"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Archive for May, 2013|Monthly archive page

Engineering Empire: An Introduction To The Intellectuals & Institutions Of American Imperialism

In Uncategorized on May 31, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Oldspeak: “The ‘discourse’ of foreign affairs and international relations failing to adequately deal with the subject of empire is based upon a deeply flawed perception: that one cannot have an empire without imperialists, and the United States does not have imperialists, it has strategists, experts, and policy-oriented intellectuals. Does the United States, then, have an empire without imperialists? In the whole history of imperialism, that would be a unique situation. Empires do not happen by chance. Nations do not simply trip and stumble and fall into a state of imperialism. Empires are planned and directed, maintained and expanded. This report aimed to provide some introductory insight into the institutions and individuals who direct the American imperial system. The information – while dense – is far from comprehensive or complete; it is a sample of the complex network of imperialism that exists in present-day United States. Regardless of which president or political party is in office, this highly integrated network remains in power.” –Andrew Gavin Marshall.

A brilliant analysis of the rarely discussed incestuously in-bred class of corporocrats who rule the American Empire. Only 2 degrees generally separate the key and enduing members who bounce from  organization to organization while they assiduously create and implement decades long policies objectives. Values and morality are irrelevant. Political parties and their diffrences are an illusion.  Policy that “advances American interests” at whatever cost is paramount. Enthusiastic support for policies employing death squads, genocide, terrorism, displacement, ruthless anti-democratic strongmen/dictators, assassination programs, destabilization campaigns, coup de etats, are all part of the “coercive tool kit” used to achieve American objectives: unquestioned control of  globally integrated “market-oriented” economic, political, education and social systems in which domination and exploitation of others is key. This is all done clandestinely. Hidden behind Orwellian doublespeak and coded language known only to members of the ruling class. Propagated by the think tanks, foundations, educational institutions, corporations, and government agencies they control. This is the status quo in American Empire. But as Carl Jung said “We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.” We must accept that America is not a representative democracy. Its laws, actions, and policies represent the interests of the corporocrats who control it, not the people, who toil their whole lives, managed, herded and sheared to support its imperial lunacy. This has been so for much of its existence, as is typical of all empires. We must not internalize the worldviews of our oppressors. We must not allow ourselves to be fashioned into gatekeeping secondary sociopaths. We must resist with, knowledge, reason, truth, justice, compassion, openness, cooperation, and unconditional love. Our Soul Force. View the little known documentary below “The American Ruling Class” by  Lewis H. Lapham a former corporocratic insider who’s seen the light and has chosen to expose the inner workings of the American ruling class.

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Related Video:
The American Ruling Class

By Andrew Gavin Marshall @ The Hampton Institute:

Educating yourself about empire can be a challenging endeavor, especially since so much of the educational system is dedicated to avoiding the topic or justifying the actions of imperialism in the modern era. If one studies political science or economics, the subject might be discussed in a historical context, but rarely as a modern reality; media and government voices rarely speak on the subject, and even more rarely speak of it with direct and honest language. Instead, we exist in a society where institutions and individuals of power speak in coded language, using deceptive rhetoric with abstract meaning. We hear about ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ and ‘security,’ but so rarely about imperialism, domination, and exploitation.

The objective of this report is to provide an introduction to the institutional and social structure of American imperialism. The material is detailed, but should not be considered complete or even comprehensive; its purpose is to function as a resource or reference for those seeking to educate themselves about the modern imperial system. It’s not an analysis of state policies or the effects of those policies, but rather, it is an examination of the institutions and individuals who advocate and implement imperial policies. What is revealed is a highly integrated and interconnected network of institutions and individuals – the foreign policy establishment – consisting of academics (so-called “experts” and “policy-oriented intellectuals”) and prominent think tanks.

Think tanks bring together prominent academics, former top government officials, corporate executives, bankers, media representatives, foundation officials and other elites in an effort to establish consensus on issues of policy and strategy, to produce reports and recommendations for policy-makers, functioning as recruitment centers for those who are selected to key government positions where they have the ability to implement policies. Thus, think tanks function as the intellectual engines of empire: they establish consensus among elites, provide policy prescriptions, strategic recommendations, and the personnel required to implement imperial policies through government agencies.

Among the most prominent American and international think tanks are the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the Bilderberg meetings, the Trilateral Commission, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Atlantic Council. These institutions tend to rely upon funding from major foundations (such as Rockefeller, Ford, Carnegie, etc.) as well as corporations and financial institutions, and even various government agencies. There is an extensive crossover in leadership and membership between these institutions, and between them and their funders.

Roughly focusing on the period from the early 1970s until today, what emerges from this research is a highly integrated network of foreign policy elites, with individuals like Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, and Joseph Nye figuring prominently in sitting at the center of the American imperial establishment over the course of decades, with powerful corporate and financial patrons such as the Rockefeller family existing in the background of American power structures.

Meet the Engineers of Empire

Within the U.S. government, the National Security Council (NSC) functions as the main planning group, devising strategy and policies for the operation of American power in the world. The NSC coordinates multiple other government agencies, bringing together the secretaries of the State and Defense Departments, the CIA, NSA, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and various other government bodies, with meetings directed by the National Security Adviser, who is generally one of the president’s most trusted and influential advisers. In several administrations, the National Security Adviser became the most influential voice and policy-maker to do with foreign policy, such as during the Nixon administration (with Henry Kissinger) and the Carter administration (with Zbigniew Brzezinski).

While both of these individuals were top government officials in the 1970s, their influence has not declined in the decades since they held such positions. In fact, it could be argued that both of their influence (along with several other foreign policy elites) has increased with their time outside of government. In fact, in a January 2013 interview with The Hill, Brzezinski stated: “To be perfectly frank – and you may not believe me – I really wasn’t at all conscious of the fact that the defeat of the Carter administration [in 1980] somehow or another affected significantly my own standing… I just kept doing my thing minus the Office of the National Security Adviser in the White House.” [1]

David Rothkopf has written the official history of the National Security Council (NSC) in his book, Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power, published in 2005. Rothkopf writes from an insiders perspective, being a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment, he was Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Policy and Development in the Clinton administration, and is currently president and CEO of Garten Rothkopf, an international advisory firm, CEO of Foreign Policy magazine, previously CEO of Intellibridge Corporation, and was also a managing director at Kissinger Associates, an international advisory firm founded and run by Henry Kissinger. In his book on the NSC, Rothkopf noted that, “[e]very single national security advisor since Kissinger is, in fact, within two degrees of Kissinger,” referring to the fact that they have all “worked with him as aides, on his staff, or directly with him in some capacity,” or worked for someone in those categories (hence, within “two degrees”).[2]

For example, General Brent Scowcroft, who was National Security Advisor (NSA) under Presidents Ford and George H.W. Bush, was Kissinger’s Deputy National Security Advisor in the Nixon administration; Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s NSA, served on the faculty of Harvard with Kissinger, also served with Kissinger on the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board during the Reagan administration, both of them are also members (and were at times, board members) of the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as members of the Trilateral Commission, and they are both currently trustees of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Other NSA’s with connections to Kissinger include: Richard Allen, NSA under Reagan, who worked for Kissinger in the Nixon administration; William P. Clark, NSA under Reagan, who worked for Kissinger’s former aide, Alexander Haig at the State Department; Robert McFarlane, also NSA under Reagan, worked with Kissinger in the Nixon administration; John Poindexter, also NSA for Reagan, was McFarlane’s deputy; Frank Carlucci, also NSA in the Reagan administration, worked for Kissinger in the Nixon administration; Colin Powell, NSA for Reagan (and Secretary of State for George W. Bush), worked for Carlucci as his deputy; Anthony Lake, Clinton’s NSA, worked directly for Kissinger; Samuel Berger, also NSA for Clinton, was Lake’s deputy; Condoleezza Rice, NSA for George W. Bush, worked on Scowcroft’s NSC staff; and Stephen Hadley also worked for Kissinger directly.[3]

The foreign policy establishment consists of the top officials of the key government agencies concerned with managing foreign policy (State Department, Pentagon, CIA, NSC), drawing upon officials from within the think tank community, where they become well acquainted with corporate and financial elites, and thus, become familiar with the interests of this group of people. Upon leaving high office, these officials often return to leadership positions within the think tank community, join corporate boards, and/or establish their own international advisory firms where they charge hefty fees to provide corporations and banks with strategic advice and use of their international political contacts (which they acquired through their time in office). Further, these individuals also regularly appear in the media to provide commentary on international affairs as ‘independent experts’ and are routinely recruited to serve as ‘outside’ advisors to presidents and other high-level officials.

No less significant in assessing influence within the foreign policy establishment is the relative proximity – and relationships – individuals have with deeply entrenched power structures, notably financial and corporate dynasties. Arguably, both Kissinger and Brzezinski are two of the most influential individuals within the foreign policy elite networks. Certainly of no detriment to their careers was the fact that both cultivated close working and personal relationships with what can be said to be America’s most powerful dynasty, the Rockefeller family.

Dynastic Influence on Foreign Policy

At first glance, this may appear to be a rather obscure addition to this report, but dynastic power in modern state-capitalist societies is largely overlooked, misunderstood, or denied altogether, much like the concept of ’empire’ itself. The lack of discourse on this subject – or the relegation of it to fringe ‘conspiratorial’ views – is not reason enough to ignore it. Far from assigning a conspiratorial or ‘omnipotent’ view of power to dynastic elements, it is important to place them within a social and institutional analysis, to understand the complexities and functions of dynastic influence within modern society.

Dynastic power relies upon a complex network of relationships and interactions between institutions, individuals, and ideologies. Through most of human history – in most places in the world – power was wielded by relatively few people, and often concentrated among dynastic family structures, whether ancient Egypt, imperial Rome, ancient China, the Ottoman Empire or the European monarchs spreading their empires across the globe. With the rise of state-capitalist society, dynastic power shifted from the overtly political to the financial and economic spheres. Today’s main dynasties are born of corporate or banking power, maintained through family lines and extended through family ties to individuals, institutions, and policy-makers. The Rockefellers are arguably the most influential dynasty in the United States, but comparable to the Rothschilds in France and the UK, the Wallenbergs in Sweden, the Agnellis in Italy, or the Desmarais family in Canada. These families are themselves connected through institutions such as the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission, among others. The power of a corporate-financial dynasty is not a given: it must be maintained, nurtured, and strengthened, otherwise it will be overcome or made obsolete.

The Rockefeller family has existed at the center of American power for over a century. Originating with the late 19th century ‘Robber Baron’ industrialists, the Rockefellers established an oil empire, and subsequently a banking empire. John D. Rockefeller, who had a personal fortune surpassing $1 billion in the first decade of the 20th century, also founded the University of Chicago, and through the creation and activities of the Rockefeller Foundation (founded in 1913), helped engineer higher education and the social sciences. The Rockefeller family – largely acting through various family foundations – were also pivotal in the founding and funding of several prominent think tanks, notably the Council on Foreign Relations, the Asia Society, Trilateral Commission, the Group of Thirty, and the Bilderberg Group, among many others.

The patriarch of the Rockefeller family today is David Rockefeller, now in his late 90s. To understand the influence wielded by unelected bankers and billionaires like Rockefeller, it would be useful to simply examine the positions he has held throughout his life. From 1969 until 1980, he was the chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank and from 1981 to 1999 he was the chairman of the International Advisory Committee of Chase Manhattan, at which time it merged with another big bank to become JPMorgan Chase, of Rockefeller served as a member of the International Advisory Council from 2000 to 2005. David Rockefeller was a founding member of the Bilderberg Group in 1954, at which he remains on the Steering Committee; he is the former chairman of Rockefeller Group, Inc. (from 1981-1995), Rockefeller Center Properties (1996-2001), and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, at which he remains as an advisory trustee. He is chairman emeritus and life trustee of the Museum of Modern Art, and the founder of the David Rockefeller Fund and the International Executive Service Corps.

David Rockefeller was also the chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations from 1970 to 1985, of which he remains to this day as honorary chairman; is chairman emeritus of the board of trustees of the University of Chicago; honorary chairman, life trustee and chairman emeritus of the Rockefeller University Council, and is the former president of the Harvard Board of Overseers. He was co-founder of the Global Philanthropists Circle, is honorary chairman of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP), and is an honorary director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. David Rockefeller was also the co-founder (with Zbigniew Brzezinski) of the Trilateral Commission in 1973, where he served as North American Chairman until 1991, and has since remained as honorary chairman. He is also the founder and honorary chairman of the Americas Society and the Council of the Americas.

It should not come as a surprise, then, that upon David Rockefeller’s 90th birthday celebration (held at the Council on Foreign Relations) in 2005, then-president of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn delivered a speech in which he stated that, “the person who had perhaps the greatest influence on my life professionally in this country, and I’m very happy to say personally there afterwards, is David Rockefeller, who first met me at the Harvard Business School in 1957 or ’58.” He went on to explain that in the early 20th century United States, “as we looked at the world, a family, the Rockefeller family, decided that the issues were not just national for the United States, were not just related to the rich countries. And where, extraordinarily and amazingly, David’s grandfather set up the Rockefeller Foundation, the purpose of which was to take a global view.” Wolfensohn continued:

So the Rockefeller family, in this last 100 years, has contributed in a way that is quite extraordinary to the development in that period and has given ample focus to the issues of development with which I have been associated. In fact, it’s fair to say that there has been no other single family influence greater than the Rockefeller’s in the whole issue of globalization and in the whole issue of addressing the questions which, in some ways, are still before us today. And for that David, we’re deeply grateful to you and for your own contribution in carrying these forward in the way that you did. [4]

Wolfensohn of course would be in a position to know something about the influence of the Rockefeller family. Serving as president of the World Bank from 1995 to 2005, he has since founded his own private firm, Wolfensohn & Company, LLC., was been a longtime member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Group, an honorary trustee of the Brookings Institution, a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Wolfensohn’s father, Hyman, was employed by James Armand de Rothschild of the Rothschild banking dynasty (after whom James was named), and taught the young Wolfensohn how to “cultivate mentors, friends and contacts of influence.”[5] In his autobiography of 2002, Memoirs, David Rockefeller himself wrote:

For more than a century ideological extremists at either end of the political spectrum have seized upon well-publicized incidents such as my encounter with Castro to attack the Rockefeller family for the inordinate influence they claim we wield over American political and economic institutions. Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as ‘internationalists’ and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure–one world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it. [6]

In the United States, the Rockefeller family has maintained a network of influence through financial, corporate, educational, cultural, and political spheres. It serves as a logical extension of dynastic influence to cultivate relationships among the foreign policy elite of the U.S., notably the likes of Kissinger and Brzezinski.

Intellectuals, ‘Experts,’ and Imperialists Par Excellence: Kissinger and Brzezinski

Both Kissinger and Brzezinski served as professors at Harvard in the early 1950s, as well as both joining the Council on Foreign Relations around the same time, and both also attended meetings of the Bilderberg Group (two organizations which had Rockefellers in leadership positions). Kissinger was a director at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund from 1956 until 1958, and thereafter became an advisor to Nelson Rockefeller. Kissinger was even briefly brought into the Kennedy administration as an advisor to the State Department, while Brzezinski was an advisor to the Kennedy campaign, and was a member of President Johnson’s Policy Planning Council in the State Department from 1966 to 1968. When Nixon became president in 1969, Kissinger became his National Security Advisor, and eventually also took over the role of Secretary of State.

In 1966, prior to entering the Nixon administration, Henry Kissinger wrote an article for the journal Daedalus in which he proclaimed the modern era as “the age of the expert,” and went on to explain: “The expert has his constituency – those who have a vested interest in commonly held opinions; elaborating and defining its consensus at a high level has, after all, made him an expert.” [7] In other words, the “expert” serves entrenched and established power structures and elites (“those who have a vested interest in commonly held opinions”), and the role of such an expert is to define and elaborate the “consensus” of elite interests. Thus, experts, as Henry Kissinger defines them, serve established elites.

In 1970, Brzezinski wrote a highly influential book, Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era, which attracted the interest of Chase Manhattan Chairman (and Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations) David Rockefeller. The two men then worked together to create the Trilateral Commission, of which Kissinger became a member. Kissinger remained as National Security Advisor for President Ford, and when Jimmy Carter became President (after Brzezinski invited him into the Trilateral Commission), Brzezinski became his National Security Advisor, also bringing along dozens of other members of the Trilateral Commission into the administration’s cabinet.

In a study published in the journal Polity in 1982, researchers described what amounted to modern Machiavellis who “whisper in the ears of princes,” notably, prominent academic-turned policy-makers like Walt Rostow, Henry Kissinger, and Zbigniew Brzezinski. The researchers constructed a ‘survey’ in 1980 which was distributed to a sample of officials in the State Department, CIA, Department of Defense and the National Security Council (the four government agencies primarily tasked with managing foreign policy), designed to assess the views of those who implement foreign policy related to how they measure influence held by academics. They compared their results with a similar survey conducted in 1971, and found that in both surveys, academics such as George Kennan, Hans Morgenthau, Henry Kissinger, and Zbigniew Brzezinski were listed as among the members of the academic community who most influenced the thinking of those who took the survey. In the 1971 survey, George Kennan was listed as the most influential, followed by Hans Morgenthau, John K. Galbraith, Henry Kissinger, E.O. Reischauer and Zbigniew Brzezinski; in the 1980 survey, Henry Kissinger was listed as the most influential, followed by Hans Morgenthau, George Kennan, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Stanley Hoffmann. [8]

Of the fifteen most influential scholars in the 1980 survey, eleven received their highest degree from a major East Coast university, eight held a doctorate from Harvard, twelve were associated with major East Coast universities, while seven of them had previously taught at Harvard. More than half of the top fifteen scholars had previously held prominent government positions, eight were members of the Council on Foreign Relations, ten belonged to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and eight belonged to the American Political Science Association. Influence tended to sway according to which of the four government agencies surveyed was being assessed, though for Kissinger, Morgenthau and Brzezinski, they “were equally influential with each of the agencies surveyed.” The two most influential academic journals cited by survey responses were Foreign Affairs (run by the Council on Foreign Relations), read by more than two-thirds of those who replied to the survey, and Foreign Policy, which was read by more than half of respondents. [9]

In a 1975 report by the Trilateral Commission on The Crisis of Democracy, co-authored by Samuel Huntington, a close associate and friend of Zbigniew Brzezinski, the role of intellectuals came into question, noting that with the plethora of social movements and protests that had emerged from the 1960s onwards, intellectuals were asserting their “disgust with the corruption, materialism, and inefficiency of democracy and with the subservience of democratic government to ‘monopoly capitalism’.” Thus, noted the report: “the advanced industrial societies have spawned a stratum of value-oriented intellectuals who often devote themselves to the derogation of leadership, the challenging of authority, and the unmasking and delegitimation of established institutions, their behavior contrasting with that of the also increasing numbers of technocratic policy-oriented intellectuals.”[10] In other words, intellectuals were increasingly failing to serve as “experts” (as Henry Kissinger defined it), and were increasingly challenging authority and institutionalized power structures instead of serving them, unlike “technocratic and policy-oriented intellectuals.”

The influence of “experts” and “technocratic policy-oriented intellectuals” like Kissinger and Brzezinski was not to dissipate going into the 1980s. Kissinger then joined the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), taught at Georgetown University, and in 1982, founded his own consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, co-founded and run with General Brent Scowcroft, who was the National Security Advisor for President Ford, after being Kissinger’s deputy in the Nixon administration. Scowcroft is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, CSIS, and The Atlantic Council of the United States, which also includes Kissinger and Brzezinski among its leadership boards. Scowcroft also founded his own international advisory firm, the Scowcroft Group, and also served as National Security Advisor to President George H.W. Bush.

Kissinger Associates, which included not only Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft, but also Lawrence Eagleburger, Kissinger’s former aide in the Nixon administration, and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in the Reagan administration, and briefly as Deputy Secretary of State in the George H.W. Bush administration. These three men, who led Kissinger Associates in the 1980s, made a great deal of money advising some of the world’s leading corporations, including ITT, American Express, Coca-Cola, Volvo, Fiat, and Midland Bank, among others. Kissinger Associates charges corporate clients at least $200,000 for “offering geopolitical insight” and “advice,” utilizing “their close relationships with foreign governments and their extensive knowledge of foreign affairs.”[11]

While he was Chairman of Kissinger Associates, advising corporate clients, Henry Kissinger was also appointed to chair the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America by President Reagan from 1983 to 1985, commonly known as the Kissinger Commission, which provided the strategic framework for Reagan’s terror war on Central America. As Kissinger himself noted in 1983, “If we cannot manage Central America… it will be impossible to convince threatened nations in the Persian Gulf and in other places that we know how to manage the global equilibrium.” [12] In other words, if the United States could not control a small region south of its border, how can it be expected to run the world?

Between 1984 and 1990, Henry Kissinger was also appointed to Reagan’s (and subsequently Bush Sr.’s) Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, an organization that provides “advice” to the President on intelligence issues, which Brzezinski joined between 1987 and 1989. Brzezinski also served as a member of Reagan’s Chemical Warfare Commission, and from 1987 to 1988, worked with Reagan’s U.S. National Security Council-Defense Department Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy, alongside Henry Kissinger. The Commission’s report, Discriminate Deterrence, issued in 1988, noted that the United States would have to establish new capabilities to deal with threats, particularly in the ‘Third World,’ noting that while conflicts in the ‘Third World’ “are obviously less threatening than any Soviet-American war would be,” they still “have had and will have an adverse cumulative effect on U.S. access to critical regions,” and if these effects cannot be managed, “it will gradually undermine America’s ability to defend its interest in the most vital regions, such as the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean and the Western Pacific.”[13]

Over the following decade, the report noted, “the United States will need to be better prepared to deal with conflicts in the Third World” which would “require new kinds of planning.” If the United States could not effectively counter the threats to U.S. interests and allies, notably, “if the warfare is of low intensity and protracted, and if they use guerrilla forces, paramilitary terrorist organizations, or armed subversives,” or, in other words, revolutionary movements, then “we will surely lose the support of many Third World countries that want to believe the United States can protect its friends, not to mention its own interests.” Most ‘Third World’ conflicts are termed “low intensity conflict,” referring to “insurgencies, organized terrorism, [and] paramilitary crime,” and therefore the United States would need to take these conflicts more seriously, noting that within such circumstances, “the enemy” is essentially “omnipresent,” meaning that the enemy is the population itself, “and unlikely ever to surrender.”[14]

From Cold War to New World Order: ‘Containment’ to ‘Enlargement’

At the end of the Cold War, the American imperial community of intellectuals and think tanks engaged in a process that continues to the present day in attempting to outline a geostrategic vision for America’s domination of the world. The Cold War had previously provided the cover for the American extension of hegemony around the world, under the premise of ‘containing’ the Soviet Union and the spread of ‘Communism.’ With the end of the Cold War came the end of the ‘containment’ policy of foreign policy. It was the task of ‘experts’ and ‘policy-oriented intellectuals’ to assess the present circumstances of American power in the world and to construct new strategic concepts for the extension and preservation of that power.

