“Bias in favor of the orthodox is frequently mistaken for ‘objectivity’. Departures from this ideological orthodoxy are themselves dismissed as ideological.” – Michael Parenti
An exchange in January with Paul Farhi, Washington Post columnist, about coverage of US foreign policy:
Dear Mr. Farhi,
Now that you’ve done a study of al-Jazeera’s political bias in supporting Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, is it perhaps now time for a study of the US mass media’s bias on US foreign policy? And if you doubt the extent and depth of this bias, consider this:
There are more than 1,400 daily newspapers in the United States. Can you name a single paper, or a single TV network, that was unequivocally opposed to the American wars carried out against Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Panama, Grenada, and Vietnam? Or even opposed to any two of these wars? How about one? In 1968, six years into the Vietnam war, the Boston Globe surveyed the editorial positions of 39 leading US papers concerning the war and found that “none advocated a pull-out”.
Now, can you name an American daily newspaper or TV network that more or less gives any support to any US government ODE (Officially Designated Enemy)? Like Hugo Chávez of Venezuela or his successor, Nicolás Maduro; Fidel or Raúl Castro of Cuba; Bashar al-Assad of Syria; Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran; Rafael Correa of Ecuador; or Evo Morales of Bolivia? I mean that presents the ODE’s point of view in a reasonably fair manner most of the time? Or any ODE of the recent past like Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, Moammar Gaddafi of Libya, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, or Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti?
Who in the mainstream media supports Hamas of Gaza? Or Hezbollah of Lebanon? Who in the mainstream media is outspokenly critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians? And keeps his or her job?
Who in the mainstream media treats Julian Assange or Chelsea Manning as the heroes they are?
And this same mainstream media tell us that Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, et al. do not have a real opposition media.
The ideology of the American mainstream media is the belief that they don’t have any ideology; that they are instead what they call “objective”. I submit that there is something more important in journalism than objectivity. It is capturing the essence, or the truth, if you will, with the proper context and history. This can, as well, serve as “enlightenment”.
It’s been said that the political spectrum concerning US foreign policy in the America mainstream media “runs the gamut from A to B”.
Sincerely, William Blum, Washington, DC
(followed by some of my writing credentials)
Reply from Paul Farhi:
I think you’re conflating news coverage with editorial policy. They are not the same. What a newspaper advocates on its editorial page (the Vietnam example you cite) isn’t the same as what or how the story is covered in the news columns. News MAY have some advocacy in it, but it’s not supposed to, and not nearly as overt or blatant as an editorial or opinion column. Go back over all of your ODE examples and ask yourself if the news coverage was the same as the opinions about those ODEs. In most cases. I doubt it was.
Dear Mr. Farhi,
Thank you for your remarkably prompt answer.
Your point about the difference between news coverage and editorial policy is important, but the fact is, as a daily, and careful, reader of the Post for the past 20 years I can attest to the extensive bias in its foreign policy coverage in the areas I listed. Juan Ferrero in Latin America and Kathy Lally in the Mideast are but two prime examples. The bias, most commonly, is one of omission more than commission; which is to say it’s what they leave out that distorts the news more than any factual errors or out-and-out lies. My Anti-Empire Report contains many examples of these omissions, as well as some errors of commission.
Incidentally, since 1995 I have written dozens of letters to the Post pointing out errors in foreign-policy coverage. Not one has been printed.
Happy New Year
I present here an extreme example of bias by omission, in the entire American mainstream media: In my last report I wrote of the committee appointed by the president to study NSA abuses – Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies – which actually came up with a few unexpected recommendations in its report presented December 13, the most interesting of which perhaps are these two:
“Governments should not use surveillance to steal industry secrets to advantage their domestic industry.”
“Governments should not use their offensive cyber capabilities to change the amounts held in financial accounts or otherwise manipulate the financial systems.”
So what do we have here? The NSA being used to steal industrial secrets; nothing to do with fighting terrorism. And the NSA stealing money and otherwise sabotaging unnamed financial systems, which may also represent gaining industrial advantage for the United States.
Long-time readers of this report may have come to the realization that I’m not an ecstatic admirer of US foreign policy. But this stuff shocks even me. It’s the gross pettiness of “The World’s Only Superpower”.
A careful search of the extensive Lexis-Nexis database failed to turn up a single American mainstream media source, print or broadcast, that mentioned this revelation. I found it only on those websites which carried my report, plus three other sites: Techdirt, Lawfare, and Crikey (First Digital Media).
For another very interesting and extreme example of bias by omission, as well as commission, very typical of US foreign policy coverage in the mainstream media: First read the January 31, page one, Washington Post article making fun of socialism in Venezuela and Cuba.
Then read the response from two Americans who have spent a lot of time in Venezuela, are fluent in Spanish, and whose opinions about the article I solicited.
I lived in Chile during the 1972-73 period under Salvadore Allende and his Socialist Party. The conservative Chilean media’s sarcastic claims at the time about shortages and socialist incompetence were identical to what we’ve been seeing for years in the United States concerning Venezuela and Cuba. The Washington Post article on Venezuela referred to above could have been lifted out of Chile’s El Mercurio, 1973.
[Note to readers: Please do not send me the usual complaints about my using the name “America(n)” to refer to “The United States”. I find it to be a meaningless issue, if not plain silly.]
JFK, RFK, and some myths about US foreign policy
On April 30, 1964, five months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, was interviewed by John B. Martin in one of a series of oral history sessions with RFK. Part of the interview appears in the book “JFK Conservative” by Ira Stoll, published three months ago. (pages 192-3)
RFK: The president … had a strong, overwhelming reason for being in Vietnam and that we should win the war in Vietnam.
MARTIN: What was the overwhelming reason?
RFK: Just the loss of all of Southeast Asia if you lost Vietnam. I think everybody was quite clear that the rest of Southeast Asia would fall.
MARTIN: What if it did?
RFK: Just have profound effects as far as our position throughout the world, and our position in a rather vital part of the world. Also it would affect what happened in India, of course, which in turn has an effect on the Middle East. Just as it would have, everybody felt, a very adverse effect. It would have an effect on Indonesia, hundred million population. All of those countries would be affected by the fall of Vietnam to the Communists.
MARTIN: There was never any consideration given to pulling out?
MARTIN: … The president was convinced that we had to keep, had to stay in there …
MARTIN: … And couldn’t lose it.
These remarks are rather instructive from several points of view:
- Robert Kennedy contradicts the many people who are convinced that, had he lived, JFK would have brought the US involvement in Vietnam to a fairly prompt end, instead of it continuing for ten more terrible years. The author, Stoll, quotes a few of these people. And these other statements are just as convincing as RFK’s statements presented here. And if that is not confusing enough, Stoll then quotes RFK himself in 1967 speaking unmistakably in support of the war.
It appears that we’ll never know with any kind of certainty what would have happened if JFK had not been assassinated, but I still go by his Cold War record in concluding that US foreign policy would have continued along its imperial, anti-communist path. In Kennedy’s short time in office the United States unleashed many different types of hostility, from attempts to overthrow governments and suppress political movements to assassination attempts against leaders and actual military combat; with one or more of these occurring in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, British Guiana, Iraq, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba and Brazil.
- “Just have profound effects as far as our position throughout the world, and our position in a rather vital part of the world.”
Ah yes, a vital part of the world. Has there ever been any part of the world, or any country, that the US has intervened in that was not vital? Vital to American interests? Vital to our national security? Of great strategic importance? Here’s President Carter in his 1980 State of the Union Address: “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America”.
“What a country calls its vital economic interests are not the things which enable its citizens to live, but the things which enable it to make war.” – Simone Weil (1909-1943), French philosopher
- If the US lost Vietnam “everybody was quite clear that the rest of Southeast Asia would fall.”
As I once wrote:
Thus it was that the worst of Washington’s fears had come to pass: All of Indochina – Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos – had fallen to the Communists. During the initial period of US involvement in Indochina in the 1950s, John Foster Dulles, Dwight Eisenhower and other American officials regularly issued doomsday pronouncements of the type known as the “Domino Theory”, warning that if Indochina should fall, other nations in Asia would topple over as well. In one instance, President Eisenhower listed no less than Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Indonesia amongst the anticipated “falling dominos”.
Such warnings were repeated periodically over the next decade by succeeding administrations and other supporters of US policy in Indochina as a key argument in defense of such policy. The fact that these ominous predictions turned out to have no basis in reality did not deter Washington officialdom from promulgating the same dogma up until the 1990s about almost each new world “trouble-spot”, testimony to their unshakable faith in the existence and inter-workings of the International Communist Conspiracy.
Suicide bombers have become an international tragedy. One can not sit in a restaurant or wait for a bus or go for a walk downtown, in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq or Russia or Syria and elsewhere without fearing for one’s life from a person walking innocently by or a car that just quietly parked nearby. The Pentagon has been working for years to devise a means of countering this powerful weapon.
As far as we know, they haven’t come up with anything. So I’d like to suggest a possible solution. Go to the very source. Flood selected Islamic societies with this message: “There is no heavenly reward for dying a martyr. There are no 72 beautiful virgins waiting to reward you for giving your life for jihad. No virgins at all. No sex at all.”
Using every means of communication, from Facebook to skywriting, from billboards to television, plant the seed of doubt, perhaps the very first such seed the young men have ever experienced. As some wise anonymous soul once wrote:
A person is unambivalent only with regard to those few beliefs, attitudes and characteristics which are truly universal in his experience. Thus a man might believe that the world is flat without really being aware that he did so – if everyone in his society shared the assumption. The flatness of the world would be simply a “self-evident” fact. But if he once became conscious of thinking that the world is flat, he would be capable of conceiving that it might be otherwise. He might then be spurred to invent elaborate proofs of its flatness, but he would have lost the innocence of absolute and unambivalent belief.
We have to capture the minds of these suicide bombers. At the same time we can work on our own soldiers. Making them fully conscious of their belief, their precious belief, that their government means well, that they’re fighting for freedom and democracy, and for that thing called “American exceptionalism”. It could save them from committing their own form of suicide.
U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi wrapped up the first round of the “Geneva II” negotiations last Friday reporting little progress. No ceasefire was agreed, and talks on a transitional government never began. The next round is scheduled for February 10, but its prospects are dim. The opposing sides predictably blame each other for the stalemate, but in any event the talks were doomed to fail.
The first reason is John Kerry’s insistence—reasserted on the very first day of the meeting in Montreux, January 22—that Syria’s president can have no place in any future transition government. “We see only one option, negotiating a transition government born by mutual consent,” Kerry said. “That means that Bashar al-Assad will not be part of that transition government.”
Kerry’s position is absurd. No regime in history has negotiated its own demise, and the government of Syria is no exception. Any transition government “born by mutual consent” has to reflect the balance of forces on the ground. Therefore it will necessarily include Bashar, whose army has regained the initiative in the ongoing civil war. His forces control 13 out of 14 provincial capitals in the country and are steadily advancing in the rebel-held districts of Aleppo and Homs. In any event it is not up to the U.S. Secretary of State to decide who can or cannot be in charge in a faraway foreign land. Let it be recalled that his predecessor declared over two years ago that Assad’s regime was “dead man walking.”
It is possible that Kerry was serious when he declared that “there is no way, no way possible in the imagination, that the man who has led a brutal response to his own people can regain legitimacy to govern.” If so, then the U.S. policy will favor a drastic reversal of military fortunes on the ground—which may take years of hard fighting—rather than a negotiated settlement. This possibility is apparently supported by the secret Congressional approval of arms deliveries to “moderate” Syrian rebel factions. The definition of “moderate” has been stretched in Washington to the point where it includes hard-core jihadists, provided they are not affiliated to al-Qaeda. As if the Afghan blowback had never happened…
The second reason “Geneva II” had to fail is the lack of legitimacy of the rebel side. The opposition delegation, which was appointed by the self-styled “National Coalition,” was drawn from a narrow base of émigrés with minimal military clout. The men who came to Geneva have no authority over the large and powerful base of Islamist rebels. In December 2012 the anti-Assad group of foreign powers calling itself the “Friends of Syria” simply declared the Coalition to be the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, but it is nothing of the kind. The National Coalition’s minimal sway over fighters inside Syria means that its negotiators cannot guarantee that any deal reached in Switzerland would be implemented. The al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) are the most powerful anti-Assad groups, and their leaders would not have come to Geneva even if they had been invited. As the first round of talks ended on January 31, Russia insisted that the Syrian opposition delegation should be made more representative by including Bashar’s political opponents who have not resorted to arms. The Coalition is certain to reject this demand, thus further undermining its own credibility.
The third reason for the failure Geneva II is Iran’s exclusion from the talks. As a regional power deeply involved in the Syrian conflict, Iran should have been included—especially since Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Jordan—all of them staunchly anti-Assad—were represented, as well as a host of other countries. In fact Iran was belatedly invited to the conference by the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and thendisinvited under American pressure. This was yet another sign that the Department of State is not interested in a negotiated settlement. As an Iranian analyst has noted, “the U.S. knows very well that if ever the day comes that Bashar al-Assad needs to go quietly, Iran is the only country capable of achieving that.” After the rebuff, Iran can now be expected to make sure it secures an even stronger hand in Syria—which will additionally strengthen Assad’s position.
John Kerry took charge of the State Department announcing his intention to change Assad’s “calculation” about his ability to hold on to power. A year later it is evident that Washington’s own calculations, rather than Assad’s, need to change. Syria’s president is stronger today than at any time since early 2012. The rebels are deeply divided, and hard-line jihadists—whether affiliated to al-Qaeda or not—are dominant among them. As an Aljazeera commentator noted on the first day of Geneva II, the fragmentation and radicalization of rebel fighting forces has been the opposition’s greatest weakness: “Had a unified political-military command emerged among the rebels in the first year of the uprising, at the height of optimism over the Arab Spring, the United States and Europeans might well have been persuaded to give direct military backing to the uprising. Today, such hopes have been dashed.” Infighting among rival rebel militias claimed over a thousand lives in January alone.
Six weeks ago, prompted by ex-CIA Director Michael Hayden’s blunt admission that Assad’s victory would be the least bad outcome in Syria, we argued in this column that Syria no longer exists as a single political entity and that its de facto partition should be condoned in preference to a zero-sum game in which neither side can hope to prevail. The U.S. policy should support this outcome, albeit behind a single-state façade. It is less risky for U.S. interests than arming some fictitious “moderate” rebels and insisting on preordained outcomes which Washington has neither the will nor the money to enforce.
In 1979, Iran shocked the world—and directly confronted America’s hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East — by charting its own revolutionary course toward participatory Islamist governance and foreign policy independence. Over the past thirty-five years the Islamic Republic of Iran has held dozens of presidential, parliamentary, and local council elections and attained impressive developmental outcomes—including more progressive results at alleviating poverty, delivering health care, providing educational access, and (yes) expanding opportunities for women than the last shah’s regime ever achieved. Furthermore, the Islamic Republic has done these things while withstanding significant regional challenges and mounting pressure from the United States and its allies. Below, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett suggest that like 1979, 2014 is likely to be, in unique ways, another Year of Iran, when Tehran’s foreign policy strategy will either finally compel Western acceptance of Iran’s sovereign rights—especially to enrich uranium under international safeguards—or fundamentally delegitimise America’s already eroding pretensions to Middle Eastern hegemony.
Hassan Rohani’s election as Iran’s president seven months ago caught most of the West’s self-appointed Iran “experts” by (largely self-generated) surprise. Over the course of Iran’s month-long presidential campaign, methodologically-sound polls by the University of Tehran showed that a Rohani victory was increasingly likely. Yet Iran specialists at Washington’s leading think tanks continued erroneously insisting (as they had for months before the campaign formally commenced) that Iranians could not be polled like other populations and that there would be “a selection rather than an election,” engineered to install Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s “anointed” candidate—in most versions, former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili. On election day, as Iranian voters began casting their ballots, the Washington Post proclaimed that Rohani “will not be allowed to win”—a statement reflecting virtual consensus among American pundits.
