“Russia reinforced what Western and Ukrainian officials described as a stealth invasion on Wednesday [August 27], sending armored troops across the border as it expanded the conflict to a new section of Ukrainian territory. The latest incursion, which Ukraine’s military said included five armored personnel carriers, was at least the third movement of troops and weapons from Russia across the southeast part of the border this week.”
None of the photos accompanying this New York Times story online showed any of these Russian troops or armored vehicles.
“The Obama administration,” the story continued, “has asserted over the past week that the Russians had moved artillery, air-defense systems and armor to help the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk. ‘These incursions indicate a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway’, Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said. At the department’s daily briefing in Washington, Ms. Psaki also criticized what she called the Russian government’s ‘unwillingness to tell the truth’ that its military had sent soldiers as deep as 30 miles inside Ukraine territory.”
Thirty miles inside Ukraine territory and not a single satellite photo, not a camera anywhere around, not even a one-minute video to show for it. “Ms. Psaki apparently [sic] was referring to videos of captured Russian soldiers, distributed by the Ukrainian government.” The Times apparently forgot to inform its readers where they could see these videos.
“The Russian aim, one Western official said, may possibly be to seize an outlet to the sea in the event that Russia tries to establish a separatist enclave in eastern Ukraine.”
This of course hasn’t taken place. So what happened to all these Russian soldiers 30 miles inside Ukraine? What happened to all the armored vehicles, weapons, and equipment?
“The United States has photographs that show the Russian artillery moved into Ukraine, American officials say. One photo dated last Thursday, shown to a New York Times reporter, shows Russian military units moving self-propelled artillery into Ukraine. Another photo, dated Saturday, shows the artillery in firing positions in Ukraine.”
Where are these photographs? And how will we know that these are Russian soldiers? And how will we know that the photos were taken in Ukraine? But most importantly, where are the fucking photographs?
Why am I so cynical? Because the Ukrainian and US governments have been feeding us these scare stories for eight months now, without clear visual or other evidence, often without even common sense. Here are a few of the many other examples, before and after the one above:
- The Wall Street Journal (March 28) reported: “Russian troops massing near Ukraine are actively concealing their positions and establishing supply lines that could be used in a prolonged deployment, ratcheting up concerns that Moscow is preparing for another [sic] major incursion and not conducting exercises as it claims, US officials said.”
- “The Ukrainian government charged that the Russian military was not only approaching but had actually crossed the border into rebel-held regions.” (Washington Post, November 7)
- “U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove told reporters in Bulgaria that NATO had observed Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops enter Ukraine across a completely wide-open border with Russia in the previous two days.” (Washington Post, November 13)
- “Ukraine accuses Russia of sending more soldiers and weapons to help rebels prepare for a new offensive. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied aiding the separatists.” (Reuters, November 16)
Since the February US-backed coup in Ukraine, the State Department has made one accusation after another about Russian military actions in Eastern Ukraine without presenting any kind of satellite imagery or other visual or documentary evidence; or they present something that’s very unclear and wholly inconclusive, such as unmarked vehicles, or unsourced reports, or citing “social media”; what we’re left with is often no more than just an accusation. The Ukrainian government has matched them.
On top of all this we should keep in mind that if Moscow decided to invade Ukraine they’d certainly provide air cover for their ground forces. There has been no mention of air cover.
This is all reminiscent of the numerous stories in the past three years of “Syrian planes bombing defenseless citizens”. Have you ever seen a photo or video of a Syrian government plane dropping bombs? Or of the bombs exploding? When the source of the story is mentioned, it’s almost invariably the rebels who are fighting against the Syrian government. Then there’s the “chemical weapon” attacks by the same evil Assad government. When a photo or video has accompanied the story I’ve never once seen grieving loved ones or media present; not one person can be seen wearing a gas mask. Is it only children killed or suffering? No rebels?
And then there’s the July 17 shootdown of Malaysia Flight MH17, over eastern Ukraine, taking 298 lives, which Washington would love to pin on Russia or the pro-Russian rebels. The US government – and therefore the US media, the EU, and NATO – want us all to believe it was the rebels and/or Russia behind it. The world is still waiting for any evidence. Or even a motivation. Anything at all. President Obama is not waiting. In a talk on November 15 in Australia, he spoke of “opposing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine – which is a threat to the world, as we saw in the appalling shoot-down of MH17”. Based on my reading, I’d guess that it was the Ukranian government behind the shootdown, mistaking it for Putin’s plane that reportedly was in the area.
Can it be said with certainty that all the above accusations were lies? No, but the burden of proof is on the accusers, and the world is still waiting. The accusers would like to create the impression that there are two sides to each question without actually having to supply one of them.
The United States punishing Cuba
For years American political leaders and media were fond of labeling Cuba an “international pariah”. We haven’t heard that for a very long time. Perhaps one reason is the annual vote in the United Nations General Assembly on the resolution which reads: “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”. This is how the vote has gone (not including abstentions):
|Year||Votes (Yes-No)||No Votes|
|1993||88-4||US, Israel, Albania, Paraguay|
|1995||117-3||US, Israel, Uzbekistan|
|1996||138-3||US, Israel, Uzbekistan|
|1997||143-3||US, Israel, Uzbekistan|
|2000||167-3||US, Israel, Marshall Islands|
|2001||167-3||US, Israel, Marshall Islands|
|2002||173-3||US, Israel, Marshall Islands|
|2003||179-3||US, Israel, Marshall Islands|
|2004||179-4||US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau|
|2005||182-4||US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau|
|2006||183-4||US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau|
|2007||184-4||US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau|
|2008||185-3||US, Israel, Palau|
|2009||187-3||US, Israel, Palau|
|2012||188-3||US, Israel, Palau|
This year Washington’s policy may be subject to even more criticism than usual due to the widespread recognition of Cuba’s response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa.
Each fall the UN vote is a welcome reminder that the world has not completely lost its senses and that the American empire does not completely control the opinion of other governments.
Speaking before the General Assembly before last year’s vote, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez declared: “The economic damages accumulated after half a century as a result of the implementation of the blockade amount to $1.126 trillion.” He added that the blockade “has been further tightened under President Obama’s administration”, some 30 US and foreign entities being hit with $2.446 billion in fines due to their interaction with Cuba.
However, the American envoy, Ronald Godard, in an appeal to other countries to oppose the resolution, said:
The international community … cannot in good conscience ignore the ease and frequency with which the Cuban regime silences critics, disrupts peaceful assembly, impedes independent journalism and, despite positive reforms, continues to prevent some Cubans from leaving or returning to the island. The Cuban government continues its tactics of politically motivated detentions, harassment and police violence against Cuban citizens.
So there you have it. That is why Cuba must be punished. One can only guess what Mr. Godard would respond if told that more than 7,000 people were arrested in the United States during the Occupy Movement’s first 8 months of protest in 2011-12 ; that many of them were physically abused by the police; and that their encampments were violently destroyed.
Does Mr. Godard have access to any news media? Hardly a day passes in America without a police officer shooting to death an unarmed person.
As to “independent journalism” – What would happen if Cuba announced that from now on anyone in the country could own any kind of media? How long would it be before CIA money – secret and unlimited CIA money financing all kinds of fronts in Cuba – would own or control most of the media worth owning or controlling?
The real reason for Washington’s eternal hostility toward Cuba has not changed since the revolution in 1959 – The fear of a good example of an alternative to the capitalist model; a fear that has been validated repeatedly over the years as many Third World countries have expressed their adulation of Cuba.
How the embargo began: On April 6, 1960, Lester D. Mallory, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, wrote in an internal memorandum: “The majority of Cubans support Castro … The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship. … every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba.” Mallory proposed “a line of action which … makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.”
Later that year, the Eisenhower administration instituted its suffocating embargo against its everlasting enemy.
The United States judging and punishing the rest of the world
In addition to Cuba, Washington currently is imposing economic and other sanctions against Burma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, China, North Korea, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Turkey, Germany, Malaysia, South Africa, Mexico, South Sudan, Sudan, Russia, Syria, Venezuela, India, and Zimbabwe. These are sanctions mainly against governments, but also against some private enterprises; there are also many other sanctions against individuals not included here.
Imbued with a sense of America’s moral superiority and “exceptionalism”, each year the State Department judges the world, issuing reports evaluating the behavior of all other nations, often accompanied by sanctions of one kind or another. There are different reports rating how each lesser nation has performed in the previous year in areas such as religious freedom, human rights, the war on drugs, trafficking in persons, and sponsors of terrorism. The criteria used in these reports are often political. Cuba, for example, is always listed as a sponsor of terrorism whereas anti-Castro exile groups in Florida, which have committed literally hundreds of terrorist acts over the years, are not listed as terrorist groups or supporters of such.
Cuba, which has been on the sponsor-of-terrorism list longer (since 1982) than any other country, is one of the most glaring anomalies. The most recent State Department report on this matter, in 2012, states that there is “no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.” There are, however, some retirees of Spain’s Basque terrorist group ETA (which appears on the verge of disbanding) in Cuba, but the report notes that the Cuban government evidently is trying to distance itself from them by denying them services such as travel documents. Some members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been allowed into Cuba, but that was because Cuba was hosting peace talks between the FARC and the Colombian government, which the report notes.
The US sanctions mechanism is so effective and formidable that it strikes fear (of huge fines) into the hearts of banks and other private-sector organizations that might otherwise consider dealing with a listed state.
Some selected thoughts on American elections and democracy
In politics, as on the sickbed, people toss from one side to the other, thinking they will be more comfortable.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
- 2012 presidential election:
223,389,800 eligible to vote
128,449,140 actually voted
Obama got 65,443,674 votes
Obama was thus supported by 29.3% of eligible voters
- There are 100 million adults in the United States who do not vote. This is a very large base from which an independent party can draw millions of new votes.
- If God had wanted more of us to vote in elections, he would give us better candidates.
- “The people can have anything they want. The trouble is, they do not want anything. At least they vote that way on election day.” – Eugene Debs, American socialist leader (1855-1926)
- “If persons over 60 are the only American age group voting at rates that begin to approximate European voting, it’s because they’re the only Americans who live in a welfare state – Medicare, Social Security, and earlier, GI loans, FHA loans.” – John Powers
- “The American political system is essentially a contract between the Republican and Democratic parties, enforced by federal and state two-party laws, all designed to guarantee the survival of both no matter how many people despise or ignore them.” – Richard Reeves (1936- )
- The American electoral system, once the object of much national and international pride, has slid inexorably from “one person, one vote”, to “one dollar, one vote”.
- Noam Chomsky: “It is important to bear in mind that political campaigns are designed by the same people who sell toothpaste and cars. Their professional concern in their regular vocation is not to provide information. Their goal, rather, is deceit.”
- If the Electoral College is such a good system, why don’t we have it for local and state elections?
- “All the props of a democracy remain intact – elections, legislatures, media – but they predominantly function at the service of the oligarchy.” – Richard Wolff
- The RepDem Party holds elections as if they were auctions; indeed, an outright auction for the presidency would be more efficient. To make the auction more interesting we need a second party, which must at a minimum be granted two privileges: getting on the ballot in all 50 states and taking part in television debates.
- The US does in fact have two parties: the Ins and the Outs … the evil of two lessers.
- Alexander Cockburn: “There was a time once when ‘lesser of two evils’ actually meant something momentous, like the choice between starving to death on a lifeboat, or eating the first mate.”
- Cornel West has suggested that it’s become difficult to even imagine what a free and democratic society, without great concentrations of corporate power, would look like, or how it would operate.
- The United States now resembles a police state punctuated by elections.
- How many voters does it take to change a light bulb? None. Because voters can’t change anything.
- H.L. Mencken (1880-1956): “As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
- “All elections are distractions. Nothing conceals tyranny better than elections.” – Joel Hirschhorn
- In 1941, one of the country’s more acerbic editors, a priest named Edward Dowling, commented: “The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it.”
- “Elections are a necessary, but certainly not a sufficient, condition for democracy. Political participation is not just a casting of votes. It is a way of life.” – UN Human Development Report, 1993
- “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain!” I reply, “You have it backwards. If you DO vote, you can’t complain. You asked for it, and they’re going to give it to you, good and hard.”
- “How to get people to vote against their interests and to really think against their interests is very clever. It’s the cleverest ruling class that I have ever come across in history. It’s been 200 years at it. It’s superb.” – Gore Vidal
- We can’t use our democracy/our vote to change the way the economy functions. This is very anti-democratic.
- What does a majority vote mean other than that the sales campaign was successful?
- Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius: “The opinion of 10,000 men is of no value if none of them know anything about the subject.”
- We do have representative government. The question is: Who does our government represent?
- “On the day after the 2002 election I watched a crawl on the bottom of the CNN news screen. It said, ‘Proprietary software may make inspection of electronic voting systems impossible.’ It was the final and absolute coronation of corporate rights over democracy; of money over truth.” – Mike Ruppert, RIP
- “It’s not that voting is useless or stupid; rather, it’s the exaggeration of the power of voting that has drained the meaning from American politics.” – Michael Ventura
- After going through the recent national, state and local elections, I am now convinced that taxation without representation would have been a much better system.
- “Ever since the Constitution was illegally foisted on the American people we have lived in a blatant plutocracy. The Constitution was drafted in secret by a self-appointed elite committee, and it was designed to bring three kinds of power under control: Royalty, the Church, and the People. All were to be subjugated to the interests of a wealthy elite. That’s what republics were all about. And that’s how they have functioned ever since.” – Richard K. Moore
- “As demonstrated in Russia and numerous other countries, when faced with a choice between democracy without capitalism or capitalism without democracy, Western elites unhesitatingly embrace the latter.” – Michael Parenti
- “The fact that a supposedly sophisticated electorate had been stampeded by the cynical propaganda of the day threw serious doubt on the validity of the assumptions underlying parliamentary democracy as a whole.” – British Superspy for the Soviets Kim Philby (1912-1988), explaining his reasons for becoming a Communist instead of turning to the Labour Party
- US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (1856-1941): “We may have democracy in this country, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.”
- “We don’t need to run America like a business or like the military. We need to run America like a democracy.” – Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate 2012
- Democracy Now!, October 30, 2013
- Huffingfton Post, May 3, 2012
- Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Volume VI, Cuba(1991), p.885 (online here)
- For the complete detailed list, see U.S. Department of State, Nonproliferation Sanctions
- U.S. Department of State, “Country Reports on Terrorism 2012, Chapter 3: State Sponsors of Terrorism,” May 20, 2013
How is your life going under the Global Empire? If you answer honestly, for non billionaires, the response must reflect disappointment if not immense distress. Middle America stands on the precipice of oblivion. While the recent past decades have shown steep declines in financial security and net wealth, the future looks much more ominous. The link between the shift to an internationalist de-industrialization economy and open border immigration has hit the United States hard. This harsh reality is routinely denied in the financial press, but the social chaos that engulfs society is largely caused by this betrayal mindset. Corporatists are waging war against the American public.
Summing up the battle lines is the quintessential voice of an America First philosophy. Pat Buchanan on Free Trade is a collection of quotations and references that should be a must read for every displaced citizen. And that group includes virtually everyone.
“Good for global business” isn’t necessarily good for US
“Global capitalists have become acolytes of global governance. They wish to see national sovereignty diminished and sanctions abolished. Where yesterday American businesses suffered damage to their good name for selling scrap iron to Japan before Pearl Harbor, today [war materiel is routinely exported] to potentially hostile nations. Once it was true that what was good the Fortune 500 was good for America. That is no longer true, and what is good for America must take precedence.”
Source: “A Republic, Not an Empire,” p.349 , Oct 9, 1999
The most puzzling malady that penetrates the “PC” culture is a fear of confronting the direct consequences of encouraging an invasion of illegal’s into the country. The disconnect that sweeps across national borders is not isolated just to the United States. Western Europe is not only in decay but is on the verge of social and economic collapse.
Demetrios Papademetriou, PhD, Director of the Migration Policy Institute, wrote in his Sep. 2005 Migration Policy Institute essay “The Global Struggle with Illegal Migration: No End in Sight”: How Are Illegal Immigration and Globalization Related?
