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

Posts Tagged ‘“International Community”’

Don’t Believe Everything You See And Read: The Demonization Of Gaddafi

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2011 at 2:07 pm

US President Barack Obama, right,and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi pictured during the G8/G5 summit in L'Aquila, Italy Thursday July 9, 2009. (AP Photo/ Michael Gottschalk/Pool)

Oldspeak:“Don’t get me wrong, Gaddafi is kind of a dick. He’s a very bad man. He needs to step down and work toward real democracy in Libya. But why is the U.S. trying to kill him? Last I checked he hasn’t launched/ been behind any terrorist strikes against the U.S. or NATO. (Unless you consider planning to introduce an African gold backed Dinar that would challenge the U.S. Dollar terrorism.)  He’s doing basically the same shit that Dictators in U.S. client states Syria, Bahrain and Egypt have done for decades but that qualifies as pretext for invading his country, dropping radioactive uranium bombs on civilian structures, homes, hotels and hospitals, and repeatedly killing the innocents the U.N. mandate declares the U.S. and NATO are allegedly there to protect? Add to that a recent report by Amnesty International that questions the veracity of claims levied against Gaddafi that constituted U.S./NATO pretext for invasion and what is now obviously a regime change and assassination campaign? These vital details are given little to no coverage in Corporate Media. It seems as though Corporate Media is entirely to eager to parrot the sound bites of the official story.  Bottom line, there are waaay to many holes and shady unreported dealings going on for me to believe this “Revolution” is organic and indigenous. “Ignorance Is Strength”.

By Patrick Cockburn @ Counterpunch:

In the first months of the Arab Spring, foreign journalists got well-merited credit for helping to foment and publicize popular uprisings against the region’s despots. Satellite TV stations such as Al Jazeera Arabic, in particular, struck at the roots of power in Arab police states, by making official censorship irrelevant and by competing successfully against government propaganda.

Regimes threatened by change have, since those early days, paid backhanded compliments to the foreign media by throwing correspondents out of countries where they would like to report and by denying them visas to come back in. Trying to visit Yemen earlier this year, I was told that not only was there no chance of my being granted a journalist’s visa, but that real tourists – amazingly there is a trickle of such people wanting to see the wonders of Yemen – were being turned back at Sanaa airport on the grounds that they must secretly be journalists. The Bahrain government has an even meaner trick: give a visa to a journalist at a Bahraini embassy abroad and deny him entry when his plane lands.

It has taken time for this policy of near total exclusion to take hold, but it means that, today, foreign journalistic coverage of Syria, Yemen and, to a lesser extent, Bahrain is usually long-distance, reliant on cellphone film of demonstrations and riots which cannot be verified.

I was in Tehran earlier this year and failed to see any demonstrations in the centre of the city, though there were plenty of riot police standing about. I was therefore amazed to find a dramatic video on YouTube dated, so far as I recall, February 27, showing a violent demonstration. Then I noticed the protesters in the video were wearing only shirts though it was wet and freezing in Tehran and the men I could see in the streets were in jackets.

Presumably somebody had redated a video shot in the summer of 2009 when there were prolonged riots.

With so many countries out of bounds, journalists have flocked to Benghazi, in Libya, which can be reached from Egypt without a visa. Alternatively they go to Tripoli, where the government allows a carefully monitored press corps to operate under strict supervision. Having arrived in these two cities, the ways in which the journalists report diverge sharply. Everybody reporting out of Tripoli expresses understandable scepticism about what government minders seek to show them as regards civilian casualties caused by Nato air strikes or demonstrations of support for Gaddafi. By way of contrast, the foreign press corps in Benghazi, capital of the rebel-held territory, shows surprising credulity towards more subtle but equally self-serving stories from the rebel government or its sympathizers.

Ever since the Libyan uprising started on February 15, the foreign media have regurgitated stories of atrocities carried out by Gaddafi’s forces. It is now becoming clear that reputable human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been unable to find evidence for the worst of these. For instance, they could find no credible witnesses to the mass rapes said to have been ordered by Gaddafi. Foreign mercenaries supposedly recruited by Gaddafi and shown off to the press were later quietly released when they turned out to be undocumented laborers from central and west Africa.

The crimes for which there is proof against Gaddafi are more prosaic, such as the bombardment of civilians in Misrata who have no way to escape. There is also proof of the shooting of unarmed protesters and people at funerals early on in the uprising. Amnesty estimates that some 100-110 people were killed in Benghazi and 59-64 in Baida, though it warns that some of the dead may have been government supporters.

The Libyan insurgents were adept at dealing with the press from an early stage and this included skilful propaganda to put the blame for unexplained killings on the other side. One story, to which credence was given by the foreign media early on in Benghazi, was that eight to 10 government troops who refused to shoot protesters were executed by their own side. Their bodies were shown on TV. But Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response adviser for Amnesty International, says there is strong evidence for a different explanation. She says amateur video shows them alive after they had been captured, suggesting it was the rebels who killed them.

It is a weakness of journalists that they give wide publicity to atrocities, evidence for which may be shaky when first revealed. But when the stories turn out to be untrue or exaggerated, they rate scarcely a mention.

But atrocity stories develop a life of their own and have real, and sometimes fatal, consequences long after the basis for them is deflated. Earlier in the year in Benghazi I spoke to refugees, mostly oil workers from Brega, an oil port in the Gulf of Sirte which had been captured by Gaddafi forces. One of the reasons they had fled was that they believed their wives and daughters were in danger of being raped by foreign mercenaries. They knew about this threat from watching satellite TV.