Of course, this consensus was wrong—as have been most of the consensus judgments on Iran’s politics advanced by Western analysts since the country’s 1979 revolution. After Rohani’s victory, instead of admitting error, America’s foreign policy elite manufactured two explanations for it. One was that popular disaffection against the Islamic Republic—supposedly reflected in Iranians’ determination to elect the most change-minded candidate available to them—had exceeded even the capacity of Khamenei and his minions to suppress. This narrative, however, rests on agenda-driven and false assumptions about who Rohani is and how he won.
“The Islamic Republic aims to replace American hegemony with a more multi-polar distribution of power and influence. It seeks to achieve this by using international law and by leveraging participatory Islamist governance and foreign policy independence to accumulate real “soft power”.”
At sixty-five, Rohani is not out to fundamentally change the Islamic Republic he has worked nearly his entire adult life to build. The only cleric on the 2013 presidential ballot, Rohani belongs to Iran’s main conservative clerical association, not its reformist antipode. While he has become the standard bearer for the Islamic Republic’s “modern” (or “pragmatic”) right, with considerable support from the business community, his ties to Khamenei are also strong. After Rohani stepped down as secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council in 2005, Khamenei made Rohani his personal representative on the Council.
Backing Rohani was thus an unlikely way for Iranian voters to demand radical change, especially when an eminently plausible reformist was on the ballot—Mohammad Reza Aref, a Stanford Ph.D. in electrical engineering who served as one of reformist President Mohammad Khatami’s vice presidents. (Methodologically-sound polls showed that Aref’s support never exceeded single digits; he ultimately withdrew three days before Iranians voted.) The outcome, moreover, hardly constituted a landslide—not for Rohani and certainly not for reformism: Rohani won by just 261,251 votes over the 50-percent threshold for victory, and the parliament elected just one year before is dominated by conservatives.
The other explanation for Rohani’s success embraced by American elites cites it as proof that U.S.-instigated sanctions are finally “working”—that economic distress caused by sanctions drove Iranians to elect someone inclined to cut concessionary deals with the West. But the same polls that accurately predicted Rohani’s narrow win also show that sanctions had little to do with it. Iranians continue to blame the West, not their own government, for sanctions. And they do not want their leaders to compromise on what they see as their country’s sovereignty and national rights—rights manifest today in Iran’s pursuit of a civil nuclear program.
The Iranian Challenge
Iran’s presidential election and the smooth transfer of office to Rohani from term-limited incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stand out in today’s Middle East. Compared to Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Syria, and Tunisia, the Islamic Republic is actually living up to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s description of Iran as “an island of stability” in an increasingly unsettled region. And compared to some Gulf Arab monarchies, where perpetuation of (at least superficial) stability is purchased by ever increasing domestic expenditures, the Islamic Republic legitimates itself by delivering on the fundamental promise of the revolution that deposed the last shah thirty-five years ago: to replace Western-imposed monarchical rule with an indigenously generated political model integrating participatory politics and elections with principles and institutions of Islamic governance.
“Partnering with Tehran would require Washington and its friends in London and Paris to accept the Islamic Republic as the legitimate government of a fully sovereign state with legitimate interests.”
These strengths have enabled the Islamic Republic to withstand sustained regional and Western pressure, and to pursue a foreign policy strategy likely to reap big payoffs in 2014. This strategy aims to replace American hegemony, regionally and globally, with a more multi-polar distribution of power and influence. It seeks to achieve this by using international law and institutions, and by leveraging the Islamic Republic’s model of participatory Islamist governance, domestic development, and foreign policy independence to accumulate real “soft power”—not just with a majority of Iranians living inside their country, but (according to polls) with hundreds of millions of people across the Muslim world and beyond, from Brazil to China and South Africa. Such soft power was on display, for example, in the last year of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, when, during a trip to China, he won a standing ovation from a large audience at Peking University, where a representative sample of next-generation Chinese elites showed themselves deeply receptive to his call for a more equitable and representative international order.
In the current regional and international context, the West is increasingly challenged to come to terms with the Islamic Republic as an enduring entity representing legitimate national interests. In Tehran, the United States and its European allies could have a real partner in countering al-Qa’ida-style terrorism and extremism, in consolidating stable and representative political orders in Syria and other Middle Eastern trouble spots, and in resolving the nuclear issue in a way that sets the stage for moving toward an actual WMD-free zone in the region. But partnering with Tehran would require Washington and its friends in London and Paris to accept the Islamic Republic as the legitimate government of a fully sovereign state with legitimate interests—something that Western powers have refused to accord to any Iranian government for two centuries.
President Obama’s highly public failure to muster political support for military strikes against the Assad government following the use of chemical weapons in Syria on August 21, 2013 has effectively undercut the credibility of U.S. threats to use force against Iran. On November 24, 2013, this compelled an American administration, for the first time since the January 1981 Algiers Accords that ended the embassy hostage crisis, to reach a major international agreement with Tehran—the interim nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1—largely on Iranian terms. (For example, the interim nuclear deal effectively negates Western demands—long rejected by Tehran but now enshrined in seven UN Security Council resolutions—that Iran suspend all activities related to uranium enrichment).
But recent Western recognition of reality is still partial and highly tentative. The United States and its British and French allies continue to deny that Iran has a right to enrich uranium under international safeguards. They also demand that, as part of a final deal, Tehran must shut down its protected enrichment site at Fordo, terminate its work on a new research reactor at Arak, and allow Western powers to micromanage the future development of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Such positions are at odds with the language of the interim nuclear deal and of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). They are also as hubristically delusional as the British government’s use of the Royal Navy to seize tankers carrying Iranian oil on the high seas after a democratically-elected Iranian government nationalised the British oil concession in Iran in 1951—and as London’s continued threat to do so even after the World Court ruled against Britain in the matter.
If Western powers can realign their positions with reality on the nuclear issue and on various regional challenges in the Middle East, Iran can certainly work with that. But Iranian strategy takes seriously the real prospect that Western powers may not be capable of negotiating a nuclear settlement grounded in the NPT and respectful of the Islamic Republic’s legal rights—just as Britain and the United States were unwilling to respect Iran’s sovereignty over its own natural resources in the early 1950s. Under such circumstances, more U.S.-instigated secondary sanctions that illegally threaten third countries doing business with Iran will not compel Tehran to surrender its civil nuclear program. Rather, Iran’s approach—including a willingness to conclude what the rest of the world other than America, Britain, France, and Israel would consider a reasonable nuclear deal—seeks to make it easier for countries to rebuild and expand economic ties to the Islamic Republic even if Washington does not lift its own unilaterally-imposed sanctions.
“Continuing hostility toward the Islamic Republic exacerbates America’s inability to deal with popular demands for participatory Islamist governance elsewhere in the Middle East.”
Likewise, Iranian strategy takes seriously the real prospect that Washington cannot disenthrall itself from Obama’s foolish declaration in August 2011 that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go—and therefore that America cannot contribute constructively to the quest for a political settlement to the Syrian conflict. If the United States, Britain, and France continue down their current counter-productive path in Syria, Tehran can play off their accumulating policy failures and the deepening illegitimacy of America’s regional posture to advance the Islamic Republic’s strategic position.
How Will the West Respond?
Coming to terms with the Islamic Republic will require the United States to abandon its already eroding pretensions to hegemony in the Middle East. But, if Washington does not come to terms with the Islamic Republic, it will ultimately be forced to surrender those pretensions, as it was publicly and humiliatingly forced to do in 1979. Moreover, continuing hostility toward the Islamic Republic exacerbates America’s inability to deal with popular demands for participatory Islamist governance elsewhere in the Middle East. Less than a month after Rohani’s election, it was widely perceived that the United States tacitly supported a military coup that deposed Egypt’s first democratically elected (and Islamist) government. The coup in Egypt hardly obviates the fact that, when given the chance, majorities in Middle Eastern Muslim societies reject Western intervention and choose to construct participatory Islamist orders. Refusing to accept this reality will only accelerate the erosion of U.S. influence in the region.
The United States is not the first imperial power in decline whose foreign policy debate has become increasingly detached from reality—and history suggests that the consequences of such delusion are usually severe. The time for American elites to wake up to Middle Eastern realities before the United States and its Western allies face severe consequences for their strategic position in this vital part of the world is running out.
About the Authors
Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett are authors of Going to Tehran: America Must Accept the Islamic Republic of Iran (New York: Metropolitan, 2013), which has just been released in paperback, with a new Afterword. They had distinguished careers in the U.S. government before leaving their positions on the National Security Council in March 2003, in disagreement with Middle East policy and the conduct of the war on terror. They teach international relations, he at Penn State, she at American University.
Source: The World Financial Review
The people that work here, own you.
I receive many emails from well-intentioned and intelligent readers who hold up Iceland as a shining example of what America must do in order to save herself. I agree, in principle with the people who wrote to me that we should emulate Iceland. The Icelanders have demonstrated tremendous resilience, courage and vision to overcome and, at least temporarily, defeat the banksters while restoring their economy.
The people of Iceland have more courage in their little finger than America has in its entire being. Iceland’s financial failure forced its government to resign or be removed, and it also caused citizens to re-evaluate the merits of their reckless spending, borrowing and consumption. Just how did Iceland do it?
Iceland’s President Olafur Ragnar Grimmson was interviewed earlier this year at the World Economic Forum in Davos on why Iceland has enjoyed such a strong recovery after it’s complete financial collapse in 2008, while the rest of the West is still mired in debt, poverty and hopelessness to go with empty promises of an economic recovery.
When asked whether Iceland’s policy of letting the banks fail would have worked in the rest of Europe, Grimsson stated:
“… Why are the banks considered to be the holy churches of the modern economy? Why are private banks not like airlines and telecommunication companies and allowed to go bankrupt if they have been run in an irresponsible way? The theory that you have to bail-out banks is a theory that you allow bankers enjoy for their own profit their success, and then let ordinary people bear their failure through taxes and austerity. People in enlightened democracies are not going to accept that in the long run. …“
Imagine that, let the banks fail! Let the criminal bankers take the same risk as any other business venture. Can we imagine Obama ever speaking this way in public? In fact, if the United States was Iceland, President Obama, John McCain, Diane Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Lindsay Graham, Hillary Clinton, Valerie Jarrett, G.W. Bush, G. H. W. Bush, Lloyd Blankfein, Tim Geithner, Hank Paulson, Jon Corzine, Peter Sutherland, Ben Bernanke, et al., would all be in prison.
And nearly six years later, where is Iceland at today? In just the first year following the repudiation of the debt, the Icelanders economy grew by 2.6%. Banks failed, bankers and politicians were jailed and these brave people wrestled control of their lives back.
If the Icelanders could get their hands on Goldman Sachs officials they would. They impeached and convicted corrupt politicians who were in league with Wall Street, many of whom are serving prison sentences. Iceland is on its way to a full economic recovery while still saying no to the corrupt Goldman Sachs influences in Europe. Iceland is saying no to the Bank of International Settlement. Iceland is a beacon of hope for the rest of the G20 nations including the United States. Yet, the courage on display by the Icelanders will never be on display in the United States.
Americans Aren’t Icelanders
There are a number reasons that America will never throw off the shackles of the Bastards from Basel. First and foremost, we, as a country, are just too plain stupid. Through repeated and failed education programs, such as Goals 2000, No Child Left Behind and now the substandard Common Core, Americans lack the basic sense to organize against anything, much less a virulent pack of banksters.
Additionally, at the end of the day, the Icelanders victory will prove to be inconsequential and very temporary. When the international forces align against Iceland for some contrived excuse, their government will collapse like a house of cards and the banksters will be back in control. We have seen it in Egypt, Libya and soon it will be Iceland’s turn.
The Duck Dynasty worshiping, American Idol watching country can’t even find England on a map 65% of the time. A whopping 80% cannot find Iraq on a map, 55% cannot name the Vice President and America reads nearly two whole grade levels lower than they did only a 40 years ago. In short, the rank and file of our citizenry lacks the intelligence to organize their collective shoes in the closet.
Change can be painful and America has become a soft nation. We are not only an ignorant nation, we are the most obese nation on the planet. Most of the people in this country could not fight their way out of a wet paper bag. My military sources tell me that there have been serious discussions among the military leadership about how they would fight a guerrilla war against the bankster occupation forces which will consist mostly of the Chinese and the Russians. What is holding them back is that they do not feel that they can count on the support from the rank and file of this population. The military believes that maybe, on a good day, 2-3% of the adult males would stand with dissident military forces. I never thought I would write this, but the American people are no tougher than the French and the French haven’t won a war in over 200 years.
I do expect that the factions of the military are going to rise and put up some resistance. However, no revolution can be successful without the support of the people.
Well-intentioned people write to me and tell me how 250 million gun owners are going to throw off the chains of slavery. If that were going to happen, it would have happened nearly six years ago. In 2008, the banksters, led by Hank Paulson, helped themselves to our nation’s money and our economy went into free fall. And what did we do to stop the greatest bank robbery in world history? We did nothing!!! Subsequently, we are a defeated nation. With the growing foreign troop presence and the rise of America’s version of the East German Stasi (aka the DHS), we are also an occupied nation. Americans have lost the war and most are unaware that anything has even happened. Hillary Clinton is selling off the assets of this country to the Chinese. The EPA is stealing a million acres of land at a time. Your retirements, IRA’s and bank account will soon be gone. And what will most of America do, change the channel and open another beer.
This is why my analyses and subsequently my writing style changed to more of an adaptation approach. Americans need to be worried about having enough resources to survive the induced social chaos that is coming. Our people must also be able to defend their resources. And finally, you and your family need to develop strategies on how to avoid being induced or forced to into a detention camp. These events are not far away.If you do not know how to pray, now is the time to learn.
Source: The Common Sense Show
It is obviously clear. President Obama is a threat not only to the American people. He is destabilizing the United States every way he can. He did this paying for Treyvon protest trying to start race wars as one example. He is a threat to world peace. He has to be neutralized before he takes the world into an age of war and destruction. Now how can that be done? Congress can pass all the impeachment bills. The US Senate will not by two thirds vote him guilty removing him from office. Politically there is very little that can be done to interpose between Obama and him destroying the world.
So who will step in and take action to avert a disaster from happening? The usurper in the White House is the most lawless President in history that makes Nixon and Clintonlook like choir boys in comparison. President Obama does not respect the Constitution and international law. He is waging war against the American people economically and shredding our Bill of Rights daily.
He is waging war against Christianity on the domestic front attacking religious freedom by forcing people of conscience to pay for Obamacare the pays for abortions. He is attacking Christians in the military daring to say the name of Jesus forcing chaplains to marry homosexuals against the moral conviction of the clergy. At the same time erecting Pagan places of worship on military installations. For this matter I call on the Patriots to relieve officers of duty and command who attack the religious freedom of the men and women in uniform. I do not care if the commander is a Buddhist and gay. He must respect and defend all faiths and conscience. If he is willing to follow an unlawful, immoral order without question that will weaken the fighting strength. Then the commanders and officers who carry these immoral orders need to be relieved of command.
President Obama is waging war on Christians in Syria, Egypt and now in Kenya. He is waging war against Christians world wide. He is a threat to the faith. He is arming the enemies of Christianity who are murdering unarmed woman and children. His actions are bringing instability to the world. He does not regard public opinion at all when it comes to gun control when the people are buying guns in record numbers and the citizens reluctance to go to war with Iran and Syria. Obama is a dangerous loose cannon that must be stopped.
First, Obama may be a natural born US Citizen because he was born in Hawaii. But he renounced his US citizenship becoming an Indonesian citizen taking on the name Barry Soetoro. His records are sealed where we do not know his immigration and naturalization records documenting repatriation or if he is a US citizen. Therefore he might be ineligible to hold office. Obama by his actions says he is an agent of a foreign power working against the United States. He is a domestic enemy of the United States.