“For nearly two decades now, capital and the market for goods, services, and workers of many types have weaved an ever more intricate web of global economic and social interdependence… No aspect of this interdependence seems to be more visible to the public of advanced industrial societies than the movement of people. And no part of that movement is proving pricklier to manage effectively, or more difficult for publics to come to terms with, than irregular (also known as unauthorized, undocumented, or illegal) migration…”
Dr. Papademetriou’s assumption that interdependency is the new normal may be supported with the procession of the Trilateral Commission’s “New International Economic Order”. Nonetheless, the destruction of national sovereignty is a price that no country can afford to adopt, much less pay and remain a nation. Interdependency is the death knell of traditional values, autonomous commerce and individual civil liberties. With the ringing of the bell at the NY Stock exchange, the sound of prosperity goes deaf for the populist, while globalist elites extract the last pound of flesh from an intentionally designed consolidation of a Corporatocracy economy.
The fate of the world is at stake if the forces of globalization are left to complete their total domination of monetary and financial control. It is just as important to prevent the next bipartisan arrangement to grant effective amnesty to millions of illegal foreigners, who have shown little interest to assimilate or adopt the heritage and values of our founding principles.
Warren Mass wrote over a year ago in Permanent Amnesty, Temporary Border.
“An important part of regulating legal immigration, in addition to evaluating each prospective immigrant’s ability to become a productive, law-abiding citizen, is to determine how many immigrants the United States is capable of absorbing each year, taking into consideration the impact on our nation’s economy and culture.”
If this standard needs to apply to those who apply for citizenship, by what absurd twist of logic or sanity pertains to President Obama’s intentions of issuing executive orders that are clearly unconstitutional? How insulting it is to hard press citizens, relegated to enduring impoverishment from off shoring livable wage jobs, while awarding effective amnesty to illegals.
Columnist Glenn R. Jackson review of author Kenneth Buchdahl’s book, Dismantling The American Dream: Globalization, Free Trade, immigration, Unemployment, Poverty, Debt, Foreign Dependency hits the mark.
“First and foremost it is good to see the recognition by Buchdahl of American culture as critical to the building of the American Dream. As Buchdahl writes the development of a culture is grounded in a unique American personality and intricate system of values and beliefs that is responsible for America’s enviable situation. And it is that enviable situation that has contributed to creating the forces that are working rapidly, knowingly or not, to dismantle the American Dream.
Dismantling the American Dream chronicles the unintended impact of America’s pop culture belief in globalization as a force for good in our economy and the failure of leadership to recognize that belief gone awry. America’s political leaders continued belief in free trade and give-away trade deals, in the face of the near deathblow of NAFTA to American manufacturing is but one of the delusions of globalization that Buchdahl lays bare.”
The interjection of cultural aspects may well be the missing link that escapes most chronicles on current events. Documenting the actual results from Free Trade Treaties, should in and of itself win the intellectual argument that economic destruction of Middle America has already happened. Add in the deliberate call for mass migration and social incentives to cross the border has created the latest flood in undocumented aliens.
When Democracy Now asks, Obama & McConnell Pledge Cooperation; Will Fast-Tracking Secretive TPP Trade Deal Top Their Agenda?, and presents Ralph Nader on TPP and the “Unstoppable” Left-Right Anti-Corporate Movement, one has hope that the Buchanan Brigades message is being heard.
With the celebrity coronation that the Democrats are showering on their new favorite daughter, the “Pocahontas Princess”, Elizabeth Warren’s Crusade Against Disastrous “Free Trade” Agreements, is welcomed.
An inquiry was made to NY Senator Charles E. Schumer on the TPA, Trade Priorities Act of 2014 (S.1900). His reply can be read on this link.
An alliance among anti-free trade factions from all ideological camps is necessary to stop the globalist juggernaut. Even if such a coalition could be grown, the likelihood that linkage to the need to stop illegal immigration and opposition to amnesty, would be frosty.
This brings up the opportunity to interject the appeal, WE MUST NOT SURRENDER TO IMMIGRATION AMNESTY, by Frosty Wooldridge. ““Why would any member of Congress who opposes executive amnesty provide President Obama the funds to carry it out? A Republican majority must force congressional Democrats to answer this question through their votes”.
Likewise, why would as covered in the New American essay, Republicans to Obama: We Will Give You Trade Promotion Authority, patriots want to grant “fast track” authority to a President, who is defiant to congressional constitutional separation of powers?
“Fast track authority eventually expired on April 16, 1994, and was not reauthorized by Congress until the passage of the Bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority Act (BPTAA) of 2002. BPTAA reinstated fast track authority renamed as “trade promotion authority” (TPA), which expired in 2007. In 2012, President Obama requested renewal of TPA/fast track authority to complete negotiations for the TPP and TTIP.”
The answer should be apparent that any support of “fast track” or for TPP is a vote bought with globalist control. If it is so obvious that such influence is at play in trade deals, why are so many confused activists not able to see through the “Open Border” fraud and act upon the best interests for American workers and families?
That taboo culture factor, covered in the Buchdahl book explains the blind spot from the Loony Left. A review of a pro immigration site, Open Borders will demonstrate a systemic disconnect from reality. Often Libertarian purists, also fall under the spell of a transcendental fantasy. To their credit, Open Borders presents the concept of CITIZENISM and provides the following its key features.
Citizenism places substantially greater weight on the rights and interests of citizens than non-citizens, though it operates within moral side-constraints.
Citizenism is about current citizens, not about the people who may become citizens as a result of immigration or deportation policy.
Citizenism, as conceived by its original proponent Sailer, is both about the individual ethics of voters and about the responsibilities of elected representatives.
Citizenism is about loyalty, not admiration, toward one’s fellow citizens.
If you understand the destructive nature of corporatist trade agreements that only benefit transnational conglomerates, while poisoning economic commerce for Middle Americans, why would you not oppose the lunacy of unrestrictive mass migration? The imperative moral directive is to protect and defend your own nation, its traditional culture and responsible citizens.
Saving the world is a concept that resides in the sick minds of the Save the Planet Kill Yourself mindset. If they are so devoted to a globalist utopia, the influx of trespassers must be leaving their own homeland in better shape. Just how well is life south of the border doing?
Conspiracy theorists, those who look for the facts, ignoring the pressure of jeers, flawed appeals to authority, and intimidation, are the sanest among us. The steady migration of investigative journalists, who turn their backs on more lucrative employment, is only one indication of this.
In a recent article, Scientific Study Reveals Conspiracy Theorists The Most Sane Of All, the author, J. D. Hayes, cites a recent study, published July 2013, by psychologists Michael J. Wood and Karen M. Douglas of the University of Kent in the UK. It was entitled “‘What about Building 7?’ A Social Psychological Study of Online Discussion of 9/11 Conspiracy Theories.”
Their conclusion is that, contrary to those mainstream media stereotypes, “conspiracy theorists” appear to be more sane than people who accept official versions of controversial and contested events.
Attempts to demonize our perception on conspiracy theorists erects barriers to protect those whose profits are endangered by the truth.
These techniques for manufacturing opinion were outlined by Edward Bernays, whose book, “Propaganda,” asserts those who rule should use the trust accorded them in exactly this way.
Interestingly, Leo Strauss, whose political philosophy is in alignment with Bernays, asserted the same opinion. Strauss’ work was largely adopted by those who call themselves NeoConservatives who are anything but Conservative.
The opinion shared was that those in power are justified to lie, cheat and steal to keep and increase their power. The Kochs use these techniques in business and politically.
The use of the term, “Conspiracy Theory” increased rapidly in the wake of the JFK assassination due to its pejorative use in the MSM. This worked to stifle questions already being raised.
The issue which underlies the article by William Saletan, Conspiracy Theorists Aren’t Really Skeptics attempts to validate intellectual bullying, a logical extension of the philosophies of Bernays and Strauss. You don’t get more MSM than the Washington Post.
In the original formulation of American society those in positions of authority were morally and ethically obligated to explain themselves. The facts were to be available to all. Journalists investigated and reported the truth, as they saw it. This changed.
Saletan raised the issue of human psychology but failed to mention a perplexing issue which has long troubled us. This is the presence of those without conscience. For most of the 20th Century therapists believed these individuals could change, the problem was psychological. Today we know this is a neurological issue.
Advances in neurobiology have brought objective understanding. Now, thousands of criminals have been identified as psychopaths using an fMRI. The scan identified malfunctions in areas of the amygdala, which is now known to be associated with conscience, empathy, and compassion.
According to Dr. Robert Hare, serial murderers and con-men are always psychopaths. But Hare has also noted many who are also psychopathic are not violent and well able to control their impulses to gain far more expansive goals.
These individuals are highly intelligent. At any time there are 20,000 psychopaths with I.Q.s over 180 at large in the United States.
It would be instructive to see test results from MRI scans done on Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and their cadre.
The cost of psychopathy has been calculated at around 360 billion a year – in the US. This does not include the highly intelligent ones which, clearly cost far more, given the impact of Cheney and company on America. Could the people who so desperately wanted torture as a tool be emotionally normal?
Today, experts believe the explanation for the financial meltdown now ongoing can be explained by the concentration of psychopathic individuals in corporations, finance and government.
The characteristics of the condition include calloused unconcern for others. This accounts for the oil companies which routinely externalize their costs, leaving those harmed by the toxic waste they cause, to struggle and die.
Those without conscience, willing to lie for their own profit, have long been with us. But today they can avoid the troublesome issue of having their actions known and understood. They have learned to spin.
To ensure this continues they must continue manufacturing public opinion about their previous actions. This is why they began using the term, “Conspiracy Theory.” They work vigorously to ensure the facts remain hidden.
Refusing to accept the officially mandated opinion on any subject, be in the JFK assassination or whether or not to give your child pharmaceuticals as treatment for ADHD has been used to categorize individuals who refuse to accept predigested conclusions as crazy, stupid or paranoid. When this happens, rest assured, some corporation’s profits could be impacted.
This is a form of control intended to intimidate and inject fear. It also marginalizes vast numbers of people, keeping them in fear so they can be controlled.
To that end they, I call them Greedvilleins, also use our love of each other, country, loyalty, and trust, to manipulate us into wars which profit them and place us in perpetual debt.
If you limit what is acceptable to hold as opinions and deny people full access to the facts you destroy the trust basis of our society. Emotionally normal people are not comfortable when they cannot trust those around them.
These are rational responses to existing conditions.
What is insane is trusting psychopaths. Yet these are now common in finance and government. You can be sure they will routinely act with a sublime lack of conscience, for your freedom, your assets and your very life.
To cope with these conditions many still refuse to think about it, thus avoiding extreme anxiety. Others, for instance those who look for the facts, and are demeaned as “conspiracy theorists.”
The presence of highly intelligent psychopaths among us, who generally avoid being prosecuted, is one of these explanations.
Saladan’s article passes today as investigative journalism. It pays well and explains why so many truly honest journalists left to work in the alternative media.
On Wednesday, stocks were hammered after economic data showed that the US and global economies were headed for a major slowdown. By mid-day, the Dow was down 460 points before clawing its way back to minus 173 points. It looked like the market was set for another triple-digit flogging on Thursday when the Fed stepped in and started talking-up an extension to QE3. That’s all it took to ease investors jitters, stop the meltdown and send equities rocketing back into space. By the end of Friday’s session, all the markets were back in the green with the Dow logging an impressive 263 points on the day. Here’s more background from Wolf Street:
“But just when some profusely sweating souls on Wall Street thought that the bottom was falling out, a savior appears. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard got on Bloomberg TV and pressed the red panic button (and) handed them what they wanted….That was enough.
Using declining inflation expectations as a pretext, he proposed to delay the end of QE. The Fed should continue buying $15 billion in securities a month…. it instantly turned around the markets. The spoiled brats on Wall Street were ecstatic to imagine that the Fed might continue to deliver the goodies they’ve become addicted to, and without which life seems unbearable.” (This Market is Driven by Psychology and Momentum,’ which ‘Works Really Painfully on the Way Down, Wolf Street)
For those readers who still think that the Fed doesn’t meddle in the markets: Think again. Friday’s stock surge had nothing to do with productivity, price, earnings, growth or any of the other so called fundamentals. It was all about manipulation; telling people what they want to hear, so they do exactly what you want them to do. The pundits calls this jawboning, and the Fed has turned it into an art-form. All Bullard did was assure investors that the Fed “has their back”, and , sure enough, another wild spending spree ensued. One can only imagine the backslapping and high-fives that broke out at the Central Bank following this latest flimflam.
As most people now realize, stocks haven’t tripled in the last 5 years because the economy is expanding. Heck, no. The economy is still on all-fours and everyone knows it. The reason stocks have been flying-high is because the Fed added a hefty $4 trillion in red ink to its balance sheet. Naturally, when someone buys $4 trillion in financial assets, the price of financial assets go up.
Who would’ve known?
And here’s something else to chew on: On Thursday I wrote an article titled “Stocks Plunge 460 Points on QE Exit”. Among the 2 or 3 thousand other articles on the topic in the mainstream, not one mentioned the fact that QE was set to end at the end of October. Instead, they pointed to sluggishness in Europe and China, and weaker-than-expected economic data in the US as the proximate causes of the downturn.
So let me ask you this, dear reader, if the end of QE was not the real trigger for the Dow’s 460 point bungee jump, then why did the markets do a quick 180 right after Bullard made his statement on Thursday? In fact, the media even admits that point now. Check out this article on Marketwatch on Friday titled “Bullard’s surprise suggestion of continuing QE lifts markets”:
“A comment from a hawkish Federal Reserve official on Thursday that central-bank bond buying should continue beyond its scheduled end lifted stock markets and surprised many observers.
The Federal Reserve should consider extending its bond-buying program beyond October due to the market selloff to see how the U.S. economic outlook evolves, said James Bullard, the president of the St. Louis Fed, on Thursday. …
If the economy is still as robust as I am describing it, then I think we could just end the program in December. But if the market is right, and this is portending something more serious for the U.S. economy, than the committee would have an option of ramping up QE at that point,” he said.
The S&P 500 SPX, +1.65% jumped from its session low of a 0.9% drop after Bullard’s remarks came out.” (Bullard’s surprise suggestion of continuing QE lifts markets, Marketwatch)
How do you like that? Just one word from the Fed and the markets do an immediate about-face. Now that’s power.
It’s too bad the Fed can’t put in a good word for the real economy while they’re at it. But, oh, I forgot that the real economy is stuffed with working stiffs who don’t warrant the same kind of treatment as the esteemed supermen who trade stocks for a living. Besides, the Fed doesn’t give a rip about the real economy. If it did, it would have loaded up on infrastructure bonds instead of funky mortgage backed securities (MBS). The difference between the two is pretty stark: Infrastructure bonds put people to work, circulate money, boost economic activity, and strengthen growth. In contrast, MBS purchases help to fatten the bank accounts of the fraudsters who created the financial crisis while doing bupkis for the economy. Guess who the Fed chose to help out?
Do you really want to know why the Fed isn’t going to end QE? Here’s how Nomura’s chief economist Bob Janjuah summed it up:
“I want to remind readers of a message that may be buried in the past: When QE1 ended, the S&P 500 fell just under 20% in a roughly three-month period before the QE2 recovery.
When the QE2 ended, the S&P 500 fell about 20% in a three-month period before the next Fed-inspired bounce (aided by the ECB). QE3 is ending this month…”
Is that why the Fed started jawboning QE4, to avoid the inevitable 20 percent correction?
You bet it is. But what’s odd is that stocks hadn’t even dropped 10 percent before the Fed hit the panic button. Why is that?
Could it be that they have no confidence in the market? Could it be that they know that their loosy-goosey monetary policies have inflated the biggest bubble of all time which has created a fragile, crisis prone system that can’t even withstand a measly 10 percent drop before bank balance sheets start going up in flames and the whole wobbly financial house of cards comes crashing to earth in a thud?
Of course, it is. They’re scared sh**less, which is why they dispatched bigmouth Bullard to promise investors the moon as long as they keep loading up on equities. Yellen an Co. are going to do everything in their power to keep this runaway train from going off the cliff, even if they kill us all in the process.