It is all credit to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that they have taken a sceptical attitude to atrocities until proven. Contrast this responsible attitude with that of Hillary Clinton or the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who blithely suggested that Gaddafi was using rape as a weapon of war to punish the rebels. Equally irresponsible would be a decision by the ICC to prosecute Gaddafi and his lieutenants, thus making it far less likely that Gaddafi can be eased out of power without a fight to the finish. This systematic demonization of Gaddafi – a brutal despot he may be, but not a monster on the scale of Saddam Hussein – also makes it difficult to negotiate a ceasefire with him, though he is the only man who can deliver one.

There is nothing particularly surprising about the rebels in Benghazi making things up or producing dubious witnesses to Gaddafi’s crimes. They are fighting a war against a despot whom they fear and hate and they will understandably use propaganda as a weapon of war. But it does show naivety on the part of the foreign media, who almost universally sympathize with the rebels, that they swallow whole so many atrocity stories fed to them by the rebel authorities and their sympathizers.
Patrick Cockburn is the author of “Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.

Chomsky: Is The World Too Big to Fail? The Contours Of Global Order

In Uncategorized on April 25, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Oldspeak: Chomsky, with a brilliant explication of the “Grand Area” doctrine, that has guided U.S. foreign policy under every U.S. President since the end of WWII.  ‘The U.S.  is to dominate the Western hemisphere, the Far East, and the former British empire, with its Middle East energy resources… Grand Area goals extended to as much of Eurasia as possible, at least its economic core in Western Europe. Within the Grand Area, the U.S. would maintain “unquestioned power,” with “military and economic supremacy,” while ensuring the “limitation of any exercise of sovereignty” by states that might interfere with its global designs.’ –Noam Chomsky. Careful observation of world events since WWII would show that implementation of this doctrine has been achieved with a large degree of success, and in this context, ostensibly odd and otherwise irrational foreign policy decisions make perfect sense. It remains to be seen how long the U.S. will be capable of maintaining its gargantuan global empire at the expense of the planet & billions living in poverty and despair on it.

By Noam Chomsky @ TomDispatch:

The democracy uprising in the Arab world has been a spectacular display of courage, dedication, and commitment by popular forces — coinciding, fortuitously, with a remarkable uprising of tens of thousands in support of working people and democracy in Madison, Wisconsin, and other U.S. cities. If the trajectories of revolt in Cairo and Madison intersected, however, they were headed in opposite directions: in Cairo toward gaining elementary rights denied by the dictatorship, in Madison towards defending rights that had been won in long and hard struggles and are now under severe attack.

Each is a microcosm of tendencies in global society, following varied courses. There are sure to be far-reaching consequences of what is taking place both in the decaying industrial heartland of the richest and most powerful country in human history, and in what President Dwight Eisenhower called “the most strategically important area in the world” — “a stupendous source of strategic power” and “probably the richest economic prize in the world in the field of foreign investment,” in the words of the State Department in the 1940s, a prize that the U.S. intended to keep for itself and its allies in the unfolding New World Order of that day.

Despite all the changes since, there is every reason to suppose that today’s policy-makers basically adhere to the judgment of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s influential advisor A.A. Berle that control of the incomparable energy reserves of the Middle East would yield “substantial control of the world.” And correspondingly, that loss of control would threaten the project of global dominance that was clearly articulated during World War II, and that has been sustained in the face of major changes in world order since that day.

From the outset of the war in 1939, Washington anticipated that it would end with the U.S. in a position of overwhelming power. High-level State Department officials and foreign policy specialists met through the wartime years to lay out plans for the postwar world. They delineated a “Grand Area” that the U.S. was to dominate, including the Western hemisphere, the Far East, and the former British empire, with its Middle East energy resources. As Russia began to grind down Nazi armies after Stalingrad, Grand Area goals extended to as much of Eurasia as possible, at least its economic core in Western Europe. Within the Grand Area, the U.S. would maintain “unquestioned power,” with “military and economic supremacy,” while ensuring the “limitation of any exercise of sovereignty” by states that might interfere with its global designs. The careful wartime plans were soon implemented.

It was always recognized that Europe might choose to follow an independent course. NATO was partially intended to counter this threat. As soon as the official pretext for NATO dissolved in 1989, NATO was expanded to the East in violation of verbal pledges to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. It has since become a U.S.-run intervention force, with far-ranging scope, spelled out by NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who informed a NATO conference that “NATO troops have to guard pipelines that transport oil and gas that is directed for the West,” and more generally to protect sea routes used by tankers and other “crucial infrastructure” of the energy system.

Grand Area doctrines clearly license military intervention at will. That conclusion was articulated clearly by the Clinton administration, which declared that the U.S. has the right to use military force to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources,” and must maintain huge military forces “forward deployed” in Europe and Asia “in order to shape people’s opinions about us” and “to shape events that will affect our livelihood and our security.”

The same principles governed the invasion of Iraq. As the U.S. failure to impose its will in Iraq was becoming unmistakable, the actual goals of the invasion could no longer be concealed behind pretty rhetoric. In November 2007, the White House issued a Declaration of Principles demanding that U.S. forces must remain indefinitely in Iraq and committing Iraq to privilege American investors. Two months later, President Bush informed Congress that he would reject legislation that might limit the permanent stationing of U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq or “United States control of the oil resources of Iraq” — demands that the U.S. had to abandon shortly after in the face of Iraqi resistance.

In Tunisia and Egypt, the recent popular uprisings have won impressive victories, but as the Carnegie Endowment reported, while names have changed, the regimes remain: “A change in ruling elites and system of governance is still a distant goal.” The report discusses internal barriers to democracy, but ignores the external ones, which as always are significant.

The U.S. and its Western allies are sure to do whatever they can to prevent authentic democracy in the Arab world. To understand why, it is only necessary to look at the studies of Arab opinion conducted by U.S. polling agencies. Though barely reported, they are certainly known to planners. They reveal that by overwhelming majorities, Arabs regard the U.S. and Israel as the major threats they face: the U.S. is so regarded by 90% of Egyptians, in the region generally by over 75%. Some Arabs regard Iran as a threat: 10%. Opposition to U.S. policy is so strong that a majority believes that security would be improved if Iran had nuclear weapons — in Egypt, 80%. Other figures are similar. If public opinion were to influence policy, the U.S. not only would not control the region, but would be expelled from it, along with its allies, undermining fundamental principles of global dominance.