In 1990, George H.W. Bush’s administration released the National Security Strategy of the United States in which the Cold War was officially acknowledged as little more than a rhetorical deception. The document referenced U.S. interventions in the Middle East, which were for decades justified on the basis of ‘containing’ the perceived threat of ‘communism’ and the Soviet Union. The report noted that, “even as East-West tensions diminish, American strategic concerns remain.” Threats to America’s “interests” in the region, such as “the security of Israel and moderate Arab states” – otherwise known as ruthless dictatorships – “as well as the free flow of oil – come from a variety of sources.” Citing previous military interventions in the region, the report stated that they “were in response to threats to U.S. interests that could not be laid at the Kremlin’s door.” In other words, all the rhetoric of protecting the world from communism and the Soviet Union was little more than deception. As the National Security Strategy noted: “The necessity to defend our interests will continue.” [15]

When Bush became president in 1989, he ordered his national security team – headed by Brent Scowcroft – to review national security policy. Bush and Scowcroft had long discussed – even before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait – the notion that the U.S. will have to make its priority dealing with “Third World bullies” (a euphemism referring to U.S. puppet dictators who stop following orders). At the end of the Cold War, George Bush declared a ‘new world order,’ a term which was suggested to Bush by Brent Scowcroft during a discussion “about future foreign-policy crises.” [16]

Separate from the official National Security Strategy, the internal assessment of national security policy commissioned by Bush was partly leaked to and reported in the media in 1991. As the Los Angeles Times commented, the review dispensed with “sentimental nonsense about democracy.” [17] The New York Times quoted the review: “In cases where the U.S. confronts much weaker enemies, our challenge will be not simply to defeat them, but to defeat them decisively and rapidly… For small countries hostile to us, bleeding our forces in protracted or indecisive conflict or embarrassing us by inflicting damage on some conspicuous element of our forces may be victory enough, and could undercut political support for U.S. efforts against them.” [18] In other words, the capacity to justify and undertake large-scale wars and ground invasions had deteriorated substantially, so it would be necessary to “decisively and rapidly” destroy “much weaker enemies.”

Zbigniew Brzezinski was quite blunt in his assessment of the Cold War – of which he was a major strategic icon – when he wrote in a 1992 article for Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, that the U.S. strategic discourse of the Cold War as a battle between Communist totalitarianism and Western democracy was little more than rhetoric. In Brzezinski’s own words: “The policy of liberation was a strategic sham, designed to a significant degree for domestic political reasons… the policy was basically rhetorical, at most tactical.” [19] In other words, it was all a lie, carefully constructed to deceive the American population into accepting the actions of a powerful state in its attempts to dominate the world.

In 1992, the New York Times leaked a classified document compiled by top Pentagon officials (including Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney) devising a strategy for America in the post-Cold War world. As the Times summarized, the Defense Policy Guidance document “asserts that America’s political and military mission in the post-cold-war era will be to ensure that no rival superpower is allowed to emerge in Western Europe, Asia or the territories of the former Soviet Union.” The document “makes the case for a world dominated by one superpower whose position can be perpetuated by constructive behavior and sufficient military might to deter any nation or group of nations from challenging American primacy.” [20]

In the Clinton administration, prominent “policy-oriented intellectuals” filled key foreign policy positions, notably Madeleine Albright, first as ambassador to the UN and then as Secretary of State, and Anthony Lake as National Security Advisor. Anthony Lake was a staffer in Kissinger’s National Security Council during the Nixon administration (though he resigned in protest following the ‘secret’ bombing of Cambodia). Lake was subsequently recruited into the Trilateral Commission, and was then appointed as policy planning director in Jimmy Carter’s State Department under Secretary of State (and Trilateral Commission/Council on Foreign Relations member) Cyrus Vance. Richard Holbrooke and Warren Christopher were also brought into the Trilateral Commission, then to the Carter administration, and resurfaced in the Clinton administration. Holbrooke and Lake had even been college roommates for a time. Madeleine Albright had studied at Columbia University under Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was her dissertation advisor. When Brzezinski became National Security Adviser in the Carter administration, he brought in Albright as a special assistant. [21]

Anthony Lake was responsible for outlining the ‘Clinton Doctrine,’ which he elucidated in a 1993 speech at Johns Hopkins University, where he stated: “The successor to a doctrine of containment must be a strategy of enlargement – enlargement of the world’s free community of market democracies.” This strategy “must combine our broad goals of fostering democracy and markets with our more traditional geostrategic interests,” noting that, “[o]ther American interests at times will require us to befriend and even defend non-democratic states for mutually beneficial reasons.” [22] In other words, nothing has changed, save the rhetoric: the interest of American power is in “enlarging” America’s economic and political domination of the world.

In 1997, Brzezinski published a book outlining his strategic vision for America’s role in the world, entitled The Grand Chessboard. He wrote that “the chief geopolitical prize” for America was ‘Eurasia,’ referring to the connected landmass of Asia and Europe: “how America ‘manages’ Eurasia is critical. Eurasia is the globe’s largest continent and is geopolitically axial. A power that dominates Eurasia would control two of the world’s three most advanced and economically productive regions. A mere glance at the map also suggests that control over Eurasia would almost automatically entail African subordination.”[23] The “twin interests” of the United States, wrote Brzezinski, were, “in the short-term preservation of its unique global power and in the long-run transformation of it into increasingly institutionalized global cooperation.” Brzezinski then wrote:

To put it in a terminology that hearkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.[24]

The officials from the George H.W. Bush administration who drafted the 1992 Defense Policy Guidance report spent the Clinton years in neoconservative think tanks, such as the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Essentially using the 1992 document as a blueprint, the PNAC published a report in 2000 entitled Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces, and Resources for a New Century. In contrast to previous observations from strategists like Brzezinski and Scowcroft, the neocons were not opposed to implementing large-scale wars, declaring that, “the United States must retain sufficient forces able to rapidly deploy and win multiple simultaneous large-scale wars.” The report stated that there was a “need to retain sufficient combat forces to fight and win, multiple, nearly simultaneous major theatre wars” and that “the Pentagon needs to begin to calculate the force necessary to protect, independently, US interests in Europe, East Asia and the Gulf at all times.”[25]

Drafted by many of the neocons who would later lead the United States into the Iraq war (including Paul Wolfowitz), the report recommended that the United States establish a strong military presence in the Middle East: “the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”[26]

When the Bush administration came to power in 2001, it brought in a host of neoconservatives to key foreign policy positions, including Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. As one study noted, “among the 24 Bush appointees who have been most closely identified as neocons or as close to them, there are 27 links with conservative think tanks, 19 with their liberal counterparts and 20 with ‘neocon’ think tanks,” as well as 11 connections with the Council on Foreign Relations.[27]

The 2002 U.S. National Security Strategy announced by the Bush administration, thereafter referred to as the “Bush doctrine,” which included the usual rhetoric about democracy and freedom, and then established the principle of “preemptive war” and unilateral intervention for America’s War of Terror, noting: “the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively. The United States will not use force in all cases to preempt emerging threats, nor should nations use preemption as a pretext for aggression. Yet in an age where the enemies of civilization openly and actively seek the world’s most destructive technologies, the United States cannot remain idle while dangers gather.”[28] The doctrine announced that the U.S. “will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, [but] we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively against terrorists.”[29]

A fusion of neoconservative and traditional liberal internationalist “policy-oriented intellectuals” was facilitated in 2006 with the release of a report by the Princeton Project on National Security (PPNS), Forging a World of Liberty Under Law: U.S. National Security in the 21st Century, co-directed by G. John Ikenberry and Anne-Marie Slaughter. Ikenberry was a professor at Princeton and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He had previously served in the State Department Policy Planning staff in the administration of George H.W. Bush, was a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Anne-Marie Slaughter was Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, has served on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, the New America Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy, New American Security, the Truman Project, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and has also served on the boards of McDonald’s and Citigroup, as well as often being a State Department adviser.

While the Bush administration and the neoconservatives within it had articulated a single vision of a ‘global war on terror,’ the objective of the Princeton Project’s report was to encourage the strategic acknowledgement of multiple, conflicting and complex threats to American power. Essentially, it was a project formed by prominent intellectual elites in reaction to the myopic and dangerous vision and actions projected by the Bush administration; a way to re-align strategic objectives based upon a more coherent analysis and articulation of the interests of power. One of its main critiques was against the notion of “unilateralism” advocated in the Bush Doctrine and enacted with the Iraq War. The aim of the report, in its own words, was to “set forth agreed premises or foundational principles to guide the development of specific national security strategies by successive administrations in coming decades.”[30]

The Honourary Co-Chairs of the Project report were Anthony Lake, Clinton’s former National Security Adviser, and George P. Shultz, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Secretary of the Treasury in the Nixon administration, U.S. Secretary of State in the Reagan administration, president of Bechtel Corporation, and was on the International Advisory Council of JP Morgan Chase, a director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a member of the Hoover Institution, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and was on the boards of a number of corporations.

Among the co-sponsors of the project (apart from Princeton) were: the Brookings Institution, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Centre for International Governance Innovation, Oxford, Stanford, the German Marshall Fund, and the Hoover Institution, among others. Most financing for the Project came from the Woodrow Wilson School/Princeton, the Ford Foundation, and David M. Rubenstein, one of the world’s richest billionaires, co-founder of the global private equity firm the Carlyle Group, on the boards of Duke University, the Brookings Institution, the Council on Foreign Relations, President of the Economic Club of Washington, and the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum. [31]

Among the “experts” who participated in the Project were: Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Eliot Cohen, Francis Fukuyama, Leslie Gelb, Richard Haas, Robert Kagan, Jessica Tuchman Matthews, Joseph S. Nye, James Steinberg, and Strobe Talbott, among many others. Among the participating institutions were: Princeton, Harvard, Yale, CSIS, the Brookings Institution, Council on Foreign Relations, Carnegie Endowment, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, World Bank, the State Department, National Security Council, Citigroup, Ford Foundation, German Marshall Fund, Kissinger Associates, the Scowcroft Group, Cato Institute, Morgan Stanley, Carlyle Group. Among the participants in the Project were no less than 18 members of the Council on Foreign Relations, 10 members of the Brookings Institution, 6 members of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and several representatives from foreign governments, including Canada, Australia, and Japan.[32]

The Road to “Hope” and “Change”

After leaving the Clinton administration, Madeleine Albright founded her own consulting firm in 2001, The Albright Group, since re-named the Albright Stonebridge Group, co-chaired by Albright and Clinton’s second National Security Adviser Samuel Berger, advising multinational corporations around the world. Albright is also chair of Albright Capital Management LLC, an investment firm which focuses on ’emerging markets.’ Albright is also on the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, is a professor at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, chairs the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the Pew Global Attitudes Project, and is president of the Truman Scholarship Foundation. She is also on the board of trustees of the Aspen Institute, a member of the Atlantic Council, and in 2009 was recruited by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to chair the ‘group of experts’ tasked with drafting NATO’s New Strategic Concept for the world.

Kissinger, Scowcroft, and Albright are not the only prominent “former” statespersons to have established consulting firms for large multinational conglomerates, as the far less known Brzezinski Group is also a relevant player, “a consulting firm that provides strategic insight and advice to commercial and government clients,” headed by Zbig’s son, Ian Brzezinski. Ian is a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council and also sits on its Strategic Advisors Group, having previously served as a principal at Booz Allen Hamilton, a major global consulting firm. Prior to that, Ian Brzezinski was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO Policy in the Bush administration, from 2001 to 2005, and had previously served for many years on Capitol Hill as a senior staff member in the Senate. Zbigniew Brzezinski’s other son, Mark Brzezinski, is currently the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden, having previously been a corporate and securities associate at Hogan & Hartson LLP, after which he served in Bill Clinton’s National Security Council from 1999 to 2001. Mark Brzezinski was also an advisor to Barack Obama during his first presidential campaign starting in 2007. Among other notable advisors to Obama during his presidential campaign were Susan Rice, a former Clinton administration State Department official (and protégé to Madeleine Albright), as well as Clinton’s former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake. [33]

No less significant was the fact that Zbigniew Brzezinski himself was tapped as a foreign policy advisor to Obama during the presidential campaign. In August of 2007, Brzezinski publically endorsed Obama for president, stating that Obama “recognizes that the challenge is a new face, a new sense of direction, a new definition of America’s role in the world.” He added: “Obama is clearly more effective and has the upper hand. He has a sense of what is historically relevant and what is needed from the United States in relationship to the world.”[34] Brzezinski was quickly tapped as a top foreign policy advisor to Obama, who delivered a speech on Iraq in which he referred to Brzezinski as “one of our most outstanding thinkers.”[35] According to an Obama campaign spokesperson, Brzezinski was primarily brought on to advise Obama on matters related to Iraq. [36]

Thus, it would appear that Brzezinski may not have been exaggerating too much when he told the Congressional publication, The Hill, in January of 2013 that, “I really wasn’t at all conscious of the fact that the defeat of the Carter administration somehow or another affected significantly my own standing… I just kept doing my thing minus the Office of the National Security Adviser in the White House.” While Brzezinski had advised subsequent presidents Reagan and Bush Sr., and had close ties with key officials in the Clinton administration (notably his former student and NSC aide Madeleine Albright), he was “shut out of the George W. Bush White House” when it was dominated by the neoconservatives, whom he was heavily critical of, most especially in response to the Iraq War. [37]

In the first four years of the Obama administration, Brzezinski was much sought out for advice from Democrats and Republicans alike. On this, he stated: “It’s more a case of being asked than pounding on the doors… But if I have something to say, I know enough people that I can get in touch with to put [my thoughts] into circulation.” When Afghan President Hamid Karzai visited Washington, D.C. in early 2013, Brzezinski was invited to a special dinner hosted by the Afghan puppet leader, of which he noted: “I have a standard joke that I am on the No. 2 or No. 3 must-visit list in this city… That is to say, if a foreign minister or an ambassador or some other senior dignitary doesn’t get to see the President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Adviser, then I’m somewhere on that other list as a fallback.”[38]

Today, Zbigniew Brzezinski is no small player on the global scene. Not only is he an occasional and unofficial adviser to politicians, but he remains in some of the main centers of strategic planning and power in the United States. Brzezinski’s background is fairly well established, not least of all due to his role as National Security Adviser and his part in the creation of the Trilateral Commission with David Rockefeller in 1973. Brzezinski was also (and remains) a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and was a director of the CFR from 1972 to 1977. Today, he is a member of the CFR with his son Mark Brzezinski and his daughter Mika Brzezinski, a media personality on CNBC. Brzezinski is a Counselor and Trustee of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and he is also co-Chair (with Carla A. Hills) of the Advisory Board of CSIS, composed of international and US business leaders and current and former government officials, including: Paul Desmarais Jr. (Power Corporation of Canada), Kenneth Duberstein (Duberstein Group), Dianne Feinstein (U.S. Senator), Timothy Keating (Boeing), Senator John McCain, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, and top officials from Chevron, Procter & Gamble, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Exxon Mobil, Toyota, and United Technologies.[39]

And now we make our way to the Obama administration, the promised era of “hope” and “change;” or something like that. Under Obama, the two National Security Advisors thus far have been General James L. Jones and Tom Donilon. General Jones, who was Obama’s NSA from 2009 to 2010, previously and is now once again a trustee with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Just prior to becoming National Security Advisor, Jones was president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, after a career rising to 32nd commandant of the Marine Corps and commander of U.S. European Command. He was also on the boards of directors of Chevron and Boeing, resigning one month prior to taking up his post in the Obama administration.

Shortly after Jones first became National Security Advisor, he was speaking at a conference in February of 2009 at which he stated (with tongue-in-cheek), “As the most recent National Security Advisor of the United States, I take my daily orders from Dr. Kissinger, filtered down through General Brent Scowcroft and Sandy Berger… We have a chain of command in the National Security Council that exists today.”[40] Although said in jest, there is a certain truth to this notion. Yet, Jones only served in the Obama administration from January 2009 to October of 2010, after which he returned to more familiar pastures.

Apart from returning as a trustee to CSIS, Jones is currently the chairman of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security and is on the board and executive committee of the Atlantic Council (he was previously chairman of the board of directors from 2007 to 2009). Jones is also on the board of the East-West Institute, and in 2011 served on the board of directors of the military contractor, General Dynamics. General Jones is also the president of his own international consulting firm, Jones Group International. The Group’s website boasts “a unique and unrivaled experience with numerous foreign governments, advanced international relationships, and an understanding of the national security process to develop strategic plans to help clients succeed in challenging environments.” A testimonial of Jones’ skill was provided by Thomas Donohue, the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “Few leaders possess the wisdom, depth of experience, and knowledge of global and domestic economic and military affairs as General Jones.”[41]

Obama’s current NSA, Thomas E. Donilon, was previously deputy to General James Jones, and worked as former Assistant Secretary of State and chief of staff to Secretary of State Warren Christopher in Clinton’s administration. From 1999 to 2005, he was a lobbyist exclusively for the housing mortgage company Fannie Mae (which helped create and pop the housing bubble and destroy the economy). Donilon’s brother, Michael C. Donilon, is a counselor to Vice President Joseph Biden. Donilon’s wife, Cathy Russell, is chief of staff to Biden’s wife, Jill Biden. [42] Prior to joining the Obama administration, Thomas Donilon also served as a legal advisor to banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. [43]

CSIS: The ‘Brain’ of the Obama Administration

While serving as national security advisor, Thomas Donilon spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in November of 2012. He began his speech by stating that for roughly half a century, CSIS has been “the intellectual capital that has informed so many of our national security policies, including during the Obama administration… We’ve shared ideas and we’ve shared staff.”[44]

Indeed, CSIS has been an exceptionally influential presence within the Obama administration. CSIS launched a Commission on ‘Smart Power’ in 2006, co-chaired by Joseph S. Nye, Jr. and Richard Armitage, with the final report delivered in 2008, designed to influence the next president of the United States on implementing “a smart power strategy.” Joseph Nye is known for – among other things – developing the concept of what he calls “soft power” to describe gaining support through “attraction” rather than force. In the lead-up to the 2008 presidential elections, Nye stated that if Obama became president, it “would do more for America’s soft power around the world than anything else we could do.”[45]

Joseph Nye is the former Dean of the Kennedy School, former senior official in the Defense and State Departments, former Chair of the National Intelligence Council, and a highly influential political scientist who was rated in a 2008 poll of international relations scholars as “the most influential scholar in the field on American foreign policy,” and was also named as one of the top 100 global thinkers in a 2011 Foreign Policy report. Nye is also Chairman of the North American Group of the Trilateral Commission, is on the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the board of trustees of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and a former director of the Institute for East-West Security Studies, the International Institute of Strategic Studies, and a former member of the advisory committee of the Institute of International Economics.

Richard Armitage, the other co-chair of the CSIS Commission on Smart Power, is the President of Armitage International, a global consulting firm, and was Deputy Secretary of State from 2001-2005 in the George W. Bush administration, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs in the Reagan administration, and is on the boards of ConocoPhillips, a major oil company, as well as ManTech International and Transcu Group, and of course, a trustee at CSIS.

In the Commission’s final report, A Smarter, More Secure America, the term ‘smart power’ was defined as “complementing U.S. military and economic might with greater investments in soft power,” recommending that the United States “reinvigorate the alliances, partnerships, and institutions that serve our interests,” as well as increasing the role of “development in U.S. foreign policy” which would allow the United States to “align its own interests with the aspirations of people around the world.” Another major area of concern was that of “[b]ringing foreign populations to our side,” which depended upon “building long-term, people-to-people relationships, particularly among youth.” Further, the report noted that “the benefits of free trade must be expanded” and that it was America’s responsibility to “establish global consensus and develop innovative solutions” for issues such as energy security and climate change. [46]

The forward to the report was authored by CSIS president and CEO, John Hamre, who wrote: “We have all seen the poll numbers and know that much of the world today is not happy with American leadership,” with even “traditional allies” beginning to question “American values and interests, wondering whether they are compatible with their own.” Hamre spoke for the American imperial establishment: “We do not have to be loved, but we will never be able to accomplish our goals and keep Americans safe without mutual respect.” What was needed, then, was to utilize their “moment of opportunity” in order “to strike off on a big idea that balances a wiser internationalism with the desire for protection at home.” In world affairs, the center of gravity, wrote Hamre, “is shifting to Asia.” Thus, “[a]s the only global superpower, we must manage multiple crises simultaneously while regional competitors can focus their attention and efforts.” What is required is to strengthen “capable states, alliances, partnerships, and institutions.” Military might, noted Hamre, while “typically the bedrock of a nation’s power,” remains “an inadequate basis for sustaining American power over time.”[47]

In their summary of the report, Nye and Armitage wrote that the ultimate “goal of U.S. foreign policy should be to prolong and preserve American preeminence as an agent for good.” The goal, of course, was to ‘prolong and preserve American preeminence,’ whereas the notion of being ‘an agent for good’ was little more than a rhetorical add-on, since for policy-oriented intellectuals like those at CSIS, American preeminence is inherently a ‘good’ thing, and therefore preserving American hegemony is – it is presumed – by definition, being ‘an agent for good.’ Nye and Armitage suggested that the U.S. “should have higher ambitions than being popular,” though acknowledging, “foreign opinion matters to U.S. decision-making,” so long as it aligns with U.S. decisions, presumably. A “good reputation,” they suggested, “brings acceptance for unpopular ventures.” This was not to mark a turn away from using military force, as was explicitly acknowledged: “We will always have our enemies, and we cannot abandon our coercive tools.” Using “soft power,” however, was simply to add to America’s arsenal of military and economic imperialism: “bolstering soft power makes America stronger.”[48]

Power, they wrote, “is the ability to influence the behavior of others to get a desired outcome,” noting the necessity of “hard power” – military and economic strength – but, while “[t]here is no other global power… American hard power does not always translate into influence.” While technological advances “have made weapons more precise, they have also become more destructive, thereby increasing the political and social costs of using military force.” Modern communications, they noted, “diminished the fog of war,” which is to say that they have facilitated more effective communication and management in war-time, “but also heightened the atomized political consciousness,” which is to say that it has allowed populations all over the world to gain access to information and communication outside the selectivity of traditional institutions of power.[49]

These trends “have made power less tangible and coercion less effective.” The report noted: “Machiavelli said it was safer to be feared than to be loved. Today, in the global information age, it is better to be both.” Thus, “soft power… is the ability to attract people to our side without coercion,” making “legitimacy” the central concept of soft power. As such, if nations and people believe “American objectives to be legitimate, we are more likely to persuade them to follow our lead without using threats and bribes.” Noting that America’s “enemies” in the world are largely non-state actors and groups who “control no territory, hold few assets, and sprout new leaders for each one that is killed,” victory becomes problematic: “Militaries are well suited to defeating states, but they are often poor instruments to fight ideas.” Thus, victory in the modern world “depends on attracting foreign populations to our side,” of which ‘soft power’ is a necessity. [50]

Despite various “military adventures in the Western hemisphere and in the Philippines” in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, “the U.S. military has not been put in the service of building a colonial empire in the manner of European militaries,” the report read, acknowledging quite plainly that while not a formal colonial empire, the United States was an imperial power nonetheless. Since World War II, “America has sought to promote rules and order in a world in which life continues to be nasty, brutish, and short for the majority of inhabitants.” While “the appeal of Hollywood and American products can play a role in inspiring the dreams and desires of others,” soft power is not merely cultural, but also promotes “political values” and “our somewhat reluctant participation and leadership in institutions that help shape the global agenda.” However, a more “interconnected and tolerant world” is not something everyone is looking forward to, noted the authors: “ideas can be threatening to those who consider their way of life to be under siege by the West,” which is to say, the rest of the world. Smart power, then, “is neither hard nor soft – it is the skillful combination of both,” and “means developing an integrated strategy, resource base, and tool kit to achieve American objectives, drawing on both hard and soft power.” [51]

Other members of the CSIS Commission on Smart Power included: Nancy Kassebaum Baker, former US Senator and member of the advisory board of the Partnership for a Secure America; General Charles G. Boyd, former president and CEO of the Business Executives for National Security, former director of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR); as well as Maurice Greenberg, Thomas Pickering, David Rubenstein and Obama’s newest Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel.