He is arming Al Qaeda. The same terrorist that killed and maimed soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama’s half brother is being funded by the CIA to fund the Muslim brotherhood. Obama’s cousin Odinga is destabilizing Kenya. Odinga was given advice from Obama when he was a US Senator on how to cause havoc and destabilize Kenya for political gain.
Now with this massacre in Nairobi Kenya killing Christians in a Shopping mall. Now there are calls for the TSA to be in Shopping Malls that are another gun free zone. It would not surprise me if there are shootings in the malls in the states to further a police state here. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri was calling for small scale attacks on US soil. Al Zawahri is a CIA backed operative who was behind the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Obama is the head of the Muslim Brotherhood and backs AL Qaeda therefore must be taken down and brought to justice.
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.
President Obama is commiting treason daily against the Americans people waging war every way possible to weaken our republic. He is involved in insurrection and rebellion against the laws of the Union.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution.
If we took the oath. We are all duty bound to uphold that oath against all enemies foreign and domestic.
Those who are commissioned Officers in the Armed forces take the oath below:
I, _____, having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”
(DA Form 71, 1 August 1959, for officers.)
I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution ofthe United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the UnitedStates and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
(Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789, with amendment effective 5 October 1962).
That oath does not say to defend unconstitutional laws and illegal orders. It does not say defend a political agenda or corrupt politicians. It does not say defend the dictator. If the laws contradict the USMJ and the Constitution of these United States. The people in the Armed forces are duty bound not to carry out the order.
We are very unique because our oaths are not to a person. But to the US Constitution. The people who written the Constitution and requiring an oath of affirmation to support and defend the Constitution. Not a monarchy. They knew the British Redcoats were bound to the will of the King. Not to any morals. They had to follow the decrees of the King without question. We do not serve a monarchy. We never swore to a dictator. We serve the cause of freedom defending and preserving our Constitution. Our oath to preserve, protect and defend out Constitution is a vital check and balance against tyranny and despotism. The UCMJ requires us to follow lawful orders and not illegal edicts that goes against the law of the land
President Obama through insurrection is working hard to overthrow the government ofthe United States. Obama is trying to find an excuse to declare a national emergency to place the USA under Martial law. He can announce the President is suspending the Constitution so continuity of government declaring the President Dictator under PD-51 President Bush singed. This makes the President a Dictator under any national emergency the chief executive decides what is and what isn’t . Congress has no say to review. This is a classified document congress is not allowed to read.
Right now in Benjamin Fulford newsletter he says with much skepticism from a source inside the Pentagon. General Staff officers are making a list of 30,000 people who are New World Order thugs including the President. All to be arrested for treason and insurrection attempting to overthrow the Constitutional government.
It has been rumored the Provost Marshal was going to arrest Obama for attempting to detonate a nuclear device in Washington DC on the 12th Anniversary of Sept 11th. The shooting in the Navy yard could be a smoke screen of the attempted arrest of Obama for treason. I can tell the Military is getting ready to act to defend this nation. When Secretary of State John Kerry signed the UN Small Arms Trade Treaty. That was an act of treason trying to repeal the Second Amendment by underhanded means using treaty law.
I do not see much of the Military going out to confiscate guns. It is not 2005 in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It is a different world.
The Military is very awake now to the President’s treasonous ways. It is my hope the Military stands down instead of carrying out illegal orders where Obama is crowned King Nothing.
Source: From The Trenches World Report
Obama’s war on Syria rages. It’s taken a horrific toll nationwide. Tens of thousands died. Dozens more do daily.
Millions were displaced. Numbers internally and abroad range up to one-third of Syria’s population. Humanitarian crisis conditions exist. Human suffering is extreme.
Peace talks reflect more illusion than reality. On January 22, they’re scheduled to begin.
On Sunday and Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with so-called Friends of Syria countries in Paris.
They include America, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and UAE.
They’re imperial collaborators. They no friends of the great majority of Syrians. On Sunday, they issued a joint statement, saying:
“Assad and his close associates with blood on their hands will have no role in Syria.”
Throughout nearly three years of conflict, they’ve wrongfully blamed him for Western-backed insurgent crimes.
They’re imperial collaborators. They’re responsible for horrific bloodshed. They want regime change. They want mass slaughter and destruction to achieve it.
They want sole right to choose who’ll rule. They want Syrians having no say. They want pro-Western stooges in charge. They’re ravaging and destroying a once peaceful country.
They’re responsible for high crimes against peace. No end of conflict looms. It’s unclear if talks will take place as scheduled. It’s unclear if it matters.
It’s unclear who’s attending. Divided opposition groups may not come. They’re preoccupied with slaughtering each other instead.
On January 12, AFP headlined “700 killed in Syria rebel-jihadist battle: monitor.”
Hundreds more are missing. Fighting rages. It’s been ongoing for days. Civilians are caught in the middle. Perhaps well over 1,000 died. Expect many more to perish.
Northern provinces are affected. Aleppo, Idlib and Raqa are hard hit. So are Hama and Homs. At least 16 suicide attacks occurred. Dozens were killed. More die daily. Syria remains a cauldron of violence.
On Sunday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius lied, saying:
“It’s the regime of Bashar al-Assad that is feeding terrorism. We must bring that regime to an end.”
“There is no solution to the Syrian tragedy apart from a political solution. And there is no possibility to achieve (it) if Geneva two does not take place.”
Geneva I ended in failure. Washington and other opponents demanded he must go. They demand he go now. They do so illegitimately.
On Sunday, John Kerry discussed prospects for Middle East peace. He addressed Syria. He blamed Assad for Obama’s war.
“There is an urgent need for the Syrian regime to implement its obligations under the UN Security Council Presidential Statement,” he said.
“We believe it is possible for the regime to (cease fighting) before Geneva – local ceasefires if necessary – a ceasefire with respect to Aleppo, and send the signal that they are prepared to set a different mood, a different climate, a different stage for the possibility of success in Geneva.”
“They have the power to do that. And the opposition has pledged that if they will do that. The opposition will live by it.”
False! Kerry knows it. Extremist elements continue fighting. They reject peace talks. Washington bears full responsibility for ongoing conflict. Assad defends Syria responsibly.
He’s battling US-backed foreign invaders. Don’t expect Kerry to explain. Continued aggression is planned.
Washington is directly involved in supplying lethal aid. It’s been doing it all along. It’s coming cross border from Turkey and Jordan. Israel is supplying weapons. CIA and US special forces are directly involved.
Kerry lied saying Assad “disregard(s) the most basic human rights.” Extremist opposition forces are barbaric. They’ve committed numerous atrocities. Assad is wrongfully blamed.
Washington wants war on Syria continued. Geneva II won’t end it. Demanding Assad must go is illegal.
Syrians alone have sole right to decide who’ll lead them. Foreign interference violates international law.
Kerry is an unindicted war criminal. He has no legitimacy whatever. He’s less than optimistic about Syria.
“None of us have an expectation,” he said. “(F)ull agreement” is unlikely.
“What we do expect is to begin to get the parties at the table convened and negotiating and beginning a process of waging an even stronger effort to provide for this political solution.”
“It’ll take a little bit of time, but I’m confident that it needs that forum. It needs all the players at the table.”
“It needs the umbrella of the United Nations.” It needs Assad gone, according to Kerry.
On Sunday, Friends of Syria countries issued a statement saying Geneva Two’s objective is replacing Assad with transitional governance.
They want one fully empowered. They want pro-Western stooges in charge. They want what Syrians won’t tolerate.
Ahmad Jarba heads the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. He replaced Moaz al-Khatib. He’s no friend of Syrians. He’s one-sidedly pro-Western.
He issued a statement saying:
“The most important aspect of today’s meeting is that we all agree to say that the Assad family has no future in Syria.”
“Removing Assad from Syria for the future has now been clearly established in a unanimous decision adopted by (Friends of Syria countries) without the possibility for ambiguity.”
Lavrov responded saying:
“Our partners are blinded by an ideological mission for regime change.”
“I am convinced that the West is doing this to demonstrate that they call the shots in the Middle East. This is a totally politicized approach.”
Russia is fundamentally opposed. It respects Syrian sovereignty. International laws matter. Putin calls force against sovereign nations unacceptable. He said waging it is aggression.
Removing Assad assures endless conflict. Doing so frees jihadists to run wild. Syria will resemble Iraq and Libya.
Daily conflict kills dozens in both countries. Violence shows no signs of ending. Pro-Western puppet governance can’t stop it.
Institute of World Economy and International Relations senior fellow Stanislav Ivanov believes peace in Syria remains elusive.
He doubts Geneva II will work. Given what remains ongoing, it’s destined to fail, he said.
He believes a UN-sponsored conference should precede Geneva. All relevant international parties should be involved.
Iran should be invited unconditionally. It won’t attend Geneva any other way.
Center for Contemporary Iranian Studies Rajab Safarov calls Geneva talks this month futile.
“The conference will not take place because of the US,” he said. “Washington cannot get rid of the heavy pressure from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. They are not interested in finding a solution to the Syrian issue,” he added.
“There are almost no chances this conference and even holding it can succeed,” he said.
“Assad needs 4-6 months (more fighting) maximum. After that there will be no opposition in Syria. And no need” for peace talks, he believes.
At the same time, he thinks Geneva II can achieve something positive. Geneva I failed by demanding Assad must go.
Friends of Syria countries demand it now. Doing so runs counter to what most Syrians wish. Peace remains a convenient illusion.
Expect conflict without end to continue. It’s virtually certain without Iran’s involvement to end it.
Regional violence shows no signs of ending. Greater war looms possible. Post-9/11, millions died. Washington bears full responsibility.
It’s waging war on humanity. Expect other countries to be ravaged and destroyed before it ends.
The entire region may become embroiled in conflict. Global war is possible. Imagine the potential consequences. Imagine what no responsible leaders should risk.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
“At last the world knows America as the savior of the world!” – President Woodrow Wilson, Paris Peace Conference, 1919
The horrors reported each day from Syria and Iraq are enough to make one cry; in particular, the atrocities carried out by the al-Qaeda types: floggings; beheadings; playing soccer with the heads; cutting open dead bodies to remove organs just for mockery; suicide bombers, car bombs, the ground littered with human body parts; countless young children traumatized for life; the imposition of sharia law, including bans on music … What century are we living in? What millennium? What world?
People occasionally write to me that my unwavering antagonism toward American foreign policy is misplaced; that as awful as Washington’s Museum of Horrors is, al-Qaeda is worse and the world needs the United States to combat the awful jihadists.
“Let me tell you about the very rich,” F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote. “They are different from you and me.”
And let me tell you about American leaders. In power, they don’t think the way you and I do. They don’t feel the way you and I do. They have supported “awful jihadists” and their moral equivalents for decades. Let’s begin in 1979 in Afghanistan, where the Moujahedeen (“holy warriors”) were in battle against a secular, progressive government supported by the Soviet Union; a “favorite tactic” of the Moujahedeen was “to torture victims [often Russians] by first cutting off their nose, ears, and genitals, then removing one slice of skin after another”, producing “a slow, very painful death”.
With America’s massive and indispensable military backing in the 1980s, Afghanistan’s last secular government (bringing women into the 20th century) was overthrown, and out of the victoriousMoujahedeen arose al Qaeda.
During this same period the United States was supporting the infamous Khmer Rouge of Cambodia; yes, the same charming lads of Pol Pot and The Killing Fields.
President Carter’s National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was a leading force behind the US support of both the Moujahedeen and the Khmer Rouge. What does that tell you about that American leader? Or Jimmy Carter – an inspiration out of office, but a rather different person in the White House? Or Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama, who chose Brzezinski as one of his advisers?
Another proud example of the United States fighting the awful jihadists is Kosovo, an overwhelmingly Muslim province of Serbia. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) began an armed conflict with Belgrade in the early 1990s to split Kosovo from Serbia. The KLA was considered a terrorist organization by the US, the UK and France for years, with numerous reports of the KLA having contact with al-Qaeda, getting arms from them, having its militants trained in al-Qaeda camps in Pakistan, and even having members of al-Qaeda in KLA ranks fighting against Serbia. But Washington’s imperialists, more concerned about dealing a blow to Serbia, “the last communist government in Europe”, supported the KLA.
The KLA have been known for their torture and trafficking in women, heroin, and human body parts (sic). The United States has naturally been pushing for Kosovo’s membership in NATO and the European Union.
More recently the US has supported awful jihadists in Libya and Syria, with awful consequences.
It would, moreover, be difficult to name a single brutal dictatorship of the second half of the 20th Century that was not supported by the United States; not only supported, but often put into power and kept in power against the wishes of the population. And in recent years as well, Washington has supported very repressive governments, such as Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Indonesia, Egypt, Colombia, Qatar, and Israel.
Not exactly the grand savior our sad old world is yearning for. (Oh, did I mention that Washington’s policies create a never-ending supply of terrorists?)
And what do American leaders think of their own record? Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was probably speaking for the whole private club when she wrote that in the pursuit of its national security the United States no longer needed to be guided by “notions of international law and norms” or “institutions like the United Nations” because America was “on the right side of history.”
If you’ve never done anything you wouldn’t want the government to know about, you should re-examine your life choices.
“The idea is to build an antiterrorist global environment,” a senior American defense official said in 2003, “so that in 20 to 30 years, terrorism will be like slave-trading, completely discredited.”
One must wonder: When will the dropping of bombs on innocent civilians by the United States, and invading and occupying their country become completely discredited? When will the use of depleted uranium, cluster bombs, CIA torture renditions, and round-the-world, round-the-clock surveillance become things that even men like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Barack Obama, and John Brennan will be too embarrassed to defend?
Last month, a former National Security Agency official told the Washington Post that the Agency’s workers are polishing up their résumés and asking that they be cleared – removing any material linked to classified programs – so they can be sent out to potential employers. He noted that one employee who processes the résumés said, “I’ve never seen so many résumés that people want to have cleared in my life.”
Morale is “bad overall”, said another former official. “The news – the Snowden disclosures – it questions the integrity of the NSA workforce,” he said. “It’s become very public and very personal. Literally, neighbors are asking people, ‘Why are you spying on Grandma?’ And we aren’t. People are feeling bad, beaten down.”
President Obama was recently moved to declare that he would be proposing “some self-restraint on the NSA” and “some reforms that can give people more confidence.” He also said “In some ways, the technology and the budgets and the capacity [at NSA] have outstripped the constraints. And we’ve got to rebuild those in the same way that we’re having to do on a whole series of capacities … [such as] drone operations.”
Well, dear readers and comrades, we shall see. But if you’re looking for a glimmer of hope to begin a new year, you may as well try grabbing onto these little offerings. When the American Empire crumbles, abroad and at home, as one day it must, Edward Snowden’s courageous actions may well be seen as one of the key steps along that road. I’ve long maintained that only the American people have the power to stop The Imperial Machine – the monster that eats the world’s environment, screws up its economies, and spews violence on every continent. And for that to happen the American people have to lose their deep-seated, quasi-religious belief in “American Exceptionalism”. For many, what they’ve been forced to learn the past six months has undoubtedly worn deep holes into the protective armor that has surrounded their hearts and minds since childhood.
A surprising and exhilarating example of one of these holes in the armor is the New Year’s day editorial in the New York Times that is now well known. Entitled “Edward Snowden, Whistle-blower” – itself a legitimation of his actions – its key part says: “Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service.”
The president has been moved to appoint a committee to study NSA abuses. This of course is a standard bureaucratic maneuver to keep critics at bay. But the committee – Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies – did come up with a few unexpected recommendations in its report presented December 13, the most interesting of which perhaps are these two:
“Governments should not use surveillance to steal industry secrets to advantage their domestic industry.”
“Governments should not use their offensive cyber capabilities to change the amounts held in financial accounts or otherwise manipulate the financial systems.”
The first recommendation refers to a practice, though certainly despicable, that is something the United States has been doing, and lying about, for decades. Just this past September, James Clapper, Director of US National Intelligence, declared: “What we do not do, as we have said many times, is use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies.”