The Invisible Hand of Power

Support for democracy is the province of ideologists and propagandists. In the real world, elite dislike of democracy is the norm. The evidence is overwhelming that democracy is supported insofar as it contributes to social and economic objectives, a conclusion reluctantly conceded by the more serious scholarship.

Elite contempt for democracy was revealed dramatically in the reaction to the WikiLeaks exposures. Those that received most attention, with euphoric commentary, were cables reporting that Arabs support the U.S. stand on Iran. The reference was to the ruling dictators. The attitudes of the public were unmentioned. The guiding principle was articulated clearly by Carnegie Endowment Middle East specialist Marwan Muasher, formerly a high official of the Jordanian government: “There is nothing wrong, everything is under control.” In short, if the dictators support us, what else could matter?

The Muasher doctrine is rational and venerable. To mention just one case that is highly relevant today, in internal discussion in 1958, president Eisenhower expressed concern about “the campaign of hatred” against us in the Arab world, not by governments, but by the people. The National Security Council (NSC) explained that there is a perception in the Arab world that the U.S. supports dictatorships and blocks democracy and development so as to ensure control over the resources of the region. Furthermore, the perception is basically accurate, the NSC concluded, and that is what we should be doing, relying on the Muasher doctrine. Pentagon studies conducted after 9/11 confirmed that the same holds today.

It is normal for the victors to consign history to the trash can, and for victims to take it seriously. Perhaps a few brief observations on this important matter may be useful. Today is not the first occasion when Egypt and the U.S. are facing similar problems, and moving in opposite directions. That was also true in the early nineteenth century.

Economic historians have argued that Egypt was well-placed to undertake rapid economic development at the same time that the U.S. was. Both had rich agriculture, including cotton, the fuel of the early industrial revolution — though unlike Egypt, the U.S. had to develop cotton production and a work force by conquest, extermination, and slavery, with consequences that are evident right now in the reservations for the survivors and the prisons that have rapidly expanded since the Reagan years to house the superfluous population left by deindustrialization.

One fundamental difference was that the U.S. had gained independence and was therefore free to ignore the prescriptions of economic theory, delivered at the time by Adam Smith in terms rather like those preached to developing societies today. Smith urged the liberated colonies to produce primary products for export and to import superior British manufactures, and certainly not to attempt to monopolize crucial goods, particularly cotton. Any other path, Smith warned, “would retard instead of accelerating the further increase in the value of their annual produce, and would obstruct instead of promoting the progress of their country towards real wealth and greatness.”

Having gained their independence, the colonies were free to ignore his advice and to follow England’s course of independent state-guided development, with high tariffs to protect industry from British exports, first textiles, later steel and others, and to adopt numerous other devices to accelerate industrial development. The independent Republic also sought to gain a monopoly of cotton so as to “place all other nations at our feet,” particularly the British enemy, as the Jacksonian presidents announced when conquering Texas and half of Mexico.

For Egypt, a comparable course was barred by British power. Lord Palmerston declared that “no ideas of fairness [toward Egypt] ought to stand in the way of such great and paramount interests” of Britain as preserving its economic and political hegemony, expressing his “hate” for the “ignorant barbarian” Muhammed Ali who dared to seek an independent course, and deploying Britain’s fleet and financial power to terminate Egypt’s quest for independence and economic development.

After World War II, when the U.S. displaced Britain as global hegemon, Washington adopted the same stand, making it clear that the U.S. would provide no aid to Egypt unless it adhered to the standard rules for the weak — which the U.S. continued to violate, imposing high tariffs to bar Egyptian cotton and causing a debilitating dollar shortage. The usual interpretation of market principles.

It is small wonder that the “campaign of hatred” against the U.S. that concerned Eisenhower was based on the recognition that the U.S. supports dictators and blocks democracy and development, as do its allies.

In Adam Smith’s defense, it should be added that he recognized what would happen if Britain followed the rules of sound economics, now called “neoliberalism.” He warned that if British manufacturers, merchants, and investors turned abroad, they might profit but England would suffer. But he felt that they would be guided by a home bias, so as if by an invisible hand England would be spared the ravages of economic rationality.

The passage is hard to miss. It is the one occurrence of the famous phrase “invisible hand” in The Wealth of Nations. The other leading founder of classical economics, David Ricardo, drew similar conclusions, hoping that home bias would lead men of property to “be satisfied with the low rate of profits in their own country, rather than seek a more advantageous employment for their wealth in foreign nations,” feelings that, he added, “I should be sorry to see weakened.” Their predictions aside, the instincts of the classical economists were sound.

The Iranian and Chinese “Threats”

The democracy uprising in the Arab world is sometimes compared to Eastern Europe in 1989, but on dubious grounds. In 1989, the democracy uprising was tolerated by the Russians, and supported by western power in accord with standard doctrine: it plainly conformed to economic and strategic objectives, and was therefore a noble achievement, greatly honored, unlike the struggles at the same time “to defend the people’s fundamental human rights” in Central America, in the words of the assassinated Archbishop of El Salvador, one of the hundreds of thousands of victims of the military forces armed and trained by Washington. There was no Gorbachev in the West throughout these horrendous years, and there is none today. And Western power remains hostile to democracy in the Arab world for good reasons.

Grand Area doctrines continue to apply to contemporary crises and confrontations. In Western policy-making circles and political commentary the Iranian threat is considered to pose the greatest danger to world order and hence must be the primary focus of U.S. foreign policy, with Europe trailing along politely.

