be part of trade talks. Now what? By Madhavi Achar-Tom Yew for Business Reporter. http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1214595–trans-pacific-partnership-decoded-canada-lobbied-to-be-part-of-trade-talks-now-what
2.)See “NAFTA – Related Job Losses Have Piled Up Since 1993″ by Robert E. Scott for the Economic Policy Institute.
3.) Disadvantages of NAFTA By Kimberly Amadeo for About.Com US Economy.
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 ofbacillus 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, French Author, 1869-1951
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.
- 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 ↩
- Washington Post, June 12, 2012 ↩
- Beacon Hill Patch (Boston), “MBTA to Spread Dead Bacteria on Red Line in Bio-Terror Test”, May 18, 2012 ↩
- Leonard Cole, Clouds of Secrecy: The Army’s Germ Warfare Tests over Populated Areas (1990), pp.65-9↩
- New York Times, September 19, 1975, p.14 ↩
- “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 ↩
- Senate Hearings, op. cit., p.270 ↩
- Rogue State, op. cit., chapter 14 ↩
- Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2011 ↩
- New York Times, December 27, 1977, p.40 ↩
- Lobster magazine, Hull, UK, #14, November 1987 ↩
- Rogue State, op. cit., pp.199-200 ↩
- Carl Oglesby, Ravens in the Storm: A Personal History of the 1960s Antiwar Movement (2008), passim↩
- Wikipedia entry for Ann Dunham ↩
- George Cotter, “Spies, strings and missionaries”, The Christian Century (Chicago), March 25, 1981, p.321
Some weeks ago, Mexico’s second largest city was hit by over a dozen narco-blockades. Narcotraficantes shut down over a dozen intersections, evacuated citizens from buses and burned the empty vehicles (one bus driver didn’t get out in time). Meanwhile, the Mexican military executed a daring raid when they landed on Opus Dei school grounds to capture a head narcotics trafficker holed up in the nearby neighborhood.
The official story is that the narcos were retaliating for the Mexican government capture of one of their head honchos or that they were executing a diversion to allow other cartel members to escape the city.
Ironically, they later posted notes around town asking citizens for their forgiveness. It almost feels like this is Gotham and we’re living in a Batman movie, except, here there is no Dark Knight.
The US Agenda
Before we examine the issue further, it is necessary to state some clear facts:
1) The CIA and other US Government agencies have been caught running drugs into the U.S.
2) The DEA has been caught laundering money for drug cartels from Colombia to Mexico.
3) The ATF and the White House were caught selling tens of thousands of guns directly to Mexican drug cartels.
4) Attorney General Eric Holder has been caught stating that their goals are to demonize gun possession and create an anti-gun culture with the ultimate purpose of disallowing lawful firearm possession.
5) Operations Fast & Furious as well as Gunrunner were attempts at fomenting such an atmosphere.
Mexican Deep Politics
Dr. Peter Dale Scott is one of the preeminent researchers and authors on the topic of “deep politics” and the global drug trade. We had the great opportunity to speak with Dr. Scott for about an hour on these issues.
In his book American War Machine, he painstakingly details the nexus between the various actors. In this instance, these are mainly the US government, Mexican government and narco traffickers as well as middlemen in-between (i.e. the odd Iranian used-car salesman).
In 1947, the same year the CIA was created, the US government helped Mexico create its own agency called the Federal Security Directorate (DFS). The U.S. also assisted other countries in creating their own intelligence agencies (i.e. DINA in Chile, SIN in Haiti, etc.).
The CIA-DFS duo has been running drugs ever since. Indeed, the founder of the agency, Colonel Carlos Serrano had been caught in action. At the time, a State Department report noted the “Gestapo” powers of the DFS and how it was used “to get rid of their competition and control the business.” The main point of the DFS was not to stop the flow of drugs but to manage it and fight the communist left.
The DFS was essentially a CIA asset and many assets on the CIA payroll actually went on to become prominent politicians with at least one of them becoming the president of Mexico. Family members would then be drug trade contacts, such as was the case with Raul Salinas. Essentially, the US government was able to manipulate Mexican politics by proxy via the DFS. In a CIA report, out of six assessed Mexican agencies, despite the DFS having the worst record, the CIA went on to say that they would still work with them because they were the most “competent and capable!”
The CIA-DFS-Cartel Triad
Due to a scandal in 1985, the DFS morphed into CISEN at which time it lost its CIA protection because of the murder of a DEA agent. According to Peter Dale Scott, the institutional arrangements between the triad continued up until at least Ernesto Zedillo’s presidency (1995-2001).
One of the interesting things pointed out in American War Machine is that the agencies have their preferred cartels. The CIA and DFS/CISEN have cartels they are aligned with and make sure to support them against the competition. During the 1990s Salinas presidency, agencies and offices such as the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) were up to 95% under narco control at times.
The global drug trade is a key underlying factor in understanding world events. It has become the blood vessel of the global economy without which the system would collapse. It is what provides liquidity to the banks. It makes all those involved, from Afghanistan and Kosovo to Columbia and Wall Street, wealthy beyond imagination. It feeds the Prison-Industrial Complex with its drug offenders. It feeds the Military-Industrial Complex with the resulting violence and arms sales. It feeds the Pharmaceutical-Industrial Complex with the outlaw of natural medicine.
More importantly, it provides off-the-record cash for funding acts of terror, assassinations and other black operations by governments. Could you imagine the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) reaction assessing the receipts detailing how official government funds were used for the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr?
Other examples might include when Nicaraguan Contras were trained in Veracruz, Mexico by CIA/DFS narco assets. Or the case of E. Howard Hunt, who was deeply involved in the drug trade as well as the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Seeing as this is the way the cookie crumbles, I am not a terrible optimist. Decriminalization is the only hope, but there are too many politicians who stand to lose too much (i.e. Hillaryious Clinton). Even the Netherlands is turning back the clock by banning cannabis sales. Only time will tell. In the meantime, keep your noses clean.
Jorge Gato lives in Mexico and is a social sciences educator who is in the trenches daily, warding off severe cases of cognitive dissonance, mass indoctrination and unhealthy reasoning. He writes athttp://dissidentthinker.wordpress.com/.
Source: The Dollar Vigilante
It was not just semantics last week when I America ‘rules’ rather than ‘runs’ Pakistan. The pun was intended: when America frowns we get the runs; when it smiles our evacuations become normal.
America has a very big say in what it considers important, including job appointments from top to lowly ambassadors, intelligence chiefs and restoration of sacked judges. It determines our foreign, defence and economic policies and their managers. We even take directions from US envoys and ambassadors. Disregard America’s will and suffer sanctions to trashing of governments. Don’t believe me? See how Hussain Haqqani was flown out of the coop? Didn’t he meet a US embassy official before leaving? Weren’t it Holbrooke and Clinton who pressured the army chief into getting the judges restored? Did you read Matthew Green’s article in the Financial Times last Thursday entitled: ‘US Monitors Pakistan’s Choice of Spymaster’? If you are as appalled as I am it’s a healthy sign, for to duck the truth means your conscience and self-esteem have died. Tu jhuka jo ghair kay agay, na mun taira na tun.
Our servile position arises primarily from our financial dependence on America. Our attraction to America is in direct correlation to the size of its wallet – like Kunta Kinte just enough to keep us going – just as a person’s eligibility is in direct correlation to the size of their wallets and the marriage’s continuing health to its shrinking or expansion. Happiness lies in perpetually getting America’s handouts, taking more to make usury payments, perpetually increasing our indebtedness and dependence. God remains stranded in rhetoric, the Devil breaks out in a dance and the people take the hindmost.
Can America change our government? Of course it can if it stops serving its purpose. ‘Rogue’ leaders are thrown out after a ‘popular’ uprising or killed. Look what happened to Chile’s Salvador Allende. How many times have they tried to kill Fidel Castro? Look what’s happened in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen and before that to Iraq and Saddam. Sure their rulers were odious tyrants, but that’s none of America’s business. Should we have thrown George W. Bush and his company of mass murderers out to stop their killings and stupidity-driven global economic destruction? America puts most tyrants in place anyhow and throws them out when they become liabilities, whenever possible making it look as they are supporting popular sentiment. When necessary, America also teaches current and future satraps a lesson – Bhutto hanged; Zia killed in a plane crash; Saddam hanged; Gaddafi horribly killed; Mubarak displayed in a cage lying on a stretcher. Doesn’t that cage look incongruous without Bush & Company in it too for crimes against humanity? If NATO warplanes had not bombed and stalled Gaddafi’s convoy he would never have been captured and brutally assassinated by America’s crazed mob. It was no mistake.
Wishful thinking aside, don’t be fooled into believing that America has ‘lost’ because ‘Islamic’ governments are taking power in Arab countries. They are America’s ‘Islamic’ governments, products of its new doctrine: “If you can’t lick ’em, join ‘em” by putting friendly mullahs in place before unfriendly ones get in. This is not unlike America’s earlier doctrine regarding dictators: “We know he’s a son-of-a-bitch but he’s our son-of-a-bitch”. Now its changed to: “We know he’s a wretched mullah but he’s our wretched mullah.” Lump it. Were that life were still so simple. The somnambulant masses are awakening; the workers of the world are uniting and breaking their chains; the ‘wretched of the earth’ are realizing that their wretchedness is not a fate ordained but stolen by man.
If I’m being simplistic it is to help explain the contours of reality. Isn’t America being overly simplistic too, imagining that if it can endlessly go on recasting the world in the image that it thinks will work for it regardless if it doesn’t work for others, all will be well with ‘The World According to America’? This thinking has defaced America’s original ideology rooted in the motto, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” that initially defined it as a great country. It is a motto at once secular and spiritual. Today, that ideology is rooted in hypocrisy and duality: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for America but not necessarily for others. If in their pursuit these ideals are denied to the rest of the world, so be it. The world’s purpose of existence is to enable America to achieve life, liberty and happiness.
To America it means that happiness (which implies life and liberty, without which there can be no happiness) can only be achieved by the pursuit and maximization of profit. This has led to the worst kind of capitalism, neither moral nor immoral but amoral. America that started out with great promise as an icon of freedom began worshiping wealth and the power that derives from it. Money and wealth-creation, once a powerful driving force and something to celebrate, became America’s Golden Calf. That initial morality of shiny eyed, bushy tailed early immigrants was replaced with wealth creation any old how not just at the expense of the world but also at the expense of its own country and people.
Ah! ‘Liberty’. The word gives one goose pimples. It was used in an earlier ideology of freedom from which America’s founding fathers probably took it. That ideology was encapsulated in the motto, Liberté, égalité, fraternité – ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’. Though it finds its origins in the French Revolution, it became the national motto of France after the establishment of the Third Republic at the end of the 19th century. Its authorship is disputed, but Antoine-Francois Momoro, a Parisian printer and herbalist is usually credited with it.