It’s quite apparent that members of the CSIS Commission and CSIS itself would be able to wield significant influence upon the Obama administration. Joseph Nye has even advised Hillary Clinton while she served as Secretary of State. [52] Perhaps then, we should not be surprised that at her Senate confirmation hearing in January of 2009, Clinton declared the era of “rigid ideology” in diplomacy to be at an end, and the foreign policy of “smart power” to be exercised, that she would make decisions based “on facts and evidence, not emotions or prejudice.”[53]

Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Clinton declared: “We must use what has been called smart power, the full range of tools at our disposal – diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural – picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation.” She quoted the ancient Roman poet Terence, “in every endeavor, the seemly course for wise men is to try persuasion first,” then added: “The same truth binds wise women as well.”[54]

While Joseph Nye had coined the term “soft power” in the 1990s, Suzanne Nossel coined the term “smart power.” Nossel was the chief operating officer of Human Rights Watch, former executive at media conglomerate Bertelsmann, and was a former deputy to UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke in the Clinton administration. She coined the term “smart power” in a 2004 issue of Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, after which time Joseph Nye began using it, leading to the CSIS Commission on Smart Power. At the Senate hearing, Senator Jim Webb stated, “the phrase of the week is ‘smart power’.” Nossel commented on Clinton’s Senate hearing: “Hillary was impressive… She didn’t gloss over the difficulties, but at the same time she was fundamentally optimistic. She’s saying that, by using all the tools of power in concert, the trajectory of American decline can be reversed. She’ll make smart power cool.”[55]

Following the first six months of the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton was to deliver a major foreign policy speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, where she would articulate “her own policy agenda,” focusing on the strengthening of “smart power.” One official involved in the speech planning process noted that it would include discussion on “U.S. relations with [and] management of the great powers in a way that gets more comprehensive.” The speech was long in the making, and was being overseen by the director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Council, Anne-Marie Slaughter. [56]

Slaughter was director of Policy Planning in the State Department from 2009 to 2011, where she was chief architect of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, designed to better integrate development into U.S. foreign policy, with the first report having been released in 2010. She is also a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton, was co-Chair of the Princeton Project on National Security, former Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, served on the boards of the Council on Foreign Relations (2003-2009), the New America Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy, New American Security, the Truman Project, and formerly with CSIS, also having been on the boards of McDonald’s and Citigroup. Slaughter is currently a member of the Aspen Strategy Group, the CFR, a member of the board of directors of the Atlantic Council, and has been named on Foreign Policy‘s Top 100 Global Thinkers for the years 2009-2012.

In preparation for her speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, according to the Washington Post blog, Plum Line, Clinton “consulted” with a “surprisingly diverse” group of people, including: Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Paul Farmer, Joseph Nye, Francis Fukuyama, Brent Scowcroft, Strobe Talbott (president of the Brookings Institution), John Podesta, and Richard Lugar, as well as Defense Secretary Robert Gates, then-National Security Advisor General James Jones, and President Obama himself.[57]

When Clinton began speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C., she stated: “I am delighted to be here in these new headquarters. I have been often to, I guess, the mother ship in New York City, but it’s good to have an outpost of the Council right here down the street from the State Department. We get a lot of advice form the Council, and so this will mean I won’t have as far to go to be told what we should be doing and how we should think about the future.” Many in the world do not trust America to lead, explained Clinton, “they view America as an unaccountable power, too quick to impose its will at the expense of their interests and our principles,” but, Clinton was sure to note: “they are wrong.” The question, of course, was “not whether our nation can or should lead, but how it will lead in the 21st century,” in which “[r]igid ideologies and old formulas don’t apply.” Clinton claimed that “[l]iberty, democracy, justice and opportunity underlie our priorities,” even though others “accuse us of using these ideals to justify actions that contradict their very meaning,” suggesting that “we are too often condescending and imperialistic, seeking only to expand our power at the expense of others.”[58]

These perceptions, explained Clinton, “have fed anti-Americanism, but they do not reflect who we are.” America’s strategy “must reflect the world as it is, not as it used to be,” and therefore, “[i]t does not make sense to adapt a 19th century concert of powers, or a 20th century balance of power strategy.” Clinton explained that the strategy would seek to tilt “the balance away from a multi-polar world and toward a multi-partner world,” in which “our partnerships can become power coalitions to constrain and deter [the] negative actions” of those who do not share “our values and interests” and “actively seek to undermine our efforts.” In order to construct “the architecture of global cooperation,” Clinton recommended “smart power” as “the intelligent use of all means at our disposal, including our ability to convene and connect… our economic and military strength,” as well as “the application of old-fashioned common sense in policymaking… a blend of principle and pragmatism.” Noting that, “our global and regional institutions were built for a world that has been transformed,” Clinton stated that “they too must be transformed and reformed,” referencing the UN, World Bank, IMF, G20, OAS, ASEAN, and APEC, among others. This “global architecture of cooperation,” said Clinton, “is the architecture of progress for America and all nations.”[59]

Just in case you were thinking that the relationship between CSIS and the Obama administration was not strong enough, apparently both of them thought so too. CSIS wields notable influence within the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, which is chaired by the president and CEO of CSIS, John Hamre. A former Deputy Defense Secretary in the Clinton administration, Hamre is a member of the Aspen Strategy Group, sits on the board of defense contractors such as ITT, SAIC, and the Oshkosh Corporation, as well as MITRE, a “not-for-profit” corporation which “manages federally funded research and development centers.” The Defense Policy Board provides the Secretary of Defense, as well as the Deputy Secretary and Undersecretary of Defense “with independent, informed advice and opinion on matters of defense policy;” from outside ‘experts’ of course. [60]

Also on the board is Sam Nunn, the chairman of CSIS, co-chair and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), former U.S. Senator from 1972-1996, member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and currently on the boards of General Electric, the Coca-Cola Company, Hess Corporation, and was recently on the boards of Dell and Chevron. Other CSIS trustees and advisors who sit on the Defense Policy Board are Harold Brown, Henry Kissinger, James Schlesinger, Brent Scowcroft, General Jack Keane, and Chuck Hagel. [61]

Harold Brown was the Secretary of Defense in the Carter administration, honorary director of the Atlantic Council, member of the boards of Evergreen Oil and Philip Morris International, former partner at Warburg Pincus, director of the Altria Group, Trustee of RAND Corporation, and member of the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations. James Schlesinger was the former Defense Secretary in the Nixon and Ford administrations, Secretary of Energy in the Carter administration, was briefly director of the CIA, a senior advisor to Lehman Brothers, Kuhn, Loeb Inc., and was on George W. Bush’s Homeland Security Advisory Council. He is currently chairman of the MITRE Corporation, a director of the Sandia National Corporation, a trustee of the Atlantic Council and is a board member of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation.

Brent Scowcroft, apart from being Kissinger’s deputy in the Nixon administration, and the National Security Advisor in the Ford and Bush Sr. administrations (as well as co-founder of Kissinger), is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, the Atlantic Council, and founded his own international advisory firm, the Scowcroft Group. General Jack Keane, a senior advisor to CSIS, is the former Vice Chief of Staff of the US Army, current Chairman of the board for the Institute for the Study of War; Frank Miller, former Defense Department official in the Reagan, Bush Sr., and Clinton administrations, served on the National Security Council in the George W. Bush administration, joined the Cohen Group in 2005, currently a Principal at the Scowcroft Group, and serves on the U.S.-European Command Advisory Group, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a Director of the Atlantic Council, and he serves on the board of EADS-North America (one of the world’s leading defense contract corporations).

Kissinger’s record has been well-established up until present day, though he has been a member of the Defense Policy Board since 2001, thus serving in an advisory capacity to the Pentagon for both the Bush and Obama administrations, continues to serve on the steering committee of the Bilderberg meetings, is a member of the Trilateral Commission and he is currently an advisor to the board of directors of American Express, on the advisory board of the RAND Center for Global Risk and Security, honorary chairman of the China-United States Exchange Foundation, the board of the International Rescue Committee, and is on the International Council of JPMorgan Chase.

Another member of the Policy Board who was a trustee of CSIS was Chuck Hagel, who is now Obama’s Secretary of Defense. Prior to his new appointment, Hagel was a US Senator from 1997 to 2009, after which he was Chairman of the Atlantic Council, on the boards of Chevron, Zurich’s Holding Company of America, Corsair Capital, Deutsche Bank America, MIC Industries, was an advisor to Gallup, member of the board of PBS, member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and was a member of the CSIS Commission on Smart Power. Hagel also served on Obama’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, an outside group of ‘experts’ providing strategic advice to the president on intelligence matters.

Other members of the Defense Policy Board (who are not affiliated with CSIS) are: J.D. Crouch, Deputy National Security Advisor in the George W. Bush administration, and is on the board of advisors of the Center for Security Policy; Richard Danzig, Secretary of the Navy in the Clinton administration, a campaign advisor to Obama, and is the current Chairman of the Center for a New American Security; Rudy de Leon, former Defense Department official in the Clinton administration, a Senior Vice President at the Center for American Progress, and is a former vice president at Boeing Corporation; John Nagl, president of the Center for a New American Security, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; William Perry, former Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration, who now sits on a number of corporate boards, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, on the board of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), and has served on the Carnegie Endowment; Sarah Sewall, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Assistance in the Clinton administration, on the board of Oxfam America, and was a foreign policy advisor to Obama’s election campaign; and Larry Welch, former Chief of Staff of the US Air Force in the Reagan administration. More recently added to the Defense Policy Board was none other than Madeleine Albright.

Imperialism without Imperialists?

The ‘discourse’ of foreign affairs and international relations failing to adequately deal with the subject of empire is based upon a deeply flawed perception: that one cannot have an empire without imperialists, and the United States does not have imperialists, it has strategists, experts, and policy-oriented intellectuals. Does the United States, then, have an empire without imperialists? In the whole history of imperialism, that would be a unique situation.

Empires do not happen by chance. Nations do not simply trip and stumble and fall into a state of imperialism. Empires are planned and directed, maintained and expanded. This report aimed to provide some introductory insight into the institutions and individuals who direct the American imperial system. The information – while dense – is far from comprehensive or complete; it is a sample of the complex network of imperialism that exists in present-day United States. Regardless of which president or political party is in office, this highly integrated network remains in power.

This report, produced exclusively for the Hampton Institute, is to serve as a reference point for future discussion and analysis of ‘geopolitics’ and foreign policy issues. As an introduction to the institutions and individuals of empire, it can provide a framework for people to interpret foreign policy differently, to question those quoted and interviewed in the media as ‘experts,’ to integrate their understanding of think tanks into contemporary politics and society, and to bring to the surface the names, organizations and ideas of society’s ruling class.

It is time for more of what the Trilateral Commission dismissively referred to as “value-oriented intellectuals” – those who question and oppose authority – instead of more policy-oriented imperialists. The Geopolitics Division of the Hampton Institute aims to do just that: to provide an intellectual understanding and basis for opposing empire in the modern world.

Empires don’t just happen; they are constructed. They can also be deconstructed and dismantled, but that doesn’t just happen either. Opposing empire is not a passive act: it requires dedication and information, action and reaction. As relatively privileged individuals in western state-capitalist societies, we have both the opportunity and the responsibility to understand and oppose what our governments do abroad, how they treat the people of the world, how they engage with the world. It is our responsibility to do something, precisely because we have the opportunity to do so, unlike the majority of the world’s population who live in abject poverty, under ruthless dictators that we arm and maintain, in countries we bomb and regions we dominate. We exist in the epicenter of empire, and thus: we are the only ones capable of ending empire.

Notes

[1] Julian Pecquet, “Brzezinski: Professor in the halls of power,” The Hill’s Global Affairs, 22 January 2013:

http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/americas/278401-professor-in-the-halls-of-power

[2] David Rothkopf, Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power (Public Affairs, New York: 2005), page 19.

[3] David Rothkopf, Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power (Public Affairs, New York: 2005), pages 19-20.

[4] James D. Wolfensohn, Council on Foreign Relations Special Symposium in honor of David Rockefeller’s 90th Birthday, The Council on Foreign Relations, 23 May 2005: http://www.cfr.org/world/council-foreign-relations-special-symposium-honor-david-rockefellers-90th-birthday/p8133

[5] Michael Stutchbury, The man who inherited the Rothschild legend, The Australian, 30 October 2010: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/the-man-who-inherited-the-rothschild-legend/story-e6frg6z6-1225945329773

[6] David Rockefeller, Memoirs (Random House, New York: 2002), pages 404 – 405.

[7] Henry A. Kissinger, “Domestic Structure and Foreign Policy,” Daedalus (Vol. 95, No. 2, Conditions of World Order, Spring 1966), page 514.

[8] Sallie M. Hicks, Theodore A. Couloumbis and Eloise M. Forgette, “Influencing the Prince: A Role for Academicians?” Polity (Vol. 15, No. 2, Winter 1982), pages 288-289.

[9] Sallie M. Hicks, Theodore A. Couloumbis and Eloise M. Forgette, “Influencing the Prince: A Role for Academicians?” Polity (Vol. 15, No. 2, Winter 1982), pages 289-291.

[10] Michel J. Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington and Joji Watanuki, The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission (New York University Press, 1975), pages 6-7.

[11] Jeff Gerth and Sarah Bartlett, “Kissinger and Friends and Revolving Doors,” The New York Times, 30 April 1989:

http://www.nytimes.com/1989/04/30/us/kissinger-and-friends-and-revolving-doors.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

[12] Edward Cuddy, “America’s Cuban Obsession: A Case Study in Diplomacy and Psycho-History,” The Americas (Vol. 43, No. 2, October 1986), page 192.

[13] Fred Iklé and Albert Wohlstetter, Discriminate Deterrence (Report of the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy), January 1988, page 13.

[14] Fred Iklé and Albert Wohlstetter, Discriminate Deterrence (Report of the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy), January 1988, page 14.

[15] National Security Strategy of the United States (The White House, March 1990), page 13.

[16] The Daily Beast, “This Will Not Stand,” Newsweek, 28 February 1991:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/1991/02/28/this-will-not-stand.html

[17] George Black, “Forget Ideals; Just Give Us a Punching Bag: This time, fronting for oil princes, we couldn’t invoke the old defense of democracy; fighting ‘evil’ sufficed,” The Los Angeles Times, 3 March 1991:

http://articles.latimes.com/1991-03-03/opinion/op-338_1_cold-war

[18] Maureen Dowd, “WAR IN THE GULF: White House Memo; Bush Moves to Control War’s Endgame,” The New York Times, 23 February 1991:

http://www.nytimes.com/1991/02/23/world/war-in-the-gulf-white-house-memo-bush-moves-to-control-war-s-endgame.html?src=pm

[19] Zbigniew Brzezinski, “The Cold War and its Aftermath,” Foreign Affairs (Vol. 71, No. 4, Fall 1992), page 37.

[20] Tyler, Patrick E. U.S. Strategy Plan Calls for Insuring No Rivals Develop: A One Superpower World. The New York Times: March 8, 1992. http://work.colum.edu/~amiller/wolfowitz1992.htm

[21] David Rothkopf, Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power (Public Affairs, New York: 2005), pages 17-18, 162, 172-175.

[22] Anthony Lake, “From Containment to Enlargement,” Remarks of Anthony Lake at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Washington, D.C., 21 September 1993:http://www.fas.org/news/usa/1993/usa-930921.htm

[23] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives (Basic Books, 1997), pages 30-31.

[24] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives (Basic Books, 1997), page 40.

[25] Rebuilding America’s Defenses (Project for the New American Century: September 2000), pages 6-8: http://www.newamericancentury.org/publicationsreports.htm

[26] Rebuilding America’s Defenses (Project for the New American Century: September 2000), page 25: http://www.newamericancentury.org/publicationsreports.htm

[27] Inderjeet Parmar, “Foreign Policy Fusion: Liberal interventionists, conservative nationalists and neoconservatives – the new alliance dominating the US foreign policy establishment,” International Politics (Vol. 46, No. 2/3, 2009), pages 178-179.

[28] U.S. NSS, “The National Security Strategy of the United States of America,” The White House, September 2002, page 15.

[29] U.S. NSS, “The National Security Strategy of the United States of America,” The White House, September 2002, page 6.

[30] Inderjeet Parmar, “Foreign Policy Fusion: Liberal Interventionists, Conservative Nationalists and Neoconservatives – the New alliance Dominating the US Foreign Policy Establishment,” International Politics (Vol. 46, No. 2/3, 2009), pages 181-183.

[31] G. John Ikenberry and Anne-Marie Slaughter, Forging a World of Liberty Under Law: U.S. National Security in the 21st Century – Final Report of the Princeton Project on National Security (The Princeton project on National Security, The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, 27 September 2006), pages 79-90.

[32] G. John Ikenberry and Anne-Marie Slaughter, Forging a World of Liberty Under Law: U.S. National Security in the 21st Century – Final Report of the Princeton Project on National Security (The Princeton project on National Security, The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, 27 September 2006), pages 79-90.

[33] The Daily Beast, “The Talent Primary,” Newsweek, 15 September 2007:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2007/09/15/the-talent-primary.html

[34] “Brzezinski Backs Obama,” The Washington Post, 25 August 2007:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/24/AR2007082402127.html

[35] Russell Berman, “Despite Criticism, Obama Stands By Adviser Brzezinski,” The New York Sun, 13 September 2007:

http://www.nysun.com/national/despite-criticism-obama-stands-by-adviser/62534/

[36] Eli Lake, “Obama Adviser Leads Delegation to Damascus,” The New York Sun, 12 February 2008:

http://www.nysun.com/foreign/obama-adviser-leads-delegation-to-damascus/71123/

[37] Julian Pecquet, “Brzezinski: Professor in the halls of power,” The Hill’s Global Affairs, 22 January 2013:

http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/americas/278401-professor-in-the-halls-of-power

[38] Julian Pecquet, “Brzezinski: Professor in the halls of power,” The Hill’s Global Affairs, 22 January 2013:

http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/americas/278401-professor-in-the-halls-of-power

[39] Annual Report 2011, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Strategic Insights and Bipartisan Policy Solutions, page 8.

[40] General James L. Jones, “Remarks by National Security Adviser Jones at 45th Munich Conference on Security Policy,” The Council on Foreign Relations, 8 February 2009:

http://www.cfr.org/defensehomeland-security/remarks-national-security-adviser-jones-45th-munich-conference-security-policy/p18515

[41] Company Profile, Jones Group International website, accessed 9 May 2013:

http://www.jonesgroupinternational.com/company_profile.php

[42] WhoRunsGov, “Thomas Donilon,” The Washington Post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/thomas-donilon/gIQAEZrv6O_topic.html

[43] Matthew Mosk, “Tom Donilon’s Revolving Door,” ABC News – The Blotter, 10 October 2010: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/national-security-advisor-tom-donilon/story?id=11836229#.UYsp6IJU1Ox

[44] Tom Donlinon, “Remarks by National Security Advisor Tom Donilon — As Prepared for Delivery,” White House Office of the Press Secretary, 15 November 2012:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/11/15/remarks-national-security-advisor-tom-donilon-prepared-delivery

[45] James Traub, “Is (His) Biography (Our) Destiny?,” The New York Times, 4 November 2007: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/magazine/04obama-t.html?pagewanted=all

[46] Richard Armitage and Joseph Nye, Jr., “CSIS Commission on Smart Power: A Smarter, More Secure America,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2007: page 1.

[47] Richard Armitage and Joseph Nye, Jr., “CSIS Commission on Smart Power: A Smarter, More Secure America,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2007: pages 3-4.

[48] Richard Armitage and Joseph Nye, Jr., “CSIS Commission on Smart Power: A Smarter, More Secure America,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2007: pages 5-6.

[49] Richard Armitage and Joseph Nye, Jr., “CSIS Commission on Smart Power: A Smarter, More Secure America,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2007: page 6.

[50] Richard Armitage and Joseph Nye, Jr., “CSIS Commission on Smart Power: A Smarter, More Secure America,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2007: page 6.

[51] Richard Armitage and Joseph Nye, Jr., “CSIS Commission on Smart Power: A Smarter, More Secure America,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2007: page 7.

[52] Thanassis Cambanis, “Meet the new power players,” The Boston Globe, 4 September 2011:

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2011/09/04/meet_the_new_world_players/?page=full

[53] David Usborne, “Clinton announces dawn of ‘smart power’,” The Independent, 14 January 2009:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/clinton-announces-dawn-of-smart-power-1334256.html

[54] Hendrik Hetzberg, “Tool Kit: Smart Power,” The New Yorker, 26 January 2009:

http://www.newyorker.com/talk/2009/01/26/090126ta_talk_hertzberg

[55] Hendrik Hetzberg, “Tool Kit: Smart Power,” The New Yorker, 26 January 2009:

http://www.newyorker.com/talk/2009/01/26/090126ta_talk_hertzberg

[56] Ben Smith, “Hillary Clinton plans to reassert herself with high-profile speech,” Politico, 14 July 2009:

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0709/24893.html

[57] Originally posted at Slum Line, “Hillary Consulted Republicans, Neocons, And Liberals For Big Foreign Policy Speech,” Future Majority, 14 July 2009:

http://www.futuremajority.com/node/8143

[58] Hillary Clinton, “Foreign Policy Address at the Council on Foreign Relations,” U.S. Department of State, 15 July 2009:

http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/july/126071.htm

[59] Hillary Clinton, “Foreign Policy Address at the Council on Foreign Relations,” U.S. Department of State, 15 July 2009:

http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/july/126071.htm

[60] Marcus Weisgerber, “U.S. Defense Policy Board Gets New Members,” Defense News, 4 October 2011:

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20111004/DEFSECT04/110040304/U-S-Defense-Policy-Board-Gets-New-Members

[61] Marcus Weisgerber, “U.S. Defense Policy Board Gets New Members,” Defense News, 4 October 2011:

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20111004/DEFSECT04/110040304/U-S-Defense-Policy-Board-Gets-New-Members

Time To Get Apocalyptic: Why Radical Is The New Normal

In Uncategorized on May 30, 2013 at 10:29 am

A protest in support of Tim DeChristopher, Bidder 70, in February, 2011.