What exactly is the Iranian threat? An authoritative answer is provided by the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence. Reporting on global security last year, they make it clear that the threat is not military. Iran’s military spending is “relatively low compared to the rest of the region,” they conclude. Its military doctrine is strictly “defensive, designed to slow an invasion and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities.” Iran has only “a limited capability to project force beyond its borders.” With regard to the nuclear option, “Iran’s nuclear program and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy.” All quotes.

The brutal clerical regime is doubtless a threat to its own people, though it hardly outranks U.S. allies in that regard. But the threat lies elsewhere, and is ominous indeed. One element is Iran’s potential deterrent capacity, an illegitimate exercise of sovereignty that might interfere with U.S. freedom of action in the region. It is glaringly obvious why Iran would seek a deterrent capacity; a look at the military bases and nuclear forces in the region suffices to explain.

Seven years ago, Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld wrote that “The world has witnessed how the United States attacked Iraq for, as it turned out, no reason at all. Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy,” particularly when they are under constant threat of attack in violation of the UN Charter. Whether they are doing so remains an open question, but perhaps so.

But Iran’s threat goes beyond deterrence. It is also seeking to expand its influence in neighboring countries, the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence emphasize, and in this way to “destabilize” the region (in the technical terms of foreign policy discourse). The U.S. invasion and military occupation of Iran’s neighbors is “stabilization.” Iran’s efforts to extend its influence to them are “destabilization,” hence plainly illegitimate.

Such usage is routine. Thus the prominent foreign policy analyst James Chace was properly using the term “stability” in its technical sense when he explained that in order to achieve “stability” in Chile it was necessary to “destabilize” the country (by overthrowing the elected government of Salvador Allende and installing the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet). Other concerns about Iran are equally interesting to explore, but perhaps this is enough to reveal the guiding principles and their status in imperial culture.  As Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s planners emphasized at the dawn of the contemporary world system, the U.S. cannot tolerate “any exercise of sovereignty” that interferes with its global designs.

The U.S. and Europe are united in punishing Iran for its threat to stability, but it is useful to recall how isolated they are. The nonaligned countries have vigorously supported Iran’s right to enrich uranium. In the region, Arab public opinion even strongly favors Iranian nuclear weapons. The major regional power, Turkey, voted against the latest U.S.-initiated sanctions motion in the Security Council, along with Brazil, the most admired country of the South. Their disobedience led to sharp censure, not for the first time: Turkey had been bitterly condemned in 2003 when the government followed the will of 95% of the population and refused to participate in the invasion of Iraq, thus demonstrating its weak grasp of democracy, western-style.

After its Security Council misdeed last year, Turkey was warned by Obama’s top diplomat on European affairs, Philip Gordon, that it must “demonstrate its commitment to partnership with the West.” A scholar with the Council on Foreign Relations asked, “How do we keep the Turks in their lane?” — following orders like good democrats. Brazil’s Lula was admonished in a New York Times headline that his effort with Turkey to provide a solution to the uranium enrichment issue outside of the framework of U.S. power was a “Spot on Brazilian Leader’s Legacy.” In brief, do what we say, or else.

An interesting sidelight, effectively suppressed, is that the Iran-Turkey-Brazil deal was approved in advance by Obama, presumably on the assumption that it would fail, providing an ideological weapon against Iran. When it succeeded, the approval turned to censure, and Washington rammed through a Security Council resolution so weak that China readily signed — and is now chastised for living up to the letter of the resolution but not Washington’s unilateral directives — in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, for example.

While the U.S. can tolerate Turkish disobedience, though with dismay, China is harder to ignore. The press warns that “China’s investors and traders are now filling a vacuum in Iran as businesses from many other nations, especially in Europe, pull out,” and in particular, is expanding its dominant role in Iran’s energy industries. Washington is reacting with a touch of desperation. The State Department warned China that if it wants to be accepted in the international community — a technical term referring to the U.S. and whoever happens to agree with it — then it must not “skirt and evade international responsibilities, [which] are clear”: namely, follow U.S. orders. China is unlikely to be impressed.

There is also much concern about the growing Chinese military threat. A recent Pentagon study warned that China’s military budget is approaching “one-fifth of what the Pentagon spent to operate and carry out the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” a fraction of the U.S. military budget, of course. China’s expansion of military forces might “deny the ability of American warships to operate in international waters off its coast,” the New York Times added.

Off the coast of China, that is; it has yet to be proposed that the U.S. should eliminate military forces that deny the Caribbean to Chinese warships. China’s lack of understanding of rules of international civility is illustrated further by its objections to plans for the advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington to join naval exercises a few miles off China’s coast, with alleged capacity to strike Beijing.

In contrast, the West understands that such U.S. operations are all undertaken to defend stability and its own security. The liberal New Republic expresses its concern that “China sent ten warships through international waters just off the Japanese island of Okinawa.” That is indeed a provocation — unlike the fact, unmentioned, that Washington has converted the island into a major military base in defiance of vehement protests by the people of Okinawa. That is not a provocation, on the standard principle that we own the world.

Deep-seated imperial doctrine aside, there is good reason for China’s neighbors to be concerned about its growing military and commercial power. And though Arab opinion supports an Iranian nuclear weapons program, we certainly should not do so. The foreign policy literature is full of proposals as to how to counter the threat. One obvious way is rarely discussed: work to establish a nuclear-weapons-free zone (NWFZ) in the region. The issue arose (again) at the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference at United Nations headquarters last May. Egypt, as chair of the 118 nations of the Non-Aligned Movement, called for negotiations on a Middle East NWFZ, as had been agreed by the West, including the U.S., at the 1995 review conference on the NPT.

International support is so overwhelming that Obama formally agreed. It is a fine idea, Washington informed the conference, but not now. Furthermore, the U.S. made clear that Israel must be exempted: no proposal can call for Israel’s nuclear program to be placed under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency or for the release of information about “Israeli nuclear facilities and activities.” So much for this method of dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat.