Clapper is the same gentleman who told Congress in March that the NSA does not intentionally collect any kind of data on millions of Americans; and, when subsequently challenged on this remark, declared: “I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner by saying ‘no’.”
The second recommendation had not been revealed before, in a Snowden document or from any other source.
“That was a strangely specific recommendation for something nobody was talking about,” observed the director of a government transparency group.
ABC News reported that “A spokesperson for the NSA declined to comment on the issue of bank account hacking, and a representative for U.S. Cyber Command did not immediately return an emailed request for comment.”
Manipulating bank records is about as petty and dishonorable as a superpower can behave, and could conceivably, eventually, lead to the end of the NSA as we’ve all come to know and love it. On the other hand, the Agency no doubt holds some very embarrassing information about anyone in a position to do them harm.
The bombing of Flight 103 – Case closed?
When the 25th anniversary of the 1988 bombing of PanAm Flight 103 occurred on December 21 I was fully expecting the usual repetitions of the false accusation against Libya and Moammar Gaddafi as being responsible for the act which took the lives of 270 people over and in Lockerbie, Scotland. But much to my surprise, mingled with such, there were a rash of comments skeptical of the official British-US version, made by various people in Scotland and elsewhere, including by the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and Libya.
In a joint statement the three governments said they were determined to unearth the truth behind the attack. “We want all those responsible for this brutal act of terrorism brought to justice, and to understand why it was committed”, they declared.
Remarkable. In 1991, the United States indicted a Libyan named Adelbaset al-Megrahi. He was eventually found guilty of being the sole perpetrator of the crime, kept in prison for many years, and finally released in 2009 when he had terminal cancer, allegedly for humanitarian reasons, although an acute smell of oil could be detected. And now they speak of bringing to justice “those responsible for this brutal act of terrorism”.
The 1988 crime was actually organized by Iran in retaliation for the American shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane in July of the same year, which took the lives of 290 people. It was carried out by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), a 1968 breakaway from a component of the Palestine Liberation Organization, with some help from Syria. And this version was very widely accepted in the Western world, in government and media circles. Until the US buildup to the Gulf War came along in 1990 and the support of Iran and Syria was needed. Then, suddenly, we were told that it was Libya behind the crime.
If the US and UK now wish to return to Iran, and perhaps Syria, as the culprits, they will have a lot of explaining to do about their previous lie. But these two governments always have a lot of explaining to do. They’re good at it. And the great bulk of their indoctrinated citizens, with little resistance, will accept the new/old party line, and their mainstream media will effortlessly switch back to the old/new official version, since Iran and Syria are at the top of the current list of Bad Guys. (The PFLP-GC has been quiescent for some time and may scarcely exist.)
If you’re confused by all this, I suggest that you start by reading my detailed article on the history of this case, written in 2001 but still very informative and relevant. You may be rather surprised.
The UK, US and Libyan governments have now announced that they will co-operate to reveal “the full facts” of the Lockerbie bombing. And Robert Mueller, the former head of the FBI, said he believes more people will be charged. This could be very interesting.
Free books of historical value
- The complete set, less one volume, of the 15 Church Committee (1975-6) volumes. Lacking only Final Report, book 6: “Congressional Research Service. Supplementary Reports on Intelligence Activities.”
- The complete set, less one volume, of the 6 Pike Committee volumes. Lacking only volume 6: “Committee Proceedings, part II”
- The Rockefeller Commission Report, one volume.
- Hearings on FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) before Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (same as Church Committee), one volume.
Total of 21 volumes, all from 1975-1976, all in good condition. Either pick them up in Washington, DC or send me $10 for postage.
- Washington Post May 11, 1979; New York Times, April 13 1979
- William Blum, “Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower” (2005), chapter 10
- RT TV (Russia Today, Moscow), May 4, 2012
- Associated Press, December 14, 2010
- Foreign Affairs (Council on Foreign Relations), January/February 2000 issue
- New York Times, January 17, 2003
- Washington Post, December 7, 2013
- Washington Post, December 18, 2013
- Washington Post, December 7, 2013
- “Liberty and Security in a Changing World”, p.221
- See Anti-Empire Report, #118, June 26, 2013, second part
- Statement by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper on Allegations of Economic Espionage, September 8, 2013
- NBC News, June 9, 2013
- Kel McLanahan, executive director of National Security Counselors, speaking to ABC News Radio, December 23, 2013
- ABC News Radio, December 23, 2013
- Reuters news agency, December 22, 2013
What really happened in the Ukrainian crisis?
It is freezing cold in Kiev, legendary city of golden domes on the banks of Dnieper River – cradle of ancient Russian civilisation and the most charming of East European capitals. It is a comfortable and rather prosperous place, with hundreds of small and cosy restaurants, neat streets, sundry parks and that magnificent river. The girls are pretty and the men are sturdy. Kiev is more relaxed than Moscow, and easier on the wallet. Though statistics say the Ukraine is broke and its people should be as poor as Africans, in reality they aren’t doing too badly, thanks to their fiscal imprudence. The government borrowed and spent freely, heavily subsidised housing and heating, and they brazenly avoided devaluation of the national currency and the austerity program prescribed by the IMF. This living on credit can go only so far: the Ukraine was doomed to default on its debts next month or sooner, and this is one of the reasons for the present commotion.
A tug-of-war between the East and the West for the future of Ukraine lasted over a month, and has ended for all practical purposes in a resounding victory for Vladimir Putin, adding to his previous successes in Syria and Iran. The trouble began when the administration of President Yanukovich went looking for credits to reschedule its loans and avoid default. There were no offers. They turned to the EC for help; the EC, chiefly Poland and Germany, seeing that the Ukrainian administration was desperate, prepared an association agreement of unusual severity.
The EC is quite hard on its new East European members, Latvia, Romania, Bulgaria et al.: these countries had their industry and agriculture decimated, their young people working menial jobs in Western Europe, their population drop exceeded that of the WWII.
But the association agreement offered to the Ukraine was even worse. It would turn the Ukraine into an impoverished colony of the EC without giving it even the dubious advantages of membership (such as freedom of work and travel in the EC). In desperation, Yanukovich agreed to sign on the dotted line, in vain hopes of getting a large enough loan to avoid collapse. But the EC has no money to spare – it has to provide for Greece, Italy, Spain. Now Russia entered the picture. At the time, relations of the Ukraine and Russia were far from good. Russians had become snotty with their oil money, the Ukrainians blamed their troubles on Russians, but Russia was still the biggest market for Ukrainian products.
For Russia, the EC agreement meant trouble: currently the Ukraine sells its output in Russia with very little customs protection; the borders are porous; people move freely across the border, without even a passport. If the EC association agreement were signed, the EC products would flood Russia through the Ukrainian window of opportunity. So Putin spelled out the rules to Yanukovich: if you sign with the EC, Russian tariffs will rise. This would put some 400,000 Ukrainians out of work right away. Yanukovich balked and refused to sign the EC agreement at the last minute. (I predicted this in my report from Kiev full three weeks before it happened, when nobody believed it – a source of pride).
The EC, and the US standing behind it, were quite upset. Besides the loss of potential economic profit, they had another important reason: they wanted to keep Russia farther away from Europe, and they wanted to keep Russia weak. Russia is not the Soviet Union, but some of the Soviet disobedience to Western imperial designs still lingers in Moscow: be it in Syria, Egypt, Vietnam, Cuba, Angola, Venezuela or Zimbabwe, the Empire can’t have its way while the Russian bear is relatively strong. Russia without the Ukraine can’t be really powerful: it would be like the US with its Mid-western and Pacific states chopped away. The West does not want the Ukraine to prosper, or to become a stable and strong state either, so it cannot join Russia and make it stronger. A weak, poor and destabilised Ukraine in semi-colonial dependence to the West with some NATO bases is the best future for the country, as perceived by Washington or Brussels.
Angered by this last-moment-escape of Yanukovich, the West activated its supporters. For over a month, Kiev has been besieged by huge crowds bussed from all over the Ukraine, bearing a local strain of the Arab Spring in the far north. Less violent than Tahrir, their Maidan Square became a symbol of struggle for the European strategic future of the country. The Ukraine was turned into the latest battle ground between the US-led alliance and a rising Russia. Would it be a revanche for Obama’s Syria debacle, or another heavy strike at fading American hegemony?
The simple division into “pro-East” and “pro-West” has been complicated by the heterogeneity of the Ukraine. The loosely knit country of differing regions is quite similar in its makeup to the Yugoslavia of old. It is another post-Versailles hotchpotch of a country made up after the First World War of bits and pieces, and made independent after the Soviet collapse in 1991. Some parts of this “Ukraine” were incorporated by Russia 500 years ago, the Ukraine proper (a much smaller parcel of land, bearing this name) joined Russia 350 years ago, whilst the Western Ukraine (called the “Eastern Regions”) was acquired by Stalin in 1939, and the Crimea was incorporated in the Ukrainian Soviet Republic by Khrushchev in 1954.
The Ukraine is as Russian as the South-of-France is French and as Texas and California are American. Yes, some hundreds years ago, Provence was independent from Paris, – it had its own language and art; while Nice and Savoy became French rather recently. Yes, California and Texas joined the Union rather late too. Still, we understand that they are – by now – parts of those larger countries, ifs and buts notwithstanding. But if they were forced to secede, they would probably evolve a new historic narrative stressing the French ill treatment of the South in the Cathar Crusade, or dispossession of Spanish and Russian residents of California.
Accordingly, since the Ukraine’s independence, the authorities have been busy nation-building, enforcing a single official language and creating a new national myth for its 45 million inhabitants. The crowds milling about the Maidan were predominantly (though not exclusively) arrivals from Galicia, a mountainous county bordering with Poland and Hungary, 500 km (300 miles) away from Kiev, and natives of the capital refer to the Maidan gathering as a “Galician occupation”.
Like the fiery Bretons, the Galicians are fierce nationalists, bearers of a true Ukrainian spirit (whatever that means). Under Polish and Austrian rule for centuries, whilst the Jews were economically powerful, they are a strongly anti-Jewish and anti-Polish lot, and their modern identity centred around their support for Hitler during the WWII, accompanied by the ethnic cleansing of their Polish and Jewish neighbours. After the WWII, the remainder of pro-Hitler Galician SS fighters were adopted by US Intelligence, re-armed and turned into a guerrilla force against the Soviets. They added an anti-Russian line to their two ancient hatreds and kept fighting the “forest war” until 1956, and these ties between the Cold Warriors have survived the thaw.
After 1991, when the independent Ukraine was created, in the void of state-building traditions, the Galicians were lauded as ‘true Ukrainians’, as they were the only Ukrainians who ever wanted independence. Their language was used as the basis of a new national state language, their traditions became enshrined on the state level. Memorials of Galician Nazi collaborators and mass murderers Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych peppered the land, often provoking the indignation of other Ukrainians. The Galicians played an important part in the 2004 Orange Revolution as well, when the results of presidential elections were declared void and the pro-Western candidate Mr Yuschenko got the upper hand in the re-run.
However, in 2004, many Kievans also supported Yuschenko, hoping for the Western alliance and a bright new future. Now, in 2013, the city’s support for the Maidan was quite low, and the people of Kiev complained loudly about the mess created by the invading throngs: felled trees, burned benches, despoiled buildings and a lot of biological waste. Still, Kiev is home to many NGOs; city intellectuals receive generous help from the US and EC. The old comprador spirit is always strongest in the capitals.
For the East and Southeast of the Ukraine, the populous and heavily industrialised regions, the proposal of association with the EC is a no-go, with no ifs, ands or buts. They produce coal, steel, machinery, cars, missiles, tanks and aircraft. Western imports would erase Ukrainian industry right off the map, as the EC officials freely admit. Even the Poles, hardly a paragon of industrial development, had the audacity to say to the Ukraine: we’ll do the technical stuff, you’d better invest in agriculture. This is easier to say than to do: the EC has a lot of regulations that make Ukrainian products unfit for sale and consumption in Europe. Ukrainian experts estimated their expected losses for entering into association with the EC at anything from 20 to 150 billion euros.
For Galicians, the association would work fine. Their speaker at the Maidan called on the youth to ‘go where you can get money’ and do not give a damn for industry. They make their income in two ways: providing bed-and breakfast rooms for Western tourists and working in Poland and Germany as maids and menials. They hoped they would get visa-free access to Europe and make a decent income for themselves. Meanwhile, nobody offered them a visa-waiver arrangement. The Brits mull over leaving the EC, because of the Poles who flooded their country; the Ukrainians would be too much for London. Only the Americans, always generous at somebody’s else expense, demanded the EC drop its visa requirement for them.
While the Maidan was boiling, the West sent its emissaries, ministers and members of parliament to cheer the Maidan crowd, to call for President Yanukovich to resign and for a revolution to install pro-Western rule. Senator McCain went there and made a few firebrand speeches. The EC declared Yanukovich “illegitimate” because so many of his citizens demonstrated against him. But when millions of French citizens demonstrated against their president, when Occupy Wall Street was violently dispersed, nobody thought the government of France or the US president had lost legitimacy…
Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State, shared her biscuits with the demonstrators, and demanded from the oligarchs support for the “European cause” or their businesses would suffer. The Ukrainian oligarchs are very wealthy, and they prefer the Ukraine as it is, sitting on the fence between the East and the West. They are afraid that the Russian companies will strip their assets should the Ukraine join the Customs Union, and they know that they are not competitive enough to compete with the EC. Pushed now by Nuland, they were close to falling on the EC side.
Yanukovich was in big trouble. The default was rapidly approaching. He annoyed the pro-Western populace, and he irritated his own supporters, the people of the East and Southeast. The Ukraine had a real chance of collapsing into anarchy. A far-right nationalist party, Svoboda (Liberty), probably the nearest thing to the Nazi party to arise in Europe since 1945, made a bid for power. The EC politicians accused Russia of pressurising the Ukraine; Russian missiles suddenly emerged in the western-most tip of Russia, a few minutes flight from Berlin. The Russian armed forces discussed the US strategy of a “disarming first strike”. The tension was very high.
Edward Lucas, the Economist’s international editor and author of The New Cold War, is a hawk of the Churchill and Reagan variety. For him, Russia is an enemy, whether ruled by Tsar, by Stalin or by Putin. He wrote: “It is no exaggeration to say that the [Ukraine] determines the long-term future of the entire former Soviet Union. If Ukraine adopts a Euro-Atlantic orientation, then the Putin regime and its satrapies are finished… But if Ukraine falls into Russia’s grip, then the outlook is bleak and dangerous… Europe’s own security will also be endangered. NATO is already struggling to protect the Baltic states and Poland from the integrated and increasingly impressive military forces of Russia and Belarus. Add Ukraine to that alliance, and a headache turns into a nightmare.”
In this cliff-hanging situation, Putin made his pre-emptive strike. At a meeting in the Kremlin, he agreed to buy fifteen billion euros worth of Ukrainian Eurobonds and cut the natural gas price by a third. This meant there would be no default; no massive unemployment; no happy hunting ground for the neo-Nazi thugs of Svoboda; no cheap and plentiful Ukrainian prostitutes and menials for the Germans and Poles; and Ukrainian homes will be warm this Christmas. Better yet, the presidents agreed to reforge their industrial cooperation. When Russia and Ukraine formed a single country, they built spaceships; apart, they can hardly launch a naval ship. Though unification isn’t on the map yet, it would make sense for both partners. This artificially divided country can be united, and it would do a lot of good for both of their populaces, and for all people seeking freedom from US hegemony.
There are a lot of difficulties ahead: Putin and Yanukovich are not friends, Ukrainian leaders are prone to renege, the US and the EC have a lot of resources. But meanwhile, it is a victory to celebrate this Christmas tide. Such victories keep Iran safe from US bombardment, inspire the Japanese to demand removal of Okinawa base, encourage those seeking closure of Guantanamo jail, cheer up Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, frighten the NSA and CIA and allow French Catholics to march against Hollande’s child-trade laws.