Now check out this blurb from Allianz ‘s chief economic adviser, Mohamed A. El-Erian, one of the few analysts who got it right:
“Due to excessive confidence in central banks, investors eagerly decoupled high market valuations from what was warranted by the sluggish fundamentals.”… That disconnect has been undermined over the last few weeks by signs that the global economy’s fundamentals are weaker than they seemed and concern that the European Central Bank will not adequately fight that continent’s economic drift…” (New York Times)
What El Erian is saying, is that, stocks are vastly overpriced given “sluggish fundamentals”. The only reason investors have been buying is because the Fed has been shoving money into the market hand-over-fist. That’s what’s kept equities airborne. But on Wednesday, investors woke up and said to themselves, “Hey, the economy’s circling the plughole, the Fed is bailing out, and I’m left with a boatload of dodgy stocks that might be worth $.30 on the dollar. Maybe I’ll get out now while I still can.” That’s why the market tanked.
So, what’s the lesson here?
The lesson is that the Fed is driving the markets. The whole “free market” trope is baloney. No one is loading up on stocks because they’re a good deal or because they think the economy is going gangbusters. Investors are buying stocks because they still believe in the power of money. They still think the Fed can pump a few more wisps of helium into the equities balloon and keep the rally going for a bit longer. And that’s why stocks surged on Friday, because, at least for now, greed still trumps fear.
But what’s the overall effect of this loony policy on the economy, or is that a fair question to ask after 6 years of falling incomes, flatlining wages, widening inequality and widespread economic stagnation?
The truth is, we already know what the impact is: The rich have gotten richer while the poor have been shunted off to tent cities, food pantries and under freeway off-ramps. Isn’t that what’s happened? Get a load of this brief summary in Friday’s WSWS:
“The richest one percent of the world’s population now controls 48.2 percent of global wealth, up from 46 percent last year, according to the most recent global wealth report issued by Credit Suisse, the Swiss-based financial services company.
Hypothetically, if the growth of inequality were to proceed at last year’s rate, the richest one percent for all intents and purposes would control all the wealth on the planet within 23 years.
The report found that the growth of global inequality has accelerated sharply since the 2008 financial crisis, as the values of financial assets have soared while wages have stagnated and declined…
The study revealed that the richest 8.6 percent of the world’s population—those with a net worth of more than $100,000—control 85 percent of the world’s wealth. Meanwhile, the bottom 70 percent of the world’s population—those with less than $10,000 in net worth—hold a mere 2.9 percent of global wealth.
The growth in inequality is bound up with a worldwide surge in paper wealth, fueled by the trillions of dollars pumped into the financial system by central banks via zero interest rate and “quantitative easing” policies…
As the report noted, “The overall global economy may remain sluggish, but this has not prevented personal wealth from surging ahead during the past year. Driven by … robust equity prices, total wealth grew by 8.3% worldwide … the first time household wealth has passed the $250 trillion threshold.” (Richest one percent controls nearly half of global wealth, Andre Damon)
That says it all, doesn’t it? The widening chasm between rich and poor is traceable to the policies that were adopted in 2008. That’s why things are so fu**ed up, it’s because the “surge in paper wealth, fueled by the trillions of dollars pumped into the financial system by central banks via zero interest rate and “quantitative easing” policies.”
In other words, it’s all deliberate. Robbing the poor and giving to the rich is all part of the plan.
That strikes me as an important point, and one that’s worth mulling over for awhile; that crushing the middle class isn’t an accident. It’s what they want. It’s the policy.
“…that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”
– James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America (1931)
The American Dream has been defined many ways by writers of both poetic and prosaic bent, but its essentials tend to involve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (or property, depending on your source).
The Declaration of Independence, upon which an entire nation was radically brought into existence, asserts that not only are all men created equal but that this is a “self-evident” truth. By this “unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,” a contract was agreed to, that their union would be founded on this principle. Thus, America was endowed with its dream at the moment of its conception: the freedom to succeed.
The United States has promoted a self-congratulating exceptionalism for decades, waving its Declaration and Constitution in the faces of other sovereign nations as if the latter had never considered such concepts. Our capital F “Freedom” sets us apart from the rest of the world, as the political rhetoric has repeated ad nauseam, no matter the freedoms enjoyed by democracies on almost every continent. And yet our basic freedom, the freedom to succeed, America’s contractual promise, has been shrinking for thirty years.
The freedom to succeed transcends economic systems but it is most potently expressed by capitalist gains. The ability to go “from rags to riches” is ingrained in this nation’s ethos and there is nothing intrinsically immoral about that goal. However, the current state of American inequality reveals a very real and expanding gap between the rich and poor that betrays the foundational endowment of this Union. When the freedom to succeed is denied every citizen, their equality is equally denied.
Recently, the Pew Research Center released a poll on what international citizens consider the greatest threat to the planet. Conducted between March 17 and June 5 of this year, the survey received answers from 48,643 respondents in 44 countries. In the U.S. and Europe, the growing gap between the rich and the poor was overwhelmingly considered the greatest danger to world prosperity. Over a quarter of Americans ranked “Inequality” as number one, above Religious & ethnic hatred, Pollution, Nuclear weapons and Infectious diseases.
This is hardly startling news considering that the median net worth of American households fell by 35 percent ($106,591 to $68,839) between 2005 and 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It is, however, disturbing that inequality remains so prevalent five years after the Great Recession.
Capitalism is not the problem. The problem is that we have let inequality advance in this country so gradually that its obviousness is masked by its familiarity. Below, I outline eight facts about inequality in America that every American should know.
1) 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined. This ratio has been verified by Politifact and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. To put it into context, last year the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that there were over 316 million people living in the United States. That means 400 Americans have more money than over 158 million of their fellow citizens. Their net worth is over$2 trillion, which is approximate to the Gross Domestic Product of Russia.
One explanation for the vast discrepancy in wealth is the definition of “worth,” which includes everything a person or household owns. This means savings and property but also mortgages, bills and debt. Poorer households can owe so much in debt that they possess a negative net worth.
2) America has the second-highest level of income inequality, after Chile. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development studies thirty-four developed countries and ranks them both before and after taxes and government transfers take effect (government transfers include Social Security, income tax credit and unemployment insurance). Before taxes and government transfers, America ranks tenth in income inequality. After taxes and transfers, it ranks second. Whereas its developed peers reduce inequality through government programs, the United States’ government exacerbates it.
3) The current state of inequality can be traced back to 1979. After the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the gap between the rich and the poor began to narrow. For fifty years, wages differed between the upper- and working-classes, but a robust middle-class took shape and there remained ample opportunity for working-class individuals to ascend.
In his book, “The Great Divergence,” journalist Timothy Noah traced today’s inequality to the beginning of the 1980s and the widening gap between the middle- and upper-classes. This gap was influenced by the following factors: the failure of American schools to prepare students for new technology; poor immigration policies that favor unskilled workers and drive down the price of already low-income labor; federally-mandated minimum wage that has failed to keep pace with inflation; and the decline of labor unions.
4) Non-union wages are also affected by the decline of unions. The Economic Policy Institute claims that 20 percent of the growth in the wage gap between high-school-educated and college-educated men can be attributed to deunionization.
Between 1978 and 2011, union representation for blue-collar and high-school educated workers declined by more than half. This has also diminished the “union wage effect,” whereby the existence of unions (more than 40 percent of blue-collar workers were union members in 1978) was enough to boost wages in non-union jobs – in high school graduates by as much as 8.2 percent. Not only did unions protect lower- and middle-class workers from unfair wages, they also established norms and practices that were then adopted by non-union employers. Two prime examples are employee pensions and healthcare.
Today, about 13 percent of workers belong to unions, which has reduced their bargaining power and influence.
5) There is less opportunity for intergenerational mobility. In December 2011, President Obama spoke at Osawatomie High School in Kansas. He was very clear about the prospects of the poor in today’s United States:
“[O]ver the last few decades, the rungs on the ladder of opportunity have grown farther and farther apart, and the middle class has shrunk. You know, a few years after World War II, a child who was born into poverty had a slightly better than 50-50 chance of becoming middle class as an adult. By 1980, that chance had fallen to around 40 percent. And if the trend of rising inequality over the last few decades continues, it’s estimated that a child born today will only have a one-in-three chance of making it to the middle class – 33 percent.”
As refreshing as that honesty is, Obama promised no fix beyond $1 trillion in spending cuts and a need to work toward an “innovation economy.”
In a speech one month later, Obama’s Chairman of Economic Advisers, Alan Krueger, elaborated on the dire state of America’s shrinking middle-class. The contraction, he stated, could partially be attributed to “skill-biased technical change”: work activities that have become automated over time, reducing the need for unskilled labor and favoring those with analytical training. He also highlighted the 50 year decline in tax rates for the top 0.1 percent, increased competition from overseas workers, and a lack of educational equality for children. Poor children are denied the private tutors, college prep and business network of family and friends available to their wealthier peers, which locks them into the class they are born into.
6) Tax cuts to the wealthiest have not improved the economy or created more jobs. Krueger also revealed that the tax cuts of the 2000s for top earners did not improve the economy any better than they did in the 1990s (meanwhile, income growth was stronger for lower- and middle-class families in the 1990s than in the last forty years).
Tax rates for the top income earners in America peaked in 1945 at 66.4 percent. Following decades of gradual reductions, they have since been cut in half. During the same time, the payroll tax has increased since the 1950s and individual income tax has bounced between 40-50 percent through the present day. Conversely, corporate tax declined from above 30 percent in the 1950s to under 10 percent in 2011.
All of these tax cuts are made ostensibly to improve the economy and create jobs. However, the National Bureau of Economic Research has concluded that it is young companies, “regardless of their size,” that are the real job creators in America. Tax cuts to the wealthiest do not create jobs.
7) Incomes for the top 1% have increased (but the top 0.01% make even more). Between 1979 and 2007, the average incomes of the 1 percent increased 241 percent. Compare that to 19 percent growth for the middle fifth of America and 11 percent for the bottom fifth. Put another way, in 1980 the average American CEO earned forty-two times as much as his average worker. In 2001, he earned 531 times as much.
Average income across the 1 percent is actually stratified into widely disparate echelons. Compare the $29,840 average income for the bottom 90 percent to the $161,139 of the top 10 percent. Compare the $1 million average income of the top 1 percent to the $2.8 million of the top 0.1 percent. Yet both still pale beside the $23 million average income of the top 0.01 percent.
If those numbers seem a bit overwhelming, Politizane has created a video that illustrates this staggering inequality:
8) The majority of Congress does not feel your pain. Empowered by the Constitution to represent their constituents, United States Congress members are, for the first time in history, mostly millionaires. The 2012 financial disclosure information of the 534 current Congress men and women reveals that over half of them have a net worth of $1 million or more.
After the past seven facts it is difficult to read this last one and believe that these 268 legislators have the best interests of the remaining 99 percent at heart. But if that is too presumptuous a leap, it is not too bold to say that wealthier donors, lobbyists and special interest groups enjoy greater access to these lawmakers than the average American.
In January, Congress failed to extend emergency benefits for unemployment, leaving 1.3 million people without federal aid. Congress then went on a weeklong recess that kept them from debating the issue until the end of the month. The bill was too divisive for Republicans and Democrats to reach an agreement on, though unemployment was then above 7 percent nationally.
Thankfully, the unemployed have their Congress working for them. And at $174,000 annual pay, those representatives are sure to return from their vacations committed to fresh solutions.
“Financial markets are faced with uncertainty that isn’t going away. The slowdown in Europe is probably in the early innings, the Fed hasn’t begun to raise interest rates, and geopolitical crises seem to pop up by the day.” Jeff Cox, Finance editor, CNBC
Six years of zero rates and trillions of dollars of asset purchases couldn’t stop stocks from falling sharply on Wednesday. All three major indices moved deep into the red, with the Dow Jones leading the pack, dropping an eye-watering 460 points before rebounding nearly 300 points by the end of the session. Risk-free assets, particularly US Treasuries, rallied hard on the flight-to-safety move with the benchmark 10-year Treasury yield slipping to a Depression era 1.87 percent before climbing back above the 2 percent mark. US financials were the worst hit sector, taking it on the chin for 9 percent by mid-day, while Brent crude was soundly walloped, falling to a 47-month low on oversupply and deflation fears. Stock market gains for the year had nearly been wiped out before a miraculous about-face turned Armageddon into a so-so day with survivable losses. Even so, analysts have already started paring back their estimates for 4th quarter growth while traders stocked up on antacid for Thursday’s opening bell.
The proximate cause of Wednesday’s bloodbath was weaker than expected economic data from Europe–which is sliding towards its third recession in five years– droopy retail sales in the US, and a report from Department of Labor showing that wholesale prices for producers are edging closer towards deflation, the opposite of what the Fed is trying to achieve via its aggressive monetary policy.
But the real trigger for the selloff was not the dismal data, but the policies that have been in place since the Financial Crisis of 2008. While the Obama administration has steadily decreased demand by shaving the deficits which provide vital fiscal stimulus for the economy, (On Wednesday, the USG announced the budget deficit fell to $483 billion, the lowest since 2008) the Federal Reserve has been providing trillions of dollars of cheap money to the banks and brokerages. The result of this one-two combo has not only been the biggest transfer of wealth in human history, but also “a fundamental breakdown in the functioning of the global capitalist economy.” As the International Monetary Fund (IMF) noted in a recent paper on the global recovery: “a pickup in investment has not yet materialized…reflecting concerns about low medium-term growth potential and subdued private consumption.” Demand shortfalls in the advanced countries “could lead to sustained global economic weakness over a five-year period.” (IMF report records global economic breakdown, Nick Beams, World Socialist Web Site)
Simply put: The Fed’s policies have made investors richer, but they haven’t created opportunities for recycling profits, which is a critical part of capitalism’s so called virtuous circle. Anemic investment, means less hiring, less spending, weaker demand and slower growth, all of which are visible in today’s sluggish, underperforming economy. Pumping money into financial assets (QE) can fatten the bank accounts of rich speculators, but it doesn’t do jack for the economy. It just creates bubbles that burst in a flurry of panic selling. Here’s more from Larry Elliot at the Guardian:
“Six years after the global banking system had its near-death experience, interest rates are still at emergency levels. Even attaining the mediocre levels of activity expected by the IMF in the developed countries requires central banks to continue providing large amounts of stimulus. The hope has been that copious amounts of dirt-cheap money will find its way into productive uses, with private investment leading to stronger and better balanced growth.
It hasn’t happened like that. Instead, as the IMF rightly pointed out, the money has not gone into economic risk-taking but into financial risk-taking. Animal spirits of entrepreneurs have remained weak but asset prices have been strong. Tighter controls on banks have been accompanied by the emergence of a powerful and largely unchecked shadow banking system. Investors have been piling into all sorts of dodgy-looking schemes, just as they did pre-2007. Recovery, such as it is, is once again reliant on rising debt levels. Central bankers know this but also know that jacking up interest rates would push their economies back into recession. They cross their fingers and hope for the best.” (World leaders play war games as the next financial crisis looms, Larry Elliot, Guardian)
The policies implemented by the Obama administration and Fed have achieved precisely what they were designed to achieve; they’ve enriched the voracious plutocrats who run the system but left everyone else scraping by on less and less. An article in the Washington Post explains what’s going on in greater detail. Here’s a short excerpt from the piece titled “Why is the recovery so weak? It’s the austerity, stupid”:
“Welcome to Austerity U.S.A., where the deficit is back below 3 percent of GDP and growth is still disappointing—which aren’t unrelated facts.