Oldspeak: “When people believe injustice is necessary to maintain their material comfort, some accept those conditions without complaint.” –Robert Jensen. This for me is the crux of the problem facing our civilization. Our ecocidal and reality-detached attachment to maintaining material comfort at all costs.  It is just as Professor Jensen said: “The task for those with critical sensibilities is not just to resist oppressive social norms and illegitimate authority… to speak a simple truth that almost no one wants to acknowledge: The high-energy/high-technology life of affluent societies is a dead end.” How do people with critical sensibilities get those engaging the dysfunctional denial; pill popping, conspicuous consumption & positivity peddling that our dominant culture is enveloping us in to deal with the reality that bigger is not  better. That greed is not good. That ever “MORE” is not sustainable.  To recognize and accept as reality that “we now live in a time of permanent contraction—there will be less, not more, of everything.” To reject the existing systems of power predicated on extraction, growth, profit, & externalizing, and consider sustainable, inclusive, and collaborative, mutually beneficial systems. Agitate. Resist. Engage. Question. Confront. Speak truth to power and anyone you encounter every chance you get. It will be hard. You’ll probably lose some friends and acquaintances over it. We’ve been thoroughly indoctrinated to obey, to accept injustice and illegitimate authority. We’ve been led to believe that our technology is and will make everything better. Explode the official myths with reality based critical thought. The more and more people do this, the less power we give to dominant cultures and their attendant institutions. The more and more people “unplug” the weaker these unsustainable systems become. Your actions will inspire others to lift the world that has been pulled over their eyes to blind them from the truth. Be water, my friends.”

By Robert Jensen @ YES! Magazine:

Feeling anxious about life in a broken-down society on a stressed-out planet? That’s hardly surprising: Life as we know it is almost over. While the dominant culture encourages dysfunctional denial—pop a pill, go shopping, find your bliss—there’s a more sensible approach: Accept the anxiety, embrace the deeper anguish—and then get apocalyptic.

We are staring down multiple cascading ecological crises, struggling with political and economic institutions that are unable even to acknowledge, let alone cope with, the threats to the human family and the larger living world. We are intensifying an assault on the ecosystems in which we live, undermining the ability of that living world to sustain a large-scale human presence into the future. When all the world darkens, looking on the bright side is not a virtue but a sign of irrationality.

In these circumstances, anxiety is rational and anguish is healthy, signs not of weakness but of courage. A deep grief over what we are losing—and have already lost, perhaps never to be recovered—is appropriate. Instead of repressing these emotions we can confront them, not as isolated individuals but collectively, not only for our own mental health but to increase the effectiveness of our organizing for the social justice and ecological sustainability still within our grasp. Once we’ve sorted through those reactions, we can get apocalyptic and get down to our real work.

Perhaps that sounds odd, since we are routinely advised to overcome our fears and not give in to despair. Endorsing apocalypticism seems even stranger, given associations with “end-timer” religious reactionaries and “doomer” secular survivalists. People with critical sensibilities, those concerned about justice and sustainability, think of ourselves as realistic and less likely to fall for either theological or science-fiction fantasies.

Many associate “apocalypse” with the rapture-ranting that grows out of some interpretations of the Christian Book of Revelation (aka, the Apocalypse of John), but it’s helpful to remember that the word’s original meaning is not “end of the world.” “Revelation” from Latin and “apocalypse” from Greek both mean a lifting of the veil, a disclosure of something hidden, a coming to clarity. Speaking apocalyptically, in this sense, can deepen our understanding of the crises and help us see through the many illusions that powerful people and institutions create.

But there is an ending we have to confront. Once we’ve honestly faced the crises, then we can deal with what is ending—not all the world, but the systems that currently structure our lives. Life as we know it is, indeed, coming to an end.

Let’s start with the illusions: Some stories we have told ourselves—claims by white people, men, or U.S. citizens that domination is natural and appropriate—are relatively easy to debunk (though many cling to them). Other delusional assertions—such as the claim that capitalism is compatible with basic moral principles, meaningful democracy, and ecological sustainability—require more effort to take apart (perhaps because there seems to be no alternative).

But toughest to dislodge may be the central illusion of the industrial world’s extractive economy: that we can maintain indefinitely a large-scale human presence on the earth at something like current First-World levels of consumption. The task for those with critical sensibilities is not just to resist oppressive social norms and illegitimate authority, but to speak a simple truth that almost no one wants to acknowledge: The high-energy/high-technology life of affluent societies is a dead end. We can’t predict with precision how resource competition and ecological degradation will play out in the coming decades, but it is ecocidal to treat the planet as nothing more than a mine from which we extract and a landfill into which we dump.

We cannot know for sure what time the party will end, but the party’s over.

Does that seem histrionic? Excessively alarmist? Look at any crucial measure of the health of the ecosphere in which we live—groundwater depletion, topsoil loss, chemical contamination, increased toxicity in our own bodies, the number and size of “dead zones” in the oceans, accelerating extinction of species, and reduction of biodiversity—and ask a simple question: Where are we heading?

Remember also that we live in an oil-based world that is rapidly depleting the cheap and easily accessible oil, which means we face a major reconfiguration of the infrastructure that undergirds daily life. Meanwhile, the desperation to avoid that reconfiguration has brought us to the era of “extreme energy,” using ever more dangerous and destructive technologies (hydrofracturing, deep-water drilling, mountaintop coal removal, tar sands extraction).

Oh, did I forget to mention the undeniable trajectory of global warming/climate change/climate disruption?

Scientists these days are talking about tipping points and planetary boundaries, about how human activity is pushing Earth beyond its limits. Recently 22 top scientists warned that humans likely are forcing a planetary-scale critical transition “with the potential to transform Earth rapidly and irreversibly into a state unknown in human experience,” which means that “the biological resources we take for granted at present may be subject to rapid and unpredictable transformations within a few human generations.”

That conclusion is the product of science and common sense, not supernatural beliefs or conspiracy theories. The political/social implications are clear: There are no solutions to our problems if we insist on maintaining the high-energy/high-technology existence lived in much of the industrialized world (and desired by many currently excluded from it). Many tough-minded folk who are willing to challenge other oppressive systems hold on tightly to this lifestyle. The critic Fredric Jameson has written, “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism,” but that’s only part of the problem—for some, it may be easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of air conditioning. We do live in end-times, of a sort. Not the end of the world—the planet will carry on with or without us—but the end of the human systems that structure our politics, economics, and social life. “Apocalypse” need not involve heavenly rescue fantasies or tough-guy survival talk; to get apocalyptic means seeing clearly and recommitting to core values.

First, we must affirm the value of our work for justice and sustainability, even though there is no guarantee we can change the disastrous course of contemporary society. We take on projects that we know may fail because it’s the right thing to do, and by doing so we create new possibilities for ourselves and the world. Just as we all know that someday we will die and yet still get out of bed every day, an honest account of planetary reality need not paralyze us.

Then let’s abandon worn-out clichés such as, “The American people will do the right thing if they know the truth,” or “Past social movements prove the impossible can happen.”

There is no evidence that awareness of injustice will automatically lead U.S. citizens, or anyone else, to correct it. When people believe injustice is necessary to maintain their material comfort, some accept those conditions without complaint.

Social movements around race, gender, and sexuality have been successful in changing oppressive laws and practices, and to a lesser degree in shifting deeply held beliefs. But the movements we most often celebrate, such as the post-World War II civil rights struggle, operated in a culture that assumed continuing economic expansion. We now live in a time of permanent contraction—there will be less, not more, of everything. Pressuring a dominant group to surrender some privileges when there is an expectation of endless bounty is a very different project than when there is intensified competition for resources. That doesn’t mean nothing can be done to advance justice and sustainability, only that we should not be glib about the inevitability of it.

Here’s another cliché to jettison: Necessity is the mother of invention. During the industrial era, humans exploiting new supplies of concentrated energy have generated unprecedented technological innovation in a brief time. But there is no guarantee that there are technological fixes to all our problems; we live in a system that has physical limits, and the evidence suggests we are close to those limits. Technological fundamentalism—the quasi-religious belief that the use of advanced technology is always appropriate, and that any problems caused by the unintended consequences can be remedied by more technology—is as empty a promise as other fundamentalisms.

If all this seems like more than one can bear, it’s because it is. We are facing new, more expansive challenges. Never in human history have potential catastrophes been so global; never have social and ecological crises of this scale threatened at the same time; never have we had so much information about the threats we must come to terms with.

It’s easy to cover up our inability to face this by projecting it onto others. When someone tells me “I agree with your assessment, but people can’t handle it,” I assume what that person really means is, “I can’t handle it.” But handling it is, in the end, the only sensible choice.

Mainstream politicians will continue to protect existing systems of power, corporate executives will continue to maximize profit without concern, and the majority of people will continue to avoid these questions. It’s the job of people with critical sensibilities—those who consistently speak out for justice and sustainability, even when it’s difficult—not to back away just because the world has grown more ominous.

Adopting this apocalyptic framework doesn’t mean separating from mainstream society or giving up ongoing projects that seek a more just world within existing systems. I am a professor at a university that does not share my values or analysis, yet I continue to teach. In my community, I am part of a group that helps people create worker-cooperatives that will operate within a capitalist system that I believe to be a dead end. I belong to a congregation that struggles to radicalize Christianity while remaining part of a cautious, often cowardly, denomination.

I am apocalyptic, but I’m not interested in empty rhetoric drawn from past revolutionary moments. Yes, we need a revolution—many revolutions—but a strategy is not yet clear. So, as we work patiently on reformist projects, we can continue to offer a radical analysis and experiment with new ways of working together. While engaged in education and community organizing with modest immediate goals, we can contribute to the strengthening of networks and institutions that can be the base for the more radical change we need. In these spaces today we can articulate, and live, the values of solidarity and equity that are always essential.

To adopt an apocalyptic worldview is not to abandon hope but to affirm life. As James Baldwin put it decades ago, we must remember “that life is the only touchstone and that life is dangerous, and that without the joyful acceptance of this danger, there can never be any safety for anyone, ever, anywhere.” By avoiding the stark reality of our moment in history we don’t make ourselves safe, we undermine the potential of struggles for justice and sustainability.

As Baldwin put it so poignantly in that same 1962 essay, “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

It’s time to get apocalyptic, or get out of the way.

Robert Jensen

Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. He is the author of Arguing for Our Lives: A User’s Guide to Constructive Dialogue (City Lights, 2013); All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice, (Soft Skull Press, 2009); Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007); The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City Lights, 2005); Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (City Lights, 2004); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang, 2002). Jensen is also co-producer of the documentary film “Abe Osheroff: One Foot in the Grave, the Other Still Dancing” (Media Education Foundation, 2009), which chronicles the life and philosophy of the longtime radical activist. An extended interview Jensen conducted with Osheroff is online here

Jensen can be reached at rjensen@austin.utexas.edu and his articles can be found online here.

Rise Up Or Die

In Uncategorized on May 29, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Oldspeak: “A handful of corporate oligarchs around the globe have everything—wealth, power and privilege—and the rest of us struggle as part of a vast underclass, increasingly impoverished and ruthlessly repressed. There is one set of laws and regulations for us; there is another set of laws and regulations for a power elite that functions as a global mafia…. We stand helpless before the corporate onslaught. There is no way to vote against corporate power. Citizens have no way to bring about the prosecution of Wall Street bankers and financiers for fraud, military and intelligence officials for torture and war crimes, or security and surveillance officers for human rights abuses. The Federal Reserve is reduced to printing money for banks and financiers and lending it to them at almost zero percent interest; corporate officers then lend it to us at usurious rates as high as 30 percent. I do not know what to call this system. It is certainly not capitalism. Extortion might be a better word. The fossil fuel industry, meanwhile, relentlessly trashes the ecosystem for profit. The melting of 40 percent of the summer Arctic sea ice is, to corporations, a business opportunity. Companies rush to the Arctic and extract the last vestiges of oil, natural gas, minerals and fish stocks, indifferent to the death pangs of the planet. The same corporate forces that give us endless soap operas that pass for news, from the latest court proceedings surrounding O.J. Simpson to the tawdry details of the Jodi Arias murder trial, also give us atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide that surpass 400 parts per million. They entrance us with their electronic hallucinations as we waiver, as paralyzed with fear…There is nothing in 5,000 years of economic history to justify the belief that human societies should structure their behavior around the demands of the marketplace. This is an absurd, utopian ideology. The airy promises of the market economy have, by now, all been exposed as lies. The ability of corporations to migrate overseas has decimated our manufacturing base. It has driven down wages, impoverishing our working class and ravaging our middle class. It has forced huge segments of the population—including those burdened by student loans—into decades of debt peonage. It has also opened the way to massive tax shelters that allow companies such as General Electric to pay no income tax. Corporations employ virtual slave labor in Bangladesh and China, making obscene profits. As corporations suck the last resources from communities and the natural world, they leave behind, as Joe Sacco and I saw in the sacrifice zones we wrote about, horrific human suffering and dead landscapes. The greater the destruction, the greater the apparatus crushes dissent... Rebel. Even if you fail, even if we all fail, we will have asserted against the corporate forces of exploitation and death our ultimate dignity as human beings. We will have defended what is sacred. Rebellion means steadfast defiance. It means resisting just as have Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, just as has Mumia Abu-Jamal, the radical journalist whom Cornel West, James Cone and I visited in prison last week in Frackville, Pa. It means refusing to succumb to fear. It means refusing to surrender, even if you find yourself, like Manning and Abu-Jamal, caged like an animal. It means saying no. To remain safe, to remain “innocent” in the eyes of the law in this moment in history is to be complicit in a monstrous evil.” –Chris Hedges

By Chris Hedges @ Truthdig:

Joe Sacco and I spent two years reporting from the poorest pockets of the United States for our book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.” We went into our nation’s impoverished “sacrifice zones”—the first areas forced to kneel before the dictates of the marketplace—to show what happens when unfettered corporate capitalism and ceaseless economic expansion no longer have external impediments. We wanted to illustrate what unrestrained corporate exploitation does to families, communities and the natural world. We wanted to challenge the reigning ideology of globalization and laissez-faire capitalism to illustrate what life becomes when human beings and the ecosystem are ruthlessly turned into commodities to exploit until exhaustion or collapse. And we wanted to expose as impotent the formal liberal and governmental institutions that once made reform possible, institutions no longer equipped with enough authority to check the assault of corporate power.

What has taken place in these sacrifice zones—in postindustrial cities such as Camden, N.J., and Detroit, in coalfields of southern West Virginia where mining companies blast off mountaintops, in Indian reservations where the demented project of limitless economic expansion and exploitation worked some of its earliest evil, and in produce fields where laborers often endure conditions that replicate slavery—is now happening to much of the rest of the country. These sacrifice zones succumbed first. You and I are next.

Corporations write our legislation. They control our systems of information. They manage the political theater of electoral politics and impose our educational curriculum. They have turned the judiciary into one of their wholly owned subsidiaries. They have decimated labor unions and other independent mass organizations, as well as having bought off the Democratic Party, which once defended the rights of workers. With the evisceration of piecemeal and incremental reform—the primary role of liberal, democratic institutions—we are left defenseless against corporate power.

The Department of Justice seizure of two months of records of phone calls to and from editors and reporters at The Associated Press is the latest in a series of dramatic assaults against our civil liberties. The DOJ move is part of an effort to hunt down the government official or officials who leaked information to the AP about the foiling of a plot to blow up a passenger jet. Information concerning phones of Associated Press bureaus in New York, Washington, D.C., and Hartford, Conn., as well as the home and mobile phones of editors and reporters, was secretly confiscated. This, along with measures such as the use of the Espionage Act against whistle-blowers, will put a deep freeze on all independent investigations into abuses of government and corporate power.

Seizing the AP phone logs is part of the corporate state’s broader efforts to silence all voices that defy the official narrative, the state’s Newspeak, and hide from public view the inner workings, lies and crimes of empire. The person or persons who provided the classified information to the AP will, if arrested, mostly likely be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. That law was never intended when it was instituted in 1917 to silence whistle-blowers. And from 1917 until Barack Obama took office in 2009 it was employed against whistle-blowers only three times, the first time against Daniel Ellsberg for leaking the Pentagon Papers in 1971. The Espionage Act has been used six times by the Obama administration against government whistle-blowers, including Thomas Drake.

The government’s fierce persecution of the press—an attack pressed by many of the governmental agencies that are arrayed against WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and activists such as Jeremy Hammond—dovetails with the government’s use of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force to carry out the assassination of U.S. citizens; of the FISA Amendments Act, which retroactively makes legal what under our Constitution was once illegal—the warrantless wiretapping and monitoring of tens of millions of U.S. citizens; and of Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which permits the government to have the military seize U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them in indefinite detention. These measures, taken together, mean there are almost no civil liberties left.

A handful of corporate oligarchs around the globe have everything—wealth, power and privilege—and the rest of us struggle as part of a vast underclass, increasingly impoverished and ruthlessly repressed. There is one set of laws and regulations for us; there is another set of laws and regulations for a power elite that functions as a global mafia.

We stand helpless before the corporate onslaught. There is no way to vote against corporate power. Citizens have no way to bring about the prosecution of Wall Street bankers and financiers for fraud, military and intelligence officials for torture and war crimes, or security and surveillance officers for human rights abuses. The Federal Reserve is reduced to printing money for banks and financiers and lending it to them at almost zero percent interest; corporate officers then lend it to us at usurious rates as high as 30 percent. I do not know what to call this system. It is certainly not capitalism. Extortion might be a better word. The fossil fuel industry, meanwhile, relentlessly trashes the ecosystem for profit. The melting of 40 percent of the summer Arctic sea ice is, to corporations, a business opportunity. Companies rush to the Arctic and extract the last vestiges of oil, natural gas, minerals and fish stocks, indifferent to the death pangs of the planet. The same corporate forces that give us endless soap operas that pass for news, from the latest court proceedings surrounding O.J. Simpson to the tawdry details of the Jodi Arias murder trial, also give us atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide that surpass 400 parts per million. They entrance us with their electronic hallucinations as we waiver, as paralyzed with fear as Odysseus’ sailors, between Scylla and Charybdis.

There is nothing in 5,000 years of economic history to justify the belief that human societies should structure their behavior around the demands of the marketplace. This is an absurd, utopian ideology. The airy promises of the market economy have, by now, all been exposed as lies. The ability of corporations to migrate overseas has decimated our manufacturing base. It has driven down wages, impoverishing our working class and ravaging our middle class. It has forced huge segments of the population—including those burdened by student loans—into decades of debt peonage. It has also opened the way to massive tax shelters that allow companies such as General Electric to pay no income tax. Corporations employ virtual slave labor in Bangladesh and China, making obscene profits. As corporations suck the last resources from communities and the natural world, they leave behind, as Joe Sacco and I saw in the sacrifice zones we wrote about, horrific human suffering and dead landscapes. The greater the destruction, the greater the apparatus crushes dissent.

More than 100 million Americans—one-third of the population—live in poverty or a category called “near poverty.” Yet the stories of the poor and the near poor, the hardships they endure, are rarely told by a media that is owned by a handful of corporations—Viacom, General Electric, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., Clear Channel and Disney. The suffering of the underclass, like the crimes of the power elite, has been rendered invisible.

In the Lakota Indian reservation at Pine Ridge, S.D., in the United States’ second poorest county, the average life expectancy for a male is 48. This is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere outside of Haiti. About 60 percent of the Pine Ridge dwellings, many of which are sod huts, lack electricity, running water, adequate insulation or sewage systems. In the old coal camps of southern West Virginia, amid poisoned air, soil and water, cancer is an epidemic. There are few jobs. And the Appalachian Mountains, which provide the headwaters for much of the Eastern Seaboard, are dotted with enormous impoundment ponds filled with heavy metals and toxic sludge. In order to breathe, children go to school in southern West Virginia clutching inhalers. Residents trapped in the internal colonies of our blighted cities endure levels of poverty and violence, as well as mass incarceration, that leave them psychologically and emotionally shattered. And the nation’s agricultural workers, denied legal protection, are often forced to labor in conditions of unpaid bondage. This is the terrible algebra of corporate domination. This is where we are all headed. And in this accelerated race to the bottom we will end up as serfs or slaves.

Rebel. Even if you fail, even if we all fail, we will have asserted against the corporate forces of exploitation and death our ultimate dignity as human beings. We will have defended what is sacred. Rebellion means steadfast defiance. It means resisting just as have Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, just as has Mumia Abu-Jamal, the radical journalist whom Cornel West, James Cone and I visited in prison last week in Frackville, Pa. It means refusing to succumb to fear. It means refusing to surrender, even if you find yourself, like Manning and Abu-Jamal, caged like an animal. It means saying no. To remain safe, to remain “innocent” in the eyes of the law in this moment in history is to be complicit in a monstrous evil. In his poem of resistance, “If We Must Die,” Claude McKay knew that the odds were stacked against African-Americans who resisted white supremacy. But he also knew that resistance to tyranny saves our souls. McKay wrote:

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! We must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

It is time to build radical mass movements that defy all formal centers of power and make concessions to none. It is time to employ the harsh language of open rebellion and class warfare. It is time to march to the beat of our own drum. The law historically has been a very imperfect tool for justice, as African-Americans know, but now it is exclusively the handmaiden of our corporate oppressors; now it is a mechanism of injustice. It was our corporate overlords who launched this war. Not us. Revolt will see us branded as criminals. Revolt will push us into the shadows. And yet, if we do not revolt we can no longer use the word “hope.”

Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” grasps the dark soul of global capitalism. We are all aboard the doomed ship Pequod, a name connected to an Indian tribe eradicated by genocide, and Ahab is in charge. “All my means are sane,” Ahab says, “my motive and my object mad.” We are sailing on a maniacal voyage of self-destruction, and no one in a position of authority, even if he or she sees what lies ahead, is willing or able to stop it. Those on the Pequod who had a conscience, including Starbuck, did not have the courage to defy Ahab. The ship and its crew were doomed by habit, cowardice and hubris. Melville’s warning must become ours. Rise up or die.