What is the secret of Putin’s success? Edward Lucas said, in an interview to the pro-Western Ekho Moskvy radio: “Putin had a great year – Snowden, Syria, Ukraine. He checkmated Europe. He is a great player: he notices our weaknesses and turns them into his victories. He is good in diplomatic bluff, and in the game of Divide and Rule. He makes the Europeans think that the US is weak, and he convinced the US that Europeans are useless”.
I would offer an alternative explanation. The winds and hidden currents of history respond to those who feel their way. Putin is no less likely a roguish leader of global resistance than Princess Leia or Captain Solo were in Star Wars. Just the time for such a man is ripe.
Unlike Solo, he is not an adventurer. He is a prudent man. He does not try his luck, he waits, even procrastinates. He did not try to change regime in Tbilisi in 2008, when his troops were already on the outskirts of the city. He did not try his luck in Kiev, either. He has spent many hours in many meetings with Yanukovich whom he supposedly personally dislikes.
Like Captain Solo, Putin is a man who is ready to pay his way, full price, and such politicians are rare. “Do you know what is the proudest word you will ever hear from an Englishman’s mouth?”, asked a James Joyce character, and answered: “His proudest boast is I paid my way.” Those were Englishmen of another era, long before the likes of Blair, et al.
While McCain and Nuland, Merkel and Bildt speak of the European choice for the Ukraine, none of them is ready to pay for it. Only Russia is ready to pay her way, in the Joycean sense, whether in cash, as now, or in blood, as in WWII.
Putin is also a magnanimous man. He celebrated his Ukrainian victory and forthcoming Christmas by forgiving his personal and political enemies and setting them free: the Pussy Riot punks, Khodorkovsky the murderous oligarch, rioters… And his last press conference he carried out in Captain Solo self-deprecating mode, and this, for a man in his position, is a very good sign.
“When also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers; and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger…they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.” Judges 2:10-13
In his book “New Evangelicalism: the New World Order,” Paul Smith, the younger brother of Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel, reports that the second generation sons of faithful evangelicals and evangelical pastors are going astray. Among those who have already done so are Daniel Fuller, Frank Schaeffer, Rick Warren, and Chuck Smith Jr. (p. 177)
“New” evangelicals are traveling the broad smooth road to compromise, syncretism, universalism and evolutionary pantheism taken years ago by mainline Protestantism. Already some apostate evangelicals have embraced and are teaching pantheist conceptions of Jesus Christ.
In the “The Christ of the New Age Movement,” Ron Rhodes notes that apostate evangelical, now New Age theologian David Spangler defines Christ as a cosmic principle:
“Any old Christ will not do, not if we need to show that we have something better than the mainstream Christian traditions. It must be a cosmic Christ, a universal Christ, a New Age Christ.” The Christ is not so much a religious figure, “but rather a cosmic principle, a spiritual presence whose quality infuses and appears in various ways in all the religions and philosophies that uplift humanity and seek unity with spirit.” (“The Christ of the New Age Movement: Part One in a Two-Part Series on New Age Christology,” cited in “A Quantum Cosmic Christ,” Herescope BlogSpot, June 2012)
The cosmic Christ is the Omega refashioned. The Omega is the Hermetic Hindu-pantheist divine One Substance featured by apostate Catholic theologian Teilhard de Chardin in his New Religion and now by Leonard Sweet in his Quantum Spirituality.
Leonard Sweet, preacher, scholar, and ordained United Methodist clergyman teaches a version of de Chardin’s New Religion that he calls Quantum Spirituality. Sweet has remolded Omega as an embodiment of God in process of evolving within the substance of creation:
“Quantum spirituality bonds us to all creation as well as to other members of the human family…. This entails a radical doctrine of embodiment of God in the very substance of creation…. But a spirituality that is not in some way entheistic (whether pan- or trans-), that does not extend to the spirit-matter of the cosmos, is not Christian.” (ibid, Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality: A Postmodern Apologetic “)
The fall of the Christian Church is not limited to the Evangelical Church but rather the disaster is manifest over the entire denominational spectrum from the Presbyterian Church USA, which has lost hundreds of churches in the last few years, to the Episcopal and Catholic denominations.
In “Tidings of Discomfort and Joy,” Jamie Dean describes a scorched earth policy being conducted by the apostate Episcopal Church against faithful Anglicans leaving the TEC:
“TEC leaders have fought dozens of court battles to force congregations leaving the denomination to forfeit the buildings they, their parents, and their grandparents paid for.” (Jamie Dean, World Magazine, Dec. 28, 2013)
Phil Ashey of the American Anglican Council, an advocacy group for parishes and dioceses leaving the TEC, says these conflicts are a kind of “first fruits” of what faithful Christians outside TEC could face in coming years.
Since the TEC consecrated openly homosexual Gene Robinson as its first ’gay’ bishop a decade ago, hundreds of churches have fled the denomination. Departing churches emphasize TEC’s approval of open homosexuality as an outgrowth of deeper doctrinal problems: TEC leadership has questioned the authority of Scripture for decades.
Under Katherine Jefferts Schori, the first female presiding bishop, the scorched earth policy has reached new heights. The apostate Schori said this is because,
“Bad behavior must be confronted.” (ibid)
Schori preaches a brand of evolutionary pantheism while masquerading as a Christian bishop. As she mocks the crucial doctrines of the Christian faith, including the God of creation, the Incarnation, and the Trinity, she calls on Christians to boldly cross the frontier to become God while she taunts the Lord by use of the name Big Man,
“… and then points her finger at everyone listening and tells them that they have “missed the boat.” Jefferts Schori then proclaims that she has the answer for this. We all need the “act of crossing boundaries” to become God after which our hands become a “sacrament of mission.” In this way Schori continues “her mission of destroying the Christian faith through her rhetorical device of dismissive ridicule. (The False Theology of Episcopalian Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori,” Sarah Frances Ives, PhD, VirtueOnline, Wednesday, July 11, 2012)
Within the Catholic Church losses have also been devastating, said Patrick Buchanan:
“…Catholic losses have been staggering (and) Catholics who remain in the Church are not nearly as firm in the faith or devout as their parents were. The institutional shrinkage mirrors a spreading disbelief in doctrines that define the faith. Millions of Catholic children are being taught their faith by heretics.” (Suicide of a Super Power: Will America Survive to 2025? pp. 91-93)
Evolutionary pantheism quietly infiltrated the Catholic Church years ago. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen identifies the infamous heretic Teilhard de Chardin as the main villain:
“As one looks at the various trends in our day, one sees that Teilhard’s conception of spirituality is in the forefront. He knew that he had to pass through many hazards, but he was directed principally to the cosmic world…..His fundamental orientation was “to attain heaven through the fulfillment of earth. Christify matter.” (Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, Footprints In A Darkened Forest, p. 73)
By any name, Quantum Spirituality, Evolutionary Christianity, Schori’s brand of evolutionary pantheism or Teilhard’s New Religion, all are a synthesis of heresies whose primary doctrine is evolution.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, describes our age as marked by so much spiritual and theological confusion that the God of the Bible has largely disappeared from view and been replaced by,
“…less imposing deities that are more amenable to the modern mind.” (The Disappearance of God, Mohler, p. xiii)
We are witnessing the secularization, paganization and evaporation of orthodox Biblical theism to which must be added rebellion against every vestige of authority, an inversion of history caused by evolutionary thinking, the privatization of truth and,
“…..the fact that millions of Americans claim a divine right to their own spiritual cocoon and belief system.” Americans, “now lay claim to their ‘own personal Jesus.’ This personal vision of Jesus Christ may well bear little or no resemblance to Jesus as He is revealed in the Bible.” (xiii)
We are on the very brink of an anti-orthodox Christian mentality empowered and promoted by America’s apostate paganized ‘church.’ This development is approved and applauded by America’s cultural elites. For a long time our ‘highly evolved’ cultural elites–political, legal, judicial, academic, scientific, entertainment, education—have been not only been largely post-Christian in their mentality but openly hostile:
“NBC’s sitcom “The New Normal” isn’t just trying to remake society for the Gay Left. It’s trying to remake Christianity, which is to say, destroy it.” (Brent Bozell, “The New Normal Christianity?” Townhall.com, Oct 26, 2012)
Paganized, post-Christian, sexually emancipated America is in a very advanced state of moral decay. Years ago when its’ decay was not as advanced, Pitirim Sorokin even then compared it with the morally depraved, sexually decadent social conditions in the Old Kingdom of Egypt 4,500 years ago just prior to its collapse. In his book, “The American Sex Revolution,” Sorokin reported that in the Old Kingdom:
“Sexual anarchy assumed extreme forms and spread through a large part of the population. Side by side with an increase of sexual perversions, a shameless sexual promiscuity also greatly increased. They seduced members of the same family. Relations between father and daughter…..son and mother…….Adultery, rape……prostitution greatly increased………homosexual love entered the mores of the population……all the aberrations of morbid eroticism……..unnatural relations, flagellations, and sodomy.” (p. 93)
When sodomy becomes not just socially acceptable to a people but is rather a cause for celebration then collapse cannot be far behind:
“The Southern Decadence Festival is one of our nation’s most notorious celebrations of sodomy, public sex acts, prostitution, drunkenness, and worse, but is by no means the only such festival. According to this year’s Autumn Gay Pride Calendar, decadence festivals are held over and across post-Christian America and Western Europe as well as in Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, Thailand, Brazil, Belarus, Ireland, Japan, Scotland, China, S. Africa, India and Taipei. (“Sex slaves, sexual anarchy and decadence festivals: ominous signs of something really rotten,” L. Kimball, Renew America, Oct. 25, 2012)
One of the central realities of America’s moral decay was the dawning of a post-Christian culture now rapidly transitioning into an anti-orthodox Christian society.
The anti-orthodox Christian consciousness is now well developed. Tolerance is perverted into a radical secularism that is wholly open to ‘gay’ marriage and sodomy, abortion as legalized ‘choice,’ perverse sex education for children, occult practices, Satanism, sorcery, Wicca, magic, nudity, pornography and Decadence Festivals but intolerant of God’s Authority, Moral Law and sexual ethics. The post-Christian mind is closed to the eternally unchanging higher truths of God but completely open to the idea that truth has no objective or absolute basis whatsoever. Indeed, the postmodern mind has a fanatical dedication to moral relativism, love of self, pleasure, and its own personal Jesus idols and gods, be they evolution-gods, science-gods, mystical passion-gods, Omegas, gods-of-reason or something else.
We are living in an age of deep and undeniable breakdown, an age of darkness and spreading evil where moral constraints and restraints have been thrown off in the name of a liberation that does not emancipate but enslave. Our increasingly bizarre age is marked by a fundamental failure of conviction in unison with deepening corruption and lawlessness characterized by pathological lying, hard-edged egotism and warped, distorted personalities; but then Scripture has told us that sinners love darkness rather than the light.
Something is happening to the consciousness of this age. A counter-conversion of consciousness is closing the soul to Jesus Christ while opening it to powers of darkness. If we listen closely said Albert Mohler, we can hear something,
“….like the closing of a steel door—a solemn, cataclysmic slamming of a door.” (p. 166)
No matter how much discomfort and suffering it causes us we nevertheless need to “wake up” and “see” and “comprehend” these developments in order to understand the challenges we are already facing and the those yet to come. We are in a time of shaking, and there is far worse to come. We are about to see what remains and what falls. There is a sense, said Dr. Mohler, that we are waiting for a signal for something to tell us which way we are going to go,
“Something is happening and about to happen. The landscape is changing, the skies are darkening—and this is something we know with a spiritual perception, a spiritual sense, a spiritual urgency. Something is happening that we as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ should see and understand. For we cannot say that we were not warned.” (pp. 158, 164, 166)
As the global financial crisis now enters its seventh year, it is time to start asking difficult questions about the right priorities for popular protest if we want to realise a truly united voice of the world’s people. There can be no revolution in a truly moral or global sense until the critical needs of the extreme poor are prioritised and upheld, which will require mass mobilisations in the streets like we have never seen before.
At the onset of 2014, many people are now anticipating the prospect of a ‘global revolution’. The intense revolutionary fervour of 2011 may have dissipated in North America and much of Western Europe in the past couple of years, but a new geography of protest continues to shift and transmute in different countries and world regions – the million people on the streets of Brazil in June last year; the earlier defence of the commons in Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park; the indigenous uprising and student protests across Canada; the Ukraine demonstrations that are still under way.
There is no way of predicting where a mass protest movement will kick off next or what form it will take, but analysts expect that an even larger-scale version of an Occupy Wall Street-type movement will emerge in 2014. The conditions for a truly global political awakening are firmly in place, and few can believe in the politician’s rhetoric about the world economy sorting out its problems during the year ahead. Wealth and income inequalities continue to spiral out of control, increasingly to the benefit of the 1% (or indeed the 0.001%). Austerity policies pushed by governments on both sides of the Atlantic continue to threaten the social gains made since the Second World War, which is deepening social divisions and creating a new situation of desperately poor and hungry people in Britain, America and many so-called wealthy countries.
And there is no shortage of analysis about the structural crisis of our political and economic systems, from chronic unemployment and falling real incomes to corporate-captured representative democracies and Orwellian state controls. At the same time, governments remain committed to the paradigm of endless growth for its own sake, and are nearly all beholden to the interests of giant energy corporations that are determined to burn more fossil fuels than the planet can absorb without becoming unliveable. Not to mention the escalation of climate and ecological disasters, dwindling oil reserves, the risk of food shortages and further food price volatility, or even the prospect of global terrorism. Hence the growing understanding among everyday people that we are in the midst of a crisis of civilization, and we cannot rely on our existing government administrations to affect a necessary transformation of the international political and economic order.
The revised meaning of ‘revolution’
As we continue along this chaotic and uncertain road, the very idea of social or political ‘revolution’ is taking on new and different meanings. A common understanding of the term is no longer limited to the revolutionary wave of actions of the 20th century, which were typically led by charismatic leaders and a strong ideology, and often involved the violent overthrow of state power (notwithstanding such heroic examples of non-violent political struggle as Gandhi, Luther King and Vaclav Havel). But now we have the examples of Occupy, the Arab Spring, the Taksim Square demonstrations and other mass protest movements that defy conventional explanation in their spontaneous and largely peaceful mobilisations, their leaderless structures and practice of horizontal democracy, as well as their disavowal of traditional left/right politics and ideologies or ‘isms’, such as socialism and communism.
Since 2011 there is also much serious talk of a revolution of love and a collective awakening to our spiritual potential as human beings, as captured in the now-famous words of Russell Brand who advocates a “total revolution of consciousness and our entire social, political and economic systems”. Others speak of a revolution in our sense of self as ‘global citizens’, in which we equate our own interests with those of people anywhere in the world, and we no longer conform to a financialised vision of society in which we are forced to compete with everyone else as ‘others’. In short, a renewed sense of idealism and hope is everywhere being felt for a new society to be built from within the existing one, and for a revolution in every sense of the word – in our values, our imaginations, our lifestyles and our social relations, as well as in our political and economic structures.
What still isn’t clear is how the growing call for revolutionary change and new economic models can be realised on a truly international basis, and for the common good of all people in all countries – not only for the citizens of individual nations (in particular within the most advanced economies). The new protest movements may draw on a concept of human rights that is necessarily international, and they may be driven by social networks and communications technology that is shared beyond national borders, but their various concerns and demands are still generally of a domestic and country-specific nature.
Following the artful state repression of Occupy Wall Street, the vision of a collectively organised alternative to neoliberal politics is too often lost in a fight for or against individual reforms, while the Occupy movement as a whole has become increasingly atomised and fragmented. The Arab Spring is fast fading in memory, as exemplified by the political chaos and recent crackdown on popular dissent in Egypt. And there is little evidence of a shared agenda for change that can unify citizens of the richest and poorest nations on a common platform, one that recognises the need for global as well as national forms of redistribution as a pathway towards sharing the world rather than keeping it divided.