It started when the stimulus ran out. Then state and local governments had to balance their budgets amidst a still-weak economy. And finally, there was the debt ceiling deal with its staggered $2.1 trillion of cuts over the next decade. Add it all up, and there’s been a big fiscal tightening the past few years, something like 4 percent of potential GDP. Indeed, as Paul Krugman points out, real government spending per capita has been falling faster now than any time since the Korean War demobilization. (chart)
Fiscal Impact Measure
Source: Hutchins Center
And, as you can see above, all this austerity has been hurting GDP growth since 2011. It shows the Hutchins Center’s new “fiscal impact measure,” which looks at how much total government tax-and-spending decisions have helped or harmed growth. The dark blue line is what policy has actually done, and the light blue one is what a neutral policy would have done. So, in other words, if the dark blue line is below the light blue one, like it has the last three years, then policy has subtracted from growth.” (Why is the recovery so weak? It’s the austerity, stupid. Washington Post)
By cutting the deficits, Obama reduced the blood flow to the real economy and weakened demand. That’s what torpedoed the recovery. In contrast, stocks and bonds have done remarkably well, mainly because the Fed pumped $4 trillion into financial assets which was a taken as a greenlight by risk takers everywhere to load up on everything from overpriced equities to low-yield junk. Now, after more than three years without as much as a 10 percent correction, the momentum has shifted, volatility has returned, earnings are looking wobbly, and the fear is palpable. Stocks appear to be headed for a major repricing event. Here’s how investment guru John Hussman sums it up in his Weekly Market Comment:
“Our concerns at present mirror those that we expressed at the 2000 and 2007 peaks, as we again observe an overvalued, overbought, overbullish extreme that is now coupled with a clear deterioration in market internals, a widening of credit spreads, and a breakdown in our measures of trend uniformity…
…it has become urgent for investors to carefully examine all risk exposures. When extreme valuations on historically reliable measures, lopsided bullishness, and compressed risk premiums are joined by deteriorating market internals, widening credit spreads, and a breakdown in trend uniformity, it’s advisable to make certain that the long position you have is the long position you want over the remainder of the market cycle. As conditions stand, we currently observe the ingredients of a market crash.” (The Ingredients of a Market Crash, John P. Hussman, Ph.D., Hussman Funds)
Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? And Hussman is not alone either. The bearish mood on Wall Street is gaining pace even among those who focus more on geopolitical issues than fundamentals, like the Bank for International Settlements’ Guy Debelle who said in an interview on CNBC on Tuesday that he was concerned about the possibility of a “violent” market drop, particularly in bonds.
“If I had told you that there were heightened tensions in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, uncertainty about the turning point in U.S. monetary policy, a succession of strong U.S. job numbers, uncertainty about the future direction of policy in Europe and Japan, as well as increased concern about the strength of the Chinese economy, you would not be expecting that to make for a benign time in financial markets,” Guy Debelle of the BIS said. “But that is what we have seen for much of this year.” (CNBC)
But stocks aren’t cratering because of tensions in the Middle East or Eastern Europe. That’s baloney. And they’re not falling because of decelerating global growth, plunging oil prices or Ebola. They’re falling because no one knows what the heck is going to happen when QE stops at the end of October. That’s what has everyone in a lather.
Keep in mind, that 20 percent of the current market cap (more than $4 trillion) is stock buybacks, that is, corporations that have bought their own shares to juice prices. Do you really think that corporate bosses are going to play as fast and loose after the Fed stops its liquidity injections?
Not on your life. They’re going to pull in their horns and see what happens next. And if things go sideways, (which they very well could) they’re going to cash in and call it a day. That’s going to drive down stock prices and send markets reeling.
Stocks have nearly tripled since March 2009 when the Fed started this “credit easing” fiasco. So if stocks rode higher on an ocean of Fed liquidity, then how low are they going to go when the spigot is turned off? There are some, like technical strategist Abigail Doolittle, who think the S and P 500 could suffer a major heart attack, dropping as much as 60 percent before equities touch down. Check it out from CNBC:
“(Abigail) Doolittle, founder of Peak Theories Research, has made headlines lately suggesting a market correction worse than anyone thinks is ahead. The long-term possibility, she has said, is a 60 percent collapse for the S&P 500.
In early August, Doolittle was warning both of a looming “super spike” in the CBOE Volatility Index as well as a “death cross” in the 10-year Treasury note.
And so it’s come to pass at least for the VIX, which has jumped 74 percent over the past three months and crossed the 20 threshold that historically has served as a dividing line between complacency and fear. That’s its highest level in nearly two years. From Doolittle’s perspective, the spike represents a bad-news/bad-news scenario … that the near-term selling action is likely to continue and even accelerate…
…she thinks “violent waves of selling action” could send the VIX all the way to 90—even beyond its peak during the financial crisis.” (CNBC)
Now maybe Doolittle is just exaggerating or paranoid, but her conclusions do seem to square with CNN Money. Here’s a clip from yesterday’s article:
“CNNMoney’s Fear & Greed Index is a good indicator of market momentum. Today it hit zero. That’s a huge red flag and showcases extreme fear in the stock market. The only other time the index ever touched that low point is in August 2011 — shortly after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. debt.
Volatility — or what some are calling “market whiplash” — is clearly back in the market. The VIX, an index that measures volatility and is one of the factors that goes into the Fear & Greed Index — spiked again today. It’s up a whopping 60% in the past week alone.” (Extreme Fear in stock market, CNN Money)
So fear and volatility are back, but liquidity has suddenly gone missing. That sounds like a prescription for disaster to me. So what can we expect in the weeks to come?
Well, more of the same, at least that’s how Pimco’s former chief executive officer Mohamed El Erian sees it. Here’s how he summed it up on Wednesday in a Bloomberg editorial:
“Though unlikely to be as dramatic as today, market volatility can be expected to continue in the days and weeks to come as two forces compete: first, the forced deleveraging of certain investors, particularly overstretched hedge funds registering big October losses; second, central banks scrambling to say all sorts of reassuring things. All of this will serve to reinforce October’s longstanding reputation as a threatening month for investors around the world.” (October’s Wild Ride Isn’t Over Yet, Mohamed A. El-Erian, Bloomberg)
Did he say “forced deleveraging”?
Uh huh. So, after a 6 year bacchanal, the Fed is finally going to take away the punch bowl and force the revelers to pay down their debts, clean up their balance sheets, and take a few less risks. Is that it?
Yep. It sure looks like it. But, that could change in the blink of an eye, after all, the Fed has its friends to think of. Which means that Ms. Yellen could announce QE4 any day now.
There has never been a war in American history so strategically ill-conceived as the one currently developing against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria.
The Mexican war of 1846-47 was essentially an aggressive operation to take Alta California and New Mexico, and to cement the status of Texas. It was limited in its objectives, and it was conducted in a strategically sound manner. The goals – their legality apart – were achieved, and the balance between costs and benefits was never in doubt. Vae victis!
The Civil War (under whatever name) was a “rational” bid by Abraham Lincoln and his team – legal, moral, and humanitarian considerations notwithstanding – to create a centralized state. He won the war, and hugely expanded federal governmental power. This was a disaster for America, but it was a resounding success from the standpoint of its instigators.
The 1898 war against Spain was but another exercise in Realpolitik. It finally moved America from a republic to an empire, the “manifest destiny” now manifested in Admiral Mahan’s and Theodore Roosevelt’s geopolitical designs.
Woodrow Wilson’s 1917-1918 intervention against the Central Powers was the first overtly “ideological” war – to make the world safe for democracy etc. Its slogans were silly, but in the end it could be argued that the geopolitical purpose was well served: to prevent the dominance of the continent of Europe by a single hegemon. America did not make much difference to the outcome in the battlefield, but her entry signaled to the Germans that the Entente could not lose.
World War II was a convoluted affair that entailed FDR provoking Japan in order to provoke Germany. Considering Roosevelt’s Weltanschauung it worked beautifully. His goals were rational within that paradigm, and they were fulfilled beyond expectations.
The war in Korea was a prompt response to an outright act of aggression in the disputed “Rimland” of the early Cold War. Truman, for all his failings, was right in preventing Douglas McArthur from turning it into an existential struggle. The truce of 1953 still stands. It was a limited war, of limited duration, for limited objectives.
With Vietnam we enter a murky territory. By 1968 the gap between political objectives and military means had become painfully obvious, for the first time in American history. It took the courage and vision of Richard Nixon – a statesman par excellence unjustly maligned to this day – to end that military-political quagmire. Today’s Vietnam, far from being a bastion of Communist orthodoxy, is a flourishing capitalist economy and America’s de facto ally in curtailing Beijing’s ambitions in the South China Sea.
The 1990’s were a disaster. Bill Clinton bombed the Bosnian Serbs in 1994-95, thus making Sarajevo safe for the foreign jihadists who are now providing the foreign backbone for the Islamic State. He bombed Serbia in 1999, thus making Kosovo safe for their Albanian cohorts. The oft-stated intent, that America is helping “moderate” Muslims, has never paid any dividends.
The decade following 9/11 was even worse. After two failed wars, in Afghanistan the Taliban will eventually take over, period. Iraq is a failed state, with the new Shiite prime minister rearranging the deck chairs on the sinking ship. Trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives were utterly wasted.
And now we have a new war, against the Islamic State (IS, or ISIL, as Obama prefers to call it). There is no strategy, no operational tactical plan, no end-game. Air strikes with no boots on the ground. We are told, with disgusting complacency, that this war may last thirty years (Leon Panetta), or for ever (Newt Gingrich). Our “allies” in Ankara are watching calmly as the Kurds in Kobani succumb to IS attacks. The Turks and Saudi Arabia – our “allies” – want to finish off Bashar al-Assad first and foremost, the only man who has the viable fighting force ready and willing to confront the IS.
This is postmodernia at its best. God help us.
Seldom does the enormous bond market turn on the fate of a single trader. Well, the news that Bill Gross was leaving Pimco under suspicious circumstances did not go unnoticed. The WSJ writes:
“The yield on the 10-year benchmark Treasury note was hovering around 2.506% immediately before the disclosure that Mr. Gross was leaving the hundreds-of-billions of dollars in Treasurys and other debt he oversaw at Pimco to go to rival firm Janus Capital Group Inc.
Within a half-hour, the yield jumped to 2.546%. While a move of 0.04 percentage point may not seem like much in that period of time, it was perceptible enough in the $12 trillion Treasury market that several traders and strategists attributed it to the news about Mr. Gross.”
Attempting to explain the reasons for his departure, The Economist speculates in the essay, Overthrowing the Bond King. “There appear to be three main reasons behind Mr Gross’s abrupt exit. The immediate cause was his abrasive management style . . . Moreover, Mr. Gross’s public behavior has grown increasingly peculiar of late . . . Such mis-steps might have been forgiven had Mr. Gross’s charmed streak as an investor continued. But over the past three years, several misjudgments have caused his funds to lag.”
At this point What You Need to Know About SEC’s Investigation of Pimco, centers on a relatively small $3.6 billion ETF, exchange-traded fund.
“Apparently, Pimco went around buying up small blocks of bonds, known as “odd lots,” at discounts. Pimco then marked their prices upwards using estimates of their values derived from larger blocks of bonds.
If Pimco really couldn’t resell the bonds at the new, higher prices it seems off base. But it also seems plausible the bonds might genuinely be worth more in Pimco’s hands than they were in the hands of whoever sold them.”
The mystic that Pimco enjoyed in bond trading may have sunk from the implications of SEC snooping. Gross seems like he is sprinting for the exit, but is this all that is in play? Investor’s Business Daily paints a smiley face on the open door that Gross’ transfer of loyalties as a positive for Janus Capital Group.
Now step back from these headlines and examine the concerns that have been floated about the bond market for a very long time. Money Beat in an account suggests that aBond Bubble Will Burst in a ‘Very Bad Way’ and reports on the recent Bloomberg’s Markets Most Influential Summit.
“Bonds are at ridiculous levels,” Julian Robertson, founder of one of the earliest hedge funds in Tiger Management Corp., said on a panel at the Bloomberg Markets Most Influential Summit. “It’s a world-wide phenomenon that governments are buying bonds to keep their countries moving along economically.”
Howard Marks, the chairman of Oaktree Capital Group LLC, said interest rates are “unnaturally low today.” Leon Cooperman, founder of Omega Advisors Inc. and former partner at Goldman Sachs, said bonds are “very overvalued.”
Forecasting the direction of government bonds usually focuses on predicting what central banks will do to drive interest rates, either up or down. Since consensus in market watchers has long announced that U.S. Bonds yields are unnaturally low, the calls for a turn upward in interest rates seem ridiculously overdue in coming.
All that seems reasonable; however, the Federal Reserve is playing a much different game from the responding to the normal business cycle.
Since the financial meltdown of 2008-2009, the charts and metric gauges for predicting market movements require a complete overhaul. Betting on U.S. Bonds no longer is based solely on domestic factors.
ZeroHedge cites David Tepper Is Back, Sees “Beginning Of The End” Of Bond Bubble.
“Empirically, Tepper may be right: in the past every time a central bank has launched a massive easing program (think QE1, QE2, Twist, QE3, etc.) it resulted in aggressive stock buying offset by bond selling. The issue is when said programs came to an end, and led to major selloffs in equities, pushing bonds to newer and lower record low yields. So perhaps for the time being, we may have seen the lows in the 10Year and in the periphery. The question is what happens when Europe’s latest “Private QE” operation comes to an end: just how massive will the bond bid be when all the money currently invested in risk assets decided to shift out all in one move.
More importantly, it also explains why central banks now have to work in a constant, staggered basis when easing, as the global capital markets simply cannot exist in a world in which every single central bank stops cold turkey with the “market” manipulation and/or liquidity injections.”
Within this context, why all the hullabaloo over Bill Gross jumping ship? While price inflation is real and grossly underreported, currency deflation still persists over the last six years. Now some may claim this phenomenon proves that stability in the bond market exists. Conversely, if this measure is acceptable to institutional bondholders, are they not accepting very low returns out of fear that the economy still hangs on a precipice.
Always remember that bonds are loans that have an obligation for repayment. Stability is maintained in the core indebtedness with the reimbursement settlement of the principal. Most governments are able to string along the unavoidable roll over so that new funds are raised to refinance.
Not so in every case from private or corporate debt. Just ask the bond holders from GM, better known as “Government Motors”.
Government bonds make up the essential float in the paper trade. As long as the global collateralization of bonds is honored, the planet may be able to avoid the fate of Greece. Pimco is but a pimple when compared to the Federal Reserve’s monetization of U.S. Treasury debt.
Bond professional traders look for an edge. Firms may risk their own capital, but most brokers look to skim an easy commission. It’s the institutions who have the most at stake and need a stable bond market. When not if, the bubble busts or deflates, the air is going to escape and blow over average investors.
With election time almost upon us, here’s a rather sobering thought: By spending as little as a mere two billion dollars, anyone with that amount of money can now afford to buy an entire American election — Congress, the White House, governorships and all.
“But Jane,” you might ask, “why would anyone even want to do that?” Why? Just look at all the immense amount of loot you can score with just this tiny investment. Access to national park land, bank deregulation, profits from weapons production, corporate monopoly status, pro-pollution laws, judges’ rulings in your favor…need I go on?
For instance, eleven trillion dollars has been recently spent on escalating and pursuing fake wars. So if you “invest” in American elections and still only receive, say, just ten percent of those eleven trillion singles for your weapons-manufacturing services or whatever the heck else companies like Halliburton do, you still have just grown your measly two-billion-buck investment at least a thousand times over. Forever War really pays off!
Or if you are guys like Obama, Bush and Cheney — and can’t resist playing with war toys? Then you get to buy your very own wars! Lots and lots of wars. You get to play with actual life-sized GI Joe dolls and call yourself “Commander in Chief”. You get to bomb Libya and Ukraine and Iraq and Syria. What fun! Two billion dollars can buy you a hecka lot of war toys — eleven trillion dollars worth to be exact.
Or let’s say that your net worth is approximately 100 billion dollars, like, say, the Koch brothers’ worth is. You spend less than three percent of that money on buying elections — and voila! You too get over a thousand percent return on every dollar you spend. What kind of crazy-good investment is that!
Or let’s say you are a member of the notorious WalMart family, worth hundreds of billions of dollars. You spend just a few paltry billion on election buyouts — and suddenly us taxpayers are paying for all of your employees’ healthcare. And we’re throwing food stamps into the bargain too. Brilliant idea!
Or what if you own a giant coal company, oil company, car company, power company or some other major polluter? Common sense tells us voters that we need to cut down on polluting the atmosphere so as to avoid drastic climate change that even now threatens to kill off the whole human race.
We could have been using solar power all this time for instance — and also cleaned up our rivers and even eliminated the need for fossil fuel. But no. For a few (billion) dollars more at election time, you can potentially doom the entire human race. America, are we having fun yet?
Or let’s say for instance that you are AIPAC, that Israeli political action committee. Spend just two billion dollars to buy every election in America — up to and including the dog catcher? What a deal! And since Israel is already receiving three billion dollars every year from America, guaranteed, voted by Congress, you don’t even have to risk using your own moolah. You can use ours. Fabulous investment. http://www.counterpunch.org/
Plus you also get permission to bomb Gaza, take over the West Bank, design America’s stupid “Bomb Syria” policy, have red-carpet access to the entire Middle East (as in red carpets of blood) and get away with committing all kinds of other violations of the Nuremberg precedents and Geneva war crime conventions too.