While fraternity means ‘brotherhood’, ‘egalite’ has been translated as ‘equality’, but it is more than that. More accurately, it is ‘egalitarianism’, meaning everyone is equal before the law no matter who they are or what office they hold. Egalitarianism is – or was – one of America’s ideological cornerstones but it lost it at home with first the passing of the Patriot Act and now the National Defence Authorization Act that gives the US military the right to arrest any US citizen indefinitely without charge or trial. Its become a police state. There never was any egalitarianism between states in the pursuit of self-interest, because “there is no morality in relations between states”.
The word ‘liberal’ comes from the word ‘liberty’ or ‘liberation’ – one who is liberated physically, nationally, and most vital, mentally. Give people the space to say and do what they want to so long as they don’t harm others. Many of our liberals lose their liberalism the moment another expresses a contrary point of view – “Humayun Gauhar and people of his ilk should be lined up against a wall and the Stalinist option used” was what one of our more celebrated liberals wrote more than 20 years ago when I first suggested that the presidential system would suit us better. Today, more and more people are talking about it. Had we all been shot no one would have dared utter a word about it again.
Whose fault is it that we are underlings? Not our stars, surely, for our destiny lies not in them but within us. We are to blame. The buck stops with us. We have to get out of mental colonization ourselves. No one will do it for us. Going by the summit between the presidents of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, perhaps our consciences are still not completely dead. I just hope it was not just posturing. You never know given that two of the three leaders are US satraps.
Source: Opinion Maker
Need a last minute gift for your beloved locavore? Several books would make excellent holiday gifts, so this review covers a few of them on the environment, as it relates to local food sovereignty, food security and palate delight. There’s even one for kids, which starts the set:
Avatars of Gaia: Escape from Hazard Hollow
Professor Heart (self-published: 2009, 210 pp.)
Charlotte Purin of Los Angeles decided one of the best ways to save Mother Earth is to get kids involved. So she wrote Avatars of Gaia: Escape from Hazard Hollow for preteens. The tale educates as it entertains, integrating the concepts of sustainability, healthy-eating, and environmental consciousness into a fantasy adventure story.
Because she also wants reach all kids, regardless of financial background, she’s made several youtube videos, (seed saving, read the label/obesity, how to recycle & compost, how to make a solar oven, and one about saving frogs). Colorful, full-page drawings accompany the text, and the book includes a special seed protection pledge, along with a glossary. She also has board games: the E.A.K. (environmentally aware kid) game, and ‘Gimme Green Grub’ game, about what’s healthy food.
Motivated by the privatization of water and seeds, an epidemic of childhood obesity, and rising bankruptcies among farmers, she plans several more books along the Gaia line, getting feedback as she tours schools, appearing as Professor Heart.
Life Rules: Why so much is going wrong everywhere at once and how Life teaches us to fix it
Ellen LaConte (self-published: 2010, 283 pp.)
LaConte provides a fresh take on ecosystem collapse, hierarchical culture, and the global capitalist industrial economy, analogizing them with AIDS. By following the evolution of life, LaConte shows how human “civilization” will always self-destruct, because it thrives on dominance and environmental exploitation. She provides a detailed comparison of nature to human societies, pointing out that in mature ecosystems there is no dominant species – everything is in balance.
She also contrasts her vision of a sustainable society with “civilization” that thrives on exploitation, domination and wealth concentration. Citing Derrick Jensen (Endgame) and Michael Ruppert (Confronting Collapse), she agrees that Power won’t voluntarily change, pointing out that the World Trade Organization has never once decided in favor of the environment. “The best we’ve done,” she writes, “is to flatten they pyramid” of power. Now is the time to challenge its existence, she says.
More than a third of the book lays out the plan for moving into sustainable human societies. All of the ideas are already being tried somewhere – like permaculture, slow money, slow food, and local organic democracy – going from competition and partisanship to participation and partnership. And this section is what makes the book ideal: all the best ideas are collected, and all of them are underscored by her theme of humanity living in accord with natural law, or Life Rules.
Here’s another delightful read in the eco-genre, although the serious business of climate change – wrought via whatever means – forms the basis for their culinary ecotours spanning the Western Hemisphere. A chef, a chili agroecologist and an ethnobotanist traveled to Mexico, Florida, Cajun Country, the Yucatan, New Mexico and even New England talking with chili pepper farmers about the history of their crops, the weather and the development of “rapid adaptation” farming.
The authors report that aberrant weather is only one problem threatening the diversity of peppers (and all foods): water disputes, agricultural industrialization, globalization, loss of farmland and of specialty markets, and genetic modification. “The Seed Savers Exchange has documented that more than 200 varieties of sweet and hot peppers have disappeared from the seed trade in North America since 1981.”
Interspersed throughout the story of how an unstable climate affects these crops – sometimes beneficially, sometimes disastrously – are recipes that include one variety or another, along with side boxes with detailed info. One helpful tip – to cool down your mouth if your pepper (or Tabasco sauce) is too hot, ingest something fatty instead of drinking water, since capsaicin – the heat molecule – is hydrophobic. A glass of milk will bind the hot stuff, taking away its burn. Many believe the chemical also provides arthritic pain relief.
The Superfood Gardener: A step-by-step guide to growing superfood vegetables in your garden
Sharon and Andrew Cooper
(Global Publishing Group, 2010, 161 pp.)
While not everyone can grow chili peppers,Superfood Gardener provides detailed instructions on growing local food. Replete with pictures, drawings and detailed descriptions of plants and their pests, the Coopers also explore soils and companion plants, along with twelve specific veggies in the superfood Hall of Fame.
This is a book you haul out to the garden, and it’s built for durability. Thank goodness – mine is well thumbed and smudged with South Florida soil. I highly recommend this colorful how-to manual. Not all those superfoods can be grown here, but I’m making my way with spinach, broccoli, corn, and several varieties of tomato.
(Not on the superfood list, I still can’t get the tobacco to grow, and the watermelons failed. But we’re not giving up.)
Now that you’ve raised your own veggies – be they superfoods or not – you’ll want to prepare them using recipes in Cooking Close to Home. This is a beautiful hardcover recipe book focused on the Northeast U.S., covering all the seasons for each of the major food groups, including pastries and other sweets. It’s even got a recipe for pickling jalapeno peppers, or you can use them in the rib-eye steak marinade.
I’ve tried the Kale and Mushroom Soup, and the Garlic-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Fresh Basil and Goat Cheese, over pasta. Delish. My next endeavor will be the Vermont Vegetable New Year Rolls which I’m serving at the the family gathering this Sunday.
Imrie and Jarmusz introduce the sections with political tidbits to encourage supporting local farms, slow food and eco-consciousness. This is an excellent addition to any locavore’s cookbook shelf.
When Americans who are the most victimized by our cruel economy still believe in something that is demonstrably no longer true, they are deeply delusional. They desperately want to believe in something once great about American society. The reality is that upward economic mobility has been destroyed, replaced by widely observable downward mobility. Some of the mostly younger jobless that have embraced the Occupy Wall Street and related Occupy efforts know the truth.
Consider the results of a new survey of unemployed adults this month:
“More than half of those polled said that they had experienced emotional or mental health problems like anxiety or depression because of their lack of work, and nearly half said that they had felt embarrassed or ashamed not to have jobs.”
“More than a third said that they had had more conflicts or arguments with family and friends because of being jobless.”
“Threats of foreclosure or eviction were reported by a fifth of the unemployed, and one in eight said that they had moved in with relatives or friends.”
“More than half said that they lacked health insurance.”
“A fifth said that they had received food from a nonprofit organization.”
“Nearly two-thirds said they would probably not have enough money to live comfortably during retirement. More than half said that they had taken money out of savings or retirement accounts.”
“7 in 10 of those receiving unemployment benefits said that they feared their benefits would run out before they could find new jobs.”
So far, all those results paint an unsurprising profile of unemployed, suffering Americans.
Now, consider the result that blew my mind, the reason I am writing this, because more people need to understand something critical about delusional thinking that ultimately makes getting deep, sorely needed reforms of our government and political system extremely difficult. Without that our economy will stay awful, unfair, promoting even more economic inequality.
“Two-thirds of those surveyed said that they still believed it was possible to start out poor in this country, work hard and become rich — only a little lower than the three-quarters of all Americans” not in the unemployed category who held the same view and were surveyed at the same time. In fact, considerable research in recent years has consistently found that upward mobility in the US is no longer a hallmark of the society. Indeed, there is more upward mobility in Canada and a number of European countries than in the US. Moreover, the jobless more than most should be able to comprehend the ugly reality that downward economic mobility is now a large part of American society.
No surprise that the cover story on the new Time magazine is What Ever Happened To Upward Mobility? The basic theme of the article is that the US is no longer an “opportunity society.” In other words, our country is no longer a place where everyone, if he or she works hard enough, can get ahead. But despite this reality, conservatives and Republicans love to publicly proclaim that the US still offers everyone upward economic mobility.
Those two-thirds of the unemployed will probably pay a steep price for their false optimism about their country. They are likely to fall prey to the political propaganda of either Democrats or Republicans. If they are delusional about the American Dream, are they also delusional about other things that may stand in the way of them getting a job? Rather than feel ashamed or embarrassed about being jobless they should get some feedback from others so they can fix their thinking.
As Ezra Klein noted: “Americans are in the odd position of fervently believing in upward mobility while not actually having very much of it. Europeans, conversely, don’t really believe in economic mobility but have plenty of it.”
Those jobless with this delusional thinking, refusing to think critically, judge the facts and come to a hurtful conclusion, are not the ones I expect to be participating in or supporting the Occupy Wall Street protesters, about three-quarters of whom now disapprove of Mr. Obama’s performance as president. Though the Occupy protesters speak of the rich 1 percent, that is a big underestimate. As Anne Applebaumcorrectly noted “Despite all the loud talk of the ‘1 per cent’ of Americans who, according to a recent study, receive about 17 per cent of the income, a percentage which has more than doubled since 1979, the existence of a very small group of very rich people has never bothered Americans. But the fact that some 20 per cent of Americans now receive some 53 per cent of the income is devastating.” Becoming part of even that larger group of rich Americans is now more difficult than ever.
Do unemployed have the right kind of jobs to aspire to the top one percent of income earners? Consider the jobs that account for the top one percent; the top four categories account for nearly 70 percent: corporate and business management not in the financial sector, medical, financial industry executives, and lawyers. This also shows how difficult it is to somehow negatively impact the one percent by protests by the Occupy movement.
In our delusional democracy with its delusional prosperity thinking that hard work, great ideas and superior performance will get you into the top one percent is self-delusion, even getting into the top 20 percent is a long shot. The economic system is too rigged against economic justice. Sure, every once in awhile someone starting out poor or average becomes superrich, but that is like winning a super lottery. Best to stop believing in the rags-to-riches myth, unless the system is reformed.
A new report by a German foundation examined the nation members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, essentially the world’s democracies. The US ranked terribly low for poverty and poverty prevention as well as income inequality. OnlyChile, Mexico and Turkey were ranked lower than the US. What a story.