Privatizing the Planet

While Grand Area doctrine still prevails, the capacity to implement it has declined. The peak of U.S. power was after World War II, when it had literally half the world’s wealth. But that naturally declined, as other industrial economies recovered from the devastation of the war and decolonization took its agonizing course. By the early 1970s, the U.S. share of global wealth had declined to about 25%, and the industrial world had become tripolar: North America, Europe, and East Asia (then Japan-based).

There was also a sharp change in the U.S. economy in the 1970s, towards financialization and export of production. A variety of factors converged to create a vicious cycle of radical concentration of wealth, primarily in the top fraction of 1% of the population — mostly CEOs, hedge-fund managers, and the like. That leads to the concentration of political power, hence state policies to increase economic concentration: fiscal policies, rules of corporate governance, deregulation, and much more. Meanwhile the costs of electoral campaigns skyrocketed, driving the parties into the pockets of concentrated capital, increasingly financial: the Republicans reflexively, the Democrats — by now what used to be moderate Republicans — not far behind.

Elections have become a charade, run by the public relations industry. After his 2008 victory, Obama won an award from the industry for the best marketing campaign of the year. Executives were euphoric. In the business press they explained that they had been marketing candidates like other commodities since Ronald Reagan, but 2008 was their greatest achievement and would change the style in corporate boardrooms. The 2012 election is expected to cost $2 billion, mostly in corporate funding. Small wonder that Obama is selecting business leaders for top positions. The public is angry and frustrated, but as long as the Muasher principle prevails, that doesn’t matter.

While wealth and power have narrowly concentrated, for most of the population real incomes have stagnated and people have been getting by with increased work hours, debt, and asset inflation, regularly destroyed by the financial crises that began as the regulatory apparatus was dismantled starting in the 1980s.

None of this is problematic for the very wealthy, who benefit from a government insurance policy called “too big to fail.” The banks and investment firms can make risky transactions, with rich rewards, and when the system inevitably crashes, they can run to the nanny state for a taxpayer bailout, clutching their copies of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.

That has been the regular process since the Reagan years, each crisis more extreme than the last — for the public population, that is. Right now, real unemployment is at Depression levels for much of the population, while Goldman Sachs, one of the main architects of the current crisis, is richer than ever. It has just quietly announced $17.5 billion in compensation for last year, with CEO Lloyd Blankfein receiving a $12.6 million bonus while his base salary more than triples.

It wouldn’t do to focus attention on such facts as these. Accordingly, propaganda must seek to blame others, in the past few months, public sector workers, their fat salaries, exorbitant pensions, and so on: all fantasy, on the model of Reaganite imagery of black mothers being driven in their limousines to pick up welfare checks — and other models that need not be mentioned. We all must tighten our belts; almost all, that is.

Teachers are a particularly good target, as part of the deliberate effort to destroy the public education system from kindergarten through the universities by privatization — again, good for the wealthy, but a disaster for the population, as well as the long-term health of the economy, but that is one of the externalities that is put to the side insofar as market principles prevail.

Another fine target, always, is immigrants. That has been true throughout U.S. history, even more so at times of economic crisis, exacerbated now by a sense that our country is being taken away from us: the white population will soon become a minority. One can understand the anger of aggrieved individuals, but the cruelty of the policy is shocking.

Who are the immigrants targeted? In Eastern Massachusetts, where I live, many are Mayans fleeing genocide in the Guatemalan highlands carried out by Reagan’s favorite killers. Others are Mexican victims of Clinton’s NAFTA, one of those rare government agreements that managed to harm working people in all three of the participating countries. As NAFTA was rammed through Congress over popular objection in 1994, Clinton also initiated the militarization of the U.S.-Mexican border, previously fairly open. It was understood that Mexican campesinos cannot compete with highly subsidized U.S. agribusiness, and that Mexican businesses would not survive competition with U.S. multinationals, which must be granted “national treatment” under the mislabeled free trade agreements, a privilege granted only to corporate persons, not those of flesh and blood. Not surprisingly, these measures led to a flood of desperate refugees, and to rising anti-immigrant hysteria by the victims of state-corporate policies at home.

Much the same appears to be happening in Europe, where racism is probably more rampant than in the U.S. One can only watch with wonder as Italy complains about the flow of refugees from Libya, the scene of the first post-World War I genocide, in the now-liberated East, at the hands of Italy’s Fascist government. Or when France, still today the main protector of the brutal dictatorships in its former colonies, manages to overlook its hideous atrocities in Africa, while French President Nicolas Sarkozy warns grimly of the “flood of immigrants” and Marine Le Pen objects that he is doing nothing to prevent it. I need not mention Belgium, which may win the prize for what Adam Smith called “the savage injustice of the Europeans.”

The rise of neo-fascist parties in much of Europe would be a frightening phenomenon even if we were not to recall what happened on the continent in the recent past. Just imagine the reaction if Jews were being expelled from France to misery and oppression, and then witness the non-reaction when that is happening to Roma, also victims of the Holocaust and Europe’s most brutalized population.

In Hungary, the neo-fascist party Jobbik gained 17% of the vote in national elections, perhaps unsurprising when three-quarters of the population feels that they are worse off than under Communist rule. We might be relieved that in Austria the ultra-right Jörg Haider won only 10% of the vote in 2008 — were it not for the fact that the new Freedom Party, outflanking him from the far right, won more than 17%. It is chilling to recall that, in 1928, the Nazis won less than 3% of the vote in Germany.

In England the British National Party and the English Defence League, on the ultra-racist right, are major forces. (What is happening in Holland you know all too well.) In Germany, Thilo Sarrazin’s lament that immigrants are destroying the country was a runaway best-seller, while Chancellor Angela Merkel, though condemning the book, declared that multiculturalism had “utterly failed”: the Turks imported to do the dirty work in Germany are failing to become blond and blue-eyed, true Aryans.