According to Middle East expert Paul Larudee, “Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu infamously bragged that ‘America is a thing you can move very easily’.” Apparently all you need is just two billion bucks. Hell, Attila the Hun never even had that kind of power. Or even Josef Stalin. All he ever got out his American investments was the freaking Cold War.
But don’t worry, Josef! The Cold War is about to heat up again, thanks to AIPAC. Hell, now AIPAC is even an unofficial member of NATO (and apparently its most influential member too). And, as such, Israeli war hawks seem hell-bent on fomenting World War III. Does the American public really want to go there? I think not.
Or you could invest your capital in running America’s prison-industrial complex? Just think of all the cheap labor you’ll get! For much less than two billion in folding money, you don’t even have to ship your goods over from China any more. Plus you get to have them stamped “Made in America” too. Definitely a win-win for you.
Or what if you are Monsanto or Big Pharma or Bank of America or CitiCorp or Goldman Sachs or General Electric? For far less than two billion dollars, you can get rid of unions, create your own monopolies, write your own “regulations”, appoint your own “regulators” and rake in the profits. And if you are Big Media, our publicly-owned airwaves now belong to you. Think Rupert Murdock. Or net neutrality up in smoke. Think AT&T. Boo-yah!
Yep, America is for sale for really cheap these days. The total assets of the United States of America is currently 188 trillion dollars. And just think. For just a mere two billion simoleons, all that can be yours! Buy a little false advertizing, do a bit of voter-suppression, get your hands on a few electronic voting machines, tell a few lies on Fox News and CNN and, boom shake the room, you can own all of that. All $188,000,000,000,000.00 worth. “Worth playing for?” Yeah.
My country these days has become like some aging cheap whore, selling herself on street corners to the first two-bit John who comes along and offers her a couple of dollars.
America these days isn’t even a high-priced call girl any more.
Is the fact that half of the Scots want to split from Britain and the news that hundreds of young Muslim Brits are fighting with Jihadi militant groups in Syria connected?
Of course they are. These two social phenomena are intrinsically linked, yet in the intellectual desert in which we live, no one dares to address the subject. The boundaries of our curiosity are limited by our deference to political correctness and Zionist sensitivities.
From a political perspective, Jihadi enthusiasm amongst young Western Muslims is an outcome of the emergence of tribalism in the West; but isn’t the call for Scottish independence driven by a similar tribal urge? From both a philosophical and dialectic perspective, Jihadi identification and the Scottish call for independence are the antithesis of the New Left and its corrosive Identity (ID) politics that have been spread in our midst for too long.
In the last five decades we have witnessed a relentless attack on nationalism and patriotic values. These attacks are commonly associated with the ‘New Left’ and have been led in large part by the Jewish intelligencia. It was the Frankfurt School’s thesis on Authoritarian Personality (Adorno & co) and Wilhelm Reich’s take on ‘Mass Conservatism’ that suggested that there was something wrong, dangerous and even vile to be found among the masses and their ‘reactionist’ political orientation. Contemporary Left cosmopolitan icon Noam Chomsky has been calling for the abolishment of borders and states (except, of course, the Jewish State* for many years. Chomsky is proudly hostile to patriotism and nationalism. Yet we must examine the alternative offered by Chomsky, The Frankfurt School, The New Left and The Guardian – the media outlet that enthusiastically disseminates these ideas.
For reasons that I have discussed numerous times, the New ‘Left’ and the Jewish intelligencia have vigorously advocated the replacement of the national patriotic discourse with ID politics. In practice, this was intended to break the cohesiveness of the working class and the national bond and replace it with a score of marginal and sectarian discourses. The Left that once claimed to be a universal voice for the working people was hijacked. It became the mouthpiece of ID groups, most of them defined by biology (gender, skin color and race), sexual preferences (LGBT) and even religion (Jews only).
The outcome has been devastating. ID politics that initially purported to promote authentic thinking ended up promoting the opposite. It dismantled authenticity and replaced it with ‘Identification.’ Instead of being who we really are (John, Sue, Nahida or Abraham) we’ve been trained to identify with group ideology. We adopted a new manner of speech. We convey our thoughts ‘as a’; ‘as a Jew,’ ‘as a woman,’ ‘as a gay,’ ‘as a black,’ instead of expressing our own and very personal authentic feelings and beliefs as we experience them in an unmediated existential mode.
In practice, we have replaced authenticity with detachment, alienation and mimicry. Instead of celebrating Being in the most existential manner we learned to pre-mediate what being a ‘woman’, ‘Jew’, ‘black’, ‘gay’ should sound like. We learned to envisage what our identification ‘may entail’ and to react as our identification demands. What I describe above is the practical result of the ‘forgetfulness of Being,’ a term coined by the great German philosopher Martin Heidegger. But it is at this point that tribal awareness; nationalism and patriotism are reinvigorated and seem to be gaining ground.
In order to explain this shift, l would like first to examine the case presented by Zionism, Israel and Jewish progressive politics.
Those who attend progressive meetings become accustomed to the righteous Jewish manner of speech. Many Jews launch their speeches with the ‘as a Jew’ cliché. Needless to mention, neither I nor any other scholar of Jewish ID politics have ever managed to figure out what this cliché means. The reason is that it doesn’t mean a thing.
For years I have asked many Jews to address this question and haven’t received a sound reply. The ‘as a Jew’ seems to convey a meaningful logos, but in practice it is used to block critical discussion of the emptiness of the notion of Jewish progressive ID. In truth, there is no Jewish value system and as the great Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz observed in the 1970s, there is no such a thing as ‘Jewish ethics.’ The Jew is expected to follow Mitzvoth and laws (halakha) instead of acting upon his ethical judgment. The conclusion is devastating – ‘as a Jew’ is an empty expression. It is a deceptive mode used to convey an image of a Jewish ethical heritage that doesn’t exist.
This is where Zionism and Israel intervene. They offer the Jew an opportunity to rid himself of the sham of clichés and offer a glimpse of authentic redemption. Zionism and Israel say to the young Diaspora Jew – instead of speaking ‘as a Jew’ why don’t you just ‘Be a Jew?’ – take the first El Al flight, come to Israel, join the IDF, learn how to drive a tank. By the time your transformation is complete you will be able ‘to pour your wrath on the Goyim’ in the name of the Jewish people and in accordance with Jewish heritage (as the Zionist interpret this heritage).
Whether we like it or not, Israel and Zionism give meaning to Jewishness.
The Zionist call is very appealing to young Diaspora Jews (American, British, French, Australian). The IDF is saturated with lone soldiers who arrived in the ‘promised land’ just to wear the uniform and serve their people.
Israel and Zionism provide an authentic patriotic answer to the anti-patriotic mode that has become the voice of the New Left.
ISIS and other Jihadi groups offer the young Muslim a similar product. Instead of talking ‘as a Muslim,’ a statement that means very little within a consumerist, materialist, multi cultural society, the Islamic State and other Jihadi organizations offer their young Western followers the opportunity to Be a proper Muslim. Instead of participating in the inauthentic ‘as a’ game, ISIS calls on its followers to participate in a holy war, the ultimate form of true spiritual fulfillment.
It would be foolish to tag ISIS Western combatants as “bad Muslims” or ‘evil fundamentalists’ while turning a blind eye to the rising popularity of Jihadi culture within Muslim communities in the region and in the West. I recommend that we examine the popularity of ISIS amongst young Muslims in the light of the popularity of the Zionist cause within Western Jewish communities. I can’t see why a young British Muslim fighting in Iraq is worse than a Jewish British citizen serving in the IDF and ruining the lives of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
The rise of nationalism and tribalism is prevalent throughout Europe and much of the world. This week Britain is on the verge of breaking up. Half of the Scots prefer to split from the Kingdom. What is going on in Scotland is a repetition of the same pattern. Instead of subscribing to a watery meaningless British ‘collectivism;’ Scotland, as a unifying symbolic bond has much more to offer its people.
To sum up, it seems that the attempt by the New Left to weaken the Nation state by promoting ID politics has backfired. It has led toward a sharp rise of tribal orientation and local patriotism. This reading may also help us to grasp the historical failures of the New Left and its mentors at the Frankfurt School. As we know, the masses never joined the Left. The promised revolution never occurred either. And the reason is plain: real working people didn’t have cause to impersonate working people – they were the working people.
The Left’s advocacy of mimicry was not without its benefits. It brought itself some popularity amongst middle class Guardian readers and progressive Jews. But the current outburst of tribalism suggests that our society is changing direction. Society may never be the same, and this may be a very positive occurrence.
“French aircraft were due to begin their first reconnaissance flights over Iraq,” France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced on September 15. Britain is already flying reconnaissance missions over Iraq. Several other countries – Arab ones included – say they are willing to support the air campaign. None seem interested in pledging any ground troops, however.
“Well, you will hear from Secretary Kerry on this over the coming days. And what he has said is that others have suggested that they’re willing to do that. But we’re not looking for that right now,” Chief of Staff Denis McDonough waffled on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, September 14. “We’re trying to put together the specifics of what we expect from each of the members,” he added, which is one way of saying the United States is finding it hard to persuade other countries to provide ground forces – something the self-designed leader of the “coalition” is unwilling to do. Also on “Meet the Press” James Baker noted that the biggest problem “of course, is who are our, quote, ‘partners on the ground’ that the president referred to in his speech. And I don’t know where they come from.” Let it be noted that Baker put forth an ad-hoc strategic plan that was, in fact, far better than the one outlined by Obama. He suggested joining forces with China, Russia, Iran, Syria and others, following a non-UN-sponsored international conference of genuine international leaders.
There are no “partners on the ground” for now, and those that the Administration wants to groom for the role are worse than none: McDonough conceded that ground troops are needed, “that’s why we want this program to train the [Syrian] opposition that’s currently pending in Congress.” In my curtain-raiser on President Obama’s much-heralded speech of September 10, posted two days before he delivered it (“Obama’s Non-Strategy”), I warned that he – disastrously – still counts on the non-existent “moderate rebels” in Syria to come on board, and still refuses to talk to Bashar al-Assad, whose army is the only viable force capable of confronting the IS now and for many years to come. In short, “he has no plan to systematically degrade the IS capabilities, no means to shrink the territory that they control, and certainly no strategy to defeat them.”
Obama’s address to the nation on September 10 confirmed all of the above, but it also contained numerous non sequiturs, falsehoods, and delusional assertions that need to be addressed one by one. (The President’s words are in italics.)
I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.
This is an audacious statement of intent: not what the U.S. and America’s unnamed “friends and allies” will try to do, but what they will do to destroy an effective fighting force of some 30,000 fanatical jihadists at the time of this writing, and rapidly rising – an army, in fact, which is well armed and equipped, solvent, and highly motivated. Regardless of the coherence of Obama’s proposed methods – more of that later – what he announced is the beginning of yet another open-ended Middle Eastern war in which the United States will be fully committed and in which the “job” will not be considered “done” until and unless the IS is “destroyed.” Newt Gingrich is already salivating at the prospect of America spending “half of a century or more hunting down radicals, growing reliable self-governing allies, and convincing friends and neutrals to be anti-radical.” This nightmare is good news – at home – only for the military-industrial complex, and abroad for the jihadists of all color and hue. “Half a century or more” of such idiocy can only accelerate this country’s road to bankruptcy, financial as well as moral.
Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country. We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Osama bin Laden’s death did not make one scintilla of difference. Al Qaeda’s (AQ) leadership is not a snake but a hydra: you can “take out” a hundred of its leaders today, and another hundred will take their place tomorrow. Successfully killing scores or thousandsof jihadists should not be confused with winning against jihad. More importantly – and Obama seems to be oblivious to the fact – al Qaeda is not a hierarchical organization, but a state of mind and a blueprint for action. Its non-affiliates, too – in Nigeria, Libya, Syria, the Philippines, Kashmir etc. – follow the same guiding principles and seek the same millenarian objectives. As any counterterrorism expert can tell you, “targeted” drone killings are doing more damage than good by angering local populations – which suffer “collateral damage” – thus providing an inexhaustible pool of fresh recruits for the jihadists (quite apart from legal and moral considerations).
We’ve targeted al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia.
It is breathtaking that Obama should imply that Yemen and Somalia are his administration’s success stories that should be emulated in the campaign against the IS. As Nicholas Kristof noted in The New York Times, “Obama may be the only person in the world who would cite conflict-torn Yemen and Somalia as triumphs.”
Yemen is an ever-growing hotbed of terrorist activity regardless of (and more likely partly due to) more than 100 American airstrikes since 2002, which killed some 500 militants and over a hundred civilians. (When Yemeni kids are disobedient, their parents have a new tool of enforcing discipline: “A big American drone will come and get you!”) The Department of state admitted in its most recent worldwide terrorism report that “of the AQ affiliates, AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) continues to pose the most significant threat to the United States and U.S. citizens and interests in Yemen.” Its success, according to the report, is “due to an ongoing political and security restructuring within the government itself” [i.e. no effective government and no reliable security forces]. “AQAP continued to exhibit its capability by targeting government installations and security and intelligence officials, but also struck at soft targets, such as hospitals,” and it continues to expand territory under its control. Somalia is an utterly failed state with no functioning government, and al-Shabaab’s terrorist base from which complex operations are launched against soft targets in neighboring countries (notably last year’s attack on Nairobi’s Westgate mall, which killed at least 67 people).
If this is the model for the anti-IS campaign, then even a century of Newt’s “hunting down radicals, growing reliable self-governing allies, and convincing friends and neutrals to be anti-radical” will be a fiasco – albeit on an infinitely grander scale.
We’ve done so while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year. Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer.
The fruits of the war in Iraq are all too visible. It cannot be stated often enough that America’s war against Saddam – who never threatened the United States, and opposed Islamic terrorism – produced the IS, which is now treated as an existential threat which requires another American war to eliminate.
In Afghanistan the Taliban is well poised to make a comeback one, two, at most three years after the end of the American combat mission. It is able to carry out attacks in the center of the capital, Kabul, the latest of which – on September 16 – killed three members of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. Safer, indeed.
Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim.
This is surreal. Obama may have been born and raised a Muslim, but he claims not to be a Muslim now; it is therefore as preposterous for him to pass judgments on the Islamic bona fides of Muslim entities as it would be for the Saudi king to decide whether the Orange Order of Ulster or the Episcopal Church are “Christian” (a purely technical parallel, of course). In any event, Obama’s theological credentials were established with clarity in the aftermath of James Foley’s beheading by the IS, when he declared (also in the context of absolving Islam of any connection with the IS) that “no just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day.” Since they did what they did, this unambiguous statement means that – in Obama’s opinion – either there is no God, or God is not just.
Contrary to Obama’s assurances, Islam does condone the killing of infidels (non-Muslims) and apostates (Shiites) – they are not “innocents” by definition. And of course Muslims have been killing other Muslims – often on a massive scale – ever since three of the four early caliphs, Muhammad’s immediate successors, were murdered by their Muslim foes. It is immaterial whether ISIS is true to “Islam” as Obama chooses to define it. It is undeniable that it is true to the principles and practices of historical Islam.
Obama either does not know what he is talking about, or he is practicing a variety of taqiyya. As Nonie Darwish put it bluntly in the American Thinker on September 12, Obama does not want to go down in history as the one who destroyed and extinguished the dream of resurrecting the Islamic State. Under his watch Islam was placed on a pedestal and that helped revive the Islamic dream of the Caliphate:
Muslims felt that Obama was their man, under whom they had a chance to achieve their powerful Islamic state. Obama himself was not happy with the military takeover and destruction of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Jihadist ambition had to move away from Egypt to war-torn Syria and Iraq. For more than two years, Islamists have carried out flagrant and barbaric mass terrorism – beheadings, torture, kidnapping, and sexual slavery of women, men, and children. Obama ignored the problem until it blew up in our faces with the beheading of two Americans.