The US two-party plutocracy has allowed the rich and powerful to buy the political system. Except for the rich, the results are dreadful. This is why 89 percent do not trust that government will do the right thing. The best solution is what you find at the getmoneyout.comwebsite, a constitutional amendment to get money out of politics.
Many times I hear the ostriches among us exclaim, “What freedoms have we lost? America is the freest country on earth.” We have all heard that, right? Of course, part of the problem is that, thanks to our education system, media, and churches, many Americans do not even know how to define liberty and freedom. The truth is, America’s Founding Fathers were willing to pledge their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” and fight a bloody revolutionary war for far fewer abridgments of liberty than we Americans endure every day of our lives today. FAR FEWER!
To answer the second part of the ostrich argument first: no, America is not the freest nation on earth. According to the Index of Economic Freedom, which is produced by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, the United States just barely makes it in the top ten, ranked at number nine in the world.
According to Deroy Murdock, “Among the 179 countries examined in the Index, Hong Kong is ranked first, followed by Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland, and Denmark. These nations all outscored the U.S. across ten categories, including taxes, free trade, regulation, monetary policy, and corruption.
“America barely made the top ten. Bahrain was tenth, with 77.7 points, one decimal point behind America’s 77.8 score. Chile reached No. 11 with 77.4, just 0.4 points behind the United States.
“Even worse, with a score below 80, the U.S. is spending its second year as a ‘mostly free’ economy. As it departed the family of ‘free’ nations in 2010, it led the ‘mostly free’ category. Even within this less-than-illustrious group, America now lags behind Ireland and Denmark.”
See Murdock’s report at:
Just ask any small businessman how free the United States is! The regulations, restrictions, prohibitions, assessments, fees, taxes, surcharges, permits, licenses, etc., are worse than almost any industrialized nation in the world. Remember the CEO of Coca Cola recently saying that it was easier doing business in China than in America? Well, he was telling the truth!
Thanks to political correctness, environmental wackoism, and socialistic/fascist ideology running rampant in Washington, D.C., and even many State capitols, “the land of the free” has become “the land of the oppressed.” Being able to drive a car, have a job, shop at a mall, watch sports on television, or even vote, is NOT the mark of a free people. Folks in China and other oppressed nations routinely do all of the above.
Virtually every activity once considered a “right” is now regulated or prohibited by either the federal or State and local government. Few states (thankfully, my home State of Montana is one of them) recognize the right of people to marry without getting a State marriage license. And can anyone imagine Paul Revere riding throughout Boston with a license plate and registration on his horse? And can anyone further imagine Sam Adams or those militiamen at Lexington and Concord registering a gun or being asked to get a concealed carry permit? Yeah, right!
In most urban settings, one cannot build a shed on their own property, add a room on their house, or even pour a driveway without asking a variety of government bureaucrats for permission–and paying them hundreds of dollars in fees, of course. And did you know that the federal government even tells your local plumbing contractor how many gallons of water your toilet can flush? Well, they do! You call this freedom? Our Founding Fathers wouldn’t have!
To answer the first part of the ostrich question, the freedoms we Americans have lost are literally too numerous to count. A recent report at the American Dream web site makes a very salient argument as to just how many freedoms have been lost in the good old U.S. of A.
The report states, “Once upon a time, our founders thought that they were guaranteeing our freedoms by adding a Bill of Rights to the Constitution.
“But today there are a lot of freedoms that we simply do not have any longer.
“In America today, you do not have the right to say whatever you want. If you say the wrong thing on a blog or a website it can have dramatic consequences.
“In America today, you do not have the right to do raise your own children as you see fit.
“In America today, you do not have the right to grow whatever food you want and you do not have the right to eat whatever food you do grow.
“In America today, you do not have the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.
“In America today, you do not have a right to privacy. In fact, you should expect that everything that you do is watched, tracked, monitored and recorded.”
The report then goes on to list several real-life examples to prove the assessments listed above.
See the American Dream report at:
And, of course, the ultimate symbol of a free people is the right to keep and bear arms. And while most states theoretically recognize a citizen’s right to own and possess a gun, the vast majority of them only do so–not as a right guaranteed to a free people by their Creator–but as a privilege granted to approved subjects by the limited benevolence of the State. At last count, only four states recognize the right of their citizens to keep and bear arms without any kind of State license: Alaska, Arizona, Vermont, and Wyoming. (For clarification, the State of Montana allows open carry Statewide and concealed carry in unincorporated areas, but people carrying concealed in incorporated cities, must have a CCW permit. We passed legislation this year to expunge the incorporated city CCW requirement, but our Democrat governor vetoed it. But Montana will be the fifth State soon!)
To view a current map of Constitutional Carry states, click here:
So, the next time you hear someone say, “What freedoms have we lost? We are the freest nation on earth,” why not give them a copy of this column? And then tell the ostrich to get his head out of the sand and his rump off the couch before the little remnant of freedom we have left is also completely eviscerated.
“I hope you can read my heart in this, as my intention from the beginning and through all the land and house hunting that we have done here for you folks was to help you as much as possible and that we three love you both and are doing our best to keep you from getting scammed and taken for a ride, plus we are trying to negotiate the best possible deal that we can as though it was our money that was being spent. We haven’t asked the contractor for a dime, if you buy his house, we have been doing what we have done with a servants heart, we are here to serve and that is what I do, no strings attached! You have faithfully covered my expenses and I feel that if I stay out of the money end from either side I can be a negotiator that is not biased and free to barter what is right for both sides. You folks are friends and we don’t charge friends and family for helping them. My gas and other expenses are covered by your offerings and so all is well for us in whatever decision you make, you will not offend me at all.” The minister.
I am not easily fooled. But I was taken in by an expert; a Christian minister whose allegiance was to a pagan and whose sales pitch was well honed and convincing.
Several years ago my wife and I tried to purchase property in Argentina. We flew to Santiago, Chile then over the majestic Andes Mountains to Mendoza, Argentina. The rental car we reserved was not available so we bused south to San Rafael where we looked at several properties. One we liked and would have purchased except the pricing for Gringos was in dollars instead of the common but less valuable Peso. In dollars it was a bad investment and since we could find no way to purchase Argentine real estate in the common currency we had a very enjoyable trip but did not find property.
A year or so later we met a man from Costa Rica at our church. He and his family had been living in Central America for several years and he said he could help us acquire property in Costa Rica valued in their common currency. A couple of years went by before we were able to explore his offer.
In June, we flew to Costa Rica and stayed in a hotel in the San Jose suburb of Escazu. Street signs are scarce in Costa Rica and in a generous gesture the minister drove 30 miles to the airport, met us at the car rental office, and led us to our hotel. It was a vacation for us but we reserved time to drive to the town where the minister lived to look at real estate.
When we arrived it was lunch time and we offered to buy lunch. They took us to an upscale restaurant where he and his son ordered several expensive items which they consumed with relish. I picked up the tab.
Our objective had not changed from our trip to Argentina; we wanted a complex that would provide a place for us to use and some income property that would support the investment. We had a budget.
The minister lived up at the top of a steep, rocky mountain road. Though he drove an old car and the rental property was not fancy it was well appointed with television, internet, and some new, expensive appliances. He took me aside and told us that some of the Christians he had tried to help had not offered to cover his expenses. We donated to his ministry generously more than once.
Down the hill from his house he took us to meet with a contractor who had a home for sale. It was new and well built with concrete block and stucco. We liked the house but the backyard was a mess and the asking price was above our budget.
The minister and his son both emphasized that we needed to understand that things in Costa Rica are done differently than in United States. “I already assume that you have this mindset, but, I just want it said so that there can be no misunderstandings later! You are not in the US when you come here to buy anything and as such you need to be open to the customs of this country.”
We then drove to the nicely appointed home of a local Real Estate Agent. He joined us in the minister’s car and directed us to several properties; only one was attractive and it turned out to be too expensive.
As we were about to leave the real estate agent said that he could build three apartments on a lot and keep the cost within our budget. I said I would be interested. We returned to Florida.
Shortly after our return we received a CD that contained detailed pictures of all the properties we had visited.
I was still interested in the three apartments and the minister provided lengthy emails detailing the extensive work he and his son were doing to find property for us. His work was efficient with pictures of properties to be considered and detailed information on the status of each property.
We sent him our criterion: “As we evaluate lots we need to keep in mind that the lot must be near public transportation so renters can get to work; it must be on a paved road and not be precipitous or in a tacky or industrial neighborhood.”
He found a lot and sent pictures. I sent him this email: “Here is where we stand. If this lot is as good as it seems and we can construct the three apartments on it and stay under budget I will come down. However, I do not want to spend the money coming down only to find that the cost is going way over budget. I must depend on your judgment.”
Shortly after, I received this email: “Are you interested in this lot? You haven’t advised me….if not, I’m wasting a lot of time and fuel in checking it out. If so the owner has asked me multiple times if you are interested and I don’t know what to tell him…my son thinks that he wants to know so he can start letting others know about it and if he goes that route he will be selling for more now that he is clearing the land and preparing to put in the road between the properties. I think we need to give him some kind of answer soon just to be fair with him, he has done everything we asked so far as the clearing of the lot was our suggestion to him as a way to help you see what the actual lot looks like.”
This lot soon fell by the wayside and I was urged to fly down immediately because the contractor who owned the house down the hill was now willing to build two apartments behind the house for a price within our budget. We were told that he needed the money for another transaction and was only willing to make this deal if he could get the money immediately. I could not leave immediately and as it turned out the urgency was not necessary as he was willing to wait until the end of the month.
We were interested in this proposition because we had seen and liked the house and even though we had not scrutinized the entire property we believed the minister would properly evaluate it for us. I emailed back, “I want to purchase this property but please understand that I will not leave loose strings that may or may not tie together following the purchase.”
Almost immediately a contract to purchase the property arrived by email and a phone call came to wire $2,000 to bind the contract and hold the property until I could fly down and sign the final draft. These are the words of the next email. “If you can read Spanish it is a straight forward option to buy at a fixed price with a description of what is promised by the seller. It also says the the deposit paid today was $500 with a promise to pay the remaining $1500 by no later than Monday. It is for the normal time period of 30 days as that is pretty much what was agreed upon. With you coming down the end of this month this is more than sufficient time to secure the property until you get here.” I cannot read Spanish but we had the contract translated and it seemed legitimate. (Stupid me – I wired the money.)
At the end of the month, I few to Costa Rica. The minister had been called to a conference in the States and was not there. His wife and son picked me up at the airport and took me to a local hotel. It was lunch time and, though I had not offered, they drove me to the same fancy restaurant for lunch. I picked up the tab.