Those with a sense of irony may recall that Benjamin Franklin, one of the leading figures of the Enlightenment, warned that the newly liberated colonies should be wary of allowing Germans to immigrate, because they were too swarthy; Swedes as well. Into the twentieth century, ludicrous myths of Anglo-Saxon purity were common in the U.S., including among presidents and other leading figures. Racism in the literary culture has been a rank obscenity; far worse in practice, needless to say. It is much easier to eradicate polio than this horrifying plague, which regularly becomes more virulent in times of economic distress.

I do not want to end without mentioning another externality that is dismissed in market systems: the fate of the species. Systemic risk in the financial system can be remedied by the taxpayer, but no one will come to the rescue if the environment is destroyed. That it must be destroyed is close to an institutional imperative. Business leaders who are conducting propaganda campaigns to convince the population that anthropogenic global warming is a liberal hoax understand full well how grave is the threat, but they must maximize short-term profit and market share. If they don’t, someone else will.

This vicious cycle could well turn out to be lethal. To see how grave the danger is, simply have a look at the new Congress in the U.S., propelled into power by business funding and propaganda. Almost all are climate deniers. They have already begun to cut funding for measures that might mitigate environmental catastrophe. Worse, some are true believers; for example, the new head of a subcommittee on the environment who explained that global warming cannot be a problem because God promised Noah that there will not be another flood.

If such things were happening in some small and remote country, we might laugh. Not when they are happening in the richest and most powerful country in the world. And before we laugh, we might also bear in mind that the current economic crisis is traceable in no small measure to the fanatic faith in such dogmas as the efficient market hypothesis, and in general to what Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, 15 years ago, called the “religion” that markets know best — which prevented the central bank and the economics profession from taking notice of an $8 trillion housing bubble that had no basis at all in economic fundamentals, and that devastated the economy when it burst.

All of this, and much more, can proceed as long as the Muashar doctrine prevails. As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor emeritus in the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. He is the author of numerous best-selling political works. His latest books are a new edition of Power and Terror, The Essential Chomsky (edited by Anthony Arnove), a collection of his writings on politics and on language from the 1950s to the present, Gaza in Crisis, with Ilan Pappé, and Hopes and Prospects, also available as an audiobook. This piece is adapted from a talk given in Amsterdam in March.

Copyright 2011 Noam Chomsky


The West Goes To War For Oil And Power In Libya

In Uncategorized on March 24, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Oldspeak:”30 years ago, President Reagan referred to Qaddafi as the “mad dog of the Middle East” and launched his own war on Libya. 10 years ago President G.W. Bush saw Qaddafi as an ally in the ‘War On Terror”  Today, “The same Western leaders who happily armed and did oil business with the Qaddafi regime until a fortnight ago have now slapped sanctions on the discarded autocrat and blithely referred him to the international criminal court the United States won’t recognize.”-Seamus Milne, The Guardian. This war isn’t about protecting innocents. Innocents are being killed in Bahrain by a U.S. backed dictator. Innocents are being killed in Pakistan by U.S. Drones. Innocents are being killed in Palestine. Innocent children are being killed in Afghanistan by “Coalition Forces”. Children dissidents, and journalists are being killed and detained in Syria. You hear very little about this corporate media. Make no mistake, this war is about oil. CIA/U.S. Special Forces trained and backed Libyan rebels, have given the west the pretext for this war.  This latest war of aggression is the latest example of politically and oil motivated hypocrisy by the U.S. and it’s allies.”

By Tom Arabia & Alan Maass @ The Socialist Worker:

U.S. and European forces began a war on Libya on last week with warplane and missile strikes hitting weapons and defense systems controlled by Muammar el-Qaddafi and his regime.

The Western assault will be portrayed as a “humanitarian” mission to stop Qaddafi from carrying out an offensive targeting the mass rebellion against his regime. But the long record of “humanitarian” intervention shows that the bombs and guns of the U.S. and its allies are never used to save lives or bring justice, but to serve Western interests–and Libya is no different.

Anyone who has been inspired by the wave of revolts against dictators in North Africa and the Middle East–including the one in Libya–must oppose this new attempt by the U.S. and its allies to reassert their domination in the region, because it will be used to try to stifle the struggle for democracy.

The attack by a coalition of countries, with the support of several Arab nations–but with the U.S. acting as the “leading edge,” according to American military officials–is described as the first phase of an operation called “Odyssey Dawn” to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, passed on Thursday. Targets were hit across north Libya, from airports near the capital of Tripoli to military positions on the outskirts of the city of Benghazi, which has been a stronghold of the rebellion against Qaddafi.

The aim, according to the governments carrying out the attack, is to destroy the regime’s ability to resist enforcement of a no-fly zone. But the Security Council resolution lays the basis for a much broader war, and operations are expected to escalate to a “no-drive zone” and possibly the use of ground forces, in parts of Libya or the whole country.

The attack came as Qaddafi’s forces began an offensive against Benghazi, after a scorched-earth campaign that has pounded rebel forces in the past week. Within days of its beginnings in mid-February, the uprising against Qaddafi seemed on the verge of toppling one of the longest-running dictatorships in the world, but the regime has used its overwhelming military advantage over the rebellion to win back most of the northwest of the country around the capital of Tripoli, as well as a string of port cities leading toward Benghazi.

Libya’s government claimed to have implemented a cease-fire on Saturday and invited UN fact-finding missions to verify it, but numerous reports from both Western and other media sources described a stepped-up campaign against Benghazi, with opposition fighters coming under constant mortar and artillery fire.