Even if he could defeat ISIS, Darwish argues, that would turn him into an infidel enemy number one of Islam – one who supported Muslims in their dream of the Caliphate by looking the other way, only to later crush it. Obama therefore cannot be honest about this dilemma regarding ISIS; “a dilemma between his duty to the USA, the country he chose to lead, and his dream of becoming the hero of the Muslim World who taught the West a lesson on how to treat Muslims. Obama will not obliterate ISIS but will contain it, as he said. He will eventually kick the can to the next administration, not only because he hates wars as he claims, but because he does not want to be enemy number one of Islam and the Muslims.” That is Obama’s dirty little secret that explains his paralysis before ISIS, Darwish concludes: “Ironically, the man who claimed to have healed the relationship between the West and the Muslim world will go down in history as the one who helped the rise and the bloody fall of the Islamic State and perhaps America itself.”
And ISIL is certainly not a state… It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates.
Obama does not know the feelings of some ten million people under IS control. Many of those who did not cherish life under its black banner have already fled to Damascus, Baghdad, or Erbil. There is no doubt that it is successful in attracting thousands upon thousands of new recruits every month. And as I wrote in the current issue of Chronicles, the Caliphate is a “state” whether we like it or not:
Traditional international law postulates the possession of population, of territory, and the existence of a government that exercises effective control over that population and territory: a state exists if it enjoys a monopoly on coercive mechanisms within its domain, which the caliphate does. After all, unrecognized state entities such as Transnistria, Abkhazia, Northern Cyprus, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh command their denizens’ overwhelming loyalty and exercise effectively undisputed control over their entire territory. Some international jurists may cite the ability of the self-proclaimed state’s authority to engage in international discourse, but that is a moot point. The capacity to control a putative state’s territory and population almost invariably leads to such ability, regardless of the circumstances of that state’s inception: South Sudan is a recent case in point, and the creation of Israel in 1947 also comes to mind.
ISIS controls an area the size of Montana in northeastern Syria and western and northwestern Iraq. It has substantial funds at its disposal, initially given it by the Saudis, Kuwaitis, Turks, Qataris, Bahrainis, UAE donors, et al., and augmented to the tune of half a billion dollars looted from the Iraqi government vaults in Mosul and Tikrit. It is effective in collecting taxes, tolls, and excise duties. With no debts or liabilities, the existing stash and ongoing cash flow makes the emerging Caliphate more solvent than dozens of states currently represented in the UN. It has enough oil and derivatives not only for its own needs, but also to earn the foreign exchange needed to buy all the food and other goods it needs from abroad.
ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple.
It is not that (see above). This statement reflects a conceptual delusion which ab initio cannot provide the basis for a sound strategy. Obama’s own State Department declared as far back as July 23 that “ISIL is no longer simply a terrorist organization” – or at least that is what Brett McGurk, deputy assistant secretary for Iraq and Iran, told a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on that day. “It is now a full-blown army seeking to establish a self-governing state through the Tigris and Euphrates Valley in what is now Syria and Iraq.”
And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.
It does have a vision. That vision is eminently Islamic in its millenarian strategic objectives, in its tactics, and in its methods. It is no more utopian than Obama’s vision of an “indispensable” America, which – as he put it at the very end of his speech – stands for “freedom, justice and dignity,” an America which defends those “timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.”
In its self-proclaimed status as a caliphate, the IS claims – in principle – religious authority over all Muslims in the world, and ultimately aspires to bring all Muslim-inhabited lands of the world under its political control. Last June ISIS published a document which announced that “the legality of all emirates, groups, states and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the khilafah’s authority and arrival of its troops to their areas.” It rejects the political divisions established by Western powers in the Sykes–Picot Agreement of 1917. Its self-declared immediate-to-medium-term goal is to conquer Iraq, Syria and other parts of al-Sham – the loosely-defined Levant region – including Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Cyprus and southeastern Turkey. It is a bold, even audacious vision, but a vision it most certainly is.
In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide.
There is absolutely nothing “unique” in the IS fighters’ brutality. They are only following the example of their prophet. Muhammad executed Meccan prisoners after the battle of Badr in 624AD. He condoned the killing of women and children besieged in Ta’if in 630. He and his followers enslaved, raped and forced into marriage Jewish women after he massacred the men of the Jewish tribes of Banu Qurayzain 627 and Banu Nadir in 629. He even “married” one of the captured Banu Nadir women, Safiyya bint Huyayy captured after the men Banu Nadir were massacred. He did not “threaten” the Jews of the Arabian peninsula with genocide, he carried that genocide so thoroughly that not a trace of them remains to this day. Christians living in the IS who want to remain in the “caliphate” face three options according to IS officials: converting to Islam, paying a religious tax (jizya), or “the sword.” This choice is as conventionally Islamic as it gets, having been stipulated many times in the Quran and hadith.
But this is not our fight alone. American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region. That’s why I’ve insisted that additional U.S. action depended upon Iraqis forming an inclusive government, which they have now done in recent days… I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.
The would-be coalition of Sunni Muslim “partners” includes those who had been aiding and abetting ISIS for years, and who have neither the will nor the resources to fight it. As I wrote here last week, those countries’ military forces are unable to confront an enemy which consists of highly motivated light infantry, knows the terrain, enjoys considerable popular support, and operates in small motorized formations:
On the basis of its poor showing in Yemen it is clear that the Saudis in particular are no better than the Iraqi army which performed so miserably last June. Even when united in their overall strategic objectives, Arab armies are notoriously unable to develop integrated command and control systems – as was manifested in 1947-48, in the Seven-Day War of 1967, and in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Their junior officers are discouraged from making independent tactical decisions by their inept superiors who hate delegating authority. Both are, inevitably, products of a culture steeped in strictly hierarchical modes of thought and action. Furthermore, their expensive hardware integrated into hard to maneuver brigade-sized units is likely to be useless against an elusive enemy who will avoid pitched battles.
An additional unresolved problem is Turkey, which is staying aloof and will not allow even U.S. facilities in its territory to be used for the air campaign. Erdogan is definitely not a “partner,” and Turkey continues to tolerate steady recruiting of ISIS volunteers in its territory as well as the passage of foreign jihadists across the 550-mile borderit shares with Syria and Iraq.
The most important problem in creating a coalition with Obama’s “Arab partners” is religious, however. The leaders of all Sunni Arab countries and Turkey are well aware that, contrary to Obama’s claims, ISIS is a Muslim group firmly rooted in the teachings and practices of orthodox Sunni Islam. They are loath to ally themselves with the kuffar in fighting those who want to fulfill the divine commandment to strive to create the Sharia-based universal caliphate. Those leaders are for the most part serious believers, and they do not want to go to hell.
Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy. First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts … so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense.
The Shia-dominated Iraqi army is not to be counted upon, as attested by its flight from Mosul, and it cannot be counted upon to cooperate with the armed forces of the overtly anti-Shia regimes, even if in the fullness of time they provided ground troops. The Kurdish pershmerga also would be loath to treat Saudis or Qataris as brothers-in-arms. Even if they were capable of major operations, which they are not, both the Iraqi army and the peshmerga would be perceived by the Sunni Arab majority in northwestern Iraq as an occupying force with the predictable result that the “caliphate” could count on thousands of fresh volunteers. Obama’s “regional allies” could end up helping their Sunni coreligionists fight the Shia “apostates.” They regard the IS in western Iraq and northeastern Syria as a welcome buffer against the putative Shia crescent extending from Iran to the Lebanese coast. As for the “Iraqi forces,” they are devoid of any offensive potential now and that will not change for years to come.
Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition… In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its people; a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost. Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.
“The Syrian opposition” is ideologically indistinguishable from the IS, militarily ineffective, internally divided, and far keener to renew its stalled fight against Bashar al-Assad than to fight the Caliphate. America’s would-be “coalition” partners have indirectly indicated that they are aware of this fact: several mentioned Iraq when announcing the proposed military measures last Monday, but none made any mention of the challenge next door.
Obama’s present heavy reliance on the “Syrian opposition” is at odds with his own doubts about its viability, which were openly expressed in an interview with New York Times’s Tom Friedman only a month earlier:
“With ‘respect to Syria,’ said the president, the notion that arming the rebels would have made a difference has ‘always been a fantasy. This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards.’”
Now, however, Obama is rejecting cooperation with Damascus – the only realist course with any chance of success – and is relying on a “fantasy” scenario to create some boots on the ground. No lessons have been drawn from Libya’s collapse into bloody anarchy, or from the failure of America’s decade-long effort to train and equip the Iraqi army, which disintegrated when faced with the IS three months ago. Such fiascos notwithstanding, Obama wants to build up a Syrian rebel force as one of the pillars of his strategy – that same force of which he said to Friedman on August 8 that “there’s not as much capacity as you would hope.”
We will continue providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization. This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.
“Tens of thousands of Christians” is a hundred-fold reduction of the magnitude of the problem that long-suffering community has faced in the region since the start of the Iraqi war in 2003. Obama’s statement is the exact numerical and moral equivalent to saying that “hundreds of thousands of European Jews” were at grave risk at the time of the Wannsee conference. As Peggy Noonan wrote the other day in the Wall Street Journal, “genocide” is the right word to describe the plight of the region’s Christians, noting that “for all his crimes and failings, Syria’s justly maligned Assad was not attempting to crush his country’s Christians. His enemies were – the jihadists, including those who became the Islamic State.” As well as those, let us add, who are now being groomed by the President of the United States to fight the Islamic State. No wonder he is deliberately and cynically minimizing the plight of his protégés’ Christian victims.
This is our strategy.
Lord have mercy!
This is American leadership at its best: we stand with people who fight for their own freedom; and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.
My Administration has also secured bipartisan support for this approach here at home. I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL.
This is disputable. Obama refers to the authorization originally concerning action against al-Qaeda, treating as a blank check for starting a new war of unknown magnitude and duration.
This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.
Deja-vu all over again. On the grimly positive note, more Yemeni and Somali-like “successes” may be needed to accelerate America’s eventual return home.
America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth.
It would be a cliché to state that Obama is either deluded or stunningly cynical. He is both, of course, I’d say roughly 60:40.
Our technology companies and universities are unmatched; our manufacturing and auto industries are thriving. Energy independence is closer than it’s been in decades. For all the work that remains, our businesses are in the longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in our history.
Cringe again: tasteless, self-serving inanities that have nothing to do with ISIS or strategy. Obama’s psychopatic narcissism trumps that of the Clintons, impossible as it may have seemed.
Abroad, American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists.
“The world,” indeed, minus Russia, China, India, Brazil, Argentina, Iran, South Africa, and scores of lesser powers on all continents (save Australia) which have the capacity and the will to reject Obama’s audacious and increasingly absurd notions of global leadership.
It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny. It is America – our scientists, our doctors, our know-how – that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola. It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so they cannot pose a threat to the Syrian people – or the world – again.
There is no “Russian aggression,” and “the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny” was brazenly undermined by the State Department/CIA-engineered coup d’etat in Kiev last February. It is preposterous for Obama to take credit for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons – it was Vladimir Putin’s diplomatic coup which got Obama off the hook when Congress and the public at large expressed their opposition to the intended bombing of Syria. But yes, American scientists and doctors definitely “can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola.” That was the only true statement in Obama’s address. Its relevance to his anti-IS strategy is unclear.
And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, tolerance, and a more hopeful future.
… especially in places like Marseilles, Antwerp, Malmo, Dortmund, and Dearborn, Michigan.
America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead. From Europe to Asia – from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East – we stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity. These are values that have guided our nation since its founding.
Obama wouldn’t know the founding values if they hit him in the head. He is the worst president of the United States in history after all. That is no mean feat, considering the competition.
Ever since serious protest broke out in Ukraine in February the Western mainstream media, particularly in the United States, has seriously downplayed the fact that the usual suspects – the US/European Union/NATO triumvirate – have been on the same side as the neo-Nazis. In the US it’s been virtually unmentionable. I’m sure that a poll taken in the United States on this issue would reveal near universal ignorance of the numerous neo-Nazi actions, including publicly calling for death to “Russians, Communists and Jews”. But in the past week the dirty little secret has somehow poked its head out from behind the curtain a bit.
On September 9 NBCnews.com reported that “German TV shows Nazi symbols on helmets of Ukraine soldiers”. The German station showed pictures of a soldier wearing a combat helmet with the “SS runes” of Hitler’s infamous black-uniformed elite corps. (Runes are the letters of an alphabet used by ancient Germanic peoples.) A second soldier was shown with a swastika on his helmet.
On the 13th, the Washington Post showed a photo of the sleeping quarter of a member of the Azov Battalion, one of the Ukrainian paramilitary units fighting the pro-Russian separatists. On the wall above the bed is a large swastika. Not to worry, the Post quoted the platoon leader stating that the soldiers embrace symbols and espouse extremist notions as part of some kind of “romantic” idea.
Yet, it is Russian president Vladimir Putin who is compared to Adolf Hitler by everyone from Prince Charles to Princess Hillary because of the incorporation of Crimea as part of Russia. On this question Putin has stated:
The Crimean authorities have relied on the well-known Kosovo precedent, a precedent our Western partners created themselves, with their own hands, so to speak. In a situation absolutely similar to the Crimean one, they deemed Kosovo’s secession from Serbia to be legitimate, arguing everywhere that no permission from the country’s central authorities was required for the unilateral declaration of independence. The UN’s international court, based on Paragraph 2 of Article 1 of the UN Charter, agreed with that, and in its decision of 22 July 2010 noted the following, and I quote verbatim: No general prohibition may be inferred from the practice of the Security Council with regard to unilateral declarations of independence.
Putin as Hitler is dwarfed by the stories of Putin as invader (Vlad the Impaler?). For months the Western media has been beating the drums about Russia having (actually) invaded Ukraine. I recommend reading: “How Can You Tell Whether Russia has Invaded Ukraine?” by Dmitry Orlov
And keep in mind the NATO encirclement of Russia. Imagine Russia setting up military bases in Canada and Mexico, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Remember what a Soviet base in Cuba led to.
Has the United States ever set a bad example?
Ever since that fateful day of September 11, 2001, the primary public relations goal of the United States has been to discredit the idea that somehow America had it coming because of its numerous political and military acts of aggression. Here’s everyone’s favorite hero, George W. Bush, speaking a month after 9-11:
“How do I respond when I see that in some Islamic countries there is vitriolic hatred for America? I’ll tell you how I respond: I’m amazed. I’m amazed that there’s such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us. I am – like most Americans, I just can’t believe it because I know how good we are.”
Thank you, George. Now take your pills.
I and other historians of US foreign policy have documented at length the statements of anti-American terrorists who have made it explicitly clear that their actions were in retaliation for Washington’s decades of international abominations. But American officials and media routinely ignore this evidence and cling to the party line that terrorists are simply cruel and crazed by religion; which many of them indeed are, but that doesn’t change the political and historical facts.
This American mindset appears to be alive and well. At least four hostages held in Syria recently by Islamic State militants, including US journalist James Foley, were waterboarded during their captivity. The Washington Post quoted a US official: “ISIL is a group that routinely crucifies and beheads people. To suggest that there is any correlation between ISIL’s brutality and past U.S. actions is ridiculous and feeds into their twisted propaganda.”
The Post, however, may have actually evolved a bit, adding that the “Islamic State militants … appeared to model the technique on the CIA’s use of waterboarding to interrogate suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.”
Talk given by William Blum at a Teach-In on US Foreign Policy, American University, Washington, DC, September 6, 2014
Each of you I’m sure has met many people who support American foreign policy, with whom you’ve argued and argued. You point out one horror after another, from Vietnam to Iraq. From god-awful bombings and invasions to violations of international law and torture. And nothing helps. Nothing moves this person.
Now why is that? Are these people just stupid? I think a better answer is that they have certain preconceptions. Consciously or unconsciously, they have certain basic beliefs about the United States and its foreign policy, and if you don’t deal with these basic beliefs you may as well be talking to a stone wall.
The most basic of these basic beliefs, I think, is a deeply-held conviction that no matter what the United States does abroad, no matter how bad it may look, no matter what horror may result, the government of the United States means well. American leaders may make mistakes, they may blunder, they may lie, they may even on the odd occasion cause more harm than good, but they do mean well. Their intentions are always honorable, even noble. Of that the great majority of Americans are certain.
Frances Fitzgerald, in her famous study of American school textbooks, summarized the message of these books: “The United States has been a kind of Salvation Army to the rest of the world: throughout history it had done little but dispense benefits to poor, ignorant, and diseased countries. The U.S. always acted in a disinterested fashion, always from the highest of motives; it gave, never took.”