The next day we met at the property with the contractor. There were several loose ends and some serious questions. The house was an excellent buy but it had been built on land that had been created by piling tons of dirt behind a retaining wall. The retaining wall had been built with concrete block but the exterior concrete and stone facing had only been finished about half way to the top, reinforcing bars were protruding through the concrete. There were drainage problems and the stone wall that surrounded the property was in need of repair. The back yard had a large hole in the ground and several structures that had not been completed; they did not match the house. We determined the builder was putting in a hot tub, a wet bar, a half bath, and a storage room. Finishing the items would add at least ten percent to our budget and would still leave several expensive problems. Costa Rica is an earthquake zone and I was concerned about the integrity of the retaining wall and the safety of the house itself.
We had been urged to accept the ways of Costa Ricans but since we were providing the money we expected the properties to conform to our expectations. I declined to go forward with the purchase. The minister had about $3000 of our money and I had out of pocket expenses of a thousand or so more. At his urging I had put money into a property I had not fully evaluated. It was a foolish thing to do.
Much of this fraud involved my failure to see through some expert manipulations. The real estate market is dead in Costa Rica just as it is in the States and I suspect all the urgency was contrived. I was depending on being protected by a man who told me that his loyalty was divided between me and the individuals he was attempting to “lead to Christ”. My trust was misplaced. The $2000 I wired to bind the contract was sent to and signed for by the minister. I should have picked up on the excesses at the restaurant or on the manipulative urgency to secure the deal. In retrospect it is easy to see the mistakes that contributed to being defrauded but when one is intent on an accomplishment there is a strong tendency to overlook important warning signs. I was foolish and I was fooled.
In spite of the pressure sales tactic and an apparent intent to defraud, this minister may not think he has done anything wrong. Antinomian Charismatics can easily fall into the sin of pragmatism because they do not understand that in God’s Kingdom the end does not justify the means. God expects obedience to His legal standards; He expects the means to justify the end. He is not pragmatic. Fraudulent works produce rotten fruit. He is wrong to believe he can serve both buyer and seller; attempting to do so creates an untenable conflict. Defrauding gringos to enrich domestics in the Name of Christ cannot produce good fruit.
The procedures used have been practiced over a period of several years and others may have fallen prey. If you are involved with a Christian minister in Costa Rica be very careful. Do not send money until you have personally seen and evaluated everything! Those that seem to be Christian sheep sometimes turn out to be pagan wolves.
The friendship expressed at the beginning of this article did not survive the deception; we have not heard from the minister since my return to the States.
Lester Brown, author of Plan B 4.0 Saving Civilization said, “The world has set in motion environmental trends that are threatening civilization itself. We are crossing environmental thresholds and violating deadlines set by nature. Nature is the timekeeper, but we cannot see the clock.”
In October of 2011, the 7th billion human being will land on this planet. From that threshold, humans will continue multiplying by 1.0 billion every 13 years to reach more than 10 billion within 39 years at the mid century. The ramifications stagger the mind of any thinking American. This series will give you an idea of what our civilization faces.
Following the recent loss of life in Haiti, Chile and China due to earthquakes or the loss of life from Hurricane Katrina or the tsunami that killed 100,000 in Sri Lanka in 2005—it reminds me of a 39 year old column by the late Dr. Garrett Hardin: “Nobody ever dies of overpopulation.” It is reprinted with permission from Science, 12 February 1971, Volume 171, Number 3971, C 1971 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. (www.thesocialcontract.com ) Professor Hardin taught in the biology department of the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Not mentioned, but increasing in numbers as the human race accelerates its own populations across the globe-an astounding 18 million human beings starve to death or die of starvation related diseases every year. (Source: World Health Organization) The breakdown: eight million adults and 10 million children perish at the hands of starvation annually. Fully 2.0 billion humans subsist on less than $2.00 per day. That same number cannot obtain a clean glass of drinking water.
For example: India sports 1.16 billion people. Out of that number, 10 million do not possess a toilet to use, so they squat onto the land every day. They contaminate ground water, lakes and rivers with their human waste. The Ganges runs in raw sewage 24/7 and its dead zone expands to over 10,000 square miles-contaminating and killing ocean life. Result: 1,000
Indian children die of diarrhea, dysentery and other water borne diseases-DAILY. (Souce: www.populationmedia.org) Yet, Indians do not practice birth control as they add another 12 million people annually on their way to surpassing current-day China and hit 1.6 billion in 40 years.
For whatever reason, Americans as well as citizens of many countries never make the connection of overpopulation and their vulnerability-to disease, famine and Mother Nature’s rage. Nature thrives on destruction, i.e., hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, earthquakes, forest fires, famines, hail,
tornadoes and epidemics.
INCREASING HUMAN NUMBERS ON EARTH CREATES GREATER SCENARIOS FOR MASS HUMAN DEATHS
For some reason, call it hubris or “false pride”; or massive ignorance or ethnocentrism-Americans cannot and do not think they would ever find themselves on the receiving end of water shortages, food scarcities or energy deficiencies. Thus, they happily grow their numbers, by adding 3.1 million people annually, ironically, mostly through other humans fleeing overpopulation pressures worldwide.
Dr. Garret Hardin, author, Stalking the Wild Taboo, brings home our dilemma:
“Those of us who are deeply concerned about population and the environment -”eco-nuts,” we’re called, – are accused of seeing herbicides in trees, pollution in running brooks, radiation in rocks, and overpopulation everywhere. There is merit in the accusation.
“I was in Calcutta when the cyclone struck East Bengal in November 1970. Early dispatches spoke of 15,000 dead, but the estimates rapidly escalated to 2,000,000 and then dropped back to 500,000. A nice round number: it will do as well as any, for we will never know. The nameless ones who died, “unimportant” people far beyond the fringes of the social power structure,
left no trace of their existence. Pakistani parents repaired the population loss in just 40 days, and the world turned its attention to other matters.
“What killed those unfortunate people? “The cyclone,” newspapers said. But one can just as logically say that overpopulation killed them. The Gangetic Delta is barely above sea level. Every year several thousand people are killed in quite ordinary storms. If Pakistan were not overcrowded, no sane man would bring his family to such a place. Ecologically speaking, a delta belongs to the river and the sea; man obtrudes there at his peril.
“In the web of life every event has many antecedents. Only by an arbitrary decision can we designate a single antecedent as “cause.” Our choice is biased – biased to protect our egos against the onslaught of unwelcome truths. As T.S. Eliot put it in Burnt Norton:
“Go, go, go,” said the bird, “Human kind cannot bear very much reality.”
“Were we to identify overpopulation as the cause of a half-million deaths, we would threaten ourselves with a question to which we do not know the answer: How can we control population without recourse to repugnant measures?” said Hardin. “Fearfully we close our minds to an inventory of possibilities. Instead, we say that a cyclone caused the deaths, thus relieving ourselves of responsibility for this and future catastrophes. “Fate” is so comforting.
“Every year we list tuberculosis, leprosy, enteric diseases, or animal parasites as the “cause of death” of millions of people. It is well known that malnutrition is an important antecedent of death in all these categories; and that malnutrition is connected with overpopulation. But overpopulation is not called the cause of death. We cannot bear the thought.
“People are dying now of respiratory diseases in Tokyo, Birmingham, and Gary, because of the “need” for more industry. The “need” for more food justifies over fertilization of the land, leading to eutrophication of the waters, and lessened fish production – which leads to more “need” for food.
“What will we say when the power shuts down some fine summer on our eastern seaboard and several thousand people die of heat prostration? Will we blame the weather? Or the power companies for not building enough generators? Or the eco-nuts for insisting on pollution controls?
“One thing is certain: we won’t blame the deaths on overpopulation. No one ever dies of overpopulation. It is unthinkable.”
As Hardin said, we abhor dealing with reality. In fact, in Joel Kotkin’s recent book, he celebrates adding 100 million people to the United States as if it amounts to a “Red Badge of Courage” in a diminishing world. He speaks on NPR with glowing reviews from Jennifer Ludden. He enjoys interviews in papers as he crosses the country to pitch his book. He leads
Americans down a primrose path of more denial, stupidity and ignorance of their predicament.
Yet, they fully embrace his message. Should he strut his book in Bangladesh, that grows by six children a minute, with a population of 157 million people in a landmass the size of Iowa, they would toss tomatoes into his face. Change that! They would eat the tomatoes and throw sticks!
Reality has already manifested in very ugly ways for the people of Bangladesh. They live in pure daily human misery with no way out! They live in what Kotkin celebrates: overpopulation.
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 , 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 …
- Attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, most of which were democratically-elected. 7
- Attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 countries. 8
- Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries. 9
- Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries. 10
- 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):
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?
- New York Times, June 27, 1963, p.12 ↩
- USA Today, October 11, 1999, p.1 ↩
- Washington Post, May 12, 2009; see a similar story November 5, 2009 ↩
- 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 inThe Nation, December 16, 1996↩
- 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. ↩
- The Guardian (London), March 7, 1985 ↩
- http://killinghope.org/essays6/othrow.htm ↩
- http://killinghope.org/bblum6/suppress.html ↩
- See chapter 18 of Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower – add Palestine, 2006 to the list ↩
- http://killinghope.org/superogue/bomb.htm ↩
- http://killinghope.org/bblum6/assass.htm ↩
Iraq: Let us not forget what “humanitarian intervention” looks like.
Libya: Let us not be confused as to why Libya alone has been singled out for “humanitarian intervention”.
On April 9, Condoleezza Rice delivered a talk in San Francisco. Or tried to. The former Secretary of State was interrupted repeatedly by cries from the audience of “war criminal” and “torturer”. (For which we can thank our comrades in Code Pink and World Can’t Wait.) As one of the protesters was being taken away by security guards, Rice made the kind of statement that has now become standard for high American officials under such circumstances: “Aren’t you glad this lady lives in a democracy where she can express her opinion?” She also threw in another line that’s become de rigueur since the US overthrew Saddam Hussein, an argument that’s used when all other arguments fail: “The children of Iraq are actually not living under Saddam Hussein, thank God.” 1
My response to such a line is this: If you went into surgery to correct a knee problem and the surgeon mistakenly amputated your entire leg, what would you think if someone then remarked to you how nice it was that “you actually no longer have a knee problem, thank God.” … The people of Iraq no longer have a Saddam problem.
Unfortunately, they’ve lost just about everything else as well. Twenty years of American bombing, invasion, occupation and torture have led to the people of that unhappy land losing their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women’s rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives … more than half the population either dead, disabled, in prison, or in foreign exile … the air, soil, water, blood and genes drenched with depleted uranium … the most awful birth defects … unexploded cluster bombs lie in wait for children … a river of blood runs alongside the Euphrates and Tigris … through a country that may never be put back together again.
In 2006, the UN special investigator on torture declared that reports from Iraq indicated that torture “is totally out of hand. The situation is so bad many people say it is worse than it has been in the times of Saddam Hussein.” Another UN report of the same time disclosed a rise in “honor killings” of women. 2
“It is a common refrain among war-weary Iraqis that things were better before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003,” reported the Washington Post on May 5, 2007.