Blueprints for a new world
This is not to say that realistic proposals for planetary change do not exist, as individuals and groups everywhere are discussing the necessary reforms and objectives for how the economy should be run democratically at all levels, from the local to global. An abundance of enlightened thinking outlines the need for a ‘revolution’ in every aspect of our economic and political systems – a commons revolution, a food sovereignty revolution, a renewable energy revolution, the next American revolution – which altogether articulate an effective blueprint for a new and better world. But great uncertainty remains around how this crucial transformation of our lives can be affected when such immensely powerful forces of economic and political self-interest control the current world direction, combined with political apathy and disengagement among a vast swathe of the population.
With the global financial and economic crisis now entering its seventh year, it is time to start asking some difficult questions about the right priorities for popular protest if we want to realise a truly united voice of the world’s people. It is inevitable that the gap between rich and poor will continue to increase in most countries, and the reality of poverty and hunger will worsen across the world – regardless of the distorted arguments by the World Bank and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) coterie at the UN. And as living standards decline for many middle-class families in developed countries, there is a risk that people will remain preoccupied with their own situations and solely national concerns, which is already where all the militant strength is being directed in European and U.S. protest movements.
But there is no escaping the enormous disparities in wealth and income between rich OECD countries and the less developed nations, where millions of people face such extreme deprivation and food insecurity that at least 40,000 people needlessly die each day from poverty-related causes. There can be no genuine revolution in a moral or global sense until the critical needs of these voiceless poor are prioritised and upheld, which will require mass mobilisations in the streets like we have never seen before – not only predicated on redistributing resources from the 1% to the 99% within our own countries, but also centred on a shared demand for a fairer distribution of wealth, power and resources across the entire world. Perhaps that is where the true meaning of ‘global revolution’ begins, and it could be our greatest hope for a sustainable and just future in the coming year and beyond.
Most “NGOs” fomenting regime-changes and color-coded revolutions, promoting “pride marches” and similar “human rights issues,” are in reality Western (mostly U.S.) funded conspiracies pursuing the agenda of their paymasters. That much has been known for years, but in recent days we have witnessed a particularly egregious example of their politically-motivated duplicity.
On December 17 Egypt’s military-backed government filed additional criminal charges against former president Mohamed Morsi, accusing him of being a party to a major terrorist plot that involved killing demonstrators and leaking state secrets to Iran. The authorities described the case against Morsi and several of his close advisors as the biggest of its kind in Egyptian history. Prosecutors additionally accused the former Muslim Brotherhood leader of having made illegal arrangements with the Hezbollah in Iran, with Hamas in Gaza, and with extremists whose goal is to establish an Islamic emirate in Sinai. The scheme allegedly involved smuggling arms into the country and arranging for Brotherhood activists to obtain military training from Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Revolutionary Guards in Iran.
Human rights groups were quick to condemn the charges, calling them preposterous “because of their vast scale and complexity,” The New York Times reported a day later. “They are pretty fantastical, to say the least,” the NYT duly quoted one Sarah Leah Whitson, the North African Programs Director for Human Rights Watch, as saying of the accusations. “Through both legal processes and their control of the media, the government has been trying to generate this notion that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization carrying out violent acts, with the absence of any evidence, and these charges really underscore the extent to which the government is focused on exterminating the Muslim Brotherhood as a political opposition. It is an all-out campaign to destroy it.” Two weeks earlier, the same HRW official complained that the military in Egypt was illegally holding members of Morsi’s government in secret locations.
By contrast, the arrest, trial, and sentencing of hundreds of Turkish military officers on dozens of far more preposterous charges in recent years has passed almost unnoticed in the Western media, and was barely commented upon by the “human rights community.” They were accused of involvement in the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer plots, dating back to 2003-4. The result was the largest show trial ever in the non-Communist world. The charges, too, were worthy of Moscow 1937.
The Sledgehammer plot, the government alleged, was a military conspiracy which should have included bombings of historic mosques in Istanbul, an attack on a museum, and the provocation of military tensions with neighboring Greece, including air attacks on Greek islands by Turkish planes. Such acts of terrorism and outright military aggression were supposedly designed to plunge Turkey into utter chaos and provide an opportunity for the military to step in and remove the Islamist AKP government from power.
The Sledgehammer was connected to the earlier Ergenekon conspiracy, supposedly the Mother of All Plots, the mega-conspiracy in which the “Deep State”—a shadowy coalition of senior military officers, the intelligence services, the judiciary, and organized crime—allegedly planned terrorist attacks to foment unrest, also leading to a military takeover. Arch-secular nationalists, the prosecutors said, had been in bed with the Maoist PKK, the extreme-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party, the Islamist Hizbullah and Milli Görüþ, the ultranationalist Turkish Revenge Brigades, the Turkish Workers’ and Peasants’ Liberation Army, and the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Turkey.
Prime Minister Erdogan and other AKP leaders provided political support for the prosecutions. There were countless inconsistencies in the accusations, however. Dozens of entities—hospitals, NGOs, companies, and even military units—were referred to by names or acronyms which they acquired many years after the dates cited, in some cases as late as August 2009. The Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases were no “cases” at all, but a brazen attempt by the AKP regime to neutralize Turkey’s once-powerful military once and for all. The government’s specific objective was to discredit the officer corps, and thus facilitate the abolition of the Army’s traditional role as the guardian of the country’s secular political system.
In 2012, after what amounted to a show trial, over 300 of the 365 “Sledgehammer” suspects were sentenced to prison terms, and 34 suspects were acquitted. (The case is being appealed.) On 5 August 2013, final verdicts were announced in the Ergenekon case. A dozen “consecutive” or “aggravated” life sentences were passed, as well as over two hundred lengthy prison sentences. Only 21 of the 275 defendants were acquitted. All told, 640 were charged, 55 acquitted—impressive even by Soviet standards.
In view of its concern for Morsi and his cohorts, the reaction from Human Rights Watch to the spectacle in Turkey could not have been more different. In 2009, with the trial just starting, it announced that the Ergenekon case “gives Turkey a chance to make clear that it will hold security forces accountable for abuse, but that can only happen if the investigation follows the evidence wherever—and to whomever—it leads.” It did not comment on the course of the trial or the sentences. Remarkably, it did not comment on the “Sledgehammer Case” charges, trial, or sentences at all.
As for The New York Times, last August 6 it commented that “the Ergenekon trial played an important role in efforts to lay to rest a history of military meddling in democratic politics. Much of Turkey’s modern history has been dominated by a secularist military-bureaucratic alliance that regularly derailed the democratic process when confronted with governments or political movements that threatened its political control.” “Some saw the trial as no more than a witch hunt by the governing A.K.P. against its political opponents,” it noted curtly, and added, in sorrow more than anger, that an opportunity was missed “to prove those critics wrong by ensuring a scrupulous commitment to fairness throughout the process.”
As it happens, the Open Society Foundation—belonging to that noted philanthropist George Soros—is the primary donor of the Human Rights Watch, contributing $100 million of $128 million of contributions and grants received by the HRW in the 2011 financial year. And The New York Times is the flagship of America’s journalism.
God’s deliverance of the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage is the great recurring theme of the Old Testament. Time and again, God’s prophets would remind the Hebrews of this great deliverance. Moses, himself, recounted The Exodus with the children of Israel over and over again. Hear Moses:
“I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright.” (Lev. 26:13 KJV)
Make no mistake about it: it was a real deliverance. It was real bondage; real slavery; real tyranny; real whips; real chains; real beatings; and real death. And while there is certainly a spiritual correlation between the deliverance Christ extends to the soul and the deliverance of the children of Israel under Moses, let’s not forget that The Exodus recorded in the Old Testament book named after the event was a literal, physical, and, yes, political reality. Real men and women were taken out of real slavery and given real freedom. It was not merely spiritual freedom; it was physical and political freedom. Men and women didn’t just march out of Egypt in their hearts; they marched out of Egypt on their feet.
Is there any professing Christian today who would disparage what the children of Israel did when they walked out of Egypt? Who is the pastor or church leader who would dare question the legitimacy and rightness of what Moses did in bringing the Hebrews out of bondage?
For that matter, all of the Old Testament events that are lauded and extolled by New Testament writers as being “ensamples” for us, were literal events. There is certainly nothing wrong with making spiritual correlations to these events but not at the expense of denying or denigrating the literalness of the events. David used a real sling and killed a real giant and took a real sword and cut off his real head. Gideon, Barak, Jephthah, and Samson led real revolts against real oppressors. Queen Esther violated a real law and risked her real life to intercede for real people. After Esther’s real bravery, the Hebrews were given real swords and real spears and successfully defended themselves against real enemies really intent on killing them. The list is endless.
I say all of this, because it seems that the vast majority of pastors and Christians today do not equate the real-life stories of Biblical history with practical reality in modern life. Everything is spiritualized away. But Bible history is the story of one exodus after another, one separation after another.
Noah was separated from the antediluvian world; Abram was separated from his country and kin; Joseph was separated from his family and country; Israel and his children were separated from their homeland; Moses was separated from the throne he was set to inherit; David was separated from his place and position–and even his own throne; the Apostle Paul was separated from his profession, his home, and his friends; and none of us really knows the amount of separation that the rest of the apostles endured. From the Book of Genesis where God told Abram, “Get thee out of thy country,” to the Book of The Revelation where God declared, “Come out of her, my people,” the divine call of separation was not merely mystical; it was literal.
Until people of faith are willing to walk with their feet, nothing will happen. We can spiritualize all we want, but nothing will happen until we literally WALK.
Martin Luther walked up to the Castle Church in Wittenberg and used a real hammer and nails to post a real 95 Theses on a real church door. Zwingli took a real sword into a real battle and died a real death in defense of real liberty. The pilgrims walked out of one European country after another until they climbed into real boats that sailed over a real ocean and landed in a new land in search of real freedom. Our patriot forebears wrote a real Declaration of Independence and fought a real revolutionary war in order to bequeath to their posterity real liberty. Dietrich Bonhoeffer separated from the German Church and formed a real protest movement known as the Confessing Church and collaborated with a real conspiracy to rid a real tyrant from his country. Again, the list is endless.
To, again, quote Bonhoeffer, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Yet, all over America, Christians refuse to walk away from those churches that are, through their silence, facilitating the enslavement of their very own children and grandchildren. Worse yet, they refuse to walk away from churches that actively promote the political policies that would enslave their posterity.
Many Christians have written me in an attempt to justify them remaining in churches that refuse to take a stand for liberty. For some, it is a matter of tradition. For the life of them, they cannot imagine themselves separated from their liturgies or denominations–as if somehow their acceptance before God depends on them. It doesn’t! For others, it is an unwillingness to separate from friends. To them, church is mostly a social institution. Still others are addicted to programs. They have been deluded into thinking that somehow religious programs equals spirituality. They don’t! Then there are those who think that the spiritual message somehow trumps everything else. As long as their pastor preaches “the Gospel,” nothing else matters. Of course, many of these same people have jumped from church to church over any number of issues: music, children’s programs, youth programs, building programs, the pastor didn’t visit them when they were sick, etc., etc., etc. Yet, when it becomes obvious that their pastor will not take a stand for liberty, they continue to support the pastor because “he is preaching the Gospel.”
And I have had sincere believers approach me saying that they are willing to overlook their pastor’s silence, because they believe the pastor is simply ignorant and just doesn’t understand the issues. I will admit that this is a valid point. All of us were enlightened at different rates of speed. None of our eyes were opened to these things overnight. But the real question is how open is your pastor to the truth? Is he open at all? Or, does he dismiss out-of-hand any attempt to make him aware of reality? The sad truth is the vast majority of pastors seem to be “willingly ignorant.” Not only are they not aware of what’s going on; they don’t want to be aware of what’s going on.
How long are you going to wait for your pastor to wake up? How many links must be added to the chains of oppression before you decide you might need to find a pastor and church that are engaged in the liberty fight? How long are you going to support your pastor’s indifference and ignorance? Let me be blunt: as long as your pastor is preaching to a packed church, as long as the offering plates are full, as long as his ministry is “successful,” you are going to be waiting for a long, long time for him to awaken. As far as he is concerned, God is blessing his efforts. The church is full; the offering plate is full; new buildings are planned; he is popular. You can give him all of Chuck Baldwin’s video sermons you want; you can urge him to listen to Alex Jones all you want; you can give him all of the DVDs and articles you want. He won’t read or watch them, and if he does, he won’t act on them. Why? He is content to be ignorant. Life is too good.
Folks, I know I have said this before, but I say it again: until Christians by the droves remove themselves from these establishment churches that refuse to join the liberty fight, there is little hope for freedom. Without the patriot-pastors in Colonial America, there would have been no Lexington Green, Concord Bridge, Bunker Hill, Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, or United States of America. It was the combined efforts of pastors such as Jonas Clark, John Witherspoon, Ebenezer Baldwin, and James Caldwell as much as it was the efforts of political figures such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Sam Adams, and Patrick Henry that brought the American colonies out of British bondage.
It is not the presence of political parasites that are destroying our country; it is the absence of patriot-pastors.
Moses and the children of Israel literally walked out of bondage. So must God’s people today. If your pastor and church are content to let you and your family live in bondage, walk out. If he is unwilling to engage the liberty fight, walk out. God’s command to Abram to “Get thee out of thy country” was no less painful than the Holy Spirit’s command to us to “Get thee out of thy church.” And one of the final appeals of Heaven to believers is, “Come out of her, my people.” The “her” here is the Babylonian world system, of course. But need I remind readers that the Babylonian world system is a system that enslaves people? It always has; it always will. So, why would a believer stay in a supposed church that refuses to resist the Babylonian world system that seeks to enslave them? Why?
Besides, the true Gospel message always leads to action. Always! The Gospel requires action. Natural Law is little more than the practical application of the Gospel. The call to preach the Gospel is a call to action. For a pastor to say he is called to preach the Gospel then do nothing to teach and train his people how to apply the Gospel in Natural Law and practical life (including our political life) is to not understand (or to deny) the Gospel he is called to preach.
The Gospel is more than the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The Gospel is “the whole counsel of God.” We would have a very thin Bible if the only verses in it were those which specifically deal with Christ’s death and resurrection. If that’s all the Gospel God wanted us to know, why did He give us the rest of Holy Writ? And why do we have the law of God “written in our hearts”?
The children of Israel walked out of a country that had put them in bondage; the spiritual children of Abraham today (all who believe on Christ) need to walk out of a church that would put them in bondage. The good news is the exodus has already begun.
Damascus – It is Winter Solstice in the Levant. This is the day which astronomically marks the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days—a day which, since ancient times, has been celebrated with festivals, gatherings, rituals, feasting, singing, dancing and bonfires. Historically it has been viewed as a significant annual event because communities were not certain of living through the winter and had to prepare during the previous nine months for dramatic rises in starvation, communicable diseases, and infant deaths due to hypothermia. For this reason, and because such deaths were particularly common, the first months of winter became known as “the famine months” in the northern hemisphere.
Preparing for a tough next few months is what the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is doing these days, and the UN specialized agency is working in the face of daunting odds. UNWRA was founded in 1949, and for more than 60 years it has been plagued by harassments, intimidation, and countless conspiracies to close it down, efforts waged by the international Zionist lobby and designed to “put it out of its misery” as Prime Minister Netanyahu recently demanded from the US Congress.
UNRWA has a regional headquarters in Beirut, opposite the Shatila Camp, and one in Damascus, on Mezzah Boulevard, where this observer is a regular visitor these days and where talk often inevitably centers upon the grim link between the Syrian crisis and the conditions of over half a million Palestinian refugees living in 57 UNRWA camps. Other major concerns for UNRWA are the nearly one million Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war, as well as the more than one million refugees in Gaza suffering from climatic conditions exacerbated by the brutal Zionist occupation of Palestine.