And Americans genuinely wonder why the rest of the world can’t see how benevolent and self-sacrificing America has been. Even many people who take part in the anti-war movement have a hard time shaking off some of this mindset; they march to spur America – the America they love and worship and trust – they march to spur this noble America back onto its path of goodness.
Many of the citizens fall for US government propaganda justifying its military actions as often and as naively as Charlie Brown falling for Lucy’s football.
The American people are very much like the children of a Mafia boss who do not know what their father does for a living, and don’t want to know, but then wonder why someone just threw a firebomb through the living room window.
This basic belief in America’s good intentions is often linked to “American exceptionalism”. Let’s look at how exceptional US foreign policy has been. Since the end of World War 2, the United States has:
- Attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically-elected.
- Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries.
- Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.
- Attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 countries.
- Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.
- Led the world in torture; not only the torture performed directly by Americans upon foreigners, but providing torture equipment, torture manuals, lists of people to be tortured, and in-person guidance by American teachers, especially in Latin America.
This is indeed exceptional. No other country in all of history comes anywhere close to such a record.
So the next time you’re up against a stone wall … ask the person what the United States would have to do in its foreign policy to lose his support. What for this person would finally be TOO MUCH. If the person mentions something really bad, chances are the United States has already done it, perhaps repeatedly.
Keep in mind that our precious homeland, above all, seeks to dominate the world. For economic reasons, nationalistic reasons, ideological, Christian, and for other reasons, world hegemony has long been America’s bottom line. And let’s not forget the powerful Executive Branch officials whose salaries, promotions, agency budgets and future well-paying private sector jobs depend upon perpetual war. These leaders are not especially concerned about the consequences for the world of their wars. They’re not necessarily bad people; but they’re amoral, like a sociopath is.
Take the Middle East and South Asia. The people in those areas have suffered horribly because of Islamic fundamentalism. What they desperately need are secular governments, which have respect for different religions. And such governments were actually instituted in the recent past. But what has been the fate of those governments?
Well, in the late 1970s through much of the 1980s, Afghanistan had a secular government that was relatively progressive, with full rights for women, which is hard to believe, isn’t it? But even a Pentagon report of the time testified to the actuality of women’s rights in Afghanistan. And what happened to that government? The United States overthrew it, allowing the Taliban to come to power. So keep that in mind the next time you hear an American official say that we have to remain in Afghanistan for the sake of women’s rights.
After Afghanistan came Iraq, another secular society, under Saddam Hussein. And the United States overthrew that government as well, and now the country is overrun by crazed and bloody jihadists and fundamentalists of all kinds; and women who are not covered up are running a serious risk.
Next came Libya; again, a secular country, under Moammar Gaddafi, who, like Saddam Hussein, had a tyrant side to him but could in important ways be benevolent and do marvelous things for Libya and Africa. To name just one example, Libya had a high ranking on the United Nation’s Human Development Index. So, of course, the United States overthrew that government as well. In 2011, with the help of NATO we bombed the people of Libya almost every day for more than six months. And, once again, this led to messianic jihadists having a field day. How it will all turn out for the people of Libya, only God knows, or perhaps Allah.
And for the past three years, the United States has been doing its best to overthrow the secular government of Syria. And guess what? Syria is now a playground and battleground for all manner of ultra militant fundamentalists, including everyone’s new favorite, IS, the Islamic State. The rise of IS owes a lot to what the US has done in Iraq, Libya, and Syria in recent years.
We can add to this marvelous list the case of the former Yugoslavia, another secular government that was overthrown by the United States, in the form of NATO, in 1999, giving rise to the creation of the largely-Muslim state of Kosovo, run by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The KLA was considered a terrorist organization by the US, the UK and France for years, with numerous reports of the KLA being armed and trained by al-Qaeda, in al-Qaeda camps in Pakistan, and even having members of al-Qaeda in KLA ranks fighting against the Serbs of Yugoslavia. Washington’s main concern was dealing a blow to Serbia, widely known as “the last communist government in Europe”.
The KLA became renowned for their torture, their trafficking in women, heroin, and human body parts; another charming client of the empire.
Someone looking down upon all this from outer space could be forgiven for thinking that the United States is an Islamic power doing its best to spread the word – Allah Akbar!
But what, you might wonder, did each of these overthrown governments have in common that made them a target of Washington’s wrath? The answer is that they could not easily be controlled by the empire; they refused to be client states; they were nationalistic; in a word, they were independent; a serious crime in the eyes of the empire.
So mention all this as well to our hypothetical supporter of US foreign policy and see whether he still believes that the United States means well. If he wonders how long it’s been this way, point out to him that it would 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.
And what do American leaders think of their own record? Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was probably speaking for the whole private club of our foreign-policy leadership when she wrote in 2000 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.”
Let me remind you of Daniel Ellsberg’s conclusion about the US in Vietnam: “It wasn’t that we were on the wrong side; we were the wrong side.”
Well, far from being on the right side of history, we have in fact fought – I mean actually engaged in warfare – on the same side as al Qaeda and their offspring on several occasions, beginning with Afghanistan in the 1980s and 90s in support of the Islamic Moujahedeen, or Holy Warriors.
The US then gave military assistance, including bombing support, to Bosnia and Kosovo, both of which were being supported by al Qaeda in the Yugoslav conflicts of the early 1990s.
In Libya, in 2011, Washington and the Jihadists shared a common enemy, Gaddafi, and as mentioned, the US bombed the people of Libya for more than six months, allowing jihadists to take over parts of the country; and they’re now fighting for the remaining parts. These wartime allies showed their gratitude to Washington by assassinating the US ambassador and three other Americans, apparently CIA, in the city of Benghazi.
Then, for some years in the mid and late 2000s, the United States backed Islamic militants in the Caucasus region of Russia, an area that has seen more than its share of religious terror going back to the Chechnyan actions of the 1990s.
Finally, in Syria, in attempting to overthrow the Assad government, the US has fought on the same side as several varieties of Islamic militants. That makes six occasions of the US being wartime allies of jihadist forces.
I realize that I have fed you an awful lot of negativity about what America has done to the world, and maybe it’s been kind of hard for some of you to swallow. But my purpose has been to try to loosen the grip on your intellect and your emotions that you’ve been raised with – or to help you to help others to loosen that grip – the grip that assures you that your beloved America means well. US foreign policy will not make much sense to you as long as you believe that its intentions are noble; as long as you ignore the consistent pattern of seeking world domination, which is a national compulsion of very long standing, known previously under other names such as Manifest Destiny, the American Century, American exceptionalism, globalization, or, as Madeleine Albright put it, “the indispensable nation” … while others less kind have used the term “imperialist”.
In this context I can’t resist giving the example of Bill Clinton. While president, in 1995, he was moved to say: “Whatever we may think about the political decisions of the Vietnam era, the brave Americans who fought and died there had noble motives. They fought for the freedom and the independence of the Vietnamese people.” Yes, that’s really the way our leaders talk. But who knows what they really believe?
It is my hope that many of you who are not now activists against the empire and its wars will join the anti-war movement as I did in 1965 against the war in Vietnam. It’s what radicalized me and so many others. When I hear from people of a certain age about what began the process of losing their faith that the United States means well, it’s Vietnam that far and away is given as the main cause. I think that if the American powers-that-be had known in advance how their “Oh what a lovely war” was going to turn out they might not have made their mammoth historical blunder. Their invasion of Iraq in 2003 indicates that no Vietnam lesson had been learned at that point, but our continuing protest against war and threatened war in Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, and elsewhere may have – may have! – finally made a dent in the awful war mentality. I invite you all to join our movement. Thank you.
- NBC News, “German TV Shows Nazi Symbols on Helmets of Ukraine Soldiers”, September 6 2014
- BBC, March 18, 2014
- Information Clearinghouse, “How Can You Tell Whether Russia has Invaded Ukraine?”, September 1 2014
- Boston Globe, October 12, 2001
- See, for example, William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower(2005), chapter 1
- Washington Post, August 28, 2014
- Foreign Affairs magazine (Council on Foreign Relations), January/February 2000
Why the Real Target is Assad Not ISIS…
Invoking the same ominous language as his predecessor, Barack Obama used a prime time presidential address on Wednesday to announce the beginning of a war on Syria. And while there’s no doubt that many Americans will be confused by Obama’s misleading focus on the terrorist organization named ISIL, the real purpose of the speech was to garner support for another decade of homicidal conflicts in the Middle East. The administration is as determined as ever to plunge the region into chaos, erase existing borders, and install its puppets wherever it can. ISIL–which is mainly an invention of western Intel agencies and their treacherous counterparts in the Gulf– conveniently creates the justification for another bloody invasion followed by years of occupation, subjugation, and revolt.
My fellow Americans — tonight, I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL. As commander-in-chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people…..
Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer.
Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat. We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge.
Get it? We are all in great peril and only our loving father, Obama, can save us. Where have we heard that before?
Obama: “In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage…..If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region — including to the United States.”
This is pure demagoguery, the likes of which we haven’t heard since Bush’s ”The Axis of Evil” speech. The truth is, ISIL poses NO threat to US national security at all. It’s a joke. Readers should mull that over before they throw their support behind Obama’s proposed crusade in Syria..
More Obama: “First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists…..I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven…..”
Okay, so borders don’t matter, international law doesn’t matter, national sovereignty doesn’t matter. What matters is oil, money and power. Isn’t that what he’s saying? He’s asking the American people to support another millennia of killing so he can pad the bank accounts of corrupt US oil magnates while strengthening America’s tenuous grip on global power. Would you be willing to sacrifice your son’s life for such a cause?
Obama: “Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. Tonight, I again call on Congress to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters.”
So, now Obama wants to arm and train the same terrorists which the CIA and our enlightened friends in the Gulf States recruited from around the world. Sounds like a good plan, doesn’t it? What could go wrong?
Obama: “This is our strategy….. Secretary Kerry was in Iraq today meeting with the new government and supporting their efforts to promote unity, and in the coming days he will travel across the Middle East and Europe to enlist more partners in this fight.”
So, Senator Botox and his gaggle of neocons are going to fix everything, just like they did in Kiev. Now I am worried.
Obama: “But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground.”
No American “boots on the ground”?? Is that what he said? What he meant to say was no boots on the ground until after the midterms. After that, the sky’s the limit!
Don’t kid yourself, the Obama claque is as determined to topple Assad as Bush was determined to remove Saddam. That’s why Obama’s public relations team decided to use the prestige of a primetime presidential speech –with all the pompous trappings of high-office–to make their case. It’s because their real target is the American people who are being led by the nose into another hellish bloodbath.
Obama: “American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists.”
Oh boy. American troublemaking is the “one constant” in this world, even death and taxes take a back seat to that. America started the war on terror. (Blowback) America perpetuated the war on terror. (check the globe. The US is fighting wars everywhere.) And America is entirely responsible for the war on terror. (Afghanistan, Mujahedin) And now–after 13 years of unlawful detentions, black sites, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, death squads, waterboarding, illegal surveillance, drone attacks, and a mountain of carnage that stretches halfway to the moon– Obama is re-launching the War on Terror under the opaque sobriquet “ISIL”. Haven’t we had enough of this garbage yet?
As always, the media seems entirely mystified as to the administration’s real intentions. In contrast, analyst Patrick Martin at the World Socialist Web Site sees through the hoax and sums it up like this in an article titled “Obama announces open-ended war in Iraq and Syria”. Here’s an excerpt:
“It was only 12 months ago that Obama tried and failed to create the political conditions for US air strikes against the Assad regime, making allegations of the use of nerve gas weapons that were later discredited. Now Obama is seeking to achieve the same goal by a different route, using ISIS as a pretext to get American military forces into Syria, where they will become the spearhead of the campaign to oust Assad and install a pro-US stooge regime in Damascus.”
Bingo. The ISIL canard is nothing but a pretext for war.
Write to your Senators and Congressmen: NO WAR IN SYRIA.
Back when we took biology classes in high school, we all studied the life-cycle of the caterpillar, right? Where it went from being a caterpillar to spinning a cocoon to becoming a butterfly to laying its eggs to hatching back into a caterpillar again, right?
I’m thinking that this life-cycle is rather similar to the life-cycle of Wall Street & War Street’s huge, scary war machine — which started out being mostly financed by American taxpayers, right? But then as the “world’s greatest super-power” began to grow and grow, its insatiable appetite for more and more weaponization began to grow and grow too — and it started to need a whole big bunch of more “lettuce” to pay for these weapons as well.
And so even though the huge amount of taxes paid by our parents and grandparents had clearly been enough to keep the American armies of World War II afloat, the American military-industrial complex of the 21st century really couldn’t just rely on just us lowly taxpayers to keep their huge new American “peace-keeping” forces supplied — especially with so many of us now not even having any more income left to tax!
There was definitely no longer enough “lettuce” left in the United States to keep this big caterpillar fed, right?
So how is Wall Street & War Street going to continue to feed its insatiable appetite? By expanding its reach, right? By conquering other countries and then getting these new vassals to finance their own destruction — and to also finance the American weapons machine as well. Whew! Bad news for the conquered countries — but good news for American taxpayers. We don’t get stuck with the bill at the end of the meal. Maybe.
And so Africa is forced to pay for its own colonization. And the Middle East is forced to pay for its own colonization. And Europe is forced to pay for its own colonization. And so on and so forth. You get the idea, right?
So then the big fat happy American war machine caterpillar finally begins spinning its cocoon. And soon that part of its life-cycle is accomplished, thanks to tanks and guns and NATO and the World Bank and the IMF.
And then what happens next? Out pops a big beautiful butterfly, right? Well, not exactly. The butterfly then dies in the cocoon? Not that either. What actually happens next is that the butterfly goes on to lay even more eggs — but they are eggs of destruction, and soon the whole world will have been eaten up by its infinite number of baby vassals and baby wars, gobbling up everything in sight.
Just look what happened to the American war machine’s babies in Ukraine. That whole country is now toast after it let the Iron Butterfly in. And its baby, Israel? Almost every “gardener” in the world hates Israel now — because it has become yet another caterpillar pest, eating up everything in sight.
And just look at those ISIS “rebels” in Syria that the American war machine has sponsored, supported, encouraged and trained. John McCain even had his photo taken with some of these guys.
According to Rick Sterling, writing in Counterpunch, “The names of James Foley and Steven Sotloff can be added to those of about 200,000 Syrians who have died as a direct consequence of US policy of regime change by proxy war in Syria.”
And according to journalist Thierry Meyssan, “We know from the British news agency Reuters that, in January 2014, a secret session of Congress voted financing and arming the Free Syrian Army, the Islamic Front, and Al-Nosra Front of the Islamic Emirate until September 30, 2014…[and] finally, in mid-February, a two-day seminar at the US National Security Council was attended by heads of allied secret services involved in Syria, definitely to prepare the EIS offensive in Iraq.”
But now America’s war machine is currently bombing the crap out of ISIS, its own baby. Eating it alive too. What’s with that?
Nigeria thought it could cuddle up to this butterfly mother too. Well, Nigeria’s oil is now paying for America’s endless wars. And so is Iraq’s oil. And Syria’s oil. And Libya’s. Libyan “rebel” leaders thought they could kiss up to its mother as well — and now they also have had their heads bitten off by good old Mom.
And Saudi Arabia had better watch out. It is next. That’s all I gotta say about that.
I guess that the only difference between the life-cycle of the caterpillar and the life-cycle of the American war machine is thatcaterpillars turn into butterflies, go on to lay more eggs and so the cycle continues — whereas the American war machine just eats its young.
Calling it treason: When American leaders steal over 11 trillion dollars from US taxpayers
“None dare call it treason,” intoned various Joe McCarthy supporters back in the 1950s. But I’m daring to call it treason now — when the very people that Americans elect and trust set about to deliberately and purposely steal all our money so they can run a serial-killer torture chamber in our basement.
What red-blooded decent patriotic American has ever said, “Gee, I want to spend my tax money on Abu Ghraib and blowing up women and children and ‘full spectrum dominance’ rather than infrastructure and schools!” But yet that is where our money is now going. In my book, that is treason.
People are starving on the mean streets of New York City and Houston and Miami so that others can afford to bomb women and children in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Palestine and Ukraine. Sounds like treason to me.