“I am not a political person, but I know that under Saddam Hussein, we had electricity, clean drinking water, a healthcare system that was the envy of the Arab world and free education through college,” Iraqi pharmacist Dr. Entisar Al-Arabi told American peace activist Medea Benjamin in 2010. “I have five children and every time I had a baby, I was entitled to a year of paid maternity leave. I owned a pharmacy and I could close up shop as late as I chose because the streets were safe. Today there is no security and Iraqis have terrible shortages of everything — electricity, food, water, medicines, even gasoline. Most of the educated people have fled the country, and those who remain look back longingly to the days of Saddam Hussein.” 3
And this from two months ago:
“Protesters, human rights workers and security officials say the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has responded to Iraq’s demonstrations in much the same way as many of its more authoritarian neighbors: with force. Witnesses in Baghdad and as far north as Kirkuk described watching last week as security forces in black uniforms, tracksuits and T-shirts roared up in trucks and Humvees, attacked protesters, rounded up others from cafes and homes and hauled them off, blindfolded, to army detention centers. Entire neighborhoods … were blockaded to prevent residents from joining the demonstrations. Journalists were beaten.” 4
So … can we expect the United States and its fellow thugs in NATO to intervene militarily in Iraq as they’re doing in Libya? To protect the protesters in Iraq as they tell us they’re doing in Libya? To effect regime change in Iraq as they’re conspiring, but not admitting, in Libya?
Similarly Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria … all have been bursting with protest and vicious government crackdown in recent months, even to a degree in Saudi Arabia, one of the most repressive societies in the world. Not one of these governments has been assaulted by the United States, the UK, or France as Libya has been assaulted; not one of these countries’ opposition is receiving military, financial, legal and moral support from the Western powers as the Libyan rebels are — despite the Libyan rebels’ brutal behavior, racist murders, and the clear jihadist ties of some of them. 5 The Libyan rebels are reminiscent of the Kosovo rebels — mafiosos famous for their trafficking in body parts and women, also unquestioningly supported by the Western powers against an Officially Designated Enemy, Serbia.
So why is only Libya the target for US/NATO missiles? Is there some principled or moral reason? Are the Libyans the worst abusers of their people in the region? In actuality, Libya offers its citizens a higher standard of living. (The 2010 UN Human Development Index, a composite measure of health, education and income ranked Libya first in Africa.) None of the other countries has a more secular government than Libya. (In contrast some of the Libyan rebels are in the habit of chanting that phrase we all know only too well: “Allah Akbar”.) None of the others has a human-rights record better than that of Libya, however imperfect that may be — in Egypt a government fact-finding mission has announced that during the recent uprising at least 846 protesters were killed as police forces shot them in the head and chest with live ammunition. 6 Similar horror stories have been reported in Syria, Yemen and other countries of the region during this period.
It should be noted that the ultra-conservative Fox News reported on February 28: “As the United Nations works feverishly to condemn Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi for cracking down on protesters, the body’s Human Rights Council is poised to adopt a report chock-full of praise for Libya’s human rights record. The review commends Libya for improving educational opportunities, for making human rights a “priority” and for bettering its “constitutional” framework. Several countries, including Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia but also Canada, give Libya positive marks for the legal protections afforded to its citizens — who are now revolting against the regime and facing bloody reprisal.”
Of all the accusations made against Gaddafi perhaps the most meaningless is the oft-repeated “He’s killing his own people.” It’s true, but that’s what happens in civil wars. Abraham Lincoln also killed his own people.
Muammar Gaddafi has been an Officially Designated Enemy of the US longer than any living world leader except Fidel Castro. The animosity began in 1970, one year after Gaddafi took power in a coup, when he closed down a US air force base. He then embarked on a career of supporting what he regarded as revolutionary groups. During the 1970s and ’80s, Gaddafi was accused of using his large oil revenues to support — with funds, arms, training, havens, diplomacy, etc — a wide array of radical/insurgent/terrorist organizations, particularly certain Palestinian factions and Muslim dissident and minority movements in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia; the IRA and Basque and Corsican separatists in Europe; several groups engaged in struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa; various opposition groups and politicians in Latin America; the Japanese Red Army, the Italian Red Brigades, and Germany’s Baader-Meinhof gang.
It was claimed as well that Libya was behind, or at least somehow linked to, an attempt to blow up the US Embassy in Cairo, various plane hijackings, a bomb explosion on an American airliner over Greece, the blowing up of a French airliner over Africa, blowing up a synagogue in Istanbul, and blowing up a disco in Berlin which killed some American soldiers. 7
In 1990, when the United States needed a country to (falsely) blame for the bombing of PanAm flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, Libya was the easy choice.
Gaddafi’s principal crime in the eyes of US President Ronald Reagan (1981-89) was not that he supported terrorist groups, but that he supported thewrong terrorist groups; i.e., Gaddafi was not supporting the same terrorists that Washington was, such as the Nicaraguan Contras, UNITA in Angola, Cuban exiles in Miami, the governments of El Salvador and Guatemala, and the US military in Grenada. The one band of terrorists the two men supported in common was the Moujahedeen in Afghanistan.
And if all this wasn’t enough to make Gaddafi Public Enemy Number One in Washington (Reagan referred to him as the “mad dog of the Middle East”), Gaddafi has been a frequent critic of US foreign policy, a serious anti-Zionist, pan-Africanist, and pan-Arabist (until the hypocrisy and conservatism of Arab governments proved a barrier). He also calls his government socialist. How much tolerance and patience can The Empire be expected to have? When widespread protests broke out in Tunisia and Egypt, could Washington have resisted instigating the same in the country sandwiched between those two? The CIA has been very busy supplying the rebels with arms, bombing support, money, and personnel.
It may well happen that the Western allies will succeed in forcing Gaddafi out of power. Then the world will look on innocently as the new Libyan government gives Washington what it has long sought: 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.” 8 Another thing scarcely any African country would tolerate is an American military base. There’s only one such base in Africa, in Djibouti. Watch for one in Libya sometime after the dust has settled. It’ll 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.
And remember — in the context of recent history concerning Iraq, North Korea, and Iran — if Libya had nuclear weapons the United States would not be attacking it.
Or the United States could realize that Gaddafi is no radical threat simply because of his love for Condoleezza Rice. Here is the Libyan leader in a March 27, 2007 interview on al-Jazeera TV: “Leezza, Leezza, Leezza … I love her very much. I admire her, and I’m proud of her, because she’s a black woman of African origin.”
Over the years, the American government and media have fed us all a constant diet of scandalous Gaddafi stories: He took various drugs, was an extreme womanizer, was bisexual, dressed in women’s clothing, wore makeup, carried a teddy bear, had epileptic fits, and much more; some part of it may have been true. And now we have the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, telling us that Gaddafi’s forces are increasingly engaging in sexual violence and that they have been issued the impotency drug Viagra, presumably to enhance their ability to rape. 9 Remarkable. Who would have believed that the Libyan Army had so many men in their 60s and 70s?
As I write this, US/NATO missiles have slammed into a Libyan home killing a son and three young grandchildren of Gaddafi, this after repeated rejections of Gaddafi’s call for negotiations — another heartwarming milestone in the glorious history of humanitarian intervention, as well as a reminder of the US bombing of Libya in 1986 which killed a young daughter of Gaddafi.
Two more examples, if needed, of why capitalism can not be reformed
Transocean, the owner of the drilling rig that exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico a year ago, killing 11 workers and sending two hundred (200) million gallons of oil cascading over the shoreline of six American states, has announced that (through using some kind of arcane statistical method) it had “recorded the best year in safety performance in our Company’s history.” Accordingly, the company awarded obscene bonuses on top of obscene salaries to its top executives. 10
In Japan, even as it struggles to contain one of history’s worst nuclear disasters, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has proposed building two new nuclear reactors at its radiation-spewing power plant. The plan had taken shape before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and TEPCO officials see no reason to change it. The Japanese government agency in charge of approving such a project has reacted in shocked horror. “It was just unbelievable,” said the director of the agency. 11
Which leads us to A.W. Clausen, president of Bank of America, speaking to the Greater Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, in 1970:
“It may sound heretical to some in this room to say that business enterprise is not an absolute necessity to human culture … Ancient Egypt functioned more than 3000 years without anything resembling what we today understand by the term ‘corporate enterprise’ or even ‘money’. Within our span of years, we have witnessed the rise of the Soviet Socialist empire. It survives without anything you or I would call a private corporation and little that approaches our own monetary mechanism. It survives and is far stronger than anyone might have expected from watching its turbulent beginnings in 1917 … It is easy to mislead ourselves into thinking that there is something preordained about our profit-motivated, free-market, private-enterprise system — that is, as they used to say of gold, universal and immutable.”
Items of interest from a journal I’ve kept for 40 years, part III
- Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez memoir, Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story, pages 349-350: April 6, 2004. Sanchez was in Iraq in video teleconference with President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. One major American offensive was in operation, another about to be launched. According to Sanchez, Powell was talking tough that day: “We’ve got to smash somebody’s ass quickly, “Powell said. “There has to be a total victory somewhere. We must have a brute demonstration of power.” Then Bush spoke: “At the end of this campaign al-Sadr must be gone. At a minimum, he will be arrested. It is essential he be wiped out. Kick ass! If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can’t send that message. It’s an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal. … There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!”
- Noam Chomsky: “If there is really authentic popular participation in the decision-making and the free association of communities, yeah, that could be tremendously important. In fact that’s essentially the traditional anarchist ideal. That’s what was realized the only time for about a year in Spain in 1936 before it was crushed by outside forces, in fact all outside forces, Stalinist Russia, Hitler in Germany, Mussolini’s fascism and the Western democracies cooperated in crushing it. They were all afraid of it.”
- To Hitler, America was both the enemy and a role model, inspiring in its imperial seizure of great territories by force, its use of slave labor, its eradication of native populations.
- NATO’s secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, made clear in a speech to the Brookings Institution in Washington in 2008 that western interests in Afghanistan went well beyond good governance to the strategic interest in having a permanent military presence in a state that borders central Asia, China, Iran and Pakistan.
- CIA Special Collections of documents; “Instances Of the Use of US Armed Forces Abroad, 1798 – 2010“
- Michael Collon: “Let’s replace the word ‘democratic’ by ‘with us’, and the word ‘terrorist’ by ‘against us’.”
- Ron Paul: “Those who caution that leaving Iraq would be a disaster are the same ones who promised the conflict would be a ‘cake-walk’.”
- Spc. Alex Horton, 22, writing in a blog while a marine in Iraq in 2007: “In the future, I want my children to grow up with the belief that what I did here was wrong, in a society that doesn’t deem that idea unpatriotic.”
- Henry Kissinger in a 1970 memo to Nixon: “The example of a successful elected Marxist government in Chile would surely have an impact on –– and even precedent value for –– other parts of the world, especially in Italy; the imitative spread of similar phenomena elsewhere would in turn significantly affect the world balance and our own position in it.”
- Paul Craig Roberts: “International polls show that the rest of the world regard the US and Israel as the greatest dangers to world peace. Americans claim that they are fighting wars against terrorism, but it is US and Israeli terrorism that worries everyone else.”