 

On Memorial Day Good Americans Should Mourn First The Millions America Has Slaughtered In Their Names

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2013 at 8:41 pm

https://i2.wp.com/www.ctdoutdooradventures.com/wp-content/uploads/memorialday2013.jpgOldspeak: “Memorial Day has been hijacked, just as our nation has been hijacked, by the investment banks of the Military-Industrial-Complex. Its corporate owned media promotes and hails an indiscriminate celebration of all US wars as heroic. These Memorial Day festive celebrations have become a tradition of praising those of us who followed orders to kill designated enemies unquestioningly in more than a dozen nations since 1945 – and of military commanders, politicians and media anchors solemnly professing gratitude for the supreme sacrifice of those who died as a result.” –Jay Janson

“Another freethinking perspective from a veteran on Memorial Day. One need only observe the near constant exhortations to travel, consume, and celebrate to see how thouroughly contorted, comodified and militarized this originally solemn and sacred day remembering the fallen in the U.S. Civil War has become. The Iraq War was started based on lies. The Vietnam War was started based on lies, the War On Terror was started based on lies…. any number of  other U.S. started wars have been started under false pretenses. None was honorable. They were undertaken to protect the interests of elites and ideologues who have little interest in freedom, liberty and justice for all, but quite a lot in maximizing profits for shareholders. Idealistic, patriotic and brave men were lied to, broken, built up again, programmed to kill enemies of the state without question. The slaughter has been global and the true extent of which largely unknown to most Americans. On this Memorial Day, trade in your barbeques, parties and brews for mourning, contemplation and protest. There is nothing to celebrate about war. Carnage and misery are what are remembered by most of its victims.  We should remember them as well.”

By Jay Janson @ Dissident Voice:

This veteran is waiting for the year in which the Veterans For Peace, in its Memorial Day Press Release, states that Veterans mourn first, the lives America took in poor countries, both the civilian men, women and children and the patriots that fought our illegal and criminal invasions since 1945. Only then should come bitterly mourning GIs who were duped by our elected officials and the CIA and Pentagon fed, corporate-controlled war-promoting media cartel fooling them with lies, misinformation, disinformation and psyop techniques that deceived them into proudly following homicidal criminal orders, for which they are obviously liable for prosecution. Orders given, as Martin Luther King Jr. cried out, “for atrocity wars and covert homicide meant to maintain unjust predatory investments overseas.”1

Your writer’s four buddies from basic training, whose corpses are somewhere in North Korea, would have wanted this kind of a press release. They were normal guys, still kids really. We thought going into the army was just something everyone had to do. They would have been pissed off to see cruelly ignorant Americans praising them on Memorial Day for their sacrifice. Jesus knows they did not want to die for any reason, let alone while killing others for lies. They loved waking up in the morning, loved children, all children, cute Korean children, especially. They were asking themselves, why are we killing Koreans in their own country?

If these four young men knew what I know now, whew! If they could rise up, they would surely be going after those high ranking military with lots of colorful ribbons on their smart uniforms, surrounded by flags and glorifying the US war in Korea and in all the dozens of countries since.

Damn! In 1945, the US Army landed in a Korea that America had recognized as Japanese territory since 1905 and during a forty year brutal occupation, in return for Japan’s acceptance of the US claim to own the Philippines and other islands in Asian waters.2 State Department officials quickly shut down the democratic all-Korea government the Japanese commanding general had allowed Koreans to form, once Japan was defeated. Knowing this Korean government would not be pro-US, they set up in its place, a US Army military government; cut the nation in two and installed a brutal Korean from Washington as President. His special services and secret police would account for massacres totaling up to nearly 200,000 men, women, and their children in the years before the army of North Korea invaded and united the peninsula in five short weeks as the army of the Southern dictator defected or went home. These massacres of communists, socialists, unionists, and people that did not accept the US partition of their country and kept secret by American media have now been fully document by a Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up by the South Korean Congress.3 The US has recently officially apologized for its own massacres of civilians in the South.

North Korea today is the most militarized nation on the planet because it was leveled twice by merciless bombing, threatened with atom bombs, and for sixty-three years has suffered US-arranged international sanctions meant to cripple it, and a continual campaign of slanderous attack in US media and never ending threats from Washington, while twice a year, great war game exercises go on so near its coast that the booms of US naval ships’ cannon and missiles are clearly heard in its capital city. Last month saw the largest naval live-fire exercise in history, reportedly with North Korean flags painted on targets. What else could be the explanation of its leader threatening to hit the US with the few nuclear weapons it has, knowing the America that menaces it has 20,000, and the most powerful armed force in the history of the world. But we have seen ‘the crazy North Korean leader story’ on prime time for a month. Last year right after US-South Korean war games, a South Korea warship was blown in two, probably by a US mine, but what is believed all over the Western media dominated world is that was an old North Korean torpedo. Who knows or cares that the Chinese, the Russian Navy and a Japanese investigation found the accusation not credible, that the US and its UN Secretary General stooge refused to consider a North Korea request for a UN investigation of what it was accused of.4 No, the torpedo story was featured for weeks to justify tighter that ever sanctions and stronger threats than before, and Libya was a frightening example of what may be awaiting it.

If the media features for nine months, weaponized pick-up trucks run by tough looking hombres as peaceful demonstrators against the government of oil wealthy Libya, a nation with a living standard higher than nine European countries, it becomes ‘truth,’ and the liberator of what was the poorest country in Africa, and leader of African Unity against continuing European exploitation, winds up with a blade up his backside, after being cornered by British and French warplanes. No matter the president of Italy told media, “Gadaffi is loved by his people.”

Not until US world hegemony is overthrown, will ordinary people come to know that almost one million Libyans, out of a total country population of six, were desperately demonstrating for their government and leader outside Tripoli as British and French high tech war planes were finishing off their nation’s army.5

Note to US media personalities: Among the generals who were imprisoned or hung after trail at Nuremberg, were five media celebrities.

There are either similar absurd media concocted stories, or no story at all, that excuse US crimes against humanity in the dozens of nations US designated local bad guys have been mass murdered to help a little country out, and protect the American way of life in the US. America is so good to invade and bomb and overthrow violently governments all for the benefit of nearly a billion people.

Greece, Korea, Guatemala, Congo, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iran, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Lebanon, Cuba, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, Serbia/Kosovo, Bosnia, Libya; the list of countries covertly attacked and government overthrown is longer and contains almost every nation in Latin America, many times over if crimes against peace Nuremberg Principle VI are included.

Note that remember, invading little countries was nothing new for the US before World War II – Mexico, Nicaragua, Haiti, Philippines, China, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and more.

Again, this veteran is hoping that the Veterans For Peace Memorial Day Statement Press Release will say that VFP, or at least many if not all VFP, mourn the patriots of US invaded countries that fell fighting against overwhelming odds, and their civilian countrymen and children who also fell in harms way of those US invading forces. To be polite, we mourn them first before mourning our own soldiers who were killed in the line of duty following our government’s criminal orders. Otherwise how can anyone believe VFP condemns the taking of all these millions of lives of poor people overseas in illegal criminal military action; an illegal use of military that Representative from Texas, Congressman and Republican candidate for president, denounced (but did not call for prosecution).

Nothing less than this can possibly dent the usual Memorial Day adulation for dying for what Martin Luther King called “atrocity wars for maintaining unjust predatory investments on three continents.”

Here is what this veteran would have Veterans For Peace to say to Americans on Memorial Day:

Dear Fellow Americans,

No Americans knows more about US Wars than your veterans, who fought alongside buddies who did not make it home alive and will be mourned throughout the nation this weekend.

This Memorial Day 2012, Veterans For Peace is asking their fellow Americans to morn quietly at home. We ask that all sincerely patriotic citizens not take part in military parades and festive open-air observances under flags flying military colors. It anyone asks you why, say you don’t like selective mourning, that is, mourning our dead but not those our soldiers killed.

Memorial Day has been hijacked, just as our nation has been hijacked, by the investment banks of the Military-Industrial-Complex. Its corporate owned media promotes and hails an indiscriminate celebration of all US wars as heroic.

These Memorial Day festive celebrations have become a tradition of praising those of us who followed orders to kill designated enemies unquestioningly in more than a dozen nations since 1945 – and of military commanders, politicians and media anchors solemnly professing gratitude for the supreme sacrifice of those who died as a result.

We, your fellow Americans, who were trained to kill, and later fell in love with the dear people of the countries we were sent to kill, strongly suggest, for the protection of your children, that you tune out network news coverage of Memorial Day.

Corporate owned commercial media, with an unrelenting agenda of deceitful war propaganda has taken the lives of many of your loved ones, luring them into serving a shameful use of military power, while your sons and daughters, in all good faith, sought only to serve their country.

These wars were undeclared and illegal and resulted in the terrible deaths of millions of fellow human beings in their own small and beloved countries – often as not, dying in their very own homes. Last year one of the three present candidates for president firmly denounced these wars as having been illegal, unconstitutional, criminal and a monstrous disaster for America.

Veterans For Peace endorses the Martin-Luther-King-Jr.-Condemened-US-Wars-for-Predatory-Investments-International-Awareness-Campaign. Most members believe Martin Luther King Jr. was shot dead because he would have awakened public responsibility and our capability to make such illegal wars unacceptable and inoperable through non-participation, non-support and conscientious objection. That would have crippled investor profits. King is mourned as a victim of US wars for profit.

Rev. King, was dangerous for the elite investing community that rules the 99% of us. He condemned all US wars and clandestinely organized violence “all around the world “created to maintain “unfair predatory overseas investments.” King had the charisma to have prosecuted successfully what he called atrocity wars and crimes against humanity in the street and in the court of public opinion as he prosecuted successfully racist crimes against humanity at home.

Veterans condemn the Militarization of Memorial Day that originally was a sacred day of mourning the civil war that took loved ones of both sides who once passed to the afterlife are reunited in brotherhood.

Veterans For Peace sincerely wishes everyone a peaceful, loving and contemplative Memorial Day.

The above was a draft submitted to Veterans For Peace upon the request of last year’s Veterans For Peace President, but not published.

Members of the Memorial Day Press Release Drafting Committee should realize, if not worrisome, that there are very few people who believe that Veterans For Peace will bring these wars to an end or intends to do so, even though, logically, those who willing did the killing are the Americans who should most be able to lead their being made unacceptable and eventually inoperable.

Leadership of its largest chapters have even opposed the national office statement of support for the impeachment proposal presented by Rep. Dennis Kucinich and others in the House of Representatives. At the same time former VFP president Elliot Adams was in court after indicting President Obama everyone following his criminal orders at the US Air Force Drone base at Hancock, New York.

I am absolutely convinced eventually a renegade faction of Veterans For Peace will constitute itself, and on a future Memorial Day, publish a Memorial Day press release of its own along going further, and calling for the prosecution of not only the government, but war investors, war promoters in media and clergy and the war crimes committed by military personnel.6
Prosecute our own before our victims unite and prosecute all of us.

  1. See Beyond Vietnam: a Time to Break Silence sermon. []
  2. See Diplomacy That Will Live in Infamy, New York Times, James Bradley, 12/5/2009. See also the Taft-Katsura Agreement. []
  3. Korean Truth and Reconciliation Commission. []
  4. See Independent Media as Mouthpiece for Centers of Power, Dissident Voice. []
  5. See One million libyans marching in tripoli in support of gaddafi “million march” or search for many articles and videos. []
  6. See Prosecute US Crimes Against Humanity Now. []

Jay Janson, spent eight years as Assistant Conductor of the Vietnam Symphony Orchestra in Hanoi and also toured, including with Dan Tai-son, who practiced in a Hanoi bomb shelter. The orchestra was founded by Ho Chi Minh,and it plays most of its concerts in the Opera House, a diminutive copy of the Paris Opera. In 1945, our ally Ho, from a balcony overlooking the large square and flanked by an American Major and a British Colonel, declared Vietnam independent. Everyone in the orchestra lost family, “killed by the Americans” they would mention simply, with Buddhist un-accusing acceptance. Jay can be reached at: tdmedia2000@yahoo.com. Read other articles by Jay.

Obama Administration Gets Explicit: The ‘War On Terror’ Is Permanent. “Limitless War” To Continue For ‘At Least’ 10 to 20 More Years

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2013 at 4:46 pm

https://i1.wp.com/th08.deviantart.net/fs70/PRE/f/2011/140/7/1/1984_the_movie_map_by_33k7-d3gruo4.pngOldspeak: “The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia, but to keep the very structure of society intact.” -George Orwell.

Each year of endless war that passes further normalizes the endless rights erosions justified in its name….Each year that passes, millions of young Americans come of age having spent their entire lives, literally, with these powers and this climate fixed in place: to them, there is nothing radical or aberrational about any of it. The post-9/11 era is all they have been trained to know. That is how a state of permanent war not only devastates its foreign targets but also degrades the population of the nation that prosecutes it.

This war will end only once Americans realize the vast and multi-faceted costs they are bearing so that the nation’s political elites can be empowered and its oligarchs can further prosper. But Washington clearly has no fear that such realizations are imminent. They are moving in the other direction: aggressively planning how to further entrench and expand this war.” –Glenn Grunwald

Today in America, 1 in 2 Americans is low-income and/or poverty-stricken. Americans are the best entertained and quite likely the least well-informed people in the western world. 39% of people who think the Benghazi embassy attack was America’s biggest scandal can’t find it on a map. Poverty of though and life are at historic highs. It is only under conditions like these can 40% percent of Americans be ok with a  U.S.  president asserting the right to act as Remote-controlled Judge, Jury & Executioner of anyone he deems a terrorist, including Americans. (The figure jumps to 65% for non-americans)  Nearly 1 in 5 Americans is on the brink of starvation. War is being waged continuously, secretly, remotely in foreign lands for the sake of  “National Security” to keep our society “intact”.  Many of the conditions that existed in Huxley and Orwell’s dystopic alternate universes exist right now in the real world. In true Orwellian fashion, we’re being told we’re in a “recovery” while many of these conditions are not even acknowledged to exist. While our leaders crow about the end of wars, they continue elsewhere, as plans are made to expand them. U.S.  State Department paid “Private Military Contractors” a.k.a. Mercinaries replace regular U.S. combat personnel, and get paid 3x as much to do a less accountable job of  “force projection” a.k.a occupation of foreign lands.  100o American bases dot the globe, there’s rarely if any talk of closing them.  When will the majority start to question if this is the society we want to remain intact? We will the majority start to seriously consider alternatives to the profoundly corrupt, highly centralized and sociopathic 2 party political farce of governance? Lies are truth. Freedom is slavery, War is peace, Ignorance is strength. All these conditions exist in our real world. Transformational change in essential to our survival.”

By Glenn Grunwald @ The U.K. Guardian:

Last October, senior Obama officials anonymously unveiled to the Washington Post their newly minted “disposition matrix”, a complex computer system that will be used to determine how a terrorist suspect will be “disposed of”: indefinite detention, prosecution in a real court, assassination-by-CIA-drones, etc. Their rationale for why this was needed now, a full 12 years after the 9/11 attack:

Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaida continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight. . . . That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.”

On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on whether the statutory basis for this “war” – the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) – should be revised (meaning: expanded). This is how Wired’s Spencer Ackerman (soon to be the Guardian US’s national security editor) described the most significant exchange:

“Asked at a Senate hearing today how long the war on terrorism will last, Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, answered, ‘At least 10 to 20 years.’ . . . A spokeswoman, Army Col. Anne Edgecomb, clarified that Sheehan meant the conflict is likely to last 10 to 20 more years from today – atop the 12 years that the conflict has already lasted. Welcome to America’s Thirty Years War.”

That the Obama administration is now repeatedly declaring that the “war on terror” will last at least another decade (or two) is vastly more significant than all three of this week’s big media controversies (Benghazi, IRS, and AP/DOJ) combined. The military historian Andrew Bacevich has spent years warning that US policy planners have adopted an explicit doctrine of “endless war”. Obama officials, despite repeatedly boasting that they have delivered permanently crippling blows to al-Qaida, are now, as clearly as the English language permits, openly declaring this to be so.

It is hard to resist the conclusion that this war has no purpose other than its own eternal perpetuation. This war is not a means to any end but rather is the end in itself. Not only is it the end itself, but it is also its own fuel: it is precisely this endless war – justified in the name of stopping the threat of terrorism – that is the single greatest cause of that threat.

In January, former Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson delivered a highly-touted speech suggesting that the war on terror will eventually end; he advocated that outcome, arguing:

‘War’ must be regarded as a finite, extraordinary and unnatural state of affairs. We must not accept the current conflict, and all that it entails, as the ‘new normal.'”

In response, I wrote that the “war on terror” cannot and will not end on its own for two reasons: (1) it is designed by its very terms to be permanent, incapable of ending, since the war itself ironically ensures that there will never come a time when people stop wanting to bring violence back to the US (the operational definition of “terrorism”), and (2) the nation’s most powerful political and economic factions reap a bonanza of benefits from its continuation. Whatever else is true, it is now beyond doubt that ending this war is the last thing on the mind of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner and those who work at the highest levels of his administration. Is there any way they can make that clearer beyond declaring that it will continue for “at least” another 10-20 years?

The genius of America’s endless war machine is that, learning from the unplesantness of the Vietnam war protests, it has rendered the costs of war largely invisible. That is accomplished by heaping all of the fighting burden on a tiny and mostly economically marginalized faction of the population, by using sterile, mechanized instruments to deliver the violence, and by suppressing any real discussion in establishment media circles of America’s innocent victims and the worldwide anti-American rage that generates.

Though rarely visible, the costs are nonetheless gargantuan. Just in financial terms, as Americans are told they must sacrifice Social Security and Medicare benefits and place their children in a crumbling educational system, the Pentagon remains the world’s largest employer and continues to militarily outspend the rest of the world by a significant margin. The mythology of the Reagan presidency is that he induced the collapse of the Soviet Union by luring it into unsustainable military spending and wars: should there come a point when we think about applying that lesson to ourselves?

Then there are the threats to Americans’ security. Having their government spend decades proudly touting itself as “A Nation at War” and bringing horrific violence to the world is certain to prompt more and more people to want to attack Americans, as the US government itself claims took place just recently in Boston (and as clearly took place multiple other times over the last several years).

And then there’s the most intangible yet most significant cost: each year of endless war that passes further normalizes the endless rights erosions justified in its name. The second term of the Bush administration and first five years of the Obama presidency have been devoted to codifying and institutionalizing the vast and unchecked powers that are typically vested in leaders in the name of war. Those powers of secrecy, indefinite detention, mass surveillance, and due-process-free assassination are not going anywhere. They are now permanent fixtures not only in the US political system but, worse, in American political culture.

Each year that passes, millions of young Americans come of age having spent their entire lives, literally, with these powers and this climate fixed in place: to them, there is nothing radical or aberrational about any of it. The post-9/11 era is all they have been trained to know. That is how a state of permanent war not only devastates its foreign targets but also degrades the population of the nation that prosecutes it.

This war will end only once Americans realize the vast and multi-faceted costs they are bearing so that the nation’s political elites can be empowered and its oligarchs can further prosper. But Washington clearly has no fear that such realizations are imminent. They are moving in the other direction: aggressively planning how to further entrench and expand this war.

One might think that if there is to be a debate over the 12-year-old AUMF, it would be about repealing it. Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who heroically cast the only vote against it when it was originally enacted by presciently warning of how abused it would be, has been advocating its repeal for some time now in favor of using reasonable security measures to defend against such threats and standard law enforcement measures to punish them (which have proven far more effective than military solutions). But just as happened in 2001, neither she nor her warnings are deemed sufficiently Serious even to consider, let alone embrace.

Instead, the Washington AUMF “debate” recognizes only two positions: (1) Congress should codify expanded powers for the administration to fight a wider war beyond what the 2001 AUMF provides (that’s the argument recently made by the supreme war-cheerleaders-from-a-safe-distance at the Washington Post editorial page and their favorite war-justifying think tank theorists, and the one being made by many Senators from both parties), or (2) the administration does not need any expanded authority because it is already free to wage a global war with very few limits under the warped “interpretation” of the AUMF which both the Bush and Obama DOJs have successfully persuaded courts to accept (that’s the Obama administration’s position). In other words, the shared premise is that the US government must continue to wage unlimited, permanent war, and the only debate is whether that should happen under a new law or the old one.

Just to convey a sense for how degraded is this Washington “debate”: Obama officials at yesterday’s Senate hearing repeatedly insisted that this “war” is already one without geographical limits and without any real conceptual constraints. The AUMF’s war power, they said, “stretches from Boston to the [tribal areas of Pakistan]” and can be used “anywhere around the world, including inside Syria, where the rebel Nusra Front recently allied itself with al-Qaida’s Iraq affiliate, or even what Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called ‘boots on the ground in Congo'”. The acting general counsel of the Pentagon said it even “authorized war against al-Qaida’s associated forces in Mali, Libya and Syria”. Newly elected independent Sen. Angus King of Maine said after listening to how the Obama administration interprets its war powers under the AUMF:

This is the most astounding and most astoundingly disturbing hearing that I’ve been to since I’ve been here. You guys have essentially rewritten the Constitution today.”

Former Bush DOJ official Jack Goldsmith, who testified at the hearing, summarized what was said after it was over: Obama officials argued that “they had domestic authority to use force in Mali, Syria, Libya, and Congo, against Islamist terrorist threats there”; that “they were actively considering emerging threats and stated that it was possible they would need to return to Congress for new authorities against those threats but did not at present need new authorities”; that “the conflict authorized by the AUMF was not nearly over”; and that “several members of the Committee were surprised by the breadth of DOD’s interpretation of the AUMF.” Conveying the dark irony of America’s war machine, seemingly lifted right out of the Cold War era film Dr. Strangelove, Goldsmith added:

Amazingly, there is a very large question even in the Armed Services Committee about who the United States is at war against and where, and how those determinations are made.”

Nobody really even knows with whom the US is at war, or where. Everyone just knows that it is vital that it continue in unlimited form indefinitely.

In response to that, the only real movement in Congress is to think about how to enact a new law to expand the authorization even further. But it’s a worthless and illusory debate, affecting nothing other than the pretexts and symbols used to justify what will, in all cases, be a permanent and limitless war. The Washington AUMF debate is about nothing other than whether more fig leafs are needed to make it all pretty and legal.

The Obama administration already claims the power to wage endless and boundless war, in virtually total secrecy, and without a single meaningful check or constraint. No institution with any power disputes this. To the contrary, the only ones which exert real influence – Congress, the courts, the establishment media, the plutocratic class – clearly favor its continuation and only think about how further to enable it. That will continue unless and until Americans begin to realize just what a mammoth price they’re paying for this ongoing splurge of war spending and endless aggression.

Related matters

Although I’m no fan of mindless partisan hackery, one must acknowledge, if one is to be honest, that sometimes it produces high comedy of the type few other afflictions are capable of producing.