With attacks from the air, the U.S.-led assault on Libya might prevent some of Qaddafi’s forces from entering rebel-controlled and civilian-populated areas like Benghazi, but as the U.S. intelligences consulting firm Stratfor wrote [1], “it cannot force the withdrawal of those forces from within the city without risking significant civilian casualties…The application of airpower entails civilian casualties, and it remains unclear if that application can be translated into the achievement of political objectives in Libya.”

That raises the potential of large-scale bloodshed among the very people who have rebelled against Qaddafi–and a war that will have to escalate beyond limited missile strikes and air patrols to accomplish the stated objectives of Western governments. D.B. Grady, a former paratrooper with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and veteran of the Afghanistan war, explained the dynamic in an interview on National Public Radio [2]:

I’m unaware of any no-fly zone that’s been imposed by the United States that didn’t ultimately end up with military intervention that actually put soldiers on the ground. Bosnia and Herzegovina started out as Operation Deny Flight…If you look at Iraq, we established the no-fly zone in 1991. The no-fly zone ended in 2003 with Operation Iraqi Freedom.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

IN CHEERLEADING the U.S.-led assault to “stop a massacre,” the American media never stopped for a moment to question Washington’s selective concern about violence and repression.

Even as the Security Council was passing a resolution that U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice insisted was “to protect innocent civilians,” the Washington-allied monarchy in the Gulf state of Bahrain was shooting down anti-government demonstrators. The most that U.S. diplomats could manage in this case was calls for “restraint” and “talks.”

Also the very same day as the UN resolution was passed, U.S. military forces were directly responsible for 40 deaths in Pakistan [3], when missiles fired from American drone planes hit a community assembly or jirga, in the Nevi Adda Shega area of North Waziristan. These deaths come a few weeks after a NATO air attack killed nine Afghan boys in early March [4], and in the wake of at least 29 people killed in protests in U.S.-occupied Iraq in late February [5].

The other element missing from media coverage of the Libya attack is a three-letter word familiar from past U.S.-led wars in the Middle East: oil.

Libya exports about 1.5 million barrels of oil a day and possesses one of the largest oil reserves of any country in Africa. Western oil companies have done a booming business with the dictator Qaddafi over the past decade, devoting huge investments to the country.

That was only possible because of the rehabilitation of the regime as an ally. Qaddafi has been the villain before for U.S. politicians–during the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan called him the “mad dog of the Middle East” and launched his own war on Libya. But in between, the one-time villain became a friend. As Todd Chretien described in an article for SocialistWorker.org [6]:

While the Cold War was still on, the U.S. considered Libya an enemy, and Ronald Reagan targeted the country in the 1980s, including an attempt to assassinate Qaddafi by bombing one of his residences (which killed his 15-month-old daughter).

But in the late 1990s, Qaddafi began to make peace with his former adversaries. And after 9/11, Qaddafi offered Libyan support for the U.S. government’s “war on terror” under George W. Bush. The regime restored diplomatic relations with the U.S., leading ExxonMobil, Chevron and other American corporations to rush into lucrative exploration and production deals.

Before the threat of military intervention escalated, Guardian columnist Seamus Milne commented: “The same Western leaders who happily armed and did business with the Qaddafi regime until a fortnight ago have now slapped sanctions on the discarded autocrat and blithely referred him to the international criminal court the United States won’t recognize.”

Given this record of hypocrisy, neither the U.S. government nor its European allies–and not the Arab states like Qatar that are going along with the war on Libya either–can be trusted to have decent motives. The real reasons for the assault on Libya have nothing to do with saving the Libyan people from Qaddafi. They are about oil profits on the one hand–and reestablishing U.S. and European influence in a part of the world that has experienced two revolutions–in Egypt and Tunisia–since the start of the year.

This war won’t bring justice. It has to be opposed.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Material on this Web site is licensed by SocialistWorker.org, under a Creative Commons (by-nc-nd 3.0) [7] license, except for articles that are republished with permission. Readers are welcome to share and use material belonging to this site for non-commercial purposes, as long as they are attributed to the author and SocialistWorker.org.

  1. [1] http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/20110319-red-alert-libyan-forces-benghazi
  2. [2] http://www.npr.org/2011/03/13/134516032/Understanding-No-Fly-Zones-And-Their-Implications
  3. [3] http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/18/rare-condemnation-by-pm-army-chief-40-civilians-killed-in-drone-attack.html
  4. [4] http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2011/03/2011391229382651.html
  5. [5] http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2011/02/27/At-least-29-dead-in-Iraq-protests/UPI-56511298812676/
  6. [6] http://socialistworker.org/2011/02/28/taking-sides-about-libya
  7. [7] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0

Nobel Committee Asked To Strip Obama of Peace Prize

In Uncategorized on March 22, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Oldspeak:” It was a very bad joke when he got it, and since; 4 wars and no peace?  ‘A message has been widely retweeted on Twitter today: “Obama has now fired more cruise missiles than all other Nobel Peace prize winners combined.’ Sounds about right. Nuff Said.”

By Joseph E. Lovell @ Digital Journal:

 

The Bolivian President and a Russian political leader have launched a campaign to revoke Obama’s honour after the US attacked Libya.
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader and Vice-Chairman of the State Duma Vladimir Zhirinovsky released a statement today calling for the Nobel Prize Committee to take back the honour bestowed on US President Barack Obama in 2009.Zhirinovsky said the attacks were “another outrageous act of aggression by NATO forces and, in particular, the United States,” and that the attacks demonstrated a “colonial policy” with “one goal: to establish control over Libyan oil and the Libyan regime.” He said the prize was now hypocritical as a result.Bolivian President Evo Morales echoed the call: “How is it possible that a Nobel Peace Prize winner leads a gang to attack and invade? This is not a defence of human rights or self-determination.”Morales won the Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights in 2006.He is amongst a number of left-leaning Latin American leaders who have denounced the attacks against Libya. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Cristina Fernandez of Argentina have all criticised western media coverage of the Libyan crisis.