- Chris Hedges: “If you are a young Muslim American and head off to the Middle East for a spell in a fundamentalist ‘madrassa,’ or religious school, Homeland Security will probably greet you at the airport when you return. But if you are an American Jew and you join hundreds of teenagers from Europe and Mexico for an eight-week training course run by the Israel Defense Forces, you can post your picture wearing an Israeli army uniform and holding an automatic weapon on MySpace.”
- “The US has never had a ‘foreign policy’ but a fanatical domestic policy which, once it had bled through to the Pacific, sought new hosts on which to feed.” Patrick Wilkinson
- C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite (1956): “The only seriously accepted plan for ‘peace’ is a fully loaded pistol. In short, war or a high state of war preparedness is felt to be the normal and seemingly permanent condition of the United States.”
- The United States goes around the world sprinkling democracy dust.
- Iran, the latest threat to life as we know it.
- “Iran hit back at US allegations that it has failed to crack down on fugitive al-Qaeda members, calling on Washington to apologize to the world for its own past support of the network. ‘The Americans should present a full apology to the international community for the support they gave to al-Qaeda,’ said the foreign ministry, referring to a period in the 1980s when millions of dollars of covert US aid was channeled — through the Pakistani secret service — to Islamist groups battling the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.” (Agence France Presse, June 2, 2003)
- Tom Hayden: They believe that the exposure of the generals to a civilian academic atmosphere may humanize the process of war-making, not worrying that the actual danger may be the militarizing of the university.
- Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, in his 2007 book, “The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World”: “I’m saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: The Iraq war is largely about oil.”
After an avalanche of commentary, Greenspan backpedaled and obfuscated in his comments. He insisted he was talking about “oil security” and “the global economy”. But this was just proving his own point that mentioning oil as a motivation for war is “politically inconvenient”. It’s no way to get young men to kill other young men who’ve never done them any harm.
- The American people have no more authentic control over their government than do people in countries that we call dictatorships, particularly on issues of foreign policy.
- Video of Rice talk ↩
- Associated Press, September 21, 2006 ↩
- Common Dreams, August 20, 2010 ↩
- Washington Post, March 4, 2011↩
- Washington Times, February 24, 2011; The Telegraph (London), March 25, 2011; Alexander Cockburn, “Libya, Oh What a Stupid War; Fukushima, Cover-Up Amid Catastrophe”; “Al Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq” (PDF), Combating Terrorism Center, US Military Academy, West Point, NY, December 2007 ↩
- Associated Press, April 20, 2011 ↩
- Gaddafi’s history of supporting terrorism, real and alleged: William Blum, Killing Hope, chapter 48 ↩
- The Guardian (London), June 25, 2007 ↩
- Reuters news agency, April 29, 2011 ↩
- Washington Post, April 1, 2011 ↩
- Washington Post, April 6, 2011
Amidst all the stirring political upheavals in North Africa and the Middle East the name “Marshall Plan” keeps being repeated by political figures and media around the world as the key to rebuilding the economies of those societies to complement the political advances, which hopefully will be somewhat progressive. But caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware.
During my years of writing and speaking about the harm and injustice inflicted upon the world by unending United States interventions, I’ve often been met with resentment from those who accuse me of chronicling only the negative side of US foreign policy and ignoring the many positive sides. When I ask the person to give me some examples of what s/he thinks show the virtuous face of America’s dealings with the world in modern times, one of the things mentioned — almost without exception — is The Marshall Plan. This is usually described along the lines of: “After World War II, the United States unselfishly built up Europe economically, including our wartime enemies, and allowed them to compete with us.” Even those today who are very cynical about US foreign policy, who are quick to question the White House’s motives in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, have little problem in accepting this picture of an altruistic America of the period 1948-1952. But let’s have a look at the Marshall Plan outside the official and popular versions.
After World War II, the United States, triumphant abroad and undamaged at home, saw a door wide open for world supremacy. Only the thing called “communism” stood in the way, politically, militarily, and ideologically. The entire US foreign policy establishment was mobilized to confront this “enemy”, and the Marshall Plan was an integral part of this campaign. How could it be otherwise? Anti-communism had been the principal pillar of US foreign policy from the Russian Revolution up to World War II, pausing for the war until the closing months of the Pacific campaign, when Washington put challenging communism ahead of fighting the Japanese. This return to anti-communism included the dropping of the atom bomb on Japan as a warning to the Soviets. 1
After the war, anti-communism continued as the leitmotif of American foreign policy as naturally as if World War II and the alliance with the Soviet Union had not happened. Along with the CIA, the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, the Council on Foreign Relations, certain corporations, and a few other private institutions, the Marshall Plan was one more arrow in the quiver of those striving to remake Europe to suit Washington’s desires:
- Spreading the capitalist gospel — to counter strong postwar tendencies towards socialism.
- Opening markets to provide new customers for US corporations — a major reason for helping to rebuild the European economies; e.g., a billion dollars of tobacco at today’s prices, spurred by US tobacco interests.
- Pushing for the creation of the Common Market and NATO as integral parts of the West European bulwark against the alleged Soviet threat.
- Suppressing the left all over Western Europe, most notably sabotaging the Communist Parties in France and Italy in their bids for legal, non-violent, electoral victory. Marshall Plan funds were secretly siphoned off to finance this endeavor, and the promise of aid to a country, or the threat of its cutoff, was used as a bullying club; indeed, France and Italy would certainly have been exempted from receiving aid if they had not gone along with the plots to exclude the communists from any kind of influential role.
The CIA also skimmed large amounts of Marshall Plan funds to covertly maintain cultural institutions, journalists, and publishers, at home and abroad, for the heated and omnipresent propaganda of the Cold War; the selling of the Marshall Plan to the American public and elsewhere was entwined with fighting “the red menace”. Moreover, in its covert operations, CIA personnel at times used the Marshall Plan as cover, and one of the Plan’s chief architects, Richard Bissell, then moved to the CIA, stopping off briefly at the Ford Foundation, a long time conduit for CIA covert funds. One big happy family.
The Marshall Plan imposed all kinds of restrictions on the recipient countries, all manner of economic and fiscal criteria which had to be met, designed for a wide open return to free enterprise. The US had the right to control not only how Marshall Plan dollars were spent, but also to approve the expenditure of an equivalent amount of the local currency, giving Washington substantial power over the internal plans and programs of the European states; welfare programs for the needy survivors of the war were looked upon with disfavor by the United States; even rationing smelled too much like socialism and had to go or be scaled down; nationalization of industry was even more vehemently opposed by Washington. The great bulk of Marshall Plan funds returned to the United States, or never left, to purchase American goods, making American corporations among the chief beneficiaries.
The program could be seen as more a joint business operation between governments than an American “handout”; often it was a business arrangement between American and European ruling classes, many of the latter fresh from their service to the Third Reich, some of the former as well; or it was an arrangement between Congressmen and their favorite corporations to export certain commodities, including a lot of military goods. Thus did the Marshall Plan help lay the foundation for the military industrial complex as a permanent feature of American life.
It is very difficult to find, or put together, a clear, credible description of how the Marshall Plan played a pivotal or indispensable role in the recovery in each of the 16 recipient nations. The opposing view, at least as clear, is that the Europeans — highly educated, skilled and experienced — could have recovered from the war on their own without an extensive master plan and aid program from abroad, and indeed had already made significant strides in this direction before the Plan’s funds began flowing. Marshall Plan funds were not directed primarily toward the urgently needed feeding of individuals or rebuilding their homes, schools, or factories, but at strengthening the economic superstructure, particularly the iron, steel and power industries. The period was in fact marked by deflationary policies, unemployment and recession. The one unambiguous outcome was the full restoration of the propertied class. 2
The rising up of the people … and the conservative mind
James Baker served as the Chief of Staff in President Ronald Reagan’s first administration and in the final year of the administration of President George H.W. Bush. He was also Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan and Secretary of State under Bush. Thus, by establishment standards and values, inside marble-columned institutions, Baker is a man to be taken seriously when it comes to affairs of state. Here he is on February 3, during an interview by our favorite TV station, our very own shining beacon of truth, Fox News:
“We want to see the people in the Middle East have a chance at democracy and free markets … I’m sorry, democracy and human rights.” 3
Baker has a record of speaking his mind, whether Freudian-slip-like or not. When he was Secretary of State, on an occasion when the Middle East was being discussed at a government meeting, and Jewish-American influence was mentioned, Baker was reported to have said “Fuck the Jews! They don’t vote for us anyway.” 4
They couldn’t resist, could they?
News flash: “Judge Mustafa Abdel Jallil, the Libyan justice minister who resigned last week in protest over the use of force against unarmed civilians, said he has proof that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi ordered the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on Dec. 21, 1988. He would not disclose details of the alleged evidence.” 5
Hmmm, let me guess now why he wouldn’t disclose details of the alleged evidence … hmmm … Ah, I know — because it doesn’t exist! How could Gadhafi’s many enemies in Libya resist kicking him like this when he’s down? Or perhaps the honorable judge is simply protecting himself from a future international criminal tribunal for his years of service to the Libyan state? If you read any more of such nonsense — and you will — reach for some of the antidote I’ve been providing for more than 20 years. 6
The empire’s deep dark secret
“In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined,” declared US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on February 25.
Remarkable. Every one of the many wars the United States has engaged in since the end of World War II has been presented to the American people, explicitly or implicitly, as a war of necessity, not a war of choice; a war urgently needed to protect American citizens, American allies, vital American “interests”, freedom, or democracy. Here is President Obama speaking of Afghanistan: “But we must never forget this is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity.” 7
This being the case, how can a future administration say it will not go to war if any of these noble causes is seriously threatened? The answer is that these noble causes are irrelevant. The United States goes to war where and when it wants, and if a noble cause is not self-evident, the government, with indispensable help from the American media, will manufacture it. Secretary Gates is now admitting that there is choice involved. Well, Bob, thanks for telling us. You were Bush’s Secretary of Defense as well, and before that 26 years in the CIA and the National Security Council. You sure know how to keep a secret.
Items of interest from a journal I’ve kept for 40 years, part II
- In its more than 50 years of revolution Cuba has never reciprocated the US aggression against it; no military or terrorist assaults have emanated from Havana in spite of the many hundreds of CIA aerial bombings, ground attacks, acts of sabotage, and assassination attempts. Oh, did I mention all the chemical and biological warfare? Oddly, the State Department’s list of “State sponsors of terrorism” includes Cuba, but not the United States. The little nation of Cuba has defied all rational odds against its socialist survival.
- The wit and wisdom of Mr. Barack Obama: “To ensure prosperity here at home and peace abroad, we all share the belief we have to maintain the strongest military on the planet.” (December 1, 2008, Agence France Presse) How true. All Americans share that belief, as they rejoice in the strongest military on the planet and a veritable overflowing of prosperity at home and peace abroad.