On a related note: when Attorney General Eric Holder spoke about the DOJ’s subpoeans for AP’s phone records – purportedly issued in order to find the source for AP’s story about a successfully thwarted terror attack from Yemen – he made this claim about the leak they were investigating: “if not the most serious, it is within the top two or three most serious leaks that I have ever seen.” But yesterday, the Washington Post reported that CIA officials gave the go-ahead to AP to report the story, based in part on the fact that the administration itself planned to make a formal announcement boasting of their success in thwarting the plot. Meanwhile, the invaluable Marcy Wheeler today makes a strong case that the Obama administration engaged in a fear-mongering campaign over this plot that they knew at the time was false – all for the purpose of justifying the president’s newly announced “signature drone strikes” in Yemen.

The key lesson from all of this should have been learned long ago: nothing is less reliable than unchecked claims from political officials that their secret conduct is justified by National Security Threats and the desire to Keep Us Safe.

War Is A Racket: The Profit Motive Behind Warfare

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2013 at 3:16 pm

WALL STREET IS WAR STREET

Oldspeak: “The Oldspeak Journal is about exploding myths. The myth of the “Just Wars” are some of the biggest myths of all. All wars are unjust.  Innocents invariably die needlessly for the profits of a safely away from fighting, well-heeled elite few. On the occasion of Memorial Day 2013 while the coporocratic demopublicans are dutifully attending ceremonies, paying respects, laying wreaths, feigning mourning & concern for our troops, bleating about how U.S. war making has always been about defending freedom, justice and the American Way, I invite you to read the truth, from, the mouth of a highly respected, highly decorated, freethinker, Major General Smedley Darlington Butler.  He knew first hand the deadly intersections between war, business & money. He exposed the “Business Plot” concocted by wall street banksters and other corporate interests to overthrow President Roosevelt in 1933. He understood, that just as with every other undesirable business enterprise, it could only be stopped by eliminating the profit motive. He understood that the people who’d be charged with fighting and dying in wars should have the final say on whether or not there should be war, not the people who stood to profit obscenely from it.  He understood that war should not be perpetual, and globally persecuted. That our armed forces should be used for defense of our homeland only.  Knowledge & education are infinitely better safeguards of liberty than standing armies. As long as profit remains paramount, there will always be War.”

By Major General Smedley Darlington Butler:

CHAPTER ONE

War Is A Racket

WAR is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?

Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few — the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

And what is this bill?

This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.

For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out.

Again they are choosing sides. France and Russia met and agreed to stand side by side. Italy and Austria hurried to make a similar agreement. Poland and Germany cast sheep’s eyes at each other, forgetting for the nonce [one unique occasion], their dispute over the Polish Corridor.

The assassination of King Alexander of Jugoslavia [Yugoslavia] complicated matters. Jugoslavia and Hungary, long bitter enemies, were almost at each other’s throats. Italy was ready to jump in. But France was waiting. So was Czechoslovakia. All of them are looking ahead to war. Not the people — not those who fight and pay and die — only those who foment wars and remain safely at home to profit.

There are 40,000,000 men under arms in the world today, and our statesmen and diplomats have the temerity to say that war is not in the making.

Hell’s bells! Are these 40,000,000 men being trained to be dancers?

Not in Italy, to be sure. Premier Mussolini knows what they are being trained for. He, at least, is frank enough to speak out. Only the other day, Il Duce in “International Conciliation,” the publication of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said:

“And above all, Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the development of humanity quite apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace. . . . War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the people who have the courage to meet it.”

Undoubtedly Mussolini means exactly what he says. His well-trained army, his great fleet of planes, and even his navy are ready for war — anxious for it, apparently. His recent stand at the side of Hungary in the latter’s dispute with Jugoslavia showed that. And the hurried mobilization of his troops on the Austrian border after the assassination of Dollfuss showed it too. There are others in Europe too whose sabre rattling presages war, sooner or later.

Herr Hitler, with his rearming Germany and his constant demands for more and more arms, is an equal if not greater menace to peace. France only recently increased the term of military service for its youth from a year to eighteen months.

Yes, all over, nations are camping in their arms. The mad dogs of Europe are on the loose. In the Orient the maneuvering is more adroit. Back in 1904, when Russia and Japan fought, we kicked out our old friends the Russians and backed Japan. Then our very generous international bankers were financing Japan. Now the trend is to poison us against the Japanese. What does the “open door” policy to China mean to us? Our trade with China is about $90,000,000 a year. Or the Philippine Islands? We have spent about $600,000,000 in the Philippines in thirty-five years and we (our bankers and industrialists and speculators) have private investments there of less than $200,000,000.

Then, to save that China trade of about $90,000,000, or to protect these private investments of less than $200,000,000 in the Philippines, we would be all stirred up to hate Japan and go to war — a war that might well cost us tens of billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives of Americans, and many more hundreds of thousands of physically maimed and mentally unbalanced men.

Of course, for this loss, there would be a compensating profit — fortunes would be made. Millions and billions of dollars would be piled up. By a few. Munitions makers. Bankers. Ship builders. Manufacturers. Meat packers. Speculators. They would fare well.

Yes, they are getting ready for another war. Why shouldn’t they? It pays high dividends.

But what does it profit the men who are killed? What does it profit their mothers and sisters, their wives and their sweethearts? What does it profit their children?

What does it profit anyone except the very few to whom war means huge profits?

Yes, and what does it profit the nation?

Take our own case. Until 1898 we didn’t own a bit of territory outside the mainland of North America. At that time our national debt was a little more than $1,000,000,000. Then we became “internationally minded.” We forgot, or shunted aside, the advice of the Father of our country. We forgot George Washington’s warning about “entangling alliances.” We went to war. We acquired outside territory. At the end of the World War period, as a direct result of our fiddling in international affairs, our national debt had jumped to over $25,000,000,000. Our total favorable trade balance during the twenty-five-year period was about $24,000,000,000. Therefore, on a purely bookkeeping basis, we ran a little behind year for year, and that foreign trade might well have been ours without the wars.

It would have been far cheaper (not to say safer) for the average American who pays the bills to stay out of foreign entanglements. For a very few this racket, like bootlegging and other underworld rackets, brings fancy profits, but the cost of operations is always transferred to the people — who do not profit.

CHAPTER TWO

Who Makes The Profits?

The World War, rather our brief participation in it, has cost the United States some $52,000,000,000. Figure it out. That means $400 to every American man, woman, and child. And we haven’t paid the debt yet. We are paying it, our children will pay it, and our children’s children probably still will be paying the cost of that war.

The normal profits of a business concern in the United States are six, eight, ten, and sometimes twelve percent. But war-time profits — ah! that is another matter — twenty, sixty, one hundred, three hundred, and even eighteen hundred per cent — the sky is the limit. All that traffic will bear. Uncle Sam has the money. Let’s get it.

Of course, it isn’t put that crudely in war time. It is dressed into speeches about patriotism, love of country, and “we must all put our shoulders to the wheel,” but the profits jump and leap and skyrocket — and are safely pocketed. Let’s just take a few examples:

Take our friends the du Ponts, the powder people — didn’t one of them testify before a Senate committee recently that their powder won the war? Or saved the world for democracy? Or something? How did they do in the war? They were a patriotic corporation. Well, the average earnings of the du Ponts for the period 1910 to 1914 were $6,000,000 a year. It wasn’t much, but the du Ponts managed to get along on it. Now let’s look at their average yearly profit during the war years, 1914 to 1918. Fifty-eight million dollars a year profit we find! Nearly ten times that of normal times, and the profits of normal times were pretty good. An increase in profits of more than 950 per cent.

Take one of our little steel companies that patriotically shunted aside the making of rails and girders and bridges to manufacture war materials. Well, their 1910-1914 yearly earnings averaged $6,000,000. Then came the war. And, like loyal citizens, Bethlehem Steel promptly turned to munitions making. Did their profits jump — or did they let Uncle Sam in for a bargain? Well, their 1914-1918 average was $49,000,000 a year!

Or, let’s take United States Steel. The normal earnings during the five-year period prior to the war were $105,000,000 a year. Not bad. Then along came the war and up went the profits. The average yearly profit for the period 1914-1918 was $240,000,000. Not bad.

There you have some of the steel and powder earnings. Let’s look at something else. A little copper, perhaps. That always does well in war times.

Anaconda, for instance. Average yearly earnings during the pre-war years 1910-1914 of $10,000,000. During the war years 1914-1918 profits leaped to $34,000,000 per year.

Or Utah Copper. Average of $5,000,000 per year during the 1910-1914 period. Jumped to an average of $21,000,000 yearly profits for the war period.

Let’s group these five, with three smaller companies. The total yearly average profits of the pre-war period 1910-1914 were $137,480,000. Then along came the war. The average yearly profits for this group skyrocketed to $408,300,000.

A little increase in profits of approximately 200 per cent.

Does war pay? It paid them. But they aren’t the only ones. There are still others. Let’s take leather.

For the three-year period before the war the total profits of Central Leather Company were $3,500,000. That was approximately $1,167,000 a year. Well, in 1916 Central Leather returned a profit of $15,000,000, a small increase of 1,100 per cent. That’s all. The General Chemical Company averaged a profit for the three years before the war of a little over $800,000 a year. Came the war, and the profits jumped to $12,000,000. a leap of 1,400 per cent.

International Nickel Company — and you can’t have a war without nickel — showed an increase in profits from a mere average of $4,000,000 a year to $73,000,000 yearly. Not bad? An increase of more than 1,700 per cent.

American Sugar Refining Company averaged $2,000,000 a year for the three years before the war. In 1916 a profit of $6,000,000 was recorded.

Listen to Senate Document No. 259. The Sixty-Fifth Congress, reporting on corporate earnings and government revenues. Considering the profits of 122 meat packers, 153 cotton manufacturers, 299 garment makers, 49 steel plants, and 340 coal producers during the war. Profits under 25 per cent were exceptional. For instance the coal companies made between 100 per cent and 7,856 per cent on their capital stock during the war. The Chicago packers doubled and tripled their earnings.

And let us not forget the bankers who financed the great war. If anyone had the cream of the profits it was the bankers. Being partnerships rather than incorporated organizations, they do not have to report to stockholders. And their profits were as secret as they were immense. How the bankers made their millions and their billions I do not know, because those little secrets never become public — even before a Senate investigatory body.

But here’s how some of the other patriotic industrialists and speculators chiseled their way into war profits.

Take the shoe people. They like war. It brings business with abnormal profits. They made huge profits on sales abroad to our allies. Perhaps, like the munitions manufacturers and armament makers, they also sold to the enemy. For a dollar is a dollar whether it comes from Germany or from France. But they did well by Uncle Sam too. For instance, they sold Uncle Sam 35,000,000 pairs of hobnailed service shoes. There were 4,000,000 soldiers. Eight pairs, and more, to a soldier. My regiment during the war had only one pair to a soldier. Some of these shoes probably are still in existence. They were good shoes. But when the war was over Uncle Sam has a matter of 25,000,000 pairs left over. Bought — and paid for. Profits recorded and pocketed.

There was still lots of leather left. So the leather people sold your Uncle Sam hundreds of thousands of McClellan saddles for the cavalry. But there wasn’t any American cavalry overseas! Somebody had to get rid of this leather, however. Somebody had to make a profit in it — so we had a lot of McClellan saddles. And we probably have those yet.

Also somebody had a lot of mosquito netting. They sold your Uncle Sam 20,000,000 mosquito nets for the use of the soldiers overseas. I suppose the boys were expected to put it over them as they tried to sleep in muddy trenches — one hand scratching cooties on their backs and the other making passes at scurrying rats. Well, not one of these mosquito nets ever got to France!

Anyhow, these thoughtful manufacturers wanted to make sure that no soldier would be without his mosquito net, so 40,000,000 additional yards of mosquito netting were sold to Uncle Sam.

There were pretty good profits in mosquito netting in those days, even if there were no mosquitoes in France. I suppose, if the war had lasted just a little longer, the enterprising mosquito netting manufacturers would have sold your Uncle Sam a couple of consignments of mosquitoes to plant in France so that more mosquito netting would be in order.

Airplane and engine manufacturers felt they, too, should get their just profits out of this war. Why not? Everybody else was getting theirs. So $1,000,000,000 — count them if you live long enough — was spent by Uncle Sam in building airplane engines that never left the ground! Not one plane, or motor, out of the billion dollars worth ordered, ever got into a battle in France. Just the same the manufacturers made their little profit of 30, 100, or perhaps 300 per cent.

Undershirts for soldiers cost 14¢ [cents] to make and uncle Sam paid 30¢ to 40¢ each for them — a nice little profit for the undershirt manufacturer. And the stocking manufacturer and the uniform manufacturers and the cap manufacturers and the steel helmet manufacturers — all got theirs.

Why, when the war was over some 4,000,000 sets of equipment — knapsacks and the things that go to fill them — crammed warehouses on this side. Now they are being scrapped because the regulations have changed the contents. But the manufacturers collected their wartime profits on them — and they will do it all over again the next time.

There were lots of brilliant ideas for profit making during the war.

One very versatile patriot sold Uncle Sam twelve dozen 48-inch wrenches. Oh, they were very nice wrenches. The only trouble was that there was only one nut ever made that was large enough for these wrenches. That is the one that holds the turbines at Niagara Falls. Well, after Uncle Sam had bought them and the manufacturer had pocketed the profit, the wrenches were put on freight cars and shunted all around the United States in an effort to find a use for them. When the Armistice was signed it was indeed a sad blow to the wrench manufacturer. He was just about to make some nuts to fit the wrenches. Then he planned to sell these, too, to your Uncle Sam.

Still another had the brilliant idea that colonels shouldn’t ride in automobiles, nor should they even ride on horseback. One has probably seen a picture of Andy Jackson riding in a buckboard. Well, some 6,000 buckboards were sold to Uncle Sam for the use of colonels! Not one of them was used. But the buckboard manufacturer got his war profit.

The shipbuilders felt they should come in on some of it, too. They built a lot of ships that made a lot of profit. More than $3,000,000,000 worth. Some of the ships were all right. But $635,000,000 worth of them were made of wood and wouldn’t float! The seams opened up — and they sank. We paid for them, though. And somebody pocketed the profits.

It has been estimated by statisticians and economists and researchers that the war cost your Uncle Sam $52,000,000,000. Of this sum, $39,000,000,000 was expended in the actual war itself. This expenditure yielded $16,000,000,000 in profits. That is how the 21,000 billionaires and millionaires got that way. This $16,000,000,000 profits is not to be sneezed at. It is quite a tidy sum. And it went to a very few.

The Senate (Nye) committee probe of the munitions industry and its wartime profits, despite its sensational disclosures, hardly has scratched the surface.

Even so, it has had some effect. The State Department has been studying “for some time” methods of keeping out of war. The War Department suddenly decides it has a wonderful plan to spring. The Administration names a committee — with the War and Navy Departments ably represented under the chairmanship of a Wall Street speculator — to limit profits in war time. To what extent isn’t suggested. Hmmm. Possibly the profits of 300 and 600 and 1,600 per cent of those who turned blood into gold in the World War would be limited to some smaller figure.

Apparently, however, the plan does not call for any limitation of losses — that is, the losses of those who fight the war. As far as I have been able to ascertain there is nothing in the scheme to limit a soldier to the loss of but one eye, or one arm, or to limit his wounds to one or two or three. Or to limit the loss of life.

There is nothing in this scheme, apparently, that says not more than 12 per cent of a regiment shall be wounded in battle, or that not more than 7 per cent in a division shall be killed.

Of course, the committee cannot be bothered with such trifling matters.

CHAPTER THREE

Who Pays The Bills?

Who provides the profits — these nice little profits of 20, 100, 300, 1,500 and 1,800 per cent? We all pay them — in taxation. We paid the bankers their profits when we bought Liberty Bonds at $100.00 and sold them back at $84 or $86 to the bankers. These bankers collected $100 plus. It was a simple manipulation. The bankers control the security marts. It was easy for them to depress the price of these bonds. Then all of us — the people — got frightened and sold the bonds at $84 or $86. The bankers bought them. Then these same bankers stimulated a boom and government bonds went to par — and above. Then the bankers collected their profits.

But the soldier pays the biggest part of the bill.

If you don’t believe this, visit the American cemeteries on the battlefields abroad. Or visit any of the veteran’s hospitals in the United States. On a tour of the country, in the midst of which I am at the time of this writing, I have visited eighteen government hospitals for veterans. In them are a total of about 50,000 destroyed men — men who were the pick of the nation eighteen years ago. The very able chief surgeon at the government hospital; at Milwaukee, where there are 3,800 of the living dead, told me that mortality among veterans is three times as great as among those who stayed at home.

Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken out of the fields and offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. There they were remolded; they were made over; they were made to “about face”; to regard murder as the order of the day. They were put shoulder to shoulder and, through mass psychology, they were entirely changed. We used them for a couple of years and trained them to think nothing at all of killing or of being killed.

Then, suddenly, we discharged them and told them to make another “about face” ! This time they had to do their own readjustment, sans [without] mass psychology, sans officers’ aid and advice and sans nation-wide propaganda. We didn’t need them any more. So we scattered them about without any “three-minute” or “Liberty Loan” speeches or parades. Many, too many, of these fine young boys are eventually destroyed, mentally, because they could not make that final “about face” alone.

In the government hospital in Marion, Indiana, 1,800 of these boys are in pens! Five hundred of them in a barracks with steel bars and wires all around outside the buildings and on the porches. These already have been mentally destroyed. These boys don’t even look like human beings. Oh, the looks on their faces! Physically, they are in good shape; mentally, they are gone.

There are thousands and thousands of these cases, and more and more are coming in all the time. The tremendous excitement of the war, the sudden cutting off of that excitement — the young boys couldn’t stand it.

That’s a part of the bill. So much for the dead — they have paid their part of the war profits. So much for the mentally and physically wounded — they are paying now their share of the war profits. But the others paid, too — they paid with heartbreaks when they tore themselves away from their firesides and their families to don the uniform of Uncle Sam — on which a profit had been made. They paid another part in the training camps where they were regimented and drilled while others took their jobs and their places in the lives of their communities. The paid for it in the trenches where they shot and were shot; where they were hungry for days at a time; where they slept in the mud and the cold and in the rain — with the moans and shrieks of the dying for a horrible lullaby.

But don’t forget — the soldier paid part of the dollars and cents bill too.

Up to and including the Spanish-American War, we had a prize system, and soldiers and sailors fought for money. During the Civil War they were paid bonuses, in many instances, before they went into service. The government, or states, paid as high as $1,200 for an enlistment. In the Spanish-American War they gave prize money. When we captured any vessels, the soldiers all got their share — at least, they were supposed to. Then it was found that we could reduce the cost of wars by taking all the prize money and keeping it, but conscripting [drafting] the soldier anyway. Then soldiers couldn’t bargain for their labor, Everyone else could bargain, but the soldier couldn’t.

Napoleon once said,

“All men are enamored of decorations . . . they positively hunger for them.”

So by developing the Napoleonic system — the medal business — the government learned it could get soldiers for less money, because the boys liked to be decorated. Until the Civil War there were no medals. Then the Congressional Medal of Honor was handed out. It made enlistments easier. After the Civil War no new medals were issued until the Spanish-American War.

In the World War, we used propaganda to make the boys accept conscription. They were made to feel ashamed if they didn’t join the army.

So vicious was this war propaganda that even God was brought into it. With few exceptions our clergymen joined in the clamor to kill, kill, kill. To kill the Germans. God is on our side . . . it is His will that the Germans be killed.

And in Germany, the good pastors called upon the Germans to kill the allies . . . to please the same God. That was a part of the general propaganda, built up to make people war conscious and murder conscious.

Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die. This was the “war to end all wars.” This was the “war to make the world safe for democracy.” No one mentioned to them, as they marched away, that their going and their dying would mean huge war profits. No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here. No one told them that the ships on which they were going to cross might be torpedoed by submarines built with United States patents. They were just told it was to be a “glorious adventure.”

Thus, having stuffed patriotism down their throats, it was decided to make them help pay for the war, too. So, we gave them the large salary of $30 a month.

All they had to do for this munificent sum was to leave their dear ones behind, give up their jobs, lie in swampy trenches, eat canned willy (when they could get it) and kill and kill and kill . . . and be killed.

But wait!

Half of that wage (just a little more than a riveter in a shipyard or a laborer in a munitions factory safe at home made in a day) was promptly taken from him to support his dependents, so that they would not become a charge upon his community. Then we made him pay what amounted to accident insurance — something the employer pays for in an enlightened state — and that cost him $6 a month. He had less than $9 a month left.

Then, the most crowning insolence of all — he was virtually blackjacked into paying for his own ammunition, clothing, and food by being made to buy Liberty Bonds. Most soldiers got no money at all on pay days.

We made them buy Liberty Bonds at $100 and then we bought them back — when they came back from the war and couldn’t find work — at $84 and $86. And the soldiers bought about $2,000,000,000 worth of these bonds!

Yes, the soldier pays the greater part of the bill. His family pays too. They pay it in the same heart-break that he does. As he suffers, they suffer. At nights, as he lay in the trenches and watched shrapnel burst about him, they lay home in their beds and tossed sleeplessly — his father, his mother, his wife, his sisters, his brothers, his sons, and his daughters.

When he returned home minus an eye, or minus a leg or with his mind broken, they suffered too — as much as and even sometimes more than he. Yes, and they, too, contributed their dollars to the profits of the munitions makers and bankers and shipbuilders and the manufacturers and the speculators made. They, too, bought Liberty Bonds and contributed to the profit of the bankers after the Armistice in the hocus-pocus of manipulated Liberty Bond prices.

And even now the families of the wounded men and of the mentally broken and those who never were able to readjust themselves are still suffering and still paying.

CHAPTER FOUR

How To Smash This Racket!

WELL, it’s a racket, all right.

A few profit — and the many pay. But there is a way to stop it. You can’t end it by disarmament conferences. You can’t eliminate it by peace parleys at Geneva. Well-meaning but impractical groups can’t wipe it out by resolutions. It can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war.

The only way to smash this racket is to conscript capital and industry and labor before the nations manhood can be conscripted. One month before the Government can conscript the young men of the nation — it must conscript capital and industry and labor. Let the officers and the directors and the high-powered executives of our armament factories and our munitions makers and our shipbuilders and our airplane builders and the manufacturers of all the other things that provide profit in war time as well as the bankers and the speculators, be conscripted — to get $30 a month, the same wage as the lads in the trenches get.

Let the workers in these plants get the same wages — all the workers, all presidents, all executives, all directors, all managers, all bankers — yes, and all generals and all admirals and all officers and all politicians and all government office holders — everyone in the nation be restricted to a total monthly income not to exceed that paid to the soldier in the trenches!

Let all these kings and tycoons and masters of business and all those workers in industry and all our senators and governors and majors pay half of their monthly $30 wage to their families and pay war risk insurance and buy Liberty Bonds.

Why shouldn’t they?

They aren’t running any risk of being killed or of having their bodies mangled or their minds shattered. They aren’t sleeping in muddy trenches. They aren’t hungry. The soldiers are!

Give capital and industry and labor thirty days to think it over and you will find, by that time, there will be no war. That will smash the war racket — that and nothing else.