Morales and Chavez repeated calls for peace talks with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples.” The Committee praised the “change in the international climate” affected by Obama’s presidency.In his Nobel Lecture, he discussed the “hard truth” of the inevitability of war, saying: “There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”A message has been widely retweeted on Twitter today: “Obama has now fired more cruise missiles than all other Nobel Peace prize winners combined.”

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/print/article/304909#ixzz1HMOv2qvJ

 

Intervention In Libya: The ‘not-Iraq’ War

In Uncategorized on March 19, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Oldspeak: Ah… The “Politics of Naming” surfaces again…Regime change is under way in Libya. “Under current international law, establishing a no fly zone is an act of war…that in effect declares war on a sovereign nation-state. If the act of massacring innocent civilians is the criterion, The Israelis did the same thing in 2008-2009; did the so-called “international community” establish a no fly zone over Israel or Gaza? The U.S. did the same in Iraq the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion, did the “international community” establish no fly zones over the american air bases? What we have here is the U.S./U.K. that have been providing arms to the Libyan Government and Gadhafi now turning around saying now we’re going to support another body, that by the way is not a democratic representation.” –Hamid Dabashi, Profesor, Columbia University

By Warren P. Strobel @ McClatchy Newpapers

The war, if it comes, could well be called the not-Iraq war.

Eight years ago Saturday, President George W. Bush launched the U.S. invasion of Iraq, without an explicit mandate from the United Nations and without much concern over which U.S. allies went along.

France vehemently opposed the invasion and had tried to scuttle it diplomatically a month earlier.

Fast forward to 2011, and the diplomatic picture is turned upside-down: France has led the charge to intervene in Libya to protect civilians from Moammar Gadhafi’s rampage, and President Barack Obama is the reluctant warrior, insisting that every step must have international backing and deferring to the Europeans to lead.

Instead of American “shock and awe,” there is time-consuming diplomacy and careful consideration of options.

While the Iraq war and the Libya crisis differ fundamentally in many ways, the question now, according to outside experts, is whether Obama’s multilateral approach will turn out any better than Bush’s unilateralism.

Will the mere threat of military action begin a slap of dominoes that leads to Gadhafi’s departure? If French and British jets bomb Gadhafi’s military assets with little effect, will the U.S. be pressured to take a more active, even leading, military role? Who will rebuild Libya once Gadhafi is gone — or if his country fractures into two demi-states?

“However this ends, it ends with heavy burdens,” said Daniel P. Serwer, a retired U.S. diplomat with experience in conflict and post-conflict reconstruction in the Balkans, Iraq and elsewhere.

The prospect of such burdens has, by all accounts, made Obama averse to rushing into Libya and willing to cede the lead role to others. The legacy, and costs, of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars seem written all over his policy.

In remarks Friday on Libya, the president didn’t attempt to hide his unease with a third U.S. intervention in a Muslim-majority nation in a decade.

“The United States did not seek this outcome,” he said. With U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan and winding down a mission in Iraq, the decision “is only made more difficult,” he added.

Obama carefully circumscribed the U.S. role. The U.S. will not deploy ground troops in Libya or “use force to go beyond a well-defined goal,” the protection of civilians, he said.

White House officials declined Friday to specify what military support the U.S. will provide to a European-led military operation in Libya.

Nor have they detailed the factors that have gone into Obama’s weighing of how deeply to get involved in Libya.

But judging by the words of the president and his advisers, those factors include a determination not to inject the U.S., widely distrusted by Arab populations, into the region’s political unrest; concern about military overstretch; and the cold, hard fact of a depleted U.S. Treasury.

White House officials have vigorously defended the pace of Obama’s response since Gadhafi turned his military power on peaceful protesters. “The speed of the international reaction here has been quite remarkable,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday, adding, “We are moving with a great deal of haste.”

A broad spectrum of political figures, from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., to conservatives such as John Bolton, have complained that the president has moved too cautiously, wasting precious time as Gadhafi’s forces have advanced against rebels in eastern and western Libya.

“We’ve lost a huge opportunity by allowing over a month to go by without taking action,” said Bolton, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and Bush’s ambassador to the U.N.

Waiting for the Arab League to endorse a no-fly zone, as Obama did, was unnecessary, Bolton said. Even without such an endorsement, Arab states “would have grumbled,” but would have gone along with military action in Libya, he said.

Serwer, now at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies, agreed in part, saying “I was very impatient with how long they were taking. I do think they could have started earlier and moved faster.”

But Serwer called the U.N. Security Council’s authorization Thursday of military action in Libya “a diplomatic achievement of considerable dimensions.”

Obama and the Europeans managed to avoid a veto by skeptical Russia and China, while keeping the U.S. somewhat in the background and the Europeans in the foreground. The resolution permits “all necessary measures” short of “a foreign occupation force” to protect Libyan civilians.

European diplomats expressed confidence that the French, British and other European air forces are up to the job of enforcing a no-fly zone and prevent Gadhafi attacks on rebels, albeit with U.S. logistical and intelligence support.

But as the U.S. experience in Iraq shows, military interventions often take unexpected turns.

If Obama needed a reminder, he could have looked out front of the White House to Lafayette Park on Friday, before he left for a trip to South and Central America, to see protesters gathering to mark the anniversary of the Iraq invasion.

The U.S. and the international community writ large have limited “spare capacity” remaining for military intervention or reconstructing shattered nations, Serwer said.

A post-Gadhafi Libya could see revenge killings on a large scale, he said, and because of Gadhafi’s complete dominance of society for nearly 42 years, there are no independent state institutions, as in Egypt or Tunisia.

“I see a state-building task here that hasn’t been talked about at all,” he added. “The point is, this is just the beginning.”

 

(Margaret Talev contributed to this article.)