- Steven Bradbury, Department of Justice lawyer under George W. Bush, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was discussing the legal status of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay: “The president is always right.” (Washington Post, July 12, 2006)
- “There are 3 billion people in the world and we have only 200 million of them. We are outnumbered 15 to 1. If might did make right they would sweep over the United States and take what we have. We have what they want.” – President Lyndon Johnson, 1966
- As the George W. Bush administration was entering office in 2000, Donald Rumsfeld exuberantly expressed grandiose ambitions for Middle East domination, telling the National Security Council: “Imagine what the region would look like without Saddam and with a regime that’s aligned with US interests. It would change everything in the region and beyond.” A few weeks later, Bush speechwriter David Frum declared to the New York Times Magazine: “An American-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and the replacement of the radical Baathist dictatorship with a new government more closely aligned with the United States, would put America more wholly in charge of the region than any power since the Ottomans, or maybe even the Romans.”
- Shortly after Salvador Allende became president of Chile in 1970, Nixon’s National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, recorded a conversation in which Secretary of State William Rogers agreed that “we ought, as you say, to cold-bloodedly decide what to do and then do it,” but warned it should be done “discreetly so that it doesn’t backfire.” Rogers predicted that “after all we have said about elections, if the first time a Communist wins the U.S. tries to prevent the constitutional process from coming into play we will look very bad.”
- “The revulsion against war … will be an almost insuperable obstacle for us to overcome. For that reason, I am convinced that we must begin now to set the machinery in motion for a permanent wartime economy.” Charles E. Wilson, 1944. During World War II he held leading positions overseeing the huge US military production effort; after the war he resumed his position as CEO of General Electric, one of the leading defense corporations.
- Remember Ben Tre? That was the Vietnamese village the Americans destroyed in 1968, saying “It became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it.” Since then the Americans have been saving towns all over the globe, in Cambodia, Laos, Panama, Nicaragua, Sudan, Iraq, Yugoslavia and more. Then on Sept 11, 2001, someone, no doubt overcome with gratitude, decided to save some Americans. – Bev Currie, Canada
- United Nations Resolution 1244, adopted in 1999, reaffirmed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to which Serbia was the recognized successor state, and established that Kosovo was to remain part of Serbia. Today, Kosovo is independent, because the United States wants it that way, because Serbia is still being punished for its refusal in the 1990s to act like a proper European state displaying subservience to the United States, the European Union, NATO, and capitalism. Independent Kosovo is perhaps the most genuinely gangster-state in the world. It’s led by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, whom a Council of Europe investigation recently accused of being the boss of a criminal operation to kidnap people and steal their kidneys.(sic) (Associated Press, December 14 and 15, 2010) He and Washington, naturally, are on the best of terms.
- “Look,” said Russian president Vladimir Putin about NATO in 2001, “this is a military organization. It’s moving towards our border. Why?” He subsequently described NATO as “the stinking corpse of the cold war.” (Associated Press, June 16, 2001; Press Trust of India, December 21, 2007)
- Senator John McCain, re: fighting in Georgia, 2008: “I’m interested in good relations between the United States and Russia. But in the 21st century, nations don’t invade other nations.” (Washington Post, August 14, 2008) One really has to wonder at times about the sanity of neo-conservatives, or at least their IQ.
- Re: “collateral damage” produced by US bombing in many countries: Killing innocent bystanders when targeting someone else has long been considered murder in Western law.
- “It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.” – Voltaire
- “The central aim of the war in Afghanistan — planned well before the attacks of September 11, 2001 — was to take advantage of the power vacuum in Central Asia created by the Soviet Union’s dissolution to assert US domination over a region containing the second largest proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas in the world.” – Bill Van Auken, World Socialist Web Site
- “To me, I confess, [countries] are pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a game for dominion of the world.” Lord Curzon, British viceroy of India, speaking about Afghanistan, 1898
- Ricardo Alarcon, President of the Cuban National Assembly, stated in 2008: Cuba allows CNN, AP and Chicago Tribune to maintain offices in Cuba, but the US refuses to allow Cuban journalists to work in the United States.
- Washington’s “Plan Colombia”, launched in 2000, was the militarization of the war on drugs.
- Michael Moore, March 24, 2008: “I see that Frontline on PBS this week has a documentary called ‘Bush’s War’. That’s what I’ve been calling it for a long time. It’s not the ‘Iraq War’. Iraq did nothing. Iraq didn’t plan 9/11. It didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. It DID have movie theaters and bars and women wearing what they wanted and a significant Christian population and one of the few Arab capitals with an open synagogue. But that’s all gone now. Show a movie and you’ll be shot in the head. Over a hundred women have been randomly executed for not wearing a scarf.”
- Michael Collon: “Let’s replace the word ‘democratic’ by ‘with us’ and the word ‘terrorist’ by ‘against us’.”
- The American Century went the way of the Thousand Year Reich.
- Reagan invaded Grenada in October 1983 because he cut and ran from Beirut after the United States lost 241 Marines in the infamous truck bombing. The United States invaded Grenada two days later.
- Noam Chomsky: “The whole debate about the Iranian ‘interference’ in Iraq makes sense only on one assumption; namely, that ‘we own the world’. If we own the world, then the only question that can arise is that someone else is interfering in a country we have invaded and occupied. So if you look over the debate that took place and is still taking place about Iranian interference, no one points out this is insane. How can Iran be interfering in a country that we invaded and occupied? It’s only appropriate on the presupposition that we own the world. Once you have that established in your head, the discussion is perfectly sensible.”
- In late 1997, according to Dana Priest’s book, The Mission, the Bill Clinton White House wanted CENTCOM commander Gen. Anthony Zinni to order his pilots to provoke a military confrontation with Iraq in the no-fly zone by deliberately drawing fire from Iraqi planes.
- Reagan accepted a fateful trade-off when he agreed not to complain about Pakistan’s efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons capability in exchange for Pakistani cooperation in helping the Afghan rebels.
- “The presumption of ‘government incompetence’ is seldom a useful assumption in evaluating the behavior of governments. We only reach such a conclusion if we take their official rhetoric at face value. In terms of ‘achieving democracy’, the official rhetoric, Bush has been ‘incompetent’ in Iraq. But in terms of the real agenda — building permanent bases and controlling the oil — he has in fact been successful. I have found that this is always the pattern: some real agenda is always being achieved by the policies in force, despite the apparent bungling in terms of the official agenda.” – Richard K. Moore
- The 9/11 attacks reflected the anger and rage that US foreign policy had produced in the past and then provided the excuse for US officials to continue such policy in the future.
Upcoming talks by William Blum
Saturday, April 2, 7:00 pm
University of Pittsburgh at Titusville, PA
504 East Main Street
Titusville is about 2 hours by car from Pittsburgh and 2 1/2 hours from Cleveland.
For further information call 888-878-0462
Or email Mary Ann Caton: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, May 19
Conference: “Ethics and US Foreign Policy in the 21st Century”
Université de Paris Ouest-Nanterre-La Défense, Amphi B-2
All day, beginning at 9 am
Email me for full schedule
- See William Blum’s essay on the use of the atomic bomb ↩
- For discussion of various aspects of the Marshall Plan see, for example, Joyce & Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power: The World and US Foreign Policy 1945-1954 (1972), chapters 13, 16, 17; Sallie Pisani, The CIA and the Marshall Plan (1991) passim; Frances Stoner Saunders, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the world of arts and letters (2000) passim ↩
- Crisis in Egypt – James A. Baker III on Middle East Political Change ↩
- The Guardian (London), December 12, 2000; Haaretz (Israel), November 14, 2008 ↩
- McClatchy Newspapers, February 26, 2011 ↩
- The Bombing of PanAm Flight 103: Case Not Closed ↩
- Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, August 17, 2009
Washington’s formula for regime change underwent a makover in the 1980s. In a bid to ensure US political and economic interests were safeguarded, CIA backed coup d’états ousted democratically elected leaders from Iran to Chile.
Washington’s formula for regime change underwent a makover in the 1980s. In a bid to ensure US political and economic interests were safeguarded, CIA backed coup d’états ousted democratically elected leaders from Iran to Chile.
In their place were brutal dictatorships and governments that committed heinous crimes against their people.
By the 1980s, the reign of terror that blazed across Latin America was too much for most people to stomach. From death squads to torture chambers and various massacres, the Latin American generals who trained in the US to spread democracy around the world quickly gained reputations for major human rights abuses.
To replace the overt support for dictatorships, a new concept for regime change was born; one that sounds and looks better – democracy promotion.
The concept of democracy promotion is simple; finance, train, and politically back local opposition forces around the world that support the American agenda.
Dr. William Robinson is one of the foremost experts on Washington’s democracy promotion initiatives, he wrote the book ‘Promoting Polyarhcy.’
“In Latin America, in Eastern Europe with the Velvet Revolutions, in Africa, in the Middle East, really all over the world, the U.S. set up these different mechanisms now for penetrating these civil societies in the political systems of countries that are going to be intervened and to assure the outcome is going to be pleasing to Washington’s foreign policy objectives,” said Robinson.
Lawrence Wilkerson, the former Chief of Staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “We do this through surrogates and nongovernmental organization and through people who are less suspecting of the evil that may lurk behind their actions than perhaps they were before. Have we learned some lessons in that regard? You bet! Do we do it better? You bet? Is it still just as heinous as it has always been? You bet!”
So while the goal remains the same, it’s no longer the CIA but the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and its partners spearheading the effort.
Allen Weintein, one of the founders of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) explained to the Washington Post in 1991, “A lot of what we do now was done covertly by the CIA 25 years ago.”
And like the CIA, USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy and a number of similar organizations receive funding from Congress.
“Millions and millions of U.S. tax payer dollars go every year into funding for political organizations and campaigns in different countries in the world that promote US agenda. Most U.S. citizens are unaware of the fact that that is how their money is being spent, to meddle, and to influence and to interfere in other nation’s affairs,” said Eva Golinger who has been investigating the US’s democracy promotion efforts in Venezuela.
The concept of facilitating regime change through democracy promotion has garnered wide criticism not just abroad but also at home in the United States.
Congressman Ron Paul once wrote “It is particularly Orwellian to call US manipulation of foreign elections ‘promoting democracy.’ How would we Americans feel if for example the Chinese arrived with millions of dollars to support certain candidates deemed friendly to China?”
“I think it’s terrible, we use taxpayer’s money to go over and use our military and the CIA these programs that say ‘this is what you outta do’ and influence them. There is no authority for that, it doesn’t work, it teaches a lot of people to despise us,” Congressman Paul told RT.
Read the rest of the story: here
All free speech systems are works in progress: Prof. Craig LaMay…
Craig LaMay is an associate professor of journalism at the Northwestern University. H is a former editorial director of the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center and editor of Media Studies Journal; and a former newspaper reporter. LaMay’s articles and commentaries have appeared on New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Newsweek, Communication and the Law and a number of other media outlets.