The UNRWA Syria Regional Crisis Response Plan for 2014, published this week, sets out the agency’s hoped-for projects to strengthen the resilience of Palestine refugees, and to help them weather the current dangers of frigid temperatures and lack of heat and sanitation. This winter solstice the outlook for Palestine refugees from Syria is increasingly bleak in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, as communities, livelihoods, assets and support networks, painstakingly built over decades, are being destroyed.
Displacement among Palestinians is proportionally much higher than that of Syrians, and the threats to safe refuge in Syria, combined with severely restricted options for flight, has confronted Palestine refugees with unprecedented challenges. UNRWA emergency assistance is normally delivered as part of its well-established programs in health, education, community development, microfinance, relief, youth training and employment. Delivered by Palestinian staff, this support is a critical cornerstone, fostering resilience and continuity for both communities and families, in the face of growing hardship. Of the 540,000 Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA in Syria, about 270,000 are displaced within the country, and an estimated 85,000 have fled. Fifty-one thousand of these have reached Lebanon, 11,000 have identified themselves in Jordan, 5,000 are in Egypt, and smaller numbers have reached Gaza, Turkey and farther afield. Those who have managed to land in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt face risky legal limbos compounded with living conditions so difficult that many decide to return to the dangers of Syria.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by expanding need, deepening poverty, and the growing numbers of registered refugees. As a result, the agency’s general fund, which supports UNRWA’s core activities and is 97 percent reliant on voluntary contributions, begins each year with a large projected deficit. UNRWA officials cite an immediate need for US$417.4 million to respond adequately to the needs of Palestinian refugees in Syria; US$90.4 million for those in Lebanon; and US$14.6 for the ones in Jordan. An additional US$2.4 million is required for emergency response needs outside the purview of the UNRWA’s field offices, including token cash assistance for Palestinian families from Syria in Gaza.
Winter storm Alexa, the fiercest storm to hit Gaza and the West Bank in over 100 years, is still wreaking havoc and bringing misery to thousands. As of 12/19/13, some 40,000 people in Gaza have been driven from their homes due to extreme flooding. The situation has been exacerbated by the fuel crisis that has left people without power for up to 21 hours a day and forced raw sewage to flow through the streets. People’s lives and health are at grave risk. Gaza’s Hamas government said 4,306 in all had been evacuated to schools and other centers used as makeshift shelters in the past four days. The strip’s 1.8 million people, trying to survive in one of the most densely populated tracts on earth, have also endured blackouts of around 12 hours a day since the lone power plant was switched off last month due to a fuel shortage. The territory lacks much basic civil infrastructure and lives under an Egyptian-Israeli blockade curbing imports of fuel, building supplies and basic goods. Moreover, reports from UNRWA staff indicate that conditions are worsening due to severe Israeli restrictions on the camps. For instance, emergency responders cannot reconnect power lines downed due to the heavy snow, and the populace has little access to basic necessities such as running water. The crisis is deepening, and the problems are similar in virtually all of the vulnerable refugee camps. People face severe power outages, while some in the West Bank also face systematic attacks by the Israeli army.
Other problems weighing heavily on UNWRA include strikes and threats of strikes by UNWRA employees protesting claimed low wages. Dismay has also been expressed at what is widely perceived as the UNRWA’s weak humanitarian role in Gaza, where normal, day-to-day problems are compounded by the blockade and, most recently, the flood. The workers’ union at the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza continued protests this week, calling for salary increases. One Hamas official has accused UNRWA officials of receiving exorbitant salaries, charging that the agency at the same time is not up to the tasks it is assigned to do. UNWRA officials who this observer spoke with denied this, but declined any information about any UNWRA salaries.
Like many aid agencies working in Syria, the UNRWA continues to lose staff. UNRWA teacher Suzan Ghazazweh, a popular and accomplished teacher at the Abbasyyeh School in Muzeirib, was killed by shrapnel when a shell struck her home on December 2, 2013. She is the tenth UNRWA staffer killed in Syria.
Enter Professor Alan Dershowitz!
Adding to UNWRA’s myriad problems is the fact that Professor Alan Dershowitz for some reason chose this winter solstice to retire after 46 years on the job at the Harvard Law School. Within hours, if he has not already done so, Alan will depart Harvard’s hallowed halls to devote more time to his current central cause, one which arguably poses his most difficult challenge—“saving Israel from itself and from UNWRA!” as he told a Harvard Crimson stringer on background recently.
The past few years Professor Dershowitz, apparently wanting to make a strong impression on his new students, would start off the beginning of semester classes by offering them his essential view of the law. During the first or second class meeting he reportedly often made references to some of the 13 out of 15 major cases he “won” for the likes of Mike Tyson, Patty Hearst, Jim Bakker, Claus von Bulow and O. J. Simpson to name a few. He would explain to his classes:
“All my big cases I won on a legal technicality! Those cases were lost causes. Otherwise, why would these clients come to me? The first thing to remember as you continue your legal studies is to forget what the law says or even what the facts of a case are! American appellate courts will decide the facts and the law of a case based on what the best advocate says they are. That’s why I win!”
To one public international law class Professor Dershowitz is reported to have sneered, “And you can forget about claims of human rights based on international law and universal standards of morality. You’ll never win s— with that malarkey.”
As he begins preparation for his “legitimization case” on behalf of the last remaining 19th century colonial enterprise—the Zionist theft and continuing illegal occupation of Palestine—Alan, some associates claim, plans to come out swinging against the UNRWA. Throughout his teaching career, Dershowitz has been a loyal supporter, and some say main instigator, of AIPAC. Little surprise, then, that he has joined the Zionist Lobby’s more than two decades of attacks on the UNRWA, seeking to have the agency’s funding cut off. But until now, he has not been “lead attorney of record.”
One source who meets with Professor Dershowitz from time to time in Washington claims that Alan insists that UNWRA is another one of Israel’s growing number of existential threats, this because the UN agency “keeps the Palestinian refugee issue alive and allows human rights types to keep the issue of wrongful dispossession of their homes and land before the global community and with no end in sight.”
Though he makes regular trips to Israel, Alan doesn’t come around Lebanon or Syria much, and frankly this observer has only met him a couple of times. He claims to have a photographic memory and maybe that is why he doesn’t seem to cotton much to this observer. Perhaps he remembers, and even holds a grudge of some kind, from our first meeting more than a quarter century ago. On that day, Alan came to see me in my Congressional House Judiciary office in the Rayburn building. I am not sure who referred him, but only an hour earlier, my boss, Congressman John Conyers, Chairman of Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, called to give me a last minute assignment. It was simple enough, and I had done it before. Congressman Conyers wanted me to escort a visiting judicial official from another country, in this case the chief justice from Egypt’s highest court, across the lawn from Rayburn for a meeting at the Supreme Court with our CJ, Warren Burger. An easy enough assignment it was, because Burger invariably was pleasant, with a southern style aura of gentility about him, but fifteen minutes before the Egyptian CJ was due to join me, an intense, smallish, fast-talking guy shows up, announces he is from the Harvard Law School, and must join “the Egyptian” during his meeting with Burger. Frankly it did not matter much to me one way or the other, but I did call my supervisor, Hayden Gregory, for advice. Basically his reply was, “Not a chance! No way!” Only later did I learn Alan had rubbed Hayden the wrong way over proposed “federal determinate sentencing guidelines,” an issue before our committee at the time.
Long story short, Alan would not take no for an answer. When I made it clear he was not invited and could not join the meeting he became angry and stormed off.
He may still remember, but with me it was not personal, and in any event all this is by way of saying that UNWRA had better baton down its hatches because they have more problems coming their way than they realize or are ready for.
Adam Smith said governments are “instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor.” Wars are waged to make them richer.
Howard Zinn called war “terrorism magnified a hundred times.” Make it many thousands of times.
Michael Parenti said “the best way to win a Nobel Peace Prize (is) to wage war or support those who wage (it) instead of peace.”
In his book titled “The Face of Imperialism,” he discusses a richly financed military/industrial complex. Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff call it the “military-industrial media complex.”
Waging wars requires selling them. Public support is needed. Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky call it “Manufacturing Consent.”
Propaganda works as intended. Minds are manipulated to support war. Truth is suppressed. Fear is stoked. Patriotism, national security, and democratic values are highlighted.
Longstanding US policy facilitates earning obscene amounts from militarism, wars, homeland security, and related operations.
Doing so has nothing to do with external or internal threats. It’s unrelated to spreading democracy. It isn’t about humanitarian intervention.
It about advancing America’s imperium. Parenti calls the process “the most powerful force in world history over the last four or five centuries. (It) “carves up whole continents.”
“(T)he dominant politico-economic interests of one nation expropriate for their own enrichment the land, labor, raw materials, and markets of another people.”
Capitalist imperialism differs from earlier forms. It dominates other economies and political systems. It accumulates enormous amounts of wealth.
It uses money to make more of it. It gains market control. It exploits resources and labor.
According to Marx and Engels:
Bourgeois capital “chases over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere…It creates a world after its own image.”
Societies are destroyed and remade to do it. Nations are pillaged for profit. Populations become disenfranchised. Workers become serfs. Local cultures become mass-market consumer ones.
Agribusiness replaces local farming. Competitive industries are eliminated. Foreign investment crowds out local capital.
Dominance legitimizes capital’s divine right. Plunder assures obscene profits. Capital accumulation demands more. Profiteering becomes a be-all-and-end-all.
Businesses price according to what the market will bear. Profiteers take advantage of emergency or other out-of-ordinary conditions to cash in excessively.
WikiLeaks calls profiteering “a pejorative term for the act of making profit by methods considered unethical.”
Price fixing is illegal. Price gouging reflects grabbing all you can. It’s charging more than what’s considered reasonable and fair.
War profiteers are in a class by themselves. They thrive on war. They depend on it. Their businesses require conflicts and instability to prosper. The more ongoing, the greater the potential profits.
Lot of players profit from wars. Companies develop technologies with military applications. Black marketeers cash in.
Politicians taking campaign contributions, special favors or bribes benefit handsomely. Nations do by acquiring control over territory, resources and exploitable people.
Private military contractors include companies offering a wide range of services. They provide everything from tactical combat to security to consulting to logistics to technical support.
In his book titled “Halliburton’s Army: How a Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War,” Pratap Chatterjee describes a company tainted by sweetheart deal no-bid contacts, bribes, kickbacks, inefficiency, shoddy work, corruption, fraud, gross overcharging, worker exploitation, and other serious offenses.
Other companies operate the same way. Military spending is hugely wasteful. Fraud and abuse are rampant. War is extremely profitable. Why else would so many be waged.
Mercenaries are guns for hire. They’re for sale to the highest bidder. They’re in it for the money. They’re unchecked, unaccountable and unprincipled.
Arms and munitions companies benefit most. Amounts spent are mind-bogging.
Bloomberg says defense budgets “contain hundreds of billions of dollars for new generations of aircraft carriers and stealth fighters, tanks that even the Army says it doesn’t need and combat vehicles too heavy to maneuver in desert sands or cross most bridges in Asia, Africa, or the Middle East.”
According to BusinessWeek, redundancy wastes lots of money. “One need only spend 10 minutes walking around the Pentagon or any major military headquarters to see” it.
Why doesn’t Congress trim fat? Because politicians want lots of pork for constituents. It’s a great vote-getter.
BusinessWeek explained more, saying:
“Why is sensible military budgeting so difficult? Because lawmakers, including small-government Republicans, protect defense business in their home states with the ferocity of Spartans.”
“Even if the Pentagon offered up (sensible) cuts…Congress would almost certainly reject them.”
“The senators and representatives don’t have the political courage to face voters and tell them that the republic simply does not need the weapon under construction in their hometown.”
Trillions of dollars are spent. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta once said DOD “is the only major federal agency that cannot pass an audit today.”
Even during October’s 16 day shutdown, huge amounts of wasteful spending continued.
Ralph Nader calls now the time to address bloated military spending. Let’s “start shutting down the waste and fraud in our military budget,” he stresses.
Billions get tossed around mindlessly. Profiteers never had it better. Government watchdogs identify hundreds of billions of potential savings from unneeded weapons, defective ones, no-bid excess, overpayments, and outright fraud.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) conducts research on security, war and peace.
“A world in which sources of insecurity are identified and understood, conflicts are prevented or resolved, and peace is sustained,” it says.
It reports on “recent trends in military expenditure(s).”
Amounts spent are huge. In 2012, nominal global military spending exceeded $1.7 trillion. It’s around historic highs.
In real terms, it exceeds peak amounts spent during the Cold War. Post-9/11, spending increased sharply. America led the way.
In 2012, 15 nations accounted for over 80% military spending. SIPRI lists them as follows:
- America: $682 billion – 39%
- China: $166 billion – 9.5%
- Russia: $90.7 billion – 5.2%
- Britain: $60.8 billion – 3.5%
- Japan: 59.3 billion – 3.4%
- France: $58.9 billion – 3.4%
- Saudi Arabia: $56.7 billion – 3.2%
- India: $46.1 billion – 2.6%
- Germany: $45.8 billion – 2.6%
- Italy: $34 billion – 1.9%
- Brazil: $33.1 billion – 1.9%
- South Korea: $31.7 billion – 1.8%
- Australia: $26.2 billion – 1.5%
- Canada: $22.5 billion – 1.3%
- Turkey: $18.2 billion – 1%
- Others 18%
SIPRI calculates nominal military spending. Amounts America spends far exceeds annual defense authorizations.
Other allocations are for the Energy Department, State Department, Department of Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Treasury, NASA, military construction, various categories related to security, and interest attributable to past defense outlays.
Black intelligence, Pentagon and other budgets add many tens of billions more. So do supplemental military allocations. Foreign aid is mostly military related.
The Library of Congress listed the top 10 2012 recipients and amounts as follows:
Israel: $3.075 billion
Note: Israel gets special benefits provided no other nations.
They include annual $3 billion + direct appropriations, undisclosed additional amounts, state-of-the-art weapons and technology, billions in loan guarantees, military loans as grants, privileged contracts for Israeli companies, trade exemptions, and more.
Special allocations are buried in various agency budgets. Low or no-interest loans are provided. Some are never repaid. Most often, whatever Israel wants it gets.
- Afghanistan: $2.327 billion
- Pakistan: $2.102 billion
- Iraq: $1.683 billion
- Egypt: $1.557 billion
- Jordan: $676 million
- Kenya: $652 million
- Nigeria: $625 million
- Ethiopia: $580 million
- Tanzania: $531 million
US defense related spending exceeds $1.5 trillion annually. It’s half or more what other nations spend in total.
Militarism defines America. So do permanent wars. They’re a national addiction. They’re part of the national culture.
Violence is the American way. Wars are glorified. Pacifism is considered sissy. Peace is deplored. Conflicts persist with no end.
War profiteers gorge themselves at the public trough. Their operations thrive on war. They depend on it.
They’re waged for profit and dominance. They continue without end. Peace is verboten. It’s a convenient illusion.
Howard Zinn once asked “(h)ow can you have a war on terrorism when war itself is terrorism?”
“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”
Why most Americans put up with it they’ll have to explain. Doing so lets Washington get away with mass murder and then some. It lets war profiteers benefit at our expense.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Damascus – The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—along with certain Arab League countries, plus Turkey and Israel, have this past week reportedly committed themselves to raising nearly $6 billion to “beef up” the just-hatched Islamic Front (IF) in Syria. These “best friends of America” want the Obama administration to sign onto a scheme to oust the Syrian government by funding, arming, training, facilitating and generally choreographing the movement of fighters of this new front, a front formed out of an alliance of seven putatively “moderate” rebel factions.
Representatives of Saudi intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan reportedly told staff members on Capitol Hill that committing several billions to defeat the Assad regime by supporting the IF makes fiscal sense and will cost much less than the six trillion dollar figure tallied by the recent study by Brown University as part of its Costs of War project. According to the 2013 update of the definitive Brown study, which examined costs of the US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, the total amount for all three topped six trillion dollars. This never before released figure includes costs of direct and indirect Congressional appropriations, lost equipment, US military and foreign contractors fraud, and the cost of caring for wounded American servicemen and their families.