Maybe I am a little too optimistic. Capital still has some say. So capital won’t permit the taking of the profit out of war until the people — those who do the suffering and still pay the price — make up their minds that those they elect to office shall do their bidding, and not that of the profiteers.

Another step necessary in this fight to smash the war racket is the limited plebiscite to determine whether a war should be declared. A plebiscite not of all the voters but merely of those who would be called upon to do the fighting and dying. There wouldn’t be very much sense in having a 76-year-old president of a munitions factory or the flat-footed head of an international banking firm or the cross-eyed manager of a uniform manufacturing plant — all of whom see visions of tremendous profits in the event of war — voting on whether the nation should go to war or not. They never would be called upon to shoulder arms — to sleep in a trench and to be shot. Only those who would be called upon to risk their lives for their country should have the privilege of voting to determine whether the nation should go to war.

There is ample precedent for restricting the voting to those affected. Many of our states have restrictions on those permitted to vote. In most, it is necessary to be able to read and write before you may vote. In some, you must own property. It would be a simple matter each year for the men coming of military age to register in their communities as they did in the draft during the World War and be examined physically. Those who could pass and who would therefore be called upon to bear arms in the event of war would be eligible to vote in a limited plebiscite. They should be the ones to have the power to decide — and not a Congress few of whose members are within the age limit and fewer still of whom are in physical condition to bear arms. Only those who must suffer should have the right to vote.

A third step in this business of smashing the war racket is to make certain that our military forces are truly forces for defense only.

At each session of Congress the question of further naval appropriations comes up. The swivel-chair admirals of Washington (and there are always a lot of them) are very adroit lobbyists. And they are smart. They don’t shout that “We need a lot of battleships to war on this nation or that nation.” Oh no. First of all, they let it be known that America is menaced by a great naval power. Almost any day, these admirals will tell you, the great fleet of this supposed enemy will strike suddenly and annihilate 125,000,000 people. Just like that. Then they begin to cry for a larger navy. For what? To fight the enemy? Oh my, no. Oh, no. For defense purposes only.

Then, incidentally, they announce maneuvers in the Pacific. For defense. Uh, huh.

The Pacific is a great big ocean. We have a tremendous coastline on the Pacific. Will the maneuvers be off the coast, two or three hundred miles? Oh, no. The maneuvers will be two thousand, yes, perhaps even thirty-five hundred miles, off the coast.

The Japanese, a proud people, of course will be pleased beyond expression to see the united States fleet so close to Nippon’s shores. Even as pleased as would be the residents of California were they to dimly discern through the morning mist, the Japanese fleet playing at war games off Los Angeles.

The ships of our navy, it can be seen, should be specifically limited, by law, to within 200 miles of our coastline. Had that been the law in 1898 the Maine would never have gone to Havana Harbor. She never would have been blown up. There would have been no war with Spain with its attendant loss of life. Two hundred miles is ample, in the opinion of experts, for defense purposes. Our nation cannot start an offensive war if its ships can’t go further than 200 miles from the coastline. Planes might be permitted to go as far as 500 miles from the coast for purposes of reconnaissance. And the army should never leave the territorial limits of our nation.

To summarize: Three steps must be taken to smash the war racket.

  1. We must take the profit out of war.
  2. We must permit the youth of the land who would bear arms to decide whether or not there should be war.
  3. We must limit our military forces to home defense purposes.

CHAPTER FIVE

To Hell With War!

I am not a fool as to believe that war is a thing of the past. I know the people do not want war, but there is no use in saying we cannot be pushed into another war.

Looking back, Woodrow Wilson was re-elected president in 1916 on a platform that he had “kept us out of war” and on the implied promise that he would “keep us out of war.” Yet, five months later he asked Congress to declare war on Germany.

In that five-month interval the people had not been asked whether they had changed their minds. The 4,000,000 young men who put on uniforms and marched or sailed away were not asked whether they wanted to go forth to suffer and die.

Then what caused our government to change its mind so suddenly?

Money.

An allied commission, it may be recalled, came over shortly before the war declaration and called on the President. The President summoned a group of advisers. The head of the commission spoke. Stripped of its diplomatic language, this is what he told the President and his group:

“There is no use kidding ourselves any longer. The cause of the allies is lost. We now owe you (American bankers, American munitions makers, American manufacturers, American speculators, American exporters) five or six billion dollars.

If we lose (and without the help of the United States we must lose) we, England, France and Italy, cannot pay back this money . . . and Germany won’t.

So . . . “

Had secrecy been outlawed as far as war negotiations were concerned, and had the press been invited to be present at that conference, or had radio been available to broadcast the proceedings, America never would have entered the World War. But this conference, like all war discussions, was shrouded in utmost secrecy. When our boys were sent off to war they were told it was a “war to make the world safe for democracy” and a “war to end all wars.”

Well, eighteen years after, the world has less of democracy than it had then. Besides, what business is it of ours whether Russia or Germany or England or France or Italy or Austria live under democracies or monarchies? Whether they are Fascists or Communists? Our problem is to preserve our own democracy.

And very little, if anything, has been accomplished to assure us that the World War was really the war to end all wars.

Yes, we have had disarmament conferences and limitations of arms conferences. They don’t mean a thing. One has just failed; the results of another have been nullified. We send our professional soldiers and our sailors and our politicians and our diplomats to these conferences. And what happens?

The professional soldiers and sailors don’t want to disarm. No admiral wants to be without a ship. No general wants to be without a command. Both mean men without jobs. They are not for disarmament. They cannot be for limitations of arms. And at all these conferences, lurking in the background but all-powerful, just the same, are the sinister agents of those who profit by war. They see to it that these conferences do not disarm or seriously limit armaments.

The chief aim of any power at any of these conferences has not been to achieve disarmament to prevent war but rather to get more armament for itself and less for any potential foe.

There is only one way to disarm with any semblance of practicability. That is for all nations to get together and scrap every ship, every gun, every rifle, every tank, every war plane. Even this, if it were possible, would not be enough.

The next war, according to experts, will be fought not with battleships, not by artillery, not with rifles and not with machine guns. It will be fought with deadly chemicals and gases.

Secretly each nation is studying and perfecting newer and ghastlier means of annihilating its foes wholesale. Yes, ships will continue to be built, for the shipbuilders must make their profits. And guns still will be manufactured and powder and rifles will be made, for the munitions makers must make their huge profits. And the soldiers, of course, must wear uniforms, for the manufacturer must make their war profits too.

But victory or defeat will be determined by the skill and ingenuity of our scientists.

If we put them to work making poison gas and more and more fiendish mechanical and explosive instruments of destruction, they will have no time for the constructive job of building greater prosperity for all peoples. By putting them to this useful job, we can all make more money out of peace than we can out of war — even the munitions makers.

So…I say,

TO HELL WITH WAR!

Centralization and Sociopathology: Concentrated Power & Wealth Are Intrinsically Sociopathological

In Uncategorized on May 24, 2013 at 8:35 pm

https://i0.wp.com/www.tgdaily.com/sites/default/files/stock/article_images/misc/matrixsystemfailure.jpgOldspeak: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” -Jiddu Krishnamurti

“We live in a time of unprecedented inequality,  with extreme wealth & power concentration. Concurrently, our civilization is dominated by sociopathic organizations. The two most powerful, the transnational corporate network, and governments worldwide have combined to form an awesome and near omniscient control grid, a corptalitarian oligarchical collective that is manipulating most humans on this planet. This collective has infected most of humanity with its worldview and belief systems, spawning billions of secondary sociopaths who act as gatekeepers, maintaining & defending the sociopathic systems around which society is organized. We’ve reached a point where these systems, rapidly metastasizing via globalization, are in direct conflict with the only system that matters, the ecosystem. If the ecosystem loses this conflict, we all lose. Localization is the key to saving our ecosystem,  Which side are you on?

By C.D. @ Oftwominds:

Concentrated power and wealth are intrinsically sociopathological by their very nature.

 
I have long spoken of the dangers inherent to centralization of power and the extreme concentrations of wealth centralization inevitably creates.
Longtime contributor C.D. recently highlighted another danger of centralization:sociopaths/psychopaths excel in organizations that centralize power, and their ability to flatter, browbeat and manipulate others greases their climb to the top.
In effect, centralization is tailor-made for sociopaths gaining power. Sociopaths seek power over others, and centralization gives them the perfect avenue to control over millions or even entire nations.
Even worse (from the view of non-sociopaths), their perverse abilities are tailor-made for excelling in office and national politics via ruthless elimination of rivals and enemies and grandiose appeals to national greatness, ideological purity, etc.
As C.D. points out, the ultimate protection against sociopathology is to minimize the power held in any one agency, organization or institution:

After you watch these films on psychopaths, I think you’ll have an even greater understanding of why your premise of centralization is a key problem of our society. The first film points out that psychopaths generally thrive in the corporate/government top-down organization (I have seen it happen in my agency, unfortunately) and that when they come to power, their values (or lack thereof) tend to pervade the organization to varying degrees. In some cases, they end up creating secondary psychopaths which is kind of like a spiritual/moral disease that infects people.

If we are to believe the premise in the film that there are always psychopaths among us in small numbers, it follows then that we must limit the power of any one institution, whether it’s private or public, so that the damage created by psychopaths is limited.

It is very difficult for many people to fathom that there are people in our society that are that evil, for lack of a better term, and it is even harder for many people in society to accept that people in the higher strata of our society can exhibit these dangerous traits.

The same goes for criminal behavior. From my studies, it’s pretty clear that criminality is fairly constant throughout the different levels of our society and yet, it is the lower classes that are subjected to more scrutiny by law enforcement. The disparity between blue collar and white collar crime is pretty evident when one looks at arrests and sentencing. The total lack of effective enforcement against politically connected banks over the last few years is astounding to me and it sets a dangerous precedent. Corruption and psychopathy go hand in hand.

A less dark reason for avoiding over centralization is that we have to be aware of normal human fallibility. Nobody possesses enough information, experience, ability, lack of bias, etc. to always make the right decisions.

Defense Against the Psychopath (video, 37 minutes; the many photos of political, religious and secular leaders will likely offend many/most; if you look past these outrages, there is useful information here)
The Sociopath Next Door (video, 37 minutes)
As C.D. observes, once sociopaths rule an organization or nation, they create a zombie army of secondary sociopaths beneath them as those who resist are undermined, banished, fired or exterminated. If there is any lesson to be drawn from Iraq, it is how a single sociopath can completely undermine and destroy civil society by empowering secondary sociopaths and eliminating or marginalizing anyone who dares to cling to their humanity, conscience and independence.
“Going along to get along” breeds passive acceptance of sociopathology as “the new normal” and mimicry of the values and techniques of sociopathology as the ambitious and fearful (i.e. almost everyone) scramble to emulate the “successful” leadership.
Organizations can be perverted into institutionalizing sociopathology via sociopathological goals and rules of conduct. Make the metric of success in war a body count of dead “enemy combatants” and you’ll soon have dead civilians stacked like cordwood as proof of every units’ outstanding success.
Make lowering unemployment the acme of policy success and soon every agency will be gaming and manipulating data to reach that metric of success. Make higher grades the metric of academic success and soon every kid is getting a gold star and an A or B.
Centralization has another dark side: those ensconced in highly concentrated centers of power (for example, The White House) are in another world, and they find it increasingly easy to become isolated from the larger context and to slip into reliance on sycophants, toadies (i.e. budding secondary sociopaths) and “experts” (i.e. apparatchiks and factotums) who are equally influenced by the intense “high” of concentrated power/wealth.
Increasingly out of touch with those outside the circle of power, those within the circle slide into a belief in the superiority of their knowledge, skills and awareness–the very definition of sociopathology.
Even worse (if that is possible), the incestuous nature of the tight circle of power breeds a uniformity of opinion and ideology that creates a feedback loop that marginalizes dissenters and those with open minds. Dissenters are soon dismissed–“not a team player”– or trotted out for PR purposes, i.e. as evidence the administration maintains ties to the outside world.
Those few dissenters who resist the siren song of power soon face a choice: either quietly quit “to pursue other opportunities” (the easy way out) or quit in a blast of public refutation of the administration’s policies.
Public dissenters are quickly crucified by those in power, and knowing this fate awaits any dissenter places a powerful disincentive on “going public” about the sociopathology of the inner circle of power.
On rare occasions, an insider has the courage and talent to secure documentation that details the sociopathology of a policy, agency or administration (for example, Daniel Ellsberg and The Pentagon Papers).
Nothing infuriates a sociopath or a sociopathological organization more than the exposure of their sociopathology, and so those in power will stop at nothing to silence, discredit, criminalize or eliminate the heroic whistleblower.
In these ways, centralized power is itself is a sociopathologizing force. We cannot understand the present devolution of our civil society, economy and ethics unless we understand that concentrated power and wealth are intrinsically sociopathological by their very nature.
 
The solution: a culture of decentralization, transparency and open competition, what I call the DATA model (Decentralized, Adaptive, Transparent and Accountable) in my book Why Things Are Falling Apart and What We Can Do About It.

USGS Study: Drop In U.S. Underground Water Levels Has Accelerated; 3 Times Greater Than At Any Time In 20th Century

In Uncategorized on May 24, 2013 at 7:00 pm

U.S. Drought Monitor map from March 19, 2013Oldspeak: “Tell your crew use the H2 in wise amounts since/it’s the New World Water; and every drop counts/You can laugh and take it as a joke if you wanna/But it don’t rain for four weeks some summers/And it’s about to get real wild in the half/You be buying Evian just to take a fuckin bathYasiin Bey, “New World Water”
“With the U.S. currently embroiled in historic drought with no end in sight and nearly 80 percent of farmland experiencing drought, this is definitely not good. No surprise, petrochemical/”natural” gas extraction and petrochemical based factory farming are the largest users of water from aquifers. Coincidentally, the process of  extracting of petrochemicals that serve as fertilizer and energy to produce food, has the wonderful side effect of poisoning these same rapidly depleting aquifers with hundreds of secret proprietary “fracking” chemicals that sicken and or kill all life that comes into prolonged contact with them. The burning of these petrochemicals, pollutes the air, and continuously pumps dangerous amounts of  greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which has the nifty side effect of warming the planet to prehistoric levels, causing “less rain and snow filtering underground to replenish what was being pumped out“. Mix it all together and you have a completely avoidable, undeniably man-made slow motion shitshow of a global ecological catastrophe. Human activity is significantly disrupting the water cycle. We are using/poisoning more water than can be replenished naturally. We need to abandon energy and food production that is destroying our water supply.  There’s only so much left. We can’t continue to use water as if it’s supply is infinite. Over 1 Billion have no access to clean drinking water. Count on that number to rise. With that rise will come a rise in disease, as around 80% of all disease in the world stems from unclean water, poor sanitation, or crude living conditions (hygiene). We must put the safety our most vital and indispensable resource ahead of profit.  Water is the Eco-currency we can’t afford to run out of.”

By Deborah Zabarenko @ Reuters:

Water levels in U.S. aquifers, the vast underground storage areas tapped for agriculture, energy and human consumption, between 2000 and 2008 dropped at a rate that was almost three times as great as any time during the 20th century, U.S. officials said on Monday.

The accelerated decline in the subterranean reservoirs is due to a combination of factors, most of them linked to rising population in the United States, according to Leonard Konikow, a research hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey.

The big rise in water use started in 1950, at the time of an economic boom and the spread of U.S. suburbs. However, the steep increase in water use and the drop in groundwater levels that followed World War 2 were eclipsed by the changes during the first years of the 21st century, the study showed.

As consumers, farms and industry used more water starting in 2000, aquifers were also affected by climate changes, with less rain and snow filtering underground to replenish what was being pumped out, Konikow said in a telephone interview from Reston, Virginia.

Depletion of groundwater can cause land to subside, cut yields from existing wells, and diminish the flow of water from springs and streams.

Agricultural irrigation is the biggest user of water from aquifers in the United States, though the energy industry, including oil and coal extraction, is also a big user.

The USGS study looked at 40 different aquifers from 1900 through 2008 and found that the historical average of groundwater depletion – the amount the underground reservoirs lost each year – was 7.5 million acre-feet (9.2 cubic kilometers).

From 2000 to 2008, the average was 20.2 million acre-feet (25 cubic kilometers) a year. (An acre-foot is the volume of water needed to cover an acre to the depth of one foot.)

One of the best-known aquifers, the High Plains Aquifer, also known as the Oglala, had the highest levels of groundwater depletion starting in the 1960s. It lies beneath parts of South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico, where water demand from agriculture is high and where recent drought has hit hard.

Because it costs more to pump water from lower levels in an aquifer, some farmers may give up, or irrigate fewer fields, Konikow said. Another problem with low water levels underground is that water quality can deteriorate, ultimately becoming too salty to use for irrigation.

“That’s a real limit on water,” Konikow said. “You could always say that if we have enough money, you build a desalization plant and solve the problem, but that really is expensive.”

(Reporting by Deborah Zabarenko; Editing by Leslie Adler)

“Apocalyptic Journalism” & Why We Need Journalists To Face the Reality Of Our Crumbling Society

In Uncategorized on May 21, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Oldspeak: “To speak apocalyptically…. is first and foremost about deepening our understanding of the world, seeing through the obfuscations of people in power. In our propaganda-saturated world (think about the amount of advertising, public relations, and marketing that we are bombarded with daily), coming to that kind of clarity about the nature of the empires of our day is always a struggle, and that notion of revelation is more crucial than ever. Thinking apocalyptically, coming to this clarity, will force us to confront crises that concentrated wealth and power create, and reflect on our role in these systems. Given the severity of the human assault on the ecosphere, compounded by the suffering and strife within the human family, honest apocalyptic thinking that is firmly grounded in a systematic evaluation of the state of the world is not only sensible but a moral obligation… Things are bad, systems are failing, and the status quo won’t last forever… The great party of the twentieth century is coming to an end, and unless we now start preparing our survival kit we will soon be just another species eking out an existence in the few remaining habitable regions. … We should be the heart and mind of the Earth, not its malady. So let us be brave and cease thinking of human needs and rights alone and see that we have harmed the living Earth and need to make our peace with Gaia….Thinking apocalyptically in this fashion demands of us considerable courage and commitment. This process will not produce definitive answers but rather help us identify new directions. Anything that blocks us from looking honestly at reality, no matter how harsh the reality, must be rejected. It’s a lot to ask, of people and of journalists, to not only think about this, but put it at the center of our lives. What choice do we have?” –Robert Jensen

“I’ve watched several hours of corporate news coverage of the mega tornado that struck in Oklahoma, U.S. Needless to say there’s has been little in the way of Apocalyptic Journalism. It’s been primarily disaster porn. Marveling at the “unfathomable destruction” (Despite decades of predictions that natural disasters would get more intense, more powerful, more frequent and unpredictable). Near constant loops of the tornado ripping through the country side, repeated live shots and “reports” from “ground zero”.  Constant death toll updates. Interviews with tearful, shell-shocked victims, recounting their experiences.  Stories of found pets. Snazzy colorful graphics tracking the storm’s path. Cut to commercials with sad music and still photos of the carnage and survivors/rescuers. About 5 minutes was devoted to talking to climate scientists, and contextualizing the disaster in relation to climate change and global warming, taking time to note that there’s no way to prove that this disaster was result of climate change. No critical examination of the systems and institutions we organize our civilization around that have created the conditions. Just endless disaster as “content”. By next week the content will be new. But the environmental disasters will continue unabated, bigger, faster and stronger. Apocalypse is not a bad word. It means to uncover, to reveal.  These are the things we need most from our journalists now.”

By Robert Jensen @ Alter Net:

For those who care about a robust human presence on the planet, the 21st century has been characterized by really bad news that keeps getting really, really worse.

Whatever one’s evaluation of high-energy/high-technology civilization (and I have been among its critics; more on that later), it’s now clear that we are hitting physical limits; we cannot expect to maintain contemporary levels of consumption that draw down the ecological capital of the planet at rates dramatically beyond replacement levels. It unrealistic to imagine that we can go on treating the planet as nothing more than a mine from which we extract and a landfill into which we dump.

We have no choice but to deal with the collapse of journalism, but we also should recognize the need for a journalism of collapse. Everyone understands that economic changes are forcing a refashioning of the journalism profession. It’s long past time for everyone to pay attention to how multiple, cascading ecological crises should be changing professional journalism’s mission in even more dramatic fashion.

It’s time for an apocalyptic journalism (that takes some explaining; a lot more on that later).

The Basics of Journalism: Ideals and Limitations

With the rapid expansion of journalistic-like material on the Internet, it’s especially crucial to define “real” journalism. In a democratic system, ideally journalism is a critical, independent source of information, analysis, and the varied opinions needed by citizens who want to play a meaningful role in the formation of public policy. The key terms are “critical” and “independent”—to fulfill the promise of a free press, journalists must be willing to critique not only specific people and policies, but the systems out of which they emerge, and they must be as free as possible from constraining influences, both overt and subtle. Also included in that definition of journalism is an understanding of democracy—“a meaningful role in the formation of public policy”—as more than just lining up to vote in elections that offer competing sets of elites who represent roughly similar programs. Meaningful democracy involves meaningful participation.

This discussion will focus on what is typically called mainstream journalism, the corporate-commercial news media. These are the journalists who work for daily newspapers, broadcast and cable television, and the corporately owned platforms on the Internet and other digital devices. Although there are many types of independent and alternative journalism of varying quality, the vast majority of Americans continue to receive the vast majority of their news from these mainstream sources, which are almost always organized as large corporations and funded primarily by advertising.

Right-wing politicians and commentators sometimes refer to the mainstream media as the “lamestream,” implying that journalists are comically incompetent and incapable of providing an accurate account of the world, likely due to a lack of understanding of conservative people and their ideas. While many elite journalists may be dismissive of the cultural values of conservatives, this critique ignores the key questions about journalism’s relationship to power. Focusing on the cultural politics of individual reporters and editors—pointing out that they tend to be less religious and more supportive of gay and women’s rights than the general public, for example—diverts attention from more crucial questions about how the institutional politics of corporate owners and managers shapes the news and keeps mainstream journalism within a centrist/right conventional wisdom.

The managers of commercial news organizations in the United States typically reject that claim by citing the unbreachable “firewall” between the journalistic and the business sides of the operation, which is supposed to allow journalists to pursue any story without interference from the corporate front office. This exchange I had with a newspaper editor captures the ideology: After listening to my summary of this critique of the U.S. commercial news media system, this editor (let’s call him Joe) told me proudly: “No one from corporate headquarters has ever called me to tell me what to run in my paper.” I asked Joe if it were possible that he simply had internalized the value system of the folks who run the corporation (and by extension, the folks who run most of the world), and therefore they never needed to give him direct instructions. He rejected that, reasserting his independence from any force outside his newsroom.