LaMay has published several books on journalism and mass media of which we can name Journalism and the Problem of Privacy (2003), Commercial Transformation of the Nonprofit Sector, with Burton Weisbrod (1998) and Abandoned in the Wasteland: Children, Television and the First Amendment with Newton Minow (1995).
Prof. LaMay joined me in an exclusive interview to discuss the constraints of journalism in the United States, freedom of speech in the EU, the performance of local magazines as opposed to the national news outlets and the gradual disappearance of traditional media with the emergence of new internet-based technologies.
What follows is the complete text of my interview with Prof. Craig LaMay of the Northwestern University.
Kourosh Ziabari: Dear Craig; there’s a belief with regards to the mass media in the Western countries in general, and the United States in particular, which is undisputedly accepted by the international community: the widely-accepted belief is that the Western media are unrestrictedly free to publish whatever they want, to publish the viewpoints of the opponents of the government, the political dissidents and anti-governmental activists, without being harassed. Is it true that the mass media in the West are absolutely free to publish whatever they want? Isn’t there any implicit pressure on the media to publish the news and analysis in a way which is favorable to the interests of the government?
Craig LaMay: That belief is overstated. In the United States, for example, it has always been the law that restraints on publication, gag orders, are facially unconstitutional, and where they occur they get an immediate judicial review. Nonetheless, it is also the law that some materials are subject to what we call prior restraints, or injunctions against publication. Those materials fall into three broad categories: obscenity (which is subject to community standards, and thus what is ‘obscene’ in Alabama might not be so in New York); incitements to violence, but only when violence is likely and imminent, not when speech is mere advocacy, even advocacy that the government be overthrown by force; and risks to national security. The last of these is the most contentious for journalists, since even benign governments are apt to see national security threats where there are none.
In Western Europe, there is no rule against prior restraints even if the principle against them is generally accepted. So information that is libelous or invasive of privacy can be enjoined before publication. Particularly notable is the high regard that EU law, and many national laws, have for personal privacy, not only for private citizens but also for celebrities and public officials.
As for implicit pressure, there’s another matter. In any media system — ours or yours — it is much more that state control that determines what is published. So do social norms (ie, ethics, or cultural judgments about propriety and personal dignity); markets (ie, the decision about the costs of gathering and publishing some stories that might be hugely expensive to report in terms of personnel and legal costs, of interest to only a few people, the possibility that if a piece offends readers it might lead to loss of subscription, revenue, etc.); and last of all system architecture (ie, how you actually build your system to support free speech, eg, the Internet as a platform that anyone can use as opposed to a television station, where prerogatives belong to the owners). As you can imagine, each of these is linked to the other — none works entirely independent of the other.
KZ: In the majority of European countries, there are laws which restrict the publication of materials, articles, news and op-eds about Holocaust. Much of the journalists and academicians who publish materials which dispute the veracity of Holocaust get incarcerated immediately and have their respective media outlets banned or penalized with punitive measures. Isn’t this a violation of freedom of press and information on behalf of those who introduce themselves as the pioneers of freedom of speech?
CL: Interesting question. From the American point of view, the answer would be yes. But law is never abstract; it is always born of experience. The natural state of Europe for the last thousand years has been war, under Charlemagne, then Napoleon, then Hitler. The core purpose of the EU is to prevent future conflict, and in that system, and given the European experience with hate speech, it is hardly surprising that nation states from France to Austria would ban speech directed at certain minority populations. I get that. BUT, this does not explain the virulent anti-immigrant and racist speech you find all over Europe at any football game, for example, but also in public discourse. Sarkozy’s expulsion of the Roma last fall was the largest mass expulsion in Europe since the Holocaust, and yet it seemed to trouble few Europeans. The rise of anti-immigrant parties all over Europe is also a concern. So the problem the Europeans have, it seems to me, is that they have chosen to ban some hate speech directed at some minorities, but not all. I would say, however, that ALL free speech systems, including the United States’, are works in progress. The ideal of Europe regarding speech is contained in Article 10 of the EDHR, but it is far from realized.
I have to say also, as someone who has worked in developing media systems and post-conflict societies for many years — from Guatemala and Indonesia to Serbia and Chile — that it both unrealistic and chauvinistic to assume that every media system should look like, say, ours. It shouldn’t. The British system is very different from ours, for instance, and in ways works better than ours. And vice versa.
KZ: What’s in your view, the main difference between the local newspapers and magazines, with the national/international media outlets? Aside from the extent and area of their coverage which varies from the local media to the national and international media, what are the major differences in the mechanisms of performance, distribution of facilities and approaches to the current affairs in these media?
CL: The main difference I think is economic and have to do with audiences. Local media are often hyper-local, since that’s what people want to know about — their own neighborhoods, not the goings on in Washington or Tehran. And people consume much more local than national media. Our national media run the gamut from very good (eg, the NYTimes) to very bad (FOX News), but the difference there is, to me, economic. Each of those two media serve a small but well-paying audience. That market is only so big, and at the local level it is often too small to sustain anything of quality.
KZ: What are the main features and qualities of being a journalist in the United States? How should one’s performance be so as to keep up with the stream of professional journalism and avoid falling behind in contest with the other journalists? You have the experience of writing for several newspapers which are considered to be belonging to the category of “mainstream media”. What standards does a journalist need in order to secure a berth in such mediums? Do mainstream media investigate the journalists ideologically in order to hire them for cooperation?
The qualities one needs depend, I think, on the work one does. Many “prominent” journalists in the US, for example, have never spent a day in journalism school. Many also have poor reporting skills and poor ethics, too, though many are also exemplary. If your primary business is entertainment (FOX News), then reporting skills matter much less than personality does. If your business is highly specialized information with high market value (financial news perhaps), then you need research skills and real knowledge about your field. Assuming one is serious about news, however, the skills one needs today now include a host of production skills we did not used to worry about. So, for example, if you’re in Cairo right now it’s not enough to send back written copy. You need to be able to shoot and edit your own video, gather and edit audio, write for the Web and the newspaper, and to a TV stand-up from the hotel lobby. You need, in other words, to have at least the skills of the so-called “citizen journalist” with his cell phone and twitter account.
I personally believe — and here I am at odds with the tradition of US journalism — some real knowledge of history, economics, natural and physical sciences. It is shameful that so many of our national media in Egypt right now are there to interview not Egyptians, but other Americans and Westerners. It’s because most reporters there know little or nothing of 20th-century Egyptian history or that of the region, except in the most sketchy ways. You see the same thing in coverage of, say, global warming, where reporters — in the name of being objective — think it’s okay to know nothing about the actual science of their subject. This is unprofessional and irresponsible, it seems to me, but it is very, very common.
What’s in your view the main responsibility of a professional journalist? What qualities and characteristics make a professional, responsible, committed and reliable journalist?
This is a question for the ages, so I’ll give you a short answer. The responsibility of the professional journalist is much the same as that of the professional scholar: to give evidence. It is never to think that because something is possible it is either plausible or probable. It requires one to investigate, to be self-consciously open to other points of view, to study one’s subject.
And on the ethics side — it is to remember above all that free speech has a cost (as, in economic theory all “free” things do; if something is free that means its cost has been shifted to someone else). In journalism, the cost of free speech can be born by someone else who is publicly humiliated or ruined, a community harmed, a country undone. To me, ethics means remembering that God does not think I’m special, and I could be completely wrong and should be humble in case I am.
KZ: When we look at the list of the world newspapers by circulation, we find that Japan has occupied the first five ranks. What does this fact signify? What qualities do the Japanese newspapers have that have made them so powerful and influential?
CL: Some cultures are well known as ‘reading’ cultures and others as ‘visual’ ones. Americans get most of their news from TV, for instance. The Japanese are a reading people. It is also true that Japanese media post-WWII were developed as mostly national media, designed to serve the entire nation.
KZ: If you were to analyze and investigate the problems of newspapers and media outlets in the developing world, what main points would you have identified? Why don’t the people in these countries have an inclination and appetite for reading the newspapers and magazines?
CL: In the developing world the problems are many. One is the lack of civil society organizations, particularly in post-conflict or post-authoritarian states, where civil society was largely stamped out. A second is that these countries often have media laws left over from the old authoritarian or colonial regime, and those laws tend to be oppressive. A third is that these countries often have large and dominant state media sectors — in TV and print — and they essentially take over the market for advertising and other revenues, making it all but impossible for private media to sustain themselves. A fourth is that many developing countries are poor, and poor people aren’t going to spend money on newspapers that they need for bread. A fifth is that many developing countries have high illiteracy rates, and so TV and radio are much more important than print. This is the case over much of Latin America and Africa, for example.
There is a well-known economic principle called “rational ignorance.” It says that rational people in functioning markets do NOT, as much as we might think they should, consume public-affairs news and information. They would rather be entertained. And that’s because they know, or think they do, that their participation in electoral politics will make little difference to the outcome of an election. And so it is more efficient (rational) for them to spend their time and money doing other things than becoming well informed citizens. Obviously if large numbers of people reach this conclusion, democracy can become hollow and dysfunctional. As it often is.
KZ: Which is more powerful; the written media such as newspapers and magazines or the audiovisual media such as TV channels and radio stations? What’s your estimation of the rivalry between the newspapers and magazines with the audiovisual media outlets? Who will be the winner? Which factors make one more privileged than the other?
I have no particular insights on the future. I am biased, too, and favor the written word, which is infinitely better at explanation, detail, complexity and nuance than TV or radio. So I naturally think serious people are print people. At the same time, radio is the world’s most ubiquitous and popular medium, and I get most of my daily news that way. It goes places where print cannot or does not (eg, rural and far-flung parts of a country). TV is the last survivor of the digital revolution — American still spend 5 hours a day watching one, more time than they spend with any other medium, including the Internet. As for “privilege” in media, that is often a matter of system architecture and law. The West European countries, for example, hold on vigorously to their large public broadcasting systems (eg, the BBC), which are supposed to serve specific public interests, and provide specific public goods, that private media will not. I think that’s a good thing. So I don’t imagine that there will be one winner.
KZ: Will the emergence of new media outlets, including blogs, social networking websites and electronic magazines endanger the life of the traditional media? Will the people put the newspapers and magazines aside at some point?
CL: Clearly they already have, mostly by further dividing audiences and, more important, undermining or destroying the financial foundations of old media. US newspapers, for example, used to get most of their revenues from classified advertisements , but lost all of that advertising long ago to the Web, to which they have also lost readers and other forms of advertising. It is also the case that for many serious subjects — military affairs, the environment, international law and politics, health care, trade and commerce — I can and do get my best information from blogs, not TV or newspapers. I imagine you do, too. That said, my favorite regular media are traditional — a magazine and public radio.
I hope, for your sake and mine, that there will always be a place for honest inquiry and serious discussion, and above all for understanding. For that, you need journalists who are humanists, not mere technicians, not mere businessmen. When I work overseas I am always impressed by how little I know, how much I need to understand. I think, I hope, that makes me a better journalist, a better person.