Among the Islamist militia joining the new GCC-backed coalition are Aleppo’s biggest fighting force, Liwa al-Tawhid (Tawhid Brigade), the Salafist group Ahrar al-Sham, Suqour al-Sham, al-Haq Brigades, Ansar al-Sham and the Islamic Army, which is centered around Damascus. The Kurdish Islamic Front also reportedly joined the alliance.
IF’s declared aim is to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, whatever the human and material cost it may require, and replace it with an “Islamic state.” Abu Firas, the new coalition’s spokesman, declared that “we now have the complete merger of the major military factions fighting in Syria.”
Formally announced on 11/22/13, the IF includes groups from three prior umbrella organizations: the Syrian Islamic Front (SIF), the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front (SILF), and the Kurdish Islamic Front (KIF). From the SIF, Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya (HASI), Kataib Ansar al-Sham, and Liwa al-Haqq all joined, as did the KIF as a whole, and former SILF brigades Suqur al-Sham, Liwa al-Tawhid, and Jaish al-Islam. None of these groups have been designated foreign terrorist organizations by the US, and therefore, as an Israeli official argued in a meeting with AIPAC and Congress this week, nothing stands in the way of US funding and support for them. The Israeli official in question is the country’s new national security advisor, Yossie Cohen, who assures key congressional leaders that the tens of thousands of rebels making up the IF will all support “one policy and one military command.” Cohen also pledges that the new group is not as “insane” as other Muslim militia—Daash or al-Nusra or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, for instance—that comprise the IF’s chief rivals. Cohen and AIPAC are further telling Congress members and congressional staffers that the emergence of the IF is one of the war’s most important developments, and he vows that the new organization in effect brings seven organizations into a combined force that will fight under one command, a force estimated by the CIA to number at around 75,000 fighters. Reportedly the objective will link the fight in the north with that in the south in a manner that will stretch loyalist forces, and the Saudi-Israel team is also asking the Obama Administration to more than double the monthly “graduation class” of CIA-trained rebels in Turkey, Syria and Jordan—from its current level of 200 per month, up to 500 a month.
What the GCC/Arab League/Israeli team is asking of its western allies (meaning of course mainly the US) is to immediately fund the IF to the tune of $ 5.5 billion. This, Israeli security officials argue, is pocket change compared to the $6 trillion spent in US terrorist wars of the past decade. Plus it will have the presumed “benefit” of toppling the Assad regime and truncating Iran’s growing influence. The plan has reportedly been dismissed by some in the Obama administration as “risible and pathetic.” Nonetheless, Tel Aviv, the US Congressional Zionist lobby, and to a lesser extent Ankara, are pressing ahead under the assumption that linking with the IF now makes sense and that they can take their chances will al-Qaeda later. Ironically these are some of the same voices from AIPAC’s Congressional Team who four years ago were claiming that al-Qaeda was “on the ropes and will soon collapse.” Yet they are optimistic that if Assad goes, “we can deal with the terrorists and it won’t cost six trillion dollars.”
One House member who strongly agrees with AIPAC is Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who recently declared that “in my heart I am a Tea Party guy.” A member of the House Armed Services Committee, Hunter believes the US should use nuclear weapons against Tehran. In a Fox TV interview this week he declared his opposition to any talks with Iran, insisting that US policy should include a “massive aerial bombardment campaign” utilizing “tactical nuclear devices” to set Iran “back a decade or two or three.”
According to sources in Aleppo and Damascus, the IF’s top leadership positions have been parceled out among five of the seven groups. This at least is as of 12/5/13. Four days after the IF was announced, the organization released an official charter. In terms of its basic architecture, the document is similar to that put out by the SIF in January, but the new version is filled with more generalities than other militia proclamations, and seems designed to accommodate differing ideas among member groups. The charter calls for an Islamic state and the implementation of sharia law, though it does not define exactly what this means. The IF is firmly against secularism, human legislation (i.e., it believes that laws come from God, not people), civil government, and a Kurdish breakaway state. The charter states that the group will secure minority rights in post-Assad Syria based on sharia, which could mean the dhimma (“protected peoples”) system, or de facto second-class citizenship for Christians and other minorities. According to Saudi officials in Lebanon, the IF seeks to unify other rebel groups so long as they agree to acknowledge the sovereignty of God. Given this ‘moderate’ wording, the expectation of some is that that the southern-based Ittihad al-Islami li-Ajnad al-Sham will join the IF.
According to the Netanyahu government, the IF’s leading foreign cheerleader, this new coalition gives substance to that which states who have been wanting regime change in Syria have been calling for. One analyst on the Syrian conflict, Aron Lund, believes a grouping of mainstream and hardline Islamists, excluding any al-Qaeda factions, is significant. “It’s something that could be very important if it holds up,” he explained. “The Islamic Front’s formation was a response to both regime advances and the ‘aggressive posture’ of jihadists against other rebels, plus a good deal of foreign involvement, not least of which is Saudi and GCC pushing to unify the rebels.”
Contrary to reports out of Occupied Palestine that the Netanyahu regime is not worried about or much interested in the crisis in Syria, a measure of delight seems to be felt in Tel Aviv that Muslims and Arabs are once more killing each other, along with smugness over Hezbollah’s loss of key mujahedeen as it faces, along with Iran, its own “Vietnam experience.” Yet all this notwithstanding, near panic is reported to have been felt in Israeli government circles over Hezbollah’s achievements in Syria. Truth told, Tel Aviv knows that despite manpower losses by Hezbollah, the dominant Lebanese political party is bringing about major enhancements of its forces. It also knows that there is no substitute for urban battlefield experience with regard to effecting such force regeneration, and Israeli officials have also stated their belief that the Resistance is organizing non-Hezbollah brigades that share one goal in common despite disparate beliefs. That sacred goal is liberating Al Quds by any and all means.
A US Congressional source summarized the Obama administration’s take on this week’s assassination of a key Hezbollah commander as part of a major new Netanyahu government project to weaken Hezbollah. Hassan Houlo Lakkis’ assassination on the night of December 3-4 is deemed in Washington to be particularly significant since Lakkis was in charge of strategic files related to Israel and the Palestinians and also oversaw a number of key operations. The Resistance commander was deeply involved in the development of drones for Hezbollah, as well as smuggling weapons to Gaza via Egypt. He also had good relationships with the Palestinian factions in Gaza, Syria, and Lebanon. Lakkis was known by Washington to be a highly important cadre and a second rank Hezbollah official. According to one analyst “Israel appeared as if it was telling Hezbollah, come and fight me. Israel is upset over the Western-Iranian agreement. It is also upset over the new position that the West has concerning Hezbollah whereby the West is now viewing the party as a force that opposes the Takfiris. Thus, Israel’s objective behind the assassination is to lure the party into a confrontation thus allowing Tel Aviv to tell the West: Hezbollah is still a terrorist organization.”
According to sources on the US Foreign Relations Committee, the White House is being heavily pressured by the US Zionist lobby and the Netanyahu government to take “remedial measures” for the “catastrophic historic mistake” it made in defusing the Iranian nuclear issue and refusing to bomb Damascus. The measures being pushed for, of course, are funding and support for the IF, though doubts persist in Washington as to how “remedial” they will in fact be. The $5.5 billion “investment” is to be paid in large part by GCC/Arab League countries, with US and Zionist contributions. Cash from the latter two sources will come directly and indirectly out of the pockets of American taxpayers—with Israel paying nothing.
Some Washington officials and analysts are wondering if US participation would help unify notoriously hostile rebel ranks and curtail the growing power of al-Qaeda in Syria, or whether it is simply another zany Bander bin Sultan-concocted project, the latest of many—in this case to create a hierarchical revolutionary army with the aim of fighting the Syrian regime essentially alongside al-Qaeda? Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel expressed his personal suspicions this week that “the Israel-Saudi team is trying to drag the US back into a potentially deepening morass,” alluding to what apparently is an effort to head off any plans the Obama administration may have of living with the Assad government until such time as Geneva II happens, that is if it happens, according to one congressional staffer.
Many among the American public also have doubts because they have been told that their government was ‘winding down’ its Middle East wars in favor of rebuilding America’s infrastructure, roads, health care and education systems, all of which, especially the latter, appear to be suffering dramatically. According to the most recent international survey, released this week, the average Chinese student, aged fifteen in Shanghai, is two full years ahead of America’s best students surveyed in Massachusetts. Recent top scores among secondary school youngsters, particularly in math, reading and science, were considerably lower than those achieved by students in Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan or Japan. The US is far down the list and declining, and the survey suggests that the gap is widening.
It’s too early to say whether this latest Saudi-Israel-Arab League collaboration will fail as others have recently, but given the continuing Obama administration efforts at taking back US Middle East policy from Tel Aviv, plus the perceptible movement away from support for the Netanyahu government along with growing angst among American taxpayers over funding the occupation of Palestine, it just might collapse.
Many years ago I knew a couple who adopted the habit of being gratuitously defensive about one another. If you made even the slightest comment questioning one of them in the other’s presence, that party would say something such as “Watch it!” The admonition, however, would lack a certain conviction.
Not long after they were divorced.
Their earlier behavior then made sense: They couldn’t accept that their marriage was in trouble. And each spouse would react defensively to even mildly negative feedback about the other not because he knew it was false, but because he feared it was true. It validated feelings each was having about the other but desperately wanted to keep repressed.
I’m reminded of this when considering the intellectual contortions of liberals who defend Barack Obama. No, it’s not perfectly analogous: liberals are driven more by political ambitions and ego than by a desire to make their “marriage” work. But the denial is similar.
A good example is a Vanity Fair piece by someone named Todd S. Purdum. Titled “The Lonely Guy: He’s a community organizer who works alone. What was once his greatest strength — he kept his cool and didn’t need feedback — is now a liability,” the subtitle says it all. The article is a somewhat tedious apologia, providing this or that example of how Obama doesn’t engage people, of how Daddy Big-Guv thinks he knows best.
In justifying Obama’s attitude, Purdum writes:
Self-containment is not simply Obama’s political default mode. Self-possession is the core of his being, and a central part of the secret of his success. It is Obama’s unwavering discipline to keep his cool when others are losing theirs….
But this quality, perhaps Obama’s greatest strength in gaining office, is his greatest weakness in conducting it.
Nonsense. First, keeping your cool (at least publicly) isn’t unusual for aspirants to higher office. The few thought lacking in this area, such as Bob Dole and John McCain, found it a liability come election time.
Second, Obama’s greatest strength in gaining office was a servile media that suppressed every scandal and ugly truth, every sordid association, every risible mistake and radical position. It’s easy being cool when nine wide phalanxes of fawning human shields stand between you and the flak, but one wonders how cool Obama would’ve been had he not benefitted from the regular affirmative action that got him established and the cultural affirmative action that got him elected. Of course, we’d never have known because his coolness would have been confined to passing the bong with the Choom Gang. We never would’ve heard of him.
Moreover, many forget that in 2008 his campaign was sometimes faulted for amateurish stumbling. The myth of Obama the Great Campaigner was manufactured after the fact.
But the myth of Obama the Nice Guy is only being questioned after the fact. As to this, Purdum writes, “Five years into their tenure, the [First] couple has a social reputation few would have envisioned when they came to town: more standoffish than the Bushes, and ruder than the Clintons.”
Let me correct you, Mr. Purdum: few in your echo chamber of fawning fellow travelers would have envisioned it. Millions of people, however, had Obama’s number all along. Perhaps you’ve heard of them. They’re called traditionalists.
Cutting through the nonsense, the real explanation for Obama’s “self-containment” was provided by former Obama aide Neera Tanden. Explaining her boss’s refusal to call Bill Clinton she said, “The truth is, Obama doesn’t call anyone, and he’s not close to almost anyone. It’s stunning that he’s in politics, because he really doesn’t like people.”
He doesn’t like people.
Ponder that for a moment. It’s sort of a problem because people are exactly who a leader has to govern. But Tanden is wrong on one point: It’s not at all stunning Obama is in politics, as few politicians enter the field because they “like people.” Oh, liking people — or at least being able to fake it — helps you succeed, and if Obama prevailed despite visible misanthropy, it is again a testimonial to the power of media manipulation. But an individual is more likely to enter politics to be lauded by people (glory), or to control people (power), or because he hates the people’s handiwork (society) and wants to punish them and/or reshape them in his own image. Leaders thus disposed have had names such as Robespierre, Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.
Returning to Vanity Fair writer Purdum, the reality about Obama he’s struggling to reconcile is explained well by the first part of his magazine’s name. After all, he also wrote, “‘I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,’ Obama told his 2008 campaign political director, Patrick Gaspard…. ‘I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m going to think I’m a better political director than my political director.’” As per his subtitle, Purdum sloughs this attitude off by claiming Obama “didn’t need feedback.” The correct explanation is a bit different.
Obama is a self-centered, arrogant, and quite probably megalomaniacal and narcissistic — and possibly sociopathic — jerk.
Truth: everyone needs feedback. A good leader knows this and is wise enough to both surround himself with competent people and to separate good counsel from bad. He exhibits what Confucius spoke of when saying, “Wisdom is, when you know something, knowing that you know it; and when you do not know something, knowing that you do not know it.” And Obama? He’s not dumb, as some suggest, though his intelligence is overrated. It’s that he doesn’t know much that is true — and, more significantly, he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.
This is when even intelligent people can do profoundly stupid things. For example, Adolf Hitler, a master manipulator who could mesmerize masses, thought he knew better than his generals and was best suited to choose battlefields, strategies and tactics on the Soviet front. Evil people, you see, tend to be ridden with that intellect-occluding thing called pride; they consequently make bad decisions and eventually sink their own ship. And if at the helm of a nation, it can be a mighty big ship they sink.
Speaking of pride, G.K. Chesterton once said, “[A] great man knows he is not God, and the greater he is the better he knows it.” This is brought to mind by an interview Obama gave to Chicago Sun-Times religion reporter Cathleen Falsani in 2004. When asked if he prayed often, Obama offered this curious response: “It’s not formal, me getting on my knees. I have an ongoing conversation with God. Throughout the day I’m constantly asking myself questions….”
So a “conversation with God” = “asking [himself] questions”? Literally interpreted, this means Obama considers himself God. Of course, allowing for loose talk, there’s no saying the president is like an Egyptian pharaoh and actually believes he is a deity. But was his comment akin to a Freudian slip? Did it reflect not only how he is at the center of his own world, but how he naturally assumes he should be the center of the world?
Purdum, seeking to explain Obama’s dysfunction — for which he euphemistically uses terms such as “self-sufficiency” — points out that due to parental neglect, Obama has “always been alone.” But this warrants elaboration.
Children have a strong need to bond with their parents, so strong, in fact, that if a mother to whom a toddler is attached must leave him even for a time, he may cry in distress. And when a child is continually abandoned — as Obama was by his father and, to an extent, by a mother who left him with grandparents — the pain can be so severe that to ensure he won’t be hurt again, he will keep people at arm’s length and avoid bonding in the first place. In addition, he can become distrustful of others and even develop a dislike for them; after all, those who should have cared about him most broke his heart. First impressions are powerful, and this child’s first experiences with “people” were bad ones.
Therapist Peter Gerlach, who specializes in “bonding wounds,” had this to say about such individuals:
Such children increasingly depend on themselves to get key needs met. This becomes normal, reflexive, and unremarkable. They neither expect [n]or ask for help.
They observe how loving adults and kids behave, and become skilled at sounding and acting just like them — but they don’t feel attached, empathic, or committed.
These wounded people are often very attractive socially and professionally.
Of course, this is psycho-analysis from a distance, but it certainly would explain why Obama “really doesn’t like people.”
It may sound old-fashioned today, but this is why parents in ages past would try to ensure that a child’s prospective spouse came from a “good family.” But five years ago millions of Americans refused to look beneath the wrapper and married their nation to damaged goods. And he turned out to be an abuser who will leave nothing but damaged goods in his wake.