I countered: “Let’s say, for the purposes of discussion, that you and I were equally capable journalists in terms of professional skills, that we were both reasonable candidates for the job of editor-in-chief that you hold. If we had both applied for the job, do you think your corporate bosses would have ever considered me for the position, given my politics? Would I, for even a second, have been seen by them to be a viable candidate for the job?”

Joe’s politics are pretty conventional, well within the range of mainstream Republicans and Democrats—he supports big business and U.S. supremacy in global politics and economics. I’m a critic of capitalism and U.S. foreign policy. On some political issues, Joe and I would agree, but we diverge sharply on these core questions of the nature of the economy and the state.

Joe pondered my question and conceded that I was right, that his bosses would never hire someone with my politics, no matter how qualified, to run one of their newspapers. The conversation trailed off, and we parted without resolving our differences. I would like to think my critique at least got Joe to question his platitudes, but I never saw any evidence of that. In his subsequent writing and public comments that I read and heard, Joe continued to assert that a news media system dominated by for-profit corporations was the best way to produce the critical, independent journalism that citizens in a democracy needed. Because he was in a position of some privilege and status, nothing compelled Joe to respond to my challenge.

Partly as a result of many such unproductive conversations, I continue to search for new ways to present a critique of mainstream journalism that might break through that ideological wall. In addition to thinking about alternatives to this traditional business model, we should confront the limitations of the corresponding professional model, with its status-quo-supportive ideology of neutrality, balance, and objectivity. Can we create conditions under which journalism—deeply critical and truly independent—can flourish in these trying times?

In this essay I want to try out theological concepts of the royal, prophetic, and apocalyptic traditions. Though journalism is a secular institution, religion can provide a helpful vocabulary. The use of these terms is not meant to imply support for any particular religious tradition, or for religion more generally, but only recognizes that the fundamental struggles of human history play out in religious and secular settings, and we can learn from all of that history. With a focus on the United States, I’ll drawn on the concepts as they understood in the dominant U.S. tradition of Judaism and Christianity.

Royal Journalism

Most of today’s mainstream corporate-commercial journalism—the work done by people such as Joe—is royal journalism, using the term “royal” not to describe a specific form of executive power but as a description of a system that centralizes authority and marginalizes the needs of ordinary people. The royal tradition describes ancient Israel, the Roman empire, European monarchs, or contemporary America—societies in which those with concentrated wealth and power can ignore the needs of the bulk of the population, societies where the wealthy and powerful offer platitudes about their beneficence as they pursue policies to enrich themselves.

In his books The Prophetic Imagination and The Practice of Prophetic Imagination, theologian Walter Brueggemann points out that this royal consciousness took hold after ancient Israel sank into disarray, when Solomon overturned Moses—affluence, oppressive social policy, and static religion replaced a God of liberation with one used to serve an empire. This consciousness develops not only in top leaders but throughout the privileged sectors, often filtering down to a wider public that accepts royal power. Brueggemann labels this a false consciousness: “The royal consciousness leads people to numbness, especially to numbness about death.”

The inclusion of the United States in a list of royalist societies may seem odd, given the democratic traditions of the country, but consider a nation that has been at war for more than a decade, in which economic inequality and the resulting suffering has dramatically deepened for the past four decades, in which climate change denial has increased as the evidence of the threat becomes undeniable. Brueggemann describes such a culture as one that is “competent to implement almost anything and to imagine almost nothing.”

Almost all mainstream corporate-commercial journalism is, in this sense, royal journalism. It is journalism without the imagination needed to move outside the framework created by the dominant systems of power. CNN, MSNBC and FOX News all practice royal journalism. TheNew York Times is ground-zero for royal journalism. Marking these institutions as royalist doesn’t mean that no good journalism ever emerges from them, or that they employ no journalists who are capable of challenging royal arrangements. Instead, the term recognizes that these institutions lack the imagination necessary to step outside of the royal consciousness on a regular basis. Over time, they add to the numbness rather than jolt people out of it.

The royal consciousness of our day is defined by unchallengeable commitments to a high-energy/high-technology worldview, within a hierarchical economy, run by an imperial nation-state. These technological, economic, and national fundamentalisms produce a certain kind of story about ourselves, which encourages the belief that we can have anything we want without obligations to other peoples or other living things, and that we deserve this. Brueggemann argues that this bolsters notions of “US exceptionalism that gives warrant to the usurpatious pursuit of commodities in the name of freedom, at the expense of the neighbor.”

If one believes royal arrangements are just and sustainable, then royal journalism could be defended. If the royal tradition is illegitimate, than a different journalism is necessary.

Prophetic Journalism

Given the multiple crises that existing political, economic, and social systems have generated, the ideals of journalism call for a prophetic journalism. The first step in defending that claim is to remember what real prophets are not: They are not people who predict the future or demand that others follow them in lockstep. In the Hebrew Bible and Christian New Testament, prophets are the figures who remind the people of the best of the tradition and point out how the people have strayed. In those traditions, using our prophetic imagination and speaking in a prophetic voice requires no special status in society, and no sense of being special. Claiming the prophetic tradition requires only honesty and courage.

When we strip away supernatural claims and delusions of grandeur, we can understand the prophetic as the calling out of injustice, the willingness not only to confront the abuses of the powerful but to acknowledge our own complicity. To speak prophetically requires us first to see honestly—both how our world is structured by systems that create unjust and unsustainable conditions, and how we who live in the privileged parts of the world are implicated in those systems. To speak prophetically is to refuse to shrink from what we discover or from our own place in these systems. We must confront the powers that be, and ourselves.

The Hebrew Bible offers us many models. Amos and Hosea, Jeremiah and Isaiah—all rejected the pursuit of wealth or power and argued for the centrality of kindness and justice. The prophets condemned corrupt leaders but also called out all those privileged people in society who had turned from the demands of justice, which the faith makes central to human life. In his analysis of these prophets, the scholar and activist Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel concluded:

Above all, the prophets remind us of the moral state of a people: Few are guilty, but all are responsible. If we admit that the individual is in some measure conditioned or affected by the spirit of society, an individual’s crime discloses society’s corruption.

Critical of royal consciousness, Brueggemann argues that the task of those speaking prophetically is to “penetrate the numbness in order to face the body of death in which we are caught” and “penetrate despair so that new futures can be believed in and embraced by us.” He encourages preachers to think of themselves as “handler[s] of the prophetic tradition,” a job description that also applies to other intellectual professions, including journalism.

Brueggemann argues that this isn’t about intellectuals imposing their views and values on others, but about being willing to “connect the dots”:

Prophetic preaching does not put people in crisis. Rather it names and makes palpable the crisis already pulsing among us. When the dots are connected, it will require naming the defining sins among us of environmental abuse, neighborly disregard, long-term racism, self-indulgent consumerism, all the staples from those ancient truthtellers translated into our time and place.

None of this requires journalists to advocate for specific politicians, parties, or political programs; we don’t need journalists to become propagandists. Journalists should strive for real independence but not confuse that with an illusory neutrality that traps mainstream journalists within ideological boundaries defined by the powerful. Again, real independence means the ability to critique not just the worst abuses by the powerful within the systems, but to critique the systems themselves.

This prophetic calling is consistent with the aphorism many journalists claim as a shorthand mission statement: The purpose of journalism is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. That phrase focuses on injustice within human societies, but what of the relationship of human beings to the larger living world? How should journalists understand their mission in that arena?

Ecological Realties

Let’s put analysis of journalism on hold and think about the larger world in which journalism operates. Journalistic ideals and norms should change as historical conditions change, and today that means facing tough questions about ecological sustainability.

There is considerable evidence to help us evaluate the health of the ecosphere on which our own lives depend, and an honest evaluation of that evidence leads to a disturbing conclusion: Life as we know it is almost over. That is, the high-energy/high-technology life that we in the affluent societies live is a dead-end. There is a growing realization that we have disrupted planetary forces in ways we cannot control and do not fully understand. We cannot predict the specific times and places where dramatic breakdowns will occur, but we can know that the living system on which we depend is breaking down.

Does that seem histrionic? Excessively alarmist? Look at any crucial measure of the health of the ecosphere in which we live—groundwater depletion, topsoil loss, chemical contamination, increased toxicity in our own bodies, the number and size of “dead zones” in the oceans, accelerating extinction of species and reduction of bio-diversity—and the news is bad. Add to that the mother of all ecological crises—global warming, climate change, climate disruption—and it’s clear that we are creating a planet that cannot indefinitely support a large-scale human presence living this culture’s idea of the good life.

We also live in an oil-based world that is rapidly depleting the cheap and easily accessible oil, which means we face a huge reconfiguration of the infrastructure that undergirds our lives. Meanwhile, the desperation to avoid that reconfiguration has brought us to the era of “extreme energy” using even more dangerous and destructive technologies (hydrofracturing, deep-water drilling, mountain-top removal, tar sands extraction) to get at the remaining hydrocarbons.

Where we are heading? Off the rails? Into the wall? Over the cliff? Pick your favorite metaphor. Scientists these days are talking about tipping points and planetary boundaries, about how human activity is pushing the planet beyond its limits. Recently 22 top scientists in the prestigious journal Nature warned that humans likely are forcing a planetary-scale critical transition “with the potential to transform Earth rapidly and irreversibly into a state unknown in human experience.” That means that “the biological resources we take for granted at present may be subject to rapid and unpredictable transformations within a few human generations.”

That means that we’re in trouble, not in some imaginary science-fiction future, but in our present reality. We can’t pretend all that’s needed is tinkering with existing systems to fix a few environmental problems; significant changes in how we live are required. No matter where any one of us sits in the social and economic hierarchies, there is no escape from the dislocations that will come with such changes. Money and power might insulate some from the most wrenching consequences of these shifts, but there is no permanent escape. We do not live in stable societies and no longer live on a stable planet. We may feel safe and secure in specific places at specific times, but it’s hard to believe in any safety and security in a collective sense.

In short, we live in apocalyptic times.

Apocalypse

To be clear: Speaking apocalyptically need not be limited to claims that the world will end on a guru’s timetable or according to some allegedly divine plan. Lots of apocalyptic visions—religious and secular—offer such certainty, imaging the replacement of a corrupt society by one structured on principles that will redeem humanity (or at least redeem those who sign onto the principles). But this need not be our only understanding of the term.

Most discussions of revelation and apocalypse in contemporary America focus on the Book of Revelation, also known as The Apocalypse of John, the final book of the Christian New Testament. The two terms are synonymous in their original meaning; “revelation” from Latin and “apocalypse” from Greek both mean a lifting of the veil, a disclosure of something hidden from most people, a coming to clarity. Many scholars interpret the Book of Revelation not as a set of predictions about the future but as a critique of the oppression of the empire of that day, Rome.

To speak apocalyptically, in this tradition, is first and foremost about deepening our understanding of the world, seeing through the obfuscations of people in power. In our propaganda-saturated world (think about the amount of advertising, public relations, and marketing that we are bombarded with daily), coming to that kind of clarity about the nature of the empires of our day is always a struggle, and that notion of revelation is more crucial than ever.

Thinking apocalyptically, coming to this clarity, will force us to confront crises that concentrated wealth and power create, and reflect on our role in these systems. Given the severity of the human assault on the ecosphere, compounded by the suffering and strife within the human family, honest apocalyptic thinking that is firmly grounded in a systematic evaluation of the state of the world is not only sensible but a moral obligation. Rather than thinking of revelation as divine delivery of a clear message about some fantastic future above, we can engage in an ongoing process of revelation that results from an honest struggle to understand, a process that requires a lot of effort.

Things are bad, systems are failing, and the status quo won’t last forever. Thinking apocalyptically in this fashion demands of us considerable courage and commitment. This process will not produce definitive answers but rather help us identify new directions.

Again, to be very clear: “Apocalypse” in this context does not mean lakes of fire, rivers of blood, or bodies lifted up to heaven. The shift from the prophetic to the apocalyptic can instead mark the point when hope in the viability of existing systems is no longer possible and we must think in dramatically new ways. Invoking the apocalyptic recognizes the end of something. It’s not about rapture but a rupture severe enough to change the nature of the whole game.

Apocalyptic Journalism

The prophetic imagination helps us analyze the historical moment we’re in, but it’s based on an implicit faith that the systems in which we live can be reshaped to stop the worst consequences of the royal consciousness, to shake off that numbness of death in time. What if that is no longer possible? Then it is time to think about what’s on the other side. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” said Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the more well-known voices in the prophetic tradition. But if the arc is now bending toward a quite different future, a different approach is needed.

Because no one can predict the future, these two approaches are not mutually exclusive; people should not be afraid to think prophetically and apocalyptically at the same time. We can simultaneously explore immediate changes in the existing systems and think about new systems.

Invoking the prophetic in the face of royal consciousness does not promise quick change and a carefree future, but it implies that a disastrous course can be corrected. But what if the justification for such hope evaporates? When prophetic warnings have not been heeded, what comes next? This is the time when an apocalyptic sensibility is needed.

Fred Guterl, the executive editor of Scientific American, models that spirit in his book The Fate of the Species.Though he describes himself on the “techno-optimistic side of the spectrum,” he does not shy away from a blunt discussion of the challenges humans face:

There’s no going back on our reliance on computers and high-tech medicine, agriculture, power generation, and so forth without causing vast human suffering—unless you want to contemplate reducing the world population by many billions of people. We have climbed out on a technological limb, and turning back is a disturbing option. We are dependent on our technology, yet our technology now presents the seeds of our own destruction. It’s a dilemma. I don’t pretend to have a way out. We should start by being aware of the problem.

I don’t share Guterl’s techno-optimism, but it strikes me as different from a technological fundamentalism (the quasi-religious belief that the use of advanced technology is always a good thing and that any problems caused by the unintended consequences of such technology can be remedied by more technology) that assumes that humans can invent themselves out of any problem. Guterl doesn’t deny the magnitude of the problems and recognizes the real possibility, perhaps even the inevitability, of massive social dislocation:

[W]e’re going to need the spirit with which these ideas were hatched to solve the problems we have created. Tossing aside technological optimism is not a realistic option. This doesn’t mean technology is going to save us. We may still be doomed. But without it, we are surely doomed.

Closer to my own assessment is James Lovelock, a Fellow of the Royal Society, whose work led to the detection of the widespread presence CFCs in the atmosphere. Most famous for his “Gaia hypothesis” that understands both the living and non-living parts of the earth as a complex system that can be thought of as a single organism, he suggests that we face these stark realities immediately:

The great party of the twentieth century is coming to an end, and unless we now start preparing our survival kit we will soon be just another species eking out an existence in the few remaining habitable regions. … We should be the heart and mind of the Earth, not its malady. So let us be brave and cease thinking of human needs and rights alone and see that we have harmed the living Earth and need to make our peace with Gaia.

Anything that blocks us from looking honestly at reality, no matter how harsh the reality, must be rejected. It’s a lot to ask, of people and of journalists, to not only think about this, but put it at the center of our lives. What choice do we have? To borrow from one of 20th-century America’s most honest writers, James Baldwin, “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

That line is from an essay titled “As Much Truth as One Can Bear,” about the struggles of artists to help a society, such as the white-supremacist America, face the depth of its pathology. Baldwin suggested that a great writer attempts “to tell as much of the truth as one can bear, and then a little more.” If we think of Baldwin as sounding a prophetic call, an apocalyptic invocation would be “to tell as much of the truth as one can bear, and then all the rest of the truth, whether we can bear it or not.”

That task is difficult enough when people are relatively free to pursue inquiry without external constraints. Are the dominant corporate-commercial/advertising-supported media outlets likely to encourage journalists to pursue the projects that might lead to such questions? If not, the apocalyptic journalism we need is more likely to emerge from the margins, where people are not trapped by illusions of neutrality or concerned about professional status.

[INSERT HOPEFUL ENDING HERE]

That subhead is not an editing oversight. I wish there were an easy solution, an upbeat conclusion. I don’t have one. I’ve never heard anyone else articulate one. To face the world honestly at this moment in human history likely means giving up on easy and upbeat.

The apocalyptic tradition reminds us that the absence of hope does not have to leave us completely hopeless, that life is always at the same time about death, and then rejuvenation. If we don’t have easy, upbeat solutions and conclusions, we have the ability to keep telling stories of struggle. Our stories do not change the physical world, but they have the potential to change us. In that sense, the poet Muriel Rukeyser was right when she said, “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”

To think apocalyptically is not to give up on ourselves, but only to give up on the arrogant stories that we modern humans have been telling about ourselves. The royal must give way to the prophetic and the apocalyptic. The central story that power likes to tell—that the domination/subordination dynamic that structures so much of modern life is natural and inevitable—must give way to stories of dignity, solidarity, equality. We must resist not only the cruelty of repression but the seduction of comfort.

The best journalists in our tradition have seen themselves as responsible for telling stories about the struggle for social justice. Today, we can add stories about the struggle for ecological sustainability to that mission. Our hope for a decent future—indeed, any hope for even the idea of a future—depends on our ability to tell stories not of how humans have ruled the world but how we can live in the world.

Whether or not we like it, we are all apocalyptic now.

Put the Environment At The Center Of The Global Economy: An Argument For The Eco-Currency

In Uncategorized on May 21, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Oldspeak: “The solution to both the problem of currency and of climate change is obvious: we must hardwire the health of the ecosystem directly to the standard measurements of economic health so that the state of the environment is immediately visible in all economic transactions. Global finance, trade and investment must all be conducted within a system that makes the preservation of the climate, rather than profit, the highest priority. One possible approach is the introduction of a global “eco-currency.” The international community would establish an international currency, an “eco-currency,” whose value is linked directly to the state of the climate (both globally and locally) and that currency would serve either as a universal currency within which international transactions take place, or it could be a factor that significantly impacts all the global currencies.” –Emanuel Pastreich. YES! Brilliant! Tie our monetary measures of health to the health of our planet! Discard extractive, profit driven, imaginary computer generated “market-based” economic systems and replace them with naturally regenerative, resource and ecosystem based economic systems.  An ecosystem based society… Focusing on carbon emissions only allow focus to be placed on a single aspect of the ecosystem. While our bodies,  oceans, streams, lands, fellow lifeforms and food are poisoned.” This system requires consideration of the ecosystem as a whole. Species extinction would have to be accounted for and avoided… Waste would have to be minimally or non-toxic, bio-degradable and recyclable. Extraction would be highly regulated done in a manner that would require replenishment or conservation. All kinds of wonderful side-effects would arise. Reduced pollution, healthier food, cleaner water, reduced poverty, reduced inequality, greater bio-diversity, etc, etc, etc, the possibilities are endless! Barefoot Economics par excellence!

By Emanuel Pastreich @ Truthout:

The environmental challenges we face today, from spreading deserts to rising oceans, compel us to reconsider the conventional concepts of growth and recognize that they cannot easily be reconciled with the dangerous implications of runaway consumption and unlimited development.

Above all, we must get away from a speculative economy born of an irrational dependence on finance, which has becoming increasingly unstable as digital technology accelerates and financial transactions take place without any objective review. We must return to a stable and long-term economy. In part, that process concerns the restoration of regulation on the banking system, but the change must also involve the very conception of finance and banking. Finance must be aimed at stable, long-term projects which have relevance for ordinary people.

Nothing could possibly be more helpful in this process than large-scale projects to restore the environment and address the damage done to the climate by human activity. These projects are absolutely necessary for human survival and they will take decades, if not centuries, to complete. By grounding the economy in adaptation and mitigation, we can return to a predictable system in which green bonds funding 30-50 year projects directly related to our well-being are dominant and we can escape from the flighty digital economy of thousands-per-second transactions.

In addition to the development of a “green bonds” system for funding long-term meaningful projects to address the climate crisis, we should also consider the role of currency itself. We are engaged in a dangerous race to devalue currency around the world in the expectation of increasing advantage in trade. This activity is profoundly destabilizing for our economy and at a higher level also causes chaos in the process by which we assign value in general.

The solution to both the problem of currency and of climate change is obvious: we must hardwire the health of the ecosystem directly to the standard measurements of economic health so that the state of the environment is immediately visible in all economic transactions. Global finance, trade and investment must all be conducted within a system that makes the preservation of the climate, rather than profit, the highest priority.

One possible approach is the introduction of a global “eco-currency.” The international community would establish an international currency, an “eco-currency,” whose value is linked directly to the state of the climate (both globally and locally) and that currency would serve either as a universal currency within which international transactions take place, or it could be a factor that significantly impacts all the global currencies.

Such an eco-currency would require a calculation of the state of the environment on which its value would be based. First we need to come up with a system for evaluating the state of the environment in real-time which could be converted into a set of figures for the calculation of the total state of the global and the local ecosystems. That set of figures would then be the basis for the eco-currency’s value. Such a system would be complex and far from perfect, but it would be a massive improvement over the current factors employed in calculating gross domestic product which are limited to consumption and production and exclude the state of the environment entirely.

There exist indices such as Yale’s Environmental Performance Index that do part of that process, but so far, there is no total agreed on standard for evaluating the state of the total environment that could be used to periodically measure the state of the environment in a manner that could be employed as a universal reference. Only then could the amount of, or the value of, the eco-currency possessed by a nation reflect an objective evaluation of the health of the climate.

If the eco-currency were to serve as one of several factors impacting all global currencies, it might serve as an instrument akin to the SDR (special drawing rights) system currently employed by the International Monetary Fund. According to the IMF website, member [nations] with sufficiently strong external positions are designated by the Fund to buy SDR s with freely usable currencies up to certain amounts from members with weak external positions. In the case of the eco-currency, that strong external position could be redefined so as to consist primarily, or entirely, of environmental criterion.

The eco currency could alternatively serve as a gold standard for all nations of the world, permitting each nation to increase its money supply in direct proportion to the environmental credits that it has accumulated through wise and effective policies by reducing emissions and preserving water and soil.

After all, in that the previous gold standard was based on a mineral that was exceptionally rare and valuable, so it could be a logical extension of that concept to argue that a healthy ecosystem is the most valuable commodity available. The ecosystem is far more valuable to human society than is gold. Each nation would continue to have sovereignty with regards to its own currency, but the calculation of each currency’s exchange rate would take into account the environmental status of the country and its share of a calculated total of environmental credits for the entire world.

Whether it serves as a universal currency, or as a factor impacting all hard currencies, the total amount eco-currency available would be calculated as equal to a global sum of the total value of the ecosystem. Those credits would be assigned to a country based on an evaluation of how good a job that nation does reducing harmful emissions, preserving undeveloped lands, caring for its water supplies and otherwise implementing policies that have a positive effect on the environment.

The serious problems faced by the European emissions trading system suggest that we need to move bravely to a new approach to putting the environment itself, and not merely carbon emissions, at the center of our calculations of the economy. An international currency program based on environmental credits as part of a total biosphere would make the environmental crisis visible in the financial world. The eco-currency could be the first step towards forcing those making fiscal and developmental policy at the national and international level to engage in a serious debate on the implications of their policies for the climate. No longer would it be possible to think separately about monetary policy and environmental policy; the two would be effectively yoked together.