We Americans have neglected our own country for far too long. And if we ourselves don’t stop the American military-industrial complex’s war machine, then we too should be tried for treason and sent to jail for forsaking the precious values of freedom and equality that this country was founded upon.
Us. Off to jail too — along with the faceless serial-killer treasonous ogres in Washington who hide behind their benevolent Jason-like masks of Patriotism and War.
U.S. Meddling Dims Prospects for Peace…
“It’s Uncle Sam who’s pushing us into this slaughter. And let’s be frank, many politicians in Ukraine are just following his orders.”
– Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko
The Minsk Ceasefire Protocol has very little chance of succeeding. In fact, the meeting between the warring parties was not convened to stop the violence as much as it was to buy time for the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) to retreat and regroup. In the last two weeks, the junta’s army has suffered “catastrophic” losses leaving President Petro Poroshenko with the choice of either calling for a truce or facing the unpleasant prospect of complete annihilation. Poroshenko wisely chose to withdraw under cover of the ceasefire agreement. But let’s not kid ourselves, Poroshenko only accepted that humiliation because he had no other choice. Once he gathers his forces and rearms, he’ll be back with a vengeance.
A recent survey found that 57 percent of the Ukrainian people oppose Poroshenko’s so-called “antiterror operation”. Even so, the fratricidal campaign will continue for the foreseeable future because it’s all part of Washington’s grand plan for the region. What the Obama administration is trying to do, is draw Russia into a costly and protracted conflagration in Ukraine to prove to its European allies that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a dangerous aggressor and a serious threat to global security. The US needs this justification to move ahead with its plan of establishing NATO forward-bases on Russia’s western border where they’ll pose an existential threat to Moscow’s survival. The puppet Poroshenko’s role in this bloody farce is to exacerbate the humanitarian catastrophe, crush the resistance, and try to provoke Putin into sending in the tanks. So far, the bumbling “Chocolate King” has only made matters worse by destroying his army and sabotaging US plans for NATO intervention. Obama’s frustration was apparent in the speech he gave at the NATO summit in Wales last weekend. Here’s a clip:
“Russia must stop its violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Russia’s “brazen assault” on Ukraine “challenges the most basic of principles of our international system – that borders cannot be redrawn at the barrel of a gun; that nations have the right to determine their own future. It undermines an international order where the rights of peoples and nations are upheld and can’t simply be taken away by brute force.”
Obama’s fulminations were meant to torpedo the ceasefire by poisoning the atmosphere and inflaming passions. Even while the negotiations were underway, the US and NATO were busy rattling sabers trying to derail the process. The summit in Wales was not so much a conference on regional defense as it was a platform for slinging mud at Russia and denouncing its “evil dictator” Putin. Like we said, Obama and Co. are getting frustrated by the fact that Putin has out maneuvered them at every turn. Here’s a clip from the New York Times with some details about the truce:
“The cease-fire agreement called for amnesty for all those who disarm and who did not commit serious crimes; the release of all hostages; the disbanding of militias; and the establishment of a 10-kilometer buffer zone (about six miles) along the Russian-Ukrainian border, with compliance overseen by international monitors.
It also points the way to a possible political solution to the conflict. Mr. Putin, insistent that Ukraine be tied to Russia instead of the West, has pressed for regional autonomy for the southeastern regions, while the Ukrainian government has so far been open only to the idea of decentralization.” (“A Cease-Fire in Ukraine”, New York Times).
Naturally, one would expect NATO and the US to tone down the rhetoric and postpone further escalation in order to show their support for the fragile ceasefire. But that hasn’t happened.
On Sunday, two NATO warships entered the Black Sea through the Bosporus joining French and US destroyers already located in the area. According to Itar Tass:
“The NATO ships’ crews will conduct the Sea Breeze exercises from September 8 to September 10. It is expected that along with the four abovementioned ships the drills will involve Turkey’s frigate Oruc Reis, Romania’s frigate Regele Ferdinand and Georgia’s patrol boat Sukhumi,” the source added.” (“Two NATO warships enter Black Sea – source“, Itar Tass)
The Sea Breeze exercises will be conducted at the same time as NATO military drills in Latvia that will involve more than “2,000 soldiers from nine different countries…(and which) ” simulate the deployment of NATO soldiers and equipment during a crisis situation.”
“We want to send a clear message to everyone who wants to threaten NATO, that it’s not a thing you should do,” General Hans-Lothar Domrose, commander of the NATO military command in Brunssum, Netherlands, told reporters.” (“NATO stages massive military drills in Latvia.”)
The drills have nothing to do protecting civilians from foreign aggression. They’re a blatant attempt to intimidate Putin and show that the western alliance is willing to risk a Third World War to achieve its objectives in Ukraine. The same could be said about NATO’s new Rapid Reaction Force, which is a 4,000-man combat group that will be deployable to any place in Europe within 48 hours. The new “Spearhead” force creates the dangerous precedent of a NATO standing army which will be used by the same reckless organization that assisted in the destruction of Serbia, Afghanistan and Libya. NATO’s interventions have been nearly as disastrous as those of the United States.
Aside from the additional troop deployments, warships to the Black Sea, and Rapid Reaction Force; we should not forget that the US Air Force deployed two B-2 stealth bombers to be stationed in east Europe earlier in the year. The B-2′s, which are capable of delivering nuclear weapons to their targets, are a clear message to Moscow that Washington will take whatever steps it deems necessary to defend its interests in Eurasia.
Also, Poroshenko announced on Friday that he reached an agreement with a number of western governments on the delivery of lethal weapons. (Officials from the US have since denied that they will send arms to Kiev.)
In any event, the pattern is clear: Escalate, escalate, escalate. The United States is determined to establish a NATO beachhead in Ukraine consistent with its plan to pivot to Asia. The alarming buildup of military assets in the Balkans and the Black Sea, as well as the steady drumbeat of anti-Russia propaganda in the media, suggests that Washington is embarking on a major operation that could explode into a full-blown war.
Europeans Oppose Arming Ukraine
Despite the nonstop demonization of Russia in the media, there’s no indication that the European people support the current policy in Ukraine. Check this out:
“The Journal du dimanche reported yesterday that the German Marshall Fund think-tank is preparing to release a poll showing that 81 percent of Frenchmen and 85 percent of Germans oppose arming the Ukrainian regime. The same poll found that in every European country except Poland, a majority of the population opposes the entry of Ukraine into either NATO or the European Union.”…..(“Fighting flares in eastern Ukraine despite ceasefire”, Johannes Stern and Alex Lantier, WSWS)
Finally, after 13 years of continuous warfare, the people have lost their appetite for US-NATO adventurism. Maybe there’s reason for hope, after all.
SANCTIONS: No Proof Needed
On Monday, the EU stepped up its economic war on Moscow by announcing a forth round of sanctions that could go into effect as early as Thursday. (The sanctions have been temporarily delayed so EU members can judge the effectiveness of the ceasefire.) The new measures will be the most painful to date and are aimed primarily at “three major state-run oil companies – Rosneft, Transneft and Gazprom Neft, as well as several companies of the military industrial sector.” The objective is to inflict maximum damage on the Russian economy by cutting off access to the capital markets, pushing the economy into recession, and triggering political instability. (The ultimate goal is regime change.) Not surprisingly, there won’t be any sanctions on the gas sector, particularly, Gazprom, which is Europe’s biggest gas supplier. EU leaders have shown repeatedly that they are only too willing to stand on principal as long as their own interests aren’t effected.
It’s worth noting that the new sanctions will be imposed without any evidence of wrongdoing and without any legal process for Russia to defend itself. The US and EU cannot be bothered with anything as trivial as due process or the presumption of innocence, which are the cornerstones upon which English Law rests dating back 500 years. Simply put: Russia is guilty because, well, because we say so.
There’s only the slimmest chance that the ceasefire in Ukraine will last, mainly because Washington needs a war to achieve its broader strategic objectives. What Obama and his lieutenants really want is “to break up Russia, subjugate its economic space, and establish control over the resources of the giant Eurasian continent. They believe that this is the only way they can maintain their hegemony and beat China.” (Quote: Sergei Glaziev, Putin’s economic advisor) That means, there won’t be peace in Ukraine until Washington’s puppets in Kiev are removed and Ukrainian sovereignty is restored.
“In the implementing of their policies, our western partners– the United States first and foremost – prefer to be guided not by international law, but by force. They believe in their own ‘exceptionalism’, that they are allowed to decide on the fate of the world, and that they are always right.”
– Russian President Vladimir Putin
“What did we do to deserve this? What did we do to deserve being bombed from planes, shot at from tanks, and have phosphorous bombs dropped on us? ….That we wanted to live the way we want, and speak our own language, and make friends with whom we want?”
– Alexander V. Zakharchenko, Chairman of The Council of Ministers of The Donetsk National Republic, The Vineyard of the Saker
There is no way to overstate the significance of what has transpired in Ukraine in the last three weeks. What began as a murderous onslaught on the mainly Russian-speaking population of east Ukraine, has turned into a major triumph against a belligerent and expansionistic empire that has been repulsed by a scrappy, battle-hardened militia engaged in a conventional, land-based war. The conflict in east Ukraine is Obama’s war; launched by Obama’s junta government, executed by Obama’s proxy army, and directed by Obama’s advisors in Kiev. The driving force behind the war is Washington’s ambitious pivot to Asia, a strategy that pits Russia against Europe to prevent further economic integration and to establish NATO forward-operating bases on Russia’s western border. Despite the overheated rhetoric, the talk of a (NATO) “Rapid Reaction Force”, and additional economic sanctions; the US plan to draw Ukraine into the western sphere of influence and weaken Russia in the process, is in tatters. And the reason it is in tatters is because a highly-motivated and adaptable militia has trounced Obama’s troopers at every turn pushing the Ukrainian army to the brink of collapse. Check out this frontline update from The Saker:
“The (Ukrainian Army) is not retreating on one, two or even three directions, it is retreating everywhere (except north of Lugansk). Entire battalions are leaving the front under orders of their battalion commanders and without the approval of the Junta leaders. At least one such battalion commander is already being judged for desertion. The entire Ukie leadership seems to be in a panic mode, especially Iatseniuk and Kolomoiski, while the Nazis are mad as hell at the Poroshenko administration. There are constant rumors of an anti-Poroshenko coup by outraged Nazi nationalists…..
The bottom line is this: Poroshenko promised a victory in a matter of weeks and his forces suffered one of the most total defeats in the history of warfare. ….the most likely thing is that this ridiculous “Banderastan” experiment has seriously begun sinking now and that many rats are leaving the ship.
“The War in Ukraine“, Vineyard of the Saker
The fact that the demoralized Ukrainian army has been defeated by the superior fighting force is of little importance in the big scheme of things, however, the fact that Washington’s global resource war– which began on 9-11 and has reduced numerous sovereign countries into anarchic, failed states– has been stopped in its tracks, is significant. The so called War on Terror–which was recently rebranded under the ISIS moniker–has wreaked holy havoc and death on Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and now Syria. By routing the Ukrainian army the Novorussian Armed Forces (NAF) has put the kibosh on Obama’s Great Game strategy in Eurasia and torpedoed Washington’s plan to rule the world by force of arms. It could be that the battles of Lugansk and Donetsk are eventually regarded as the turning point, where the lumbering and over-extended empire finally met its match and began its precipitous decline. In any event, there’s no doubt that Friday’s ceasefire agreement is a serious blow to US hegemony.
THE PROBLEM IS NATO
“The defining factor in relations with NATO remains the unacceptability for Russia of plans to move the military infrastructure of the alliance towards our borders, including via enlargement of the bloc,” said Mikhail Popov, deputy head of Putin’s Security Council.
The issue has always been NATO expansion, not the ridiculous claim that Putin wants to rebuild the Russian Empire. The only one interested in in stitching together a global Caliphate is Barack Hussein Obama and his nutcase neocon advisors. Putin is not interested in an empire. Putin just wants to make money like everyone else. He wants to sell gas to Europe, raise living standards and rebuild the country. What’s wrong with that?
Putin’s not a troublemaker. He’s not sticking a freaking first-strike nuclear missile system in Havana just 60 miles from Miami. But that’s what Obama wants to do. Obama want to establish NATO bases on Russia’s doorstep and deploy his fake-named “missile defense system” a couple hundred miles from Moscow. Putin can’t allow that. No one in their right mind would allow that. It’s a direct threat to national security. Here’s how Putin summed it up in a recent press conference:
“Russia is an independent and active participant of international relations. Just like any nation it has national interests that must be taken into consideration and respected…..We stand against having a military organization meddling in our backyard, next to our homeland or in the territories that are historically ours. I just cannot imagine visiting NATO sailors in Sevastopol,” he stressed. “Most of them are fine lads, but I’d rather they visit us in Sevastopol than the other way around.” (Vladimir Putin)
Washington’s harebrained gambit was doomed from the get go. Who made the decision to topple Yanuchovych, install a US-puppet in Kiev, fill-out the security services with neo Nazis, and wage a bloody ethnic cleansing purge on the Russian-speaking people in the east? Who was it? Isn’t there any accountability among the Obama team or is it all a matter of “failing upwards” like the Bush crowd? Here’s Putin again:
“Our western partners created the ‘Kosovo precedent’ with their own hands. In a situation absolutely the same as the one in Crimea they recognized Kosovo’s secession from Serbia legitimate while arguing that no permission from a country’s central authority for a unilateral declaration of independence is necessary….And the UN International Court of Justice agreed with those arguments. That’s what they said; that’s what they trumpeted all over the world and coerced everyone to accept – and now they are complaining about Crimea. Why is that?”
Doesn’t Putin have a point? Isn’t this what we’ve seen over and over again, that there’s one standard for the US and another for everyone else?
Of course it is. But Putin’s not going to stand for it. In fact, just this week, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expanded on Putin’s comments in an interview that never appeared in the western media. Here’s what he said:
“The current stage of international relations is marked by a transition to a fundamentally new world order – a polycentric model based on due regard for the appearance of new economic and financial centres. And political weight comes with economic and financial influence. Transition to a polycentric world order reflects an objective trend according to which the world order should be based on the world’s cultural and civilisational diversity. This is objective reality, which no one can deny. …
After a long period of dominance in global economy and politics, these countries are trying to keep their positions by artificial means. They know that their economic positions are not as strong as they were after WWII, when America accounted for over half of global GDP, but they are trying to use all available military and political instruments, social media, regime-change technology and other instruments to keep back the objective process of the development of a democratic world order based on the equality of all sides.
Not everyone has realized yet that it is impossible to move contrary to an objective historical process. We strongly hope that this will happen, because otherwise more illegal unilateral sanctions will be approved against Russia, to which we will respond accordingly, as we have already tried to do. But this, I repeat, is not our choice; we don’t want confrontation.” (Press Conference: Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov)
“A new world order based on a polycentric model”? What a great idea. You mean, a world in which other sovereign nations get a say-so in the way the world is run? You mean, a world in which the economic, political, and military decision-making does not emerge from one center of power that is dominated by privately-owned banks, transnational corporations and voracious western elites? You mean, a world in which international law can be applied evenly so that one country cannot unilaterally create off-shore gulags, or incite color coded revolutions, or carry out extra-legal abductions and killings, or order drone attacks on wedding parties or conduct any of the other heinous violations of human rights which imperial Washington engages in without batting an eye?
The NAF’s victory in east Ukraine brings us all one step closer to actualizing the multi-polar world of which Lavrov and Putin speak so glowingly. In fact, just hours ago Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko capitulated and signed a ceasefire agreement with the leaders of the anti-fascist militia, Igor Plotnitsky and Aleksandr Zakharchenko. (Remember: “We never negotiate with terrorists”?) Ukraine’s National Security Council (SNBO) has reported that its troops have halted all military actions. The government’s public statement reads as follows:
“According to the decision of the President of Ukraine and the order of the chief of the General staff of the military units of Ukraine, troops in the area of anti-terrorist operations ceased fire at 15.00 GMT.”
Peace at last?
It sure looks like it.
So while Obama is busy trying to ramp up the violence by rallying NATO to expand the wars around the world, international peacekeepers will begin the thorny task of implementing a seven-point peace plan put forward by none-other-than Vladimir Putin.
The difference between the peacemakers and the warmongers has rarely been as stark as it is today.